And your export plans?

I’ve been around on the web long enough to know it isn’t just about the way in, it’s how good the options are for moving on when your needs change — or the service does.

Not that I don’t love Medium, but services that encourage import without having robust, full export are traps.

Medium Update
Next Level
Custom Domains


[This was a comment on a post from Medium, on Medium. Their post has since disappeared. – January 21, 2019 ]

Buh-bye, Facebook.

Last June I quit using Facebook both personally and professionally. I'd been feeling pretty queasy about their creepy terms of service switcheroos already, but pile on real name policy problems and ever-increasing revenue-generation interference with having your posts actually seen by your followers and I was pretty dubious already. But it seemed necessary. "You've got a brand! How can you not be on Facebook?!" So I held my nose and stuck with it, at least for my Discardia and Art of the Shim social media presence.

The turning point came when news broke that the Facebook app was going to start quietly recording background sound while you worked on a post. WTF?! Ostensibly to identify music or TV and include it in the post, but really? Facebook, do you think we don't know you're not going to sell that marketing info and let the NSA listen in? How dumb do you think we are? 

That was it. I posted an announcement with a link to a video explaining why everyone should be leaving Facebook and I deleted the apps from my devices. No more social media posts via Facebook.

You know what? It did absolutely no damage to my brand. It didn't affect my sales. It didn't reduce my reader interaction as an author/publisher. 

Turns out, Facebook needs us waaaaay more than we need Facebook. And we don't need it at all.

 

Over the past year I've been duplicating all the content from my Facebook accounts onto my own sites and today I finally made time to copy over the last of it. Time to permanently delete my account. Ahhhhh, how nice!

For posterity, and an illustration of just how much a professional account contains attempts from Facebook to get you to spend money to reach your own followers, here are screenshots of the page as it now appears. Amusingly, because the last thing I posted was the 'Delete Facebook' video, all the automatically mocked-up ads they want me to buy use that graphic.

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Facebook's constant clawing for additional personal information is very visible in my old personal account:

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The kids are not fiscally all right — and here’s a few more thoughts on why

[A post I put up on Medium archived here in October 2015]

 

Ana Swanson’s Washington Post Wonk Blog piece, “The growing wealth gap that nobody is talking about: Young people have always been poor, but today’s young people are poorer than most”, ends in puzzlement. A few potential sources for the comparative poverty of Gen-X and Millennials in the United States are offered, but the concluding paragraphs seem out of place with the confident, data-driven statements cited before them.

Why should the lack of wealth among Gen-X and Millennials be such a surprise given their (or I could say ‘our’, in the case of Gen-X) role as the generations who were most encouraged to run up and continuously carry substantial credit card debt? (See, for example, trends charted here.)

These generations also walk away from college graduation with substantially more student loan debt (“Soaring College Tuitions.” The New York Times, Dec. 4, 2008, corrected chart 1; see also Friday’s piece “We’re Making Life Too Hard for Millennials” with its chart captioned ‘Tuition Races Upward, Debt Mounts’).

Beyond credit debt, though, our extending lifespans in the U.S. have to be important too. Based on my initial exploration of changing life expectancy (as described by the Social Security Administration in these sources 23) it appears that as you move forward from 1900 there is a later and later age of potential inheritance of wealth from older relations. (That potential is not evenly distributed, as, for example, an examination of African-American experiences* in home ownership and debt over the past century painfully reveals. When there is no family wealth accumulated, there is even less opportunity for any upward climb.)

The sources cited above support that, showing the increasing percentage of those who reached age 21 who then reached age 65. If you get old enough to likely become a parent, you also have an increasing likelihood of reaching retirement age. Those who are able to collect wealth are holding it longer.

Thus, to give specific examples based on the charts in these sources, someone born in 1895 (the parents of the Greatest Generation), who reached age 21 only had 60–71% odds of living until 1960. That 65 year old would then, on average, be unlikely to live past 1975. They would therefore be releasing their wealth into the next generation when their kids are 55–60 years old (assuming they had had their kids when around age 20–25). Put another way, 29–40% of the Greatest Generation would likely have inherited their parents’ remaining wealth by age 60.

Our boomer, born in 1955 (the parent of our Gen Xer), who reached age 21 has 79–88% odds of living until 2020, and then on average of not living past 2035–2040, releasing their wealth into the next generation when, if they had their kids generally around age 20–25, their kids are 55–65 years old. Put that another way and only 12–21% of Gen Xers will likely have inherited their parents’ wealth before age 55–65.

