Monday Must-Reads

Happy Monday, iCopyInsiders. Ready for another week at the office?

Of course, I use the term “office” loosely. I imagine that – for many of our writers and clients – the office is wherever we make it. I like cafés as much as the next blogger, but I tend to stick to the nook in my apartment where I’ve set up shop.

I’ve got my headset, French press, WiFi, plenty of peace and quiet to write and a decent sixth-story view of Brooklyn, complete with a giant tree so I can tell the season. When the leaves turn green, I will finally go outside.

I bring all this up because telecommuting is suddenly the subject of surprisingly intense debate, with Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, axing work-from-home as an option for the tech company’s employees.

Which brings us to Item No. 1 on the weekly reading list.

  1. Where do you stand on telecommuting? Slate offers both sides of the debate. Tech columnist Farhad Manjoo writes that work-from-home is awesome. Katie Roiphe begs to differ.
  2. On to a topic only slightly less controversial: social media and ROI. eMarketer reports on a recent study showing that Twitter generates the most leads for small to mid-sized businesses, while Facebook generates more traffic. Social media itself only accounted for 5 percent of sales leads in the survey of 500 businesses.
  3. In other social news, this via The New York Times, Facebook is set to display targeted ads around the Web with its acquisition of Microsoft’s Atlas Advertising Suite.
  4. Of course, our passion here at iCopywriter is organic search, so if you need a refresher, this column in Entrepreneur has five simple strategies that just about anyone can use to improve their SEO. It’s a good primer for SEO newbies.
  5. And, finally, the Girl Scouts of America has pulled the plug on the ecommerce ambitions of reality television star Alana Thompson – known as Honey Boo Boo – saying she can’t sell the cookies over Facebook because it defeats the purpose of selling the cookies.

Other than dispensing tasty treats, the cookie program is meant to help young women gain confidence and business skills. I’m sold. Now, where can I find some Tagalongs?

That might be worth leaving the office for.

 

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – Oh, the Things You can Print

They say you can find anything on the Web. Thanks to 3D printing, that’s truer than ever. The kinds of stuff you can download just got a lot cooler and, in some cases, much freakier.

For the uninitiated, 3D printing involves laying down successive layers of material – often plastic or a liquid resin – to create solid, three-dimensional objects. For now, these printers are mostly the domain of the tech-savvy DIY and Maker crowds because they’re great for rapid prototyping and other design projects, but the time is probably not far away when affordable desktop 3D printers will be available.

Put simply, sometime in the near future, it probably won’t be that unusual to print an iPhone case. Early adopters are already doing it.

Clients take note: If your business makes something – as in an actual, physical thing – 3D printing has the potential to change your industry. Forever. I’m talking as much as blogs and social media have changed this former print newspaper reporter’s trade.

How and when this happens are up for debate, but there are plenty of innovative companies in this space. MakerBot and Shapeways are two notable 3D printing companies based in New York.

But enough about the business end of things. It’s FreakyFriday, and you were promised freakiness. Well, 3D printing can deliver on that front, right in your home, in successive layers of resin. Here are three of the coolest, weirdest and/or freakiest things being done on 3D printers.

1) Your face. Or your mom’s face. Anybody’s, really.

This one probably wins. Tech blog Gizmodo had an article this week about Brooklyn artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg, who is printing theoretical 3D faces of strangers from their discarded DNA. That is, she’s lifting genetic material from cigarette butts, wads of gum and stray hairs found on the streets of New York, creating rough likenesses via computer based on ethnicity, age, gender and other factors and then printing them out.

And you thought Facebook’s facial recognition was freaky.

2) Magazines.

As in high-capacity gun magazines. Austin-based Defense Distributed is spearheading what it calls the Wiki Weapons project to develop printable firearms and ammunition. This week, Talking Points Memo reported on its IdeaLab blog that the organization demonstrated that it had successfully created a working, printable gun magazine be named in honor of New York’s pro-gun-control governor, Andrew Cuomo.

