Will we be able to update the Covid vaccine if the virus mutates too much?

BY Fast Company South Africa 3 MINUTE READ

After a much more contagious coronavirus variant was discovered in the U.K. in December, scientists at Pfizer and Moderna started to study whether their newly approved vaccines would still work against it. So far, it seems likely that the vaccines will still be effective. But new variants continue to be discovered, including one in California linked to large outbreaks and one in South Africa that initial studies show may be resistant to the antibodies created by earlier strains.

The virus will continue to change. At some point, if new mutations make it possible for the virus to render the existing vaccines less effective, what would it take to bring new vaccines to market?

The first vaccines approved in the U.S., from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, both use a new vaccine technology involving messenger RNA (mRNA). The good news: It’s something that could easily be adapted if necessary.

“With an RNA vaccine, it’s very easy to switch,” says Drew Weissman, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania whose early research helped make mRNA vaccines possible. The vaccines contain the genetic instructions for cells in the body to make the spike protein, the part of the virus that invades human cells, helping trigger an immune response so the body is ready to respond if it encounters the actual virus. (Other vaccines, like the one from Johnson & Johnson that is likely to be approved soon, would also be fairly simple to update, though the process would take a few more steps—and thus more time—than the new shots that use mRNA.)

To design the COVID-19 vaccine, scientists started with the genetic sequence of the virus; changing to a new variant just means plugging in new genetic code. In January 2020, researchers at Moderna were able to finalize a new vaccine days after getting the sequence. Something similar could happen now, and manufacturing it could take around six weeks.

“The only unknown is what the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] and other regulatory agencies would say,” Weissman says. Regulators might say that it’s similar to the flu vaccine, which has to change each year but doesn’t need to go through large trials again. At a recent healthcare conference, Tal Zaks, Moderna’s chief medical officer, said that he would expect a reformulated vaccine to work without needing trials. Still, it’s also possible that regulators might require additional months of testing.

So far, new variants of the virus have shown relatively few mutations, so the original vaccines should continue to work. “The spike protein is very big—it’s like 350 amino acids, so that’s big for a protein, and what that means is that there are many, many different sites that antibodies can recognize,” Weissman says. The variant in the U.K. had only a handful of mutations.

But the number of mutations will increase as more people become infected and the virus improves its “immune evasion”—its ability to avoid the immune response. Right now, “the virus has plenty of uninfected people to grow in, so it doesn’t need to learn how to reinfect an infected person,” Weissman says.

The same is true with vaccines; few people have been vaccinated so far, so the virus hasn’t had to learn to mutate to avoid the vaccines. But that could change. The disease will be difficult to wipe out because the vaccines are being distributed slowly, particularly in the developing world.

“It’s probably going to be years before we get vaccines into sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia and South America and in other regions,” Weissman says. “What can happen is that since in those areas the virus is growing freely, it’s going to keep mutating. It’s possible that someday a series of mutations might occur that the vaccine doesn’t work well [against]. And then we have to go back and we have to re-immunize the entire world.”

It’s critical to track how the virus is changing. The U.K. variant was discovered there because the country was doing more genetic screening of the virus in patients; it turns out that the variant was also already in the U.S., but officials here didn’t realize it. “We obviously missed it,” Weissman says. “We weren’t screening for it, and we should be.”

The U.S. doesn’t have a nationwide system to track coronavirus mutations. As of early January, out of the 1.4 million positive COVID-19 tests recorded each week, only around 3,000 went through genomic sequencing. Weissman says: “We need to have people dedicated to sequencing coronavirus all over the United States to see what’s developing.”


Article originally published on fastcompany.com.


Why Tech Workers need writing skills

BY Fast Company South Africa 4 MINUTE READ

As we head into 2021, work looks completely different than it did a year ago.

Success in remote work hinges on communication, but it’s challenging. Most of us feel Zoom fatigue, and nearly a third of the American workforce struggles to communicate about their work in a remote setting. Clear writing could be the antidote—especially for engineers.

Writing, long considered a “soft skill” for technical workers, is crucial when employees can’t talk through a problem in person or show a new team member the ropes over coffee. Good writing makes for specific, detailed communication that captures institutional knowledge. And effective writing can keep technical teams engaged and productive in remote work by helping them move faster and communicate more clearly.

To make good writing part of their teams’ DNA, leaders need to prioritize and nurture that skill. Here are a few ways to do that:


Writing is a muscle that needs exercise to get stronger. The best way for technical employees to get that exercise is to create written resources that are valuable for their teams.

