Saturday, August 24, 2013

Why webmasters sometimes need to run their own user interfaces (including credit cards under PCI); advice on "solicitations"

Here’s a little note on business.  An independent filmmaker recently communicated to me why he (or his small company) prefers to sell DVD’s of a new film exclusively for about six months before putting the film on Amazon (including Instant video rental) and Netflix.  He says that his personal earnings is triple the amount per DVD sold that it could be with any Internet retail operation, or even conventional studio distribution.  This helps in business relations with investors.

That means that his website has to take credit cards, and meet certain standards for security in collecting personal information, or at least financial credit card information. (Use https, for openers.) The PCI Security Standards Council is explained here. Throw into that the ability to process Paypal (which I don't use right now), or even bitcoin.  But using those payment systems still require some middleman payment (or, as novelist Thomas B. Costain called it, "The Moneyman").  
I’ve never required (or even allowed) users to log on to my own domain.  (To comment on my blogs, you log on to Google, and I let one of the world’s biggest Internet companies deal with the security issues.)   For comments to my “doaskdotell” site (Aug. 22), I just let people send me emails, and I post them.  (A lot of people really did this.)  That could change in the future, given the feedback I got from this filmmaker, since I contemplate a similar project myself.

In the early days of my first book in 1997, people just contacted me by email and sent checks (in a couple of cases, cash)   The world wasn’t so automated then.  I didn’t put the book on Amazon until January 1998 (right after coming home from the hospital from my convenience store accident) when getting feedback from visitors (in rehab) that I should.  I was naïve in those days.  

There’s another little matter to mention today.  That is how I handle “unsolicited calls”.  On landlines (which I don’t publish) I get a lot (left over from my mother) which Comcast Xfinity identifies and most of them are robo calls.  I don’t pick up.  Registering with the FTC’s “do not call” doesn’t do much.   On the cell phone, the volume is lower, but I don’t like to take the time to listen to cookie cutter pitches.  Ditto, I’m pretty good at recognizing spam “as a human being” missed by email filters.   The same for spam comments (which usually get filtered out).   In my circumstances, I don’t have time for a lot of charity pitches – I know this sounds harsh – but there are so many of them, and no one party is more “deserving” than any one else until I say so!  More about that soon. 

One Saturday afternoon in June, while I was at a film festival, I got an unsolicited call about one of my books.  If I understood properly, the message said a major NYC publisher was interested in the 2002 book.  The message was marked urgent.  Now, I never “got around” to calling back, because I didn’t believe it.  It sounded “too good to be true”.  It sounded like it could be a scam.  Major companies don’t make approaches like this on weekends, and they generally don’t want old non-fiction books.   The hysterical marking of the message as “urgent” on a Saturday afternoon seemed rude and inappropriate. 

What could have been true, though, was that a publisher could have wanted one of the specific essays in the book, like the one on “Bill of Rights II” or one on “narcissism, affiliation and polarity”, or even one on self-publishing.  In fact, one of the essays (from 2004) on my “” site was picked up by a trade publisher for its “Opposing Viewpoints” series (Books blog, Sept. 19, 2006). 
The moral of the story is this.  If you call, make sure you are convincing. Be specific as to what you have to offer.  Don’t make a cookie cutter approach that you make to many people.  If you have a legitimate opportunity and make it sound routine, then I will behave like anyone else flooded with input (“resume fatigue) and forget it after the first five seconds.   Everyone loses when an opportunity is lost because of careless presentation: the employer, the teammates, the client, the customer.  Remember the lessons of “The Apprentice”.  As Donald Trump warns, if you’re careless and inconsiderate, “You’re fired.”   

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