Distributing information in a digital world concept - bubble radiating mail envelopes

Computers, Humour, Technology

The SMART Exchange Alias – A Cautionary Tale

No Comments 05 December 2016

Years ago when I was working for SMART Technologies, I noticed something strange during my second week of work as Social Media Specialist that would transform my perception, cause me to look at things from more than one angle and to not always trust process.

Before I explained what I noticed and the impact it had on SMART’s community, I’ll explain the process behind how emails at SMART were created.

The standard email format for new users, based on my experience, is to create an alias that is a combination of the users’ first name initial and their full last name. At SMART, my email alias was RMCLEOD. I think it’s important for an email alias to be memorable to the user, easy to remember for anyone that person does business with and unique amongst the other users of an organization. One of the main problems is when another person with the same first name initial and same last name as a user already in the system is hired. For example, if SMART were to have hired someone named Ruth McLeod, they would have to distinguish her alias perhaps by adding a number (i.e. RMCLEOD1). Something that this process doesn’t account for is the potential formation of new words by combining first name initial with the last name. And why should it right?

Well, the main reason is that an email alias has an impact on perception, professionalism and behind the scenes, the ISP spam server.

For example, someone named Irene Diot would have the alias IDIOT. So, although the system would have no issue creating this alias, you would hope that someone in the IT department or HR would notice this alias and make an adjustment.

With all of this being said, what happened during my second week at SMART was a result of the email alias creation process.

One of my roles was to manage the SMART Exchange, which is a forum for teachers and educators (really anyone in the education realm who uses a SMARTBoard) to share ideas, upload & download lessons plans designed for the SMARTBoard and interact with other users.

However, when I started digging around, I noticed that a large majority of the users’ last login was the same date and time as when their account had been created. This was a big problem because it was showing that user engagement was extremely low. Normally you would expect this from only a small percentage of users so the fact that it was a large majority told me that there was something going on with the SMART Exchange.

What that turned out to be wasn’t anything I could have ever imagined however.

A few days later I was going through some of my emails and happened to look at the headers which provide technical information on the email. I noticed the alias for the SMART Exchange and I immediately knew there was a problem.

smartexchange

 

 

 

If you remember the process behind email aliases, you’ll get where I’m going with this. Although “S Exchange” doesn’t mean much, the alias as it’s read does – “sexchange”.

As you can imagine, when a teacher receives an email from the SMART Exchange confirming their registration from the email address “sexchange@smarttech.com”, the spam filter should pick up “sex” and not allow that email through, which means the teacher would never receive their confirmation email and would therefore not be able to login to the forum. Which is exactly what happened. I won’t go into details of what happened from that point on but suffice it to say that the alias and email address had been in use for more than 1 year.

I share this story as a cautionary tale in two ways.

First, always work through any process that is setup, especially an automated process that will exist across thousands of records and look at what the worst case scenario would be.

Secondly, DON’T require email confirmation or approval when people are trying to join your service. If they register for your service that means they are ENGAGED. Don’t run the risk of losing them by requiring more work on their part – let them to use your service immediately after registering. Use a Captcha or equivalent verification system upon registering. It’s not worth the impact to your service.

arrivalship

Movies, Technology, Thoughts

Must See Movie: Arrival

No Comments 03 December 2016

I hadn’t heard of Arrival until earlier today when my friend asked if I wanted to go see a movie. I quickly checked out the description and it sounded good.

I like not reading reviews or watching trailers before watching a movie. It gives me expectations, knowledge that can take away surprises during the movie and a general idea of where the movie is headed. I like to go in fresh and watch the movie for what it is.

Overall, I really enjoyed Arrival. I found it similar to Interstellar in that it was insightful, inventive and optimistic about time and the future. I like to think that there is more out there than just us on earth. And that we will be capable of doing so much more with technology and possibly even time than we are right now. This movie lends hope to that idea.

But the main message I took away is how important it is that we all work together. No matter what happens with the future, it’s important that nations realize we are all in this together. There is no Ruler of Earth or King of the World. The UN would be the closest thing to it. So I hope that we remain cognizant and when faced with adversity, we come together rather than pulling apart.

