Jan 112008
 
Part of the Smorty Series - Previous in series         

A couple days back I reported that Smorty was emailing me offers once again. Well, they emailed me two more offers today, despite my having quit and being told that I would be removed from the program for violating their (then unwritten) rules. In fact, there is still no requirement in their terms regarding the length of time a sponsored post must remain.

Don’t believe they tacked in this new rule after the fact? Check out the screenshot of their Blogger Rules page (right). It does (now) contain the following sentence-

6. All blog posts MUST BE PERMANENT. Bloggers who remove posts after being paid will automatically be declined and will no longer be accepted into the Smorty network.

Of course, this is in the section titled “Blog application rules” and not in the relevant section, which would be “Blog article rules”. And you can tell it’s tacked in because it’s listed as item ‘6’ despite there having previously been a rule number ‘6’-

6. Bloggers get paid on a weekly basis only for the approved blog posts.

Speaking of their terms and conditions, here’s the section dealing with termination-

b) Termination by blogger. You may cancel at any time by sending written notice of your desire to cancel your membership to Smorty (including email). All terminations by the blogger must be replied to by Smorty administration. Once the blogger has rightfully earned their payments according to these terms with Smorty, all payments will be paid within approximately thirty (30) days after the end of the calendar month in which the Agreement is terminated. This Agreement will be deemed terminated within fifteen (15) business days of Smorty’s receipt of your notice and only if replied to.

{emphasis mine}

So, since Smorty has failed to reply to my request to removed from the program I’m apparently stuck with them forever. Hrm… I should have read that section of their ToS a little more closely. Oh well, maybe if I ridicule and mock them enough they’ll finally grant my freedom.

Okay, that was one hell of a tangent. I actually wanted to write about why Smorty is getting so desperate. Of course, I can’t know for sure, but I can include the text of the two offers that they’re repeatedly emailing to me-

  1. CSkills – PR0 – $6.00
    We are looking to promote CSkills, a partner of the sector skills council for construction. The site provides
    We are looking to promote CSkills, a partner of the sector skills council for construction. The site provides information for people employed in or around the construction industry on topics including how to become certified in your trade by 2010, the latest health and safety legislation, and career development within the industry. No blog article with nofollow in the opp link or in the robots meta tag will be accepted for this opportunity. No blogs that have PayPerPost articles existing on the blog and no PayPerPost advertising either please.
  2. RBS six nations – PR0 – $6.00
    We are looking for some exposure for the RBS 6 nations website, the official website for Europe’s premier
    We are looking for some exposure for the RBS 6 nations website, the official website for Europe’s premier international rugby tournament, the 6 nations championship. We provide a comprehensive list of tournament news, fixtures and results, as well as interactive games and podcasts section for six nations fans. No blog article with nofollow in the opp link or in the robots meta tag will be accepted for this opportunity. No blogs that have PayPerPost articles existing on the blog and no PayPerPost advertising either please.

Did you notice that last sentence in both opps? Here, I’ll repeat it for you: “No blogs that have PayPerPost articles existing on the blog and no PayPerPost advertising either please.” And people said I was overreacting when I complained about Smorty sniping at PayPerPost. My guess would be this opportunity is not being filled because Smorty doesn’t have enough non-PPP bloggers to fill their needs.

I started this post only intending to mock Smorty once again. But after that ranty little tangent I’m thinking I just may take one (or both) of the opportunities just to see what Smorty will do. Anyone got any advice on that?