3) Human organs.

This one is still down the road, but, according to Mashable, Scottish scientists are working to create a 3D printer capable of replicating human organs via stem cells. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but for lack of a better sentence: Wow – science!

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – It’s the iCopywriter End of the World Roundup – and We Feel Fine

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

In case you’ve been living under a rock – or maybe an ancient stone tablet – it’s the end of the world as we know it. Do you feel fine? Yes, the ballyhooed Mayan Apocalypse is finally here. Or, as a Facebook friend of mine put it, the most annoying day on social media. Ever.

We initially held off on writing this week’s Freaky Friday, you know, just in case. But the world hasn’t ended in Australia or New Zealand, so let’s do this. Um, what are the SEO or copywriting lessons here? Well, my professional takeaway is that, because it looks like reality is going to continue as scheduled, both those things will continue to be important to any Web presence!

You can still cash in on the last drops of viral goodness here – #EndoftheWorldConfession is trending on Twitter – but it’s probably too late for any apocalypse-themed sales. And all the good parties were last night. But hey, it’s not the end of the world, right?

So let’s just cut to the chase here with iCopywriter’s ultimate guide to our favorite end-of-the-world links.

1. The Onion suggests that the apocalypse is already here. So funny it hurts. A lot.

2. Slate has been a reliable source of end-of-the-world coverage. Here’s the effect on the markets, a report on past apocalypse scares and the ultimate end-of-the-world mashup. And yes, a few are even using the old last night on Earth line.

3. Still not convinced? Here’s a good debunking of apocalypse myths from National Geographic. Plus, what the Mayans actually meant with that whole calendar thing.

Photo Credit: Kim-bodia

 

Google vs. Bing – The Battle Gets Heated

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

It looks like Microsoft is taking the fight for search traffic directly to Google – just in time for the holidays – with ads explicitly calling out the Web giant as a terrible place to shop.

This is according to a recent article by The Associated Press. Microsoft, of course, wants to drive eyeballs to its own search engine, Bing, which is a far-off second to Google when it comes to traffic.

Microsoft’s main issue – and it’s fair game – is that Google is charging merchants to appear in its special shopping listings. This of course goes against Google’s overall ethos as the fairest and best source of information on the Web. Microsoft has set up its own site as part of the ad campaign: Scroogled. The site doesn’t shy away from saying that the Google guys are basically hypocrites, using their own words against them to pretty devastating effect.

Although, as Danny Sullivan, an editor at SearchEngineLand.com, tells the AP, even though Microsoft’s attacks on Google are more or less fair, Bing isn’t exactly innocent. It takes its own cut from listings provided by Shopping.com, though the majority of Bing’s shopping listings aren’t paid for.

My initial reaction is that tech companies like Google are going to keep looking for ways to drive new revenue – like any company would – except that the Web is so ridiculously competitive. And the margins are so low that we really shouldn’t be surprised if Google starts balking on some of its idealistic promises. Witness Facebook’s recent changes to its business pages, which more or less force users to pay to promote their posts in order to reach their full audience.

After all, giving away the world’s information is expensive, especially if you’re doing it for free. The question is how much companies like Google and Facebook can get away with before they compromise their brand – and drive away users.

On the Web, you’re only as good as your audience. My sense is that Google messing around with its shopping listings isn’t much of a game changer. There are a ton of other price comparison apps out there; people will gravitate toward the one that actually finds the best prices. If Google can’t do that through paid ads, then people won’t use the site.

But if Google starts fooling with its actual search page – which is about as close to sacrosanct as you can get on the Web – well, then it’s time to have a whole new conversation.

How do you feel about the Microsoft/Google dust-up?

Photo Credit: michperu

FreakyFriday – Move over Mood Rings – Technology Can Now Determine How You Feel

It used to be that if you wanted to know you felt, you would just consult a mood ring. But now, new technology has taken over this entertaining piece of jewelry with a new emotion-recognizing capability.

