Student Loan Injustice

Sallie Mae: Predatory Lender

It’s taken me nearly a decade of fighting to get a payment that I can afford. During this decade my student loan debt has gone up excessively. I’ve had “legal fees” and “late fees” and “just because we can fees” tacked onto my loans that have been rolled in with them so that I’m not only paying the fees but also paying interest on those fees. So while I’ve finally got a payment that I can make on a bill that is as much as four times the amount that I actually borrowed, this fight is not over for me. It’s not over because my story is all to familiar. I’ve come home from this war wounded but alive. Others have not been so lucky. Besides the war continues to rage on even now.

I received the attached appeal from urging me to get the word out and that is what this post is for. I encourage you to read the information below from Student Loan Justice and I encourage you to act on it – demand that this be changed. It’s not about my future, it’s not about some retired parent or uncle who’s credit has been obliterated so that the executives at Sallie Mae can buy a new private jet – it’s about all of us because like the housing bubble higher education is heading for a bust and when that happens the United States will be in a world of hurt. We’ll loose the tech-race, we’ll fall behind other developed countries, and we’ll loose our status as a world leader and innovator.

It’s time we put aside politics and focus on what is best for our country. They’ve made gross fortunes off of the defaults of people who were and are just trying to get an education. We’re not asking for reparations, we’re just asking that the injustice that is being done be stopped. I’m writing my representatives and I urge you to do the same.

Thank you. Here is the appeal:

Protection for College Students Needed Now

December 20,2010

In 2005, language was slipped into the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act which effectively removed bankruptcy protections from private student loans. The brazenness of this action shocked even the most jaded experts on the Hill (when it was discovered). After all, this amounts to the same thing as stripping bankruptcy protections from credit cards, or any other type of unsecured, free-market debt. Make no mistake: there are large injustices with the student lending system generally, but this move set a new low.

The banking industry and their lobbyists promised increased loan availability to disadvantaged students in return for the wholesale removal of this critical, free-market mechanism, but never delivered, the record now clearly shows. What they did deliver were tens of billions of dollars in outrageous loans that would make a subprime mortgage broker blush, with APRs as high as 28%, dropped onto the backs of unsuspecting students through deceptive and corrupt marketing techniques for which there simply is no comparison (consider that often, students would call their school’s financial aid offices, and unbeknownst to them, at the other end of the line was a student loan marketer pretending to be a university employee, and this point is proven, but we could go on at length here).

It was assumed by all that at the first possibility (i.e. when the democrats recaptured one or both houses of Congress), this grave injustice would be quickly righted. So in 2007, when Democrats swept both Houses, this painful period for the citizens was clearly at an end. Or was it? The democrats, to their credit, did introduce legislation to reverse this robbery, but didn’t put their back into it, evidently. The first attempt the legislation was quietly killed. A second attempt was narrowly defeated in a House vote thanks to the Blue Dogs cooperation with republicans like Howard “Buck” McKeon, and others. The third attempt, introduced last Spring, was on a slow road to passage, and would have been fine, but for an inconvenient election in November.

Surely the banking lobbyists charged with keeping this beach head were richly rewarded for their efforts. After all, a leaked Sallie Mae strategy memo that surfaced around the time the Democrats took power in Congress put preserving the current bankruptcy laws as the 2nd highest priority. And over four years, the record is clear that this mission was accomplished.

Consider, however, what is lost to this dangerous and predatory lending system. While we won’t be seeing them marching on Washington anytime soon, former students by the hundreds of thousands are currently reeling, devastated by this toxic debt. Their cosigning parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles who wanted only for their loved one to get a college education now face financial ruin, and that is absolutely not in any way an exaggeration. And for what? So Sallie Mae can reap excessive profits from predatory loans made on a hyper-inflated commodity, which is higher education?

