It was the best of leaks, it was the worst of leaks.
In the past week, two news stories that revolved around Internet leaks caught my eye. The former regarded a leak that had already happened, and the latter regarded a potentially devastating leak that could happen.
The first story was the “leak” of specifications of variants of the soon-to-be-released Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone; the second was the news that the Wu-Tang Clan, an influential rap group that’s been around for two decades, was going to be creating only a single copy of a secret album.
In the case of the Galaxy S5, the recent leak lists technical specifications for the Galaxy S5 Zoom. So far, the leak has been deemed credible (by whoever the people are that deem unreleased information credible), and Samsung hasn’t commented on the topic. This leak, and the fact that phone-case makers have begun posting cases for S5 variants on their websites with “coming soon” tags, has led to a surge of speculation about what Samsung has up their sleeves.
So what does this mean?
First and foremost, it means that potential S5 customers might be able to choose from a more diverse generation of models for their ideal device. While that’s just peachy news for Samsung fans, what’s more important here is that this leak gave the Galaxy S5 an extra boost of publicity in the smartphone wars. This “leak” brought the Samsung Galaxy S5 to the forefront of tech news. In February, a similar bump in publicity happened when pictures of the S5 were leaked just hours before the phones official announcement at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Poor Samsung seems to be having a problem with leaks this year, but are these leaks really a problem?
When a big-name device like the S5 is officially announced, it subsequently receives a ton of press from bloggers, the media, and so on. They compare it to its previous generation counterpart and its next generation competitors, all the while speculating on how it will fare in the market. Some people will get excited about its impending release; some will dismiss the new tech and stay loyal to their current device.
In the end, the phone will get the hype and attention it deserves based on its specs, features, pricing, and of course, its official advertising campaign.
The domino effect of speculation
When information about a device is leaked, something entirely different happens. Every news organization in the world is constantly trying to be the first to report the news; Internet news is no different. When pictures of the unreleased Galaxy S5 or specifications of S5 variants are leaked, tech blogs and news sites seize this opportunity without hesitation. This leads to a domino effect of bloggers and forums speculating about the eventual release of the device, and average consumers searching Google for the device to see what all the hype is about. Eventually, the company will officially unveil the new product, and the device will retake the headlines for a second time.
When an important piece of tech is leaked, it stays in the headlines for a much longer time and receives far more publicity.
Am I saying that I think “leaks” are just clever marketing schemes?
I believe many probably are, but I don’t have hard evidence to support such a claim. Yes, I’m cynical, but let’s be honest; any publicity is good publicity – even if that publicity is unofficial and speculative.
I’m always skeptical when coverage of a “leaked” product takes over tech news. Remember in 2010 when an Apple employee accidentally left his prototype iPhone 4 at a San Francisco bar a few months before the phone was officially announced? What a crazy story!
And then remember in 2011 when an Apple employee accidentally left his prototype iPhone 5 in a San Francisco bar a month before the phone was officially announced? What a familiar-sounding and crazy story! Since Apple is known for its secrecy, one would have expected the company to make its field testers reread the “don’t-leave-your-prototype-phone-that-hasn’t-been-officially-announced-at-a-bar-you-damn-moron clause” in their contracts.
Apple reacted pretty angrily to Gizmodo’s tearing apart of the lost iPhone 4, so that incident may have actually been a drunken accident. However, beyond the news that Apple had lost an iPhone 5, no prototype device ever revealed itself, leading a number of people to say that it was just a clever publicity stunt attempting to mimic the previous year’s incident. The lost iPhone 5 never materialized online, but that didn’t stop consumers everywhere from searching Google for news about the lost prototype. I remember searching for news about the incident and watching speculative YouTube videos, and I’ve never even considered buying an iPhone.
Could Samsung’s slow leak of information be an attempt at copying Apple’s barroom success?
Even HTC had trouble with leaks of its HTC One M8 prior to its recent release. Either these companies see the benefit of building hype through leaked information, it is truly impossible to keep things secret nowadays, or some third party is taking us all for a ride with fake leaks.
Maybe I’m wrong, and next-gen devices are just more likely to be leaked as their official announcement/release date approaches. But is it really such a stretch to believe that the giants of the tech industry who thrive on innovation have found a way to build the hype of their products without spending a penny on official marketing campaigns?
So what does the Wu-Tang Clan have to do with any of this?
The Wu-Tang Clan is on the opposite end of the spectrum, as they are desperately trying to avoid a leak of their upcoming project. As I mentioned earlier, the Wu-Tang Clan is planning on releasing an album that they’ve been secretly creating for years. However, they’re only creating a single copy of the album.
