Tag Archives: Test

Here's a 30-Second Test to See If Your Content Has Any Chance of Taking Off
February 13, 2018 6:12 pm|Comments (0)

Here’s a sad story I see all the time. I see a hellbent content creator commit a ton of time, for the sake of being consistent, only to create so-so content that nobody cares about. How many company blogs do you know publish multiple times a week and receive a total of zero comments and zero shares on their articles? They spend time and money to write a story that nobody reads. It’s sad.

To fix this, I want to give you a framework to help you create outstanding content, the kind of stuff that truly gets noticed and talked about. 

Note: for the most part I’ll be referring to blog posts, but this principle applies to nearly any type of content.

Your audience wants one of two things from all of your content: to learn or to be entertained. That’s it. Delete everything else that doesn’t accomplish one of these outcomes.

It might sound simple to you, but if you use this as a filter before you publish anything, the quality of your content will skyrocket, the chances of it taking off will increase, and your audience will grow.

In the paragraphs below, I want to show you why this is true and how to implement it. The takeaway is this: The best content either teaches something new to a reader, or causes them to feel a strong emotion.

If you look at every piece of successful or viral content, you’ll find they do one of these things with masterful excellence.

Option One: Teach Something New

With over 942,000 followers on LinkedIn, Jeff Haden’s columns on Inc.com regularly appear in the top 10 articles of each month, with readership frequently surpassing a total of 500,000/month. He is a prolific blogger and knows what works and what doesn’t.

He said one of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is preaching to the choir. “I already know what I think, and so do you. Readers want to learn new things and take new perspectives. They want to think. Agreeing is nice, but agreeing never makes them think.”

So be careful: If you have trouble coming up with a clear answer to the question “what will my readers learn from this?”, then you should seriously consider reworking the piece. In other words, viral content provides incredible value for the reader. Make sure there are actionable takeaways, sharp insights, nuggets of wisdom, step-by-step processes, helpful resources, and / or efficient tools. 

Someone reading this might be thinking, but how do I know if my work is actually providing value? 

While I’ve written several top articles on Medium, been paid rates of a dollar per word, and been published at major publications like CNBC, Axios, Thought Catalog, The Next Web, and Business Insider, not everything I write goes viral. Not even close. As much as I improve, I’m still quite adept at writing terrible articles. Some of my worst articles appear on my personal blog daveschools.com. Here are two examples:

  1. What it feels like to finish a novel
  2. I cared more about people, then projects, and now it’s back to people. I think.

These will never go viral for a couple reasons. First, poor headlines. Second, if you start reading them, it will be a matter of seconds before your brain taps you on the shoulder and asks, “Why in the world are you reading this?” Because your brain is picking up on a clear fact: they don’t teach you anything. You won’t learn anything helpful from them. It’s just one person who doesn’t have you in mind blubbering on about their life. These will never, ever be shared on social networks. 

Let’s look at an example of an article that did go viral and why:

My most successful Medium article ever, I sat down with a millionaire who operates 10 businesses while sailing around the world with his family, which was the 7th most popular story on Medium in 2015, was syndicated by Business Insider, Quartz, MIT, and Fortune Magazine. It was successful because it gave five helpful, uncommon insights from an expert that taught small business owners new ways to manage their businesses better. 

This single sentence was highlighted 528 times: 

“To be successful in business does not mean changing the world. It means meeting a need (regardless of size) well and dependably over time.”

In five minutes, readers learned something new from this article. This should be the utmost goal of anything you write. Teach something new. Unless, of course, you are trying to entertain. This is the second option.

Option Two: Evoke Strong Feelings

Look at this non-educating and almost offensive article: F*** You Startup World.

It’s a bitter beatdown, wild rant, and brutal slamming against modern startup culture.

It teaches you nothing and yet it received 370,000 views in one day, one million views total (and counting), and more than 80,000 shares on Facebook. Why did it do so well? It didn’t really teach anyone anything and it contains 95 f-words! What happened?

This article illustrates the power of emotion. 

