About Learning

Johannes Stockburger writing about  learningForgetting learning was the one huge mistake I did a few years ago. I was just content with the system that was working for me. I was building a travel agency using Google Adwords, and it worked fine for me. I got new customers, albeit for a price. But through repeat purchases the expenses were coming back.
Next came the meltdown of the financs system 2008. I added money to increase the exposire, but the return was shrinking. This bankrupted me almost, before I just stopped advertisements and worked only with the customers I already had. I improved the service and concentrated on the customers who appreciated my work. Business was growing nicely, and with it profitability. But then in 2012, the crisis of the Euro zone flared up, shrinking the activity of my best customers. Now, I had foreseen this and prepared to add another income stream from publishing. Here I could reach the whole world, depending less on the Euro Zone and its problems.

In Two Years Back to the Newbie-Level

But when I returned in 2011 to build a business using the internet as main communication media, I found that not a single one of my old methods and techniques from the time prior to 2008 was still working. I found myself reduced to the position of a newbie. And worse, it tokk me some time to realize this. There were so many new things:

  • Government regulations have changed. Today it is in Germany courts even raise questions about the double-opt-in routine. Some judges classify the first email sent after a user requested to join a mailing list through a web formas SPAM. There have also been big changes around the use of testimonials and endorsements.
  • Email deliverability and click-through-rates are dramatically down.
  • The way search engines evaluate and rank websites has changed dramatically.
  • Social media like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are now hugely important.
  • Video is in everybody’s reach and absolutely necessary, if you want to build an audience.
  • Publishing ebooks and even printed books is now in reach for everybody.

These are huge changes, and all happened just in a few years. This dynamic is full of opportunities. But if you ignore learning and fall into the trap of doing things the way you always did, this fast flow of change is deadly.

How to Embed Learning into the Daily Work Routine

The only way to survive and thrive is to stay on top of the game and adapt constantly. The question is: how to do this without getting paralyzed and overwhelmed?

Here are some of the answers:

  • Stay connected to the top people in each field, listen to their discussions and whatch what they are doing.
  • Select people with a strong desire to learn to share your working day.
  • Join a mastermind group. Share your observations and brainstorm for solutions.
  • Observe your customer’s feedback closely. Do not rely only on words, watch their behavior.
  • Automate mechanical tasks and processes to avoid being eaten up by daily chores. This allows you to keep learning.
  • Consider outsourcing tasks which can be done better and cheaper by specialists.
  • Develop several income streams. This allows you to react flexibly on sudden changes.
  • Do not allow stress ruling your work experience.

This list is by no means exhaustive. There are many more possible ways to integrate learning into your day. But I think, the key is to create a working environment fostering an open mind, curiosity and happiness.

The End of Privacy?

I reprint this article with Paul Myer’s permission. It comes from his newsletter Talkbiz.

His newsletter is one of the rare email pieces I miss when I do not get it.

But just read this issue by yourself:

“The Portable Voyeur”

In the last issue, I put out the idea of looking at your online networks and niches as “virtual neighborhoods.” Nothing especially new in that concept, except that almost no-one in the marketing field talks about them that way. That discussion is mostly left to forum operators and social networking geeks.

In this issue, I want to talk about something closer to home. Literally IN your home. People spying on you using your own electronics.

Let’s start with the least intrusive, and work up to stuff you may not believe is happening. The last few are downright creepy.


There’s a thing called “IP geolocation,” which uses a database of IPs (numbers locating your computer on the network) and physical areas to show where a computer is located. There are a bunch of these, and the accuracy can be anything from very close to wildly off the mark. The good ones can narrow it down to a few blocks, in most cases. Sometimes to a specific building.

You can see this most often when you notice an ad on a site that’s used by people all over the world, but mentions your city by name. “[YourCity] mom discovers…” or “Man in [Hometown] loses 47 pounds using…”  That’s IP geolocation in its mildest form.

Twitter has offered the option for a while to attach your IP address to a tweet, basically trying to tell people where you are. You have to opt into that, though. It’s turned off by default.

Facebook’s new “Places” settings options enable a more advanced function by default. The idea is to make it easy for your friends to know where you are. Unfortunately, it also makes it easy for people you might not want to share your location with to find you. Or know when you’re not home…

It’s easy to disable this option, if you know it’s there and what it’s called. John Williams sent me a link to the instructions. You can read those here:


Why would this matter? Well, maybe you don’t want your friends to know where you are every minute that you’re online. Or maybe you don’t want
world+dog knowing when you’re not home. Or maybe you don’t want your employer knowing you’re logging onto Facebook from work. Or from the park when you called in sick.