The Wu-Tang Clan intends to treat the album like a work of art instead of another $12.99 iTunes purchase. To hear it, you’ll have to pay $30-50 for a museum-like experience when the album tours the country. After the album’s tour, one lucky individual will be able to purchase the lone copy of the album for a price that’s likely to be in the millions.
The lone copy of the album could be purchased by an individual, or by a company that seeks to mass-produce it for traditional sales or boost their own image (like Samsung did with Jay-Z’s last album). The fact that the album won’t be available anywhere will create an incredible hype around the group. If all goes as planned, the Wu-Tang Clan will have created a unique musical experience that will thrust them into the limelight and make them a solid profit.
But they shouldn’t start counting their money yet. Anything less than outstanding reviews from audiences and critics could very easily keep fans away from their $30-50 experience, and lower the value of the lone copy.
Still, negative critical reception isn’t the worst thing that could happen.
Their experiment will crash and burn if a single digital copy manages to escape their grasp before the lone copy has been auctioned off. If a single copy of the album leaks, then the album will explode across the Internet, and won’t disappear even if the Wu-Tang Clan hires a small army of lawyers to write subpoenas around the clock.
Despite the fact that they’re only creating a single copy, I’d bet the farm that their album exists in digital form on one, if not all, of the group members’ computers. This isn’t Johnny Cash and his band recording live in a studio in the ’50s; this is 2014, when all kinds of layering and digital production take place on computers. The music probably exists somewhere, and if it does, then it’s not safe from being leaked. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t already at least one hacker who sees himself as a present-day Robin Hood attempting to break into the Wu-Tang Clan’s personal computers. Only time will tell if the Wu-Tang Clan’s gamble against the leaky “series of tubes” that is the Internet will pay off.
The modern world is a strange place.
On one hand, we have titans of the tech industry who can’t seem to keep their products under wraps, and benefit from the publicity generated by their employees’ inability to hold onto their prototype devices at tequila bars. On the other hand, we have musicians who are deliberately rejecting the ubiquitous reach of the Internet, and experimenting with an idea that would force their fans to seek them out while paying more for less.
Remember the days when companies tried to keep their secret products secret, and musicians wanted their music to be heard by as many people as possible?
Things have changed.
Ways to socialize safely during quarantine
(EDITORIAL) Months of isolation due to quarantine is causing loneliness for many, but joining virtual social groups from home may help fill the need for interaction.
Quarantining, sheltering in place, staying home. We’re tired of hearing it; we’re tired of doing it. Yet, it’s what we still need to be doing to stay safe for a while longer. All of this can be lonesome. As the days turn into weeks and weeks into months, the alone time is getting to even the most introverted among us.
Solitary confinement is considered one of the most psychologically damaging punishments a human can endure. The New Yorker reported on this in a 1992 study of prisoners in detention camps in the former Yugoslavia, as well as Vietnam veterans who experienced isolation. These studies showed that prisoners who had experienced solitary confinement demonstrated similar brain activity to those who’d suffered a severe head injury, noting that “Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury.”
We aren’t meant to be solitary creatures. Your “pandemic brain” is real. That fogginess, the lack of productivity, can be attributed to many things, including anxiety, but being kept apart from other humans is a big part of it too. Be kind to yourself, give yourself grace, and join others virtually. Be it an app, a class, a Facebook group, a chat room, or a livestream, someone somewhere is out there waiting to connect with you too.
The good news? We are lucky enough to live in an era of near limitless ways to interact socially online. Sure, it is different, but it is something. It’s important. The best thing about this type of social interaction is being able to hone in on your specific interests, though I’d caution you against getting caught in an online echo chamber. Diversity of interests, personality, and opinion make for a richer experience, with opportunities for connecting and expanding your worldview.
Interactive Livestreams on Twitch:
Twitch is best known as a streaming service for video game fans, but it offers multiple streams appealing to different interests. This is more than passive watching (although that is an option, too) as Twitch livestream channels also have chat rooms. Twitch is fun for people who like multi-tasking because the chat rooms for popular livestream channels can get busy with chatter.
While people watch the Twitch hosts play a video game, film a live podcast, make music or art, mix cocktails, or dance, they can comment on what they’re watching, make suggestions, ask questions, crack jokes, and get to know each other (by Twitch handle, so it is still as anonymous as you want it to be) in the chat room. The best hosts take time every so often to interact directly with the chat room questions and comments.
Many Twitch channels develop loyal followers who get to know each other, thus forming communities. I have participated in the Alamo Drafthouse Master Pancake movie mocks a few times because they are fun and local to Austin, where I live. Plus, in my non-quarantine life, I would go to Master Pancake shows live sometimes. The chat room feels familiar in a nice way. While watching online is free, you can (and totally should) tip them.
