Walking the bridge between usability and search engine optimization practices to enhance user experience since 2000.

Should User Generated Content Be Kind?

For 17 years I’ve been active in online communities and tried my best to follow one basic rule – “Is it true, necessary and kind?” – with each comment.  It doesn’t always work.

When search engines began to listen to social signals coming from Facebook, Yelp, G+, Amazon and countless other web sites where the public can leave comments, the opportunities for learning the truth about products and services was easy to find. Generally customer feedback is helpful and polite.  Language and word choices digress, however, depending on the type of product.  Apparently sex toys turn some adults into 12 year olds and all manner of blubbering and crudeness follows in product reviews.

Reputation management came to the rescue in cases where brands experienced vicious public attacks.  And of course we all know someone, or perhaps you yourself, has been the target of trolls or someone’s agenda to discredit you.  The Web has no boundaries.  A conversation of any type doesn’t have to be necessary or true and certainly not kind.  That has been my own personal guideline.

I Think I’ve Broken My Own Rule

Some time ago I started a thread at Cre8asiteforums called Seo Hall Of Shame to draw attention to the unwelcome spam from so-called Search Engine Marketing companies.  Most of it is automated, which explains why they are so terribly off the mark where they land.

GRRR!When I first began the discussion I was polite and removed names and other identifying factors.  Now I don’t.  The reason is simple.  It looks like 1996 out there!

50 full time SEO experts, submission to Search Engines and Directories, Submission to Article Directories, Our Steps and the Activities to Rank You 1st Page on Google!, See our Link Wheels, 150+ Microblog websites, 8500 Directories, 2000+ Web Directories …

Get the NEW linking service that we have recently developed in response to all the new search engine knowledge and algorithm changes at Google. This service has been thoroughly tested and is getting terrific results. It WILL BOOST your search engine rankings – Guaranteed!

I can no longer sit quietly and pretend to ignore the massive amounts of SEO fraud. The first articles I ever wrote in the mid-1990’s exposed these same practices and worse. I stopped protecting the offenders and began posting entire SEO spam emails in the Cre8asiteforums thread. I’m also not preventing members from exposing names, emails, phone numbers, etc.

So while we’re not cussing out these dimwits, we’re not being kind enough to hide who they are. It’s true that we get these offensive emails. It may be debatable that it is necessary that we expose them. But when it comes to being kind, I’ve wrestled with that one. Is there a kinder way to show the world what rip-off, cheating companies do?

Maybe. But I decided that helping to prevent the damage that these scam scum cause is worth breaking my own rule for.

Beat Your Competition – Ask for User Interface Conversions Testing

Feedburner is Dead

Update from John Mueller from Google – “5:09 PM
It’s still up and running – the counts are being worked on. We use it on all our blogs as well :-)?”

Bye Feedburner. It was fun.

If you didn’t get the memo or have the ability to read Google’s universal mind, their free RSS and email subscription service is no longer available.
Cre8asiteforums Moderator, Barry Welford, sounded the alert:

Your Feedburner Subscriber Stats = 0 :should You Worry?

We’re seeking alternatives to Feedburner in that thread.

New Web Site: Announcing Social Media Tips!

I’m excited to introduce you to a new web site launched by my long time friend, Ross Dunn. I love the design and the ENERGY it puts out.

New Web Site – Social Media Tips

Strongly recommended! Visit Social Media Tips.

Learn Social Media Efficiently:SocialMediaTips.com was launched on July 25th, 2012 with simplicity in mind; find the social network you are interested in, sort the tips to find exactly what you want, and then learn. Please try it out and provide feedback on the right (the smiley face button) so we can improve the site. Thank you!

If you are a social media power user we would love you to be an official tips author!

People Paid to Post Misleading Information on the Internet Is a Global Practice

The practice of marketing companies paying armies of people to post misleading, false information on blogs, forums and social sites is expanding globally.

While the practice can be used to post fake positive reviews for pay, for example, more often these paid posts are intended to destroy competition. I’ve been getting unsolicited calls from companies looking to hire people to do “SEO work” where the work consists of signing up for fake accounts and posting fake testimonials or comments, depending on what you’re paid to write. It’s become part of the “work from home” industry.

I found an article on how China is going gangbusters with what is called the “Internet Water Army”. According to an article in TechnologyReview called Undercover Researchers Expose Chinese Internet Water Army, “Paid posting is a well-managed activity involving thousands of individuals and tens of thousands of different online IDs.”

Another article I found refers to the practice as “cyber warfare”. This is different then spam drivel appearing in a blog’s spam pile. These people are paid to be deceptive. The article about China above reveals how someone went undercover to learn all he could about the various ways in which companies pay for biased and misleading content. He developed software to spot the behavior and methods used for this type of paid content delivery.