After the purchase by Facebook of Face.com – a tool that is used to identify people in photos based on their facial characteristics – recognition technology has become more intriguing for many people and businesses alike. Now, one of the biggest innovators in this market, Orbeus, has taken facial recognition a few steps further and is claiming their technology can also recognize emotions, gender, objects and scenery.

While the technology is seemingly silly – and admittedly very freaky – it does show some significant potential for advertisers.

  • Images can determine demographics – When a photo is uploaded, a program can determine the person’s age and gender, allowing for targeted marketing even when demographic information may not have been provided by the individual.
  • Images can determine a person’s tastes – Images can also determine what a person likes based on scenic photos and pictures of objects uploaded. Ads and content can then be marketed to people based on what technology deems them interested in from the photos they upload. For example, if someone uploads pictures of primarily vegetables, the software could conclude that they are vegetarian and limit the number of steak or meat ads they see.
  • Images can determine a person’s feelings – Emotions captured on film can be determined based on complicated algorithms. Can you imagine what pharmaceutical companies could do with this information?

The increase in facial recognition software has sparked debate surrounding privacy issues. Now, not only is Facebook under fire for how they plan to use their recent purchase of Face.com but, the innovations of Orbeus have led to some new concerns with how much technology can tell about our behaviors and secret feelings. As over 200 developers experiment with the Orbeus API, people are wondering how other websites will use this technology to their advantage.

What do you think about this technological advancement? Freaky or intriguing?

Have you checked out iCopywriter lately?

 

 

 

 

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – Boston May Allow Voter Registration Via Facebook

By: iCopywriter Senior Editor, Heather Price-Wright

In order to reflect its status as what Boston City Council member Tito Jackson calls “a high-tech city,” with local Facebook and Microsoft offices, the city is considering allowing its citizens to register to vote via Facebook, according to unofficial Facebook blog AllFacebook.

An app called MyVote, which is already used in Washington State, lets would-be voters sign up through their Facebook pages. The app was developed by Microsoft, with help from Facebook employees.

According to Jackson, the cost of registering a voter on paper is $0.08; it would cost just $0.03 to do so online, meaning savings for the city.

Jackson also notes that Boston should make it as easy as possible for people to register to vote, and we at iCopywriter are inclined to agree.

No mention of privacy or identity verification issues was made, but we’re sure those considerations have been taken into account, or will be as the details of the program are ironed out.

What do you think? Is registering to vote via Facebook a great and über-convenient idea, or does the whole thing sound a little loosey-goosey?  Let us know in the comments!

Have you checked out iCopywriter.com lately? We can’t register you to vote, but we can provide you with the best custom content for your site.

Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – 10 Totally Freaky Things We (yes, us) Do on Facebook

By: iCopywriter Senior Editor, Heather Price-Wright

Lately, our FreakyFriday blogs have been focused on the weird ways other people use technology and social media. But look, we’re fair people, and we’re totally willing to admit that we’re right there with them. After all, when even the folks at Facebook are worried that people misuse Facebook and develop unhealthy relationships with social media, we know it’s a big, big problem.

So today, in the interest of fairness and hilarity (and the fact that we’re actually allowed to waste time on Social Media while we’re at work), we turn the microscope on ourselves and give you:

10 Freaky Ways We Use Facebook (and Other Social Media)

10. Posting funny status updates, and then immediately and repeatedly refreshing out notifications to see how many likes we can get.

9. Following things like “Taco Bell” and “Lady Gaga” and pretending these things are actually our friends, inviting us over for tacos or letting us know they love us “little monsters.”

8. Getting deliberately furious with the status updates, articles and pictures shared by our “friends” whose political opinions differ from our own.

7. Engaging in pointless debates with said “friends” that always devolve into 70-comment-long trolling matches.

6. Looking at pictures of the children of people we dated in high school.

5. Looking at pictures of everyone’s pets. Seriously, friends: I can has more cat pictures? Throw in a video of a pug in a Star Wars costume and we’re good to go!