Ironically, the entities who so cleverly led the students into these monstrous debt situation are the same people now chastising the students about not reading the fine print. They now dispense belated words of wisdom on borrower responsibility from on high, effectively insulating themselves from all blame. But the ironies do not end there…the democrats who were so quick to rush to the financial aid of the financial industry (including Sallie Mae, and the other student lenders), have gone quiet on this final attempt at returning the bankruptcy protections that should have never been taken away, it seems. And where are the beltway advocates? It seems, that the only ones left in this fight are the citizens, and the Congress elected to represent them. Oh..and of course the banks with their money, expert advice, and threats designed to protect their profits no matter the public cost.

Democrats: Do what is critically needed right now, and return at least this obvious critical protection to the consumers before this term expires.

Information Overload

Too Much Information

Are we really at the point of total information overload?

How we got here

Let’s stand back and view the expansion and dissemination of information over the past 30 years since the advent of mass user networking. Even before the internet and hypertext protocol were developed  as a means to share information more easily the groundwork was laid for the ever expanding mess of data that we have available today. It crept out of universities in the 70s through home consumer networks and Listservs in the 80s and exploded with the birth of the web in the 90s.

As the number of websites grew and came to be indexed, (as we all probably know), search was developed and marketed as a means to find the information we wished to consume. Now the information was out there and we just needed to know how to look for it. This passive means of data interaction works great assuming you know how to look for what it is that you want to know but what if you don’t know what it is you want to know? You know? That’s when the technology of information consumption made it’s next leap …

Stop! I think it’s happening again

Along comes RSS that offers to feed us information without us needing to lift a finger to search for it. Sure you initially have some limited activity in setting up an RSS reader but with tools like Google Reader and Google Alert we no longer need to hunt for information, we just need to sit back and consume it.

We can think of this process like the chocolate production line episode from I Love Lucy. If you’ve never seen the episode or the show for that matter, GOOGLE IT. If you’ve honestly never seen it Lucy and Ethel have no issues at first with the trickle of candy (information) but it quickly overwhelmed them and they have a hard time reacting to it, comedy ensues, and the candy speeds up even more before the scene ends.

As a more personal example in my Google Reader I subscribe to more than 70 RSS feeds. Some of those are aggregators so the number of posts I get each day is often over 150. I have them categorized by subject but at times it still is overload and my retention is probably very low.

In fact I decided to write this post only after seeing this in my Google Reader:


That’s from the website: which shows a thank you note everyday. Now, this isn’t off of one of the 70+ RSS Feeds I get. It was from another section in my Google Reader where I can see things that my friends who also use Google Reader want to share but it makes a great and very true statement. By the time I get done reading all the new posts in Google Reader there are more of them there.

The Answer

There are already books published about the effects of this kind of information overload on our brains. It’s frightening to me at least that there are serious physiological changes that have been observed and documented that can scientifically be traced to our changing means of information consumption.

So how do we combat these changes?

The truth is that there is little chance that people are going to slow their consumption. We’re not going to go back to 3 TV channels and no internet. True there are those that limit their exposure but does this actually have a positive effect or do they just read and consume things at an even higher rate because they know they have a time limit? Can their activities be equated to the use of filters on cigarettes? A means that only purports to have a health benefit when in actuality the smokers just suck harder.

I can come up with two ideas on my own though I can’t actually develop either myself.

One idea is to create a more targeted flow of information. RSS is great but when we add key-wording in no longer am I getting each post from a photo-blog that often features mediocre nudes, lackluster portraits, boring “art photography”, and amazing architectural photos. If I add in the keyword restriction or only subscribe to posts that are from the architectural category then I get to see what I want and the signal comes through the noise a little stronger. I also see a lower number of total unread posts in my Google Reader which doesn’t make me think – crap, I can’t look at all of these, I’ve only got 20 minutes before I need to leave.

So idea one is to add a new layer to RSS would be beneficial and really already exists. It’s category based RSS and some sites do offer it – it just needs to be more widespread.

The second idea is to stop beaming bright light directly into our eyes.

These new tablets and iPads and things are really cool but when are the even cooler thin, readable in all light, vivid color, electronic ink devices going to get here? Right now we are bombarding our eyes with the lights from our computers and that stimulates the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) but we don’t fight or flee, we just keep reading or watching.

