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ATPM 10.10
October 2004




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Segments: Slices from the Macintosh Life

by Andrew Kator,

Internet Democracy Gone Bad

We are all working in a more interconnected world, with unprecedented access to information and other people with skills. You might think that having a pool of thousands of new and skilled people working with you on a project would be a bonus. Unfortunately, the same accessibility that makes great people accessible also makes questionable people just as likely to contact you. The same democratic principles that make the Internet a great thing also mean that you may be democratically exposed to con artists and incompetent people claiming great skills.

The following information may appear to be common sense, and most of these suggestions are the same things you might do if someone were applying in person to work with you at a business or on a project. Apply the same principles to working with people on the Internet that you would in “real life.”

Beware of Lofty Claims

Someone who claims great things should be able to prove it. If she teaches at an internationally renowned institution, she will give you equivalent material to back up the claim. Additionally, most institutions list their affiliations and employees on the Web. If you visit the institution Web site and she is nowhere to be found, something is probably wrong.

If an applicant is really known for her work in a particular area, there is a high chance of finding corroborating evidence on the Web.

Beware of Inconsistencies

Someone who claims to be a teacher and a week later claims to be an Art Director is misrepresenting something. If he were both a teacher and Art Director, he would have presented that information to you in the first place. You want nothing to do with him. I have never found an exception in which someone “accidentally” forgot to mention all the important information.

Look out for “backtracking” with information. If a potential partner or applicant claims to work somewhere, and upon being questioned changes the employer, something is wrong. After all, don’t we all know who we work for? There is no example I can give in which someone legitimately misrepresented his current job, title, position, and employer.

A potential contributor may profess to be many things, but he should be able to back it up. For example, if she claims to be a video camera operator and video editor, she should be able to give proof of both skills and not just one. Simply providing proof of camera work does not prove editing skills, and vice versa.

Also beware of people who state “I would like to…” such as, “I am a cameraman who would like to be involved in production.” This person is telling you that while he may have video experience, he wants to be something else that he has no proven skills with. He will refrain from doing his proven work (video camera work) and will instead try to only do what he imagines as his “proper” position and title. What he is really saying is, “I am a cameraman but don’t want to do that anymore and I want to be a Producer even though I have no experience.”

Ask for References

The same things that apply in the rest of world apply on the Internet. Someone with false claims will be unable to present corroborating references. Of course, it is also important to check the validity of references to make sure they are legitimate.

If someone gives you a reference that is extremely impressive (example, Steve Jobs) then don’t be impressed…yet. E-mail the person in the reference, no matter how important. If the reference in question, no matter how lofty, responds favorably, then you are in good shape. You might be surprised at how many times you will get a response of non-association and unfamiliarity.


If a potential partner isn’t willing to adhere to the established principles of grammar and spelling, you shouldn’t waste your time. No more than 10% of an article should need correction and/or editing, and that is being generous. The more you let partners get away with, the more work you and your competent staff will suffer by being forced to compensate.

Language is Not a Problem

Don’t let anyone fool you with providing excuses like “I didn’t understand your request,” or “Forgive me, I do not speak well.” If she can manage to express those sentiments, she can also understand everything else perfectly. While the Web language translation engines are far from perfect, they can usually give clear enough translation for most people.

Pay Attention to Presentation

Professionalism translates to e-mails just as much as it does with other media. If someone professing to be a designer doesn’t present you with images and examples that indicates an understanding of line, shape, negative space, composition, type, and color, then he is not a professional designer.

Beware of Forums & Forum-presented Content

A large number of people want their “name in lights” but are too lazy to present their materials properly. It is enough for them to have their artwork, their articles or other content posted in forums—because this gives them the attention they desire.

Even decent articles and artwork are not best represented by a forum presentation. If someone proudly displays her work in that format, she is unlikely to understand the demands of a professional organization. These days it is too easy to set up a Web site (even for free) for anyone to use the excuse that her only option is displaying work in forums on another Web site.

If the forum-presented work is exceptional, you can judge the work based upon the exact content but not on other abilities. Judge the work in the forum, and realize the person cannot show you examples of how she is competent to present her excellent works.

Judging Web design, design, and presentation skills based on forums is impossible because forums are easily had. For example, someone who has set up a PHP Nuke forum Web site does not necessarily know Web design. Installing PHP Nuke or any equivalent forum technology is easy, and there are hundreds of free templates available to present the site well. A poorly presented PHP Nuke Web site demonstrates a lack of understanding or outright laziness about proper presentation, design, and merchandising. Having a PHP Nuke Web site means she installed PHP Nuke, but nothing more.

As tempting as it may be, you should also avoid advertising for new contributors and staff on forums-based Web sites. If you advertise this way, you will only increase your work as you weed through the responses.

Demand Original Files

You might be surprised at the number of people who present work from others as their own. Anyone can copy images, 3D graphics, or other content from the millions of Web sites available. There is no way to check to see whether a person has stolen content from other sources without spending months searching the millions of Web sites worldwide.

By demanding original works in original formats from the application used for creation, you can increase the chances that you are actually seeing work that represents the person in question. A designer who copied a graphic, photo, or other material from another Web site will have no supporting material.

Listen to Your Gut Reaction

“Listening to your gut” sums up everything above. Many times when people are in need of services, they have a tendency to look for what they want rather than what is actually being presented. Be as objective as possible in your determinations and your communications with people over the Web.

Do not worry about having to turn away people you feel are questionable. The people who truly offer something will shine though the mire. You may get thousands of e-mails and only end up with a half-dozen people to work with, but at least the ones you pick are more likely to come through.

Remember the scene from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade: “He chose poorly.” By not paying attention to what is in front of you and instead picking what you envision, you will most likely “choose poorly” and destroy everything you intended to create.

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