Tag Archives: Ways

The Ways Your Halloween Office Party Can Easily Turn Into a Living Nightmare (That You Probably Haven't Considered)
October 28, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

The potential problems begin from the start with the assumption that everyone in your office is actually interested in celebrating a holiday dedicated to demons, debauchery or drinking, depending on how you happen to roll on All Hallow’s Eve.

Truth is there’s actually plenty of employees out there who may find the very notion of a Halloween party offensive on religious grounds. 

“This is why attendance should be optional – those who wish to observe Halloween in a particular manner or not observe it at all should not be forced to attend a function that offends them,” explains labor and employment law attorney Dennis J. Merley

This is an area where managers should tread particularly lightly, as it could be unlawful to even tease or allow teasing or peer pressuring of employees who choose not to participate in a celebration for religious reasons.

Another reason parties should be optional is that any accidents or injuries that happen, even after workers have left the party, could wind up coming back to haunt the company. 

Speaking of accidents, a party that involves alcohol, cumbersome and often identity-concealing costumes just might be a harassment, OSHA or workman’s compensation disaster waiting to happen. 

Sorry to be a wet blanket (which is also not a good costume choice), but it’s just common sense that introducing booze and probably a few awkward outfits increases the risk of a mishap or poor decision of some type. 

Now when it comes to costumes, there’s a lot of advice out there for get-ups that are “work-appropriate,” but as labor and employment attorney David Barron advises, even the most innocent idea can easily go wrong.

“Any safe for work costume can be made inappropriate by simply adding “Sexy” to the title,” he explains in a column for The Ladders. “Office Halloween parties are no place for ‘sexy’ outfits, political statements or costumes that might be offensive based on a protected class such as race or gender.”

Barron suggests that offices share clear dress codes for Halloween costumes and even encouraging the coordination of costumes beforehand.

Bottom line, while a Halloween party might seem like a good way to let loose at the office, it’s not an excuse to fly by the seat of your pants or throw caution to the wind. You wouldn’t do that with any other aspect of your business. The good news is that with the right amount of thoughtfulness and planning, there’s no reason to cancel the festivities.

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3 Ways Russian-Linked Entities Stoked Controversy on Facebook, Twitter
October 20, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

New charges against a Russian national for allegedly trying to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential elections and upcoming midterms reveal the creative techniques that Kremlin-linked groups have used to sow discontent among Americans.

The Department of Justice said Friday that it filed criminal charges against Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova for her alleged role with the Russian propaganda operation “Project Lakhta.” This operation, according to the complaint, oversaw multiple Russian-linked entities like the Internet Research Agency that lawmakers say spread fake news and ginned up controversy on Twitter and Facebook.

Russia has denied any disinformation campaign.

Here’s some interesting takeaways from the lawsuit:

Capitalizing on polarized topics of national interest

The complaint alleges that the Russian groups grasped onto polarized issues like gun control, race relations, and immigration to further divide the U.S. populace. They spread both liberal and conservative viewpoints to various groups on social media, tailoring the message to each one, including choosing which publication to share on them.

One unnamed Russian cited in the complaint allegedly said, ” If you write posts in a liberal group,…you must not use Breitbart titles. On the contrary, if you write posts in a conservative group, do not use Washington Post or Buzzfeed’s titles.”

The Russian groups appeared to practice their own form of racism, with one member reportedly saying “Colored LGTB are less sophisticated than white; therefore, complicated phrases and messages do not work.”

The groups apparently discovered that “infographics work well among LGTB and their liberal allies,” while conservatives appeared to be indifferent to graphics.

Spinning the news

Members of the Russian entities were well versed in summarizing popular news stories and spinning them in a way that would antagonize Americans. The entities created a Facebook group dubbed “Secure Borders” that would aggregate news stories and then sensationalize them to draw emotional responses.

