They've been a horrible company ever since their name changed from "InGrid". I originally purchased my system when they were InGrid about 6 years ago.
When I bought my system, it was advertised that the system would work with or without monitoring, which was a huge selling point for me. I wasn't sure if I really cared about the monitoring or not, since alerts go directly to your phone, email, etc. With those kinds of alerts, who needs someone else to call the cops for you?
Anyway, so I invested in the system mostly for this reason. The InGrid site was great and the support staff was friendly and helpful - I always ended up talking to the same person and it was a nice experience. So I dumped a good $600 into sensors, cameras, etc.
Fast-forward a few years and InGrid changes their name to LifeShield - I don't know if this was an acquisition or a brand change or what, but it brought on a slew of bad experiences. The support staff started sounding cold and uninterested. The website started going to shit, it was impossible to find things (try finding the online control panel to your system - that thing has changed URLs / names at least 5 times).
But the two worst things: a few months ago, they raised my monitoring rates with no notification whatsoever. I saw my monthly charge come in $5 higher than it used to be. Obviously not a ton of money but I'd like to know why I'm paying $60 more per year for the exact same service. I called them up and they said "Well our rates are now different for those who aren't on a contract with us. If you'd like to go back to your normal rate, you'll need to sign a 3-year contract with us." What, The, Fuck. I don't want a contract, especially not with a company who randomly decides to raise rates of their longest customers without notification.
So I decided to shut off the system monitoring. When I did so, to my horror I found that the entire system was bricked. The control panel says "Not Activated". They've once again fucked me, going back on their original statement that the hardware would work without monitoring.
So I'm done with them. They're a shitty company who's gone down the toilet over the past few years.
From the article here one of the LifeShield reps said they took a huge hit to their business because of some random clone on the web... that's probably bullshit. They're taking a huge hit to their business because of their shady business practices and lackluster product offerings.
Every follower has no bio, around 10-15 "follows" and about 1,500-1,800 followers. All generic photos, generic usernames, names, etc.
What a fucking joke this company is.
One of them is even Miss World from 1994:
EDIT: The flat lines are the fake followers..
I am not the only person on HN who might like to have a way to examine real/presumedfake follower ratios for any number of reasons.
Most Twitter follower networks registered thousands of Twitter accounts in a quick, automated fashion, making their entire list of Twitter ID's almost sequential. The plot shows the deltas of the Twitter IDs from 0 to the highest ID.
What's even more amusing is that, once you've identified a network, you can deduce the entire list of their clients by what users the network already follows.
Part of me wonders why Twitter doesn't just nuke the follower networks, since they are so easy to identify. But, on the other hand, it's almost comical looking at no-name Twitter users with tens of thousands of followers. There is no way to force a Twitter network to unfollow them, so they are stuck with the fake followers and all of the embarrassment that comes along with it.
Though, the scary part is that one can attack an adversary by buying up 25K Twitter followers for them for a pretty insignificant price (maybe $100).
If that kind of attack became well-known, the next logical step would be that a smart company buys some fake followers, then protests against it as though to imply that one of their competitors did so.
Slandering a rival while reaping additional followers (though fake...) seems like a win-win.
The fast majority of them have profiles photos of attractive young women and teens and are otherwise indistinguishable as you point out. Except there is a high incidence of very unusual names, such as if the fake accounts were created using a seeding list of all names without distinction to actual usage frequency. Also lots of ethnicity mismatches between surnames and photos. Another tell of course is its usually older people who buy home security packages, and most followers are teen girls and young adult women.
This is so shady, and so interesting that it is a "security company" doing this, one has to wonder what else they are doing.
Now they just need their twitter follower network shutdown.
I helped a company a few years ago that had paid a consultant to purchase tens of thousands of links. The way they did it was by buying one of three slots on a few different freely-downloadable wordpress and forum themes.
The problem with buying links like this is that once they're purchased, they are out of your control (buying links is pretty much always a bad idea, but 10x more so like this).
Yes, competitors could have bought tens of thousands of links, but let's apply Occam's Razor here:
- Did an angry competitor spends a ton of money on the off chance that they can swamp LifeShield an SEO penalty (risky - could go the other way)
- Did a company that has purchased tons of spammy Twitter followers (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3970998) and pay referral fees to people who review their products (and link to them) also buy tons of spammy links?
There's probably room for disruption here. I imagine a lot of the roadblocks to this will be regulatory, such as if you integrate fire alarm systems or devices that are hooked to phone lines.
The two weekends I spent wiping, reverse-engineering and reconfiguring an old ADT installation really made me want to design boards and write firmware again.
Sensors --> Control Panel --> App|Txt Message
An opportunity for sure. I own two of these Elk Gold Panels:
Complete with http://www.ekeypad.net/eK_Family/Applications.html software you can essentially cut out the online monitoring and phone lines and simply do everything over the internet. So I don't pay anything for monitoring.
You could actually easily write your own software since the M1 spits out codes in real time and responds to commands that you can send over ssh. Anyway the way I have this setup I can be notified of any event (say even someone walks into and trips a motion sensor) by an email or text message. You could even do a phone call or notify multiple people. And you can remotely turn on and turn off zones, the system, and fully program this to do just about anything.
