Microsoft’s adCenter Editorial Guidelines rank highly for “arbitrary” and “spurious”

So far, this week has been a swirling cloud of some very perplexing and challenging, comprised of the bizarre and the preposterous, and by way of Microsoft’s adCenter Editorial Guidelines, and I have the proof!

Welcome to Microsoft Advertising live chat, an Ad Specialist will be with you shortly.

Wayne: Hi [Agent name redacted]!

[Agent name redacted]: Thank you for contacting Microsoft advertising, how can I help you today?

Wayne: I’ve created an advert and received an message informing me it’s been disapproved: “As part of the editorial review process, we have reviewed your ads and keywords. Unfortunately, we were unable to approve one or more of them.”

Wayne: But there’s no guidance on why or for what reason. Do you have an specific advice there?

[Agent name redacted]: I’d be happy to assist you with that.

[Agent name redacted]: To confirm, your ad has been disapproved and you would like to know why, correct?

Wayne: Yes.

[Agent name redacted]: I’m going to ask you some questions, so that I can verify and access the account, ok?

Wayne: I can see there is a help topic on the subject, but I’d prefer to know specifically why.

[Agent name redacted]: What is your username, email address, and account number, please?

Wayne: [Personal details redacted].

[Agent name redacted]: one moment please

[Agent name redacted]: Thank you for verifying the account

[Agent name redacted]: Have you ever contacted us about this before?

Wayne: I’ve chatted with you guys twice this week, but not regarding this issue.

Wayne: This being the third time.

[Agent name redacted]: one moment please

[Agent name redacted]: Let me take a look at your ad

[Agent name redacted]: If you click on the little arrow next to the word disapproved, there is information there on why the ad was disapproved.

[Agent name redacted]: You can’t use an amazon site unless your are an affiliate of some kind

[Agent name redacted]: are you?

Wayne: I don’t see any arrow. Where should I be looking?

[Agent name redacted]: Are you on the page where you see your ad?

Wayne: Ah, right. The “Delivery” now says “Disapproved”, where it didn’t before.

Wayne: Hold on.

Wayne: Okay, so this is because of the Amazon link. Yes, it’s an affiliate link, but it doesn’t in any way change the visible behaviour of the page, in so far as what the potential customer would see.

[Agent name redacted]: Your landing doesn’t meet our quality requirements

Wayne: So you’re saying Amazon aren’t good enough?

[Agent name redacted]: One moment I’m going to send you a link

[Agent name redacted]: Relevancy & Quality Guidelines

[Agent name redacted]: We have a lot of information here on what is required to advertise with us.

[Agent name redacted]: If you are an affiliate of amazon you should contact them to get a usable url – you will not be able to use amazon.co.uk

Wayne: I’m guessing your interpretation concerns points 3.1-3.2, yes?

Wayne: Oh, so it’s not the website, it’s just the URL?

[Agent name redacted]: It is the url and the website. You must use a landing page that you own.

Wayne: I tried that with my own website via Google AdWords but they would neither let me use that or explain why, which is why I came to you guys!

[Agent name redacted]: I don’t know what your website looks like, but if Google disallowed it then I’m sure we would as well.

Wayne: Okay, let me quickly edit this advert with the URL for my own web page and let’s see what happens there, because even if it’s disallowed, at least I’ll know why.

[Agent name redacted]: what is the url of your website?

Wayne: [URL redacted].

[Agent name redacted]: one moment please

[Agent name redacted]: You are asking users to put in personal so you need to have a prominent link to a privacy policy that includes an opt-out statement.

Wayne: I’m not asking them to do anything other than click the link.

[Agent name redacted]: You have a form on your site do you not?

Wayne: No, it’s a comment box.

[Agent name redacted]: Name, email

Wayne: It’s a comment box for a web log.

[Agent name redacted]: If they can put that in, you have to have the privacy policy

Wayne: But what’s that got to do with the CTA, at the top?

[Agent name redacted]: CTA?

Wayne: Call To Action — “Buy NOW from Amazon Kindle.”

Wayne: Whether anyone comments is of no concern to Microsoft or anyone else.

[Agent name redacted]: I am pointing out what is required for you to advertise. If you meet the guidelines than you can. If you do not your ads will not run.

Wayne: So if I understand this correctly, because of a secondary action, that has nothing to do with the buying process in any way, shape or form, you won’t allow me to use any page on my web blog? Keeping in mind, that a principle purpose / function of a web blog is to solicit comments.

