Image Recognition Has Evolved And It’s Ridiculously Awesome!

For a while now, while explaining how search engines work, instead of straight out saying “Google can’t understand images”, I had gotten in the habit of saying “Google can’t understand images…. yet”. I don’t remember when I picked that up, but in my head I always believed that Google would be smart enough to understand what images are about.

You can’t fool them forever.

I am truly amazed to say that I can, almost, stop saying that, because the reality is, Google is making incredible advancements in understanding images.

With Enough Data, You Can Understand Anything… Even Images

I had read a while ago about Google making some significant advancements in image recognition technology, which floored me, but it wasn’t there yet. I would say, cool experimentation, but not there yet.

I just finished listening to Matt Cutts give a fascinating talk about the lessons he learned from the early days in Google (not just for search geeks… it’s a great talk).

At about the 25:00 minute mark, he commented that if you search your own images (assuming everything was set up correctly) for specific things, Google will return results showing those things… and this is without any markup. It’s based on an understanding of what those images are.

Check out what I got:

Google Image Computer
Searching my images for Computer
Google Image Nature
All the nature shots I have backed up
Google Image Western Wall
Photos of the many visits to the western wall
Google image bike
Lots of images of my biking adventures (but I think some are missing)

Image Recognition Is Here

It’s crazy to think but its happening. It’s the same reason if you search for my name and append to it green, orange, blue, you see me in different colors.

Image optimization is about to take on a whole new meaning. We aren’t there yet, but the days of alt attributes, and optimizing images with text are possibly coming to an end soon. It will be about the quality of the images and an understanding of what the picture is about (which could have everything to do with the quality).

A Prediction About Image Optimization

When this DOES become more mainstream, we will see optimization guidelines for “how” to take pictures effectively so they best perform.

What Does Your Phone Home Screen Say About You? @Garyvee is “Sorta” Wrong.

Gary Vaynerchuck has a great thought where he says, if you look at the home screen of someones phone you will only find 3 type of apps on it:

  1. Escapism and Entertainment
  2. Information and Utility
  3. Social (people)

No one will have anything on their home screen that doesn’t fall into those 3 categories.

Truth be told, he is absolutely right, and my title is “sorta” click bait…. sorry! But there is one thing relatively misleading about what he says…

There Is No Other Type Of App To Find!

What other category could an app fall into on your phone?

The entire ecosystem of apps falls into those 3 categories. I challenge someone to think of another one. I don’t think you can.

But there is something else that you can glean from your phone home screen.

Personas and Rich Data from Our Phone Home Screen

I strongly believe the bigger question becomes, which of those categories do you fall into?

Imagine the rich information you can gather, what you can learn about someone, or the potential targeting possible if this was known? Just by looking at a persons phone screen you can learn so much. Is this person into games and primarily uses their phone to escape the craziness of their day?

How social are they and what networks do they belong to? That can be very telling.

And there is only so much space on the home screen.

Here is another interesting thing to note; is this an organized person who creates folders and keeps apps nicely organized?

For anyone who could figure out how to translate this rich information into actual data (I have some thoughts on it), I literally believe this is a billion dollar idea. Can you please just give me a h/t or honorable mention? :)

What do you think my home screen says about me?

What does my home screen say about me?
What does my home screen say about me?

A few little known facts:

  • I have had that background image for 5 years. It’s of my son (1-year-old at the time) hanging from a basketball hoop… I’m directly underneath him cropped out so don’t call child services.
  • I am usually not so organized but somehow I managed to be on my phone. This is a massive achievement for me!
  • Google translate is crucial for an immigrant (bottom row 2nd from the right)
  • I recently took the chrome app off my home screen because the search bar is at the top and I am trying to change my habit.
  • Call me old fashion, but I like a big fat clock at the top with the date under. I know I lose space, but that’s how I roll!

Let me know what you think my screen says about me.

My 3 Words For 2015- Professional Resolutions That Work

Resolutions around the new year are a common thing, but like many people, I slip and don’t always hit my goals. There just doesn’t feel like enough time to focus on so many.

Over breakfast one morning, Sam Michelson tuned me into Chris Brogan’s 3 Word Process. The idea being to choose 3 words that you want to base your year around. 3 impactful words that have meaning to you, and own them. I really loved the idea because I find, too often, I will end up taking on way too many resolutions, and then not really accomplish any of them. So the idea of 3 things, 3 words, to give your day a bit more focus is such a brilliant idea.

