Engagement Ladder

Engagement Ladder

There’s a figure that gets quoted about engagement; 1, 9, 90. Which is a ratio representation of engagement.  For everyone person who contributes content, 9 might like it and 90 will see it. It’s a little simplistic, and there are more forms of engagement now so it’s helpful to think of the engagement ladder.

Engagement Ladder

Starting from the lowest rung of the ladder

Seen / Read

How many people saw your image, watched your video, read your content. This is the lowest level of engagement as it requires the least amount of effort from your visitor. It’s roughly equivalent to reach, although you might want to consider how much of your content was viewed or read.

It doesn’t tell you much about the person’s attitude to your brand, or their likelihood to purchase. We’ve all read stuff we don’t agree with, sometimes because we don’t agree with it. To compare this to a classic sales funnel it’s at least awareness.

Liked / Facebook Reaction

The next rung on the engagement ladder is a like, a G+, a Facebook reaction. It’s low commitment, a one click easy reaction, Facebook reactions tell you a more. Personally I’m pretty quick to like posts on Facebook or Instagram, much less likely to do so on Twitter.  As likes are visible to others this level of engagement does indicate that the visitor has a possible interest in your brand – but be careful. Facebook rates all reactions the same, but a thousand “angry” reactions won’t translate to sales for your company.

Commented

The third rung is comments, or reactions to your posts. If you’re posting on social issues, as Banana Republic did in the screenshot below, you’re likely to attract a lot of comments.

It takes more effort to comment on a post, positive comments are a public endorsement of your brand. It’s going to take some effort on your part to analyse the comments, or to parse the sentiment analysis provided by social listening tools.

facebook comments

Shared

If a person shares a post, retweets, embeds your video, they’re increasing your reach as your content is now (potentially) reaching a new audience.  They’ve also added your brand to their online reputation, this doesn’t map easily to a step in the sales process, but sits between evaluation and decision. They’ve added your company to a mental list for possible future purchases.

CTA

Some of your content might included a specific Call To Action, or CTA. For many companies this is exactly how they sign up more customers or subscribers, you can see some examples of great CTAs in this article from HubSpot. (And I’ve just shared content from a brand I have never been a customer of, but I’m aware of them, and they remain a potential supplier if I’m ever in a purchase decision for their services in the future).

Your CTA might be a subscribe, follow, download, or purchase option.

Created Content

The ultimate brand accolade, when users generate their own content related to your brand. But it’s a tricky area, with brands needing to pay attention to copyright and privacy issues.

Spotify have taken the step of using the real titles of subscribers’ lists in their own ads, it’s a campaign strategy that is infinite since their users will always be creating new lists. It resonates with their audience really well – seeing your own list picked up for an ad is cool, or whatever the kids are calling it these days.

When your customers take the step of creating content around your brand and sharing it you can bet you’ve got the ultimate level of engagement.

Image: Ladder | Rich Bowen  |  CC BY 2.0

World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day
Warsan Shire wrote a poem about the refugee experience which includes the frightening image

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark

The sentiment throughout her poem reflects the words of another great poet, Shakespeare, although he wrote from the perspective of the residents and calls on the to empathise with the refugees

Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,

The UNHCR provides data on the current refugee numbers, there are an estimated 65 million displaced people, that is people unable to live in their own homes due to war, conflict or persecution.  This is higher than it has ever been.

refugee data

Refugee Data from the UNHCR

Please note which are the top hosting countries. Around half of the world’s refugees are hosted by ten nations, of those ten nations just one, Turkey, is an OECD nation. Much of the rhetoric in the west is fear-based, the reasons for not taking refugees is that they pose a danger to us. However, as the Huffington Post pointed out, there are a bunch of things more dangerous than a Syrian refugee.

So have the courage to support your country’s initiatives to grant refugees the right to live in your country.  Write to your MP, senator, President, King.

Donate to charities that support refugees;

There are also local ways to help refugees settle, here in the Netherlands there is an award winning volunteer organisation called Refugee Start Force , which began with the idea of connecting locals and new arrivals for a cup of coffee, but it’s led to much more, helping refugees learn Dutch, find their way around the Dutch system, furnish their homes and find work.