Wayne: This I find almost too bizarre to believe.

[Agent name redacted]: If you ask people for there information you have to provide them with a privacy policy

Wayne: No wonder Google wouldn’t tell me why!

[Agent name redacted]: It applies to all advertisers

Wayne: It’s arbitrary.

Wayne: I don’t think this is going to work out, if your guidelines are this spurious. Honestly, this is incredibly weird.

[Agent name redacted]: I can provide you with a generic privacy policy and you can plug in your information.

[Agent name redacted]: Do you know how to add a link to your web page

Wayne: [Agent name redacted], the point I’m making is, whether I have or have not got a privacy policy has nothing to do with Microsoft or anyone else. That has nothing to do with the buying process.

[Agent name redacted]: It has to do with you collecting personal information

Wayne: Which has nothing to do with the buying process. Look, if someone clicks the CTA, they go to Amazon. Yes, they go to the very website you also won’t allow me to use.

[Agent name redacted]: I’m am not here to argue with you. I am just here to show you how to advertise with us

Wayne: And I’m making it clear, either for your benefit, or for the benefit of whoever you’re beholden to, that your policies are both spurious and arbitrary, and I can’t proceed on those terms.

Wayne: You’re essentially interfering with my personal practices.

Quite why anyone would devise such bewildering guidelines is something of a complete mystery. But I shall not dwell, for fear of going mad!


An overhaul to Under Cloud

Under Cloud is the summation of an idea I had about two years ago, which solves a couple of problems for me; cataloguing the web pages I find, and sorting those web pages in a meaningful way. After a day-long meeting yesterday, Under Cloud is ready for something of a re-invention.

So what is Under Cloud?

While the web is a deeply connected shared space, the relational structure of any web page lies in the hands of the authors and not the reader.

What I propose is a web application that allows the reader to create relationships between web pages that goes beyond the hyperlinks within the very web pages they discover and read.

By allowing the reader to create annotated relationships between those web pages they find, they then build a referential catalogue of interlinked web pages that builds towards a store of not just meta data, but meta information, organized chronologically.

Additionally, because this is a social web application, people can share their store of collated, curated and annotated web pages with friends, colleagues and family, or everyone else.

So that’s Under Cloud, in simple terms. However, having had the chance to share my ideas with Keith Evans of CIDA yesterday, Under Cloud clearly has potential, and that potential is clearly as an assistive aide to those performing research.

Under Cloud is a working web application, but it’s essentially just a fancy way of bookmarking web pages. Over the long term, the aim is to turn it into a substantial venue for aggregating and sharing research, either publicly or privately.

And to that end, I have a few choice questions to ask. First of all, a few disclaimers — Under Cloud will:

  1. allow you to bookmark web pages, add tags, as well as link to other related web pages.
  2. not assist in the actual process of finding research materials.

Dear researcher…

You, and what you do:

  • What kind of research do you do? Such as industry, for example.
  • Do you conduct pure (basic) or applied research?

Doing what you do:

  • What is your present workflow? In terms of process, procedures, software et cetera.
  • Do you collaborate in a team, and if so, how do you share things?
  • What (if any) mobile technologies do you use to assist in research? Such as a mobile phone, camera, dictaphone or dictation software, notes software, for example.

Sharing what you do:

  • What kind of documents do you use in your research? Either as an aide, or as actual reference, like web pages, PDFs, spreadsheets or photographs, for example.
  • Thinking about your research once complete, how do you present that body of research to the intended audience?

In an ideal world:

  • What would be your ideal workflow? Thinking about collating and storing your research materials, including notes, as well as the web pages you’re bookmarking and the documents you’re using.
  • Again, assuming things aren’t ideal, what would be your ideal way of presenting your research? As as example, perhaps in the form of an interactive discovery tool, sharing your findings via a web presentation, or within Microsoft Office.

Please reply to the above questions as a comment, and if you wish your opinions to be kept private, please say so in the actual comment.


Why I’m staring at clouds (cloud computing, that is)

You’d be forgiven for thinking you’re falling behind, no longer at the sharp end of technology if, like me, you’re a bit bewildered by the idea of so-called cloud computing, drifting slowly by. For me, “the cloud” is just a new riff on an old way of doing things.

Before I begin, let me just say this isn’t going to be some in-depth analysis of cloud computing, simply because I’m not that IT literate. And, for the most part, I’m sure such a review would have an exceptionally narrow audience. Instead, I’m going to skip the technicalities and offer my opinion on the cloud.

