If Your Business Strategy Looks Too Complicated, It Probably Is. Here's Why

Once a year, I spend two days with my client companies developing their annual plan. While we continuously review strategy throughout the year, the annual plan is a chance to do a deeper dive into the internal and external factors that inform how to go to market.

Getting this strategy right, and keeping it right, is key to long-term growth and success. However, many teams get it wrong. They don’t get it wrong because the strategy they develop won’t work, but because it’s impossible to explain it in simple terms. If it’s not easy to explain, it will be impossible to execute.

Your employees, your partners, and your customers are the ones who will actually be implementing your strategy. If it’s too complicated to understand, they won’t understand it.

After you’ve decided on all of angles you’re going to play and all of the moves you’re going to make, set to work developing a simple, clear, and effective way to communicate it to everyone on the team. Here are three things every strategy must communicate easily and effectively to all stakeholders.

1. Set a clear (and limited) set of focused priorities.

In essence, strategy is about choice. And the first objective is to set a clear and decisive set of priorities for the organization. The fewer the better. These need to be above and beyond the day-to-day work and focused on long-term goals and key moves needed to get there.

Strategic moves include things like creating new products or services, developing new capabilities, entering new markets, scaling up capacity, or even researching technology. While all of these might help the organization, trying to do all of them at once won’t. Pick three to five for the year, max.

Another trick I often employ is to list all of the strategy options that the team  eliminated or de-prioritized. By publishing these strategies as well, you’re making specifically clear what you’re NOT doing in the coming year.

2. Set a clear definition of success and a timeline.

Beyond direction, a good strategy needs a clear desired outcome and definition of success. Too many strategies stop at big ideas without nailing down specifics. The devil lies in the details. Too often, I see a team of people agree to a high level strategic priority, only to discover they are on vastly different pages when the details are fleshed out.

For each strategic direction, create a set of specific goals that are both measurable and time bound. It should be clear to everyone what constitutes completion, and it ideally should include a handful of objective criteria. I generally suggest a simple checklist or short description of the outcome or product.

3. Create a compelling vision of future success.

Now that you have a clear set of priorities and a definition of success, it’s time to paint a vivid picture of success. As humans we’re wired to be compelled by stories and visual images. Turn the goals you’ve selected into a narrative  explaining why you’ve chosen these objectives, why they are the most important ones, and how achieving these will lead to organizational success.

If someone on your team has a creative bent, try illustrating your desired future with photos and illustrations. If you’re developing a new product or service, find images that reflect the impact you want to create on your customer. If you’re expanding into a new geography, create a slideshow highlighting the city or region and explain why it’s such an attractive market.

Having a strategy with a clear set of priorities and objectives with actionable outcomes will increase your stakeholder alignment. By creating a rich vision for future success you’ll drive engagement and motivation. When in doubt, keep it simple, clear, and compelling. A basic strategy, well-executed, will always beat a brilliant one whiffed.

Amnesty Report: Twitter Abuse Toward Women Is Rampant

For many women, especially journalists, politicians, and other public figures, Twitter is something to endure. Many have accounts out of professional necessity, but the cost of their participation in Twitter discourse is often abuse, threats, and harassment. Women learn to block, mute, report, and ignore their mentions. Some tweet directly at Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, frustrated that he seems never to take the problem of abuse against women on the site seriously. He rarely answers them directly.

Amnesty International considers online abuse against women a human-rights issue, and has repeatedly called on Twitter to release “meaningful information about reports of violence and abuse against women, as well as other groups, on the platform, and how they respond to it.” Twitter refused. So, Amnesty took matters into its own hands. On Tuesday, it launches an interactive website detailing the results of a crowdsourced study into harassment against women on Twitter, which it undertook in partnership with Element AI, an artificial intelligence company.

