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Mobile Monkey CEO Larry Kim shares his tips for staying productive while working remotely.

It can be hard to make the most of your time when you’re working from home, especially when you're wearing a lot of different hats and trying to complete a lot of different tasks. There are others who have been there, and they've found some methods to improve productivity.

Keep reading for tips on how you can up your productivity while working from home.

1. Have a single focus

If you're someone who wears a lot of different hats at work, multitasking might seem like a good idea. Whether you're doing multiple things at once or switching back and forth between tasks, chances are, none of the projects you're working on are getting the attention they deserve. It might feel like you're being more productive, but in reality, you're diminishing your productivity and stressing yourself out. Research suggests that multitasking actually negatively affects productivity and brain health. Being "in the zone," so to speak, has a psychological term associated with it—flow. A flow state is simply a mental state in which you perform whatever activity you are doing while extremely focused; you are fully involved in the process and completely immersed. You want to reach your flow state at work. So, drop one (or two, or three...) of those tasks, and just focus on one at a time. It'll improve the quality of your work and help you manage stress.

2. Block out distractions

We're all guilty of this—after all, distractions are everywhere. Sure, breaks are a necessity, but sometimes we let these things get in the way of our productivity. It's far easier to block out distractions than it is to pull yourself back to the task at hand after getting sidetracked.

Here are my tips to stay on task while working from home:

  • Take breaks as necessary
  • Close the chat windows
  • Put your phone on silent
  • Put in some headphones
  • Move to a quieter location

It can be easy to become distracted when you're not sure what tasks you have to complete. Using the Action Method by Behance is a good way to block out distractions and make sure you're getting projects done by organizing all of your ideas on paper. There are templates available that can be used in whatever method is most helpful to you. Eliminating distractions will make your productivity skyrocket, and you'll be able to get more done quicker in the end.

3. Set a time limit

Do you have a lot of tasks to complete, and no idea how to manage them all? We already discussed working on one thing at a time, but the reality is we sometimes have too much to do. It can be almost impossible to do only one thing from start to finish when we are incredibly busy at work. Here’s another solution: Set a time limit for each task you work on.

A great example of this can be found in the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique is when you break up your tasks into 25-minute focused blocks of time. After each block, you take a five or 10 minute break, but after four blocks (equaling one hour total of focused work time), you take a longer break, around 15 to 30 minutes. With the Pomodoro Technique you can eliminate multitasking while getting more done. This will help those of us who are wearing multiple hats at work to manage our various responsibilities, while keeping up the quality without getting overwhelmed.

4. Set up productivity rituals

What are productivity rituals? They are whatever you want them to be. As a busy worker, you know what does and does not work for you. So why not make a ritual out of it?

Rituals aren't quite like routines. While routines are typically a specific set of things done at the same time every day, rituals are more like malleable versions of routines that you can do any time of day to help boost you forward. They don't have to be specific to work, either; you can have rituals for all parts of your day and week.

Here are some examples of rituals that you can use to increase your productivity at work:

  • Have a breakfast that you enjoy and that energizes you
  • Write down your most important To-Dos
  • Meditate as a break from projects
  • Go for a quick walk
  • Brew a cup of coffee or tea

One way you can incorporate rituals into your work week is by following the lead of David Allen's book, “Getting Things Done.” This method involves moving tasks and projects out of the mind by recording them in a physical list and then breaking them into actionable work items. List making in the GTD method can be a ritual that you do when you need to consider which tasks need completing. Rituals help us shift our focus from task to task and improve productivity through an element of magical comfort.

"Rituals aren't quite like routines. While routines are typically a specific set of things done at the same time every day, rituals are more like malleable versions of routines that you can do any time of day to help boost you forward."

-Larry Kim

(Photo credit): Gettyimages.com/agrobacter

5. Get up early

It might not be what any of us want to hear, but it's true: Waking up early can improve productivity. Aside from the simple fact that waking up early gives you more time to accomplish more tasks, it also gives you more time to care for the most important part of your day: you.

Some very busy people might be tempted to wake up early and finish up some work tasks that they didn't have time for the day before. And, sure, this will make you productive—to an extent. What will make you more productive during your actual work day, however, is taking the extra time in the morning to unwind, prepare for the day, maybe exercise and eat a nutritious breakfast.

6. Group your interruptions

We spoke already about blocking out distractions to increase your productivity at work. But sometimes blocking out distractions until you finish the task at hand simply isn't realistic. You've got a phone that's gathering notifications, you've got a grumbling stomach, and you've got coworkers that want your attention, either because they need something, want to ask a question, or simply want to chat. You can't just block all of these out all the time; we're not robots. What you can do, however, is group your interruptions so you deal with all of them at the same time.

For example, dedicate a portion of your day to checking your phone for messages and notifications, checking your personal email and dealing with coworkers' requests. If a coworker interrupts you while you're working on something, kindly ask if they can send you an email or speak to you during whatever time you allocate to your interruptions and distractions. Then, take that chunk of time during the day to deal with all of it at once. This will allow you a break from your work and a chance to catch up on non-work-related tasks or issues.

7. Outsource chores

If you're someone who's running a business, you're just starting a business, or you're simply very busy all the time, you might want to consider outsourcing some of your tasks. Outsourcing isn't reserved for huge corporations that can afford to hire people overseas or send jobs elsewhere. Realistically, outsourcing is paying someone to do a task that you can't or don't want to do yourself. And if you don't have enough time in the day for all of your to-do's, it's a great option to boost productivity.

 

There are a number of tasks that would be good to delegate, such as design work, research, managing phones and setting up appointments. The most common method of outsourcing is, of course, hiring people to do these tasks. But sometimes, busy entrepreneurs don't have the means to hire straight away. Consider using a chatbot as a virtual assistant to outsource tasks that would normally be done by a personal assistant or office manager, such as answering client questions, booking appointments, giving you reminders, and more.

8. Set up email rules

Email eats up a lot of time, especially when you have hundreds of emails coming in a day. But there are solutions to help you increase your productivity. Email rules will help you manage the beast that is work email and allow you to get more important projects done with your time. To start, consider scheduling a couple times each day to check your email.

