Twitter Tuesday – The Week’s Tweets

Twitter Tuesday – The Week’s Tweets

Twitter Tuesday – The Week’s Tweets

Twitter Tuesday – This Week’s Tweets

Check Your Email

I’m not sure about you, but the user name for my email address is pretty run of the mill – a pseudo-advantage of claiming my “handle” early. Add to this the fact that my name is far from unique, and you can imagine that more frequently than not, some wayward emails will find their way into my inbox. And I’m not talking about Spam (which most reputable email services effectively control these days) but legitimate emails intended for a person who is not me, but shares the same surname, and initials of their first and middle names.

Over the past week, I have received several of these types of emails – one from a mail order wine company (I would have enjoyed receiving that package!), another from Office Depot and a third from Hewlett Packard – all for orders or actions taken by someone who has mistakenly used my email address to sign in to these online services. There is clearly a worrisome hacking component here – is my identity being compromised? Is someone charging things to my credit cards? However, it quickly occurs to me that what is happening is a case of mistaken emails – someone is inadvertently using my email address because for some reason they think it is their email address. We will put aside the fact that this person may not be the sharpest tool in the shed and did not pick up on the fact that no confirmation emails hit their Inbox or that they appear to have done this same mistake repeatedly across multiple accounts.

And it is not the only time this has happened – in the past, I’ve received emails about book clubs, school events, church events and other mildly entertaining topics. Whenever I receive these, my first and only thought is to connect with the person who shares my last name, to ask, beg, and implore them to update their email address in their account or with the friends. And I’ll get creative too – if there is a mobile number noted in the email, I’ll use my Google Voice phone number to text them and let them know I got their email by mistake. If it is clearly a personal email from an individual trying to reach the other person named “Clark”, I’ll respond with a quippy response and ask them to tell their friend to fix their email. All I want is to stop receiving email that is not mine. I don’t want to get any of this info – I don’t want to know about the bake sales, I don’t care about your orders from a Winery or Office Depot, and I dread the day I get an email with visuals that are, er, a little too revealing. :P

Of the emails I received this week, the one from Office Depot was the most concerning from a security and PII (Personally Identifiable Information) perspective. The email itself was highly informative, telling me all the items that this person had just ordered (which came to just under $500) but also revealing a lot of sensitive information that I could have used to socially engineer the account, including the intended recipient’s phone number, order number, customer number and a link to check the status of the order. Interesting, I thought. email
Curious, I clicked through the “Check Order Status” link, which brought me to a page asking for the order number and the phone number, both of which I had for this account via the wayward email. After providing this info, I was taken to a page that proudly displayed the same order detailed in the email, but this page also included the person’s mailing address!! So now, with little to no effort, I had the phone number AND mailing address of this person. Wait, it gets better. There was a link on this page to “Re-Order” the initial order that was so nicely detailed on the page. So I went ahead and clicked through this link and was presented with a page itemizing a “Re-Order” of this $500 shipment. I could not have gotten too much further as I would have needed to be fully logged in to place the order, but for someone with ill intent, that could easily have been achieved.initial_order

You see, also on this page was a link to “Chat With Office Depot” customer service. Clicking through there, I was prompted for the customer number and email address in order to initiate a conversation with the Office Depot CSR. And whatta ya know, I had this information. A few seconds later, I’m chatting with the Office Depot CSR and I told them what the situation was – that I received this email in error, that I WAS NOT the account owner, and that they should check with the account owner to make sure they update their account email address. But I easily could have posed as the account owner in order to do things such as acquire or change a password (since my email address was mistakenly attached to the account) or check other sensitive information related to the account. The OD CSR couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around the situation that I WASN’T the account owner but was trying to fix this situation. After a few more minutes with the OD CSR, they realized the situation and in turn escalated it, and informed me that they would reach out to the account owner to update their information. re-order

I did two things to reach out to the account owner – First, I texted the phone number via the Google Voice approach noted earlier (UPDATE: They finally responded via Google Voice Text saying they would update the info), and secondly, I printed out all of these emails and wrote a “snail mail” letter to this person (since I had their mailing address), telling them that they should really check their email credentials across all of their accounts to make sure that this sort of thing does not happen with anything more sensitive than an Office Depot account. So on the one hand, I feel good that I was able to get a hold of someone to inform them of this fairly significant error. Sure, I could have called the person directly but honestly, I didn’t want to do that…that is too freaky.

