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Self-inflicted public relations disasters: United Airlines, Pepsi, Tanium, Uber

There are public-relations disasters… and there are self-inflicted public-relations disasters. Those are arguably the worst, and it’s been a meaningful couple of weeks for them, both in the general world and in the technology industry. In some cases, the self-inflicted crises exploded because of stupid or ham-handed initial responses.

In PR crisis management, it’s important to get the initial response right. That means:

  1. Acknowledging that something unfortunate happened
  2. Owning responsibility (in a way that doesn’t expose you to lawsuits, of course)
  3. Apologizing humbly, profusely and sincerely
  4. Promising to make amends to everyone affected by what happened
  5. Vowing to fix processes to avoid similar problems in the future

Here are some recent public relations disasters that I’d label as self-inflicted. Ouch!

United Airlines beats passengers

Two recent episodes. First, a young girl flying on an employee-travel pass wasn’t allowed to board wearing leggings. Second, a doctor was dragged out of a plane, and seriously injured, for refusing to give up his seat to make room for a United employee. Those incidents showed that gate agents were unaware of the optics of situations like this, and didn’t have the training and/or flexibility to adapt rules to avoid a public snafu.

However, the real disaster came from the poor handling of both situations by executives and their PR advisors. With the leggings situation, United’s hiding behind obscure rules and the employee-ticket status of the young passenger, didn’t help a situation where all the sympathy was with the girl. With the ejected and beaten passenger, where to begin? The CEO, Oscar Munoz, should have known that his first response was terrible, and his “confidential” email to employees, which blamed the passenger for being unruly, would be immediately leaked to the public. What a freakin’ idiot. It’s going to take some time for United to recover from these disasters.

Pepsi Cola misses the point

A commercial for a soft drink tried to reinterpret a famous Black Lives Matter protest moment in Baton Rouge. That’s where a young African-American woman, Ieshia Evans, faced off against heavily armored police officers. In Pepsi’s version of the event, a white celebrity, Kendall Jenner, faced off against attractive fake police officers, and defused a tense situation by handing a handsome young cop a can of soda. Dancing ensues. World peace is achieved. The Internet explodes with outrage.

Pepsi’s initial response is to defend the video by saying “We think that’s an important message to convey.” Oops. Later on, the company pulled the ad and apologized to everyone (including Ms. Jenner), but the damage was done, so much so that a fun meme was of White House spokesman Sean Spicer dressed up as an United Airlines pilot offering a can of Pepsi.

Tanium’s bad-boy CEO sends the wrong message

Tanium, a maker of endpoint security and management software, has fallen into the trap of owner hubris. As this story in Bloomberg explains, the top executives, including CEO Orion Hindawi, run the company more for their own benefit than for the benefit of their customers or other shareholders. For example, says Bloomberg, “One of the most unnerving aspects of life at Tanium is what’s known internally as Orion’s List. The CEO allegedly kept a close eye on which employees would soon be eligible to take sizable chunks of stock. For those he could stand to do without, Hindawi ordered the workers to be fired before they were able to acquire the shares, according to current and former employees.” As Business Insider reported, nine executives have left recently, including the president and top marketing and finance officers.

And then there’s the power-trip aspect, says Bloomberg. “The company’s successes didn’t do much to lift morale. Orion berated workers in front of colleagues until they broke into tears and used all-hands meetings as a venue to taunt low-level staff, current and former employees said.” Bloomberg reports that a major VC firm, Andreessen Horowitz, made note of Orion’s managerial flaws and presented them to partners at the firm early last year, saying that Orion’s behavior risked interfering with the company’s operations if it hadn’t already. This sort of nonsense is not good for a company with a decent reputation for intellectual property. The company’s response? Crickets.

Uber drives off the clue train

I’m a happy Uber customer. When traveling, I’m quite disappointed when the service is not available, as was the case on a recent trip to Austin, where Uber and Lyft aren’t offered. However, I’m not a fan of the company’s treatment of women and of the misdeeds of its CEO. Those PR disasters have become the public face of the story, not its innovations in urban transportation and self-driving cars. When a female engineer went public with how she was mistreated and how the company’s HR department ignored the issue, the Internet went nuts — and the company responded by doing a mea culpa. Still, the message was clear: Uber is misogynistic.

And then there were several reports of public naughtiness by CEO Travis Kalanick. The best was a video of him berating an Uber driver. Yes, Kalanick apologized and said that he needs help with leadership… but more crickets in terms of real change. As Engadget wrote in mid-April, the time for Uber leadership to step down is long overdue for the good of its employees, drivers, customers and shareholders. It’s unlikely the company can withstand another self-inflicted PR disaster.

It doesn’t have to be this way

When a PR disaster happens — especially a self-inflicted one — it’s vital to get on top of the story. See the five tips at the top of this blog, and check out this story, “When It Hits the Fan,” on tips for crisis management. You can recover, but you have to do it right, and do it quickly.