For example, you could check in in the morning, just after lunch and before leaving for the day. You can also turn off your email alerts, so the constant noise notifications don't create distractions.

Consider setting up rules in whatever email service you use; this will help by flagging emails and automatically moving certain emails to various folders.

Finally, don't send emails that you don't have to send! Could it be sent in an instant message if your company uses something like Slack? If you're sending emails, think through the process and make sure that the emails you're sending are straightforward, necessary, and serving a purpose without simply decreasing your productivity level.

9. Learn from others

The best thing that anyone can do for their productivity is to try new things and see if they work. Not everyone is the same, so these tips might not work equally across the board. But there are people that have been there already; there are people that have started businesses, grown businesses and worked their way up the ladder. Those people have been through it all, and they likely have different insights as to what works and what doesn't. Learning new productivity tips from others is a great step towards increasing your own productivity.

10. Gamify productivity

People perform best when there is instant gratification, rewards, or feedback—that's why people enjoy video games so much. You complete a task in a game, and you're instantly rewarded for your efforts. How great would it be if that was what happened while you were at work? Gamification at work isn't necessarily about turning work into a game, but more about creating an environment of fun and enjoyment at the job. It builds bonds between employees and gets them having fun—and employees who have fun on the job are more likely to perform better.

There are a number of existing apps that are used to boost productivity through gamification; consider exploring some options to make work fun for your employees and improve overall productivity.

Perfect productivity takes practice

Nothing good comes straight away. Like anything else, managing your time and improving your productivity takes practice. You'll likely need to try a number of different things before you find the methods that work for you and help you boost your own productivity. Just keep practicing. Finding the tools to work with will benefit you for the rest of your life.

[Source: This article was published in eastwestbank.com By Larry Kim - Uploaded by the Association Member: Jasper Solander] 

Categorized in Work from Home

New data reveals the top searches performed on YouTube this year, along with the most popular channels.

The top 100 YouTube search queries of the year are revealed in a study examining the search volume of over 800 million keywords.

YouTube does not provide this data officially, but Ahrefs compiles a report each year based on data in its Keyword Explorer tool.

Top queries in the report are broken down by searches in the US and searches performed worldwide.

First let’s take a look at top US searches.

Top YouTube Searches in the US

These are the top 20 searches on YouTube in the United States. For a complete list of top 100 queries, see the original report.

 

Top 20 US Queries (& Search Volume)

  1. pewdiepie (3,770,000)
  2. asmr (3,230,000)
  3. music (2,670,000)
  4. markiplier (2,380,000)
  5. old town road (2,040,000)
  6. pewdiepie vs t series (1,940,000)
  7. billie eilish (1,910,000)
  8. fortnite (1,630,000)
  9. david dobrik (1,610,000)
  10. jacksepticeye (1,580,000)
  11. james charles (1,560,000)
  12. joe rogan (1,560,000)
  13. baby shark (1,500,000)
  14. bts (1,350,000)
  15. dantdm (1,330,000)
  16. snl (1,260,000)
  17. game grumps (1,140,000)
  18. cnn (1,120,000)
  19. wwe (1,100,000)
  20. lofi (1,040,000)

Some observations:
One thing that’s clear when looking at this year’s top searches compared to last year’s is more people are turning to YouTube for music.

Almost a quarter of this year’s top 100 US searches are music related. The keyword “music” itself is the 3rd most searched term even.

Another auditory experience, ASMR, comes in at #2 which is down from last year’s top position.

Five of the top 10 searches are branded, which means people are searching directly for the names of channels and YouTube creators.

In fact, 50% of the top 100 searches are for specific YouTube personalities and channels.

At a glance it would appear gaming queries are still popular, but less so compared to last year.

That could be an indication Twitch is capturing more of the gaming audience.

Let’s see how these searches compare to the top worldwide searches.

Top YouTube Searches Worldwide

These are the top 20 searches on YouTube worldwide. For a complete list of top 100 queries, see the original report.

Top 20 Worldwide Queries (& Search Volume)

  1. bts (17,630,000)
  2. pewdiepie (16,320,000)
  3. asmr (13,910,000)
  4. billie eilish (13,860,000)
  5. baby shark (12,090,000)
  6. badabun (11,330,000)
  7. blackpink (10,390,000)
  8. old town road (10,150,000)
  9. music (9,670,000)
  10. peliculas completas en español (9,050,000)
  11. fortnite (9,010,000)
  12. pewdiepie vs t series (8,720,000)
  13. minecraft (8,560,000)
  14. senorita (8,290,000)
  15. ariana grande (7,890,000)
  16. alan walker (7,560,000)
  17. calma (7,390,000)
  18. tik tok (7,270,000)
  19. musica (7,140,000)
  20. bad bunny (7,040,000)

Some observations:
It appears the whole world is using YouTube more for music, as Ahrefs points out:

“Searches for artists, bands and songs dominate our list of the top 100 worldwide YouTube searches with a staggering 57/100 searches (almost ⅔) being music‐related.

So compared to the US, it seems that the rest of the World uses YouTube far more for music.”

The rest of the world isn’t as into branded content, however, as only two of the top 10 worldwide searches are branded.

Takeaways For Marketers

Perhaps the greatest takeaway for marketers is the insight into what users generally search for on YouTube.

People primarily turn to YouTube search for: music, gaming, branded content, and already-established YouTubers.

That presents a challenge when it comes to building an audience for smaller independent channels.

It’s not impossible though, as there are ways outside of search results to generate traffic to videos.

For instance, YouTube’s suggested videos are instrumental to the success of many channels’ content.

For more on how to success with YouTube’s recommendation algorithm, see these resources:

[Source: This article was published in searchenginejournal.com By Matt Southern - Uploaded by the Association Member: Anna K. Sasaki]

Categorized in Internet Search

These are the stocks that are winning because you're working from home

The novel coronavirus closed offices around the globe in March. Ever since, we’ve all been working from home. Demand for remote work solutions has soared. So have work-from-home stocks.

Make no mistake. Working from home is not a fad that will go away once Covid-19 disappears. For many, remote work is a permanent lifestyle change that will stick around long after this pandemic is old news.

Why?

