Thursday, January 18, 2018

These 2 Two News Outlets Have Figured Out a Better Way to Tweet

Kudos to the social-media teams of NRO and Slate for pursuing an unusual strategy on Twitter: Instead of letting each link automatically unfurl, the team manually includes an image with each tweet.

Here’s what the auto-preview looks like (this is just a test from my own account):

And here’s the manually published image:

Notice the difference? No? Look closely: The latter allows you to use the article’s headline without redundancy.

By contrast, look again at the first tweet, and you’ll see that it includes three mentions of the exact same headline. That’s just sloppy.

To be sure, there are a couple of caveats.

1. As I’ve observed before, the sharpest publishers on Twitter don’t simply repeat the headline. Instead, they write custom tweets tailored to each article.

Of course, that’s not always possible, or even ideal. Sometimes the headline is perfect as is, and sometimes you don’t have time to rewrite everything.

2. The second tweet suffers from poor UX, or user-experience design. Look again at the first tweet. Here, auto-preview renders a large segment of the overall message clickable — everything from the top of the image down to the domain (“”) at the bottom.

By contrast, with the second tweet, you get only a few characters — the blue hyperlink (“”) — to click.

What do you think? Which is better?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

When to Use a PDF Instead of a Word Doc

There are many reasons not to use PDFs. But sometimes, PDFs are your best choice. Here are a few such scenarios:

1. A contract

2. A proposal

3. A resume

The common denominator? When you don’t want your recipient to change your document.

To be sure, it’s still possible to edit a PDF; it’s just more difficult to do, since it requires a full version of Adobe Acrobat.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Messages You Can Copy and Paste to Get Someone to Reply

Hi Jane - Before I close out your file, I thought I’d send over one last email. I’m sure you can appreciate my curiosity as to where things stand. I’d welcome your candor. Thank you.

Hi Jane - I didn’t see a note attached to your invite, so I’m not sure why you’d like to connect. Is there something I can do for you?

Addendum (1/15/2018): Here’s one for when you’re asked to speak at a conference, but they don’t want to compensate you:

While I’d love to speak and am happy to waive my fee, I’d need you to cover transportation and lodging. Otherwise, I’d be shelling out a significant amount of money to do what I typically get paid for. Again, happy to do it at cost, but I can’t lose money. Thanks for understanding.

Friday, November 17, 2017

This Guy Once Held a Knife to John Boehner’s Throat. Years Later, Boehner Served As His Best Man

Boehner never accepted an earmark in Congress — and he enjoyed railing against those who did. His heckling once provoked Don Young, an Alaskan himself, to pin Boehner against a wall inside the House chamber and hold a 10-inch knife to his throat. Boehner says he stared Young in the eyes and said, “Fuck you.”

Young says this account is “mostly true,” but notes that the two became good friends, with Boehner later serving as his best man.

John Boehner Unchained

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Problem With PDFs (Continued)

Trapping your content in PDFs makes it more difficult for your audiences to access. Jess Sand (via email) provides four reasons:

1. PDFs aren’t ADA-compliant. Out of the box, PDFs require specific file prep to make them accessible.

2. PDFs create search obstacles. Even if you format your PDFs to be readable by search engines, visitors who find your PDF this way still have to go digging through pages to find the specific info they’re looking for.

3. PDFs are not mobile-friendly. Unless you’re confident that most of your visitors access your site via desktop computer, forcing users to view PDFs on a mobile device, rather than serving that content via a mobile-friendly site, will hinder their willingness to slog through your content. Forcing users to download PDF docs to a mobile device also ignores connectivity realities, and eats up limited storage space on the user’s device.

4. PDFs aren’t easily shareable. It’s harder to share a PDF via social networks than it is to share site-based content.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Just Because a Website Ends in .Org Doesn’t Mean It’s a Nonprofit

Even though TIAA stopped being a nonprofit organization in 1997, many of its customers might think it remains one. The company’s website ends in a .org rather than a .com and TIAA repeatedly refers to its “nonprofit heritage.”

Most of TIAA is for-profit. Teachers Advisors, for example, is an investment advisory firm that receives compensation from each in-house mutual fund it manages. Nuveen, a mutual fund company purchased by TIAA in 2014, is also run on a for-profit basis. So is EverBank, a Florida banking institution TIAA acquired in June.

The Finger-Pointing at the Finance Firm TIAA

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Which Headline Is Best?

BuzzFeed tested them both for this listicle.

1. The Faces Diplomats Made While Watching Trump’s First UN Speech Were Pretty Great

2. 17 Pictures Of Diplomats Listening To Trump’s First UN Speech

Is “Dear Recruiter” an Appropriate Way to Begin a Cover Letter?

