Want More Customers? Then Don’t Break Existing Functionality!

Donate to Joseph Ohler, Jr.!

I’ve been very busy editing the book of an acquaintance; I’ll reveal the title after we’ve registered it with the copyright office, as presently there remains much editing to be done. I pieced together some notes on other topics of interest during my re-charge periods between editing sessions; the final product of those miscellaneous musings will need to wait until I’ve finished editing because my duty as line editor trumps the luxury of pleasure blogging.

However, this post is an organic extension of an email I sent to CafePress over the difficulties I encountered with making my designs available in their online marketplace. Although the “buy customized product” interface recognizes my uploaded images, the “sell customized product” interface does not, and there appears to be no way to transfer a product created in the former application into submission for store placement in the latter application.

This functionality had been present and working just fine in prior years, but then CafePress changed everything in early July as a near-sighted imitation of Zazzle’s similarly self-defeating irritating June remake. I found a way to make hard drive image uploads work in Zazzle without contacting customer service but encountered greater obstacles in CafePress. My emails to and from customer service explain in clearer detail:

Dear CafePress,

I made some designs which I know will appeal to the urban market. However, the upload interface will not accept them because they “don’t match product reviews!” Do you have any idea how much this limits market innovation? Whoever implemented that idea should be fired!

While I understand Zazzle was a viable option, they no longer are because they made it impossible to upload images from a hard drive; they only allow Google Drive and Instagram, which I refuse to use for various reasons. [Author’s Note: Zazzle has since fixed that issue by adding another button, although having to clear cache and log out between image uploads is a pain.] I want to use CafePress to be featured alongside other major intellectual properties, but if you guys can’t give me a way to upload my designs without matching existing products, then I’ll have to shop around for a smaller operation through which to distribute my wares.

Joe

*****

Dear Joe,

Thank you for contacting CafePress.

I am sorry to hear you were having issues with uploading your images. I’d be happy to look into this for you. Please reply to this email with the name and version number of the browser you are using and the operating system you currently have. List in this email with the steps you went through, click by click, that led to the issue you noticed. Also, please include any error messages you encountered. I look forward to your response.

Thank you for shopping with CafePress. Have a great day!

If there is anything else I can do for you, please let me know.

Your ticket code is [REDACTED]. Please use this code in any further communication.

Best Regards,

Douglas S.

*****

Hello, Doug.

In all cases, I’m using Windows XP SP3 on a Compaq Presario.

 I first used Firefox 22.0 without Flash because it is my primary browser for the express purpose of blocking Flash for quicker browsing. I logged into CafePress and got as far as the “Accept Terms and Conditions” popup, which does nothing when I mark the “Accept” checkbox and click “OK” — there’s no recognition of my having accepted the TOU, and the “Cancel” button also does nothing, so all functionality is blocked. I then signed out.

I next used Internet Explorer 8.0.6001 with Flash 11, logged into CafePress, and waited a minute (IE is s-l-o-w) for the “Terms and Conditions” box to appear — but nothing happened. I then the “Add a Design” button and was prompted with a file upload box. I highlighted my 1215 X 963 pixels, 96 dpi GIF file and clicked the “OK” button.

The screen changed to the “Design Details” view and showed a semi-opaque gray overlay atop my image and the “Name,” “Tags,” and “About” description fields. Most noticeable in the following screen capture were a never-ending marquee of pulsating green upload lights beneath my product image and a front-and-center message box containing the text, “There were no product suggestions for your image. Please try uploading another image.”

CafePress prevents an image upload.

I clicked the “X” to close the message box and typed information into the aforementioned description fields, but the image upload bar remained in motion, and clicking the “Save” button had no effect. I waited another minute and tried the “Save” button again, but still nothing.

I then clicked on “Create Product” and went through the menus to choose “Men’s T-Shirts.” A blank tee shirt graphic appeared, and I clicked first the “Image” tab then the “Upload an Image” button. The image uploaded with the transparent portions shaded white.

I then clicked the “I’m Finished!” button; the design was processed into the back end of Cafe Press such that my image finally appeared on the tee shirt with the appropriate transparencies; the screen captures below illustrate this process. However, I cannot find how to make my customized product available for sale to others rather than just to purchase it myself.

And for clarification, I do not presently have the funds to actually buy my own wares; I need to sell it to others but have no apparent means of transferring my customized product from my personal shopping cart to the CafePress-wide marketplace accessible to the general public.

CafePress detects an image upload.

CafePress renders an uploaded image on the client side.

CafePress saves an uploaded image to the server-side database.

CafePress overlays an uploaded image onto a finished product.

I ask another favor of you: Please pass my following rant to the Website Director or whatever CafePress has as the equivalent.

Now before the horrible option of upgrading to IE 9, 10, or whatever the current number is, I must explain my reason for **not upgrading** is because every new iteration of IE is slower than the last! Even loading the Google home page takes five seconds in IE because of that blue bar which overlays atop the black bar a few seconds after initial page load; this even is practically instant in Firefox.