Because it’s 2020. Because we have the internet, smartphones, tablets and computers. All of which can be installed with cloud-hosted productivity and communication software. And this software enables employees to do all the work they were doing in the office from the comfort of their own homes.

And if those employees can be just as productive at home as they were in the office, then why would a company pay big dollars for office space?

It’s a win-win situation. Employees get to stay home. Businesses get to cut expenses.

Of course, not all companies will embrace the work-from-home trend. Many physically cannot. Think restaurants, retail shops or hotels.

But enough will that today’s work-from-home stocks will stay red-hot for the next several years.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at 10 work-from-home stocks that are beating the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020:

  • Slack (NYSE:WORK)
  • Zoom (NASDAQ:ZM)
  • RingCentral (NYSE:RNG)
  • Twilio (NYSE:TWLO)
  • Okta (NASDAQ:OKTA)
  • Inseego (NASDAQ:INSG)
  • Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)
  • DocuSign (NASDAQ:DOCU)
  • Dropbox (NASDAQ:DBX)
  • Atlassian (NASDAQ:TEAM)

Work-From-Home Stocks: Slack (WORK)

A Slack (WORK) sign on the company's headquarters in San Francisco, California.
Source: Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com

One of Wall Street’s favorite work-from-home stocks has been Slack.

The enterprise communications software provider has seen demand for its services soar thanks to remote work tailwinds. Last quarter, the company reported 28% customer growth and 50% revenue growth.

Wall Street has cheered the results. Year-to-date, WORK stock is up 44%.

But chasing this rally here and now seems risky.

Work-from-home tailwinds will persist over the next several years. But from where they sit today, they will likely moderate in the back-half of 2020 as some offices reopen. Indeed, Slack’s second-quarter guide calls for decelerating revenue growth to  roughly 43%. Worse yet, the full-year guide calls for revenue growth to slow to roughly 37%.

Amid slowing growth trends, the extended valuation on WORK stock (26 times forward sales) may start to rear its ugly head.

Zoom Video Communications (ZM)

zoom (ZM) logo on a building
Source: Michael Vi / Shutterstock.com

Another one of Wall Street’s favorite work-from-home stocks has been Zoom.

When offices closed and business people stopped traveling, Wall Street recognized that demand for video teleconferencing software — which allows companies to conduct business without travel — would soar. Zoom is widely considered the leader when it comes to high-quality enterprise video teleconferencing software. Consequently, Wall Street bid up ZM stock with a fervor over the past six months.

Year-to-date, ZM stock is up about 280%.

Much like the rally in WORK stock, the rally in ZM stock has come too far, too fast.

Yes, video teleconferencing software is on its way to reaching global ubiquity. Also, yes, Zoom is the leader in the market, and will see its customer base, revenues and profits soar over the next several years.

 

But this is now a $70 billion company that’s slated to do less than $2 billion in sales this year.

That valuation is simply too rich. Eventually, the story here will show some cracks, probably as demand trends slow thanks to more widespread office reopenings in the coming months. When it does, today’s valuation friction will rear its ugly head, and Zoom stock will drop.

RingCentral (RNG)

The RingCentral (RNG) mobile app is displayed on a smartphone screen.
Source: OpturaDesign / Shutterstock.com

A cloud unified-communication-as-a-service (UCaaS) company, RingCentral has won big in 2020 as enterprises of all shapes and sizes have pivoted toward digital communications amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the first quarter of 2020, RingCentral reported impressive 33% year-over-year revenue growth.

This demand surge won’t slow anytime soon. The future of enterprise communication is digital. The cloud UCaaS space will continue to see significant growth over the next several years, long after Covid-19 passes and offices reopen. Companies like RingCentral who provide cloud UCaaS services will continue to see their platforms grow.

Having said all that, the valuation on RNG stock is rich. At 23 times trailing sales and 300 times forward earnings, RNG stock is not cheap.

Investors can probably wait for a better opportunity to buy into this red-hot growth stock.

Twilio (TWLO)

The Twilio (TWLO) logo is displayed over a white background on a smartphone screen.
Source: rafapress / Shutterstock.com

Cloud communications leader Twilio has morphed into one of the strongest work-from-home stocks in the market because demand for its cloud communications APIs has become increasingly mission-critical to enterprises in a world where physical offices are shut down.

On the back of increased demand, TWLO stock has risen 130% year-to-date.

I think this big rally can continue. For two big reasons.

First, fundamental growth trends will remain strong. Twilio’s cloud communications APIs allow for enterprises to seamlessly and instantaneously communicate everywhere, all the time. That’s a huge value add. Both today, in a world where offices are closed, and in the future, in a world where offices reopen. Thus, Twilio is less of a work-from-home play, and more of a “making enterprise communication more efficient” play.

The former tailwind may moderate. The latter won’t. Thus, by aligning itself with the latter, Twilio is guaranteeing itself strong growth for the foreseeable future. The news flow will remain overwhelmingly positive. Earnings reports will continue to smash expectations. Management’s guides will continue to impress. The company will broadly keep firing on all cylinders.

Second, the valuation on TWLO stock isn’t extended enough to offset robust fundamental momentum. Sure, the 24 times trailing sales multiple is rich. But many of the other work-from-home stocks on this list — like Zoom — trade at 50-times-plus sales multiples.

TWLO stock should be able to shake off minor valuation headwinds over the next few months and keep pushing higher.

Okta (OKTA)

A magnifying glass zooms in on the Okta (OKTA) logo.
Source: Lori Butcher / Shutterstock.com

Okta has essentially created a novel cloud security platform, dubbed Identity Cloud, which is the perfect security solution for enterprises in the work-from-home environment.

Okta’s Identity Cloud is built on the idea that all you need to do to secure a workplace, its data and its workflows, is secure its employees. So, as opposed to building a castle of security around a company’s data and workflows (which is the traditional security standard), Okta uses its Identity Cloud solution to outfit each employee with their own body armor.

Why do this? Because it enables employees to leave the “castle” and still be safe. They can securely access important company workflows and information from anywhere, at any time.

Of course, in today’s Covid-19 world, this security solution is mission-critical. But, bigger picture, once Covid-19 passes, Okta’s demand tailwinds will remain robust, because employee mobility and workflow flexibility are of increasing importance to the enterprise.

