Archive for June, 2009

My Personal Ad

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

In the spirit of humour, here is my personal ad.

Wanted: busy CEO, top level exec, or guy with at least one high-level job that keeps him insanely busy… for tweeting, Skype chats, text messaging, and short phone calls while I walk my dog.

I'm crazy busy and you're really busy. Every time you blink, I've started a company, or taken on more consulting. We both travel a lot, and rarely in the same direction, so I may not see you very often. But you can tell the difference between me being busy and me not caring (I do care!). When we get together, it's laugh-o-rama, and we don't get tired of each other's work stories.

You've got plenty of your own money, plenty of hotel frequent stay points, and plenty of fun ideas about how to spend short weekends away. You'll consider a week in Disney World, FL with me… if we ever take a break from working. OK, we'll bring our laptops to Disney. You don't want to take me bungee jumping, skydiving, or to an S&M club. Ever!

You don't struggle with addictions or the truth. You're incapable of lying, and you'll tell me when my ass looks fat in that. You genuinely like my cooking and my kids (dog and cat). You're low pressure because we're both high stress, and I don't need any distractions. You are attractive and confident, you have great self-awareness, and don't need me to validate you. Oh, and you neither have a criminal record nor a "law enforcement" past, ie: we'll never be in a power struggle. You have a good sense of privacy, and know what not to post to your Facebook profile. I'm a CEO, you know. :)

In your spare time, you like to debate mobile phone platforms and manufacturers, recite Monty Python's Flying Circus Sketches, and think about the future of eCommerce user interface design. I'm a musician, you're a musician. Maybe we don't express that sides of ourselves very often, but they're a big part of us. Let's get out there and be musicians.

You're roughly my age (I was born in 1972), you're male, you're straight, you are free of "social" diseases, and you don't have or want human children. You're not religious. You might be single, and you might be currently unhappily married. You're in no rush for any sort of serious commitment.

And that would be my personal ad.

Added: Yes, I'm looking for perfection. I'm sorry, but you need to match all of this. I shouldn't settle for anything less than the right person for me. :)

Added: You stalkers can just back off. The weirdo in upstate NY, any Brits still holding a grudge, and the psycho Aussie with the criminal record. You don't qualify. So sorry.


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Credit Card Fraud in Vegas

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Last time I was in Vegas, someone skimmed my card. Oh, I learned all about it… this is where someone swipes your card (with a device other than the device they needed to use for you to pay), and it records everything on your card. They can then use that (or sell that) and reprogram a credit card to be yours.

This a REALLY sneaky for two reasons.

  1. Your card wasn't stolen, so you don't know it's compromised.
  2. Since they reprogram a card with their name on it, anybody who asks them to produce ID will still pass the test… the name on the card matches the name on the license. But if the cashier looked closer, the 4 digits printed on the receipt wouldn't match the 4 digits on the face of the card.

Two days after I got back from Vegas, while I was buying lunch in
Tucson, AZ, my card was being used in a rural Pennsylvania WalMart to
buy $1200 of stuff. Somehow, my card issuer didn't think it was WEIRD
that one card was being used across the country at the same time, and
let the charge through. I spent the week fighting it.

So how do you protect against this?

I'm going to Vegas this week for the eBay Radio Party, so this is on my mind. I decided to go to Safeway and buy a Visa debit card. It was $5.95 for one with $100 loaded on it, and I can use it just about anywhere. I'll use it to eat in Vegas, and that way, when someone walks away with my card, they have NO reason to skim it. It can't have more than $100 on there.

I suggest the same. Get yourself a gift card, and use that. Sure, I spent $6 on it, but I would pay $6 to NOT go through what I went through last time… fighting the charge, canceling the card, waiting for a replacement, messing up some of my monthly charges that were being auto-billed to that card. It was a MESS.

I've heard other people talk about using something like this… where they have a bank account (with an ATM debit Visa or Mastercard), and they only put enough money in the account to cover what they think they'll purchase. They do nothing else with the card, and don't keep a lot of money in there. That way, if it's every compromised, they haven't lost much, and the hassle is much less.

Personally, I think that by it being a pre-paid gift card, it's probably completely not attractive. Why steal my card for what might have $50 on it?

Travelling, especially to a conference? Spend a few dollars and get yourself a Visa gift card. :)


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All Is Full Of Love

Friday, June 12th, 2009


you'll be given
love
you'll be taken care of
you'll be given love
you have to trust it

maybe not
from the sources
you've poured yours into
maybe not
from the directions
you are staring at


twist your head around
it's all around you


all is full of love
all around you

you just ain't receiving

all is full of love


your phone is off the hook


all is full of love
your doors are all shut

 all is full of love

Thanks, Bjork. :)


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A Flight For $9?