So the rock is “upgrading” (downgrading) to a newer IE, and the hard place is being unable to upload my designs to any online just-in-time custom apparel company because for whatever reason, there’s no backward compatibility with recent browsers — for which there **should** be backwards compatibility. For context, let us consider that as of 2005, most websites included fixes specifically to support IE 5 and IE 6! The only reason I ever upgraded to IE 7 was when support for IE 6 disappeared to upload files, and then the same thing happened with IEs 7 and 8.

If this is not a trade secret or confidential information — and if you know — then please tell me why CafePress and many other sites just plain **abandon** file upload support for older browsers? Why can’t those technologies get along when, in fact, they have the same underlying architecture when interpreted by the various vendors’ browsers?

Thank you for helping me make the file upload functionality work in my existing browser, and thank you even more for sending my feedback about the CafePress to the appropriate director.

Joe

I already tried Zazzle, but just like CafePress, they seriously impaired functionality last spring by making it more difficult to upload from a hard drive unless you have the precise hardware and software configuration as the marketer who came up with those ridiculous design specs. Update: Zazzle now has a “select images to upload” button after you press the “upload from computer” button; the first button had been omitted June through mid-August but is finally live.

It’s a shame that so much of our economy is based on STUPID LICENSING DEALS such as making people upload new designs to a third-party website (Google Drive, Instagram, etc.) instead of directly from their hard drives. How much of a kickback does Zazzle get from pipelining those (dis)services, anyway?

Most information technology workers I know would maintain backwards compatibility — especially for critical functions such as uploading from one’s hard drive new designs to the marketplace so that CafePress and Zazzle can, you know, MAKE MONEY FROM USERS OF OLDER BROWSERS AND OPERATING SYSTEMS WHO REFUSE TO USE CRAPPY PLUGINS AND WANT TO KEEP THE LICENSING TERMS BETWEEN THEMSELVES AND THE CONTENT PUBLISHER.

I’m not going to ruin Firefox by using the Flash plugin, and I’m not going to install the newest, slowest edition of Internet Explorer just because some numbskull marketers thought it would be a great idea. And yes, I used all caps when talking about TOUs to mock how frequently Terms of Use agreements throw in a sentence in capital letters when the remainder of the agreement is in normal mixed case.

The best way to show those people the error of their ways is to not patronize their services! I’ve been boycotting Flash for years, and finally HTML5 is enabling web developers to give pages Flash-like functionality without the actual plugin, thereby providing nimble performance and an open-source standard. (Too bad, Adobe, but at least you still have a lock on the PDF reader market!)

To preserve my lead as first to market, here are public displays of my latest designs — which by all rights should already be in my Zazzle and CafePress stores if not for their techno-buffoonery! Update: Product links are finally live; see my index at the bottom of this post. If anyone from CafePress or Zazzle is reading this, then I say, “The image upload feature was never broken, so why you’d guys break it?!?”

Sonnin' Y'All Tee Shirt

Sonnin' Y'All Tee Shirt

Sonnin' Y'All Tee Shirt

Sonnin' Y'All Tee Shirt

I’ll post hyperlinks to the actual product pages if — hopefully when — the online placement issues are resolved.

HERE ARE THE LINKS to assorted “Majored in Sonnin’ Y’all” products:

Joseph_Ohler_Jr™ Store @ Zazzle

SenatorJPO™ Store @ CafePress

I have two stores because the consumers of Zazzle and CafePress products differ in ways which I’m gradually discerning; I have a hunch that CafePress leans urban, whereas Zazzle is more suburban — based on the product selections and designs, anyway.

Both have convoluted and tedious means of interfacing with designers, but as of this writing, Zazzle wins out as my preferred outlet due to the fact it gives commission for products purchased outside my store — so long as the buyer’s cookies are set in my store before they wander elsewhere in the Zazzle domain.

CafePress has no such arrangement and doesn’t allow the lower prices offered by Zazzle; many licensed brands seem to use it anyway, so I may as well keep my CafePress store open just for some mutual exposure. If a reader deigns to comment on the matter of CafePress vs. Zazzle, then I might approve it for publication to raise my search engine results placement (SERP).

Zazzle how-to and tutorial, CafePress comparison and correspondence

Donate to Joseph Ohler, Jr.!


Hit Holiday Single!

El Rushbo and the Right to be Heard

Donate to Joseph Ohler, Jr.!

I was searching for speeches in which politicians catered specifically to Millennials. Of course, this age group has diverse views like any age cohort and is therefore not a homogenous voting bloc or monolithic political force by any means.

However, I came across an official transcript of the Rush Limbaugh show in which the titular host summarizes a recent PolicyMic conference speech to Millennials and says, “No one has the right to be heard.” This brings to mind an attitude of disenfranchisement which justifies everyone with weak or nonexistent political and socioeconomic power as deserving their lot in life.

