10 Things social media companies do that should freak you out. Privacy is dead.

10 Things social media companies do that should freak you out. Privacy is dead.

We’ve all been following the congressional hearings where Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg was grilled for two days after the massive Cambridge Analytica data breach. We have heard of the many incidents all over the world where social media companies have been accused of all kinds of nefarious tactics to keep us all hooked on social media. Privacy has become a hot topic and it’s time that we fully understand what they are doing.

Here are ten things that social media companies do that you probably didn’t know about. And if this doesn’t freak you out, nothing will.

  1. They specifically show you posts in your news feed that will anger you. 

Yes, they don’t like it when you’re happy. They want you to rant. People that rant also share a lot. People that rant create controversy and controversy generates lots of activity on their platforms. More activity results in more ad views. The loss of privacy results in more ad revenue.

  1. They love fake news. 

Despite all their denials and posturing, social media companies thrive on fake news. Without fake news their revenues will be halved in a matter of days. This is because fake news is always sensationalist. Sensationalist news attracts viral behaviour and that results in more ad revenue. That is why most fake news sites exist. It’s not to try and influence elections, although there are some with a propaganda agenda. It’s about money. Fake news sites create fake news so that they get many people reading and sharing. People click on their ads and they generate revenue.

  1. They track you wherever you go. 

You can do whatever you like to try and prevent this, but it’s built into the OS. The incestuous relationships between the various companies guarantees that they share data with each other. There have been numerous tests where brand new phones were used and where the results conclusively proved that you are being tracked all the time. They call it Geo Targeting. They know where you are and where you were, 24 hours day. The only way to get past this is to switch off your phone, and some people claim that won’t help either. They use the tracking data to customize advertising. Most people don’t even realise the creepiness of a McDonalds ad appearing in their news feed the moment they are within 10 km range of a McDonalds drive-through. The loss of privacy has moved from the digital world to the real world.

  1. They keep everything. 

You can do what you like but they keep every bit of data they collect on you. You will never know how detailed and comprehensive their profile is on you. You can delete your account, but it won’t help.

  1. They track you online.

You don’t even have to be a Facebook or twitter user to be tracked. They do anyway. They do this through tracking cookies that are embedded in the websites you visit. Almost every website on the internet has sharing buttons from Facebook and twitter. Behind these buttons are programming code that passes information about the visitor to the companies. They don’t own these websites, but they gather information on all their users. So even if you are not a Facebook user, your identity will be an IP address and unique browser identification. As you move through the internet the social media companies track what you click on and where you go, building a profile of your habits. At some point you hit a website where you are logged in and where that website shares your data with Facebook or twitter and bingo! They can now connect the anonymous users browsing activity that they have been gathering with a real person, who’s data they bought from the website.

  1. Google is way more invasive (or evil) than Facebook or Twitter.

Google is the big daddy of big data. They practically invented internet social engineering on gigantic scale. Every website in the world is indexed by google and almost every website is connected with programming code to Google analytics. This code is added by webmasters on websites under the auspices of providing the webmaster with analytical data so that they can improve their websites. It also provides reports on numbers of visitors etc. but in fact, this code is nothing but spying software installed on a website that allows google to track you everywhere. Google analytics passes data from a website you just visited to the next website you visit thereby tracking you wherever you go. They do this so that when you visit a website they can show you personalized ads. So, this morning you visit amazon.com to check out the latest tech gadget and this afternoon you read your news on your favourite news website and voila! What do you see? The same gadget from amazon that you were looking at earlier on amazon. Now this seems innocuous but consider the ramifications. They know when you go to a political website. They know everything you do. All the time. And then they show you ads in line with your habits. Not just ads, but articles and stories as well. They are the great enforcers of confirmation bias in the world.

  1. They read your email.

They can deny it as much as they want, but there are just too many coincidences. Too many studies that prove that they do. These companies work together, and they give each other access to your data. Facebook reads your email. They were even sued in 2014. If you send email using Gmail then Facebook has read the contents of that email even before it arrives at the recipient. You send and enquiry to your travel agent about a trip to Disney world and later in the day you visit Facebook. What do you see in your news feed? A Disney world ad.

