Oct 132012
 
you have to obey other people's rules when using their services

The Cool Hunter is a site whose mission is to “select and celebrate what is beautiful and enduring from all that is sought-after in architecture, design, gadgets, lifestyle, urban living, fashion, travel and pop culture.”

In posting cool stuff they find on the web, Cool Hunter always runs the risk of copyright infringement complaints as people have the unfortunate habit of slapping images up onto the Internet without permission from the rights holders.

Last August Cool Hunter’s founder Bill Tikos found the site’s Facebook account had been wiped for ‘repeat copyright infringements’ without warning or recourse.

Anybody following this site won’t be surprised to read this – an exposed nipple can get you thrown off Facebook faster than you can say “New Yorker cartoon” or “it’s only a porcelain doll, for chrissake!” – so one can only imagine the paroxysms of rage that alleged copyright infringement sends Facebook’s puritan bureaucrats into.

It’s not just nipples at Facebook though, thousands of small traders have seen their accounts arbitrarily suspended on sites like eBay and PayPal.

Google too are quick to suspend businesses from their local and search services without warning or recourse. Usually business owners only notice they’ve been locked out when they log into their control panels only to find a terse message that their account has been suspended.

What usually follows is a Kafkaesque tale of trying to understand exactly what they’ve done wrong and how to get their accounts reinstated. In some cases the businesses get cryptic messages saying their accounts are still in breach while others get no response at all. In a few examples, the offending page goes back online only to be shut down again a few days later.

Rarely does someone in this situation find a calm, helpful voice to explain exactly what they have done wrong and how to fix it.

This hostile attitude is a result of the “hands off customer service” model of web 2.0 companies and it’s their biggest achilles heel as, paradoxically, customers and users take to social media to complain about bizarre and arbitrary account suspensions.

For some, like Cool Hunter, it’s a monumental pain and loss of a valuable platform while many of those small eBay and PayPal traders may have thousands of dollars tied up in suspended accounts they can’t access.

Unfortunately this uncertainty is the cost of doing business on social media sites and it’s one of the reasons why owning your own business website is essential.

When you choose to use one of these service, understand you’re playing in the big fat kid’s sandpit and you risk him throwing a tantrum and chucking your toys out of the playpen.

Simply put, don’t base your business on Facebook, don’t keep all your money in PayPal and always have a plan B.

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