3 Problems Even Good AI and Machine Learning Content Suffers From

Every morning, I have an artificial intelligence and machine learning reading list and every morning I see the same 3 problems in AI and machine learning content.

Around 8 am each morning, I make my way to the office, usually listening to the Dan Le Batard show,  make my incredibly delicious Bali Blue Moon coffee in my Aeropress and I sit down to look at my aggregated AI and ML articles.

And here we come to problem # 1:

Problem # 1: Bad Headlines!

The first problem I notice is the headlines of some of the best and most interesting articles.

Here’s an example from this morning on Medium

Do you know what Numpy is as a new reader?

How about I/O?

I won’t even mention back propagation.

One of the Big Picture problems with marketing AI and Machine Learning is that the marketing materials are WAY too technical and complicated.

The Waymo article is REALLY close to having a good headline all they need to do is eliminate the term Google I/O re-cap which lowers the value of the content and is confusing if someone is looking for a more accessible easy to understand article which it is.

When it comes to writing headlines you want to take a cue from the high traffic sites like Buzzfeed.

An easy way to start creating more interesting headlines is to use this old Gawker trick: Begin with a question that would false if you removed the question mark.

You can also use Co-schedule’s awesome headline analyzer tool for free Here

Problem # 2: In Article Algorithms and terminology keys.

I come from the Ivy League world of academia, I understand the drilled into you process of showing your work in academic papers.

Guess what blogs and content marketing pieces aren’t

I’ll give you a second.

Did you guess academic papers?

Because academic papers make TERRIBLE content.

You don’t need to show your work in content pieces. All you need to do is show the BENEFITS of your product and those who are interested and so technically inclined will figure out how to get in touch with you and have their data scientists call your data scientists so to speak.

I know it can feel scary to strip out what you believe is the most important parts of your content but it’s not what the audience is trying to hear.

Your ideal clients want you to talk about what your AI or ML can do for them and their business.

Trying to show them HOW it works is like trying to sell hot stew during the Pawnee Summer

They don’t care about how brillant you are.

Sorry.

Problem # 3: There is no “Toaster” 

My friend the super smart marketer Tony Almeida has a concept he calls the “Toaster” for his content.

The concept of a toaster is that it is one easy to understand or implement idea that the person reading or watching your content can take away and use without even reading the whole article.

He calls it a toaster after the way that banks used to give out free toasters in order to get new clients to join the bank.

One of the things I’ve noticed from reading about an hour of AI and ML content a day for the past 2 years is that if the article or video does have a “toaster” it is usually in the form of some algorithmic breakdown that you need a CS degree to even begin to understand.

For every piece of content you create you want to have a toaster.

And you need to make that Toaster simple enough for anyone who might stumble upon it to understand like this short video on where AI uses sentiment analysis to determine that Ben Affleck is in fact displaying the emotions of sadness in the infamous “Sad Ben Affleck” video.

Now that is a GREAT toaster that anyone can understand.

Ok so let’s quickly re-cap the 3 big problems I see in even good AI and ML content

Having read a ton of AI and ML content over the last few years I noticed the following 3 big problems:

  1. Bad Headlines. Either Too technical or not focused enough on the benefits.
  2. In article algorithms and terminology keys. Just no.
  3. Not enough “Toasters” or overly technical toasters.

So now you know to spice up your headlines, remove the algorithms and terminology keys and include 1 simple easy to understand idea or take-away in each article.

If you do just those 3 things you will see a huge leap in the quality and reaction to your ai and ml content.

A Beginner’s Guide To Using Themes in Your Content Creation

I was in 10th Grade the first time I was introduced to the idea of themes in literature. My English class was reading the “Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. If you went to high school in the USA you probably have a similar memory.

I’ve always been a pretty fast reader especially with fiction so I read ahead of the class and quickly realized that the Scarlet Letter was about so much more than just a woman who had a child out of wedlock.

“The Scarlet Letter” is dripping with themes about society, shame and stigmatization, all of which are universal themes that even a hormone crazed teenager can appreciate which is why it has stood the test of time and is taught to all 10th graders as an example of great literature.

Themes are found throughout literature, but you might be surprised to find out that they are also found in great content marketing.

A theme is what your content is REALLY about beyond the surface levels.

If your content is a picture, the theme is the frame. Themes focus your content on what’s really important the same way picture frames focus your eyes on the photograph.

