Monthly Archives: November 2009

How to Lose an Argument (or, What I Learned on Thanksgiving)

Last night, as we were preparing for our 4-hour return trip to Baltimore, Ann and her brother got into a debate about the meaning of life.  The specifics of their claims are pointless, since these are the kinds of arguments no one ever “wins.”  (If anything, they just irritate both sides — just like a debate about health care, abortion or why Twilight is overrated.)

But as I vacated the living room to continue packing — thereby leaving Ann (an atheist) and her brother (a spiritualist) to their mutual refusal to find a common ground on which to base an argument in the first place — something he said invalidated their entire venture:

“Science is all bullshit.”

See, as an atheist, Ann opts to view the world through the lens of science.  She’s interested in what’s provable, what’s measurable, and what she can logically refer to when making decisions.

Her brother, a spiritualist, is focused exclusively on finding deep existential meaning in life, and refuses to believe that anything can ever be measured or quantified in any reliable way.  To him, numbers are just numbers, and they can be used and abused to further someone’s agenda, but personal experience is immeasurable and therefore infallible.

(You can see where this argument is going, and that destination is “nowhere.”)

But as a way of expressing his disdain for science (and for those who rely on it as their primary reference point), Ann’s brother stated that “science is all bullshit.”  That’s because “scientists claim they know everything, and that if they can’t prove it, it doesn’t exist.”  (Which, Ann pointed out, reputable scientists don’t actually say, but that’s beside the point.)

The problem with a statement like that is this: when you write off science, you write off logic, and you write off the concepts of evidence, proof, facts or measurable truth.  And if all that goes out the window, then everything is just as valid as everything else — which means even if your opposing point of view was “right,” you could never prove it because you just refused to believe in measurable proof, so why should anyone else?

By the time they wrapped up (because we had to leave, not because they’d reached a consensus of opinion), I think I was the one who learned the holiday’s real lesson:

Yes, there was turkey.  Yes, there was pie.  Yes, there were ice-skating kids whizzing by.

Thanksgiving is friendship, and family too.  But when family starts arguing, here’s what you do:

The dishes.

If It’s So Easy to Make Money Online, Why Aren’t We All Millionaires?

It’s Thanksgiving week in America, and like most people, I’ll be busy doing “real world” tasks until Monday.  But while I’m out visiting family and eating pie, I’ll also be wrestling with the same soul-churning question you are:

If it’s so easy to make money on the Internet, why aren’t we all millionaires?

Fortunately, Michael Forey must have wondered the same thing, because he’s out to help you and everyone you know become amazingly, stupefyingly rich.  All you need to succeed are $17 and his guaranteed system!

See, Michael Forey makes his living “providing the tools, tips and information Internet Marketers need.”

Granted, by “Internet Marketers,” he means these kinds of marketers.  But let’s not split hairs — especially when there’s so much cash waiting to leap into your pocket!

Michael calls his system Hot Trends, and it’s all in his book, whose cover features a mischievous fireball who wants to make you filthy f*cking rich.

Here’s how Forey explains his system, as read directly from his website:

(Well, technically, you need to spend $17, but you’ll make it back so fast that the space-time continuum won’t know the difference…)

YES! To hell with the BS — sell me something I can believe in!  (Maybe something with a mischievous fireball?)

Remember, people: he wracked his brains over this.  (All of them.)

Translation:  “Lots of people who buy this system will fail miserably.”

Translation:  “I still have no idea what I’m doing.”

If we were in Biblical times, Michael Forey would be leading us through the desert for forty years.  Thankfully, he’s just making us astoundingly wealthy instead.  (Which makes me wonder: if Moses had been born today, would he be one of the top earners in Carbon Copy PRO?)

DO YOU SEE HIS PROBLEM?  HE WANTS TO STICK HIS KNOWLEDGE IN YOUR HEAD BUT THERE’S NO HOLE MARKED “PUT YOUR KNOWLEDGE HERE.” IT’S FRUSTERATING!

That’s right, folks: this system is so easy, even an invertebrate can make a living at it for only 30 minutes a day!  And you have thumbs and a nervous system, so you should be a billionaire in minutes!

