What’s Your Password?

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Have you ever thought that something as simple as a password could change your life? Surely you’ve experienced that cringe-worthy moment when you receive the dreaded “your password has expired” message. Chances are, creating a new password has never really been a big deal, until recently. Now, you’re required to use one uppercase character, one lowercase character, one symbol, one number, no less than eight characters, and you can’t use the same password you’ve used before!

My password expired the other day, and just as I started ranting about how I dislike creating new passwords, my coworker said, “try using a password that will change your life.” After thinking about it, I typed a password: gratitude#1. My password reminded me to be thankful several times a day when logging into my computer for the next 30 days.

Here’s the way I see it: Positive thinking can turn any moment of despair into an opportunity for inspiration.

The Rise and Fall of Nate Silver: A Lesson in Risk Communication

ThinkstockPhotos-543817436.jpgPolitical prognosticator and analytics guru Nate Silver rose to national fame by correctly predicting elections. But in 2016, Silver joined almost every other analyst by projecting a victory for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Was Silver’s good luck over?

Cognitive Bias and the “Failure” of Data

Actually, Silver’s estimate for the 2016 election was closer to correct than almost anyone else’s. He saw Clinton as a heavy favorite, but still gave Donald Trump a roughly one-in-three shot of winning. But the world didn’t remember that part of the projection once the election results came in. They just remembered the part Silver got wrong.  Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman has an explanation: cognitive bias.

Kahneman studied how people make decisions and judgments, and he quickly discovered that they don’t make any sense. People like to think of themselves as logical and rational, but they mostly use logic to justify believing whatever they want to believe anyway. And one thing people absolutely love to believe is that the future is certain. Human minds loathe uncertainty. Uncertainty breeds anxiety and fear—sometimes paralyzing fear. So when given a number like “one in three” or “ninety percent,” they subconsciously convert the odds to “yes” or “no.”

This cognitive bias is often very useful. You probably never consider the statistical chance that you’ll be run over by a bus because if you did, you might never leave the house. It’s far easier, and probably mentally healthier, to treat the risk of bus accidents as a 0. But the tendency to round probabilities up or down can be disastrous in the business world.

Communicating Risk

Have you told your boss that there’s a 90% chance you’ll make the sale? If the deal didn’t go through, you were probably in a bit of hot water. Has a supplier ever told you her product’s failure rate was less than 1%? You’d probably be pretty mad if your order was a dud. The problem with both of those statements of probability is that they do a poor job of communicating risk. They invite the mind’s cognitive bias to take over and convert the estimate into a certainty. When that certainty turns out not to be so certain, it feels like a broken promise.

That’s why the world decided Nate Silver was wrong. They had rounded up the probability of a Clinton victory to a guarantee. When Trump won, it felt like Silver had broken his word. His failure wasn’t in the data—it was in the way he communicated the risk.

The lesson here is that quoting numbers won’t save you. Don’t just toss out percentages—put them in context. Visualizations are one useful technique. If a product will fail one time in a hundred, a graphic with 99 white shapes and one black shape gets the message across far more effectively than the numbers. Analogies are also effective. A 90% probability? That’s about the same as the chance that an NFL kicker will make a 32-yard field goal. Anchoring the numbers to a familiar context creates a lasting impression. It forces the mind to acknowledge uncertainty.

In business and life, people care about honesty. But if your goal is to be trustworthy, it’s not enough to state the facts. You have to make those facts sink into others’ minds. When it comes to probabilities and risks, that task is taller than it looks.

Communicate Faster

AN IMPORTANT SKILL FOR SOCIAL AND PROFESSIONAL COMMUNICATIONS

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Keyboarding has become an important skill for social and professional communications. The faster and more accurately you can type, the better you can communicate with your audience.

