Blog Roundup

What I’m Reading – October 25, 2023

Licensing board secrecy endangers Iowa consumers (Iowa Capital Dispatch) “Secrecy surrounding the factual basis of a licensee’s misconduct certainly protects the professional but not their unsuspecting customers.”

The Iowa Capital Dispatch is quickly becoming one of my favorite news sources. Their ability to dig deep into stories, and then follow-up consistently and accurately, is refreshing. If you’re looking for a no-nonsense news source for Iowa, this is one of the best.

Microsoft Word was released 40 years ago today. (The Verge) “Developed by Microsoft, Word was initially released under the name “Multi-Tool Word” on October 25, 1983 before being simplified to Microsoft Word.”

Happy Birthday to Microsoft Word! Joining the “40” Club a few months before I will.

The eternal allure of Engagement Chicken (Men Yell at Me) “The lore of Engagement Chicken holds that in 1982, Glamour fashion editor Kim Bonnell, gave her trusty chicken recipe to an assistant who needed something to cook for her boyfriend. The boyfriend proposed a month later.”

Lyz Lenz is one of my favorite writers. Subscribe to her newsletter and you will be informed, entertained, and feel like a member of a larger community. – JW


Thoughts on Janet Yellen

*Disclaimer: I am no expert on anything I write about below, including the main topic, Janet Yellen. I am writing this post and my thoughts about the most impactful Biden cabinet pick, so I can learn more about what the next four years may look like.

The Daily dedicated a recent podcast to the news of President-elect Biden selecting Janet Yellen as his Secretary of Treasury. I grew more and more intrigued as I listened to the podcast, to the history of Janet Yellen. So, I listened to a few more podcasts about Janet Yellen, both recent and less-than-recent.

Here is some of what I came away with:

The Daily – “Biden’s Cabinet Picks, Part 1: Janet Yellen”

“Inequality is not a political issue. Inequality is an economic issue.”

[She] wants to get people into the workforce and working.

And I think this is a consistent view that Yellen has held for a long time. And it is something that she pairs with a real concern for making sure that the folks at sort of the margins of the labor market, you know, minorities, people with less education, et cetera, making sure that they have opportunities. So as Fed chair, she starts to talk about inequality.

…And she’s kind of the first Fed Chair who comes in and says, inequality is not a political issue. Inequality is an economic issue. And we need to be thinking about what it means for the future of our economy.

NYTimes – “The Senate Is on Vacation While Americans Starve”

Discussing the need for continued support for American households:

And aside from the grave ethical questions raised by ending crucial safeguards for the vulnerable, such actions endanger the economy as a whole.

For more background on the above op-ed, listen to this 9 minute interview of Janet Yellen from Planet Money.

The Journal. – “Janet Yellen’s Biggest Challenge Yet”

Another perspective on the cabinet pick from The Wall Street Journal. I found this one interesting as well, specifically in talking about Janet Yellen’s character. The podcast describes the 2014 White House Correspondents dinner and a photo showing Yellen as the only person in the ballroom before dinner because she is always on-time or early. Yellen is always prepared, is a fastidious notetaker, and is on-time.

Heather Cox Richardson – December 1, 2020.

Stimulus is an economic issue.

Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, Biden’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, echoed Powell today. “Lost lives, lost jobs, small businesses struggling to stay alive are closed for good. So many people struggling to put food on the table and pay bills and rent. It’s an American tragedy. And it is essential we move with urgency. Inaction will produce a self-reinforcing downturn causing yet more devastation.”

So far, I’m looking forward to the Biden administration. If you had told me during the Iowa Caucuses when I was cheering about Biden placing 4th, this was the administration that President-elect Biden would put together, I wouldn’t have believed you. (If you told me anything about the rest of 2020, I wouldn’t have believed you either!)


Thoughts on the Biden transition

Matt Stoller discussed some finer details in his latest BIG newsletter on the Biden transition under the headline: “We Won’t Be Repeating the Obama Administration.” Stoller calls out three specific examples.

  1. Bill Baer, head of Antitrust Division under President Obama. Baer is “heading up one of the antitrust review teams for the Biden transition. Baer didn’t do a great job under Obama, but he’s making some useful noises. “We should care too about under enforcement because it’s led to growing concentration in many markets, think agriculture, telecom, wireless, travel, pharma and beer,” he said at an American Bar Association conference.”
  2. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Supposedly gunning for Attorney General.
  3. Sheryl Sandberg. A counter-example for the previous two. Sandberg was a “credible rumored candidate for Treasury Secretary had Hillary Clinton won.”

