Freelancing (1/10) What is it?

what is freelancing

Freelancers are hired by other companies on a part time or short-term basis, but they do not receive the same compensation as full-time employees or have the same level of commitment to any particular company.

With the rise of the gig-economy (a labour market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs) people are talking about freelancing more than ever before. And that’s because there are more freelancers today than there have ever been in history – a 2019 study by Upwork and Freelancers Union shows that 57 million Americans freelanced in 2019.

And according to the same study, 53% of workers aged 18-22 are freelancing.

We will write a series of articles to guide you to becoming a freelancer in 2021. Stay tuned and let us know your feedback!

Technology Can Make You Happier!

You can’t go anywhere these days, without hearing about how technology is ruining everything, including our happiness. There is some truth to this, but it’s not the whole story.

Technology is bad for our happiness when it interferes with the mental, social, emotional, and behavioral processes that contribute to well-being.

But we often fail to realize (and discuss) the ways that technology can also support happiness and well-being—for example, when video calls let us talk to people all over the world or when apps or online articles give us a sense of purpose, joy, or excitement.

Here are four research-based ways to spend your time on technology that can boost your health, happiness, and well-being.

  • Learn new goals and habits

Technology has given us access to lots of health and wellness resources, making it easier than ever to build and practice skills like gratitude, mindfulness, and emotion regulation online. You can now use apps to do everything from tracking your mood to practicing therapeutic breathing to building resilience.

Although not all wellness apps are equally effective, research suggests that evidence-based smartphone apps can indeed teach us the skills we need to optimize our well-being, help us stay motivated to do so, and even benefit our mental health. For example, research is exploring the benefits of mindfulness appsapps delivering cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques (CBT, the gold standard of therapy), and apps that predict people’s moods and intervene with support at just the right time.

  • Actively engage with your community

It’s true that people who engage in more passive Facebook use (e.g., scrolling without interacting with others) tend to be more depressed, one study found. The authors suggest that passively using social media might stimulate those “upward social comparison behaviors,” which can leave people feeling inferior (I suck!), envious (it’s not fair!), or both.

But people who use Facebook more actively (e.g., liking, commenting, and posting) tend to have lower levels of depression. Over time, they say that they get more positive feedback, likes, and social support from others, which may contribute to their lower depressive symptoms.

This suggests that certain ways of engaging with others online may be good for us, perhaps because they involve social connection rather than social comparison. By reaching out to others, engaging in meaningful social interactions, and strengthening our social bonds, we can likely improve our well-being online.

  • Engage in activities that promote happiness

Social media is a space where we can connect socially and engage in kind and helpful behavior—activities that have been shown to boost health and well-being. For example, by sending messages on social media, we can express a kind word or share our gratitude—Thanks again for listening when I was having a rough day last week!—anytime we want, with ease, even to people far away.

recent study suggested that among young people with symptoms of depression, social media was very important for helping them express themselves creatively, get inspiration from others, and even feel less lonely. A whole 30 percent of young people with elevated depression symptoms say using social media when they’re feeling depressed, stressed, or anxious usually makes them feel better, while only 22 percent say it makes them feel worse.

One participant shared, “Social media makes me laugh and keeps me distracted so that I have time to breathe and collect myself.” Another shared, “It just helps me feel outside myself for a bit and find interesting topics I’d like to ponder on.”

While social media does seem to be beneficial for some, it may not be the best strategy for overcoming mental health challenges, given certain problematic habits it might encourage—like comparing ourselves to the seemingly perfect lives of our friends and people we follow. But when we use it in conjunction with face-to-face social interactions, it does indeed appear to be a useful tool for self-expression and social connection.

  • Find health-related information and stories

As we all strive to take care of our minds and bodies, a full 80 percent of young adults have gone online for health information. Indeed, we may use the Internet to learn about health and wellness challenges, read others’ health-related stories, or seek out a wellness practitioner. Research suggests that, by doing so, we may be able to feel more confident in our decisions and improve our communication with health providers.

Using the Internet in these ways may be important for those struggling with mental health issues like depression. For example, one participant says, “I have watched several people detail their fitness routines and how they used it to beat mental health disorders such as body dysmorphia and those affected by obesity and food addiction.”

