False Arrow Image Galleries are Black Hat

Deliberating deluding the public through shady advertising practices is one of the reasons advertising is consistently one of the least respected industries.

False Arrow Image Galleries are Black Hat

One online tactic that I find particularly disturbing is the use of false image gallery arrows. Most meme and viral sites now have image galleries of amusing images to scroll through. The advertising tactic that is being employed on these sites is to add false previous and next arrows above and below the gallery.

The real arrows are tiny or simple text links. The false arrows are large, use the color scheme of the site and easily mistaken for the gallery controls, when in fact, they lead offsite to shady advertisers.

False Arrow Image Galleries are Black Hat

This example above is from the site ViewMixed.com. They are certainly not the only site to use unscrupulous tactics like this. Notice how underplayed the design of the real NEXT button is compared to the false arrow. I’d love to know what the statistics are for how many people fall for this. If high, I’d use the results to wage a campaign against them. They should be illegal.

True, most of the more respected meme sites with galleries shun these tactics (thank you for not participating in this, Buzzfeed. My hat is off to you), but most do and it’s unacceptable.

Make no mistake, this tactic is black hat and it’s every bit as despicable as phishing emails. If you own a site that uses this type of advertising, please consider something else. There are far more legitimate ways to make money. If you find nothing wrong with this, consider me your sworn enemy.

Reflecting on 16 Years of Blogging

After reading Charlene Li’s wonderful post Reflecting on 10 Years of Blogging this morning, I was inspired to write my version.

I started blogging in 1998. That’s 16 years of blogging.

Think about that. That’s longer than I’ve been married. Longer than I’ve stayed at any career. The only thing I’ve had in my life last longer was my cat Jade, who passed away at 18 years of age.

I started a blog called Davezilla, 16 years ago.

During those 16 years, I’ve gone from painstakingly hand-coding my blog to using Greymatter (anyone remember that beautiful interface?), to being on the development team of b2 Cafélog—an early blogging platform that was the first to use a database on your own server.

Later on, b2 was forked off by a young Matt Mullenweg, who renamed it WordPress and turned it into the largest CMS in the world. But I’m not bitter about that at all…

One reason b2 never caught traction—despite it having a better interface than the early WordPress installs—was its name. It wasn’t pronounced “be-two” like it looks.

Owned by Michel Valdrighi in France, b2 is actually pronounced en français, so it sounds more like “beta” (bay-duh). So it was a French pun of a Greek word. Went over the heads of most American bloggers who called it “be-two”.

In hindsight, yes, WordPress is a better name.

Eventually, I caved and moved over to WordPress after Michel and the team had mostly given up working on b2 (For the record, b2 still exists as b2evolution).

But I digress…

I Get in Trouble for My Blog

In 2001, I was served a cease and desist by a multi-billion dollar company in Japan called Toho. They own anything related to Godzilla and claimed that my blog would be confused with their giant rubber monster movies.

I disagreed.

At the time, there was a show called “Bridezillas” and a new web browser called “Mozilla”. Why weren’t they in trouble?

I did what any young blogger would do. I posted the C&D to every blogger I knew. Over 150 bloggers posted it in my defense. I began getting calls from newspapers, magazines and television shows wanting to interview this brash young blogger who dared to take on the Japanese giant.

An extremely helpful law firm in Israel came to my aid and sent me a 4″ binder full of proof that Toho cannot own the terms “God” or “Zilla” as both are proper names (Zilla is a first, middle and last name in Hebrew, meaning shadow).

Guess what? I won.

Toho backed down and I ended up with 60,000 visitors a day. And I became a verb in the Urban Dictionary. And I became a case on the Harvard Grep Law site. It was the best thing that could have happened to my blog.

The Rise of Social Networks

Once social networks really started taking off in late 2005, I blogged less. I still do, but after reading Ann Handley’s latest book, , I am inspired to go back to blogging every day. I really miss it.

Here’s looking forward to 16 more years

Davezilla.com is a humor blog that has run continually since 1998. It has won nearly 20 blogging awards and gotten me in a fair amount of trouble.

5 Things You Can Do to Win Over a Tough Client

“What kind of presentation was that? I’m not seeing what I’m looking for. This entire meeting was a waste of my time.”

Have a client like that? Relax, you’re not alone. Everyone has a tough client at one point in their career that the entire team dreads meeting with. Although… there is always one person on the team who gets along just great with that client. Knows what to say and always gets her work approved in the spot. What is she doing that you aren’t?