Online trivia in real time:
There are some good options for real-time online trivia, but I’m impressed with the NYC Trivia League’s model. They have trivia games online on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. The NYC Trivia League seems to have figured out a good way to run the game live while keeping answers private from the other teams. They run games on Instagram Live with a live video of the host, and participants answer via the question feature. Clever!
Online book club:
First I have to shout out my Austin local independent bookstore, BookPeople, because they are fantastic. They run book clubs throughout the year, along with readings, book signings, and all things book-related. BookPeople hosts several online book clubs during these lockdown days, and most people will find something that appeals to them.
I’m also impressed with this list from Hugo House, a writer’s resource based out of Seattle. This list includes Instagram and Goodread book clubs, book clubs for Black women, rebels, and poetry lovers. The Financial Diet recommends the Reddit book club, if you are comfortable with the Reddit format. Please note that it’s a busy place, but if you like Reddit, you already know this.
Cooking class or virtual tasting:
You can also participate in virtual tastings for wine, whiskey, or chocolate, though you will have to buy the product to participate in the classes (usually held over Zoom or Facebook Live). If you are in Austin, Dallas, or Houston, I recommend BeenThere Locals. The cost of the course includes the wine, spirits, or cooking kit in most cases, and all of the money goes to the business and expert hosting the class.
Look for your favorite wine, spirits, cheese, chocolate makers, and chefs that are local to you to find a similar experience. Most either prepare the class kit for pickup or delivery within a local area.
To interact with another quarantined person seeking social interaction, there’s Quarantine Chat. Quarantine chat is one of the ways to connect through the Dialup app, available on iOS and Android devices. Sign up to make and receive calls when you want to speak with someone. The Dialup app pairs you randomly with another person for a phone conversation, at a scheduled time, either with anyone or with someone with shared interests.
Quarantine chat takes it a step further with calls at random times. When your quarantine chat caller calls, you will not see their number (or they yours), only the “Quarantine Chat” caller ID. If you are unable to pick up when they call, they will be connected with someone else, so there is no pressure to answer. It’s nice to hear someone else’s voice, merely to talk about what you’ve been cooking or what hilarious thing your pet is doing.
Uno Freak lets people set up games and play Uno online with friends or strangers. Players do not need to register or download anything to play. Uno Freak is web-based.
Talk to mental health professionals:
If your state of loneliness starts sliding toward depression, call someone you can speak to right away to talk over your concerns. When in doubt, call a trained professional! Here are a few resources:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET, 800-950-NAMI (6264) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to this text line 24/7 for someone to text with who will also be able to refer you to other resources: U.S. and Canada: 74174, U.K. 85258, Ireland: 50808.
- Psych Central has put together this comprehensive list of crisis intervention specialists and ways to contact them immediately.
There are many ways to connect even though we are physically apart. These are just a few real time ways to interact with others online. If you want something a little more flesh and blood, take a walk around the block or even sit in a chair in front of where you live.
Wave at people from afar, and remember that we have lots of brilliant doctors and scientists working on a way out of this. Hang in there, buddy. I’m rooting for you. I’m rooting for all of us.
Working remotely: Will we ever go back? (Probably not)
(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Now that the pandemic has opened the door on working remotely, there’s no way we’ll put the genie back in the bottle. But, here’s some ways you can adapt.
When it comes to working remotely, will the toothpaste ever go back in the tube?
Mark Zuckerberg recently said, “We are going to be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale…” By 2030, Zuckerberg anticipates that over half of Facebook’s workforce will be remote. Many other companies are jumping on the work from home bandwagon. Working remotely has helped many businesses manage the pandemic crisis, but it’s unsure what form remote working will take over the next 10 years.
We know that employees are responding positively to WFH, as reported in this article – Employers: Lacking remote work options may cause you to lose employees. As offices transition to a post-COVID normal, here are some things to consider about your office and remote work.
What does your business gain from allowing workers to WFH?
The future of remote work depends on a conscious application of WFH. It’s not just as easy as moving employees out of the office to home. You have to set up a system to manage workers, wherever they are working. The companies with good WFH cultures have set up rules and metrics to know whether it’s working for their business. You’ll need to have technology and resources that let your teams work remotely.
Can your business achieve its goals through remote work?
The pandemic may have proved the WFH model, but is this model sustainable? There are dozens of benefits to remote work. You can hire a more diverse workforce. You may save money on office space. Employees respond well to remote work. You reduce your carbon emissions.
But that can’t be your only measure of whether remote work fits into your vision for your organization. You should be looking at how employees will work remotely, but you need to consider why employees work remotely.