There isn't anything magical Elk is doing. And I've spoken to their top tech guy and he didn't even know how to troubleshoot an SMTP problem. I would imagine a good kickstarter project could easily duplicate the same hardware functionality.
The security vendor of course pushed the monitoring. I have some experience in that business so I didn't feel that I needed a central station. I just wanted to be notified. You can easily integrate any types of controllers with this (like an X10) and video cameras etc.
Bottom line: There are tons of people with legacy alarm systems. Even just a hardware device that sat on the existing analog POTS line and sent the signals over the Internet to a place that would then send a txt message to a users phone would be a good place to start.
One thing to point out to anyone using a security company to install this. My installer left the system password less and you could telnet into it. In his mind he thought he had secured it. Simply going outside our network and using telnet you could get right in though which is how I checked what he said (he didn't know enough to do that). I'd imagine there are quite a few of these open ports right now out there.
There's definitely room for disruption here, and that's exactly what we're trying to do at elarm (http://elarm.com).
(PS - we're hiring)
The company had a referral system in place such that 5 referrals meant the referrer obtained free LifeShield monitoring for life. Why would someone slant a review such that they could get a bad product for free?
It was much later that LifeShield announced a new program that gave $150 for each referral; this was a good while after the review of the product.
In your article you say, "reviews of the LifeShield products and services (March, 2010), they had a referral system in place. If I got 5 referrals, I’d get free security system monitoring for life. They provided a link to give to possible customers. I used it all over my reviews. I personally knew 3 parties that had purchased systems via my referral link, but I figured there were more that I didn’t know about..."
The article clearly does not support the new claim that "the review existed when there was no referral program in place".
I strongly recommend your article for detailed reading by anyone who feels that anything I have said misrepresents the situation as you are stating.
Is this already happening?
The thing is that google's algorithm looks like this (http://imgur.com/XxhZg) and the real "SEO experts", the black hat guys, run circles around it. If you doubt that just look at the results of your search queries. See any spam?
I've built a blog in 2005 which I basically abandoned in 2007. That blog was scraped and its content republished by a few BH guys who didn't bothered to remove links pointing to my original blog which resulted that today my blog has over 75% of its links coming from the splog farms. I'm not talking about a few links here and there. I have over 40000 of those and yet I have no warnings in GWMT and the blog ranks #1 for its main keyword.
If you're running an online business avoid hiring "SEO experts", they are not just useless they are dangerous.
So, how can you get hurt by some asshole?
First, he can buy links on the splog farms already penalized by google. Second, he can create extremely transparent splog farm and link to your site. (by transparent I mean autogen content, no keyword variations in anchor text, trackback spam, ...) Third, he can just "xrumer blast" you out of google index.
I believe that the approach google took recently will get a lot of small business (and webmasters) hurt, but it will have almost no effect on black hatters. Why? Because, with all being said and done, the only thing that really counts in SEO is the number of links and the BH guys are masters at creating those. (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_bomb)
Google screwed it up big time by making negative SEO possible, but I doubt they'll change their approach. I doubt that they even care about it.
They have so many links from various sources that any effort at generating enough "bad links" would be virtually unnoticeable. Other than that, they don't care about their rankings. I mean, would you go to google.com (or bing.com) to find a search engine by typing "search engine"?
You can have a few laughs by doing a google bomb, but that's it. You can't hurt google with negative SEO.
Not in my queries, no.
This is so condescending it's amazing. You're calling me an idiot, you know that, right?
No matter how well designed or "active" websites may appear, if its only function is to send you to some affiliate offer - it's spam. The best of them are very good at faking legit websites (even having an active "community" engaged in "discussion"). They are extremely good at faking normal human activity and I don't see the end to it. There's virtually nothing you can do that a script can't do also.
I don't think this definition is quite right.
A site can be good and still have as its raison d'etre referring you to a product manufacturer. After all any sales website is doing the same thing, there's just a certain distance between affiliate sites and the manufacturer.
Don't get me wrong, a lot of affiliate sites are bogus, unhelpful and given unwarranted prevalence in SERPs; but that doesn't make them all bad. For example in the UK there are sites that offer money back on all purchases - they're affiliate sites that share the affiliate fee with the purchaser.
Google believes that pure affiliate websites do not provide additional value for web users, especially if they are part of a program that distributes its content to several hundred affiliates. Because a search result could return multiple sites, all with the same content, they create a frustrating user experience.
And here's the rest of it: http://bit.ly/KWS1cz
>For example in the UK there are sites that offer money back on all purchases
I don't see the relevance.
The only purpose of those sites is to get you to follow affiliate links.
Were you trying to refer to some sort of passthrough short-linking system or something?
In the seomoz article find "It's even more terrifying, but they sent fake emails" to get to the relevant part.