Simple. There are five things you can do that will win over the toughest of clients. I use these and can attest personally to how well they work. They usually all stem from one issue your team is having: It’s not that your client is tough; it’s that your team isn’t presenting to them in a way that they expect, prefer and feel comfortable with. Keep reading. I’ll show you all the secrets.

1. Make the feel special

Have a client that complains about their superiors a lot? You’ll hear a lot of phrases like, “I can’t show this to my boss the way it is now.” This type of client is probably in a bad career place where they are the company scapegoat. Make them feel special.

Randomly surprise them with a dog and pony show type of meeting that includes industry trends. Use a good designer to build the presentation. Unless you have superior design skills and by that, I mean you either went to art school, or are often sought out to build decks. Don’t make it a bullet point fiesta. Use full screen images and minimal text.

Remember their birthday, anniversary, kids, etc. Send them cards on holidays. Don’t send corporate cards. Go to the store and pick one out yourself. Don’t hand it to them. Mail it. It’s a small thing, but people really remember it and it will make them feel special.

2. Make them look smart

Everyone wants to look smart. Don’t go into a meeting spewing out industry jargon or technical terms that your client clearly doesn’t understand. That doesn’t make you look smart. It makes you a pompous ass. And as Will Wheaton’s Law states, “Don’t be a dick.” You’re only impressing yourself.

Instead, use clear, simple language. If you have a tough subject to explain to a non-technical person (API requests, for example), use simple analogies. Invite them to a conference that will keep them up to date.

Make them look good (in front of their boss)

Invite a guest speaker from their industry to speak at their status meeting. Invite the client and her boss out to lunch with the speaker and you.

Email your client links to articles they should know about. CC her boss. Pick one day of the week to do this and keep it consistent so they have something to look forward to and you can squeak it into your workflow.

I used to have after hours phone calls with a client I had a really good working relationship with. She would send me decks to redesign for her that had nothing to do with our agency work. But it made her look good in front of her boss to have smart presentations with beautiful graphics and custom illustrations I did for her. She got promoted. Twice.

Make them remember why they hired you

“We’re terminating the AOR with your agency.”
“May we ask why? We’ve done everything you’ve asked.”
“Yes, you have. But that’s all you’ve done. You never went further. We saw you do things for other clients that we were never offered. We never even got to see your entire roster of agency offerings. We’re putting up an RFP for a new agency, and you will not be asked to take part.”

That painful conversation was true. It happened at an agency I worked at. We did everything they asked, but we never went the extra mile and reminded them why they hired us. We never showed them new capabilities we had added. They became a “factory client” (Churn out the work). They became a job, not a client you want to brag to your Mom about.

The fact is, many clients weren’t even the one who hired your firm. They might be new to the company, or it might have been a handshake deal their boss made ten years ago over a golf game. Whatever the reason, your client needs to be reminded why they hired your company.

Making them feel special, look smart and look good in front of their boss certainly helps put you in a good light. Those things make you, as an individual, appealing to your client, but they don’t remind them why they chose your company.

To do that, you need another dog and pony show, but this time, not to impress them for the sake of making them feel special. Wow them with facts. Remind them of the successes of the year to date. How they’ve exceeded sales goals (ahem, assuming they have).

Ideally, you’d do this quarterly. Have a meeting with them to showcase your capabilities—even the ones they have no reason to use. They need to know what you are can anyway. Bring in employees they aren’t used to seeing in meetings who work in each discipline. They like to see new faces too, and it brings them a fresh perspective. You never know. The one employee you dreaded bringing in may be the one to sell them on a whole new project. I’ve seen that happen many times.

Take work off their plate

This is a big one and so few people have the common sense to do it. Sure, we all know the key to promotions is to take work off your own boss’s plate, but your client’s? Absolutely.

This isn’t something you need to do all the time, or you’ll never get your own work done, but when you can, and you sense your client is overloaded, ask them what you can do to help them.

Bonus tip: Mimic their sensory language

My favorite and this could be a post unto itself. Almost everyone has a dominant sense. You can nearly always figure it out without asking because it invades their daily language.
Someone who is olfactory-dominant (smell) will say things like, “That really stinks,” or, “I smell a rat,” or, “Something doesn’t smell right about that.” An aural-dominant (hearing) will say, “I’m not liking what I’m hearing” or, “You’re not listening” or, “That doesn’t sound right to me.” A visual-dominant (the most common) will say, “I see” or, “That looks right to me” or, “I can’t picture what you’re describing.”

