Category Archives: Ethical

It’s my birthday and I want NOTHING

Clarification: my birthday is on Wednesday, not today.

Well actually, I do want something… Read on.

In the run up to Christmas last year there was much consternation generated by the Trussell Trust setting up stalls in branches of Tesco. Many people, myself included, were dismayed at the idea that the world’s 8th richest country should need to appeal to the general population so widely to feed its disadvantaged.

Food bank usage is on the rise. More and more of your neighbours, friends, relatives and acquaintances are becoming reliant on food banks to survive. Many are having choose between food or warmth.

I had an idea, too late for Christmas, that I’m going to do for my birthday.

If you were going to, or usually would, buy me a present please don’t. Instead, take the money and donate it to the Trussell Trust. That includes cards too!

I’m a white, lower middle class male in Britain, and so a member of probably one of the least disadvantaged groups in the country. I don’t need anything and anything I do need I can provide for myself. So while there are people relying on food banks to survive I’d rather money didn’t get spent on gifts for me, but on feeding those impoverished families.

If you do get me something, I won’t go so far as to say I’ll be offended, but I’ll be disappointed that someone in need has missed out.

If you had no plans to buy me anything for my birthday, please DO! Buy me a donation to the Trussell Trust!

Image credit: Left Foot Forward

Stop breaking the internet!

image

That’s what I’m getting at the moment whilst trying to read an article from a feed I subscribe too.

I use Feedly, as you may have guessed, which insists on hijacking the URLs from the feeds with it’s own redirects. I get no benefit from this, just the longer wait when, as has happened a few times, Feedly’s redirect service decides to be a dick.

It’s frustrating, and unnecessary. Worse, Feedly isn’t the only one. Twitter has to be the worst. Every bloody link goes through t.co now. Facebook does. Google does it on search results even.

How is this good for the internet? How is this good usability?

It’s not. Please stop it.

Patent wars: the evil afflicting tech that will only harm consumers

Being a follower of the ‘patent war’ between mobile/tablet manufacturers recently I’m disappointed at today’s news that Samsung has been ordered to pay £1.5bn in damages to Apple. I’ve long been of the opinion that the patent system, especially in America, is fundamentally flawed and this case is another example of why.

First thing to make clear is that I’m not surprised at the verdict. On paper, Samsung have violated the patents and the reports I’ve read clearly showed, to me, Samsung had a not-so-strong case.

What gets me is that the case ever happened at all.

In June a US judge through out a case brought by Apple whilst calling the US patent system “chaos”. There are numerous examples of ridiculous patents, such as this one from Apple that patents software updates, and companies like Microsoft and Apple are openly setting up companies to act as ‘patent trolls‘ whose sole purpose is to destroy competitors through expensive litigation.

Apple is abusing the patent system in order to maintain its dominance in a blatantly anti-competitive move. Far from going to trial, the cases (all of them, including the ones brought by Samsung, Google, Motorola et al) should have been thrown out and the companies investigated under competition law.

Verdicts like that against Samsung will only serve to harm consumers in the end.

Apple created great products that consumers wanted to buy, making it the most valuable company in the world. Apple executives are now seemingly abandoning that philosophy in favour of a protectionist offensive. The rapid growth of Samsung into the smartphone market and the rise of Android, now the most popular smartphone OS, has them scared and so they’re fighting back.

One reason given for Samsung’s success is it’s wide range of phones, compared to Apple’s limited range of one (current model) very expensive phone. Apple also ignore industry standards on connectors, instead choosing to force consumers into using their own connector, a hidden cost to them. Instead, the likes of Samsung use the industry standard connections which, for example, allow me to connect my SGS3 to my HDTV for as little as £10 rather than the extortionate £35 Apple charge. Consumers are wise to this price difference and recognise they can get a similar or much better phone than an iPhone for a much more reasonable price.

Far from protecting consumers against ‘confusion’ this verdict will strengthen Apple’s position in the market and allow them to keep pushing out the same overpriced products (errm, hello, £25 for a 10in cable anyone?!) instead of responding to consumers who have quite clearly demonstrated they want the choice on offer from Samsung.

Is the Catholic Church a force for good in the world?

