Sunday, August 6, 2017

Are You Financially Literate? Answer These 3 Questions to Find Out

1. Interest

Suppose you have $100 in a savings account and the interest rate was 2% per year. After 5 years, how much you would have in the account if you left the money to grow?

Possible Answers
A) More than $102.
B) Exactly $102.
C) Less than $102.

Correct Answer
The correct answer is: A), more than $102. Because 2% interest on $100 in a year is $2, so after year 1 you have $102 — and then over the remaining 4 years, the interest grows on that $102, and so on. And that’s why compound interest has been called “the 8th wonder of the world.”

2. Inflation

Imagine that the interest rate on your savings account was 1% per year and inflation was 2% per year. After one year, how much would you be able to buy with the money in this account?

Possible Answers
A) More than today.
B) Exactly the same as today.
C) Less than today.

Correct Answer
The correct answer is C), less than today, because if inflation is 2% , prices go up 2%. But if you only earned 1% in your saving account, you basically can buy less.

3. Diversification

Is the following statement is true or false: buying a single company stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund.

Possible Answers
A) True
B) False

Correct Answer
The correct answer is true. A single company is a lot riskier than a basket of stocks. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Money (but Were Afraid to Ask)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Anthony Scaramucci Just Demonstrated the Laziest Mistake People Make on Twitter. (It’s Not What You Think.)

New White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci recently dispatched a tweet that was heard all around Washington. (He later deleted it, so all I have is a screenshot.)

Leave aside the content and the author’s inability to punctuate. What I want to focus on is the last word — “@Reince45” — which is the handle of White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

The problem here is that Scaramucci lazily dumps Priebus’s handle in at the end of the tweet. As a result, it’s totally unclear why he’s mentioning his colleague. Is he blaming Priebus? Is he asking hm to investigate? Or is he merely CCing him?

We can only guess — which is indeed what every news outlet that covered the tweet was left to do.

By contrast, had Scaramucci integrated “@Priebus45” into his sentence, there’d be no ambiguity. For example, if he wanted to intimidate Priebus, he could have written this:

“In light of the leak of my financial-disclosure info—a felony—I’ll be contacting @FBI and @TheJusticeDept. Got that, @Reince45? #swamp”

Or, if he wanted Priebus to join the investigation, he could have written this:

“In light of the felonious leak of my financial-disclosure info, I’ll be contacting @FBI & @TheJusticeDept. Let’s drain the #swamp, @Reince45!”

See how @FBI, @TheJusticeDept, and @Reince45 are all part and parcel of the sentence? They’re not outliers; they’re participants.

Think about this the next time you tweet. Don’t just drop in handles as an afterthought; integrate them into the flow of your message.

Related: Are Hashtags Useless?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

2 Examples of Kick-Ass Design

1. This week’s cover of Time magazine:


* How the primary colors (gray, red, and yellow) blend well together.

* How the headshot is grayscaled.

* How various words from the emails are highlighted in white, yet don't distract from the image.

2. An image created for CNN’s scoop about Breitbart’s Slack channel:


* How the borders of each screenshot looks ripped from the page.

* How the screenshots are strategically placed around the headshot.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Why Even Small Businesses Don’t Want to Be Small Businesses

I’m still on hold. It’s like they don’t even care about small businesses.

Jared, they don’t care about small businesses. That’s why small businesses have to lie. Like Google named their first building Building 40, so that people would think they were already huge.

Silicon Valley

Why Your Smart Fridge Shouldn’t Speak Like a Human Being

“We are dumbing down machines that are inherently superior.”

Bertram Gilfoyle, on a smart refrigerator that uses verbal tics like “ah” to sound more human

Friday, May 26, 2017

What to Tell a Prospective Client Who Wants You to Lower Your Price

1. You can’t eat steak for the price of a hamburger.

2. Don’t expect filet mignon for the price of a Big Mac.

3. Don’t expect strip sirloin for the price of a Whopper.

4. Want steak? It’ll cost you more than a burger.

5. If you’re on a Mazda budget, don’t shop for a Mercedes.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Should Government Tweeps Separate the Personal from the Professional?

