All throughout high school, I developed a really deep appreciation for Japanese culture, and I decided to start slowly teaching myself Japanese. I made fast progress, and I was really proud of myself. I dreamt of visiting the island one day, but it never felt like a real possibility.

On the way to start my first year of college late last August, my dad and I stopped in Williamsport, Pennsylvania and we wandered into a bookshop where I took this snapshot. I wanted to buy this travel guide so badly. I wanted to be optimistic about my chances to one day visit Japan, but I really had no hope at all that dream would come true.

A little over a week ago, almost exactly a year after taking that photo, I was offered the opportunity to live and work in Tokyo next summer. I’ll be living in my own apartment, enjoying the culture, and just basically living out my wildest dream. I honestly don’t think I’ve felt so overjoyed and full of excitement in my whole life.

So if I can offer any advice, it’s this: life is insane. Sometimes it can be so confusing and messy and heartbreaking, but sometimes it’s exactly like this. Sometimes it’s linear, sometimes it makes sense and you just have to believe that your actions can put something beautiful into motion. I got this news at my time of vulnerability and total lack of faith in God, and the offer was completely out of the blue. You truly never know what the world has in store for you, but if you have a little faith I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Texas TEDx

Originally Published 3.4.2014 on http://kellifrias.net

Previously, we visited five great reasons why TEDx should be brought together with higher learning. At last, those individual reasons were seen in practice last month, when TEDx finally came to Texas Tech on 8 February. As the first TEDx event organized by the school, the conference was met with a warmth and enthusiasm from students and faculty alike. TED’s motto is “ideas worth sharing”, and their commitment to this philosophy of shared knowledge is what made the TEDx event at Texas Tech possible. TED Talks are already wildly popular, but TEDx is an initiative that allows for independently organized events under the larger TED umbrella (the ‘x’ signifies an independently organized event).

The event was restricted to limited attendance, but the great thing about TEDx is that it allowed for a live webcast in order to get these ideas to a vastly broader audience. And even better, the TEDx Talks from the Texas Tech conference have been compiled into a playlist to be found on Youtube. The ideas worth sharing came from a diverse pool of speakers: undergraduate students, graduate students, Ph.D. candidates, researchers, professors, humanitarians, and entrepreneurs alike.

Over 15 individuals presented their ideas at the TEDx conference: Read more about them here: http://ift.tt/1mDY0pG




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anonymous said:

1] Edwin, I don't work for Modest and have no insider knowledge on 1D but I do work in PR and the naivety of many fans never ceases to amaze me. To those who doubt the closet exists, who doubt that stories would be planted in the media, who doubt that two people might be "linked" for PR purposes and/or to hide the sexuality of one or both, who doubt that secrets would be hidden from fans - what do you think we DO? It's all about the image, darling.