“We have built the world’s largest crowdsourced dataset about online abuse against women,” Milena Marin, senior advisor for tactical research at Amnesty International, said in a statement announcing the study. “We have the data to back up what women have long been telling us—that Twitter is a place where racism, misogyny and homophobia are allowed to flourish basically unchecked.”

The study looked at 778 women journalists and politicians in the US and UK, and found that 7.1 percent of tweets sent to them last year were abusive or problematic. The journalists and politicians received abuse at similar rates, and women were targeted on both the right and the left. Women of color in the study were 34 percent more likely to be the targets of harassment than white women. Black women were targeted most of all: one in every 10 tweets sent to them was abusive or problematic, whereas for white women it was one in 15.

“We found that, although abuse is targeted at women across the political spectrum, women of color were much more likely to be impacted, and black women are disproportionately targeted. Twitter’s failure to crack down on this problem means it is contributing to the silencing of already marginalized voices,” said Marin.

“Abuse, malicious automation, and manipulation detract from the health of Twitter,” Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s Legal, Policy, and Trust and Safety lead, wrote in a response to Amnesty, which was provided to WIRED. “We are committed to holding ourselves publicly accountable towards progress in this regard.”

Amnesty’s Troll Patrol project relied on a combination of crowdsourcing and machine learning. More than 6,500 volunteers from 150 countries helped label a subset of 288,000 tweets (out of 14.5 million) that had been sent to the 778 women between January and December of 2017. The volunteers were trained to spot abusive tweets—tweets that promote violence against or threats to people based on their identification with a group, like race or gender, which violates Twitter’s TOS—and problematic tweets, which Amnesty defines as “hurtful or hostile content,” like negative stereotyping, that does “not necessarily meet the threshold of abuse.” Three experts also analyzed a smaller sample of 1,000 tweets.

Element AI then used the expert and crowdsourced data to extrapolate how much abuse the 778 women faced on Twitter overall. Their model estimated that of the 14.5 million tweets mentioning the women, 1.1 million were abusive or problematic. That’s a problematic or abusive tweet every 30 seconds.

The Troll Patrol’s findings on race stand out most. Of the 778 journalists and politicians, black women were 84 percent more likely to be targets of abusive tweets than white women, and 60 percent more likely to receive problematic tweets. Asian women were the most likely to receive threats mentioning ethnic, racial, and religious slurs. Latinx women were slightly less likely to receive any abusive or problematic tweets than white women, but the abuse they received was 81 percent more likely to be physically and specifically threatening. (More details on the study’s methodology are available online.)

The study also found that the left-leaning politicians analyzed in both the US and the UK faced 23 percent more abusive and problematic tweets than politicians from parties on the right. The opposite was true for the media. “Journalists working for right leaning media groups like Daily Mail, the Sun or Breitbart were mentioned in 64 percent more problematic and abusive tweets than journalists working at left leaning organisations like New York Times or the Guardian,” the study says.

The study isn’t a perfect encapsulation of the harassment women face online. The authors note that the specific findings only apply to this group of women, and “would likely differ if applied to other professions, countries or the wider population.” The study also categorized the women’s race based on publicly available information, which the authors admit is “crude” and “not necessarily a reflection of how each of the 778 women self-identify.” A similar caveat applies to political affiliation, which was based on each woman’s party for politicians, or for journalists, her news outlet as rated by a media bias group.

The study also relied on the public Twitter data available to download from the platform in March 2018. Any tweets that were deleted or flagged as abusive prior to Troll Patrol gathering them from Twitter’s firehose on that date would not have been included in the analysis. As such, the authors say, the rates of abusive tweets are likely higher.

Twitter’s Gadde also took issue with the way Amnesty defined “problematic” tweets, writing, “We would welcome further discussion about how you have defined ‘problematic’ as part of this research in accordance with the need to protect free expression and ensure policies are clearly and narrowly drafted.” The report does acknowledge that “problematic tweets may qualify as legitimate speech and would not necessarily be subject to removal from the platform,” adding, “We included problematic tweets because it is important to highlight the breadth and depth of toxicity on Twitter in its various forms and to recognize the cumulative effect that problematic content may have on the ability of women to freely expressing themselves on the platform.”

