Monday, November 23, 2020

Disinformation: Smarter Every Day

I know this is long. And it might be disturbing. But please take the time to read this and watch the linked videos. Disinformation in our online community is an extremely important topic. I've been meaning to blog about this for a long time.

One of my favorite channels on YouTube is Smarter Every Day with Destin Sandlin. If you're nerdy (and I know you are), check it out. He is literally a rocket scientist. He loves to play with super high speed video, chase the space station, and explain all kinds of things from a scientific perspective. 



His channel is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6107grRI4m0o2-emgoDnAA. I have no idea why he doesn't have a custom URL for that, but he has nine million subscribers and doesn't need my advice.

One of the projects he's taken on in 2019-2020 is analysis of why and how disinformation spreads on social media. He started with YouTube, chasing some weird stuff he noticed on Twitter.

With just a little investigation, he found some massive manipulations of YouTube that were cleverly designed to get around YouTube's automate algorithm. He shows some amazing techniques that bots are using to keep getting around YouTube's security.

Remember: The basic goal is for evil people to grab a few minutes of your time. When attention is the most important currency on the Internet, this grab matters. 

I highly recommend that you spend some time educating yourself on what's happening and how the evil robots are doing this. One clear lesson stands out: A massive amount of the engagement you see online is 100% fake. Fake videos are created by the dozens. Then they are loaded onto YouTube channels that have been purchased. Next, millions of fake likes and clicks are purchased on the gray/dark Internet. All these videos point to one another's meta data.

Goal #1 appears to be hosting ads and getting paid ad revenue . . . but at this point virtually all of the "views" are from paid click farms.

Goal #2 is that one of the nearly-identical videos eventually beats the YouTube algorithm and is served up to real human beings. At this point, hyper-partisan people begin viewing and commenting. That's engagement, and YouTube rewards it.

Twitter has a similar story. Malicious people are absolutely attacking Twitter (and all the social media) in order to either drive behavior or simply create discord.

The challenge for the social media giants is to balance usability and security. And maybe security means authenticity. At some level, we assume that "popular" on social media means something. But automated accounts allow a great deal of content to be created without humans being involved.

That's not all a bad thing. You can monitor volcano activity, weather, traffic, and so forth. So automation can be good, and provide information people want. But, obviously, bots can be created FAST in massive numbers. As of April 2019, Twitter was examining ten million new accounts per week - and 75% of them were removed!!! Obviously, those numbers are higher now.

There is clearly a war going on here. Artificial intelligence is used heavily on both sides. As a result, many (MANY) fake accounts are created and operate for some period of time before they are caught and closed down. As a result, the account might make a few thousand or a few million impressions before it's closed down.

One important piece of news: The good guys (including really smart people at NATO) are setting up accounts to attract robots so they can examine the behavior of evil robots. This is actual Spy-vs-Spy stuff.

Facebook is probably the worst platform when it comes to divisiveness and social disruption. Facebook is under attack from many fronts. They have famously outsourced a lot of their content filtering to specialized companies. And the crap the people want to post is extremely alarming: murder videos, animal torture, etc. The content is so disturbing that many of these human editors have mental and emotional problems due to their exposure to this stuff.

I am grateful they keep this stuff off Facebook, and I'm sorry that someone is traumatized so I don't have to be.

The other war Facebook is fighting is the political and social war. Russia (the nation) and several other nation states are actively trying to get Americans and Europeans to fight amongst themselves. They have basically manipulated the entire populations of these countries to create the era of extremism we find ourselves in.

Trying to NOT contribute to extremism is a fulltime job at Facebook. Most notably, Facebook has changed their ad policies to eliminate the worst of this. But a lot of the horrible stuff is posted as content rather than ads. Facebook has also created a great deal of transparency about ads. You can actually see every ad and who paid for it.

Facebook deleted over one million fake accounts per DAY as of April 2019. Of course it's more now. But many accounts are created by real people . . . and maintained at a minimal level until they are sold to evil companies. So "real" accounts become fake accounts.

Reddit is another massive home for disinformation. Reddit is very different from the other social media due to its forum format. Reddit has individuals, communities, and moderators. This format makes coordinated attacks a little harder to execute, but the essentially text-based format makes it simple to create massive numbers of posts with bots. So, it's all a numbers game.

Like Twitter, Reddit places a lot of emphasis on what's popular in order to share that content more widely. But they both want that popularity to be real (from real humans, not hired hands or robots).

Reddit nuked 944 trolls after the 2016 election. Since then, they have created a massive transparency area inside Reddit. In other words, you can go to r/technology and see posts with links to known troll accounts. The goal is to help users educate themselves about what these accounts look like. 

