Thursday, 31 January 2008

Everyone's bored of social networking

"'Facebook fatigue' kicks in as people tire of social networks" according to the Register. Now i won't say i'm surprised, i was bored of Facebook 5 months ago.

I don't think this is the beginning of the end for social networking - although many still believe the entire internet to be a gimmick for the kids - but it does highlight the need of social networking sites to 'evolve' if they are to cease to be just a novelty that gets unceremoniously thrown away with that unused Scrabble set you got for Christmas, forever set for a life in car boot sales and charity shops.

As i mentioned 5 months ago, i've started to find other ways of providing the interactions (or novelty) that Facebook provides. If Facebook want to cling onto their investment potential they need to show that they're evolving at the same pace as their users. Bar the Facebook apps, and adverts that look as awful as i'm sure their reponse rates must be, i see nothing new on Facebook.

Facebook's reluctance to go public is starting to seem very short-sighted in light of this. Yes i realise this is just one article and one report but there's nothing more obvious than the buzz you see (or don't see) yourself - i knew when 5 of my friends bought the Michael Andrews Mad World cover in late 2003 that it was likely to be a suprise Christmas number 1 - now i see my friends using Facebook less and less regularly and so my prediction is for a gradual down turn in Facebook's fortunes if they don't innovate (predicting Christmas number 1s is clearly a different (and more difficult) skill to predicting the future of the internet but you have to start somewhere).

So is it all doom and gloom or is there still hope in the world of social networking?

If the crappest, oldest social networking sites still roll on (i'm thinking friendsreunited) then i'm afraid they'll be no mass facebook / bebo / myspace suicide. Although i'm very interested to see the next big company to break the monopoly of these three (in the UK).

I mentioned Ning last time i wrote about the successor to Facebook. I've still got my money on them but i'm knocking the odds from 5-1 to 10-1 as more potentials enter the race.

Pluck, Ning, opensocial / Google, Search Wikia (hmm) are simmering. And maybe not strictly social networking but Wordpress have to get in there somewhere. The amount of sites popping up everywhere using Wordpress fills me with optimism for Web 2.0s future - it may be a bit too techy for the man on the street but will certainly play a part in the future of social networking.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Ebay scammer returns £110 in cash

I was scammed by an opportunist on eBay. I then employed some guerrilla tactics such as Google stalking and contacting his Mum to finally get the money back. Here is my story.

I bought some concert tickets on eBay back in October 2007. The concert wasn't until March 2008 so i wasn't expecting to receive the tickets until Jan/Feb 2008. The seller had a feedback rating of 548 with 97% positive.

I went back to eBay every month or so just to check on the seller. However when i did this at the beginning of January I discovered that the seller was no longer an eBay seller.

I emailed the seller to no response. I assumed that I wasn't going to be receiving tickets so i chased up eBay to see if i could claim a refund. Due to the fact that it had been over 60 days from the initial purchase i was informed by eBay that I'd left it too late to claim through them. They also informed me that the seller was no longer a registered eBay user.

I have personally checked our database and I can confirm that "theglens2857" is no longer a registered eBay user. This is because eBay suspended them for breached of policy... For privacy reasons I'm afraid I can't share details about another member's account.

eBay for reasons best known to themselves refuse to add a dispatch date to each product (or even just ticket sales) or restrict tickets to being sold within their 60 days which surely would prevent this problem. I did suggest this in my dispute email but got the standard 'Yeah right' response.

My only choices left were get the money back myself or contact the police. I figured I'd try the former option before resorting to the latter.

I had the seller's real name and address from the confirmation email eBay sent me on initial purchase and after a brief bit of Google searching i found his phone number, discovered that he lived with his parents and was probably a teenager.

I phoned up and got through to his mum and politely left a message asking him to call me.

I then sent him an email,

Hi Craig,

I bought some Cure tickets from you on eBay in October (ref no:12345) paying you £110 and am still awaiting the delivery of them.

Ebay informs me (see below) that you are no longer registered with them so the only
option I have is to deal with this myself. I rang your home number earlier today
and left a message with my phone number with your mum i believe.

Please can you let me know whether you are still sending the tickets (these have now been released so you should have them) or if not then refund me my £110. (pay the
money in paypal to my email address)

I'll give you another ring in a couple of days if i don't hear back.


