Facebook Gifts Ads

Another in-your-face attempt to sell products and services by using the names of people you know to promote them.

Facebook is apparently taking every possible opportunity to throw an ad at me. Today, I clicked a link in a sidebar column telling me about a friend’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Jim!) and get a gift suggestion. If that’s not enough to convince me to use Facebook to buy Jim a gift, I’m presented with a list of friends who have succumbed to the pressure of Facebook gift ads. But rather than be convinced that I should follow the pack, I’m left wondering why my friends used this “feature.” Don’t they know that the more we respond positively to Facebook’s in-your-face advertising, the more advertising they’ll throw at us.

Facebook Gifts Ad

I should mention here that this browser has AdBlocker Plus installed, so these ads are getting past my first line of defense.

And yes, I’m aware that websites make money on advertising. But I find it extraordinarily offensive that people I know should be used to market goods and services to me. I hope that if my name appears attached to an ad anywhere on Facebook I’ll be told by someone who sees it. (With a screenshot, please.)

Who Is Your Website Designed For?

Your visitors or your advertisers?

If I wake up before 6 AM and don’t have a morning appointment, my routine includes lounging in bed until 6 with my iPad, catching up on the social networks (Twitter and Facebook), Words with Friends games in progress, and perhaps email or RSS feeds. It’s a nice, leisurely way to start the day.

This morning, while browsing through Facebook statuses, I found a link that interested me. It was in the typical “Top Ten” (or in this case, Top 11) format and, from its description, it promised to be an interesting look back at a specific company’s products. I clicked the link and this is what happened:

  1. The page loaded with an ad overlaid on it. The ad was almost full-screen and there was no way to close it. I had to wait it out — about 10-15 seconds, during which time I didn’t tap anything for fear of being transported to another site.
  2. An ad-filled page appeared with a tiny introductory paragraph near the top and the first list item beneath it.

That was it. To see the other 10 items on the list, I’d have to view 10 more ad-filled pages.

Oh, and did I mention that some of those ads had blinking and flashing components designed to draw your attention away from any content you might have come to see? The kind of ads that make you want to shove your fist through your computer display?

Clearly, the site was designed to benefit its advertisers more than its readers. Since the site builders/owners obviously didn’t give a crap about visitors, I closed the browser window in frustration and went on with my life, making a mental note to avoid that site in the future.

Am I the only one who does this?

Am I the only one who cares more about my time than wading through ads and other clutter to find the content I came to a site for? The only one who gives up when she knows the browsing experience will be so full of frustration that it’s best to avoid it altogether? The only one who gets pissed off when its so damn obvious that the site owner cares more about maximizing ad space — and revenue, I assume — than building a solid base of regular visitors?

Does anyone actually click those freaking ads?

I admit it: I hate website ads so much that I installed ad blocker software on my laptops and desktop computer. I don’t usually see ads at all — which doesn’t really matter because I never click them. It’s only when I use my iPad to visit sites that I’m bombarded with this crap. Honestly: I don’t know how anyone can stand it.

And yes, I do realize that many sites exist solely to make a profit. And yes, I do realize that advertising is the usual way to monetize a site. But no, I can’t imagine trashing up a site so badly with ads that it drives potential visitors away.

Isn’t there a better solution? One that provides links to products and services that might actually be of interest to visitors? One that’s accessible and visible without flashing colors and animated graphics?

Who are these sites designed for, anyway?

Spam from a Wannabe Guest Blogger

You have to know how to read before you can write.

Today, I received the following e-mail message, sent to me via my blog’s content form:

Subject: Guest Blog Post on Tech Gadgets

Message Body:
Hello,

My name is [redacted], and I found your blog on a consumer electronic blogroll.

I would love to contribute to your blog by being a guest writer and focusing specifically on technology gadgets. Getting the best deal on tech gadgets like TVs, computers, or smartphones takes some serious strategy. We all know that products like the iPhone get launched at $500 and, within a few months, sell for nearly half the price, but do all electronic goods follow this pattern? When’s the best time to buy? This article gives you the insider secrets, so you can get your gadgets at rock bottom prices.

