MLM mashup with political tribalism

A very conservative friend shared a rant I’ve seen in the past. No big deal. Curiously, though, at the end (under the See More break) was a piece of text not consistent with the rest.

If You Want True Financial Freedom and Not Have to Worry about This Contact Me and I’ll Show You a Way To Be financially FREE in Five Years Private Message Me or Send Me an Email At xxxxxxxx@gmail.com

I did a search on the email and found some interesting things. There are several Facebook pages associated with it. A web site that looks like a cheap Multi-Level Marketing scam. Basically, they claim to have you invest your money in their products (as crowdfunding), you provide the labor of the marketing of the products, and you establish an eCommerce presence to sell the products. Then you make “reverse royalty payments.”

If royalty payments are you the seller paying the intellectual property owner, then reverse royalty payments are supposed to be the IP owner paying you, the crowdfunding investor?

It smelled foul.

Leveraging political tribalism has gotten this particular post 289,770 shares. That aspect is just amazingly brilliant. Hopefully, it just creates enough outrage that people do not actually read it enough to fall for the scam.

Closing

Businesses close. Maybe it is after a few months. Maybe it is after a century. Probably it is somewhere in between.

I get amused when people who have not been to one that is closing in years get shocked when it closes. If you personally have not bothered to patronize the business, then that is a good sign that it will close. You have to support the places with your money that you want to remain available for you to visit in the future.

Stores Tracking Me Could Be More Helpful

I know the stores track my purchases. They have tons of data on each of us. Their apps and rewards cards are precisely for knowing who I am and tracking me.

The other day, my girlfriend asked me to buy something using her rewards card to push it over the $1 she was short to get the reward for that month . (It is one of those you have to cross the threshold within the month or you lose the points.) There was a small temptation to mess with that data by buying something she’d never normally get. Instead, I bought something she would normally buy. I also paid in cash to keep my card number from being associated with her.

I just feel these companies with apps could be doing things to enable me to spend more in their stores.

  1. Their profile knows my purchasing frequency. They should be able to predict fairly well when my next purchase ought to happen. For items that happen monthly or less frequent, they could send me an email or app notification reminder. This value-add to the service would earn my loyalty in buying from them for helping me remember.
    • Of course, if they get it routinely wrong and alert me after I’ve already bought it from them, then I will be so offended that I would look for alternatives.
  2. Their profile knows how much I am willing to pay for specific items. They should be able to predict for which items I am willing pay full versus only sale prices. Then notify me when the items I buy for sale prices are available at close to the cost I am willing to pay.
    • Naturally, if they want to keep quiet when the item is significantly lower than what I am willing to pay, then I abstractly understand. That means in the moment of figuring it out, I would be hurt but as long as it is just a concept the decision makes sense.
    • They could also offer to let me set a price threshold for alerts when the item is offered for less than that amount. That would be useful pricing data for them.

 

The Anti-Boycott

Starbucks Cup by Hiro – Kokoro☆Photo

Do boycotts work anymore?

It seems like of late boycotts have returned to the en vogue way of attacking a company or movie with owners or creators one dislikes. But, then people on the other side of the issue see the talk about a boycott and step up their business. If anything, then it seems like the boycott target ends up doing better not worse.

In most cases the target of the boycott was doing okay, but not especially well. People had mostly forgotten it existed. The boycott essentially gives it free publicity. My guess is people who like the business but dislike the stance of the issue will be torn. Some will stop giving it business, some will pull back some, and most will stay about the same. The supporters of the issue will swarm it.

Probably good that I am not a marketer, because I would be willing to dabble with a guerrilla marketing campaign where I poll how people feel and instigate boycotts against my client.

Last Chance!

The overuse of “This is your last chance” annoys me.

Last means there are no other chances beyond it. If I do not act now, then I have to accept the penalty for the rest of eternity that I could have taken the offer but failed to do so.

However, when someone is trying to sell me something, last no longer means final. It just means we will give you a 72 hour reprieve before we start the next promotion cycle hounding you to buy this thing you have no interest in buying which is why you have not for the past 3-8 years.

The cheapness of email compared to print or television makes these messages prolific. So much so, I wonder about the lack of care put into them.

Review: Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt
Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is really the story of why and how IEX was created. Humans made bad decisions. So, to protect people from other people, we moved the operation of the stock market to being run by computers. The natural consequence was for people to game the system with computer code. Rather than stay vigilant against new exploitations, we just redefined fair. The team behind IEX created it to eliminate these problems and establish a fair place for trading to occur.

About halfway through the book, I watched a commercial where an investment company touted their guaranteed one second trades. To the average person, this probably sounds amazing. The thing is that companies like this operate in milliseconds (1/1,000) and nanoseconds (1/1,000,000). Plus, they operate Dark Pools where the trade is obfuscated from independent review. Your trade could get executed where it benefits them and not you.