On the bottom of this email I also forwarded my response from eBay and added in the following paragraph,

Your only option is to take this matter further with the police, eBay will gladly
help the police with their investigations if needed. Please ask the investigating
officer to email us by using the "report information to eBay" link on the
following page:

If he read the forwarded email i thought this might be a subtle hint to ensure he responded.

I then received this in response,

sorry i never got back to you sooner but as you know i am no longer a
registered member of ebay so i cant reply to your messages, please forward on
your address and i will get a cheque sent out to you at the end of the week

As my friend gZa cynically quoted to me, "And the cheque is in the mail, and I love you, and..." - see the full quote on imdb (from the film 'To Live and Die in L.A.') .

Unsurprisingly no cheque arrived in the post (yes, I love you) so i then sent the following email, at the same time i also emailed other purchasers in order to gather information for a potential police investigation.


I haven't received any cheque in the post. Did you send anything last week?
It should have arrived by now. I'm now contacting ebay to get all the relevant
details for the investigating officer. From experience this takes a couple of
days so if you've already sent a cheque or send one now then it will arrive by
the end of this week and I'll cancel the investigation. Either way let me know.


An hour later the following arrived in my inbox (from a different email address) ,

refund sent today special delivery should be with you before noon tomorrow
tracking number ZV588452251GB

I checked the tracking number and it was genuine, the following day an envelope arrived to my house containing £110 in cash.

Although initially annoyed at being scammed like the fool i am I'm now finding it all rather amusing (probably because I'm no longer short by £110).

Here is what this experience has taught me:

  • If you're buying concert tickets make sure they are being delivered to you within 60 days, if you don't receive them make sure you start a 'dispute' on eBay BEFORE the 60 days are up irrelevant of what the seller may tell you (they're in the post / i love you etc.)
  • If in the end you do have to resort to the police here's a good guide on how to report fraud on eBay.
  • Then write a blog article about your experience, it's particularly cathartic. This guy also had the same concert ticket issue, he actually contacted the police though.

If this doesn't work and you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can try scamming the scammer...

Thursday, 10 January 2008

How to measure the effectiveness of your SEO

There's lots of articles out there about good SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) practice. Well once you've done everything how do you know if it's worked? What if you're getting lots of hits but they're all irrelevant people?

What are you NOT measuring?

  • You are NOT JUST measuring how high your home page appears on the Google search listings when the title of your web page is input.
  • You are often not just looking at the effectiveness of one page but that of a section of a site or the whole site as a whole.

What ARE you measuring?

  • You are measuring your site's effectiveness in search engines for DIFFERENT KEYWORDS.
  • You are measuring how many people visit your site from search engines.
  • You are measuring how relevant these people are to your site? Do they just arrive and leave (bounce rate)?
  • You are ensuring that your site is effective in search engines for all the relevant keywords.

Pagerank - Don't be obsessed with pagerank.

  • It tells you the rank of a specific page rather than the whole website
  • It won't tell you how effective a page is for appearing in search listings when a specific search query is typed. Adobe may have a page rank of 10/10 compared to your own site's 3/10 but if you're never going to appear in the same search as Adobe it doesn't matter.
  • Pagerank's effect on Google search listings is bizarre to say the least.

So how do i measure my SEO effectiveness?

  1. Look at a the quantity of backlinks to your site.
    • Type into Google to find out. Update: This is actually inaccurate, read how to get backlinks here.
    • The more relevant backlinks you have the higher Google will rank you. NB: This is only page relevant though.
  2. Unique visitor traffic from search engines.
    • You can make the assumption that the higher this is the better you are doing in the search rankings.
    • The useful thing about web stats are that they can give you figures about your whole site rather than just a page.
  3. Keywords typed into a search engine to reach your site.
    • You can see from this how effective you are for the different keywords.
    • You can also identify which keywords are missing and therefore assume you perform badly in search listings for these.

By using the 3 points above you'll be able to see changes on your site over time, measure what you're doing and help your website achieve it's true destiny (remember that all websites must achieve their true destiny to avoid visiting silicon hell).

Other links
Measuring SEO is not one simple statistic, this article provides 5 key metrics - rankings, traffic, revenue, ROI (Return On Investment) and exposure.
More on measuring SEO and ROI.
The importance of monitoring page views and not just hits.

Update: My colleague just informed me that PageRank is named such as it was developed by Larry Page. Interesting.