Two more notes on Amy Klobuchar from CNBC:

One of the areas that could interest Biden in choosing her to lead the Department of Justice is her stance on antitrust and her pushback on the tech giants. During her run for president, she said strong antitrust enforcement means looking back at the deal between Facebook and Instagram.

Klobuchar, along with a group of bipartisan lawmakers, has introduced the Honest Ads Act, which looks to “help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements.”

I’ve so far been pleased with what I’ve heard from the Biden transition team. As Stoller and many others have noted, progressives and the left-wing of the Democratic party are going to have a strong place in the centrist Biden administration. The progressive voice will be extremely important, especially if the Senate is still controlled by Mitch McConnell and the Republicans. Progressives will be needed as a counter-weight to both the Republicans and centrist Democrats who want things to stay the same, or only make incremental changes.

Work Life

Thoughts on “Remote Work is a Platform”

Re-reading the post by Jason Fried, “Remote Work is a Platform.” Got me thinking a lot about the last 134 days that I’ve been working from home; 134 days of being a remote worker for the first time.

“Remote work is another platform. It has its own unique flavor, advantages, and disadvantages.”

Jason Fried, “Remote Work is a Platform”

Remote work is secondary…

My own work experience is a singular experience. That experience is one of sitting in the same desk for almost 9 years, in the same corner, of the same building. So, when I would previously read articles about the benefits of remote work Pre-COVID, I was trying to fit those concepts into my current concept of work, which was that of the corporate office environment.

The office environment is a system supporting work in the office environment. The office is primary, and remote work is secondary; never truly accepted and merely tolerated.

Remote work is primary…

Within a week or two in March, remote work became primary.

And yet, the system to support an office environment remained. Desk phones, instant messaging, email, video meetings. All of these tools were being used to “replicate” the office.

But we can never truly replicate the office. Instead, those same tools could be used to supplement remote work.

Simulating in-person office work remotely does both approaches a disservice.

This is often what happens when change is abrupt. We bring what we know from one to the other. We apply what we’re familiar with to the unfamiliar. But, in time, we recognize that doesn’t work.

Jason Fried, “Remote Work is a Platform”

Remote work is a different system.

I think that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the last 134 days. It’s not that remote work is better or worse, it’s different. And once you find your way, once you find how to fit in with the new system, it works.

I’ve gained a completely new perspective on work, remote or otherwise, and I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity to learn. I’m not throwing away my shot.


HubSpot Problem – Beta Drag and Drop Editor and Social Media Accounts

Our Marketing team has been using the new HubSpot Drag and Drop Email Editor since it became available (note, it’s still technically in beta.) One of our Marketing Directors came to me a couple weeks ago with an issue.

[Company B] social media links are automatically being input in our drag-and-drop email templates. Is there a way to default these within HubSpot to [Company A] links so we don’t have to update them every time?

We didn’t hear from our account manager immediately, so I submitted a Support Ticket for the issue. (Ideally, this would have been a Support Ticket at the beginning.) The first suggestion we received from HubSpot was to remove [Company B] social accounts in our HubSpot Settings.

This is not a valid solution or fix, because we use those social accounts for posting to social media. (The nerve!)

Eventually, I heard from HubSpot Support:

I wanted to quickly reach out that there wasn’t any documentation or past cases on how this default social account URL is pulled, so I am filing an escalation with the development team for an answer.

Okay, I guess we’ll wait.

One week later, though it was around Thanksgiving here in the US (bold emphasis mine):

I apologize for the delay in waiting for a response in the escalation I filed.

The development team reached out regarding this, and has said that currently it isn’t possible to change which default links appear in the social module for the drag and drop email editor. As with any features that you might like to see incorporated into our software, I would recommend posting a suggestion for this product feature in our ideas forum.

This is a forum where users can post ideas which other users can up-vote or comment on, then our developers see and use these ideas for inspiration for future improvements to the software. This would be the best means of having functionality like this implemented in the tool.

Please let me know if you have any questions about this.

Modules in the HubSpot Drag and Drop Email Editor

Are you kidding? So, let me get this straight.

