Jennifer Levin

Jennifer Levin

Editor’s note: The following guest post is written by Shashi Seth, the senior vice president of Search products at Yahoo! Previously, Shashi worked at Google where he developed the monetization strategy for YouTube and was also the product lead for search.

Search is about to change quite radically. For more than a decade, search has been stagnant: the core product has not changed much. Users have changed radically in that time frame. Even though the kind of content users consume is different, search engines are still focused mostly on web pages. Users have become less patient and have less time on hand, while search engines still require users to dig through and extract information from the web pages to find what they’re looking for. In addition, users are spending more and more time on their mobile phones and other connected devices, which require a completely different kind of user experience for search.

When we talk about Search, keep in mind that Search, Discovery, Recommendations, and Serendipity are all essentially the same thing. Why? Well, to start with, one would need a comprehensive index of content for each of these things to work. This gives you a world view, so to speak. How that index is created has changed over time, and what goes into that index has changed. About ten years ago, the index only consisted of HTML pages, but that information has been changing. How the index was created was heavily focused on signals provided by HTML pages, links, consumption, etc.

Today, many social signals are consumed, including how often and how quickly an entity or URL is being embedded elsewhere, whether it is with positive or negative intent and sentiment, and is it trending up or down since last week/month. Search engines have mostly focused on the backend and infrastructure, and rightly so, because search requires a delicate balance between some of the most complex technologies, and a vast amount of infrastructure. Solving today’s user needs requires a different focus: a special blend of science, a finely tuned user experience, cutting-edge design skills, and a slightly different mix of engineering and infrastructure.

The question now is—how do search engines respond to this new world?

The answer, to put it simply, is to re-imagine search. The new landscape for search will likely focus on getting the answers the user needs without requiring the user to interact with a page of traditional blue links. In fact, there may be cases where there are no blue links on a search results page at all.

Search engines will keep assimilating content from many different sources and aim to provide immediate and rich answers. You ask a question and you get answers, nothing else. The user may not even type the full question. Search engines will have to become more and more personal, understand the individual user’s preferences, location, type of content preferred, context from previous search and browse behavior, signals from social graphs, and much more.

Search has been a pull mechanism for information and content, while social sites such as Facebook and Twitter are push. For search to succeed in today’s world, it has to become more push, which is why we at Yahoo! have been so focused on what we call contextual searches. A contextual search is when a user happens to be away from a search box, maybe reading an article on Yahoo! News, and comes across a name, or place that he/she wants more information on, yet they don’t want to spoil the reading experience and leave the page, open a new tab, and do a search.

With Infinite Browse, Yahoo! currently enables users to highlight the term and get a small pop-up search result out of that action, without leaving the page. Yahoo! also identifies and underlines interesting terms/entities on the page, so when the user hovers over the word or words, additional information is provided.

Imagine a future where this information is entirely pushed to you without prompting the search, so engagement with the content you want is immediately at your fingertips. This will prompt more and more searches to happen away from traditional search results pages, and will happen more in context of wherever the user may be—reading a news article and wanting to know more about a topic or entity, accessing information on a commuter train, getting recommendations pushed while writing an email or social conversation on that topic, and much more.

In the near term, innovation in search will provide more in-depth answers. For example, if someone types the name of a Major League Baseball team, they get a search results page with the team’s homepage and likely a couple pieces of recent news. In the next phase of search, you will type the name of that baseball team and without hitting the search button or leaving the search box, you will be presented with an interactive display that includes a link to their homepage, recent news, the results and box score of their last game, their overall record and standing in their division, a schedule of upcoming games, photos, videos, and social media streams.

How about searching for a restaurant? In search today, you find links to the restaurant’s homepage, address, phone number, and rating. In new iterations of search, you will type the name of that restaurant and be provided with its address and map, a view of its menu, the option to reserve then and there via OpenTable, see its ranking on Yelp, CitySearch, Zagat—along with photos, tweets, what your friends have said about it in your private social networks, and a quick and simple way to compare it with other similar restaurants.

The next chapter of search is going to be about providing answers and not just answers from Q&A sites (although Yahoo! Answers hit a billion Q&A last year). We obviously believe in these types of “answers” and leverage it heavily, yet there are plenty of other types of real-time answers.

Most search indexes are in the 10s of billions of URLs, trending towards 100s of billions of URLs. Information is dynamic and changes frequently. For example, the movies running in a theater next to you are changing every week, and the timings may change even more frequently. The San Francisco Giants score changes frequently too, as do the players stats. So, while Q&A sites are really interesting in solving a certain set of needs for users, they are only a piece of the puzzle.

But the rise of Q&A sites across the Web speaks to the underlying need for better answers. A new era in search is just around the corner that will make it easier to access the information, services and answers people are looking for. A list of links just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Source : https://techcrunch.com/2011/05/07/search-answers-not-just-links/

Businesses conduct research for many reasons, such as gathering crucial information about consumers and business customers. The key function of management is take decisions and without help of the research and analysis of present situation and future forecasting , decisions may not be effective. So research helps to take right decisions. Based on research, management can make intelligent and well informed decisions.

Now let’s discuss the importance of research in business decision making:

Businesses use research to ascertain the success of their advertising. For instance, a dairy manufacturer may want to find out what percentage of the people saw its latest tv commercial. The dairy manufacturer may find that more individuals become aware of its advertising the longer the tv ad runs. The company may decide to run its tv ads at different times if few people have seen the ads.

A business can make well-informed decisions due to research. In the research process, the business will be able to acquire details about key business areas, analyze it, create a strategy and distribute business information. Reports, presented to the top management, often contain details on consumer and employee preferences and all the available channels for sales, marketing, finance and production. Management makes use of these details to determine the best strategy. Research is a necessity at all stages and phases of business operations. Initial research is needed to evaluate whether getting into the given kind of business would be profitable and whether there exists demand for the proposed product.