Here’s an example of one way the Russian groups discussed among themselves about how to spin a news story about the late John McCain’s criticism of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

“Brand McCain as an old geezer who has lost it and who long ago belonged in a home for the elderly. Emphasize that John McCain’s pathological hatred towards Donald Trump and towards all his initiatives crosses all reasonable borders and limits. State that dishonorable scoundrels, such as McCain, immediately aim to destroy all the conservative voters’ hopes as soon as Trump tries to fulfill his election promises and tries to protect the American interests.”

Creating fake user accounts on Facebook and Twitter

The Russian groups couldn’t have spread propaganda as effectively if they used their real identities. Instead, they created fake profiles on the social media to do things like promote protests and rallies and to post divisive and hateful content.

For instance, the fictitious New York City resident “Bertha Malone” created 400 Facebook posts that allegedly contained “inflammatory political and social content focused primarily on immigration and Islam.”

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The “Malone” personal also communicated with an unnamed real Facebook user to assist in posting content and managing a Facebook group called “Stop A.I.”

On March 9, 2018, a fake Twitter user named @JohnCopper16 attempted to influence Twitter users by commenting on President Trump’s recent summit with North Korean President Kim Jong Un:

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The 7 Best Ways to Stop Micromanaging
October 10, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

1. Take a second look at recruiting, hiring and training.

Micromanaging often has a root in bringing someone into the company who wasn’t the best fit in terms of culture or skills. That can cause the worker to clash with you or have trouble following protocols or policies, which in turn might make you feel like you have to watch the employee like a hawk. Review how you describe positions and what you require of your recruiters to see if you can’t find more ideal candidates. Once you’ve hired, make sure that workers have access to resources they need to learn and complete the tasks you expect.

2. Keep your schedule full.

The idea here isn’t to work yourself into the ground. Rather, it’s to keep yourself just busy enough that you’re less tempted to constantly watch over everyone. Try to schedule activities with others for accountability and network expansion, and get yourself out of the office when it’s practical.

3. Take a 360 picture of your life and do more self-care.

While some individuals naturally are a little more prone to micromanaging because of their personalities, you might also do it if you feel like there are other areas of your life that you can’t control. In this case, micromanaging employees can be a way of trying to find balance and cope with personal stress. Consider making some lifestyle changes that can put you back in the driver’s seat outside of the office, and talk with people you trust about what you find challenging.

4. Improve your own skills and creativity.

Micromanaging can be a way to live vicariously–if you don’t feel like you have specific competencies or capabilities, you might want to control the people who do so you can feel connected to those positive traits and take credit for their outcomes. Take classes or find other opportunities to affirm your own talents. Always ask yourself whether your requirements satisfy you or whether they satisfy the interests of the business.

5. Improve your communication.

Good communication between you and your employees reassures you that the workers are progressing as you wanted, which alleviates the worry that can prompt you to micromanage. It also builds rapport and trust, which can make you more confident that the workers will follow your directions even when you’re not looking over their shoulders. Schedule regular check-ins and establish an open-door policy so your team knows they can come to you. Make sure your operational routines and protocols discourage siloing and allow time for interaction. Lastly, outline clear goals and constraints for each project so there isn’t any confusion as you delegate.

6. Get more data.

Just like a lack of control in personal areas of your life can make you tighten your grip on workers, a lack of data can make you scared that you’re missing something or will lose out. Instead of keeping tabs on how workers spend every minute, stay focused on the bigger picture. Get other facts and figures that can reassure you that you’re on target, or that can give you better insights about what your employees can and can’t control. Use that data to evaluate team and company goals and adjust processes or resources on a regular basis.

7. Let workers call you out.

Address the elephant in the room and tell your team outright that you’re trying to be better and eliminate the micromanaging habit. Ask them to let you know when they need some breathing space so you can learn about their needs and what typically triggers you to be most watchful. Most employees will be impressed at your willingness to address the fault and just need some reassurance that they won’t be punished for pointing out what you’re doing.

