Thursday, January 17, 2019

The government shutdown has gotten so bad that agencies are using legal loopholes to restart critical functions

The government shutdown has gotten so bad that agencies are using legal loopholes to restart critical functions
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  • The government has been shutdown for 27 days now.
  • At the beginning of the shutdown, 380,000 federal employees were placed on furlough, meaning they were forced to stay home and will not receive pay for the duration of the shutdown.
  • However, some agencies recall fledged workers in an attempt to restart key operations and reduce the impact of the shutdown.
  • The FDA, IRS, USDA, FAA and State Department all announced that certain hard- working workers would return to work.
  • The workers recalled will still not receive pay, which angered some unions.
The government shutdown that began on 22 December forced many of the federal government agencies to work with bare- bones and cease a variety of important functions.

But as the shutdown drags on, more and more agencies start calling employees back to work to resume some of the government's critical functions, which were unprepared.

The unprecedented nature of the closure requires government agencies to use legal loopholes to take new measures to alleviate the shutdown blow.

Workers deemed " essential" during the shutdown, such as law enforcement officers and TSA agents, are forced to work without pay during the shutdown period.

The rest of the " nonessential" workers are filled, which means they must stay at home and not be paid.

At the beginning of the shutdown, approximately 420,000 workers were deemed essential, while 380,000 were filled.

However, many agencies are beginning to change the classifications of workers to " excepted" status to get key operations running again. Here's a review of some of the agencies that bring back furlough workers:

  • Thursday, the State Department announced that 8,000 fledgling diplomats would return to work. The department found enough money in payroll accounts to finance a 15-day pay period, officials said, but it was unclear whether more funds were available to make the repayment more temporary. The employees are also not yet rewarded.
  • After public outcry and concerns about food poisoning outbreaks, the Food and Drug Administration brings back 400 food inspectors to carry out high risk inspections. Some inspectors also take care of medical devices and medicines.
  • The Internal Revenue Service will bring back 36,000 employees to process tax returns and has already called employees back to complete the income checks that some Americans need to obtain mortgages.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration has recalled 2,200 safety inspectors to resume work to ensure the safe operation of airlines and aircraft manufacturers.
  • The USDA recalled 2,500 workers to temporarily provide aid to farmers
Some funding was re-allocated from other programmes, discovered or paid to these agencies through fees. Almost all employees will not be paid until the shutdown ends, which means that the financial burden on these employees continues.

In some cases, well- off workers can apply for government unemployment insurance, while excepted workers may not.

Unions representing the employees of the different agencies argued that forcing workers to return to work without pay is a breach of federal labor law.

The National Treasury Employees Union( NTEU), which also represents IRS employees, sues the government for forcing the employees to arrive without pay.

" There is no doubt that the IRS needs to prepare for Jan 's 2019 filing season. 28 and IRS staff want to work," said NTEU President Tony Reardon in a statement. " But the hard, cold reality is that they've already missed a paycheck and soon they'll be asked to work for free for as long as the shutdown lasts."

On Tuesday a federal judge blocked a lawsuit aimed at forcing the government to pay unpaid employees during the shutdown.

Judge orders a lawsuit on net neutrality to proceed despite the shutdown

Judge orders a lawsuit on net neutrality to proceed despite the shutdown
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This week, the possibility arose that the current government shutdown could delay the day of net neutrality in court— but the court did not agree with the FCC's request to postpone the lawsuit. Oral arguments for this major challenge to the rollback of the Internet regulations for 2015 by the agency will continue as planned on February 1.

During a shutdown, federal employees— including government lawyers— must be authorized to continue working, as it is illegal for them to do so without pay. In this case, a judge must approve the case effectively.

The FCC is one of the many shutdown agencies and organizations and many employees are stuck at home. It therefore requested that the next court date be postponed, at which it and several companies and advocacy groups are scheduled to argue about its reversal of net neutrality.

A counterargument submitted immediately by the INCOMPAS industry group pointed out that the court had not granted such requests during previous shutdowns and should adhere to this precedent.

The D.C. judges. Circuit Appeals Court appears to agree with the latter argument; the motion of the FCC was denied and the arguments as planned on 1 February will continue.