Part of the Smorty Series - Previous in series        
Dec 242007
 
Part of the Domain Registrars Series - Previous in series         Next in series

Almost seven years ago I wrote a glowing review of Dotster focusing primarily on their service. Over the years since domain registration has become highly competitive and prices have dropped dramatically, but I’ve always stuck with Dotster.com as my primary registrar. I’ve also highly recommended them to friends and argued that their higher prices (currently $15.25/year) are worth it. Most people won’t ever need service from their domain registrar (it’s mainly a “set it and forget it” issue), but I always warned that when you do need it, you’ll need it badly. Then the extra money would be worthwhile. Well, I was right and I was wrong. I figure I’ve spent more than $500 ‘extra’ by registering my domains at Dotster over the years and right now I need some support, really bad. It would totally be worth the extra money I’ve spent over the years except for one thing: I’m getting horrible support! Last year I purchased several pre-registered domains that were already on GoDaddy.com. Their service has been acceptable even though they’re two-thirds the price of Dotster, so when my latest batch of Dotster registered domains were coming up for renewal I decided to transfer them to GoDaddy.com. That was in November. One of the domains is set to expire in 3 days, and Dotster’s still holding on to them! They simply won’t let them go! They did, however, send me the following email-

Dear Aahz, Our records indicate you are transferring your domain(s) from Dotster to GoDaddy.com. If you are transferring due to your current account pricing, I would like to take this opportunity to offer you a competitive price reduction on your Dotster account. If you decide to take advantage of this offer, your new Dotster account pricing will include the following – $9.37 Registrations / Renewals on com, net, org, info, us, and biz domains $7.75 Transfer pricing for the same TLD’s listed above. FREE URL Forwarding FREE Email Forwarding FREE DNS Management FREE Whois Privacy If you are transferring to an ICANN-accredited registrar that has a more competitive offer, please let me know. I will do my best to match or beat its offer. To take advantage of this new account pricing, simply reply to this e-mail with your interest. Please include in your correspondence your agreement to the updated account pricing, as well as your preference with respect to your pending transfer. Once I’ve updated your account with the new pricing I’ll send you a confirmation e-mail. If you have no interest in taking advantage of this offer, you do not need to reply to this e-mail. Your transfer is only canceled if you specify you want it to be canceled. If you need additional support or have any other questions, Dotster customer service can be reached by phone at 360.449.5900 or by visiting http://www.dotster.com/support.php

Best Regards,

Brian Tapio
Dotster.com
btapio@dotster.com
360.449.5945 – p
360.397.2903 – f

* All domain registrations are subject to the terms of the Registration Agreement. Click the link below to review the Registration Agreement.

https://secure.registerapi.com/order/register/agreement.php?siteid=4798

Great! So not only have I been paying way too much for all these years, but you were perfectly willing to host them for less the whole time! Hah! How about just doing what you’re supposed to do and allow me to transfer my domains! I suppose I shoulda tried to transfer them to one of the bottom of the barrel $1.99 registrars to see if they’d match that price. But at this point, Dotster will never see another dime of mine. As if refusing to transfer the domains wasn’t bad enough I finally got fed up with waiting and sent them an email asking how much longer until the domains would be transferred. The response stated only that my domains were “in pendingtransfer status”[sic]. Um, wonderful. But what I asked was when would they be transferred. My further request for clarification has gone unanswered. Tonight was supposed to be the night that I finally transferred Philaahzophy to Top Hosting Center. However, I can’t do that, because Dotster is now refusing to change the nameservers (which tell your web browser where to find a specific website)! After spending the last few days preparing to move the site, and specifically planning to do it on Christmas Eve as traffic would be lighter, I’m now screwed because Dotster, who I’ve been over paying for years by their own admission, refuses to perform the one service required of a domain registrar. When I enter the new nameservers for THC I get a message saying: “PHILAAHZOPHY.COM:Unable to Change Name Servers with Registry, or invalid Name Server.” Say, what?!? Not only do I know the nameservers are valid, but it was only a few days ago that I used them to transfer a different domain over to THC. I even went through the process of changing them on a different domain that I own and that worked just fine. It’s only on the domain that I need transferred right now that they’re refusing to do so. Dotster no longer has a toll free phone number, so I first tried their Chat Support. According to their Support page I will find the link to this on the “My Services” page of my account. Of course when I navigate away from the Support page to the My Services page, all it has to say is that”There are no services for this account.” Well, I guess that just about sums it up, doesn’t it! So, email takes 24 hour-plus, chat support is apparently a myth, and there’s no toll free number. But I need to get these nameservers changed now, so I waste more of my money on a long distance call to their support line. Although it’s not a 24 hour support line (whic is what 80% of internet companies have) the site says they’ll be open until 6pm PST even though it’s Christmas Eve. So I call them at 5:30pm PST only to go through a bunch of automated crap, be told I’m calling outside their service hours, and then be told to leave a message! Leave a message?!? What good is that supposed to do. Their wonderful “customer service” reps obviously left the office early and since Dotster’s too cheap to offer real customer support there will be no one in the office until Wednesday. At that point my window will be completely passed. Just as an experiment I placed a call to GoDaddy’s 24×7 customer support line just now (7:47pm PST) and they picked up right away! Of course, my domains aren’t at GoDaddy yet because Dotster’s been screwing around refusing to release them or share any info with me. BTW, Network Solutions, not only has 24×7 support, but a toll free line as well as 24×7 chat support! As does my new web host, Top Hosting Center. I am soooooooooo frustrated right now, but I’m also powerless against these BS companies that control the internet. Aaarrrgggghhhh!!!!! Merry bloody Christmas to all!