4. Stalking our really successful friends’ Klout scores, and then crying because no one at The Huffington Post ever retweets us.

3. Signing on through other people’s Facebook accounts to stalk the weirdos (they’re the weirdos, not us – trust us) who have defriended and/or blocked us.

2. Laughing hysterically at stupid memes we have seen roughly 1,000,000 times.

1. Two words: Wedding pictures. Our friends’, our friends of friends’, random strangers’ … if you’ve posted pictures of your special day anywhere on Facebook, we’ve probably looked at Every. Single. One. It’s a problem.

What about you? What creepy behaviors do you engage in on social media, and what totally freaks you out when other people do it? Let your social media freak flag fly in the comments!

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FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – You’re Probably Addicted to Your Smartphone, Study (and Common Sense) Finds

By: iCopywriter Senior Editor, Heather Price-Wright

Actually, the news that smartphone addiction is a very real and very fast-spreading phenomenon is probably not “freaky” so much as, well, obvious. But a new study released by the mobile security firm Lookout revealed some troubling facts about the way we interact with our Crackberries and i-Can’t-Put-it-Down Phones.

  • Most of us – more than 60% of those surveyed – can’t survive a single waking hour without checking our phones.
  • The younger we are, the worse the addiction is. A whopping 73% of women and 63% of men ages 18-34 couldn’t go an hour without looking at their smartphones.
  • It’s not just waking hours, either – 54% of respondents admitted to checking their phones from bed, some even in the middle of the night.
  • With the advent of the smartphone, manners and basic decency seem to have gone out the window, judging by the fact that almost 33% of those surveyed use their phones while eating with others.
  • “Eyes on the road” doesn’t seem to be a rule we live by anymore, either, as 24% of surveyed people said they check their cell phones while driving, as well as engaging in other high-risk smartphone habits.
  • And finally, how sad is this? Almost 75% said they felt “panicked” when they misplaced their cell phones. Only 6%

So, how can you tell if you, too, are suffering from the menace that is smartphone addiction? We’ve come up with a list of behaviors we think might constitute an unhealthy attachment to a little piece of metal and plastic. We admit that some of these apply to us – do you see yourself here, too?

  1. The last thing you do before bed isn’t brush your teeth, say your prayers or even kiss your loved ones goodnight – instead, you check your email and play a word in Words With Friends.
  2. You have panic dreams about life without your Android.
  3. You miss big events because you’re too busy trying to take pictures of them with Instagram and post them to Facebook.
  4. You feel irrational fear on airplanes, not because you’re in a metal tube hurtling through the sky, but because you had to put your phone on airplane mode.
  5. You take your phone with you to the bathroom. Yuck. Seriously, stop doing that.

Have you checked out iCopywriter.com lately?

Photocredit: GinaEllen, www.stockfreeimages.com/

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – The Good, The Bad, and The Dangerous of Living a Public Life

By: iCopywriter Blogger, Kimberly Crossland

In less than a decade our worlds have changed dramatically. Now, old flames are being reunited and marriages are being dissolved over the use of Facebook – a service that was in its youth only 8 years ago. The way people interact with each other has shifted to socializing online instead of in person. People are kept up to date on what is happening in a distant friend’s life on social networks instead of on the phone. And while this is a great way to keep people close, it can also expose your world to people you may not have intended.

The following are a few examples of just how public our lives have become with the increased use of social media to interact.

