April 2007

Thursday, April 12, 2007

MySpace Bans Photobucket (but can I get them to ban me?)

I can’t tell you what sort of bullshit this is, but I’m going to try:

MySpace has removed all hotlinked photos and slideshows (delivered in flash) hosted at Photobucket because they contain (sometimes) paid advertising. The advertising in question is a teaser campaign from Spiderman III. Here’s a bit of the story from PCWorld:

The block came in response to an ad-sponsored slideshow that Photobucket recently began running and that it encouraged MySpace users to post in their profiles, violating MySpace’s terms of service, the social networking site said in a statement.

Basically, only MySpace can junk up its pages with gratuitious advertising. MySpacers aren’t allowed to advertise other things. Well, they’re allowed to solicit sex and promote their albums and movies ... but they’re not allowed to hotlink to other advertisements.


My issue is that MySpace has been letting its users abuse my site for years. Yes, I’ve contacted them. I’ve contacted them. I’ve emailed them. I’ve even talked to folks I’ve met socially that work there. They don’t give a crap. It’s my problem their users don’t understand hotlinking is like making collect calls.

It turns out that it is possible to selectively block hotlinks from one domain. Halleluiah!

But now I discover that all I’d need to do is employ some .htaccess magic and have those thousands of hotlinked photos (yes, last month was 230,000 hotlink hits, the majority from MySpace according to the IP addresses logged) into some sort of ad that MySpace would feel threatened by. See, all this time I was thinking I had to put P()rn up there. Turns out that’s not what would catch their attention. Ads for, I dunno, something owned by some other media conglomerate might work.

Only problem is I can’t afford to host whatever image that might be (230,000 hits even at 10K each is kind of sizeable).

Wait a second ... I think I’m onto something here ...

I can sell the adspace! I can find someone who’d like their ad served up to 230,000 impressions in one month all over the web (though pretty much on MySpace).

The sale of that might cover the extra bandwidth I’d have to buy on my hosting plan.

So either I get my domain banned and don’t have to worry about bandwidth drains in the future ... or I make money with the ad impressions!

Here’s a bunch of articles:
Los Angeles Times

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:02 pm     Curious News

Monday, April 09, 2007

Sperm Whales Run Deep

I have a Google News alert set up for Whale (and one for Dolphins, but I get a lot of sports news on that one).

Today’s report featured news that there was a Sperm Whale that washed ashore in Santa Barbara.

Here’s my favorite quote:

Sperm whales are the deepest divers of their species and can descend to more than 3,000 feet. Experts said it’s unusual to find sperm whales close to the coast.

Yeah. So anyone else see anything wrong with the first sentence? It’s not like there are a lot of different kinds of Sperm Whales out there, like dolphins.

I’d say the second sentence is kind of funny, too. Yes, it’s very unusual to find whales up on the beach. Except, you know, when they beach themselves or wash ashore.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:26 pm     Whale Watching

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

a friendly chat with verizon

The battery on my little LG phone has been behaving poorly, and since the phone and the replacement batteries are no longer made, I decided to get a new one. It’s been three years since I signed up with Verizon, so I qualified for their “new every two” program. I picked out a new phone on their website. It was supposed to be $150 but they gave me a $100 credit plus an additional $50 instant rebate.

I put the phone into my cart and went to check out. The total was $0.00.

I confirmed my billing address as my shipping address, gave them a phone number (it’s a fedex delivery) and hit purchase.

Then I got another screen that wanted a credit card. It said that I owed $0.00, but still wanted my credit card. Say what?

And why my credit card anyway, I’ve been paying my bill for three years ... we have a business relationship, they can send me a bill and all that.

I was frustrated. I didn’t want to somehow be charged for something else, and I don’t like putting my credit card into websites for things like “guaranteeing a reservation” or “trial offers.”

So I clicked on the little icon to talk to a Verizon Sales Rep.

Here’s my little ditty (this is the actual transcript I cut and pasted ... all names are real, or at least the ones really assigned within the chat window).