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The Creative Ways Your Boss Is Spying on You
August 12, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

Earlier this year, Amazon successfully patented an “ultrasonic tracker of a worker’s hands to monitor performance of assigned tasks.” Eerie, yes, but far from the only creative method of employee surveillance. Upwork watches freelancers through their webcams, and a UK railway company recently equipped workers with a wearable that measures their energy levels. By one study’s estimate, 94 percent of organizations currently monitor workers in some way. Regulations governing such conduct are lax; they haven’t changed since the 19th century.

The most common snooping techniques are relatively subtle. A system called Teramind—which lists BNP Paribas and the telecom giant Orange as customers on its website—sends pop-up warnings if it suspects employees are about to slack off or share confidential documents. Other companies rely on tools like Hubstaff to record the websites that workers are visiting and how much they’re typing.

Such software “solutions” pitch themselves as ways to enhance productivity. But trouble emerges, critics say, when employers invest too much significance in these metrics.

That’s because data has never been able to capture the finer points of creativity and the idiosyncratic nature of work. Where one account manager might do her best thinking behind a desk, another knows he’s sharpest on an afternoon stroll—a behavior that algorithms could blithely declare deviant. This then creates “a hidden layer of management,” says Jason Schultz, director of the NYU School of Law’s Technology Law & Policy Clinic. Those midday walkers might never find out why they’ve been passed over for a promotion. Once established, the image of the “ideal” employee sticks.

Try to hide from this all-seeing eye of corporate America—and you might make matters worse. Even the cleverest spoofing hacks can backfire. “The more workers try to be invisible, the more managers have a hard time figuring out what’s happening, and that justifies more surveillance,” says Michel Anteby, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Boston University. He calls it the “cycle of coercive surveillance.” Translation: lose/lose.

Unless you want to be spied on. In a recent study of Uber drivers, researchers found that a monitored employee can sometimes feel “more secure than the worker who … doesn’t know if her boss knows that she is working.” NYU’s Schultz admits that a degree of oversight can galvanize commitment, but he wants a law restricting its use to workplace tasks. Others insist data should be anonymized. One model is Humanyze, a “people analytics” service that provides clients not with individualized employee reports but rather with big-picture trends. Workers are then accountable to that big picture, each contributing modest brushstrokes. Don’t paint outside the lines.


This article appears in the August issue. Subscribe now.


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The Amazing Ways Samsung Is Using Big Data, Artificial Intelligence And Robots To Drive Performance
May 30, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

, Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Until recently, Korean company Samsung was said to behind its competitors in terms of researching and developing artificial intelligence (AI) technology, but the company’s recent strategy suggests that it’s committed to closing the gap and even competing for the top spot. Since 70 percent of the world’s data is produced and stored on Samsung’s products, the company is the leading provider of data storage products in the world. By revenue, Samsung is the largest consumer electronics company in the world—yes, it has even overtaken Apple and sells 500 million connected devices a year. From industry events to setting goals with AI at the forefront to updating products to use artificial intelligence, Samsung seems to have gone full throttle in preparing for the 4th industrial revolution.

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Bringing innovators together

Samsung started 2018 with intention to be an artificial intelligence leader by organizing the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Summit and brought together 300 university students, technical experts and leading academics to explore ways to accelerate AI research and to develop the best commercial applications of AI.

Samsung has Dr. Larry Heck, world-renowned AI and voice recognition leader, on their AI research team. At the summit, Dr. Heck emphasized the need for collaboration within the AI industry so that there would be a higher level of confidence and adoption by consumers and to allow AI to flourish. Samsung announced plans to host more AI-related events as well as the creation of a new AI Research Center dedicated to AI research and development. The research center will bolster Samsung’s expertise in artificial intelligence.

Bixby: Samsung’s AI Assistant

Bixby, Samsung’s artificial intelligence system designed to make device interaction easier, debuted with the Samsung Galaxy S8. The latest version, 2.0, is a “fundamental leap forward for digital assistants.” Bixby 2.0 allows the AI system to be available on all devices including TVs, refrigerators, washers, smartphones and other connected devices. It’s also open to developers so that it will be more likely to integrate with other products and services.