Let’s look at a couple examples of themes in well known marketer’s content:

Tim Ferriss- Them: “Life hacking.” While I would argue that the theme of the “4 hour workweek” is lifestyle porn for 9 to 5ers, the obvious theme in Ferriss’ content is life hacking. In the “4 hour body” Ferriss details all of the ways that he attempted to hack the human body including his experiments with steroids and what I like to call “Rich guy” medical testing. In a weird bit of life imitating themes Ferriss has now hacked the art of the best selling book and turns transcriptions of his interviews with famous people into bestsellers like “Tools of Titans” which offers wait for it….. Life hacks from the rich and famous. Tim Ferriss is out here living his theme.

Dave Asprey- Theme:”Bulletproof Living.” Dave Asprey originally sprung to fame online with his “Bulletproof Coffee” which combine butter, coconut oil and coffee to create what Dave claimed was the world’s best breakfast and the basis for everything from weight loss to improving your cognitive function. He followed up on this with various other products and diets based on “Bulletproof” living. One thing that wasn’t so bulletproof were some of Dave Asprey’s claims on the Joe Rogan Experience which led Joe to go on this epic rant

Donald Trump – Theme: “I Am Rich, and Successful” Leaving the politics out of it Donald Trump has created 30 years of products and investments out of the theme that he is what a rich successful business person looks like despite never being one of the 100 richest men in America let alone the world. From “The Art of The Deal” through Trump University and the Apprentice Trump has consistently used the themes of wealth and success in every business venture and to drum up billions of dollars of free publicity

Get the idea of what themes are in content now a little bit better?

Great, now let’s look at how to figure out the themes for your content with

3 questions to ask yourself to figure out what your themes are:

  1. What do you want to be known for ? The first part of deciding on your theme is figuring out what you want to be known for? Try to boil this down to 1 or 2 words or phrases that really encapsulate what you want your themes to say about you the same way that Donald Trump uses his themes of rich and successful.
  2. What themes resonate with your clients? In addition to what you want to become known for you also need to keep in mind what resonates with your clients. There’s no point creating content with themes that don’t resonate. This is one of the reason self help resonates so strongly with some people while others just think it’s weird. The themes of self help are things like empowerment, destroying limits, creating the world you want and for some people those themes just don’t resonate.
  3.  What are your values as a company? What are the things you want your company to be known for? In the mid aughts Verizion went all in on the theme of best cellular service. You might remember these commercials:

The only problem with that theme was that over time consumers started to care less about the quality of their cell phone coverage as cell phone coverage improved overall. This lead to “Paul” switching sides from Verizion to Sprint as Sprint jumped on the theme that price is more important than service.

Ok, now you have your theme or possibly a couple of themes (I would advise against more than one theme but do you) how do you start to incorporate these themes into your content?

5 ways to incorporate themes into your content

  1. Show, don’t tell. The first piece of writing advice given to any aspiring author, you want to demonstrate your themes rather than explicitly telling your audience what your theme is. Though I will add a caveat that some audiences have trouble with subtlety so you have to know how sophisticated your audience is.
  2. Have running features. One of the constants throughout content with good themes is what I like to call running features. A good example of a running feature is an inside joke or re-occuring situation. In all of Shonda Rimes shows for example, one of the themes is that alcohol reveals the character’s emotions. Olivia Pope drinks a fancy super expensive red wine but switches to Tequila when things start to get real.
  3. Connect the dots without giving the answer. When it comes to injecting themes into your content you really want to lead the horse the horse to water but not try to make him drink. If you spell out what your themes are too obviously you risk coming across as try hard or insincere. Instead you want to sprinkle in bread crumbs that make it very easy for the audience to figure out what the themes are without stating them or making them too obvious.
  4. Be consistent. Remember that themes are about what the content is REALLY is about and by extension what your business is about. That means that EVERYTHING you produce needs to be consistent and fit in or at least not blatently violate the themes you have established.
  5. Look for unique tie-ins. Last but certainly not least you want to specifically look for unique or unusual ways to integrate your themes. While you want to be obvious about how you connect the dots and seed the themes in your content, the more unique or out of the ordinary the way you get to the theme is, the more it will be remembered and understood similarly to the Greek parables which sought to teach morals through stories.

That was a lot of information!

Let’s quickly go summarize everything to make sure that you get the absolute most value out of this post.

I started this post by telling you about the first time I noticed themes in 10th grade while reading “The Scarlet Letter.”

