Larry BraunerFacebook friend lists may one day become much more useful than they are at present if the top online social networking site ever finds the wherewithal to implement Facebook lists intelligently and with flexibility in mind.

Admittedly, Facebook has some of the friend list details right. For example, you can create custom friend lists that make sense to you and your personal or business interests. You can (finally!) assign friends to friend lists without leaving their profile pages. You can also (once again!) select which lists of friends will see any particular Facebook update.

TOO Much Help from Facebook

FacebookRecently, Facebook created so-called “smart” lists in order to help us with categorizing our Facebook friends. Smart lists are an excellent idea. Unfortunately, however, Facebook went too far with smart lists and let them overshadow our hand crafted lists.

Try to use Facebook friend lists to selectively invite people to Facebook events or to “like” Facebook pages. The only lists consistently available for such invitations are Facebook smart lists, even if those “smart” friend lists happen to be totally empty lists. That’s especially dumb. Don’t you agree?

SMARTer Facebook Friend List Selection

For invitations, Facebook could provide a similar friend list selection mechanism to the one the online social network employs for directing profile updates. Then, optional use of Facebook smart lists would be - uh smart.

Facebook expects users to invite selectively and responsibly. Why shouldn’t Facebook help us by correcting their smart friend list oversight?

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Larry BraunerLittle by little, Facebook members are discovering the dark side of the new Facebook groups.

In The Problem with Facebook Groups, I complain that old Facebook Groups lack member engagement. Members aren’t notified when content is added to the group and only learn of new posts or comments if by chance they visit the group’s page or if a moderator broadcasts a message to them.

Problems with New Facebook Groups

FacebookThe new Facebook groups have the opposite problem. By default, a member is notified every time another member posts. If the new Facebook group is large, members will be bombarded with unwanted email notifications and chat window popups. The engagement problem is solved, but a new notification problem is created.

Users who are bothered by the quantity of email notifications can change their notification setting to “only posts I am subscribed to” and reduce or eliminate the notification problem –  once they figure out how to do so.

However, there’s a bigger problem not yet mentioned: One can be added by Facebook friends to new Facebook groups without pre-approval. Therefore, before one knows what’s happening, and before one can leave the group or change one’s notification setting, emails start flowing into his or her inbox, seemingly out of nowhere. Sounds like fiction, but I’m not making this up!

Marketing vs. Collaboration

These problems render the new Facebook groups, as currently formulated, totally unsuitable for Facebook marketing.

On the other hand, new Facebook groups work very well for collaboration, especially with their group document creation and editing capability.

New Facebook Group for GroupGain Collaboration

GroupGainI’m working closely with a team of interns promoting GroupGain, a social networking site for group buying with a unique twist that’s launching soon. We have a new Facebook group that’s tiny, has just nine members, and each of us knew in advance that we’d be added to the group. As a result, there haven’t been any problems associated with our new Facebook group.

More Information about New Facebook Groups

I suggest you read Facebook Groups – A Walkthrough of Group Email, Docs, Chat, and More for the new Facebook groups basics, and Facebook Groups Spam and The Notifications Dilemma, as well. Both pieces are featured on Inside Facebook.

New Facebook Groups Verdict

If the new Facebook groups would require members to opt-in, not opt-out, members wouldn’t be taken as much by surprise. Until Facebook makes some adjustments, I give the new Facebook groups a thumbs-up for group collaboration (or small-scale networks) and a thumbs-down for marketing (and large-scale networks).

Having been forewarned, you my join my new Facebook group if you dare:

Larry Brauner’s Group

Have a new Facebook groups war story to share with us?

Please “like” my Facebook page and subscribe to my blog. :)

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Larry BraunerUpdate: Read Ning’s response in the comments.

Ning plans to close thousands of free social networking sites this week. I believe Ning has drawn a line in the sand and do not expect Ning to grant a reprieve.

I hope, now that Ning network creators are all paying customers, we’ll have a greater collective voice and more impact on the choices Ning makes.

Ning Customer Service Issues

Ning Social NetworksHowever, I saw complaints about Ning customer service on Twitter and Facebook, and with my Ning Sign-Up Glitch help ticket (00D8cCLt.5004BTxme) open since August 6, it seems to me that we’re off to an inauspicious start. Even though network creators have found a temporary work around, it does nevertheless behoove Ning to respond to us and address this type of problem.