What is abundantly clear is the sheer scale of the abuse against women on Twitter. Over the past year, Twitter has pledged to improve the health of its platform, although progress on that front has been uneven so far. Amnesty hopes the dataset can be used to help social media platforms, including Twitter, develop better tools to protect women.

The point of the study is not only to put hard data behind what women have been saying for years about their experiences on Twitter, but also to demonstrate the power and limitations of AI in online content moderation. On Tuesday, Amnesty and Element AI also unveiled a machine-learning tool, trained on the project data, which tries to automatically identify abusive tweets. The automated content moderation tool works pretty well, the researchers say, but it’s not perfect. “It still achieves about a 50-percent accuracy level when compared to the judgement of our experts,” the report states, “meaning it identifies 2 in every 14 tweets as abusive or problematic, whereas our experts identified 1 in every 14 tweets as abusive or problematic.” That overcorrection points out the risks of censorship inherent in even the most state-of-the-art automated moderation.

“Amnesty International and Element AI’s experience using machine learning to detect online abuse against women highlights the risks of leaving it to algorithms to determine what constitutes abuse,” the report concludes. Though automation plays a role, Amnesty recommends that platforms like Twitter must use it in combination with human review, and stresses the importance of transparency.

“We remain committed to expanding our transparency reporting to better inform people about the actions we take under the Twitter rules,” Gadde wrote in her response, dated December 12. “We are grateful for the feedback Amnesty shared on what this should include.”

Twitter released its latest transparency report that day, with a new section covering enforcement of the platform’s rules. But it still doesn’t provide all the information Amnesty seeks, which Twitter acknowledges: “While we are not able to provide some granular breakdowns because Twitter does not collect the data from account holders,” Gadde wrote to Amnesty, “we hope to continue to evolve the data we share to better inform the wider public debate.”

For now, Amnesty’s crowdsourcing is the most revealing data available for a problem that so many people know about but haven’t been able to quantify.


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Foxconn not in settlement talks with Qualcomm in Apple battle: attorney

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The lead attorney for the group of Apple Inc device assemblers seeking at least $9 billion in damages from Qualcomm Inc said on Sunday the contract manufacturers are not in settlement talks with the mobile chip supplier and are “gearing up and heading toward the trial” in April.

FILE PHOTO: A motorcyclist rides past the logo of Foxconn, the trading name of Hon Hai Precision Industry, in Taipei, Taiwan March 30, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

The conflict is but one aspect of the global legal battle between regulators, Apple and Qualcomm, which supplies modem chips that help phones connect to wireless data networks.

Last week, Qualcomm secured a preliminary victory in a patent lawsuit in China that would have banned sales of some Apple iPhones there. Apple later said it believed it was already in compliance but would change its software “to address any possible concern” about its compliance.

But Qualcomm was also handed a setback in an antitrust lawsuit brought against it by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission when a judge said it will not be able to mention that Apple ditched Qualcomm chips for competing ones from Intel Corp when the case goes to trial next month.

Qualcomm representatives did not immediately return a request for comment on Sunday outside of U.S. business hours.

The group of contract manufacturers – which includes Foxconn parent Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, Pegatron Corp, Wistron Corp and Compal Electronics Inc – became embroiled in the dispute between Apple and Qualcomm last year.

In the supply chain for electronics, contract manufacturers buy Qualcomm chips and pay royalties when they build phones, and are in turn reimbursed by companies like Apple. Qualcomm sued the group last year, alleging they had stopped paying royalties related to Apple products, and Apple joined their defense.

The contract manufacturers have since filed claims of their own against Qualcomm, alleging the San Diego company’s practice of charging money for chips but then also asking for a cut of the adjusted selling price of a mobile phone as a patent royalty payment constitutes an anticompetitive business practice.

