Does It Blog – 2013 in Review

December 31, 2013 Leave a comment

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 26,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Categories: Uncategorized

Bell Canada Telemarketer

March 11, 2013 Leave a comment

A telemarketer from Bell Canada phoned me today:

Telemarketer: I’m calling to talk to you about some deals from Bell Canada for Home Phone, TV and Internet.

Me: I’m not interested in anything from Bell.

Telemarketer: Why are you not interested in Bell?

Me: Bell is the worst company in Canada.

Telemarketer: Why do you say that?

Me: Bell is trying to stamp out competition and corner the market to force everyone to pay whatever Bell asks.

Telemarketer: With Rogers, you’re in the same boat.

Me: Rogers is almost as bad as Bell.

Telemarketer: Well I see here that you’re with Rogers.

Me: No, I’m not using Rogers, where did you hear that?

Telemarketer: Well I’m sorry to hear that you’re not interested.

I find it very amusing that he didn’t even dispute my assertion that Bell is a terrible company, and instead argued that Rogers is just as bad. Really, your business is pitifully repugnant if your sales argument is that the competition is just as terrible as you.

BELL CANADA IS THE WORST COMPANY IN CANADA. DEATH TO BELL CANADA.

Categories: Canada Tags: ,

Was PhotonLight.com Hacked?

February 10, 2013 Leave a comment

I have blogged about the possible hacking of DnyDns and Infonec.

Today I am blogging about the the company who makes the Photon Light, a brilliant tiny LED-based flashlight. I own 2 of them.

The situation (once again…)

I use a separate unique e-mail address with almost every company / entity that I deal with. This helps me identify the source of any spam or unauthorized sales of my e-mail address because the only groups that know said addresses are myself and the individual company I am dealing with.

For example, I use a unique e-mail address for this WordPress account. So if I hypothetically started receiving spam urging me to “Enlarge your *****” at that e-mail address, I know that either WordPress was hacked or they sold my address.

Fast Forward To Today (Once Again…)

I received a spam e-mail for some “Asian Bride” website at the e-mail address used for PhotonLight.com. The only parties outside myself that know this address are my e-mail services provider (who hosts dozens of these forwarders) and PhotonLight.com. How did the spammers get my e-mail address? You, the reader, can connect the dots.

General Recommendations

Everybody should use unique passwords for every website / service. This is because, if one site gets compromised, your information might be used to compromise your accounts on other sites. If you used a password on Photonlight.com that was used elsewhere, you should change those passwords immediately.

Categories: tech Tags: , , ,

Spammer Fail?

January 7, 2013 Leave a comment

I received a really strange comment on this blog. This appears to be some kind of hilariously failed spamming script!

Judging from the submitter’s information, it appears that they were trying to create a stealth advertisement for a certain brand of women’s clothing.

The spam text follows…

Read more…

Categories: tech Tags:

SSD: Enable Write Caching? The Difference Write Caching Makes

November 22, 2012 Leave a comment

I got a new SSD. It’s a Plextor M5 Pro 256 GB (PX-256M5P). I followed some guide on how to optimize your system for SSDs. One of its suggestions is to disable write-caching on the drive. Here are my benchmarks.

Write-Caching disabled:

Image

Write-caching enabled:

Image

Device Manager, with Write-Caching enabled:

Image

Moral of the story: Don’t disable write caching. 🙂

Categories: tech Tags: , , ,

Was Dyn DNS Hacked?

October 31, 2012 1 comment

Similar to the apparent re-hacking of Infonec, the lovely e-mail privacy service SneakeMail has again exposed another possible security breach.

The e-mail address I use on the Dyn service is unique and randomly generated. The only parties that have the address are myself and Dyn.

Today, I received a phishing message at that e-mail. How did the crooks get my address? You connect the dots!

I recommend that all users of Dyn change their passwords.

Categories: tech Tags: , ,

Was Infonec Hacked? (Again?)

October 9, 2012 1 comment

Last year, I blogged about a possible hacking of Infonec.

Ken from Infonec management was nice enough to give us an update on the situation, and recommended that users update their password frequently.

After that incident, I changed the unique forwarding address for my Infonec account. The only parties that know this address are myself, Infonec and my mail-forwarding service.