  • Location-based services – With services such as Foursquare that encourage check-ins at local restaurants, shops, or businesses, people are broadcasting where they are for the world to see. While it may be fun to strive to be a mayor on Foursquare, opening up your location to be seen by your friends can be a risk. Imagine letting everyone know that you were at a local bar, only to have your ex-boyfriend show up for an impromptu greeting. There are fun sides to these apps, undoubtedly, but it is important to be aware of who will be seeing your location when you shout it from the social media rooftops.
  • Status updates – Even if you are not using a location-based service, status updates can also provide a wealth of information that divulges sensitive information (think: exposing your new-job search to your current boss), or brings to light that you are on vacation, opening up the possibility of thieves seeing your status and breaking into your home when you are gone. While these are extreme circumstances, they are meant to show that it is important to be mindful of what you are posting and how public your posts actually are.
  • Websites that watch – Today is the last day in a privacy policy poll that Facebook put out to its users on giving a little more leeway on the information they can share about their users. But it’s not only Facebook that is delivering tidbits of information to their users. Google and other websites gather information on where you visit, and what you search for. Your privacy is eliminated as soon as you type in a search query. Don’t believe us? Look at the ads that are being displayed in your direction. They, without a doubt, have something to do with a website you have searched before, or the subject of an e-mail you received.

Exposure is not always a bad thing. However, it is important to be aware of just how public your data is each and every time you hit your keyboard or send an update from your smartphone.

You tell us – Do you worry about your life being overly exposed online? And if so, what privacy measures do you put in place to help stop it?

Have you checked out iCopywriter lately?

Photo credit: Stan020

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – ‘Politwoops’ Site Archives Politicians’ Deleted Tweets

By: iCopywriter Senior Editor, Heather Price-Wright 

Last week, we brought you criminals so stupid they shouldn’t have been allowed to have Facebook accounts. This week,we continue our examination of people too dumb to social network with the most logical next step: politicians.

We’ve all read or heard about political gaffes large and small; politicians have been putting their feet in their very large mouths since the dawn of politics. What’s unique about this day and age is that our, ahem, esteemed elected officials have a nearly unlimited platform on which to say silly, offensive or downright wrong things – the Internet. And specifically, Twitter.

But unlike real life, Twitter does have a delete button. And occasionally (or rather, all the time) someone catches sight of a numbskull political tweet and tells whoever posted it to take it down. So unless we’re constantly glued to Twitter (and let’s be real, we are a lot of the time) we might miss these gem-like gifts from the gods of hilarity, these bizarre or inaccurate or misspelled or just plain boneheaded little missives.

Enter the Sunlight Foundation’s Politwoops. As the Huffington Post reported Wednesday, the new tool will scan the Twitter accounts of every member of Congress, plus President Barack Obama and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, and figure out when Tweets have been deleted or edited. It will then compile those changed or vanished tweets on its website for everyone to see. As the Sunlight Foundation’s blog explains, in addition to being amusing for those who love to see politicians squirm, Politwoops serves as a window into how our political machine operates, what thoughts get censored and what your elected officials don’t want you to see.

In browsing the site, we’ve come across a few general categories of deleted tweets:

  • The Meta

Speaker John Boehner R )

You know what else has been deleted? Jobs in the Obama economy. Where are the jobs? #politwoops

  • The Rant

Justin Amash ( R )

When did Republicans start supporting hate-crime legislation?http://t.co/4dJV5pGi. #hypocrisy

  • The “Didn’t Anyone Every Teach You About Quotation Marks”?

Susan Collins R )

“She expressed “cautious optimism” about changes as the quasi-civilian government has taken steps toward democracy”

  • The TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

Bruce Braley D )

RT @FeedIowa1st: @BruceBraley Is there anyway to make the IRS move faster we filed 501C3 in Jan and they are proccessing Sep 2011 We nee …

  • THE CAPS LOCK

Susan Collins R )

SENATORS SNOWE, COLLINS ANNOUNCE MORE THAN $2.6 MILLION IN FUNDING TO MAINE AIRPORTS http://t.co/WH1JeIZR

What do you think of Politwoops? Is it all in good fun, or a serious way to hold politicians accountable? What’s the silliest political tweet you’ve ever read?

Have you checked out iCopywriter.com lately?