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Congress votes against Internet customer privacy; nothing changes

It’s official: Internet service providers in the United States can continue to sell information about their customers’ Internet usage to marketers — and to anyone else who wants to use it. In 2016, during the Obama administration, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) tried to require ISPs to get customer permission before using or sharing information about their web browsing. According to the FCC, the rule change, entitled, “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services,” meant:

The rules implement the privacy requirements of Section 222 of the Communications Act for broadband ISPs, giving broadband customers the tools they need to make informed decisions about how their information is used and shared by their ISPs. To provide consumers more control over the use of their personal information, the rules establish a framework of customer consent required for ISPs to use and share their customers’ personal information that is calibrated to the sensitivity of the information. This approach is consistent with other privacy frameworks, including the Federal Trade Commission’s and the Administration’s Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

More specifically, the rules required that customers had to positively agree to have their information used in that fashion. Previously, customers had to opt-out. Again, according to the FCC,

Opt-in: ISPs are required to obtain affirmative “opt-in” consent from consumers to use and share sensitive information. The rules specify categories of information that are considered sensitive, which include precise geo-location, financial information, health information, children’s information, social security numbers, web browsing history, app usage history and the content of communications.

Opt-out: ISPs would be allowed to use and share non-sensitive information unless a customer “opts-out.” All other individually identifiable customer information – for example, email address or service tier information – would be considered non-sensitive and the use and sharing of that information would be subject to opt-out consent, consistent with consumer expectations.

Sounds good, but Congress voted in March 2017 to overture that rule. Read about what happened — and what consumers can do — in my story for Zonic News, “U.S. Internet Service Providers Don’t Need To Protect Customer Privacy.”

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Repurposing, solution, robust, best of breed, mission-critical, next-generation, web-enabled, leading, value-added, leverage, seamless…

Let’s take a chainsaw to content-free buzzwords favored by technology marketers and public relations professionals. Or even better, let’s applaud one PR agency’s campaign to do just that. Houston PR, based in the UK, has a fun website called “Buzzsaw” which removes those empty phrases from text, such as press releases. Says the agency:

This free tool automatically hacks PR buzzwords out of press releases to make life more bearable for Britain’s hard-working journalists.

The Buzzsaw can also be used for speeches, strategy documents, advertising copy or any other collections of words that need to be as clear as possible.

You’ll find that toe-curling terms like repurposing, solution, robust, best of breed, mission-critical, next-generation, web-enabled, leading, value-added, leverage, seamless, etc, are struck out by the Buzzsaw.

It also takes a scythe to cutesy Hipster-style words and phrases like “totes amazeballs”, “awesome” and “super excited”.

To compile the Buzzsaw database we asked thousands of journalists to supply examples of the PR terms that irritate them the most.

Here are some of the words and phrases that Buzzsaw looks for. Note that it does tend to be British-centric in terms of spelling.

“win rates”, “business development lifecycle”, “market-leading”, “global provider”, “simple mission”, “optimal opportunities”, “unmatched capabilities”, “big data”, “pace of investment”, “priority needs”, “Blue Sky Thinking”, “Descriptor”, “Packages”, “Manage expectations”, “collegiate approach”, “oxygenate the process”, “low hanging fruit”, “Happy Bunny”, “Robust procedures”, “keep across”, “Stewardship”, “Solutioning”, “net net”, “sub-ideal”, “action that solve”, “expidite the deliverables”, “park this issue”, “suite of offerings”, “sunset”, “horizon scan”, “110%”, “Socialise”, “Humble”, “Special someone”, “Super”, “Shiny”, “Taxing times”, “Do the math”, “Sharing”, “Nailed it”, “Bail in”, “Revert”, “Sense check”, “Snackable content”, “higher order thinking”, “Coopetition”, “Fulfilment issues”, “Cascade”, “Demising”, “Horizon scanning”, “Do-able”, “Yardstick”, “Milestone”, “Landmark achievement”, “Negativity”, “True story”, “So True”, “Next-generation”, “Voice to voice”, “So to speak”, “Step change”, “Edgy”

Check it out — and if you are a tech PR professional or marketeer, maybe try it on your own collateral.

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Exciting News: BZ Media sells InterDrone to Emerald Expositions

As many of you know, I am co-founder and part owner of BZ Media LLC. Yes, I’m the “Z” of BZ Media. Here is exciting news released today about one of our flagship events, InterDrone.

MELVILLE, N.Y., March 13, 2017 BZ Media LLC announced today that InterDrone™ The International Drone Conference & Exposition has been acquired by Emerald Expositions LLC, the largest producer of trade shows in North America. InterDrone 2016 drew 3,518 attendees from 54 different countries on 6 continents and the event featured 155 exhibitors and sponsors. The 2017 event will be managed and produced by BZ Media on behalf of Emerald.

Emerald Expositions is the largest operator of business-to-business trade shows in the United States, with their oldest trade shows dating back over 110 years. They currently operate more than 50 trade shows, including 31 of the top 250 trade shows in the country as ranked by TSNN, as well as numerous other events. Emerald events connect over 500,000 global attendees and exhibitors and occupy over 6.7 million NSF of exhibition space.