Regarding the staff, a correctly carried out research can uncover important details on their satisfaction quotient, the difficulties experienced by them and how the problems related to relationships at the workplace could be handled. An analysis into the results would allow the management to bring about changes for the all round effective functioning of the organisation and its employees. The workers can be trained and coached in line with the needs. This would help personal as well as professional development improving overall organisational performance.


Research is important for managerial decision making. All strategic business areas are analyzed and evaluated; then techniques for more efficient procedures are created. All businesses usually have many ways of doing an activity. Through proper research, the organization will be able to pick the most effective, productive and profitable one. Research could possibly be applied to marketing, production, finance, IT and Human resources.

Research can answer questions for various problems, from getting a grip on industry trends, identifying new products to produce and deliver to the market, or deciding on which site to locate an outlet, to better understanding what it needs to fulfill customer demands. Research can also help evaluate if a product is accepted in the market. Research aids expansion into new markets.

Research helps in testing the potential success of new products. Businesses have to understand what kinds of products consumers would like before they market them. For instance, a restaurant may in the beginning, interview focus groups to test types of burgers. The focus groups will probably include small teams of consumers. The goal of the focus group may be to figure out which burger customers prefer. Ultimately, the company may test the burgers through surveys with larger groups of people.


The above points state the importance of research in business decision making. Research is necessary to gather facts and statistics with regards to a company’s customers, employees and competitors. Based on these numbers, businesses are able to make better managerial decisions.



IN THE AGE of big data analytics, the proprietary algorithms web sites use to determine what data to display to visitors have the potential to illegally discriminate against users. This is particularly troublesome when it comes to employment and real estate sites, which could prevent users from having a fair crack at jobs and housing simply by failing to display certain listings to them based on their race or gender.

But four academic researchers who specialize in uncovering algorithmic discrimination say that a decades-old federal anti-hacking statute is preventing them from doing work to detect such discrimination. They say a provision of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act could be used to criminally prosecute them for research that involves scraping publicly available data from these sites or creating anonymous user accounts on them, if the sites’s terms of service prohibit this activity.

The researchers, along with First Look Media Works, which publishes The Intercept, filed a lawsuit today against the Justice Department, asserting that opening fake profiles to pose as job and housing seekers constitutes speech and expressive activity that is protected under the First Amendment. They further argue that because sites can change their terms of service at any time without informing visitors, this can suddenly turn any speech or activity on the site into a criminal act—a violation, they say, of the Fifth Amendment right to due process, which requires proper notice to the public of what constitutes criminal behavior.

They’re asking the US District Court in the District of Columbia to enjoin the government from enforcing what they say is an unconstitutional provision that prevents them from doing meaningful research.

“Being able to run socially beneficial studies like ours is at the heart of academic freedom,” Christian Sandvig, an associate professor of information and communication studies at the University of Michigan and one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “We shouldn’t have to fear prosecution just because we’re doing our jobs.”

The case gets at the heart of what many consider to be a problematic provision in the anti-hacking law. Ordinarily, violations of a site’s terms of service should only allow a site to bring civil action against users who breach those terms. But under the CFAA, federal prosecutors have interpreted terms-of-service violations as exceeding a site’s authorized access, a criminal hacking violation that carries a maximum prison sentence of one year and a fine. Subsequent violations can result in a sentence up to ten years in prison and a fine.


The risk of prosecution for violating a site’s terms of service isn’t limited to academics, nor is it theoretical; the government has already done so at least twice. In 2008, federal prosecutors charged a Missouri woman named Lori Drew with three counts of violating the CFAA after she and two others created a fake Myspace profile to bully a classmate of Drew’s daughter, who subsequently committed suicide. Myspace’s user agreement requires registrants to provide factual information about themselves; in creating a fake profile for a nonexistent teenage boy in violation of those terms, federal prosecutors asserted that Drew obtained “unauthorized access” to MySpace’s servers.

The next year, the government prosecuted the owners of the ticket-scalping service Wiseguy Tickets for using a script and botnet to bypass Captcha protections on several ticket-selling sites—in violation of the sites’ terms of service—and purchase concert and sporting event tickets in bulk. The defendants pleaded guilty.

That these prior cases involve bullying and scalping, rather than important academic research, matters little next to the precedent they established for how the government can invoke the CFAA.

Algorithmic Hijinks
The complaint (.pdf) was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of First Look, Sandvig, and three other academics: Karrie Karahalios, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Illinois; and Alan Mislove and Christo Wilson, associate and assistant professors of computer science at Northeastern University.

All four academics have a track record in researching algorithms for discrimination. Sandvig and Karahalios were part of a 2014 study looking at how to audit for algorithmic discrimination (.pdf). Mislove and Wilson are part of the Algorithmic Auditing Research Group at Northeastern University and have co-authored several papers about measuring discrimination online. First Look’s interest in the lawsuit stems around the media outlet’s interest in doing similar discrimination research for stories.


Web sites often use algorithms to analyze user profile information, web surfing habits—determined through tracking cookies that sites place on the computers of visitors—and other information collected by data brokers from public records, social media sites, and store loyalty programs. The algorithms, which are proprietary and therefore not transparent in how they work, can determine not only the ads a site serves to visitors but can also determine things like the job and housing listings a visitor sees on them. This can lead to discrimination that is illegal under the Fair Housing Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

“Big data enables behavioral targeting, meaning that websites can steer individuals toward different homes or credit offers or jobs—including based on their membership in a class protected by civil rights laws,” the plaintiffs state in their complaint. Because of this, “[b]ehavioral targeting opens up vast potential for discrimination against marginalized communities, including people of color and other members of protected classes.”