  1. They read your WhatsApp messages.

Facebook recently acquired WhatsApp. Why did they do that? There’s no money to be made from WhatsApp on it’s own. They purchased WhatsApp so that they can know more about your private life. They want to know what you are saying to your friends. This is where you discuss plans and share information about all kinds of things. You discuss with your friend on WhatsApp that you are looking at buying a new car and within seconds you will see that new car advert on your news feed, websites about that new car will suddenly appear on the top of the organic search results on Google and your Twitter feed will be miraculously sorted to show relevant tweets. In fact, you will receive email spam messages relating to your planned new car purchase. Everything to get you to buy from their advertising partners so that they can get a piece of the cake.

  1. You can never be forgotten.

Google recently lost its case in the EU about the right to be forgotten. Basically, this means that you should be able to ask Google to delete all your data so that when people search for you on the search engine, they find nothing. This is a meaningless verdict because the data is spread over millions of servers across millions of companies. You will never be able to exit the web of data that has been weaved around your identity. Short of changing your identity of course. When you agreed to the terms of service of these companies you sold your privacy forever.

  1. And we leave the best for last.

They listen to your real-world conversations. This means that while you are having a real conversation with friends or family in your house, they listen to you. All the time. They do this through your phones. When you install Facebook you give it permission to access your microphone be default. The microphone is always, activated and then they transcribe the words you speak and pick out the keywords. These keywords are then used to serve you personalized ads. Sounds farfetched right? Not at all. Siri already listens to you. So, does google now. You can speak to Siri and Siri will understand you. Facebook’s AI is vastly more advanced than Siri. You have a conversation with your spouse this morning and a few hours later an ad relating to your topic of conversation miraculously appears on your news feed. Think this is fake news? Nope. I have tested it myself and there have been many experiments that prove this. Facebook has obviously denied it vigorously. But of course, they would.

Just a pity no-one raised this question at the congressional hearings. Mark Zuckerberg can be glad I wasn’t there to grill him. We would still be busy today.


Facebook conversation eavesdropping

Facebook conversation eavesdropping

Facebook is listening to you. No, not in a nice way. Facebook is actually listening to what you say in conversations.

A few days ago I was talking to my wife about a Uniworld Cruise. We discussed the destinations and options for about an hour. Now, I have never interacted with Uniworld. I have never liked their page or commented on anything related to Uniworld. I have absolutely no association with Uniworld.

About an hour after our discussion I was looking at my Facebook newsfeed, and guess what I saw? A Uniworld sponsored advert. Is this just coincidence?

I’m no conspiracy theorist so I quickly forgot about it, writing it off to coincidence. Today, my brother and I have a brief discussion about email and Google’s G-suite product. Approximately 30 minutes later I’m checking my newsfeed and what do I see? A G-suite sponsored advert.

This is not a coincidence. With Facebook’s AI it will be very easy for them to eavesdrop on conversations through your phones microphone and then interpret what they heard. It will be easy to identify keywords that came up in the conversation and then to link those keywords with sponsored ads.

This is the holy grail for any advertiser. Identifying potential customers while they are in the process of thinking and making decisions. Influencing them at this point will yield a much higher click-through rate than traditional online marketing.

With Facebook’s privacy policies under immense scrutiny after the Cambridge Analytica incident, this has the potential to explode into a massive public relations disaster for Facebook.

I concede that the above is certainly not conclusive evidence of nefarious practises, but for me the coincidence is just too much.

I am convinced that Facebook is eavesdropping on phone users through the Facebook App. I won’t be surprised if Google does it as well.

We need to get to the bottom of this. It’s profoundly disturbing.


BRR Inc to acquire Top Twenty

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., January 19, 2018 – BRR Inc. (Bizratereview.com) announced today that it has agreed to acquire Top Twenty, the consumer media company for people to find, rate and review businesses through a Web experience, for an undisclosed amount. Following the acquisition, Top Twenty will operate independently to preserve its successful brand.

The acquisition combines one of the fastest growing online business directory communities with BRR’s expertise in organizing information and creating new models for advertising on the Internet. The combined companies will focus on providing a better, more comprehensive experience for users, and will offer new opportunities for businesses to advertise their services to reach a vast new audience.

“The Top Twenty team has built an exciting and powerful media platform that complements BRR’s mission to organize the world’s business information,” said Jonathan Cole, Chief Executive Officer of BRR. “Our companies share similar values; we both always put our users first and are committed to innovating to improve their experience.”

“Our community has played a vital role in changing the way that people find businesses and services in South Africa. We have developed exciting new technology models that organise large volumes of business data. By joining forces with BRR, Top Twenty can benefit from its global reach and technology leadership to deliver a more comprehensive experience for our users and to create new opportunities for our partners,” said Marthinus Strydom, CEO of Ingaro (Pty) Ltd, the owner of Top Twenty. “I’m confident that with this partnership Top Twenty will have the flexibility and resources needed to pursue their goal of building the next-generation business platform. We are very excited that our locally developed innovation has been noticed internationally.”

