Thoughts

Do not use iMovie sounds for YouTube videos

Updated 4/24/12: YouTube has greatly improved the copyright claim dispute process in recent weeks, and it seems that even copyright holders have gotten much more responsive and willing to relinquish claims falsely flagged by YouTube’s Copyright ID engine. These are all good steps in the right direction! 

Are you a YouTube Partner? Great! Then don’t use sounds or tracks from the Final Cut Pro/iMovie/iLife library in your YouTube videos, because sooner or later, they’ll be flagged, taking them out of the revenue sharing program.

I’ve touched on this topic in this post and this earlier post as well. Until now, I thought filing a copyright dispute and trying to work within that process on the issue would lead to the correct solution, which would be a rejection of the false claims, but unfortunately that’s not the way the copyright dispute process is structured.

There is no mechanism on YouTube to adequately dispute a copyright claim, because the process is heavily tilted in the favor of the supposed copyright holder. There is a first step, which allows you to raise your hand and say to the alleged copyright holder, “Wait a minute, I’m not using your music, the track I’m using here is royalty-free, here is the iLife SLA, see where it says I’m allowed to use it commercially”, which may lead to the removal of the copyright claim, or not, in which case you can re-dispute but risk jeopardizing the standing of your YouTube account, the removal of your video along with its view count and the possible loss of your Partner status. That can be a terrible situation.

That’s right, beyond that initial “raising of your hand”, there is nothing else you can do. If YouTube staff is nice, they might give you an email address for the supposed copyright holder, and in some rare cases, someone might read your email at those places, respond and actually do something meaningful about your problem, but that chance is slim. The majority of the time, you’re going to be screwed over, and some alleged copyright holder is going to profit from your work.

The really annoying part in this whole screwing-over business is there’s no middle ground. Your video’s either in the revenue sharing program or it isn’t. YouTube has chosen to ignore the whole video aspect of this altogether, meaning that when a copyright claim is filed for the music in a video, even though you have a video which is wholly yours, and only the music might belong to someone else (but it doesn’t when you use sounds from iMovie, because they’re royalty-free), they pull the video out of revenue sharing altogether, as if there’s no video, only audio. Shouldn’t they allow you to continue to make some money on that video? After all, you shot it and edited it! Your only “fault” (if we could even call it that) was using royalty-free tracks from Apple to score it. In a logical world, that’s what would happen, but we don’t live in a logical world. We live in a world where YouTube chooses to obey the demands of alleged copyright owners without standing up for its YouTube Partners. All these supposed owners have to do is to upload sound-alike tracks to their YouTube catalog and they’re set. YouTube’s Content ID engine will start identifying videos that are using similar-sounding tracks and flagging them, leading to a lot of frustration on our part. I know this sounds harsh and I love Google and YouTube, but this is so frustrating for me that I’m not sure how else to put it.

Things have gotten so bad that now the copyright trolls have started to make music that sounds like the tracks from the iLife Library, for the express purpose of cashing in on YouTube. See this thread in the YouTube forums. And for a bit of background on the issue, see this thread as well. The problem’s existed for years, not months. YouTube likely knows about it. Privately, they’re likely tweaking the copyright engine algorithm and they’re trying to address the problem, but publicly, all I’m seeing is people getting screwed over by the copyright trolls.

You can’t even rely on the initial copyright warning anymore. In the past, you’d upload a video to YouTube, and within a few minutes, you’d get a warning saying the video matches content from such and such entity. Fine. I’d pull it down and re-edit it, using other sounds, even though the sounds I’d used were also from Apple’s royalty-free library. But now, you upload the video, everything’s fine, and months down the road, after the video’s been seen by thousands of people or more, and it’s been linked to, etc., you get the dreaded copyright warning. What are you going to do then? Pull it down? As you can see from the thread I linked to in the paragraph above, the copyright trolls are going through popular YouTube videos, identifying the music used in those videos, and then profiting from this loophole. We, the YouTube Partners, who do the hard work to create the videos that make YouTube a popular website are the ones getting screwed over. When is YouTube going to stand up for us?

To be fair, I think the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of both Google and Apple on this matter.

What Apple should have done, years ago, was to sign up for the Content ID program and upload all of the tracks in the iMovie/iLife Library (you know, the ones they keep saying are royalty-free). Then, they should have indicated to YouTube that whenever a video uploaded to the platform matches one of the tracks in their library, YouTube should do absolutely nothing about it, because it’s perfectly okay, they’re royalty-free tracks. If they had done that, we wouldn’t be in this mess now, would we?

