Thursday, July 30, 2015

Donald Trump Explains How to Reframe the Conversation With a Reporter

“When a reporter asks me a tough question, I try to frame a positive answer, even if that means shifting the ground. For example, if someone asks me what negative effects the world’s tallest building might have on the West Side, I turn the tables and talk about how New Yorkers deserve the world’s tallest building, and what a boost it will give the city to have that honor again. When a reporter asks why I build only for the rich, I note that the rich aren’t the only ones who benefit from my buildings. I explain that I put thousands of people to work who might otherwise be collecting unemployment, and that I add to the city’s tax base every time I build a new project.”

How Donald Trump Plays the Press, in His Own Words

The Problem With PDFs (Continued)

Sound familiar?

“[Consider] an average user of a U.S. government website: a 45-year-old PC user with Internet Explorer 10. Her child has a fever after eating at a restaurant, and wants to look up information on foodborne diseases. She goes to the CDC website, puts in ‘food poisoning’ in the search, and gets a link to an article on ‘What is food poisoning?’ When she clicks the link, however, she gets a prompt. It asks her to install the free PDF reader. She’s redirected to the Acrobat website, where she goes through the process of installing it—assuming she’s computer savvy enough. Once installed, the browser must be restarted, if not the computer itself.

“OK, installed! Now back to that article. She goes to again, searches, and gets the same link. This time it opens up, but then a popup with Adobe’s license agreement comes up. She irritably says ‘OK’ to the legal folderol and now, finally, can see the article. It’s five pages long, and structured with two columns. She’s on her laptop, so she can’t read the columns without zooming in, and then dragging with her finger or mouse around to read the document. When she finishes reading column 1, she has to drag all the way up to the top of the page again to read column two. Using the search feature doesn’t help much, because the screen is still jumping around from column to column as she tries to find all the time ‘children’ are mentioned in the article. At some point, she gives up in disgust and calls her pediatrician.

PDFs: A Digital Content Detour:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Is Segmenting a Small Email List Worthwhile?

Q: All the talk about segmentation is well and good, but when you produce a newsletter for a niche field, and people sign up for it to find out about news in the field, segmenting it down further seems just wrong to me.

A: The bigger your list, the more valuable segmentation is. Nonetheless, even with smaller lists, segmentation can be useful. Should you be sending the same exact email to your power users (those who open and click on your every email) as you send to your inactives (those who haven't opened anything from you in six months)? Should every person on your list get a call to action about a local issue in Maine, or just those in the area? Should members get the same content as freeloaders? Even small differences (in content, tone, packaging) can return big results.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Problems With PDFs

Every website I surveyed in the research for this article had a significant portion of their content locked up in PDF files, a format that actively impedes their goal of informing the public and driving conversation. PDF files often go unindexed by search engines (limiting discovery), are difficult to share and all but impossible to read on mobile devices. As a result, PDFs are highly unlikely to be read by any audience, at any time, on any device.

In an analysis of their own PDF reports conducted last year, the World Bank found that 1/3 of all reports published in PDF format by the bank had never been downloaded. Fewer than 13% had been downloaded more than 250 times, making PDF files — the dominant format think tanks use to present information — almost wholly ineffective in helping think tanks achieve their goals.

The Digital Think Tank

Related: No One Reads PDFs. That’s Why Academics Need to Think Like Journalists

Monday, July 20, 2015

Twitter Needs a Mission Statement

“Over the last nine years, I have written almost a quarter-million words about Twitter—in blog posts, columns, a book, and, of course, on Twitter. And yet, if you ask me what Twitter actually is, I can’t answer that question.”

Nick Bilton

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Greece Sounds Like a Third World County

“Armed with borrowed fortunes, a series of governments began hiring public employees by the hundreds of thousands and plying them with perks. Bonuses were handed out for arriving at work on time and knowing how to use a computer. Forestry workers got bonuses for the hardship of having to work outdoors. Each state employee got a yearly bonus worth two monthly paychecks, regardless of performance.

“Greece’s government, meanwhile, was as uninterested in collecting taxes as Greek citizens were in paying them. Greeks chronically underreported their earnings, and in the rare cases when they would get caught, an envelope of cash to the tax man would usually be enough to avoid punishment.

Greece Tempts the Fates

Why Taking Notes by Typing Is Bad for You

Studies show that students learn better when they take notes by hand. As a professor at Dartmouth has observed, “The act of typing effectively turns the note-taker into a transcription zombie, while the imperfect recordings of the pencil-pusher reflect and excite a process of integration, creating more textured and effective modes of recall.”