Search for the hash tag #refugeeswelcome to find local initiatives you can support.

Next time you hear people reacting to the settlement of refugees in fear, anger or hate recite “no one leaves home unless, home is the mouth of a shark” to yourself and be brave enough to speak up for the millions of people forced to leave their homes through war, conflict, persecution.

Image: Refugees Welcome on Seawatch 2  |  Brainbitch  |   CC BY-NC 2.0

Response Matrix

Brands building a presence in social media have to manage the comments and responses. It can seem overwhelming, indeed if your company hits a crisis it may be overwhelming. A response matrix is a simple tool that can reduce the pain of responding to social media responses. It still relies on the expertise and good judgement of your social media or webcare team, but it guides them and simplifies training.

Step 1 Analyse Types of Responses

To create your own response matrix think about all the types of responses you might get across your social media channels. There are five generic types of responses you can use as a starting point.

response matrix step 1 analyse responses

  • Positive any thank you, or kind remark from one of your customers.
  • Question it’ll have a question mark on it
  • Error a statement about your products, service or company that is factually incorrect
  • Negative a complaint about your product, service, company etc
  • Troll someone who is posting in order to stimulate a reaction from you

Step 2 Define Your Response

For each type of comment or post you receive define the way in which to respond. I’ve given generic examples below.

response matrix step 2 define your response

  • Positive thank the contributor
  • Question answer the question, even if that means sourcing an answer from another part of the company – remember the customer does not care about your organisational structure
  • Error correct the facts, acknowledge any frustration
  • Negative solve the complaint if possible, explain if not possible
  • Troll monitor and do not respond

Step 3 Detailed Actions

You will need to go into more detail on the action steps for some posts. For example if a negative post is a product complaint you will need to detail the actions to be taken to correct the issue, and the actions may depend on whether the product is under warranty or what sort product it is.

In general customers expect a fast response on social media, KLM are responding within 7 minutes on twitter today. However there may be specific “hot” issues that your web care team need to refer to other teams. Work with those teams to make sure that quick responses are possible.

If there’s a common complaint you can even create a standard text. Many years ago I worked for a Dutch company whose legal name included the word “groep”, which is Dutch for “group”. Periodically we received comments from people stating that we had spelt group incorrectly – we had a standard text to use as a response for that, it began “thank you for being so observant…”

Response matrix step 3 detailed actions

Step 4 Combine into a Flow Chart

Your final response matrix should be a decision tree, a tool to help your web care teams act on customer posts on social media. This is a massively simplified generic version, but I’ve collected real versions published on the internet on a Pinterest board shown below.

Response matrix step four combine into a matrix

Step 5 Publish and Train

Publish your social media response matrix, itTrain your web care teams on your response matrix, they need to;

  • correctly and consistently evaluate the posts
  • use the defined process to respond
  • use a consistent tone of voice, which might be more informal than your usual corporate voice

Response matrix step 5 publish and train

I recommend a regular review of actual cases handled using the response matrix to ensure that it is covering all relevant issues – a tool that is not relevant will not be used. A quarterly review as a minimum, but you might want to use a higher frequency in the first phase.

Effective response relies on the web care teams using good judgement, the response matrix can’t replace that, you can never define every possible response.

Good luck creating your response matrix, and if you publish it online give me a shout, I would love to pin it.

Tragedy of the Commons

Tragedy of the CommonsI think I first heard about the tragedy of the commons in economics class, the term dates back to the writings of William Forster Lloyd in 1833 and the commons he was referring to was the shared grazing land that might be associated with a village and could be used by all villagers or commoners to graze animals.

Shared grazing land works as long as each commoner shares fairly, as soon as one grazer adds more livestock than his/her share the resource becomes over-used and unsustainable. In an ancient village it worked through two pressures; the finite resource was enough for each commoner, and the commoners knew each other so social pressure would act to keep any greed in check.

