Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Professional deformation makes me leave deformed rants on a great website

Artist Peter Kalmus in shot by Oto Hudec for Janeil Engelstadt's Voices from the Center, hotlinked from the Grafixpol blog without kind permission but in good faith
I was leaving a rant on a Polish graphic designer's blog about the poor usability of a flash-based site they have produced.

The website Voices from the Center covers an amazing project by Janeil Engelstadt, an American artist who spent time at the Bratislava Academy of Fine Arts and Design as a Fulbright Scholar. She interviewed people around Central Europe on the end of Communist Rule - very topical since we are doing a lot of soul searching for the 20th anniversary of the "Tender Revolution" (that's what we call the Velvet Revolution here in Slovakia).

My mother sent me a link to the site and I first couldn't understand why. Later she showed me the site, since both she and my father are interviewed there. I enjoyed browsing around but I shared her frustration with the user experience - a Flash site by obviously talented graphic designers but with little regard to conventional usability principles (this is not my first Flash rant, of course).

I was frustrated enough to leave the rant and the authors were nice enough to reply, saying they disagree, since the site isn't strictly informative and aims to encourage exploration.

Of course, my professional bias made me respond again: drawing on Nielsen I argued that a more usable website would better encourage exploration (and sharing of this great content).

By the same token I admitted that they would find many of the sites I am involved with ugly. I tried to explain that harping on usability was for me what we call a "professional deformation" in Slovak. I realised though that this expression did not have the right meaning in English. I googled for the right English equivalent, since I 've had a need for this phrase repeatedly. I came across this great discussion on wordreference - shows that there really is no functional English equivalent. The best they come up with is saying you're biased by your profession, which I guess is a reasonable substitute but does not quite cover the connotational meaning of the "deformed" or "distorted" professional. You can lose a bias but once something is malformed it is harder to put right.

So apologies to the talented Poles for party crashing their blog and kudos (and some link love) to Janeil for Voices from the Center.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Ameritania Hotel NYC Paying Indian "SEO's" to Post Comment Spam?

The comments on this blog are moderated. I was surprised yesterday when this comment on my post about my 2008 stay in New York landed in my box:
Amsterdam CourtHotel,belvedere hotel new york,boutique hotels new york,manhattan hotel rooms,boutique hotel manhattan,ameritania hotel new york-
from a user without a public profile.

My post does mention the Ameritania, a hotel in the Theater District where we spent a few nights. But I would not expect a company of such stature to resort to such obsolete tactics as blog post spam.

When I checked my blos stats today, this is what I saw:
Indian SEO spammer building links for Ameritania Hotel in New York

In other words, Ameritania in New York hired an Indian "link builder" to help improve its search engine rankings. He or she searched google for blogs on blogspot containing the words ameritania hotel new york and posted comment spam containing a link to the hotel.

As an experiment a little while ago I paid for a few links to an Indian link building company. I was apalled with what they came up with. The quality of these links on a variety of fake blog sites was beyond poor and they could easily hurt rather than help.

The same applies to comment spam in 2009. It's not going to help Ameritania and it's quite embarassing. If I did actually want to leave comments with URL I would make a comment that speaks to the content of the blog post. Or at least one of those usual spammy coments, that sometimes look genuine (along the lines of "Wow, what a great site. Enjoyed reading your stuff. Why not check out").

With that kind of assignment, at Pizza SEO we would have contacted the blogger and tried to convince him to turn the mention of Ameritania into a link. Often this is doable and results in great links. But then agan we cannot afford to offer something like 20 links for $100 the way many of our Indian competitors do.