Sandvig and Karahalios are currently researching popular housing and real estate sites like Zillow.com, Trulia.com, Redfin.com, and Homes.com to determine if they offer different property listings to users based on race and other characteristics. Mislove and Wilson are conducting similar research of job sites like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com to determine if their algorithms assign lower rankings to people based on gender or color. Job recruiting algorithms often rank job seekers for employers based on relevance, which can have an effect on who employers contact and who gets a job. If an algorithm consistently gives certain classes of people a low ranking, this could cause them to miss out on potential jobs.

Similar types of auditing in the offline world has long been considered a critical tool by courts and the government for uncovering racial discrimination in housing and employment practices. Past tests, for example, have consistently found that Caucasian job applicants receive about twice as many callbacks or job offers as African-American ones.

For the online equivalent, researchers must audit algorithms for evidence of discrimination using scripts to scrape publicly available data on the web sites, and create fake user profiles. Sandvig and Karahalios, for example, plan to generate multiple fake user accounts, known as “sock puppets,” that exhibit behavioral characteristics associated with different racial groups to see if the housing sites discriminate against them.

But Zillow.com, Trulia.com, Realtor.com, Redfin.com, Homes.com, and Apartments.com all prohibit scraping in their terms of service, and many of these sites also prohibit users from providing false information. Job sites like LinkedIn, Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, and TheLadders.com also prohibit this activity, raising the potential for the researchers to be criminally prosecuted.

Chilling Effects
The concern is that by threatening researchers who violate service terms with criminal prosecution, web sites could effectively chill research that helps determine if the web sites themselves are breaking laws. And because it’s the web sites that draft the terms of service, “the recipe for avoiding Fair Housing Act and Title VII liability for algorithmic discrimination is straightforward,” the plaintiffs write. “[M]erely employ terms of service that preclude subsequent speech about such discrimination, and it can continue unchecked.”

Indeed, the plaintiffs say, some web site terms of service specifically require researchers to obtain advance permission to conduct research on their site, making it easy for gatekeepers to refuse access to researchers who might portray the site in a negative light. Other companies include blatant non-disparagement clauses in their terms that prohibit site visitors—including researchers—from speaking negatively about them.


“The work of our clients has a clear social benefit and is protected by the First Amendment,” says Esha Bhandari, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “This law perversely grants businesses that operate online the power to shut down investigations of their practices.”

The plaintiffs say that by delegating power to companies to determine what constitutes criminal conduct, the government has essentially relinquished control of the lawmaking process to private companies, which they say is unconstitutional.

In 2008, that didn’t matter to the jury in Lori Drew’s case. Although they acquitted Drew of the three CFAA felonies with which the government charged her, they convicted her on lesser misdemeanor charges of unauthorized access, setting a dangerous precedent for others who violate a site’s terms of service. US District Judge George Wu served as the voice of reason, however, when he overturned the conviction on grounds that the government’s interpretation of the CFAA was unconstitutionally vague and set a dangerous precedent. The ACLU says that there’s ambiguity as to whether that ruling could have meaningful influence on future cases.

In giving federal authorities the power to criminally prosecute anyone who violated a site’s terms of service, the conviction, if allowed to stand, essentially converted “a multitude of otherwise innocent internet users into misdemeanant criminals,” Wu said.

That danger still looms today. The researchers’ lawsuit aims to change that.

Source:  https://www.wired.com/2016/06/researchers-sue-government-computer-hacking-law/





New mutating viruses, like Locky and CryptoLocker, are quickly popping up. And many are infecting small businesses, which are now big targets for hackers.

Undercapitalized and outgunned small businesses are still the weak links in cybersecurity, even though they may have valuable data. Their percentage of IT budget directed to security has been increasing from 4.9 percent in 2010 to 7.9 percent last year, according to Ponemon Institute's annual IT security Tracking study. But spending still lags behind big companies.

Meanwhile, hackers are inventing increasingly sophisticated malware. 

"Small businesses don't believe they're targeted by bad guys," said Larry Ponemon, chairman of the research think tank. "But small businesses are now targets, since big companies have the resources for security."

Small businesses can also offer entry to bigger ones, where there's lots of data to steal. In 2013, Target's data was famously breached. But few people know that the company's vast database was actually hacked through its HVAC vendor. That attack ended up costing Target $39 million in settlements and affecting 40 million customers.

These days, malicious programs are spreading even faster than before. The FBI warns that malware attacks are on the rise. And there are now many mutations of these destructive ransomware viruses, which can infiltrate computers.

Ransomware attacks computer systems through malicious links or websites and then encrypts their files. Pop-up messages appear asking the business to pay a ransom in hundreds or thousands of dollars for systems to be restored. Lately, ransom is asked to be paid in bitcoin, which can't be tracked, adds an FBI advisory.

One ransomware variety, called CryptoLocker, spreads a virus when a malicious email attachment is clicked. Banking data is then stolen and files encrypted so they can't be used.

"Ransomware is brutally malicious and bad for small businesses," said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. "It's also quite effective, since they have data, too, and can be used as stepping stones to bigger businesses."

The upshot is that more big companies are holding small vendors accountable for data breaches, said Ponemon.

These breaches can be devastating, he added. Small business may have access to huge amounts of data, such as email marketing services. So after a breach, small business can find themselves out of business and dealing with big law suits, Ponemon said.

The upshot is that small businesses need tight cybersecurity to protect their lifeblood.

"Small businesses are now targets, since big companies have the resources for security."

And they shouldn't count on law enforcement to help, said Kaiser. The crimes occur remotely and don't have fingerprints, he noted. So it's hard to track down the bad guys. "So focus on what you can control," he said, "and how you would respond and recover."