If you’re not feeling up to speed on a keyboard, here are a few ways to improve your typing skills:

  • Place your hands properly on the keyboard. Your fingers on your left hand should be on A, S, D, and F. The fingers on your right hand should be on H, J, K, and L.
  • Once you are comfortable knowing key placement, avoid looking at the keyboard. This prevents you from editing your copy in real-time, which means more mistakes and wasted time editing later.
  • Chat with family or friends to have fun while learning to type. Programs such as Skype can help you not only keep in contact with others but also help fine tune your typing skills.
  • Check out free online typing resources, such as www.typing.com. It is a great learning tool for all ages and levels.
  • Consider online typing games that make learning more manageable. While many popular resources are designed for children, they can be used for any age to learn typing skills one step at a time. Qwerty Warriors is a fun example.
  • Once you have become more comfortable in your typing skills, test yourself often to improve the speed of your communication. Check out this free tool on Live Chat.

As with everything, practice makes perfect. The more you type, the more familiar you will become with the position of the keys. If you’d like help creating a newsletter or other marketing materials to increase communications with your audience, give us a call today at 856.429.0715!

Tips to Create a Zap-Free Zone

REDUCE STATIC ELECTRICITY IN YOUR HOME OR OFFICE

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While the chances of you being injured from static electricity while using electronics (such as a computer, phone, or other office equipment) are very low, static discharge is not only shocking, but it could damage or shorten the life of your electronics. Here are a few tips to reduce static electricity in your home or office:

  • Climate control is important. If you do not have a humidification unit built into your HVAC system, consider using a humidifier to increase indoor humidity, especially during colder months.
  • Try an anti-static carpet spray, which essentially adds tiny particulates and conductive substances to carpet fibers to help in dissipating static charges.
  • Consider placing anti-static mats in places with high static, such as carpeted work areas.
  • Plug your devices into surge protectors, which limit the voltage supplied to an electric device by either blocking or shorting to ground any unwanted voltages above a safe threshold.

If you’re looking for creative marketing ideas that are sure to shock your competitors, give us a call today at 856.429.0715!

Veterans Use the Internet to Expand Skill Set and Boost Income

ThinkstockPhotos-476519673.jpgAs a war veteran, Shane Thomason knows firsthand what it feels like to experience victory in battle. After being home for nearly ten years from the Iraqi War, Thomason now spends his time giving back to the community and expanding his occupational skill set via the internet. Owning more than 250 websites, including RandomVeteran.com, Thomason enjoys working from home and has found much success in being able to sell unique t-shirts and other novelty items online.

Thomason isn’t the only veteran taking advantage of the internet to boost his annual income. There are veterans located all across the globe who sell items and services online as a way to supplement their earnings, and for many of them, they simply do this for the same reason Thomason does — to pass the time and keep their minds occupied.

A former civil engineer for the US Navy, Zachary Scheel, says, “Veterans are comfortable operating in high-pressure environments that are changing rapidly, where they’re constantly forced to make decisions with incomplete information.” And while many common internet users may not think of the online world as being high-pressure, Thomason is sure to tell you different. From selling websites at exactly the right moment to creating content on a consistent basis, operating businesses and sites online is a full-time job that requires much attention, and more so, much intelligence.

There are many skills learned through the military and overseas that can be used in business. Six of the most valuable skills veterans can carry over from the battlefield are integrity, dependability, sharp decision-making, the initiative to go above and beyond, tenacity, and adaptability. The capability to take advantage of technology is also another skill that veterans are familiar with, making them all the more apt to find success. Whether it be learning new software or performing website coding, veterans often have a knack for training themselves.

Thomason wrote articles for his local newspaper, the Grayson County News Gazette, while serving in Iraq, which greatly improved his ability to write and has translated into an exceptional skill for being able to create web content, including home pages and product descriptions, which he uses to sell t-shirts and other items on RandomVeteran.com.

One of Thomason’s most valuable pieces of advice to other veterans who are considering using their skills for work is not to become a recluse. Thomason says, “helping the community by being actively involved is the primary way I am able to sustain peace in my life. Sure, working from home is great, but getting out in the community and working with the children and other veterans is what keeps me moving forward from one day to the next.” Thomason is the Commander of American Legion Post 81 and spends a great deal of time giving back to his community when he is not working.

Generating business is simple when veterans take advantage of the existing skill set that they acquired while serving in the military. Veterans can also find an abundance of resources available to them. From online training courses to website builders, many of these resources are available free of charge because they have served in the military.