They are seeking $9 billion in damages from Qualcomm for royalties they allege were illegal. That figure could triple if the manufacturers succeed on their antitrust claims.

Ted Boutrous, a high-profile partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP who is representing the contract manufacturers, told Reuters that statements from Qualcomm executives suggesting there were meaningful settlement talks with the contract manufacturers were “false.”

“To the extent Qualcomm has indicated there have been licensing discussions with the contract manufacturers, they’ve basically made the same sort of unreasonable demands that got them to where they are right now, which impose significant preconditions to even discuss a new arrangement,” Boutrous said.

In July, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf told investors on the company’s quarterly earnings call that Qualcomm and Apple itself were in talks to resolve the litigation.

At a hearing in the case in San Diego on Nov. 30, one of Apple’s attorneys disputed that notion, saying there had not been “talks in a number of months. So the parties are at loggerheads and are going … to have to go into trial.”

Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Chris Reese and Himani Sarkar

Quantum Computers Threaten the Web’s Security. We Must Take Action Now.

Inside the stark and sweeping Eero Saarinen-styled exterior of the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, IBM’s blue jeans-wearing boffins are assembling a new generation of super-powered computers built on quantum mechanical principles. These otherworldly machines dangle from sturdy, metal frames, looking like golden chandeliers, or robotic beehives. The devices perform their magical-seeming operations inside vacuum-sealed, super-cooled refrigerator encasements. It’s a technology that combines both brains and beauty.

Future iterations of these quantum computers will be able to solve mathematical problems ordinary computers have no hope of computing. They will vastly speed up classical calculations, accurately model complex natural phenomena like chemical reactions, and open as yet unexplored frontiers for scientific inquiry. Despite seeming arcane, machines like these will touch every aspect of our lives—from drug discovery to digital security.

IBM scientists examine quantum computing hardware.

IBM scientists examine quantum computing hardware.

Courtesy of IBM.

This latter area presents significant challenges. One advantage quantum computers have over traditional ones is a knack for factoring large numbers, an operation so difficult for present-day computers that it has become the foundation for almost all today’s encryption schemes. A sufficiently advanced quantum computer, on the other hand, can chew through these math problems with the destructive force of that metal-melting Xenomorph blood in the Alien film franchise. The prospect of quantum computing necessitates a complete rethinking of cryptography.

Today’s encryption may be rendered obsolete sooner than most people anticipate. As Adam Langley, a senior software engineer at Google, has pointed out in a recent blog post, some experts predict this latter-day Y2K could occur within the decade. Michele Mosca, cofounder of the Institute for Quantum Computing in Waterloo, Ontario, has estimated a 1-in-7 chance that quantum breakthroughs will defeat RSA-2048, a common encryption standard, by 2026. If that’s true, then the time to begin reengineering our digital defenses is now. As Langley writes, waiting around for guidance on standards “seems dangerous”; there’s no time to lose.

Buttressing Langley’s view is a recent paper out of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The research organization determined that, while the advent of an encryption-busting quantum computer is unlikely within the decade, preparations to defend against one must be undertaken as soon as possible. Since web standards take more than a decade to implement, a press release accompanying the paper warned, developing new, attack-resistant algorithms “is critical now.”

The era of quantum computation fast approaches. Fortune 500 companies like IBM, Google, Microsoft, and Intel, are plugging away on the tech alongside smaller startups, like Calif.-based Rigetti. Nation states like China are, meanwhile, dumping billions of dollars into research and development. Whichever entity achieves so-called quantum supremacy first will find itself in possession of unprecedented power—the equivalent of X-Ray goggles for the Internet.

That is, unless we act with urgency to armor up.

A version of this article first appeared in Cyber Saturday, the weekend edition of Fortune’s tech newsletter Data Sheet. Sign up here.