I assume that Ning is coping with a record number of inquiries due to its transition to new pricing, and that Ning’s customer service is backed up. Still, this situation doesn’t bode well, since an email to network creators explaining the situation would’ve demonstrated Ning’s transparency and bolstered our confidence in the company’s management.

I myself recently launched a new Ning social networking site, and I stand behind Ning’s latest initiative. However, I ask you, isn’t it only fair that Ning should match the greater financial commitment of its network creators with a corresponding service commitment on its side?

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Larry BraunerThe beta test of my new Ning business networking site has uncovered a troublesome glitch in the Ning sign- up system that makes it more difficult for new members to join.

A new member trying to sign up gets a Ning error message rejecting the inputted password, even though the person has never even registered for the new site!

What’s happening is that Ning recognizes the user’s email from when that person joined another Ning site at a time in the past, and now Ning expects the same password previously associated with that email.

When new members can’t remember their old passwords, trouble begins, because every attempt to reset it will be unsuccessful. Registration hasn’t been completed, therefore the new site will be unable to reset the password. Catch-22!

How to Deal with the Ning Problem

Here are four ways to deal with the Ning glitch:

  1. Try very hard to remember or figure out your old password. You’ll be able to change it later.
  2. Try to register with an email address you’ve never ever used before on Ning.
  3. Reset your password at the Ning site. After resetting your password, ignore Ning’s invitation to set up a new site, and go directly to register for the site where you encountered the problem. Reset Your Ning Password ACCEPTED SOLUTION
  4. Wait who knows how long for Ning to fix the problem.

My new business networking site is Small Business Networking, serving entrepreneurs and small businesses worldwide. You don’t need to have a business to join. You can join for getting business ideas, searching for a new job or whatever else might make sense.

See you there, Ning permitting. :-P

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Larry BraunerWebsite widgets are commonplace in the world of social media. They tend to make interacting, marketing and web site tracking easier and more fun. Many types of website widgets are currently used on this blog.

However, don’t you ever question how safe website widgets really are? The use of website widgets and banner ads raises online safety and privacy issues for you and your website visitors that are worthy of consideration.

Marketing Experiment Gone Wrong

Marketing Experiment Gone WrongI was experimenting with my website tracking software. I wanted to determine whether it would work on websites not belonging to me. I installed the required tracking code in a blog post on a Ning site and on my Ryze profile.

I very quickly uncovered a major obstacle. The JavaScript, a key element in the tracking code, had been stripped off by each of the social networking sites. All that remained was a link to a very tiny and invisible image hosted by my tracking service.

I decided to continue the test in order to see the outcome. I invited friends to visit the test pages and inspected the resulting traffic data. I saw the IP address, ISP, location, operating system and web browser for each person who had visited the test pages — and all it took was embedding an invisible one pixel by one pixel image on those pages.

Privacy and Security Implications

When you install a banner ad on your blog or other website, and that banner ad is hosted on the advertiser’s server, not yours, you give that advertiser identical information about your visitors as I was able to obtain about mine; your visitors don’t even need to click on the banner ad to make that happen.

Once an advertiser obtains an IP address, they may obtain more sensitive information as well. Some offline merchants sell data about their customers. Why not assume that some online merchants and social networking sites do the same?

They have some amount of personal information matched to an IP address, and may decide to monetize that private data. They might even state that in their privacy policy.

When you install a widget or ad on your site that contains script, the effects are more far reaching. The company that provided you with the widget code can obtain information about the source and actions of each visitor. Scripts can even be malicious, as in the case of poisoned banners. :-(

Your Due Diligence Can Help

You are responsible as a blogger or web site owner to protect the privacy of your visitors as best you can. Use web widgets from reputable sources and banner ads, too. If practical, host the image on your own server, as I myself generally do.

Hopefully, data that reputable third parties obtain from you and your visitors will be used for reasonable purposes, and their widget code will perform as specified. You need to take care that all third party widget code you embed in your site is from a reputable source.

