Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Are Your Facebook Referrals On The Rise?

There has been a lot of discussion about Facebook killing the organic reach of posts that Pages make, essentially forcing businesses to pay to actually get their messages viewed in the News Feed. Many have considered dropping their Facebook strategy altogether, and one Page made a lot of headlines when it actually did. Despite this organic reach drop-off, Facebook appears to be driving more traffic to sites than ever.

Facebook has always been about sharing, and that’s really what needs to happen now for sites to see traffic from the social network. Chances are you’re not going to get very much if you’re just pushing your own content out on your Facebook Page. The traffic is going to come from people finding your content, and then sharing it with their friends.

Shareaholic has released its Q1 2014 Social Media Traffic Report. The data comes from over 300,000 sites reaching over 400 million unique monthly visitors from December through March.
Facebook referrals have grown by 5.81 percentage points since December with 21.25% of the overall traffic sent to sites, according to the report.

This continues a trend that has been happening for a while. Late last year, Shareaholic looked at Facebook’s share of overall visits from November 2012 to November 2013:

“While brands enjoy hating on Facebook for limiting the reach of Pages and then forcing businesses to pay for ads, Facebook still continues to refer loads of traffic to websites when users share links they enjoy with all of their friends,” says Shareaholic’s Danny Wong. “Though, last month, Eat24 caused a ruckus because it initiated a 'breakup' with Facebook, brands will never be bold enough to actually prevent users from 'liking' or 'sharing' things from their sites to Facebook. Eat24′s popular breakup letter received more than 26k Facebook likes and shares. While most brands may have lost faith in their Fan Pages, they know the world's largest social network will still bless them with tons of organic traffic.”

“Facebook users love to — or can't help but — click links on their feed,” he says.
The data appears to validate Facebook’s own strategy. People are clicking on the links they’re actually seeing more and more. That’s of little consolation to businesses who have a hard time getting there in the first place, but it does appear to be the case.

In case you’re wondering what kinds of sites the data is analyzing, Wong says the network is “well diversified, with sites ranging from independent lifestyle blogs to publishing companies to commerce sites.”

Pinterest came in second in referrals behind Facebook, growing by 48% (2.31 percentage points since December. Twitter is number three, but StumbleUpon is gaining on it, growing by 4.91% (0.13 percentage points) during the quarter.

Interestingly, YouTube’s share dropped by over half (52%) over the quarter, though according to another report from Shareaholic, it dominates when it comes to post-click engagement on sites. In that report, Facebook didn’t do so hot, so make of that what you will. How much are these Facebook referrals really helping sites?

For average pages per visit, Facebook was below Twitter and LinkedIn, and well below Google+ and YouTube. It still beat out Pinterest, reddit, and StumbleUpon. Average bounce rate was identical to Twitter and Pinterest, and higher than LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube. Reddit was the highest, closely followed by StumbleUpon. For average time on site, Facebook was slightly higher than Twitter, but not as high as LinkedIn, and not even close to as high as Google+ or YouTube.

Forrester VP, Principal Analyst Nate Elliott recently wrote, "On average, top brands have collected 90% as many fans on Plus as on Twitter (In fact, the brands we studied have more followers on Google Plus than on YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram combined.)," he writes. "Second, and more importantly, Google Plus generates much more brand engagement than you think. Recently we studied more than 3 million user interactions with more than 2,500 brand posts on seven social networks. The result? Brands' Google Plus posts generated nearly as much engagement per follower as their Facebook posts — and almost twice as much engagement per follower as their Twitter posts."

Saturday, April 19, 2014

18 Rules of Living By The Dalai Lama


At the turn of this century, the Dalai Lama issued the following eighteen rules for living.


1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

2. When you lose, don't lose the lesson

3. Follow the three Rs: 1. Respect for self 2. Respect for others 3. Responsibility for all your actions.

4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.

. Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

7. When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

8. Spend some time alone every day.

9. Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values.

10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

11. Live a good, honourable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll be able to enjoy it a 

      second time.

12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.

13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don't bring up the past.

14. Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality.

15. Be gentle with the earth.

16. Once a year, go someplace you've never been before.

17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need 

      for each other.