To that end, Okta will see demand for its breakthrough Identity Cloud platform soar both now, and for the foreseeable future.

At present, OKTA stock isn’t richly valued enough to offset these favorable long-term growth prospects. Consequently, OTKA stock should stay in rally mode.

Inseego (INSG)

WiFi symbol on smartphone screen with button to connect to wireless internet, close-up of hand holding mobile phone, computer in background.
Source: Shutterstock

Inseego is different from the other work-from-home stocks on this list in that the company actually provides hardware which enables a more seamless work-from-home experience for employees.

That is, Inseego makes things like fixed wireless access (FWA) routers and mobile hotspot devices which improve at-home WiFi and internet connectivity for employees.

Obviously, demand for these devices is surging as remote work trends gain traction.

But, the more interesting upside driver here is 5G. Inseego is a specialist when it comes to making 5G FWA routers and 5G mobile hotspot devices. Demand for these devices will surge over the next few years, boosted both by remote work trends and increasing standardization of enhanced 5G connectivity.

Inseego has a bright future over the next few years. During that stretch, INSG stock should outperform.

Microsoft (MSFT)

Image of corporate building with Microsoft (MSFT) logo above the entrance.
Source: NYCStock / Shutterstock.com

The biggest company on this list, Microsoft, also doubles as one of the strongest work-from-home stocks in the market.

Across the entire work-from-home spectrum, enterprises provide cloud-hosted solutions which enable and optimize the remote work experience. This includes cloud-hosted infrastructure through Azure, cloud-hosted productivity solutions through Office 365 and cloud-hosted communications through Teams.

Demand for all these solutions is currently soaring and will continue to soar for the foreseeable future.

As it does, Microsoft’s overall cloud business will continue to fire on all cylinders.

Historically, as go Microsoft’s cloud businesses, so goes MSFT stock. I suspect this will remain true for the foreseeable future. If so, then MSFT stock will keep grinding higher on increasing cloud momentum.

DocuSign (DOCU)

docusign (DOCU) logo on building
Source: Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com

As offices across the globe have closed over the past several months, enterprise demand for DocuSign’s digital contract management solutions — which enable companies to digitally create, edit and sign documents — has soared. In the first quarter of fiscal 2021, DocuSign reported 30% customer growth, 40% revenue growth and 60% billings growth.

These strong demand trends have paved the way for DOCU stock to rally 165% in 2020 to all-time highs.

 

But such strong demand trends will likely weaken over the next few quarters for two big reasons.

First, demand here is front-loaded. It’s now been five-plus months since offices have closed. Most savvy enterprises have already signed up for digital document solutions by now.

Second, the global economy is slowly normalizing. In places where the virus is “under control” — like New York City — employees are returning to the office, albeit slowly. This gradual flow of employees back into the physical workplace will somewhat undermine the company’s strong remote work tailwinds that were unobstructed for several months.

As such, over the next six to 12 months, I see DocuSign’s growth narrative meaningfully decelerating from where it was in the first quarter. That’s a problem for DOCU stock, which is trading at 33 times trailing sales, 270 times cash flow and 420 times forward earnings.

In other words, DOCU stock is priced for absolute perfection. Meaningful deceleration is not absolute perfection. Consequently, the convergence of slowing growth on a rich valuation could cause significant pain in DOCU stock over the next six to 12 months.

Dropbox (DBX)

an image of the dropbox website
Source: Allmy / Shutterstock.com

In my opinion, the best work-from-home stock to buy right now is Dropbox.

That’s because, despite its secure storage and project management solutions being very important to the remote work environment, Dropbox stock has significantly lagged peer work-from-home stocks in 2020. Plus, it trades at a significantly discounted valuation to the group.

The likes of Atlassian and Slack are up more than 50% year-to-date. Twilio and DocuSign are up more than 100% year-to-date. Zoom is up more than 250%.

Dropbox, by comparison, is up just 13% in 2020.

Meanwhile, DBX stock trades at 28 times forward earnings. WORK stock trades at nearly 30 times forward sales. TEAM stock trades at 130 times forward earnings. ZM stock trades at 205 times forward earnings. DOCU stock trades at 420 times forward earnings.

In a sea of richly valued work-from-home stocks, DBX stock stands out at as the one attractively valued name in the group.

This attractive valuation coupled with year-to-date underperformance lays the groundwork for Dropbox stock to outperform meaningfully in the second half of 2020.

Atlassian (TEAM)

Atlassian (TEAM) employees stand at a convention booth in Hanover, Germany.
Source: flowgraph / Shutterstock.com

Last, but not least, on this list of strong work-from-home stocks beating Covid-19 is Atlassian.

The Australian enterprise software company has seen demand for its digital workflow management tools — which broadly help companies manage and collaborate on projects, regardless of location — soar amid physical office closures.

In the big picture, this is a winning company.

Atlassian sells huge value-add solutions. At a time when demand for those solutions is soaring. The business model, built on word-of-mouth recommendations and a land-and-expand growth strategy, is genius. The financials are attractive, with gross margins up above 85%. So is the market opportunity, as Atlassian has identified 1 million businesses who could use its solutions (and the company only has roughly 171,000 customers today).

But TEAM stock is also richly valued. This is a $40 billion company that’s slated to do less than $2 billion in sales next year. So beware of valuation risks. And don’t let fear of missing out drive you into the right stock at the wrong price.

Luke Lango is a Markets Analyst for InvestorPlace. He has been professionally analyzing stocks for several years, previously working at various hedge funds and currently running his own investment fund in San Diego. A Caltech graduate, Luke has consistently been rated one of the world’s top stock pickers by various other analysts and platforms, and has developed a reputation for leveraging his technology background to identify growth stocks that deliver outstanding returns. Luke is also the founder of Fantastic, a social discovery company backed by an LA-based internet venture firm. As of this writing, he was long TWLO, OKTA and MSFT. 

[Source: This article was published in investorplace.com By Luke Lango - Uploaded by the Association Member: Jasper Solander]

Categorized in Work from Home

A VPN, commonly referred to as a virtual private network, is a server that provides you with a safe data surfing experience. Like Avast, a VPN creates an encrypted connection between the device and the VPN platform for protection against hackers. With the growing surveillance and censorship acts, many governments have taken privacy rights from their citizens. More and more internet users are opting for VPNs to bulwark the threat imposed on their right to privacy.