Check out the trailer above or just go watch the movie. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

2014-05-06-socialmedia

Social Media, Technology, Videos

Social Media Housekeeping #SMByyc60

No Comments 28 January 2015

This presentation was created for the Calgary Social Media Breakfast #60 on Friday, January 23, 2015 at Peloton Cycling. Thank you Donna for sponsoring and Martine for hosting!

It’s about revising your social media plan for 2015. The plan isn’t necessarily about changing your current strategy.  The plan is about renewing your strategy, creating good habits, and organizing your social media to ensure success.

The four areas being covered are: Brands, Networks, Privacy and Automation. I have included voiceovers to go along with the Prezi, which is embedded below.

audiobooks

Books, Technology, Thoughts

Audio Books Are Great For Road Trips

1 Comment 04 November 2014

This year compared to any other in my life has seen me on the road more than ever. From January 1 – October 1, I was home for a total of about 5 weeks. It was hard being away from home, driving tens of thousands of miles, most of them by myself. When I’m on the road, with my own vehicle, I love listening to my XM satellite radio. BPM, 90’s on 9, AltNation, Faction and Raw Dog Comedy have taken me to many faraway places and provided me many hours of entertainment.

However, sometimes I will tire of music or if I’m in a rental car, I won’t have XM so aside from putting music on my phone or bringing cd’s, what are my options?

Well, about 4 months ago, I starting looking into Audio Books. I’ve avoided buying a Kindle or other ereader (including buying books and reading it on my phone, which is basically a small tablet – Samsung Note 3) because I don’t like reading on a tech device – I still prefer books. Although books aren’t the most convenient when traveling due to space limitations and they take up a lot of shelf space at home (my den has become my frisbee and book room), I cannot read while driving so audio books just made sense.

I checked out a few apps but the clear winner for me was Audible. Not only is it free to join, but every month they give you 1 credit which is good for a free audio book. They regularly run promotions and many of their titles are frequently on sale so if you don’t want to pay full price for a book (or avoid paying entirely, it’s easy to do so).

I wanted to also explore new books and avoid getting the audio book version of books I already owned. In searching around, I stumbled upon Douglas Preston, who is a sci fi author, with a huge collection of titles. I also checked out a new Stephen King book I hadn’t heard of and found out another series by Janet Evanovich, which seems to have potential based on the first book I listened to her.

I have also found that as much as I enjoy a certain author, I also really enjoy a certain narrator. So far, my favourite narrators are Scott SowersDavid Colacci and Scott Brick.

I will be updating this post with all of the books I have currently listened to while on the road (and more recently, listening to while doing cardio) and for the books I really loved, I will be writing individual reviews because let’s face it – a good book ignites your imagination and you can’t put the book down (or in this case, turn the speakers off).

 Completed Books

In My Library

Beefs, Movember, Technology, TED, Thoughts, World Issues

There is Simply Too Much – Charities, Technology and Stuff

2 Comments 30 August 2011

I need to rant for a second.

I’m so tired of all the charities/foundations that are being created. There seems to be a run/fundraiser every weekend and with the report from the CBC that the Canadian Cancer Society spent more money on fundraising than on research (view it here) – and that is after mesothelioma explained and the rest of vital information found, – when is this going to stop? Seriously. I just heard about Septembeard which dilutes all the hard work Movember has done to build their brand.

Why can’t we have 1 charity per cause instead of there being so many and spreading the resources so thin?

I was lucky enough to attend TEDxCalgary in 2010 and heard a presentation called The Pendulum of Marketing given by Michael Drew (http://marketingforhippies.com/the-civic-cycle/). The video might be blocked in your country but the basic idea is that every 40 years or so, there is a cycle of human behaviour and as is clearly obvious, we’re in a very civic cycle where everyone wants to help out and give back to their community. As you can well imagine, people will eventually grow tired of this cycle and we will then move back into a phase where we will be more focused on ourselves and more frugal with our time and our energy. It’s going to come to a head – look at how inundated we are with technology – everyone is always on their cell phones so much that we have to come out with a law that prevents people from being on their phone while driving. Most of us are guilty of this and the people I’ve met who never have also apply that strict moral judgement in other areas of their lives and are better off for it.