Amazon Came to the Bargaining Table—But Workers Want More

Labor organizing is gaining renewed momentum among some Amazon employees in the United States. The retail giant—run by the richest man in the world—is now one of the largest employers in the country, with more than 125,000 full-time hourly associates working in its fulfillment and sortation centers alone. Throughout Amazon’s 24-year history, portions of its enormous US workforce have attempted several times to form a union, but the company has consistently—and successfully—fought back. Now, amid a tight labor market, workers in Minnesota have succeeded in getting management to meet some of their demands. On Friday afternoon, they staged a protest at an Amazon facility on the outskirts of Minneapolis to ask for even more.

Over the summer, a group of East African Amazon workers in the Minneapolis area began negotiating with Amazon to make compromises around Ramadan holiday hours, better responding to worker complaints, and building a dedicated prayer space in the Shakopee fulfillment center. Unsatisfied with the pace of progress toward improving working conditions, the group rallied a few hundred people, including local teamster chapters, to the Shakopee facility parking lot Friday afternoon to demand that Amazon reduce productivity rates to safe levels, respect the cultural differences of Muslim East Africans, and invest in a community fund to aid in affordable housing for workers.

At 4 pm, as the winter sun was setting on the Shakopee business park, about 30 workers walked out of the fulfillment center to the cheers of the crowd gathered on the edge of the property. “Haa aan awoodno!” they chanted, which means “Yes we can” in Somali. Abdukadir Ahmed was the first one to reach the crowd. Tall and thin with black fleece earmuffs covering his tight curls, the 35-year-old arrived in Minneapolis from Egypt in March of last year, and has been working at Amazon as a package scanner for a year and a half. On a typical day, he says, he will work a 10-hour shift, and scan and rebin up to 600 packages each hour. “They’re always pushing, pushing all the time,” says Ahmed. “Nobody appreciates us, they just treat us like robots.” He’d like to see his hourly rate drop to something more like 180 packages per hour.

For about an hour, protesters clad in parkas and khamiis shivered in freezing temperatures as they listened to organizers speak about taking back some of Amazon’s billions for local Minnesota communities. Around 5 pm, the group marched to the facility’s front doors to deliver its demands to managers inside. They were stopped by a dozen Shakopee police squad cars and told to leave the premises or they’d be arrested for trespassing. Organizers corralled the rally back to the street, with shouts of “Amazon, we’ll be back” trailing behind them.

Hafsa Hassan, a 21-year-old who works on the Shakopee facility’s shipping dock, says outrage has been simmering for longer than the 16 months she’s been an Amazon employee. “People are just fed up,” she says. “We knew it was a hard job physically but nobody signed up for the mental and emotional abuse.”

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Ashley Robinson, a spokesperson for Amazon, said in a statement that the company has an “open and direct dialogue with employees” in Minnesota. She says the average pay for Amazon workers in the state is between $16.25 and $20.80 in addition to full benefits; the minimum wage in Minnesota is $7.87. “I encourage anyone to compare our pay, benefits, and workplace to other retailers and major employers in the Shakopee community and across the country. We invite anyone to see for themselves and take a tour through our fulfillment center tour program,” the statement reads, in part.

On Wednesday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pledged $2.5 million to a Minneapolis nonprofit that helps homeless individuals and families find affordable long-term housing. At the rally Friday, Imam Mohamed Omar, a founding member of the Muslim Coalition of the Minnesota faith-based organization ISAIAH, applauded the move but emphasized that one-off charitable donations are not the intended outcome of the ongoing negotiations. “It’s good to put ointment or a Band-Aid on a wound, but prevention is the best medicine,” Omar said. He called for Bezos to invest portions of Amazon’s annual revenues in a Community Care Fund, so that Amazon can “pour back into our communities a portion of what they have taken.”

