Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Web Secret 413: Square Mouth

Later this month, I am going on a trip abroad with my spouse and semi-adult children.

This is not a frequent occurrence and involved planning on the scale of Operation Overlord and travel via trains, planes and automobiles.

One of my brothers reminded me to buy travel insurance. Being a cautious sort, he recommended trip cancellation, medical coverage, repatriation (ie medevac), and lost baggage.

I hate buying travel insurance.

I always feel inept and ripped off. Am I buying too much? Too little? Is the company red flagged by the Better Business Bureau?

I prepared for a torturous experience.

And then I lucked out, my brother told me to use SquareMouth.com.

Square Mouth does one thing, and one thing only: travel insurance.

You go onto the site and they walk you through a series of simple questions (names and ages of travelers, cost of trip, etc.) This takes a couple of minutes.

Then with a click of the mouse you get a list of 25 different options for coverage from different companies at different price points. Everything is clearly and simply explained.

You can select offers for comparison of cost and benefits.

You pick your coverage and pay.

You are offered a one sheet summary of your choice to take along on the vacation.

And that's it - start to finish - 15 minutes.

I wish everything in my life worked half as well.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Web Secret 412: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Reinvent Yourself

So the other day I was using StumbleUpon to get new ideas for this blog and my Twitter feed.

And I came across something brilliant.

That does not happen everyday.

In fact, it happens only a couple of times a year.

This is what I found:

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Reinvent Yourself an essay by James Altucher.

Apparently I have been living under a rock, because James is a pretty big deal: James Altucher is an American hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, bestselling author, and podcaster.[1] He has founded or cofounded more than 20 companies, including Reset Inc. and StockPickr and says he failed at 17 of them. He has published eleven books, and he is a frequent contributor to publications including The Financial Times, TheStreet.com, TechCrunch, Seeking Alpha, Thought Catalog, and The Huffington Post.

No matter what stage of life you find yourself in, you will find wisdom there.

I promise.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Web Secret 411: 2016 tech trends to watch

Goldman Sachs tech bankers advise companies about top trends that will dominate the tech sector in a given year.

Sometimes, it is difficult to understand how these monumental forces will impact those of us in the mental health/employee assistance arena. It can take a while for the implications to reveal themselves.

In a video posted by Wired magazine, the bankers do a pretty good job of explaining what they predict for 2016.

Trend 1: Big Data analytics. We have had the capacity to collect large amounts of data for a while now, but the tech bankers predict that improvements in software will enable us to harness this data in ways that were previously unimaginable. Think: we may actually be able to predict the future.

Trend 2: e-commerce paradigm shift. Consumers can shop anywhere, anytime by using their mobile devices. Think about: we have our mobile devices within arms reach 90% of the time. We check these devices, on average, 150 times a day. Mobile commerce is on the verge of eclipsing conventional commerce. If you aren't thinking about serving your clients in this mobile world - you should.

Trend 3: Cyber security. More and more of our critical infrastructure connects to the Internet these days. And if it connects to the Internet, it can be hacked. For mental health practitioners this means communicating with clients via encrypted channels. Storing online charts in a secure environment. Selecting strong passwords. Medium institutions like hospitals and school systems are especially vulnerable. A new form of piracy is for hackers to hold records hostage and refuse to release them unless a ransom is paid.

Trend 4: semiconductors. Stay with me. Don't glaze over. You've got this. Semiconductors are the brains and memory of our electronics devices. Thanks to them, our capabilities are marching into the territory of science fiction. Can you unlock your smart phone with your finger print? Soon your device will recognize your face. Walk around your home or your office, and you are likely to be surrounded by semiconductors.

Now sit back, and watch it all unfold.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Web Secret 410 - the Haka

This morning I realized that there are things I know that I would NEVER have known about without the Internet or social media.

It's everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. From designer lipstick dupes to historical facts, from the best way to eat a pomegranate to cutting edge science.

Every now and then there are small, unexpected, enriching pieces of information that come my way via the World Wide Web.

One such is the Haka.

The haka is a type of ancient Māori war dance traditionally used on the battlefield, as well as when groups came together in peace. Haka are a fierce display of a tribe's pride, strength and unity. And they are an amazing sight.

It's a New Zealand thing. And New Zealand is a small, very remote country. It is so far from where I live, that though I have dreamed of visiting - it may never happen.