Are you interested in my writing an article for you?

Thank you for your time and best regards,

[redacted]

Blog Content Guild – 1015 Bee Caves Woods Dr, Suite 102 – Austin, TX 78746

About the Blog Content Guild:
The Blog Content Guild is an organization that provides blog writers with the opportunity to make a living writing about products and services. The writers then work to place their writing on other blog sites that are relevant to those product and service offerings.

(Please let me know if you don’t want to receive any more emails from me or others at the Blog Content Guild.)

PS – I love your website aneclecticmind.com

Screen Door by CharlieUnderstand that I’m in a foul mood this afternoon. I went out to run a few errands, leaving our new dog, Charlie, in the condo’s small walled-in patio. When I returned 40 minutes later, he greeted me in the parking lot. He had escaped by tearing down some metal mesh and squeezing through the back gate. He then tried to get back into the apartment through the screen security door, tearing the screen to shreds from the outside.

So getting a request from someone wanting to be a guest blogger really pissed me off a lot more than it normally might have.

Why would it piss me off at all? Well, he contacted me using the form on my Contact page. And that page has a section with a heading that says:

Guest Bloggers

This is a personal blog. It does not accept guest posts.

What’s more is that the first paragraph under the Contact Form heading says:

First, read the above. All of it.

So this clown used a form on a page that says I don’t accept guest posts to ask me if I would accept his guest post.

I guess when you’re spamming every blogger who you can find a contact method for, it doesn’t really matter whether you a get clear indication in advance that your request won’t get a positive response. After all, spam is spam. Does it really matter whether you target the right audience?

Of course, I just had to see what Blog Content Guild was, so I looked it up. The first item on a numbered list on their home page explains what they do:

We work on behalf of companies who want to increase the buzz in the blogosphere

In other words, advertisers pay them and their bloggers to write blog posts about their products. They basically sell advertisements disguised as objective advice or product review blog posts — just the kind of misleading crap people with low moral standards are willing to publish to turn a buck.

I composed a typically nasty response:

Wow! You’ve already amazed me with your complete inability to read; I don’t have very high expectations about your ability to research and write intelligently about a topic. But then again, writing original, objective content is probably not something folks at Blog Content Guild do.

Maybe if you would have read the information on the Contact page where you found the form you used to contact me, you’d see why you’re not likely to ever write a post on my blog.

But then again, I’m sure your query to me was just one of dozens you fired out to the blogosphere today. Spam, pure and simple. I’m sure you spend more of your time composing and sending spam than writing actual content.

I didn’t send it. I figured that if he really loved my website so much, he’d see it here when he returned to read the latest new content.

Or not.

Elance

What a freaking waste of time.

I needed a logo for my Maria’s Guides website and line of books. I wanted something simple, something that communicated the brand as well as the fact that the “guides” were in print, video, and ebook formats.

I have no design skills. None. I know what I like when I see it and I can often modify something that’s close to what I like to make it more in line with what I need. (That’s basically how I “design” my websites: I start with a theme and modify it.)

At first, I put a request on Twitter for a book cover design. That was a mistake. I got a bunch of responses from strangers linking to their portfolios or just promising they could do the job. (I created it myself based on a few other book cover designs I found online; it’s okay for now.)

Trying Elance

I decided I’d need a pro for the logo design. My budget was under $500, preferably under $300. I remembered hearing about Elance and decided to give it a try.

Elance is a Web site that connects freelancers with people needing freelance work done. It seems like a good idea and I know there are plenty of designers there. So I set up an account and used the “logo” template to submit a request for proposals.

I should have realized that something was wrong when I got six bids within about fifteen minutes. Although I’d set up my budget for less than $500, the bids ranged from $60 to $149. Four bids were from (supposedly) U.S. based companies, one was from India, and one was from Argentina. Most of them linked to logos or business packages they’d (supposedly) designed for other clients. Most were obviously canned responses that showed no indication that they’d read my request for proposals. LIke this:

Hello,

Thanks for reviewing our proposal.
We understand your requirement for creation of logo design. Plz check our portfolio attached.