2] I doubt my firm is unusual in how we handle our clients. Believe me, we spend a lot of time analysing social media and web forums. We spend a lot of time handling our clients little - and not so little! - indiscretions. I have personally offered a juicy story on one client to a tame journo in return for them not publishing something on another client. We take the public image of our clients very seriously because that’s what we’re paid to do!

~~~+~~~

I don’t work in PR, I work in government and I am involved in our trade Union, but we do the same thing to one degree or another. The actual truth is nowhere near as important as the public perception of the truth. And sometimes you need to knock someone under the bus; it’s just business. Christ, I’ve driven the bus more than once. 

As the latest marketable, targetable demographic, they’re easy to stereotype. But that doesn’t mean they should be.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably consumed more than your fair share of media reports, research, and write-ups aimed at deciphering the millennial mindset.

As marketers and advertisers, we may once again be guilty of overanalyzing the heck out of any and all available data points, the goal being to put everything into neat buckets for our paying clients and prospects.

In our industry, so many thoughtful insights have been published that it’s reasonable to think we’re dangerously close to, once and for all, cracking the code on this elusive species, right? Maybe not.

Recently, ad agency Pinta commissioned a research team of graduate business school students—all millennials—from Florida International University to do some cultural detective work, scour through third-party research on the popular segment, and conduct some of their own proprietary research.

Here’s what they found>

How Google Hummingbird Changed the Future of Search

This image has nothing to do with Google Hummingbird. Still, hummingbirds are pretty cool.

In September of last year, when Google Hummingbird was officially announced, Matt Cutts said that it would affect 90% of all searches, albeit in a subtle way. Considering that Google handles more than 3.5 billion searches every day, this means Google Hummingbird affects more than 3.15 billion of them.

Not exactly an inconsequential update.

The Hummingbird update was the most ambitious adjustment of Google’s search algorithm since 2001. In today’s post, we’re going to look at what Google Hummingbird is, what it means for SEO, and what the future of Google’s quest to become the “Star Trek” computer could hold.

What is Google Hummingbird?

Although it’s technically accurate to call Google Hummingbird an algorithm update, this is kind of a misnomer. This is because Hummingbird was essentially an entirely revamped version of Google’s search algorithm, not just a patch or minor update.

Google Hummingbird and Semantic Search

At the heart of the Hummingbird lies the all-important concept of semantics, or meaning. Even the fanciest computers are still pretty stupid. This is because although it’s easy for humans to distinguish between two different yet similar concepts (by virtue of context), computers can’t do this unless they’re explicitly told. Stupid computers.

Semantic search is the concept of improving search results by focusing on user intent and how the subject of a search relates to other information in a wider sense, or its contextual relevance. Essentially, semantic search focuses on determining what a user really means, rather than a string of keywords, and then serving relevant results.

For example, if a user performs a search for the term “weather”, it’s much more likely that they are looking for a forecast for their area, not an explanation of the science or history of meteorology.

So, in this example:

  • “Weather” is the subject of the search
  • The desire for a local forecast is the user’s intent
  • The difference between a weather forecast and an explanation of meteorological concepts is the context

Of course, Google’s algorithm cannot be absolutely sure of what I want, so just to be safe, it provides me with a range of results. Google serves up a local forecast (even though this search was performed in an Incognito window, it still tracks my location), a link to the Weather Channel, a Wikipedia page for the term “weather” and some other information. Still, the prominence of the local forecast data in the Knowledge Graph speaks volumes about Google’s confidence in its results.

The Semantic Web

So, if semantic search is the quest to provide relevant results based on user intent and context, then the semantic web must be all sites doing something like this, right? Wrong. Although similar in name, semantic search and the semantic web are vastly different.

The semantic web is a largely unrealized vision of an internet based on common standards. Imagine if every website featured structured data such as schema, and that new technologies were developed to read, retrieve and publish data based on common data models. The result, a semantic web, would be an internet in which machines could perform much of the heavy lifting associated with search by truly understanding and responding to user queries, rather than the comparatively fractured web we have right now.

Although the scope of the semantic web is way beyond the scope of this post, Sir Tim-Berners Lee’s article in Scientific American is a fascinating read if you’re interested.

Google Hummingbird and the Knowledge Graph