Here are three epic videos, each garnering millions of views that vividly portray the Haka.

First the Haka performed by the New Zealand Rugby Team:


Second is an incredibly moving Haka performed by high school students honoring their deceased teacher as his hearse slowly drives past them:


Finally, watch this amazing wedding Haka - the subtitled words explain everything:


Wonder-ful.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Web Secret 409: 1,000 hacks

Define "hack".

Hack is an interesting word that can connote great evil and great good.

Hacking into a computer network and stealing information: bad.

Hacking something tedious so that it becomes easy: good.

Last year I was flying somewhere for business and steeled myself to stand in a horrifying security line at JFK airport. I showed my ticket and ID to the keeper of the horrifying line when she said "you have TSA pre - go there!" she said pointing to a line that consisted of only two people. I whizzed through security without needing to take off my shoes or unpack my laptop for inspection.

As soon as I got home, I looked up TSA pre and learned that "TSA Pre is an expedited security screening program connecting travelers departing from the United States with smarter security and a better air travel experience. Passengers considered low-risk who qualify for the program can receive expedited screening."

Now truth be tailed, applying to get TSA pre is a pain in the ass. It involves filling out forms and usually making an appointment to go to the nearest airport for an interview.

But once you get it - you have hacked the security line the next time you fly. It makes me giddy with satisfaction every timed I travel by air.

So now, imagine a website that shares hundreds of these secrets to a better life and you have 1000hacks.com.

The hacks consist of a single PowerPoint slide and cover a variety of topics including tech, money, health, and more.

If it can't be communicated in a single slide - it's not on the website.

Hack number 93 in tech: Steps to boost your iPhone's battery life.

Hack number 16 in money: how to keep your credit card secure when ordering from an unfamiliar website.

Hack number 55 in health: 5 second methodology to compare the nutritional value of two foods.

I can hack this.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Web Secret 408: The Mike Wallace Interview

For all its flaws, the Internet is the gift that keeps on giving.

One such gift is a treasure trove of programs from the fifties called "The Mike Wallace Interview" - available on YouTube.com. Mike Wallace is a journalist best known for his work on 60 Minutes. However, before that work, he had an eponymous weekly one hour show where he was able to speak in an in depth fashion to the intellectuals, scientists and artists of his day.

In a 1957 episode from the series, Mike interviews then 88 year old Frank Lloyd Wright.



Prepare to be blown away because:
  • Other than mentioning the sponsor (Philip Morris cigarettes which Mike puffs on throughout) of the program at the beginning of the episode - there are no commercial interruptions.
  • Wright is palpably brilliant
  • The gravitas, seriousness and scope of the interview questions and answers is no longer seen on TV or quite frankly in most media - within the first 5 minutes Mike asks Wright's view on organized Christianity, the American Legion and mercy killings.
  • Wright expresses opinions that are way left wing of Bernie Sanders.
  • Both talk up to the audience - they do not pander to the Kardashian element of 21st century America
Lucky for us, we can watch other gems from the series, including interviews with:
  • Objectivist philosopher and author Ayn Rand
  • Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling - interviewed before Twilight Zone was aired for the first time (he had laready won 3 Emmys.)
  • Planned Parenthood founder and birth control activist Margaret Sanger
We live in cowardly times, when both journalists and the subjects of their interviews rarely have the courage of their convictions.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Web Secret 407: unboxing videos

YouTube supports a rather odd subculture of people who video themselves opening boxes (or shopping bags) of stuff they have recently purchased.

Popular items include luxury goods, electronics, and makeup.

Before you scoff, the most successful among them are laughing all the way to the bank. And performing a service (more on that later.)

First, how do you make money on YouTube? Most people think it's by having was numbers of followers. But actually, it has to do with how many people watched the ad you allowed YouTube to place in your video. In addition, you may have other remunerative links, eg to Amazon which your followers click on to purchase the products you promoted.

Here are some examples:

Here is BmwA5H unboxing a Rolex - 387,000+ views



Here is TheSyndicateProject unboxing the MMM3000 'Ultimate Gaming Helmet' - 5,000,000+ views



Here is KathleenLights sharing her 2016 drugstore makeup haul - 653,000+ views



By the way the 22 year old KathleenLights has over 1,822,000 people following her YouTube channel. Not too shabby.

The best of these videos do more than entertain - they actually provide a prospective buyer with a detailed view of what they will get.

And that's a good thing.