Surely this is not good news for the FCC. While he certainly has his ducks in a row in defense of his net neutrality and new rules in court (he did so before and again), it is far from ideal that the case should take place after a prolonged absence of all the relevant experts from their posts. Briefing lawyers, updating arguments, responding to industry concerns— it's not easy when all your staff watch " Bandersnatch " over and over at home. 

The lawsuit against the FCC has many good points to make about the rules it has established and the process by which it has approved these rules. And net neutrality champions are probably pleased to hear that they can easily catch the agency.

This is how the Crew Dragon capsule of SpaceX looks moving from the sea

This is how the Crew Dragon capsule of SpaceX looks moving from the sea
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If you come back from space at high speeds, it is generally safer for a number of reasons to descend over water than land. Certainly, the Crew Dragon capsule of SpaceX will do so, and that's how it looks when it returns to land on the GO Searcher. However, expect a little more of a hero's welcome.

This is not the first time we saw the GO searcher; it got some publicity late last year when some helicopter landing tests were carried out on the sea.

See, the GO Searcher is not just a giant mitt like the boats intended to catch falling fairings; they must not only collect a large, heavy capsule from the surface of the water, but also accommodate anyone on board (and possibly provide medical assistance). It's more a mobile headquarter than a utility ship.

Dock lurkers in Port Canaveral, Florida( naturally near the famous cape) saw the ship returning from some mock operations on the sea.

This seems to be a Crew Dragon capsule (probably not a real production capsule, but a full-scale mock-up or prototype) on the back, so they probably took it out of the water and put it softly in the boot.

Coming back to port after practice will probably look a lot like this, but it is also more than possible, depending on the distance and mission, that safe astronauts, cosmonauts and other space enthusiasts speed up their return by helicopters. The landing pad on the roof will be crucial if someone is injured, of course (although medical facilities are on board), but depending on where the splash occurs— not to mention the weather— it may be preferable to take a slow boat to the shore instead.

In any case, you can expect that ships like this will soon arrive with great regularity. I asked SpaceX for more information about this particular operation and whether it relates to the upcoming Crew Dragon test flights of the company.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

' The Sims 4' on the consoles on November 17th

' The Sims 4' on the consoles on November 17th
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The Sims returns to the consoles in a very large way after an eight- year absence. Come November 17th, you can control a virtual society from the couch in The Sims 4, the best console of the 17-year- old social sandbox series.

" The current generation of hardware has enabled us to translate code to PlayStation 4 without any major system changes, so that it is no longer about which platform has the superior version, but where you like to play, " says senior producer Michael Duke on the PlayStation Blog. In other words, this will not be another extremely watered down port with fewer buildings, careers and opportunities for interaction.

Publisher EA promises to owners of PS4 and Xbox One will receive " many" of the add- on packs the PC games have received since 2014. To date, this includes the " Life of the Party" package( complete with a flaming tiki bar) and the " Up All Night" pack, which includes a laser light show. Both are part of the Deluxe Party Edition, which is now available for pre- order.

Unfortunately, nothing has been said about user support, so some of your more elusive social scenarios will have to live on in your brain instead of on your television.

'The Sims' Alexa Skill is a game companion for superfans

'The Sims' Alexa Skill is a game companion for superfans
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Electronic Arts and Amazon make their old version " You got your peanut butter in my chocolate!" and " You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!" The companies announced today that they will have an accompanying skill for dedicated fans of The Sims on Alexa devices. In addition, an update to The Sims 4 introduces a voice assistant called Lin- Z in the game Alexa.

The Sims version on Alexa is not so much a game as a novelty for people who are not able to get enough of the life simulation. Once you download The Sims skills from the Alexa Skills Store, you will be able to listen to 140 songs entirely in the nonsensical Sim-lish language, answer more than 200 questions about Sims-related trivia, and have Alexa tell you fun facts about the history of the game.

As for the voice assistant in the game, it is available in the latest update to The Sims 4 for Mac and PC( no word on the consoles feature yet). Lin- Z is housed in its own Alexa- looking smart speaker, which can be placed inside the home of your Sim. Your Sims can ask Lin- Z to play music, to play trivia, to order things, to tell jokes and to adjust the lighting.