Monday, June 8th, 2009

A friend just called, and was thinking of coming up to see me for the weekend. This weekend. He lives in San Diego, and I'm now in San Jose.

We started looking around for flights, and he found Allegiant Air. They didn't have any flights up to me on Friday, but that had one up to me on Thursday (in 3 days). He can't make that since he doesn't want to take off of work.

But the price of the one-way flight to see me was $9. That's it. I assume they'll put tax on that, and charge for people checking bags. $9.

His return flight? $19. I mean this is just STUPID.

It doesn't fly in and out of San Jose. They fly in and out of Monterey, California, which is about 73 miles south of me. Yeah I'd go pick him up! But holy cats, I am definitely going to check their schedules next time I want to fly!

$9? $28 round trip? Huh?


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Auctiva’s Lawyers Want You To Know…

Monday, June 8th, 2009

I've heard from Auctiva's lawyers. They'd like you to know that everything I've written or said about Auctiva ever is false. Including the stuff I can prove to you. It's all false according to them, so let's smile and nod. :)

I'd like you to know that although I have been working for inkFrog since mid-May, nothing I have said or will say about Auctiva has anything to do with inkFrog. They don't tell me what to say, I'm not saying these things for them, and it's just not about inkFrog. Ask inkFrog – they are not connected to what I choose to say, especially the things I chose to say before they hired me. And I've been saying negative things about Auctiva for years since I just don't like their system.

I have no hidden agenda. My agenda is always to get the truth out there. I'm just straightforward and face value, and I don't blast a company one day and then run a post the next day about how great they are and how they're doing nothing wrong. Anybody who wants to pretend that I'm only saying these things so that people will leave Auctiva and join inkFrog are applying agendas to me that I don't have. If you want to stay with Auctiva, you should! If you want to leave Auctiva, you should! If you want to sign on with Vendio, ChannelAdvisor, Infopia, inkFrog, Turbo Lister, Blackthorne, or anything else, you should. I support you. :) You should pick whichever system is right for you, and I have no attachment to who you pick. That means no agenda and no hidden agenda.

Bizarre things Auctiva does are completely about Auctiva, and if you
read my blog, then you know I'm committed to pointing at all KINDS of
companies doing bizarre things. I am my own person, and I stand behind
what I say. These are my opinions, feelings, and advice… and if those
can get you a letter from a lawyer, then every blogger, every tweeter,
and every person posting to an online forum disliking Auctiva should be
really careful.

Auctiva's lawyer is getting your Auctiva subscription money to tell me
and maybe you to not say anything they will claim is false. Well, OK,
you shouldn't say false things about companies. But you have a right to
your opinion and experiences. I have had nothing but bad experiences
with Auctiva, and Debbie Levitt is allowed to say that. I am allowed to
stand in a crowded room and shout, "I don't like Auctiva!" That's still
legal last I checked.

So my promise to everybody involved is that I will only post things that I can prove without a shadow of a doubt, and without revealing any information that may be considered confidential by eBay or any company with whom I have a relationship. I won't post about something I read in someone's forums since whoever posted that might be talking crap. I promise to label my blog posts and radio shows as the statements and opinions of Debbie Levitt as an individual, professional consultant, and not the opinion, statement, or stance of As Was, inkFrog, or any company that may be affiliated with either of us.

That doesn't mean I'll stop talking about Auctiva or any other company. It only means I'll be more careful about how I express my opinions to you guys. You guys still need to know the truth, and I may be the only one who is willing to tell it to you. While other people are backtracking, perhaps out of fear of lawyers, I'm not going to let threats and bullying stand in my way of giving you my opinions and the facts I can prove. Some people don't let the truth get in the way of a good blog post. I don't let lawyers threats get in the way of the truth.

The right to free speech stops at my ability to tell a lie. I do not want to tell or spread lies. I don't like when people do that to me, and I don't do it to other people or companies. So I'll just stick with my right to free speech, and only share what my opinion is, and the things I can completely and totally prove.

Auctiva, I suggest you do the same. My opinion is that you don't always take the high road. Do unto others. :)

I trust we're complete here. Thanks, everybody.


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Why I Decided Against the Palm Pre

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

The Palm Pre came out this weekend. For weeks, I had the date in my calendar, reminding me to wake up early, and run to a Sprint Store.

Until I did some more digging.

I have the HTC Mogul (aka the 6800), and there is so much I like about it. If I could make it better, I'd have a bigger, sharper screen, and lots more memory. I'm at the point where apps crash because I'm trying to do too much at the same time. So the 64MB of memory that I think is in here just won't do. But it's intuitive, and I love the apps I can get for WinMo (Windows Mobile to the rest of ya).