18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Using Our Own Minds

The Ultimate Authority

Input from experts is valuable but our own sense of the truth is ultimately the most important.

To a certain degree, we rely on other people’s accounts of reality to inform us of the nature of the universe. For example, we can’t all be molecular physicists, but we can benefit from taking their findings to heart. In the same way, we often look to teachers, various leaders, and gurus to tell us about the path to enlightenment and the nature of the realm of spirit. While this input from experts is undeniably valuable, our own sense of the truth is ultimately the most important piece in processing the information we take in from external sources. In the end, we are the authorities in our own lives, and we have the final say on whether something generally held as true is true for us. 

We need only take a brief look at history to remember that the religious, scientific, and political establishments that ruled the day were all wrong about something at some point in time. This is the beauty of learning, experiencing, and evolving. While we sometimes wish we could just let someone else decide for us what is real and true, this is clearly not a viable option. The good news in all this is that we can confidently devote ourselves to making up our own minds about reality, taking everything that is handed to us as truth with a grain of salt. 

This does not mean that we discount the information we receive from outside sources. It simply means that we are vigilant enough to question it before we decide whether or not we agree with it. All the information we receive is useful in the process of helping us make up our own minds. As we allow ourselves to sit with the things we learn, measuring them alongside our own inner sense of the truth and our own experiences, we find that making up our minds is a joyful process of integration that grows us into stronger, smarter, more engaged human beings. 

Pat Savage

My crush of the day a 1969 Dodge Super Bee

This photo shoot was done by my friend Michele Lugadino

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Very Bad Idea That Millions of People Believe

For the first time since the field of psychology formally became a science, which was only a century ago, serious attention is being paid to happiness. Previously, the focus was on the causes of unhappiness, and with good reason. Mental disorders inflict enormous misery, and generations of clinicians wanted to find some kind of cure. Psychiatrists and psychologists are still devoted to this aim, but room has been made to ask a fundamental question: Is it possible to find lasting happiness?

The jury is still out, so far as a professional consensus is concerned. One view is that happiness is fairly random and incidental - it comes and goes, without anyone predicting when it will happen. Another view is that happiness needs to be redefined so that people don't chase after a fantasy of constant sunshine and bliss. Our expectations should be reduced, with the aim of a general state of contentment. Finally, there are super-optimists who maintain that the highest level of happiness is possible, but it is attainable only by locating a higher reality and establishing yourself there.

Given these very mixed messages, the vast majority of people ignore psychological theory, using their time and energy to carve out a workable, everyday kind of happiness, while in the back of their minds they fear the catastrophes that may destroy their happiness altogether - poverty, crime, and disease. One reason that the field of "positive psychology" came into being is that this seat-of-the-pants approach to happiness doesn't actually work very well, and it's probably declining as we speak.

This is where a very bad idea enters the picture. It holds that money buys happiness, and the more money you have, the happier you will be. In a sense, capitalism runs on this idea, but I'm not writing to outline the flaws in capitalism. Every economic system generates its own myths and is blind to its own defects if you believe in the system. The real problem with "money buys happiness" is twofold. First, it's not true beyond a very limited point. Having enough money to be comfortable produces more happiness than living with the stress of poverty and want. Beyond this fairly modest state of financial security (not so modest if you were born into a poor country or have an impoverished background in a rich one) money brings more stress than it's worth.

Positive psychologists seem pretty sure about this finding, looking at a broad range of subjects, although of course there are exceptions - rich people who seem exceedingly happy and poor people who seem the same. Even so, if you really care about your happiness more than your bank account, you shouldn't devote your life to the pursuit of wealth, no matter how much our society glorifies being rich and mythologizes the wealthy as if they live in a paradise on earth.

The second reason that "money buys happiness" is such a bad idea is subtler. The pursuit of money prevents you from finding happiness another way. I hold the minority position about happiness, the one that says lasting happiness depends on our state of awareness, and to find the highest state of happiness, you must reach a higher state of consciousness. The same view has been held for centuries by all the world's wisdom traditions, and ironically, now is the best time to test it out. In the past, the average person was helpless in the face of poverty, war, and disease. That's no longer true for millions of people who have enough control over their destiny to pursue happiness rather than simply try to survive.