Leaders should start by identifying the most valuable written resources their teams already have. For technical teams, those might be root cause analyses (which identify what caused a technical problem) or product release notes (which inform customers when changes are made to a product).

From there, they can guide teams to use, expand, and create more of them. Not only does this give employees an opportunity to practice writing, it also creates institutional knowledge that’s accessible to everyone, regardless of where or when they work. For example, a developer in San Francisco can get a question answered through a quick search instead of setting up a late-night Zoom call with their colleague in Berlin. Before a launch, a product manager can spend 10 minutes reading a root cause analysis to avoid repeating the mistake that caused an outage during a prior launch.

Managers should reinforce the utility of documentation—and effective writing—by referencing these resources often and leading their teams to do the same. These explanatory writing skills, which are essential especially for asynchronous work, will also translate into better directions and more effective feedback on specific tasks.

Technical employees who are eager to sharpen their writing skills can also try writing courses on Coursera or Udacity, or tap into Grammarly for specific writing feedback.


Many companies are now hiring employees in other parts of US, or even the world, who operate within different time zones and without important context. They’ve never met their colleagues in person and often work on different schedules that don’t allow for much one-on-one interaction.

It might sound counterintuitive, but micromanaging these employees in the short-term is key to setting them up for success in the long-term. Sharing ample information makes up for some of what’s lost without hallway conversations or team happy hours. Written resources are a crucial part of this: a roadmap that a new employee can reference any time and digest at any pace.

During every new hire’s onboarding, their manager should create a customized document outlining not just who they should meet (and why) and their team’s best practices, but also specifics like how notes are captured during meetings and standards for every product launch. Ideally, a leader could respond to every new hire’s question with, “Here’s a link to the answer.” Onboarding needs to be a managerial function as much as an HR one. Leading onboarding allows managers to practice their own writing, standardizing it as a technical leadership skill.


2020 was the year of the video call. The intention to re-create in-person interactions was good, but the result was mentally draining. Technical teams can offload that burden by turning some video calls into writing.

One of Amazon’s strategies, adopted long before the pandemic, offers a blueprint. Instead of developing a presentation, Amazon has teams write a six-page memo for every project. This forces them to create a clear and compelling argument, and to get specific.

We don’t all need to adopt Amazon’s approach, but substituting writing for talking can save time and mental energy. During the pandemic, HackerRank’s executive team cut our weekly meeting from an hour to 30 minutes. We spend the first 10 minutes reading the agenda and writing feedback, then 20 minutes discussing it. We’ve gotten 30 minutes back every week, and our meetings are more productive than ever.

Technical teams can benefit from this approach. It gives everyone a chance to practice writing and creates documentation to reference later. It also fosters inclusivity by giving introverts the opportunity to express their thoughts in writing, a medium where they’re often more comfortable.

It’s trite but true: Remote work will be the future for most tech teams. Nurturing their writing now will make them more productive and focused by improving communication, establishing institutional knowledge, and crystallizing strategic thinking. Writing is the most important new skill for tech workers, regardless of role.


Source: FastCompany.com


Vivek Ravisankar is the CEO and cofounder of HackerRank

Tech giants teaming up with healthcare companies to develop digital ‘vaccine passports’

BY Fast Company South Africa 3 MINUTE READ

Health agencies have relied on paper vaccination certificates to fight epidemics for more than a century.

But Microsoft, Salesforce and Oracle are now teaming up with the health care nonprofit the Mayo Clinic and other major health care companies to develop technology that would bring such certifications to people’s phones. The companies envision that such “vaccine passports” could allow business, schools, concert venues and airlines to screen whether people have proof of vaccination.

The companies – which otherwise fiercely compete – together unveiled the Vaccination Credential Initiative.

The group’s goal is to help develop a secure copy of immunization records, which could be stored in the digital wallet feature on smartphones. The group is also plans to provide papers printed with QR codes that would allow people who don’t have smartphones to still access a secure record and gain entry to places that might require such a certificate.

“We wanted to build something that will empower consumers to take charge and have control and be able to manage their vaccination information in the way that they feel most comfortable, but will give them the freedom to start to get back to their life,” said Joan Harvey, president of care solutions at Evernorth, Cigna’s health services business and a partner in the coalition.

The announcement signals the role that Silicon Valley could play in the next phase of the pandemic – for better or worse.

