Hi there. I'm Nic and I write poetry, prose and code.

Freelancing and Avoiding Scams

Have you checked your spam folder recently?

My email address is listed freely online, so I get a lot of spam. Some of it is quite entertaining. What amazes me though, is that in 2015 I am still getting variations of this email:

“I am Evelyn Lai, I work with the Bank of China here in Hong Kong as an Investment Manager Also Member of the Audit Committee and Member of Strategic Development Committee. I got your email address while searching for a business oriented personality in my private study in the internet. I am in need of your assistance just for one reason in a Business Deal where I want you to act as a beneficiary and next-of-kin to a large amount of money. If you are interested reply me immediately for more details. Thanks Evelyn Lai”

Gifts from God variation:

“I write to you because I intend to give to you a portion of my Net-worth which I have been banking. I want to cede it out as gift hoping it would be of help to you and those in need around you.If you have received this email then you are one of the lucky recipients.Kindly reply as soon as possible via this email because you have been chosen by God and not man. so that i can possibly furnish you with more information to contact the payout bank who will transfer your own part of the donation to you.”

Or, more commonly something like:

“I have a deceased customer[name withheld for now] whoes fund[amount withheld for now] is pending for six years now awaiting to go into Bank Reservoir as the banking law stipulated in my country. I am his personal Account adviser before his demise,I have done a thorough investigation…No relation and his beneficiary is no where to be found. With these findings i am satisfied we will not have any stress, as it will take just 1 week to pull fund out.”

These are variations of the Nigerian prince scam, which has been around longer than email. Before computers, scammers would send these messages via snail mail, and people fell for it. When you work in web like I do, though, and deal with a lot of freelance clients, you get hit with even weirder, sneakier scams. I often come across posts on Craigslist that claim to be a small business looking for email marketing help, which turn out to be scams. I also see a lot of posts on Craigslist that have URL’s like, “getpaidtositathome.com” and, “makemoneyonfacebook.whatever”…and I think you get the point. Clearly, these are scams. Other scams though, aren’t always so black and white.

scam, schemeA week ago I had a former classmate from undergrad reach out to me on LinkedIn. The message she sent me read like a sales pitch, but I remembered her as a nice individual so I cautiously bit at the offer. I asked for more information about the specific company, and when I was given a second sales pitch, I pointed out to her that everything she was writing was extremely ambiguous. I asked her directly, what is it your business wants to hire me for that my services in social media marketing and web design apply to. Instead of a response, I got a text message asking me to call her.

I had some free time, so I bit. I called, asked how she was doing, and then asked what this was all about. She passed the phone off to her senior partner, which was a red flag in itself. The person on the phone was a born salesmen, a natural. The tone they spoke with was confident and excited. Everything they said was just as empty as everything I had been told in the email though. After the two-minute speech, they said they were about to go into a meeting (did I mention that it was late at night?) and asked if we could do a screen sharing Skype interview next week. I said sure, got their full name, and ended the call.

A quick Google search of the two partners’ full name, and my concern was justified. Without putting the specific individual on blast too loudly here, I’ll make my point with a few quick links. Their website. An unrelated website, and another. Hmmmm…. If that doesn’t clear things up, here’s the real pudding:

reddit

Shoutout to the Redditors here for the info. I owe you Gold when I find full time employment.

And then I laughed out loud because of the “opportunity” videos I found on J&J’s website, and one of the duplicates above. I spliced them together below. Watch, go read about how a pyramid scheme works (if you don’t already know) and tell me what you think this looks like.

I emailed back my former classmate and politely declined the offer. I then tried to warn her that what she was getting into looked a lot like a pyramid scheme. Her response sounds like I either struck a never, or she’s already in too deep. What can you do? Other than try to warn other former classmates and write a blog post, not much.

thescheme

The reason behind this post is simple. A warning to others in my situation, looking for new clients and trying to avoid the scams that pop up along the way. Research the people you work with, regardless of how you are connected. It’s easy to get sucked into a scam; they are designed to fool people. And with so many of us burdened with student debt, near desperate to find a way to pay it off, it can be even easier to get swept up. If it happens to you, cut your losses, accept your mistake, and simply move on. I generally avoid cold calls and LinkedIn messages now, because I have not had a one that wasn’t a scam of some sort. So I suggest you stay wary, too.

 

Keywords for anyone trying to research J&J International after being reached out to: Albany, upstate new york, linkedin, Amway, start your own business, j and j, pyramid, scheme, scam, fraud alert, freelance, social media, social marketing, network, connections, top down model business.