The work paradigm is shifting – how will you adapt?
The work environment has shifted over the past century. Remote work is here to stay, but how it fits into your company should be based on more than what employees want. You will have to work closely with managers and HR to build the WFH infrastructure that grows with your organization to support your teams.
We don’t know exactly how remote work will change over the next decade, but we do know that the workplace is being reinvented. Don’t just jump in because everyone is doing it. Make an investment in developing your WFH plan.
The truth about unemployment from someone who’s been through it
(EDITORIAL) Unemployment benefits aren’t what you thought they were. Here’s a first-hand experience and what you need to know.
Have I ever told you how I owed the government over two grand because of unemployment in 2019, and only just finished paying it back this year?
This isn’t exactly the forum for memoirs, but this is relevant to everyone. So I’ll tell y’all anyway.
It all started back in 2018 when I came into work early, microwaved my breakfast, poured coffee, and got pulled into a collaboration room to hear, “We love you and your work, April, but we’ve been bought out and you’re being laid off.”
It was kind of awkward carrying my stuff out to the car with that Jimmy Dean sandwich in my mouth.
More awkward still was the nine months of unemployment I went through afterwards. Between the fully clothed shower crying, the stream of job denial, catering to people who carried rocks in their nostrils at my part-time job (yes, ew, yes, really), and almost dying of no-health-insurance-itis, I learned a lot!
The bigger lesson though, came in the spring of the following year when I filed my taxes. I should back up for a moment and take the time to let those of you unfamiliar with unemployment in Texas in on a few things that aren’t common knowledge.
1: You’re only eligible if you were laid off. Not if you had quit. Not fired. Your former company can also choose to challenge your eligibility for benefits if they didn’t like your face on the way out. So the only way you’re 100% guaranteed to get paid in (what the state calls) “a timely manner”, is a completely amicable split.
2: Overpayments have to go back. Immediately. If there’s an error, like several thousand of Texans found out this week, the government needs that cash back before you can access any more. If you’re not watching your bank account to make sure you’re getting the exact same check each time and you have an overpayment, rest assured that mistake isn’t going to take long to correct. Unfortunately, if you spent that money unknowingly–thought you got an ‘in these uncertain times’ kinder and gentler adjustment and have 0 income, you have a problem. Tying into Coronavirus nonsense is point three!
3: There are no sick days. If ever you’re unable to work for any reason, be it a car accident, childbirth, horrible internal infection (see also no-health-insurance-itis), you are legally required to report it, and you will not be paid for any days you were incapacitated. Personally, my no-health-insurance-itis came with a bad fever and bedrest order that axed me out of my part time job AND killed my unemployment benefits for the week I spent getting my internal organs to like me again. But as it turned out, the payment denial came at the right time because–
4: Unemployment benefits are finite. Even if you choose to lie on your request forms about how hard you’re searching for work, coasting is ill-advised because once the number the state allots you runs out…it’s out. Don’t lie on your request forms, by the way. In my case, since I got cut from my part-time gig, I got a call from the Texas Workforce Commission about why my hours were short. I was able to point out where I’d reported my sickness to them and to my employer, so my unpaid week rolled over to a later request date. I continued to get paid right up until my hiring date which was also EXACTLY when my benefits ran out.
Unemployment isn’t a career, which is odd considering the fact that unemployment payments are qualified by the government as income.
Ergo, fact number five…
5: Your benefits? They’re taxed.
That’s right, you will be TAXED for not having a job.
The stereotype of the ‘lazy unemployment collector burdening society’ should be fading pretty quickly for the hitherto uninformed about now.
To bring it back to my story, I’d completely forgotten that when I filed for unemployment in the first place, I’d asked for my taxes NOT to be withheld from it–assuming that I wasn’t going to be searching for full time work for very long. I figured “Well, I’ll have a tax refund coming since I’ll get work again no problem, it’ll cancel out.”
Except, it was a problem. Because of the nine month situation.
I’d completely forgotten about it by the time I threw myself into my new job, but after doing my taxes, triple checking the laws and what I’d signed, it was clear. Somehow…despite being at my lowest point in life, I owed the highest amount in taxes, somewhere around the 2k mark.
Despite being based on a system that’s tied to how much income you were getting before, and all the frustrating “safeguards” put in place to keep payments as low and infrequent as possible, Uncle Sam still wants a bite out of the gas-station Hostess pie that is your unemployment check. And as I’m writing this, more and more people are finding that out. And even as we enter 2021, there is still more to be aware of – we’re not out of the woods yet.
I’d like to end this on a more positive note… So let’s say we’ve all been positively educated! That’s a net gain, surely.
Keep your heads up, and masked.
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