When researching this post, I wanted to know how many Google searches are performed every day. Prior to the rollout of Google Hummingbird, I would have been presented with a SERP containing links to numerous pages, through which I could have probably learned the answer.

Google realized that this was a slow and often irritating process, even for users who were presented with relevant results. Google Hummingbird makes search quicker, easier and more intuitive.

See how the answer to my question is bolded, rather than the “keywords” in my query? That’s because Hummingbird assumes (correctly) that all I want is an answer, pure and simple. I don’t need a link to a blog with the top 1,000 Google facts nobody knows, or even an official Google page boasting about its daily search volume – I just want the answer.

The same principle applies when I want to know exactly what 90% of 3.5 billion is. I don’t want to be taken to a calculator website or app. I just want the answer right now, damn it.

This is what makes the Knowledge Graph so powerful. It’s also what pissed so many webmasters off when the Knowledge Graph was first introduced, since it meant that users no longer had to click through to even a top-ranked site, as Google “helpfully” provided the answer to the user without forcing them to leave the SERP.

Google Hummingbird and SEO

Optimizing pages and sites for Google Hummingbird is really simple. Like, so simple that even a stupid computer could do it. Okay, maybe not that simple, but it really is pretty straightforward. All you have to do is create great content that your audience wants and finds useful, and enriches their overall experience. Easy, right?

You should probably be doing most of the following anyway, but if you’re not, now’s an excellent time to get started and it’ll make your site Hummingbird-friendly. Just like hanging a feeder full of sugar water out on your back porch. See what I did there?

Anyway, let’s look at some best practices for Hummingbird SEO.

Diversify the Length of Your Content

We know that long-form content can work exceptionally well as part of a wider content strategy, but if every single post you publish is a 3,000-word monster, you may not be meeting all of your readers’ needs. For this reason (and to get something done other than write mammoth blog posts), mix up the length of your content. Intersperse shorter articles among longer ones, and don’t be too pedantic when it comes to word count – remember, there’s no “perfect” post length, only the length an article needs to be.

Produce Visual Content

In-depth long-form articles are an excellent way to explore complex topics and a range of ideas in a single post, but sometimes, people don’t want to read the marketing equivalent of Ulysses. In fact, sometimes they don’t want to read an article, of any length, at all. This is when visual content shines.

Infographics, videos and even simple visual elements such as charts and graphs can add some much-needed spice to your content. In addition, they’re often easily skimmable, can illustrate highly complex ideas effectively and bring some color to your site.

Use Topic-Appropriate Language

Something that some sites fail to take advantage of is using industry-appropriate language in their content. This is sometimes done out of a fear of alienating potential readers who may not be familiar with a certain topic or area. However, writing content that includes appropriate terminology can demonstrate to Google that your site is authoritative and valuable.

Implement schema microdata

Remember when Google said that schema isn’t a ranking signal? Well, although this still appears to be the party line, implementing schema markup or another microdata format can only be a good thing, especially with Google Hummingbird’s heightened focus on semantics.

As we discussed in a previous post about schema markup, implementing it can be kind of a pain, but it could be worthwhile in the long run. In addition to making your site friendlier to the search engines’ crawlers, it could also help you secure better rich snippets in the SERPs.

The Future of Google Hummingbird

So, what does the future hold for Google Hummingbird and semantic search? Yes, this is where we peer into the murky waters of The Future™ and make some bold predictions that we can refer back to in a year or two and say, “See? We told you so.”

Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence

Many experts speculate that developments in the field of natural language processing – the process by which machines can effectively parse and interpret human speech – will become a driving force in the advancement of semantic search. You only have to look at how accurate Google Now has become since its introduction to see that natural language processing is going to remain a major part of Google’s plans for search.

All signs point to not only further R&D in natural language processing, but to pairing this technology with increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence systems. This was evidenced recently by Nokia’s acquisition of Desti and Medio Systems. Desti, a technology that combines natural language processing and artificial intelligence, was developed by SRI International, the company behind Apple’s Siri and Nuance, one of the world’s leading voice recognition systems. Medio Systems is a predictive analytics company that specializes in processing data to effectively anticipate what information people will want to provide increasingly timely data.