Top Twenty will retain its distinct brand identity, strengthening and complementing BRR’s own fast-growing directory services investments. Top Twenty and the UAE team from BRR will move to Cape Town during the first quarter of 2018. All Top Twenty employees will remain with the company. With BRR’s technology, advertiser relationships and global reach, Top Twenty will continue to build on its success as one of the fastest growing directory services in South Africa, expanding to the rest of Africa and then globally.

About BRR Inc.

BRR’s innovative directory and advertising technology investments connect millions of people around the world with information every day. BRR’s targeted advertising program provides businesses of all sizes with measurable results, while enhancing the overall web experience for users. BRR is headquartered in Silicon Valley with offices throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia and the UAE.

About Top Twenty

Founded in December 2015, Top Twenty is a consumer focussed company for people to find, rate and review businesses and services in South Africa. Operating mainly in the Western Cape, Top Twenty has grown rapidly to become the fastest growing business directory service in South Africa with enormous global growth potential. The proof-of-concept technology was developed in Stilbaai in the Southern Cape and organically expanded into the region. The innovative technology developed by this South African start up is internationally competitive, scalable and ready for the global stage.

Press Contacts:

BRR Media:
Arnold Shim

Ingaro (Pty) Ltd. (Top Twenty):
Marthinus Strydom

Why complaining on Social Media works

Almost everyone that use Social Media has at some time seen this comment on a post. “Complaining on Social Media doesn’t work.” or “Go talk to the manager”. Or, “Complaining on Social Media is a waste of time”.

I have come to the conclusion that people that regularly say this, and probably believe this, are the same people who would ignore social media complaints if their business were at the receiving end. They won’t respond and, in some cases, even verbally attack the complainant on Social Media if they dared make a negative remark about their business or service. These people react badly to negative criticism or complaints and then assume that all business owners feel the same way. It’s a classic example of confirmation bias and ignorance.

The irony is that almost every single one of the people that say complaining on Social Media does not work, have themselves complained on Social Media at some point. You then have to question their motives and herein lies the crux of the matter.

Many people that are opposed to complaints on Soicial Media have friends that own businesses that give poor service and are regularly on the receiving end of complaints. Inevitably they want to protect their friends. What they don’t realise is that they are not being good friends and they are doing these businesses more damage than good. Businesses that receive many complaints get these complaints because they provide bad service. It’s really as simple as that. There is no other motivation for people to bother to complain on Social Media and in 99.9% of the cases these complaints are valid.

Let me reiterate. Complaining on Social media works. It gets results. All the time.

If you’re tired of being treated poorly by retailers, airlines and other service-industry types, take revenge via social media. You will get heard, and get action.

Whether it’s a bad experience with a brand or receiving a faulty product, 67 percent of consumers have at some point contacted a business through its social media channels to provide negative feedback.

“There is a tremendous echo in social-media channels,” said Thomas Sclafani, a spokesman for American Express, which found in a recent survey that consumers who use social media to get a company’s attention wield a much bigger stick than those who don’t.

That’s because, beyond the broader audience who might see a complaint on, say, Facebook or Twitter, people who use social media to voice their discontent are much likelier to also talk to people directly about the problem, compared with someone who simply calls the customer-service center.

Social media-ites, according to the American Express survey, will directly tell 53 people about bad customer-service experiences, who will tell their friends who will tell their friends and so on.

Those who don’t use social media tell only 17 people they’re unhappy with a service, compared with the 24 people that the general population tells.

The same is true for good experiences, by the way. Social-media users tell 42 people they were thrilled with some service versus the nine people told by those who don’t use social media and the 15 people with whom the general population confides.

Overwhelmingly, consumers still take the traditional face-to-face and phone route to speak to real, live people to make complaints, according to American Express’s annual Global Customer Service Barometer. But they’re getting better results when they amplify that complaint on a widely used social-media site like Facebook or Twitter.

Not sure if you need to worry about this? Maybe these stats can convince you to boost your social service efforts:

  • Customers are likely to spend 20 to 40 percent more with a business after a successful social customer service experience.
  • Brands can see as much as three times more potential revenue from resolved negative issues on social media than revenue brought in just from positive reviews.
  • Nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of individuals who have a good social customer service experience are more likely to recommend a business to others.