Addendum (7/22/2015): Kudos to a friend for pointing out that the New Yorker article is founded on a 2003 study. “What kind of intellectual bases a technological claim on a study built on 12-year-old technology?” he says. “There’s a case to be made for dumping laptops, but as of now it appears to me to be a matter of preference, not empiricism. Non-producing academics need something provocative to fight about so they can feel alive.”

Friday, July 17, 2015

When You’d Rather Stay in Bed Than Hit the Gym

The first stage of saying, in effect, “Hey! You over there. You’re wrong about baseball!” consisted of three workouts and six meals a day until it consisted of none, that final week when Bryce Harper consumed only juice. Seven different raw juices. Over the final two weeks, before he exposed each of his muscles to ESPN’s photographers, he put salt in his drinking water so he could hydrate himself without gaining weight.

On the final day, before he stripped naked and recorded the results for the world, he rose for one final workout, but when he went to refresh himself, he spit the water out. When he arrived at the field at the University of Nevada Las Vegas for the shoot, his system was completely depleted. He shoved raw, white potatoes down his throat because he knew the glucose and glycine they contained would run straight to his muscles—which yearned for something, any kind of nourishment they could find.

“It makes you pop,” Harper said. “It makes you stand out.”

Bryce Harper Wants Baseball to Benefit From the Attention He Receives

Monday, July 6, 2015

These 6 Soccer Pros Were Rejected From Youth Teams. It Made Them Great

1. Morgan Brian
2. Lauren Holiday
3. Kelley O’Hara
4. Meghan Klingenberg
5. Christen Press
6. Carli Lloyd

Gwendolyn Oxenham

Why Details Matter

There’s a lower case D.

Apologies, sir.

Details are important. A misplaced decimal point can kill a diabetic.


Oxygen saturation is 94%. Check her heart.

Her oxygen saturation is normal.

It’s off by one percentage point.

It’s within range. It’s normal.

If her DNA was off by one percentage point, she’d be a dolphin.

House, MD

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Weird Process by Which Federal Workers Measure Inflation

“Nearly every day, a few hundred federal workers, carefully spread around the United States by a rigorous statistical model, carry out a peculiar task on a special, secure tablet computer. Throughout the day, they are directed to visit specific stores in search of specific items—say, organic romaine lettuce hearts; or a 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport with the premium package; or a men’s long-sleeve button-down shirt, blue, size XL and made of 80% cotton and 20% polyester. Over the course of the month, 80,000 prices are entered into tablets throughout the country, and the data flow to Washington for processing. Parsed and analyzed by economists, that information determines the official United States government inflation rate: arguably the most influential bit of data in the world, determining whether new factories are built, new employees hired.”

The Economy’s Missing Metrics

3 Ways to Make the Cybersecurity of Corporate America Far More Secure

“Some industry critics favor strict government standards and legal liability for failures, as long have existed for many critical offline systems such as cars, elevators and airplanes. Others would create an independent group, a tech industry equivalent to Underwriters Laboratories, which certifies the safety of electronic devices worldwide. Or perhaps insurance companies, which ultimately foot the bill for many cybersecurity incidents, may some day demand better safety practices from their clients, as insurers long have done for homes and cars.”

A Disaster Foretold—And Ignored

Related: The Rise of the Hacker Bounty Hunter

Friday, July 3, 2015

Everything I Know About Media Training, I Learned in These 30 Seconds From Gone Girl

I did not kill my wife.

Why don’t you try it again, a little less wooden?

I didn’t kill my wife.

[Tanner throws a Gummy bear at Nick.]

What are you doing?

Every time you look smug or annoyed or tense, I’m going to hit you with a Gummy bear.

That supposed to make me less tense?

Let’s try it again.

Mr. Dunn, from what I understand, you and your wife had some bumps.

Yeah, we had some tough years. I lost my job.

You both did.

We both lost our jobs. I had to move back home so we could take care of my mother, who was dying of cancer. My dad…

Your dad’s scorched earth. Let’s talk about your mom—how close you were. Go on.

For a while, things had been building up.

“Built up” implies that an explosion is coming up. No.

At a certain point, we got on the wrong track. I had a moment of weakness.

Your moment was over 15 months.

I disrespected my wife. And I disrespected my marriage. And I’ll always regret it.

That works.

Related: PR Lessons from Gone Girl

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How to Write an Explainer

1. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, Explained (Vox)

2. The Trade Deal, Explained for People Who Fall Asleep Hearing About Trade Deals (The Fix)

3. Explainst: Did Something Just Happen With "Fast Track" or Whatever? (Gawker)

How to Fail Successfully

A “willingness to fail” is probably the scariest difference between a tech-enabled environment and a more political environment. Tech talent’s view on failure stems from how innovation happens. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Campaigns are risk averse, worrying about their candidate or staff making a gaffe at any moment. This same approach to risk aversion, while sensible for some aspects of the campaign, must be carefully reworked for digital and analytics based operations. Campaigns shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Failing often, but failing cheaply, is one of the most important lessons campaigns should adopt from the technology world. Otherwise, with a risk-averse oriented strategy, the efficiency gains that come from technology won’t appear. Digital and analytics require constant experimentation, and quite often these experiments fail ...