After that I defined theme for you as follows:

A theme is what your content is REALLY about beyond the surface levels.

If your content is a picture, the theme is the frame. Themes focus your content on what’s really important the same way picture frames focus your eyes on the photograph.

After that we went through 3 questions to ask yourself to determine your themes:

  1. What do you want to be known for ? The first part of deciding on
  2. What themes resonate with your clients?
  3.  What are your values as a company?

And I taught you 5 ways to incorporate your themes:

5 ways to incorporate themes into your content

  1. Use subtext not context
  2. Show don’t tell
  3. Connect the dots without giving the answer
  4. Be consistent
  5. Look for unique tie-ins

Now you know everything you need to start incorporating themes into your content making them resonate with your audience and help them define you and your business clearly in their minds.

 

 

Life Begins With L: The Introduction To My De-Motivational Book

Last year I got very annoyed with the constant fake positivity of a lot of books in the self help/motivational industry so I decided to write a satirical de-motivational book because there is clearly enough inspiration out there and someone needs to tell y’all to take it down a notch.

So with that tongue in cheek tone in mind, I present the introduction to Life Begins with L: A de-motivational book.

 

                                                       Introduction:

When searching the internet, bookstore or social media you can find millions of results related to motivation and inspiration.

You can find motivational speeches, and inspirational books or inspirational speeches and motivational books.

There are also inspirational and motivational memes, videos, and quotes. There is not a situation in life you can come across that the motivation/inspiration industrial complex doesn’t have a pithy slogan for.

The dream doesn’t work unless you do

Nothing is impossible

Dreamers dent the universe

You could easily spend the rest of your life trying to watch, listen or read  1/10th of the motivational material out there and not even get close to finishing it all.

Coincidentally never actually doing anything with all that motivation.

It’s also quite rare that that inspiration or motivation is put towards anything other than trying to look good in a swimsuit or make as much money as possible with as little work as possible.

But what has all this motivation actually gotten us?

We have a reality tv star in the white house.

Healthcare has collapsed.


No one has been punished from the last financial crisis as we barrel towards another one.

Iceland won’t be here in 200 years.

Schools are more segregated now and we are further behind in education than during the Jim Crow years.

We are working harder and longer and have less and less.

And Oh by the way, Nazis are back.

But what are we focused on?

Getting motivated and getting inspired.

Maybe motivation isn’t the answer.

When you search for demotivational books or speeches however, you just get 1 weird book about management. Which is really a motivational book masquerading as a demotivational book.

What you are reading is the world’s 1st REAL demotivational book.

Surely we’ve all seen a friend or family member or even ourselves at times who needed some de-motivation to stop wasting time, energy or money on that loser boyfriend, dead end job or terrible business idea.

This book seeks to provide that demotivation and convince you that everything is terrible the end.

There’s nothing intrinsiclly wrong with motivation or inspiration, but they have been co-opted by delusion, magical thinking and the blurring of the line between fantasy and reality.

Which is why as the world gets worse and worse more and more people believe they are going to be millionaires, or become famous on Youtube, or whatever other unrealistic dream they’ve convinced themselves they are only a few months away from achieving and you are just being a hater for doubting.

We have become distracted and delusional about the state of the world and human nature to the point where we keep doing the same things( and electing the same type of people) while expecting a different result.

Delusion has become our new language. Each person silently agreeing to not shatter the other’s illusions lest they do the same to them.

Facts no longer matter if they get in the way of what we want to believe or want others to believe about us.

And anyone who disagrees is a hater who needs to focus on their own dream instead of insulting someone else’s.

But this new chosen reality isn’t the truth.

The truth is; you are fat and stupid.

Probably racist too.

You lie. A lot.

You’re never going to be a millionaire

Your relationships both with your partner and family are a mess.

You’re not as smart or competent as you think you are.

And the World isn’t some magical land of love and light and opportunity, the world is a terrible unfair chaotic place where popularity matters more than merit and you don’t actually have much power to change anything.

Unless you’re rich.

I say these things not to insult you or make you feel bad, but to get you to open your eyes to what’s REALLY going on and what’s really going on is terrible.

That’s the bad news.

Ready for the good news?

So am I.

I too am a fat and stupid liar, which is what makes me so well qualified to write this book. I don’t have a million dollars, I didn’t build a company you’ve heard of, I don’t have the perfect relationship or inner peace.

And my credit is bad as hell.

