Top 10 ways to tell if someone on odesk is a scammer

Recently I received an invitation to a job application on Odesk. (shown below)

 

Lin DahSmith

 

Sometimes its hard to tell if you are dealing with a spammer or scammer. Heres a great definition to explain scam

A fraudulent business scheme; a swindle. By “fraudulent”, we include misleading, misdirected or exaggerated claims in advertising.

http://www.consumerfraudreporting.org/definitions.php 

1. A vague job description

Below the job description was her email address. Next to the email address it said if you would like more details please just email me.

2. They ask you to work outside of Odesk.

When I sent her an email asking for more details I received a very convincing reply:

Hello Corbin,

How are you doing today, Hope fine? there are no problems with location… your job will be based on your location.

Detailed Job Description:

My Name is Linda Smith… I am 65 years old, married with 4 children. I am a relatively successful entrepreneur and huge investor in the real estate market, which tends to be my main source of income. I am looking for a trustworthy and reliable individual who works well and understand orders.

I have been a financial planner for over 25 years now and am also a private research journalist. I travel often within and outside of STATE working on various independent projects. This is why I need someone who can help keep me up to date with all of my activities, especially while I am away and amidst my busy schedule. My previous personal assistant is currently unavailable for health reasons and I am keen on finding an efficient, motivated, organized individual who can communicate well and is able to multi-task under pressure.

This position is home-based and flexible. Working for me is a test of following instructions. As my Personal Assistant, your activities among others will include:

· Creating orders, pick slips, invoices, and credit memos

· Running personal errands

· Scheduling programs, flights, and meetings and keeping me up to date with them

· Acting as an alternative phone correspondent while I am away

· Making regular contacts and drop-offs on my behalf

· Handling and monitoring some of my financial activities

· Basic wage is $400 weekly

I am sure you understand how busy my schedule is on a daily basis. Currently, I am in Europe meeting with partners. I will be back in three weeks to arrange a formal interview with you. I think you are the right person for this position. Please note that this position is not office-based for now because of my frequent travels and tight schedules. It is a part-time job, and some weeks you will be busier than others, though pay stays constant. Like I said, I think you are the right person for this job, and think we should get a head start this week. I have a lot of work piled up that I will need help catching up on immediately. I would like to use this coming week to test your efficiency and diligence, and to work your schedule around mine. I am hard of hearing and usually stay in touch through email, I am glad you responded to my ad in such a timely manner and look forward to working with you and promise to be a good boss.

A payment inform of a Certified Check will be sent over to you from one of my clients and i have some lists to email you once you received the funds, You will make some arrangements by buying some stuff for the kids in the Orphanage at any nearest store around you then mail them out. I will get you more information on that, I will like you to get back to me with your Contact Details such as

First Name:

Middle Name:

Last Name:

Street Address:

City, State and Post Code:

Home & Cell Phone(s):

Occupation (if any):

Once you respond and I receive your contact information, I will let you know necessary information on what to do. I look forward to working with you.

Kind Regards,

Linda Smith

3. Does this job really fit me?

When I started reading what the job requirements were I realized that none of this really fit me at all. She also made it sound like she really looked at my profile and thought it fit the job, but it really didn’t.

4. Why is it asking for my contact information?

If we haven’t started working why is she already asking for my contact info? This is a clear sign of spam.

5. They want to get started right away.

Why the rush? Some jobs yes its understandable to get started right away but when all of these other factors pile in it begins to get a little suspicious

6.  A very Generic name.

How many Linda Smiths are there? Ya a lot.

7. Are they persistent?

I emailed her back telling her I wasn’t right for the job and that I wouldn’t have enough time on my schedule anyway then she replied,

Hi Corbin,
Its good to hear from you, I can understand your schedules, This position am offering is very easy, you dont need any skill or experience to complete the task given, you are only working 2-3 hours per week and getting paid $400 for purchasing specified items for kids and shipping to the orphanage home which i will instruct later.
Fill the details requested to Apply.
Kind Regards
Again she wants my personal info.

