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Op/Ed

Fake news, reviews, and now fake people? Oh my!

(OPINION EDITORIAL) You’ve likely heard that reviews and like can now be purchased as easily as you morning paper, but the newest commodity may surprise you.

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Fake likes

By now you’ve likely heard social media “likes,” site reviews and comments can literally be bought and undisclosed sponsored posts on social media are now subject to regulation by the FTC.

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So, you’d think that would be the extent of the fake commodity game, right? Unfortunately, there’s more to come.

Surkus surplus

The Washington Post’s Peter Holley detailed the latest plot to allow some businesses to get the upper hand on their competitors. The new idea comes from a former Groupon employee, Stephen George, who developed an app called Surkus that allows individuals to connect with businesses in a unique way.

Surkus connects individuals with businesses that are willing to pay people to come to their store or event. That’s right, you can now pay people to show up at your event.

Genius marketing tool or absolute madness?

You might be thinking who on Earth would want to pay people to show up at their store or to attend an event? I thought the same thing at first too, but when you think about it a bit more, it’s just a more inventive, possibly more effective, aspect of marketing.

If you open a new business, maybe a restaurant, club, coffee shop, or even bookstore and you want to ensure there’s a line outside the door on opening day, Surkus can help make that happen.

Oftentimes, grand openings are covered by local press and using Surkus can ensure the first impression made is a lasting one. Long lines generate interest and curiosity: what’s going on there? What do they sell? It must be good if people are waiting for it.

What’s it going to cost me?

Businesses pay anywhere between $5 and $100 per person to create a fake crowd, with the average price per person being between $25 and $40. Seem a little high? Stephen George explained, “[Businesses] hire promoters and marketers and PR agencies to connect, but it’s a one-sided interaction that involves blasting out a message to get people engaged, but they don’t necessarily know if that message is being received.”

He also argues that Surkus’ “crowdcasting” model is the answer as the app uses an algorithm to target age, location, style interest, and Facebook Likes (which can be bought, remember?) to select favorable candidates to show up to your next event. The app also employs geolocation technology to ensure the paid attendee stays as long as they’re supposed to; if they leave early it effects their “reputation score” which is also tracked in the app.

What’s the long-term benefit?

I’m not sure there is a long-term benefit to fake crowds. While I can certainly see the advantage of having a prosperous (or at least prosperous-looking) opening, if these individuals are not asked to leave a review or engage with the brand on social media, what long-term benefit does it offer the business? Also, remember when I mentioned that social media moguls are required by the FTC to disclose when a post is sponsored? How is this any different?

You’re basically sponsoring a person to show up.

I’m not sure why this wouldn’t or shouldn’t be subjected to the same rules.

One could argue that businesses have been employing this fake crowdcasting model for eons through the use of coupons, raffles, and moonlight madness sales along with the lure of free food and drink or the chance to win something bright and shiny, as this also makes people show up in droves (hello Black Friday?).

The takeaway

In my opinion, a business needs to know what it’s true target market looks like and buy patronage to fill seats. In rare cases, I can see how this could be used to save face in the event you’re expecting press and people bail at the last minute, this could be a useful tool.

However, using this to make your business look as though it’s flourishing when you’re just getting started could do more harm than good; because even though Surkus members are instructed to keep the fact that they’re being paid to be there under their hats, all it takes is one disgruntled member to tell tale and potentially ruin your business. What will people think about your business if they find out you’re buying fake customers/reviews/comments/Likes?

I believe in dire situations this might be a tool, but for the vast majority of businesses, I fervently believe your money and marketing efforts would be best spent elsewhere.

#DontBuyPatrons

Senior Staff Writer at The Real Daily, Jennifer Walpole holds a Master of English from the University of Oklahoma. She has long been a dedicated business and technology writer, and she holds real estate close to her heart, as she comes from a family of brokers.

Op/Ed

Why I’m not impressed by the ridiculous glorification of over-scheduling your life

(OPINION) It’s not a badge of honor to keep your calendar so full that you can’t enjoy life. Let’s discuss and see if I can change your mind about your scheduling.

