November 9, 2015 Chris Hall

Asking for spec work is ridiculous

Anne Quito on spec work:

In fact, it’s an insidiously common practice to ask creative professionals to spend hours creating original custom work for free (called “spec work”), before they’re actually hired.

Speculative work, also referred to as “sample creative” is part of the bidding process for many projects. It’s often formally stipulated in the open calls issued by governments and big multilateral organizations, and casually brought up in prospective client meetings. But doing spec work is enormously expensive for creative agencies and artists, who must divert resources from existing clients in the hopes of winning new business.

A new short film by Canadian advertising agency Zulu Alpha Kilo hilariously captures how absurd a spec work request sounds in other contexts.

  1. The #saynotospec video (linked above) is amazing.
  2. If you’re in charge of getting creative work done for your company or project, don’t ask people to do spec work. Just find a person or agency you want to work with and go from there. As someone who’s been tasked with doing a fair amount of spec work in previous jobs, it’s a fairly insulting way to spend your time.

November 9, 2015 Chris Hall

25% of the web is WordPress

Emil Protalinski on WordPress powering a quarter of the internet:

Today is a big day for the free and open-source content management system (CMS). To be perfectly clear, the milestone figure doesn’t represent a fraction of all websites that have a CMS: WordPress now powers 25 percent of the Web.

The latest data comes from W3Techs, which measures both usage and market share: “WordPress is used by 58.7% of all the websites whose content management system we know. This is 25.0% of all websites.” While these numbers naturally fluctuate over the course of the month, the general trend for WordPress has been slow but steady growth.

Nothing against WordPress, but I’m surprised they’ve remained so huge with so many (quite good) competitors in the space.


November 5, 2015 Chris Hall

Open offices aren't so great for productivity

The Washingtonian on “why open offices are terrible”:

Walls are so 20th-century. According to a 2010 study by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), 70 percent of Americans now conduct their working lives in open offices, where (so goes the script) the absence of physical barriers is a boon for communication, knowledge-sharing, and productivity. Or is it? Here’s what the data says.

Hint: The data says open offices should close up shop.

Mildly related, I wonder if these same sick-day/productivity/happiness stats carry over to working primarily in places like coffee shops that are very open, often noisy, and only sell beverages that make people need to pee.


November 4, 2015 Chris Hall

Fraud is an old man from Delaware with an Alaskan billing address

Sarah Beldo at Sift Science with some great stats on fraud:

The Fraudiest Person in America is…

  • Male. Men are slightly more likely than women to be fraudsters
  • (Perhaps pretending to be) elderly. The 85-90 age range has the highest fraud rate. Users identifying themselves as this age are 2.5x more likely to be fraudsters than the average user
  • Buying something cheap. Orders worth $0-$20 have the highest fraud rate. Purchasing something worth $20 or less makes someone 2.16x more likely to be a fraudster.
  • Shipping something to Delaware. In our geographic analysis, the second smallest state in the U.S. had the highest fraud rate based on shipping address.
  • Billing something to a credit card in Alaska. We found that the largest state in the union – and the state listed first in checkout form dropdown lists – had the highest fraud rate based on billing address.

We have a special place in our hearts for our lovely fraudsters.


November 4, 2015 Chris Hall

What does your workplace attire say about you?

Steve Sammartino on workplace attire:

We all wear uniforms to work, even when we are not in the Army. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s overt, but it always says much about hierarchy and whether we follow rules. The stricter the uniform, the stronger the hierarchy. Organisations with an informal, yet ‘expected uniform’ have less freeform thinking, and a culture of rule followers. Just take a look around this week at what people wear – from McDonalds, to bank tellers, to politicians, to creative types and you’ll see their culture on display.

We can use our uniform to immediate advantage. Often the decision is as simple as do we want to fit in this time, or stand out on purpose?

Again, pajamas. I don’t know what that says about me.