I went to the Sprint Store and saw the HTC Touch, which is the newer version of my phone. Well, downgrade… they made it SMALLER, and it still had WinMo 6.1. So that seemed like a waste of money. I dug around the internet, and found that they're coming out with the HTC Touch Pro 2, aka the Rhodium, and that Sprint could have it as early as mid-June 2009. Well, I'm typing this on 7 June 2009, so I can wait!

Why not the Palm?

Well, I started remembering my days with Palm's first Treo. Man, that was the worst phone I ever had. So unreliable. It was something new for Palm, they hadn't really gotten it right, and I was a crash test dummy. Or just dummy.

While I hope the Pre is better, I started reading some reviews… both "official" and what people were writing in Twitter. I saw things like, "sluggish," and "doesn't play Flash," and started telling myself that I had it pretty good with Windows Mobile. And if the new WinMo phones have the upgraded OS and way more memory for multitasking, then isn't that really all I need?

And do I really want to re-buy all of my apps? I'm very happy with my apps. I live on TomTom, Photo Contacts Pro, PockeTwit, ProfiMail, Google Maps (with Latitude, in case anybody should care where I am), Skype, Slick, and a few more. Oh and let's not forget the great apps from the SPB people… SPB Pocket Plus, Diary, Weather, and Insight, though I haven't had time to run Insight in a while.

People don't know that WinMo phones can do a lot. We have the Opera browser too, ya know. My ProfiMail app checks 5 POP3 boxes and a gmail account once per minute, and alerts me to new emails. Text messages are in threaded conversations. My camera takes great pics. I can voice dial, and with Nuance's apps, I can even dictate text messages and short emails… great for trying to send a msg while driving for those of us who do NOT want to be typing while driving.   

I can do everything I love to do with WinMo. I just want to do it faster with a nicer screen, and it looks like the HTC Touch Pro 2 will be the best match for me.The Palm might be nice, but I don't want to be the crash test dummy anymore.


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Left Auctiva? Using Their Templates? Beware!

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

You've been an Auctiva user, and you've put items on eBay with their "free" templates. You might have lots of items up, including Store items that you have had on "Good Til Cancelled" forever.

The big question has been when Auctiva switches to a model where you must pay for those "free" templates, what will happen to people who have left Auctiva, but still have items live on eBay that use those templates? A lot of people are asking me this, and some were banned from the Auctiva forums, so let me see if I can clear this up.

I have two pieces of information:

1) It looks like Auctiva is going to build something similar to Frooition, where your template is dynamically added to the listing thanks to some sort of scripting. This would allow Auctiva to remotely control your template, and if you stop paying, shut it off. Someone showed me something Auctiva wrote (I think in forums) saying that once they "make a future change to templates," anybody who isn't paying would have their templates changed to tiny invisible graphics so that the info would still be in the listing but not the template.

2) Someone else showed me an Auctiva forum posting that said that if Auctiva finds listings that are still up with "free" templates but the user is not paying for Auctiva templates, Auctiva might choose to contact eBay, use the VeRO programme, and file a claim of copyright infringement.

That's right, you would be reported to eBay as someone who breaches the intellectual property of others, which can not only get your items taken down, but can get you suspended. That goes on your permanent record. And Auctiva is willing to do that to you for the what, $5? So who cares if they promised you free templates… you can pay them $5 or you can be reported as a thief! [note: Auctiva is claiming they won't do this, but I saw people writing about this on their forums, so I leave it open a possibility that they may be considering… hey, who KNOWS what Auctiva is thinking at any given moment!]

Obviously, it's really important that people who don't intend to pay Auctiva get Auctiva templates out of their listings. This does NOT apply to people who have used Auctiva but with templates they bought from us or other designers. You can still use your template because you own it. This is about people using Auctiva templates but not paying Auctiva their new monthly fee for template usage.

So what can you do? Two things:

1) You can go into every listing in your new software, and change your "item description" so that it ONLY has the description of the item… no template, no border, no polices… nothing but the item description. Then, you can drop that into a free template from your new listing software, or build in a custom template.

2) Through my work with inkFrog, we're working on developing something that will strip templates out of items we are importing from other companies. So for example, if you move from Auctiva to inkFrog, and you import even THOUSANDS of listings that have Auctiva templates in them, we're working on a way to pull those Auctiva templates out, and reduce your "item description" to JUST the item's description. Then, you can use a free inkFrog template or get a custom one.

That's the story as I know it, and as of now. But the soap opera seems to change daily! All I know is that no matter what, if you are leaving Auctiva, it's important to remove every trace of their stuff in your stuff so that you don't get charged, and so that you're not reported as a copyright infringer.