8. Asking for charity.

Appealing to ones better side by asking them to do a good cause for an orphanage is a sure way  to get suckers to hand over there information and lend a helping hand.

9. A little to good to be true.

Notice that when I said I wouldn’t have enough time to do the job she imediatly replies and is some how flexible enough to pay me $400 a week for only 2 hours of work. Seems a little sketchy right? This is when I began to do a little research.

10.Take a direct paragraph or sentence and see if it shows up on Google.

I copied the first paragraph of the email and put it into Google and sure enough, word for word, it was there. I also saw that many others had gotten the same email from the same spammer. I also saw one of the people got a check for $420 and the check was a fake.

Good Picture Trumps Good Content-Exception Proves the Rule

Fast Company knows their graphics

Fast Company recently repurposed some good content about ad money.  The original content was relatively boring, and as displayed in an informational teaser on the original site of Outsell, where they are essentially trying to sell a research report, one has to wonder how or if Outsell will stay in business.

Fortunately, Fast Company came along to save their Outsell’s bacon and possibly help Outsell sell more with a better graphic about ad sales.  Crazy!

The great graphic above shows the total money, and breaks out how it flows out to the various different channels that get to take that money home.  That should be important information for any marketing company, any corporation curious about benchmarking their own marketing budget percentages at a generic level, and if you are a blogger or a newspaper, you either see a yellow brick road paved in gold or a cobblestone mud path off a cliff.

Here’s Outsell’s lackluster sales pitch for their own product  It only costs $1295 so if you have some extra coffee money lying around, knock yourself out.  The authors, Chuck Richard, Vice President & Lead Analyst; Sheila King, Director of Primary Research, may be great researchers, but either they or others at Outsell have just been schooled by Maccabee Montandon of Fast Company.

Outsell shows people how not to sell research reports online

Its your standard teaser article about industry stats.  That’s going to get people buying like nobody’s business.  Not.

Makes you wonder why Outsell doesn’t hire a groovy graphic designer or two to compete with the graphic from Fast Company.  Maybe Outsell just isn’t that fast, or maybe this will be their wake up call.

In general, there comes a point these days where a research company is just a blog.  If you are not selling your reports anymore, then you are just a blog, that happens to do research.  If you are a site that only sells a research report or two per year, then you are still just a blog, a blog that sells linkbait.  If you sell lots and lots of research reports, well then maybe you are a research company, but if so, you better have a blog and you better hit it out of the park when you are prompting your own goods.

How to Speed up Artisteer WordPress Theme Load Times

WordPress despite being a fantastic CMS system and SEO powerhouse is notorious for slow load times of individual web pages.  Google is expected to start ranking slow loading websites below faster loading websites this year (2010).  So if you want to keep your site competitive even at an SEO level, you need to speed up load times.  Besides a faster loading web page will make your visitors happier!

4 Tools to Help You Speed up Artisteer Themes and WordPress sites

Artisteer Discount Code/Link

If you would like to get a 5% discount on a new Artisteer license (home/education or standard) feel free to use my referral link http://www.artisteer.com/?p=brett

1. iWebTools Speed Test – This will give you a quick over view of the total load time of your website. 

Cross posted from Softduit Media.

Original Complete Article

The IzeaInsider Program Past-Present Future?

The Izea Insider program is currently in a bit of limbo.  It is unclear to those of us that were in the program last year (2009) whether or not the program will continue in 2010. 

Contracts were only for the 2009 calendar year, so technically we are all out of the program as of the 1st of the year.

That said, it would appear that Izea does have some interest in continuing the program, and it is probably more a question of

  • (a.) whether or not to fund it
  • (b.) the cost of winding it down -> lots of programming went into setting it up
  • (c.) Refocusing the program for 2010 if it does continue
  • (d.) whether to continue with some or all of the IzeaInsiders from 2009
  • (e.) whether to bring in new insiders etc.

All of those points are my own speculations on the program as an IzeaInsider from 2009.