November 3, 2015 Chris Hall

Like money? Choose censorship (apparently)

L. Gordon Crovitz on censorship in the XYZ registry:

In October, Los Angeles-based XYZ.com, which operates several new Internet domains, made a deal with the Chinese government under which it will enforce Beijing’s censorship globally. The registry will let China ban domain names everywhere based on Beijing’s blacklist that includes “freedom,” “liberty” and “democracy,” as well as any reference to the Tiananmen massacre.

The registry says China has given it 12,000 words to ban from its Web addresses, which include the suffixes .xyz, .college, .rent, .protection and .security.

Hmmmmmmm.

Here’s some background from Kevin Murphy at Domain Incite (the article WSJ referenced but failed to link to):

Chinese citizens are allowed to register domains in non-Chinese registries, but they may not activate them unless the registry complies with the law.

That law requires the registry to be located on the Chinese mainland. XYZ plans to comply by hiring local player ZDNS to proxy its EPP systems and mirror its Whois.

Later in the article…

Up to a third of the .xyz zone — about three hundred thousand names — is believed to be owned by Chinese registrants who are currently unable to actually use their names.

The company clearly has compelling business reasons to comply with Chinese law.

From the business side, it’s easy to see why XYZ feels compelled to carry out the censorship plan. But censorship on the web is about as anti-internet as it gets. We should be promoting the freedom of ideas and dialogue, not kowtowing to China’s (or any country’s) censorship requests.


November 2, 2015 Chris Hall

Progress report or it didn't happen

Jim Sliwa on achieving goals:

If you are trying to achieve a goal, the more often that you monitor your progress, the greater the likelihood that you will succeed, according to research published by the American Psychological Association. Your chances of success are even more likely if you report your progress publicly or physically record it.

“Monitoring goal progress is a crucial process that comes into play between setting and attaining a goal, ensuring that the goals are translated into action,” said lead author Benjamin Harkin, PhD, of the University of Sheffield. The study appears in the journal Psychological Bulletin®. “This review suggests that prompting progress monitoring improves behavioral performance and the likelihood of attaining one’s goals.”


November 2, 2015 Chris Hall

Your office might be making you stupid

Beth Mole on how stale air can kill the brain cells:

Compared with inhaling fresh air, gulping down the stale air found in conventional office buildings can stifle cognitive function by half, researchers report in Environmental Health Perspectives. The finding suggests that improving the performance, productivity, and health of many office workers could be done with just a fresh breeze.

“The results are striking,” lead researcher Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard, told Ars. Researchers knew that air quality would likely affect cognitive function and work performance, but earlier studies included few people and reported subjective data. We didn’t expect to see that high quality air could double cognitive scores, Allen said.

I’m happy to report that iwantmyname allows me to do all my writing outside. In my pajamas.


November 2, 2015 Chris Hall

Your password is probably pretty bad

Tom Simonite on why current password advice is misleading:

“Password must include upper and lowercase letters, and at least one numeric character.” A common scold dished out by websites or software when you open an account or change a password—and one that new research suggests is misleading.

A study that tested state-of-the-art password-guessing techniques found that requiring numbers and uppercase characters in passwords doesn’t do much to make them stronger. Making a password longer or including symbols was much more effective.

In 2015, “password” is just slightly worse than “Password1”. Maybe try something like “I hate typing in passwords!” (or start using a tool like 1Password).


October 30, 2015 Chris Hall

If your user interface promotes bad passwords, you're not doing it right

Two tweets by Merlin Mann on how technology promotes bad passwords:

Tweet 1: If you can entirely set up an Apple TV without screaming at the sky, your passwords probably suck.

Tweet 2: I’m not saying all this merely to bitch. I’m concerned that stuff like Apple TV genuinely contributes to people’s shitty password choices.

We (the tech industry) spend a lot of time: 1. promoting good user interfaces. 2. promoting good passwords. If your good user interface doesn’t promote good passwords, you’re not doing it right.

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