Saturday, August 22, 2015

Amateur Hour in Blogger Review Land

There's a brouhaha over in London Town that I read about where a blogger - Mehreen - apparently hit on a local bakery for some freebies for a review. She didn't get the freebies that she expected and she didn't  like the baked goods (macarons) that she tasted so, for one reason or the other, she wrote a negative review. (I think she might have taken the review down since I can't find it.)

The bakery was outraged and posted an article called BloggerBlackmail. (I haven't been able to chase down a copy of this either.  If someone could post a link to it or copy of it in the comments, I'd appreciate it)

The blogger responded with a self justifying article.  This is what I'm calling out as Amateur Hour.   

The blogger talks about her expectations. She expects a lot to be given to her. She talks about her investment in photography. She talks about her time as valuable and how it takes 8 hours to do a proper review. It's a self-absorbed rationalization.  Pathetic. The odd thing is that the blog itself is beautifully done with gorgeous photography which really is an interesting read about the highlights of luxury dining in London.  But, still, she is in business and it is the blogger's business practices that I'm writing about.

If she thinks she is the business of selling advertising, her thinking should be all about her customer.  How can she generate business for a restaurant or bakery or hotel?  What sort of investment is she asking for from a client and how much business does she feel that she can drive for them?  She should have a professional sales process that focuses on her advertiser's needs, investments, and the return that it provides. She should have a professional way of approaching, selling, and treating her clients.

If she feels that she is in the journalism or media business and her main focus is being a high integrity content producer, she should talk about her readers. For instance, how her readers are interested in knowing whether this restaurant is right for this sort of dinner. Or whether this high priced hotel provides the service, food, and ambiance that they would expect.  As a media content creator, she should have a focus on delivering entertainment and information to readers who rely on her for a specific type of information.

Of course, newspapers and radio stations and TV stations have for a century been aware that they are at the juncture of these two businesses: content and advertising.  It's a delicate position.

The media are definitely in the advertising business. Their money comes from advertisers who expect a high return on their investment in advertising. The advertisers expect clear business practices, a written deal, and an appropriate sales process. Walking in to a restaurant at a time convenient to a blogger, talking to a random employee, and trying to negotiate on the spot for more sweets... not professional.  The fact that she sent an email some period before-hand with a vague proposition and got an enthusiastic response to the concept followed by an unannounced walk-in is not a professional approach. There was no education of the client as to what would be involved or what the benefits might be.

Media are also in the content business of being a trusted source of news and information and reviews.  There are guidelines in most media that separate advertising from content.  Newspapers routinely disclose if the newspaper or journalist have any conflict of interest. The media business is about walking this fine line of aggregating an audience with quality info and entertainment and delivering to this audience, advertising which is not too disruptive.  The mixing of content and advertising is a fine line which all media need to carefully walk.

The idea of a blogger having only one bad review on her site and that one coinciding with the one that didn't give her the freebies that she wanted is appalling.  (Disclosure: I have glanced through her site but I have not read all of her site so maybe there are lots of bad reviews in there). Here's the blogger's big whine:

Writer's note. I put this up and then came back and edited it an hour later. I removed a number of adjectives and tried to become a little more balanced and less inflammatory and judgmental.  I'm aware that I'm on the verge of joining a mob that's publicly shaming someone who has stepped over a line that I consider the line of professionalism.  However, I think this is worth writing about since the rules on blogging and the professionalism of digital content is a hot issue and this is a good example of the pitfalls that await us if sites don't think deeply and adopt mature rules to guide how content and sponsorship can coexist.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

SPAM Honey Pot?

I have received a few emails of this sort recently.
Do you think they are legit?
Is someone really link-building this way in this day and age?
Is it just a plot to ensnare people in some sort of link buying scheme and then reveal it to Google?

Since I don't want to link to these sites from my blog, I'll just put a picture of it here....

spam link buying request
spam link buying request

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Google Classrooms, Forms, and Forums

I jsut asked on a Google forum whether goes Google Classrooms. I'm following up on my own private discussion about

Can Google Classrooms replace a LMS like Moodle for some uses?

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Customer Support Technology

Here was the state of the art some number of years ago in online customer support:

1.  The relationship between the FAQs and the question asked is entirely for the user to make. There is no integrated knowledge-base which would provide super rapid responses using technology.  There is  a great collection of constantly updated FAQs and training videos
2.  It is very "batch" oriented, not immediate. There is no chat nor a suggestion that we can immediately answer their question is a very interactive way.
3.  The design is pretty primitive.  Functional but primitive.
4.  It is not a responsive design.
5. The "contact us" is a separate page. If a user is logged in, the fields for the user are automatically filled in which is good but still somewhat primitive by today's standards. I think the state of the art is for "Contact Us" or better yet: "Have a question or suggestion?" to be a widget that can be deployed across the site. For instance, we have a new great page of training videos that run from 30 seconds to 30 minutes. That would be a great place to ask "Still have a question?"

What's particularly interesting is that VocabularySpellingCity customer support is spectacular. We answer hundreds of calls and emails daily. Less than 1% of our calls ever go to voice mail or become "abandons."   And this stat is true not only across weeks and months but we track it everyday and we review it on a daily basis.  We use Desk to track all of our calls and emails and "Call Sweet" to monitor our calls and how they go. We manage even on the very busy days (ie August to September) to never give me an annoying recording about "Your call is important to us."  

BTW: Rant Alert! Am I the only one who feels that it is totally cheesy and Orwellian to put people on hold (showing that you are being cheap on customer support and don't staff adequately (or that your software is creating problems) and then instead of apologizing, tell people why you essentially ignore them how much you value them and their call?  We don't do that.

Next steps. I'd like to collect a number of modern awesome examples of customer support systems and use them as a model for us to build on.  Any suggestions?