Cover letters inspire strong opinions. Yet here’s something most people in this field agree upon: If you don’t know a recruiter’s name — and can’t ascertain it with a little research — then you should use a generic greeting such as “Good Morning.”

Here’s where HR folk diverge: What if you prefer to use something more personal, like “Dear Recruiter”?

From my vantage point, “Dear Recruiter” feels robotic — as if you’re a factory cranking out boilerplate. It harks back to the quintessence of antiquation: “To Whom It May Concern.” By contrast, “Good Morning” is friendly and puts your reader in a pleasant mood.

And yet, as much as it pains me to say this, the preceding paragraph isn’t a fact. It’s my opinion. There’s simply no consensus as to whether “Dear Recruiter” (or “Dear Hiring Manager”) is appropriate. Indeed, a quick Google search reveals that “Dear Recruiter” is encouraged in some scenarios.

To be sure, it’s still bad form to begin with something overly general, like “Dear HR” or “Dear Facebook Recruiting Department.” But “Dear Recruiter” is ok.

3 Reasons You Should Include Your Cover Letter in the Body of an Email, Rather Than As an Attachment

1. Convenience

It’s quicker to read an email than it is to open an attachment. Those who specialize in what’s known as “user experience” (or UX) call this “friction”: Every step someone needs to take to do what she wants to do (in case this, read the letter) bogs things down.

This especially true when it comes donation webpages: as a process gets longer, the number of people who complete it decreases. And it’s doubly so with smartphones, which is where people increasingly read the first draft of everything.

The bottom line: Don’t create hurdles for your recruiter. Make it as easy as possible for her to skim your materials.

2. Technology

Too many email clients (e.g., older versions of Outlook) and too many email providers (e.g., the default version of Gmail) don’t automatically preview attachments. To be sure, some do — for example, the latest version of Outlook — but we’re not yet at a point where this handy feature has reached a tipping point.

3. Viruses

It’s a terrible security practice to open attachments from people you don’t know. This is one of the easiest ways to get a virus.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Tech Shortcomings That Drive Me Nuts

1. Why can’t you embed a YouTube video in a Google Doc?

2. Why can’t you schedule an automatic backup of your Squarespace site?

3. Why can’t you sort messages in Gmail by subject or sender?

Saturday, September 9, 2017

5 Things Every Publisher Needs to Know About Sponsored Content

Is Online Dating for Losers?

Here are notes for an article I started but never finished:

Since I first heard about it, I’ve looked down on online dating. Picking up a girl on the net, I sniffed, was for those who couldn’t seal the deal in real life. Losers.

Except that, this isn’t true. In fact, with so many preferences to specify, online dating is for the choosy, whereas your options are relatively limited at a bar or party.

Hate the Way Meetings Are Used, Not Meetings Themselves

Here are notes for an article I started but never finished:

There’s no substitute for the in-person meeting. Seeing another person’s palms sweat or eyes roll is impossible over email or the phone. In short, meetings are invaluable.

At the same time, most meetings also are useless.

Some people just need to be reassured. Others are bureaucrats who insist on process.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Do Universal Background Checks Violate the Second Amendment?

An enlightening debate from the movie Miss Sloane:

If background checks are to be of any use, they should apply to all gun sales, not just some. Isn’t that what Heaton-Harris is proposing?

Precisely. The bill expands the scope of gun regulation. And it’s yet another affront to Americans’ constitutional rights.

No. The bill closes an absurd loophole, which allows people on terrorist watch lists to buy guns without any check whatsoever.

It’s an incursion into individual liberty by an all-powerful government.

What, like drivers’ licenses?

Drivers’ licenses?

It’s illegal to operate a car without going through rigorous theoretical and practical assessments. That’s a clear constraint on the freedom of individuals to drive cars or pilots to fly planes.

You know, in Japan, chefs train for seven years before they’re allowed to serve a poisonous blow-fish called “fugu.”

What does any of this have to do with background checks?

That is a fair question!

Does anyone in this room think that the government should abolish drivers’ licenses?

That’s absurd.

Why? They are a government incursion into individual liberty. We accept them because they make sense. The more dangerous the machinery, the more rigorous the test should be. I think we can extend our definition of dangerous machinery to semi-automatic firearms.

Except the Second Amendment to the Constitution doesn’t guarantee the right to drive cars. Or operate machinery. Or serve blowfish for that matter. It guarantees the right to keep and bear arms. Perhaps you haven’t read it lately.

The Second Amendment was signed in a time when the average life expectancy was 38. And it was common practice for our Founding Fathers to resolve their differences at dawn, in a gunfight. What may have been perfectly sensible in those alien times is wholly inadequate to solve the problems of the present.