(NOTE: I called science to ask how dumb a chimpanzee would have to be to successfully operate a trampoline, but science has not called back.  We’ll have to take Forey at his word on this one.)

This system is “so simple,” it takes 10 videos to understand how to become insanely wealthy in thirty minutes a day?  (Remember what I said about the space-time continuum?  Time has no meaning when your life guide is a mischievous fireball of cash.)

Because when I want to find a prime example of a sub-literate primate, I too immediately find the nearest college sophomore.

Side note: You really get a sense of the father-daughter dynamic playing out around Forey’s table this holiday season, since he’s essentially compared her to a mollusk and a chimp on a trampoline.

Wait wait wait…  If his daughter’s a bright kid, that totally blows the control group!  (In fact, if he’d said she used Twitter and LinkedIn, we might suspect her of being a fellow Internet Marketing Genius.  But we know she’s not, because Forey himself assures us his daughter is “no internet markete”

Holy cow — 8 full weeks is now a year? THE SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM IS SHREDDING ITSELF AND I HAVEN’T EVEN PAID YOU MY $17 YET!!! *scrambles for the checkbook*

Granted, if this system doesn’t work for you, it means you operate at a lower level of brain power than a shellfish, but hey, if you want to admit that, sure, here’s your $17 back…

Open question: should you take financial advice from someone who still thinks you can buy milk for 25 cents?  Or should you be SO MAD that he just reminded you of all those other cafeteria bullies out there that you’re now frothing at the mouth to pay him to help you?

And as FDR himself once said:  “The only thing we have to fear is a retraction of the web’s one true moneymaking scheme.”

… but since the mere existence of this system has already rendered the space-time continuum irrelevant, won’t Hot Trends be around forever?  I, for one, sincerely hope so.  Because if that mischievous fireball of gluttonous cash ever burns out, how else will mollusks and trampoline-bound chimpanzees ever earn enough money to salvage the economy?

For more Marketing Douchebags updates, go to the source.

3 Ways Online Charity Backfires

‘Tis the season for charitable requests on Twitter, Facebook, etc.  Over the next few weeks, everyone you know will be asking everyone they know to donate $$$ to Charity X.  But there’s a fine line between a feel-good wave of DIY philanthropy and the kind of manipulative pandering that pollutes the very idea of charity.

Let’s call that line semantics.

Sometimes, your tweet about a charity is perfectly timed, expertly worded and will motivate the people who follow you to take action.  And sometimes that request comes across as a shallow, self-indulgent exercise that draws more attention to you than to the people in need — and that’s a recipe for inaction.

If you’d like to avoid looking like a callous opportunist, here are three tips to avoid aggravating the very people you’re trying to inspire.

  1. Make it about the charity, not about you. Tweets like “help me raise $$$ for X” don’t call attention to X; they call attention to how much work you’re doing for X.  And that makes you look like a glory hound.
  2. Don’t tether your cause to a hashtag. Yes, using a hashtag like #NameOfCharity can be useful in helping to spread awareness of your charitable endeavors.  But stunts like “If our hashtag gets retweeted 1,000 times, we’ll donate $$$ to Y” invites cynicism from the populace, who’ll wonder why your quest to save the world is conditional upon us first inflating your ego.
  3. Celebrities: don’t make us beg. When you make decrees like “If I reach 1 million followers, I’ll donate $$$ to Z,”  it not only ensures that the focus is on you, but it makes everyone else wonder why you don’t just donate that money in the first place. Seriously, if more kids die of malaria because your inability to crest 1 million followers causes you to bitterly withhold your malaria net money, that’s just pathetic.

Charity: it’s supposed to feel good.  So stop making us feel so bad for helping.

How to Get Hundreds of New Twitter Followers Without Actually Wanting Them

Last week, I tweeted a link to a blog post I wrote called Deconstructing an MLM Pitch, which detailed one of the asinine ways multi-level marketers pitch their “opportunities.”  That link was retweeted by a few of my Twitter followers, and each of us then experienced what can only be referred to as “Tweeter’s regret.”

Why?

Because we were immediately followed, en masse, by MLM Twitter accounts.

