Sunday, December 28, 2008

Salesman, Salesman... Why don't you sell me something...




Multiply's being annoying again. I tried posting a link to a Multiply.com "photo album" on my Facebook account. Multiply placed a misleading advert in my post as a subtitle.

Here's the back story.

Brian Kelly's been hosting an off and on discussion about the use of "walled gardens" like Facebook over on his UK Web Focus (most recently here and here). "Walled gardens" refers to internet services which require users to join up and/or log-in before they can access hosted content. So, for example, some content on users' Facebook accounts is accessible only to viewers/readers who are signed into their own Fb accounts.

Brian is an advocate of creative problem solving and making things work. He suggested a work-around which would allow users to harness Fb's tremendous networking capabilities while still providing maximum access to content: host the content elsewhere, and then provide a link or feed into Fb.

I decided to try it out. I created a 20 picture photo display ("album") on Multiply, and then, instead of posting the same 20 pictures to Fb, I simply posted the link.

Here's the result:



As you can see, Multiply is offering to sell "a beautiful photo calendar" incorporating my photos: this in a blue, clickable (hot-linked) subtitle inserted without my consent or involvement.

Now, in fact, they probably wouldn't sell you a "Wendell's Beaver Pond Pictures" calendar. At least, I hope not. The reason I think this has to do with Multiply's somewhat complicated services structure.

Multiply has two categories of users: paying or "premium" users and freeloaders like me. They allow premium users higher quality pictures which, when downloaded, make better quality prints. They also allow users - all users, as far as I can see - to purchase specialty products like calendars making use of premium users' high quality prints. As a freeloader I'm only allowed poor quality pictures, and so I can't offer high quality downloads.

Now, if I choose, I can "upgrade", paying Multiply to host high quality pics on my site. And you could pay Multiply to download these, or maybe buy "a beautiful photo calendar" featuring them. In any case, Multiply gets paid twice: once by me and once by you. Needless to say, you and I don't get paid at all.

As part of this fantasy world, each time I upload pics to Multiply, I'm presented with the check-box option to "Allow premium users to download high quality prints." As I've said, checking that box does no good, because I don't have the necessary premium account. Still, the box is always there, and I always uncheck it (the default is "checked") because otherwise Multiply's offer to sell these photos always appears at the bottom of my album page.

So, to sum up: a) I didn't check the box allowing premium users to download or buy prints, calendars and whatnot; and b) I'm not a premium user, so there are no high quality prints to be had on my site. Yet, there was that ad inserted as a subtitle in my Fb post.

Multiply's Terms of Service (like most other such sites) spells out their rights to re-package and/or cash in on any content I post:

You retain all ownership rights in your Member Content. However, by posting Content to the Web site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to Multiply (and its successors) an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, assignable, royalty free, worldwide license to use, copy, perform, display, distribute and to prepare derivative works of such Content in connection with the Website and the Service, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing.

The ToS do not give Multiply the "irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, assignable, royalty free, worldwide license" to scam my Fb contacts by claiming there are calendars and such to be had featuring my photos. Nor to imply that I was consenting to, or even advocating, such a sale.

This is the same... well, "smarmy" really... behaviour I've posted about thrice before (here, here and here). It's the behaviour that warned me off from setting up any more learners or friends on Multiply.

I understand that there's no free lunch. The web isn't really so much a "cloud" as a series of privately owned parking lots. I don't begrudge Multiply making money off my content. But they've crossed a line here. By putting their ad (for content that doesn't exist) in my post title, they've misrepresented me and interfered with how I want to represent myself on another website.

So, the search goes on. I still want a non-Facebook, real-world social networking site where learners I and can connect. Multiply's too scammy. Yahoo's lost at sea. This spring, I guess, I need to take another look at Orkut.

By the way, I got around today's challenge by posting a "note" on Fb containing nothing but an invitation (written by me, thanks) and the link to the my multiply photo album.

But, you know... It's just all so Herb Tarlek out there!




1 comment:

Everett said...

Hi Wendell,

I work at Multiply and just came across your post. (I see it's a few months old. Why the delay? I don't know. Perhaps the intertubes have been slow, or such.)

With this particular issue, what you seem to be attributing to Multiply's malice is actually Facebook's... imprecision.

When you add a link to Facebook, it fetches the page and grabs a selection of text on it, to use as a summary. I can't give you a definite answer as to why Facebook picked that particular bit of text, but it's not like that block of copy was written to target Facebook.

If you view a photo album on Multiply and use the "Next" link to flip through all the way to the end of the album, you'll be greeted with a friendly slide that helpfully provides you with convenient links to turn that album into a sweet little photo product. Of the products, Calendars are the first listed, and underneath the Calendar link reads:

"Enjoy this album every month on a beautiful photo calendar. It's easy to include important dates, like holidays, birthdays and anniversaries."

I'm intimately familiar with this, because I actually wrote this bit of copy myself. It was written for display on the upsell slide at the end of an album, absolutely not for Facebook's consumption.

(Also note that photo albums on Multiply are presented using "Ajax" technology, to make the next page in an album load instantly when you click. What this means is that your browser loads the entire album at once, and only pulls in the images themselves as needed. This might explain why the text of the upsell slide appears for Facebook. Still no idea why they think that's the most important part to quote.)

But, hey, if Facebook wants to promote our photo products, that's great, too. :)


Everett