Also view our elance portfolio :
[URL redacted]

or this (supposedly from a U.S. based company):

Hi and Thank you to review our bid!!
This Bid includes:
1) 7 Initial concepts of logo. (Designed by 6 different designers)
2) A complementary Stationery concept (includes Business Card, Letter Head, and Envelope)
3) EMAIL SIGNATURE without any extra cost. (100% NO COST)
4) Unlimited Color schemes of selected design.
5) Original Copy right files. (All rights reserved by you)

It should be noted that all I asked for was a logo.

I decided to give it a try by picking one of the (supposedly) U.S. based companies that submitted a proposal that didn’t seem canned. Their samples were in line with what I was looking for. The price was very good — only $65 — so I figured I wouldn’t lose much if they completely sucked.

On accepting the bid, the first thing they did was send me a list of information they needed. This was the same exact information I had already provided using the Elance template for a logo request.

So apparently, they hadn’t read my request either.

With my response, I added:

PLEASE do not respond to me with canned communications. I have extremely low tolerance for people who waste my time by asking for information they already have. I realize there’s not much money in this, but that’s not MY fault. If you can’t treat me like a REAL client, let’s end this relationship now.

We got past that and they started submitting designs. The first batch had five. (I’m not sure if I’m allowed to show them; I haven’t paid for this yet and, chances are, they’ll use these same designs again for another sucker.) I liked one of them — it featured a graphic representation of a book emerging from a square — and made some suggestions:

…is there a way that the graphic part can indicate both books and electronic media? Maybe a 3-part icon that includes a representation of a book, an ebook (or tablet computer with writing on it), and a movie? For the movie, the old-fashioned filmstrip kind of thing might work.

“Designing” with Clipart

They submitted two more designs. They were dramatically different and very complex. But worst of all: they looked like they had been assembled by copying and pasting clipart. Clipart drawn from different perspectives and in different styles. I started to get a bad feeling.

I wrote back, telling them it looked like clipart. The response:

These are victor file, but if you don’t like them we will send you more revision.

Ah, yes. I know the U.S. education system is pretty crappy right now, but that’s not the kind of English I expect to get from a native speaker. I began wondering where the company was really based.

The next logo design was closer to what I could use. It included the three icons representing books, video, and ebooks. But the style of each icon was dramatically different. I had to look at the video representation under magnification to figure out what it was. And the ebook representation was just plopped on top of its frame with no attempt to make it look as if it were emerging. And, of course, all three icons appeared to be drawn from a different perspective, so they just didn’t go well together. More clipart.

Among my comments to try to fix this one up, I said:

The second panel doesn’t look like film. Consult this link http://www.jeffjonesillustration.com/[redacted] for something closer to what I envisioned. A reel of film with a strip of film coming out.

I should note here that the image I linked to as an example is one of many copyrighted images by illustrator Jeff Jones. Mr. Jones sells the rights to his artwork for use as stock images. I did not buy this image; I was just using it as an example.

Apparently, the “designers” I’d hired thought that they could use this copyrighted image in my logo. In the next revision, that exact image, scaled to fit, was part of the logo. They’d also managed to completely misunderstand my instructions for the ebook reader image in the third panel of the logo.

It was pretty clear that:

  • They had no real design skills.
  • They had no artistic ability.
  • They heavily relied on clipart to create logos.
  • They likely didn’t understand English enough to follow instructions.

Yes, I Know that You Get What You Pay For

Now I know what you’re saying: You get what you pay for. But understand that I was willing to pay more. This isn’t the first logo I’ve had designed — the others cost more. I picked this “design” company based not on the fee but on their proposal and samples. I don’t know where the samples came from, but it’s pretty clear to me that the people I hired did not design them.

By this point, I was fed up. This had been going on for a week and I was at the point where I dreaded opening my next email from them. I wrote:

I’m trying to understand why this is so difficult for you folks. Do the people working on this project read and speak English?

First of all, you CANNOT use the film clipart I linked to as AN EXAMPLE because it is copyrighted. If I use that in my logo, I will get sued. You should KNOW this.