In this article, I’ll elaborate on VPN’s basics and why it is crucial for you to use.


What is a VPN?

When you use the Internet through your device, all your information flows from the Internet to your device. This information is quite easy to intercept for anyone with the right range of equipment. The situation is even more dreaded in the case of public Wi-Fi, where anyone can access your data.

This is when a VPN helps you get rid of the unwanted situation. It forms an encrypted tunnel between your device and the VPN server (a device that can be placed anywhere else in the world). This encrypted information can only be understood by your device and remains ambiguous to all other sources, including hackers, ISPs, and government agencies.

Why you should be using VPN

Here I’ll shed light on the five fundamental reasons you should opt for a VPN when Internet surfing.

  • Your security will be maintained

With the lurking threat of ISPs, government agencies and hackers gaining access to your content, a VPN is the best solution. With the aid of a VPN, you can keep prying eyes away from your content. As all the information is encrypted, it can’t be intercepted by any other source.

  • You can be an anonymous user

Some people consider VPN users as the ones who have to hide something, but, in reality, they are just preserving their right for privacy. Being an anonymous user, your browsing history and personal data will not be visible to hackers, so you are saved from any theft threat.

  • You can save money

VPNs allow you to save a great deal of money. You can subscribe to specific software from other regions’ servers where it’s sold at a relatively lower price. Also, a VPN hinders the use of cookies. Different booking sites therefore cannot skyrocket their rates because you are visiting their sites again and again.

  • You can get access to geo-blocked content

Countries can block content for various reasons, including censorship issues. Opting for a VPN will provide you safe access to normally unavailable sites. With the use of a virtual private network, you can also access popular entertainment sites like Hulu, Pandora, Netflix and more, which are usually blocked anywhere outside the US.

Prevent identity theft

If you’re frequently logging into free or public Wi-Fi then you are in dire need of a VPN. VPNs enable you to confidently use public wifis without the threat of identity theft. Identity theft is a growing concern within the online community. By using a virtual private network your data will remain encrypted and your information secure.

[Source: This article was published in shoutoutuk.org By - Uploaded by the Association Member: Robert Hensonw]

Categorized in Internet Privacy

Google is adding new features to RSA ad copy options with dynamic features, and increasing its helpfulness with cross-campaign results and asset suggestions.

Google has announced it’s increasing the features of their responsive ads today by adding two features: location insertion and countdown customizers.

There are also now improved copy suggestions and recommendations, and the launch of cross-campaign asset reporting.

What are Responsive Search Ads?

Commonly called “RSAs,” this ad type automatically assembles the ad copy a user sees by bringing together copy elements the advertiser specifies.

In normal ads, full ad copy must be written out for each version to be tested. RSAs takes the heavy lifting out of that process by breaking the components of a text ad into “assets.”

It essentially treats headlines and body copy as two different elements or “asset,” where versions of each are listed out. The Ads system then pulls an asset from each list (headline and body copy), and combines them to make a full text ad.

It provides for testing at scale, and gives fast insights into which copy and combinations are resonating for searchers.

 

RSAs can feel limiting to some advertisers, since the copy has to be mix and match. Overly themed text ad types may struggle if there’s a strict relationship between headlines and body copy that have to be adhered to.

However, they are a great way to test for things like different value propositions, sale messaging, and other items to learn the phrasing users prefer.

Location Extension Insertion

This feature allows the advertiser to insert a placeholder telling Google to display the City, State or Country based on where the potential customer is searching from, or where they’re interested in. (This is based on your campaign’s location targeting type.)

It’s  inserted with the command {LOCATION(City)} reference, where “city” can be changed out for State or Country via a radio button selection:

sej_rsa_locationext-5f0f041cb5954.png

Countdown Customizers

Frequently used for things like creating urgency around sales, Countdowns let the advertiser enter an end date for something. The ad then calculates the amount of time left between that specific time and when the searcher sees the ad, updating it dynamically.

The Countdown time specification can be adjusted to the timezone of the searcher, or set at a global level to end without making any timezone adjustments. (For example, if something ends at 1am on the east coast, it would still end at 10pm for the west coast searcher.)

Countdown options are brought up by typing in the {COUNTDOWN command. A menu will pop up walks the user through the details, and populates the rest of the command based on those choices.

sej_rsa_countdown-5f0f08ea4aa0e.png

New Copy Asset Suggestions

When creating RSAs, the system populates a dropdown of suggested copy to test. This feature has been updated for the Covid-19 era, with new suggestions for things like Contactless delivery and curbside orders.

Adding your final URL to your ad copy unlocks additional options based on what Google discerns your offerings are.

q.png

Cross-Campaign Asset Reporting

To aggregate results per asset faster, Google Ads now also offers cross-campaign reporting for these copy assets. This aggregates the data for each asset, regardless of campaign, and gives the user one snapshot of total performance.

This can be helpful to understand best performers much faster, versus going into each ad group or campaign separately to see results. For small advertisers that have tinier amounts of data per asset, this combines all the data for seeing larger trends.

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The full announcement of these features are on Google’s blog.

[Source: This article was published in searchenginejournal.com By Susan Wenograd - Uploaded by the Association Member: David J. Redcliff]

Categorized in Search Engine

With more people working from home, business is booming for companies selling livable sheds.

When James and Meg Wilson began working from home in March, they realized their house in Oakland, Calif., would need a proper home office in a hurry. Mr. Wilson, 36, works in finance, and Ms. Wilson, 36, is a nurse practitioner engaged in telehealth.

“And we have a little guy at home,” Mr. Wilson said, noting that work can be a challenge when their 1-year-old son, George, is running around. “For a few weeks, we were just all on top of each other, trying to juggle working from the dining room table and his bedroom.”

They thought about building an addition, but knew that would be disruptive, expensive and time-consuming. Browsing online, they found what seemed like a better option: an inhabitable shed from Studio Shed, made of prefabricated panels, which could be built, shipped and assembled in their backyard in a matter of weeks.