It would be a shame to waste this golden opportunity by thoughtlessly adhering to such a bad idea as "money buys happiness." From the seed of this idea grows offspring, such as the idea that poverty means that you are an inferior person, a loser, or the idea that winning is everything, since winning implies monetary rewards. Then there's the idea that you can use your money to buy so many glittery toys and distractions that these will constitute happiness, and so on. The truth is that happiness is an inner pursuit that is very different from the pursuit of pleasure or the amassment of a fortune. No one should accept this as a given; it needs to be tested out personally. In the end, the message of the world's wisdom traditions is a call to find out the truth for yourself. It just helps to clear away the underbrush of untruths, and "money buys happiness" is just that.

Deepak Chopra

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Incredible Truth About Time

• The incredible truth about time

Theories of science have ignored time... until now. A new idea reveals how it created the Universe - and you.

Time: it rules our lives, and we all wish we had more of it. Businesses make money out of it, and scientists can measure it with astonishing accuracy. Earlier this year, American researchers unveiled an atomic clock accurate to better than one second since the Big Bang 14 billion years ago.

But what, exactly, is time? Despite its familiarity, its ineffability has defied even the greatest thinkers. Over 1,600 years ago the philosopher Augustine of Hippo admitted defeat with words that still resonate: If no-one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.

What exactly is the true nature of time? 

Yet according to theoretical physicist Lee Smolin, the time has come to grapple with this ancient conundrum: Understanding the nature of time is the single most important problem facing science, he says.

As one of the founders of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, Canada, which specialises in tackling fundamental questions in physics, Professor Smolin has spent more time pondering deep questions than most. So why does he think the nature of time is so important? Because, says Smolin, it is central to the success of attempts to understand reality itself.

To most people, this may sound a bit overblown. Since reality in all its forms, from the Big Bang to the Sunday roast, depends on time, isnt it obvious that we should take time seriously? And didnt scientists sort out its mysteries centuries ago?

Prepare for a shock. Scientists have indeed tackled the mystery of time and reached an astounding conclusion. They insist that the most successful theories in physics prove that time does not exist.

But now Smolin has news for these scientists. He thinks theyve been led to dismiss the reality of time by a mix of deep-seated beliefs and esoteric mathematics. And in a controversial new book Time Reborn, he sets out the dangers of persisting with this folly, and the promise of accepting times fundamental importance. If hes right, it means far from being irrelevant, time is of crucial importance to explaining how the Universe works and is even responsible for our very existence.

Smolin is under no illusions about what hes taking on. The scientific case for time being an illusion is formidable, he says. The core of the case against time relies on the way we understand what a law of physics is. He isnt saying the laws are wrong, just that scientists dont understand their true origins. According to the standard view, everything that happens in the Universe is determined by laws, he says. Laws are absolute they dont change with time. Its this attribute that makes laws so powerful in predicting the future: plug in the Earths position today into the law of gravity, and itll give a pretty accurate location for its position a million years from now.

The laws also seem to reveal the true nature of time: They suggest the flow of time is just a convenient illusion that can be replaced by computation, says Smolin. In other words, time is just a trick that makes the equations spit out the right answers.

The Time Lord: Prof Lee Smolin is championing the existence of time

Emboldened by the seemingly limitless power of their laws and concept of time, physicists have sought to understand the properties of everything including the Universe as a whole, in all its infinite majesty. But time and again, when theyve attempted this, theyve run into problems.

Over 300 years ago, Sir Isaac Newton tried to apply his law of universal gravity to the whole Universe, only to see it collapse when dealing with the infinite extent of space. A century ago, Albert Einstein applied his far more powerful theory of gravity, General Relativity, to the cosmos, but it broke down at the large scale when explaining the Big Bang.

In the mid-1960s, the American theorist John Wheeler and his collaborator Bryce DeWitt decided to see what insights might emerge from applying the most successful theory in all science quantum theory to the cosmos. Most often applied to the sub-atomic world, quantum theory can in principle at least be applied to everything, even the large-scale workings of the Universe.

