30 Apr 2009

Scarier Than The Swine Flu

So tired of this lame panic over the Hamthrax scare swine flu. Rather than rant about it, I decided to create a fear cloud to demonstrate all the things that are actually worthy of worry and alarm:

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24 Apr 2009

Why Editors Are Amazing, Reason #2342

It's Friday and I feel like a laugh. This video is super old (by YouTube standards) but it's one of my favourite ones on the whole site.

It just goes to show how much an editor can influence the perception of content. I've seen this one at least a dozen times and I still lose it every time Solsbury Hill kicks in.

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18 Apr 2009

Another Overheard Gem

[Downtown on a Saturday afternoon]

Girl 1: Umm .... are you going to be sick? You look ....

Girl 2: I KNOW! I HAVE NO IDEA WHY I FEEL SO CRAPPY TODAY!

Girl 1: How much did you drink last night?

Girl 2: Hardly anything!

Girl 1: I saw you get a few drinks at the bar.

Girl 2: As if. It isn't THAT much. Like, maybe FOUR drinks at the bar. And I only had two at Lyndsay's place before that.

Girl 1: But then Ashley ordered us all shots. And so did Troy. Did you count those?

Girl 2: Oh, right. Maybe it was the shots that did me in.

Girl 1: Didn't you guys also do coke last night?

Girl 2: What does that have to do with anything?

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12 Apr 2009

#AmazonFail

Update at bottom!

Oh dear.

Just when we thought the world was becoming a little more progressive, it goes and does something like this.

It appears that just before the weekend, Amazon Ranks were quietly removed from select books. The books affected appear to be erotica, sexual instruction and … a load of titles that deal with gay and lesbian themes.

What does this mean in a nutshell? Essentially, if your book is a bestseller but doesn’t have an Amazon Rank, it won’t show up on the site’s bestseller list. In some cases, this can greatly affect people's ability to find your book in a search, especially if you’re going by keywords and viewing results by “bestselling.” This has a two-fold affect:

1) It falsely suggests that these books aren’t as popular as they are. When someone types in the word "gay" and searches for bestsellers at the site, they'll be mislead. Badly. These are not the top-selling books that deal with the subject.

2) Sales numbers can go down as the books are less visible, natch. Plus, people have a very irritating habit of buying into whatever is already popular (this is one of the reasons why I suspect generic bands like Nickleback still exist).

So, was it a programming glitch? A hack? Surely it couldn’t be corporate policy?

In the wee hours of this Easter Sunday, author and publisher Mark R. Probst - was one of the first to receive an official response from Amazon, which he consequently posted on his blog:

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude "adult" material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

Best regards,

Ashlyn D
Member Services
Amazon.com Advantage


Samples of the “adult” material that is too offensive for the “entire customer base” and have had their Amazon Rank stripped include:

  • Heather Has Two Mommies (a children’s book that talks about diverse families)
  • The Mayor of Castro Street (a biography of civil rights leader, Harvey Milk)
  • Brokeback Mountain (you know, the book that inspired the Oscar-winning film)
  • Unfriendly Fire (explores the gay ban in the US military)
  • The Joy of Gay Sex

  • Meanwhile, somehow, the following books have retained their Amazon Rank:

  • A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality
  • Ted Bundy, Biography of a Campus Serial Killer
  • Playboy: The Complete Centrefolds
  • The Gay Agenda: It's Dividing the Family, the Church, and a Nation
  • The Complete Idiot's Guide to Amazing Sex

  • Hmm. Neat.

    So how do *I* know about this? After Probst and others created their blog posts, they went to Twitter and let me tell you, hell hath no fury like a Tweeter scorned.

    I realize it was only a couple posts ago that I made fun of Twitter and its users – and I still feel much of it is deserving of mocking. But Twitter also has some great uses – its ability to foster breaking and spreading stories, as determined by its users, is pretty phenomenal. It's one of the top reasons it would suck to be a stupid company like Amazon right now.

    This topic has been a big one today. It’s been trending higher than “Easter”, “Tiger Woods” or even the popular and festive “Zombie Jesus.” As more people talk, more of Amazon’s handiwork is being scrutinized (books dealing with disabilities and sexuality have also been de-listed, for example) and more “electronic activists” take on different methods of showing their disgust (Google bombing, boycotting, promoting different bookstores, e-mailing and calling Amazon customer service / board members).

    It doesn’t look good and Amazon is surely hearing that message loud and clear. I’m eager to hear from someone other than "Ashlyn D" for an explanation (and hopefully, a resolution).

    The latest: Amazon is claiming this is a glitch. A distinctly homophobic glitch. Hmm. Credibility is running a little low right now, especially as it took a looong time in terms of crisis communications to issue a semblance of a statement. The lag in response and the lack of clarity and authority in the statement is a major #PRFail.

    So, even if this were a glitch or some magnificent trolling (as others are now suggesting), it's now known that Amazon has a Rank-removal ability - one that can seemingly be applied based on tags or keywords - and that doesn't vibe well with the anti-censorship / free marketers of the world. Somebody's got some 'splainin' to do.

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    5 Apr 2009

    I'm Getting All Personal

    So, as shamelessly noted on this site, I'm a corporate whore freelance writer who primarily does content for company websites, a bit of article writing and some PR. What I haven't mentioned before is that I also get contracts of a fairly different nature: creating online dating profiles.

    Yep. There is a little bit of Alphabetty circulating in the worlds of Lavalife, eHarmony and Match.com right now. And that Alphabetty is apparently luring and reeling in some quality daters. Clients who were getting two "smilies" and "winks" a week are reporting back that they're now getting ten a day. And that attention is from dudes who don't use shirtless profile pictures and from girls who don't replace every "s" with a "z" in their e-mails. Trust me when I say this is amazing. As a former internet dater myself (I actually snagged a huhsband out of the deal), I'm well aware of how ... interesting ... the online dating terrain is.

    Let me assure you, everything in their Alphabettized profile is "them" - it's not like I just write a bunch of random awesome features and create a super desirable but imaginary being ("People keep stopping me and asking if I'm Paul Rudd. But sometimes I get Johnny Depp. Weird! Anyway, I'm a veterinarian / heir to the Jimmy Choo fortune who enjoys defaulting to what you want to do while still somehow maintaining my undeniable masculinity. If you like what you hear, give me a call!"). Sha no no. Instead, I ask a lot of questions of my clients and get a nice detailed picture of what they're like and who they're interested in. No generic "I like movies, music and traveling" sentences from me.

    Due to the very personal nature of these projects, and the fact that my clients would like a bit of discretion (not everyone wants their future partner to know they've been consulting with a Cyrano-type) I don't post the profiles in my portfolio. Edited: But now I do! Two clients have given me permission to showcase their professionally written online dating profiles. But if you are seriously interested in having your online dating profile edited / revamped / totally done from scratch, I can e-mail you a few a samples and talk options. Just let me know!

    Thus endeth the shop talk.

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