The best defense starts with a basic security audit of key assets. Take a step back, Kaiser advised, and know what you need to protect. "Small businesses get overwhelmed by risk," he said. "But what are they at risk for?"

The objective is coming up with a risk-management approach to protect data, he said. That may mean targeting new disruptive technologies like the Internet of Things, such as a video camera that's web connected, which can be a weak link. Or protecting smartphones used for business, which are also targets for a malware that locks them down and then demands ransom, said the FBI.

"The Internet of Things is happening so quickly," said Ponemon. "If you don't control access to one part, you can corrupt the whole chain." Wi-fi networks also need to be secure.

Do a risk audit

Regularly backing up data and storing it in a secure cloud is another good defense. "It can mitigate the attack," said David Burg, PricewaterhouseCoopers cybersecurity leader. "In a highly connected world, it's especially important." If the system is infected, it can be restored.

Kaiser advised using multifactor authentication, since it's stronger than just passwords. Devices can also be encrypted for extra protection.

Security leaks are most apt to happen in the cloud, added Ponemon. So experts advise finding a reputable cloud service that's secure and can hold system information.

"Read the reviews," said Kaiser. "And do your homework, such as finding out how the cloud services are maintained. Outsourcing can save money over time."

Ultimately, malware attacks may begin with simple employee error, such as clicking on a malicious link. So Ponemon suggests that small businesses create a culture of security. That means training employees on how not to share passwords or open suspicious emails.

"Good protection starts at the computer," he said.

Source:  http://www.cnbc.com/2016/06/27/warning-a-wave-of-new-viruses-is-targeting-small-businesses.html

Your choice in Internet browsers apparently says a lot about how well you’re doing at work. That’s the conclusion of a study conducted by recruitment and retention software maker Cornerstone OnDemand, which found that sales and customer-service employees who use non-default Web browsers stay longer at their jobs and perform better than their more conventional coworkers.

In an analysis of data from 50,000 applicants who took its online job assessment test, researchers at Cornerstone found that people with a preference for third-party browsers like Chrome and Firefox had higher rates of job efficiency and retention than candidates who stuck with default browsers (i.e., Internet Explorer and Safari).


Related: Which browser is best for you?


Chief Analytics Officer Michael Housman offered an explanation for the results in an interview with Freakonomics Radio. “I think that the fact that you took the time to install Firefox on your computer shows us something about you. It shows that you’re someone who is an informed consumer,” he said. “You’ve made an active choice to do something that wasn’t default.”


Even though it may be useful, Cornerstone says data like browser preference would be too intrusive to consider in weeding out would-be employees. The company instead relies on more obvious patterns when advising its clients on making hiring decisions, like the presence of the word “boozy” in e-mail addresses. Regardless of their browser choice, people with unprofessional email addresses probably aren’t the most appealing candidates.

Your browser of choice may not be under scrutiny, but still, considering the many advantages of Chrome, Firefox, and others over languishing alternatives, switching might not be such a bad idea anyway.


Boosting your online presence can be a lot of work. Tips like “blog three or four times a week” and “do extensive keyword research” aren’t exactly helpful if you don’t have the time. And while these tips are valid and need to be considered in a long-term strategy, there are a few things you can get started on right away. Every little bit helps!

Here are four things you can do this week to increase your company’s online visibility without breaking a sweat:

Publish, Republish and Repurpose

You only have to write the content once, but make sure you publish it in as many places as you can think of: your blogLinkedInGoogle+, newsletter, etc. And after you’ve published it everywhere you can think of, promote it by sharing the link to the content everywhere else. Want to squeeze even more value out of that amazing blog post? Repurpose it by recording it as a podcast; combine it with other related blog posts to make an ebook; consider using the material to create a video and posting the video on YouTube. There are so many possibilities, so don’t just let your great content sit there and fade into oblivion. Reuse it!

Don’t Forget Alt Tags

Put your images to work. When optimizing your blog article, don’t forget to fill out the alt text for each image. This allows search engines to scan your image content, not just the text, and contributes to how your content is indexed. Did your due diligence with keyword research for your blog article? Great! Now make sure your images carry those keywords as well.

Leverage Your Network

OK, go ahead—ask for the like. When posting on social media, make sure your friends, family and acquaintances like and even share your content. A little love goes a long way in helping you spread your message and increase your online visibility. Also take advantage of area business groups that you may belong to on various social media platforms.

Contests & Giveaways

This doesn’t have to be big. Give something away, even as small as a $25 gift card, and watch how quickly people will sign up for your newsletter or like and share your social media post. Contests are a great way to give a boost to your online presence, but don’t run one and then disappear.

See, that’s not so hard, is it? If you’re past the tips and tricks stage of boosting your online presence, though, make sure you have a long-term strategy in place for maintaining and constantly improving your online presence.

Try implementing those 4 tips today. What else do you do to increase online visibility rather quickly? Leave a comment below.

Source: http://webrunnermedia.com/4-ways-to-increase-online-visibility-that-you-can-implement-today/

You know that weird feeling between excitement and dread that accompanies an invitation to interview? It’s especially strong when you know next to nothing about your potential workplace.

But, even if the first time you’ve ever heard of the company you’re interviewing with was the day you sent in your application, you can still walk in like you’ve known about the place for years. Here are several ways to tackle researching the company pre-interview.

1. Know the Company’s Strong Suits

The best way to convince your interviewer that you know the company well is to be able to articulate what makes it special compared to competitors. The good news? Companies will often tell you the answer to this question right on their websites.

One way companies share how they stand out is through their mission or values, which are typically prominently displayed in the “About Us” section. Read closely to learn what might be different about this organization than others. For instance, if you’re interviewing with a marketing agency, “commitment to client service” is probably something that its competitors boast, too, but if one of its other core values is sustainability, that’s good to know.