Can you see (visual) where I’m headed with this? Find out which sense is dominant with your client (or anyone you work with) and use their sensory words when you’re in conversations with them. You’ll find they connect with you, find you easy to talk with and are more receptive to your ideas.

Conversely, using a sense they are not dominant with will often interrupt the flow of conversation, cause more friction between you and your client.

Final Note:

Everything I’ve taught you can also be used with your own boss. You’ll find yourself rapidly becoming their favorite employee if you do.

What has your experience been with a tough client? How did you handle it?

PHOTO CREDIT: lintmachine via PhotoPin cc

Five Things Vendors Always Get Wrong

Hi Vendors! I love meeting vendors and startup founders. I really do. But (most of) you haven’t quite mastered the social skills necessary to properly contact an executive, or what to say to us to keep our attention. But there are (at least) five things vendors always get wrong. So here’s some free advice…

1. My name is not Dear Sir or Madam

First things first. If you cannot be bothered to look up my name, I cannot be bothered to respond to you. Sorry, but I will mark you as spam and you just lost a sale. Happy with your efforts now? I didn’t think so. I’m not alone in this, by the way. Most of the executives I’ve spoken to say they mark mass emails and generic messages as spam.

2. Read my profile before you contact me

Or at least skim it. Really. You’ll see that I’ve been doing this for a long time. Most executives have been at their position a long time. We go to the same conferences you do. We were probably speakers on the panel of the last con you attended. When you start communiques with an introduction on “how social media is taking over” (or mobile, or local, or augmented reality, et al), we tune out. We know it has.

I’ve spoken all over the world about that very subject. I’ve trained literally hundreds of executives. Had you read my LinkedIn profile, my Facebook, About.Me or bios on any of the other 200+ networks I belong to, you would know that I probably know as much as you do, and possibly a lot more than you on the subject. This is not a boast. It’s a fact from nearly 20 years experience in the digital marketing industry. You’re insulting my intelligence, belittling my experience and wasting my time.

3. You do not have “the one app that will solve all my marketing problems”

So stop claiming that. It’s impossible, and any tool that got close to achieving such a lofty goal can’t possibly do all of them well. I am quite happy (and prefer) to pay a little more to work with more vendors on more one trick pony apps that get it right. This goes double for social media. Most apps that claim to be great at monitoring barely scratch the surface, yet convince their subscribers they are getting everything. No one can do this. Privacy settings, anyone?

4. Don’t message me in two days, telling me that I “still haven’t responded”

Guess what? I’m not going to now. You just told me a lot about your attitude. That your time is worth more than mine. It’s not; we’re both busy. That I am obliged to respond. I don’t. That I am under a time pressure to respond to you. I wasn’t aware that I was, as you didn’t mention that, but being a salesperson, you probably are under a quota to deliver by a certain date. I get that. But I’m still not responding. Because I don’t have to.

5. Just because you worked with a colleague of mine…

Doesn’t mean I’m necessarily interested in your product or service. Messages that make assumptions about “what a perfect fit your product/service is” don’t excite me. You don’t know what products I am already using. Or if I have built my own. You don’t know if I’ve read reviews on your brand and chosen a competitor. You don’t know because you assumed. And you know what happens when you assume.

Now here’s how you can do better:

1. Address me by my name. And do this for everyone, not just me. Generic emailing is from the devil.

2. Read my profile so you know my experience level. This will prevent you from embarrassing yourself and having an awkward conversation with me.

3. Tell me about your app in a humble way. The best email I ever received from a vendor was from Josh Little (Qzzr.co). That guy knows how to write a great email. Polite, no assumptions, did his homework and mentioned that he’d be in the area, but with no presumptions that we had to meet. Just a “hey, if you’re free…”. We had a great meeting as a result. Josh is forever in my cool book.

4. Be patient if I don’t respond. If you feel the need to make sure I received your well-written, humble email, do it in a non-threatening way. How about, “Hey [person’s name], just checking in. I sent you a message about a product that I thought was up your alley. Just wanted to make sure you got the message? If you did and it’s of no interest, that’s cool. If you have a spare minute, could you reply and tell me what wasn’t appealing to you? If not, no pressure. Just checking in.” See that? Written like a friend, not a machine.

5. Perhaps ask that colleague if I would be a good fit first. Don’t just ask them for “the name of whomever is in charge of your digital purchases” (Which you all do, don’t deny it. We all know how social engineering works).