The workers in Minnesota are not alone in demanding that Amazon change its labor practices. Over the summer, employees at the Amazon-owned grocery chain Whole Foods began moving to unionize with the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union following layoffs. On Tuesday, Bloomberg first reported that a group of employees at a recently opened Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island are also organizing a unionization campaign with RWDSU. Workers there say they are concerned about safety issues, inadequate pay, and unreasonable hourly quotas. For now, the specifics of how they plan to obtain union recognition aren’t clear.

“Stating that our Staten Island workers want a union is not a fair representation of the vast majority of the employees at this site,” Robinson, the Amazon spokesperson, said in a statement. “At Amazon we are proud of our safe working conditions, open communication and industry leading benefits.”

Several pro-union Amazon employees attended a press conference outside New York City Hall Wednesday morning, ahead of a hearing about the company’s proposed “second headquarters” in Long Island City, Queens. Last month, Amazon announced that it had chosen Long Island City to be the site of one of its new mega offices, where 25,000 white-collar employees are expected to eventually work. The secretive deal, which netted Amazon over a billion dollars in governmental incentives, has incited a backlash among some local residents and politicians. The Staten Island organizers plan to use the HQ2 deal as leverage for their own efforts.

“My hands hurt all the time. I can’t even write,” Sharon Bleach, a Staten Island Amazon employee, said outside City Hall Wednesday. Bleach, 60, has worked at the company for only a month, and said she is forced to work with boxes stacked up all around her. She worries there would be no way to escape in the case of a fire or accident. In response to Bleach’s concerns, Robinson said she should talk to her managers and that “all exits and walkways are clearly marked and kept clear.” She added that Amazon surveys all workers each month about their perceptions of safety conditions.

For now, there’s no way to know whether these nascent organizing efforts will grow into a widespread movement at Amazon outposts across the US. “All of the diamonds have to line up for these efforts to be successful, since employers have so much more power than workers,” says Ruth Milkman, a sociologist at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, who studies labor movements. “To win, a campaign needs a well-thought-out and savvy strategy, which includes being focused on the key grievances that animate workers, and also an ability to persuade people that they can win a union drive and benefit from it.”

Amazon’s employees do have several factors working in their favor. For one, the labor market is extremely tight in the United States right now; the unemployment rate was at 3.7 percent in November. Amazon’s employees are also part of a wider renewed interest in unionizing among some workers, particularly millennials, says Milkman. “That was also a factor in the wave of teachers’ strikes earlier this year, and in recent unionization drives among adjunct faculty and graduate students,” she says. Hundreds of Columbia University teaching and research assistants went on strike in August, for example. Milkman added that many online publications have also recently unionized.

Amazon’s labor practices, as well as the government incentives the company has received, also face growing scrutiny from some lawmakers. In September, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders introduced legislation called the Stop BEZOS Act, which is designed to encourage large employers to raise wages by taxing them when employees are forced to rely on public benefits like food stamps. The bill was accompanied by a campaign that encouraged Amazon workers to share their experiences of working at the company. Shortly after the legislation was introduced, Amazon announced it was raising its minimum wage to $15 for all US employees.

Amazon has fought back against unionization campaigns in the past. When a small group of maintenance and repair technicians moved to unionize at a Delaware Amazon warehouse in 2014, the company hired a law firm that specializes in opposing organized labor. The employees eventually voted not to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Earlier this year, Gizmodo published transcripts from an internal video reportedly distributed to Whole Foods managers that appears designed to train them to spot and squash organizing efforts. A former Amazon warehouse manager in the midwest says he was shown a similar video after a human resources employee overhead workers discussing unions in late 2016. A regional HR representative was called into the facility the next day to show the clip, according to the employee. “The slides from that Gizmodo article are essentially the same as the ones that HR showed my facility,” they explained. “The message it conveys hasn’t changed: Unions are bad for Amazon.”

