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Webitz - December 2007

More on Ads That are Cons

December 30th 2007 02:05
A few weeks ago I had a bit of a debate on Orble about the use paid posts, where links are included in the post to a site that pays you. Several people very reasonably talked to me about the downside of these, and I’ve considered these factors.
One of the issues was the way in which it could affect bloggers’ Google Adsense earnings, especially on a forum like Orble, where there’s a lot of interconnectivity.
This made me wonder about the increasing number of ads on Orble of the type I wrote about yesterday: the Love Button type. These seem to appear almost invariably underneath posts these days.
I don’t have any details from the Orble staff as to how these affect bloggers’ earnings, but I’d be interested to know. The reason why I’d be interested to know is because of the kind of ad these are. One person in the comments I received to my post called them phishing ads, and indeed they require you to give information away that you probably shouldn’t. Others strongly warned me to keep away from clicking on them, and I’ve certainly taken heed after doing a bit of exploring on the Love Button one yesterday.
But I’m tempted to ask: what are they doing on Orble in the first place? If these ads are of an unethical kind, then should they be allowed on Orble at all? Firstly they cause people to pay out money without realising it. The ad offers one thing, but in fact subscribes you unwittingly to something else altogether. Under the normal commercial Fair Trading Act as it applies here in New Zealand, I don’t think such ads would be allowed.
I realise that Orble is much more international in scope than that, but presumably it still has some ethical standards that apply?
Last year I answered a text message on my cellphone which offered to pay me a prize if I answered three questions. At that point I had no idea why the text arrived, nor where it came from, but since it wasn’t doing anything suspicious, I answered the texts as they arrived. It was only then that I was informed these texts would cost me more money than usual.
And then a day or so later ads started appearing on the television which were the same in style: answer three questions and text them to such and such a number. If you were quick enough you could see in the small print on the bottom of the screen that it would cost you money, but the small print was so small, and the focus of the viewer was on the questions, so the cost factor went unnoticed.
Within a week or so the ads were banned from NZ Television, after innumerable complaints.
I’d like to make an ‘official’ complaint about these ads on Orble. I think they degrade a good site, and are obviously costing people money. If we Orble bloggers are making money out of them as well (which I hope we’re not) then that’s another reason for banning them.
What do other people think?

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This ad is a con

December 29th 2007 07:40
Okay, curiosity killed the cat and all that, but I’d got sick of that ad for The Love Button: Push Me Hard coming up all the time on Orble, so I thought I’d investigate.
Pretty stupid thing to do.
The ad takes you to a site where you’re encouraged to put in your name and your partner’s name. Okay at that point. Then, if I remember the order of things, you’re asked to put in your star sign. Okay, I don’t have much time for star signs, but I was trying the thing out, so I put them in.
Next it comes up with an odd request. Perhaps I should have been more suspicious at this point. It wants me to put in my ‘genuine’ cellphone number, and then tells me to wait for the pin that will be sent to my phone.
Cellphone number? I live in New Zealand, and the site will I’m sure be situated elsewhere. However, in the spirit of discovery I put in the cellphone number. By the time I realised I’d been waiting for the pin for a couple of minutes and went to track down my phone, I’d received five text messages.
And then I got to the crunch page. I could select my bonus ‘subscription content’ from one of three choices. Bonus? That usually implies a thing on top of something else.
The three bonuses – as of today anyway – were Celebrity Insults, Tarot Readings, and Jokes. And then I looked down below at the fine print and this is when I remembered that I’d had to tick a Terms and Conditions box on one of the pages. You know how you do that without thinking these days, unless it’s something very important?
These were the terms and conditions on this page, and I quote them in full:
By signing up for this service and by entering your personal PIN Code you acknowledge that you are subscribing to our service. All plans are subject to the Terms and Conditions. You may stop this subscription service at any time by sending a text message with STOP, to short code 3242. You must be the device owner and be over 18 or have the permission of your parent or guardian. To join the club you will be charged $3.50. You will receive a text alert charged at $3.50 three times a week. Standard/other text messaging rates may apply. For more information call 0800-440-619. Click here to see full 'Terms and Conditions'.