Bixby is contextually aware and understands natural language to help users interact with increasingly complex devices. Samsung plans to introduce a Bixby speaker to compete with Google Home and Amazon Alexa.

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3 Ways to Sow the Seeds of Your Startup's Success This Spring
May 17, 2018 6:01 pm|Comments (0)

Many business owners measure the success of their company by how much profit they’re bringing in. This isn’t necessarily the wrong way, and a large part of business is learning how to minimize expenses while maximizing revenue, but for fledgling startups that might not yet have a large customer base, these metrics aren’t ideal. Instead, a good indicator you’re on the road to startup success is when you find yourself in a productive, thriving ecosystem.

A Blossoming Ecosystem

An ecosystem is partly defined by the geographic area where you’ve chosen to put down your company’s roots, but it’s also made up of the people you choose to surround yourself with. These people might be your employees, advisors, and investors, in addition to other counselors such as law or finance professionals. The attitudes and outlooks of all of these individuals contribute to your ecosystem, and for your business to thrive, their impact needs to be positive.

Good influences will help you talk through decisions and support you when you’re not sure which option to pursue. They’ll also help you connect with other individuals who they think might have something to offer to you and your business — and the best team members will do so without being asked. To get the most out of your ecosystem, though, you’ll also need to give back.

What can you do to help the people you work with? What are their goals and aspirations, and how are you and your business capable of helping them achieve those goals? In an unhealthy ecosystem, one organism hoards all of the resources for itself. In a healthy one, organisms cooperate to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes that are greater than what any party involved could have achieved on its own.

Once you’ve made sure your ecosystem is the kind that breeds successful businesses and partnerships, take these three steps to cultivate your startup’s success:

1. Network to help your startup sprout essential partnerships.

With the right mindset, networking can happen in any place and at any time, sprouting relationships that are valuable for your startup’s growth. Whether you’re on a bus, at the airport, or getting some work done at your favorite coffee shop, be approachable and strive to make connections on a daily basis. That’s not all there is to it, however. Justin Zastrow, CEO of Smart Armor, points out that “Networking and ‘showing up’ is only half the battle. In addition to networking, you need to learn how to meaningfully and authentically connect with people. Otherwise, your networking efforts will be wasted.”

So much of business is about relationships, but the literature tends to overemphasize forming new relationships and underemphasize nurturing the ones you create. Don’t let connections wither away by falling out of touch. Reach out to your contacts on a regular basis to see what you can offer or how you can help.

2. Join a startup support organization that will help you establish strong roots.

Accelerators and incubators are valuable communities that help startups and entrepreneurs build a solid foundation. These groups will help provide you with a number of key elements necessary to fertilize your startup, including mentorship, working space, networking opportunities, and even financial backing in some cases.

The Ameren Accelerator, for instance, is a partnership that combines the resources of a leading energy corporation, a lauded accelerator program, and a state university system to produce an ecosystem in which energy-focused startups can flourish. The accelerator selects five to seven companies for a 12-week program that connects them with mentors, including current and former business executives, in addition to providing funding opportunities, office space, and other perks.

Different accelerators cater to different industries, so find one that fits your startup idea and do everything you can to join the community.

3. Keep finances fertile by outsourcing.

Startup owners often feel the need to fill certain roles with full-time employees when they could save money and get a better product by outsourcing. If you’re running an e-commerce website, you don’t necessarily have a full team of developers on the payroll, and the same can be true for marketing or finance. An in-house CMO will end up costing a fortune, so don’t be afraid to outsource this role.

Erik Huberman, one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 and founder and CEO of Hawke Media, says outsourcing positions like a CFO or CMO can save your company between 40 to 65 percentHe explains, “For less money, you can contract someone who will not only get the job done efficiently, but who will also not be looking to justify, retain, or grow his or her in-house position.”

If your startup is like most, you don’t have unlimited resources. Instead of blowing through your budget on one big hire, sow more than one seed by outsourcing certain positions.

Your product might not make it to market until late summer, or you might be hoping to secure a seed investment to finance your dream. No matter what stage of the startup process you’re in, you can set yourself up for success each day by taking the right steps to encourage healthy growth.