These numbers may sway you to bolster your customer service on social sites, but let’s look at some real examples of social media customer service, and how they helped or hurt the respective brands.

Success stories

Call it the power of the people online. It manifested late last year when Molly Katchpole, the then-22-year-old part-time nanny took on the mighty Bank of America’s efforts to tag $5 debit-card fees on customers.

The 300,000-strong signatures on her Change.org petition—not to mention the scores of unsigned sympathizers—forced the nation’s largest bank and its competitors to back off from charging people to spend their own money.

When Verizon attempted to levy a $2 online-payment fee. More than 130,000 signatures made it to that petition in 24 hours, and the company backed down.

There have been other outrages publicized via social media. Take the Canadian songwriter who came up against United Airlines when it wouldn’t cover his $3,500 guitar that was broken by baggage handlers. His humorous protest “United Breaks Guitars” went viral on YouTube and prompted United to give him a one-time licensing fee to use his video in its customer-service training.

Turn negative into positive

So what do you do when you get that dreaded negative comment on your company Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other page? Well, obviously whatever you do, don’t follow the lead of Pigalle’s manager. Instead, focus on the strategies below to ensure you’re providing an exceptional service experience online no matter how negative the feedback is.

Don’t ignore it: If you decide to ignore a negative comment, it’s not going to go away. In fact, failing to provide an answer to a customer’s issue on social media can increase your churn rate by 15 percent. Address the comment, find out what the issue is and work to resolve it.

Throw out the script: People know a canned response when they see one. Don’t rely on scripted answers for customer issues. This makes your brand appear robotic, and customers may think you are not focused on individually connecting with them.

Listen and empathize: Customers want to feel like they are heard, so take the time to listen (or read) their concerns. Empathizing with their problems (much like JetBlue did) goes a long way to keeping them as loyal patrons in the future. You can even have fun with it, if the situation warrants a bit of humor.

Watch the clock: As evidenced by the British Airways example, customers want their issues resolved – or at least addressed – within a reasonable time frame. Make sure you respond to negative feedback in a timely manner. Even if you can’t offer a solution right away, acknowledging the comment helps turn negative feedback into a positive experience.

Learn from it: All of your efforts are for nothing if you don’t take what you’ve learned and apply it going forward. If you’re getting the same negative comments over and over, that shows your brand isn’t doing anything to fix the problem, and potential customers will be turned off.

Negative feedback on social media can be scary, but it doesn’t have to hurt you. By taking the right steps, you can turn what might look like a bad situation and into a positive one – for both your company and your customers.

Binne in die mooiste huisies

Sondag oggend is die straat leeg. ‘n Ou stuk koerant waai wispelturig oor die verlate straat. Die briesie van die see stoot die papier nog so paar tree verder voordat dit tot stilstand kom teen ‘n ou Melkhoutboom. Die Goukou rivier lê stil en bak in die oggend son.

Die weerkaatsing van die huisies maak mens kalm en rustig. So rustig dat jy vergeet dat daar mense is wat daar woon. Die huisies is kleurvol en die tuine netjies. Die spieëlbeelde op die water rimpel so nou en dan. Die enigste beweging. Stilte.

Ek hoor die kerk orrel. Die stemme bereik my ore so sekonde later. Dof, eentonig. Die gemeente sing nou seker ‘n Psalm. Ek luister. Ek ken die liedjie. Psalm 15. Ek onthou hoe ons dit op Sondagskool gesing het 45 jaar gelde. Ek kon nooit die woorde onthou nie, maar ons moes agterbly om dit te leer. Elke woord.

Wie het die reg om in u woonplek te kom, Here?
Wie mag op u heilige berg vertoef?

Hy wat onberispelik wandel
en doen wat reg is,
wat met sy hele hart die waarheid praat,

nie kwaad praat nie,
sy medemens nie kwaad aandoen nie
en niemand beledig nie;

hy wat dié verag wat deur God verwerp is,
maar almal eer wat die Here dien;
wat sy woord hou, selfs tot sy eie skade,

sy geld nie op rente uitleen nie
en hom nie laat omkoop om die onskuldige te kort te doen nie.