YouTube is to blame as well. The copyright dispute process does not work. It puts all the balance of power in the hands of those who file the copyright claim, and because no person at Google reviews our disputes, the trolls have all the say in the matter. (I understand the sheer amount of work it would take if YouTube staff would have to review every dispute filed for false claims, but at least they could do it for their YouTube Partners, there aren’t that many of us.)

Instead our copyright disputes only get seen by the staff at the various copyright holding groups, who have an interest in maintaining their claims, since there’s no recourse from Google/YouTube for wrongly identified videos, and of course, let’s not forget the copyright trolls, who hang onto every claim they make no matter what one says in a dispute.

I make that distinction above because there are some groups within the music industry who aren’t copyright trolls. For example, I’ve had copyright disputes reviewed by staff at the GoDigital Media Group and the Warner Music Group, and they’ve ultimately agreed with me and retracted their copyright claims. So there are some good guys around, there just aren’t enough of them.

So my advice to you, as stated at the start of this post, is do not use music from the Final Cut Pro/iMovie/iLife Library at all if you’re a YouTube Partner. You’re better off using music from independent artists and licensing it directly from them, or getting it from websites like MusOpen — or scoring your videos yourself, with original music.

Perhaps Apple and Google will fix this at some point. Until then, do yourself a favor and follow my advice. You’ll be able to sleep better for it.

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Thoughts

The problem of human trafficking

Shenzhen Police Crack Down On Prostitution And Gambling

Human trafficking is a practice I condemn deeply, particularly the practice of sex trafficking or sexual slavery, because it could have touched very close to home. My wife went to college in the city of Constanta, Romania, which is one of the main cities in the country where abductions and other crimes of sex trafficking occur. When we met, she still had about two years before graduation. Because we were apart for long periods of time, and she was and is very beautiful, I had this constant fear of her being a target for sex traffickers. Thank goodness nothing happened.

My fear may sound absurd to you, but it was real to me, and it’s real to the parents of girls in that city and in other large Romanian cities. Constanta in particular, being a port city on the Black Sea, invites a lot of unwanted attention from criminals of all varieties. Girls are routinely abducted there and carried off to Middle-Eastern countries, where they’re either made part of some filthy Arab’s harem or forced into prostitution.

Romania is one of the major trafficking source countries for women and children in Europe, among others such as Albania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Just next door to Romania, the Republic of Moldova, Bulgaria and Ukraine also have the dubious distinction of being among the main trafficking sources for the world, along with Thailand, China, Nigeria, Albania, and Belarus. So you see, the entire Eastern Europe region around the Black Sea is a hot spot for human trafficking. I’m not saying this of myself, but many statistics bear this out. Check out the reference links at the bottom of this article and see for yourselves.

Girls and children abducted or manipulated into going abroad may be taken through a transit country like Mexico or Israel, or end up in a destination country, which is usually rich enough for the “customers” to be able to afford the human trafficking “products”. The list of the biggest destination countries is as follows: Thailand (also a major source), Japan, Israel (also a transit country), Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Turkey and the US.

After talking with people in Romania, I found out that a lot of girls from the country end up in Germany and Turkey. Not all are physically coerced into going there. Criminals exploit lack of opportunities, promise good jobs or opportunities for study or marriage, and then force the victims to become prostitutes, or they may abduct them outright. Through agents and brokers who arrange the travel and job placements, women are escorted to their destinations and delivered to the “employers”. Upon reaching their destinations, some women learn that they have been deceived about the nature of the work they will do; most have been lied to about the financial arrangements and conditions of their employment and find themselves in coercive or abusive situations from which escape is both difficult and dangerous. They are psychologically manipulated by skillful, experienced traffickers into the practice of prostitution and are kept in that lifestyle by any means necessary, such as continual psychological or physical abuse or drugs.

Another tactic is for a trafficker to seduce a girl, pose as a couple as they go abroad, then, while the girl is still in love with him, get her to sleep with other men in order to make money while they “start from scratch”. He’ll keep saying he can’t find a job yet, she’ll keep sleeping with other men for money, and before she knows it, she’s a prostitute, and he’ll waste no time calling her one, each and every day, beating her down psychologically till she’s too broken down to resist the sordid lifestyle. When she’s broken, there’s no need for the captor to pretend they’re a couple, so he’ll revert to the job of an outright pimp.