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4 Ways Facebook Is Trying to Combat Election Meddling
March 30, 2018 6:18 pm|Comments (0)

Facebook outlined how it plans to increase security and thwart election meddling as pressure mounts on the social network to curb the rise of fake news and foreign interference.

Facebook continues to face criticism for its failure to prevent users from sharing misleading news on its service, particularly in the runup to the 2016 presidential election.

Company executives said Thursday, in a blog post that included a transcript of their comments, that they have four priorities:

  • combat foreign interference
  • removing fake accounts
  • increase ads transparency
  • reduce the spread of false news

The company has partnered with Associated Press to use their reporters in all 50 states to identify and debunk false and misleading stories related to the federal, state, and local U.S. midterm elections. It has expanded fact-checking efforts internationally as well. Most recently, Facebook launched a fact-checking initiative in Italy and Mexico with media partners to identify and rate stories, ensuring they take action quickly in the runup to their elections.

Facebook has also started fact-checking photos and videos, in addition to links. The company said Thursday it has started in France with the AFP and plans to scale to more countries and partners soon.

One of the company’s biggest efforts is finding better ways to discover and disable fake accounts. Facebook is now blocking millions of fake accounts every day, just as they’re created and before they can do harm, said Samidh Chakrabarti, product manager at Facebook who leads all work related to elections security and civic engagement.

“We’ve been able to do this thanks to advances in machine learning, which have allowed us to find suspicious behaviors — without assessing the content itself,” Chakrabarti said.

Facebook has also added a new investigative tool that can be deployed in the lead-up to elections. The tool, which was piloted last year around the time of the Alabama special Senate race, proactively looks for potentially harmful types of election-related activity, such as pages of foreign origin that are distributing inauthentic civic content. These suspicious accounts are then manually reviewed by Facebook’s security team to see if they violate its community standards or its terms of service.

The tool will be used in upcoming elections, including the U.S. midterms.

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5 Ways to Build a Consulting Business Without a Website 
August 26, 2017 7:55 pm|Comments (0)

Websites are famous for being your storefront in the digital age. Every expert will tell you you must have a website to capture leads. And that’s true…if you’re building an e-commerce or online business. For other types of service based business, having a website can be a distraction from the real work you need to be doing: getting clients.

Below I explain how you get clients without a website in order to create a successful service-based business.

1. Build your network before you quit your day job.

Like many people in 2010, I drank the lifestyle design Kool-Aid and got wasted. Freedom over my schedule? Flexibility to travel? Working for myself??! Sign me up. High off Four Hour Work Week, I resolved to leave my job. I had a rough idea of my next steps when my friend and author Vanessa Van Edwards said to me, “Don’t do that.”

Confused, since she herself was already a successful lifestyle entrepreneur, I said, “What? Why?!”

“Don’t quit your job. You’re about to make a lot of mistakes. Trust me. Make mistakes while you still have a salary.”

Turned out, she was right. I had no idea how to prospect, write proposals, package up services, or price things properly. I spent the next 6 months building up a side-hustle that let me make those mistakes with a safety net (my day job).

In that time, I attended as many events as I could, listened to every podcast on sales and entrepreneurship, wrote a ton of terrible proposals, got rejected by prospects I shouldn’t have been rejected by, and made a lot of bad cold sales calls and cold email pitches.

Listening to Vanessa’s advice saved me tens of thousands of dollars in burnt runway cash and a lot of mental anguish. By the time I was ready to go full time, I was confident in my skills as a consultant and sales person – and even had some glowing testimonials under my belt.

2. Get out of ‘transactional’ thinking.

You know the daunting 3% completion rate on online courses? I’m the 3%. I love learning, reading, and homework; So when I discovered the MOOC world, I couldn’t get enough.

One of the best courses I took was Earn1K, by the author Ramit Sethi.