A digital and secure format could ensure that people can keep track of their credentials in one place, and it could prevent people from creating fraudulent copies of the paper vaccination cards that health agencies distribute.

But health experts and privacy advocates questioned the timing of the initiative – especially as technical and other problems are inhibiting many vulnerable Americans from getting vaccines in the first place.

Bioethicists are concerned about developing vaccination certification tools before immunizations are more widely available.

Schools and some workplaces have long required proof of vaccination among students and some employees. But Nita Farahany, a professor and director of the Initiative for Science & Society at Duke University, warned against businesses and others requiring proof of vaccination too soon.

Farahany has warned that such requirements could result in a “two-tiered society,” where vaccinated people have access to jobs and public places and others don’t. She also worries that putting such requirements in place before more data is available about the vaccine could give people a false sense of security.

The partners in the Vaccination Credential Initiative say it will be up to business and schools to determine how they would use such credentials.

Some businesses are already thinking about it. Already airlines have introduced a health passport app called CommonPass. The app initially checked the status of travelers’ coronavirus screening tests, and new vaccination passport apps could work similarly.

Albert Fox Cahn, the fonder and executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, questioned why tech companies are focused on building vaccine passports and not the technical problems that are currently hampering the rollout of the vaccine. He said the industry should wait for direction from public health officials before jumping to develop solutions.

“It’s completely unnecessary,” Fox Cahn said. “It’s more of the same failed technosolutionism that we’ve seen throughout this pandemic.”

It’s not the first time that tech companies have collaborated during the pandemic. Apple and Google teamed up to build systems to notify people if they had been exposed to the virus, but those tools have not been widely adopted in the United States.



4 fun ways to socialise remotely

BY Fast Company South Africa 3 MINUTE READ

I don’t know about you, but around about my thousandth Zoom get-together during this never-ending pandemic, it dawned on me that after using Zoom all week for work, these so-called happy hours were starting to feel pretty sad.

Luckily, there are more stimulating ways to video-chat with your buddies. Grab a snack, pour yourself a beverage, and prepare to have some fun.

If you’ve been around long enough to remember what Crystal Pepsi tasted like, then you may have had the pleasure of playing an innovative and amusing trivia game show-esque series called You Don’t Know Jack. Not to date myself, but I believe the first time I played it was on the ill-fated 3DO console.

Anyway: The franchise has evolved into a full-blown multiplayer games company called Jackbox Games, which periodically puts out “Party Packs” that can be played across console, mobile, and computer platforms.

Its latest, Party Pack 7, supports up to eight players and features five games meant to keep everyone on their toes—kind of like modern-day Scattergories or charades.

To keep things interesting, each go-round averages about 15 to 20 minutes. The gameplay can be viewed by up to 10,000 spectators, just in case you and your friends are attention-depraved lunatics.

Best of all, only one person in the group needs to own the actual game. Jackbox outlines how to play remotely via several different platforms and streaming video services.

Remember real-life parties with a bunch of actual human beings? How you’d flitter around among people and groups to catch up?

You can now virtually relive the good old days with Gather, a very cool service that’s half video game, half video call.

You and everyone else at the party are represented as little controllable avatars that can stroll around and talk to each other. When your avatar approaches another one, the real-life video from your respective webcams will pop up on-screen so you can converse face-to-face. Walk away, and the video disappears. Small talk has never felt so fun!

The service is free for up to 25 users, with paid plans starting at $7 per user, per month, for additional features.

Remote watch parties are getting more and more popular, but with so many streaming services available across so many platforms, it’s hard to find a service that works with everything.

If you use the Chrome web browser, the excellent and free Scener extension is about as good as it gets right now.

Scener works with most of the big-name services—Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, among others—and supports up to 10 people in a room at a time. As long as you and whoever else is watching all have accounts for whichever service, you can watch shows and movies together, complete with live video chatting in the sidebar.

Part of the thrill of playing Texas Hold’em is trying to read your opponents’ faces—something that’s not always possible to do if you’re playing remotely.

The free-to-play Poker Face app (AndroidiPhone) looks to change all that, with everyone at the table being represented via video.

It’s just like a real poker night, except without the stinky cigars, the uncomfortable folding chairs, and chip-dip spilled everywhere.


Article originally published on fastcompany.com.


The rise, fall and future of the online platform Trump followers are fond of

BY Fast Company South Africa 5 MINUTE READ

Early in the morning of January 11, the social media platform Parler went offline after Amazon withdrew the platform’s web hosting services. Parler sued Amazon in response.