I’ve watched this debate recently and just had to share it. Before you watch, ask yourself if you think the Catholic Church is a force for good in the world. Yes, no or undecided? Then ask yourself again at the end. There’s a poll before and after the debate, too so you can see how you compare.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kuzYwzGoXw]

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AloG_pu1zmc]

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRpuFfGvEIc]

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEgdTfKZeME]

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnerPDY87mM]

Would you go into a high street shop that if it required handing over your name and address to do so?

I’m gonna assume the answer is no. Giving info like full name, postal address, e-mail isn’t the kind of thing you expect to have to do purely to browse around.

So why do so many web sites insist on asking for exactly that?

I got a little irate earlier this week (maybe ’cause I’d been in a bad mood all day) at eMusic. I was doing a bit of research for my post about Spotify and just wanted to find out how much eMusic subscriptions were so I could compare the cost and support my argument that Spotify is too expensive when put up against the likes of eMusic.

Could I find out about the subcription plans let alone the prices though? No. I faced the same wall whatever I tried: a 13 field registration form which was just step 1 of a 3 step process.

It’s the same story with sites like Love Film which ask for your bank details just to get a free trial. They say stuff like “to make it easier for you to sign up after your trial, if you want to.” No it’s not, you just know some people are flakey and won’t be arsed to cancel. Or, like me, will cancel last minute but you’ll have already charged my account in advance for the first months subscription that I never actually said I wanted. (I got my own back, by the way.)

I had a brief conversation with eMusic on Twitter about this little phenomenon;

  • eMusicNews: @philipjohn This link should point you in the right direction:http://bit.ly/mMGrR
  • PhilipJohn: @eMusicNews That asks me to login. How is that useful if I’m not a subscriber and want to know what my choices for subscribing are?
  • eMusicNews: @philipjohn I believe there should be an option there to set up an account. If you go through that process, you should see plan options.
  • PhilipJohn: @eMusicNews Yeah but only if I give you my passport, birth certificate and god knows what else. It’s called a barrier to conversion.
  • eMusicNews: @philipjohn Hi Philip -if you fill in the first reg page, the 2nd page shows you the available plans.
  • PhilipJohn: @eMusicNews I get that but I don’t want to part with personal info just to see your prices. It’s like demanding ID to enter a high st shop!
  • eMusicNews: @philipjohn Sorry….

Know the phrase, “sorry isn’t good enough”?

You might be thinking, “why do you care so much, they’re the ones loosing out?” They probably are missing out on customers because they’re putting up a barrier to conversion.

Thing is, I’m passionate about the web and how it can be used successfully for businesses. But putting up barriers to conversion in any business is surely a bad idea (unless they’re designed as a qualifier). I hate to see examples of the web done ‘wrong’ because I want to see a web that is easy to use, free of frustration and ultimately a good experience for the user.

Yes, I’m an idealist, bit of a dreamer but it’s not impossible. It’s certainly not hard. So why not JFDI?!

I’ll make this an open letter to all on line businesses… open up. Take down your barriers. Let people in. You’ll benefit in the long run.

IE8: Saviour of the Semantic Web, or Usability Nightmare?

I’ve been pushing web standards for years, so the news that Microsoft‘s Internet Explorer 8 will support W3C guidelines by default is very welcome from where I’m sitting.

There is one problem, though. They’ve announced that sites including CNN, Facebook and MySpace won’t work correctly. Users of the browser will have to choose to view these sites in “Compatibility View”. That sounds painful. It smacks of the “cancel or allow” ‘safety‘ feature in Vista.

It’s great that Microsoft are finally supporting standards. It’s long overdue and it should give the many standards ignorant web developers in the world a good kick up the arse.

Can you hear the “but” coming?

BUT… what are users going to do when, after upgrading to IE8, their favourite sites stop working? Some won’t even know there are alternative browsers and will think it’s a problem with their PC. Cue lots of restarts, calls to broadband providers and flicking through the Yellow Pages.

Though admirable, could Microsoft’s harsh line just frustrate IE users and web developers? Could this move fuel more browser-switching?

It’s The Economy, Stupid!

Barely a day goes by where we don’t hear about climate change. But what nobody is really talking about is the economic impact.