This is crafty, isn’t it? Before you know it you’ve been charged $3.50 and with the additional texts that are being sent at a rate of knots, you’re being charged $3.50 for those as well.
I’ve just checked what I’ve got left on my cellphone since I topped it up today, and find that this nasty little site has chewed up some $10 worth of air time.
I’d recommend stopping this ad showing up on Orble. It’s a con.



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You LibraryThing You

December 29th 2007 07:04
For better or worse, or maybe because I just can’t help myself, I joined up with yet another site on the Net the other night, mainly to see what it would do in a particular area I’d heard about.
My son had contacted me about this site about a year ago, and it was only when his email happened to come up again in connection with a different search altogether, that I paid any real attention to it.
The site is LibraryThing, and primarily it’s a place for databasing your personal library – I used it slightly differently, to list the books I’ve read in the last few months.
Each book you list connects you with all the other people who’ve listed that title, and you can see how popular books are, what sort of people read them and so on. (Haven’t got into that part yet as I’m less into social stuff than just filling in forms!)
However, the fun idea that my son told me about was UnSuggester, which is on this site. When you put in a particular book you enjoy into the first box in the UnSuggester section, LibraryThing analyzes the seven million books its members have recorded as owned or read, and comes back with books least likely to share a library with the book you suggest. Seems a bit of a weird idea, but then it’s often these off-the-wall things that are most fun on the Net.
I gave it a try, putting in one of the Ian Rankin Inspector Rebus novels, A Question of Blood. The UnSuggester came up with something I'd never heard of The doctrine of abstinence from blood defended. In answer to two pamphlets. Hmmm.
And one other section that's especially interesting is labelled, Zeitgeist. This is a vital statistics area, in which things like the 50 largest libraries on LibraryThing are listed, along with the 50 most prolific reviewers and the 25 most reviewed books, (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows take top place at present). The seven Harry Potter titles are also top of the top books - though curiously 1984 is number nine. There is a list of the 25 top books by star rating, which varies from day to day of course, but which the other day included a number of obscure Christian titles. These have now gone, and The Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns and something called Codex Seraphinianus are in place.
The 50 top rated authors, and the 50 least-rated authors aren't at all the well-known names you'd expect - at least not today - but the top authors (who are a different bunch) include many established names.
And these are only a few of the stats!
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High Flying Internet

December 8th 2007 06:14
Something I would have liked when I was flying to and from the UK in the last few months was access to the Internet. I could use my laptop but couldn’t check up details online.
Next time I fly this may have changed. JetBlue Airways are planning to offer Internet access on one of their planes, beginning next week. At this point it’s a trial run, but the long-term aim is to make the Internet fully available to passengers. However, just as electronic equipment can’t be used now while the plane is taking off or landing, Internet access will be confined to planes that are cruising.
JetBlue aren’t alone in this. American Airlines and Virgin America are both planning to install Aircell equipment on at least one plane each in the next month or so, and a company called Row 44 has brokered a deal with Alaska Airlines for Internet access on their planes in the near future


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Doing your drive in

December 8th 2007 05:55
You may have heard of the Darwin Awards: awards for people who’ve done extremely silly things with their bodies, or with tools and equipment, and who, in most cases, have wound up dead as a result.
Computerworld annually lists the crazy things people do with computer equipment. Usually the people survive, but the computers don’t.
One woman accidentally put her USB stick (or zip drive) in the washing machine, and was somewhat surprised to find all her data had been washed away. Amazingly, Kroll Inc’s Ontrack Data Recovery Unit were able to recover the data


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The other side of GPS

December 6th 2007 10:08
While we were in England, we used a GPS system extensively. Without it we would have been lost on dozens of occasions. Not only that, having it with us meant we could relax and go off the main roads without qualms.
However it seems not everyone is so happy with drivers using their GPS systems. Especially when truck drivers use them badly.
Whereas in the past truck drivers would have avoided the narrow streets of old villages, or the rambling county lanes (often restricted to one vehicle at a time), now, because the GPS ‘guides’ them, they’re finding themselves in places they’d never have gone in the past, sometimes with disastrous consequences. What seem to be shortcuts can actually cause considerable danger