In fact, 90 percent of young people with depression have gone online seeking information about mental health issues. Although we need more research to understand how they use this information, it does seem that the Internet is one more avenue where people in need seek out support. By giving us access to information about health, mental health, and well-being, technology enables us all to more easily seek out and discover the wellness strategies we need.

However, for the Internet to be a useful tool to find health information, it’s important to also increase our health literacy—namely, by ensuring people know which websites to trust, how to identify their health challenges accurately, and how to apply the information they discover. 

Technology—the Internet, smartphones, and social media—can hurt our happiness, particularly if we let it interfere with or pull us away from face-to-face interactions.
But, if we’re thoughtful about how we use technology, it also has the potential to make us happier. So we don’t necessarily need to get rid of our phones and computers or go on a full digital detox. Developers just need to be thoughtful about building technology, and we need to be thoughtful about using it, in ways that promote happiness

How wearable tech is shaping the future of football?

With the health and fitness sector being the prime area where wearables are making their mark, it should come as no surprise that the world’s richest football clubs are using the technology to monitor their players, with the end goal of gaining a competitive edge over their rivals.

After all, the more these clubs know about their own players, the better informed they are to make choices about who plays, who to use as an impact sub, and even the potential risk of injuries. In a multi-million-pound industry, where the margins between winning and losing can be so slim and yet so valuable, the extra edge can be crucial.

This interest in wearables from the football industry is not isolated, and the fascination from consumers and businesses shows no signs of slowing down. Analyst Gartner expects to see 310.4 million sales of wearable devices worldwide this year, generating $30.5 billion (323.2bn), and IDC expects the market to double by 2021. While the majority of the market is focused on smartwatches for consumers, there are many other types of wearables that have gained traction.

For Real Madrid, arguably the world’s biggest football club, the use of wearables is focused on GPS devices on the back of players’ vests which measures heart rates.

“Using a GPS signal, we can then retrieve data on the total distance they cover, the distance at high intensity, and the acceleration and deceleration during training or a match,” says Carlos Alberto Cruz, physical trainer at Real Madrid.

As Real Madrid coach and former player José María Gutiérrez Hernández explains, this data was not available to players or coaches during most of his time as a footballer, making it difficult to know exactly how they were performing during a training session or match.
“It definitely changed, and at the end of my career we had data from everyone from training matches, and that is invaluable for the player,” he says.

Unlike the data that consumers get from personal health and fitness wearables, football clubs can go a step further with the data they collect, using specialised software to analyse it in order to glean more insight into their players.

“We retrieve the data, extract it and analyse it using the software. Then we can compare data with the objectives we set for each session and draw conclusions on how the training went and the player’s form,” says Cruz. “Then we consider how to apply this information to upcoming matches.”

The data at hand doesn’t predict whether a player will get an injury or not, but it does help to quantify and control the players’ training loads better, reducing the chances that injuries occur.

Coaches aren’t the only people who benefit from the data at hand. Players can use the data as a motivational tool, getting a better understanding of the areas they need to improve on and setting themselves targets for upcoming sessions and games.

Real Madrid midfielder Martín Calderón is hopeful that there will be additional types of metrics for players in the years to come. “At the moment we only get measurements for intensity and running, but in the future we will be able to measure the level of impact, how high we’re jumping and various other data points,” he states.

It is this increase in wearables data, combined with other streams of information such as data on opponents and previous games, that can steer a coach into using specific tactics and players for particular games.

But the future calls for even more use of data – like what’s already available to tennis coaches during matches. That is, real-time data on players during a game which could completely transform the way coaches react to tactics. Premier League players are allowed to use wearable devices during games but the data is not currently allowed to be used in real time. According to coach Gutiérrez Hernández, it is only a matter of time until it is.

“It would be good for the players and the coach. It’s complicated at the moment but I think that technology will progress and we will get there eventually,” he says.

“A key aspect will be the ability to see player data at any time, so that the coach knows what to say to each player during the match,” he adds

Technology is your new love!