When we’re out with a friend eating dinner, what does it say to them if we’re on our phone txting someone else? Is it not the same thing if we were talking to someone at another table instead of talking to our friend? And if we consider them different, perhaps that’s the problem. Do we think there are different levels of awareness and it’s better to give our friend 10% of our attention instead of 0%. Well I’ll tell you what, it’s not.

We need to start taking back our time. Perhaps I’m falling into this cycle myself as I’m already moving into the next cycle but I’ve had enough. I’ve done Movember, I’ve done the Relay for Life. They are all well meaning charities run by passionate, amazing people. But there are just too many and they’re not effective in what they’re aiming to do.

Let’s take back our lives and realize that we need to start putting ourselves first because if we don’t, then we’re going to lose ourselves.

Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got. – Janis Joplin

It’s ok to say no. It’s ok to be selfish. Realize what’s important. Realize what you love. And surround yourself with that.

Computers, Internet, Social Media, Technology, TED, Thoughts

Best Guess…That’s All You Can Try For

No Comments 03 April 2009

So part of my job is to try and anticipate what is the future of social media and the internet. This is a difficult thing. There are many smart people all trying to make their best guess as to the future of the intenet based on the past, how the different paradigms have evolved and what they feel will be the next way of communicating with each other.

I watched Tim Berners-Lee’s presentation on TED today and it was very interesting. Tim is the creator of the internet and it’s interesting to think what our world would be like had he not created what he did. What if a company had done that. Would the internet be as open and free as it is today?

I also watched Kevin Kelly’s presentation (also on TED) in which he talked about the next 5,000 days of the web and what the first 5,000 days were like.

It’s very easy to see how the web has progressed but difficult to predict what is next. Web 1.o and Web 2.0 (which we are currently in) and now the future of the web (Web 3.0). There is a lot of focus on social media and social networks. I consider a social network to be a place (either a time or location) in which at least 2 people are having a conversation. The internet has enabled us to have conversations in real-time and in delayed time.

I get asked the question fairly often and that question is: what’s the next big thing in the internet?

Well, that’s really difficult to predict. Who could predict Google? Or Facebook? I don’t think anyone really saw that coming and those who did, how do you really capitalize on it?

If the majority of your customers are using existing networks and resources, does it make sense to be on the next “big” thing? Many times, no. The point of social media is to join the conversations which are happening about you. No matter where they are.

But, I see the future of the internet as continuing to be more open and having more access to information. Which I think we will start to feel overwhelmed with at a certain point and go back to being interested in only small pockets of resources. I’m online more than I would bet 95% of people. Hell, it’s my job. And I find the amount of information online overwhelming sometimes. I used to check 3 or 4 websites per day and now I barely have time to read Seth’s blog some days. The internet has every conceivable bit of information we could want. And we complain that it’s slow. Woe is us. But really, the internet is a machine. The largest, most powerful, most intelligent machine that has ever existed. And the future of that machine is what we make of it. Which I think will be a return to a more simple time. One in which we choose which information we receive and we finally don’t have to worry about pesky spam emails, popup ads and all the bullshit that exists online.

Thoughts?

Technology, Thoughts, World Issues

Google Blurring Sensitive Map Information

No Comments 28 January 2007

Check out this story from Slashdot: link here

Apparently Google Maps is blurring out images of sensitive location, such as the 2 locations in the link above (one is a nuclear research facility on a university campus in the States, and the other is a power plant in Massachusetts.

Thoughts? Why should they blur it out? Are they that worried about terrorists tracking these locations, and using google maps to attack them? C’mon, let’s get serious here.


About Rob


Rob "Frisbee Rob" McLeod is a motivational speaker and frisbee ambassador living in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He competes in ultimate, disc golf, dog disc and overall flying disc competitions. Rob currently holds 6 Guinness World Records, 10 World Championships and the Canadian Distance Record.

Tweets

© 2017 Odd and Misunderstood. Powered by WordPress.

Daily Edition Theme by WooThemes - Premium WordPress Themes