Category Archives: Blog

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Scientfic American image - "How Fake News Goes Viral - Here's the Math"

Overwhelmed by Fake News?

Category : Blog

No.  I’m not talking about the fake news and fake media that President Trump rants about.  I’m talking about all those postings on social media like Facebook and Twitter that proclaims certain things as fact or that an entertainer has died who really hasn’t.

I pride myself on being able to sniff out fake news, but every once in a while, I fall prey to the fake news being posted.  And it leaves me feeling upset that I fell for it.  After all, I do a lot or work on the web.  I design websites, I monitor various social media accounts, and I teach online.  In fact, I teach my students a unit on how to decide if a website or news item is credible.  I shouldn’t be so easily duped.

There is an article published in Scientific American that made me feel a little better.  Published in July, 2017 and written by Madhusree Makerjee, the article is titled “How Fake News Goes Viral – Here’s the Math.”

It begins with obviously fake headlines like “NASA Runs a Child-Slave Colony on Mars” and “Photos Take by a Chinese Orbiter Reveal an Alien Settlement on the Moon.”  I guess I shouldn’t say obvious since there are people out there who would believe headlines like that.

The article covers how news goes viral, and it hints that our gullibility may simply be that we are overwhelmed with information.  There’s just so much to sort through online that we get overwhelmed and find ourselves having problems discerning fact from fiction.  One computer scientist Filippo Menczer was quoted as saying, “If you live in a world where you are bombarded with junk—even if you’re good at discriminating—you’re only seeing a portion of what’s out there, so you still may share misinformation.”

Scientifically, we have problems because of “the enormous amount of information out there; the limited amount of time and attention people can devote to scrolling through their news feeds and choosing what to share; and the structure of the underlying social networks. All three conspire to spread some of the worst memes [the term Menczer and his colleagues use for a link, video, phrase or other unit of online information] at the expense of the best ones” (Makerjee).

It’s an interesting article, and I encourage you read it and see the math behind the fake news.  Meanwhile, I’ll keep trying not to get hoodwinked by fake news.


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laptop giveaway

The Art of Giving

Category : Blog

So I belong to a business organization that in addition to helping me connect to the business community and some wonderful people, helps its community through giving out new and used laptops to students, charity organizations and dislocated adult workers.

It has done some wonderful things through its donations, but on occasion things happen that dishearten us.

Soon after a recent give-away, a concerned citizen alerted us to a woman who had received a brand new computer from the organization on behalf of her son, selling it hours later on Facebook.

There is little we can do about it.  The laptop had left our hands and while she clearly misrepresented herself and committed fraud, the value of the laptop wasn’t high enough for us to take much action.

And that leads to the topic – the art of giving.  The act of giving isn’t really that hard.  What is hard is giving knowing that once the item leaves one’s hands, it’s beyond the giver’s control.  It’s an art to let it go.

The organization will continue to give because for every one person who represents herself/himself fraudulently taking advantage of someone’s generosity, there are dozens and dozens more who are truly grateful and make good on the gift.

The organization has given out over 900 refurbished computers and a few hundred brand new laptops thanks to a generous grant by an anonymous local donor.  And I have been privileged to see many of the children and adults who have received these gifts.  Most are excited, all are grateful and some are even overcome with emotions because that computer or laptop means they can work on getting that job, writing that school paper, or connect with faraway family members.

So the hurt at betrayal will pass, and the joy at giving will come once again.

And to the person who took a laptop away from someone who could truly benefit from it to sell it hours later online, I truly hope that you sold that laptop because you desperately needed to feed your family and not so you could splurge on some fancy dinner.

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Email Blast

Don’t Ruin Your Brand With Sloppy Email Marketing

Category : Blog

This morning I received an email blast on behalf of a local educational institution that usually sends out very professional email blasts.  In this case, a member of a smaller division of the institution sent out this email blast and quite frankly, the sender and the division should be embarrassed at its lack of professionalism.

Yes, I am going to pick apart this email and let you know the things you should NOT do:

  1. Don’t send an email representing yourself as a part of an organization using your own private email address. This muddies the waters.  In this day of phishing scams, this is a big no-no. It is also a potential liability for all involved.
  2. Don’t use cutesy or informal fonts. While it is okay to jazz up an email blast to a certain extent with a creative font here or there or within a graphic, using a non-common font or a informal font takes away from your brand unless you are an artist or graphic designer. In this case, the email was meant for local business owners and used comic sans font.
  3. Don’t use colored fonts for the bulk of the email.  Black is the font color of business. The bulk of any business email including email blasts and newsletters should be in black. Besides looking more professional, it aids the reading for anyone with visual impairment. Again, graphics should be colorful, but the main font should not.
  4. Don’t send out any email blast without another set of eyes proofreading the material. Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. It can’t be said enough. This email blast was about a conference being held at a local golf course’s facility, and guess what? The golf course’s name was spelled incorrectly. At the very least, get the principals right.

Your brand is important, and while an occasional mistake might occur, make your brand consistent, professional and sharp.