“We are very proud of InterDrone and how it has emerged so quickly to be the industry leading event for commercial UAV applications in North America,” said Ted Bahr, President of BZ Media. “We decided that to take the event to the next level required a company of scale and expertise like Emerald Expositions. We look forward to supporting Emerald through the 2017 and 2018 shows and working together to accelerate the show’s growth under their ownership over the coming years.”

InterDrone was just named to the Trade Show Executive magazine list of fastest growing shows in 2016 and was one of only 14 shows in the country that was named in each of the three categories; fastest growth in exhibit space, growth in number of exhibitors and in attendance. InterDrone was the only drone show named to the list.

InterDrone 2017 will take place September 6–8, 2017, at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV, and, in addition to a large exhibition floor, features three subconferences for attendees, making InterDrone the go-to destination for UAV educational content in North America. More than 120 classes, panels and keynotes are presented under Drone TechCon (for drone builders, engineers, OEMs and developers), Drone Enterprise (for enterprise UAV pilots, operators and drone service businesses) and Drone Cinema (for pilots engaged in aerial photography and videography).

“Congratulations to Ted Bahr and his team at BZ Media for successfully identifying this market opportunity and building a strong event that provides a platform for commercial interaction and education to this burgeoning industry”, said David Loechner, President and CEO of Emerald Expositions. “We have seen first-hand the emerging interest in drones in our two professional photography shows, and we are excited at the prospect of leveraging our scale, experience and expertise in trade shows and conferences to deliver even greater benefits to attendees, sponsors, exhibitors at InterDrone and to the entire UAV industry.”

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With Big Data, Facebook knows you by the company you keep

liberalAs Aesop wrote in his short fable, “The Donkey and His Purchaser,” you can quite accurately judge people by the company they keep.

I am “very liberal,” believes Facebook. If you know me, you are probably not surprised by that. However, I was: I usually think of myself as a small-l libertarian who caucuses with the Democrats on social issues. But Facebook, by looking at what I write, who I follow, and which pages I like, probably has a more accurate assessment.

The spark for this particular revelation is “Liberal, Moderate or Conservative? See How Facebook Labels You.” The article, by Jeremy Merrill, in today’s New York Times, explains how to see how Facebook categorizes you (presumably this is most appropriate for U.S. residents):

Try this (it works best on your desktop computer):

Go to facebook.com/ads/preferences on your browser. (You may have to log in to Facebook first.)

That will bring you to a page featuring your ad preferences. Under the “Interests” header, click the “Lifestyle and Culture” tab.

Then look for a box titled “US Politics.” In parentheses, it will describe how Facebook has categorized you, such as liberal, moderate or conservative.

(If the “US Politics” box does not show up, click the “See more” button under the grid of boxes.)

Part of the power of Big Data is that it can draw correlations based on vague inferences. So, yes, if you like Donald Trump’s page, but don’t like Hillary Clinton’s, you are probably conservative. What if you don’t follow either candidate? Jeremy writes,

Even if you do not like any candidates’ pages, if most of the people who like the same pages that you do — such as Ben and Jerry’s ice cream — identify as liberal, then Facebook might classify you as one, too.

This is about more than Facebook or political preferences. It’s how Big Data works in lots of instances where there is not only information about a particular person’s preference and actions, but a web of connections to other people and their preferences and actions. It’s certainly true about any social network where it’s easy to determine who you follow, and who follows you.

If most of your friends are Jewish, or Atheist, or Catholic, or Hindu, perhaps you are too, or have interests similar to theirs. If most of your friends are African-American or Italian-American, or simply Italian, perhaps you are too, or have interests similar to theirs. If many of your friends are seriously into car racing, book clubs, gardening, Game of Thrones, cruise ship vacations, or Elvis Presley, perhaps you are too.

Here is that Aesop fable, by the way:

The Donkey and his Purchaser

A man who wanted to buy a donkey went to market, and, coming across a likely-looking beast, arranged with the owner that he should be allowed to take him home on trial to see what he was like.

When he reached home, he put him into his stable along with the other donkeys. The newcomer took a look round, and immediately went and chose a place next to the laziest and greediest beast in the stable. When the master saw this he put a halter on him at once, and led him off and handed him over to his owner again.

The latter was a good deal surprised to seem him back so soon, and said, “Why, do you mean to say you have tested him already?”

“I don’t want to put him through any more tests,” replied the other. “I could see what sort of beast he is from the companion he chose for himself.”

Moral: “A man is known by the company he keeps.”

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Popular news websites can be malware delivery systems

jason-steerNews websites are an irresistible target for hackers because they are so popular. Why? because they are trusted brands, and because — by their very nature — they contain many external links and use lots of outside content providers and analytics/tracking services. It doesn’t take much to corrupt one of those websites, or one of the myriad partners sites they rely upon, like ad networks, content feeds or behavioral trackers.

Potentially, malware injected on any well-trafficked news website, could infect tremendous numbers of people with ransomware, keyloggers, zombie code, or worse. Alarmist? Perhaps, but with good reason. News websites, which can include both traditional media (like the Chicago Tribune and the BBC), or new-media platforms (such as BuzzFeed or Business Insider) attract a tremendous number of visitors, especially when there is a breaking news story of tremendous interest, like a natural disaster, political event or celebrity shenanigans.