Amazon’s move followed Google and Apple’s banning the Parler app from their app stores. The tech companies cited the platform’s inability or unwillingness to block calls for and threats of violence. Amazon’s move shut the platform down, at least until the company can find an alternative web hosting service.

Parler had a surge in new users following Twitter’s ban of President Donald Trump on January 8. Since the November election, when it saw a spike in usage, Parler has contributed to the widening gap between the different perceptions of reality held by the polarized public.

Competitor Gab was similarly forced offline after the 2018 mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh but it was only temporary. Shooter Robert Bowers had been posting anti-Semitic and violent content on the platform, and the revelation resulted in PayPalGoDaddy, and Medium‘s banning Gab from their services. Gab has since come back online and has reportedly gained hundreds of thousands of new users since Parler’s shutdown.

After the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Parler caught on among right-wing politicians and influencers—people with large online followings—as a social media platform where they could share and promote ideas without worrying about the company blocking or flagging their posts for being dangerous or misleading. However, the website also became a haven for far-right extremists and conspiracy theorists who interacted with the mainstream conservatives flocking to the platform.

As the three highest-profile social media companies—YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter—continued to take action to mitigate the spread of extremism and disinformation, Parler welcomed the ensuing exodus of right-wing users. It exploded in popularity, doubling its members to 10 million during the month of November, and claimed 12 million at the time of its shutdown—although that’s still dwarfed by Twitter’s roughly 330 million monthly active users.

On mainstream social media, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the presidential election, and theories alleging crimes by the Biden campaign and Democrats are flagged as misinformationOn Parler, Trump won in a landslide, only to have his victory stolen by a wide-ranging alliance of evildoers, including Democrats and the so-called deep state.

But along with its success came the reality that extremist movements like QAnon and the Boogalooers thrived in the platform’s unregulated chaos.

Parler was launched in 2018 and found its place as another niche platform catering to right-wing users who ran afoul of content moderation on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Its user base remained small—fewer than 1 million users—until early 2020.

Other primarily right-wing platforms, especially Gab, had housed fringe and violent ideologues and groups by the time Parler was launched. These included violent far-right militias and the mass shooter Robert Bowers.

Parler, in contrast, gained a reputation for catering to mainstream conservatives thanks to a handful of high-profile early adopters like Brad Parscale, Candace Owens, and Sen. Mike Lee. As a result, in 2020 when Twitter began labeling misleading Trump tweets about possible fraud in absentee and mail-in voting, politicians like Ted Cruz embraced Parler as the next bastion for conservative speech.

In the weeks before the November 3 election, the big social media sites took steps to mitigate election-related extremism and disinformation. Twitter rolled out labels for all mail-in ballot misinformation and put a prompt on tweeted articles to encourage people to read them before retweeting. Facebook blocked QAnon groups and, later, restricted QAnon-adjacent accounts pushing “SaveTheChildren” conspiracy theories. Facebook also began prohibiting Holocaust denial posts. YouTube labeled and blocked advertising for election-related fake information, though it left in place many videos promoting conspiracy theories.

These actions continued in the wake of the election, especially as mainstream conservative politicians and Trump pushed the false claim that Biden and the Democrats committed large-scale voter fraud to steal the election. Consequently, millions of users migrated to alternative platforms: Gab, MeWe, and, in particular, Parler.

Users flocked there because of the promise of a site that wouldn’t label false information and wouldn’t ban the creation of extremist communities. But they also moved because Republican politicians and well-known elites signaled that Parler was the new home for conservative speech. These include commentator Mark Levin and Fox host Sean Hannity.

Parler has only two community guidelines: It does not knowingly allow criminal activity, and it does not allow spam or bots on its platform. The lack of guidelines on hate speech has allowed racism and anti-Semitism to flourish on Parler.

My research center has spent several years building an extensive encyclopedia of far-right terminology and slang, covering niche topics from the spectrum of white supremacist, neo-fascist, and anti-state movements. We have studied the ways that far-right language evolves alongside content moderation efforts from mainstream platforms, and how slang and memes are often used to evade regulations.

We have monitored far-right communities on Parler since March and have found frequent use of both obvious white supremacist terms and more implicit, evasive memes and slang. For example, among other explicit white supremacist content, Parler allows usernames referencing the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division’s violently anti-Semitic slogan, posts spreading the theory that Jews are descended from Satan, and hashtags such as “HitlerWasRight.”