This is something I wrote years ago, and meant to finish, but never did:

The explosion of Twitter presents an underappreciated dilemma for federal government employees who work in new media: Should you include your workplace in your Twitter bio?

In one corner is the work-is-life crowd. As Scott Horvath, of the U.S. Geological Survey, explains (via Twitter, naturally), new media "attracts limelighters,” and “everywhere access encourages personal-professional integration.” Army spokeswoman Lindy Kyzer concurs: “A lot of my online identity is merged professional/personal.” As such, it's folly to try to  separate the two.

In another corner is the work-is-work crowd. For instance, to learn more about @cbdawson, you'd need to Google "Cian Dawson," locate his LinkedIn profile, and realize that the San Francisco hydrogeologist on Twitter is the same one who works for the U.S. Geological Survey on LinkedIn. Dawson explains that he uses Twitter "solely as a private citizen, not a federal employee. I don't post [my workplace] to avoid confusion about that.”

By the same token, Andrew Wilson, of HHS, and Jeffrey Levy, of the EPA, both use Twitter exclusively for work (and thus explicitly cite their day jobs in their bios). Wilson explains that he “wants to be transparent about who I am”; Levy says he Tweets “to discuss social media in government (especially the EPA).” Suzanne Ackerman, also of the EPA, concurs: "My Twitter account is for professional use at EPA only."

At the moment, it appears that no rules or regulations govern the use of Twitter by federal employees. While some feds go out of their way to disclose their workplace, others maintain a church-state separation between their personal and professional lives.

This chaos is a problem waiting to happen. For instance, what happens when the FDA's Facebook guy starts proseclutizing for Jews for Jesus? Or the editor of the FBI's blog betrays his feelings about black people? Or the Webmaster at the Agriculture Department insists that Obama was never born in the United States and therefore is constitutionally barred from the presidency?

Any solution must recognize that a paycheck does not bar an employee from expressing his opinions when he's off the clock about issues unrelated to work. Yet whereas five years ago, you could vent in your local watering hole, today Twitter places a global microphone beside your whiskey glass.

At what is a fed allowed to take off the badge hanging literally around his neck?

TK draws a line between Twitter and blogging (both of which he uses for work) and Facebook (which is personal).

This is risky.

Others may prefer to follow the Tweets blazed by Brian Brandt, of the GSA, who employs the "mom" test: "It's ok to mix personal/work in social media, if it's socially responsible (ask can "mom" read my post)."

Erick Erickson, the editor of the RedState blog, makes this point: "I am more and more mindful—and I used to be oblivious to the fact—that when I endorse a candidate or support a position, the implication is that RedState does too. In fact, it is why I expressly refuse to endorse a lot of things I’m asked to endorse. I know people don’t want my endorsement so much as they want the implication of RedState’s endorsement. . . . David Keene and Grover Norquist are, whether they like it or not, intrinsically linked to their respective organizations [the American Conservative Union and Americans for Tax Reform]. If they come out in support of a particular position, people believe that their organizations support that position too."

* In this view, as Todd Zeigler, of the Bivings Group, has argued, "If you work for a presidential campaign in this day and age, you are essentially a public figure. Everything you write/say/do is going to be combed over by bloggers/Wonkette/whoever, whether you are the campaign manager or a low level staffer. This should be the expectation of people going in at this point. Every tweet could be on the front page of the New York Times."

* In one camp are those who agree with the actions of the presidential campaign of John McCain, which suspended a staffer for Tweeting a video, from a personal account, which attacked Obama. Perhaps in reaction to this, Todd Herman, the new media director of the Republican National Committee, declares in his Twitter bio: “These are my personal rants, musings and asides—they are not statements on behalf of my employer. Cool?”

Companies today are wrestling with how their employees should separate their personal from their professional identities online. The question is so tough because the Internet has so blurred the lines—especially if your job involves digital communications.

While we can all agree that what you do on your own behalf doesn’t represent company policy, it nonetheless reflects on your employer. At the extreme, do you want someone working for you who, when the clock strikes six, begins blogging in advocacy of converting Muslims to Christianity? At the less extreme, do you want someone working for you who tweets about how horrible a client’s hometown city is?