Publishing companies are not technology companies. They are content providers who do their honest best to offer a secure experience, but can’t be responsible for external links. In fact, many say so right in their terms of use statements or privacy policies. What they can be responsible for are the third-party networks that provide content or services to their platforms, but in reality, the search for profits and/or a competitive advantage outweighs any other considerations. And of course, their platforms can be hacked as well.

According to a story in the BBC, news sites in Russia, including the Moscow Echo Radio Station, opposition newspaper New Times, and the Kommersant business newspaper were hacked back in March 2012. In November 2014, the Syrian Electronic Army claimed to have hacked news sites, including the Canada’s CBC News.

Also in November 2014, one of the U.K’s most popular sites, The Telegraph, tweeted, “A part of our website run by a third-party was compromised earlier today. We’ve removed the component. No Telegraph user data was affected.”

A year earlier, in January 2013, the New York Times self-reported, “Hackers in China Attacked The Times for Last 4 Months.” The story said that, “The attackers first installed malware — malicious software — that enabled them to gain entry to any computer on The Times’s network. The malware was identified by computer security experts as a specific strain associated with computer attacks originating in China.”

Regional news outlets can also be targets. On September 18, 2015, reported CBS Local in San Francisco, “Hackers took control of the five news websites of Palo Alto-based Embarcadero Media Group on Thursday night, according to the CBS. The websites of Palo Alto Weekly, The Almanac, Mountain View Voice and Pleasanton Weekly were all reportedly attacked at about 10:30 p.m. Thursday.

I talked recently with Jason Steer of Menlo Security, a security company based in Menlo Park, Calif. He put it very clearly:

You are taking active code from a source you didn’t request, and you are running it inside your PC and your network, without any inspection whatsoever. Because of the high volumes of users, it only takes a small number of successes to make the hacking worthwhile. Antivirus can’t really help here, either consumer or enterprise. Antivirus may not detect ransomware being installed from a site you visit, or malicious activity from a bad advertisement or bad JavaScript.

Jason pointed me to his blog post from November 12, 2015, “Top 50 UK Website Security Report.” His post says, in part,

Across the top 50 sites, a number of important findings were made:

• On average, when visiting a top 50 U.K. website, your browser will execute 19 scripts

• The top UK website executed 125 unique scripts when requested

His blog continued with a particularly scary observation:

15 of the top 50 sites (i.e. 30 percent) were running vulnerable versions of web-server code at time of testing. Microsoft IIS version 7.5 was the most prominent vulnerable version reported with known software vulnerabilities going back more than five years.

How many scripts are running on your browser from how many external servers? According to Jason’s research, if you visit the BBC website, your browser might be running 92 scripts pushed to it from 11 different servers. The Daily Mail? 127 scripts from 35 servers. The Financial Times? 199 scripts from 31 servers. The New Yorker? 113 scripts from 33 sites. The Economist? 185 scripts from 46 sites. The New York Times? 76 scripts from 29 servers. And Forbes, 100 scripts from 49 servers.

Most of those servers and scripts are benign. But if they’re not, they’re not. The headline on Ars Technica on March 15, 2016, says it all: “Big-name sites hit by rash of malicious ads spreading crypto ransomware.” The story begins,

Mainstream websites, including those published by The New York Times, the BBC, MSN, and AOL, are falling victim to a new rash of malicious ads that attempt to surreptitiously install crypto ransomware and other malware on the computers of unsuspecting visitors, security firms warned.

The tainted ads may have exposed tens of thousands of people over the past 24 hours alone, according to a blog post published Monday by Trend Micro. The new campaign started last week when “Angler,” a toolkit that sells exploits for Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight, and other widely used Internet software, started pushing laced banner ads through a compromised ad network.

 According to a separate blog post from Trustwave’s SpiderLabs group, one JSON-based file being served in the ads has more than 12,000 lines of heavily obfuscated code. When researchers deciphered the code, they discovered it enumerated a long list of security products and tools it avoided in an attempt to remain undetected.

Let me share my favorite news website hack story, because of its sheer audacity. According to Jason’s blog, ad delivery systems can be turned into malware delivery systems, and nobody might every know:

If we take one such example in March 2016, one attacker waited patiently for the domain ‘brentsmedia[.]com’ to expire, registered in Utah, USA , a known ad network content provider. The domain in question had expired ownership for 66 days, was then taken over by an attacker in Russia (Pavel G Astahov) and 1 day later was serving up malicious ads to visitors of sites including the BBC, AOL & New York Times. No-one told any of these popular websites until the malicious ads had already appeared.

Jason recently published an article on this subject in SC Magazine, “Brexit leads to pageviews — pageviews lead to malware.” Check it out. And be aware that when you visit a trusted news website, you have no idea what code is being executed on your computer, what that code does, and who wrote that code.

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It’s a fake award for SD Times – thank you, scammers!

faux-awardScammers give local businesses a faux award and then try to make money by selling certificates, trophies, and so-on.

Going through my spam filter today, I received FIVE of this exact same message praising SD Times for winning the “2016 Best of Huntington” award. The emails came from five different email addresses and domains, but the links all went to the same domain. (SD Times is published by BZ Media; I’m the “Z” of BZ Media.)