Maybe someday soon there will be a device that works more like a newspaper with full color vibrant photos, that is small, flexible, and doesn’t require back-lighting to be read. They’re working on this stuff but when will it get here?

I know that the Kindle has an e-ink display but it doesn’t have color and that’s going to keep it from being able to replace newspapers and magazines. Not so much because they include images in stories but because they do so in ads. For them (so far) it’s the web, these tablets, or nothing.

So really I don’t have all the answers and those I have I can’t implement alone but I think we need to start to critically think about ways to adapt the consumption to the consumer because they’re not going to stop consuming or even slow down until they are forced to. I know I’m not.

Do you have any ideas how to do that? If so leave them in the comments or better yet start a tech company that changes the world.

WordPress 3.0

WordPress 3.0

Wordpress 3.0If I or someone else has built a website for you on WordPress and you’ve logged in within the past few days you should see a notice under the header that looks like the image on the left. It’s letting you know that WordPress 3.0 is out. Does that mean you should update? Maybe.

Who should update

If somebody else built your site you should ask them if it’s alright to update your WordPress. If I’ve designed your site please sit tight as I’ll be updating you very soon. All of my sites should be updated but I’ll need to make sure your site will update without issue first. That means that I have to make sure your plug-ins and add-ons are working.

Why Update to WordPress 3.0

WordPress 3.0 has a ton of great new features, many of which existing customers may not use but there are a few that can help make your site more useful like the new menu module which allows for multiple menus. I don’t have any clients on WordPress with multiple menus (because before it wasn’t possible) but if you’re an existing customer who is interested in adding additional menus or are a new customer looking for a designer who can build you a site on a reliable platform such as WordPress that needs multiple menus shoot me an email and we can talk about your needs.

For more info on the changes made to WordPress in the 3.0 release please check the codex page here or watch this video:

Search optimization for your mail box

Efficiency Fetish

It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a geek but what you might not know about me is that I have a serious efficiency fetish. That doesn’t sound right exactly but what I mean is I really need things to work efficiently. I can’t stand extra steps and time wasting. When a client or a friend asks me to email them something that I’ve already sent I find it very annoying. It’s especially bothersome when they want something I sent them within the last few days – stop that.

Did you even try to find it?

Now I understand that a lot of people are very busy and that they get a ton of email and I can even look past the fact that some folks maintain somewhat disorganized inboxes. That being said sometime I want to scream, “did you even seriously try to look for it?!?!”

What I’m really asking is did they bother to use the search function in their mail client? Did you even know that Microsoft Outlook has a search function? It does as does every free web-based email service.

Why don’t people search?

It may be because on the rare occasion that one does run a search most of the time they don’t find what they are looking for. Why is this?

I assume that it is because most people don’t create email messages that are meant to be searched for. That is that they are not formatted to be easily retrieved by a search engine. Clearly Google’s search technology is not the reason that one can’t find a message sent to their gmail account. The reason they can’t find it probably has more to do with the fact that the sender wrote a poor subject and the content is likely to be equally poor in it’s ability to be searched.

How can we fix this?

The Wrong Way:

I think the wrong way is to outsource the problem. There is an entire industry that has grown up around the idea of creating easier to search email archives.  That is an industry that is trying to devise a more accurate search but the problem is so rarely the search algorithms or even the search parameters.

My opposition to this  goes back to my hatred of inefficiency. Here we have people capitalizing on a problem rather than solving it. I’m in no way opposed to people making money – I’m opposed to people doing so without providing a truly valuable service.

My Observations

The problem, as I see it, is that we send email willy-nilly without so much as a thought about it being found later. Email, like their younger cousin the tweet, are put out and forgot about, in abundance. In fact more and more of them are being put out without any thought.

For several years now there has been a small dedicated, (some would say crazy), group of people that have pushed for some sort of formal guide to email writing. They want people to think about what they are writing and to only send emails that are necessary. Some go as far as to say – unless you’d send it in a postal letter don’t send it in an email. I’m not behind that idea, in fact I prefer email to phone calls, (for business), because you have a written record of the conversation. It also saves me time because if I’m on the phone I’ve got to write down what they are saying anyhow.

