Jed Cohen

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Archive for January, 2010

A Social Profile Updater

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I am a member of way too many online services.  You probably are too.  There’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Posterous, Brazen Careerist, Delicious, Squidoo, Ning, WordPress.com – and those are just the ones that I use at least once a month.  I’ve also got placeholder accounts set up at a variety of services in case I ever want to use them.

Even if I never log in, I still have profiles.  And if I want to do something like change my picture, I have to log in to each and every one to do so.  Granted, I can use Facebook Connect and Twitter OAuth to log in on many sites, which ties my profiles to just two places.  But not every place supports those services, and even if they do, chances are the profiles ask for different information.  On Twitter, I have 160 characters and a URL to describe myself.  On Facebook, I have as much room as I want to use.  And  what if I want to use different elements of each profile?  Maybe I want to include my favorite books from Facebook and my educational background from LinkedIn.  I can’t think of an easy way to do that right now.

I want to build a way to manage my entire identity online.  This is the idea behind OpenID I suppose.  But I want to build the reverse.  Even if I have one set of credentials to log in everywhere, I still have 18 different profiles (I just made that number up, but you get the idea).  What I want to build is kind of a modular system where you input all of your information that you’d ever want to share.  Then you provide the system with your login information and check off what you want your profile to say where.  Every time you update the modules, this updater propagates the changes to all of the other services you interact with.  So it’ll no longer take you a half a day to update your picture and bio on all of your profiles – you do it once and the system does the rest.  The closest analogy I have it that it’s like Ping.fm, but for profiles.

Now I know it’s a bit silly to be sharing this on my blog.  What I should do is go find an engineer or two, build this, find funding, and launch it.  By posting it here, I’m letting this idea out into the wild where others can create it without having any obligation to me.  That’s a risk I’m willing to take because, well, I honestly have no idea if I could get this thing off the ground.  For that matter, it may already exist.  Or it could violate the TOS of any of the websites that it would update.

While I figure that all out, what do you think? Would you use this updater? What am I missing? I’d love to get some feedback.

Written by Jed

January 8th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

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Untemplater Manifesto

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I read the Untemplater Manifesto a few days ago.  At it’s most basic, it contains the stories of six people with entirely different backgrounds who have managed to be happy doing something completely outside of the norm for who they are.  If we move to the more complex, I imagine it can be a combination of an inspirational ebook, a call to action, or an affirmation of your plans (those may all be the same thing depending upon who you are).

I want to embrace what they’re writing here.  I’ll be the first to admit that where I am now, six months after graduating college, was not where I planned to be.  I’m sure that correcting the path I’m on is going to be frustrating and tiring and hard work.  I hope that it will also be fun and engaging and educational and uplifting (this is why I’m looking for a new project by the way).  I want Untemplater to be one of the steps forward on the path I’m hoping to follow.

To give you the sense of the manifesto, I went ahead and put the text through Wordle, generating the following:

I really think this does a great job of summing up what the manifesto focuses on – spending your time making your lifestyle all about what you want.  The other items, like school, friends, work, and travel, all become secondary.  I imagine it must be incredibly freeing.  It must also be scary.  The people behind these stories have all taken some kind of leap into the unknown.  They’re out there innovating in their respective fields, and apparently doing it successfully.  Their combined experiences will probably provide Untemplater with plenty of content.  And as they’re all continuing on their own journeys, we’ll be able to follow along as they both find success and make mistakes.

But I can’t help but wonder – isn’t this all a bit oxymoronic?  This is a website that says it’s going to make you think about how you can control your own life.  Isn’t there a possibility that they’re providing one template to substitute for another?  I really don’t know.

Big questions aside, I held off on publishing this because I wanted to see what they would post in these first few days.  So far they’ve provided some good financial advice, looked at the good and the bad of the mobile lifestyle, and called themselves (and probably me and you as well) crazy.  It’s an interesting mix of articles, and I look forward to reading what they produce in the future.  Hopefully it’ll make my own life a little less routine in the process.

(I should note that while I starting writing this shortly after the manifesto was published, I am using this as my submission to one of Untemplater’s giveaways.  Because, you know, why not?)

Written by Jed

January 7th, 2010 at 10:23 pm

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Mental Accounting

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So I’m starting to pay back my student loans. As a result, I decided to take stock of where I am financially. I know that I’m better off than the average NYU student in terms of debt versus savings (thanks mom and dad), but I have to admit that I wasn’t quite as involved in the borrowing process as I should have been four years ago. So I turned to Mint to get a sense of my financial “health.” According to my profile there I’ve been a member for 416 days, but I haven’t used it much. Yes, I would get a monthly summary, and I’d get e-mails if I made any unusual purchases (something I wish my credit card company would do). But I’ve generally pretty good at not spending more than I earn, so I didn’t need to track budgets or compare credit card programs. Now that I’ve been taking a much more active role in my finances, I’ve been thinking more about how my mind views my savings more than I normally do.

Our minds play tricks on us.