That’s why, for the second time, I’ve joined forces with Francis Irving to get people, business and Government motivated on climate change for the economy.

It’s called Serious Change and I invite you to join us.

How Chris Brogan Got Me a Link Without Knowing It

Mark Cahill is someone I’ve always known of and respected, so I was delighted to find (albeit a bit late) that he’s mentioned (and linked to) me in one of his posts.

I wanted to share it with you because it goes to show just how much more valuable Social Media is than SEO.

In the comments, Ari Herzog (another person I have plenty of time for) says, “If Google died tomorrow, you and I would continue blogging as if nothing changed.” Ari says that we shouldn’t be thinking about Google, and I agree. I don’t even think anyone should be doing SEO any more (that’s another – very long – conversation, though)!

In the post, Mark acknowledges Ari’s and my view that we shouldn’t focus too much of our attention on search engines. In his comment back to Ari, Mark agrees but offers the view that Google knows which links are relevant. In a more e-commerce setting, search engines would also be much more important.

It’s a very worthwhile comment, we can’t just ignore search engines completely. I, for one, still look at my stats – my visitors, subscribers and in part, rankings – because that tells me whether what I am doing is working. What search engines should not be used as is a indicator of performance (or KPI).

If I show up in Google Blog Search for a topic I’ve blogged about, great! But that doesn’t mean I’m successful in my goals. That doesn’t necessarily mean that my work is having an impact.

Mark’s post has been the KPI in this case. The very fact that Mark has mentioned me and linked to me has shown that my methods are working. I’m aiming to become part of the community that I follow, listen to and respect, and Mark is part of that community.

That community also includes people like Chris Brogan and it’s Chris who’s inadvertently led to my mention on Mark’s blog. I had commented on Mark’s post about blog readership after Chris mentioned the post himself. Subsequently, Mark felt the need to mention my comments when talking about link relevance.

Purely by engaging with Mark and contributing to the relevant discussion, I have gained a very valuable mention and a great link. We’ve also got the beginnings of a dialogue. One that I expect will continue to blossom and benefit both of us, not just in terms of links but also with knowledge.

Sure I could go to an SEO or link builder and say “get me 100 links by this time next week” but I’d take this one link from Mr Cahill over that any day!

And that, ladies and germs is the power of social media (and Chris Brogan)!

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One Simple Anti-Poverty Act at Christmas

Today is Blog Action Day 2008 (BAD08) so to do my little bit I’m going to share with you one easy way you can do your bit to help in the fight to eradicate poverty.

We are starting to see the beginnings of the Christmas season now, with shops beginning to put out Christmas stands and adverts with Christmas themes.

Most people know the song Happy Christmas (War is Over) by John Lennon. It’s a classic that we hear every year. The first lines of that song say a lot; “And so this is Christmas, but what have you done?”

Every time I hear this song I think about all the people around the world living in poverty and I ask myself what I’ve done to help them this year.

Here’s what I plan to do, and I hope you’ll join me.

I’m not going to get any Christmas presents this year. Instead I’m asking all my friends and family to shop for me at Oxfam Unwrapped.

Oxfam Unwrapped offers us the opportunity to buy each other ‘gifts’ that are in effect donations to the poverty-stricken people in the world. Things like goats, wells and even building classrooms and getting books to school children.

In fact, I’ve set up a wish list at Oxfam Unwrapped so just to make it easy, you can view my wish list and do your bit to help poverty right now.

So this Christmas, do your bit. Send a gift to those less fortunate than you and help fight poverty.

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I have nothing to be worried about

Tamar Weinberg of Search Roundtable today asked, “do search penalty discussions worry you?” Well, Tamar, I’d have to having something to worry about in order to be worried.

The way I see it, unless you’ve been employing optimisation techniques aimed specifically at improving rankings, there’s nothing to worry about. In fact, no web master/marketer/business owner should be employing techniques other than those which improve the quality of one’s web site for the benefit of the target audience.

Tamar brings up the subject of which hat SEOs wear. Some would say I’m whiter than white for my views on optimisation. I say I’m neither black nor white hat* but simply ethical in doing business on line, just as I’m ethical in conducting business off line.

* If you have to lump me in either camp, I guess you’d go with white, but I’m not just white hat – I’m more like the white wizard!