In the modern world, and in the absence of any regulatory check, both of these pressures are absent. In this scenario individuals has a tendency to use as much of the resource, the commons, to their own advantage. The result is that the commons becomes depleted and ruined.  Each individual is incentivised to use as much of the resource as possible, meanwhile the costs are spread amongst all users.

In 1963 Harbin extended the concept to include environmental issues, positing that a finite planet can only support a finite population, and since then the term has been applied in discussion on the environmental and sustainability.

US and the Paris Agreement

It’s come up again this week in reaction to the US President’s announcement to withdraw from the Paris agreement.

Most sane people are horrified by this decision because science.  Most of the world’s scientists agree that climate change is real, and caused by human activity.

The real debate is how fast the change is happening and what we can do about it. In 2016 most of the world’s countries signed the Paris Agreement – 197 in total, with 148 ratifying it thereafter. Only two countries did not sign; Syria and Nicaragua. Syria because its leaders are under sanctions and cannot enter Europe. Nicaragua did not sign because, in their view, the agreement didn’t do enough. So although many articles are grouping Syria, Nicaragua and US into one group it’s unfair: only Trump’s America is rejecting the agreement out of a belief that they don’t need to do anything. †

The planet has become  “the commons” and we’re looking at fair exploitation of a finite resource. The Paris Agreement was an attempt to address that “fairness”. It is an agreement where states set their own targets, but since there is no supra governmental body to monitor countries’ performance they can be considered non-binding. The Paris Agreement is flawed, but not as flawed as the President of the US has claimed; his statements have been extensively checked by the Washington Post.

The Discussion on Climate Change

I’ve spent some time in discussion with online commentators, and those supporting the President’s decision do so for one of three reasons

Reason 1: God will fix it:
This screenshot is from a conversation on Instagram, the sender contacted me by DM after I asked her a question on a public post. (The sender went on to call me a stalker, if they read this no doubt they’ll find a worse epithet.)

To which Michelle Wolf had the perfect response:

Reason 2: The US is being treated unfairly, because China produces more greenhouse gas than we do.

There is some truth in this statement, on an absolute numbers bases China produces more greenhouse gases than the US. However it also has 4 times the population. In addition historically the US has produced more greenhouse gases than any other nation. Here’s a map showing the per capita use around the world from the EAA

The US has been exceeding its fair use of non-renewable energy for decades. If the Paris agreement seems unfair perhaps try thinking of it as redressing the balance.

Reason 3: The US is already a leader in sustainable energy

No, the US isn’t. There seems to be an weird belief that the US is the best at whatever is under discussion amongst some commentators.  China outstrips the US on building wind power capacity, by a factor of 3 (2015 figures).  If you think a per capita comparison is fairer, I took the data for 2016 total installed wind power capacity, divided it by the population and then the US has 205 MW per million people compared to 84 MW per million people in China. But before you exalt, 10 countries outperform the US including Uruguay.

I’m using wind power installation as a rough proxy for sustainable energy, it’s true there are other forms; Hydroelectricity where China also leads on capacity, and Solar Power, no prizes for guessing that China also leads there.

The US is not a leader in this.

Climate Change Impact

Climate change is already having an impact around the world.

Tuvalu has seen a rise in sea level of 20 cm., and with other low lying small nations has seen an increase in the number of serious storms they experience.  Mauritius has been facing this since 2013. Many African countries are vulnerable as temperatures rise and they may lack the resources to address changes. That refugee crisis we have now will be dwarfed if nations become unable to feed themselves.

But Americans don’t need to look overseas for examples, Louisiana is losing about a football field of land every hour. There several factors contributing to this but one is rising sea levels.

Alternative Explanation

Whenever big outrageous news is announced I look behind it for what else is going on. Hiding unwelcome news behind something attention-grabbing is a useful communication strategy. So what else has been going on in US politics?

The Other US Reaction

About 70% of Americans believe climate change is real, but have a harder time seeing that it will impact them. It’s the sort of risk question humans are terrible at answering,  one that has a big impact somewhere in the future.

Some extraordinary Americans have stepped up, from individuals to business leaders to civic leaders.

Michael Bloomberg, a long time activist on climate change has promised to find a way to support the operations of the the branch of the UN that coordinates the activities on the Paris Agreement.