AR, VR, and Other Ways to Use Technology in a Print Campaign

ThinkstockPhotos-525689337From the affordable headsets that take users into another setting or world via virtual reality to games like Pokémon Go and even children’s coloring pages, technology is impacting the way we live and seek out entertainment. It may seem like virtual or augmented reality is firmly fixed in the digital world (and therefore of no interest to those who create and use printed pieces), but a surprising amount of technology can be incorporated into printed media.

Augmented Reality and Printing

Augmented reality technology provides an overly to the “real world” you can see via your phone’s camera, adding digital elements to the space around you. Pokémon GO is the best recent example of AR in action, and retailers like IKEA also use it to allow you to see what furniture pieces would look like in your own home.

Adding AR elements to your printed pieces gives people a whole new way to interact with your postcards, business cards, catalogs, and more. It also adds an element of fun and makes it more likely that the recipient of the piece will want to hang onto it and even show it off.

While not everyone will “get” AR right away, recent hits like Pokémon Go show that AR can be accepted by a wide group of ages and demographics. From including an interactive game in your materials (as Toys R Us did in a recent catalog) to using a playful mascot or other element, creative use of AR can help your printed piece make a splash in the real world.

QR Codes

Those little square barcodes are an ideal match for printed pieces and can bring visitors to your site. Since QR codes are designed to be read with a smartphone, you give the person holding your printed material the ability to visit your site in an instant. Use a QR code on your printed piece to link to a special offer, unlock content, or even provide additional information. QR codes are small and won’t take up much space on your printed materials, and incorporating one allows your prospects and recipients to interact with your business in a whole new way.

QR Codes and Virtual Reality

Immerse your reader in your printed materials by providing a QR code that links the viewer to a virtual reality experience or unlocks additional content. If you already have a VR showroom, game, or content, then making it easy for users to access it by simply scanning a QR code ensures you get plenty of extra traffic, without taking up space on your materials.

Variable Data Printing

This type of technology won’t change the look of your printed pieces, but it can help personalize the materials you create. Your customer won’t notice anything special about the printing, but they will think you’re really in tune with what they want and need.

The ability to create on-demand pieces that match your customer’s preferences boosts the likelihood that your offer will resonate with them. Used primarily in direct mail, but adaptable to other pieces, variable data printing allows you to target the elements used in a specific piece to the intended recipient. This technology is particularly useful for targeted marketing campaigns with a personal touch.

Adding a dash of high tech to your printed materials gives you additional ways to connect with customers and helps you get the most from your printing investment. Your pieces are also more likely to start a conversation, grab attention, and even be saved by the recipient, boosting their long-term value and ensuring your brand is remembered when your prospect needs something.

Awesome Keyboard Shortcuts

A GREAT WAY TO STAY FOCUSED AND INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY

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Keyboard shortcuts are a great way to stay focused and increase productivity. Here are a few of the most popular shortcuts that we recommend you memorize if you haven’t already.

Windows:
Ctrl + A will select all
Ctrl + C will copy
Ctrl + X will cut/remove (rather than copying it)
Ctrl + V will paste the text or object stored in the clipboard
Ctrl + Z will undo changes
Ctrl + Y will redo changes
Ctrl + F opens the find field
Alt + Tab switches between open programs
Ctrl + Tab switches between browser tabs
Ctrl + S saves your file
Ctrl + Home moves the cursor to the beginning of the document
Ctrl + End moves the cursor to the end of the document
Ctrl + P provides a print preview

Apple:
Command + A wills select all
Command + C will copy
Command + X will cut/remove (rather than copying it)
Command + V will paste the text or object stored in the clipboard
Command + Z will undo changes
Command + Shift + Z will redo changes
Command + F opens the find field
Command + Tab will switch to most recently used open app
Command + N opens a new window or document
Command + O opens a selected item
Command + P prints the current document
Command + S saves the current document.
Command + W closes the front window
Command+Option+W closes all windows of an app¬

While using the internet, spacebar (or the “pg dn” key) moves the scrollbar down a page, Shift + spacebar (or “pg up” key) moves the scrollbar up a page.