Review this along with any other “basics” you should be familiar with prior to the interview—like company size, location, and history. You don’t want to be that person who asks a question that can easily be answered by checking out the website.

2. Sniff Out the Financial Health

While you’re on the website, click on the “Investor Relations” tab. For most large companies, you should be able to access and listen to a publicly available quarterly earnings conference call and read an annual report. These calls and reports cover a range of topics (that are often otherwise hard to find), including new products, company risks, and whether revenues are growing or stable. If you’re interviewing with a startup, check out its profile on Crunchbase. Here, you can get caught up on rounds of funding, acquisitions, recent hires, and relevant press coverage.

Once you have this information, it’s up to you to draw your own conclusions. While you don’t necessarily want to spout off stock prices or funding history, being able to speak insightfully about where you think the company will go in the future, backed up with facts, is hugely impressive in an interview.

3. Watch Community Interaction

Somewhere along the application process, someone you’re interviewing with has likely Googled you and scoured your social media accounts. You should return the favor by finding out what the company has been up to lately.

Aside from the news that comes up when you Google the company (which you should also read), corporate blogs are gold mines, especially for younger companies that are growing. Whether it’s a post welcoming new staffers to the sales team or detailing new features of a recent software update, this is the kind of stuff you should know about.

LinkedIn is also a good tool for learning about what kind of news the company communicates—and therefore wants you to know. Check the company page on LinkedIn and see what kind of updates are featured. Is there a promotion for Mother’s Day, or a statement on how the sales team exceeded earning expectations? Either way, this will show you what types of things to bring up in conversation. (Oh, and while you’re on LinkedIn, check out the profiles of the people you’ll be interviewing with. Make sure you have your profile set so that they can see that you’ve viewed their profiles. This might seem counterintuitive, but it actually shows that you care and are doing your due diligence before the interview.)

Lastly, check out the company’s Twitter and Facebook profiles. Is the tone professional or casual? Is it nonstop promotion with zero interaction? Is the team responsive to complaints? Tuck away positive news and examples you encounter during your research to use in the interview.

4. Go Undercover to Learn Company Culture

You may be able to glean a bit about corporate culture through a company’s blog and social media accounts, but to really build on that information, try looking for information from external sources.

For example, head over to the company profiles on The Muse, where you can watch interviews with current employees and hear what makes each workplace so different. Or, see what positive and negative things people have to say about the company you’re interviewing with on Glassdoor. (You can also sniff out sample interview questions—here’s how.) You won’t bring up all this information during the interview, but it will at least help you come up with reasons why the company is special and help you to know what topics to avoid during the interview. (For example, maybe work-life balance is a touchy subject and should be brought up after you get the offer.)

Better yet, try to find a past or current employee you can speak with, and try to build on what you already know. You can ask something like, “I understand the company is working on growing its presence in Asia—can you tell me more about how this initiative is impacting the team?” This will both impress and grow what you know about your potential employer. (For more on acing your informational interview, try these tips.)

5. Read Up on the Field and Competitors

Aside from knowing as much as possible about the place you’re interviewing with, it’s a good idea to be able to talk about the industry as a whole and even more impressive to be able to talk about competitors and how the company fits into the bigger picture.

Look up competitors by going to the LinkedIn company page and scrolling down to the “Other Companies People Viewed” section. There should be a few competitors there. Do the same thing with the competitors you find until you have a pretty good sense of who the big players in the field are. (Or, if the company has a Crunchbase page, you should be able to find a list of competitors on its profile.)

Follow the same research steps you did for the company you’re interviewing for, but focus only on those things that are relevant to your interview. Think big picture, not minute details on specific projects. Is a competitor actively acquiring startups that target a different market? Or maybe new collaborations indicate a possible shift in audience for a big competitor.

After all this research, you’ll probably be wondering, “So, what do I do with all this information?” Remember that your objective is to be convincing when you say, “I want to work at your company.” Back this up by being able to talk about what makes the company unique, and express your enthusiasm by showing off your knowledge. Work in examples of what you know in your interview answers, and watch your interviewers nod in approval. After all, few things are as effective in an interview as knowing exactly what you’re talking about.

 About The Author

Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she's not indulging in a new book or video game, she's thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.


Source : http://www.forbes.com/sites/dailymuse/2014/05/22/the-ultimate-guide-to-researching-a-company-pre-interview/2/ 

Volunteer-based internet surveys should not be used to represent broader public opinion, given their lack of a theoretical basis in survey research principles, according to a detailed report by the nation’s leading association of public opinion researchers.

“Researchers should avoid nonprobability online panels when one of the research objectives is to accurately estimate population values,” says the 81-page report from the American Association for Public Opinion Research. Beyond the lack of a theoretical underpinning, it cites “inherent and significant coverage error” (mainly by missing those without internet access) and a suspected "extremely high level of nonresponse,” saying this combination “presumably results in substantial bias.”

Nearly a year and a half in works, the AAPOR Report on Online Panels presents challenging findings for the multi-billion-dollar business of so-called “opt-in online” surveys, in which participants sign up to click through questionnaires on the internet, generally in exchange for cash and gifts. Such surveys are particularly common in market research, given the speed and low cost with which they can be produced, but also often are used to purportedly represent public opinion.
AAPOR previously has said opt-in online panels should not claim a margin of sampling error, advice frequently ignored by some producers of such data. Its new report, by a 20-member committee, goes further: “There currently is no generally accepted theoretical basis from which to claim that survey results using samples from nonprobability online panels are projectable to the general population,” the report says. “Thus, claims of ‘representativeness’ should be avoided when using these sample sources.”