The Governors of Washington, New York and California, which is about 20% of the US population have begun an alliance of states committed to the Paris Agreement.

Companies such as Apple, Ford, Exxon Moblie, Tesla, Disney, Microsoft, GE, IBM, Salesforce, Amazon, Intel, HP, Goldman Sachs, Google, Shell, Virgin have all stated their commitment to continue reducing greenhouse gas production.

There is also a certain amount of peer pressure in play, US companies may need to meet the regulation of their export markets. Consumer pressure also has an impact both in the US and around the world.

While we teeter on on the brink of another “tragedy of the commons” it seems that the single most powerful person in the commons has much less power than the combination of other commoners.

It turns out the president doesn’t have as much power as he thought. How about that.


† When he’s not being President of the country but merely chairman of a company that owns a golf course in Ireland that’s threatened by rising sea levels Mr Trump believes in climate change bigly.

Image:  Beef Research  |  CANFR  |  CC BY-NC 2.

Unpack That For Me

“Can you unpack that a little for me?”

I gave a blank stare the first time I heard the term. It brought up a mental picture of suitcases and dirty laundry. But this term has a non-literal meaning that has crept into regular language and appears on fora, in books and even in the transcripts of UK parliamentary committees. It seems that it’s not, strictly speaking, new, as it’s been used in computing and in academic discourse for a long time. But it’s jumped the fence into every day conversation.

When I heard the question I understood from the context I understood that I needed to explain in more detail, but I may have been naive.  According to Andrew Friedman, a student at Brown;

Unpacking, as defined by my peers, basically means deconstructing a loaded statement into its constituent parts, putting the statement in context so that it may be better understood.

Yikes, so it’s something you’re asked when you’ve said something controversial or loaded. He gives a couple of examples, in one case he learnt something and changed his view, in the other he was irritated by the question.

You might have guessed I’m not a fan of this term, I still get the suitcase image in my head and have to translate it. I’d prefer any of these alternative expressions;

  • Could you explain that?
  • Help me understand what you mean…
  • Give me a little more background to your decision
  • What do you mean by that?
  • Could you give an example?
  • Huh?

Image: Suitcases  |  Natasha Mileshina  |  CC BY-NC 2.0

The Gig Economy

We’re in the gig economy, we can order food, dinner delivered, or cookies delivered at midnight if you’re in New York. We can share our spare room for cash on AirBnB, our trips with Uber, or garden tools we’re not using.  We can have someone visit us to hang a picture, build a bookcase or unblock a drain. In France you can have someone do your homework. The people providing the platforms say it unleashes innovation and offers exciting opportunities, it’s supposed to be good for us.

The companies offering platforms to enable all of this are lauded as disruptive and for a long time new companies were launched and cited as “the Uber of X“, there is even a book called “The Uber of Everything” which has the positive-sounding subtitle “How the Freed Market Economy is disrupting regulated industries and delighting customers”.

I’m all for disruption, but sometimes the disruption isn’t where you expect. Take AirBnB, there are a lot of articles about how AirBnB is disrupting the hotel industry, and it’s a service I’ve used in half a dozen cities. But it’s not the hotel industry that’s feeling the impact in Amsterdam, hotel nights are on the rise up 7% in Q1 2016, and numerous hotels have opened since airBnB launched in 2008. What has been affected is the rental market, with hundreds of apartments taken off the rental market. Amsterdam is not the only place to see an impact on the stock of rental apartments, and the city has now put limits in place.

Uber started out as a ride sharing platform, and it has a lot of benefits in terms of lowering congestion, lowering car pollution, reducing parking problems in cities. It has, according to some reports, lowered the rate of drink driving. There are a lot of positives. But there is also a downside. The industry that Uber set out to disrupt is the taxi industry seeing it as over-regulated and ripe for reform. When I hear the term “regulated industry” I always myself “who benefits?” In the case of the taxi industry there was a certain amount of industry protection to stop new entrants into the market, which maintains higher taxi prices. However it also protected drivers, allowing them to have a reasonable work week, and it protected passengers because drivers were licenced – as opposed to the ‘random driver‘ you might get as your Uber driver. Uber drivers started out as freelancers, part of the gig economy, but many of them now depend on their Uber income and are starting to fight back with attempts to unionise in Seattle and New York.