On the other hand, you have to be pretty worried that with a very simple error like an incorrect email address, I was able to find out so much information about this individual WITHOUT EVEN TRYING. Imagine what can happen when people who are intending to compromise your information try to get into your accounts! Take some time to really think through your approach to securing your accounts – no matter whether they are a bank, a credit card or an office supply store.

As a customer, the moral of the story is this:

  • Check all your information to make sure it is correct when you log into a site
  • Take the extra effort to use password services like LastPass or OnePassword to ensure you are using random, difficult passwords that are securely protected
  • If a site or online service offers Two Factor Authentication, take advantage of it! It’s a little bit of a pain to get initially set up but after that, it is fairly transparent to you and it provides an extra level of security that goes a long long way towards preventing breaches

As a online product manager or marketer, the moral of the story is:

  • Double and triple check the communication details of your customers to make sure their email address is correct.
  • Make sure that the information you are revealing within an email communication does not provide an opportunity to breach an account.
  • The email received from Office Depot should not have included anything more than the order number and a link to log in to get more details.
  • The page that offered the ability to track the order should have been behind the log in or it should have prompted for a piece of information (like the account password) that was only known by the account holder before exposing any sensitive information.

Keep Gettin’ Dem Checks

Over the past 3-6 years, the landscape of professional sports and how athletes are evaluated has gone through quite a transformation. The ability of teams and leagues to track performance and collect actionable data has transformed the landscape.

This, however, has not prevented team executives to dole out some outrageous and ill-conceived contracts. ESPN shared a list of the Top 20 Worst “Dead Money” contracts across the whole sports universe. And let’s not look past NCAA schools and school administrators, as they are very well represented in the list.

In total, $527.25 Million Dollars (that’s half a billion to you and me) down the drain across all sports because of some ill advised contracts.

Just a smattering of the lunacy:

  • Bobby Bonilla, a middle of the road outfielder who had a few solid years with the Pirates, is being paid $1.19MM a year by the NY Mets through 2035. That is more than many of those on their World Series roster including Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. The funniest part of this story is that the Mets/Wilpons thought paying Bonilla in deferred payments through 2035 was a better financial position because they thought they would make the money back from their investments with Bernie Madoff. Let’s Go Wilpons!
  • Not to be out done, the Mets then dropped a 6 Yr/$66MM contract on Jason Bay in 2009, another former Pittsburgh Pirate slugger (who also had a pit stop in Boston where he performed well for a year and change). He spent three years with the Mets and had a TOTAL of 26 HRs over that span and they then cut their losses in 2012 while still on the hook for $21MM. Let’s Go Wilpons!!
  • The Detroit Pistons flat out released Josh Smith in December 2014 while still owing him $36MM of a $54MM contract they signed him to in 2013.

I knew I should never have stopped playing baseball in high school.

Source: The 20 worst dead money deals in sports – ESPN

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer

The new Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer has been released in all it’s glory. T minus 56 days to go. I was able to watch it live when it was released at halftime of last night’s Giants disaster in Philadelphia. Watching it a few times afterwards on YouTube really helped put the nuggets of information into more perspective.

We were able to purchase tickets this morning, but not without some major troubles. The AMC Theaters website was crying bloody murder last night over the volume of traffic to the site. Supposedly, Fandango was not any better. It is not surprising as I doubt any tech company save Apple, Google, or Amazon could have handled what I would imagine was unprecedented levels of traffic trying to buy tickets.

Under two months until the re-boot of the Star Wars saga. I only hope that the movie can live up to the hype and expectations.

If you are interested in decorating your computer/device desktop with some Star Wars backgrounds, feel free to check out the Star Wars Desktop Wallpapers that I have created.

Batman’s Garage In Real Life

The Australian architecture/design firm Molecule took great inspiration from Batman’s garage in “The Dark Knight” trilogy of movies to create a similar underground car park for one of their clients. Their portfolio post about the project lists it as the Wayne Residence, which is just an irony of epic proportions.

Last year, the architectural design group finished up work on the Wayne Residence, an insane home fit for a superhero, and among its lavish features is a garage seemingly ripped from the screen. You can even drive your Tumbler in through a secretive entryway hidden beneath the tennis court.

That’s right, these folks open the garage door by pushing a button and having some hydraulics lift up their tennis court, at which time they drive down below grade to their Batcave Garage.

Fine, you win.

Molecule-Case-Study-House-For-a-Superhero-Ramp-01

Source: Cool Material

Pixar Animation Standard

In case anyone is questioning Pixar’s position as the undisputed leader in digital animation, they have gone ahead and released for free another digital animation application, this one called the Universal Scene Description tool. It is basically a method for pulling together different assets from different animation applications in a seamless manner.