So I spent a serious amount of time thinking about some of my character traits, career direction, things I am good at, and things I can do significantly better. So without further ado…

My 3 Words for 2015

3 words 2015 - AF 2015
h/t Chris Brogan for the image idea

Focus

2014 was a great year but came with its challenges. I started as an independent marketing consultant. And while I would say it was without a doubt successful, I also felt like my focus on any one project was lacking. I was all over the place. Working with too many companies, running to too many different offices everyday, and juggling too many projects. All this on top of business development, logistics, scalability, finances. I learned that this is not an environment that I thrive in. I need focus. I need to identify the projects that are important to me, focus on those and stop always chasing the next one.

I already have an upcoming change which will help me keep focus on my priorities… but cant say anything yet. Stay tuned ;)

Agility

Just ship! This is something that I need to keep doing and keep doing better. For a variety of reasons, this feels more important to me this year than others. I pride myself on perfection and shipping an awesome final outcome. But it holds up the process. I need to constantly push myself to ship early and ship often. Even if its not perfect or exactly what I want it to look like at first, there will be time to tweak later.

Structure

Having a time blocked day is actually the world I came from. When I started in recruiting, we had tons of motivational meetings about time blocking, keeping structure, taking your phone off the hook so you aren’t disrupted, etc. Even when I worked at Resolution Media and Spark, we had time sheets we had to fill out, which despite being the bain of my existence, they also forced me to keep track of what I was doing and how I was spending my time.

While I accomplished a lot, 2014 was not the best year for a structured work life. I need to get back to that basics. I need to time block my days/weeks/months, so I know what I am working on and what my goals for those time frames will be. This means consistent time blocking for reading, working on specific projects, but also time blocking creative thinking. Creative thinking and time blocking aren’t mutually exclusive, and I need to remind myself that often by setting time for it.

This Is My Professional Focus In 2015

Would love to hear from you. What are you planning on working on in 2015?

What are your 3 words?

My Blog Was Hacked & I Learned All About WordPress Vulnerabilities and Inevitability

I was the victim of a hacking which I only found out about yesterday. No amount of 2 step verification could have helped here to my knowledge, and I am a believer in 2 step verification. Nothing I could have done differently could have made a difference. The scary thing is how long it could have gone on for.

Listen, to say that I don’t understand how Blackhat hackers work is an understatement. They are more coders than marketers, thats for sure. Its a fascinating world, but it hasn’t been mine. I know what they do, and what their goals are, but I never really understood how they did it. And honestly, I still don’t entirely. But I got a taste of the tactic.

And while it’s super annoying that it happened, like my friend Menachem said, the bright side is, apparently my site is considered popular enough that it was worth their time.

We can debate that later.

But I am happy to say that I have kept true to the mission of this blog, which from day one was about learning. I have taught myself HTML from this blog, learned CSS, dabbled in photoshop and experimented with SEO theories. Because of the hack, I was able to get exposed to a whole new world of Spam that I never really understood.

Here is What I Learned From Being Hacked

Well for starters, I learned the “hard” way what Levitra is (see what I did there).

What Levitra is

On Monday December 29th 2014, my colleague came up to me and said “dude, I think your site was hacked”. When I checked, all was good in the world wide web for me. But when I looked on his computer, sure enough, in the header, right under my logo, there was an add for erectile dysfunction medication. When I went back to my computer, I checked on incognito mode, and sure enough, there it was. Those sneaky bastards made sure that when I was logged in I wouldn’t see it. I had no idea how long it had been like that for, but I was obviously very concerned.

I called up my hosting company and they ran Sitelock for me to identify all the infected files.

By the time I got home, helped my wife with the baby, and settled in, it was already 9:30PM. I called the hosting company again and they basically told me unless I had a clean backup, there was really nothing they could help me with and I needed to hire someone (a developer) to clean it up for me.

At this point, I am literally freaking out. I use WordPress Backup To Dropbox, which is great, but I realized, this is creating a backup everyday. So this backup is likely infected too.

Not sure what to do, and emotionally exhausted from this whole debacle, I  posted to Facebook that I was hacked, looking for a developer, and then I went to sleep.

FB Post of Hacked Blog

But I sat in bed awake, thinking. And thinking.

My mind was racing.

And then I had an idea!

I jumped out of bed, and ran to fire up my computer to do some investigative work.

First, I had a look at the wayback machine to try and identify when this actually happened.

hacked digitalhighrise date span

The earliest known date I saw was around the 15th (but there is a time difference because of where I live so I assume the 15th / 16th). This means, any backups I have are probably infected since it was a couple weeks.

I took the output I got from the sitelock crawl and followed the thread of each file to see what the deal was.