Your turn for questions or comments. ;-)

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A comment last week to my October 2008 blog post, Ning Social Networking Sites Update, linked back to Ning Exposed - Tech Company Scams its Clients, an article which sharply criticizes Ning’s latest business model and platform, and it alleges foul play on Ning’s part in reacting to complaints by network creators.

As a Ning social network creator and user, I happen to appreciate Ning’s recent platform improvements and tend to disagree with the article’s assessments. While the allegations of censorship are disturbing, my careful reading of Ning’s Terms of Service leaves me hopeful that Ning has acted fully within its rights.

Aggregating Ning Social Networking Sites

I have always looked at Ning as a family of social networking sites. An individual chooses to become a member one or many Ning sites.

Ning members can connect to become friends, and the friendships that they make will extend across sites. Friendships aren’t limited to the site at which they were forged.

I have found managing my Ning memberships and friendships across sites somewhat complicated, so I was pleased when Ning tied everything together for me in one place at Ning.com.

I always viewed myself as a member of the larger Ning community, not just the semi-independent sites which I created or joined, so aggregating Ning sites and Ning members made perfect sense to me. I didn’t view it at all as some kind of sinister plot.

Member Contact Across Ning Sites

The article referenced above mentions a “hole in the system, which is convenient for Ning, which allows people to gather friends across any website using Ning’s technology and then invite them all to join their website.”

The article is referring to the ability of members to share their favorite Ning social networks and content with all their friends across Ning sites as a convenient loophole, not as an intended and beneficial system feature.

I admit that this feature can be and is often abused by members, but that’s not Ning’s fault. The real problem is that people often make friendships indiscriminately. If the friendships were truly meaningful, they would naturally anticipate and welcome contact, even across sites.

Ning Social Concept Epitomizes Web 2.0

As I indicated before, I believe that Ning is true Web 2.0. It takes social collaboration a step farther than Twitter, Facebook, MySpace , LinkedIn and other social networking sites. Individual social networking sites are created and contributed by users, not just the content within these sites.

I applaud Ning for providing us with a unique social networking venue.

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Did Orovo Make a Major Blunder?
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This is not so much a blog post about Orovo.

It’s a post about one man’s lack of personal and business integrity and how it is impacting a large number of people.

I have no strong opinions about Orovo products one way or the other. It seems to me that Orovo products have gained a lot of popularity, and based on that observation I can easily believe that Orovo’s products are effective.

It is not at all the purpose of this article to raise any questions or doubts about the Orovo product line or to imply in any way that Orovo is a scam or rip-off. I will however expose a recent decision that Orovo supposedly made which, if true, could jeopardize Orovo’s entire business.

Money Making Schemes

In a recent post I discussed how Radio Stations Tout Money Making Schemes. Hard times have forced mass media to carry advertising that was once taboo.

On July 10, 2008 in ASD Ad Surf Daily Cash Generator I exposed a popular money making scheme that has since received some much publicized and unwanted attention from the Office of the U.S. Attorney General.

 Bill Arnold

This time my focus is on one of the people behind money making schemes. I turn my attention to Bill Arnold of Network Success Builders, the man whose unscrupulous business tactics and lack of personal integrity may in time cause tremendous damage to Orovo and to Orovo’s distributors.

The Anatomy of a Scam

It sounded too good to be true.

I met Bill Arnold a while back through Direct Matches, the online social networking site. Since springtime Bill on his Network Success Builders conference calls has promised listeners the moon.

To qualify for Bill’s money making dream a new recruit was required to join Vitamark through Network Success Builders, place a 100 point initial product order, and continue to place 100 point product orders every four weeks.

In essence here is what Bill Arnold promised Network Success Builders members:

  1. A team of top InterNetwork marketers who — once Bill “flicked the switch” — would supposedly build down in Vitamark under Network Success Builders members generating massive amounts of what is commonly known as “spillover” for Network Success Builders members. The plan was to “feather the nest” with as many new recruits as possible before Bill flicked the switch.
  2. Bill had supposedly made a deal with Internet Marketing Gorillas, LLC, the inventor of the AUMMB lead generation technology, whereby Internet Marketing Gorillas would place several dozen people into Vitamark under Network Success Builders members thereby creating even more spillover. Internet Marketing Gorillas would generate free leads for all Network Success Builders members in exchange for the spillover that they too would receive as part of the money making scheme.
  3. Bill had supposedly made another deal with Peter Minglis of PM Marketing / Network Leads to supply free leads and a free contact manager to Network Success Builders members in exchange for spillover they too would receive as part of the scheme.
  4. Network Success Builders members were to receive free marketing training and free custom search-engine friendly websites — co-branded Vitamark and Network Success Builders — as part of their membership package.