What makes this interesting to me is that back in July during a trip to Boston, I went to see the amazing “The Science Behind Pixar” exhibit at Boston’s Museum of Science. It was a very hands on demonstration of how Pixar develops it’s amazing digital animation movies. What was exceedingly clear from the exhibit was the painstakingly detailed production process that Pixar applies to each and every one of it’s movies – from the tiniest short to the most epic long form movie. The rigor and attention to detail that was demonstrated in the exhibit was stunning – I can only imagine how it works within the overall Pixar operation – but what was more impressive was the way they made the exhibit so easy to understand and consume, whether you were 14 or 41 years old. They easily demonstrated all the steps that Pixar goes through to produce their movies – from Modeling, Creating Realistic Surfaces, Animation, Simulation, Lighting and Rendering the Imagery. To say that they have the animation production process down to a science is a gross understatement.

By releasing this as ‘open source’, they are doing their best to bring some standardization and rigor to the industry they work in, a subtle dig on the fact that there are so many apps, processes and standards that don’t fit into how they produce their products.

So many folks in the media and around the world talk about Steve Jobs’ influence on the technology industry from his time at Apple (which I am not at all questioning), but after seeing the Pixar exhibit at the Museum of Science, and watching the multitude of movies that Pixar has produced, you can’t help but wonder if what he created at Pixar has been more transformative in the movie and entertainment industry.

Source: Pixar is making another in-house animation tool free for anyone to use | The Verge

Folks Are Cutting The Cord

People are fed up and they are not going to take it anymore! At least, this appears to be holding true for their relationship with cable TV companies.

In the first half of 2015, year-over-year growth in MVPD subscribers — “multichannel video programming distributor,” or, in plain English, a cable company like Time Warner Cable or Comcast — went negative. Over the past five years, the percent of households with cable subscriptions has been falling. But with year-over-year subscribers still seeing growth, however modest, cable companies were still able to look past what some had seen as a coming cord-cutting apocalypse. It doesn’t get worse than this.

The consistency of the decline in cable subscriptions is pretty amazing if you look at this chart. And as the article illustrates, it is a trend that does not appear to be subsiding anytime soon. The ability for today’s customers to more effectively control how, when, and where they consume their media is nothing short of a tidal shift in customer behavior.

As a focus group of one, the only time I really watch TV programming ‘live’ is for sports or very unique programming events. All the TV shows, series, and ‘pre-produced’ content I watch derives from my DVR, Netflix, HBOGo, movies in my movie library, and other channels on my Apple TV set top box. More times that not, I’m watching those programs on my iPad. And what is even more telling: my children almost never watch TV on the TV – they watch their content via their iPads.

I’ve debated back and forth with some friends who have cut the cord, or are seriously considering cutting the cord, about how they are evaluating the ‘savings’ from making such a move. The thing is that the ‘kabletowns‘ of the world know that their ‘hammer’ is the broadband internet pipe feeding into your house. Folks like Comcast and Time Warner are now offering “Internet Plus” type packages for $60-90/mo that include high speed internet as the primary value with some local TV stations and HBO as add ons, a price point that is significantly lower than the $160-200 folks pay now for bundled services. Yet when you start to add on Netflix ($10/mo), Amazon Prime ($99/yr) and any other type of monthly media services that may be important to you, the total cost starts to creep up to the same price as what Comcast was originally charging for the full Cable/Internet/Phone packages. And I’m not even including your monthly Mobile Phone bill or the cost of devices.

At the end of the day, it really comes down to a lifestyle and personal preference decision. If you are a person who values the idea of surfing around different TV channels to ‘discover’ a program or movie you have not seen, then there is value in the ‘traditional’ cable package. If you are a person like me who doesn’t watch much ‘live’ TV and is just as comfortable finding a TV series via apps like Netflix and HBOGo, then the idea of moving away from subscribing to cable TV as we know it is not that big of a deal. For companies like Comcast, Time Warner, Cox Communications and media organizations like ESPN, these ‘cord cutting’ market shifts should be a big wake up call.

Chart Source: Cable TV subscribers plunging – Business Insider

Hello Deli Says Goodbye

Here is a really nice video from Rolling Stone profiling Hello Deli’s Ruppert Gee, the regular foil of David Letterman over the years that Dave has been at the Ed Sullivan Theater. Ruppert has been part of some epic bits and it is noted in the video that Ruppert has appeared on the Letterman show over 200 times.