Rather than take down the fake accounts, Reddit simply calls them out and labels them. This allows researchers to analyze the behavior of the trolls. So, what you see over time is that conversations "go troll" when issues become simplified (no longer complex) and more toxic or aggressive. The attack strategy on Reddit is all about diverting conversations from honest and interactive to manipulated and divisive.

I'm not trying to summarize Destin's work. He goes into extreme detail and posts many, many links to resources and publications. I would encourage you to watch these videos and then check out all the fun stuff he does on his channel. 

Personally, I love complicated discussions. So I would rather be involved in a six-sided discussion than a two-sided conversation. On top of all that, I can honestly say that the book Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman will give you a really clear picture of how the images and the very nature of social media are so effective - even if they're evil and manipulative.

Again, I am asking you to put in some time here. Kahneman's book is 500 pages. It's all about how our brains work, and how we cannot control a lot of what our brains do. So we have to approach all social media with our attention set to high. Sadly, that means it cannot be a relaxing place to spend time.

Ironically, if you relax and enjoy social media, you will find that you're being manipulated and fed angry lies and trolling. That's not ultimately relaxing.

Here are the important videos. I listed the first one last because it has the best advice about how to actually analyze your news feed.


YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PGm8LslEb4 (about 20 minutes)


Twitter

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-1RhQ1uuQ4 (about 30 minutes)


Facebook

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FY_NtO7SIrY (about 22 minutes)


Reddit

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soYkEqDp760 (about 26 minutes)


Why Your Newsfeed Sucks

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUiYglgGbos (about 12 minutes)


All of your social media are literally under attack. And, as far as we know, there is no winning. The best we can hope for is to manage the attack, or the effects of the attack.

I hope you spend a little time raising your awareness.

I'm sad to say, I don't know where this is all going. But I believe we can make social media mostly good if we all put in some effort.

Take care my friends.

:-)


Friday, November 20, 2020

Automate Your Accounting with QuickBooks Online and Integrated Apps - Class starts Nov 24th

Our amazing and always-popular Rayanne Buchianico is teaching a totally-revised class, starting next week:

Automate Your Accounting with QuickBooks Online and Integrated Apps – 5W15


Taught By: Rayanne Buchianico

Only $299.00 - Register Now

Tuesdays, November 24, 2020 - December 22, 2020

Start Time: 9:00 AM Pacific / Noon Eastern

5-Week Course

Great for Front Office, Operations Manager, Owner, and Service Manager


Topics for this class include:


  • Touch your transactions exactly one time to avoid duplicated entries
  • Make your business audit-proof with automated attachments
  • Understand the purchasing and procurement process in detail
  • Connect your PSA for automated invoice importing
  • Pay your bills electronically from INSIDE QuickBooks Online
  • Match your vendor bills with actual credit or bank payments
  • Set up and record:
  • Deferred Revenue
  • Customer Deposits
  • Sales Tax
  • Hardware as a Service

. . . and More!

Delivered by Rayanne Buchianico, Financial Coach and QuickBooks Advisor. 

Rayanne has been an MSP - managed service provider - for many years and advises MSPs on how to get the most out of their QuickBooks and PSA integrations.


Includes five weeks of webinar classes with related handouts, assignments, and "office hours" with the instructor.

This course is intended for business owners, accounting staff, and managers. It is particularly useful for the Owner or Operations Manager.


Only $299

Register Now


A Few Details . . .

  • Each course will be five webinar calls (50-60 minutes each)
  • There will be handouts and "homework" assignments
  • If you wish to receive feedback on your assignments, there will be instructor office hours
  • Class webinars will be recorded and made available to paid attendees only.
  • All calls start at 9:00 AM Pacific Time

Questions? Email concierge@smallbizthoughts.com

:-)


Monday, November 16, 2020

You’re Not Responsible for Every Lost Dog that Shows Up on Your Doorstep

When you’re in a service business, you have to make sure there’s a good match between the services you offer and the clients you serve. This is true even in a recession!

Way back, I told the story of the two electricians. One was obsessed with the cost of services. He was willing to do a marginal job and make a very small profit in order to simply have a client. I was not a good fit for him. I’m the kind of person that would rather pay a little more, have the job done right, and eliminate re-work before the work starts. The second technician focused on quality first. I’m a much better fit for that approach.

When you have a good sense of who your clients are, you need to accept that many people do not fit your model. Do not feel bad about that. You should not try to help them unless you have a strong belief that they will become your target client. And do not worry that “someone” has to help them. You might even help them find that someone, but you should not lose sleep over the fact that they are not your ideal client.