Our dependency on tech has soared during the pandemic. The app analytics company App Annie found that people spent around 4 hours and 18 minutes per day on mobile devices in April 2020. That’s a 20% increase from the year before, equating to an extra 45 minutes per day of screen time.

Research shows that there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with spending more time on screens—especially right now. Apart from the benefits of connecting with friends, family, and coworkers, turning to tech can help us manage difficult emotions and even reduce stress.

Not all screen time is created equal, though. Some online activities do bring a degree of risk. Spending long periods passively scrolling through social media, for example, is linked to greater feelings of envy and loneliness, and a higher risk of depression.

What, then, should we do in the months ahead to make sure our relationship with tech stays as healthy and constructive as possible at a time when we’re all so reliant on it?

It’s far too simplistic to tell ourselves we’re going to cut down on our tech usage.

The answer depends somewhat on your own proclivities. You might be the type of person who feels soothed and inspired after spending a half-hour curating themed boards on Pinterest—but mindlessly scrolling on Instagram for the same amount of time might make you feel tired and irritable.

Regardless of who you are, though, I believe we can all benefit from a more deliberate approach to how we spend our screen time. Our goal should be to find our personal tech balance. Recognize that what works best for you may not be what works for everyone else.

Here are some of the ways we can change our behaviors and mindset to achieve a better balance in the weeks and months ahead.

Build your awareness. It’s difficult to change any behaviors when we’re not clear on what they look like. A good place to start is by tracking where you spend your screen time by using an app, like Moment, or your phone’s built-in tools. Remember that tracking alone isn’t enough—you must check these stats regularly.

Checking in is important because studies suggest we tend to underestimate how long we spend scrolling and swiping. Tracking will provide some perspective and give you a sense of which changes you may want to make.

I also suggest doing regular “mood check-ins” every few hours anytime you’re online. As we scroll, it’s often not clear which conversation, app, or Twitter thread has colored our mood. By consciously checking in with yourself, you can better home in on what triggers bad feelings and decide what activities to avoid or dial back in the future.

This is important because research shows that when we’re asked to imagine how technology affects our mood, we tend to think the time we spend on our devices makes us feel worse than it actually does. It’s possible that fearmongering around tech’s potential impact on our mental health has biased our expectations.

So ask yourself: Am I feeling bad because I spent 20 minutes on TikTok, or because I think I should feel bad about spending 20 minutes on TikTok?

Get clear about the benefits. Our devices can be a source of stress and worry, but they can also be a source of joy. There isn’t a single right way to figure out which social networks or apps will deliver these positive effects without many downsides. That’s why we need to understand what works for each of us.

It’s far too simplistic to tell ourselves we’re going to cut down on our tech usage. The things we enjoy doing with our devices matter. Whether that’s playing video games, curating image boards, or experimenting with fonts, you should factor these on-screen activities into your daily schedule just as you factor in exercise or work. It’s also important to communicate these needs to the people you live with to help everyone balance their time between doing tech-based activities alone and offline ones (like cooking dinner) together.

Be alert to active vs. passive social media use. Passive time spent on social media can be worse for our well-being than more active use. A number of studies suggest that the more time we spend scrolling through social feeds without actively engaging, the more likely we are to experience depression and other negative effects of comparing ourselves to others. Passive use could mean seeing a new photo posted by a friend and continuing to scroll, whereas active use might be writing a comment or sending a quick DM.

This doesn’t mean we must all write comments under every new post we see, of course. Instead, we just need to recognize when we’re not feeling communicative and perhaps find a different screen-based activity to occupy that time.

Refresh your mindset. The words we use to talk about ourselves and our lives matter a lot. Phrases like “tech detox” or “digital detox” have become ways for us to talk about taking time away from tech. But a detox mindset, which is more about achieving an extreme goal in the short term, doesn’t carry the long-term value we need to maintain a healthy lifestyle in a digitally connected world. Our aim should always be to find the balance that works for us and supports our long-term well-being.

There are other ways we can describe our tech relationships—as “habits,” for example—that make our screen time feel like an aspect of our lives we can gradually change instead of a toxin that must be expelled. Sudden, radical changes in our tech behaviors run the risk of making us feel even more isolated at a time when a lot of us need more ways to connect.

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How to succeed in online learning?