Just how much info should be distributed about you automatically?

But wait… There’s more!


There are applications on some portable devices and phones that can transmit the data from a GPS system to other sites. This can be used to pinpoint your exact address, and your location to within a few feet.

That’s how the “Places” function on Facebook works. And, with the default settings, your Facebook “friends” can “check you in” if they’re with you. Handy, if you’re careful about who your “friends” are, and who you allow to share the info. Given the default settings, though, it’s an announcement to the world every time you log in from a mobile device.

That can get into the realm of the dangerous. With it set to “Friends of friends” able to view the info, you could be broadcasting your location to burglars, stalkers, ex-employees, your employer, or even just that annoying person
you’d rather not see right now.

Given recent comments from CEOs Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook – “Privacy is dead”) and Eric Schmidt (Google – “If you have something that you don´t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place”), there is every reason to believe these services will be used as aggressively
as possible.

Both companies have said the comments were taken out of context. That could be easily believed of Zuckerberg’s remark. Schmidt’s is a bit less dismissable. None of that matters, though, when you look at the way their firms actually treat their users’ private data. Facebook set this option to “On” by default. Google initially opted every Gmail user into their social networking platform, Buzz, and created significant and foreseeable problems for some users.

I’m pretty sure I don’t want those sorts of decisions made for me without my knowledge or consent. How about you?

And it gets (potentially) much, much worse.


Apple has applied for a patent that has some deeply disturbing implications: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/08/24-0

The summary: They want a patent on software that, in mobile devices, would let them listen to your conversations and/or take pictures of you or your surroundings, without any way for you to know it’s happening. Just remotely activate those functions, at their own discretion.

It would also let them monitor biometric data and all of your online activities while using their devices. Ostensibly, this would be developed for purposes of preventing theft, or catching thieves. It’s even been suggested to me that Apple may want the patent to keep the idea from being used by others.

I don’t buy it. But that doesn’t really matter.

First, it’s nearly certain that, if this technology is deployed and not made illegal for use by private citizens, it will be abused. The theft-prevention rationale was offered, for example, by the Lower Merion school district, in their program giving laptops to every high-school student. “Only to enable recovery in event of theft,” they said. That didn’t stop people at the school from using it to spy on students in their homes.Yeah. Really.

One kid was disciplined for “improper behavior” that occurred at home, in his bedroom. The Vice-Principal used a photo taken using the webcam in the laptop as his evidence. According to a forensic analysis commissioned by the district, the school took 66,503 screenshots and photos using these systems. The school admits these include pictures of the kids in their bedrooms.

If teachers will do that, what would a corporation do?


So, if you have one of these portable devices, where do you use it? In what situations do you simply carry a cell phone, iPad or other portable computing device? Do you want people able to spy on you in all those places, at any time, without warning?

It’s been suggested to me that there is prior art that might cause the USPTO to reject such a patent application, or be used later to invalidate it if granted. That raises other challenges. Specifically, anyone at all could include it in
their systems.

Google has a cell phone OS. Just how much do you want them to add to their collection of data on you?

Then there’s the “social networking” phone, which is designed specifically for use with Facebook and Twitter. Do you want your kids to have one of those broadcasting their location to the world at every moment the phone is on?

This isn’t science fiction, folks. We’re not getting into foil fedora territory here. This stuff is real.


And then there are the outright criminals. There is already malware code in the wild that lets remote operators turn on the webcam on infected computers. That’s not a big deal if you use a desktop machine and don’t keep one connected, or disconnect it when you don’t intend to use it.

But what about the laptops and netbooks, and even some monitors, that are sold with a camera and microphone installed in the machine itself? The last two portables that I got have them. Where do you, or your kids or employees, use laptops?

This isn’t especially difficult stuff to do. And the market isn’t restricted to criminals. For instance, on the first related search I did, I found someone asking how to remotely activate the webcam on his wife’s laptop without her knowing.

Some of these devices come with GPS systems installed. Anyone who can access those will know exactly where you are, what you’re doing or discussing, and with whom.

Anyone want to market sound-proof phone carriers, with built-in Faraday cages? A month ago, I would have considered that a ridiculous idea. Now, I’m thinking it’s a niche.


Electronic security isn’t just about data protection any more, folks. It’s gotten very personal, and it’s about to get more so.

You can take steps to reduce your exposure to this kind of invasion of privacy. First, make sure you have proper security software on all your computers. That’s good policy anyway, so that’s not too extreme.

