Snowden vs NSA on the TED stage

Appearing by telepresence robot, Edward Snowden speaks at TED2014 about surveillance and Internet freedom. The right to data privacy, he suggests, is not a partisan issue, but requires a fundamental rethink of the role of the internet in our lives — and the laws that protect it. “Your rights matter,” he says, “because you never know when you’re going to need them.” Chris Anderson interviews, with special guest Tim Berners-Lee.

After a surprise appearance by Edward Snowden at TED2014, Chris Anderson said: “If the NSA wants to respond, please do.” And yes, they did. Appearing by video, NSA deputy director Richard Ledgett answers Anderson’s questions about the balance between security and protecting privacy.

What You Think You Know About the Web Is Wrong

Originally posted on TIME:

If you’re an average reader, I’ve got your attention for 15 seconds, so here goes: We are getting a lot wrong about the web these days. We confuse what people have clicked on for what they’ve read. We mistake sharing for reading. We race towards new trends like native advertising without fixing what was wrong with the old ones and make the same mistakes all over again.

Not an average reader? Maybe you’ll give me more than 15 seconds then. As the CEO of Chartbeat, my job is to work with the people who create content online (like and provide them with real-time data to better understand their readers. I’ve come to think that many people have got how things work online quite mixed up.

Here’s where we started to go wrong: In 1994, a former direct mail marketer called Ken McCarthy came up with the clickthrough as

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Should you automate your social media content pipeline?

One of the main reasons for being on social media should be to engage regularly with your subscribers.  This is an accepted tenet for the majority of digital marketers at this point, and is why the idea of automating your social media posts is frowned upon by many.

However, as an entrepreneur it can be easy to get sidetracked from more important thing (such as keeping your clients happy) by the ego-boosting stats of how many new follows you’re accruing.  I am not advocating ditching personal interaction completely in favour of automation, but I do think that if social media automation is approached respectfully and placed within the overall context of your engagement strategy, it can be a powerful tool for keeping a healthy presence on multiple sites without wasting hours every day. By making the best use of the available tools, you will end up with a social content sharing system that takes less than 10 minutes a day to manage, with the added benefit of scheduling and tracking your audience’s reaction.

There are a few steps required to achieve this:

Step 1 – Find content relevant to your audience

You need a  fast and flexible way to find quality content that centers around the topics your audience is interested in. I advice against relying solely on social feeds to discover content, but to build your own system using a mix of your own RSS  subscriptions with trending content search services:

  • Feedly hundreds of feeds organised around topic. Amazingly flexible, allowing me to also receive my YouTube subscriptions in a separate folder.
  • Topsy and News-Ox: the ability to find the most post stories  relating to a particular topic at a given time
  • Twitter: Checking the trending topics and typing in a few keywords always allows for a clearer picture
  • YouTube: We can’t really avoid the largest video archive on the planet can we?

Step 2: Find a hub for saving articles

Next, we need a system to keep track of all the links shared on various platforms as a complete, searchable archive in the cloud for future reference or re-posting. The links in the archive should be shareable and easy to organise by topic.

Solution: Instapaper is a great tool which integrates with several services. The best feature is the easy bookmarklet creation, allowing me to create a save button for different topics/folders. This is probably why I’ve made Instapaper the “heart” of my automated content discovery/curation system. Everything I find from my sources goes into it, ready to be scheduled for sharing.

Step 3: Schedule your articles to post

A huge part of successfully automating your content sharing is finding the right balance between when and how much you post.  To achieve this, I use Buffer. It’s great for  scheduling posts at different times in many different accounts on multiple networks, while allowing teams to collaborate. The simplicity of Buffer’s UI and their multi-device, multi-browser approach made it a winning solution for me. The pro version is also affordable for early stage entrepreneurs.

Step 4: Track and optimize your sharing

You cannot learn about what your audience likes and improve on your sharing unless you track engagement. In order to do this effectively, find a simple tool that gives you must-know information at a glance. While you can be tempted to track a million things, the three key metrics that matter the most in this case are (a) what links are clicked or shared (b) how many unique people did so and (c) at what time of day most people did this. When you are starting out  Buffer’s inbuilt link Analytics are more than enough to get the job done.