Verizon unlimited subscribers have permanent access to Apple Music

Verizon unlimited subscribers have permanent access to Apple Music
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Last year Verizon offered free access to Apple music to unlimited subscribers for six months. The carrier now extends the partnership and officially bundles unlimited and unlimited subscriptions with the service. From 17 January, Apple Music will be available to all new and existing customers at no additional cost. Therefore, those who took advantage of the offer last year can continue to access the streaming service without paying their $10 per month fee.

According to Verizon VP of Marketing Angie Klein, the company is expanding its partnership with Apple Music, because the original 6-month offer was a hit with customers. Unfortunately, only two out of three unlimited plans are getting Apple Music as a permanent perk. Its cheapest option, Go Unlimited, will still come bundled with free access to the service, but only for six months.

China grows the first Moon plants

China grows the first Moon plants
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The greenery you see in the soil above may not look much, but it is a big step in the exploration of space. Cotton seeds brought to the Moon on the Chang'e-4 mission in China have sprouted, marking the first growth in plants on the lunar surface. You can imagine that you are not in touch with the lunar surface. Instead, cotton, potato seeds, yeast and fruit fly eggs are contained in a sealed, self-sufficient biosphere which provides the necessary climate and food.

There's more to prove yet. China must show that plants can continue to grow, and that is no mean feature between temperatures that vary widely and lower gravity. The lander must make dramatic changes in order to preserve the conditions of the biosphere and maintain a relatively consistent interior.

Even with these challenges, this is an important milestone: it suggests that astronauts have a realistic opportunity to grow plants for food, oil and other resources on missions. This could reduce the freight load for long-term missions to the Moon and Mars and enable them to remain low after some initial supplies have been made. Extraterrestrial farms are a long way off, but after this achievement they are at least on the horizon. 

Japan's fire robot hotel over half of its robot workers

Japan's fire robot hotel over half of its robot workers

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The robot hotel in Japan, the Hen-na (" Strange ") Hotel, was supposed to represent the future of accommodation with cars taking care of things that previously required " inefficient " people. However, this strategy divides the seams. Hen-na' fired' more than half of its 243 robots after the machines often created more problems than solved them. For example, the cute Chu-ri robot you see above often can not answer questions or can be activated by snoring in the middle of the night.

And Chu- ri- chan is the iceberg 's tip. Check- in robots need assistance, concierge bots are clueless, baggage carriers find it difficult to reach rooms and entertainment bots break down. Of course, there are some successes, such as a giant robot arm, which moves baggage into storage boxes. They are also used by other hotel chains, such as Yotel.

Hotel Manager Takeyoshi Oe and President of the company Hideo Sawada recognized the practical limitations of robots in explaining the reasons for the layoffs. The technology is rapidly obsolete, for starters–what appeared to be state-of - the-art in 2015 can be hopelessly outdated in 2019 and replacements are costly. Most importantly, some of the robots were superfluous in the end. There are situations in which robots " aren't needed, " Sawada said, and sometimes they simply " annoy people. " Robots are not cure-alls, to put it another way-hotels and other companies only have to use them when they make sense. 

Doctolib describes how appointments for telemedicine work

Doctolib describes how appointments for telemedicine work
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In September, the French startup Doctolib announced that Telemedicine appointments would be opened on its platform in 2019. The company profits from recent legal changes that finally legalize telemedicine in France.

Doctolib is a marketplace for patients with healthcare professionals— it is used by 70,000 practitioners and 1,400 medical institutions in France and Germany. Each health care provider pays € 109 per month for service access( $ 124).

You save a ton of time by replacing your calendar with Doctolib. You don't have to constantly pick up your phone and say when you are available and not available. Everything is synchronized between your public website and calendar.

And all practitioners can now go beyond appointments face to face. If you begin to accept appointments for telemedicine, patients can book a remote appointment. With 500 practitioners, the company tested the new service.

Patients can start a video chat after setting up the service when it is time to talk to their doctor. Once the call has been made, patients pay on the website of Doctolib. You can then access your user account prescriptions.