The report notes that probability-based measures of public attitudes (commonly referred to as random samples) have been “an established practice for valid survey research for over 50 years.” In contrast, it says, “The nonprobability character of volunteer online panels runs counter to this practice and violates the underlying principles of probability theory.”

Opt-in online surveys have been rated as “not airworthy” by ABC News standards for more than a decade. Several other national news organizations have followed suit in avoiding such data.

I’ve reported before on the problems with opt-in online data, including a report on a groundbreaking academic study on the issue led by Stanford University researchers David Yeager and Jon Krosnick, here; their replies to critics, here and here; and previous postings, such as this and this.

Noting that “not all survey research is intended to produce precise estimates of population values,” the AAPOR report says opt-in online panels may be suitable for other uses, such as evaluating relationships among variables – for instance, how personal characteristics may interact with attitudes and behaviors. While it says that may be appropriate “especially when budget is limited and/or time is short,” the report also warns of potential biases in these uses.

Elsewhere, it reports, “Empirical evaluations of online panels abroad and in the U.S. leave no doubt that those who choose to join online panels differ in important and nonignorable ways from those who do not.” The difference is not just related to demographic characteristics; “In sum, the existing body of evidence shows that online surveys with nonprobability panels elicit systematically different results than probability sample surveys in a wide variety of attitudes and behaviors.” In available evidence, the report adds, the opt-in online results “are generally less accurate.”

In a further problem for the users of such data, the report cites several studies that it says found “considerable variation” in results across different opt-in panels, “raising questions about the accuracy of the method.”

The report also decries a lack of adequate, publicly released research by online panel providers themselves. It says they could study nonresponse by comparing prospective and actual panel members; “however, very little has been reported.” Nonresponse also could be compared between panel members and participants in specific surveys; yet, “Despite a great deal of data being available to investigate this issue, little has been publicly reported.” It suggests studying panel attrition, adding, “We are aware of no published accounts to verify that this is being done.” It says nonresponse at recruitment is “only sparsely documented in the literature” (but believed to be “very high”); and on item-level nonresponse, again: “As far as we can tell, this type of analysis is seldom done.”

In a section on efforts to adjust opt-in panel data, similarly, the report says “there appears to be no research” that focuses on one effort, purposive sampling intended to reach targeted types of individuals in these panels. It also examines model- and weighting-based efforts to adjust opt-in online data, raising questions about both approaches.
Again, the full report’s here, highly recommended reading. Given the length of this post, I’ll reach out separately to producers of opt-in online data to invite their response to the AAPOR committee’s conclusions.

(Disclosure: I’m an AAPOR member. And its report was distributed last week – hey, I was on vacation.)

Written By: Matthew


Just about every online business or business with a website uses an analytics tool to track traffic. However, more often than not, business owners and managers do not take full advantage of the information contained in analytics reports - or they don't know how to.


So how should businesses interpret Web analytics data -- and leverage that information to decrease bounce and exit rates and increase sales on their website? To find out, CIO.com asked dozens of Web analytics and marketing experts. Their top eight tips on how to use web analytics data to improve conversion rates and sales appear below.


[Note: Most of the advice below refers to Google Analytics. However, it can also be applied to other Web analytics software and services.]


See how people are accessing your site (mobile devices vs. laptops or desktops) -- and optimize accordingly. "Look at how sales, especially conversion rates, differ by device type," says Bill Elward, CIO, Castle Ink, a provider of remanufactured ink cartridges, laser toner and printer cartridges.


"With close to 40 percent of Internet activity generated via mobile devices, it's critical to understand which devices are being used to access your website," Elward says. "Be sure to look at conversion funnels and bounce rates by device for your key conversion pages as it could highlight issues such as page load [times] and layout [problems]." And if customers are using mobile devices to view your site, make sure the entire site is mobile friendly.


Track where traffic is coming from -- to help determine where to invest marketing dollars and time. Ask yourself, "Is your traffic coming from other websites (referrals), social media or search engines (paid/organic)?" says Mike Wolfe, CEO, WAM Enterprises, a digital marketing agency. "Knowing where traffic comes from can help you understand where to invest more time and money to increase traffic."


"Analytics data can [also] allow you to understand what marketing channel is leading to the most conversions on your website," adds Chris Meares, director of Analytics at MaassMedia, a boutique digital analytics consulting firm.


"By tracking marketing campaigns -- email, display and paid search -- companies can understand what campaigns are contributing to conversion by utilizing the Google Analytics attribution model," Meares says. "By understanding the conversion rates of each campaign, a company can move their marketing budgets to the most productive marketing channel."


Discover where visitors are located, so you can better target those areas. "Use a geographic filter to figure out which countries, regions or states generate more sales than others," says Noah Parsons, COO, Palo Alto Software, providers of business plan software. Then you can "use this information to create focused advertising campaigns for specific geographies." You can also use the information to "try and figure out why some regions don't convert and consider special offers, discounts or other incentives to boost sales for those regions."


Use demographics data to better understand and target your audience. "Google Analytics recently released a Demographics and Interests segmentation in the Audience report," says Katya Constantine, founder, DigiShopGirl Media.


"This allows sites to see the age, [gender] and interests of their site users - and which segments have a higher conversion rate," Constantine explains. "Based on this data, you can create better targeting criteria in future display and paid traffic efforts."


Know exactly what your customers are looking for (with Site Search). "Use Site Search data in Google Analytics to find terms people are searching for while they are on your site, along with the page they were visiting at the time," says Dave Cannon, co founder, FindProz, a private instruction marketplace.


"This will help you pinpoint lost opportunities for product placements or additional mid-to-low-funnel content, and where they should be located on your site," Cannon says. For example, "someone might search for 'photographer' and then refine the search with 'wedding photographer.' [So] now you know to advertise wedding photographers."