 

After exploring the options on Studio Shed’s website and talking to one of the company’s designers, they settled on a 100-square-foot model with an angled, flat roof, a glass door, transom windows and charcoal-colored, fiber-cement siding. Inside, the shed would be finished like a house, with insulation, drywall, electrical wiring and laminate flooring — yet it was so small that it wouldn’t require a building permit.

oakImage-1594329673789-superJumbo.jpg

The components were made in Louisville, Colo., shipped to Oakland and assembled in a few days on a pier foundation by workers from Blue Rock Home, one of Studio Shed’s general contractor partners, who also dug a trench to run electricity from the Wilsons’ house.

“From the time we hit ‘order’ to the time the shed was installed was a little over four weeks,” said Mr. Wilson, who put the total cost at $31,000.

The Wilsons have been using their home-office shed since late April, and expect to be working from home, at least part of the time, well into the future. “It’s given us a lot of flexibility. I can make calls from here late night or early in the morning,” Mr. Wilson said, without worrying about waking up their toddler.

Of course, the Wilsons aren’t alone in trying to find work-life balance at a time when both work and life now happen at home for many. Millions of people are in the same space-constrained situation, where it’s often difficult to find a dedicated space to focus on work. As a remedy, a growing number of people lucky enough to have a backyard are finding their way to companies like Studio Shed, Kanga Room Systems and Modern Shed, which build small stand-alone structures that promise a little separation.

Since the pandemic struck, Studio Shed’s sales have taken off, said Mike Koenig, the company’s president. “Things just got really fast after Covid-19.”

In March, he said, “We beat our forecast and easily doubled our sales over last year. In April, it was four times over last year, and May was even more than that.”

Read More...

 [Source: This article was published in nytimes.com By Tim McKeough - Uploaded by the Association Member: Jasper Solander]

Categorized in Work from Home

According to Roy Amara’s oft-cited law, people tend to overestimate the impact of new technology in the short run, however, underestimate its impacts in the long run. This law appears to be specifically applicable to usage of voice as well as digital search.

Now, a recent survey from Perficient Digital indicates that voice may have plateaued. The agency has been performing surveys and asking more than 1,000 US adults about their usage of voice, virtual assistants, and voice search, for the last four years. The survey performed last year discovered that voice was second to the smartphone browser as the ‘first choice’ entry point for mobile search.

how-consumers-search.png

Most people (around 75 percent) said that they prefer to manually enter text into a search application, internet browser, or search bar on the smartphone. Thus, usage seems to be flat. According to the survey, usage of voice seems to be down for users at all education levels, although voice usage is positively correlated with education. Those people with more education tend to use voice more as compared to individuals with less education.



When the respondents were asked how often they use smart speakers to search for data, 56% said that they never use them or use them less than twice a week. 44% of respondents use smart speakers at least twice a week, and 20% and 44% said that they use them 6 to 9 times every week.

smart-speaker-search.png

User frustration with virtual assistants not being able to understand commands or questions explain this flat-to-declining use. Enhanced accuracy and improved comprehension may be able to generate extra usage frequency. Voice seems to be just an alternative input mechanism for text, however, it also represents a different user experience.

Behind the scenes, this technology is becoming more sophisticated. The survey also points out that voice is central for the majority of non-traditional connected gadgets. It has also been recorded that 77% of all internet-connected devices are other than a computer, tablet, or mobile.

 [Source: This article was published in digitalinformationworld.com By Arooj Ahmed - Uploaded by the Association Member: Anthony Frank]

Categorized in Internet Search

“I just want search to work like it does on Amazon and Google.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that lament from friends, clients and other search folks. Frustration and dissatisfaction are common emotions when it comes to enterprise search — that is, search within the firewall.

Google on the web makes search look easy: you type in a word or two, and you get a list of dozens, if not hundreds of relevant pages. We’d all like search like that for our web and internal repositories too.

But remember that at one point, Google offered an enterprise solution in a box: the Google Search Appliance (GSA). It was a large yellow Google-branded Dell server that would crawl and index internal content, respect security and deliver pretty good results quickly. And the Google logo was available on every page to remind users they were using Google search.

The GSA was marketed to partners and corporations from 2004 through early 2019, when it was removed from the market. The GSA showed decent results, but they never lived up user expectations. What went wrong?

Several IT managers have told me users had anticipated the quality of results to be “just like Google” — but the GSA just didn’t live up to their expectations. One search manager told me that simply adding the GSA logo to their existing non-Google search platform reduced user complaints by 40%.

I’m not proposing that you find a ‘Powered by Google’ graphic and simply add it to your search form. First, that’s misleading; and probably a violation of Google’s intellectual property. And secondly, your users will react to the quality of the results, not the search page logo.

One school of thought was that Google simply decided to focus on their primary business, delivering high quality on the web. In fact, the GSA just didn’t have access to the magic that makes its web search so good: Metadata.

It turns out that internal enterprise search is hard.

Upgrade Your User Search Experience

Partly because of its size and popularity, Google on the web takes advantage of the context available to it. That means the results you see may include queries used and pages that you have viewed in the past. But what really adds value is that Google will also include post-query behavior of other Google users who performed the same query.

The good news is you can likely improve your internal search results by implementing the same approach Google uses on the public web.

Your internal content brings some challenges of its own. On the web, there are sometimes thousands of pages that are nearly identical: if Google web shows you any one of those near duplicates, you’ll probably be satisfied. But behind the firewall, people are typically looking for a single page; and if search can’t find it, users complain.

Internal search comes with its own challenges; but it also has metadata that can be used to improve results. 

Almost all of the internal content we’ve seen with clients is secure. While parts of some repositories — think HR — are available across the organization, HR does have secure content such as payroll data, employee reviews, etc. that must not be available to all.

 

The Solution: Use the Context!

One of the differences between internet and intranet content is security. And repositories fall into one of two general areas: users and content. Security should come into play for both types of content.