In other words, I am the average American and somehow I rose about my stupidity to be able to live in reality.

And if I can accept that I am fat and stupid, so can you and so can America and maybe we can actually make some progress by dealing with things the way they are instead of the way we want them to be.

Spoiler alert- We can’t make any progress.

But at least if you read this book, you can stop being so goddamn delusional and start to understand what is actually going on instead of just accepting the facade of reality.

And that will make my life easier, because like all writers I wrote this book for me, not you.

I wrote this book because someone has to tell you the truth and not the “Truth.”

You don’t need to motivate yourself

You don’t need a vision

Or to follow your passion

And you can’t do or be anything just because you want to.

I mean unless you’re rich.

Once you accept that, you’re ready for my initial concept of this book which would simply be a cover with the words “What’s terrible?” and only 3 words inside.

Everything.

The End.

I was once JUST like you.

I believed in the goodness of people, destiny, and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.

I believed that you could achieve anything through hard work and relentless positivity.

In short I believed that I was in control of everything and was entitled to the best the world had to offer simply for showing up (yes, I am white and was raised middle class why do you ask?)

All I needed was inspiration for an idea and motivation to hustle and work hard.

But this simple explanation for the world- work hard, follow the rules, be a good person and you’ll be successful has one fatal flaw…

It assumes you can control what happens to you.

Control is an illusion.

It functions like a veil obscuring your view of reality until all you see is the white lace in front of your eyes.

This sort of selfish near sightedness is offered as a solution to all of the world’s problems.

“Focus on the positive” they say, as if ignoring disease, or war, or injustice just makes it go away.

“Be Grateful for what you have” is another piece of advice give, which is a nicer way of telling people (especially poor and black and brown skinned people) to stay in their place. Somehow the idea that it could be worse is supposed to provide solace in a cruel, brutal world.

“Everything Works out in the end” is another favored cliche which is just plain wrong. It doesn’t always work out in the end, because there is no grand plan. Life is chaotic and random but accepting that makes us feel bad so we do our best to push past that nasty thought and focus on ethereal concepts like “love” or “Unity”

The thing about positivity, motivation and inspiration is that you have to believe in it blindly, and almost brainwash yourself because if you start asking questions the facade quickly begins to reveal itself for what it is.

A shell game.

The cracks form and the dam eventually bursts.

Have you ever found yourself lying about how much fun you had on a night out or vacation?

Saying something like “it was cool.” because you didn’t want to be negative? Even though you know you didn’t really have a good time?

Or answering “good” out of habit when someone asks how you are?

Whenever I hear someone say “it was cool.” I instantly know that person cannot be honest with themselves. Because to acknowledge the reality of one situation is to invite reality into your mind.

People have become adept at building walls between themselves and reality. We ignore things that we don’t like or that don’t help us, we dive further and further into a virtual world full of fake realities, and we tell ourselves that damn it we’re trying and that’s what really matters right, when we fail.

You know deep down that most of the things you’ve been told are great or fulfilling, are actually terrible.  This includes friends, family, sex, love and kids.


But we are liars and the person we lie to the most, is ourselves.  

Motivation, inspiration, confidence, destiny, purpose, these are lies that we tell ourselves to distract ourselves from the real world.

Since most of you are not ready to accept the Terrible Truisms of Life by yourself, I must ride over the hills of your mind on horseback in order to destroy the delusions you harbor.

This book is my attempt to do that.

There is no happy ending, no 7 point plan to get over the terribleness of life, no checklists of ways you can make a difference.

Because this is not a self help book.

This is a demotivational book.

It’s not supposed to give you hope.

Or make you think things are going to be ok.

I’m not going to give you an uplifting message or tell you that you’re going to make it.

Or that things will get better.

You will not be inspired reading this book.

What this book will do is make it possible for you to live in reality instead of delusion.

I will do you the good turn of ripping the veil of positivity off of your eyes, exposing you to the harsh cold reality that life is a series of losses.

Which is why Life, begins with L.

10% Shorter and Some Thoughts On Stephen King’s “On Writing” And Becoming A Better Writer

Every few years I consciously try to become a better writer by studying what great or at least successful writers have written on writing.

Try saying that 3 times fast.

This year I ended up reading Stephen King’s “On writing” among a few other books, blog posts and Elmore Leonard’s 10 tips for better writing.

How douchey is this photo on a 1-10 scale?

Out of all of that studying I came away with 1 really helpful tip and that was to make each edit 10% shorter.