On a semi-regular basis I go to the ATM and withdraw some cash. When I do this, I unconsciously begin to differentiate the cash from my savings, even though it is still part of my total net worth. My mind has placed it in a different account, much like a mental balance sheet. In a way I view that cash as “spent” since it’s no longer in my bank account – which is not such a great thing because I won’t approach spending it with the same scrutiny that I do the money in my checking account.

If you think about it, you might do the same thing when you use your credit card. Whenever you swipe your card, you technically loose money. Yet you may not feel that loss until you pay your credit card bill.  Credit cards, loans, and a whole bunch of other modern financial tools divorce the act of purchasing from the act of paying.

Here’s some other examples:

  • Pennies a day – Framing a large long term purchase/subscription as “x cents a day” or “as much as your daily cup of coffee” is more effective than framing it as a cost per year.  This is because we place them in a kind of petty cash mental account.
  • Length of time is a factor – NYC cab drivers rent their cabs in 12 hour shifts. They tend to quit early on busy days because they make up their costs sooner and stay out longer on busier days. This is the exact opposite of what they should do; on busy days they’ll make more if they stay out longer, while they should save their time on slow days.  This occurs because cab drivers look at their earnings on a per day basis instead of on a longer time frame.
  • Bonus versus rebate – In 2001, the “Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act” gave $38 billion back to American taxpayers in $300-600 rebates to stimulate the economy.  However, only 22% actually spent it – the rest saved it or payed back debt. But there is some evidence to suggest that a greater percentage of people would spend it if it was positioned as a bonus (a gain) instead of a rebate (a returned loss).

I could go on.

There are a lot more examples of how mental accounting (and other psychological phenomena) makes us act in irrational ways. One of the best ways to counteract them is to understand and acknowledge them. Tools like Mint leverage technology to help us think smarter and maybe overcome some of the quirks of our own minds. Which is both cool and disconcerting, isn’t it?

Written by Jed

January 5th, 2010 at 9:59 am

Posted in psychology

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Project Wanted

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So I’m looking for a new project.  I say “project,” but I use that word loosely.  You could have one big thing that you need done, or you could have six tiny things that all contribute to the goals of your organization.  You could have a team that needs just a little bit of help, or you need just a bit of help building a team.  You could be starting some brand new venture, or taking a look back at what you’ve completed.  For that matter you could be one person who needs a bit of extra help managing things.  I’m open.  What I’m looking for the most is something engaging that I can stretch my mind doing (meeting new people and learning something new would be nice too).

Here’s a quick overview of what I’m looking for:

Two to six month project, working an average of 10-15 hours a week.  I’ll consider this a success is if we both learn something while we work together.

– It’s got to be virtual.  If you have an office in the NYC area, I’d be happy to stop in, say hello, meet everyone, or even work there occasionally.  Realistically, most of the work should be able to be done via the web, and we can keep in touch as many different ways as you’d like – Skype, Twitter, Basecamp, instant message, carrier pigeon.  It’s up to you.

– Ideally I’ll be working in some kind of marketing function for your organization.  That said, I think of marketing pretty broadly.  I think public relations, advertising, internal communications, customer relations, and developer relations are all marketing functions because they all represent your brand to both internal and external customers.  You can think of me as a digital envoy, interacting with others online to help further the goals of your organization.

– I’m not looking to get paid.  Yes, you read that right – I’ll work for you for free.  Again, this is meant to be a learning experience for me, not a second income.  So no stipend or college credit required.  You can think of me as a consultant if you’d like; either way, I’m sure you (or your boss) isn’t going to mind the price tag of zero if they need some extra help.

Now here’s a bit about me:

– Graduated from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where I studied marketing, media, and politics in an attempt to understand what drives people to make decisions (from purchase intent to voting behavior to the impact of the communication channel).  Major highlights there included founding the Ademos Projet, a social marketing venture, and completing my colloquium on the role of propaganda in modern democracy.

– Completed two virtual internships since I’ve graduated (in addition to my day job).  The first was at Careerealism, where I was part of a team working to increase traffic to their site via Twitter.  The second was with Squidoo, where I helped brainstorm ideas for a variety of projects.  Both were interesting experiences, and I actually ended up being interviewed for a Wall Street Journal article about virtual internships as a result.  I’ve also been holding down a full time job since graduation.  I prefer not to say where for privacy, but you can find out if you do a little digging (I’ll take that as a sign of your interest).

– Consider me up to date on most of the social media platforms you’ve heard of.  I can also do some basic video and audio editing in a pinch, and I’ve used WordPress installations on several projects.

– If you want to know more then I’d recommend checking out my writing here.  It should give you a pretty good sense of what my mind is like.  You can also follow me on Twitter or try and stalk me on any other number of social media platforms.  That last bit I’ll leave in your hands.

Like what you’ve read so far?

Then get in touch with me if you think I’m a good fit for what you have in mind.  You can reach me via Twitter, Facebook, or you can even send an e-mail to “me [at] jedcohen [dot] com.”  Or you can, you know, leave a comment.  That works too.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Written by Jed

January 4th, 2010 at 11:42 am

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