Increasingly, a standard disclosure isn’t enough (even this one, from the RNC’s Todd Herman: “These are my personal rants, musings and asides—they are not statements on behalf of my employer. Cool?”). The new reality—brought on by Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter—is that when you hire someone, you’re not just hiring her for a day job. You’re hiring her reputation.

Embracing this reality with gusto, the PR agency, New Media Strategies, is taking transparency to new heights. Its Twitter Directory publishes not only the professional but also the personal tweets—and pics—of all its employees. We “also have great sorting features based on name, username, followers and lists,” adds CEO, Pete Synder.

To wit, NMS is unflinchingly declaring, This is who we are. Not from 9-5, but 24/7.

What’s more, transparency fosters accountability. As Mary Katherine Ham has observed, “I make a conscious decision to broadcast my life every day, and I accept the consequences. In a way it’s a quintessentially conservative formula: The extent to which you take personal responsibility for your actions dictates the risks and benefits of your online existence.”

Name Twitter Handle Workplace Twitter Bio Updates Protected?
Andrew Wilson AndrewPWilson HHS Member of HHS Social Media Team No
Bev Godwin BevUSA White House Public Servant. New Media @ The White House Yes
Casey Coleman CaseyColeman GSA Chief Information Officer, General Services Administration No
Jeffrey Levy LevyJ413 EPA EPA Web Manager, Gov't 2.0er, Federal Web Managers Council, Social Media Subcouncil Co-Chair No
Leslie Benito LesBenito DoD Web Guy for DoD No
Jack Holt Jack_Holt DoD Senior Strategist for Emerging Media DoD/DMA No
Suzanne Ackerman Suzack777 EPA EPA Web team, social media No
Gwynne Kostin gwynnek DHS Curious, irreverent geekette, working at intersection of tech and people, loves her maddenboyz, now in dot-gov No
Amanda Eamich amandare USDA Bio USDA Director of New Media. (@USDAFoodSafety) i live, learn, work, eat, check blackberry, repeat. No
AScott Horvath ScottHorvath USGS Web developer and podcaster. Interests in Government and social media, the power of many, converting tech-challenged to tech-hopefuls No

It’s Lunchtime and You’re Hungry

Here's the quick-and-dirty sketch for a motion-graphics video I wanted to produce several years ago:

It's lunchtime and you're hungry. You're in the mood for Chinese, somewhere in North Arlington. You Yelp a recommendation, and the Rosslyn-based China Garden catches your eye.

(Maybe work in a reference to a metro app that tells you the times of the trains, or an SMS to Red Top to request a pick-up?) You Google Map directions.

When you arrive, you check-in on Foursquare. A friend sees your check-in on Facebook, and since she's in the area, messages you about desert at Whitlow's.

"Yes, please," you reply.

When the brownie sundae arrives, it looks so good, you Foodspot it.

Unfortunately, the food is better than the service, so you tweet a question about tipping. Within a minute, you have half a dozen suggestions.

The next day, you get a Groupon e-mail for "the best dim sum in DC"—at China Garden.

I Am Now a Social Media Expert

I wrote the below post in April 2012, but never published it:

Years ago, I declared to my then-girlfriend that I was an expert in social media. (I think she would have preferred a declaration of love; maybe that’s one reason we’re no longer together.)

In any event, I made my case as follows. I directed the social media department of an international PR agency, I wrote op-eds for PRWeek, and I lectured at Georgetown.

She was unconvinced. This was a good start, she said, but I needed more.

Today, I’m happy to report that my credentials have blossomed. I’m frequently quoted in the media; I write for Mashable; I give paid presentations; and I’ve counted as clients the national trade associations for public relations and marketing.

The first point is especially important, in that it requires breaking through the echo chamber wherein many so-called pundits ply their trade. Indeed, not only is being quoted gratifying; it’s also the quintessential attribute of an expert.

Should an Atheist Believe in Superstitions?

Here's something I wrote years ago, but never published:

Baseball is life, or so the popular T-shirts read when I was in junior high. As such, whenever I struggled as a Little League pitcher to throw strikes, I would silently implore God to get me out of the inning. Likewise, I owned a maroon turtleneck that I usually wore underneath my jersey because I thought it brought me luck.