We can spend hours learning, but if we’re not able to recall, retrieve, or demonstrate what we’ve learned somehow, we’re doing ourselves a major disservice. And it’s going to take longer to achieve our learning goals.

In this post, I’ll share some tips, best practices, and strategies to help you succeed in your online learning journey.

Self-regulated Learning

When you’re in control of your learning experience, there can be many factors that affect your engagement in learning. For example, finding the time, passive learning (vs. active), distractions in your learning environment, and other commitments.

These factors, in some way, affect memory and making what you’re learning stick. If what you’re learning is not sticking, you might start to feel a lack of progress, productivity, and motivation. And that often leads to giving up.

How can we best support ourselves to get the most out of self-regulated online learning? And effectively develop new knowledge and skills in a way that we can retain, apply, and adapt to new contexts?

Your Learning Environment

It all starts with your learning environment. Create a distinct space for learning. If possible, make it an area that you don’t frequently use for other activities like watching television, sleeping, eating, or anything that might cause unnecessary distractions.

Minimizing distractions is crucial and significant to learning and the memorization process. If you have anything distracting on your computer, or open browser tabs that are not relevant to what you’re learning, you might want to close them. Avoid social media notifications, keep the TV off, or podcasts, and music with lyrics that can interrupt your learning. You can use those as small rewards for when you’ve completed a learning task.

Time Management

Self-regulated online learning is flexible, but it presents challenges in scheduling learning time and time management. Lacking a routine and time is often one of the biggest hurdles.

If you’re serious about getting the most out of your learning time, create a schedule. Create a learning habit by setting aside dedicated time for learning. Many of us have work or exercise schedules and routines. Learning is no different. Set up a consistent schedule and routine for studying.

Assign learning goals and tasks to dates. There are useful tools to help you keep track of your learning tasks and objectives, such as AsanaGoogle Docs, and Trello.

Pace Yourself

Create a schedule where you spread out your learning time. Binge learning (or cramming) is not practical. You’ll find that learning more frequently but for less time is better than cramming your studies into one long session.

Studies prove that scheduling two separate study sessions with a fair amount of time between the sessions is more effective than one study session of the same total time length. It often results in twice the learning.

Staying Motivated and Avoiding Procrastination

When you’re learning online, at home, for example, there might be a lot of time where you’re sitting and staring at a screen. Be sure to give your body and mind some time away from the “glowing rectangle” by scheduling regular breaks.

It’s easy to get into procrastination mode, distracted, or lose motivation if you’re doing an hour or even a 2-hour long session with no break in sight. So schedule breaks, distractions, and rewards even. Distractions are inevitable, so schedule a time to check your phone, social media, email, Slack, etc.

After reaching a learning milestone, relax for a bit and do something you enjoy. Then return refreshed and focused.

Pomodoro Technique

Our brain does not usually retain its efficiency for longer periods, so it’s usually good to study for fixed time intervals. Short, intense bursts of learning might be more effective for you.

One technique I’ve found to help students stay focused and motivated during extended periods of learning and studying is the Pomodoro technique.

Set a timer for 25 or 30 minutes and start your learning task. When time is up, take a 5-10 minute break. That’s one Pomodoro set. After four Pomodoros, schedule a more extended break (20-30 minutes). Your brain will use that time to absorb new information and recharge.

Be an Active Learner

A common question I get from students is, “What’s the best way to retain what I’m learning and put it into practice?”

In online learning, you’ll likely watch lots of videos or read through tutorials. The most important thing I can encourage you to do is be an active learner versus a passive learner.

Active learning is when you are actively involved in the learning process. Passive learning is the opposite – when all you’re doing is consuming the material at face value (only watching, hearing, or reading the material, for example). It’s a one-way effort. In self-regulated online learning, it’s easy to fall into a passive learning trap.

Learning is an active and strategic activity. It’s difficult to retain information through passive learning. For example, you may think you understand the lessons and concepts being taught by just watching, but later struggle putting it all into practice.

Lean forward and engage with the learning material. If it’s a programming course, code along with the instructor, review any supplemental notes and resources or look for practice opportunities related to the lesson.