The parent of our Millennial, let’s say, is born in 1975, and having reached 21 has 82–90% odds of living until 2040, and then on average of not living past around 2060, when, if they had their kids generally around age 20–25, their kids are 65–70 years old. Thus, only 10–18% of Millennials will likely have inherited their parents’ wealth before age 65–70.

Over just nearly a century we’ve gone from a generation where 1 in 3 inherited by retirement age, to a generation where fewer than 1 in 5, perhaps as low as 1 in 10, will inherit by or soon after retirement age.

There is a cascading effect of extended lifespan which may be more important than inheritance, given that many will not inherit a meaningful amount of money even in the best scenario for their age and generation.

Increasingly, not only would a given generation not yet have inherited at their own retirement age, their parents are more likely to use up more of that potential inheritance supporting themselves living on well after retirement, or even to require financial assistance from them, further reducing potential wealth passed on to the children of that given generation.

There may be an offsetting influence of later parenthood (e.g., children more often had at 25–30 or even 30–35 years old) but I suspect that, at least until very recently, lifespan has been extending faster than parenthood has been trending later. The CDC data I found in a cursory search, (45), suggests that only within the last 10 years are we seeing average age of the mother pushing up to the 25–30 year old age range. That trend may be picking up speed, but so far I don’t have the impression it has overtaken the influence of extending lifespans in terms of average age of child at time of death of last surviving parent.

While past generations were motivated to build their wealth in order to create a better future for their children, now those parents are more likely to still be around enjoying that future, with the children needing to shift for themselves far longer. It becomes somewhat less clear what the younger generations’ motives would be to take on years of debt and hard work to build wealth for anyone but themselves. With less reliable relationships between debt and long-term wealth — as college degrees no longer are as sure a path to high income and as the mortgage crisis demonstrated the vulnerability of investing in a home — recent generations are finding it hard to determine their best method of avoiding destitution in old age.

Freedom to define your own path is a touchstone of Generation X, but that freedom is also for many simply a hard fact: there is, starting with that generation, decreasingly going to be a transfer of the prior generation’s progress.

Approaching that future, clear-eyed, amidst financial crisis and Great Recession, little wonder that Gen-X and Millennials aren’t looking particularly lucky. And little wonder that they’re exploring other ways of defining the good life.

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*Jinx McCombs sent me this comment by email: “For generations, African-Americans have been labeled as inherently inferior because they are plagued with poverty generation after generation. But when formal and informal cultural patterns minimize income and block the accumulation of wealth, and this continues generation after generation, only a few extraordinary individuals will be able to break through, and even they will remain at a disadvantage compared to those who inherit. Edward Baptist’s book ‘The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism’ makes this point clearly. It may be that a large group of Americans besides African-Americans are beginning to find themselves in that same trap of no-wealth-accumulation.”
 

Beware the UPS Store (or Mailboxes Etc or similar) mailbox

NOTE: THE BLOG POST BELOW IS FROM 2014. THE INFO IT CONTAINS MAY NO LONGER BE CURRENT. CHECK THE POLICIES OF WHATEVER MAILBOX (OR OTHER) SERVICE YOU’RE SIGNING UP FOR TO SEE HOW LEAVING THAT SERVICE WORKS. DON’T TRUST COMPANIES THAT MAKE IT NEEDLESSLY HARD FOR YOU TO FIND THE RIGHT FIT FOR YOUR NEEDS.
–Dinah, January 30, 2019

Warning: If you sign up for a mailbox at a non-USPS location, you will not ever be able to file a change of address for it with the postal service.

Also, it’s probably a franchise, meaning UPS (with their potentially-consumer-benefiting concerns about maintaining their brand) has no control over pricing, meaning the store might decide to double the fee for that mailbox at some point and leave you with a tough choice.

CRMAs are required to offer mail forwarding services for six months, but they can (and do) charge for them. So far as I am aware UPS Stores do not offer forwarding for a closed box for longer than that six month minimum.

Yes, it’s nice to have a non-home-address to use for business or other purposes, but be aware that there are serious flexibility issues with signing up for CRMA (Commercial Mail Receiving Agency) services.

Update July 25, 2014: Just spent 51 minutes on the phone with USPS. The person I spoke with said her supervisor told her that you can put in a change of address from a CRMA address to a street address or USPS P.O. box. I’m going to try that and hope it works.

My particular UPS Store, while not bending on their pricing which is now 4x the cost a USPS box, did say that it is their policy to hold mail from terminated boxes for a little while and to turn it over to the former box owner if they check in, after which they return it to the postal service. It is unclear what would happen to that mail then. It’s already been delivered, but maybe a change of address could kick in.