In addition, it is easy to find the implicit bigotry and violence that eventually caused Facebook to ban movements like QAnon. For example, QAnon’s version of the “blood libel” theory—the centuries-old false conspiracy theory that Jewish people murder Christians and use their blood for rituals—has spread widely on the platform. Thousands of posts also use QAnon hashtags and promote the false claim that global elites are literally eating children.

Among the alternative platforms, Parler stands out because white supremacists, QAnon adherents, and mainstream conservatives exist in close proximity. This results in comment threads on politicians’ posts that are a melting pot of far-right beliefs, such as a response to Donald Trump Jr.’s unfounded allegations of election crimes that states, “Civil war is the only way to drain the swamp.”

Parler’s ownership is still kept largely secret. However, the few pieces of information that have come to light make Parler’s spike in popularity even more concerning.

For example, Dan Bongino, the highly popular right-wing commentator who published a book about the “deep state” conspiracy theory and frequently publishes unverified information, has at least a small ownership stake in the company. CEO John Matze said in a post on Parler that is now unavailable because the site is down that the ownership is composed of himself and “a small group of close friends and employees.”

Notably, conservative billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah, are investors in the platform. Rebekah Mercer helped cofound it with Matze. The Mercers are well known for their investments in other conservative causes, including Nigel Farage’s Brexit campaign, Breitbart News, and Cambridge Analytica. The connection to Cambridge Analytica has, in particular, alarmed experts, who worry that Parler may harvest unnecessary data from unwitting users.

Parler’s privacy policy doesn’t put to rest concerns about user privacy, either: The policy says that Parler has permission to collect a vast amount of personal information, and gives its members much less control than mainstream platforms over what that data can be used for.

If the company can find a new web hosting service, Parler’s fate will hinge on what its members do over the next few months. Will the company be able to capitalize on the influx of new users, or will its members slowly trickle back to the larger platforms, particularly amid recriminations for the platform’s role in the U.S. Capitol insurrection? A major factor is how Trump himself reacts, and whether he eventually creates an account on Parler. Prominent right-wing figures, including Sen. Lee, have called on him to do so.

Having catered to a right-wing audience and allowed hate speech to thrive on its platform, Parler is also at the whims of its user base. Online extremism and hate can lead to real-world violence by legitimizing extreme actions. Parler’s tolerance of hate and bigotry, and its affiliation with violent movements enabled right-wing extremists to rally supporters to go to Washington, D.C., prepared to force Congress to yield to their will, by violence if necessary. Like Gab, Parler is now dealing with the repercussions of members’ having committed acts of violence.

Although it’s hard to know whether Parler will recover and grow in the future, my research suggests that the extremism among its user base will persist for months to come.
Article originally published on fastcompany.com. Alex Newhouse is a research lead at the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism, Middlebury Institute of International Studies. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

Do wealthy people practice more social distancing?

BY Fast Company South Africa 2 MINUTE READ

The eggheads at Johns Hopkins University wanted to know which groups practice social distancing the most—and their findings are not politically correct: Rich women, it turns out, are far more dependable with the masks and hand washing and social distancing than everyone else.

The economists studied 6,000 people across six countries, and found that peek social distancers have individual incomes around US$230,000 a year—you know, wealthy but not riding out lockdowns in their own chateaus. They are substantially (54%) more likely to practice safe COVID-19 behaviors than low-income people.

“We need to understand these differences because we can wring our hands, and we can blame and shame, but in a way it doesn’t matter,” said co-author Nick Papageorge, an economist at Johns Hopkins University, in a news release. “Policymakers just need to recognise who is going to socially distance, for how long, why and under what circumstances to give us accurate predictions of how the disease will spread and help us establish policies that will be useful.”

Excellent social distancing, it turns out, tends to come hand-in-hand with two factors: teleworking and homes with access to outdoor space, both of which are much more prevalent among the upper classes. Overall, social distancing was found to be more “practical, comfortable and feasible” for higher earners, who could easily do things like order groceries or change their work schedule.

Women continue to be the superior gender when it comes to not hurling themselves in the path of COVID-19: They were 23% more likely to social distance than men, according to the study.

If you’re hoping that most people are generally following lockdown guidelines, think again: “Policies that assume universal compliance with self-protective measures—or that otherwise do not account for socioeconomic differences in the costs of doing so—are unlikely to be effective or sustainable.”