If we follow the money, it’s accruing to the platform owners. Uber’s revenue in 2016 is around USD6.5billion and AirBnB’s reached USD1.7billion. These two companies are doing very well out of the sharing economy. But there’s one platform that’s doing even better, Facebook earned almost USD27billion in 2017 almost all from advertising.

Other platforms began in one form and have evolved to others. Amazon began as a retail outlet and Netflix as a movie subscription service. Both have evolved into content creators each with a huge, somewhat overlapping, customer/subscriber base.  Although some local competitors exist, it would be almost impossible for a new entrant to compete with either platform on a global scale. This is fast becoming detrimental to those who work in creative fields.

For digital platforms the economics tend towards a “winner takes all” outcome, that is we end up with a single monopolistic player in each type of platform that evolves. This is because even if there’s room for several players in a market, ride-sharing for example, a platform can outspend –  or outsmart – competitors to acquire all the suppliers or all the customers. Once it has all the players on one side of the transaction it’s almost guaranteed acquisition of all those on the other side.

Stakeholder management theory says that a company must balance the interests of employees, customers and investors otherwise business model not sustainable, but in the case of platforms there is an imbalance of power allowing them to focus on the interests of investors, particularly prior to IPO when they must satisfy the demands of the Venture Capitalists. It’s taken new regulation to protect the interests of consumers, employees and others affected by the platform’s success.

The gig economy is good for business, it’s not so good for workers.

Right now I could order dinner to be delivered to me via Thuisbezorgd (the local incumbant), Foodora, Hungry, Deliveroo or Uber Eats. I predict that in one year’s time there will be just one platform.

Image: Lost in the Gig Economy?  | Tankesmedjan Futurion  |  BY-NC-SA 2.0 

 

Touchpoint

The Dictionary.com definition of touchpoint is “the point of contact, esp. when products or services come into contact with a customer”

This word feels weirdly modern to me,  so I checked my 1996 Concise Oxford English Dictionary and there it isn’t.

dictionary touchpoing

So I did a quick check using Google ngrams, which looks at the instances of words in published books. I’ve compared it here to the word “touchscreen”. You can see that both terms come into use from about 1980.

compare frequency touchpoint and touchscreen

The word means any point at which a company or organisation interacts with customers, and since the word applies to real world and online it’s useful for companies when they’re considering the customer journey. But too often companies consider the touchpoints in isolation, equating it to channels or (worse!) their organisational chart.

A company might list their touchpoints as billboards, tv ads, banner ads, shops, service offices.

But’s important to consider this from the customer perspective, and a customer might think more about how your receipt is presented rather than that ad you purchased. One of the smart things retailers such as Apple are doing is emailing your receipt to you – which means both parties have the same record of the purchase details. This means more to me than all their TV ads.

In marketing circles there’s a commonly held belief that the more interactions, the more touchpoints you can create with your customers the better. This is illogical and untrue, here’s why:

  • Your customer’s attention is limited, there must be an upper limit of the the number of times you can contact them before you become annoying.
  • Not all touchpoints are happy, your complaints service phone number is also a touchpoint, if I have to call your complaint line five times that doesn’t mean your marketing is working.
  • The more utilitarian your product or service is the less likely it is that your consumer wants to have “interactions”.  The local cinema theatre introduces online ticket purchase but you can’t print tickets – you need to download them at the cinema – why? I can print a bar code at home or have it on my screen for scanning.

The first time I heard this word used I thought it was a nonsense invention, but it turns out to have a useful meaning as a catch-all for all interactions a company has with customers. Just don’t invest in increasing the number of touchpoints without understanding which ones the customer values.