Ek kyk weer na die huisies aan die oorkant van die rivier. Die son tref die mure. Dit maak die kleure nog helderder uitstaan. Idillies. Beeldskoon. Die stemme word harder soos wat hulle die noot soek.

nie kwaad praat nie,
sy medemens nie kwaad aandoen nie
en niemand beledig nie;

Ek wonder by myself; Wat dink hulle as hulle in die kerk staan, met die Psalm boekie oop voor hulle. Die dominee agter die preekstoel. Die kinders aan albei kante van pa en ma. Wat dink hulle as hulle die woorde sing?

Ek hoor “Amen!”, en ek stap aan. Verby die ou skuit wat al vir jare daar lê. Ek tel die koerant papier op wat vassit teen die Melkhoutboom. Ek frommel dit op en gooi dit in die asblik op die hoek van die straat.

Die motors kom nader, soos ‘n begrafnis stoet. Een vir een ry hulle verby. Pa agter die stuurwiel met ‘n ernstige kyk op sy gesig. Ma kyk anderkant toe. Die kinders is tjoepstil. Nog ‘n motor kom verby. En nog een. Huistoe.

My foon maak “piiiing”. Ek kyk na die skermpie. Dis ‘n “notification”. Iemand het ‘n foto gelaai op een van die Facebook groepe. Een van die baie Facebook groepe in die dorp. Die Facebook was stil vanoggend. Want almal was in die kerk. Nou is hulle by die huis.

Ek behoort aan omtrent al die Facebook groepe, want dit is my werk. Hierdie foto is by “Opsitkers” geplaas. ‘n Vrou met baie groot bates in ‘n rooi baaibroek wat net vir ‘n walvis sal pas. Die opskrif is “Stamp my soos ‘n Isuzu, PAPPA!”.

“Piiing” maak my foon weer. Dit raak nou besig. Hulle is seker nou almal by die huis. Sit nou op die stoep en drink die eerste brannas en coke. Nog nie die suit uitgetrek nie. Die das is darem af.

Ek kyk na my my foon. Dis ‘n Whatsapp van ‘n vriend. Nog ‘n foto wat op een van die groepe geplaas is. Die foto se opskrif is “Found an old pic of my uncle joe. He was a fucking legend. That’s me playing in the background.” In die agtergrond van die foto is ‘n kind besig om te speel met ‘n ander kind op die strand maar dit lyk asof hulle seks het. Die kind is seker nie ouer as 5 jaar nie.

My foon hou aan “piiing”. Ek wil nie meer kyk nie.

Ek kom by die huis. Koffie eerste en dan voor my rekenaar. Ek gaan sit. Maar vandag voel ek vuil. Ek het nie so ver gestap nie, maar ek voel klammerig. Vuil. Ek gaan stort. Ek sukkel om die vuil afgewas te kry. Hierdie tipe vuil kan mens nie met seep en water afkry nie.

Ek skuif voor my rekenaar in. Wie behoort aan hierdie groepe? wonder ek. Ek vra my vriend om vir my die ledelys te stuur. Ek ken die name. Omtrent almal van hulle. Die sogenaamde pilare van die gemeenskap is ook daar. Trotse burgers van ons klein dorpie. Van kassiere tot raadslede behoort aan die groepe. Besigheid eienaars, eiendomsagente, bankiers en skoonmakers. Almal. Ek kyk weer na die boodskappe. Nog ‘n vriend stuur vir my iets. Ek skud my kop.

Die huisies is mooi. Die kleure helder, daar oorkant die rivier. Die kerk is uit. Die groepe is besig. Foto’s word gelaai en kommentaar gelewer. Die Psalm is vinnig vergete. Geen tyd vir moraliteit nou nie. Dit was vroeër. Voor die brannas en coke.

Daar, binne in die mooi huisies, met die mooi geverfde mure en die netjies tuintjies, sit die burgers. Hulle oë stokstyf gefokus op die skermpie terwyl hulle met ‘n dik vinger deur die plasings blaai, opsoek na nog ‘n vulgêre prentjie. Nog ‘n rassistiese grappie. Nog ‘n persoonlike aanval. Hulle rol rond in die varkhok en skater van die lag terwyl hulle mekaar met vark mis besmeer. Selfs die wat nie deelneem nie, maar lede is, word ook bedek met die vark mis. Die stank is ondraaglik.

Ek wil weer gaan stort, maar ek weet dit sal nie help nie. Ek sit die rekenaar af. Ek nodig om asem te skep. Ek nodig vars lug. Die seebries laat my beter voel en ek kyk oor die see. Die dorpie lê in die afstand.

Mis kom stadig aangerol oor die diepsee. Ek kyk weer maar die dorpie is weg.

Weg in die mis.

