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How to sabotage your competion on Facebook

by Doug on November 30, 2012

or the price of spam and censorship in an automated world.

Tonight I went to post a link to a story that the local news interviewed me for on Facebook. I posted something goofy along the lines of “hey! I know this guy” and the link to the story. Facebook decided that link was spam and refused to let me post it. I’ll assume that it’s a combination of me using a computer that I use a lot less frequently and some text analysis (we’ve all seen the spam posts with similar wording) but I’d like to point out a fairly major flaw with this system.

Imagine now that I have an online business selling widgets and you have an online business also selling widgets. Your business is doing really well and I’ve become quite envious of your success. It turns out that you’re running what appears to be a very successful 24 hour viral campaign and from the looks of it, your business is booming. Now imagine if I created a few fake accounts and started posting links to your site with spammy text attached to them. All of the sudden (as happened with my post which originally appeared and then disappeared while my wife was trying to share it) your promotional posts start to vanish from your timeline. And when you try to re-post them, all you get is an appeal dialog box that goes who knows where and takes who knows how long before someone unblocks your links?

Facebook has given your virtual enemies a very powerful tool to wage war against you with this type of automation. Almost as bad as a “Google Bomb.” If Facebook isn’t careful, they’ll end up being a conduit for DOS attacks like this all the time.

Honestly, this is a form of censorship and if we’re not careful there will be unseen wars waged. Imagine political opponents being able to hide stories this way. Is this just the price of spam that we have to pay? Is it a price worth paying?

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Making the Connection

by Doug on January 23, 2012

Rosetta stone, credit tkw954

When I was fifteen I had the opportunity to go on a missions trip to Hermosillo, Mexico. As we spent the week helping a small church build a new building, we got to experience a great number of really neat things. Having only taken a small amount of high school Spanish, I found it really different to hear it all around and only be able to catch certain words or phrases. One night in particular we were out visiting the city and sharing brochures with information about the church with anyone who would listen to us. One street vendor became very agitated and began to rant and rave in Spanish. Of course, my extremely limited Spanish was no match for the torrent of words flowing from this man, but suddenly in the middle of his tirade, he burst out with “I don’t speak any English.” My world was completely rocked by this revelation. For days I had been saying, “No hablo español,” and then suddenly I was hearing back exactly what it sounded like to people who only spoke Spanish when I parroted my phrase to them.

I believe that many times when we’re designing, sharing, or selling ourselves and our businesses, we often forget that our customers speak a different language than we do. When they visit your website, do they see a torrent of information that doesn’t make sense juxtaposed against tiny bits of information that they probably already knew. Are you using usability testing and other metrics to measure these kinds of things and to minimize the language barrier between you and your clients? Are you certain that the folks that you think are your clients are actually your target market? Are you learning your customer’s language on an on going basis? If you’re not, you should probably save yourself some money and just get rid of your site. Not everyone should have a website.

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Slides from WordCamp Raleigh

May 21, 2011

Today I had the opportunity to do a presentation at WordCamp Raleigh 2011. Here’s the slides for those interested.

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