Doctolib will not cut every transaction. The startup instead sells these services as an add- on. Practitioners may choose to pay € 79 per month( $ 90) in addition to their Doctolib standard plan for remote appointments.

This is a great way to boost the end result of the company and also a seamless experience for all concerned. Video calls from the Doctolib interface can be accepted by practitioners and patients do not need to use another service.

The appointments comply with the national healthcare system of France. Like a normal appointment, patients are reimbursed. However, there are legal constraints.

In particular, you can not book a remote appointment and receive a refund if your doctor does not already know you. Doctolib therefore only allows you to book distant appointments with practitioners you have seen physically in the past 12 months. However, this feature can still be especially useful for renewing your prescription and other minor medical supplies.

YouTube is going to " ramp up" its policies against dangerous challenges and hazards

YouTube is going to " ramp up" its policies against dangerous challenges and hazards
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YouTube today announced a number of policy updates, including stricter enforcement of its ban on videos of hazardous challenges and pranks.

In a FAQ posted on its support site, YouTube wrote: " We have updated our external guidelines to make it clear that challenges such as the Tide Pod challenge or the Fire challenge, which can lead to death and/or have caused death in some cases, have no place on YouTube." Its policies also extend to pranks " with a perceived risk of serious physical injury," such as home invasion or shooting.

Although YouTube did not mention it, it was announced the day after a teenager crashed a car while driving blindly for the challenge of the Bird Box, inspired by the same name Netflix movie. Earlier this month, the meme that involves doing different things while blindfolded became popular enough that Netflix itself issued a warning (" NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE ").

YouTube also said that it bans videos of pranks that can " drive children into severe emotional distress, which means something so bad that the child can be traumatized for life." The platform said that it worked with child psychologists to develop guidelines on the types of pranks that cross this line. Examples include a parent's fake death or serious abandonment or shaming for errors. "

The psychological well-being of children featured in the videos came to the attention in 2017, when DaddyOFive, a YouTube channel run by Mike and Heather Martin, was dismissed after users became concerned about the abusive nature of the Martins ' pranks. The Martins eventually lost the custody of two of the children returned to their biological mother and entered an Alford plea for child neglect charges, which resulted in a five-year probation period.

In addition to updating its policy on pranks and challenges, YouTube also said that it will begin issuing strikes for custom thumbnails that violate policies by displaying pornography or graphic violence and external sites linked to YouTube that do not follow Community guidelines.

YouTubers have two months in which videos in violation of these guidelines are deleted, but no strike is issued. After the period of grace is over, videos are deleted and their creators can also strike.

The CERN 100-km collision plan makes the LHC look like a hula hoop

The CERN 100-km collision plan makes the LHC look like a hula hoop
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The Large Hadron Collider has produced a lot of unbelievable science, most famously the Higgs Boson— but CERN physicists, the international organization behind the LHC, are looking forward to the next model already. And the proposed Future Circular Collider would be an upgrade to 100 km or 62 miles.

The idea is not new; CERN has been watching for years. But today's conceptual design report shows that all this consultation was not idle: there is a relatively coherent and practical plan— as practical as a particle collision can be — and a decent case for spending $ 21 billion or so.

" These major efforts and projects are enormous starting points for networking, connecting institutes across borders, countries," said Michael Benedikt of the CERN, who led the report. " Together, all these things are a very good argument for promoting such unique science projects."
The CERN 100-km collision plan makes the LHC look like a hula hoop
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On the other hand, while the LHC was a great success, physicists did not give an unambiguous indication of what they should pursue next. The lack of new cosmic mysteries— a truly anomalous result or mysterious gap, for example, where a particle is expected — has convinced some that they simply have to turn the heat up, but others that are not necessarily better.

The design document contains several possible collisions, the largest of which is the 100 km ring and would result in the highest energy collisions. You could, of course, smash protons together at 100,000 gigaelectron volts instead of 16,000 — but what exactly is this going to help? At this point, we have left my areas of expertise, as they are, well behind, so I won't speculate, but at least the question is raised by those in the know.

It should be noted that Chinese physicists plan something similar, so that there is also the aspect of international competition. How should this affect schemes? Should we ask China if it is possible to use theirs? The academic world is far less affected by global conflicts and politics than, say, the technological world, but it is not ideal yet.