The article claims:

Paid posting is a well-managed activity involving thousands of individuals and tens of thousands of different online IDs. The posters are usually given a task to register on a website and then to start generating content in the form of posts, articles, links to websites and videos, even carrying out Q&A sessions. Often, this content is pre-prepared or the posters receive detailed instructions on the type of things they can say.

Clearly some companies are desperate enough to pay for dishonest information by purposely conning the buying and reading public.  How can you spot these paid bozos?  In forums, they tend to post often, start a discussion and than move on without any investment in the topic.  They use templates and cut and paste the same content, often sticking it in places that don’t make logical sense.  They leave comments but don’t respond to comments on their comments.

As always, when reading user generated content, use your head.  Get many opinions.  If something doesn’t seem credible, it likely isn’t.

Pay Per Conversation – Bringing User Behavior into a Social Networking World

It took us 15 years but finally, FINALLY, humanity is connected by one unifying activity. Online communication. This is not the same thing as chatting, emailing, newsletters or forums. They’re the medium. What I mean is that we’re making contact and learning from it.

I had an epiphany in 1995 the first time I ever saw the Internet. A neighbor had showed me AOL and chat areas grouped by interests. I’m driven by a powerful sense of curiosity (when untamed, it can be trouble!), and when I realized I could converse with people from around the world on any topic, no matter how odd, the world stopped moving for a minute. And in that moment, I realized the entire planet could create peace simply by conversation. (Hence, “cre8pc” = “create peace”, or its business persona, “Create PC”.)

It’s interesting that while there is no global peace yet, if you’re astute and paying attention, the energies are moving in that direction. It’s harder to kill or hate those who become real people rather than imagined, brain washed figments of group imagination.

One of the opportunities I have working for LiBeck Integrated Marketing is making sense out of social conversations and bringing what I uncover into web site design and development work. While the thrust of work performed by LiBeck staff is social network marketing oriented on a grand scale, our clients are educated about how real, authentic people count in any strategy. Usability and user experience aren’t just la la fancy terms tossed in to cover five usability heuristics. You can’t work with the Internet until you completely understand who is using it.

There’s a profound difference between a $600 paid inbound link from a PR7 site and a pinpointed hit with a human being whom a site or landing page is created for. Which one is going to talk? The link or the person?

Facebook Ties Up, Blindfolds and Gags Its Usability Department

As if this is isn’t an already stressful season, Facebook has decided to change its user interface YET again. We had a learning curve the last time they did it. With this latest “upgrade”, they’ve clearly lost their minds.

Facebook. What have you done! Let’s explore.

If I wanted to update my status, or add a link, photo or video, that main task was front and center and easy to use. Underneath that, in the wide center column, it was easy to scan what I linked to or comments I made on other Facebook pages of my “friends”.

Underneath the logo was a quick “this is who I am” introduction so that someone wasn’t forced to hunt around looking for it. With the upgrade before this latest one, certain “social” items were suddenly pulled and hidden from the front view. This helped with keeping things a bit more private but also took away some of the “fun”. Because Facebook made so many blunders regarding privacy and security, a huge portion of Facebook users yanked off a lot of their personal information or fudged it so that Facebook couldn’t make its own Wiki pages from our data. Again, Facebook removed the “fun” part when they started to treat members as data, not people.

Clearly some persons in power at Facebook need to discover their old happy place because this new design is boring. Now, there is no status. In place of it is now information culled from the profile data. There is no editing it other than to get rid of the information altogether. I don’t mind the information being on my Facebook page but I hate where they moved it to. I much preferred to have a say in what information could be seen first. That choice no longer exists.

I’m not comfortable with some of the way things appear. For example, who cares if I’m married? It’s listed twice, both times linked to my husband’s page. Who cares where I went to college? That was a VERY long time ago. It’s not important to me and has little to do with my current profession. Who cares where I came from or how old I am? This information was perfectly fine where it WAS. I can’t think of a logical, user-driven reason for having this information thrown in the most important real estate on the page.

It’s followed up with photos from your albums. Again, you can’t control what pictures they put there. So if there is a picture that you’d prefer be in an album but not on your Facebook homepage, too bad. They stick up 5 pictures and you have to pray you look good in all of them. You also have to hope that anyone who tags you in a photo doesn’t pick a dumb one. There’s a picture of a “Good and Plenty” pillow (I think) tagged to me by my daughter who knows my favorite candy. It now appears on my top 5 photos. Oh boy.

I’m not sure the Wall means anything anymore. They removed some links we may have gotten used to using. They have link labels that don’t describe what’s behind the door. (Notes, on my Facebook, are not notes. It’s links to my web site posts. I’d love for a little accuracy.)

I’m not switching over my various Facebook sites now that I know what the new design looks like and how it performs. I suppose, like everything else Facebook, it will eventually be forced on us.

What the heck kind of usability-user experience thinking is that?

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