Deceptive business practice of the

Deceptive business practice of the day: popunder ads made to mimic Windows XP program widgets to the exact pixel.

While it’s been pretty common to incorporate window elements like minimize/maximize/close, and often you’ll find ads made to look like OK/Cancel dialog boxes, these fastclick ads take it a few steps further, not only appearing to be something clickable, but to mimic the OS exactly, and look as if it is part of your computer’s control panel or operating system.

Idea of the day:

Idea of the day: Why isn’t there a photo service online that does something like what Cafepress does for shirts and trinkets? Imagine being able to look at someone’s gallery of photos, say travel photos from Italy or Siberia, and clicking on a link to buy a 8×10 reprint for $10 or so, knowing full well that the person that took the photo and offerred the service will get a $4 kickback from it?

I know some service like ofoto or snapfish let other people order photos from galleries (like site visitors, family, etc), but they seemed to charge users actual printing prices. What I envision is a site more like Cafepress that gives you a photo “storefront”, so that photographers have incentives to create high quality photos espeically for resale as prints, and maybe make a few bucks along the way.

update: via email, this discussion and this site offer possibilities.

Feeling nostalgic tonight, I wandered

Feeling nostalgic tonight, I wandered over to Craig Mitchell’s Myboot for the first time in a year or so. I see that there’s a chapter of She Hates My Futon I haven’t read before, but I can’t remember what was going on in the story when I left off in chapter 22. It’s sad to see it sit unfinished to this day, as it was just a chapter or two away from completion back when he was working on it.

Reading the story back in 1999, it was one of the first moments I realized that maybe the web could really give old media a run for its money, creatively speaking. I remember sitting down and reading chapters 1 through 22 in one day, over the course of several hours. The story’s pretty much a 20-something, generation x tale of love lost and found. It reminded me a lot of Chasing Amy, and I’m surprised it hasn’t been turned into some sort of screenplay by now.

From: “Bernard Shifman”

From: "Bernard Shifman" <>
Subject: Content about Bernard Shifman
Date: Tue, 24 Sep 2002 09:40:39 -0500

Dear Sir,

Would it be possible for you to remove the content about me from your website. I'm really not a spammer and I was just looking for a job. Many of the responses that are posted from "me" have been doctored to me me look like a jerk. The content on your site is causing problems for me as you can imagine and it would be very kind of you to remove all content about me from your site. Why would you want to prevent me from getting work? I don't understand....


Bernard Shifman amazes me, he really does. I’m fully convinced he’s learned nothing from this moron spammer adventures. I’ve searched this site, and can only find one (tangential) reference to him, and there’s one reference on MetaFilter.

But look at today’s email above. He’s convinced he wasn’t spamming when he sent out (by my estimate, at least) 20,000 unsolicited resumes as word doc attachments to any and all email addresses scraped off the web. I got several copies, all to addresses found somewhere online, and from talking with people that also got copies, his email scraping bot sent messages to anything found in text that resembled an email address. Then he goes into the sob story of not finding work. If you google for “Bernard Shifman” you’re gonna get 1900 matches, most all pointing to his screwups, so much so that eradicating it from the web is going to be completely impossible.

I can understand someone new to online etiquette making a few mistakes along the way, and I do feel bad for people out of work having a tough time finding new positions, but Bernard here has screwed up so often, so consistently, and for so long, without learning from or even admitting he’s ever made a mistake, that I have no sympathy for him. Two things in this email also clinch it: the last two sentences, added as some backhanded guilt trip that I’m keeping him from finding work, not his own actions, and the CC line. He openly taints his request with a subtle legal threat, not learning in the past year that barratry is no way to gain understanding from others, not to mention the fact he hasn’t sued anyone he has threatened.

While getting back up on the horse after you’ve fallen is usually a good plan, at some point when you’ve fallen hundreds of times and kicked the horse several times, it’s time to think about other modes of transportation.

A MetaFilter post on fake

A MetaFilter post on fake self-help “doctors” lead me to this blog post about a series of fake, mail order universities (there’s a great exchange between a reporter and representitive of one here). Some of the links were outdated, so I decided to search Google for one of the fake colleges, Brentwick University.

The funny thing is, about half of the 70 or so results are about the place being a fraud, but among the remainder are people openly purporting to be Brentwick graduates (some with multiple degrees, and even some claiming honors!). There are company leaders boasting masters degrees, city supervisors with staff purporting to be graduates, and whatever a life coach is supposed to be.

The most brazen graduate is a city council member in El Paso, Texas. Listed on her election campaign page last year was her bachelor’s in political science from the mail order degree program. After fighting hard against breaches of ethics among her fellow city council members, she was even outed as a fraud in a local El Paso paper. But the absolute kicker is that she still holds her city council position even though her degree is a meaningless piece of paper purchased for a few hundred dollars, most likely in response to some spam she was sent years ago.

Some resumes from people reporting to have graduated from these fake colleges: Harrington, Brentwick, University of San Moritz, and Glencullen University, which happen to be all operated by the same guy, out of several P.O. boxes throughout Europe.

Anil’s recent post on race

Anil’s recent post on race rang especially true for me since I got the opportunity to witness it firsthand.

When I was in New York a couple weeks ago (the first time I spent any real time there, if you can call a few days real time), I finally understood all The Common New York Things That Are Supposed To Happen. I learned what “the city that never sleeps” really means. I got to see first hand what a real melting pot is like, from the people on the streets and subways to the neighborhoods to the stores and restaurants that abound. NYC seemed like the most integrated, culturally diverse and rich place I’ve ever been. I kept comparing my experiences in NYC with San Francisco, and it wasn’t that NYC was merely 10 San Franciscos smashed together tightly, it went well beyond that and embodied a place like no other.

But… there’s always the race thing.

I’ve known Anil for a few years now, and talk to him daily. It probably helps that most of our contact is virtual, as I’ve never really identified him by race. When I first met him face to face, I was so familiar with him that it still wasn’t something that surprised me or weighed heavily in my mind. Kind of like when an old friend reveals a long-held secret that makes no difference in a relationship. I won’t claim that I am 100% free of prejudice, as I think no human is, but one of the strengths of the internet is that it allows people to interact free of those constraints; an idealized universe where people can be judged solely on the merit of their contributions.

So back in NYC, I was working in a building in SoHo. In the main lobby of the office building, there was a huge desk with a security guy behind it, and placard that stated “ALL VISITORS MUST REGISTER.” When I first arrived, I knew which office I was looking for, noticed no one said a thing to the guard, and walked right by to the elevators. I went through the office lobby a handful of times over the next two days, always with the same results. And then Anil, my accommodating host for the stay, tagged along with me to meet some of the people I was working with. That’s when we got “Can I Help You?” in a booming voice during our crossing of the lobby. I actually kept walking at first, not thinking the guard was talking to us, then had to explain what office I was working in and we were allowed to proceed. I mentioned to Anil my surprise and disbelief at what just occurred, based on the previous day of passing through unnoticed and he simply said “That was some of that code orange, heightened security. Now, more than ever.”

Anil treated it with humor, but I had a hard time masking my surprise and anger at being reminded my friend and I were worthy of being questioned, simply based on the way he looks.