Super Blood Moon, 2015

On September 27th I spent a few hours outside shooting to create a composite of the eclipsed blood moon over my home town’s iconic clock tower mill. The local town newspaper published it that week. Check it out:

 

11225358_878431468899870_8746489537269083089_o

Finally: A Proper Photography Portfolio!

Decided this was worthy of a blog post—I finally have a proper photography portfolio online! As a web designer by trade, it’s always been a bit silly that I didn’t have a website for my photography. I’ve been officially running my little photography business since 2012, and now that I have a plump portfolio, I figured it was about time to put together something professional.

I normally don’t recommend them, but I chose a vanity URL because it just fits so well. The business is called Head Turner Photography, because the majority of my work is in capturing stunning, head turning portraits. So www.headturner.photography is mine. I will always believe .com and .org URL’s are the best because they are the most recognizable and thus are easily remembered. But in the case of a portfolio such as mine, the vanity just fit too well to deny.

If you have a minute, please check it out! I would love some feedback.

Out Now: Sisyphus and Riding Light

Two publications came out this summer with my poetry inside:

Sisyphus Quarterly and Riding Light Review.

bujs

Support small press’ and order a copy by clicking the photo.

Head over to my poetry blog NJTPoetry.com for a sample.

 

Summer Project: Teaching A Multimedia and Social Media Class

Teaching Social Media and Multimedia at Regis College, Summer Session II, 2015


 

imgaDuring the sticky hot month of July I served as a teaching assistant to the EN504 class at Regis College, in Weston MA. The class was an accelerated version of the original 3 credit course, stretched thin across a few long days in the summer. The class focus of EN504 is multimedia and social media, and how to use these tools in the working world. The class begins by examining a brief history of how media has changed, and then dives in head first into iMovie, reporting, blogging, tweeting, analytics and the whole nine yards. This is where I come in.

The first session was lead by the main professor whom I was assisting. This was where the background and overview information was. The second session was split between the two of us, where in the afternoon half of the class I gave a lecture on social media tools that I use in the trade. My presentation spanned a few hours with a mix of powerpoint slides, youtube videos, tutorials, and Q&A. I created what I called a “Social Media Crash Course”, because there is only so much I can tell without the students actually doing. In my experience, every job and class I’ve taken in programming, computers, social media etc. has been 30% see and 70% do. I would not and could not be where I am today if I didn’t ever drag myself or get dragged by teachers through countless tutorials.

My lecture focused on four items.

  • WordPress Websites
  • Hootsuite and IFTTT
  • Hashtags, Followers, Engagement
  • Analytics – The Curly Fry Conundrum

WordPress is a tool that every student in social/multimedia should be using. A blog, a portfolio, or just a landing page with contact information and a LinkedIn logo is all you need to show an employer that you know, at its most fundamental roots, how to work wordpress. A large portfolio full of projects and case studies shows marketing job recruiters that you know how to brand yourself. A blog with an active following and solid engagement stats shows social media marketers that you can get results. These are the things I encouraged the students to consider, because regardless of what path they intend to follow with their communications degrees, knowing basic HTML and site building apps such as WordPress do nothing but good for you. Many major brands are now WordPress based. As someone who was learning to write code as Wordpress was on the rise, I will admit I was stubborn at first to accept the change. But as all things are in social media and technology, the sooner you accept and adapt the better.

Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and IFTTT are automation tools that every social media strategist knows inside and out. Or at least, they should. I warned students though that just because you can automate everything, that doesn’t mean you should. Social media marketing is a balancing act. Engagement doesn’t happen when a brand is autonomous and not responding, so while these tools save time, they are not the only way to approach the task. For example, I wrote this blog post late at night, so I’m scheduling it to auto-post in the early morning. What I won’t do is set up an IFTTT to auto respond to everyone. If someone commented to say they hated my post, and my auto-responder said “Thanks!”, that would not reflect so well. In social media the game is think long term, balance short term actions with those long term thoughts, and as a former boss once told me, “just don’t look like an asshole.”

Next we talked hashtags, followers, and engagement. We watched videos from youtube that walk through how to find the right hashtag for your post, when to make your post, what to expect and what kind of posts are worthy posts. Engagement is a term tossed around a lot and it’s a lot like those buzzwords of business that people hate. “Capitalize”, “ROI”, “leverage”, etc. Jargon of the trade can become repetitive, but engagement is actually something that matters, a lot. Social media is not successful for businesses if the different channels are not translating into sales. It won’t happen overnight, but if it’s not happening at all, then you’re doing something wrong. Posting to social media is not just about posting stock images of what you have for sale. Social media is about creating a community of likeminded individuals who find value in your content. First you listen, then respond and share. When your following has grown, then you can inspire and lead the conversation. You can’t start to lead without a group that will follow.