  1. HubSpot has a new drag-and-drop email editor (which is still in beta.)
  2. The drag-and-drop email editor has a “Social” module, allowing you to place links to your social media accounts into your email.
  3. This Social module autopopulates these accounts somehow, but even HubSpot doesn’t know how the module is populated.
  4. There is no known way to change the default accounts for the Social module.

To those of you who are using the HubSpot Beta Drag and Drop Email Editor: Please follow this link to the HubSpot Ideas Forum and “upvote” this idea.


LastPass autofill not working in Apple Safari

I’ve noticed in the last few days, maybe week, that LastPass does not autofill / autocomplete when I’m using Safari on my iMac. I’m currently running Version 11.1.2 of Safari and LastPass

The issue

Upon visiting a website where I need to provide my login information, LastPass does not autofill the information. Nor is the LastPass icon  shown where I normally place my login information. Nor does right-clicking for the LastPass Contextual Menu work. 

The only way LastPass currently works in Safari is:

  • Log in to LastPass
  • Search for the site
  • Copy password

Not Acknowledged by LastPass

The issue is not officially noted by LastPass on their LastPass Twitter accounts (@LastPass, @LastPassHelp). There are individuals tweeting the issue and @LastPassHelp replies to the tweet. However, there is no “push” message or acknowledgement from LastPass.

Already on LastPass Support Forums

While not officially recognized, there are more individuals describing the same or similar issues in the LastPass Support Forums. The link to the thread here started July 28, 2018 and there are over 50 responses as of August 3, 2018 70 responses as of August 9, 2018.

Some of the suggested fixes from the forums include the following steps.

  • Open up LastPass preferences (for example, click the LastPass icon next to the Address Bar and select Preferences from the drop down menu.
  • Click the Advanced tab on the left.
  • Check the Respect AutoComplete=off: allow websites to disable AutoFill box. It looks like the label is incorrect.
  • Click the Save button at the bottom of the page.
    Reload any page that you have open that LastPass isn’t autofilling or the icon isn’t appearing in the username and password fields.

There is an additional suggestion to manually downgrade the LastPass Extension in Safari. 

Why this doesn’t matter (in the short-term)

I’ve already switched my browsing to Google Chrome away from Apple Safari. Why? Because LastPass still works. As I’m sure the behavior will be similar for most people, the functionality provided through LastPass is more important than what browser you use. As long as people can get on the Internet, login to their websites, and use LastPass, they won’t care what browser. 

We just want LastPass to work.


I’m Taking A Break From Photography

Three loves dominated my 20s: running, reading, and photography. Last month I started my 35th year on Planet Earth 1 and I find myself re-evaluating my life priorities and goals, as I wrote about from a work/job perspective last month. Today, however, I find myself re-evaluating my personal priorities, especially those ones that fill my ever-decreasing free time. That’s why I’m writing here about why I’m taking a break from photography.

Why Take A Break?

My 30s brought tremendous change – good and “less than good” – to my life. A diagnosis of clinical depression. Weight gain and loss of fitness/wellness. A wedding videography side business. Unemployment for my spouse. Two new jobs within 6 months for my spouse. 7 years of marriage. Our first child.

I stubbornly tried to hang onto those major loves from my 20s, all the while trying to keep my head above water while managing all my life changes. The running comes and goes. The reading is fairly steady. However, I’ve found the photography took a back seat to other priorities such as our baby daughter and our wedding videography business.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

It’s funny to me how a physical print can have so much power compared to the same photo shown on a 5” phone screen. As I sat on the couch tonight, admiring a recent print enlargement, a realization occurred. I no longer find myself jealous towards those pursuing their photography dreams. I don’t have a “fear of missing out” when I look upon the fantastic works I see on Instagram and other places.

I asked myself, “Why?” Why am I not jealous? Why do I find myself not missing photographic opportunities as they arise?

It’s an excellent question, and I think the answer lies in the satisfaction and joy I’ve gained and found in other areas of my life. Photography held a place near and dear to my heart for almost two decades. A new child, however, fills up your heart almost entirely on their own, leaving little space for anything else in your life. You are forced to cull your priorities to the ones you hold dearest.

Not The End

Today, I find my joy of photography is filled by the joy of my daughter, personal photography, and my wedding videography business. I am comfortable with these changes in my life priorities because I’m coming to a realization that we live many lifetimes within our single life.