The girls’ families usually know nothing of their girls’ whereabouts and doings. The girls tell them they’re going abroad for jobs, then, when they’re already caught in the web of prostitution, will lie to them and tell them they’re working somewhere, out of shame for what they’re doing. The girls are usually over 18, they’re going willingly, the police can do nothing about it, and once they’re abroad, it’s too late. Some people I talked to were pragmatic, even downright dismissive. “They’re old enough to know what they’re getting into,” they said. “If that’s what they want to do with their lives, it’s their business.”

The vile practice of human trafficking is a profitable one. People in Romania can usually finger the ones who are doing it, and can tell you how quickly they got rich, how many houses and cars they have, and so on. The sad part is that there’s little the police can do, unless abductions are involved. Even then, since the victims are taken to other countries, any moves require close cooperation with police forces in those countries, who may or may not care at all, so authorities are stuck.

Human trafficking is condemned and forbidden by the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (also referred to as the Trafficking Protocol), which is a protocol to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. The protocol defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

While the UN and many civilized countries condemn the practice, and many celebrities have signed on to the cause of fighting human trafficking, little headway is being made. In part, this is because collaboration between police forces in various countries is difficult, as few protocols with too few teeth are in place for this sort of thing. Also, governmental organizations set up for the purpose of fighting human trafficking are busy bickering among themselves over the definition of human trafficking. Finally, what makes this a difficult fight is that at least where sex trafficking is concerned, the majority of the girls go willingly, because they’re duped into it. Some are even okay with prostitution, though they may not be aware of the real working conditions until it’s too late.

Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world. The US estimates the market at up to $9 billion, while the EU laughs at that estimate and states it to be around $42.5 billion. No country, rich or poor, civilized or not, is immune from the problem of human trafficking, which can take many forms, but is most often identified with the exploitation of women and children for the purposes of prostitution.Victims of traffickers are usually transported over state borders, though it’s not a pre-requisite, since they can be also coerced and manipulated in their own countries.

Still, good news exists when it comes to catching the criminals involved in this practice. Just a few years ago, while living in the DC area, I heard that a brothel disguised as a massage parlor, staffed by South-Asian women, was closed down, but not before the investigation revealed that prominent politicians and other men of supposed standing in the local community frequented the place, some quite often. In October of 2009, US authorities broke up a child prostitution ring where 52 children were recovered and 60 alleged pimps were arrested, during a three-day operation, tagged Operation Cross Country IV. Law enforcement actions were taken in 36 cities across 30 FBI divisions nationwide. It was part of the FBI’s ongoing Innocence Lost National Initiative, which was created in 2003 with the goal of ending sex trafficking of children in the United States.

The movie “Taken”, released in 2008, starring Liam Neeson, does a good job of showing what an abduction situation for the purposes of sexual trafficking looks like, how one can begin to tackle the situation, and how entangled the whole web of human trafficking really is, with many interested parties holding significant stakes in the matter, including the police, who are often on the take in order to turn a blind eye toward the matter. In the movie, Brian Mills, the main character, manages to track and save his daughter as she is exchanged through the hands of several captors, though in real life, this seldom happens. I’m not knocking the movie — I loved seeing all those sex traffickers get maimed, tortured and killed, because it’s what should happen to all of them — but the people who do this usually prosper while countless women, children and men suffer at their hands.


“Taken” (2008) Trailer – YouTube

The Vancouver Film School also put together a short documentary about human trafficking, which they recently released to the web.


“Traffic” (2009) – Vancouver Film School

In the end, I think the problem of human trafficking can be tackled along multiple avenues:

  • Prostitution and other forms of human trafficking should be made illegal. On one hand, I can understand arguments for making prostitution legal, such as the ability to provide medical care to prostitutes and to check on things a little better. On the other hand, you’d be legalizing a business whose product is the exploitation of women as sex objects. A bad practice shouldn’t be made legal just because some people choose to engage in it.
  • The burden of the punishment for human trafficking should be on the shoulders of those who are behind the scenes — not the prostitutes or human slaves themselves, who should be helped to reintegrate into society — but those who organize the business of selling them to the public and “recruiting” them. The human traffickers themselves should bear the heaviest legal punishments that can be meted out, probably on par with murderers. The clients themselves should have to pay significant fines if caught trying to solicit prostitutes or purchase human slaves. Heavy fines are a great deterrent for this sort of thing.
  • So that the bickering can stop over the definition of human trafficking and ways to combat it, separate organizations ought to be set up that deal with each category of offenses that have been grouped under this umbrella. In other words, sex crimes ought to have their own set of laws and organizations that fight them, and other kinds of human trafficking offenses ought to be separated under their own sets of laws and organizations. For example, I think someone that sells women as sex slaves ought to be punished differently and more severely than someone who sells men or women into indentured servitude, and someone who sells children into sexual slavery ought to be punished most severely.

These are just a few of my thoughts on the matter, but if you have anything to contribute, please comment below. For more information on human trafficking, please consult the following resources, on which I drew for facts and figures as I wrote this article:

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Thoughts

You can do better

A couple of weekends ago, I was walking on the quay near the Casino in the city of Constanta. There was this girl sitting on one of the benches with a guy, supposedly her boyfriend. Her curly hair reminded me of my wife, so I watched them for a bit, to see how they fit together as a couple. I was disappointed.

The girl seemed nice, but the guy, a classic douchebag if I’ve ever seen one, kept forcing her to kiss him, pulling her toward him, and fondling her. She tried to resist, to keep a little distance and admire the view (it was a beautiful spring day) but all this douchebag wanted to do was to feel her up. Finally she gave in and let him have his way. That’s when I turned away, disgusted.

There are so many girls who simply give in. They’re pressured into relationships they don’t really want to have, into sexual acts they don’t really want to perform, into marriages where they’re not happy, and the list goes on, ad nauseam. They think a douchebag is all they’re entitled to in their lives. They think they’ve got to put out in order to get the relationship started and keep it going. They think abuse is normal.

None of that is normal. You can do better! Have a little self- respect. You will get the right guy, and he’ll be nice to you. You just have to be pickier, and have a little patience.

Have a look at my wife. It goes without saying that I think she’s hot. She could have had plenty of guys. But when she dated, before we met, she demanded respect from all those guys, didn’t fool around, and kept herself for her husband. You know what? Instead of being scorned for not putting out, she was respected all the more for her decision.

Ligia

So really, it all comes down to how much self-respect you have for yourself, and what you choose to do with your life. If you’re not going to respect yourself, no one else will. Don’t put out. Don’t be like the girls in this other post. Wait for the right guy, or even more, look for the right guy. Don’t give up along the way. Don’t let every stranger that enters your life have dessert before they get through the main course. Put them through plenty of tests before they get to the goodies. Don’t cheapen yourself. Each and every one of us has a God-given capability to be more than we think we could be. I say reach for the sky, and see what happens.

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Reviews

The Education of Little Tree (1997)

A little boy loses his parents during the depression, and his grandparents take him to live with them in their mountain cabin. The premise is simple, but the lessons are many. I liked this movie because it taught respect for native Indians.

Let’s face it, the “red skins”, as they used to be called, owned this land. It was theirs long before it was ours. The early American settlers drove them out of their homes and used every possible means to push them aside, to disown them of their inheritance.

That was shameful. And what added insult to injury was the way they tried to “integrate” them into society after they’d been pushed aside for so long. This film tells the story of one such boy. Half-Cherokee, he is forced into an “Indian” school, where he is treated like an animal. The idea is to erase all sense of individuality and family out of him, and to get him to become an “American”.

You might think the subject matter is outdated, but only recently, the Canadian government has had to issue an official apology to Canadian Indians for their treatment of their children.

Quoting from the article: “Between 1870 and 1996, an estimated 150,000 indigenous children were wrenched from their homes and sent to Christian boarding schools, where many were sexually and physically abused.”

The movie offers a solution that I only wish more Indian children had taken. The little child runs away from the school (aided by his grandfather) and spends his teen years hiding from government officials who want to put him back in what they call “schools”. He gets a real education from his uncle, an experienced Cherokee who acts as his surrogate father and prepares him for a solitary, sometimes troubled, but free life in the mountains.

I get raised hackles every time I hear the word “freedom” trumpeted about, yet find clear proof of forced behavior or oppression. For all its talk of freedom, the US has always managed to oppress certain of its population, throughout time. First it was the native Indians, then it was the slaves, then its Japanese and German citizens during WWII, then the presumed Commies during the vile McCarthy trials, then various other groups during the 20th century. Now, this oppression has culminated into the mass reduction of our liberties through the so-called Patriot Act, a filthy lie of a misnomer if I ever heard of one.