Part of the Domain Registrars Series - Previous in series        Next in series
Nov 162007
 

Anyone with even a quarter of an eye pointing towards the internet in general or the blogosphere specifically must have noticed that Google seems to have gone insane with the latest Page Rank updates. First there was the specific targeting of specific blogs and websites for reduction and/or penalties in both PageRank and rankings in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). How is it not insane for a search on “John Chow” not to return johnchow.com as the first result? Then there’s the madly fluctuating PageRank adjustments which at one time had Google-owned YouTube down to a 3 and CNN.com at a 2. An all out attack on blogs seems to have been occuring with a vast swath of the blogosphere first having their PR either halved or jumped a couple of ranks and then simply being reduced to zero (nearly) across the board. Finally (thus far) the Izea Blog filed the following report yesterday-

We now know from some of our friends inside of Google (thanks “bob”) that they are now looking for phrases such as PPP, PayPerPost,ReviewMe, Payu2blog, etc. in the text of your post. For that reason I would suggest refraining from using any type of this text in the body of your posts, sponsored or not.

While the blogosphere has been erupting over the chaos, Google has (as usual) remained silent on the issue. Not only have they not come out and explained what’s going on, they haven’t even acknowledged that anything is going on. But the market is still responding in a myriad of ways.

Market Reactions

From that same Izea Blog post-

This is Censorship.
One of our programmers actually had his blog de-ranked last night because he mentions PPP often as an employee. He has never taken a sponsored post, nor does he sell sponsored links. He is simply blogging about his day to day experience here. I find this outrageous. I encourage you to write to Google and your Congressmen.

This reaction is prevalent on many blogs, I’m just using the Izea quote as it’s handy. The problem here is that Google has every right to “censor” people in this way. They are a private company and have no obligation to provide a PageRank (or any other metric or service) to anyone. Writing Google would be very appropriate as you are a target member of their audience (since you surf the web). Writing your Congressman, however is totally inappropriate. Turning to Mommy Government is not only ineffective, but a complete misues of government power. We don’t need regulation to convince Google to act in a way that we feel is responsible, we simply need the market to realize that Google is acting irresponsibly and it will then act accordingly (by moving to other service providers) and Google with either readjust its actions or fade away like the oft-cited buggy manufacturers and blacksmiths who didn’t adapt to changes in the market.

If you’ve ever frequented the PPP forums then you’re probably aware of Cass. She’s one of the most regular of regulars there and is one of PayperPost’s largest all-time earners. Luckily, she’s taken a sane approach to the Google “problem” in a post on her Midlife Musings blog-

Now, one more thing, and this little tidbit is in defense of the internet giant, whose name Trevor has just asked us all not to speak for the rest of the day. They said PR was an internal mechanism. They informed us it was proprietary information. They warned advertisers and consumers not to rely on it for decision making purposes. They have only changed what was theirs to change. They haven’t taken anything from anyone, because it never belonged to any of us anyway. It was always theirs and frankly, they can have it back. And also shove it.