Google isn’t wasting any time, either. The company’s acquisition of navigational software product Waze for $1.1 billion, and its subsequent integration into Google Now reveal that real-time, location-based search results are a high priority for Google. The hiring of renowned futurist and technologist Ray Kurzweil in 2012 was also a strong indication of Google’s plans for the future of its engineering efforts.

Simply put, if Google and other semantic search engines are going to serve our needs, they need to understand what we’re saying, the context in which we want our information, and where/when we want it.

Consumer Adoption of Voice Recognition Technology

Google made an ambitious (and some would say risky) bet with its Glass wearable computing product. A favored argument of Google Glass detractors is that people don’t want to walk around talking to their eyewear for fear of looking stupid. While this may be true for the time being, remember how people were reluctant to speak on their cell phones in public not so long ago? That didn’t last, and neither will the apprehension about wearable tech.

As the price point of wearable technology falls, adoption will rise. This, in turn, will further drive the development of technologies that combine voice recognition with minimally intrusive devices that enrich the world around us and make our lives easier. I predict that within the next five years, wearable technology and semantic search will become increasingly commonplace, with consumer adoption (and eventually, demand) leading the way.

Going Beyond Semantic Search with the ‘Internet of Things’

So, if semantic search can help us find exactly what we need with minimal effort, what’s the next logical step? For the world around us to respond intuitively to our needs, of course. This is what the so-called “internet of things” is all about.

Let’s say you want to schedule a trip to Amsterdam. Using voice commands, you instruct your virtual assistant – say, Google Now – to make the arrangements while you go about your day. Google’s AI performs millions of computations to calculate the best fare, suitable dates based on your (cloud-based) calendar, pays for your flight and hotel bookings automatically, and sends you a notification that everything has been taken care of – but it doesn’t stop there. Google’s virtual assistant then communicates with the technology in your home to ensure that their thermostat in your house is set correctly for a period of prolonged absence, as well as your fridge to temporarily pause automated alerts notifying you that food is about to spoil and inform you of which items should be disposed of before you leave. The system also regulates when lights are switched on to maintain the illusion that you’re home, when it fact you’re enjoying a leisurely gondola ride down the Prinsengracht canal.

Welcome to the future.

People search to find information. The next frontier in search, quite simply, is to empower people to act upon this information in a seamless way, wherever and whenever they are.

Know What I Mean?

Most internet users have become thoroughly used to the new and improved search made possible by Google Hummingbird. As impressive as the applications of semantic search and voice recognition technology are, most people won’t even notice developments in these fields – they’ll simply expect Google to keep improving and making their lives easier. If Google’s track record is any indication, this is exactly what we can expect.

Weekly Political Report: Race “Does” Matter in America (Ferguson Edition)

Photo (above) credit: Flickr User Joe Topichak 

On Aug, 9th 2014, America and the world witnessed yet again the death of another unarmed African American teenager by the hands of a law enforcer. Michael Brown, a 18 year old, was fatally shot by 28 year old police officer Darren Wilson, and has started an uproar in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. Now in its 11th day, there has been no sign of peaceful resolution, to either curb the violence between Ferguson citizens and police officials or reduce the armory and weapons of the police force (military tanks, tear gas, etc.)

While its still unclear of what really happened between the teenager and the police officer, Americans are stilled faced with this divisive status quo:

An unarmed black male shot (multiple times) by an armed white police officer–no sugar coating.

Rather than talk about the evidence of this case or the witnesses’ accounts of what actually happened, I will instead talk about why “Race ‘Does’ Matter in America” from a political stand point and what must be done in Ferguson, Missouri (and across America) to prevent this from happening again–using concrete facts and examples.

Why Does Race Matter in America?

From a political standpoint, we are a nation of immigrants and “Race” implicitly drives the day in America–whether it be socioeconomic status, jobs, voting rights, immigration, foreign policy, the justice system, etc.. We come from different walks of life in different shapes, sizes, faiths, and shades of color. And what Americans (and citizens around the world) need to have is “perspective”–recognize that each race has a history of discrimination and not be so quick to “brush it off”.

This incident of Michael Brown is a tragedy and comes from a long history racial discrimination which young black men and women in America have been wrongfully targeted by law enforcement or the justice system for no reason except for the color of their skin–dating back to the Civil Rights and Segregation era. And it is because of the unwillingness of people (like the law enforcement) to not recognize this history, that we see “Race and Police Brutality” again and again in the post-Civil Rights era (like Rodney King) and today’s culture (like Trayvon Martin & Eric Garner). The history is there, and will repeat itself until it is recognized. Brown University and other sources have published this report:

  • St. Louis. situated just below of Ferguson (where the shooting took place) is the 9th most segregated metro area in America, as of 2010. (Brown University)
  • In a town that’s over 60% black, Ferguson has: a police chief and a mayor that is white, only one city council that is black, one school board member is black, and just 3 out of 53 police officers are black. (US Census; City of Ferguson; Ferguson)
  • In 2013, Ferguson police officials have arrested 483 black people while 36 white people were arrested–and when Ferguson police officers arrest and search black people for contraband, only 1 in 5 are caught with them verses white people in Ferguson which is much higher, 1 in 3 (Missouri Attorney General)

These are the facts (no sugar coating) and you cannot deny them. Few Americans, who will see this, won’t view it as a big issue (versus what is going on now in Ferguson, Missouri). But, politically speaking, if you have a body of government that is disproportionate to the size and views of one minority population (a minority which can be categorized by gender, race, or creed) in one particular region, it’s a big issue!Political unrest is bound to happen, example being today. This is a political issue as much as it is a racial one. However, the core reason why I think “Race ‘Does’ Matter in America” (which goes back to having “perspective”) is the current crises in Iraq.

In July 2014, I did a radio talk at UR Business Network on the rising terrorist threat ISIS and the collapse of the new Iraqi government. And what I said in that talk, as to the reason “why the new Iraqi government collapsed in the face of ISIS?”, is that the Shia government (the current Iraqi Government) marginalized their minority tribes (in Iraq:) the Sunnis and Kurds–especially the Sunnis with heavy armor military presence and force. This in return led to the growing opposition of the Shia government and the rise of the terrorist group known as ISIS, who are Sunnis themselves!

The political disaster in Iraq is happening in the same fashion as Ferguson, Missouri. You can call the Mike Brown shooting “a freak accident” or “self-defense” all you want, but given the concrete facts from credible sources and the political perspective, that “having a disproportionate government–overwhelm a minority population–is bad”, the Michael Brown shooting incident cannot be brushed aside nor can “Race” in America.

Not to say that terrorism will arise in Ferguson, Missouri, but the elements of political terror and unrest will continue unless a solid conversation on “Race” happens today in Ferguson and a body of government that will represent all minorities–which is similar to what America is doing in Iraq today.

What must be done in Ferguson, Missouri (and across America) to prevent this from happening again?

First, bring Darren Wilson to trial and let the system work under Eric Holder’s watch. Two, Ferguson citizens and the police force must establish a truce of non-violence (during and after the Michael Brown trial) and start having a serious dialogue on racial disparity in their city–re-evaluate the current city government (and law enforcement) and find ways to discourage racial profiling and encourage racial diversity that will reflect the minority population of Ferguson, then, Three, have Perspective!

The sooner Americans, and citizens across the globe, have this “perspective” (or “perspective” in general) the better. The city government of Ferguson, Missouri, by all means, must not reflect the same intrusive acts done by the current “collapsed” government in Iraq–it cannot oppress or overwhelm any minority population by military tanks or force.

We are Americans and we treat Americans as our own–Michael Brown is an American! Like it or not!

Mistakes have been made in the Michael Brown incident, but Ferguson and the State of Missouri can still resolve this matter by reducing the huge racial disparity in the workforce and have a government (and police force) that is reflective of the African-American community.

The ultimate goal, in my opinion, is to set up a training course, for law enforcement and Americans, on “Racial Harassment” (like “Sexual Harassment”) that will teach people the existence of racial discrimination in America and learn how to conduct themselves in a professional manner to prevent acts of racial prejudice–and I call on President Obama to enact this legislation.

For more people and politics go to www.urbusinessnetwork.com

Here is a source where I pulled my facts from: Ferguson is 60% Black. Virtually All its Cops are Black (Mother Jones)

DISCLAIMER: THIS IS MY OWN POLITICAL OPINION. FOR QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS PLEASE DIRECT THEM TO MY CONTACT PAGE

FYI: This will be my last Weekly Political Report for Fall 2014. For more of my political editorials go and click on “Weekly Political Report” located on the right hand side of this page below my profile pic. You can also go to Archives which is located above, next to Home Page, read more of political editorials

If you like this editorial, please send it to friends and family, so we can stop the violence in Ferguson, Missouri

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