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July 11, 2011

How Giving a Bad Review Can Bring You Legal Trouble

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Recently the world learned about the case of, Liu, a Taiwanese blogger who was arrested and given a 30-day suspended sentence for giving a restaurant a bad review.

Liu’s case has drawn so much attention because of how outrageous it seems. To be arrested and convicted criminally for giving a restaurant a bad review seems insane, especially in the U.S. and other nations that put a high value on free speech.

But while Liu’s case may be an extreme one, bad reviews are actually fraught with legal peril. To be clear, many of the legal problems that are associated with negative reviews also hold true for positive ones but companies and individuals tend to be far more angry and far more litigious about people saying bad things rather than good ones.

So, if you’re looking to write a negative review, here are a few things to watch out for as they could be levers that your target might use against you and your site in an attempt to silence you, justly or unjustly. read more

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July 15, 2009

Company Ordered to Pay Fines For Fabricated Reviews

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The NY Times reports on the state of New York ordering a cosmetic surgery company to pay fines for faking online reviews. Reports say that employees have been logging on to online review sites and posing as satisfied clients.

The company had ordered employees to pretend they were satisfied customers and write glowing reviews of its face-lift procedure on Web sites, according to the attorney general’s statement. Lifestyle Lift also created its own sites of face-lift reviews to appear as an independent sources.

Lifestyle Lift was ordered to pay $300,000 to the state for what is said to be an “attempt to generate business by duping consumers was cynical, manipulative and illegal.” read more

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July 14, 2009

9 Things That Makes You a Reliable Reviewer

Do you review products on your blog? Then you should consider the ramifications, especially with all the sponsored posts and reviews out there, as well as the popular notion that bloggers reviewing stuff are more or less fooled by the marketers.

As someone who used to work as a games journalist, with thousands of written reviews over the years, I’d like to share my top nine advice on how to become a reliable reviewer. read more

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July 13, 2009

Reviews: The Marketer’s Dream Says NYT

The New York Times runs a story about bloggers reviewing products, and the fact that this is a marketer’s dream. The article’s author, Pradnya Joshi, talks to both popular bloggers, Izea’s Ted Murphy, and the Federal Trade Commission who is looking into this form of paid reviews.

In the words of Joshi:

Marketing companies are keen to get their products into the hands of so-called influencers who have loyal online followings because the opinions of such consumers help products stand out amid the clutter, particularly in social media.

Bloggers are a soft target for PR agencies and manufacturers looking for non-ad mentions online. Some buy sponsored posts, while others rely only on their product and sends out samples. Either way, the idea is that bloggers aren’t as tuned to reviewing as professional journalists, hence you’re more likely to get a positive one. read more

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November 10, 2008

The Sinister Sibling of Paid Reviews

In May of 2005, the Blog Herald reported on the case of Travel Golf Media, a blog and review site that covers golf courses across the country. The company behind the site site, two of its bloggers and its owner, Robert Lewis, were being sued by a Las Vegas golf course owner Billy Watson for defamation after the site had posted a series of negative reviews.

Though disputes over negative reviews are common, what makes this one unique is allegations that the negative reviews were a form of retribution for an advertising arrangement that ended. In a ruling handed down last month, judge Jennifer Togliatti agreed and awarded the golf course and its owner, Billy Walters, a $9 million award for defamation.

Even as Pay-Per-Post and similar paid-review sites take a drumming in the blogging world, it is easy to forget that the concept of paid reviews are nothing new as is its sibling, review extortion, where the writer threatens to pen negative reviews of a service unless they are paid a certain amount of money.

However, where pay-per-review services are primarily an ethical issue for most bloggers, review extortion also raises serious legal problems, as the Lewis case points out, and is something that bloggers need to be aware of and avoid. read more

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June 25, 2008

Paul Stamatiou takes a look at Firefox plugin Feedly

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Georgia Tech tech-blogger Paul Stamatiou reviews Feedly – a new plugin for firefox at his blog paulstamatiou.com:

Feedly is described as “a more social and magazine-like start page.”

Feedly taps into RSS aggregators like Bloglines and Google Reader and socially-oriented sites like Friendfeed and Twitter. The end result is a tight grasp on information overload. Loads of information from feeds you subscribe to and other services you interact with are all funneled into one nicely designed start page.

Feedly is a pretty interesting when used as a startpage rather than Google or another aggregation service. As Paul states, it offers a tight integration of various services into a useful startpage/homepage environment that can be somewhat tailored to your needs.

