Cybersecurity Experts Uncover Dormant Botnet of 350,000 Twitter Accounts

The business of selling followers seems shallower than ever before.
 
Dating profile of their twitter bot:
– Born in summer of 2013
– 350,000 siblings. Tends to agree with family.
– Educated. Will randomly quotes literature.
– Star wars fan
– Might follow you on twitter but will never mention you.
– Rural lifestyle. Lives in secluded uninhabited/table areas.
“The results were a shock. The machine-learning algorithm, with the help of some manual filtering, found some 350,000 accounts that had the same characteristics. These accounts had never tweeted more than 11 times, had fewer than 31 friends and were all produced by Twitter for Windows Phone. […]

 

The bots do this by tweeting quotes from novels to avoid machine-generated language, which can be easily detected. They never tweet urls or mention other Twitter users. And they have tweeted only a few times each to avoid detection for over or under use.”

Source (link and image):  https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603404/cybersecurity-experts-uncover-dormant-botnet-of-350000-twitter-accounts

Darkside of UX – TLDR

The Dark Side of UX – Sometimes, designers are purposely hindering the user experience in search of influencing short-term immediate bottom-line conversion. This friction erodes brand trust and the very same value add that good UX design is thriving to bring to the organization. An interesting video explaining adoption.

Source: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/the-dark-side-of-ux

Author/Copyright holder: Eshan Shah Jahan. Copyright terms and licence: All rights reserved

 

Ottawa in Colour – Experimenting with Facebook paid campaigns

I recently launched a colouring book with my buddy Jason Cobill. Here are my findings for our first Facebook ad campaign. Our objective was to raise awareness about our product and we are overall pleased with the results.

The product

Ottawa in Colour  is 32 pages of colourable art prints featuring 22 local artists with their answers to the question “What do you love about Ottawa?“. We commissioned artists with a wide spectrum of styles – animators, illustrators, urban sketchers and more, so each piece reflects the artist’s unique style and vision. See discount code below.

Regional targeting

I have to admit I was a bit sheepish to shell out the money for social media marketing out of my own pocket. It’s always easier to ask other’s to spend when consulting since the audience is typically already defined and the organization has been in operation for much longer. In our case, we are still working on defining it since we just launched a few months ago.

Our goal was to target local consumers. Specifically for Facebook ads, it was really inconvenient (a pain!) to select Ottawa. Since Ottawa has a sister city across the river, it complicated targeting because it seems the interface relies on geographic radius. I had to create many exclusion zones to keep the ads on the Ontario side (only 1% of our campaign recipients slipped through the tiny angles on the Québec side). Although the cities’ proximity make it a somewhat similar demographic, our product is city specific and I really wanted to target its citizens as our first market.

I also looked at our Facebook page’s demographics as a base. I took in consideration that some of our friends and family who supported our project (thank you all!) and liked my page were not the typical users. I also had to ensure that we had a big enough pool to advertise too with purchasers on the fringes of enjoying similar activities.

lunchtime-facebook-exclusion

Baseline for sales measurements

For the sake of comparison, I omitted direct in-person sales. We also didn’t have online sales for the month leading to the Facebook campaign. The fear of a Canada Post strike in the summer of 2016 had an immediate and crippling impact on online sales. Thankfully we had diversified our channels and more stores were carrying our book at this point to compensate for the loss.

We coincidentally started a colouring contest with Apt613 on the same day as our Facebook campaign launch. The Facebook campaign post however was uniquely advertising  a campaign of FreeShipping, unrelated to Apt613.

Immediate results

After advertising, online sales did not rise immediately at first, but began to be steady after a good week of awareness (an order every second day in average for two weeks.  We don’t know yet if the sales increased in stores since we do not have access to inventory counts or progression. What we do know for a fact is that sales begun shortly after our advertising, it recouped our marketing costs (with a little bonus) and generated the end goal of awareness.

Our Facebook boosted post
Our Facebook boosted post

I ensured that to max-out the imagery to showcase the product with contrast between the product (for product recognition), coloured drawings for inspiration and the selection of our gorgeous drawings.

Sales and engagement

Data time! I extrapolated the Shopify sales and Facebook spending to see how much profit we would pull in. This of course doesn’t take overhead into account. We notice that as soon as the ads stopped, so did the sales. It’s been going on now for a couple of weeks with a lack of online sales (for now). The sales seem to have shifted to store purchases.

We notice from the data that the sales began early, but did not reach their peak until day 20. In hindsight, we should have kept the paid ads going to see how far we can push it.

Shopify sales vs Facebook ad cost

In terms of engagement, most of it was passive such as shares and reactions. Comments were sparse. We did have a lot of link clicks (in purple on the graph) which was great for conversion.