Teach Our Children

Here is a thought – when I was in school we were taught how to properly format and write business letters and the difference between them and less formal letters. Why not teach kids how to write a proper email? I’m sure that in some more progressive school districts this has already begun but I’m just as sure that they are not teaching searchability. If we learned how to write searchable emails we’ll end up with more thoughtful, better structured, and more worthwhile communications. The best part is we’ll also be able to search through our inbox or archive and find what we are looking for.

What about the old people?

When one is trained to work at an office they are asked if they know MS Office and how to use a multi-line phone why not ask if they know how to write a searchable email? If they don’t train them. If you’ve got to train someone to use your system why not make searchable email part of your system?


Subject Matters

Searchable mail is just as simple as the searchable web – create an informative subject that matches the content. If your content is time specific, say it’s about an event, place the date of the event in the subject. A good example of this is when I book a photo job I send an email with the date of the job in the subject.

The Content

What you put in the body should always be informative too. As a gmail user I have conversation threads, that is emails that are back and forth replies about the same subject. Google groups these for me and that’s one of the functions I love the most about gmail. Even when email clients don’t do this they usually append previous messages to the body of an email (gmail does both) which means you have a continual record with the latest additions on the top. The benefit of this is that by adding content you’re creating more stuff that can be searched which is great because you end up with a more searchable file most of the time. The downside is that if someone changes the subject but not the thread you end up with conflicting data and less searchability.

So when writing an email we should all be aware that if we’re changing the subject we should create a new email to address that subject.

Ambiguity is ugly

Just because you anticipate a long thread with lots of back and forth, there is still no excuse for ambiguity in emails. If you just physically talked to a coworker about a subject that doesn’t mean that you should ever send an email that doesn’t address what you were talking about or that refers to discussion without putting into the body of the email what was said. Is that a pain in the ass? Sure but what happens in 3 months or 4 years when you don’t remember what was said and are trying to piece together what an email means? All of a sudden your minor pain in the ass is a huge problem either because of a he-said-she-said situation of because your memory has failed and you don’t remember if it your coworker told you it was the red wire that needs cut or the black one.

Give Searchability a Try

So now that you are aware of the issue will you try to make your emails more searchable? I’m sure that if you do you’ll find you get fewer requests for you to resend the same email you sent the day before. Give it a try, spread the word, and let’s make the world a better, (more searchable), place.

Crowd Soresing


Fraud Institute

I’m a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh (AIP) and I am, believe it or not, proud of the things I learned there, the instructors I was taught by, and the folks that I graduated with. I say believe it or not because these days AIP is broken. As is most of the rest of the for-profit education system.

For Profiteers

The whole idea of “for-profit” education, (i.e. someone making their living off of people trying to receive an education), is pretty much morally bankrupt to begin with so I guess we can only expect, that in the last decade, when profit, greed, and personal gain, seemed to be spiraling out-of-control that such an industry would be leading the way in the charge to maximize profits at the expense of the people they were purporting to serve.

Now to be honest there is still a strange dichotomy at these schools. Between those that they hire to educate who actually (for the most part) seem to want to educate people and really want them to succeed and the corporate greed that permeates the administrative staff where the mantra is clearly – squeeze them for money and do the absolute minimum to keep the government and regulators off our backs. I’ve written and bitched about all of this many times before and I only bring it up again because I read a disturbing article on Linked In (which you may not be able to access but that is) also available here.

Sinking To New Lows

The article is about Crowd Sourcing for design. In the article the author quotes a slimebag who is making his living off of conning starry-eyed young designers into doing spec work while his company acts as a middle man and collects on the end results of hundreds of artists submitting work for jobs that they’ll never be paid to do. In return the few that land a job are given free legal advise and an assurance they’ll get paid (eventually) while the 109 other creatives starve to death.

Think of American Idol for each and every design job from a logo to a photo shoot to the design for a new dress. Though the contestants on American Idol have low overhead. They might have bought a new outfit, got their hair and makeup done. A photo-shoot can cost hundreds of dollar, a complex logo may take a week and thousands of dollars worth of programs and computing power and not being paid for the work that they do should never be an option.

