What does it look like when a regular person pays to promote a Tweet?

Anyone who works in social media will be intimately familiar with how Twitter’s paid campaigns work, but despite years of being around people in businesses running social media campaigns, I’ve never spent a single dollar of my business budget on a paid Twitter campaign (I’m all about ‘dem organic Tweets). So on a whim, I decided to give Twitter $50 to promote a single tweet that I thought was mildly clever/amusing in the hopes that it might get some traction:

There’s no CTA; I was looking to see if I’d get any comments/engagement on it – perhaps a new follower or ten? Here’s what my $50 got me:

So that’s a whole lot of…nothing really. One new follower. A few clicks on the hashtag. One organic reply, one reply from the paid promotion. The one paid promotion reply was a now-blocked troll posting a pornographic animated GIF that I can’t un-see. 😳 Twitter really can be a cesspool sometimes. 😩
I’m not sure what “success” looks like on a promoted Tweet – generally a 6.42% engagement rate with any form of paid advertising would be considered strong, but perhaps metrics of success are different on Twitter. If this were a pure brand ad, I might consider 9 cents per engagement to be a success.
$50 to get 8008 impressions works out to a CPM of $6.25. Given the completely un-targeted and generic nature of my tweet, I’d assume little to no competition for it in terms of other paid campaigns, so that does seem high to me. I’m sure an experienced ad buyer could have made the $50 go a bit further – I did everything on the default/automatic settings.

So what did I learn for my $50? That I should have used it for something else (like a few Blu-rays), though my curiosity has been satiated for now.

Understanding Aperture in Photography with Examples

I wrote this email to a friend earlier this year when he asked why, when two people stand together in a photo but one stands further back, is one in focus and one a bit blurry. It’s a classic struggle for photographers who are taking candid photos. I thought the explanation/tutorial was useful enough to share here. I’m only the 28,878th photographer to write a blog post about understanding aperture, but I may be the first to use Dairy Queen Blizzard cups.

Photographers smarter than me have better explanations for how this works, but if you look at all four of these images you’ll see how aperture and distance work. The cups were about four inches apart (different focal planes). Imagine they are people to make this more relevant. 😁 Manually trying to change the focus on any of these only changes the spot the camera is focusing on, it can’t bring both into focus (because physics).

f/1.8
f/1.8 up close: extreme bokeh on the back cup, but even on the back rim of the first cup it’s blurry (and the text at the bottom on the front). This is “wide open” aperture that brings in the most light. ISO only 640, so a nice clean image. Shutter speed 1/30th of a second.

f/16 up close: the front cup is perfectly in focus, the back cup is mostly in focus. But the ISO had to push to 12,800 (so the image is noisy) and the shutter speed dropped to 1/6th of a second (so any movement would make for a blurry photo).

f/1.8 far away: I moved back about five feet. Look at how the blur is much less extreme; the front cup is sharp. ISO is 560 (low noise), 1/30th of a second, so no blur. The red laptop is still blurry.

f/16 far away: both cups are in focus, the laptop is in focus. ISO pushes to 12,800, shutter speed to 1/8th (so blurry photos if there’s movement).

So, basically, when taking photos of groups of people that are not lined up next to each other, you should move back, switch to a higher aperture (f/8, f/12, etc.) and hope there’s enough light to make it all work.

Understanding COVID-19 Risks

I know there are a crushing amount of articles/videos/podcasts to absorb every day, but if you’re going to read ONE thing this week about COVID-19, please let it be this article. 🙏 It’s truly that useful.

This article is one of the most easily understood analysis of how the coronavirus spreads that I’ve read and it’s really shaped my understanding of how the virus is transmitted. I’m not a medical professional but I’ve been doing my best to understand how people are getting infected and what things constitute high-risk behaviour (it’s not always what people think it is). The above article was written by a Comparative Immunologist and Professor of Biology specializing in Immunology from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, so not some random person with an opinion and a blog (like me). 😜

Similarly, there’s an increasing number of scientists that are pushing the WHO to declare COVID-19 an airborne virus. The risks of surface contamination appears to be much lower than many first thought.

The most compelling things I’ve read point to airflow as being the single biggest preventative factor in keeping people safe, and anything that can be done to:

  1. Increase the amount of shared air among people (larger rooms, more air, fewer people)
  2. Decrease the viral load in the air (via masks)
  3. Increase the movement of the air (windows open, doors open, fans blowing to move the air out of the room, etc.)
  4. Be outdoors (where the virus disperses with any movement of air and can’t build up over time)

…points towards fewer infections. So I’m less worried about people congregating outside without masks (the protests don’t appear to have caused a spike in infections) than people being in a small room with no airflow and wearing masks.

Do what you can to spread the most factual, useful information you can about understanding the risks of COVID-19. Even if the fatality rate is actually 10x lower in the USA than we thought – as this CDC data seems to indicate – over 132,000 Americans have died from this and there’s every reason to make smart decisions and lower the risks of infection.

Fixing the macOS Microsoft LifeCam Webcam Overexposure Issue

There’s a problem with old Microsoft LifeCam webcams with macOS; often they will have increased exposure, making them basically useless (I look like a blindingly white ghost – well, more than normal). There’s no way to fix this at the OS level, no drivers update or settings to change. I read about a hack using Photo Booth to override the exposure issue, but it doesn’t fix it permanently and I found the effect would randomly stop mid-conference call. Not to mention that it hits your CPU pretty hard, which kicks up the fans on my laptop and makes things noisy. This webcam has to be about a decade old – maybe more – so frankly I’m amazed it works at all. 😆

I came up with the only thing I could think of to force the exposure levels on the camera down: I popped a lens out of my non-prescription sunglasses and taped it over the front of the webcam. It worked, dropping the exposure down to a usable level. And when the camera occasionally gets the exposure right, I can flip the lens up to remove the darkening effect.

