Most of us will probably end the year still carrying those 10 pounds we resolved to shed just a week ago. But not all of our resolutions are destined to fail, especially if we keep the focus on things that are easier to change than our weight.
So let's collectively banish buzzwords, protect our privacy and take a few other steps to make our increasingly commingled work/life a little easier to deal with — and a little more fun. Whether you're a CDO or a CEO, a marketer or a manufacturer, here are several universally appealing technologies to help you reach your objectives.
Cut and Erase
Let's manage our expectations, expedite the deliverables, do the math, grab the low hanging fruit and created a value added opportunity. Actually, let's not. We've told you before how much we like to banish those ridiculous, annoying and overused buzzwords. But now we're sharing a tool that actually helps you do it.
You can't imagine how happy I was to learn about an automated PR jargon removal tool in an email from Hamish Thompson, managing director of the London-based public relations agency Twelve Thirty Eight. The appropriately named Buzzsaw "strips jargon out of press releases." All you have to do is cut and paste a press release (or any other speeches, strategy documents, advertising copy or other collections of words) into the box on the page and press the "buzz it" button.
"The Buzzsaw does the rest." And it works, effectively flagging troublesome phrases like "innovative solutions," "strategic relationships" and, my personal favorite, the "iconic sweet romance of floral."
Thompson said he originally developed the Buzzsaw for internal use. But he made it publicly available based on a rise in complaints from journalists about buzzwords, jargon and other cloying terms.
In an interview with CMSWire, Thompson noted that the tool has been used to purge jargon from more than 25,000 documents. "We're delighted with the reaction," he said.
Given that it's domiciled in the UK, the Buzzsaw does have a few quirks for those of us who speak English (OK, American English) — flagging phrases like "does what it says on the tin" and recognizing "high calibre" but not "high caliber" as problematic.
But it's close enough to be useful, especially with respect to hipster-style phrases like “totes amazeballs,” “awesome” and “super excited." Sure it will miss some words, but you have the option to add words to the database — just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And Thompson predicts it will become ever more universal this year. "We've been building up our database of horrific buzzwords based on submissions from UK-based journalists for about a year," he explained. "We thought the time was right to introduce the Buzzsaw properly to a US audience."
Cheers to that. Every buzzword destroyed is a victory for those of us who prefer clear to cute.
Not So Hidden Information
Sharing everything has gone from a sign of poor breeding to the politically correct thing to do. But is it the right thing? Or even the most practical thing? So maybe this is the year to slow down, count to 10 and think before expressing a point of view. And while we're at it, let's cover up, too.
We're giving too much data away.
Take those pretty pictures you post so freely for business and pleasure. Almost every image contains more metadata than most amateur photographers ever dreamed. To clarify, metadata is "data about data," and it refers to the descriptive information embedded inside an image or other type of file. It's the stuff you've been hearing about in connection with the spying by the US National Security Agency.
All digital cameras (including smartphones) embed Exchangeable Image File Format (Exif) technical metadata about the creation of an image. Exif data includes the camera make and model, the date and time the image was created, shutter speed, and the lens used. In addition, most mobile phones and digital cameras have built-in GPS receivers that can record precise information about where a picture was taken.
Embedding and preserving that photo metadata can prevent and solve many issues confronting photographers, from resolving copyright issues to tracking image use. But metadata can also be used to snoop, pry, define, categorize your activities and pop holes in otherwise effective marketing campaigns.
Do you really want some disgruntled customer to inspect the images in your latest digital brochure — and discover that you are being less than honest about the location of that sunny beach you're trying to entice them to visit? Do you even want your clients to know the exact location where you are vacationing right now with your family?
News organizations have been warning about the risks of location information or geotags stored in digital images for several years. Do you understand what you are sharing when you upload a photo to a popular social network like Facebook or Instagram?
So don't just inspect those images for unintended glimpses of body parts, ala Elaine who is humiliated when she accidentally shows a bit too much on her Christmas card in that episode of Seinfeld called "The Pick." Check the metadata. How? Use any one of several free online Exif viewers like this one. Just upload the image and see what information the image contains, before you make it public.
Careful, Not Paranoid
When I first heard about the Scottevest Blackout Pocket — a Faraday cage you can carry in your pocket — I shook my head at how paranoid some people have become. But just a few days later, when word of the massive data breach at Target surfaced, I changed my mind.
Between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, 2013, more than 40 million Target customers may have had their personal credit and debit card information compromised. Target officials confirmed PIN codes were stolen, but maintain the information was encrypted and will be useless to the thieves, according to NBC News.
Just this month, hackers compromised about 4.6 million Snapchat accounts — and posted the phone numbers of affected users to a downloadable database on a website called snapchatdb.info.
Sigh. We may not be able to prevent becoming a victim of a massive hack, but you may be able to protect your phone, your credit and debit cards, and your privacy.
So back to those blackout pockets, which come in three strengths and range from $15 to $80.
Like Faraday cages, they are basically metallic enclosures that prevent the entry or escape of an electromagnetic (EM) field. The two strongest pouches, lined with RFID-blocking material, allegedly make your mobile device invisible. According to the manufacturer, they prevent your phone’s cellular and GPS antennas from interacting with the outside world.
The weakest and least expensive pouch reportedly keep the RFID chips found in many bankcards, key cards and RFID-equipped passports from being read wirelessly. A prudent safeguard, perhaps, for anyone who frequents crowded locations, like a New York City subway station.
In a perfect world, we'd all be able to reach our resolutions to become slim, svelte and oh-so-attractive. But that's unrealistic — and, besides, skinny is overrated. I'll settle for fewer buzzwords and more privacy, and the corresponding benefit of greater peace-of-mind.
Title image by Login (Shutterstock)