At the same time, I was an atheist. Contradiction? Yes.

It's contradictory to hold that a higher being somewhere out there does not exist, but that breaking a mirror will bring seven years of bad luck. Or that bad things happen on Friday the 13th. Or that voodoo dolls matter. Fundamentally, both superstition and theism rely on supernaturalism, or faith in a force beyond the laws of nature.

That's fine for most people, but it should be anathema for an atheist.

Why I Don’t Own a Gun

Here’s something I wrote a while ago, but never published:

I’ve never studied gun control, so I can’t comment on whether it works—whether it reduces violent crime or not.* But as a moral issue, Aaron Sorkin’s characters in the West Wing offer taut, cogent appeals that have reinforced my instincts. Here are the two quotes, which refer to the Second Amendment, which come to my mind when someone says “gun control”:

“We can’t all just agree ... that it was written before there were street lamps, much less police forces, and move on? … There’s no need for a citizen militia.”

“It’s not about personal freedom and it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with public safety. It’s just that some people like guns.”

And then there’s this nugget, from an article by Ariel Kaminer in the Times, which nicely captures my admittedly unrefined thinking on the issue:

“Holding a top-of-the-line gun is supposed to make a person feel powerful, confident, in control. Instead, I felt ridiculous. My stance was all wrong, and in any case I would never pull the trigger — not to kill an intruder, not to kill a bird. That moment of truth reaffirmed what was already beyond doubt: I am a pacifist, or a coward, depending on your perspective. But just as important, I am a New Yorker. In a city where we all live right on top of one another, playing with guns feels as out of place as wearing prairie dresses and engaging in plural marriage.”

To be sure, the libertarian in me stops me from countenancing gun control. Instead, my point is personal: Guns play no part in my life, and I want to keep it that way. I feel safe where I live, work, and socialize, and prefer to leave my protection to the cops and courts.

Reasonable people may disagree, but this is why I live in the homogeneous confines of suburbia.

* I’d be interested to hear the counterargument to this observation put forth by Toby in the West Wing: “If you combine the populations of Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and Australia, you’ll get a population roughly the size of the United States. We had 32,000 gun deaths last year. They had 112. Do you think it’s because Americans are more homicidal by nature? Or do you think it’s because those guys have gun control laws?”

How to Understand Salespeople

This is something I wrote in August 2011, but apparently never published:

Just because you don’t work in sales doesn’t mean you’re not a salesman. In fact, whether we realize it or not, we each sell ourselves every day. Whether pitching ourselves to a date, an idea to a boss, or an invitation to a friend, we each engage in small acts of sales as a matter of necessity.

In my view, what distinguishes a good salesman from a bad one is whether he has his or your best interests at heart. Will he tell you when spending more money isn’t wise, or is he focused on the upsell? Does he invest the time to genuinely understand your needs and tailor his recommendations accordingly, or does he follow Alec Baldwin’s famous admonition that “only one thing counts in this life: get them to sign on the line which is dotted”? Above all, will he be there when you have follow-up questions and concerns, or will his answers become curt and cryptic?

If these frustrations sound familiar, then welcome to my Larry David-esque world. Yet recently, a friend pointed out something I’ve been overlooking: context.

Let’s say Morgan owns his own company. When he sells you something, he puts his reputation directly on the line. If the deal succeeds, you’ll do more business with him. If it doesn’t, you’ll write off not just Morgan, but also his company. What’s bad for Morgan is bad for Morgan, Inc. Thus, it’s in Morgan’s interest to think both short-term and long-term.

In contrast, Chris works for a big company. When he sells you something, while his reputation is at stake, he’s also representing his employer. If the deal succeeds, you’ll credit not only Chris, but also his employer. If it doesn’t, you’ll blame both Chris and his employer.

But if the latter happens, Chris doesn’t get as hurt as Morgan does. Unlike Morgan, Chris isn’t tied to his employer. He can change jobs or even professions.

In this way, Chris’s focus on the short-term — raking in quick commissions without worrying too much about the results — makes a certain sense. No doubt, it’s myopic, but if he screws you, he doesn’t bear the full brunt of responsibility.