The bulk of the post is dedicated to her refusal to have Google dictate the terms of what she writes on her blog. The quoted paragraph is her conclusion, and it is a sound one. This is a very sane (read: freedom oriented) reaction to Google’s latest insanity.

Other reactions have, of course, run the gamut from bleating acceptance and rushing to change in an attempt to comply with Google’s (apparent) wishes to frothing rants asking what happened to “Do No Evil”. These are both appropriate reactions as well, for the people that made them. They are dealing with the problem themselves, and acting in their own best interests, as everyone should and is free to do.

Another very appropriate action may have (or may not have, it’s hard to tell in the blogosphere) begun with Kate at I Think Therefore I Blog. Although her conclusion is very appropriate, the path she took to get there is shaky as hell-

Want a hot stock tip? Sell Google!

That’s right, the search engine-turned-monopoly is at it again, this time specifically targeting bloggers who’ve monetized their site with any link-based method other than AdSense.

No, we can’t sue them. Other companies have tried that already, only to be told by the court that Page Rank is essentially Google’s opinion and therefore protected by the First Amendment. A second lawsuit claiming that Google defamed a company by dropping its PR was dismissed for failing to show that a PR0 is actually defamatory.

So, if you can’t smack ‘em back with a lawsuit, hit them where it counts: in the wallet.

Sell Google. Now.

Selling your Google stock is definetly one way to voice your displeasure over a company’s actions. Of course, if you actually have voting stock you might want to consider hanging on to it and “working from the inside” as well. But I’d wager most GOOG stock holders don’t have voting shares (or don’t have enough to have a genuine voice in the company). This suhhestion ran wild through the blogosphere yesterday with many bloggers crowing over the fact that GOOG dropped a few points (they claim) as a result of the mass selling by bloggers. Of course, today it’s on it’s way back up, so whether or not the bloggers had any real impact is up for debate. Still, it’s a very appropriate reaction.

The dangerous path Kate took, though is that she’d prefer to file suit against Google. For what, exactly? Where is this contract that both Kate and Google signed granting Kate (or any other blogger) some right to a specific PageRank? You can’t find it because there isn’t one. Google is free to do anything with their products that does not directly harm anyone. This would be like suing Ford because you’ve been saving up for years to buy a new car and they suddenly decide to stop making them.

Other appropriate reactions include divesting oneself of Google’s services (Google Earth, Maps, Gmail, Blogger.com accounts, search engine, Adsense, Adwords, etc). There are free alternatives for everything Google offers. The only reason they have power over the internet is because internet users use their services more than anyone else.

Personally, my Adsense ads have been slowly coming down since well before the PR hullabaloo, simply because they aren’t performing well enough. They should be gone from all of my sites by the end of the year. I’ve been using Ask.com and Yahoo searches more and more often as well. I seldom use Google Earth, have always preferred MapQuest, have never used Adwords, and have always detested Blogger. My gmail accounts, however, are unlikely to go anywhere in the near future. I’ve never found a free email provider that is as easy and convenient as gmail. I am, however, open to suggestions.

Nov 012007
 

So far, this contest is definitely a bust. I’ve now read every review entered in the contest and, frankly, will be ashamed to give any of them a $25 bonus, not to mention the $50 prize itself. Remember, folx, the idea here is not to generate links, but to get feedback about Philaahzophy itself. I managed to get a PR of 3 without playing any “linking games” so I have no desire to start doing so now. I just want to hear what people think is good about my blog and what’s bad about it.