This week, I received “Viagra” spam at this new unique address. How did spammers get the address? I think Infonec has some security holes. Again.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Don’t use the same password across many sites. If just one site gets hacked, all of your accounts could be compromised.
  2. Use a forwarding service like Sneakemail so you can cut off compromised addresses, and so spammers won’t get the e-mail addresses for your other accounts.

In the past, I spent thousands of dollars at Infonec. Still, I haven’t shopped there in years. The closing of their Mississauga branch and opening of a local NCIX sealed the deal. This kind of incident makes me less likely to shop at Infonec in the future.

Categories: Canada, tech Tags: ,

Troll Weekend on RFD

September 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Looks like the Red Flag trolls are out in force this weekend:

Image

It’s too bad that you cannot “call anyone out” on RFD anymore. These guys have “established” accounts and are well-practised at “dancing just inside the lines.”

I’ve previously posted about the mbg troll account. He’s a seasoned troll that should have been banned a long time ago. Joshray is also a habitual troll, dancing within the lines. I suspect the person behind this account is the same one behind the notorious and banned user, Kommander_Kornflakes. Lastly, jungeon is an established super-troll. I have no idea why he has been allowed to make over 3,000 posts without getting perma-banned.

All of these accounts just waste people’s time and bandwidth. Furthermore, it is possible that all of them are actually the same user, using some kind of proxy service to mask his IP. I have no idea.

Categories: rfd Tags:

50 Shades of Grey – Mens Clothing Sale

August 25, 2012 Leave a comment

If this keeps up, I think the 50 Shades of Grey will become like the snuggie of adult books.

Photo:

50 Shades of Gray Mens Clothing Sale at Stars Mens Shops

Categories: retail Tags: ,

Comments On RedFlagDeals.com’s Direction and Eventual Decline

July 29, 2012 2 comments

As I promised in a previous blog post and in RFD’s Comments and Suggestions area, it is time for me to post additional comments on the direction of the site, why I think its leadership is failing, and the ultimate decline in the quality of the site. This, if left unchecked, will lead to a deflationary spiral in site traffic and revenues leading to the “eventual decline” to which I’m referring.

Is this eventual decline inevitable? No. But avoiding it will require RFD’s administration to undo much of the damage that’s been done in the last few months.

Let’s look at the big picture.

RFD’s parent company, Yellow Media, is in decline. Their stock price has dropped nearly 99% of its value since its highs of 2011. For the fiscal year ending in Dec 31, 2011, they recorded a net loss of $2.83 billion and a net debt of $1.5 billion, compared to a market cap of about $0.096 billion. To date, the market cap as dropped to about $0.036 billion. I won’t get into the various doubts surrounding Yellow Media’s latest recapitalization plan, but the information is easy to find.

I think this explains a lot of the recent changes on RFD that aim to cut down on “low content” posts and to get everything “spit-shined” to make it look like a valuable and business-like commodity. I think it’s a reasonable hypothesis that RFD is both trying to allay complaints about objectionable posts on the forums, and simultaneously, make RFD look like an attractive asset so it could be sold off for cash.

The approach, like chemotherapy, has a few side effects.

Why is this so important? Consider what people see when they first visit RFD’s Forums. It looks something like this:

Looking more closely at this welcome page, the true Spirit of RFD is revealed. The welcome message says it all:

RedFlagDeals brands itself as Canada’s Largest Bargain Hunting Community. It’s a Community.

And why does a community matter? It matters because RedFlagDeals is about Deals. The posting and discussion of shopping deals is the lifeblood of this community. And what is it that causes deals to be introduced in the community? A small minority of deals actually come via RedFlagDeals and its affiliates. The great majority deals are overwhelmingly posted by random unpaid people. Said randoms are not employees of Yellow Media and have no real employment or financial connection to the company. This involvement of randoms is why RFD has so much more value than the weekly flyers delivered by Canada Post.

This large involvement of random unpaid people is particularly interesting because RedFlagDeals draws much advertisement and referral revenue from all of the web traffic. In fact, most press releases and marketing data related to RFD mentions the millions of unique visitors per month.

So why is it that random people go to the time and effort of writing up and posting deals on RFD? I can think of only two possibilities:

  1. They love RFD so much that they want to drive a lot of traffic to the site, causing money to flow into RFD’s bank accounts.
  2. They want to help other members of the community by informing them about great products and saving them money.