The messages read:

Sd Times has been selected for the 2016 Best of Huntington Awards for Media & Entertainment.

For details and more information please view our website: [link redacted]

If you click the link (which is not included above), you are given the choice to buy lots of things, including a plaque for $149.99 or a crystal award for $199.99. Such a deal: You can buy both for $229.99, a $349.98 value!! This is probably a lucrative scam, since the cost of sending emails is approximately $0; even a very low response rate could yield a lot of profits.

The site’s FAQ says,

Do I have to pay for an award to be a winner?

No, you do not have to pay for an award to be a winner. Award winners are not chosen based on purchases, however it is your option, to have us send you one of the 2016 Awards that have been designed for display at your place of business.

Shouldn’t my award be free?

No, most business organizations charge their members annual dues and with that money sponsor an annual award program. The Best of Huntington Award Program does not charge membership dues and as an award recipient, there is no membership requirement. We simply ask each award recipient to pay for the cost of their awards.

There is also a link to a free press release. Aren’t you excited on our behalf?

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Sd Times Receives 2016 Best of Huntington Award

Huntington Award Program Honors the Achievement

HUNTINGTON July 2, 2016 — Sd Times has been selected for the 2016 Best of Huntington Award in the Media & Entertainment category by the Huntington Award Program.

Each year, the Huntington Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Huntington area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2016 Huntington Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Huntington Award Program and data provided by third parties.

About Huntington Award Program

The Huntington Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Huntington area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

The Huntington Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community’s contributions to the U.S. economy.

SOURCE: Huntington Award Program

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Photo and artwork guidelines for people, products, logos and screen shots

old-cameraIf you are asked to submit a photograph, screen shot or a logo to a publication or website, there’s the right way and the less-right way. Here are some suggestions that I wrote several years ago for BZ Media for use in lots of situations — in SD Times, for conferences, and so-on.

While they were written for the days of print publications, these are still good guidelines for websites, blog and other digital publishing media.

General Suggestions

  • Photos need to be high resolution. Bitmaps that would look great on a Web page will look dreadful in print. The recommended minimum size for a bitmap file should be two inches across by three inches high, at a resolution of 300 dpi — that is, 600×900 pixels, at the least. A smaller photograph may be usable, but frankly, it will probably not be.
  • Photos need to be in a high-color format. The best formats are high-resolution JPEG files (.jpg) and TIFF (.tif) files. Or camera RAW if you can. Avoid GIF files (.gif) because they are only 256 colors. However, in case of doubt, send the file in and hope for the best.
  • Photos should be in color. A color photograph will look better than a black-and-white photograph — but if all you have is B&W, send it in. As far as electronic files go, a 256-color image doesn’t reproduce well in print, so please use 24-bit or higher color depth. If the website wants B&W, they can convert a color image easily.
  • Don’t edit or alter the photograph. Please don’t crop it, modify it using Photoshop or anything, unless otherwise requested to do so. Just send the original image, and let the art director or photo editor handle the cropping and other post-processing.
  • Do not paste the image into a Word or PowerPoint document. Send the image as a separate file.

Logos

  • Send logos as vector-based EPS files (such as an Adobe Illustrator file with fonts converted to outlines) if possible. If a vector-based EPS file is not available, send a 300 dpi TIFF, JPEG or Photoshop EPS files (i.e., one that’s at least two inches long). Web-resolution logos are hard to resize, and often aren’t usable.

Screen Shots

  • Screen shots should be the native bitmap file or a lossless format. A native bitmapped screen capture from Windows will be a huge .BMP file. This may be converted to a compressed TIFF file, or compressed to a .ZIP file for emailing. PNG is also a good lossless format and is quite acceptable.
  • Do not convert a screen capture to JPEG or GIF.  JPEGs in particular make terrible screen shots due to the compression algorithms; solid color areas may become splotchy, and text can become fuzzy. Screen captures on other platforms should also be lossless files, typically in TIFF or PNG.

Hints for better-looking portraits

  • Strive for a professional appearance. The biggest element is a clean, uncluttered background. You may also wish to have the subject wear business casual or formal clothing, such as a shirt with a collar instead of a T-shirt. If you don’t have a photo like that, send what you have.
  • Side or front natural light is the best and most flattering. Taking pictures outdoors with overcast skies is best; a picture outdoors on a sunny day is also good, but direct overhead sunlight (near noon) is too harsh. If possible, keep away from indoor lighting, especially ceiling or fluorescent lights. Avoid unpleasant backlighting by making sure the subject isn’t standing between the camera and a window or lamp.
  • If you must use electronic flash… Reduce red-eye by asking the subject to look at the photographer, not at the camera. (Off-camera flash is better than on-camera flash.) Eliminate harsh and unpleasant shadows by ensuring that the subject isn’t standing or sitting within three feet of a wall, bookcase or other background objects. Another problem is white-out: If the camera is too close to the subject, the picture will be too bright and have too much contrast.
  • Maintain at least six feet separation between the camera and the subject, and three feet (or more) from the background. If the subject is closer than six feet to the camera, his/her facial features will be distorted, and the results will be unattractive. For best results, hold the camera more than six feet from the subject. It’s better to be farther away and use the camera’s optical zoom, rather than to shoot a close-up from a few feet away.
  • Focus on his/her eyes. If the eyes are sharp, the photo is probably okay. If the eyes aren’t sharp (but let’s say the nose or ears are), the photo looks terrible. That’s because people look at the eyes first.
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Big Security, Big Cloud and the Big Goodbye

ddjSoftware-defined networks and Network Functions Virtualization will redefine enterprise computing and change the dynamics of the cloud. Data thefts and professional hacks will grow, and development teams will shift their focus from adding new features to hardening against attacks. Those are two of my predictions for 2015.