Wheeler and DeWitt succeed in producing a nightmarishly complex equation that, according to quantum theory, captures the true nature of the Universe. But the equation spawned a shocking insight. Of all the quantities it contained, one that everyone expected it to include had simply vanished: t for time. According to the Wheeler-DeWitt equation, the quantum state of the Universe is just frozen, says Smolin. The quantum Universe is a Universe without change. It just simply is.

The contrast with apparent reality could hardly be more stark. Astronomers insist the Universe began in a Big Bang and is still expanding. Stars are constantly being born and dying along with ourselves. Clearly, something is wrong.

Many theorists have tried to find ways of getting what we perceive to be time to emerge from the timeless Universe described by the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. Ive pondered these approaches, says Smolin, and I remain convinced none of them work. He believes only a fundamental re-think about time can solve the crisis.

Not everyone agrees, however. Some insist that the Wheeler-DeWitt equation reveals the truth about time no matter how unpalatable we find it. Chief among them is the British theoretical physicist Dr Julian Barbour, Visiting Professor at Oxford University. He has spent decades wrestling with the meaning of the Wheeler-DeWitt equation, and is renowned for his 1999 magnum opus The End Of Time.

Unlike Smolin, Barbour insists the Wheeler-DeWitt equations implication for time cannot be dismissed. He argues that the Universe is really a vast, static array of nows, like frames on some cosmic movie-reel. At any given moment, or now, time does not need to be factored in to explanations of how the Universe works. The sense of time passing comes from our minds processing each of these frames or time capsules, as Barbour calls them. Time itself, however, doesnt exist.

Smolin greatly admires Barbours efforts: Its the best thought-through approach to making sense of quantum cosmology, he says. He has even incorporated some of Barbours latest ideas into his own. But he believes it suffers from the same flaws as all timeless theories of the Universe: it struggles to make testable predictions, and it cant explain where the timeless laws of physics come from in the first place.

Smolin thinks he can do all this, and more. And to do it, he calls on the properties of the most extraordinary objects in the Universe today: black holes.

Formed from the collapse of giant stars, black holes are notorious for having gravitational fields so strong not even light can escape them. Exactly what happens inside them isnt known for sure, but there are hints from quantum theory that the centre of black holes may be the birth-places of whole new universes, each with different laws of physics.

Smolin points out that if this is correct, then a kind of cosmic version of Darwinian natural selection could apply, in which the most common universes will be those most suitable for producing black holes. And this, he says, can be put to the test in our Universe. After countless aeons of cosmic evolution, our Universe should by now be ruled by laws of physics well-suited to producing black holes. According to Smolin, astrophysicists can check to see if this is actually true and to date the evidence suggests it is.

The most striking evidence, though, may be our own existence. Black holes are formed from the death of huge stars in supernova explosions. Intriguingly, these are the very same stars that produce the carbon, oxygen and other elements required for life. If there were no giant stars, there would be no universe-spawning black holes and no evolving laws of physics and no us, either.

Smolin is thus suggesting that our very existence may be evidence for cosmic evolution. And since evolution can only happen over time, that in turn suggests time is real. Its an astonishing line of argument for the reality of time and one that doesnt convince everyone. I find these ideas very speculative to say the least, says theorist Prof Claus Kiefer of the University of Cologne in Germany. He doubts even the starting point for Smolins argument for the reality of time: There is no evidence whatsoever that new universes are born inside black holes.

What everyone agrees on, however, is that time certainly seems real. And there can be no disputing the boldness of Smolins arguments.

If hes right, our Universe is just the latest in an endless series. Over time, over successive universes, the laws of physics have been evolving to the point where the conditions are just right to form not just black holes the birthplaces of new universes but also the building blocks of life, including us. In other words, time explains the apparent fluke that our Universe has just the right combination of conditions to allow our existence.

So is Smolin right about all this or is time really an illusion, as most theorists insist? Only time will tell.

Sources and more information:

• What Is the True Nature of Time?
ScienceFocus Theories of science have ignored time... until now. A new idea reveals how it created the Universe - and you, writes Robert Matthews. Time: it rules our lives, and we all wish we had more of it. Businesses make money out of it, and scientists can measure it with astonishing accuracy. Earlier this year, American researchers unveiled...