Zimbabwe Drums

Zimbabwe Drums

Zimbabwe Drums

The drums are calling you old man, and grow louder by the day.
They are calling you to judgment, it’s now your time to pay,
For the wrongs you’ve done Zimbabwe, the trust which you betrayed.
So hear those drums a pounding, hear well, and be afraid!

The drums are calling you old man, and grow louder by the day.
For The cries of those you murdered, simply will not pass away,
In a land we called Rhodesia, Twas truly ‘God’s own land’,
You trashed it with your gluttony and evil thieving hand.

The drums are calling you old man, and grow louder by the day,
You starved your kinfolk of their food; the meek, your favoured prey,
With all your years of tyranny and lavish trips abroad,
Their proud heritage you squandered, through patronage and fraud.

The drums are calling you old man; and grow louder by the day
For your fellow brothers in Africa, are now ashamed to say.
That Cholera, poverty and starvation, are the heritage you’ve left.
Your end won’t come from cowardly Africa, but from civil unrest

The drums are calling you old man, and grow louder by the day,
The drums have sound their verdict; listen well to what they say,
For they foretell of your demise, and they have much to tell.
So hear the drums, old man, and listen to them well.

The drums are calling you old man, and grow louder by the day
Your ‘war vets’ have abandoned you, to flee another way
Now listen to those drums old man their message is not vague
They are pounding out across the world “We’ll see you in the Hague!!”

The drums are calling you old man; your country is in revolt,
You cannot blame the Western world; it is your entire fault.
Vultures circle overhead, they have come to feast on you,
Songomas have thrown the bones… now drink their witches brew

The drums are calling you old man, and grow louder by the day.
Now in your dying pain wracked days, what have you now to say,
For all your sinful wickedness; your heinous acts and theft.
I ask you old, pathetic, man…what legacy have you left?

Alf Hutchison
Rhodesian and South African Poet

Why you should never book with booking.com

Why you should never book with booking.com

Never book at booking.com. This is my advice to travelers, whether you are a private traveler or a travel agency.

For years I have been booking accommodation through booking.com and I have now reached the point where I cannot further tolerate their exploitation and dishonesty.

Not only have I been using them to book accommodation in my personal capacity, but my wife and I also own a guesthouse that has been listed on booking.com. Additionally we also own a successful travel agency and have been booking accommodation for our clients through booking.com on the odd occasion.

In the beginning, the idea was great. The rates were good and the convenience of booking through them outweighed the increase in cost. Over the years they have become extremely arrogant and far too powerful. Today, their objective is not to make it more convenient, but to fleece you and the property owner for every cent they can. There are literally hundreds of thousands of complaints from consumers and properties alike.

Here are the reason why you should never use booking.com again.

Property owners suffer terribly under booking.com

Booking.com charges up to 20% commission on a booking. This is a massive margin for doing absolutely nothing except for getting the client to book. Procuring the client is a big deal I agree and they should be compensated for that but 20% is extortion. Due to these high commissions that they charge they have been the biggest culprits in the global increase in accommodation costs. All that has happened is that the properties have increased their rates by 10-20%. At the end of the day the consumer is footing the bill to pay off booking.com.

Booking.com has very onerous booking mechanisms that place a lot of strain on the operations of a property. Their payment and cancellation policies are onerous and cost property owners a bundle. For example, the property owner cannot cancel a booking because a client did not pay a deposit. They have to wait until the arrival date and only if the client was a no-show are they allowed to “request” a cancellation. This fee is then recovered from the client but only after booking.com has taken their commission or part thereof.

The vast majority of property owners that I have spoken to acknowledged that they would drop their rates if booking.com was not in the equation.

Consumers have very little recourse with booking.com

One of the big gripes with booking.com is the fact that their so-called “free cancellation” bookings are in many cases not free at all. You make a booking and it says you will not pay anything to cancel the booking before a certain date. What booking.com does not tell you is that they send your credit card details to the property even if it’s a “free cancellation” booking. In many cases the property then charges the card when the booking is made and when you cancel you have to try and recover your money from the property owner. Booking.com just shrug their shoulders and refuse to accept any responsibility.

The rating and property descriptions are in many cases one fat lie.

We all know that booking.com ratings are a sham. Properties have multiple ways of boosting their ratings. You can even buy reviews online. The images and property descriptions are a sham.

I have stayed at properties that look totally different from what is displayed on the website. Do not believe what you see. “Beachfront” in many cases means 200m from the beach behind a 30-floor apartment. “Sea views” in many cases mean you need to stand on a chair and twist your next at a 45-degree angle out of the toilet window to see the ocean.