User Level Security

In a lot of enterprise environments, many, if not most, repositories apply user or content level security. And typically there are a number of elements here. The fields can be used to add useful metadata. Fields that are available and make sense to be included as user-level metadata may include the following:

Location: Office, Department, Time Zone

Office location, department and time zone

Direct phone & email

List of active clients

User Level Security

Location, role, title, office, department

Role & title

Manager name & contact info

Key accounts

Content Level Security

Access level

Content including queries, viewed results pages, and saved and/or rejected-ignored

Actually, this is really a starting data point; examine, experiment, and dive in!

[Source: This article was published in cmswire.co By Miles Kehoe - Uploaded by the Association Member: Dana W. Jimenez]

Categorized in Internet Search

Crowdfunding has become the de facto way to support individual ventures and philanthropic efforts. But as crowdfunding platforms have risen to prominence, they’ve also attracted malicious actors who take advantage of unsuspecting donors. Last August, a report from the Verge investigated the Dragonfly Futurefön, a decade-long fraud operation that cost victims nearly $6 million and caught the attention of the FBI. Two years ago, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced it was looking into a campaign for a Wi-Fi-enabled, battery-powered backpack that disappeared with more than $700,000.

GoFundMe previously said fraudulent campaigns make up less than 0.1% of all those on its platform, but with millions of new projects launching each year, many bad actors are able to avoid detection. To help catch them, researchers at the University College London, Telefonica Research, and the London School of economics devised an AI system that takes into account textual and image-based features to classify fraudulent crowdfunding behavior at the moment of publication. They claim it’s up to 90.14% accurate at distinguishing between fraudulent and legitimate crowdfunding behavior, even without any user or donation activity.

While two of the largest crowdfunding platforms on the web — GoFundMe and Kickstarter — employ forms of automation to spot potential fraud, neither claims to take the AI-driven approach advocated by the study coauthors. A spokesperson for GoFundMe told VentureBeat the company relies on the “dedicated experts” on its trust and safety team, who use technology “on par with the financial industry” and community reports to spot fraudulent campaigns. To do this, they look at things like:

  • Whether the campaign abides by the terms of service
  • Whether it provides enough information for donors
  • Whether it’s plagiarized
  • Who started the campaign
  • Who is withdrawing funds
  • Who should be receiving funds

Kickstarter says it doesn’t use AI or machine learning tools to prevent fraud, excepting proprietary automated tools, and that the majority of its investigative work is performed manually by looking at what signals surface and analyzing them to guide any action taken. A spokesperson told VentureBeat that in 2018 Kickstarter’s team suspended 354 projects and 509,487 accounts and banned 5,397 users for violating the company’s rules and guidelines — 8 times as many as it suspended in 2017.

The researchers would argue those efforts don’t go far enough. “We find that fraud is a small percentage of the crowdfunding ecosystem, but an insidious problem. It corrodes the trust ecosystem on which these platforms operate, endangering the support that thousands of people receive year on year,” they wrote. “[Crowdfunding platforms aren’t properly] incentivized to combat fraud among users and the campaigns they launch: On the one hand, a platform’s revenue is directly proportional to the number of transactions performed (since the platform charges a fixed amount per donation); on the other hand, if a platform is transparent with respect to how much fraud it has, it may discourage potential donors from participating.”

To build a corpus that could be used to “teach” the above-mentioned system to pick out fraudulent campaigns, the researchers sourced entries from GoFraudMe, a resource that aims to catalog fraudulent cases on the platform. They then created two manually annotated data sets focusing on the health domain, where the monetary and emotional stakes tend to be high. One set contained 191 campaigns from GoFundMe’s medical category, while the other contained 350 campaigns from different crowdfunding platforms (Indiegogo, GoFundMe, MightyCause, Fundrazr, and Fundly) that were directly related to organ transplants.

 

Human annotators labeled each of the roughly 700 campaigns in the corpora as “fraud” or “not-fraud” according to guidelines that included factors like evidence of contradictory information, a lack of engagement on the part of donors, and participation of the creator in other campaigns. Next, the researchers examined different textual and visual cues that might inform the system’s analysis:

  • Sentiment analysis: The team extracted the sentiments and tones expressed in campaign descriptions using IBM’s Watson natural language processing service. They computed the sentiment as a probability across five emotions (sadness, joy, fear, disgust, and anger) before analyzing confidence scores for seven possible tones (frustration, satisfaction, excitement, politeness, impoliteness, sadness, and sympathy).
  • Complexity and language choice: Operating on the assumption that fraudsters prefer simpler language and shorter sentences, the researchers checked language complexity and word choice in the campaign descriptions. They looked at both a series of readability scores and language features like function words, personal pronouns, and average syllables per word, as well as the total number of characters.
  • Form of the text: The coauthors examined the visual structure of campaign text, looking at things like whether the letters were all lowercase or all uppercase and the number of emojis in the text.
  • Word importance and named-entity recognition: The team computed word importance for the text in the campaign description, revealing similarities (and dissimilarities) among campaigns. They also identified proper nouns, numeric entities, and currencies in the text and assigned them to a finite set of categories.
  • Emotion representation: The researchers repurposed a pretrained AI model to classify campaign images as evoking one of eight emotions (amusement, anger, awe, contentment, disgust, excitement, fear, and sadness) by fine-tuning it on 23,000 emotion-labeled images from Flickr and Instagram.
  • Appearance and semantic representation: Using another AI model, the researchers extracted image appearance representations that provided a description of each image, like dominant colors, the textures of the edges of segments, and the presence of certain objects. They also used a face detector algorithm to estimate the number of faces present in each image.

After boiling many thousands of possible features down to 71 textual and 501 visual variables, the researchers used them to train a machine learning model to automatically detect fraudulent campaigns. Arriving at this ensemble model required building sub-models to classify images and text as fraudulent or not fraudulent and combining the results into a single score for each campaign.

The coauthors claim their approach revealed peculiar trends, like the fact that legitimate campaigns are more likely to have images with at least one face compared with fraudulent campaigns. On the other hand, fraudulent campaigns are generally more desperate in their appeals, in contrast with legitimate campaigns’ descriptiveness and openness about circumstances.