In general, those of us that were in the program last year did pretty much the same type of work in 2006, 7, 8 without any formalized program to support us with or without money.  We will likely continue helping people the same way in 2010 with or without the program.  :)

The program’s goals were a little soft.  One of the main goals seemed to be in blogger recruitment or education.

In this, I think Heather (@heatherinbc and Drew (@benspark) hit it out of the park recruiting more bloggers.  They are both naturals at this and even better at managing relationships online after they are created.

Several of us, myself included, always felt a little weird competing for blogger recruitment with people that are essentially our friends. 

It was always a bit of a zero sum recruitment game.  If I encouraged someone to sign up, that might take a recruit away from say Heather, who might have also helped the same person. 

I mention this because I suspect this same issue probably made it difficult to track in metrics and in $$$ the success of the program.  It was hard for us Insiders and Ashley, running the program at Izea, to develop a good understanding of what was working with our efforts and what was not while it was happening, I doubt that cloud has been removed after the fact.

On other fronts, speaking for myself, I did quite a bit to develop some improvements in the terms of service for PPP and SS about this time last year.  Some of those upgrades did happen, but some of them did not.  We had a lot of conversations online and on the phone with several people in Izea, but I suspect its hard to buy off in changing the status quo of something as mundane as the TOS in hopes of improving the culture and quality of the blogosphere. 

I still think it was necessary, especially as it concerned collaboration and multi-writer blogs, but I’m not sure that the energy spent on this really bore fruit.  :)

update We were all very vocal about updating the sign up and claim process in Social Spark and I missed this update that came out about 3 weeks ago, drastically over hauling and improving the process.

image

Throughout the year, I myself covered a lot of conferences, camps, meetups, tweetups, social media club things, startup weekends, brain storming sessions, think tanks and more.  Some of the expenses for these were at times partly or fully funded by my travel allotment from Izea of $1500.  I slept on floors and couches, hotel beds, my car, van, and airport terminals to save money and stretch that money as far as it would go.  I drove and flew more miles than I would like to count covering events all around the southeast in Atlanta, Raleigh, Durham, Orlando, Savannah, Charlotte, Chattanooga, Holden Beach and some to more distant locations including New York City, Peoria/Bloomington, IL and several trips to Las Vegas for 8 different conferences.

In short, I worked & traveled my ass off.  :) I was not soley working for Izea, I was working for myself.

During those trips, I rarely recruited bloggers.  Most bloggers that I ran into, were already monetizing their sites and knew what they were doing.  There were many that were new to the business, so new that they didn’t even have blogs at all.  I worked with quite a few companies and personalities as part of my business with Softduit setting up websites, blogs, and (hate the cheesy catch phrase) social media marketing plans.

In marketing and seo conferences in particular, I found myself primarily providing education and insights to fellow advertisers, marketing firms, marketing professionals etc in regards to blog marketing and Izea.  For the record, unless asked only about Izea itself, I almost always provided information about all of the blog marketing firms I have worked with in any capacity.  I even continued to give referals to PayU2Blog despite the fact they think I’m evil incarnate after I pushed a medium sized campaign to Izea instead of their network the year before. 

I simply referred people to the right network for any given type of job that would fit best in that network.

Most advertisers or firms seem to lack any blog marketing industry experience at all, let alone know which product or service to run with in any given circumstance.

My efforts to help companies and marketing firms understand blog marketing came to a bit of a crescendo with IzeaFest with the panel What Advertisers Want.  At Blogworld, an event that I attend every year, (podcast Expo before it every year as well), I also found myself working (sans pay) in the role of connector.  I helped a large number of companies come together and meet each other in October, knowing the industry and having worked with quite a few of these companies over the years, I saw the synergies and introduced people all over the show.

That was a whole lot of fun, partly because I helped so many people and companies.

SOOOOOOoooooooooooo……………

What’s next?

dunno  :)

I think the goals of the program need to be tightened up a bit.  I don’t think it should be shelved.

I think there need to be 4 roles targeted

1) Blogger recruiting
2) Blogger Training
3) Advertiser Recruiting
4) Advertiser Training

If the program continues, I think these are the areas that will reap the most rewards for everyone in and out of Izea or the blogosphere.