Image:  Touch  |   Sebastian Rieger  |   CC BY-SA 2.0

Digital Governance

Governance is a difficult discussion in a company. For people who like creativity it tends to make their eyes glaze, meanwhile those driven by order and rules sit up and start planning. But governance is just about how you make decisions, and good decision making is essential in any organisation.  In many large companies their digital and social media presence began in a rather ad hoc way, starting in pockets of expertise around the company and only later were pulled together. Sometimes it’s only after a crisis that a real need for good digital governance emerges. Too much governance can restrict and slow an organisation’s decision making, and too little results in chaos. So what does good governance look like?

An Australian organisation aiming to help local governments have better governance created a list of characteristics of good governance. These characteristics also apply to decision making in organisations.

Good governance is;

  • accountable
  • transparent
  • lawful
  • responsive
  • equitable and inclusive
  • effective and efficient
  • participatory

Good digital governance will cover;

  • framework of roles and responsibilities, this is sometimes called a RACI matrix, and it sets out who is responsible for doing the work, who has the decision power, who needs to be consulted or informed. Defining roles for the processes around digital content will give team members some certainty about who does what.
  • digital strategy, define and document the strategic approach you’re making in digital and how it meets business goals.
  • digital policies, these should cover high level management direction such as use of the company logo online, setting up social media accounts, privacy policies.
  • digital standards, minimum acceptable standards, often applicable to the technology, could include defining the maximum acceptable downtime of a website for example.

It’s a lot of detailed focused work to set all of these items up, and they need a regular review – at least annually. It’s important that there is an annual review because digital world changes and what makes sense now won’t in a year.

Your digital presence is about representing your brand, but you also need to do so without creating unnecessary risk. Every project you undertake in a company needs to consider potential risk, here are some  of the brand building initiatives and the risk avoiding steps to be considered. Sometimes it’s the same activity.

Represent Brand Avoid Risk
Consistent branding; strong guidelines Monitoring for content that is incorrectly branded
Asset repository, so that brand is always well represented Monitor for misuse of brand name: phishing sites, false claims etc
Respond to comments and social media posts with brand’s tone of voice Response matrix (examples)
Policies on publication including privacy, content, tone of voice Monitor content published to your social media accounts or as comments on articles you publish
Trained staff working on sites and social media accounts Control access to accounts, name the people who are posting to maintain accountability
Strategic acquisition of domain names Monitor for launch of new top level domains

People like flexibility, and sometimes people have the idea that governance just means lots of rules, and it’s true, there will be rules – or standards or policies. But without governance every decision will be agonising and slow. On an operational level you will create inconsistency, legal risks, and confusion for your audience.

Good governance should be a starting point for your digital teams to do their work. It should put in place policies, standards and decision processes that give the digital experts the guidance they need to do their job well, in a way that builds your brand. It should include a review cycle, particularly digital governance since the platforms change frequently and there are legal changes that you will need to include. Build your governance framework to be flexible, it will then be a more resilient to changes. Think of a tree that bends in the wind, at the end of the storm the tree still stands.

Image:  Lone Tree Wind Sculpture   |   Nick Fullerton   |  CC BY 2.0

 

Memory as a Wikipedia Page

Memory

I don’t know anyone’s phone number, address or email address anymore. I don’t remember appointments, my agenda is on my phone and I get an alert. I don’t remember any of my passwords, they’re stored either in the app or in my browser. If I loose my phone I’m screwed, but only temporarily because all that information is backed up in the cloud somewhere.

On the plus side there is an unlimited memory that I can access in the sense that there is nothing Google doesn’t know, the days of playing Google Whack are over.

We tend to think of memory as being a storage, our own biological repository of true things that really happened, our own database that we can Google to recall.

It turns out that human memory functions less like a database and more like Wikipedia. That is we can create overwrite and change what we recall, and – here’s the wiki bit – other people can distort our memories. In this TED talk Elizabeth Loftus talks about the ways our memories can be subtly altered by what people ask us and even what words they use.

As shown in the video this has implications in crime solving, eye witness accounts can be manipulated as people are primed by something as simple as replacing the word “hit” with “smashed” in a description of an accident.

But it also has implications for all of us, having a wikipedia page for a memory is how we become vulnerable to gaslighting,  an insidious form of manipulation that includes persistent denial of the truth, deliberate lying, and manipulating the environment to make the victim doubt their own memory.