With a Bachelor’s in Literature and a Master’s in Psychology, I’d had zero business training in my life, save for some memorable conversations with my dad who is an entrepreneur. Until that point, I believed business wasn’t “for people like me.” In my mind, business was for people who were “numbers people,” money hungry, and didn’t care about changing the world or doing good.

Turns out, none of those things is true.

In Sethi’s course, he taught us to think about business in terms of “solving problems.” It wasn’t transactional, like I’d thought. Business was about “adding value” to others.

This was an enormous mindset shift for me.

Sethi taught me to stop thinking about what I can do and start thinking about what people need.

That changed everything.

In the academic world, I’d been trained to think about myself. My interests, my research, my goals, my credentials, my my my….In the real world, I needed to learn how to make a case as to why anyone should care.

From that point on, every interaction I had changed from “Here’s what I can do!” to “What do you need help with?

3. Learn to shut up and listen.

When I implemented the “What do you need help with?” approach, everything changed. I wasn’t pushing my services onto anyone. I was pulling their problems out and offering to help them solve them.

Before I took Sethi’s course, I’d sit down with prospects and spend 30 minutes talking about myself – what I could do and why I have the answers. It was annoying at best, unprofessional at worst.

Learning to shut up was one of the most effective sales tools I’ve learned to date. My close rate shot up exponentially because I learned the subtle art of asking questions.

I made prospects do the talking instead of me. Then, I’d restate what I heard. “It sounds like you’re struggling with XYZ. And you need help with ABC, does that sound right?”

Prospects eyes would light up, “YES! That’s exactly it. Can you help me?”

Because when you articulate someone’s problem, they credit you with the solution.

In those initial consults, the goal wasn’t to sell my service – it was to get the prospect to trust me. Listening and asking questions gets people to trust you.

And when people trust you, they buy from you.

4. Focus on sales generating activities instead of ego-boosting ones.

There was a technique Sethi advocated called “Direct to the source” and I used that almost exclusively for my 3+ years in business.

The idea was to go directly to the people who had a problem that you could solve instead of focusing on things like “building your brand.”

As someone who worked in branding and marketing, this was sacrilege.

Still, the idea made sense to me: first, see if you can get someone to say “yes” to hiring you; then, worry about having business cards.

I gave myself a 3-month deadline to test out this approach before I threw it out. My plan was to focus exclusively on getting clients by finding out what problems people had and selling them a solution.

No business cards, no logos, no stationary, no case studies, and no website. All of those things would be a distraction from what I needed to do: Get paying clients.

Three months turned into three years of going directly to clients. That turned into a steady stream of referrals and eventually having to tell people no.

In all that time, only one person ever asked for case studies or my website. And that person had no money to hire me. Go figure.

5. Remember that everyone is a prospect.

If you’re reading this thinking, “But how did you get people to sit down with you in the first place?!” I will tell you: It was that 6-months of learning to endure the discomfort of doing a bad job. Of failing. Miserably.

I got used to pitching myself and doing it wrong (really, really wrong). And doing it again. And again. And again. Until eventually, I sucked a little bit less.

In that time I discovered the key: everyone is a potential prospect or referral source. Everyone.

And when you combine that insight with the “How can I help you?” approach, you begin to see business opportunities everywhere.

For the next three years, I focused all my attention on getting clients, until I finally hit a point where two things happened.

First, I was commanding higher rates and started to need more credibility indicators to bolster my trustworthiness. Second, a good friend told me she wouldn’t refer me anyone until my online presence was “less sketchy.”

That’s when I knew it was time for a website.

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Agencies Find Ways to Get to the Cloud
February 9, 2017 11:10 pm|Comments (0)

8 at the Cloud Computing Caucus Advisory Group meeting. Bray said that he thinks that the Federal government should have only three data centers, …


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OracleVoice: Fedcap Discovers New Ways To Help America’s Most Vulnerable Find Living-Wage Work
January 3, 2017 11:10 am|Comments (0)

Fedcap Rehabilitation Services uses Oracle Database Cloud to analyze contracts, applicant profiles, and placement histories to help disadvantaged people land jobs that pay a living wage.


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