“In recent years, crowdfunding has emerged as a means of making personal appeals for financial support to members of the public … The community trusts that the individual who requests support, whatever the task, is doing so without malicious intent,” the researchers wrote. “However, time and again, fraudulent cases come to light, ranging from fake objectives to embezzlement. Fraudsters often fly under the radar and defraud people of what adds up to tens of millions, under the guise of crowdfunding support, enabled by small individual donations. Detecting and preventing fraud is thus an adversarial problem. Inevitably, perpetrators adapt and attempt to bypass whatever system is deployed to prevent their malicious schemes.”

It’s possible that the system might be latching onto certain features in making its predictions, exhibiting a bias that’s not obvious at first glance. That’s why the coauthors plan to improve it by taking into account sources of labeling bias and test its robustness against unlabeled medically related campaigns across crowdfunding platforms.

“This is a significant step in building a system that is preemptive (e.g., a browser plugin) as opposed to reactive,” they wrote. “We believe our method could help build trust in this ecosystem by allowing potential donors to vet campaigns before contributing.”

[Source: This article was published in venturebeat.com By Kyle Wiggers - Uploaded by the Association Member: Jeremy Frink]

Categorized in Investigative Research

It’s safe to say that nearly everyone is familiar with Internet search engines. Most of us use a search engine such as Google, Duck Duck Go, or Bing daily. As helpful as these and other search engines might be however, they don’t always give users the answers that they need. This is especially true if the user is searching for something specific to your organization. Unless the item that the user is looking for happens to be on your organization’s public-facing web page, a search engine like Google is unlikely to be able to point the user to whatever it is that they happen to be looking for. The solution to this problem is to deploy an enterprise search engine. An enterprise search engine is similar to search engines that we are all familiar with, except that it is configured to search within your organization’s resources. While there are third-party options for setting up an enterprise search engine, Microsoft includes a search engine with its productivity cloud suite, Microsoft 365.

Using Microsoft Search in Microsoft 365

Microsoft Search is enabled by default for Microsoft 365 users. Even so, most users probably don’t even realize that they can search across the organization’s online resources.

Before a user can use Microsoft Search, they must be logged into Microsoft 365. Once logged in, the user needs only to open their browser, go to Bing.com, and enter the search query. Upon doing so, Bing will return both public and private search results.

If you look at the image below, you will see Bing’s results page (I have hidden the search query and the search results for privacy reasons). The main thing that I wanted to point out in the figure is that there are a series of tabs just beneath the search bar. These tabs include things like All, Work, Images, Videos, and more. The Work tab, which has a lock icon next to it, is where users need to go if they are looking for non-public information. As you might have noticed in the figure, a Bing search can return a variety of document types, and users can filter the search results by People, Groups, Sites, Files, and Conversations. In case you are wondering, the search results only include documents that the user has access to.

Bing can surface search results that are specific to your organization
Enterprise-Search-1-1024x569.jpg

Search limitations

As you would probably expect, Microsoft gives you some control over the types of results generated by Microsoft Search. I’m going to show you some of the more useful configuration options. Before I do, though, I want to mention what I consider to be Microsoft Search’s most significant limitation.

As previously mentioned, Microsoft Search is built into Microsoft 365. This means that Microsoft Search’s results only include whatever data Microsoft 365 is aware of. For example, Microsoft Search isn’t going to be able to return results related to your company’s billing application unless that application is somehow tied to Microsoft 365.

 

 

In my opinion, the most significant limitation associated with using Microsoft Search is that the search engine does not index your file servers. It assumes that most of your file data reside in SharePoint Online. The only way that Microsoft Search can index files stored on-premises is if you have a hybrid SharePoint deployment and the files that you want to index are stored within SharePoint.

Configuring Microsoft Search

In any organization, there are certain things that users will inevitably end up searching for. These questions will differ from one organization to the next, but here are a few examples:

  • How do I request time off?
  • How many vacation days do I get per year?
  • How can I access email from my phone?
  • What is the company’s mailing address?

One of the really nice things about Microsoft Search is that you don’t have to wonder if it will be able to figure out the answers to these types of questions. You can create a list of the questions that users are likely to ask and give Microsoft Search the answers to those questions.

To populate Microsoft Search with questions and answers, begin by logging into Microsoft 365 and go to the Microsoft 365 Admin Center. Next, click on the Add Admin Centers option, followed by Microsoft Search. You can see what this looks like in the screenshot below.

Click on All Admin Centers, followed by Microsoft Search
Enterprise-Search-2-1024x505.jpg

When the Microsoft Search interface appears, click on the Answers tab, and then click on Q&A. Now, click the Add link, shown in the figure below.

Select the Q&A tab and then click the Add link
Enterprise-Search-3-1024x585.jpg

You can see what the Add Q&A screen looks like below. To create a question and answer, you will need to type the question into the Title field. Keep in mind that this field has a 60-character limit, so you will need to keep the question short. You will also need to type the answer to the question into the Answer Description field. You can also optionally link to a specific URL. When you are done, click the Publish button.

This is what the Add Q&A screen looks like
Enterprise-Search-4.jpg

When creating a Q&A, you have the option of including a link to a web page, but the goal is to include the answer to the question in the Answer Description field. If you would rather not have to type the answers to questions, you can create a bookmark instead. A bookmark tells Microsoft Search to point to a specific URL when a user enters certain keywords. If you look at the figure below, for example, you can see that the keywords Office Admin Portal are linked to the URL for the Office 365 Admin Center.

Bookmarks associate keywords with URLs
Enterprise-Search-5-1024x572.jpg

To create a bookmark, just go to the Bookmark tab and click on the Add button. This will cause Microsoft 365 to display the Add Bookmark screen, shown in the figure below. As you can see in the figure, you will need to provide a title for the bookmark that you are creating as well as the bookmark URL and one or more keywords. You can also include an optional bookmark description of up to 300 characters.

This is what it looks like when you create a bookmark
Enterprise-Search-6-1024x514.jpg

Microsoft Search and Microsoft 365: A bounty of possibilities

As you begin populating Microsoft Search, most of your manual additions will likely be bookmarks or questions and answers. Even so, there are other types of data that you can add. For example, you can include floor plans and information about your company’s locations. If your organization uses a lot of acronyms internally, you can add those to the search interface as well.

[Source: This article was published in techgenix.com By Brien Posey - Uploaded by the Association Member: Joshua Simon]

Categorized in Search Engine

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