Yes, we have the free agency to ignore others — but if the societal cost of pretending someone doesn’t matter at all or even exist is higher rates of depression and lost productivity, then I would choose to acknowledge that I heard a person’s existential statements and complaints. This does not mean I agree with those complaints or that I understand their situation; it merely means I respect them at a human-to-human level to listen.

One could get into a philosophical discussion of whether people deserve a minimum baseline of respect for simply being fellow humans or whether people should be viewed as nothing more than lumps of organic matter with legal personhood, nonetheless who shouldn’t receive any respect until they establish a track record of doing things which earn social rewards. For instance, I blog to express myself and don’t worry about how much of a social reward I might receive; I just enjoy seeing my writing on the Internet and dominating search engine results for statistically rare phrases such as “pleasure blogging” and “organic matter with legal personhood.”

I’m not here to antagonize you, Rush, because there are tons of online bullies using their Internet pulpits to criticize you, sometimes rightfully and at other times baselessly. A few privileged people make a living out of excoriating you in magazines, newspapers, radio shows, and television programs. However, all your vocal critics have missed one thing — your contention that no one has the right to be heard.

Now you might not respect me, Rush, but I respect you — not for hosting a national radio for over two decades or for making the New York Times bestseller list, but for having the sense to realize university studies would never help you fulfill your goal of becoming a top radio host.

Why the respect for dropping out of Southeast Missouri State University (SMSU) after one year? Because people were telling you left and right that for the sake of your career and future family, you had to keep sacrificing valuable time and money in an educational system indifferent to your job prospects, yet you went against the conventional wisdom and proved yourself right: The time and money spent producing your radio show were far better spent than they ever could have been for any educational program.

You and I share an acknowledgement of how internships, apprenticeships, and other hands-on training are the most important part of formal education. For this reason, you found little interest in university studies and left SMSU because you already had an internship which — unlike most modern internships — did not require the intern to be enrolled in college.

I also respect your generosity towards waiters and other tipped service workers. You don’t trumpet that on your show, but an unusually positive non-partisan article brought your altruistic characteristics to light, apparently out of amazement per the assumption of most readers “not knowing.” I also understand that if the topic of how much to tip opportunity employees arose on your show, then your audience would expect a certain outrageousness of austerity towards such working poor, less their disappointment causes the ratings to drop and sponsors to pay less for ad spots.

So with the understanding that this letter to you is an appeal to the private Rush rather than to the public radio jockey, here’s an enacted heart-to-heart exchange:

Ohler: Rush Limbaugh, I’m calling you out!

Limbaugh: What do you want, you mealy-mouthed punk?

Ohler: The suicide rate for men in your age group has almost doubled in the past decade. What would keep you sane if you lost your radio show through the very same lack of being heard — and even your wife? Would you consider yourself as retaining a right to be heard? If not, then how would you maintain your self-worth?

Limbaugh: Well, yes — I’d still be a household name.

Ohler: But if you called members of your fan club to make yourself heard, how many would realize it’s you and not a prankster? Who would be left to hear and acknowledge you a year or two after you’re off the air?

Limbaugh: It’s tough to tell; mere speculation. What’s your point?

Ohler: My point is that simply being heard and acknowledged increases a person’s self-worth and therefore improves mental health. The simple gift of time to others who might not appear to deserve it can actually be a lifesaver. And although you’ve assiduously avoided disclosure of your religious beliefs, I couch my appeal to decency in conservative terms by observing the very act of acknowledging someone’s communication can be the very spark which kickstarts his or her attempt to rise out of a rut; the act of listening becomes a means of personal empowerment, the “bootstrap” by which one can “pull up” himself or herself.

Limbaugh: Listening to adults whining is the role of psychologists and loved ones.

Ohler: Many people are unable to afford a psychologist, and chances are their loved ones are either messed up as well or otherwise gone. They might hear each other’s grievances, but only if they do not subscribe to your idea that no one has a right to be heard.

Let us remember the anecdote of a bridge jumper who left a suicide note saying, “If no one smiles to me on my way to the edge, then I jump.” Surely he or she met other potential jumpers on the way, but none reached out because they held your attitude that being acknowledged as a worthwhile human being is a privilege, not a right (UW-Extension Student Success Director Janis P. Ford, take note).

Do you want to contribute to this destruction of human capital by enabling feelings of self-loathing, or do you want to be someone’s personal hero on what would have been their day of self-destruction? Perhaps more politically compelling: Will so many people without a right to be heard turn to, empower, and expand the state so they will have a systemic vehicle by which to be heard?

Limbaugh: Hmmm. You have a point; some of those suicides were undoubtedly conservatives, given their age bracket. We need older citizens to continue voting, and they cannot vote if they are dead. By golly, you have a point!

Ohler: That’s not quite what I had in mind, but I’m glad the effect is the same. Thanks for coming around and offering to lend an ear when someone says he or she feels powerless and disenfranchised; you just may inspire others with this story on your radio show.

Rush Limbaugh denies right to having self heard, says we can all ignore each other.

Donate to Joseph Ohler, Jr.!


Hit Holiday Single!