The ‘Approved’ Conundrum

There is a well known parents website (whose title suggests a single gendered focus) who have become an increasingly powerful presence and influencer. Quite recently I have noticed with increasing frequency that their awards or recommendations for products are now appearing on the packaging of those products.

I have no issue with this happening as the site should rate things if it wishes and getting crowd-funded response helps other consumers, so all good. But there is an issue and I think it will worsen and is unbalanced in regards to objective rating.

Advertising

The site has paid advertising and sponsored products. It also has competitions for submitting reviews on particular products. It has vouchers and offers that are exclusive to its readers. Now any one of these shows some slight favour, but nothing ‘bad’, right?

The reviews of the products are fair (broadly) and the way the ratings work is by mob decision, so that isn’t bad. Except I think you could game this system and get good response and I will highlight one way I can think of.

I have a product, it isn’t unique but it is new to my company. I want a high pickup and I want awards so the new product will fly off the shelves, I also want stores to stock it so need a high demand.

  1. Send free review copies to site owners in a fancy box with a few extra goodies as thanks for reviewing, but don’t insist on a good review. (This tactic will influence people, we all like being treated well).
  2. Offer a lot of discounts to visitors of these sites, make them special. (Increase demand).
  3. Run a competition that anyone can enter (spreading the word).
  4. Run promotion at the people who enter competitions or use discount codes to get further discounts on products and special extras and mention that a good review is loved, even tell people of the special packages that some reviewers get. (This will help to reposition any 3.5 out 5 star reviews into being a 4 – you want to be fair but 3.5 is almost 4 right?)
  5. Any site where the reviews are more positive and increasing push further offers and targeted advertising.

There is no guarantee that this will absolutely work, but if the product is good enough and you keep it subtle but pervasive you will see a change in behaviour and uptake.

Conclusion

So I think that you have to treat this in a balanced way. If you are a product advertiser who gets an award on a site like this then you shouldn’t advertise on the site. It is too much collusion and too much chance of bias.

Put it this way, if you had a bad review on the site and a worst product award you wouldn’t spend any money there and would consider it toxic. I think you have to do the same if you have great reviews.

It is a way of keeping a moral equilibrium. If you are the site owners you maybe want to think about the whole model you have created. A system that allows direct influence via numerical reward for products that (although may be fairly reviewed and loved) directly influence people’s spending has a responsibility to be fair.

You can’t be fair when someone is throwing money at you and your model is to take their discounts, advertising and free products. It is always going to affect your rating either positively or negatively.

</rant>

Paradise Trilogy

Paradise Found

So if you have hid your head under a rock for the past few days you may have missed the news about the Paradise Papers. This is another large group of financial documents, similar to last year’s Panama Papers, that detail the wonderfully creative avoidance of tax by the mostly super rich.

To many of us this just seemed like an expected news round, like the revelations that say governments spy on us as much as each other, or that elections and media agencies are targeted by foreign powers with agendas. It isn’t news if we expect the world to happen that way and we just dolefully accept it as such.

Unfortunately.

Personally I think we should drop some of our weary cynicism and try to engage with the news here. We have seen that the online world now has a strong voice, it is often visceral but the effects are physical. maybe it is time for us to voice our general displeasure.

Paradise Lost

The problem is that we have become so indoctrinated to the ideas that this is what happens that we are insulated to the cost. This is a bankruptcy at the heart of our systems of finance and distribution. It will eventually affects us all and when crashes happen, as they will, they are devastating.

Already the news cycles seem to be waning. Partly this is because like some apocalyptic Chinese curse we are currently stuck in an Interesting Times of news cycles. Where the cycle is a monocycle with a missing wheel, a jet engine and a coked up, blind and epileptic rhinoceros as the rider.

If I were to be suspicious I would hazard that there is a collective push back by a cadre of hidden oligarchs to quell this particular piece, and the Panama papers round and lifespan might support that. but I also have to balance it with dodging the Rhinoceros.

Paradise Regained

One of the most prominent elements of the news coverage has been the element of legality. Like when Tim Cook of Apple in the past declared they paid every dollar they were due to. We are told that those in the spotlight have done nothing illegal.