Some people can touch on any one of these areas at any given time, no one I know of, myself, Ted and Ashley included, can hit on all 4 cylinders all the time.

Also, there were some definite communications problems with the program.  A couple of these were technical in nature, like how to do a conference call type stuff, which I’m not worried about nor am I worried about the difficulties of getting a bunch of bloggers in different time zones and countries on a call together either.

But one of the bigger problems was How Izea can talk with Insiders about Anything that is not public?

There were several times where Izea launched a new system, service etc where we Insiders were shown the new whiz bang 24 hours before or less.  Yes we had a little advance notice, but as Insiders it was always questionable whether or not we were allowed to ‘blog about it’  (and we’re bloggers ;) ) at the time we learned about it.

When contracts and NDA’s enter the business relationship issues like this get a little muddled.

But maybe more importantly, with only a few hours before going live, it was difficult to give any meaningful critique or feedback in a timely way such that a new system or service could be improved.

Case in point Sponzai

Great service, great product, love almost everything about it.  Over a year ago when I was working on my last major ad campaign through Izea (yeah been awhile!) Dan Rua asked me some questions leading up to whether or not that type of process (in PPP or SS) might be useful to me as an advertiser based on some real world challenges I was facing in both those networks at the time.  I essentially created a manual campaign based on the Sponzai concept and ran in through PPP.  Then I gave a whole bunch of feedback to the Izea team about that experience. 

A year later they developed and rolled out Sponzai.  Very cool to see the idea incubate go live, but there were some opportunities missed during production.  It was a long time coming that product, I was happy to see it roll out, but after so much time, even with my high interest and relatively high level of buy in as an Insider and as an advertiser that had given a lot of feedback, I felt (touchy feely word that has nothing to do with business) distanced from this tool.

Along the way, if asked I would have requested several different things:
1 – Include it in PPP and SS as functionality not as a stand alone product
2 – Name it with something that includes one or more of the words or root words ‘guest’ ‘guest article’ ‘guest post’ ‘guest author’ etc.

Izea Challenge Point

So look I’m not perfect, don’t claim to be, but here is a challenge point that Izea seems to have.  They work in a fast paced advertising business where knock off competitors pop up quickly.  Izea has a modus operandi of creating a thing in secret and then featuring a grand reveal to the world ala Steve Jobs. 

They are not great at taking conversations in social media, forums, blogs etc and bringing those discussions in house to work on them WITH the folks that kick them off whether they be other businesses, bloggers or customers.  There is something that is not transparent about the process and like a supporting character in a scary movie, the lack of communication about what is going on or what is needed, that lack of transparency about the situation, decreases the buzz, the momentum and the effectiveness of the end result.

Opportunities

A magician on YouTube is only as good as their latest trick.  Once you’ve done the trick and everyone has seen it, there’s no magic left until you create a new trick.  A master magician however can take a suggestion from the audience and work a trick on the spot.  That’s essentially what companies (not just Izea) but all companies working in this ridiculously named space of ‘social media’ -> ‘people talking with each other media’ have to do.  They have to listen to their stakeholders, take their requests and suggestions and work some magic.

If that magic can not be done in real time, then it has to at least happen while the company/magician continues to talk with their audience, keeping them engaged in the trick, the potential of the trick, and the hope of future magic.

You can’t go into radio silence for a year and then come back with a trick and expect your audience/stakeholders to still be there and still be present with the same level of connectivity and buy in that they had before.

Too much media down the stream at that point.  In a world where attention spans are measured in 5-15 minute segments, a year is more like a millenia.

Sooo there’s my insights on the Insider program.  I have heard ruminations about some changes at Izea that might also play a role in whether or not the program continues or not or how it might morph.  I suspect money will play a role.

The former accountant in me, suspects that the program needs to tighten up significantly and maybe consider some alternatives to keep the program financed.

Less emphasis on travel and distant conferences and more emphasis on local/regional events (like this).