Different Social Circles

The difference in income trajectory of the two most well known social networks is pretty stunning.  After a few rocky initial quarters as a public company, Facebook has taken off from a revenue perspective.  While on the other end, Twitter is digging a bigger hole for itself and is trending the wrong way.

During this year’s first quarter, which Twitter reported today, the company lost $162 million despite bringing in $436 million in revenue. Since its IPO in late 2013, it has lost a cumulative $1.25 billion over six quarters.

Source: Twitter has lost more than $1 billion since it went public – Quartz

A Hack To Keep Your Desktop Fresh

File this one under the “uber-geek” tag (You know you have that tag somewhere out there).

I’m one who likes to have a variety of different desktop backgrounds rotating on my Mac ‘desktop’ for no other reason than I like to keep things fresh on my computer. If you need any evidence of this, feel free to check out the library of Desktop Backgrounds I’ve created and posted here on my site. We all know that the ones provided by computer manufacturers are far from esthetically pleasing, save Apple. Add to this the fact that in today’s ultra-mobile, on-the-go lifestyle where we use multiple ‘client’ machines – work computer (maybe a PC), home computer (probably a Mac), laptop, etc. – it’s always nice to do a few things to make these machines feel like they are yours. However, trying to download or acquire desktop images for each computer could get time consuming and never know when you’ll see an awesome image that would look perfect as your desktop wallpaper/background. Having a single folder to just drop new images into and have it serve up to all of your computers would be a nice way to solve this. So for the past several years I’ve been using a simple little ‘hack’ that I concocted to solve for this need that only your inner Cliff Claven would claim to need.

To start, you’ll need two things:

  1. A Dropbox account
  2. A folder in said Dropbox account full of desktop backgrounds. Feel free to download a few from my site or head on over to Simple Desktops to find some really awesome minimalist ones (the kind that I like).

First thing you need to do is create a folder in the Dropbox account called “Desktop Backgrounds” (or whatever you want to call it). Then, fill it up with a variety of desktop background images to your liking. Once you have done this, you then need to install Dropbox on each of your computers to ensure that this same Dropbox folder with the desktop images is available on each computer. If you are already a Dropbox user, then this step may already be done.

Next, you need to enable your computers to pull the images from this folder and display them as your Desktop backgrounds. On all of your computers, go through the following exercise:

  1. On a Mac, go to Settings > Desktop & Screen Saver > Desktop (I forget what the equivalent is for Windows but I think it’s Display or Themes).
  2. Click the “+” button at the bottom left, navigate to the Dropbox folder “Desktop Backgrounds” you just created, and have this folder be the source of your Desktop backgrounds (see image below).
  3. Then, select “Change Picture”, pick a time interval, and if you so desire, select “Random Order”.
  4. Wash, rinse, repeat on all of your computers and you now have the same backgrounds rotating on all of your computers.

pref_desktop

The extra bonus is that with this set up, all you have to do is drop new images into this one Dropbox folder and the new image(s) will automagically get included in the rotation on all of your computers.

And that’s it. Now you’ll have a nice rotation of different backgrounds on your computer desktop to keep things fresh and different as you take on the day ahead of you.

Art of the Steal

After 25 years, authorities are no closer to solving the mystery of who stole $500 Mil worth of artwork from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and where said artwork is.

Back in 1990, on the evening of St. Patrick’s Day (I don’t think enough credit is given to the robbers for this brilliant tactical move. I mean, next to Christmas, is there a better time to stage a massive art heist in the heavily Irish Boston area than on the evening of St. Patty’s Day? I didn’t think so.) a couple of robbers posed as Police men and talked their way into the Gardner Museum, where they then duct taped the guards and stole a lot of very expensive artwork. The thing that has baffled authorities and art historians for years though, is that the robbers left far more valuable artwork in the museum:

They handcuffed [the guard] and another watchman in the basement, duct-taped their wrists and faces and, for 81 minutes, brazenly and clumsily cut two Rembrandts from their frames, smashed glass cases holding other works, and made off with a valuable yet oddball haul.

It included the Rembrandts, Vermeer’s “Concert,” Manet’s “Chez Tortoni,” Degas sketches, a bronze-plated eagle, and a Shang dynasty vase secured to a table by a bulky metal device that by itself probably took 10 minutes to pull apart. Left behind were prizes like a Titian, some Sargents, Raphaels and Whistlers, and, inches from the Degas works, a Pietà sketch by Michelangelo

Many theories and scenarios have been investigated, including one theory that James “Whitey” Bulger was behind the heist. However, as the years have gone by and potential suspects have died off, it could be many years before these lost masterpieces are ever found.