Inspiration Medley #4

A mix of links to beautiful or funny content.

The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook – A cartoon by Roz Chast.

Lisha Simpson’s body art – A makeup artist transforms her arms and hands in scary, amazing ways.

Calm, lovely landscapes – By Michelle Morin.

Insomnia Jeopardy – Another excellent Roz Chast cartoon.

Photos of decaying staircases – By Ralph Graef.

Alphanumeric butterfly wings – What patterns did photographer Kjell Bloch Sandved find on wings?

Glass installations with rainbow beauty – By Chris Wood.

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11 types of blog posts for financial professionals

Accountants, financial planners, investment advisers, and other financial professionals use their blogs to engage with clients and demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

As a financial professional, what should you post about? Which topics will attract more web traffic and convince people you’re worth hiring? Popular types of blog posts for financial professionals include the following:

(more…)

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Loss of scientific thinking: What are some signs?

The combination of the appearance of professional respect for scientific rigor coupled with professional contempt for scientifically rigorous behavior is toxic, a poison that infects more activities in North America than the few I have pointed out here.

In Dark Age Ahead, published in 2004, Jane Jacobs discusses five major signs of cultural failure. It’s the last book the long-time journalist ever wrote, and it reads like a final warning.

The abandonment of scientific thinking is one type of cultural decay. Individuals and institutions have long had a tendency to avoid scientific inquiry, accept surface appearances without question, and use scientific data and terminology inappropriately. What’s worrisome is when there aren’t strong forces counteracting the decay.

When reading this section of Dark Age Ahead, I started thinking about examples I’ve come across in articles and other media that demonstrate an appreciation for a scientific veneer but not for scientific thought. Like the following:

(more…)

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Six Amazing Research Resources Online

The Internet is an immense swamp, a terrain of bots, trolls, and magnificent treasures. People are apt to get lost in it and lean on unreliable guides for navigation.

Swamp

There’s a massive mess of information (and misinformation) online. Sources frequently aren’t reputable or easily traceable. Even when it’s accurate, the information often isn’t relevant for a specific research purpose. Picking your way through it requires some internet savvy and critical thinking, along with strong organizational skills.

Fortunately, there are robust sources of information available, and tools to help people stay focused and organized when conducting research. What research resources can you turn to online? They range from enormous databases to tutorials for writing academic articles and citing sources. The following are six resources to look into:

1) Digital Tools for Researchers

Geared primarily towards scientists, it’s a huge list of tools for gathering, organizing, analyzing, sharing, and writing about different kinds of data.

2) EasyBib: Finding Sources

The link leads to only one section of a massive guide on writing research articles. Under “Finding Sources,” EasyBib lists a variety of places to look up scholarly papers and statistics.

3) International Writing Centers Association: Writing Centers Online

Many on this mega-list are university writing centers that include tutorials about research papers and instructions on formatting citations. The Online Writing Lab (OWL) from Purdue University is one that I’ve relied on to doublecheck AP style guidelines.

4) The DiRT Directory of Digital Research Tools

DiRT categorizes these digital tools based on what you need, anything from visualizing data to converting files to annotating text.

5) Educational Technology and Mobile Learning: 10 Great Tools for Academic Research

Among their recommendations are Evernote, Zotero, and Mendeley. One of the items on their list is an additional list of tools for generating bibliographies.

6) Lib Web

Links to thousands of academic, public, and government libraries around the world.

(I’ll also throw in a link to WorldCat, which will help you find books, DVDs, and other materials in libraries near your home.)

Important to keep in mind…

Using these resources won’t necessarily steer you away from misleading information. There are plenty of scientific papers, for example, based on poor methodology and yielding doubtful results.

A while ago I wrote a post on evaluating the credibility of Internet sources. It may help you make sense of what you find in the swamp. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to me for assistance with research, writing, and editing, as I have extensive experience with all three.

– Hila

(Image source: Wikimedia Commons.)

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When to lose ‘loose’ and use ‘lose’

I often see people write something like:

“I’m going to loose my mind.”

“She was afraid of loosing the love of her life.”

“How can I invest in the stock market without loosing too much?”

They’re using “loose” when what they really mean is “lose.”

Loose vs. lose

For the most part, loose gets used an adjective. It means free of tight restraints or bonds. “Her hair was loose,” is one example. Or maybe it was in a loose ponytail, meaning that she didn’t tie it too tightly.

Sometimes, you can also use loose as a verb that means to release something (or someone). You’re freeing them from a restraint or bond. When you say, “I’m going to loose my mind,” it sounds like you’re about to unleash your mind on the world, setting it loose on everyone.

In contrast, lose is a verb meaning to misplace something or get deprived of it in various ways. You can lose your keys and your sense of humor. Hopefully you’ll recover both.

People worry about losing their money in the stock market. They’re afraid of losing the love of their life to death or because of hurtful behavior. Losing isn’t always negative, though. If you lose yourself in some music, for example, the temporary parting from self-consciousness can feel pretty good.