The lesson: Hire employees who haven’t seen Glengarry Glen Ross.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Which Headline Is Best?

1. Everything You Wanted To Know About LinkedIn, But Were Too Embarrassed To Ask
2. Unleashing The Hidden Power Of LinkedIn
3. Do You Have A Full Understanding Of LinkedIn’s Hidden Powers?
4. Here’s How To Overhaul And Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
5. You’re Doing It Wrong: LinkedIn
6. Your LinkedIn Profile Could Be So Much Better! Here’s How
7. 31 Changes You Should Make To Your LinkedIn Profile Right Now
8. Is Your LinkedIn Profile All It Can And Ought To Be?
9. Hey! What’s Wrong With Your LinkedIn Profile?
10. Could Your LinkedIn Profile Be Better?
11. You Have A LinkedIn Profile. Now What?
12. 31 Easy Ways to Dramatically Improve Your LinkedIn Profile
13. Are You Getting the Most Out of LinkedIn?

Addendum (3/19/2017): The results:

My Dream Dinner Party

1. Michael Phelps
2. Aaron Sorkin
3. Larry David
4. Jerry Seinfeld
5. Warren Buffet

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

2 Smart Social-Media Tips From POLITICO

From a memo from Executive Editor Paul Volpe:

In our ongoing effort to extend our reach and expand our readership, we’re making a few changes to our workflow and asking you to tweak the way you file your stories in the following ways:

1. Offer additional headlines. Multiple suggested headlines already speed the publishing process. They also can make a big difference in how many people read your story. We’ve been doing A/B tests on headlines, in some cases doubling or tripling readership based on a headline change. Due to time and resource constraints, we’ve been running these tests on a limited number of stories. And sometimes we miss the pivotal testing window. With your cooperation, we’ll be able to run significantly more tests and capitalize earlier by switching to a headline that makes a clear difference. Starting today, reporters should provide at least two headlines that are significantly different for each story you file. If you file in the CMS, these should go in the Note field on the Notes tab.

2. Provide at least two suggestions for Tweets or Facebook posts beyond the story’s headline. Trevor Eischen and our web team publish more than 400 times daily to our social accounts. To craft compelling posts, they now must read every story we publish, search for the key points and determine what is most likely to engage readers. The reporters and editors most familiar with these stories should give them a sense of what we think is the most important information. This will save time, allow us to publish more quickly, free up the team to focus on our social media strategy and help us build our audience. If you file in the CMS, these should go in the Override tab under Twitter Title.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Right and Wrong Way to Distribute an RFP

I’m a member of several ListServs, where RFPs are sometimes exchanged. God bless Colleen Gratzer for writing up the following reply, which encapsulates everything that’s wrong with RFPs — and how to fix them!

Hi, [Redacted].

There have been a few RFPs sent to this list over the past year.

I would like to share some constructive feedback to help your organization in the future with RFPs and why sending them out to lists or posting on a website is not the best route. With all due respect, sending an RFP to a large list is unlikely to bring you good-quality candidates.

Your work sounds like it would be a good fit for me, as I mainly work with nonprofits, have almost 20 years of experience in the health care industry, and do this type of work. But it would not be a wise business decision for me to respond to this because there is no mention of budget and I have no idea how many people this has potentially been sent to or been seen by. Preparing such a proposal would require days of prep time, and I have no idea of my chances (1 in 5 or 1 in 200) or if I’d even be able to provide something in your ballpark.

Your organization would be better served by vetting appropriate candidates,inviting a few (3 to 5) to bid, and sharing a budget range to work within.

It’s like when buying a car: you could spend $15,000 or you could spend $80,000. Whether or not you have a budget, you might have monetary expectations. Once you provide a range, then appropriate solutions can be offered in the proposal, or the designer would know up front it’s not doable or not.

I hope that helps.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

My Love-Hate Relationship With Gmail

I rely Gmail for both my business and my personal life, yet every day I’m reminded of its major limitations:

1. I can’t sort messages in any way other than by date.

2. The trash can is called “archive,” and operates according to peculiar rules.

3. Creating a rich-text signature is an exercise in frustration.

4. The “select-all” function is MIA.