Jun 292018
 

Almost every time I see a report on how a company’s stock is doing, or why the price did whatever it just did, I become more and more convinced that there’s no actual rational behavior or logic going on in stock trading anymore. Companies will report a great quarter and the price will tank. A company will announce plans to expand as well as what they did to complete that plan, and the stock price will drop because they had a large expense that quarter. It used to be that it was considered good advice to have a lot of your stock portfolio consist of “blue chip” stocks – the price would be largely stable and they paid dividends regularly. Now everyone wants to get in on “unicorns” (startups valued at over $1 billion dollars, which is generally insane to begin with), or focus on high growth stocks, with an insistence that they always be high-growth stocks. More and more I’ve become convinced that the stock market is largely a BS engine driven more by hype than actual economics.

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 Posted by at 11:45 AM
May 252018
 

If you work in any industry that makes use of other people’s data, and odds you’ve been hearing a lot about a new European Union law going into effect called GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation if you’re curious). I’m not going to get into the law’s requirements – if it applies to you then odds are the attorneys working for or retained by your company have already discussed what you need to do to be in compliance, that’s not what interests me here (besides, I’m neck deep in implementing the things my company’s lawyers said need to be implemented to say we’re in compliance). After hearing people say that Facebook’s latest scandal could/should result in GDPR-style regulation in the US, I thought I’d take a closer look at the ideas behind GDPR, and see how well they stack up as well as take a passing look at how good or bad they’re likely going to be.

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 Posted by at 11:45 AM
Apr 272018
 

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Facebook’s been in the news recently, specifically around the exposure of millions of users’ worth of data to a firm called Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica allegedly used this to help various Republicans, including Donald Trump, during the 2016 election cycle. And to hear a lot of people talk about it, that’s the last sign before the start of the apocalypse, or something like that. To be honest it’s been hard to find a calm take on the whole thing, which has been part of the problem. People are shocked at how much data Facebook has on them. They can’t believe that Facebook lets people use this data to target ads to others. Or that companies may use this targeting for political advertising to try to swing an election. Or Facebook was “breached” (everyone else’s word, not the correct one) and this data leaked out. The truth is that while there were some problems with Facebook, and some bad actors at play, we’re focusing on the wrong things here, and it’s inspiring us to hysterics instead of reasoned analysis and reasonable responses.

I’m going to pause here and just make a note that I work for an email marketing company that emphasizes segmentation and targeted marketing. I’ve also written a Facebook application to create custom audiences on Facebook and keep them synced with their source mailing list. None of this requires data from Facebook users, so I don’t capture any sort of profile information, and all the opinions I’m writing here are my own, but it’s probably worth bearing in mind that my employment revolves around targeted marketing and I have done work to help marketers sync some of their “targeting” over to Facebook, so clearly I’m not as bothered by the concept of targeted advertising as some people may be.

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 Posted by at 11:45 AM
Feb 262018
 

After attending a few different software conferences, I’ve begun to appreciate the skill involved in giving a good public presentation, and just how rare it is to encounter. I’m not claiming to be an expert, the extent of my formal public speaking “training” consists of a half-semester course in college, and I wouldn’t rate my ability as anything beyond “competent enough to present something to the office.” That said, I think we’ve all seen enough bad presentations to have noticed a few things they all have in common. My goal here is to offer some things that I’ve noticed from good presentations in the hopes of encouraging people to start emulating some better habits.

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 Posted by at 11:30 AM
Jan 312018
 

There’s a line that I wrote in my recent post on social networks that’s been sticking around my head ever since I typed it: “Venmo is a much more creative social application than Mastodon is.” That line got me thinking about just what makes a social application…”social”, and I’m starting to think that a lot of what we term “social” applications aren’t really “social,” but something else entirely.

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 Posted by at 6:00 AM
Dec 302017
 

I’ve been thinking about just what it would take to create the type of media operation I described in “The future of journalism won’t look anything like today’s journalism” – specifically what pieces are still needed to get this type of operation off the ground, what pieces already exist, etc. As I think more on it, the more it seems that most of the individual components, with the exception of delivering content in a format other than the article, already exist. The biggest impediment to adopting these tools is likely attitude, namely organizations being so used and attached to how they’ve been doing things that they’re not thinking about approaching this from a completely blank slate.

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 Posted by at 12:00 PM
Oct 222017
 

So a while back I had a fondness for ranting about social networks on this blog. Lately, I’ve had the urge to revisit that trend and spend some more time ranting about social networks on this blog. Why? Well, I’ve been using Mastodon some recently, and that’s got me thinking about my whole concept of what social networks (and the apps built on top of them) should be. And while I’m not going to try to claim that a relatively minor (compared to the other social networking apps out there) app is the future of social networking, looking past the app to some of the design decisions show a lot of things that make me happy about the trend in how some of these newer apps are getting built.

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 Posted by at 12:05 AM
Jul 292017
 

I’ve noticed several new blog posts on journalism and its future over the last couple of months. Couple this with listening to This Week In Google regularly along with following Jeff Jarvis’s blog, and the question of what journalism is going to evolve into (and the journalism that makes it to several years from now will have changed dramatically from how they operate today) has been on my mind of late. The more I consider it, the less I think journalism’s ultimate destination will be recognizable as what we have available today.

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 Posted by at 1:15 PM
May 242017
 

Not too long ago, my friend Warren wrote an article proposing some campaign finance reforms. This got me thinking about whether or not there’s a reliable to way of dealing with monetary donations to political candidates that both encourages integrity once a candidate reaches office, and can stand up to legal challenges. Personally, I think there is, but to do so we’re going to have to approach the situation from a different angle.

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 Posted by at 1:28 AM
May 012016
 

I mentioned in a previous blog post that we had used DynamoDB on an internal project at Bronto (my employer, but I don’t speak for them – they have people for that). That project is the Bronto Cantina – which launched to the whole Durham office a couple of weeks ago.  It was a pretty neat little application, most of which was written over the course of a couple of days, followed by bits and pieces of cleanup afterwards to get a test setup up and running. Now we’re live, and I wanted to say a few words about it.

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 Posted by at 12:06 AM