Lose loose control

The confusion between loose and lose is understandable. In some situations, there’s a strong connection between the two. For example, if you tie your birthday balloon loosely to a chair, it may break free and float away. You lose your balloon because it was too loose. If something isn’t tightly restrained, or if you free it from its bonds, you may wind up misplacing it or getting deprived of it.

Also, people get mixed up because of the similarities in spelling. One ‘o’ vs. two. But it’s important to understand the differences between the words.

– Hila

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Lost in a Data-Driven World

I recently came across “Hyper-Reality,” a short film by Keiichi Matsuda. (Watch the video at Vimeo.)

It shows a woman navigating a world of augmented reality. Her visual field is crowded with corporate logos, social media icons, status updates, and menus. Virtual arrows urge her to take certain paths, and messages pop up asking her to rate things and contact people. She has an identity that she builds with points (e.g. “4 city points” for using public transportation). To answer questions like “Who am I?” and “Where am I going?” she summons a Google search bar.

Data-driven world with augmented reality

Screenshot from Keiichi Matsuda’s “Hyper-Reality.”

Something goes wrong for her during the film, and at the end it’s comforting to think that security measures won’t ever be that weak. (Right?) In any case, the film isn’t intended as an exact prediction of what our world will turn into. But it isn’t far-fetched. The data-driven world it depicts is recognizable. And people can feel lost in it.

Concerns in a data-driven world

I recently read Data-Ism by Steve Lohr, a solid introductory book on big data for a general audience. Lohr highlights some potential major benefits of big data, which range from more effective healthcare interventions to reductions in energy costs. He also discusses the concerns about privacy, security, and lack of transparency in data collection and use.

  • Who has my data?
  • Who is collecting it, and how and when?
  • What’s the purpose of data collection?
  • What are people doing with my data?
  • How does the data get analyzed, and how are individuals and organizations acting on the conclusions?
  • Has my data been used against me? (Perhaps in grossly unfair ways?)

Matsuda’s film conveys the helplessness of feeling like a fly that twitches in the web of data. The film’s central character seems surrounded by choices – what to click on, who to contact, what to purchase – but they’re superficial. In her world, personal identity has become only a set of data points. She has no defenses to protect the integrity of her self or understand the purpose of her life.

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Nonprofit online engagement: Six tips for attracting interest and support

How can you attract more people to your nonprofit and keep them engaged with your cause? Are you using the Internet effectively for outreach?

Your organization’s success depends on a strong relationship with individual donors, volunteers, companies, government agencies, and non-profit partners. Online engagement increases the chances that people will keep you in mind and work on your behalf.

network nonprofit

The following nonprofit online engagement tips can help you build consistent support and interest in your cause:

1) Make it easy for people to get involved

A landmark online fundraising scorecard published a couple of years ago revealed some major problems with the way many nonprofits encouraged participation in their cause.

Of the nonprofits evaluated, 65% made potential donors go through at least three website pages to donate money, increasing the chances that these donors would give up in frustration. 20% of the nonprofits lacked a call-to-action on their website landing pages. Furthermore, most of them didn’t have donation pages that showed up well on mobile devices. To promote Internet engagement, you need to make it easy for people to sign up or donate. Help them quickly figure out what links to click on and how to navigate your site.

2) Treat people in a welcoming way

When people follow you online, sign up to help with your activities, or donate money to you, contact them with a personalized email, using their name in the greeting. Show them that whatever action they’ve taken matters to you and that you’ve noticed them. Make sure your emails point out additional opportunities to get involved. You can also welcome people to your cause with fun events, such as a giveaway – something you can announce on your website and via social media.

3) Don’t lose touch with people

You should periodically reach out to people by email. Thank them for their interest and anything they’ve already done on your behalf. Update them on the work your organization is doing and on upcoming events.

During certain times of the year, such as the holiday season, people will probably be more inclined to volunteer and donate. Time your communications appropriately.

Encourage people to follow you on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms where they can keep receiving updates from you and where you can keep interacting with them. Always reply to people with courtesy and thank them warmly. Highlight kind comments you’ve received and positive reviews and testimonials about your organization.

4) Convey your purpose succinctly

You can publish materials on your website providing all the details about your organization. But you also need to convey the importance of your work in a brief, compelling way. People glancing at your call-to-action have to immediately grasp why it’s important for them to help you. If they open an email from you, they need to quickly understand who you are and what you do.

5) Share compelling content

If you’re sharing data about your nonprofit’s success and impact, don’t limit yourself to dry reports. Use graphics that catch people’s attention. Post photos and videos that show the uniqueness, urgency, and beneficial results of your work. With permission, share real-life stories that inspire people to participate. Show your staff and volunteers at work, and give them opportunities to write about why they’re dedicated to your cause. Write blog posts that demonstrate your dedication and expertise.