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Pin the Tail on the eBay Listing Price

Monday, June 1st, 2009

I'm just sitting here in disbelief…

First Auctiva goes from free to paid, and the prices seem a bit high. That's news.

Days later, they email their users trying to get them to not leave, asking them to prepay a year for $180. That's news.

Vendio announces that users leaving Auctiva can have Vendio free this year and cheap next year. OK, that's news, but what about all the rest of the Vendio users? I imagine there will be backlash from thousands of people who'd like to get Vendio for free this year and cheap next year. How will they handle that? Now those people might leave!

It also sets up the new users for another pricing change… and they would have just left Auctiva because of a pricing change. Their Vendio price will go up in 2010 and 2011. So this is weird.

inkFrog announces that they've been $9.95/month, and they promise to stay $9.95/month for at least another three years. Given that so many sellers are asking to NOT have prices switched on them, this is news. This should be tweeted and blogged and out there. People need to know this, but one person thinks this isn't news… so Vendio's announcement goes out, Auctiva's announcement goes out, and inkFrog's doesn't go out from this "source."

eBay sellers think this is news. They're thrilled that someone isn't going to play pricing games with them. It's so rare that a company in this industry is not messing with their customers that that IS news. Think about how many services have been sold (Andale, Marketworks) or just decided to terminate (Mpire, ChannelAdvisor Pro). How many have raised prices and not grandfathered people in.

Consistency should be news, and a company being fair to ALL of its customers, not just the new ones, should be news. Our industry should have more consistency and honesty!

Help spread the word. Tell people about inkFrog's price lock by tweeting and blogging about this announcement, found at http://community.inkfrog.com/showthread.php?p=199584

Thanks.


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The Truth Behind Auctiva and Price Changes

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Auctiva, you did quite a job with marketing spin last week. The exact quote from Auctiva's CEO was, "eBay recently made changes to its affiliate program that greatly restricted, and ultimately eliminated, this critical revenue stream."

I care about the truth, and I'm not sure that's totally the truth. It does make people sympathetic to Auctiva, and look at eBay as the bad guy. But let's take a closer look.

The eBay Partner Network (ePN) is eBay's system for giving people and companies commissions from registrations and sales. The idea here is that if you can bring people who weren't on eBay TO eBay (say from your blog, website, etc…), you should get a commission for that.

Over the years, ePN has made a lot of changes. But one thing that was pretty consistent was that in order to make this commission money, you're supposed to bring traffic from outside of eBay. eBay doesn't want to pay a commission to someone who drops links INSIDE their eBay listings or Stores since that doesn't jive with the intentions.

Think of eBay's old "store referral credit." If you brought someone in from outside of eBay through that link, you might get a fee credit. If you dropped that into eBay listings, you can expect nothing. Same kind of thing.

Evidently, Auctiva had coded a number of things they were putting into listings (images, galleries, etc…) to have ePN codes. And when your shoppers clicked on those inside your listing, and then bought from you, Auctiva got paid commissions by eBay.

Evidently in 2009, eBay has decided to crack down on this harder. It looks like they are throwing people out of the programme if they are mis-using these links, by accident or on purpose. This particular case is no accident. :) Nor is it a secret. I've seen piles of people I don't know on message boards and discussion forums all talking about Auctiva's "use" of the ePN. There was a real outcry for eBay to either cut them off or let everybody make this kind of money.

I would rather have seen eBay allow this, honestly. I think that if you put something special into a listing that makes the sale, why not get a commission from it? There are plenty of things people put into listings that KILL their sales. If you can actually MAKE sales happen, do it and do more of it! eBay wants more sales. Sellers want more sales. Let people who can make more sales happen MAKE THEM HAPPEN and get rewarded for it. Where's the problem there!

When Auctiva makes it sound like eBay made a change that forced them to do this, I am not crying in my cereal. eBay's only change was to crack down on people who had been abusing the ePN, and Auctiva weren't the only ones. I would also have to say that a business that only survives as long as it makes money that it gets from breaking a rule is not really a strong model! That would be like a business deciding it's only profitable if it keeps sales tax money it collects rather than giving that money to the state! It's cheating.

So cry not for Auctiva. I think they made their own beds on this one. They could have been charging people $5 all along, come in cheaper than other companies, and had revenue to rely on. They never HAD to be free. They should have thought more long-term, especially if their major revenue stream was the kind of thing that could go POOF at any time!

Between eBay cracking down on non-compliant eBay Stores this year and now cracking down on misuse of the commission system, I think the best advice I can give is the same advice I've always given: be compliant. Follow the rules. You won't like it when eBay cracks down on the rules, and you haven't been following them!


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