To make what you learn stick, you should form your own interpretation of what was taught, and that it’s accurate. Converting knowledge from abstract to practical is essential because it’s no longer something someone else has told you. You own that knowledge.

Space Your Learning

Our brains learn more effectively when we space out our learning over time – it’s called the “spacing effect”.

Instead of cramming one big new topic and any related concepts in one go, cover the topic in segments over multiple lessons. For instance, it’s proven that repeating or trying to practice something ten times in one afternoon is not going to stick compared to how it would if you practice ten times over several days.

Plan for spaced learning in your schedule. Allow time to pass (a couple of days, weeks, or months) and then review or practice the same concept again. The number of spaced repetitions and the time between them can depend on the complexity of the material.

For example, if you’re a Treehouse student learning the Python programming language, you might revisit a quiz, a code challenge, or practice session after a few days or weeks. Try spaced learning just when you think you might forget the material, or before you proceed with learning a new concept of the language, and see how much you can recall.

Next Steps

After adapting some of these learning techniques for some time, you’re more likely to recognize when what you’re studying does not make sense. At that moment, you can stop, regroup, and figure something out rather than passively continuing with the next lesson.

Have fun, and enjoy your learning journey. The more you make learning a routine, the easier it becomes, and the more natural it will feel.

Happy learning!

Zia Chesti and his AI unicorn – Affiniti

Located in a loft-like office across the street from the White House, Afiniti is one of the DC tech scene’s major success stories. It’s one of just two “unicorns”—privately held startups valued at more than $1 billion—in the District, along with Vox Media. And its artificial-intelligence technology is being used by businesses such as United Health Group and T-Mobile. If you’ve called a customer-service number lately, you might have used it, too.

So what does Afiniti do? At its core, it’s software that utilizes various kinds of information to match callers with agents in ways that improve the interaction on both ends. Rather than calls being assigned to representatives in the order they come in, the algorithm analyzes traits—prior interactions with the company, purchase history, demographic information, and so forth—to predict which pairings will have the best results, for both the caller and the company. It then assigns the caller to the staffer who’s likely to be the best match.×

“We look at the history of the agent—the last 100, 1,000, 10,000 calls the agent has taken,” explains CEO Zia Chishti. “Almost all of them are with different people. If you look at the differing outcomes that associate with different people, you can use that to predict which kinds of individuals that agent would best pair with in the future.” Neither the caller nor the agent has any idea what info is being used to make the connection. It’s all calculated in real time by the software.

Afiniti says the results can be dramatic, adding up to significant savings or additional revenues for clients. If customers feel a connection with the representative they’re assigned to, a successful outcome of the call is more likely. “In terms of why this happens, it’s the name of the company,” says Afiniti global head of data Julian Lopez-Portillo, explaining that some clients think of the concept as a sort of Tinder for call centers. “If you have a greater affinity for a particular agent, you’re more likely to want to buy something from them, or if you’re going to cancel, you’re more likely to want to stay with the company.”

Currently, the technology is used by more than 30 companies in 18 countries, including big players in financial services, insurance, hospitality, and health care. Next time you call your bank, pay attention to the person on the other end of the line. She might have been custom-picked by Afiniti to fit your specific profile.

Chishti is an entrepreneur whose first ventureAlign Technology—the company behind Invisalign clear braces—was also a massive success. (It pulled in about $2 billion in revenue last year.) Born in the US, he grew up mostly in Pakistan. He came back to this country to attend college, then got his MBA at Stanford. After cofounding Align Technology in Northern California in 1997, he parted ways with the company in early 2003 and started a new business, TRG, that pursued a broad range of other ventures. One of his partners, Mohammad Khaishgi, relocated to Washington that year after his wife got a job here, and Chishti decided to follow. “I was a little hesitant to move,” he says. “I bought into the California lifestyle.”

But Chishti ended up staying in Washington, and while steering TRG, he started thinking about potential new products. Customer-service technology might not seem like a logical next step from teeth straighteners, but Chishti was looking to innovate in a way that “addresses a large market and creates a lot of value in that market,” he says. “Call centers are huge. Everybody uses a phone.” The business that evolved into Afiniti launched in 2006, initially using software Chishti had programmed himself at home.