Fifth: Connect all the different parts of the system

Finally, you need a way to connect all the above into one seamless process. There is really only one contender for this:  I friggin’ LOVE this service! IFTTT stands for  If This Then That, and is the secret sauce that makes it all work. By setting up a number of “recipes” you can tell different tools to play nicely together. Here’s the ones I’ve set up:

  1. Youtube Watch Later to Feedly Saved For Later
  2. Feedly Saved For Later to Instapaper
  3. Instapaper Liked to Buffer

As you can see, the aim of these automation recipes is to send everything to the Instapaper hub in an organised, topic-oriented manner.

So there you go folks: my personal automation system that helps me stay sane while keeping all my 20+ social media profiles active and healthy. What do you think of this system? Let me know how I can improve it!

What is an expert? Someone who never stops learning

The question of what an “expert” is has been popping up in my head more frequently lately. Some will tell you that an expert is anyone whohas read 5 worthy books on their chosen subject. Another theory is that if you do something for 10,000 hours, then you’re an expert.

To me, both theories seem a bit off, for expertise is a moving line.  It’s something to aspire to; but the moment you start thinking of yourself as THE expert is also the moment when you stop questioning yourself, and eventually stagnate in your niche.

To avoid this outcome, I really think you need to continually force yourself to find new and exciting skills to master and keep on challenging your own expectations and beliefs of what can be accomplished.

This is the reasoning behind Project Level Up.

“We will priotise digital channels going forward.”

I’ve always found this type of statement particularly amusing, especially coming from a CEO or senior executive of a loss-making firm. While the sentiment is admirable, it’s so generic that it could mean basically anything. All too often, it’s often as a visceral reaction to something threatening a dying business model.


But let’s forget about all that for a second. Prioritising digital channels is actually a great idea … if (and this is a huge if) done right. Far too often I’ve seen startup founders, business owners, and managers think that “prioritising digital” means cutting back on traditional advertising and instead pouring that money into an online ad delivery network instead…then getting frustrated when the bottom line refuses to shift.

Prioritising digital is not a decision* to be taken lightly by any business. It’s so fundamental and mission critical that it actually requires a radical shift in thinking, management style, operations…even products themselves. Truly committing to digital requires a new culture to develop within the organisation, one that encourages a “build fast, fail fast” mentality. A common misconception is that this means forgetting other channels…I say not at all. However, it does require companies from the old guard to start seeing all their PR, marketing and other activities as “feeders” for content they publish online to spur the digital conversations they should be participating in.

It’s not easy. Silos still prevail, especially in large companies…but it’s time to stop trying to adapt and start changing quickly.

(*I use the word “decision” here to signify “the start of taking action”…it’s really not an option.)

Are you posting too much content?

We all know that content is great for marketers. People love it, especially if it’s surprising, interesting, and unique.  Once produced and published online, great content continues to attract attention and motivate people to share it with others. It’s also officially the best way to get more people to visit your site through Google, the king of search engines:

Yet if most of these people are leaving immediately, and are not coming back, what’s the point? The reason is probably that you don’t have a strategy but are posting blind. Quite simply, you probably have too much content. If your site’s trends are showing higher and higher bounce rates, maybe it’s time to step back a bit from your rigorous publishing schedule and analyse what’s going on.

If you’re simply writing blog post after blog post in the hope of getting indexed and get visitors that way, you’re doing it wrong. The only thing you’ll achieve after months of gruelling work is thousands of page views but no engagement. You’re overwhelming your potential audience with irrelevant content that doesn’t tell a story.   As Derek Halpern from SocialTriggers explains in his great video, you don’t want more traffic, you want readers. Why is that? It’s because readers come back.

Returning visitors stay longer

Check your Behaviour metrics in Google Analytics,  especially the New vs Returning report. You’ll probably see that the segment of readers who’ve already visited your site stayed longer and read more pages overall. This is your opportunity to build a lasting connection, not arbitrary numbers about how many people ended up on your site one way or another. Readers are the people who’ll get to trust your recommendations and advice.

Content is not a commodity. The content farms thought so and died with Google’s Penguin update. Don’t fall in the same trap. Create content sparingly, and give your users a more rewarding experience when they’re on your site instead of drowning them. If you do that, they’ll come back again and again.