So how should you book?

Use a travel agent. Yes, a traditional travel agent that knows your destination. They can tell you everything you need to know and they know how to find the perfect property that meets your needs. Travel agents are still the most effective way to ensure that you have a hassle free holiday.

You also have recourse if you use a reputable travel agency. The notion that you save money by booking online through services such as booking.com is absolute nonsense. In fact you are paying more. Up to 20% more. This is the lie perpetuated by these online booking agencies. If you use a travel agency the commission is never more than 10% and included in the rack rates of the property.

Use other sites to do your research. Tripadvisor.com is a great resource to find accommodation. Do you research and then Google the property. Call them directly or email them. Insist on a discount because you are booking directly.

Many properties only make a certain number of beds or rooms available to booking.com. So, when you see that the property does not have availability, if you call them directly you would most likely find that they have availability for your dates.

The Law and Photography of people

The Law and Photography of people

After an exhaustive debate on social media today I decided to write an article to clear up the issue of  what you may or may not photograph. There are many opinions out there, but the law is not that ambiguous. If there is a law prohibiting you to do something then you may not do it. If there is no law specifically prohibiting you to do something then you may do it. Laws typically don’t dictate what you can do, but dictate what you cannot do.

In South Africa photographing people in public is legal (1). Reproducing and selling photographs of people is legal for editorial and limited fair use commercial purposes. There exists no case law to define what the limits on commercial use are. Civil law requires the consent of any identifiable persons for advertorial and promotional purposes. Property, including animals, do not enjoy any special consideration.

During the media coverage of the Nkandla controversy it emerged that there exists a law, the National Key Points Act, 1980, prohibiting the photographing of any “national key points.” National key points are buildings or structures that serve a strategic or military purpose. Though it wasn’t revealed what these are as part of state secrecy it was claimed that the presidential residence is one of them and should thus not be shown in media. Subsequent court action resulted in it being ruled that a list of all key points be made public. 

There are two very important distinctions that you need to keep in mind. 

  1. Photographing for non commercial (2) purposes. i.e. where the photograph is not used to generate revenue or advertise something that is a commercial venture. If you are paid to take a photograph but the photograph will be used by a non-profit organisation then the photograph is for non-commercial purposes. Just because you are paid to take a photograph does not make the photo commercial.
  2. Photographing for commercial purposes. i.e. where the photograph is sold online or is used in an advertising campaign for a commercial venture. 

If you are photographing someone who can been seen from public property or from your own private property and you are going to use the photograph for non-commercial purposes, editorial or limited fair use commercial purposes, then you are allowed to photograph that person without their consent.

If you are going to be using the photograph for an advertising billboard and the person is recognizable then you must have the consent of the person you are photographing. This consent is typically in the form of a model release form (3). A model release should ideally be in writing because verbal agreements can be disputed in a court of law.

If you are doing a shoot for a client on the property of the client, then the copyright of the photo’s will vest with the client and the client will need to get the consent from the people in the photographs, if the shoot is going to be used for commercial purposes. 

The above applies to adults and children.

Some frequently asked questions:

  1. I am being paid to do a shoot at a venue. The venue is my client. The photo’s will be used on a outdoor billboard. The people will be recognizable in the photo. Do I need their consent?


  2. I am walking down the street and take a few photos of children playing in a park. May I do that without asking permission?

    Yes, but they may not understand the law and necklace you in the street. Better to get permission first.

  3. I am standing in the street and there is a person on their balcony. May I photograph that person without their permission?


  4. I am taking a photo of someone with their back turned to me in a public area. May I take the picture and sell it on a stock image website?


  5. I am in a shopping center. May I take pictures of the people walking around?

    Find out if the shopping center specifically prohibits you from doing it. If they don’t, then you may. 

Obviously the above answers are subject to the commercial vs. non-commercial points I made above.


  1. Burchell, Jonathan (2009). “The Legal Protection of Privacy in South Africa: A Transplantable Hybrid” (PDF). Electronic Journal of Comparative Law.
  2.  Defining Noncommercial report published”, Creative Commons.
  3. http://asmp.org/tutorials/frequently-asked-questions-about-privacy-and-libel.html.
Trophy Hunters are Serial Killers

Trophy Hunters are Serial Killers

How can any normal person "enjoy" this?
How can any normal person “enjoy” this?