The usual setting for gaslighting is within a relationship, and it has been connected with narcissistic or sociopathic personalities and with abuse.

But what if we can all, collectively fall victim to gaslighting?  This accusation has been hurled at various politicians, most recently at the new President of the US. Various news outlets have called his behaviour gaslighting, including Business Insider, The GuardianCNN, Teen Vogue, the Washington Post, NBC, and the earliest example I could find in the Telegraph. The antidote to this has been the rise and rise of fact checkers.

The good news is that we have a global database now, it’s called the internet and we can search for sources, explanations, and the person’s own words.

The other piece of good news is that because our memories are wiki pages we can consciously choose to re-write the memory. For many years I was vaguely claustrophobic, I would avoid small spaces and if I had to be in one I would get highly anxious, never to the level of a full panic attack but unpleasant. I thought it was due to one event where for a joke two guys picked me up and shut me into the boot/trunk of someone’s car. When they finally let me out I was crying, shaking, and furious.  I changed the “script” of that event and cast myself as a circus performer escaping, Houdini-style, from the car’s boot with feather headdress and a flourish.  Am I cured? Well I won’t be joining the Speleology Club any time soon but I’m not anxious in a lift/elevator any more.

Our memories record the good and the bad stuff, just like wikipedia; and just like wikipedia the can be edited. Pay attention, be aware of the editing.

If you think you’re being “nudged” to change your view check the facts. If you think you need a record of something photograph it. Use the tools to help you keep a database, your brain won’t.

When I travel around the Netherlands by train I leave my bike at central station, amongst the 4,000 other bikes and I don’t always remember where I parked it. I’ve taken to photographing the view from where the bike is parked. My memory on bike location is definitely a wiki page, and I seem to randomly recall previous page versions.

Image: Memories  |  Stefanos Papachristou  |  CC BY-NC2.0

 

Happy World Password Day

Happy World Password Day! I know it’s more fun to celebrate May-the-Fourth in other ways, but this is important.

Passwords are how we keep our online accounts secure, and yet the most common passwords are horribly simple to guess. Every year password keeper releases a list of the most common passwords and every year “123456” and “qwerty” are on the list.

Passwords must be both memorable and hard to guess, the conflict between those two needs is the fundamental problem.

Many sites require you to use combinations of uppercase, lower case, numbers, and symbols in the name of making it harder to guess or crack a password.

However the resulting password is not easy to remember, and as humans use common substitutions, it remains vulnerable to cracking by computer.

To make a password hard to break you need to make it longer, use a range of characters, and avoid dictionary words. Something like this.

According to Kapersky labs it would take 33 centuries to crack this password by a single home computer. Most hackers have more computer power so could do it in fewer centuries.

There are two factors making it hard for computers to guess, the randomness of the characters used and the length of the password. As the wonderful XKCD explained we can use the length to make passwords more secure and memorable.

One of the challenges of managing online passwords is that we have so many of them. Often they can be saved on your device or in your browser, but this carries its own risks. If you lose your device or someone cracks your browser password (in the case of chrome) the person gains access to all your accounts. You can use a password manager, there are many on the market and PC Mag evaluated 12 of them.

There’s a lot of advice out there on changing your password, it’s often a mandatory practice on websites and within companies. But it’s usefulness as as security measure is dubious, in fact because people tend to then use a transformation on an old password the system might be less secure.  One company requiring mandatory changes also prevented reuse of password elements for 20 changes. Luckily there are twenty regions of Italy. Of course if there is a password breach on any website you use you must change affected passwords.

To find a good memorable set of words look to poetry, quotes or song lyrics. Using the Kaspersky Labs password check Beyonce’s lyrics fare pretty well although  the words are dictionary based and not particularly random.

Please take time today to celebrate World Password Day by making your passwords more secure

  • choose long secure passwords
  • use different passwords for each site
  • use two factor authentication when sites allow it
  • consider a password manager
  • if you write down your passwords anywhere don’t keep it with the device.

Image: mine, and no, that’s not a real password