For example:

A recent blog I wrote for a client on the legalities of cannibidiol or CBD was 1140 words, so my first edit aimed for 1026. 10% less. If I think it still needs polishing I’ll go for another 10 % trim and try to cut out another 102 words. This has made my writing and editing process a lot easier. It also makes it easy to cut things because you’re looking to get rid of a full 10% of your words.

This rule came from the otherwise super annoying Stephen King book “On Writing.” In “On Writing” in between inserting his thoughts on the Red Sox which are approximately as intelligent and have as much nuance as those you would find in the comments section of a Youtube video showing Bill Buckner let the ball roll through his legs in game 6 of the 1986 World Series, King waxes on about the greatness of…. wait for it. Stephen King. He also tells the reader to read as much as possible while citing weird 1970s science fiction books as inspiration and “negging” other authors of his era like some sort of MFA program pick up artist. Most annoying of all though, is the first section of the book where the author gives us around 80 pages of biography with zero advice on writing, in a book that is literally titled “On Writing.”

Not a fan.

I also went through the James Patterson and David Mamet Masterclasses

From all of that studying of writing and re-reading great writers I came to the conclusion that there are 3 important tips for becoming a better writer no matter who you are.

The first is to be brief. As someone, possibly Mark Twain once said “I’m sorry for writing a long letter, I did not have time to write a shorter one.” While longform dominates online, most people don’t read all the way through and end up skimming if you don’t get to the point.

The second is that great writing is rewriting. I always say that I don’t really get writer’s block because I can always write something terrible and come back and edit and rewrite it. Ta-nehisi Coates on some podcast (possibly Longform) said that the fun part of writing is editing and moving things around and I agree. It also makes the writing better.

Third you have to know what you want the writing to do. Whether you’re writing a play on gender dynamics like Mamet’s Oleanna or writing a product description for a black matte mini fridge like me you have to know what you want the reader to feel and what is going to grab their attention right away.

Lastly I firmly believe that writing like public speaking, and creating art in general is not something everyone can do well. You can learn the basics and do everything according to shrunk and white but at the end of the day talent wins out and not everyone can be a Mamet or a Coates or even a big dollar copywriter if they don’t have the talent necessary to begin with.

Any thoughts on becoming a better writer you’d like to share, leave in the comments.

Degree Arbitrage: What it is and why it matters.

In finance, arbitrage is the practice of taking advantage of a difference in price between two markets.

You see arbitrage pop up quite a bit in day to day life as well.

When I used to gamble on sports, the easiest way to lock in a profit was to find an arbitrage opportunity between different lines. For example if fighter A is -180 on one gambling website and fighter B is + 160, but on another site fighter B is +225 and fighter A is -250 you can lock in a small profit no matter which way the fight goes through arbitrage.

Here’s an image from the Bet Arbitrage calculator at Betmma.tips

Another common form of arbitrage is the “digital nomad lifestyle” popularized by Tim Ferriss in his lifestyle porn book “The 4 Hr Work Week.” In this form of arbitrage, you earn American dollars online while living in a country with a much lower cost of living such as Thailand or Mexico. With digital nomad arbitrage you can live like a king for $2,000 a month.

Now that you get a feel for what arbitrage is, I want to introduce a term I’ve been using for awhile; degree arbitrage.

Degree arbitrage is what’s currently happening in the job market. Flip open any paper, or log onto any job site and you will see a ton of entry level jobs that require a master’s degree and pay $10/hr.

How is that possible?

Degree arbitrage.

The short story is that in the mid 80s through the aughts colleges and grad schools had a massive growth surge. More people were going to college and then grad school.

Interestingly enough Law Schools have had a similar crisis in the last 5 years or so.

With everybody going to grad school, the value of a graduate degree dropped.

Employers noticed this and started to raise the requirements for entry level jobs because there’s a lot of people out there with a Masters degree (or higher) and no job.

And that’s how you end up with jobs that pay $10 and require a Master’s degree in New York City.

The problem with degree arbitrage is the same problem that exists with all arbitrage; it’s a zero sum game.

There’s a reason gambling sites ban you if they catch you taking advantage of arbitrage.

There’s also a reason many of the locals in cities like Bangkok, and Playa del Carmen don’t have the highest regard for digital nomads.

Because with arbitrage one side wins and one side loses.

With degree arbitrage, the winners are big corporations. The losers are regular employees.