Article originally published on fastcompany.com.


Apple planning possible subscription service

BY Fast Company South Africa < 1 MINUTE READ

Apple is reportedly planning to launch a new subscription service that focuses on podcasts.

The tech giant is currently in talks with production companies about the service which would charge people to listen to podcasts, reports The Information.

By charging for individual podcasts, Apple could give creators a new way to make more money, which may convince them to leave rival services.

The service could be bundled with other services like Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and Apple News+ as part of the Apple One bundles that the company offers.

Currently, it is not clear what sort of content would be made available behind the subscription paywall.

Spotify is also planning to create a separate service for exclusive podcasts which became popular in the pandemic as people stayed home.

The streaming giant has invested heavily into podcasts over the last few years. It has spent over $800 million on snapping up podcast companies.

Amazon is also looking to disrupt the podcasting industry with its recent acquisition of the Wondery network.

Apple is said to be working on original podcasts since July 2019. It has been reported that the original podcasts would boost its original Apple TV+ content.



7 tips for creating a successful side hustle

BY Fast Company South Africa 6 MINUTE READ

If you’ve ever thought about starting a side hustle, you’re probably motivated by one of three reasons:

  1. It’s a hobby, and you’re feeding your interest during your free time.
  2. You’re supplementing your primary income. Maybe you have financial goals you want to reach, and having an extra income source will help get you there quicker.
  3. You plan to transition into entrepreneurship full time, so you’re testing the waters with a side hustle before taking the big leap and quitting your full-time job.

Regardless of your motivations, you’re about to start a business. And the moment you expect people to start paying you money in exchange for the value that you provide, you can no longer treat it as a passive endeavor. But when you have a full-time job—in addition to a life that you’d really like to enjoy—that’s easier said than done.

There’s a reason it’s called a side hustle: you need to work hard to make it a success. Here are some tips to get you started.

Every employer will have different rules about and attitudes toward side hustles. Take a look at your employee handbook to understand what is and isn’t permitted. Here are some things you might find:

  • Conflict of interest clause. This restricts an employee from doing anything that will harm the employer’s business and requires you to tell the employer if this changes at any point during your employment.
  • Non-compete or restraint of trade clause: This protects an employer’s interests by preventing employees from performing similar work that might be in competition with the current employer.

The point of these clauses is to protect the employer’s proprietary information, including things like client and vendor relationships, as well as any confidential information you may be privy to during your employment. Engaging in a side hustle that’s in direct competition with your employer or where you poach clients from your employer or use proprietary information to get ahead could put you on the firing line—or even subject you to lawsuits. Not to mention it’s just a nasty thing to do.

With all that said, most companies won’t have a problem with you having a side hustle, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your work. My advice: tell your employer what you’re up to. Even if your contract allows for you to have a side hustle and makes no mention of the above clauses, it’s better to be proactive and disclose your side hustle in good faith. This creates transparency and trust, and it’s much better than waiting for your employer to find out from other sources and having to be reactive about the situation.

Reassure your employer that you won’t use any company resources (including your work computer) or company time to work on your side hustle. It has to be a completely separate thing, and making that clear from the outset will show your employer that you understand the importance of it.

I have a friend who’s a medical research specialist. When she negotiated her contract with her employer, one of the non-salary items she requested was a four-day workweek. She uses the one day off a week (in addition to weekends) to focus on her event planning and gifting business. This was possible because she had disclosed her intentions beforehand to her employer, and she remained disciplined and focused in her primary job.

And that brings me to one last thing: It’s not enough to tell your employer—you need to also show them that you can still perform.

Your full-time job is going to be the main source of funding for your side hustle (and the rest of your life), at least for now. You may start seeing traction in your side hustle, but you can’t use that as an excuse to disregard your responsibilities in your primary job. You’ll still need your primary source of income to pay the bills until you can focus on your side hustle full time—if that’s your end goal. Until then, don’t give your employer a reason to fault you for poor performance.

Having a routine will help keep you on track. If you start working on your side hustle every evening after dinner, you’ll train your mind that after dinner, it’s time for work—not time to scroll yourself down another rabbit hole. When your side hustle is part of your routine, it will feel less like a drain on your resources.

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about habit stacking, where you can use the connectedness of behavior to your advantage. The formula for habit stacking is “After [current habit], I will [new habit].” So, for example, “after washing the dishes in the evenings, I will sketch designs for my swimwear line.” Washing the dishes becomes the cue that triggers the next behavior (in this case, something to do with your side hustle).