The overarching theme is that complexity and obfuscation created an environment where bad things can happen. As a technologist in education, I fight against this every day. We desire simplicity. Yet every change and especially those we execute without a good understanding of the business case creates complexity which will result in a failure. When no one fully understands how all the components work together, it exists to fail. Funnily enough, my team, the database administrators (really application administrators) sit at the intersection of the analysts, vendors, operating system admins, storage admins, network admins, and others. So this is familiar territory.

Zoran Perkov and Sergey Aleynikov are unsung heroes I am sure about whom I will spend more time reading.

View all my reviews

Ad Fails

An advertisement for a Porsche plug-in hybrid really fails. First, Porsche was old and lame by high school. Lotus, Lamborghini, Ferrari, and so many other car companies come ahead. Second, I do not have a job where an ostentatious car helps me. Third, I cannot keep my mobile phone properly charged. A plug-in hybrid is not the car for me.

Given how much activity I have online and all the tracking data collected about that activity, I feel that advertisements delivered to me ought to be fantastic. There should only be advertisements delivered on the pages I visit that confirm my desires or make me suddenly desire it.

Certainly looking up this car put plenty of data out there supporting the advertiser’s algorithms pushing this ad at me. Probably I will see more of it. Perhaps it is better, though, than the ads of the last item I checked out on Amazon. Reminding me that I did not buy it probably will not trick me into actually buying it.

UPDATE: Perhaps the ad had more to do with the page I visited than data about me? It was a piece critical of the Chegg IPO by comparing it Twitter as a success. I visited it because I heard a stock doubling after the IPO like Twitter’s did should be considered a failure. (The gains go to investors not Twitter, so Twitter should have set a higher price since other valued it more.)

healthcare.gov

As an information technology professional, when a web site has performance problems, I sigh, gnash my teeth, and gripe just like everyone else. However, twenty minutes later I realize I have been there and feel bad for those having to deal with the mess. Also, should I feel hurt that I am not among the nation’s brightest IT minds since I was not asked to help?

GeorgiaVIEW, one of the projects on which I work, has about four thousand active users on average and with topping out around 5-6 thousand week days and eight during an abnormal event. When users are having problems, they tend to come back which gives them a new session yet the old one has not expired, so the system deals with more and more sessions compounding a performance problem. Some of the descriptions people gave about having problems with healthcare.gov sounded like they came back over and over trying to enter.

The most annoying thing about the healthcare.gov problems though are the pundits. Early on, I heard they should have hired Silicon Valley companies to build the site as though IT people only come from there. They specifically named companies famous for their high profile meltdowns to build the health care exchange as experts in building huge sites without problems. Later came the small companies who build web sites for others, but not at this scale.

It is extremely difficult to build a site to the perfect scale. Overbuilding is expensive, so there is pressure to scale back. Business workflows are murky at best because until people use it, they really are unsure what it is they want. (They just know what was built is not right and why.)

Fee or Discount

In this day and age, I find it surprising enormous corporations have not figured the difference in the perception of a fee vs a discount. Adding a fee causes consumer uproar. They feel the faceless no good bully is trying to make money unfairly. Even people who probably will avoid ever paying the fee on grounds feel it takes away an option. In the aftermath of the consumers taking to social media and winning against the big banks, this is not the right time for a corporation.

The way to change consumer behavior is to provide a discount for the option you want them to pick. A $1/month discount ($12/year) for customers who routinely pay through non-automatic payments options for them switching probably is enough to get most to change.  They feel like they gained something by doing so. Fair probably would be to give the same discount to those already using automatic payments, but I could see only offering the discount as encouraging the problem customers.

In the Verizon fee case, they wanted customers to setup automatic payments so they will not miss payments as often. It is good for both sides. Consumers are more likely to avoid late fees or service interruptions. Corporations will get a steadier flow of money from the consumers. A $2 fee to continue making one time payments was exactly the wrong way to encourage the correct behavior.

Buyer’s Remorse

Maybe this is why I do not work in sales. Maybe this is why I should never go into management.

Bragging about a potential customer selecting my product or service over another seems like a really stupid thing to do. The potential customer announcing the selection of something over another is okay to me. The provider smacks of arrogance. You were the least worst option. The fewest number of people hated your software. That is not something to brag about to everyone. It sounds bad to open say the product was the least worst and plenty of users hate it, so it gets couched in terms that make it sound like the customer will work with the providers to improve it. Everyone should understand nothing is going to really improve. This is just empty platitudes so screwed people feel not so bad about it.

Maybe I need to stop following some corporate lackeys on social media so this kind of thing stops annoying me. Oh, wait, we do it too.