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Comes a voice from the back

If you’re one of those people who keep their calendar filled up with meetings, activities and appointments, check yourself to see if that’s really a fulfilling way to live. In some circles, it’s almost become a badge of honor to have a calendar without any open spaces.  If you feel as if your calendar is out of control, you’re not alone. But you are the only one who can take control of your schedule.

Might I recommend that you stop over-scheduling your time?

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Habits and routine

One of my first articles for TRD’s parent site, The American Genius, was about the false hustle. Being busy all the time is not good for you physically or mentally. It’s exhausting. When your calendar is full, it has to be stressful never to have time for yourself or have the ability to sit down and read or do whatever you want.

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People said “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Allow for some flexibility into your schedule. Put down what’s important to you, but don’t go gung-ho about organizing your time.

Know your routine

Most people have a routine. I don’t need to write down certain things in my calendar, because I know that I plan to be in church on Sunday. I’m not so rigid that I won’t take a Sunday off, but it doesn’t need to go in my calendar. Much of my work through the week is routine too. I know that I have seven articles due every Monday. I usually try to get them done Friday afternoon, but if I don’t, I know I’ll have to work on them Monday.

Now, you might tell me that you don’t have a regular routine. I know some people have different activities and appointments that have to be scheduled and can’t be missed. When I was helping on the homeschool convention, I would fill in the slots on my calendar of things that were coming up, like board meetings, deadlines and meetings. But I also tried to leave room for adaptability.

Granted, you may have to manage a group of people and need their calendar to overlap yours. If that’s the case, may I suggest having a work calendar and a personal calendar?

Just as entrepreneurs are told to keep business and personal finances separate, leave your work calendar at work.

Ease up on your time management techniques. Know your priorities and learn to say no. Your loved ones will thank you for having some time to be spontaneous. It’s not a badge of honor to keep your calendar so full that you can’t enjoy life.

#ScheduleYouTime

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Op/Ed

Is the cloud on the verge of death?

(EDITORIAL) There is a theory floating around that the cloud is on the verge of death. Turns out, there’s merit for this line of thought…

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The sky is falling.

At least according to technologist, Viktor Charypar, who proclaimed “the cloud,” as a large-scale approach to computing, is about to nosedive.

To say the least, that’s a surprise.

At this point, it’s safe to call cloud-based computing the dominant paradigm. Those who make their living through that paradigm can be forgiven for dropping their collective monocle, spitting out their collective tea, and having a good old scoff at such scandalous tomfoolery as “the end of the cloud is coming.” I know I did.

But I kept reading, because it is literally my job to do the reading. And you know something?

Charypar is right.

The reason “end of the cloud” has so many metaphorical monocles floating in cups of tea is that tech in general is running full tilt at cloud-based solutions. More and more companies are moving more and more functionality out of consumer hardware and into corporate owned resources, which those corporations then make available as a service.

It’s easy to see why. The previous generation of tech had what they figured was an insoluble problem: you can only stuff so much processing power in a plastic rectangle before it keels over or bursts into flames.

The fix was literally out of the box. Take it out, went the wisdom. Move your computing into remote services, big networks of big iron optimized to meet your needs. That moves processing power and economic power in the same direction: away from the user and toward the service provider. In a sense, it was a return to the very, very old days of personal computing, when “computer” meant the vast and heaving beast in the basement and users just got terminals, access points where they could play with data owned and operated by someone else. Trust me. I’m writing this on a Chromebook.

As Charypar points out, like any tech solution, the cloud paradigm comes with advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are obvious: thanks to the Chromebook, this article has gone through three formats on two machines, and I never even had to plug anything in.

Disadvantages? The cloud isn’t infinitely scalable. As tech standards rise – SD to HD, 1080 to 4K – we’re forcing bigger data through tighter tubes. That means everything gets slower, dumber, and uglier. Especially with net neutrality under threat, that’s a serious possibility in the immediate future.

It’s also insecure.