Of course, you’ll need to be sure your routine is based on solid goals. Sketching designs after dinner could go on forever—what’s the goal? When time is a limited resource, you need to be specific and realistic about your goals (try using SMART goals to get started). Remember: you are now your own employer, and no one else is holding you accountable.

A side hustle doesn’t mean working during all your free time. But if you’re not careful, it’s easy to fall into that trap.

Set boundaries to ensure that you don’t end up taking time from other priorities in your life, like family time and engaging in relationships that enrich you. There are plenty of ways to set boundaries for yourself:

  • Try time blocking. Decide ahead of time when you’ll work on your side hustle, and stop working on it when that time is up.
  • Use focus apps. If you’re totally focused while working on your side hustle, you’ll make more of your time and be less likely to need to work outside of your planned hours. Focus apps can block distractions on all your devices, allowing you to use your motivation and energy on meaningful work.

It can be tempting to do everything yourself: We sometimes make the mistake of valuing money over time. But time is also a limited commodity. And a side hustle in particular means limited time. Your focus should be on the activities that fulfill you and generate revenue.

Take stock of all your processes to figure out what you might be able to automate. If you’re not sure when to automate, start here, and then take a look at these five things you should automate today. Once you’ve automated your tedious tasks, you’ll have a better understanding of your actual capacity. You’ll be able to more clearly set expectations for clients—and for yourself.

A side hustle is a great opportunity for you to do something you love. But, as with any skill, it will take time before you’ve mastered your craft.

From the start, make sure to get feedback from your customers and clients to find out where you can improve. Whether it’s the quality of your offering, the efficiency of your processes, or the ease with which your customers can find you and do business with you, everything should be reviewed for potential improvements.

Learn as much as you can from others who are doing what you want to do—and ask questions. Remember: you’re testing an idea and working your way to product-market fit on your terms. Your biggest advantage with a side hustle is that you have time to test your business model and validate your ideas over time without the stress of wondering how you’re going to pay the bills. Use that time to make sure your business is the best it can be.

Side hustles don’t turn into income-generating businesses overnight.

With this in mind, you need to play the long game. Ask yourself if your current habits and routine can be sustained for several years—or more. As with any business, your actions have to be guided by a long-term strategy that should motivate you to keep going even when faced with adversity.

If you do decide to pursue your side hustle full time, your confidence after having experimented and learned everything on your own terms will be more than someone diving into full-time entrepreneurship with no prior experience. Even if you don’t decide to go full time into your side hustle, the skills you develop from running one can help you excel at your full-time job and life in general. Your side hustle doesn’t have to overrun your life. What’s important is that you lay the right foundations in order to draw the most value from your experience.

Yes, telling you to sleep seems obvious, but you’d be surprised. Hustle culture tells us that sleep is for the lazy, and it’s easy to believe it—less sleep means more hours to work, right?

But taking time to rest will not delay your progress: it may actually accelerate it. You’ll be more efficient with the time you do have, you’ll make sounder decisions, and you’ll be happier. It’s just science.


Article originally published on fastcompany.com Author: Judith Meyer-Zapier. 


YouTube nurtures African talent through #YouTubeBlackVoices fund

BY Fast Company South Africa 2 MINUTE READ

This week, YouTube released its inaugural class of African content creators set to receive a grant for the development of their channels from the global #YouTubeBlackVoices Fund.

In addition to the grant earmarked for content development, the 23 YouTubers (from Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa) will also take part in an intensive three-week incubator programme followed by bespoke training, workshops and networking programmes. These creators are part of 132 creators from across the world who are participating in the Class of 2021.

YouTube also announced that top African artistes; Fireboy DML, Sauti Sol and Sho Madjozi have been selected as part of 21 artists to join the #YouTubeBlack Voices Class of 2021. The artists join others selected from the United States, Brazil, and Australia, whose music spans generations, and locations. The Artist Class of 2021 will receive dedicated partner support from YouTube, seed funding invested into the development of their channels, and participate in training and networking programs focused on production, fan engagement, and wellbeing.

“We’re excited to spotlight Black creatives from the African continent and amplify their voices as they create original content on our platform,” says Alex Okosi, MD, Emerging Markets, YouTube EMEA.