Learn where visitors are landing. "Look at your Landing Page metrics," says Nick Mather, COO, CyberMark International, an Internet marketing firm specializing in ethical SEO. "These are the pages where all your website traffic lands from search engines and other referrers. The content (text, images, call-to-action elements, etc.) on these pages should be perfected as to decrease the bounce rate and increase the conversion rate."


Find out which calls to action generate the most interest. "When it comes to online conversion rates and lead generation, you can use in-page analytics to learn which calls to action are producing the best results on your Web pages," says Brendan Cournoyer, director of Content Marketing, Brainshark, a provider of cloud-based business presentation solutions for sales, marketing and training.


"For example, Google Analytics allows you to view a web page and see which links on that page are driving the most clicks," Cournoyer says. "Are some calls to action more effective than others? Does the placement of the call to action matter? Do some calls to action resonate better based on the topical focus on the page they live on? By using this data, you can further hone your messages to increase conversions based on the practices that work best."


Pay attention to bounce rates to see where you're losing customers. "Review the bounce rate of your landing pages," says Steve Lamar, vice president, SEO Production, Volume 9, a search marketing firm.


"Look for pages with higher traffic and high bounce rates relative to your other pages," he advises. "Pages with high bounce rates can indicate a problem with the information, layout or call to actions. Use bounce rates as a initial indicator of problem pages."


In addition, think about using "a conversion funnel to figure out where you are losing customers on the way to a sale," says Parsons. "Are there steps in your checkout process that are causing users to drop out and not purchase? Simple changes might result in dramatic improvements in the number of people who end up purchasing," he says. Moreover, "conversion funnels can be used for sites that aren't ecommerce sites, too."


Have another tip regarding how to interpret and use web analytics data to improve conversion rates? Leave a Comment.


Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a regular contributor to CIO.com and runs a marketing communications firm focused on helping organizations better interact with their customers, employees and partners.


Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn. 


Source : http://www.cio.com/article/2379548/web-analytics/8-ways-to-use-web-analytics-to-increase-online-sales.html 

Note: After reading this editorial, please visit the transcript of the discussion forum to view readers' comments.

Mrs. Wohfiehl was the type of teacher other teachers sought to emulate. She was intelligent, hardworking, and innovative, and she loved to teach. She frequently used Internet search engines and directories to locate materials and lessons related to her fourth grade students' needs, and she identified resources on the World Wide Web that fit with the learning objectives in her classroom. She used e-mail frequently, and she belonged to several listservs, many of which put her in touch with a wide variety of educators -- from inservice and preservice classroom teachers to college professors. Her favorite listserv encouraged friendly, helpful interaction among professionals and discouraged flaming and spamming.

She was shocked one day when she discovered that someone had posted a message to this listserv that contained pornographic images and abusive language. The list manager immediately removed the message from the list archives and took steps to prevent its author from posting to the list in future; she also kept others on the list apprised of the situation and what was being done to resolve it. After some investigation it was determined that the child of one list member had sent the message. No one who knew the child could believe that this honor student had done such a thing.

Mrs. Wohfiehl felt that it was important for her students to have access to the vast resources available on the World Wide Web and to make the most of e-mail. However, receiving the disturbing message on the listserv made her think about the guidance she needed to give her students as they learned to use the Internet. The Internet provided her students with ready access to all sorts of people, and not all of them would model appropriate and ethical Internet behavior.

The next weekend, Mrs. Wohfiehl spent some time searching the Internet for ways in which schools, agencies, and parents had dealt with unethical behavior on the Internet. She soon found herself researching not only how to deal with inappropriate messages on listservs but also issues related to dissemination of misinformation, flaming, defamation, harassment, obscenity, incitement, impersonation, plagiarism, privacy, viruses and worms, security breaches, abusing the property rights of others, spamming, fraud, and exploitation. Though all these things concerned her, she determined that her most immediate need for her students was helping them understand and respond to plagiarism, invasion of privacy, and exploitation with relation to the Internet.

Of course, we are all familiar with the terrifying cases of sexual exploitation of children facilitated by the Internet. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation website describes cases of e-mail transmission of pornographic images of children and of pedophiles who prey on children they meet in chat rooms. And we have all had the experience of conducting an Internet search, only to have our seemingly innocent keywords yield links to explicit websites.

But another, subtler form of exploitation of children involves invasion of privacy. For example, at some websites where contests are sponsored, children are asked to provide a considerable amount of personal information as a prerequisite to winning prizes. Many innocently respond, unaware that their personal data will be used for marketing purposes. In 1998, David E. DeSantis (online document) reported that of the 69 million children in the United States, almost 10 million (14%) had Internet access either from school or home. Children clearly represent a large and rapidly growing segment of online consumers, and companies that produce and market products for children are well aware of this fact.

Besides wanting to protect her students from all forms of exploitation, Mrs. Wohfiehl was concerned about the way they used Internet resources in their classroom research. She wanted to ensure that the students were aware that material on the Internet belonged to the people who developed it. She believed that though children should be encouraged to search for new information and ways of presenting it, they should have a basic understanding of copyright and know how to cite Internet sources in order to give appropriate credit for information they might use.

Guidelines for Classroom Use of the Internet

While searching the Internet, Mrs. Wohfiehl found a wealth of material that gave her ideas for addressing inappropriate and unethical behavior on the web. The next week, she discussed plagiarism, privacy, and exploitation with her fourth graders, and she and the children generated the following list of rules for use of the Internet in their classroom.