Spec Work

For those not in a creative field spec work is work that you do prior to being paid, with the expectation of being paid if and only if you really wow the client. Often spec work is done cattle-call style where you are pitted against other creatives and asked to work for free in the hopes that the overlords will reward you for your skills. The client has no obligation to pay you for the hard work that you’ve done and in some creative fields they may even steal acceptable amounts of your work or use your work as the basis for what they ask some other schmuck to turn in for minimal payment.

Spec work is a huge problem in the industries that it touches because it causes new creatives to suffer and potentially starve while working for free and upsets the normal way of doing business which is – you find a product or service you like, you commission it, and you pay for it.

Stock Agencies

Now there have been some aspects of spec work that have been around for years – a good example is some stock photo agencies. When working for a stock agency one shoots a ton of work, ships it to them, they put a book together and these days a website where publishers can go to them to find a selection of HIGH QUALITY work from tested, agency approved and vetted, photographers. Some photographers made a lot of money off of shooting stock.

Micro Stock

Micro-stock agencies sprung up like weeds in the last decade and let nearly anyone with a digital camera show off their photos and then sell them for pennies. Overnight the bottom fell out of the stock industry. Why pay for quality work when we can get work that isn’t half-bad for pennies by just spending a few more minutes searching through a collection that houses more work. Never mind the fact that much of it is of lower quality and will never be bought or used for anything.

While stock agencies were not always staffed with and run by people with purely altruistic intentions they did have a business model wherein the nature of the business meant that everyone succeeded together. The photographer was reviewed before being accepted into the agency, when they sold a photo they were paid a solid commission, the agency took their share that they earned by vetting the photographer and compiling the work of said shooter, with the work of other top-quality photographers.

If a photographer couldn’t put together a consistent book of quality work they were not going to be hired by an agency. If they couldn’t hack it at any other job in the photo world they would soon find that out too and go back to doing whatever it is that their broken-heart was doing before they found out they were a hack.

Democracy Kills

The article in question calls crowd sourcing – design by democracy.

Design by democracy? Let’s get some things straightened out here. Clearly the person who penned the article is either being disingenuous or has spent zero time working in committees or attending corporate meetings.   There is nothing that hurts design more than a democratic process.

Democracy kills creativity

While it’s important to have creatives work with creative directors, it is the death of creativity when we leave design up to the masses to be censored, dissected, disemboweled, and left up to “the committee” to be discussed by those so removed from the process and often so removed from any ounce of creativity that they cannot see how their ideas destroy the integrity and ring the creativity right out of the project they are tasked with.

It is the difference between the average public art and that of top-graffiti artists like Banksy. Whereas Banksy designs statements, works of art, and creative masterpieces of a high artistic integrity most public art (done by committee) is bland, contrives, and pedestrian. It is at the whim of the property owner, the state, and the appointed committee and so must be without controversy, must be easy to understand, must be bland and emotionless.

That is what democracy does to creativity – it is the anti-creative and it should be. Democracy is a form of government. By the way – for those who don’t know, we do not live in a democracy. Democracy is crowd driven and mob rule. The loudest get their way and the most powerful slime their way to the top, manipulating the masses, and profit off of the minority groups that they keep underfoot while the majority revels in being the same as most, without diversity, and common.

It’s not just that the article supports these things as being “good for” creativity and the creative industries that is most disturbing.

What is Most Disturbing

What is most disturbing is the fact that the author and by extension the whole of the Art Institutes, the whole of EDMC, supports the notion of worthless middlemen exploiting the creative workers while adding absolutely no value. In the article they quote one Mike Samson, the co-founder of a dirt-bag company named crowdSpring. A company that is the needle to crowd-sourcing’s lethal injection. Mr. Samson is quoted as saying the following:

“Now talented newcomers can compete with established professionals based solely on ability.”