“African creators on YouTube are reshaping the power of our platform by providing a unique perspective on all manner of topics from fashion and comedy to politics, learning and wellness. Through their content, these creators continue to raise the bar for how others engage with their audiences and build community on our platform,” Okosi concludes.

This announcement comes after the October 2020 call for African creators to apply for #YouTubeBlackVoices funding as part of YouTube’s global, multi-year commitment aimed at nurturing Black creators and artists on YouTube. Over the next few years, YouTube plans to invest directly in more than 500 creators and artists from across the world in order to fulfil this commitment.

This is how to always win an argument, according to science

BY Fast Company South Africa 3 MINUTE READ

You’re in the middle of a heated discussion–or fine, let’s just call it an argument–and the person whom you’re trying convince seems unable or unwilling to grasp your point of view. What should you do?

For starters, you should realize that your odds aren’t exactly superb. Belief change, as psychologist and fellow Fast Company contributor Art Markman put it, is frequently “a war of attrition. There’s usually no one argument that can suddenly get someone to see the light.” Still, some fascinating research suggests that reframing your ideas can boost your opponent’s receptiveness to them. Here’s how it works.

Before you can reframe an argument, you need to understand what “frames” are in the first places. They’re simply the term psychologists give to the theoretical filters or categories our minds use to help us store, manage, and interpret the meaning of information.

Our brains deploy frames out of necessity. Though the brain is an incredibly powerful organ, it’s limited in its ability to process information. As a result, it instinctively creates these categories for understanding its experience of the world. The type of frame a person may be using determines how they’ll perceive and respond to what you say and do. For instance, imagine you’re in the market for a new car. Here are three different frames (though there can be many more) that might describe the exact same car:

  • Frame #1: The car is blue.
  • Frame #2: The car is for sale and priced at $30,000.
  • Frame #3: The car is two years old.

The first frame is aesthetic (the car’s colour), the next is economic (the car’s price and market value), and the third is historical (the car’s age). While all this information can be held in mind simultaneously, it’s possible to rearrange the frames that organize it by order of preference; your preferred frame will alter your perception of the car’s value and influence whether or not you’ll purchase it.

So how can you coax someone who’s stuck in a certain frame to try on another one–and to consider the validity of your argument? The answer is counterintuitive: You change their frame by reframing your own position.

Behavioral scientists Matthew Feinburg and Robb Willer conducted six experiments with a total of 1,322 participants, seeking to identify how to make the most effective political arguments to those people with opposing political beliefs. They found that “compliance rates” with a given political message increased if that message was reframed to leverage the existing beliefs of the listener.

In one of their experiments, which dealt with the topic of same-sex marriage, politically liberal participants were more persuaded when the argument was reframed to focus on fairness (treating everyone equally), while conservative-leaning participants found the argument more compelling when it was framed to emphasize how same-sex couples were loyal, patriotic Americans.

Feinburg and Willer concluded that to win someone to your position, it’s best not to challenge their beliefs but to instead connect your own position to those beliefs (which, obviously, means empathizing with values you may not share–often the tricky part). Doing this can help others see the legitimacy of your position and reduce the perceptual gap between your viewpoint and theirs.

So if you’re in a disagreement with a coworker who’s feeling anxious about moving ahead with a new project, you could say:

I respect your commitment to doing what’s best for the company [existing belief]. Can I share with you the two reasons why this new project will strengthen the company?

Suddenly you’ve reframed the dispute around a shared belief: the health of the company.

Or perhaps you’re sharing your plan to improve production rates and your manager tells you that what you’re recommending is too costly. Instead of trying to justify the cost, reframe your position by connecting it with her existing beliefs:

I know you want to improve our production capabilities to make sure we’re able to meet the new objectives for the year [existing belief]. My concern is that if we under-invest in these upgrades, we’ll limit our ability to grow our output, which will cost us a lot in lost production. The plan I’ve put together is priced to grow production so that we’ll meet our objectives.

What the research on reframing shows is that the key to winning any argument is to understand your opponents’ perspective first, and then to link the beliefs supporting their perspective to your argument. The point is to influence them by finding enough common ground to win them to your side–not running to opposite corners and shouting across the divide.

Article originally published on fastcompany.com.  About the author: David Hoffeld is the author of The Science of Selling: Proven Strategies to Make Your Pitch, Influence Decisions, and Close the Deal and the CEO and chief sales trainer at Hoffeld Group, a research-based sales training, coaching, and consulting firm. He is a respected authority on sales strategy backed by behavioral science.