Clearly, the answer is #2, otherwise there would be no actual discussion or commenting permitted in Deal threads. Furthermore, RFD has an integrated “THANKS” feature, showing how the community appreciates the deal-finder’s efforts, again showing the interconnected nature of the community. More importantly, this also shows how the community acts like a team of unpaid interns, doing work that drives real financial benefit into RFD’s pocket. Furthermore, if the community decided one day to simply stop posting hot deals, RFD would quickly shrivel up and die. The reality is that in their business model, RedFlagDeals and Yellow Media depend on a community of unpaid individuals to provide a large amount of material that is ultimately used for RFD’s and YLO’s for-profit financial gain.

This brings us to the reason why I believe RFD is going into a decline. The site administration’s attempts to keep the site “clean” have the side effect of stamping out much of the camaraderie and discussion that arises when people in a community come together to talk about their interests. The presence of heated debates, acrimony, humorous discussions, and clowning around in relation topics that are loaded or controversial are what happens in a large community. That’s reality. It’s what makes people feel connections to each other. These communal connections are the driving forces that cause random people to post Deals so their community friends can benefit.

When all of the fun and camaraderie are stamped out, RFD’s administration is essentially expecting people to act like “employees” that work for free for the benefit of Yellow Media’s bank account. If RFD wants to control its viewership to this extent, then they should also hire a team of paid full-time deal-finders, and only these people should be allowed to post deals. This would give RFD the moral authority to control its community to that extent. Otherwise, RFD’s administration should pay close attention to the old adage: “Don’t s**t where you eat.”

If this cycle continues, the many of the most active community members will slowly fade away due to the lack of a properly functioning community. This will lead to fewer deals from the most active members, thus driving less traffic to the site, causing the community to be even worse, etc. This is why I fear a deflationary spiral. RFD is shooting itself in the wallet.

Reality

I don’t expect the changes to the management of the RFD community to be altered in direction any time soon. RedFlagDeals is part of the Yellow Media group, and that company has certain very specific business goals at this time. Furthermore, the original founder of RedFlagDeals (Derek Szeto) is no longer involved in the site’s administration. I doubt Yellow Media really cares about the long-term direction of the site at this time and is more interested in quick-fixes to make it a sellable asset.

The Administration of RFD is not ignorant, and they probably know exactly what’s going on; I speculate that their hands are tied due to the management direction from YLO. I speculate that the only real recourse against this kind of situation would be for people to stop posting deals en masse. Most likely, the only winner is Derek; RedFlagDeals and its parent company (Clear Sky Media) were acquired for just under CAD $10 Million in preferred share from YPG.

Looking at RedFlagDeals.com, the site has grown to enormous proportions in terms of activity and membership numbers. I expect that the computer hardware and staffing necessary to run it is non-trivial, and as such needs the resources of a real commercial entity to maintain itself. Therefore I wonder if this is really some limiting factor in internet communities: Once you reach a certain size, you have to conform to the standards of a large corporation to receive financial backing consistent with the same. It may be that RedFlagDeals has reached this wall. If that is the case, its Administrators should expect that this will only open the door for more smaller sites to fill the “community-void” that is opening up on RFD.

On Leadership

ReadFlagDeals is suffering from a perceived leadership-void.

A lot of changes are being implemented in the community, much to the chagrin of many members. Changes in websites, business, and life are inevitable, and some people who fancy themselves to be “leaders” fail miserably in successfully bringing change. And that is what’s happening on RedFlagDeals.

RedFlagDeals has a leadership void because there is no perceived overarching direction or vision. True leaders bring their subjects through difficult decisions or transitions because they show that their actions derive from some specific goal or mission statement. (As corny as it sounds, this is why teams and companies make up mission statements.) Great leaders know that they must have the appearance of working under the guidance of some higher power or direction. If RedFlagDeals wants to make whatever changes are necessary without annoying the same people that supply its lifeblood of Hot Deals, its administration needs to show some greater transparency and be more clear with where everything is heading and the overall goal and direction for the site.

That’s my piece. Over and out.

Footnote

This section was originally at the top of this post, but I moved it down here because I think only about 5% of readers would care.

I had delayed in writing this post partially due to an excessively busy work schedule (i.e. real life) and to give RFD’s administration a chance to respond to my comments. Since no response has been received, and some people have already voiced concerns along the lines of what I’m proposing, that’s why I have chosen to post my piece.

Categories: rfd