Thursday, February 21, 2013

No thanks to FTC issues

Can you spot the potential FTC problem here?
 One of the things that you have to learn as a book reviewer is what the Federal Trade Commission wants you to disclose. The FTC rules governing bloggers is simple: One, you must disclose any money, discounts, or free products and services that you recieve from the author and their representatives; two, you must give an honest review. That is it--it is that plain and simple.

Unless someone decides that they want to see you burnt at the stake. Then, the rules can become a living nightmare. Ok, maybe the person I am about to talk about doesn't want to see me burnt at the stake; but they still want to see my authority as a book reviewer and Golden Dawn expert burnt to the ground--which feels the same to a book reviewer and writer.

At the root of the problem is the fact that a certain GD writer a few years ago started to brag that their masterpiece was selling on eBay for a thousand dollars apiece. Now, the book had officially been out of print for several years. But I figured considering that he was claiming that it was selling for such a high price that it would be worthwhile to do a review of it. After all, I had a copy of the book that I brought when it first came out.

Besides when the book first came out, the author got a wheel barrow full of bad reviews--as in a dozen one star reviews. The positive reviews that he got were all five star reviews. Yes, one is correct to suspect that maybe everyone reviewing the book was biased. I figured that the book needed a review from someone that was neutral--as in someone that had no stake in the Golden Dawn trademark lawsuit.

So I gave the book an honest review. I found that I did not believe the author's claims that such a book was needed; it is designed for a magician to use without a lick of training; that cost the book one star. And I found the book to have enough mistakes in the rituals that it could not be used for the purpose of allowing completely untrained magicians to use it out of the box; every ritual needed to be doublechecked; therefore I took another star from my final assessment. Bottom line, I did not think that the book belonged on every magician's shelf, and that there were too many mistakes to trust the book without having enough training where the book would no longer be needed in the first place.

For those keeping score at home, this means that I gave the book a three (out of five) stars review. As I said before, he recieved a dozen one star reviews. But out of all his reviewers, he has spent the most time trying to overturn my review. In fact, I have never seen anyone spend this much time and energy trying to prove that a review was part of a conspiracy against them--ever!

Now, part of it may simply be the fact that it was one of the articles that I used when testing the waters of the pageview markets. I used the same dozen articles on several sites to gauge how good (as in "what will I earn here") various pageview sites were. But I suspect that a large part of it is simply the fact that as a neutral, without any connection to anyone in the court case, my review was actually the most damning of the reviews.

Since I have done the review, periodically I get told that I am a member of conspiracy hell-bent on destorying his Order. Now, for many years, I tried to play nice...clear up to last year when one of his Order members told me that it was ok for them to destory my reputation because I did not belong to his Order. Because of being told that, I have gotten involved in a couple of projects that support the legal defense fund that the other party in the case has set up (to recover the costs from the first case, and help defray the costs of any further case...a case that the author in question seems determined to cause).

And this brings us to the events of the last couple of months.

A couple of months ago, the author in question decided to reissue the book in question. And he openly asked for people to point out mistakes in the book. I volunteered a mistake that I found in a recent research project, but I did not provide him with a full list. After all, he wasn't paying me to be his fact-checker. I do not do free editing.

When he hears this (see the jpeg above), he "hires" me without me submitting a bid for the job. He claims that I am obligated to prove that his book is flawed. He also makes it a condition that I attend his convention in a month and a half--where the person who told me that it was ok for them to destory my reputation will be (I had already stated that even if I did not have bill collectors calling me that I probably would not want to attend).

I tell him to talk to his lawyer because there is a legal reason I can't do the job. (Go ahead and look at how he "hired" me.) His response is to tell me that his lawyer saw no legal problem, and that it must be because I signed a contract to help destory his Order.

I suspect that his lawyer did not see how he "hired" me, or that it is a legal trap to try to sue me.

Because there is no way that I can actually fulfill his conditions. One, I do have bill collectors calling me over a student loan default. Two, I am self-employed--I have better things to do with the money I collect from jobs than attend his convention (even if a certain person would not be attending). Three, he is trying to get me in trouble with the FTC.