But no. After trying to submit the change of address, I got this on the USPS website:

“Mail addressed to an addressee at commercial mail receiving agency (CMRA) is not forwarded through the USPS. The CMRA customer may make special arrangements for the CMRA operator to re-mail the mail with payment of new postage. A CMRA must accept and re-mail mail to former customers for at least 6 months after termination of the agency relationship. After the 6-month period, the CMRA may refuse mail addressed to a former customer. The Application for Delivery of Mail through Agent (PS Form 1583) requires an addressee and agent to comply with all applicable postal rules and regulations relative to delivery of mail through an agent. For more information on mail forwarding regulations, contact your local Postmaster.”

I have not been offered any mail forwarding service from the UPS Store and it sounds as though they would immediately put in a termination notice with USPS for accepting my mail. Not sure what that means would happen to any of my mail, but seems as if it would be destroyed or returned to sender.

How to Avoid Setting Yourself Up for Ebook Disappointment

Some lessons drawn from the how-not-to-do-it example in Tony Horwitz's New York Times op-ed, "I Was a Digital Best Seller!"

  • If you've had a negative digital publishing experience, talk to a wider range of those who've published in digital format before concluding that your experience represents "a cautionary farce about the new media and technology we’re so often told is the bright shining future for writers and readers." It's possible that the farce wasn't entirely about the platform, but also your use of it.
  • Ensure when you're contracting with a publisher that the expenses they've said they'll cover are covered as you go and that you are contractually well-protected should they not publish the piece as originally planned.
  • Also budget your own expenses and degree of risk and, with those and what you've agreed on with the publisher, stay within the boundaries.
  • Use potential future income as motivation to complete the contracted work, but by no means assume that that compensation will actually come to you. This holds true also for dreams of glorious enhancement of your reputation. Bear in mind, also, as expected sales figures get tossed about that the typical non-fiction physical book sells less than 3000 copies. Be excited about potential upsides, but be realistic—and don't count on them.
  • Once again, ensure your contracts exist and that contingencies are in place which will incentivize the publisher to honor their deal with you and, ideally, publish and pay, or at least pay an exit amount and revert rights to the work to you.
  • If you aren't great at the contractual/financial sides of the business, make sure to involve professionals who are on your side, and preferably with whom you have a long history of working together. They, like you, should be taking the long view of building your success and security. They, like you, should not assume that a single project will guarantee that success or security.
  • Get realistic estimates of potential sales and income not only from the digital publisher who wants you to do work for them, but from others with experience in that industry and with that publisher. Get an understanding of how volitile sales indicators (such as Amazon Kindle best sellers) are and what kind of total sales they represent. It's important to know what kind of sales spike can shoot you to the top of a list and how those spikes relate to aggregate sales of the work over time. Do not assume any understanding you may have of physical book sales indications will translate to these new areas.
  • Do not assume your publisher—digital or traditional—will put in the effort to bring readers and buyers to your work. Get a clear picture of what they will be doing to attract readers to your piece specifically. Above and beyond their planned effort (which like the potential returns must be taken with a grain of salt), you need to prepare to promote the work yourself.
  • Before you take on a project, research and understand the audience(s) for it. What do they like? What formats will they pay for? How much will they pay? Use this as a reality check for the proposed compensation and expenses for the project.
  • Before you take on a project, get a basic plan outlined of how you will reach those audiences. How do they learn about new works of interest to them? Whose recommendations do they trust? What communities do they participate in, and are you excited about participating in those communities too as you promote the work?
  • If your past experience is with traditional publishing only, talk to a variety of authors who've had both success and failure with digital publishing. You should pay particular attention to their experiences with promotion, both what they did and what their publishers did, as well as to what worked and what did not.
  • Thanks to frequently poor online browsing setups for ebooks—yes, iTunes Store, I am looking at you especially—random discovery of your work will be one of the least common ways for a reader to find it. People aren't generally poking around the shelves the way they do in physical bookstores. It's word of mouth and reviews on which you need to focus.
  • Plan to prime the pump for those reviews by building enthusiasm for the piece through your own professional social network. (You have been building a Twitter following around your past work, yes? And you don't have that all muddled up with your personal tweeting, right? Ditto for your professional blog or regular community participation in your areas of expertise.) Thank your readers and encourage them (without being pushy) to review the work or spread the word about it.
  • Work with the publisher to ensure that review copies will be sent out as quickly as possible, including—if you'll be releasing a physical version of the work as well as ebook—a giveaway through Goodreads.
  • Do not assume that enthusiastic readers, the kind who'll recommend your work repeatedly, will be fooled by fake glowing reviews written by publicists or pals of the author. Build enthusiasm in those whose opinions would be trusted and whom you can expect to engage with the work in detail, writing a review that is clearly by someone who cares about the topic.
  • Ensure that you have a contracted and reliable way to get copies of the work for yourself to use in direct sales (for example, at speaking engagements) and as another means to get review copies in the right hands.
  • Once again, make sure that your rights to the work are very clearly spelled out in your contract and that there is a clear path for any rights the publisher has to revert to you under conditions of them ceasing to publish the work.
  • Bottom line: Know the kind of writing you want to do, the hats you're willing to wear in the course of getting it in the hands of readers, and the realistic market for compensation for that writing with different kinds of publishers and (important and different!) through self-publishing.