If Bill had followed through on his promises, there would be scores of happy people, and I wouldn’t be writing about his callousness and about Orovo’s possible oversight. I fully believe that he had intended at the outset deliver with Vitamark, but several obstacles got in his way.

  1. Bill over promised. People who lack personal integrity tend to do that.
  2. Bill got very sick. That was sad, poor luck and poor timing. It set him back, and made it harder to deliver on his inflated promises.
  3. Bill has control problems that prevented him from accepting help from people who would have pitched in and helped.
  4. Bill’s delay, control issues, and lack of open communication alienated people whose support was essential for the project’s success.
  5. Peter Minglis’ leads turned out to be really bad just as they have pretty much always been. I had very bad experiences with Peter’s brother and with PM Marketing about five years ago which left me without any desire to give them business ever again. In recent years Peter has lent support to the Distributors Rights Association. Kudos to Peter, but I still wouldn’t give PM Marketing my business.
  6. Bill’s training is mediocre. It’s kind of like buying a defective CD, and only the first track plays. It keeps replaying over and over. I wonder what will happen once Orovo realizes this, since they’re swinging their whole organization under Bill Arnold in order to get his training.

New Round of Promises

Bill announced that he’s quitting Vitamark. Here’s what he had to say:

Vitamark has excellent management and great products. The fact is that I was in the single best position to reap the benefits of that program. I have nothing bad to say about Vitamark.

However, I am cancelling my Vitamark position. This means I am walking away from a serious income that is already generated. True revenue that was being paid out each month…. Surprised? Me Too!

The reason is simple is that Bob Gatchel and myself have been offered an opportunity that makes the Vitamark one seem anemic. ANYONE WHO JOINS ME WILL FIND THAT THIS IS THE SINGLE BEST OPPORTUNITY TO A SIX FIGURE INCOME! The Company is OROVO!

How can I be so sure, Bob Gatchel and [I] have struck a deal with the President of Orovo. In exchange for our training programs they will put in several hundred people beneath us each and every month. They will also move over existing downline and teams. For those who sign up now, by next month you will be in a positive cash flow and on your way to very serious income very quickly. OROVO has no sign up fee, just the cost of buying the monthly auto-ship.

Too good to be true?

OrovoI don’t know what will happen when Orovo discovers that Bill Arnold is a buffoon and unable to deliver the training he promised. I can’t imagine that it will be very pretty.

I also don’t know what will happen if and when Bill quits Orovo and herds people over to his next program.

Incidentally, Bill’s Vitamark exit strategy includes taking his downline’s downline with him, not just the people he personally sponsored. This form of cross recruiting is totally unethical.

When I confronted Bill on this subject, he replied:

The fact is that I sent the email to everyone in my downline with Vitamark.

Everyone on my team deserved an equal to know that I had made a material shift and why.

I am not trying to leverage anyone to anything, But offer everyone an opportunity that is a phenomenal way to quickly earn a significant income.

Pure rationalization!

Lack of personal and business integrity is a major problem in our society.

We must work on our own integrity and that of out children. We must also seek out leaders, Go-Givers and people of noble character.

Disclaimer

The views and opinions in this article are my own based on my knowledge and experience at the time of writing. They are not to be construed as fact nor taken as business advice.

You may append your views and opinions by posting a comment to this article. Please represent them as opinion rather than fact. As blog publisher I reserve the right to edit or reject any comment for any reason but assure you that I do not do so capriciously.

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Mainstream radio stations such as WCBS Radio 880 and WQXR, the radio station of the New York Times, now air spots for money making schemes. I have heard them myself while driving down to my office.

This is a fairly new phenomenon.

Home businesses and money making schemes are very much more prevalent today than when I joined Excel Communications as a representative back in March 1997.

Why do I think?

For sure there is wider access to information today through the Internet than there was a decade ago.