The ability to accept failure and the humility to try new ideas are ingredients that leads startups to overtake larger incumbents. Campaigns and causes should be constantly iterating on a small scale to explore ideas, anticipating many of them won’t work out.

When Sheryl Sandberg worked at Google, co-founder Larry Page praised her for making a costly mistake for Google. Page said, “I’m so glad you made this mistake because I want to run a company where we are moving too quickly and doing too much, not being too cautious and doing too little. If we don’t have any of these mistakes, we’re just not taking enough risk.” Empower your team to be bold on digital and analytics by trying new ideas with an understanding that failing often and failing cheaply is okay.

Digital Campaign Guide: A Blueprint for a Tech-Driven Organization

Monday, June 29, 2015

Ayn Rand Loves to Write About Sex

“Rand had a keen eye for the everyday eroticism of women: Ideal is a surprisingly sensual novel, rape scene notwithstanding, resplendent with beguiling lips, naked backs, taut breasts, curved necks, soft and supple shoulders. As an accidental documentarian of the flapper era, Rand had a remarkable ability to render tantalizing what would today seem tame—the slant of a bare shoulder, the thrill of a spine dipping beneath a backless dress.”

Altruism Shrugged

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Antonin Scalia Is No John Roberts

It was notable that Scalia’s opinion ridiculing Kennedy’s writing in the same-sex marriage case was endorsed by Thomas and Alito, but not by Roberts. In fact, Roberts did not sign on to any of his colleagues’ dissents ...

“I would be shocked if Roberts ever got near the invective that Scalia uses,” [University of Texas professor Lucas] Powe said.

Regarding tone, some prominent liberals also appreciated Roberts’s restraint—and reasoning—in his dissent in the same-sex marriage case, even though he ultimately rejected the notion of a constitutional right to marry for gays and lesbian couples.

“The two best opinions Roberts has written on the court are his opinion in the Obamacare and gay marriage cases,” said Walter Dellinger, who served as acting solicitor general in the Clinton administration. “While I don’t agree with his bottom line in the same-sex marriage case, he wrote the most respectful and best-reasoned argument for allowing the democratic process to run its course. None of the advocates defending bans on same-sex marriage at the court came close to articulating as good an argument as Chief Justice Roberts.”

Dellinger said he was struck by the difference in tone between Alito and Roberts. “Alito could barely contain his anger and foresees people opposing gay rights being marginalized and discriminated against themselves, whereas Roberts speaks with great sympathy of the desire of gay people to be married,” Dellinger said.

Supreme Court Justices Stop Playing Nice

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Hulk Hogan Loves to Sue People

“Hogan is easily aggrieved. When a woman accused him of sexual battery, he sued her; when his ex-wife Linda alleged domestic abuse in her memoir, he sued her; when a series of back surgeries stopped Hogan from inking a last-hurrah wrestling contract, he sued the surgeon; when his auto insurance failed to cover the cost of his tipsy teenage son recklessly driving his sports car into a tree, causing permanent brain damage to a passenger, Hogan sued his insurance company; when that didn’t work, he sued Linda, too, for not forcing him to be better insured; when Hogan’s lawyers sent the bill for their services, he sued them as well. Hogan initially sued sex tape partner Heather Clem and her now-ex-husband Bubba the Love Sponge alongside Gawker, claiming they’d made and released the tape. But after Bubba went on his radio show and called Hogan ‘the ultimate lying showman,’ Hogan quickly settled with his old pal, but he refused to release his grip on a nonfamous woman who was humiliated right alongside him. She insists she had nothing to do with the tape’s release.”

We’ll Always Have Paris

Monday, June 22, 2015

What It’s Like to Work at Bloomberg

“Whispering private thoughts and opinions is frowned upon. The company has no offices and prides itself on being “horizontal.” When the Mayor returned to his old headquarters, company chairman Peter Grauer wanted to have a private conversation with him in a conference room. Bloomberg resisted, Grauer insisted. Bloomberg reluctantly went in, Grauer closed the door. Early the next week, Grauer came to work to find that the doors to the conference rooms had been removed.

“Not surprisingly, then, few of the more than 30 current and former Bloomberg journalists and executives I spoke to for this article would go on the record. At headquarters in New York and in the newsroom in Washington, scores of cameras watch workers. Business cards don’t carry titles. Everyone is a citizen.

The Mayor and the Mogul