Less emphasis on blogger recruitment and more emphasis on blogger development.

More emphasis on advertiser recruitment and development, afterall that will drive new revenue and $$$.

Hell maybe even some out of the box thinking like trying to use Obama’s ‘proposed’ incentive providing $5k per new hire in tax credits paid out of payroll taxes.

Last Point

I wanted to mention that I did receive a big benefit indirectly out of the Insider program.  As part of the program we insiders were to get a blog makeover.  If you’ve ever seen some of the blog makeovers created by Izea and their partners, they are generally off the charts stellar. 

I received a mock up for a makeover of my own personal blog There’s Something About Harry.  (it was really ugly)  But the point is, that really drove me to figure out how to design wordpress themes myself and during a year when my blogging revenue dropped by half compared to the year before, I was able to makeup that revenue performing WordPress implementations using WP as a CMS with themes I started designing. 

I got a bit of a lemon and made lemonade out of it.  That was a huge opportunity, and I view it very positively. 

We bloggers have received a lot of ‘freebies’ over the last few years.  It has had the extremely negative result of creating a sense of entitlement by bloggers that is at best ugly, and at worst is completely disgusting. 

Out of necessity I had to fend for myself and I learned a whole lot more than I would of if I had not.  Yes, I did burn a lot of cycles learning yet another discipline, but I did Learn!  Offer me a freebie or an opportunity to learn and I’ll take the opportunity to learn every day of the week.

Artisteer 2.4 with Vertical Menus & Flash Headers Available

Tonight I’m checking out the new Artisteer 2.4 which just became available.  The new version (in beta still) supports to major feature advances:

Vertical Menus for WordPress or other CMS systems like Drupal, Joomla etc

You can essentially run two menu systems now (at first glance). 

image

In the image example above within the Artisteer design environment I have the option of both a horizontal menu and a (new) vertical menu.  :)

No idea yet how that will be managed in WordPress as I haven’t exported one of these puppies yet, but that’s coming up next!

Category Driven Menus

Update – I just heard through the forums that not only have vertical menus been added, but now category driven menus are possible.  There appear to be binary options for this.

  • You can either have a Category based menu OR a Page based menu in the Horizontal menu or in the Vertical Menu.
  • You can have a category in the horizontal and a Page based in the vertical or vice versa.
  • You can NOT have a category AND a Page based menu in the vertical at the same time.
  • You can NOT have a category AND a Page based menu in the horizontal at the same time.

All that said, this is just the post export (standard) options.  There are probably some easy ways to hack some additional combinations into a theme after the fact

Flash Header Support for WordPress Theme Design

There is also flash headers support for WordPress themes now.  I can add some very basic animation templates that Artisteer includes with the software, or if I have an .flv file I can import it into the theme header.

I haven’t tried that out yet, but I can’t wait to give it a go.  :)

Changing a Template from one System to Another (Ergo WordPress Theme to Blogger or Drupal)

Here’s a nice cool upgrade option.  If you have designed yourself a nice little template in say WordPress and you want to use the same exact design in Drupal or Blogger or Joomla or DotNetNuke or just an HTML page (for like a WP page template with modifications!) you can now do this with a click of the mouse (ok 2-3 clicks).

imageAfter you have the design you like, just change template type.  Then save file as something else if you don’t want to lose your original theme/template etc and you are off to the races.  :)

If you have a website powered by WordPress and you have a blog powered by Blogger, you could then easily cobrand the sites to look very similar as one working example.  Gonna have to ruminate on some additional practical applications.

Extending Free Upgrade License

imageFor just over a year now, I have received free upgrades to Artisteer.  That’s part of the license.  Buy Artisteer and you get free upgrades for a year.  When I first picked up Artisteer in November of 2008, they were just moving to beta version 0.8 I believe.  1.6 versions later or from my perspective about 20 improvements, updates and upgrades later, it was now time for me to update my license.

For $59.95 I purchased another year of Artisteer upgrades, and now I’m cranking through the possibilities with 2.4.