Now, this is a man who, when the FTC came out with their rules governing bloggers and online book reviewers, claimed that he knew the FTC rules better than I did. Therefore, he should be able to see the FTC nightmare contained in his job request. Basically, he wants me to revise my assessment of his book...or at least, provide him with proof that will allow him to claim that I was dishonest in my review.

Now, legally I do not have to prove my assessment of his book to him. If the FTC wants my proof that his book is flawed, they can ask for it. And it would be illegal for me to change my mind, and my review of his first edition--a fact that I think that he knows. But he does not care about FTC rules when they are in his way, only when he can use them against someone else.

It is just too bad for him that the FTC often decides not to go after the individual reviewers, but rather after the employer (aka the person paying for the job). In his world, my refusal to do the job proves that I am involved in a conspiracy. It will never occur to him that I did him a favor by refusing to do the job. If he presses me too hard, and I do the job and then revise my review, I am positive that someone in the GD community will report him to the FTC. In fact, I am not sure that he is completely on safe legal ground even at this moment--between this and last year's events (he encouraged people to give another author's entire product line one star reviews), I think it is only a matter of time before the FTC has a good look at him.

And for the record, even if he does fix all the mistakes in the second edition, he still hasn't convinced me that the book is actually needed. After all, if magic was that easy--as in you could learn it from a book that reads like a car manual--then we would not need esoteric Orders in the first place...which would make his Order completely useless. Therefore, the best he can hope for is a four star review...and we all know that anything less than a five star review proclaiming him the greatest thing since white bread will just be a sign that there is a conspiracy determined to destory him--as if the man's actions and behavior are not enough alone to cause people to loathe his guts.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lessons from Ultimate Blog Challenge (Round One)

In January, I made a weak attempt to do the Ultimate Blog Challenge (31 blog posts in 31 days) on my esoteric blog, Gleamings from the Golden Dawn (at first) and on this blog (after seeing the initial results on GFGD). There were reasons why the attempt failed...including the fact that I was working on a major project that needed to be partially finished by February 1st. But it was mainly what I learned about my personal results that made the attempt weak.

One of the benefits that is claimed for the Ultimate Blog Challenge is that it helps build up your traffic. I saw absolutely no evidence of this--but then again, it was a weak attempt. Of course, it could also be the simple fact that neither this blog or GFGD is really set up for selling people stuff, saving their souls, or simply posting for the simple sake of posting.

In other words, the benefits that other bloggers report for the Ultimate Blog Challenge may not even be possible for me. After all, the type of audience that I am writing for is very limited. Plus my readership on GFGD is interested in a very specific type of post (they merely tolerate my cat fetish), just like the readers of this blog are interested in a very particular type of post.

And there was also the simple fact that I did not feel like just writing junk posts just to hit the goal of 31 posts.

So what did I learn from the first attempt at doing the Ultimate Blog Challenge?

One, it is not going to boost my number of readers or pageviews. (I have yet to see any scheme that actually works for any of my blogs.)

Two, I am not going to get any more comments than normal (even the daily comment thread on the Facebook support group would only net me one comment, and not the two that it was supposed to).

Three, I have a really hard time commenting on other people's blogs when they are just trying to sell a service (or product), or are trying to get people to embrace Jesus.

Fourth and most important, if it is really going to benefit me, I need a posting plan--an ongoing planned series of posts that naturally fits into the existing audience of whatever blog that I decide to use. Fortunately, I have a couple of ideas that would result in a series of posts--ideas that I have not followed up on simply because they require a certain level of commitment.

And doing the Ultimate Blog Challenge would help me get the series done--it is a daily checklist type of task if you are working on a long series.

Therefore, I am going to do the March 2013 round of the Ultimate Blog Challenge on GFGD, but I am going to be aiming to accomplish a long series of interelated posts, and completely ignore the claims of improvement that other people make--the type of gains that I will collect are going to be different. After all, I am not really trying to sell people salvation. No, I am merely trying to inflict the possible first draft of an ebook on an unsuspecting audience.