I have various parts of my digital life and work on the web, scattered hither and yonder. Mostly, these electronic excerpts of my life are to be found in the form of profiles, bookmarks, portfolios, with websites and articles representing the more substantiative end of the electro-content-centric spectrum.

What I don’t have on the web is anything specifically work related, in so far as archived data. Why? Two reasons, the first of which being that I live in a rural area and sit at the end of what’s called the “last mile”, a telecommunication euphemism for having a rubbish broadband connection, while secondly, I just don’t trust the internet that much.

A security storm cloud for Sony

To some, that final statement must appear like an unusual admission coming from someone like me, a business owner who builds web applications for a living. But let me just quote a message I saw on Twitter earlier, written by Adi Kingsley-Hughes:

“Before everyone pours their financial information into Google Wallet, let me just say one thing … Sony.”

Remember the Sony fiasco, where, firstly 77 million user accounts for their PlayStation network were illegally accessed, followed by an additional 24 million? Yes, that Sony. And the truly tragic irony is, the attack was actually launched from Amazon’s EC2 cloud computing platform.

So, for myself at least, if the likes of Sony can’t keep customer data safe, I really don’t hold out much hope for anyone else, Google included. And that’s just the security side of things. Then there’s what I call the all-or-nothing aspect of cloud computing.

It never rains, but it pours. Even for Google?

Let’s say you’ve taken the Google shilling and you’re using one of their Chrome OS laptop computers, that shoves all of your stuff up into the magical ether. Now, while Google will claim they can keep you going while you’re away from an internet connection, storing some of your stuff on your computer, for how long can you work like this when that all-important spreadsheet is presently residing on a server somewhere in the North America Mid-West?

And this is Google, arguably the most well resourced company in the world. From this perspective, you can easily see the cliff edge at which most other companies offering similar services would immediately drop off when their vastly smaller resources are included into the equation of you requiring access to your stuff. In the world of cloud computing, you either have everything, or you have nothing.

But cloud computing offers another potential problem, because we have Google and Amazon offering similar cloud-based services for their music offerings, too. Apple have something similar lined up, but crucially, they have seen the potential problems with the cloud and have a hybrid in mind, where you keep your music and movies on your computer, but will also be able to access them remotely from some other location, away from your computer.

This all kind of reminds me of that real world all-or-nothing situation, when the power goes out.

“Hmm, no TV. Oh well, I’ll make a cup of coffee.”

And then you realize you need power for that.

“Okay, skip that. I’ll listen to some music.”

And then you realize you need power for that, too.

“Damn it! Right, I’ll read a non-electronic book of the paper variety!”

But it’s now dark, and you need power for the lights.

Looking back, from the future

In fifty years time, this article will probably be ensconced in academic literature, highlighting the quaint concerns of the early internet, before becoming self-aware and omnipresent. For now, it isn’t and it’s not, and I’m here staring at clouds, while I work on my computer, reasonably safe in the knowledge that I have access to my stuff whenever if not wherever I am.


Why small businesses should make you think

Let’s hear it for the little guy! Seriously, small businesses are, well, the business. So here’s my take on why it’s a good idea to think big but act small when choosing who’s going to fix your boiler, install broadband at your office, replace your car exhaust, unblock your drain, mend your leaking roof, provide mobile phone coverage…

Trust in small businesses?

I can count on one hand the number of businesses I can rely on. Let me clarify what I mean — I want to be able to call them, speak to someone who actually knows what they’re doing, and get a straight answer, with some novel lateral thinking thrown in for good measure. As soon as you apply that kind of criteria to the broader swathe of businesses out there, you find yourself clearing the field of candidate businesses very, very quickly.

Arguably more importantly, how many businesses can you really, genuinely trust? And that’s the thing — trust is an invaluable quality you can neither beg, steal or borrow, or buy for that matter.

The biggest problem will small businesses is their lack of scale; they can’t service a huge number of clients. But what small businesses can do is provide an excellent personal service. It’s this attention to detail and the attention to the customer that makes dealing with small businesses so appealing to me. In fact, I often go out of my way to find the equivalent small business, who provides a service I require, even if they charge more.

A word or two about why small businesses are fantastic!