There are many options to consider and time is not essential; it would take a decade or more to make these proposals even the simplest and cheapest.

The Open Government Data Act signed into law

The Open Government Data Act signed into law
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The federal government produces a hell of many data, but there is little guarantee that it will be available in a way that will make it useful to everyone. This can be changed with the OPEN Government Data Act, which was signed last night by the president.

In essence, the act requires federal agencies to make data( and metadata) public when possible, to publish them in a machine- readable format and to catalog them online. It also requires chief data officers to be appointed to deal with the process in these agencies.

This bipartisan piece of legislation was largely uncompromised through the House and the Senate, although the Treasury was removed from the list of organizations to which it applied. They had their reasons, I'm sure.

It is a big win for open government proponents, although it is probably a little early to celebrate given the overwhelming ineptitude and obsolescence of the federal information technology sector. Many new policies and systems will necessarily need to be updated before any agency can reasonably comply with the law, which can take years. It certainly seems a good path for them to follow.

Another part of the law signed( OPEN was combined with a few others for convenience and horse trading purposes) is that these agencies must now officially find and provide evidence for new policies or changes. Some agencies, such as the FCC, must do this already, but others have a more free hand.

It may seem obvious— not every policy should be justified by evidence? — but this codifies the rules, for example by requiring agencies to present publicly lists of relevant questions and the means( based on the statistical methods) they use to respond to them.

If you are curious about the act itself or its sisters, there is a history of the OPEN act; the full text of the bill is here; the signature is announced.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Russia has lost control of a radio telescope orbiting

Russia has lost control of a radio telescope orbiting
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Russia's program on astronomy is facing a major setback. Since 11 January, the Spektr-R orbital radio telescope of the country has ceased to respond to commands. Although the satellite still transmits signals, it can not be used effectively for future tasks in its present state. The space agency Roscosmos said that it would try to regain control and solve problems at 2PM Moscow time on 13 January (6AM Eastern), but it is not clear what would happen next.

Spektr-R enjoyed a long service life. In 2011, Russia launched it, and it was only expected to serve until 2014. It was very useful to study radio waves around the universe. However, losing it would be a major setback, especially for a country that lost a rocket recently. It is also likely to be nerve-wracking for astronomers who dealt with the gyroscope failure of the Hubble Space  Telescope back in October. 

At CES 2019, mental well- being took center stage

At CES 2019, mental well- being took center stage
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This week, the Las Vegas Convention Center featured many of the biggest new devices of the year. But in recent years, the sands have become the place where the real magic occurs. The Eureka Park segment of the show is where start- ups and accelerators gather, often showing products that are still years away.

A quick walk around the floor( so that someone can quickly walk through the halls with that lot of humanity) sheds a lot of light on the biggest trends in the industry. There are many holdovers from previous years— intelligent home and wearables continue to dominate — but others provide insight into where the next few years of technology can go.

One key trend that exploded absolutely last year is mental well- being. You could not walk five feet between the sleep, relaxation, concentration and meditation products on display without finding another pitch. The list contains some familiar faces( at least for us) such as the Muse meditation and headsets for sleep and a whole host of new entrants.

If you consider many of these products to be a kind of extension of the fitness trackers that were all the rage a few years ago, the track records. First start- ups pushed to keep our bodies in shape, to track our sleep and ultimately our minds. The accessibility of sensors capable of tracking things such as basic brain activity has contributed to the concept.

Of course, it's a worthy cause. The proliferation of many technologies has given our bodies and brains some pretty tough things over the years. It wouldn't be great if tech could turn that around as well.

In many cases, the use is obvious. Decades of scientific studies have shown the value of simply sitting quietly on your stress levels and mental health during meditation practice. If a product can help you, it's great. But there is an even greater chance for snake oil salespeople than we have seen in fitness.

The FDA certainly has a role to play in ensuring that companies can not make untested medical claims for their products, but that much of the burden is placed on journalists and consumers alike in the end. The placebo effect is very real when it comes to this category.