The United States Constitution has stood the test of time. It’s authored to confer unimpeachable rights which don’t change depending on which way the wind’s blowing. It’s so authored with the specific intent of keeping at bay the Elizabeth Sloanes of this world who want to wipe their asses with the Constitution and replace it with their own judgment because she knows better than the Founding Fathers of this great nation.

Nothing is unimpeachable, not even the Constitution. It’s ironic that the very statement of rights you’re so quick to invoke is, in fact, an amendment!

I may not like it either, Elizabeth, but it is the Second Amendment. It comes right after freedom of speech, religion, and press and somewhere before freedom from search and from having to testify against yourself — they’re all sort of bunched together. It’s called the Bill of Rights! How do you get around that?

We don’t need to. The Supreme Court already made it clear that the right to own a gun is subject to lawful restrictions. One of those is background checks.

Universal background checks are an infringement. What part of “shall not be infringed” don’t you get?

I get that that’s the weakest, most mind-numbing retort in your impoverished arsenal. Sort of a last refuge for those with no real argument at all.

You’re talking about the United States Constitution.

If they could produce a rational winning argument, I’d gladly migrate to their side, but “Because it says so in the Constitution, the Bible, or my horoscope” is not a winning argument. It’s a ripcord — an intellectual equivalent of a yellow, pant-pissing wimp cowering behind mommy’s skirt.

Aaron Sorkin Explains Why the Death Penalty Is Just Plain Wrong

The Torah doesn’t prohibit capital punishment.


It says, “An eye for an eye.”

You know what it also says? It says a rebellious child can be brought to the city gates and stoned to death. It says homosexuality is an abomination and punishable by death. It says men can be polygamous and slavery is acceptable.

For all I know, that thinking reflected the best wisdom of its time. But it’s just plain wrong by any modern standard.

Society has a right to protect itself, but it doesn’t have a right to be vengeful. It has a right to punish, but it doesn’t have a right to kill.

Take This Sabbath Day

Monday, September 4, 2017

Why Every Lobbyist Needs a PR Partner

“Over the decades, lobbying has evolved from a niche trade of fixers and gatekeepers to a sleek, vertically integrated, $3-billion-a-year industry. A good lobbyist doesn’t go into a meeting asking for legislation; she or he already has the bill drafted, a coalition of businesses and trade groups poised to support it, a policy brief to hand out to reporters and to the officials positioned at dozens of decision points throughout the bureaucracy and relationships with advertising and polling firms to manage the public rollout.”

How to Get Rich in Trump’s Washington

Friday, September 1, 2017

There Are 4 Kinds of Subheadings in Writing. Smart Writers Use ‘Em All

The Sorry Semantics of Saying Sorry

Have you ever told someone, by way of apology, “I’m sorry if you feel that way”?

If so, please know that this is not an apology. In fact, this all-too-common phrase is one of the most specious in the English language. It’s a head nod toward contrition, but it’s utterly devoid of sincerity.

There are at least three major problems with these seven little words.

1. Consider the word “if.” If I feel I was wronged? Whatever incident gave rise to your alleged apology isn’t hypothetical. Don’t swaddle yourself in noncommittal language; either you did something wrong or you didn’t. If you did, drop the “if.”

2. Even if you drop the “if” (“I’m sorry you feel that way”), you’re still apologizing for the way someone else feels, rather than for the way you made them feel. This is as devious as language gets. Adults take responsibility for their actions; they don’t concoct decoys. If you’re an adult, change “if you feel that way” to “I made you feel.”

3. Instead of simply saying “I’m sorry,” consider elaborating. A mere adjective will suffice (“I’m so sorry”; “I’m sincerely sorry”), as will a semicolon (“I’m sorry; I was out of line”).

Similarly, consider identifying what it is you’re apologizing for. You can still be vague (“I’m sorry I was a jerk”), but the more specific you are, the more genuine you’ll appear.

Of course, if your goal is to float a nonapology apology, then by all means, ignore all of the above and keep up the good work!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Which Headline Is Best?

1. 4 Simple Ways to Make Your Memos More Enjoyable

2. 4 Easy Ways to Make More People Read What You Write

3. The 4 Kinds of Subheadings in Writing

4. There Are 4 Kinds of Subheadings in Writing. You Should Use Every One.

5. There Are 4 Kinds of Subheadings in Writing. Smart Writers Use ‘Em All

6. Use This Simple Trick to Make People Actually Read What You Write

7. How to Make Want to Read What You Write

8. Make People Enjoy Reading Your Writing With This Simple Technique

9. Want to Make Your Reading Dramatically More Readable?

10. Make Your Writing More Reader-Friendly With This Easy-to-Learn Technique

Addendum (8/28/2017): And the winner is...