Shopify sales vs Facebook activity
Shopify sales vs Facebook activity

Mysteries

Only 4 of sales used our Freeshipping discount code

Only 4 of sales used Freeshipping. Although our social media ad brought traffic and sales, it seems our customers mostly just wanted the book. Did they forget about the FreeShipping or willingly opt not to use it to save us a couple of dollars? Who knows. The mention of free shipping was on every page as well as the purchase page. Perhaps there was some tunnel vision to get the book.

Lessons learned

  1. Raising awareness can be profitable. Like mentioned earlier, our goal was to raise awareness. We reached over 21,000 people and are hoping that this awareness transitions into store location purchases. The sales was a great way to recoup our costs and actually make way for a second campaign for the holidays ramp up.
  2. Advertising on a social platform means you are exposed to people saying mean things. It hurts even more when they are talking about your product that you carefully crafted over hours. Deleting comments in Facebook posts aren’t an option. Take it with a grain of salt and put up a smile to steer them to conversion. Death by kindness I say.
  3. Don’t forget campaign metrics. A complete analytics blank! After salivating at the Facebook data, I forgot to track my campaign for the web side. Next time I’ll create a UTM campaign code with google utm builder. Shorten the UTM code with bitly. Take the bitly link and add it in the social media post. I’m curious to see if the numbers will add up with the Facebook internal metrics.
  4. Set up your ecommerce analytics funnel: Have your ecommerce analytics tracking set up beforehand if possible. This was unfortunately not a priority at the time as other initiatives of the project were under way.
  5. Don’t expect your discount codes to be used.

If you are curious to learn more about our book and artists, check out www.ottawaincolour.com. Thank you for the read. Perhaps I could interest you in the discount code BLOGHYDRA for free shipping on your book(s) purchase?

Over a decade of music production as a hobby

Music allows me to capture a frame, a piece of time. What in mind, where I was going and what I believed in. I don’t necessarily agree with my songs all the time, but I find them to be markers of myself in time. My repository of thousands of forgotten songs is a true source of nostalgia. Sometimes I’ll find one of my tracks giving me a wink to something so subtle that only I will notice… After all, I had made it.

I push myself to get away from my own favourites, these few gems I am really proud which mystify me. I don’t know how I pulled in so much focus or disassociation to get away from what I would try to conceive. Some songs sound like something I would never think of.

As much as I try to keep a clean virtual environment, my desktop continues to be completely filled with track versions, cut samples, scores that will never be seen again into the chaos and archives.

Is this my interface or yours? #TLDR

Interface ownership correctness – TLDR: Use “My” when you are the creator or someone is prompted for an action. Use “Your” when you do not own the content or receive instructions. Cloud networks and applications have changed the single-user single device (PC) experience and thus the vocabulary for identifying interface. #semantics

Read @jsaito‘s article at: www.medium.com/@jsaito/is-this-my-interface-or-yours-b09a7a795256

Linked-in – How to add bullets to your profile for a clean look

I just formatted/hard-coded bullet spaces in my linked-in profile. So clean!
To copy me, simply copy-paste the bullets up to the start of your text in your profile. Insert spaces (enter) before the next lines and copy-paste my spaces without bullets. I’d suggest having a second window opened in non-edit mode of your profile to see how it displays. The editing window seems to have a different padding than what is displayed on your live profile.
A screenshot of my Linked-in account with bullet lines
 
Disclaimer: I have no idea how this formatting would import your information in Linked-in’s instant job application app.

Almost 10 years of using Facebook. Cleaning up my posts made me realize…

It’s soon the year 2016 and coming close to my 10th year anniversary using Facebook. I decided it’s finally time to clean up my posts. I knew there was silly content posted for the last 9 years, and silly content I did find (and deleted).

It also hit me to what extent there are now functionalities that we now take for granted.

By deleting old posts, I now appreciate how much I’ve matured and evolved to better understanding the world. I also noticed how a lot of very dumb comments on my part are now readily accessible to a lot more people than I had anticipated when signing up with the service.

The past and the future are colliding. What was once considered to be a closed ecosystem (exclusive access to university freshmen) has become more accessible service. Our content was grand-fathered to a bigger pool of people that I met later in life. This creates a flux of content that was initially destined only for a group of similar demographic to the rest of the population. 

Embarrassing content is collectively embarrassing. Content is directed online and has a publisher and recipient. Both have to play the game for damage control of what is published since publication is controlled by two parties. The new generation of social media users understand this. With social media having ephemeral content like Snapchat, posts require little maintenance since automatically deleted posts leave “no paper trail”.

Compartmentalization of what is public is now taken for granted. The rise of group-chat functionalities within social media channels simply goes to show how users prefer to compartmentalize the stream of information and what is publicly accessible.

Public means different things depending on service. “Public” posts now have different meanings by service. WhatsApp and WeChat define public posts to be exposed only to your friends. In comparison with Facebook and Twitter, their definition of public means the rest of the internet.