Without the sunglass lens on the left, with on the right.

Now I’m just waiting for my new webcam to show up…in a month. 😩

Why it’s Always Day 1 at Amazon

“…customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great. Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf.”

– Jeff Bezos, Amazon Letter to Shareholders 2016

AT&T’s Pay As-You-Go Yearly Plan: The Best/Worst Option for Travellers to Canada & Mexico

Every year my family and I go back to Canada twice to visit with both sides of our family, and most years we also go to Mexico for a vacation. Having a cell phone plan that accommodates those travel plans is key. For several years I was on Cricket Wireless, and they had a plan I’d temporarily upgrade to for a month to get data/voice/text roaming in Canada and Mexico. It worked really well in both countries, delivering decent (5mbps+) speeds no matter where I went.

Late last year, I switched* to an AT&T Pay As You Go plan that had an excellent price point: if you paid for a year in advance ($300 + tax), it worked out to only $25 a month. For that price, I got 8 GB of data per month, unlimited voice and text, along with free data/voice/text roaming in both Canada and Mexico. Also, one month of data rollover, and WiFi hotspot functionality (which Cricket’s plan lacked). There were some fine-print warnings about possible speeds outside the USA, but I wasn’t concerned. #Foreshadowing

Continue reading AT&T’s Pay As-You-Go Yearly Plan: The Best/Worst Option for Travellers to Canada & Mexico

How to Set up an Office 365 Exchange Email Catch-All

I’ve been using a Microsoft hosted Exchange email solution for myself and my wife for several years. Yes, it’s kind of geeky, but we both rely on Outlook as our main email/contact/calendar tool and it’s worked well for us. Years ago I set up a catch-all email forward for my domain, so anything sent to any email address at jasondunn.com would get sent to me.

Why would I do such a thing? To give myself protection from companies abusing my email address. When I sign up with a new company, the email address I give them is [email protected] When I do this in person, it makes some people practically go cross-eyed because they can’t understand how I could have an email address like that. 😜 Quite often I’ll get asked if I work for the company and when I say no it confuses them further. I always explain if someone wants to understand.

Continue reading How to Set up an Office 365 Exchange Email Catch-All

Vinli’s Dead End: The Hidden Negative of Crowdfunding

I’ve been participating in crowdfunding campaigns since 2011 when I backed a documentary about MMA fighter Jens Pulver. I’ve enjoyed participating in the process of helping to bring products to market – 45 on Kickstarter, 40 Indiegogo – and other than the times I’ve been burned by backing a project that never came to market (which is another blog post) it’s been a fun way of purchasing items.

For this post, I want to focus on the other side of the story: what happens when you get the product, it meets your expectations, you utilize it fully, come to rely upon it…and the company goes out of business or EOLs (end-of-life’s) their product. Many technology products today have a service/app element and that means your hardware has dependencies upon the business model of the company you backed. They brought the item to market that you wanted, but if their business model changes or they go out of business, that thing you bought might just stop working.

Continue reading Vinli’s Dead End: The Hidden Negative of Crowdfunding

How Much Email Does a Presidential Campaign Send?

Email marketing is a persistent subject of curiosity for me; I’m always observing how companies use email as a communications medium with their customers/supporters. It’s the oldest form of electronic communication still in use, but it ubiquitous and effective.

Back in September 2019, I signed up to support Andrew Yang’s Presidential campaign because I like his vision for the USA, in particular universal basic income (even though I can’t vote here yet). I was surprised by the amount of email they sent in the first three days: seven messages. I’d never experienced such intense email saturation before. Usually reaching out even once a day would be considered borderline email harassment. 😆 The first week? 13 emails. 😲 I decided to keep every email he’d ever sent just out of sheer marketing curiosity.

How many emails did the campaign send in total? 334 over a period of 154 days. That’s 2.2 emails per day, every day, for almost half a year! I have no idea if this is typical or not for a campaign, but if I wasn’t someone who had donated to the campaign and hoped he’d make it all the way, I would have unsubscribed in the first week. I’m deeply curious about what the campaign’s weekly unsubscribe rates were. 🤔

Email can be a powerful tool to communicate with people who care about what you’re selling/saying, but if you overdo it you can alienate the very people you’re trying to build support with.

#IronSharpensIron: When Direct Mail Hurts Instead of Helps

We live in an era where environmental impact is on the minds of many people, and every brand should be aware of how their actions are going to be perceived. Companies can’t do things the same way they did them even five years ago; climate change is real, it’s happening around us, and every company needs to be mindful of their environmental impact – especially when it comes to sales materials and direct mail pieces.

The biggest catalog I’ve seen in years.

I thought most companies were aware of the need to not be seen as wasteful, so I was surprised and frankly a bit irked to get this massive 2 pound 3 oz, 787 page catalog from Uline recently (shown above). This wasn’t just any junk mail – it was huge! I didn’t request this catalog, have never purchased anything from them, never gave them my information, and am not part of their customer market. It was addressed to the “shipping department” of an LLC I spun up two years ago for working with one client as a small side gig. This is Uline’s “hello” to a potential new customer, but I don’t have a warehouse or ship anything. This is direct mail marketing without appropriate targeting, and it backfired.

Continue reading #IronSharpensIron: When Direct Mail Hurts Instead of Helps