Or as I read:

“Talented newcomers can starve while working their asses off to create work they don’t get any pay for, while myself and my company collect and continue to encourage them to starve. “

This is just another way for unscrupulous companies to get creative work without paying for it. It means that ALL creative will have to do more work defending invoices and quotes, it means that “newcomers” will struggle even more for longer, and it means that filth like Mike Samson have sunk to a new low in the race to be the most useless of middle men.

You Just Keep Me Hanging On

There are a ton of people in this country that buy scratch-off lottery tickets. They keep doing so because they win two dollars here, five dollars there. Encouraging this kind of spec-work is no different that encouraging the poor to keep wasting money on scratch-off lottery tickets. In fact it’s worse because while the lottery benefits the elderly these con-artists are conning artists while they fill their own pockets.

Leave it to Goldman Sachs backed EDMC to support even more ludicrous ideas that will only ensure they maximize their enrollments and profits at the expense of the students they trick into believing the hype spewed like an infectious puss from the foul mouthes of Mr. Mike Samson and his despicable kind who encourage this idiotic way of raping designers and stealing money from the pockets of workers slaving away in industries with slim enough profit margins. While their biggest supporters (EDMC) has already installed a siphon on their future earnings (by way of student loan debt).

A Word From Our Sponsor (disguised as a blog post)

I just have to share this with you all. I have a google alert set up with “need, photography, Pittsburgh” and I don’t normally get a lot of good results for that but sometimes it does provide leads so I keep it active. The other thing that happens occasionally is that it brings back interesting results like this one:

Which will almost certainly need to be removed from that website. If it is before you get a chance to read it let me tell you what it is. It’s an advertisement for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh (AIP) disguised as a blog post on a hobby blog. The reason that I know if will be removed soon is because it’s illegal. Laws were past last year that made it illegal for bloggers and twitterers to endorse things without reveling their relationship or any compensation they are getting for doing so. This wasn’t even that well disguised – it looked like copy taken right from their website or from print material.

AIP is where I graduated from in 2001 and I really do value what I learned there but most of the people I graduated with are not doing what they went to school there for and we were told a ton of mis-truths and on occasion outright lies by the representatives of  the school. Things have only gotten worse as these days they are owned by Goldman Sachs who have pushed even harder for ever higher profits.

Upon reading this blog post advertisement I couldn’t pass up the chance to share with potential readers the lies and misrepresentations that abound with these folks. Being that my comment needed to be moderated and the fact that the post should be taken down I’ve decided to share my comments here with you dear reader so enjoy:

WDOphoto Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
February 2nd, 2010 at 3:17 pm

This poster is almost certainly a sales person – a paid sales person and their post may be in violation of recent laws that require a blogger to identify anyone who might be paying them to blog about a particular subject or any relationship that they might have with the subject that they are blogging about.

What the author also fails to tell you is that many graduates also are crushed by the huge expense of the tuition that the Art Institute charges.

I graduated from AIP in 2001, out of the folks that graduated with me and before and after me by a few quarters I am one of maybe 10 people that are working as a photographer.

Forget getting a job as a photojournalist right out of AIP – the newspaper industry has been shedding jobs, not adding them, and the vast majority of the students they pass through are not focused or driven enough to work in such a competitive field.

Nor are they set to work in commercial photography which is just as competitive. The majority of the students who are herded through their programs like cattle are meek and mild and set-up to fail.

This poster fails to tell you dear reader that you can learn just as much at a state school, more even, than what you will at AIP for far less money.

They’ve also failed to tell you that since Goldman Sachs bought EDMC (the company which owns AIP that the poster almost certainly works for in a sprawling cubical filled warehouse in Pittsburgh’s Strip District) the focus has become far more financially driven and profit motivated and far less about education.

Don’t get me wrong – the school was always profit driven. It’s just that now they are even more ruthless in their pursuit of financial gains at the expense of the general public.

EDMC employs hundreds, if not thousands, of sales people. They are not “councilors” they are sales people, their backgrounds are in sales, they don’t care if you are mentally deficient – if you have the money they’ll tell you how wonderful your future is going to be. After all the schools they are pushing have a 100% acceptance rate.