The era of feelings and emoticons will continue to rise. You can customize your messages better than before with a vast array of specific emoticons, feelings, events, right away. I’m noticing that 10 years ago, you had to mainly type it yourself on your own with sometimes a limited amount of “feelings” on Myspace and Facebook.

Give it a go. Overall, I’d invite you to go have this introspective, perhaps daunting experience of going back and checking out your posts over many years. You’ll have a blast of nostalgia, perhaps a refreshing laugh and a chance to clean up some/many skeletons in your digital closet.

If this is somewhat interesting to you, take a couple of hours to zoom through posts and put some Netflix in the background. Just remember not to judge yourself or your peers too harshly for past actions.

How to job hunt in the digital age

Work in progress – This is an evolving document with elements of what I find to be the most useful ways to gain employment.

I’ve been helping people out to find career opportunities since 2010. Although a lot of places will address best-practices for application documents, I believe there is seldom information on how to integrate this to secure employment in the digital age.

I have extensive content management experience that allows me to tailor formatting for the process.

If you are applying for a technical position, please consult with technical specialists in different industries to have a pulse of how to format your documents.

 

Step 1- The setup

Get a cloud-based service

  • Google drive
  • Drop-box
  • iCloud
  • Private server
  • etc..

This allows you to edit (and send) your application wherever you are, and on the go. Alternatively, have a fresh-digital copy handy in your email inbox that you can forward off to impromptu prospective employers from your smart-devices.

Folder organization

Create a folder in your cloud drive. I’d recommend a vague-ish title like JSearch. This avoids embarrassment or uneasy situations if you leave your browser window opened. Ambiguous enough for others, but very relevant to you.

Create folders by year in your cloud. Let’s face it. Once you get a job, you will eventually be looking for another in the years to come. Might as well do a favour to your future self and keep things organized. You also have the advantage of versioning your documents. (More to come on this).

Create sub folders by job application.

Step 2 – Your arsenal

Best résumé templates

My favourite (generic) résumé is still one obtained from Queen’s University.

Avoid using text formatting for aesthetic looks. This might mess up your copy-paste or import resume on online job forms. Make sure to make a copy of this CV and erase all comments before sending. Otherwise if you forget to save as pdf, you might have some comments stuck in your form.

Use fonts that are default in Microsoft word and easy to read. My go to is Calibri because it is familiar for online view as well.

Everyone knows what an email and phone number looks like. Save space, don’t label them.

Don’t use parenthesis when the content is already separated. Save on space, save on clutter.

Make sure you remove template names in footers, headers.

Remove underlines from email addresses or hyperlinks. It looks cleaner. Keep the blue url colour to indicate it’s clickable.

Organizing your job search

Saving your job postings

Linked-in network outreach

Ready for the unexpected

  • 30 seconds elevator pitch
  • Business cards on you at all times. Wallet at worse.

 

If you find any value with this “how-to” or even secure employment with this tutorial, I would appreciate if you could send donations to a charity that helps recent immigrants find jobs in your country. I personally send donations to Ottawa World Skills.

My experience applying Inbox Zero for emails

Using Inbox Zero for work

A year and half ago I attended a Hub Ottawa master class with Pascal Vernier on how to improve my impact per hour. Most of the concepts presented I had already been aware of and applying in regards to project management. The optimization concept that stuck however was “Inbox Zero“: removing all clutter from your inbox until you have zero emails.

I started applying to work and it has since been amazing. It forced me to organize core activities by labels, in majority a breakdown of:

  • Content changes required
  • [Colleague] task dependent
  • Deadline required
  • Urgent – Action required (this one is in red)

Additional benefit from the rigorous methodology are seen when you have to act immediately on emails to sustain the habit. I’ve effectively unsubscribed from all annoying email sources, I archived all 13 000 past emails that have no action required* and reply in a timely manner.

Think about it. What if you could also stop receiving those annoying emails with content you don’t really care for? It feels pretty good.

Making the transition for personal email

It took me an entire year to realize that my personal emails still basked in cluttered organized chaos. It contrasted with my clean unobstructed, non-distracting email account from work.

Another factor that seemed to escape me was that with an ever more mobile friendly approach to technology, having less emails in your inbox means less real-estate wasted on your smaller screen. Regardless of the device you are using to read your emails, you should get in the habit of always cleaning your inbox right away.

I’ve been using the inbox zero trick on my personal accounts and my after-work hours productivity soared. Both my work and personal email still rely heavily on archived and indexed content, allowing me to search back in time by content filters. At the end of the day, the lesson is that if  certain concepts work pleasantly in your professional life, you should take the time to recognize and optimize your personal life as well if you work with separate tools and platforms.

Additional resources:

Gmail: *For gmail: select all your emails using a search-selection filter and then archive the messages.

Make Outlook 2007/2010/2013 search ALL folders instead of just the current folder (indexing): http://www.standss.com/blog/index.php/outlook-20072010-search-folders-current-folder/