I personally attracted 30 MLM followers in about half an hour, and every time I included the word “multi-level marketer” or “MLM” in a tweet, the process repeated itself.  While these numbers aren’t overwhelming, they are telling — and they obviously cheapen the usefulness of the “followers” metric when gauging a Twitter user’s “influence.”

The process itself makes sense: run a script that’s automated to follow anyone who mentions a key phrase on Twitter, and you’re guaranteed to bloat your numbers, because they’re doing the same thing.  It’s like an endlessly self-perpetuating cycle.  Therefore, if I can gain 30 “followers” without even wanting them, no wonder so many actual MLM Twitter accounts have followings in the 10,000+ range.

But what are all those followers good for?  Not much.  Considering most of them are robotic scripts, and considering most of those eventually get reported as spam and summarily deleted — at least half of my “new followers” were erased by Twitter the same day they were added — they don’t necessarily impact anyone’s Twitter experience.

They just clutter the tubes.

Which begs the question: if a million robotic followers are deleted from the system and nobody wants them around in the first place… how do they ever make any money for the multi-level marketers?

Deconstructing an MLM Pitch

As I’ve learned from my recurring discoveries of marketing douchebags, an MLM (or Multi-Level Marketing) opportunity can find you at any time.  Here’s how I came across one completely by accident, and how my amazement escalated as I soaked it all in.

Step One: The Accidental Discovery

This week, I was searching a generic phrase on Twitter, and one of the many tweets that was returned in my search came from vixen1649.

Miss “vixen1649″ (or Hedy Kristen, if you prefer) is married to Hans Kristen, who shares the same passions as his wife — and some of the same tweets…

And both of their Twitter accounts point back to Hans’s website — or, more precisely, Hans’s spoke off the MLM wheel that is Global Virtual Opportunities.

Step Two: The Homepage Link

GVO bills itself as “The Web Host That Helps You Make Money And Live Better,” which is what most of us already thought GoDaddy did. But it’s safe to say that GVO is more than just a web host — it’s a full-service moneymaking smorgasbord!

Step Three: The “Look Who’s Using Our Service” Blurb

On the fence about whether to buy into GVO?  Maybe you’ll be moved by the inspiring photos of these “top MLM and internet marketers”…

After all, how often do you find a business that promises to “change history”?

Step Four: The Arbitrarily-Priced Goods

So, just what does GVO offer beyond standard web hosting that helps them meet their entwined goals of customer wealth creation and timestream disruption?

Who doesn’t want to save $576 a month? Especially when that number is derived from the arbitrary prices ascribed to GVO’s toolset. That way, if they decide tomorrow that their “Lead Capture and Prospecting System” is now worth $200 a month, you’ll be saving $677! It keeps getting better!

Step 5: The Flashily-Named, Dubiously Illustrated Moneymaking Diagram

Question: If you saw a diagram called the Binary Hybrid Matrix Plan, you’d think it was:

A) The plot driver behind Mission Impossible 4.

B) Batman’s secret plan to take down Superman, “if it ever comes to that.”

C) Something Monsanto uses to make plumper tangerines, or

D) The most amazing wealth accrual system you’ve ever seen.

If you answered D, you’re right. (Although, to be fair, we have no way of proving that A through C are not also correct.)

Confused by the icons? Don’t be: all the arrows point to you getting rich! Or, as the accompanying text explains:

Did you hear that? “You will make a healthy commission to infinity! It’s like Buzz Lightyear is managing your 401K!!! (And since GVO has the power to change history, infinity is already here.)

Step Six: The Part Where You Sign Up and Become Filthy F*cking Rich

I skipped that part.

Step Seven: The Summary

So, in a nutshell, by searching for certain keywords on Twitter — seemingly innocuous phrases like “online marketing” or “build social network” — you can discover a magical land of instant wealth and natty diagrams. This is a world populated by smiling men (and their wives) who want you to be as successful as they are (because, according to the illustrated Double Matrix Chinchilla Plan, when you get rich, they get richer).

Time is of the essence, because history is about to be changed forever. So act now, or risk being poor for eternity… or until poor people get their own time machine.