I strongly encourage everyone to read about the high costs of these schools and how these schools have a higher percentage of students who default on their loans as was my case because the cost of AIP was so high that I was forced into taking out private loans. They at one time set up (and still might have) a private loan just for them through Sallie Mae that I was told was the only private loan I was allowed to apply to my bill there. When I took out this loan the interest rate was 23% (compound that).

Something else to keep in mind – these schools target lower income high-school students and working adults that more than likely come from a family or background where they in no way can understand the complex financial problems that are being thrust upon them.

I was a wide-eyed teenager herded into a tight hallway full of 6×6 rooms with a waiting line an hour to two long. My mother and I had little to no time to read anything that was shoveled at us. We were told to sign here and sign there – it was as if the devil himself, with all of his slickness, was on the other side of that desk. We got taken. And so did nearly everyone I waited in line with that day. As I said only a few of us made it out doing what we went in there for.

They told my mother that for me to get additional aid she’d need to apply and be turned down for parent plus loans. The problem was that she wasn’t turned down and there was no way, according to them, that she could NOT take the loan out. She was forced into taking on debt that she could in no way afford.

A popular misconception is that this is an “art school”. It’s not – it’s a trade school. They crank out students every 3 months with the same degree, many with no chance of doing what they have been, for-the-most-part, poorly trained to do.

I don’t mean to come down hard on the instructors because for the most part they are quality folks and I really do respect the vast majority of them but at the same time they are trapped in a hard spot.

It has become obvious to me from what I saw when I was there, when I’ve gone back to speak with portfolio students, and when I interact with graduates, (usually when they are serving me at a coffee shop), that the teachers are encouraged to do as much as they can to NOT fail students. How can one teach people when they are not allowed to weed out the poorly performing students?

Don’t waste your money on these people or believe anything their sales people tell you. If you don’t believe me I encourage you to look at the statistics or even read what is happening in the news right now where these for-profit school owners are fighting the dept of education to keep from being held accountable.

The Obama admin wants to tie their ability to get fin. aid (which is where most of their money comes from) to the ability of their students to pay that money back. Meaning that their higher level of defaults could put them at risk of loosing their source of income. They are fighting this as hard as they can because they don’t want to be held accountable for their failure to actually educate and train students.

Shame on you cstein for posting misleading advertisements in such a manipulative manner.

That’s the end of the post but for more info on how they are fighting the dept. of education see the following articles:


Talk to the handSo I’ve been hounded since this past summer by both SEO companies and companies that want to “sell me leads”.

I received both a phone call and an email today from such a company. When I googled them I found this page which is a complaint board for questionable businesses. In the event that you don’t want to click on it I’ve posted my comments that I left on the page at the bottom of this post.

They were not the worst that I’ve dealt with – by far. This summer I received a call from a dude that told me his company would fill the first results page of Google with my website and only my listings whenever anyone searched for photography and Pittsburgh. He had me search for a tanning salon in California that he said they did so for. So basically I pay them an arm and a leg and they eliminate any competition in the photography field from the first few pages of Google.

I explained to him that the photo community is fraternal. We may compete for customers and there may be a plethora of shooters in Pittsburgh but I could call up about 200 of my fellow photographers here in Pittsburgh and ask them to borrow a lens or a flash and they’d gladly let me borrow it even if I had beat that person out for the job.

After realizing that I was not going to go for his pitch he began to threaten me. If I wasn’t going to pay for it he’d find someone else who will and that means that I’ll never find another job to shoot ever again (never mind the fact that less than 10% of my leads, and maybe 2% of my clients come from people finding me via a search engine). Could I do better SEO? Probably. Should I? Maybe. Am I going to pay someone else to do it? NO. I know enough that I can do so myself. The fact that I’ve written Pittsburgh and photography so many times in this post alone may lead to me jumping up a few pegs in the search results. In the end though – I find most of my work via word-of-mouth and that’s something that few people can do FOR you, if you’re not going to do it yourself as well.

As far as generating leads for me – these companies also don’t seem to do much “active lead generating” they set up a website and use what? That’s right SEO to get to the top of results and list a ton of companies. They then charge you when someone clicks on you.