Here’s a common scenario from my IT consulting business. People would call out of the blue and ask me to fix their computer. But they have never hired me before, and they haven’t actually maintained their computers. Everything about the job makes me see big red flags: Avoid at all costs!

My ideal clients see their technology as an investment. They consider it vital to their business, so they hire a person or company to take care of their computers. When they call, I am happy to go talk to them about how we can help. 

But when someone calls and they clearly place no value on their technology, I know every discussion will be about money. And they will think I’m over-charging for everything. That will not be a good relationship, so we need to walk away. 

No matter what business you’re in, there are many people out there who literally cannot afford your services. Don’t try to serve people who cannot afford you. And don’t feel bad about it. You and your customers will both be happy when you are a good fit for each other.

Remember: Even if you gave great service to someone who really didn’t want to pay that much, they will repay you by complaining about your company at every opportunity. That’s not good for you in the long run.

You should figure out the annual cost of your services and have a very realistic vision of who can and cannot afford you. Don’t sell to people who can’t afford you. For example, in IT support, a company that brings in $300,000 a year (total revenue) cannot afford to pay for ongoing preventive maintenance of their technology. They don’t have enough free cash to pay us enough money to make it worth our while.

What is the minimum size a company has to be to afford your services? Whatever it is, you should make a note and then figure out how to go get clients who are at or above that threshold. Stop trying to sell to people below that. Don’t lower your rates to try to get clients who aren’t a good fit in the long run.

Here’s an exercise to help find (and possibly remove) clients who are too small for your services.

Open up your QuickBooks, or whatever financial software you use, and you run a report of sales by customer, summary, for the last twelve months. Next, sort that report from highest to lowest and start drawing some lines.

Look at all the people that gave you $250 or less in the last year, or under $1,000 dollars last year. How big is your average client? What percentage of your revenue comes from the top twenty-five clients vs. the bottom twenty-five clients?

No matter what business you’re in, smaller clients take more work per dollar earned than large clients. It’s just a fact of life. If you drop the smallest ten clients, would you notice the difference in revenue, or would you just sell those hours to someone else for more money?

As I’ve mentioned before, you need to start looking at your ideal client. I’ll bet that your five favorite clients are at the top of the list, not the bottom. Those really small clients are expensive for you to have on your books. There is a minimum cost to having a client. 

I love studying business models and one of my favorite examples is Costco. Costco has a very specific business model. They looked at what grocery stores do and said, “We don’t want to do that.” When you go to a grocery store, they’re happy to have you come in eight times a day, buy a stick of gum, and put it on your credit card. 

Costco looked at that model and said, “It costs us money whenever one of our employees interacts with a customer.” So, what did they do? For starters, they charge people to get in the door. You have to pay for a membership. They literally have somebody standing at the door who keeps you out unless you are a member of the club.

Next, there’s no signage. There is a certain rotation of what they carry on a given day. For you, that means you have to go back and forth, up and down every single aisle. You get the twelve-pack of studded snow tires, you get the ninety-six rolls of toilet paper, and you spend three hundred dollars with every visit.

And you show up once a month. 

That’s their business model. They do not want you in that store every day. They want you there once a month to spend $300 or $400. As a result, they have far fewer people coming into their store than the grocery store does, but they are far more profitable than the grocery store. 

I encourage you to open your mind to new ways of looking at your clients and your business. Create any business model you want and then go find clients who want to do business that way. I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s important: Create your business model and then find people who want to do business your way.

You don’t have to serve everyone.

-----

:-)


The Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery
Absolutely Unbreakable Rules

For more great tips on your personal and business success, please check out my new book:

The Absolutely Unbreakable Rules of Service Delivery

Available on Kindle or in Paperback.

More information at

www.absolutelyunbreakablerules.com



Thursday, November 05, 2020

Did you see this last month?

 You May Have Missed This . . .


If you only read this blog, you may have missed some of the other stuff I do. I put a list of recent activities in my weekly newsletter (signup here). 


Mentions by Others

. . . From time to time, we get a little press from folks in the wider community.


Sherweb posted a blog I wrote:

Building your security offering: key components to include


ChannelPro and CompTIA put out a great Focus on Diversity

https://www.channelpronetwork.com/hub/diversity-focus

- I have an article in this issue.

- I also sit on CompTIA Advancing Tech Talent and Diversity Executive Council.


I was happy to be a guest on Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast . . .

https://www.paulgreensmspmarketing.com/podcast/episode49/


And my friend Richard Tubb mentioned one of my podcasts on his blog:

https://www.tubblog.co.uk/blog/personal-development/how-to-avoid-overwhelm-as-an-it-business-owner/


Here's the stuff I produced in the last month, other than this blog.