There is also increased economic pressure due to offshoring, mergers, acquisitions and downsizing. More and more people turn to the Internet, often out of desperation, hoping to solve their financial problems.

I am bombarded by phone and mail solicitations for anything from illegal chain letters to gifting programs to legitimate direct sales opportunities.

This is not at all new.

What is new is that so-called “mainstream” media are looking to make a quick buck or two carrying some very questionable advertising.

I recall a time when these media wouldn’t accept ads from home businesses, even legitimate ones. They were unwilling to expose themselves to complaints and criticism.

Times however have changed. A decline in ad revenue has apparently led radio stations and other mass media to relax their standards and accept almost anything, even possible scams and rip-offs.

Here’s my advice to you:

  • Don’t believe any money making ads you hear on the radio.
  • Throw away the home biz junk mail you receive in your mail box.
  • Delete all spam from your e-mail or online social networking inboxes.

Don’t get ripped off. Only accept business advice from people you know, like and trust.

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Is ASD Real or Just a Scam or Ponzi Scheme?
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My May 6 post, The SpiderWeb Marketing System, garnered many readers, especially from search engines.

While I expressed some concerns over the Spider Web program, I never implied that it was a pyramid or scam. My issues with Spider were the hype, the spam and the choice of GDI as a web hosting platform for their blogs. It was the spam over at Direct Matches, one of my favorite social networking sites, that first grabbed my attention.

A recent unexpected development however has dramatically hurt the growth of the Spider Web just as it was starting to gain steam. The SpiderWeb Marketing System is facing some serious competition from a program that may be little more than the latest money scheme and perhaps the next 12 Daily Pro.

Andy Bowdoin Launches ASD at ASDCashGenerator.com

The get-rich-quick crowd has welcomed the new ASD Ad Surf Daily Cash Generator with open arms. With oil prices moving up and real estate prices moving down who wouldn’t want to make a quick buck?

If you could spend a few hours a week viewing ads and make a load of money without having to recruit a single person, wouldn’t you at least want to check it out? I know I would.

So yours truly put on his business analyst hat, transfered $30 to his Alert Pay account, and gave that money over to ASD so that he could report back to you first hand with the inside story.

Here’s the story. You decide for yourself whether ASD is the real deal, another scam or something in-between.

The ASD Business Proposition

ASD purports to sell website traffic and to rebate a percentage of the sale price to qualified members. The rebate percentage is currently set at 125%, and amount tied in to new sales volume and subject change in the future. To qualify, members log on and surf 24 sites of other members daily for 125 days.

My Evaluation Criteria

My research and analysis of ASD Ad Surf Daily Cash Generator focused on answering some important questions.

ASD claims to be in the business of selling website traffic. Is their advertising a reasonable value at the price asked, or would it sell only to people hoping to make money from the ASD rebate scheme?

ASD shares revenue from new business by paying rebates. Can ASD sustain itself without continually recruiting new members? Can rebates adequately compensate members for the use of their funds, their time and for the associated risks?

Traffic Exchange Visits

Website visits provided by traffic exchange schemes are very much untargeted and incentivized. Moreover, such visitors are typically multi-tasking while plodding their way through the required website rotation.

I want to be generous rather than conservative in my assessment. If you could make a perfect match between the ASD viewing membership and your target websites, each visit to your sites might be worth as much as a nickel. While it’s likely to be less, let’s tentatively assess the value of a page visit as $0.05.

ASD charges $1.00 per page visit. There is a large 20-to-one discrepancy between price and value. If you can find me somebody who’s genuinely prepared to spend a dollar for one traffic exchange site visit, put us in touch. I have a bridge I’d like to show him.

Seriously, nobody in his right mind would pay more than pennies for a traffic exchange visitor.

I have to conclude that members are paying ASD for the privellege of making money from rebates or recruiting — and not for website visits. It appears that ASD is in the money business and not in the advertsing business.

If government authorities reach a similar conclusion, they could rule that ASD handles investments and is threrfore subject to the purview of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC). Such a ruling would not be favorable in the least for ASD nor for ASD’s membership.

Sustainability

In a video Andy Bowdoin explains that, unlike 12 Daily Pro, ASD doesn’t make payments to members at a fixed rate, and that it may not continue to make payments in the future. I appreciate that Andy was up front in raising the possibility that ASD as we know it today may not be sustainable long-term.