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June 24, 2008

The Secret to Writing a Successful and Outstanding Blog Ebook

Liz Strauss released her new ebook, , this weekend to rave reviews.

Based upon the lessons she learned on her own blogs, and , as a long time writer for the Blog Herald, and the work she continues in the popular annual , Liz reveals the keys she used to turn her blog into one of the most successful and social blogs on the web.

Divided into two sections, the 68-page ebook asks two important questionss: “Can You Hear the Internet?” and “Can the Internet Hear You?” If you aren’t listening to your customers and readers, you are missing the blogging boat. Accordingly, if you aren’t writing to be heard, who is listening to you?
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April 25, 2008

C’N’C Costume National Launches Blog

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As a new media practitioner, I’m always glad to see companies embracing the use of blogs and other new media not only to market their products and services, but more importantly to reach out to their audience and be part of the community. In this case, fashion and blogging are a good mix, as we can see with the recent launch of the C’N’C Costume National Blog, to complement its existing website. As a new media publication, the C’N’C blog serves more as a photoblog instead of a text-based blog, as the content is mostly photographs of fashion shows, events and C’N’C offerings.

Being a fashion-oriented blog, the C’N’C Costume National Blog does not only have photos of its own events and products, though. It also features what I think is more important in the industry C’N’C is in: the fashion scene around the world, particularly in C’N’C hometown of Italy.

The C’N’C blog also allows users to join the Costume National Community by signing up and signing in with their own accounts. Users can then leave comments to existing posts and photos, with their own gravatars displayed on the comment thread (and also on the front page).

Now that I’ve mentioend Italy being the hometown of C’N’C, perhaps it’s also good to mention that the site is available in English and Italian.

I’m not too fond of fashion shows, but whenever I chance upon runway shows I try to check out the latest trends. After all, being a (wannabe) photographer, fashion photography is one area I still haven’t explored and studied much. The C’N’C blog does feature the latest fashion shows and events, model castings, and other projects.

One comment I have with the blog though is its use of a horizontal-oriented layout, rather than the usual vertical approach of blogs. It’s a bit strange to navigate. But again, with the site consisting mostly of photos, this is an effective use of this kind of layout. Also, I’m not too comfortable with heavy use of dynamic HTML to display pages. It is indeed more interactive, and the animations are appealing. But in terms of accessibility, particularly to those with low bandwidth, and those with difficulty browsing such media-rich pages, the site may be difficult to browse.

Still, with the target audience of the blog being being the young, upscale crowd, a multimedia-rich approach is perhaps appropriate. If you are in any way interested in fashion, do pay the C’N’C blog a visit.

Disclaimer: This review was written upon request by C’N’C Costume National.

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March 18, 2008

MoFuse, And Why Every (Non Geek) Blogger Should Use It

If there is one thing most bloggers do not mind getting its traffic. Whether they post for attention or money (and sometimes both), bloggers are usually willing to pay any price (whether time or cash) to ensure their sites are optimized for their audience.

Even though most serious bloggers will make sure that their site is displayed properly in both Firefox (version 2 and the beta 3) and Internet Explorer (version 6, the dreaded 7 and beta 8), many however do not even consider making sure their blog can be displayed on a simple mobile phone.

Having a mobile version of your blog is important, especially if your site is receiving traffic from the eastern world (as the phones there are usually more advanced, as well as more affordable than a PC is in the west).

While most affluent bloggers and/or geeks have the spare change and time to optimize their weblogs, many bloggers do not.

Fortunately for the rest of the population (this author included), you do not have to worry about making your site mobile friendly, as a new startup called MoFuse will do the heavy lifting for you for free.
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March 15, 2008

Review: Professional grade xhtml coding service on demand with PSD2HTML

So here’s the scenario: you’ve finished hacking away at a week’s worth of design work. You probably estimated that you have around 2-3 websites that are ready for coding. Unfortunately their deadlines are at the very least one day apart from each other – and you still have projects in the pipeline, clients to meet or new projects to review. You need to get those designs coded, but you know you won’t get them done in time.

Stuff like this happens. In fact, this is a familiar scenario I’ve encountered myself more than once. It’s hard managing projects especially when you’re the same guy who does them and no amount of organization can really bulletproof you from design and project management being the inexact science that it is (but this is an entirely different story altogether).