Of all the videos we watched, the one below is the most important. We talk about engagement as a good thing, but there are a lot of traps out there on the internet trying to scam you for money. A Nigerian prince who only needs your bank account number to split his millions with you isn’t the kind of problem we have today with social media. Instead, we have click farms and advertising fraud:

Professionals who I have shown this to, in trying to convince them to stop buying facebook “boosts” and ads, have ignored my warnings because they want to believe that their money is helping them and they know better than a young person. As I told my students though, the only way to creating a successful social media following is through work, there are no short cuts.

As for the curly fry conundrum, we talked about this wonderful Ted talk and how reading into your analytics is important. There are built in analytics for sites such as Facebook, but there are hundreds of apps that one can download to measure their work on instagram, twitter, and just about everything else.

Social Media Runs On Coffee. A Nod To My Slight Addiction

Social Media Runs On Coffee. A Nod To My Slightly Typical New England Addiction

The next class was an all day project, taking over a Saturday to envision, develop, create and produce a full faceted multimedia project. The students were put in the scenario of being the writer for a blog where an assignment was given to write about the Land’s Sake Farm in Weston, MA. The students spent the morning developing ideas and researching the farm, and then just before open we all traveled together down the road to the farm.

I directed students where to film b-roll and how to angle good photo shots. The main professor to the class was there as well, encouraging the students to interact with all of the farm goers. Once the farm started its day the students grabbed interviews; one focused on photography, another on video. The featured photo at the top of this blog post is one I took of two students introducing the farm on camera before the stand opened, while one operated the camera. When customers started rolling in, the students were able to gather information from some but felt shy to others. It was a somewhat rainy day, so the pickings for interviewing were slim.

We returned to campus at noon to compile the b-roll and photos and interviews to build a project. The assignment was to produce a multimedia narrative with text, photos and video, and to post it to the internet. I worked with one student, stepping them through iMovie and explaining how to clip, move, replace, and edit the videos and audio clips while they drove the mouse. The other students worked with the photos and information to pull together a story that matched the video.

After the initial work was done, I made edits to the first half of the story and the main professor edited the rest. The students made the final calls on photo captions and placement. I placed everything into the wordpress blog with the projector showing everyone what I was doing, and around 5 P.M. the final cut went live.

A Photo From The Land's Sake Farm That I Took. Click Here To See The Student's Project

A Photo From The Land’s Sake Farm That I Took. Click Here To See The Student’s Project

If you click the above photo, you’ll be redirected off of my blog and to the student blog. The full project is there with the video at the bottom of the page. The blog is managed by the main professor, but this specific post is unique to the class.

The final day of class started with a panel of professionals in the social media world talking about their jobs and their experiences. I was one of the panelists, although I had been working with the students enough by now that they all knew my story and credentials, so this was really about the other guests and not myself. After the panel, students presented their final projects.

The final project assignment was to take on an issue of social media and tell the story. Much like the Land’s Sake project, the students were to use all that they had learned with multimedia to produce a story about social media. The projects were each compelling, well crafted, and clearly demonstrated a full understanding of everything that we had worked on.

One of the projects focused on the #Boston2024 Olympic Bid, and how social media was dominating on the “No” side and nearly invisible for the supporters. The student interviewed a man outspoken on social media about the bid, and then took on Periscope, a social media tool for live streaming online, to tune in to a press conference that she could not attend. She was able to put that footage into her reporting video, showing just what social media and multimedia are in today’s world. A report made on a topic evolving under our feet with a streamed video that she captured in real time from somebody else’s cell phone, to tell a part of her story. The Boston 2024 bid is over now, and had her project been presented only a few days later, there would have been so much more to consider.

lol

This is a case study of exactly why this class is important and useful and they type of class that cannot and will not be taught the same every time, because the tools are so quickly evolving.

The next project in the class looked at Tom Brady’s silence on social media in regard to “deflategate” and questioned if this was the right approach or not. The student looked at how he was using social media, and how those around him such as family and friends were using social media to debate or ignore the topic. This is another topic that shows how quickly a class on social media evolves, as Brady’s suspension was recently announced to be upheld, and he then broke his silence and posted about “deflategate” on Facebook. The lengthy statement was a big deal in sports media, and had this come out before the students project was presented, I think much of it would have changed.

Another student’s project I have embedded below. His topic was fire fighters and their relation to social media.

The video was only a portion of his presentation, which then went on to detail the number of fire departments in Massachusetts with the “Big Three” and which departments were failing this social media test. (The big three at the time of writing this are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.) The class then discussed opinions of unions controlling social media accounts and if fire / police / emergency services should have a set of standards when it comes to what they post on professional and personal accounts.