Andy’s disclaimer may allow ASD to comply with anti-pyramid statutes today and to bow out in the future if new sales ever decline sharply.

ROI Return on Investment

Whether money paid to ASD legally constitutes an investment or not, I’m not competent to decide.

However, to qualify for rebates members need to surf through a rotation of 24 sites each day. Given the slow speed of ASD’s site and frequent hiccups, it takes about three hours per week to run their Cash Generator.

How much is three hours of your time weekly worth to you? $50? $100? More?

If you’re buying rebates, not advertising, you need to figure the value of your time. The amount of rebates you will earn relative to the value of the time you spend determines whether or not ASD is profitable for you.

Your profit threshold will probably not be the same as mine. It might be higher, or it might be lower.

Just as an example, let’s suppose that you would like to earn $35 per hour, and any benefit you get from your advertising you’ll accept, and consider it gravy.

Math-phobics may skip this part if absolutely necessary.

You consider the possibility of purchasing 500 units for $500. Each day you receive $5 which is one percent of the principal.

$4 of the $5 is recovery of principal, not profit. 125 days times $4 equals your original $500.

$1 of the $5 is your daily profit, so each week your earn $7.

You want to earn $105 or three-hours times $35. You’ll need to invest 15 times as much or $7,500.

Invest $7,500 and do the required surfing. You’ll earn $105 profit per week.

Invest less, you’ll earn less.

If you don’t have much money, you won’t make much. If you do, you probably have better things to do with it and prefer not to devote a month per year of productive time to this type of risky project.

Risk Management

Yes, there’s definitely a considerable risk factor. I’m not going to call Ad Surf Daily Cash Generator a scam, but I’m telling you… It is risky.

You might not recover your $7,500 or earn the 25% bonus of $1,875.

You have to account for risk and plan for it — if you can. You can try Lloyd’s of London if you need help.

Sure everybody’s making money now. Some are making tons of money, but will ASD last indefinitely?

Perhaps not.

Every gambler who makes money at Las Vegas faces the same dilemma: cash out or let it ride.

There were many people who made big money at 12 Daily Pro and many other high yield income programs (HYIP’s) that circled the globe a couple of years ago.

And there were people who lost. Some of them lost a lot.

A Few Quirks

Like most other growing sites ASDCashGenerator.com can be very slow. They’re upgrading their servers, but their upgrades will soon need upgrades. You’ll have to be patient.

It can take days for your payment to show up in their system. Perhaps some things are done manually. Submit a support ticket and be patient.

I created a unique e-mail address just for ASD and received an unsolicited business offer from a woman oversees sent to that address a couple of days after registering. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that my sponsor exposed my address when sending a group e-mail.

I requested to buy 30 units of advertising but received only 28. I guess they took $2 as a processing fee.

A Major Fallacy

I hear people explaining that they already made their money back, and that they’re playing with profit as if the profit isn’t their own money.

You can take your profit and do something for yourself or your family. It definitely is your money just as much as your original principal was. If you throw it away, you’re throwing away your money, not ASD’s or anybody else’s.

It Boils Down to Using Common Sense

You don’t have to be a top business analyst to figure these kinds of things out.

My Private ClassroomIf you get down to the basics and avoid the hype, you can make excellent business decisions. As my mentor Diane Hochman, founder of My Private Classroom, says, “Use your common sense.”

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I strive to write upbeat online social networking posts. However, sometimes I have to publish a bad report.

I told you that I had found the social networking site Wowzza Disappointing. I decided to withdraw during Wowzza’s 10-day grace period, and I expected to receive a refund.

When my refund wasn’t issued after more than a week, I contacted Jim Vigilante, the site’s founder, who said that he would look into it for me.

Last week I wrote him again. This time I did not receive a reply.

If I eventually receive my refund, I’ll post a comment to this article to let you know. As of now both social networking sites, Wowzza and Zion 5, are suspect.

If you already belong to either of them, enjoy! No need to quit.

But if you haven’t joined them, you should consider taking your online social networking business elsewhere.

Don’t miss any posts. Register, it’s easy, or subscribe to my RSS feed!

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