Second, when I said that the tablet computer representation should have writing on it like an ebook, I didn’t mean to put the word “ebook” on it. I meant using lines of fake writing so that it looked as if it were showing an ebook. Also, laying a rectangle on top of a square does not match the design elements of the first frame “book” which is emerging from the frame.

Clearly this is NOT working out. I cannot understand how you folks have gotten good reviews unless the people you worked for were satisfied by your use of clipart to create “custom” logos. I don’t need to pay someone to do that. I can do that myself.

I cannot use what you’ve created and I’m tired of going back and forth with you on this. What an incredible waste of my time. I will contact Elance directly on how to resolve this issue.

And I got online with Elance and sent them a request for help:

I put in a request for a logo design. I got a bunch of very low bids, most of them from organizations that obviously did not read what I was looking for. I picked one I thought knew what I wanted.

For the past week we have been going back and forth on this. I’m supposed to be getting a custom design and what I’m getting is cut and paste clipart. When I offered a link to a sample image on the Web, the “designer” used THAT copyrighted image — if I included that in my logo, I could get sued!

These people are obviously amateurs, have no talent, and cannot follow instructions. I want to end my contract. I am willing to pay 50% of the agreed upon fee to cover the work done. I cannot use the logo as is and will have to pay a REAL designer to come up with something I can use. Please help me resolve this so I can move on and get the logo I need.

I’m still waiting to hear back from them. Believe me, 50% is generous for the aggravation I’ve been dealing with. What I’m willing to pay for is the idea, which I helped them develop.

[Update: They've agreed to the 50%. I guess people like this will take any money they can get.]

Apparently Freelancers Know Better

Now when all this started going south, I tweeted:

If this Elance experience is indicative of what it’s like to work with all Elance service providers, this will be my LAST time using Elance.

A Twitter friend tweeted back:

I tried providing service on elance, but would always get undercut by clueless people from india.

So that’s what it’s all about? A web-based service that leads you to believe you’re helping out local designers who are trying to build a client base. Instead, you’re sending business overseas to “design factories” manned by clipart manipulation experts.

What do you think? Do you have any experience — good or bad — with Elance? I’d like to hear a story with a happy ending.

Just Say NO to Flash

Are you as frustrated as I am about Web sites relying on Flash?

I need to share a little rant here.

Flash LogoUntil recently, I never realized how many Web sites are built around Flash. I’m not talking about sites that include Flash animations here and there. I’m talking about sites completely contained in a Flash animation.

Like this monstrosity: http://www.stingraysushi.com/

Stingray Sushi is a restaurant. Its site includes a menu, which can only be viewed in that Flash animation.

Now I don’t know about you, but sometimes I look for a restaurant when I’m on the go. I’ll whip out my iPhone or iPad, open the Maps app, and search for restaurant. Or I’ll use the Safari browser to Google a specific restaurant. Either way, my goal is to see the Home page for the restaurant so I can learn more about it and the food it serves before I drive/walk over. To do that, I need to be able to see the Home page or, at least, a menu.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), I’ll never be able to see the Home page for Stingray Sushi on my iPhone or iPad.

Now you might want to blame Apple for this. After all, it’s Apple that decided that it won’t support Flash.

But I blame the Web developer. Apple mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPad, have been available for nearly four years. Apple is currently the fourth largest seller of mobile phones, with millions of iPhones out in the wild. Apple is also the top seller of tablet computers, with millions of iPads out in the wild. Developers who continue to base entire sites on Flash are basically thumbing their noses at iPhone/iPad users, telling them that they simply aren’t important enough to view the oh-so-valuable Flash content on their Web sites.

I have two words for these developers, and they’re not “thank you.”

So when I reach a site I can’t view on my device — whatever that device is — do you think I’ll visit that business?

Do you think that I’m interested in rewarding a business for the frustration their Flash-based site has generated by actually buying something there?

There are alternatives to Flash. Many alternatives. HTML 5 is one of them. But apparently, Web developers would rather lean on a crutch like Flash than move forward with new, more compatible technology.

Why does this continue to be an issue?

Just say no to Flash.