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

PHOTO CREDIT: rogerdominh via photopin cc

Case Study: Artisan Plating

CASE STUDY: Artisan Plating

This month’s case study is about Artisan Plating, an interesting company in that they specialize in electroplating all kinds of precious metals. While they specialize in plating designer work, they also electroplate for government and military applications, which means they reach military-grade tolerance levels. They’ve even plated parts for NASA’s space shuttles. Pretty cool client!

I designed and developed artisanplating.com twelve years ago and then, I told David Vinson, the owner, that sites that can give something away always outperform sites that do not. After the recent Google Hummingbird update, this is still clearly the case.

Since he clearly could not give away jewelry, I suggested he give away his vast knowledge of electroplating, precious metals and metallurgy. He wrote up dozens of articles and since then, they have been linked to, ripped off, copied and discussed by his competitors, universities and scientists, globally. He’s also been a featured national speaker on metallurgy and electroplating precious metals.

The articles also played another role: they kept him on the first page of Google organically for 12 years! The reason for the redesign? After 12 years, Google’s algorithm changes finally bumped him off page one. Granted, the articles hadn’t been updated in years.


For the redesign, I talked Artisan Plating into four new ideas:

  1. Mobile-first Responsive Design.
  2. A portfolio of his exquisite work.
  3. New articles on areas that his competitors seem ignorant of, but he is on top of.
  4. Contact information available on every page.


Site traffic has increased by over 300% and he’s getting rave reviews on the new design from his customers. We haven’t sent the pages jump back to page one of Google yet, but it’s only been two weeks and we are not using any paid media or keyword buys.

CASE STUDY: Artisan Plating

Productivity Apps I Cannot Work Without

Why write an article about productivity apps?

Agreed. There’s quite a few articles on apps for work productivity and I’ve read most of them. Over the years. I have probably tested well over 200 productivity apps and furniture combinations to make my home office the most efficient I can, given the small space I have.

I share my office with my music setup (five synthesizers, Kaossilators, MIDI controllers, drum machines, mixer, amps, you get the idea.) This leaves me with a crowded desk.

Pen fetish. Do not judge.I must admit to something. I have a pen fetish. And not just any pen. Papermate Flairs. I’ve written with them since college and—apart from the lovely Montblanc my wife bought me—no other pen makes me happy to write with.

But I have a serious problem with them. I freak out inside if I possess less than two dozen. I go through them very quickly (2-3 a week) because I write and draw a lot. That explains the multiple pen jars, most of which are jammed full of Flairs.

Office Supply stores are like crack for me. I have to put spending limits on myself or I’ll convince myself that I need fourteen new notebooks, ten cases of Flairs and 150 new dry erase markers. But I digress…

Here’s the apps I have found that in combination create the ideal workflow for me.


It’s the reigning king/queen of note apps for many good reasons: dictation, OCR scanning of your handwriting, cloud sharing, privacy settings, etc. Having access to all my notes on all my computers, tablet and phone all the time is a life-saver.


I am a coffee addict and love working in coffee houses. Studies have shown that the particular sounds of coffeehouses are conducive to creativity. However, it is not always practical to work in coffeehouses for several reasons:

  1. It gets expensive
  2. There’s not always a seat and if there is…
  3. …there’s not always a seat near an outlet
  4. It can occasionally be either too loud, or you end up next to a loudmouth on cellphone

Enter Coffitivity. A simple app that recreates the sounds of a coffeehouse. It runs in the background and takes up very little processing power. It really helps. I use it on conjunction with a playlist. Through experimentation have found the perfect volume mix of coffeehouse background noise to music that perfectly replicates my favorite coffeehouse. All that’s missing are the hipster baristas, but Coffitivity found some of those for me, too!


A simple Mac app that takes full-site screenshots. I know there are some excellent Firefox plugins for this too, but they lack the options Paparazzi! offers. One of my favorite options is Delay. You set the seconds you want before the screenshot is taken. Why? With a lot of these responsive sites that have enormous, slow-loading images, you may find that making the app wait 10 seconds will allow everything to load.

Funny. We solved the multiple sites issue and replaced that problem with another problem: images dimensions that are simply too slow for mobile (and yes I know there is a way around that, but too few devs are implementing it).

OmniGraffle Pro

Sorry, Visio. You are no match for OmniGraffle Pro when it comes to making IA or UXD diagrams, especially ones that won’t put folks to sleep. This app is a dream to work with (except on iPad. Not a fan) and the community of designers who make more stencils on Graffletopia keeps the app fresh.

This list is by no means exhaustive; I also use Keynote, Adobe Illustrator, etc. but I wanted to share the productivity apps I use most often. How about you? What apps make your day?