I eat meat, just like most people. In fact, being an Afrikaner, I probably eat more meat than most. I have absolutely no problem in eating meat. We were made to eat meat and it’s the natural order of things. We were also made to hunt the animals that we eat. Our entire evolution is dictated by our craving for food and our need to outsmart our food.

But something strange happened to some of us during our evolution. Some of us started enjoying killing. The purpose of the kill changed from hunting to sport, from necessity to fun. Thinking about it, I wondered what the similarities were between serial killers and trophy hunters. Could it be that trophy hunters are psychopathic serial killers?

Similarities between Trophy Hunters & Serial Killers:

  • Compelled to keep a trophy or souvenir from their victims
  • The killing is addictive and leads to more killings
  • They seek fame, attention, and notoriety
  • The kills are premeditated
  • The killing gives a surge of adrenalin (“thrill kill”)
  • Stalking the victim gives a feeling of excitement
  • Killing becomes a compulsion or addiction
  • The killing is seen as a “sport” or “game”
  • There’s a down time (“cooling off” period) between killings
  • Gives the killer a feeling of power, dominance, and control over their victim
  • Many document their kills via photos and/or videos to gratify themselves later – as seen on Facebook by some of these monsters.

Quite compelling, don’t you think? Personally I find trophy hunting disturbing, revolting and completely socially unacceptable, very much like serial killing…

We need to clip the wings of the airline industry.

We need to clip the wings of the airline industry.

While the airline industry is scurrying to justify the actions of United Airlines after they forcefully evicted a passenger from one of their flights, they all seem to miss the point completely.

The point that they are missing is that passengers have had enough of airline industry arrogance. Airlines truly believe they are special. So special in fact, that they think they can do whatever they like. They routinely inconvenience passengers, overcharge, overbook, have really bad attitudes, lose your luggage, refuse refunds and a whole host of other behavioral abnormalities that would see any other business have to close its doors within a month.

They believe they are so special that they don’t need proper training or systems. And all the while they hide behind their ‘small print’ as if that justifies their malpractice. What’s worse is that the airline industry colludes in their uncompetitive and immoral behavior and get away with it. For years their practices have evaded racketeering laws. It’s time for it to stop.

Airlines are not special. No more special than any other passenger transport. Their excuses for their morally reprehensible practices are weak and transparent. It’s time for it to stop.

Overbooking is nothing more than a money making scam and don’t let anyone tell you different. If you pay and don’t show up then the airline wants to sell your seat twice or even three times. That is why they overbook, because they know that some passengers won’t show up. So they exploit the situation and the industry created these ‘rules’ that make it acceptable for them to overbook. Imagine going to a restaurant and while you are having your meal you are forcefully removed from the restaurant because it was overbooked.

This nonsense story that they had crew that had to get to another airport is a blatant lie. The airport in question was only a few hours away by car. This was bad planning and a management failure. It’s just too easy for bad managers in the airline industry to hide behind aviation regulations. United have now resorted to blaming the unions. Apparently the airline crew are so special that they aren’t allowed to be driven somewhere. What a load of bullshit.

The so-called fare rules are another example of exploitation and extortion. If the global financial industry can accurately move billions of dollars each minute, across the globe, in thousands of currencies, then the airline industry can more effectively manage their fares. But it’s not convenient and it’s costly. It’s way easier to just make the customer pay for your incompetence, and make some extra bucks in the process.

Something as silly as the mobile phone rules on flights are a great example of how the industry hides behind its ‘special’ status. Never mind the fact that there is no logic or science behind their mobile phone rules, they continue to ban the use of mobile phone. Andy Plews a spokesman for UAL’s United Airlines was quoted as saying “We don’t believe it’s a good safety issue”…”We’d like people to use the air phones. 

Their incompetence and arrogance is astounding. On a number of occasions I have been in the situation where my seat has been double booked. Now how does that happen? How is it possible that an airline cannot manage a mere 250 seats? How is it possible that a seat can be sold twice? Do these people not have a simple database to mange seat allocations? I mean, a simple Access Database can do that? It’s a little more complicated than that, because of the policy of airlines to purposefully overbook. It’s not an accident. It’s on purpose.

Let’s face it. Airlines suck. Airlines are the epitome of bad service. Airlines collude and they have their own enforcer called IATA (International Air Transport Association). This organization makes these rules so that the industry can get away with price fixing, abusing passengers and exploiting customers.

It’s time that the industry is taken to task for its behavior. Airlines are not above the law.