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An Open Letter to Jon/Orble

December 6th 2007 07:18
In regard to your notes on paid posts (20th November this year), I have to make some comments.
Firstly you say that the ‘search engines are currently punishing any blogs who do these posts.’ Let’s be a bit more accurate here. As far as I’m aware, only Google is doing anything about paid posts, and their prime target was PayPerPost, one of the main paid post sites. When I say ‘target,’ they’d gone through and reduced the Google Page Rank on a number of sites, most of them well-known. Most of these sites weren’t ones where paid posts were done at all: they were sites that talked about paid posts. ProBlogger was one, for instance, and John Chow’s site. I wrote about this recently myself.
Google seemed to be trying to frighten paid posters by saying: this is what we can do to the big sites; guess what we can do to you


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Spending a Penny - quickly

December 3rd 2007 03:33
While we were overseas in the UK and on the Continent, much of our time seemed to be taken up with finding toilets. McDonald’s is usually a reliable place to find one, whether you’re in England or abroad, but you don’t always want to buy something there just to use the toilet. And there are department stores, which usually have ample toilets. Again, it’s a bit of a cheek using them when you don’t actually do any shopping. In England I used to use the pub toilets, but it was always an issue trying to do this without the barmaid noticing.
We got to the point where, if we saw a toilet, we’d use it, because you never know when you’d see one again. We learnt our lesson after we got stuck one day while in Luxembourg. After refusing to pay more than the usual 50 cents in the railway station, we decided to walk on and find somewhere else. Do you think we could? Both of us were desperate by the time we came across a public toilet just near a bridge. The sign said Occupe, so we waited, and waited, and waited, and finally realised the thing must be closed.
This meant we had to walk across the long bridge, and up a hill – and there, finally, was a workman’s portaloo. There was no one around, so we nipped in there (separately, of course!). Great relief


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A B or not a B

December 2nd 2007 08:19
It would be easy to get into gambling on the Net – or ‘gaming’ as some people call it. (Perhaps deleting that ‘b’ from the word gives it more status?) Everywhere you go you find sites telling you about things like the top poker room, or the best gaming sites, or the best casinos online.
It’s as if these sites think that all the world is desperate to gamble away their money. Maybe the world is, though I’m not. I find it’s hard enough earned as it is, without giving it away.
I’m intrigued by the claims on one site that the payout percentage is around 98.6. That surprises me because it’s a statistical fact that casinos and the like (and their online counterparts won’t be any different) don’t give more money away than they want to. This doesn’t mean that things are rigged, but that the machines and games work in such a way that the odds are almost always against the players. Own a casino and you make big money – you, not the customers


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Coming down like a ton of bricks

December 2nd 2007 06:41
The FBI don’t often visit New Zealand – as far as we know – but this week they’ve arrived to interview an 18-year-old computer hacker called Owen Wilson. They say that in spite of his age, Wilson is the mastermind behind a botnet fraud involving the infection of more than a million computers and up to $26 million.
Owen Wilson lives in Whitianga, with his mum, who’s refused to let the media talk to him, and who declined to make any comment herself.
Wilson has a couple of aliases on the Net: Snow Whyte (which may not be appropriate any longer) and Akill. Under the latter name it’s alleged that he was the co-conspirator in an attack made in February this year in which the computer network of the University of Pennsylvania suffered a complete breakdown. Some 4000 staff and students were denied access to their network


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Where am I?

December 1st 2007 02:51
We spent a lot of time looking at our GPS system while we were in England. (She was affectionately known as Malvina.) Without her, we would have spent most of our time getting lost, or not being as adventurous as we were. She gave us enough security to be able to say, Well, let’s go down this road instead, and know that we’d find our way home still. Very rarely did she put us out, and then it was usually only because some new piece of highway construction had taken place, and her system wasn’t quite up-to-date.
In a similar vein, Google has now expanded its Google Map service to include a My Location service. This uses your web-enabled mobile phone to indicate where you are at any time. It lacks definitive detail at the moment, as it’s still in beta, but it’s good enough to give you sufficient idea of your location to help you when necessary.
It’s not quite GPS, although if your phone is attuned to GPS that helps


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