Chat InformationPlease wait for a Verizon Wireless sales representative to assist you with your order. Thank you for your patience!
Chat InformationA Verizon Wireless online pre-sales specialist has joined the chat. You are now chatting with Alexander

Alexander: Hello. Thank you for visiting our chat service. May I help you with your order today?
Alexander: Good afternoon, how can I assist you today?
You: I’m getting my “new every two” phone today
You: and I selected one that’s free
You: but the site is asking for my credit card info at checkout ... even tho there’s no balance due
Alexander: Okay, congratulations on your new every 2, are you curious why you need a card?
You: yes, why do I have to enter it?
Alexander: This will clear things up, please read the following:
Alexander: The checkout page requires a credit card even if you have a zero balance. After you enter your billing address on the checkout page, your state may bill you for taxes based on the full retail price of the phone. After you enter your credit card information, the next page will show you if any taxes are due before your order is processed.
You: why can’t you just bill me on my, um, what’s it called? bill?
Alexander: Unfortunately, in order to purchase online and to take advantage of the discounts you must use a credit card, I have no control over this I apologize.
You: who does have control over this? I went into the store to get this phone ... would I have walked out of there without showing them a credit card?
Alexander: I am not sure as their policies differ from ours.
Alexander: Would you like the number to customer care?
You: can I get this phone over the phone without giving a credit card and still get it for free?
Alexander: I am not sure, as they will most likely not be the same prices and discounts that are available on line.
You: so, it’s a gamble
You: just as giving you my credit card info is a gamble should there be a security breach
Alexander: Our site is heavily protected, so only you and verizon will have that information.
You: So, if there is a breach ... ever ever with any of the data centers that Verizon has, I can come and talk to you?
You: Even though you have no control over whether or not I need to submit this card info for a total of nothing
Alexander: Sure.
Alexander: Does your state not charge taxes for online purchases?
You: You are the site that sells things, shouldn’t you know that?
You: Perhaps you could tell me if California does.
Alexander: I actually do not, I am here to help navigate through the checkout process and answer your questions and direct you if needed.
You: You don’t have access to information about states sales tax charges, but know (ephemerally) that they exist?
Alexander: Yes, I do.
You: How would I find this information out?
Alexander: Once you enter in your credit card information it will notify you if your state does and how much the taxes will be and you will have the option to continue and cancel the order.
You: but then you’ll have my credit card information
You: you already know where I live
You: why isn’t the site programmed to recognize this charge BEFORE I complete the checkout procedure
Alexander: No, I actually won’t as I can’t see what you are entering and I don’t have access to your account.
You: I mean “you” as in “verizon”
Alexander: Okay, what would you like me to do?
You: I’d like the site to be reprogrammed to be more intuitive
You: can you pass that along?
You: you have big meetings where they ask you, how can we make the customer’s experience better, right?
Alexander: That is correct, and if you would like that to be sent straight to them I would actually recommend leaving a comment on the site after this chat has ended as there will be a survey.
You: I’d appreciate the help from your end.
You: Thanks for the info
Alexander: But I will also let my boss know of your concern.
You: thank you
Alexander: And apologize for any inconvenience, and your welcome and I will.
Alexander: Would you like to complete your order or would you like the customer care number?
You: I’ll complete the order and take my chances, I’ve come this far!
Alexander: Alright I understand, do you need any additional help?
You: nope - thanks for covering it all
Alexander: Your welcome and have a nice day!
You: you too!
Alexander: Thank you for visiting Verizon Wireless, I look forward to speaking with you again. Have a great day!
Chat InformationYour chat session has been ended by your Verizon Wireless online agent.

At the end of the chat, sure enough, a little feedback window popped up. I gave them my comments as Alexander suggested:

My issue today is with being asked for my credit card information BEFORE my total is available. When selecting a “new every two phone” I was under the impression that it was going to be free. The page where it asked for my credit card DID NOT MENTION that I “might” be charged sales tax.

An improvement to the site might be to have the Sales Tax calculated BEFORE asking for the credit card info, after all, you don’t need the card info if the balance is zero.

I like the credit card to be the LAST thing I enter on online orders, not the middle thing.

It would have helped if the online chat helper could have definitively said that my state DOES have a sales tax charge even for free devices ... it shouldn’t be that hard to provide that info to them, should it?

Thanks for your help.

So, I get to the end of this tale to say that yes, California does charge sales tax for the RETAIL VALUE of the phone. They say that this phone sells for $288.99 (yeah, right, I wouldn’t pay that much for it!).

I ended up owing some $23.92 bucks in tax. Whatever. The point is, why couldn’t they calculate that BEFORE I had to input my credit card, and why didn’t they mention that’s why they were asking for a credit card on a null total on the ACTUAL PAGE.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:02 pm     Curious News













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During November it's all about me writing a novel. Sometimes it's about whalewatching. You know, and then there's other stuff.