So what makes small businesses better than big businesses? Well, first of all, let’s define what I mean by big business — here I’m thinking about the likes of Orange, British Telecom, British Gas et cetera. Let’s look at what makes small business so good, by way of the words we all love to hear:

  1. “Yeah, I can do that!” Knowing they really do know what they’re doing and not having to worry any longer is just priceless — from Lynne Foster of PoLR, an internet marketing agency based in Glasgow, Scotland.
  2. “Oh, that sounds like the [insert name of broken gizmo here]. Yeah, I can sort that out for you.” You often deal with a decision maker; someone capable of handling your request in a meaningful way. They thrill you with their instant insight, and you know they know what they’re doing.
  3. “Go on, call it a tenner”. You walk away with a smile on your face, they get cash in hand, everyone is happy. And you remember them all the more for your dealings with them.
  4. “Well, if you pop in right now, we can fit you in!” The sheer convenience of ad hoc arrangements, without having to wait days or even weeks is just bliss, which means you can get on with your life.
  5. “Yeah, I saw the problem earlier. I’m working on a fix right now.” Getting the right level of support can be a monumental challenge. Being able to speak to the very people dealing with the problems you encounter, and being reasonably certain they’re already fixing those problems fills you with a certain warmth.
  6. “What’s your deadline?” Having some demonstration of their awareness and ability to plan is also a good indicator — from internet marketeer Nikki Pilkington.
  7. “Sorry, I can’t do that, because…” Maybe they don’t have the time, or they simply don’t have the necessary skills. Either way, they’re being honest, which allows you time to move on and find someone else. You’d be surprised just how empowering say “no” can be.

And here’s some more thoughts from the world wide web:

“I need my suppliers to be honest and do what they say they’ll do. If they’re nice too, so much the better!” — Rob Griggs-Taylor.

“”Yes sir, you are right. I will get that done immediately, free of charge” Is my favourite response.” — Steve Williams, IT security expert.

Conclusion

As a small business owner, I’m passionate about my business, Octane, by default — if I’m not passionate, who the hell else will be? And so it goes that many similar small business owners make their businesses passionately personal and personable.

We don’t have the luxury of shrugging our shoulders as customer number 77,596 walks away in a huff because we didn’t give them the service they expected. Instead, we work damn hard for all our clients and customers because our reputation and, by natural extension, our livelihoods rely on this attention to detail.

So when you’re thinking of renewing a service contract, or buying something and you’re planning big, try thinking small for a change.


Quite simply, clients count on quality

Quality is one of those things a business needs to get right early and quickly. Quality of service is not optional, nor is it interchangeable (or to be confused) with something else, like quantity. So would you impose a statute of limitations on the quality of the service you provide? No, you wouldn’t. And neither would I.

Of course, it wouldn’t do for everyone to be the same. At least that’s what my mother used to tell me. But then my mother didn’t run a business. As sage and sound as her advice often was, some things are an immutable prerequisite, like quality.

OK, let’s talk specifics — specifically, where a statute of limitations exists as a legitimate cut-off point for quality. Here I’m thinking of a time-limited warranty, like you get with physical goods, such as home electronics, food and vehicles.

In this kind of situation, you expect the guarantee of quality to fade over time, as the physical product ages, and is exposed to real world knocks, scuffs, tumbles and inexorable decay.

So that’s the physical time-limited quality issue out of the way. I’m sure we all agree on the legitimacy of warranties, yes? Now, I had an unusual conversation yesterday, one that forced me to think of the obvious in a way that, at least for me, is a constant I wouldn’t dream of tinkering with.

There’s no statute of limitations on quality

I was asked if, say, six weeks was a reasonable period of time, after which a client could no longer legitimately request fixes to software that myself, for example, had developed for them. As you can imagine, that threw me.

There were technical issues here — which I suppose we could consider as clauses — that needed addressing, as they were key players. Ultimately, they amount to an exercise in finger pointing, if I must be lazy about this. My reply was:

“If there’s a bug in your code and it’s your fault, don’t expect a client to observe a statute of limitations — they want a fix!”

And that’s only fair, and that’s where the technical clauses emerged — who made the most recent changes, to which files and when. However:

“If the client made any changes in or around the area of the fault, I’d make them aware of their liability.”

Which essentially highlights to the client the possibility that they will have to pay for those “fixes”, should any be required.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not laying any blame on the person who asked me this question. After all, each industry has its own customs and practices. To me though, common sense wins out every time, and customs and practices be damned.

So I guess what I’m saying is, software doesn’t come with a warranty, and don’t expect a client to think otherwise.