“Amazon respects its employees’ right to choose to join or not join a labor union. Amazon maintains an open-door policy that encourages employees to bring their comments, questions, and concerns directly to their management team for discussion and resolution,” Robinson said. “We firmly believe this direct connection is the most effective way to understand and respond to the needs of our workforce.” (The 1935 National Labor Relations Act protects workers’ right to form unions.)

Union membership in the United States has declined significantly in recent decades. In 1983, 20.1 percent of American workers were part of a union, compared to only 10.7 percent in 2017. Should even a fraction of Amazon workers become unionized, it would be a significant milestone for organized labor across the country. But a lot needs to happen before reaching that point.


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‘123456’ Is 2018’s Worst Password, Study Says. But This Year, ‘donald’ Joined the List

“Donald” has joined a new list. Not of world leaders, but of “worst passwords.” The password-management firm SplashData released its annual list of the 100 worst character combinations it found among leaks of about five million passwords.

“Donald” entered the list at position 23. You’ll also find “qwerty” (#9), password (#2), and baseball (#32). The worst of the worst passwords? “123456,” which has been sitting on top of the worst password chart for five years running.

Bad passwords are short, easily guessed, often contain words or common abbreviations, and are used by many other people. If one of yours is on the list, the right time to change it is right now.

What’s a strong password? It’s uniquely created for each site, it’s relatively long, and it’s not a common phrase or sequence. Many experts now recommend a password made up of a few words that are picked at random, a technique popularized by Diceware. While this may seem counter-intuive—couldn’t automated software just try all those words?—the large number of combinations and the length of the password in total makes it as hard to break as a shorter, impossible-to-type or remember sequence.

Password-management software can generate strong passwords according to any desired recipe, and it’s one reason SplashData promotes its list. Competitors abound, including built-in support across Apple’s and Google’s hardware, software, and browsers—iOS, Safari, and iCloud for Apple and Android, Chrome, and other apps for Google—as well as 1Password, Dashlane, and LastPass.

With over 5.6 billion accounts leaked over the last several years, according to the password-breach notification site Have I Been Pwned, researchers have been able to take a good look at the problem.

Security experts recommend that Web sites not allow users to create easily cracked password, but some sites prefer not to deter account creation by requiring something strong.

However, other sites have complex password-formulating requirements—like a mix of upper and lower case, one number, and one symbol—that can lead people to pick “Password1!”, which is only slight harder for intruders to decipher as “password”.

In many databases, about 50% of users rely on one of a handful of passwords. Hackers can crack those simple password and easily gain access to log into millions or tens of millions of accounts. With many users sharing the same, weak password across multiple services, that single breach can jeopardize their accounts at many different sites and services.

2019 will be the year of the cloud system maker

There’s a culture in the US called the maker culture, a hipster phenomenon. Related to the hacker culture, it represents a technology-based extension of the DIY culture that revels in the creation of new devices or systems.

I’ve been a maker for years. For me to feel like I’m accomplishing anything, I need to build physical things such as racing drones, motorcycles, books, on-demand video courses, and, yes, cloud-based software systems. If I don’t make things, I feel a bit empty and unfulfilled. I know there are many people out there who share this condition.

Being a maker involves taking some sort of risk. The risk of failure is the reason many nonmakers use to avoid building things or systems. Dare I say that nonmakers are typically holding leadership positions, typically supervising the makers? This has been the way it’s been for hundreds of years.

However, those who make stuff are moving up in status and pay these days, and that’s especially true in the cloud. Look at any recent job board: The top cloud and IT gigs are for those who build things—architects, engineers, developers, database developers, data scientists, and AI specialists.

While you could certainly say this has always been the focus in IT, the better-paying gigs with more status have been in IT planning positions, where nothing actually gets made. In the past, there was a clear separation between those who plan and direct and those who built. Now we’re removing that separation through the use of cloud computing and devops, as well as other technologies.