The last time I checked Google Adwords start at $0.01 per click. These other companies want to charge you $10 for a service that is not anywhere near as good because they only list you on their own site(s) – and not on all the pages that Google can list you on.

This isn’t even my biggest complaint about them. I’m about to tell you what my biggest complaint is about them.

I'm flush with reasons to ignore these companies My biggest complaint is that they are offering a service that YOU DON’T NEED! If you can’t find leads yourself you’re not going to stay in business. This is fundamental to your business – if you can’t find people to pay for what you’re selling your not going to last long so don’t trust finding leads to just anyone.

The other thing that really bothers me – besides the fact that these are worthless companies is that they offer very low wage jobs to people who just need a paycheck. These people don’t care about your business – they care about making enough to buy another pack of smokes, put gas in their car, and pay their cell phone bill. If you go out of business they won’t care one bit. Are those the people you want working to generate sales for you?

That’s enough bitching – I’ve got to go out and find people that want what I’m selling which I happen to be fairly good at.

Here was my comment:

I got both an unsolicited call and email from these folks today. They are both now in my spam folder (got to love Google Voice). Why are they marked as spam? It was unsolicited, the person leaving both messages had the attitude that I wanted to, nay, NEEDED to hear from them, and because what they are offering is as worthless.
The messages belong in the same folder as those emails telling me how much women want their men to produce gallons of more seminal fluids during sex. They both are laughable, presume to be from “experts” who may very well be (but who cares), and they are driven only by a desire to take money from your pocket.
When I googled them this page came up just below their listing. I’ve been hounded lately by these types of companies and by SEO companies. Most of them are legit but even those are hiring people at low wages that are just there for a pay check – they don’t know what they are doing and don’t care about the job.
Why would I trust even the smallest part of my businesses future to these folks?
What kind of business person would I be if I can’t find any customers on my own?
If you own or work for a company like this why not do something productive with your abilities like sell tangible goods or worthwhile services? There are far too many companies like this in the US and they are just phantoms. They’re companies that exist purely to make money off of the work that businesses should be doing themselves or otherwise should not be in business.

The Eyes Of The World

DDNewsflash: Human beings are a visual species.

We, as a species, rely on vision as our primary sense. The fact that you are reading this right now is evidence of just how visual we are. Further evidence is the fact that audio browsers and technologies that make the Internet easier to use for blind persons are often ignored and occasionally despised by designers.

Need more proof?

Try this test – think about the following brands:  McDonalds | NBC | Chevrolet

Now what did your mind do?

If you are like most people your brain flashed visual cues about those brands. You thought of the Golden Arches, The Rainbow Peacock, and what is refereed to as the “Bowtie” but looks more like a squished little cross of some sort. Either way you probably didn’t think of a smell (well maybe when it comes to McDonalds) and hopefully you didn’t have a very strong emotional reaction that trumped the visual thoughts that flood most peoples brains.

When these giants of commerce work on their brand they want you to be able to picture things about them and from there for your thoughts to cascade down to good emotional feels – happiness, contentment, etc.

So how do you as a small business owner make sure that your taking advantage of and maximize your visual marketing? Read More

Lessons In Social Networking

White NoiseAs a modern photographer one of the biggest social networking sites that I visit is Flickr but Flickr is not my favorite and does little to help my marketing but I recently started to look at ways to change that.

One thing that I’ve done recently is to stop using Flickr as just a holding pen for loads of my personal work and begun to send some clients to my Flickr photostream. For those not familiar with Flickr – my photostream is the collection of my work on Flickr.

I’m not sending everyone there – just those that want to see more of what I’ve done, where I’ve been, what I’ve done, and where I am now in my creative development.

Again not everyone gets to see these photos – just those that can’t otherwise get enough of my photos or a sense of my abilities by seeing what I have up on the WDO Photography website.

Clearly this is not something that photographers will want to do if the work they have on Flickr is not their best. I tend to only upload items that would fit into a portfolio or that I would otherwise not have an issue sharing with clients. One should never have anything online that they don’t believe in sharing with the public. Read More