During those tight weeks when I need stuff to be coded and I can’t possibly do them all by myself, I usually ask help from my colleagues – fellow webdesigners or programmers who’s quality of work I trust. Unfortunately people can be less than dependable at times and there are instances where I just can’t find anyone to help me – which brings me to today’s review: PSD2HTML.

PSD2HTML is a paid online service that offers professional grade xhtml coding/templating services straight from your design mockup. Basically the idea is that you send them a copy of your design mock in the usual common design file formats (psd, ai, png etc) or even existing html markup (that isn’t standards compliant xhtml) and after 8 hours they’ll send back to you your design coded in semantic, cross-browser, standards compliant xhtml.

They have several packages depending on the type of coding job you’re looking for are priced as follows:

* Basic Package – $117
- W3C Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional
- Table-less CSS markup.
- Compatible with IE, Firefox.

* Professional Package – $153
- W3C Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Table-less CSS markup.
- Compatible with IE, Firefox, Opera and Safari
- W3C Valid Shorthand & Optimized CSS.

* Hi-End Package – $211
- Brings the markup to the highest level.
- W3C Valid XHTML 1.0 Strict Table-less CSS markup under SEO Semantic Coding
- Complete Presentational Separation techniques.
- Special attention to Load Speed optimization.

The Process:
For the purpose of this review I submitted a design mock (of my site) which I’ve already coded myself – just to have something to compare their code to and give some baseline for gauging the quality. After completing the order form for their basic package and uploading my mock (in psd format) I was sent an automated email informing me of my login information to their queueing system.

Support:
Their response to my ticket was very speedy and thorough. They sent me questions regarding on certain CSS related issues and other clarifications on how I would like my design to be implemented – which was also surprisingly cool because these were the same concerns that I had when coding the same design. That says a lot about their attention to detail. More importantly, it also indicates that they tailor-fit their coding approach to each design that gets submitted rather than use indifferent cookie cutter approaches. After a few quick exchanges of clarifications, they informed me that my markup will be available within 8 hours. For this particular test, they sent my markup 3 hours after the last email, which was undeniably fast.

Quality:
The emailed markup consisted of 2 folders (one for images and one for stylesheets), one html page and 2 CSS files (one for IE and one other browsers). Inspecting the markup shows that they’ve done it a very good job in keeping it clean and very semantic. Navigation are link-lists, paragraphs are where they’re needed, proper heading structure and very minimal but apt use of containers such as divs and spans. The overall document structure is very cleanly defined. Apart from a few (personal) differences in choice of html elements for certain parts of the page (I use definition lists in some of my parts) their markup remains very closely similar to how I coded my version. The CSS files are very well organized, and while not optimized for file-size (CSS shorthand comes with the “Professional Package”) it’s still clean and minimal. Having IE hacks on a separate css is also a plus. Considering that this is a service done in mass scale, – the quality of code is really topnotch.

The images are also optimized and they use a variety of image optimization techniques – choosing the right image type depending on the complexity of the graphics involved. I’m personally impressed on the technique they employed slicing up my design – although drastically different from my original approach (I used a lot of alpha transparent 32-bit png files), they faithfully reproduces the layout and look without unnecessary bulk.

Cross-Browser Compatibility:

Here we have screenshots from IE6, IE7 and Firefox.

Internet Explorer 7:
The Site Guy - Windows Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer 6:
The Site Guy - IE 6 (Microsoft Internet Explorer)

Firefox 2.0.0.12:
The Site Guy - Firefox

As you can see PSD2HTML did a good job in making sure the layout was consistent across both Firefox and both versions of Internet Explorer which is very impressive and delivers exactly what was promised in their basic package. Now, let’s see if this consistency extends to other browsers not covered by the basic package.

Here we have screenshots of the same page viewed in Safari and Opera:

Safari:
The Site Guy - Safari

Opera:
The Site Guy - Opera

Amazingly, the layout remains intact even in Safari and Opera. However, do note that they do not guarantee cross browser compatibility for the basic package other than IE and Firefox. It may just be that for this design there are very little or no issues in their implementation even on other browsers. But I will say this – more often than not, good xhtml and css practice ensure cross browser compatibility even without browser specific hacks, which says a lot about the quality of the markup that they delivered.

Everything considered, PSD2HTML is a topnotch service for those of us designers who need help in coding our designs but also demand the same high standards we employ in our own work. For the price – the quality and care they put in their code is remarkable. Even with the basic package which we’ve tried, you really get your money’s worth. I’d surely have no second-thoughts on using their services.

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