My early adult lifetime was filled with discovery, including the discovery of my love of photography. My 30s are now filled with the discovery of my love of my daughter and growing family. I know priorities change and I know life brings about many changes, however, this is not a good nor a bad change, but merely the evolution of my life.

I am looking forward to seeing where the next changes will come from, and what they will entail. Are you?


Growing Your Email List in 2018

Why growing your email list in 2018 is important, via Only Influencers:

Fast forward to today. Ignoring the need to add new email subscribers to your list is no more an option now than it was before. Your list is either growing or it’s shrinking. Shrinking is not a good strategy for any email marketer. Besides, email is not just for retention. New subscribers have a funny habit of becoming customers.

The above quote from Chris Marriott succinctly positions the email marketing industry in 2018. There are many rules, written and unwritten, that those in email marketing need to follow. The consequences of not following those rules, however, have never been greater than they are today. It’s those consequences that are the reasons why you should be growing your email list in 2018 the right way.

Consequences of buying your email list.

Seven years ago, I started a new position in corporate marketing at GreatAmerica Financial Services. I learned all about email marketing while on the job, and can safely say that I’ve learned how buying or renting an email list is bad news. As Chris Marriott explains in the aforementioned article, many marketers previously found ways to “justify” buying or renting email lists, mostly because the consequences were equivalent to a slap on the wrist.

Attendees at the numerous email marketing conferences began to follow their own version the of the Rules of Fight Club from the 1999 movie of Fight Club starring Brad Pitt and Ed Norton:

  1. The first rule: you do not talk about Email Subscriber Acquisition
  2. The second rule: you DO NOT talk about Email Subscriber Acquisition!

My experience match Mr. Marriott’s, and one not-so-proud-moment in my own personal marketing history follows. I acquired a list of several thousand email addresses via one of those infamous “business research companies.” When we sent out the email blast – remember that term?! – we were immediately inundated with an email bounce rate greater than 30%.

What was our punishment or consequence? Nothing. Not internally, not from our ESP, not from a blacklist, nothing.

Consequences of poor email list hygiene

Fast forward to this year. One email that we sent to a customer list had a bounce rate over 10%. While this certainly isn’t good – nor is it typical of our regular email sends – we quickly received notice from our ESP inquiring about the situation.

  • Was the list created through permission-based practices?
  • Was the list purchased or rented?

And so on. It was clear that our ESP was ensuring that we, their customer, would operate under the guise of permission-based marketing. No longer would the ESP tolerate even a 10% bounce rate, let alone the 30% bounce rate we saw a half-decade ago.

Advances in email list best practices

It took me the better half of a decade, but our company finally came around to what Marriott calls “The New Rules of Email Subscriber Acquisition.”

  1. Don’t jeopardize the inbox.
  2. Quality is in; quantity is out.
  3. Don’t rely on dumb luck.

And just as my personal experiences reflected the “not-best” practices of yesteryear, today my experiences closely mirror the New Rules.

We care about the subscriber.

We’re not blasting every message, to every list member, all the time. No. We ensure that those on our email lists are there because they want to be, because they signed up to be there.

We care about the message.

Is this what the subscriber signed up to read about? Is the email relevant to the recipient? We ask and answer those questions before each email is sent.

We care about the data.

Every number, every subscriber, every open, every click. All of these help tell a story. It’s important to me and my team members that we listen carefully to what story the data is telling.

Growing your email list in 2018 is not sexy.

It’s hard work, and the dividends are difficult to see in the short-term. The consequences of growing your email list the wrong way are too great for email marketers to ignore in 2018. Yes, it’s not sexy. Consumer trust – or a lack of consumer trust – dominates today’s marketplace, and doing the right thing, no matter how little, is worthwhile to keep or gain that trust.


Choosing a Purpose-Filled Career

Finding a purpose-filled career looked a lot easier before college.

My high school calculus teacher pushed me to be an actuary. My high school principal said engineering by way of the Naval Academy would be a keen choice. Another adult suggested radiology because of my interest in physics – and the unbiased fact she was also a radiologist. My early interests certainly leaned towards STEM-oriented fields, but I ended up in the most liberal arts major possible: Communications. How the heck do you find a purpose-filled career in Communications?

What a decade of the “real world” taught me about finding a purpose-filled career.