Internet of Things – vital for future business success

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced all businesses to change their operating practices. Businesses of all sizes worldwide, have adopted and deployed technological solutions to survive and thrive in the future. One of the main technologies which has seen huge adoption in the times of crisis is Internet of Things.  

Internet of Things is an interconnection of physical devices and the Internet. The devices not only sense and record, but can also monitor and respond.

UK telecom giant Vodafone conducted global study focused on the impact the Internet of Things technology , henceforth IoT, is having on businesses at a time when their digital capabilities are being put to the test by the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of the key findings from the study are here:

  • Support business continuity – IoT is helping businesses quickly adapt working practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. 84% of IoT adopters feel IoT has ensured business continuity.
  • Improve productivity – IoT helps businesses prioritise and free up employees’ time for high value activities. By innovating, industries are discovering opportunities to create new revenue streams. 73% of mature IoT adopters have seen a significant return on investment from IoT.
  • Business Success – IoT is a future-proofing technology. 87% of businesses say it’s critical for their future success.
  • Drive innovation – Companies are using IoT to access untapped data to drive strategic thinking and develop innovative projects to future proof their businesses.
  • Improve Customer Experience – Being able to adapt faster to changing market conditions and to offer new products and services can reinvent the customer experience

Other technologies like Big data are being tested to identify sustainable alternatives to blanket lockdowns. Here is how scientific american reports about it.

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Amazon cloud has a service for space communication too!

Amazon Web Services (AWS), the company’s cloud computing arm, announced a new offering aimed at satellite operators.

The news: At its annual re:Invent conference in Las Vegas few years back, the web giant unveiled a service that lets owners of satellites rent time on Amazon-managed ground stations to send and receive data from orbit. The service, called AWS Ground Station, works in much the same way as Amazon’s well-established business for tapping computing capacity via the cloud.

Ground control … According to an AWS blog post, big businesses with a large number of satellites typically build and operate their own ground stations at a cost of a million dollars or more for each one. Smaller companies that can’t afford their own often end up signing inflexible, long-term contracts with third parties that own and run such stations.

… to major flexibility: The new service will let satellite operators get access to a ground station at short notice on a pay-as-you-go basis. Those who know how much capacity they will need well in advance can book ahead and pay less for downlink time. AWS is kicking off with a pair of ground stations and says it will have a total of a dozen up and running by the middle of next year. It will monitor how demand develops before deciding how many more stations to add.

Space, the busy frontier: AWS is betting the next few years will see a proliferation of satellites in Earth orbit as companies like SpaceX prepare to launch large numbers of them and governments hatch ambitious plans for building new constellations.

Will pandemic speed up the use of robots to replace human workers?

A 2017 report by global consultants McKinsey predicted a third of workers in the US would be replaced by automation and robots by 2030. But events like pandemics have the potential to change all the timelines and experts say it’s really up to humans to decide how they want to integrate this technology in the world

Companies large and small are expanding how they use robots to increase social distancing and reduce the number of staff that have to physically come to work. Robots are also being used to perform roles workers cannot do at home.

Walmart, America’s biggest retailer, is using robots to scrub its floors.

Robots in South Korea have been used to measure temperatures and distribute hand sanitiser.

With health experts warning some social distancing measures may need to be in place through 2021, robot workers may be in greater demand.

Companies that make cleaning and sanitising products have seen demand soar.

UVD Robots, the Danish manufacture of ultraviolet-light-disinfection robots, shipped hundreds of its machines to hospitals in China and Europe.

Groceries and restaurants offering takeaway are using these machines more too.

Experts say as more businesses re-open we can expect to see further adoption of this technology – you may see robots cleaning your schools or offices.

Food service is another area where the use of robots is likely to increase because of health concerns.

Fast-food chains like McDonald’s have been testing robots as cooks and servers.

In warehouses, like those operated by Amazon and Walmart, robots were already used to improve efficiency. The Covid-19 outbreak has both companies looking to increase the use of robots for sorting, shipping and packing.

In summary, pandemic will speed up adoption of robots. But the question, that in long run, will technology have positive impact or will it destroy human race, still remains unanswered.