 

On a note of reflection, I can conclude that teaching a topic I am so fully immersed in and living daily is enjoyable. Seeing students succeed at it is even more so. Given the chance, I think I’d like to teach a poetry class or another social media class sometime as the full professor and not just an assistant. I think though, that I’d prefer to teach in a setting such as a library with adults looking to improve their basic understanding into a fuller grasp of the subject. After all, I am tech support for my family extended as far and branches meet. 


 

What do you think about the concept of the class? Are the topics practical or already outdated? Many believe that Facebook is a dying channel, but have you honestly stopped returning to your feed while waiting in line somewhere? What apps do you see on the rise, or do you think we’re headed for something completely new? I’ve always been an early adopter; I was one of those people waiting for the ipod touch back when it was first announced. I had crowds of people I didn’t know surrounding my desk in school to watch me play Stack The Log in between classes, completely unaware that my techie interests would one day turn into a career. I’ll use the cliche phrase and call it a sixth sense, but I don’t think people are quite ready to drop the book for a watch. There’s something else coming, and it’s going to have interesting implications and applications for the social strategy world, and my hunch is that is has to do with automation, but not of what you think.

Front Page Feature

A feature I wrote about a local artist in Wayland, MA, is on the front page of the Wicked Local newspaper – The Wayland Town Crier – today. The feature is exclusive to print, and cannot be read online. I, unfortunately, am 700 miles west of home, so I only have a photo of the front page.

frontpage

Big thanks to Sarah for letting me interview her about college life, her art, and the job she found happiness in. Supporting local artists is very important to me, and being able to write about one—to spread the good word that majoring in the arts is still a viable option—is something I am grateful to have had the chance to do. STEM majors are not the only people making a difference in this world. Sarah is a great example of that.

Happy reading, friends.

Hemetera Launch

Tonight, the Hemetera launch party was a success, with a great turnout and some lovely readings/presentations. Gerard, a fellow editor of the journal, said it best:

gerard

11209667_943323682368310_6767077651727115140_n-1

The Editors of Hemetera for 2015

Many people came up to me at the end of the event to ask about the story behind my photography on the cover. The only photo of mine on the cover is the black bear in the center. I was in New Hampshire, and pulled over to watch the bear, who was eating and keeping watch because there were 6 small cubs that I could just barely see in the tree behind her. I couldn’t stay long though, because I was on a rural trucking highway. She was beautiful, and I was able to take a few great shots without disturbing her from the safety of my car. Always travel with your camera, fellow photographers. You never know.

Cover

Student Artistry Award

Today I received the Student Artistry Award from Regis College. It was awarded to me during a dinner where student leaders on campus were being recognized. Other students received awards for their club leadership, for student government on the undergrad and graduate level, and more. The announcer said I was chosen because I was dedicated to helping students grow artistically by getting them out of their comfort zones, specifically in my work with Hemetera Literary Journal. I hope the publication with its returning editors will continue to grow and flourish next school year.

IMG_20150424_005117

It was a lovely evening, and I am very thankful to whichever anonymous faculty members nominated me. As I’ve meantioned before in previous posts, I love working on publications, and I especially love small literary publications. I hope that wherever I end up after graduation, that I can find another to work on.

Sisyphus Quarterly

A great end to National Poetry Month came today in an email from an editor that said,”I really love your style and phrases and imagery and I DON’T say that unless I mean it. I’d like to publish both poems in the July issue.” Two poems, “0300” and “In A Crowded Room” were sent in and accepted.


“Sisyphus Quarterly exists to provide an outlet for the vision of artists through the publication of literature and artwork of substance and style. Sisyphus Quarterly is neither an amateur showcase nor a glitterati notepad at the season’s hippest happening. The magazine’s editor(s) and reader(s) are as uninterested in poetic popcorn and as unimpressed by vaguely related strings of adjectives masquerading with pretension as intent. Sisyphus Quarterly publishes work that speaks of, and to, humanity, human emotion, and life itself, be as it may.”


More information coming; available on Amazon later this summer.

More poetry of mine like that in the image of this post, can be found on my blog at njtpoetry.com

Note, the image below is not one of the two poems being published, but it is from the same series that I wrote them in. 

large

Hemetera Release

hemetera

Hey check out the poster I just made!

The lit mag I’ve been working on (I did some copy editing and built a website), will be released at the end of the month, on the Regis College campus in Weston, MA. There will also be a student reading. Anyone in the area should feel free to come by and support the students that contributed creative works.

This year’s edition included: fiction, non fiction, poetry, photography, and a screenplay.

See you there!

>>Click for directions to campus>>

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 54 other followers