In case you are wondering, it only took moments for my order to process and my old license became good for upgrades all over again.  There is a huge amount of value in this program, but every time I download another free upgrade (yeah I paid for it, but most software companies don’t give away free upgrades at all), it feels great and puts a smile on my face.  In total, I’ve invested just short of $200 in this software over the course of about 15 months, and I have earned a return on that investment of about 100x.  :)

You can check your own
upgrade subscription status here.

Artisteer Discount Code/Link

If you would like to get a 5% discount on a new Artisteer license (home/education or standard) feel free to use my referral link http://www.artisteer.com/?p=brett

Note: Cross posted from Softduit Media.

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How to Design a WordPress Theme – Unconference WordCamp Boston

After catching up on my sleep after traveling back all night from Boston from one of the largest wordcamps that I have attended to date, I finally got around to editing and uploading some basic video I took.  The first video is a quick presentation i gave during an unconference session, showing people how to design their first wordpress theme using the software that makes it easy, Artisteer.

Videos of the WP theme design presentation in 3 parts

Note: Cross posted from Softduit Media.

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Who are Your Most Influential Followers on Twitter?

Social Oomph Pro measures the power of your followers on twitter This month I noticed a new service in Social Oomph a professional social media service that I have subscribed to at a cost of about $15 per month for the last year or so.  The service is called clout and it basically looks at your followers and identifies the top 50 people that follow you based on their own following/followers and number of updates.

I was surprised to see that of my top 50, I only talk on a semi-regular basis with Chris Brogan, typically when I run into him at a social media conference, which is ironic as he has a great message these days telling social media folks to get out and shake the bushes meeting people from other walks of life ‘Outside’ of Social Media.  :)

I have also talked with Depeche Mode a couple times on Facebook, but not on Twitter.  There are also a couple people like Rob McNealy, whom I know and have had some great conversations with in the past, but despite the power of social media, haven’t talked with him lately.  But the larger number of the people with the most clout, that follow me, don’t talk to me.  :)  I’ve met Jeff Pulver at one of his Social Media Jungle events in Las Vegas and he gave me the impression that he’s the type of guy that brings interesting people together to do interesting things.  I’ve tried to engage Guy Kawasaki a couple times but the conversations did not go well, I’m sure more my fault on that than Guy’s.

Note: Originally published at Maven Mapper’s Information.

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Palm Pre Gets Video Recording Editing via WebOS Update in February

Finally!  Palm is finally (almost) going to turn on the video recording and editing capability in Palm Pre’s.  The Pre has been out for a year and they expect to send this out in an over the air update in February.  Sure you might ask why the delay until February.  Well ask away, it was silly to wait this long, no point in expecting rationality at this late stage.  :)

Note: Cross posted from Maven Mapper’s Information.

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Optimize Bing Search and Get Optimized for Facebook Too!

If you are wondering why the recent Microsoft and Facebook agreements are so relevant, consider a couple things.  Facebook membership and usage grows at leaps and bounds.  Facebook is becoming one of the primary places for people to go on the internet, and while they are there, they search for things and people.  More people and groups right now than anything else, but that might change soon.

Bing web search is now integrated into Facebook search.  Perform a search in Facebook and if there is no direct search result within Facebook itself, you will see the top 3 results from the web powered by Bing, Microsoft’s search engine.

Recently I completed a web site roll out for a client of mine via Softduit Media.  Its a graphic design site in Iowa called Design 26 (http://graphicdesign26.com ).  The site is relatively new, but rapidly moving up the search results in its niche, including the search results within Bing.

One of the bi-products of that foundational search engine optimization of the site we set up is that the site is now also on the front page results in Facebook for ‘urbandale graphic design’.

Facebook Search results for keywords urbandale graphic design

If you expand those results, they are also listed a second time in position 6.

From a cultural perspective people are not using Facebook as a search engine, very much.  However, the cultural shift that turned YouTube into one of the largest search engines on the internet behind Google, could also work in another social network like Facebook, but this time the search is powered by Microsoft.  Optimizing for Bing may have never before been so important, but it will be now.