Sitelock infected files report

My plan was to go into each file, look, probably have no idea what I was doing, delete some random crap, break the file, restore it, and then submit that I had no idea what I was doing and needed professional help.

Turns out, something looked off when I went there. There were 2 files. And in many cases, when all of them were for example images, the copy was some random .PHP file. There was a pattern.

hack

If you look at my “last modified” date on the site, it stands out but as an old date. Easy to overlook. However, look above at the backup (which is on the left). It says 12/16.2014. Which pretty much correlates with the date I found in the way back machine. This was the trend. Over and over and over, each one of the files had this date.

I Identified the date of the hack.

So I spend the next hour going file by file, identifying all of these “new” ones, checking them against the backup to make sure it truly was the infected file and make sure they truly were infected.

By the way, if you were curious, this is what the file looked like. Spammy as anything!!!

Hacked file added to the site

Once I cleared those out, I had to make one last change to the functions.php file. This strangely was the only file that was edited which had a lot of garble at the beginning. Rather than actually cleaning out the file myself (since I had no idea what kind of mess was actually in there other than the header), I figured the best thing to do would be to just go back into the original download file of the theme, pull that one file, and exchange it.

Hacked functions php fileOnce I did that, all was back to normal and working again.

I got back into bed by about 1:30AM.

How Did this Hack Happen?

I still don’t entirely know how the site was accessed. Just to be safe, I downloaded all sort of security plugins to experiment with.

Currently, I am using:

  • Sucuri Security: I don’t entirely know the full extent of what it will do, so I am trying it. While using this, it did show me that someone (or something) was trying to agressively access mysite. A brute force attack. I woke up to 20 emails warning me that this was happening. So I downloaded Brute Protector
  • BruteProtect: This generated some API key for me. I don’t know what it does yet. It is just sitting there.
  • Rublon: 2 step authentication. It is REALLY annoying when I want to log in, but will ensure no one can enter my site.
  • I also downloaded a plugin to rename my login page instead of the generic wp-admin. So good luck finding that one hackers!

Unfortunatly, I don’t necessarily think this will entirely solve the problem, and I admit, I don’t completely know what else I can do to patch any vulnerabilities.

I have been running this blog for nearly 7 years and there is never a dull moment. Always something to learn, and that’s why I do it. As annoying as it is, I am glad I can use this as a learning experience.

I still have some outstanding questions like, how the hell did this happen? What plugin had a vulnerability? What is the best way to backup your site so in the event this happens again, I know where to go? Anyone who can answer those, it would be much appreciated.

 

App Purge of 2014 – New Years Cleaning

It was a good run for some apps on my phone, but sadly, as the new year approaches, it was time to make some cuts for the ones that I just didn’t feel were working out. It wasn’t them, it was me… well, for some of them it was just me. For others, I just hated them.

Here are the top 6 apps that just had to go

  1. Jelly –  Why I still had this on my phone, I have no idea. What a terrible idea!
  2. RandomVideo and Image editing apps: Truth is, as much as I wanted to use that, it really wasn’t so realistic because I just didn’t have the time. When I shoot video, it goes on Vine or its just a long video that I am sending to Youtube. If I am going to edit a video, I need to do it the right way and actually use it. Sadly for Magisto, they just didn’t make the cut. I just couldn’t ever really get into it.
  3. Hotels Tonight: An awesome idea, but it just sat there. I guess I am not as much of a traveler as I thought I was
  4. Google Device Assist: While it was super cool and helped me make this video, the reality is, I am never going to need it again. And if I do, I will just download it at the time.

  5. Snapchat: I gave it a shot… numerous shots. But I just don’t feel the value. I know I know I sound like a marketing heretic to some people, and I am not taking away how valuable it could be for some brands, but personally, I am just not feeling it. But I did get this great image out of it which I might consider using as a headshot in some places

    Aaron Friedman Music
    The only good picture I captured from Snapchat
  6. Inbox by Google: I REALLY did not enjoy using this. I don’t know if it changed since the last time, but I really just didn’t see the value. So it had to go. I still don’t know why they don’t just find a way to incorporate inbox features into what they already have.

A few that I am still on the fence about:

  • Slideshare –  I love slideshare, but I am just not using it on my phone. And it sends me so many notifications
  • noknok –  I really don’t love it, but it’s always interesting when someone adds me and I see what they call me. I guess for now it can make the cut.
  • Astro File Manager –  Because its not self explanatory how to actually access your files on a nexus device… which is bizarre.

Thats all.

What Apps are you deleting before the new year?