Old one-liner: freedom of the press is limited to those who own one. The Internet fixed that – then promptly no-backsied us with the streaming paradigm. Now, access to data is limited to those who can store and stream it. How much of your entertainment comes from, say, Netflix, or Spotify, or Steam? Because if those services stop working tomorrow, and they could, whatever you’ve invested in them goes too. If their security fails – not unprecedented – you’re the one exposed. They’ve got the data. You’re just paying to play with it.

So, you quite rightly ask, what’s the fix?

BitTorrent.

The soft, splashy clink you just heard was the few remaining metaphorical monocles splashing into caffeinated beverages all over this great country. Someone fetch smelling salts; the entirety of Silicon Valley just got the vapors.

We aren’t advocating that we all grab the digital equivalent of a cutlass and a parrot and return to the scandalous days of piracy. But, as Charypar points out, whatever else you might say about peer-to-peer data transfer, and there’s plenty to say, it worked. It’s proven tech. Back in the day, you could grab a whole season of Deadwood in an hour. I mean, so I heard. In Bible study.

More recently, blockchain has repeatedly demonstrated that peer-to-peer tech solutions are widely applicable and solve many of the problems associated with a cloud-based middleman.

Peer-to-peer solutions like BitTorrent and blockchain are as close to infinitely scalable as technology allows. The processing power grows organically with the network, because the computers on the network are doing the work. Peer-to-peer is secure, too. I’d tell you to ask a cryptocurrency miner, but that’s the point: there’s no way to find one.

Charypar’s argument is that cloud-based computing is approaching its end because it never was an end in itself. It was the first half of the real goal: distributed computing.

Apps built peer-to-peer, sharing data and processing power between users directly, backed with blockchain or other encryption solutions, could represent what the cloud keeps demonstrating it can’t: a safe, stable digital world.

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Op/Ed

Don’t just survive, find mental toughness and thrive

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Strength training doesn’t just pertain to muscles and weight lifting but also to mentality and brain training.

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Strength training your body is a pretty common goal for folks, but what about strength training your willpower? Whether you’re an entrepreneur, civil servant, a student, or somewhere in between: resilience is something that we all need to be successful.

Adversity comes at us in a lot of different forms, and without that resilience even the most talented professional won’t be able to accomplish their goals. We have a lot of different words for resilience – grit, mental toughness, fortitude – and it’s the subject of research and a fascinating piece by James Clear.

The most important takeaway you can pull from Clear’s writing on toughness is that it can be developed. This is something you can build. Some ways to help you build that toughness include:

Command your expectations. In many ways, our expectations fuel our motivations, but too often our expectations get away from us. Everything is a surprise and an emergency – and that lack of control compromises your ability to stay resolved.

Know yourself. Know your motivations and seek to find out who you are. How does your mental resilience connect to your real world success? Define who you are and what the resilient you can accomplish. Your reasons need to be something that you own and that represent who you are – “just because I should” is not a motivation to sustain you to excellence. Do things that can help you get to know yourself better – Psychology Today has some suggestions.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable. This US Navy SEAL quote is one of the first things I learned getting ready for graduate school. We often face challenges we aren’t’ comfortable with – ask any HR or Management professional having to have a difficult conversation – but it’s how we endeavor through those challenges that defines our victories. If building resilience is like working a muscle, working out of your comfort zone is adding more weight. You can’t grow any stronger without working out of what’s easy and familiar. #comfortablyuncomfortable

Manage your resources. Burnout is real and it’s the far side of stress. Your personal resilience is not an infinite resource and stress can take its impact on you emotionally and physically. Continuing our gym metaphor – burnout is injury. You cannot build your grit if you’re so emotionally burnt out – you have hurt your emotional “muscles”. Find out what you need to do to emotionally recover and build those resources back up. Practice that #selfcare.

I’ll touch back on Clear’s piece again – habits are an important part of all these building techniques. Make it a habit to practice self-care.

Make it a habit to frame your expectations. Make it a habit to write down your goals and connect them to your life. Make it a habit to always embrace the difficult and the uncomfortable. Create a mental foundation that can take you not only through the extreme, but the day to day. Stay consistent, and stay focused.

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