I hadn’t presumed they had, that’s silly to think so. This is why they have clever lawyers. This is why they have teams of accountants. This is why they have political influence that creates vague definitions and applications of law.

This is tax avoidance not evasion.

They haven’t committed a crime, per se. But what does that mean? In the UK it is pretty much illegal for me to beat my children with a stick. But that is not a universal law. So if I holiday in a country where they allow beating with a stick it is all okay as long as Ii obeyed the non-beating in my domestic homeland. Like Apple I am now taking the stick to children in the right territories.

It isn’t illegal, but it might be immoral.

If you want to stay abreast of the stories you can follow the page linked below. it is a good starting point to know who and whom so that you can conduct searches elsewhere.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/search?q=paradise+papers&filter=news&suggid=

It may be time we kept up the conversation on this.

So Very Busy

There is an old adage that if you want anything done then you should find a busy person and ask them to help…

So there are two parts to that. Either they are busy because they are always efficient and can handle a great deal of things, or they are the sort of happy moron who just cannot say no to helping people.

I am in the latter category.

Whih is why I am so very busy all the time and do not think that I at all organised about it.

Well enough of this, stuff to do.

Facebook: the Sniper

Be wary as you travel the various plains of Facebook timelines as you will no doubt, if you have not been already, the subject of a sniper.

A sniper will hide in the tall grass and wait for their victim, when they engage with you it is by means of clever comment to your posts or by a subtly worded post of their own. The effect is still the same, however, you have been taken down by their superiority.

The Facebook Sniper is a perfidious breed, often greatly intelligent, insightful and witty they hone their skills not to engage, support and encourage but to destroy. They seek to balance some level of negative self-esteem by seeking superiority over others.

Their attacks are clever, always tilted to sound reasonable, balanced and above all passive, but the this is just a ruse. In truth it is an assault, intended to rile while providing the sniper with sufficient cover to hide. They draw you out to their killing ground where they can claim a justifiable kill. If you engage with a sniper it will look as if you instigated the assault and they will rally others to watch their kill.

They are a player of tiny games, seeking to lift themselves high by standing on the corpses of their kills, do not engage with them, you will lose.*

* An interesting note should be made that by publishing this post I am in fact doing approximately the same as the Facebook: Sniper myself in that I am drawing out a certain type of person into my killing ground. This realisation demoralises me slightly yet does not stop me posting 😉

Facebook: the Sharer

This Facebook type is the constant Sharer. You know the time of day by the sudden rush of shares from their timeline as they push item after item onto their feed.

Often they follow other Sharer’s, they work best when they are in packs, passing the same tired item from feed to feed in a ceaseless bid to prove that they are socially savvy.

This type is not usually a content creator, if they do update their feed or supply something new it is often another bid for attention, to be noticed.

Their deep inner need is to be noticed, to be admired for their ability to spot interesting content and to supply them to a waiting crowd of admirers. They are less prone to ‘Like’ or engage by comment with an original producer of material.

At the core their is a deep inner need to be noticed or admired which they try to encourage by being the joker, the iconoclast, the modernist or the reactionary. In reality they are rarely anything but. Often conservative, dour and traditionalist the Sharer just wants to be admired, noticed and loved.

Phrase that you imagine them saying: “Look at this cool thing I found!”.

Half Life of Knowledge

So having seen a recent episode of QI on Knowledge I learned that facts have a half life. That is to say they decay quite rapidly. It isn’t that they were wrong, it is just that further investigation uncovers more information that obsoletes the original information. So maybe it is that they are wrong, but that we don’t know how they are wrong at the time.

I have this conversation however.

1.Did you see QI?

2. Yeah.

1. So knowledge has a half life, all that stuff I said last week is likely to be wrong next year.

2. Yep. Everything I learned at Uni is now wrong. Or at least seventy per cent of it.

1. Yeah and all you learned at School is totally gone. Like Pratchett says, Lies to Children.

2. Makes me wonder why I bothered learning it.

1. You could always re-learn it.

2. What’s the point? It’s going to be wrong again in a few years time.

This is where I stand stunned. I came to totally the opposite conclusion to this. I saw the evidence of facts having a half life not as a reason to never bother to learn but to never stop learning. How can two people of roughly similar strengths and attitudes draw such a binary opposed conclusion.

