M is for Marketing, Moron

A lot of people dislike lawyers, they have a bad reputation among the plebes of the world. That’s understandable; the vast majority of them are greedy, conniving bastards. However I wonder why people in marketing and sales don’t have as bad a reputation as lawyers. Those in press relations annoy the hell out of me. They lie, stretch the truth, use semantics to mislead, and do anything to sell a product or service, even if it means being wholly unethical.

Edward Bernays, a supposed pioneer in the field of public relations, said, “When I came back to the United States, I decided that if you could use propaganda for war, you could certainly use it for peace. And propaganda got to be a bad word because of the Germans.. using it. So what I did was to try to find some other words, so we found the words Council on Public Relations”. Bernays saw public relations as an “applied social science” that uses insights from psychology, sociology, and other disciplines to scientifically manage and manipulate the thinking and behavior of an irrational and “herdlike” public (from Wikipedia). In other words, people are stupid.

Even if you don’t assume a lot of people are stupid, as a marketing “guru” you rely on statistics to earn your paycheck. Even if 1% of a million people believe your sales pitch, you’ve convinced 10,000, and the pitch can utterly outrageous, but statistics doesn’t care. I heard a press relations representative at a trade show tell his fellow co-worker his favorite quote, “A sucker is born every minute.” I wouldn’t doubt if this was a personal motto of a lot of those in the marketing field.

Take spammers for instance. They know spam is unanimously hated by the world, and most people delete it without a mere thought, but 10,000 people out of a million will open it because they are either too old to know better (Save on your mortgage!), desperate (Increase your penis size!), or not used to the concept of spam yet (Holy cow, woman has sex with horse!). Keep spamming millions, and you earn massive profit, no matter how stupid the sales pitch is.

Anyone can go into marketing and be largely successful. Why are there college courses and degrees for it? It’s a braindead profession that requires skills that any human being can develop without education. Skills such as being deceitful, ignoring a guilty conscience, sleazy use of semantics to mislead, and a well-rounded grasp of the common language. Show me the top marketing guru in the country, and I’ll show you any hustler on the street peddling drugs who is as good, if not better.

These days, competition is fierce in a number of industries, and to survive, even well-meaning companies with solid products better than competitors still try to use seedy marketing tactics to stay at the top. When you have investors breathing down your company’s neck, the problem is exacerbated.

When a company has a product/service that a competitor does better, at a lower price-point, then the more aggressive the marketing tactics, and the more likely to border on unethical. Companies get away with it all the time, because once again they rely on statistics. People may catch on, Newsweek may bash the company, internet sites may point out the sleaze going on with a company, the reputation may suffer for a bit, but the vast majority of people won’t ever know or care.

In closing, I’ll acknowledge that not all those in the field of marketing and press relations are dishonest, conniving idiots. There are those who represent the best in the field, who are honest and passionate about their job. They usually belong to companies with good policies and know how to sell a good product/service, and doesn’t resort to aggressive marketing tactics when a competitor does better. Just like there are lawyers who are good people, willing to help, and some even do pro bono work. Unfortunately, I feel the good people are in a field where the bad ones are more successful and lucrative, thus they are more prevalent.

Gmail Locked Me Out

I can’t check my email because Google has decided to lock me out. According to Google, I’m using a 3rd party application they don’t support, except I’m using their own provided software, Gmail Notifier, to check my email. This is the message they give me:

Our system indicates unusual usage of your account. In order to protect Gmail users from potentially harmful use of Gmail, this account has been disabled for up to 24 hours.

If you are using any third party software that interacts with your Gmail account, please disable it or adjust it so that its use complies with the Gmail Terms of Use. If you feel that you have been using your Gmail account according to the Terms of Use or otherwise normally, please contact us at gmail-lockdown@google.com to report this problem.

I’ve had nothing but praise for Gmail, but this latest incident of locking me out wrongfully has me really wondering if I should try another service. I rely on my email for important business, and personal communication. A search on Google shows that a number of other people are having this problem too.

Standards-Compliant Wrongly Used

While checking out Internet Explorer 7’s (beta) ability to render webpages, I’ve found that GoDaddy won’t let me use their site without telling me that my browser is old, and isn’t standards-compliant.

The first mistake they made, is assuming the browser I’m using is old. The second mistake is that they claim it’s because the browser isn’t standards-compliant. It may not be fully compliant, but the whole reason why standards existed was to prevent websites like GoDaddy from using a browser detection script and selectively feeding data to the browser you’re using. Since the script doesn’t recognize the new IE7 browser, it had no idea what to do except to give that default page saying your browser is old and non-standards-compliant.

Here’s a screenshot of the page they gave me when visiting with IE7 beta:

GoDaddy Screenshot

Update: I wrote to GoDaddy using their form on that page about this, and got a response. Read more to read what I wrote and what their reply was.

Continue reading…

Frustration with Wikipes

When I came up with the idea of Wikipes to provide an easy way for anyone to submit recipes using the wiki-concept, I didn’t know what wiki software to use. I tried out numerous ones, from the famous Mediawiki one that Wikipedia uses, to PhpWiki, and numerous others.

Most were very difficult to customize and style up, others were confusing to use, some I couldn’t even figure out how to install. After a week of trying out wiki softwares, I settled on DokuWiki, which was standards-compliant, easy to cusotmize, and I could modify it to suit the needs of a recipe site.

Barely 6 months after the unveiling of Wikipes, the site gets between 3,000 to 5,000 visitors a day. Unfortunately, a recipe is only posted once or twice every 3 days. I’m not sure why; is it because people are not used to the wiki concept, are intimidated by the open approach, or are too lazy to type up a recipe using a template?

To add to my frustrations, Dreamhost decided to mess with the Zend Optimizer, and this caused problems with Dokuwiki and Wikipes was down for a whole weekend, when traffic is the biggest. I sent in a support ticket to them and they got back to me 3 days later, talked with the Dokuwiki guy about the problem, saying it’s a bug in their software, and I was sent this letter from Dreamhost support:

So I’ve started a conversation with the DocuWiki guy, but no easy answers thusfar. The strangest thing is that out of all of the PHP sites we host (and we host a ton…probably about 90,000 of our 130,000 domains use PHP) it’s just you and the one other DocuWiki user that have had any problems.

Since so many of our customers are dying to use the Optimizer the best suggestions I’ve got are to either compile a PHP binary of your own that won’t use the Optimizer or to switch to a different wiki (we offer a one-click install of mediawiki, which powers the Wikipedia and is pretty great).

Once you get a PHP binary somewhere in your homedir you can use this guide to have all .php scripts on your site run via it

They’ve given me an ultimatum, either use another wiki software, or have a broken site, since I don’t know how to compile my own PHP binary. I’ve spent countless hours modifying Wikipes, working with Erik from http://kartooner.com to flesh out the site, and getting the word out.

I knew Wikipes, being a new thing, would face an uphill battle, but I didn’t expect to have problems that are beyond my control. I’ve always been able to figure things out, but this is the first time that I’ve used a software where the alternatives aren’t that great.

So, my question is this, should I continue on, and try to find another wiki, or cut my losses and move on. I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall with no footholds to climb over.