Readers resonate deeply with the author, relate strongly to his experience, and say, “This is exactly what I’ve been feeling and someone has finally put into the right words.”

Humans are emotional. They read to feel something strong. Your job as the writer is to make them laugh, let them sob, trigger them to righteous anger, or wash away their loneliness. You don’t have to teach them anything, you just have to deeply affect them. Inspire them. The right words have a way of unlocking pent-up emotions we never realized we had.

Your Turn: How to Apply This Filter to Your Content

Remember that there is no formula or single style of content that guarantees success. Your challenge is to find out how to teach or entertain in your own unique and original voice.

  • Study Gary Vaynerchuk, Tim Ferriss, and Mike Allen for examples of how masters create learning content.
  • To watch experts create entertaining content, analyze standup comedians and read Mr. Trump’s tweets (joking), but seriously, read novels, even some news articles, and first-person accounts of big events to see writers reach strong feelings. 

After you’ve written something, edit it with this test in mind. Does it do a good job teaching a concept? How can it be clearer? Does it do a profound job of moving the reader’s emotions? How can it be more passionate?

Edit, edit, edit until there’s no doubt in your mind that the piece accomplishes one of these two outcomes. Ultimately, if you apply this binary test to your thinking, it will help get you closer to creating wildly successful pieces of content.

Best of luck. Because, in all honesty, you’ll need a little bit of that, too.

Tech

Posted in: Cloud Computing|Tags: , , , , ,
Rocket Lab Test Flight Launches Three CubeSats to Orbit
January 21, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

The launch company Rocket Lab has amusing names for its missions. The first, in May, was called “It’s a Test” (it was). When the staff debated what to call the second launch of their diminutive Electron rocket, so sized (and priced) specifically to carry small satellites to space, they said, “Well, we’re still testing, aren’t we?”

They were. And so “Still Testing” became the name of Rocket Lab’s second launch, which took place on January 20, at around 8:45 pm Eastern Standard Time. In December, the company canceled multiple attempts before rescheduling the launch window for 2018. The livestreamed rocket lifted off from the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, headed for someplace with an even better view.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the launch (or any test launch, for that matter), the rocket was carrying real payloads for real customers: three small satellites, one for a company that images Earth and two for one that monitors weather and ship traffic. But why on Earth would a satellite company choose a rocket-in-progress when there are so many reliable launchers out there? After all, even established rockets blow up sometimes.

Rocket Lab

The short answer is that smallsats—which the Electron was built to transport, exclusively—are by nature expendable. Smallsat makers like Planet and Spire, the two clients on this mission, have ever-growing, genetically similar populations of orbiters. So losing one or two in a less-than-successful test flight? Probably worth the risk. Smallsat companies are willing to put their hardware on this particular liftoff line because the Electron is poised to be the first commercially bookable rocket built specifically for small payloads, which typically have to piggyback on big, expensive rockets with big, expensive payloads that don’t launch often enough and aren’t always headed to their orbit of choice. In the next decade, 3,483 small satellites (between 1 and 100 kilograms) will go to space, generating just over $ 2 billion of launch revenue, according to the Small Satellite Markets, 4th edition report, which research and consulting firm Northern Sky Research released last month. In this future world where thousands more smallsats provide environmental, economic, and even political intelligence, as well as Earth-covering internet, the test-steps necessary to get on up to space quickly, cheaply, and precisely seem worth the risk not just to Planet and Spire but, perhaps, to you and me.

But boy, was there risk. While Rocket Lab’s first Electron didn’t explode and did reach space—and so gets at least an A- for its first attempt—“It’s a Test” didn’t quite get to orbit. After an investigation, Rocket Lab determined that, four minutes post-blastoff, ground equipment (provided by a third party) temporarily stopped talking to the rocket. When communication breaks down, Official Procedures demand that safety officials stop the flight. And so they did..

But the rocket itself, according to the same investigation, was sound—so the company moved on to a test delivery. “It’s really the next logical step,” says Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s founder.