Surely this is the point. Surely we only know that facts have a half life because we carried on looking, because we learned something and wanted to know more, not less.

So everything you thought you knew was wrong, you have been spouting false information like a broken faucet spews water, so what? That’s a damned fine reason to keep looking and learning, to re-assess, to re-learn to discover.

Or you could just retreat from a world filled with a constant renewing of wonder as we uncover and discover more and claim ignorance as bliss.

What do you choose?

Candy Land

So I haven’t really engaged much with changing sweets since I wad younger but this trend of spray and liquid sweets seems very mad. Why don’t you just inject diabetes right into the children, flavoured by preference.

image

This specific post was created using WordPress for Android on a mobile phone. This explains but not excuses any incorrect or unusual typography, brevity or formatting.

Little Mis-Interpretation

It was reported in the news yesterday that a survey into profanity used while driving revealed that fifty percent of women claimed they swore in the car a opposed to forty percent of males.

This, news, and I use the term very loosely was surprising as it went against a perceived grain. It also seemingly contradicts language usage outside of driving.

Several heads talked, comment made and conclusions drawn.

I couldn’t find the source of the original study, but I wonder if what the report really indicates is that women are just more honest about how much they swear when driving.

This study, you see, was a poll, not a study by observance with control groups. If you have done any level of research you know one thing. Polls need to be treated with real care, people often answer the way you want them to, not the way that reflects them correctly.

Just words…

<rant>

Random Tweet “…the police broke the arm of a man in a wheelchair who was protesting disability cuts…”*

So this annoyed me, for no real reason it seemed except the language colours it.

What does it matter that he was in a wheelchair?
What does it matter if he was male?

The words colour the sentence, it is wrong that the police injured any person, irrespective of age, gender, or perceived ability.

But if we said “…the police broke the arm of a girl with Down’s Syndrome…” it would massively colour how we react.

Is that in itself an issue?

Surely the main point of this is that it is wrong for the police to use heavy tactics on anyone?

Why should we feel less concerned by “…the police broke the arm of a male wrester who was protesting tha lack of Giant Haystacks memorials…” than we do to the original sentence?

So I guess I would be happier if the language was neutral, “the police broke the arm of a person protesting…” If then I was able to read further and discover gender, age and ability it may make the knee-jerk reactions less prominent and allow me to be more rational about the larger issue.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t protect the vulnerable, just that emotive arguments often lessen the point. The police should not be empowered to use great force on anyone exercising their right to protest anything they see as an injustice, whether it is disability cuts or Giant Haystack memorials.

</rant>

* Note that this isn’t a rant against the commentator, or even a judgement on their writing skills, it is all about me and how I oft times react.

Black, Pleasured, Beached

The Sad Failures of Blackpool Pleasure Beach

I have been going to BPB for a number of years and so have seen it evolve and change over time. I am also a big fan of theme parks and fairs and I think I probably have enough experience of them to contrast and compare.

Let me say that I like BPB. I have fond memories of it from my youth and I know many of the rides from frequent travel on them. But I think it has some crises of identity that need to be solved, and those crises reflect Blackpool as well.

Entrances

To enter the park you must first purchase your ticket or wristband for rides. If you are not going to be going on any rides then you must still pay five pounds to enter. Now I know many places charge an entry fee because it is an experience they are providing, but those other places also have more theming, which we will come to, and minor attractions. BPB does this, because they can, because people who want to be with their family but cannot ride anything are easy to fleece.

A further fleecing is the fast pass, some parks charge, some don’t. I don’t mind that they do but they try to sell it as a value, it isn’t. It is a way in which to make money. End of.

Also, many other parks have a parent pass. Two parents with young children who can’t go on rides are often allowed to use the fast pass so that only one of them need queue for the long wait part. Common in Disney and Universal and totally absent in BPB. They may as well say ‘fuck you, give us the money’.

In Security

Then we have security, and please forgive me while I fall about laughing. You are required to have your bag searched and to pass through a metal detector, a common piece of nonsense we all suffer with in a modern western world. But they did not search the pram I took in, I could have stored weaponry, in fact I could have sneaked in a modest sized rifle under our double pram.