Big Security: As 2014 came to a close, huge credit-card breaches from retailers like Target faded into the background. Why? The Sony Pictures hack, and the release of an incredible amount of corporate data, made us ask a bigger question: “What is all that information doing on the network anyway?” Attackers took off with Sony Pictures’ spreadsheets about executive salaries, confidential e-mails about actors and actresses, and much, much more.

What information could determined, professional hackers make off with from your own company? If it’s on the network, if it’s on a server, then it could be stolen. And if hackers can gain access to your cloud systems (perhaps through social engineering, perhaps by exploiting bugs), then it’s game over. From pre-released movies and music albums by artists like Madonna, to sensitive healthcare data and credit-card numbers, if it’s on a network, it’s fair game.

No matter where you turn, vulnerabilities are everywhere. Apple patched a hole in its Network Time Protocol implementation. Who’d have thought attackers would use NTP? GitHub has new security flaws. ICANN has scary security flaws. Microsoft released flawed updates. Inexpensive Android phones and tablets are found to have backdoor malware baked right into the devices. I believe that 2015 will demonstrate that attackers can go anywhere and steal anything.

That’s why I think that savvy development organizations will focus on reviewing their new code and existing applications, prioritizing security over adding new functionality. It’s not fun, but it’s 100% necessary.

Big Cloud: Software-defined networking and Network Functions Virtualization are reinventing the network. The fuzzy line between intranet and Internet is getting fuzzier. Cloud Ethernet is linking the data center directly to the cloud. The network edge and core are indistinguishable. SDN and NFV are pushing functions like caching, encryption, load balancing and firewalls into the cloud, improving efficiency and enhancing the user experience.

In the next year, mainstream enterprise developers will begin writing (and rewriting) back-end applications to specifically target and leverage SDN/NFV-based networks. The question of whether the application is going to run on-premises or in the cloud will cease to be relevant. In addition, as cloud providers become more standards-based and interoperable, enterprises will gain more confidence in that model of computing. Get used to cloud APIs; they are the future.

Looking to boost your job skills? Learn about SDN and NFV. Want to bolster your development team’s efforts? Study your corporate networking infrastructure, and tailor your efforts to matching the long-term IT plans. And put security first—both of your development environments and your deployed applications.

Big Goodbye: The tech media world is constantly changing, and not always for the better. The biggest one is the sunsetting of Dr. Dobb’s Journal, a website for serious programmers, and an enthusiastic bridge between the worlds of computer science and enterprise computing. After 38 years in print and online, the website will continue, but no new articles or content will be commissioned or published.

DDJ was the greatest programming magazine ever. There’s a lot that can be said about its sad demise, and I will refer you to two people who are quite eloquent on the subject: Andrew Binstock, the editor of DDJ, and Larry O’Brien, SD Times columnist and former editor of Software Development Magazine, which was folded into DDJ a long time ago.

Speaking as a long-time reader—and as one of the founding judges of DDJ’s Jolt Awards—I can assure you that Dr. Dobb’s will be missed.

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Despairing of the “brogrammer” world, thanks to GamerGate

gamergateIt’s hard being a female programmer or software engineer. Of course, it’s hard for anyone to be a techie, male or female. You have to master a lot of arcane knowledge, and keep up with new developments. You have to be innately curious and inventive. You have to be driven, you have to be patient, and you have to be able to work swiftly and accurately.

Far too often, you have to work in a toxic culture. Whether in person or online, newbies get hazed and harassed. Men are verbally abused, certainly, in many software engineering organizations — there’s no room in many techie hangouts for wimps. However, women are almost always abused worse, and while men can learn to fight back, women are harassed in ways that are truly sickening.

Men are insulted and called names. Women receive death threats.

I’ve written about the challenges facing women in technology many times over the past decades. One recent column was “Fight back against the ugly ‘brogrammer’ trend,” written in May 2012. Yet I am continually astonished (in a bad way) by how terribly women are treated.

A recent example is what’s being called GamerGate. That where a number of prominent women gamers – including some game developers—have been attacked online. Several women have reported receiving very explicit threats, which have included disclosures of their home addresses. At least two women, game developer Zoe Quinn and media critic Anita Sarkeesian, have apparently fled their homes.

For background on this appalling situation, see Nick Wingfield’s story in the New York Times, “Feminist Critics of Video Games Facing Threats in ‘GamerGate’ Campaign.”