6) Build trust

Provide top-notch security for your website, particularly any pages involving personal information and donations. Always maintain professional behavior online. For instance, don’t share content that contains insults and other offensive material. Act in a transparent way, and show how your organization uses its money to promote positive change.

Nonprofit online engagement will help you spread the word about your organization. Furthermore, it will enhance your reputation and trustworthiness. Please contact me for assistance with strengthening your online presence and consistently engaging with your supporters.

– Hila

(Image comes from this Flickr page, under this license.)

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11 Types of Blog Posts for IT Companies

If your company provides IT support or managed services, what kinds of posts are you sharing on your blog?

Writing blog posts for IT companies

Use your blog to give clients a better idea of what you do. Demonstrate your expertise, and show them that you’re responsive to their needs and concerns.

The following are 11 types of blog posts for IT companies. They can serve as a springboard for hundreds of different posts.

1) Cyber security discussions and alerts

Unfortunately, data breaches are always in the news. There’s no shortage of topics for this type of post. Write about malware, phishing, and other threats. Point out vulnerabilities in hardware and software. Discuss various challenges, such as keeping a mobile workforce secure. To keep your tone from becoming too gloomy, offer solutions. Write about occasions where a cyber attack was blocked or contained.

2) Explaining your services

Clients may not understand what you’re offering and why it’s important. Describe the benefits of round-the-clock network monitoring. Explain why you recommend cloud-based data backup solutions. Give examples of how your managed services help companies reach and surpass their business goals. Write up a case study to illustrate your points.

3) Concerns specific to different industries

Healthcare companies and providers want to hear about how you’ll help them comply with HIPAA regulations and protect patient data. Manufacturers want to know how you’ll help them with software for industrial machinery. A variety of businesses are interested in ways to share files securely. These kinds of posts help demonstrate to clients that you’re sensitive to their business needs. As an IT company, you’re their partner and supporter. You understand their priorities.

4) Hardware and software recommendations

Maybe you endorse Microsoft Office 365 and specialize in working with it. Discuss its benefits, and post updates about new features. Other examples include cloud computing solutions, VoIP solutions, data backup methods, and CRM software you support. Point out devices you think are beneficial, like a specific kind of wireless router. It’s also a good idea to post side-by-side comparisons. Inform your clients about their options in a fair-minded way.

5) Cool tech developments and future trends

3D printing, the Internet of Things, Big Data… discuss the promises, the hype, the real possibilities. And maybe how you’ll play a part in these new developments.

6) Practical advice

Seven Tips to Avoid Losing All of Your Data Forever. Three Key Ways to Minimize Downtime After an IT Disaster. Eight Qualities to Look for in a Cloud Services Provider. How to Migrate from Operating System X to Operating System Y without Losing Your Marbles (and Your Data).

7) Demystifying terminology

What’s the difference between recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO)? Why are they important? Other terms include bandwidth, DDoS attacks, and RAM. In your posts, expand on the definitions with examples. Connect each term to the services you offer.

8) What a healthy system looks like

Don’t write only about devices crashing and software freezing. Paint a picture of a system performing well. Few unplanned outages, reliable high speed communications, data available only to authorized users. What kinds of services and solutions contribute to each part of this happy picture?

9) Plans and policies

For example, companies need a data backup and recovery plan, and cyber security policies that they’ll enact and enforce. Companies also need to maintain clear, thorough IT documentation. Discuss these issues in some of your posts.

10) Local area posts

If your company operates in a certain geographic region, include some content on your blog that mentions your local area. Your local SEO (search engine optimization) will improve, and you’ll rank higher in search engine results when people look for IT companies in your vicinity. Write about any local events you’ve participated in, such as fundraisers, community fairs, codeathons, and research and educational initiatives. Discuss issues from relevant local news, such as a nearby hospital getting hit with ransomware.

11) Awards and achievements

Offer proof of how wonderful you are (without sounding insufferable). Mention awards you’ve received, events you’ve sponsored, and conferences where your employees have been asked to speak. Describe important projects you’ve completed. From time to time, post excerpts from a positive review or testimonial.

Your blog is an excellent opportunity to improve your credibility. You’ll highlight not only your technical skills and strategic thinking, but also your ability to communicate clearly – a quality your clients value.

Having written extensively for IT professionals, I’m familiar with the kind of content that attracts interest. Don’t hesitate to contact me for assistance with your blog posts and other website content.

– Hila

(Image source: Pexels.)

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Inspiration Medley #3

Another collection of beautiful, funny, interesting things.

A map of pubs in the UK and Ireland – Only the pubs.

A Lackadaisical Lexicon for Laggard Logophiles – Tumblr blog that pairs rare words with striking images.

Arthur Rackham’s illustrations for Alice in Wonderland – And their impact on book illustrations.

Misty Copeland combined with Degas – Famous ballerina recreates works by Degas.

Women and trained wild animals – Katerina Plotnikova’s photographs.

ATP Hotline Bling – Drake as a Sodium-Potassium Pump.

Live in a Hobbit home – Go barefoot with hairy toes.

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