Today, those who make also plan while they make. We’ve done this to optimize the value that we get out of technology by removing the separations among planning, developing, and operating. Today, these are often carried out by a single person. The culture is less formal, as are the processes, and nothing stands between the maker’s ability to make things to solve business problems or meet a need of the market.

This is why I’m stating that 2019 will be the year of the cloud system maker. Those will be the hottest positions that will pay the most money. I also think those positions have the job satisfaction potential to make up the happiest group of staff or workers. I’m already one of them.

Truly Proud of Where You Work? Apply for the 2019 Inc. Best Workplaces List Today

In partnership with Quantum Workplace, a leading software platform for employee engagement and performance, Inc. is on the lookout for remarkable companies to feature in the fourth annual Best Workplaces issue. 

While company-sponsored trips to Jamaica are certainly enticing, great perks aren’t the sole–or most important–criteria. Is the culture egalitarian and supportive? Do you feel like your ideas matter and that there’s a clear path for career advancement? We want to hear about those less-tangible benefits too. 

Upon nominating your company, you’ll need to survey all employees using Quantum’s methodology, which includes topics such as trust in senior leadership, career development, change management, and benefits and perks. Quantum also takes into account financial elements of corporate culture. 

In May, winners will be notified via email and in June, Inc. will publish the list of the best places to work online and in print. If your company made the cut, you’ll be able to see how it lines up in comparison to similarly-sized businesses in your industry. How’s that for competitive intelligence?

To access the early rate of $195, applications are due by January 10. The rate goes up to $245 for applications received after that date and until February 14, which is the deadline to apply.

Published on: Dec 12, 2018

Japan rules out asking private firms to avoid telecoms gear that could be malicious

FILE PHOTO: Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga attends a news conference at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official residence in Tokyo, Japan May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s government has no plan to ask private companies to avoid buying telecommunications equipment that could have malicious functions, such as information leakage, its top spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said on Thursday.

The comment suggests Japan does not intend, for the moment, to extend to private firms a policy of not buying such equipment for the government, after it issued a policy document on Monday on the need to maintain cybersecurity during procurement.

While China’s telecoms equipment supplier Huawei Technologies, and ZTE (0763.HK) are not explicitly named, sources said last week the change aimed at preventing government procurement from the two Chinese makers.

Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim and Sam Nussey; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Google studies steps to open representative office in Vietnam, government says

HANOI (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google is studying steps toward opening a representative office in Vietnam, the government of the Southeast Asian nation said on its website, citing Google’s Senior Vice President Kent Walker.

FILE PHOTO: The brand logo of Alphabet Inc’s Google is seen outside its office in Beijing, China, August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

Despite economic reforms and increasing openness to social change, Vietnam’s Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate dissent.

The news comes as a controversial cybersecurity law is set to take effect next month, requiring global technology firms to open local offices and store data in the country.

“Google is studying steps to open a representative office in Vietnam,” the website quoted Kent as saying on Tuesday, and adding it would follow a principle of ensuring that host country regulations do not contradict international commitments.

Vietnam appreciated an opinion Google contributed to a draft decree on guidelines to implement the law and ensure cyber safety and security, the website added.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vietnam’s new law has provoked objections from tech companies, rights groups and Western governments, including the United States.

Facebook and Google, which are widely used in Vietnam and serve as the main platforms for dissidents, do not have offices or data storage facilities there and have pushed back on the localization requirements.

The security ministry said the law would protect Vietnam from tens of thousands of large-scale cyber attacks that directly cause serious economic losses and threaten security and social order.

This year, Vietnam, which has been drafting a code of conduct for the internet, asked Facebook to open a local office.

Its information ministry also wants half of social media customers to use domestic social networks by 2020, and plans to stamp out “toxic information” on Facebook and Google.

The draft decree, released last month, requires providers of services such as email and social media to set up offices if they collect or analyze data, allow anti-state actions or cyber attack by users, and fail to remove objectionable content.

Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Clarence Fernandez