After graduating with a degree in Communications1, I can safely say that I am nearer to a purpose-filled career than at any point in my 11 post-graduation years. I’ve accomplished this by re-orienting my professional goals to more closely relate to those aforementioned STEM-oriented fields.

Sidebar: I will admit, this post is greatly inspired by two recent reads. The first, “How to Choose Your Purpose-Filled Career” by Leo Babauta, triggered the immediate thoughts of needing to write this post. The second read was an editorial in the Journal of Applied Marketing Analytics. And I promise, I will connect Zen Habits to the Journal of Applied Marketing Analytics before the end.

Zen Habits and “How to Choose Your Purpose-Filled Career”

Babauta begins his post noting three common ways people say to find a career:

  1. Think about what you like to do
  2. Think about what pays enough, that you can do, and that doesn’t sound so bad.
  3. You’re already doing it

Babuata says, however, there might be another way to choose:

Try to do something to help others or make the world better, that you might enjoy.

After listing examples of careers people commonly aim for (i.e. doctor, teacher), Babauta advises

The point isn’t how you serve the world, but just serving the world in some way will help you feel filled with purpose.

How I Lost Sight of the Purpose-Filled Career.

Early on in my professional career, I did find my career path aligning with a purpose-filled career. I was producing episodes of academic lectures to be aired on Iowa Public Television. My first professional job combined all the things I came to love in college: television and video production, working with teams, creating a quality product, and having access to world-renowned speakers.

My next job — Producer/Director at KSMQ Public Television — is when I began to drift away from a purpose-filled career. I found myself simply trying not to drown, to keep my head above the proverbial waters. While I loved the experience gained, I truly believe those 4-1/2 years as incredibly detrimental to my professional career.

I tried to focus on serving and giving back to the communities I served. Whether through community outreach, community-based programming, or attending community events, I tried to ensure my professional focus was one of service. Looking back, I realize how little I had in terms of professional support and mentorship, and this lack of mentorship contributes greatly to a lack of professional growth and a lack of a purpose-filled career.

Finding a Purpose-Filled Career Today with Marketing Analytics.

Remember at the beginning of this treatise I wrote about being encouraged to enter STEM-oriented fields? If there was ever a student looking for a STEM major in college, it was me. I looked at Big Ten universities with engineering programs. I looked for schools on the cutting-edge of science, computers, and engineering. Then a scholarship came from a liberal arts-focused university. The University of Northern Iowa had everything I wanted, save a world-renowned engineering program. One semester and one Mass Communications course later, I was a declared Communications major.

Was this change one of necessity? Of course. That change, however, has brought many good things in my life, including most importantly my wife, whom I met in my major.

That said, I find myself coming full-circle back towards the fields that inspired my college search over fifteen years ago.

What about the Journal of Applied Marketing Analytics?

Over the past few months, I’ve traveled deeper and deeper into the world of SEO, analytics, data management, and marketing automation. This road recently brought me to the Journal of Applied Marketing Analytics, whereupon reading the editorial in the latest edition I knew that I found my professional home for the next decade – or more.

Data management practices have not evolved as fast as data science and analytics. While the analytics field has attracted experts from various areas, including maths, physics, finance, marketing, computer science and business in general, the data management field has remained primarily dominated by information technology people, with strong technical backgrounds.

I fully understand marketing analytics isn’t the “bees-knees” for everyone. I’ve discovered an entire world of academics and marketing professionals like me. Two pages of editorial is all I needed to know I am on the right track for my career.

What does this mean moving forward?

I envision my professional focus on analytics and data management only increasing in scope and importance. I hope through my writing my professional goals will bring me closer to a purpose-filled career.


Dogs and Guns – A Gun Control Discussion

Why are dogs more important than kids?

I received this email yesterday, and while I saw the news articles about the new WOOFF Act going through Congress, I didn’t think about the connection to gun control as this individual did.

Why are dogs more important than kids?

We’ve improved automobile safety over the last century. We’ve improved safety of human flight over the last century. In fact, last year in 2017, there were no US fatalities from a commercial flight. While most politicians don’t think logically, one can easily make the leap from making flight safe for humans to making flight safe for our animal companions. Just as we’ve seen increased safety for human flight, we should expect to see continued efforts making flight safe for animals and lowered deaths.1

(source: ASN)

On the other hand, here’s the recent deaths by firearms in the United States.

(source: CDC)