• Time Reborn by Lee Smolin - Why Time Actually Exists

What is time? Philosophically and scientifically, that's a hard question to answer. Can anyone even tell us how many books have been written about time? Here are some of my questions: Is there one eternal now that exists everywhere, throughout all of reality, in this universe, and all the other universes of the multiverse? Is time just the 4th...

Sunday, March 30, 2014

3 Important Lessons In Success From Bob Dylan

How would you feel about being booed off stage? What would you do if someone told you that you suck?

Bob Dylan is one of the most revered artists of all time. He is called “the voice of a generation”. It’s easy to look back and say that he is amazing because that’s the consensus, but damn, the road wasn’t always easy.

The guy was booed off the stage at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Bob frigen Dylan, booed off stage. But we know him today as one of the most successful artists who ever lived.

Bob Dylan is a groundbreaking artist for more reasons than I could list, and here’s three really important lessons in success that I have learned from him.

1. Perseverance in the face of adversity

Bob Dylan was booed off the stage in front of one of his formerly most appreciative audiences. If he can be booed off stage, anyone can be.

Did he let it keep him from writing literally hundreds more songs? Did he give up playing electric and swear that he’d only play acoustic from then on?

Many of you might say that he had already “made it”, so the press only made him more famous. But that’s not the moral of this story.

It’s that anything can happen to anyone. We have a nasty habit of dehumanizing people who achieve fame and success. Well the guy is human! Hell, as often as it doesn’t seem so, all rock stars are human! How quickly would you be able to bounce back if you were booed off stage in front of thousands of people?

You need to be confident and passionate in your direction, because no one else will believe in you until you believe in yourself.

The road to success looks more like a treacherous maze filled with unseen hazards than a smoothly paved road. It’s not that nothing goes wrong for wildly successful people, it’s their reaction and perseverance that makes them who they are.

2. Everyone who’s not doing it is a critic

The second tip comes from a live concert video I watched in my “History of rock and roll” class in college (attendance for me was not a problem in that class).

Bob Dylan plugged in his electric on tour soon after the infamous Newport folk festival debacle. One of the fans in the audience booed him and yelled, “You suck! You’re a fraud!”

Now I won’t recommend actually arguing with fans in the audience at a show, but Dylan managed to make it sound awesome. To loosely quote him, he replied to the audience member,

“Hey fella, that may be so. But I’m up here doing this. What are you doing? Who are you?”

Phenomenal. Who are you? he asked. What does that guy do? On what level does he deserve to be a critic of the direction Dylan decided to take his art?

There will always be people who tell you how to do things. The right way, the wrong way, the way it’s supposed to sound. Who are they to tell you?

You should already have clear goals in mind for your project. It’s fine to take suggestions, but don’t let others second-guessing you affect your decisions. The critics will always be people who aren’t in your shoes, who didn’t put themselves out there to be heard.

Anyone who has the time to criticize what someone else is doing isn’t focused enough on making their own dreams happen.

3. Playing it safe has its consequences

The final lesson that we take from Dylan today is that people are quick to react. Don’t be scared of trying new things for fear of audience reaction. One of my favorite quotes from Steve Jobs highlights this.

“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them…” – Steve Jobs

The Dylan song that I hear most often today is “Like A Rolling Stone”. This song was from the album that the controversy would amass over. At the time, people didn’t know what the hell to think, they had never heard a folk artist do this. Many reactions were “He can’t do that, he’s a folk artist! He crossed the line!”

Dylan knew what he wanted to try, and he did it. He could have played it safe and never picked up an electric guitar. But this decision is part of the reason he is infamous now.  And today, almost sixty years later, we hail his decisions and change of direction as a staple in the history of rock and roll.

People won’t always be quick to catch on when something big is happening. How many people every single day play it safe for fear of failure? If you have an idea that shines bright to you, try it out!

If you fail, you have learned a lesson. If you succeed, the success, like your idea, can be bigger than you ever imagined.

Bob Dylan is a strong inspiration to me, and I believe that to succeed and follow through on your dreams it will greatly help you to develop a mindset similar to this.

Are you ready to stop being the critic and start being the creator?