Why Hacking Lead Generation Should be Your Foremost Priority

Why Hacking Lead Generation Should be Your Foremost Priority

Why Hacking Lead Generation Should be Your Foremost Priority
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Regardless of the size of your startup, when it comes to leading generation, you share the same challenge as big companies.In a 2017 survey conducted by Hubspot, 63 percent of respondents identified their biggest challenge as leads and prospects due to a lack of resources such as personnel, funding and time.In a 2017 survey conducted by Hubspot, 63 percent of respondents identified their biggest challenge as leads and prospects due to a lack of resources such as personnel, funding and time.In a 2017 survey conducted by Hubspot, 63 percent of respondents identified their biggest challenge as leads and prospects due to a lack of resources such as personnel, funding and time.
A quick way to measure the efficiency of your lead generation methods compare your average cost per lead to averages in the industry.
Inferior performance? There are five tools on your wallet that are more friendly while optimizing your inbound lead generation.
Blogging to establish niche authority
Blogging is the core of content marketing, a leading tool for generating content that is the key arsenal for every marketer. First, a strong CTA in a blog post can help to create leads. In addition, the strategically deployed SEO can drive traffic to your website by improving your search engine ranking.
The key to effective blogging is to create posts that are strong lead magnets using a variety of content to create your positioning as an expert in the subject. In addition to topics in which you have extensive expertise, consider the following:
• Opinion, data- driven expert pieces
 • Your original research on your industry or your prospects
• Solutions for prospects 
• Leveraging relevant trend content, infographics and video.
There are tons of free tools that could slash your time in generating content.
• Can’t come up with the perfect topic? Turn to UberSuggest.
• Check out HubSpot, Portent’s Content Idea Generator for generating interesting blog titles
• Follow up with Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer to test the impact of your blog title
• Plan your content strategy for hottest topics using Buzzumo to analyze what content works best for any topic or competitor
• Automate posting using Buffer on your different social media account
 • Optimize your SEO strategy using Google Keyword Planner to find the right keywords

Answering questions on Quora or LinkedIn Groups
Quora is where potential decision makers can answer questions from the community. After you have created a Quora profile with links to your website, look for questions relevant to your industry, niche or brand.
GrowthHackers, Media, Inbound. GH or websites where content is likely to be published by your prospects are also good ways to find experts. Take a similar approach to Quora– identify the right topic, read the content and decide whether to add the author to your prospects.
Joining marketplaces
There are many reasons why B2B markets are attractive to buyers and sellers. Firstly, markets enable B2B buyers to enjoy the same seamless purchasing experience as their personal purchases.
More importantly, B2B marketplace addresses the preferred mode of engagement of repeat buyers. McKinsey 's study showed that only 15 percent of B2B buyers wanted to talk to a salesman about buying the same product over and over again.
Due to the reduction in reliance on salespersons for repeated customers, companies use or develop tools that allow repeated customers to compare their offerings with those of their competitors and answer questions via email, live chat or video conferencing. Why reinvent the wheel if these instruments are already on the market?
It becomes a necessity to join one or more B2B markets, especially for companies with small sales force. Depending on the business model, the cost of joining the market as a seller varies. The common business models contain:
• Monthly subscription fee for all live deals
• No registration fee and bid points 
• Commission fee based on deal size
 • Listing fee 
Retargeting with Display Ads
Larry Kim, founder of WordStream, estimated that on your first visit, an average of 2 percent of visitors converts to your website. Retargeting aims at the remaining 98%. How does the retargeting function?Visitors are tagged with a retargeting cookie that " follows" your visitor anonymously throughout the web, and tagged visitors begin to see your ads when the cookie informs your retargeting provider when it serves ads. This allows your ads to be viewed only by previous visitors to your website.
With Google and Adroll, common platforms for retargeting, you can tailor the content of ads to visitors based on the specific section or pages of your website. Therefore, classify your visitors in different stages of the retarget funnel.
Top of the funnel– viewed content- related pages such as your blog.
 Consider re- targeting hooks such as eBooks. Middle– viewed products pages, but only at a high level. 
Use material like whitepaper and case studies in advertising retargeting.
 Underneath – viewed decision- making pages, such as case studies and pricing. Run retargeting with free demo hook.