Categories
Pop Culture Technology

Facebook’s GIPHY Acquisition is Evil Genius

I’ve seen a decent amount of bewilderment as to why Facebook would spend $400, 000 on an acquisition of GIPHY.

Honestly, I find it surprising that so many people would be confused by this because truthfully, it’s a brilliant strategic move.

To understand why, one only needs to look at all the ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ buttons that litter the web currently.

Even when you’re not using Facebook, every ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ button on the web uses browser cookies, IP addresses, and a host of other methods to track your behavior. These embedded pixels monitor almost your entire browsing experience and report it back to Facebook, who then uses it to profile you to better target ads at you.

But as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself has pointed out:

“I believe the future is private,”

https://www.wired.com/story/f8-zuckerberg-future-is-private/

This is remarkably prescient and brilliant positioning. Because from a PR perspective, it makes it seem like Facebook is moving towards caring about privacy, when that is not really what he means at all.

In the last few years, we have seen the rise of tools like Slack and Discord to communicate and organize. These are perceived as “private” communities to users. And they represent a challenge for Facebook because our behavior in them is cut off from their data mining.

For Zuckerberg, “the future is private” is a challenge the company faces, not a business opportunity. Facebook’s continued growth requires a way to peer into our private communities.

So how do you find a way to track things that go on inside those walled gardens?

Same way you would the web: Tracking pixels.

And who has a large market share of image files embedded in closed chat conversations and “private” communities?

GIPHY.

Categories
Chicago General Technology

Congratulations to ActiveCampaign on 100K Customers

Today ActiveCampaign announced they had surpassed 100,000 customers and over $100 million in annual recurring revenue.

When I joined the company in 2013, we were a team of 10 in a tiny office downtown. At that point, we were still transitioning from a downloadable software to a software-as-a-service model and had not yet launched the company’s flagship automation builder that would go on to spike our insane growth path.

Something that has set ActiveCampaign apart from its competitors is its dedication to customer care. Although the company has changed dramatically, and not EVERY practice has scaled (at one point, I would designate a half-hour at the end of every day to handwrite a personal thank you card to every customer who purchased an enterprise account) the team’s commitment to being customer-centric has never wavered. I believe if they can keep that as their guiding light, they will continue to find success.

I’m incredibly proud of the product I built at AC, but I’m even more proud of the fantastic customers and colleagues I helped in the process.

The company released this video this morning, which inspired me to write something. The video not only features a photo with me in it but a few that I shot while working there. It made me smile, and I’m proud to share it. Congrats to the whole ActiveCampaign team. Here’s to 100,000 more!

Cheers!

Categories
General

May Day Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Since I was a child, I have loved baking. In particular, I’ve loved chocolate chip cookies. Ruth Wakefield‘s Toll House recipe is an inspiration. Since 2010 I have been playing with Ruth’s recipe to put my spin on it. Amusingly after starkly diverging from it at first, the final product has organically come full circle back to its roots with many similarities to that recipe.

It’s hard to beat the best, but after many test batches and tweaks, I’ve finally gotten it to a place that I feel is ready to share with the rest of the world. I’ll let you be the judge.


May Day Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
by John Morrison

Yield: 48 cookies
Cook time: 10 minutes
Prep time: ~3 hours (including chilling)
Baking temperature: 375°

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup bacon fat
½ cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter at room temperature
½ cup wildflower honey
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 shot bourbon (~3 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 ¼ cups dark chocolate chips

  1. Combine butter and bacon fat in a large bowl and mix in an electric mixer on low until creamy and combined
  2. Add honey and brown sugar gradually. Beat until light and fluffy ~3 minutes. Make sure to scrape down the bowl as needed.
  3. Beat in vanilla, bourbon, and eggs one at a time and scrape down the bowl as needed. Add baking soda and beat into the mixture at low speed.
  4. Add ⅓ the flour and mix on low speed. Gradually add remaining flour until blended.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Cover bowl and chill for at least 1 hour in the fridge.
  7. Scoop generously rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart on silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
  8. Bake at 375° until golden brown around the edges. (Approximately 10 minutes on a baking sheet ~9 on parchment)
  9. Remove from the oven and place cookies on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.
  10. Enjoy!

Notes: I usually get my dark chocolate from Blommer. I prefer to buy the ‘Alpine Dark’ broken ends and break them up further to use as chocolate chunks, but chips work excellently as well.

As far as the bourbon is concerned, I usually use whatever we have on hand. I don’t usually use Four Roses Single Barrel, but I did for this batch because it’s my favorite bourbon, and this batch is special to me.

You’ll notice there is no salt in the recipe, that is because the bacon fat should supply more than enough salt by itself. If you’re looking for an excellent way to make perfect bacon while preserving the grease I recommend checking out Dan Benjamin’s Bacon Method.

I landed on the “May Day” name because May 1st (aka International Worker’s Day) was the day I finally ‘froze’ the recipe and because I prefer to it with all local ingredients when possible.

I’d like to give shout outs to Gorden Tebo, Weien Wang, Rocco Palladino, Sean Wolter, Kellen Terret, Doctor Susan Brown, and Will Goodwin of Spoken Cafe. Over the years, each of these folx gave me feedback, advice, or inspiration that helped make this into something I’m very proud of.

Finally, a special thank you to my mother, Susan Morrison, for fostering my love of baking and my love of cookies in particular. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Your share will be in the mail tomorrow.

Thank you all.

Categories
Technology

On Leadership in the Face of a Pandemic

We are going through a collective trauma right now.

Unemployment is skyrocketing.

Companies are scaling back and laying off whole offices.

Thousands are dead, and we’re just scraping the surface.

The companies that are in the enviable position to not only feel stable, but to continue to hire in this economy should expect employees to have a dip in productivity right now, adjust their expectations, and communicate that as okay to their teams.

What’s not okay is putting an employee on a “Performance Improvement Plan” (aka “PIP”) in the middle of a global pandemic.

When people are under shelter-in-place orders, and having to weigh the safety of simply going out for groceries while also worrying about loved ones in other states. The last thing they need is “leaders” dangling their job security over their heads as well.

Moments of crisis tend to reveal who people really are. Do you want to be a leader, or do you just want power?

Take a moment and think before you react.

Categories
Chicago General Photography

Returning to the Impossible

An Polaroid-style instant photograph depicting the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood.
Lincoln Square, Chicago – 1 April 2020

From January 1, 2012 to January 1, 2014 I took a single instant photograph a day every day with a vintage Polaroid camera and ‘Impossible Project’ instant film. And then I stopped.

With all of this corona virus stuff going on, and us all trapped at home, and many of us unemployed, I figured it was time to start creating again.

To maintain my physical and mental health I’ve been cycling daily throughout Chicago (don’t worry, I’ve been wearing a mask and gloves, and keeping proper social distance from everyone else) so I decided to pull out some of my instant cameras and start sharing what I see with the world.

So, ‘The Impossible Year’ is back… for now. We’ll see how long I keep it up.

This content will be posted primarily to Tumblr via the original blog: https://theimpossibleyear.com but I’ll also be cross sharing it to Twitter and Facebook as well. I hope you’ll join me.

Cheers,

John