Relax Focus Succeed Blog:

The Interruption Diet 

Do Not Be Interrupt-Driven


YouTube Videos for Relax Focus Succeed

Welcome to the Cheeky Sales Coach!

Three Cheers for the Holiday Aisle

Welcome to Relax Focus Succeed


SMB Community Podcast:

VARs 1-Stop Connectivity Service Fuels Growth

The State of Insurance in the IT Industry

Turning Leads into Prospects and Prospects into Clients

Amy Luby on the Acronis Summit 2020

Michael Slater on Sherweb’s Accelerate 2020 Conference

How Security Awareness can Finally Start Working for MSPs


The Killing IT Podcast:

Episode 84 – AI Bias, Digital Collaboration, and the Failure of Contract Tracing

Episode 83 – Fragmented Health Data, Right to Repair, and Dying Industries

Episode 82 – Universal Connectivity, Digital Transformation, and the Smart Office

Episode 81 – Remote Report Card, Total Connectivity, and Tech Budgets

Episode 80 – Changing RMM Tools, Building the Stack, and the OS Environment


Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community:

SBT Roundtable with Disney’s Dave Goodman

2021 – Year of Intention (Workbook And Class)

The October Roundtable (or was it)

Posted – Community Confab October 23, 2020

Posted: Third Thursday October 2020

Posted: Community Confab October 8, 2020

2021: Year of Intention – Class and Workbook – Members Only

Posted – Community Confab – October 1, 2020


YouTube Videos for IT

SOP: Stop Doing That!

SOP: Integrating Advice

Unboxing Video: Gift from Acronis

SOP: Inventory Control

SOP: Tracking Disty Info


-----


. . . More to come!

There's always more to come. Connect with me on all these platforms.

. . . And have a great November.

- Karlp

:-)

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

SBT Roundtable Features Dave Goodman, former Executive Producer of Entertainment for Walt Disney

Attention Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community members:

Our November Roundtable features a very special guest. Our November Roundtable guest is Dave Goodman, former Vice President and Executive Producer of Entertainment for The Walt Disney Company.

Topic: Customer Experience, Emotion, and the “New Extraordinary”


SBT Roundtable with Dave Goodman

November 25, 2020

9:00 AM Pacific

Note: This is a members-only event. Non-members are welcome to join us - and join us.




Dave Goodman is an amazing resource. You will meet few people in your life who have managed projects with budgets in the billions of dollars. Dave’s done that a lot, across several organizations.

Seriously: Dave has overseen the production of nearly 10,000 live shows, tours and events with financial responsibility for over one billion dollars in content development, production and operations.

And since the core of his career was with The Walt Disney Company, he helped developed the concepts of customer experience that we all take for granted. In addition to that, Dave was central in developing emotion-based experience management.


Our goal with the SBT Roundtable is to look at interesting things from a different perspective. That fits perfectly with this month’s guest.

I know he has some great stories to tell. Even if you’re not a regular visitor to Disneyland, you’ll love the CX (customer experience) discussion.

This is truly a rare opportunity to talk with someone who has had huge impact on the way products and services are delivered in the modern era.


A few highlights from Dave’s career:

  • The Disneyland Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Vice President and Executive Producer of Entertainment for The Walt Disney Company
  • The Disneyland Resort
  • Tokyo Disney Resort
  • The Walt Disney Special Events Group
  • Vice President and Executive Producer of Entertainment for SeaWorld Orlando and Discovery Cove

Please sign up for this Roundtable and send in your questions.

And, of course, join us live!

—–

About Dave Goodman

With a career spanning over 35 years of domestic and international entertainment experience, Dave has acquired a unique and diverse background . . . as an entrepreneur, creative strategic planner, and corporate executive. His values and purpose driven management style was honed during his tenure as the Vice President and Executive Producer of Entertainment for The Walt Disney Company, (The Disneyland Resort, Tokyo Disney Resort and The Walt Disney Special Events Group) and Anheuser Busch, (SeaWorld Orlando and Discovery Cove). Having lived abroad, and produced entertainment experiences in over forty countries, Dave has a valuable perspective on business strategy, creative content and the methodologies needed to connect consumers to global brands.

Collaborating with production teams from around the world, he is the award-winning Executive Producer of corporate and charity galas, parades, fireworks shows, music festivals, sporting events, awards shows, movie premieres, product launches, promotional tours, events for U.S. Presidents, the White House, foreign royalty, various heads of state and Governor’s Inaugurals.

Dave was also selected to be the Executive Director of Entertainment for Expo 2020 in Dubai. That’s being rebooted due to the global pandemic. But he’ll make it happen!


November 25, 2020

9:00 AM Pacific


:-)