With the social networking sites, it’s a matter of watching your preferences. Also just common sense. And easy. Don’t leave external webcams attached when they’re not in use, if you have any objection to what you do in the same room with them being seen by someone else. Using a USB hub makes
disconnecting them easy, and it’s a reasonable precaution, with the amount of trojans running loose online.

With laptops and netbooks, just be aware that this stuff is possible, and take whatever precautions you may feel are appropriate. That might be nothing at all, for many of you. It could mean turning the thing off when it’s not in active use.
Or putting tape over the camera lens. Or, if you have the need or desire to be especially cautious, having a physical switch installed to prevent remote activation of the camera or microphone.

I can’t begin to guess what level of security will work for you. Some people won’t consider it an issue at all, and they may well be right. For them. For others, these are real concerns. It’s getting very easy to install this kind of
monitoring code, and there are too many people with incentives to do it. Employers, co-workers, competition, family members, and various less savory types. Brings new meaning to the word “spyware,” yes?

Make sure your kids are aware of the potential issues, too.


I’m told that law enforcement agencies have had the ability to turn on cell phones remotely as listening devices for a while now, with a proper warrant. I consider that a very different thing than random strangers being able to access these kinds of info at will.

As of this moment, I am not aware of this being a problem for cell phones and similar portable devices. Just keep this in mind, and pay attention for it.

Whether Apple gets that patent or not, it’s coming.


If it’s installed or used by any corporation, I have a suggestion that seems appropriate: The top officers and all members of the board(s) of directors should be required to carry one of the devices with them at all times, with the audio and video enabled 24/7, and streaming to the web for the whole
world to view.

Hey, if we don’t get to decide what we can keep private, why should they?


The idea here isn’t to scare you, or create some sort of conspiracy buzz. If that was the goal, I’d point you to an even more extreme, and equally current, example of invasive observation: http://talkbiz.com/r/iris.php

As you can see, this stuff is real. The technology exists right now, and most of it is already in use. It may not pose much of a threat to many of us, but it’s something to be aware of and to watch out for.

Knowing it’s possible is 90% of the battle.

Be careful out there.



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In Customer’s Shoes

Test with Adwords, Then Make Money with Twitter? Wrong!
I used to think: Write a sales page, drive Google Adwords traffic, test it. With a decent conversion rate, start to drive serious traffic from social media, banner ads, etc. This is, what happened:

  • Signup rate from people coming from my blog: 15%
  • Signup rate from people coming from Google Adwords: 5%
  • Signup rate from people coming from Twitter: 0%

I got lots of traffic from Twitter, and people seemed to be interested. But no conversion! Adwords remained at 5%. From my blog the traffic numbers went naturally down. I cannot write posts promoting the same offer day by day.

Putting Myself into Twitterers’ Shoes
I was scratching my head for several weeks, hoping to get at least one or two conversions from Twitter. After a while it seemed that even the click rates from Twitter went down. Naturally, because my followers knew the offer, as my blog readers did. Anyway, I was careful enough not to damage that Twitter account, it is still growing.
So, what does that mean? Is Twitter traffic useless? I do not think so, and I know that other people get conversions, signups etc. from Twitter.
I drew two conclusions: The page must be reasonable for people coming from search engines, and for people coming from my mailing list and blog, but not for Twitterers.
Thinking about the reason, I came up with the following conclusion: The signup page was, as thousands, driven by flash videos. But further investigation let me to conclude, that a Twitter link is rarely leading to a video.

Mobile Users Have Different Priorities
A little further brain wrenching reminded me, that even the emails with video links I get, do not work, as long as I open them on my mobile device, because the handset does not show flash.
In fact I use the email on my Palm to skim through the emails, to see if there is something I need to respond quickly. But all these video emails are left to my desktop, and I check them, if and when I have time and desire to do so.
Twitter is strongly geared towards mobile users. They may have difficulty to watch a flash video. And a Twitter user has often a very short span of attention. He may just to get a glimpse about what’s going on in his arena, between leaving the plane and picking the luggage. And unlike emails, tweets go away. They are not saved for later inspection.

Landing Page Must Correspondent to Traffic Source
This consideration seems to explain why my video page did not work with Twitter. And, while investigating, my brain reminded me that I should copy the ones, who get already results. Many of them seem to promote their blogs on Twitter, and then using their blogs to promote their money making stuff.

What do you think? Did you observe the same phenomena? How did you solve the problem? Please share your insight and leave a comment.