I would bet this is some kind of business tort -- unfair competition, interference with potential business relationships, commercial disparagement, something along those lines. I don't have any particular knowledge in this area, but intuitively, it's too shady to be legal -- it's like taking out embarrassing ads in your competitor's name or something. Not a normal part of business competition. (A good rule of thumb -- if it were legal, would people be doing it?) Maybe you could even get to trademark infringement, if you argued that the bogus links are a false claim that the company itself is doing something it isn't doing -- like if I distributed swastikas with my competitor's logo and phone number on them, I can imagine that being some kind of trademark tort.
That doesn't mean you can prove it. It would be interesting trying to dig up the evidence, especially if the blackhat intermediaries are in an awkward jurisdiction, and then prove how much impact it had on your business. But I bet it could be done. (Like others, I'm skeptical that that's really what happened in this particular case. But who knows ...)
As a reminder, I am not your lawyer or your mother. Take those elbows off the table, young man.
smaller players (in the poker vertical) tried to kick out bigger players this way. we saw it, we were worried, then google took care of the "poker" vertical overall (the big "poker" shake up of 2009).
i would personally just report it to google. if i would not get a response via the "reconsideration request" i would fly to one of the SEO conferences and talk with one of the google spam guys there. would be a much better option than sending idiotic threatening letters to random websites.
Doesn't this (without a disclosure) violate the FTC's new rules about endorsements/testimonials in advertising?
The 4-5 instances of apologies, retraction of threat, and admittance of error should have been enough. But it seems like OP felt so entitled to being treated like a 5-star customer that he had to complain till he was spent.
Oh, and it isn't that they "managed to screw up" ... they completely own up to what they've done (and continue to do). They know it's wrong, but decided to keep doing it because it was getting results. All this was covered in the blog post.
Also, I'm nowhere near spent.
They got seriously screwed over with negative seo. I'm not even sure how else you would get your site unlisted from a bunch of splog farms, that sounds like a nightmare to me. So they paid a lawyer to help clean it up, what's the big deal? Why are you giving them such a hard time?
From the sound of the replies here, I probably wouldn't even like this company but still I'd cut them some slack.
Speaking of the Penguin update, I'm surprised and quite disappointed it hasn't been talked about in HN. It affects a lot of consumer web startups. Anyone who has a website basically should be concerned.
For example, if someone doing negative SEO by blasting 10,000 bad, spammy links pointing to your website - the penguin update penalizes your site. Even if your site is about helping cancer patients, or feeding Africa.
I don't know whether I find it scary or hilarious.
eta: the Fox terms haven't changed much: "If you are interested in creating hypertext links to the Site, you must contact Company at email@example.com before doing so."
The reverse colors of quotes is very easy to understand (although if it was me I would have used white text with a slightly gray background and a white border).
If you are seeing ghosts your monitor may be too bright for the amount of light in the room around you.
I don't understand how you can complain about unethical business practices in the same post that you admit to this.
> I made it very, very clear that my links were referral links. I also made it clear that I was benefiting from the referrals (this was true of both of the referral programs). People could choose to believe that I was being honest or choose to believe that I was a shill. No trickery involved.
I go to the Ford dealer to buy a truck. The salesman, Frank, is on commission. He tells me that Fords are the best trucks and when I ask about Dodge, he says their trucks are badly designed, dangerous, and lack power.
I then go to the Dodge dealer to buy a truck. The salesman, Don, is on commission. He tells me that Dodges are the best trucks and when I ask about Ford, he says their trucks are badly designed, dangerous, and lack power.
I then check in with someone who is a truck expert, Tom. He points out that one of the brands is much better than the other based on his personal experiences.
What is the difference between A, B and C? Are one's expectations about the objectivity of the data different between an interaction with Frank and Don who are clearly identified themselves as professional sales agents whose primary vocation is profiting from each sale that they negotiate with a customer? What are the expectations here and how are they different with a customer getting information from an independent reviewer versus a salesperson who is known not to be an impartial and independent reviewer?
What would the response be of most people, after buying Brand T of truck, and finding it to be a lemon, to discovering that impartial expert Tom was actually receiving commissions or free products from the company or companies whose products he recommended?
What I am saying here is not mysterious or bizarre feats of stretching reasoning to its limits, but just absolute common sense that everyone is familiar with. People know that a salesman working professionally at a car dealer is not an unbiased source of information. No one is completely shocked when it turns out he exaggerated or flat out lied to get his commission, for unethical behavior for profit is common in the sales avocation. This is why people turn to independent, impartial reviewers, and expect them to have actual experience with the product, to voice their true opinion, and not to be receiving kickbacks, presents, or special considerations from the company's whose products they review.
There's nothing unethical about this. There's no mystery here.
We don't shun realtors as unethical when they recommend a mortgage broker to get you prequalified with, a contractor for a home inspection, etc. that are no doubt paying them referral fees.
We even purposely go to independent agents to shop around for insurance policies, when we know they're compensated purely by their commissions from the companies they'll place you with. There are 40,000 independent insurance agencies in the US -- that are in business because people specifically turn to them for advice while EXPECTING them to receive kickbacks from the companies they're giving advice on.
We also read reviews in magazines containing ads by the companies being reviewed. We watch news coverage on channels running ads by the companies talked about in the news. There are clearly other ways to establish reputation and trust than separating yourself from compensation.