What can we do? Other than say, “This isn’t right,” it’s hard to be sure. I don’t know if anyone I know is involved in these sorts of threats. I am unsure if any readers here are involved in creating this culture of misogyny and fear. But I do know that in the broad world, anti-bullying, anti-hazing and anti-harassment programs apparently don’t work, or certainly don’t work for long.

Indeed, GamerGate has become a distraction. The discussion of GamerGate itself (which thrives on Twitter on with the hashtag #GamerGate) has seemingly overridden the bigger discussion about how women engineers, or women in the technology industry, are treated.

Christopher Grant, editor-in-chief of the gaming news/reviews site Polygon, has written a strong article about GamerGate, in which he writes,

Video games are capital “C” Culture now. There won’t be less attention, only more. There won’t be less scrutiny. There certainly won’t be less diversity, in the fiction of games themselves or in the demographics of their players. What we’re in control of is how we respond to that expansion, as journalists, as developers, as consumers. Step one has to be a complete rejection of the tools of harassment and fear — we can’t even begin to talk about the interesting stuff while people are literally scared for their lives. There can be no dialogue with a leaderless organization that both condemns and condones this behavior, depending on who’s using the hashtag.

GamerGate is evil. Perhaps harassment of women in the gaming industry is worse than in other technical fields. However, we should know, men and women alike, that despite the good work of groups like Women in Technology International and the Anita Borg Institute, the tech world is frequently hostile to women and tries to drive them out of the industry.

Alas, I wish I knew what to do.

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PR angels in the outfield

This just in, from the aptly named “Pitch Public Relations.” This particular fastball, sent to a technology analyst (me), was high and to the outside… though, one could argue, by my blogging the pitch, the agency is getting the coverage it wanted.

From: “Ann Noder”
Date: December 15, 2009 9:22:00 AM PST
Subject: New – Angel Book

Alan,

World renowned Spiritual Intuitive, Sonja Grace (www.sonjagrace.com) tackles the subject of death like no one else before, in her new 2010 book, Angels in the 21st Century: A New Perspective on Death and Dying.

I thought you might have interest in a review copy.

For nearly 30 years, Sonja has been providing clarity and guidance helping people worldwide to seek answers from within, as well as from the spirit realm. Thanks to her special gifts, she provides profound and unique insight, revealing how tuning into the Four Essential Bodies (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) provides each of us the ability to experience a life of happiness, in part by preparing us for the greatest passage of all: Death.

The book takes a truly hopeful and positive look at what it really means to die.

Please let me know if you are interested in taking a look.

Also, happy to provide more information, a jpeg of the cover, and/or an interview. Thanks!

Ann Noder
CEO/President
Pitch Public Relations(tm)
email hidden; JavaScript is required
Phone: 480.263.1557
Fax: 480.907.5298
www.PitchPublicRelations.com

@pitchpublicrelations.com

Pitch PR president Ann Noder (pictured) boasts on her website,

Plain and simple. Pitch Public Relations is about pitching to the media. We get your story, your product, your service, yourself in the news in a big way. We’re not talking advertisements or commercials here. We get companies featured editorially. So, how do we do it? Hey, we won’t give away all our secrets. But we start with a roster of media contacts that are unmatched – from magazine editors to television news reporters and everything in between. Combine that with savvy story placement and an aggressive work ethic and bingo – you have a formula for PR success.

Perhaps the secret formula should include, “Target the appropriate media.”

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Testosterone-fueled software development

A business-technology blogger for the Wall Street Journal, Rebecca Buckman, posits that there’s an innate difference in coding style between male and female programmers.

In her June 6 posting, “Men Write Code from Mars, Women Write More Helpful Code from Venus,” Buckman leads by throwing out another gender stereotype. This broad brushstroke, presented as unassailable fact, undermines her conclusion’s credibility right off the bat.

“We all know men hate to ask for directions. Apparently they loathe putting directions in computer code, too,” Buckman writes.

Buckman based her broad characterization of male and female programmers on the comments of one female software executive in Silicon Valley, Ingres’ Emma McGratten.

McGratten’s point, as amplified by Buckman, is that smart women write beautifully clear software to communicate better with their colleagues, while stupid men write cryptic code to show off how clever they think they are. Yay, women. Boo, men.

That’s why McGratten believes there’s a “big need to fix testosterone-fueled code at Ingres because only about 20% of the engineers are women.”

What a load of nonsense. I expect better from the WSJ.

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Beauty sells, whether it’s medicine or magazines

If you’ve been to the doctor recently, you’ve probably shared the waiting room with one or more pharmaceutical sales representatives. Almost without exception, they’re beautiful young women and men, immaculately groomed and expensively dressed.

I read in the NY Times that Big Pharm likes to recruit from college cheerleaders (see “Gimme an Rx! Cheerleaders Pep Up Drug Sales“). Certainly the girls and boys hanging out in waiting rooms look both perky and athletically trim enough to be cheerleaders.

Why would the drug companies focus on people like that as sales representatives? One would surmise it’s because that strategy pays off.

Thus, see this article in Folio, which asks, “Are you good-looking enough to sell magazine ads?” According to Josh Gordon’s story, 17 percent of a pharm site’s survey respondents say that looks matter more than anything else.