Beck seems uncannily logical about the risks his young company is taking. When asked about his feelings about launching actual stuff on “Still Testing,” he replied that doing so certainly involved extra actual tasks. “I’m not sure if you can become extra nervous or extra excited,” he said. That sentiment fits with the launches’ pragmatic names. And those fit with New Zealanders’ general pragmatic streak, says Beck (he cites some of the country’s names for flowing water: “River One,” “River Two,” “River Three”).

For their part, Planet and Spire are here for that no-nonsense-ness. Planet already has around 200 satellites in orbit, so adding one to its flock of so-called “Doves” would be good but not critical. Besides, says Mike Safyan, Planet’s director of launch, “we picked one we wouldn’t miss too much”: a sat named Pioneer. It’s a double meaning, says Safyan. First, it’s an homage to NASA’s old missions, on whose shoulders they stand.

Second meaning: They are pioneers. “There is this New Space wave that Planet is very much at the forefront of and Rocket Lab is very much at the forefront of,” says Safyan.

This is what the forefront looks like, by the way: You can book space on an Electron rocket online—just click the size of your smallsat!—the same basic way you’d book a bunk on Airbnb.

Spire, too, is into it. Jenny Barna met Peter Beck before she had her current job, as the director of launch at Spire, whose satellites aim to keep track of aeronautical and nautical-nautical traffic, as well as weather. Back in her days at SSL, which makes spacecraft and communications systems, a coworker invited her to a presentation Beck was giving on-site. She listened to Beck describe Rocket Lab’s technology, and his vision for a vehicle that provided frequent, affordable launches just for little guys—in an industry that caters to huge sats, and makes smallsats second-class passengers—and she was intrigued. “I remember sitting there thinking how lucky I am to be working at this industry at this time,” she says. And after she moved to Spire, she led the company to sign on as one of Rocket Lab’s first customers. It’s currently contracted for up to 12 launches.

That’s a lot! But Spire has to launch a lot. The company wants access to space every month, so they can produce their satellites in small batches, send them up, iterate, and launch the next generation. So far, counting today, Spire has launched 541 satellites. They’ve done it on the rockets of Russia (Soyuz and Dnepr), Japan (H-IIB), and India (PSLV), and the rockets of the US’s Orbital (Antares) and ULA (Atlas V). And now, they’ll ride with Rocket Lab, picking on a rocket of their own satellites’ size.

But that doesn’t mean they’ll ever only use Rocket Lab. Or Orbital. Or ULA. They plan to keep their eggs distributed—partly because even when it’s not just a test, rockets still blow up, the eggs breaking along with them. “It’s just part of the industry,” says Barna.

When Barna spoke of “Still Testing” a few days before the initial launch window, she was straight-up about the possibility that this particular rocket wouldn’t carry the eggs safely to space. “We know that a million things have to go perfectly for this to be successful,” she said. “We hope they make history.”

They did, and deployed the three-satellite payload into orbit. And pending analysis of this seemingly successful test, Rocket Lab will skip its planned third test and jump straight into official operations, in early 2018. “We’ve got a lot of customers that need to get on orbit,” says Beck.

Suggestion for the third flight’s name: “This Is Not a Test.”

1UPDATE 12:08 AM EST 1/21/2018: This story has been updated to include new satellites Rocket Lab launched recently.

Tech

Posted in: Cloud Computing|Tags: , , , , , ,
Dev and test: Gateway drug to the cloud
August 22, 2016 10:50 am|Comments (0)

Amazon Web Services recently stormed the Gartner Magic Quadrant as the undisputed leader of cloud computing. Given that it has “the richest array of IaaS and PaaS capabilities” and “provides the deepest capabilities for governing a large number of users and resources,” with a “multiyear competitive advantage over all its competitors,” it’s easy to forget the source of AWS strength:

Developers.

If RedMonk analyst James Governor is correct in his argument that “the only sustainable business advantage in an age of unprecedented technical change is unleashing engineering talent,” AWS was first to recognize this and enable it. Moreover, it’s not the production workloads that mark the true test of AWS strength — it’s the lowly dev-and-test instance.

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