Copyright laws and fair use guidelines must be followed when using anyone else's material in research and writing. Sources must be properly cited. Visit any of these pages for help in how to give proper credit for Internet resources:

Electronic Reference Formats Recommended by the American Psychological Association
“Documenting Sources from the World Wide Web” from the MLA Style section of the Modern Language Association website
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions' Library & Information Science: Citation Guides for Electronic Documents

Material created by others has to be respected. No one should delete or change anyone else's material without permission.

Students should not share passwords or try to break into anyone else's password-protected material.

Software, including freeware and shareware, must be given to the teacher so she and the school's media specialist can review it before it is installed on any school computer.

The Internet may only be used for tasks related to classroom assignments.

Students should not download files from the Internet (including documents, browser plug-ins, or freeware) without checking with the teacher first.

Students should not complete any fill-in forms or provide any information about themselves online without first checking with the teacher.

The Internet must not be used for sending or receiving copyrighted material without permission; for viewing or distributing pornographic material; or for sending messages that use obscene, abusive, or threatening language or that violate another person's right to privacy.

Guidelines for Parents

Mrs. Wohfiehl knew that many of her students had Internet access at home, so she sent a note to each child's parents, offering the following guidelines.

Children should be counseled to tell a parent or trusted adult immediately if they come across any Internet content that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Children should not give out any personal information without the permission of a parent or other responsible adult.

Children should never agree to meet face to face with someone they met online without first getting permission from a parent or responsible adult.

The child should not download any software from any source without first checking with a parent or trusted adult.

Children and parents need to work together to establish the ground rules for going online. These rules should include time of day, length of time, and permitted activities or websites.

Filtering the Internet

Despite guidelines such as these, it is all too easy for children to stumble on highly disturbing material on the Internet. There are, however, many software packages that can help teachers and parents prevent children from accessing pornographic, violent, or otherwise offensive material. These packages usually work by searching for certain phrases and words in a data stream coming from a website. If these words are detected, the software prevents the material from being transmitted by shutting down the computer or hanging up the modem, or it blocks display of content from the site. Though there are many such software packages, some of the more commonly known are CYBERsitter, SurfWatch, Cyber Patrol, The Internet Filter, and Net Nanny.

In addition, some Internet search engines and directories now offer special “safe sites” designed for children. Two of these are Yahoo's popular Yahooligans and Lycos Zone.

Making the Net Safer for Students

Mrs. Wohfiehl's research convinced her that there were two ways to make certain the children in her class were safe on the Internet: by limiting the ways in which they could encounter material that did not contribute to their education, and -- perhaps most importantly -- by teaching them how to deal with such material if they did encounter it. She knew that as they got older they would often be put in situations where they would have to decide between right and wrong. Besides relying on the Internet as a classroom information resource, she intended to use it as a stepping stone to teaching her students about safety, responsibility, appropriate behavior, and ethics.

Some Additional Online Resources

Guidelines for Using the Internet

  • Netscape's “Children and the Internet”
  • Children and the Internet, an annotated list of links from the Three Rivers Free-Net
  • A Perfect Match: Children and the Internet, at the site of the American Library Association (be sure to click on the Resource list link)
  • Guiding Children Through Cyberspace -- URLs, an extensive list of links prepared by a Virginia (USA) librarian
  • Children and the Internet, a brief list of resources from the Wisconsin Intellectual Freedom Round Table
  • Internet Safety for Kids from the Harlingen (Texas) Consolidated Independent School District
  • Use of Computing and Networked Information Resources, a policy statement from the West Shore (Pennsylvania) School District
  • Student Network Responsibility Contract from the Chico (California) Unified School District
  • Student Internet Use Agreement from North High School in the Eau Claire (Wisconsin) Area School District
  • Filtering the Internet

Netscape NetWatch

Children and the Internet?, a page from the Babies-Online.com site
Policing Cyberspace, an article from Canada's Maclean's magazine

Chat room: A chat room is a location on the Internet where communication can take place in “real time.” When you've logged on to a chat room, everything you type appears on the screens of everyone else who is at that Internet location to participate in that particular chat. Each participant's statements are labeled with a nickname to identify who is talking. Participants choose their own nicknames and often decide against sharing their real names, either to preserve anonymity or to take on a new persona. Chat rooms are usually organized around a particular topic (for example, ROL has conducted chats about several of its postings) and provide a place to “meet” people who share similar interests.

Flaming: Originally, “flaming” meant to express oneself in an e-mail or post to an online discussion in a passionate manner in the spirit of honorable debate. Flaming well was an art form. More recently, flame has come to refer to any kind of derogatory or mean-spirited comment. A “flame war” occurs when an online discussion degenerates into a series of personal attacks against the debators, rather than discussion of their positions.

Internet: The vast collection of interconnected networks that all use the TCP/IP protocols and that evolved from the Arpanet of the late 1960s and early '70s. Together, the Internet gives access to websites on the World Wide Web, e-mail, listservs, and other forms of electronic communication and transmittal of data.

Listserv: The most common kind of e-mailing list, “Listserv” is actually a registered trademark of L-Soft International, a software firm that developed one of the most popular mailing list packages. The word, usually with a lowercase l, has now come to refer to any group mailing list which a user can join to receive or post messages to other members of the group. Examples include ROL's own mailing list (a list that provides subscribers with “e-mail alerts” of new content at the site) and RTEACHER, a list connected with the International Reading Association's print journal The Reading Teacher.

Spamming: An inappropriate use of a mailing list, listserv, or other networked communications facility to send the same message to a large number of people who didn't ask for it. The term may come from some Internet users' low opinion of the food product with the same name or from a Monty Python skit that features the word spam used repeatedly.

Definitions in this glossary are based on those found in Enzer, M. (1994-99). Glossary of Internet Terms. Available:http://www.matisse.net/files/glossary.html. 

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