I wonder if it applies to the media business too. If so… it’s a good thing I’m not in ad sales!

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Rent-a-model for Interop?

In case you’re wondering where booth bunnies come from, here’s an e-mail I received from “Barbie” at The Élan Agency.

It came because we’re exhibiting at the Interop (not “Interopt”) conference at the end of April in Las Vegas. Have fun checking out their model search engine: They have men, women and children, all available for your trade-show extravaganza!

Greetings:

The Élan Agency is a top of the line model and talent agency in Las Vegas and – first – want to welcome you to our city, in advance. We would also like to offer the agency’s services to your company while here in Las Vegas. We have some of the most beautiful and professional narrators and models for your trade show needs. We have spokespersons, demonstrators; we even have entertainers and guest speakers for the entire company’s enlightenment, as well as a complete event planning department. We can schedule shows, meals, even your airline tickets.

Please let us know if there is any way we can assist you at Interopt Las Vegas 2008, and have some fun while you’re here.

Thank you,

Barbie

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No operating system just for the little ladies

I echo the comments by Tina Gasperson, in her post, “Linux distro for women? Thanks, but no thanks.” It reminds me of the tool kits for women you see in all the department stores, with pink-handled screwdrivers “just for her.”

What, my wife can’t use our Craftsman screwdrivers or Black & Decker drills? We’re supposed to have two sets of tools, one for me and our son, one for my wife? Are we supposed to buy some Craftswoman tools, or get her gear from Pink & Decker? How condescending.

Software, including operating systems, should be written for people. Not for men, not for women, not for girls, not for boys. People.

I never knew that the Red Hat and SUSE were “for boys,” and that my wife is supposed to run a different server operating system than the males in the household.

How stupid is that?

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Should you talk to men and women differently?

I received this pitch today from Event Management Services, a self-described “publicity firm.” Frankly, it’s too amusing not to share with everyone. This is a verbatim cut-and-paste, with phone number and e-mail addresses removed.

Note that the the e-mail pitch itself was a rich HTML file with lots of colors, bolding, italicizing, centered text, larger text, underlining etc., which I don’t feel like replicating completely.

This is clearly a company that buys mailing lists — they sent it to many addresses at our company, including our info@ and letter@ addresses. The subject line was, “Should You Talk to Women Differently About Your Product?” What do you think about this pitch? -A

* * * * *

 

Should You Talk to Men and Women Differently About Your Product?

You probably chat with both men and women just about every day, right? But are they hearing you in exactly the same way?

And when it comes to the selling of your products or services, would it pay to speak to them… well… differently?

That’s what marketing experts, like author Martha Barletta, believe. Owing to the way we’re made up, the way we’re raised, men and women can process information very differently. For example…

“Consistent with men’s inclination to simplify and strip away extraneous detail, they believe in starting with the main point and supplying specific detail only if the listener asks for it,” Barletta observed in her bestseller, Marketing to Women.” Conversely…“To women, the details are the good part: what he said, why she answered as she did, and what was the significance of that event. Women want the full story.”

There’s probably more truth in Barletta’s observations than we care to admit. And if your product specifically targets men or women—and you’re out there doing TV or talk radio interviews—it’s a good idea to pay attention to how you talk to them.

Consider, for example…

“Report Talk Versus Rapport Talk”

Along the lines of the above “outline versus detail-rich” way of speaking I mentioned, women place great value, according to Barletta, in personalizing conversation. Men apparently don’t.

“When male and female students in a communications class were asked to bring in an audiotape of a ‘really good conversation,’ one young man brought in a lunch conversation with a fellow classmate that included lots of animated discussion of a project they were working on together. The women students were puzzled because there wasn’t a personal word on the whole tape. You call that a conversation?”

Barletta labeled the way men speak “report talk,” while women use “rapport talk.”

Use This in Your Next Interview

Assuming that’s actually the case, how could you use this in media interviews or even your marketing? Well, if you’re targeting women, you might try telling more stories of how people respond to your product or service or how a person’s life was improved by it. You might also tell your own story, particularly if it was challenging, moving or heartwarming.

Conversely, if you’re targeting men, you might focus on the “nuts and bolts” of your product. How things work, why they work and their future usage—things like that.

And what if you’re speaking to both men and women? Just blend the two approaches. Personalize your information and give out the nuts and bolts in your own particular style.

I’m Marsha Friedman, CEO of Event Management Services, one of the country’s only Publicity and Advertising firms that offer a “media guarantee”. There’s a lot more on this subject of talking to men and women differently that I will share with you in future emails. For now, let me leave you with this: The difference between men and women extends to the way we hear things…and you should be prepared to address that.

If we can help you obtain national media exposure for your products or services, call me or Steve Friedman today. Find out why New York Times bestselling author Earl Mindell said, “Event Management is the best in the business.”

Best,

Marsha Friedman, President
Event Management Services

P.S. I mentioned the value of personalizing things for women? Barletta wrote, “To women, personal ties are a good thing—in fact the best thing.” Maybe you could use that tidbit in your next interview, too.