Interruptions are worse than a nuisance at the best of times, and a lost train of thought occasioned by a telephone call or whatever, may not only mean a lost idea, but can also impact on productivity. And that can begin to carry a financial cost, if it happens often enough. So, what to do? Eliminate interruptions? Good luck with that.
Scientists however think it may be possible, by way of electrical stimulation to the appropriate region of the brain, to counter the effects of interruptions, thereby leaving the brain where it left off, so to speak, and able to process whatever task it was working on, as if nothing had happened. And all, maybe, from the comfort of your open plan office cubicle.
So Blumberg and his colleagues recently decided to apply electrodes over one part of the brain that’s known to be active in shaping attention. And this area – it’s called the prefrontal cortex – plays a very important role in directing how we pay attention to different things. And the electric stimulation gave this area a little boost. The researchers then gave volunteers different tasks, interrupted them and then measured how quickly they could refocus their attention after the interruption.
While New Zealanders are in the process of deciding whether or not to change their national flag, and it’s good to see the Red Peak design is now included as an option, a proposal is afoot to create an alternative flag for the American South, an area of the south eastern United States that was once largely part of the Confederate States of America.
The task: Create a visual identity for the South that isn’t attached to the controversy surrounding the Confederate flag. The goal wasn’t a replacement for the Confederate flag; it was a new symbol that could appropriately represent the South as it stands today.
I can see the appeal of the tiny house movement, as someone who often moves around the place with little more than a day bag. Digital and online technologies, plus smartphones and laptops, have greatly reduced the amount of day to day stuff – documents, papers, CDs, DVDs, photos, books, notepads, stationery, etc – that many of us need to haul around.
So, if we don’t need as much space to store the physical stuff that we no longer possess, does it follow that we no longer need multi-level, multi-room homes, on the proverbial quarter-acre block of land? Jay Shafer, inventor of the tiny house movement, and founder of Four Lights Tiny House Company, a manufacturer of small, off the shelf residences, certainly thinks so.
After all, when it comes to a home, surely all we need are the essentials? Is space to swing a cat really required? Take note then, Shafer’s tiny houses are compact to say the least. The smallest model offers floor space of about thirty square metres, while the larger options go up to almost ninety squares. Needless to say, that’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.
Other sacrifices may also be necessary. Not all of these micro homes have fully integrated wastewater systems, and insurance can also be a grey area. Possibly though, the cost of these tiniest of homes may have an influence, with prices for Shafer’s offerings ranging from one hundred and fifty dollars to about five hundred dollars (US). That couldn’t be called onerous.
Despite their affordability, and apparent popularity though, they have their critics, and Melbourne based writer and broadcaster Clem Bastow is among them. She cites the cramped conditions, lack of storage space, and the difficulty in entertaining guests, as significant drawbacks. There’s no doubt that tiny houses aren’t for everyone, especially people with families.
I wouldn’t go writing them off completely however. If nothing else, they could play an important role in combating homelessness, while also being of value to anyone looking for short term accommodation. But for those concerned about exorbitant property prices, who also seek to embrace minimalism, downsizing, and simple living, here, I think, is a place to call home.
The topic of interest rates, particularly those set by central banks, isn’t far from the headlines at the moment. Will the US Federal Reserve increase rates? Will the Reserve Bank of Australia cut rates? And so on. Whatever the case though, interest rates across much of the world are very low, or near zero in some places, and may be for some time.
But low, or near zero, interest rates have not always been the case. A couple of decades ago, short term rates were in the order of sixteen percent. I can’t even begin to imagine to having money in a savings account earning that sort of a return. And as for paying off a mortgage at levels like that… yes, well, let’s not go there, shall we?
Yet there have been plenty of instances in the more distant past, when interest rates were at similar, or even higher levels. Venice in the early fifteenth century. Italy in the twelfth century. The Roman Empire at the beginning of the fourth century. And then, wait for it, forty percent at the time of the Persian conquest in 539 BC. Now that would be something to talk about…
Online publishers and writers, independent content producers, and bloggers, are no doubt wondering what the future holds, following the recent move by Apple offering greater support for ad-blocking applications, with the roll out of its latest operating system, iOS 9. The main goal is reducing data usage on mobile devices, that Apple reasons is better utilised elsewhere.
It’s something that plenty of people will be in favour of, after all, who hasn’t had enough of websites that more resemble billboards, so choke full of advertising, they are. And as someone who values their reasonable, though modest, mobile data allocation, the little extra bang for the my dollar, that the absence of ads might occasion, will be more than welcome.
But what’s an independent content producer, such as myself, to do when a fair proportion of their incomes derives, in some way, from the revenues generated by online advertising? Depending on the sort of following, or readership, your website has, and focus of the content you write, then there are a number of options to explore and give consideration to.
Context, and content, are key
As an independent operator especially, context is key when it comes to the inclusion of advertising on your website. While certain technologies may help filter out ads, as US author and entrepreneur Seth Godin points out, people have been blocking ads forever, by ignoring them. In other words, only advertising that is directly relevant to a reader stands to be noticed.
Sponsored posts, or advertorial type content, are articles typically written in partnership with an advertiser, on a topic that is related to the outlook of the website it is published on. Indeed the go-to option for many an online publisher. The goal here though is not to merely spruik a product or service, but provide a reader with something of value.
Although articles or posts of this nature can potentially blend in seamlessly with the rest of the content on your website – depending on how well written they are – to the point they may not be recognised as “advertorial”, in the interests of disclosure, and maintaining your integrity with readers, this sort of content should always be declared as sponsored content.
Our sponsor today, this week, or month, is…
Obviously not an option for everyone, as a rather large readership is required to attract would-be advertisers on a regular basis, but there is revenue to be made from having someone sponsor your website’s RSS feed for a given period of time, as the aforementioned Daring Fireball does, along with publishers such as Tina Roth Eisenberg and Stephen Hackett.
Subvert the system
Did I catch your attention there? And that constitutes nine-tenths of good advertising, does it not? Of course I’m not talking about countering the will of the world’s biggest tech companies, but rather self crafting banner style advertising that is directly pertinent to your website. In other words, a private, direct, advertising arrangement between you and someone else.
If ad-blocking apps are targeting a certain type of code that is associated with cost per click, or pay per click type advertising, then relatively simple banner ads, that do little more than link directly to an advertiser, may still be an option. Of course you’d forego much of the analytics data that is otherwise collected by way of this code, but it’s possible that may not be an issue.
Sell your services and expertise
When you start writing regularly on a certain topic you become more than a writer, you become an expert, an authority, even an influencer. You may find you eventually generate more revenue as a result of your reputation and knowledge, rather than through website advertising. It’s not only an exciting prospect, but also one that’s far from vulnerable to ad-blocking.