    Writing is a tough job to make pay; don't enter into the profession with just a dream and crossed fingers.

media I’ve enjoyed recently

Advertising and Selling

Morgan Spurlock: The greatest TED Talk ever sold (TEDtalks)

Full Price Beats Penny Saved for Selling Some Items (60-second Science)

Candidates Affect Viewer Reactions to Ads in Debates (60-second Science)

Creativity

Michael Pawlyn: Using nature's genius in architecture (TEDtalks)

Jacqueline Novogratz: Inspiring a life of immersion (TEDtalks)

100,000-Year-Old Art Studio Discovered (60-second Science)

Education

Bill Gates: How state budgets are breaking US schools (TEDtalks)

Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies (TEDtalks)

Science Grad Students Who Teach Write Better Proposals (60-second Science)

Doodles and Drawings Help Cement Concepts (60-second Science)

Food and Drink

Student Researchers Find Secret Tea Ingredients (60-second Science)

Molars Say Cooking Is Almost 2 Million Years Old (60-second Science)

High-Pressure Food Treatment Can Kill Microbes And Up Nutrients (60-second Science)

Health and Growth

Charity Tilleman-Dick: Singing after a double lung transplant (TEDtalks)

Molly Stevens: A new way to grow bone (TEDtalks)

Gamekeeper's Thumb Condition Outlives the Occupation (60-second Science)

Test Tells Viral and Bacterial Infections Apart (60-second Science)

Poultry Farms That Stop Antibiotics See Resistance Fall (60-second Science)

Endurance Exercise Has Stem Cells Make Bone Over Fat (60-second Science)

Carbon Nanotubes Impale Compulsive Cells (60-second Science)

Online Gamers Help Solve Protein Structure (60-second Science)

Health Data Could Spot Genocide Risk (60-second Science)

City Cyclists Suck In Soot (60-second Science)

Rapid PCR Could Bring Quick Diagnoses (60-second Science)

Pathogen Genomics Has Become Dirt Cheap (60-second Science)

Kid Scientists Show Medicines Can Be Mistaken For Candy (60-second Science)

Fever Increases Numbers of Immune Cells (60-second Science)

Nature and Sexuality

Christopher Ryan: Are we designed to be sexual omnivores? (TEDtalks)

Mole's Extra Finger Is Wrist Bone-us (60-second Science)

Full Moon May Signal Rise in Lion Attacks (60-second Science)

Send Ants to College (60-second Science)

Sea Lampreys Flee Death Smells (60-second Science)

Toxoplasma Infected Rats Love Their Enemies (60-second Science)

Modern Rivers Shaped By Trees (60-second Science)

Upright and Hairless Make Better Long-Distance Hunters (60-second Science)

Electrolyte Balancers Set Stage for Multicellularity (60-second Science)

Flesh-Tearing Piranhas Communicate with Sound (60-second Science)

Politics and Philosophy

Jody Williams: A realistic vision for world peace (TEDtalks)

Martin Jacques: Understanding the rise of China (TEDtalks)

El Nino Ups Conflict Odds (TEDtalks)

David Puttnam: What happens when the media's priority is profit? (TEDtalks)

Steven Pinker: Violence Is Lower Than Ever (60-second Science)

Technology and Physics

Johanna Blakley: Social media and the end of gender (TEDtalks)

Leyla Acaroglu: Paper beats plastic? How to rethink environmental folklore (TEDtalks)

Dan Berkenstock: The world is one big dataset. Now, how to photograph it… (TEDtalks)

Medieval Armor: Was It Worth the Weight? (60-second Science)

Traffic Cameras Save Millions in Canceled Crashes (60-second Science)

Juno Mission Gets Goes for Launch (60-second Science)

Channeled Chips Can Spot Substances (60-second Science)

Smartphone System Saves Gas (60-second Science)

Sound Sends Electron to Specific Location (60-second Science)

Moon Not Made of Cheese, Physicist Explains (60-second Science)