I suppose maybe I should have required a higher word count (although several entries didn’t even make the tiny 100 minimum I have in place now) . Or maybe people don’t believe that I’m looking for genuine criticism. PLEASE hurt my feelings! If I don’t identify what’s wrong here I can’t make it better. Yes, I understand giving a basic rundown of the site in order for your readers to know what you’re talking about, but that’s “buzz” not a “review”. I’m looking for input on the the good, the bad and the ugly.

For those who have already entered and not yet received your “Instant Win” prize, they’ll be going out this evening.

For those of you who haven’t entered yet, the door is wide open for that $25 “best review” prize! At this point it won’t take too much effort to take the cash home.

Sep 262007
 
Part of the Adventures In BlogRushing Series - Previous in series         Next in series

Wow, there’s no need to go blog surfing to find the crazy rant of the day this morning. It was sent directly to me email box, courtesy of John Reese, CEO and Founder of BlogRush. He pummeled all of his early adopters late last night with a seven page, 2500 word rant titled “Shocking Changes at BlogRush”. Makes me all the more proud to have removed the widget from Philaahzophy last week.

Aside from the fact that both the format and the tone of the massive missive was less professional than most of the outright spam I receive on a daily basis, it shows a complete ignorance of the industry in which his site (and supporters) claim he is an expert with vast experience. According to the letter –

We also realize that we completely underestimated the number of
unethical people that would sign up and proceed to CHEAT and try to
‘game’ the BlogRush system. These cheaters ruined the click-rates of
many of our members (and burned through a lot of their credits using
automated ‘exploit’ methods) and hurt BlogRush’s ability to send
maximum traffic to our honest members’ blogs.

Can you say, DUH?!? Not only was this obvious to everyone immediately, but the vast majority of the prelaunch “reviews” written by bloggers pointed this out as well. How experienced or knowledgeable could Mr. Reese be to have not forseen the massive security holes in his system? How ostrich-like must he be to have ignored the literally hundreds of blog posts pointing these security holes out?

He eventually goes on to threaten to track down individual cheaters and sue each and every one of them for damages! But of course, he’s not doing this out of spite, he’s doing it for the children

And a quick word to any ‘cheats’ that might be reading this
letter… it’s very possible that you may come up with something
extremely creative that temporarily gets by us, but you should know
something… IT’S NOT GOING TO BE WORTH YOUR TIME. And I’m not just
talking about the tiny amount of traffic that you’ll receive before
we shut you off.

You see, we have other plans in the works…

If you attempt to cheat or abuse our network in anyway, shape, or
form, we will not hesitate to come after you. Our company is well
funded and has plenty of resources. And we WILL use them to punish
you to the fullest extent of the law (and civil court process). Oh,
you think you can just hide behind some anonymous proxy IPs? Sorry,
it’s not that easy. ANY reason you’d have to try and cheat the
BlogRush network for traffic and any attempt you make to monetize
that traffic will lead directly to your front door — whether it’s
AdSense, any affiliate program in the world, any online pharmacy,
porn site, casino… ANYTHING. We will follow the trail and it WILL
eventually lead to you.

Our hard-working company provides the income for MANY families. As
the CEO of our company, I take this very seriously. I HAVE TO.
People that attempt to abuse or cheat BlogRush are affecting the
livelihood of all my employees and their families. And I will do
everything in my power to protect them — it’s MY DUTY.

So for all you cheaters that joined BlogRush and had your fun trying
to siphon off some traffic, hopefully it was fun. And I’ll go ahead
and make this statement right now… IF you were one of the people
that has been cheating our network I’m going to give you ONE
opportunity… quit now and we’ll pretend it never happened. I
think that’s more than fair.

BUT… if you continue after this point, all bets are off. We WILL
eventually discover what you’re doing, where you’re trying to send
traffic, and we will prosecute you. I GUARANTEE IT. Sorry, but WE
HAVE NO CHOICE NOW.

I had no idea that 8 year olds were allowed to claim the title of CEO, but then, I’ve always said everything’s possible on the internet.

Part of the Adventures In BlogRushing Series - Previous in series        Next in series