They also confiscated my tripod. My mini tripod for my iPhone. I guess so I couldn’t use it as a weapons mount for the M16 under the pram, or so I couldn’t shoot professional film on my 5D MKII with a 100-400 lens that I took in without a blink. Also, I could have fitted my pro tripod under the pram.

Security guards walking around the site had flakjackets on and handcuffs, I mean wtf! I thought we had entered a barracks not a family themed (again please hear that in a sarcastic voice) area. If you need to stand guard over the fountains during a display you don’t send the security guards who look like Rambo, you send somebody with a pleasant smile who is backed by Rambo hiding out of sight. I don’t want to see that level of aggressive security, I don’t think it makes for a pleasant experience to make me feel that this place is so unsafe they need to wear armour to stop you running through a fountain.

Theme?

Now lets talk about the theming. The one section of the park they have got right is the Nickelodeon World. Aimed at younger children, full of safer rides and great theming. The staff put of children’s displays, have character photographs and song and dance routines. Excellent, well done.

The rest of the park is a mish-mash. Fit what we can in where we can. Place theming to the ride but don’t attempt to merge or style sections. If a ride disappears then leave a huge empty space that looks like the council would move travellers to. Just nasty. No attempt to hide the space with themed boards or displays or potted plants, just the debris of visitors and general dismay.

Tacky to the Last

The traditional fairground activities, tests of strength and skill to win a huge and more than piss poor tacky prize are also unwelcome. Why have such massive and silly gifts. Okay they amuse you for a short while until you realise that any five year old presented with this would have to have a strong diet of Japanese horror and manga to understand the need for such a torture piece. They are a melding of excesses and poorly aimed award. ‘Surely it is worth more if it is bigger’. I wouldn’t want one if they tried to give it to me.

What is wrong with a smaller prize. Size doesn’t make it better.

BPB, like other theme parks, are an enclosed space and they love to squeeze you a little more over the food. The one difference is they do have an all you can eat pizza which represents good value for families, it is a pity they don’t train their staff.

Totally Staffed!

And we segway into staff visibility and training. BPB believes that a small logo on a jacket (black jacket) is a good way to identify their staff. Well it is. If they are four feet or less away and no one is stood in front of them. The general staff visibility is poor. The training is laughable.

It was a warm afternoon and someone fainted nearby. When people looked around a staff member couldn’t be found. The staff member on a ride couldn’t or didn’t know they could leave their ride at that time, and so the person had to lie on the floor while passers by tried to round up staff. Someone was dialling 999 when a staff member arrived, looked worried and then that staff member left to find someone else.

I have no more words for that one.

Higher visibility of clothing for your staff, maybe a bright, fun and friendly colour so they are easy to spot.

Eugh, d’ Toilet

Finally, the toilets. Some of these are old so there is no baby change in the mens, meh, it happens. The modern block is nice. Gracefully tiled, new basins with automatic taps and fast dryers. Lovely floors and a giant metal trough to piss in. Well thanks for that, I want to feel like an animal, I want my, one day to be an 8 year old, to be intimidated by the openness and smell of your troughs.

If you are going to have condom machines, which I personally don’t think you should in a family park, could you not have ones that are for safe sex and birth control as opposed to ones that only serve a ‘tickler, glow in the dark, flavoured,’ or a personal joy, ‘novelty shaped,’ jhonnie?

Once more, What The Fuck…or in the words of my good friend t0m ‘what the ducking fuck’…

This is not the message to give to the nice new toilets next to your under-5s fantasy world you colossal fuck-wits.

I would say excuse my profanity, but they deserve this level of profane. Decide what the fuck type of message you want to give.

To conclude

BPB, you are an anachronism attempting to move forward and you are doing it badly. Stop catering to the potential profits of the Stag and Hen shite/nights. If they want to come and play at a family location then enforce sensible behaviour from them with exclusion on misbehaviour.

Stop indulging this.

Crappy displays of strength, piss troughs, excess charges, open wounds and litter…

You make us pay just to see inside, don’t then show us this, it is trivial and fairly easy to improve. I say this because your most popular area was the one world where you got it right, where you themed it well and offered less tacky gifts. You can change, and you can do it by stopping the advertisement of condom-flavoured seaside bawdy. That is an experience that only the most die-hard of retard would actively promote as a sensible business focus.

-mdk