The real patriots always stand up for the rights of all, and they always question the system in order to keep it in check. Sometimes, the best statement a free person can make is to stay free, even if it means thumbing your nose at idiotic rules and policies and living in the mountains, outside of society. Because eventually, the government comes around to realize its idiocy, and issues an apology. By the way, the American government is long overdue on just one such apology.

If you want to find out more about the movie or buy/rent it, you can find it at Amazon, Netflix and IMDB.

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Thoughts

Hot teachers and sex with students

Three more female teachers have been jailed after it was discovered that they had sex with students in Tampa, FL. MSN has a video report on this. Plus, if you do a search on MSN Live, you’ll get plenty of search results summarizing recent news stories about similar events.

What bothers me about these reports is that the boys in question are always categorized as “abused”. It’s a great example of societal hypocrisy. To those that say that, I say this: BS! Seriously, does any male in their right mind think these boys were abused? Young boys practically swoon and fawn over attractive female teachers. It’s been going on for ages. They fantasize, and they do “other things” as well to “cope” with those crushes. So when these boys — in spite of what they might say now to the authorities — had the chance to engage in those sexual encounters, do you think they had doubts for even a second? Not a chance. Seriously, have these adults trying the women’s cases forgotten their own childhoods?

Sure, those boys will deny it now, and agree that they were corrupted, and to some extent, I agree with that characterization, as you’ll see below, but they engaged in the encounters willingly, happily and repeatedly. Given the chance to do it again, they did it and still would do it again. They went back for more, time and time again. In the case of one of the teachers, she had an orgy in a hotel room where more than 10 teens were in “attendance”. That is not abuse. That’s really slutty behavior on both sides.

Look, don’t get me wrong. I agree that the teachers did something unethical. They abused their position of authority as teachers, and they corrupted the normal teacher-pupil bond by engaging and participating in those situations. Furthermore, it was morally wrong to start an adult-level relationship with a child, in spite of their physical maturity. From a religious point of view, what they committed was adultery, and that’s clearly wrong. But we need to look at this objectively, from a civic point of view.

We should look at how much damage was caused to what we call the “victims”. It’s possible that the teachers corrupted the boys, in the sense that they introduced them to sexual situations that boys don’t normally encounter. One’s perspective in life changes once one has had those sorts of experiences. They will look at sex differently. They will look at relationships differently.

Then again, it depends greatly on how those teachers approached the situations, and how the boys viewed the encounters. In the context of “love”, not sex — and suspend for a moment the disbelief that love can exist when the age disparity is so great — it’s quite possible to have a healthier outcome, whatever that means. There are varying degrees of perception, and they depend on each individual. One must ask how ready the boys were, physically and mentally, for such an experience, and how much mutual respect there was in each “relationship”, etc… It’s a gray area, and it needs to be looked at as such. Clearly in the case of the hotel room orgy, there was no respect or “love”, simply animal sex, and that should be looked at as corruption of a minor (or rather, multiple minors).

If one is to look at this as a black and white situation, was there sex with a minor? Yes. Should it have taken place? No. Should the standard punishment apply? NO. This is not typical sexual abuse. The boys weren’t coerced. They enjoyed it, every minute of it. They went back for more. They probably bragged to their friends, etc… These are all attenuating circumstances.

In the grand picture, are these situations going to create more long-term sequelae for the boys than any of the following situations:

  • A young girl who has consensual sex with her boyfriend, but then finds out he is calling her a slut to all his friends, and is bragging about having “bagged” her, etc.
  • A young boy who has consensual sex with his girlfriend, but then finds out she is making fun of his naked body, or the size of his… manhood, or about the sounds or face he made during sex, etc.
  • A young boy or girl who are convinced by their “friends” to experiment with same-sex encounters when they’re not really interested, just questioning themselves.
  • A young girl who is forced into sex by her boyfriend, but is too ashamed to admit it afterwards.
  • A girl who is slipped a mickey or gotten drunk at a party, then gang-raped by classmates or friends while she’s unaware of what’s going on.

What happened to these boys is peanuts, literally. Yet all these “offenders” described in the bullet list above would not be prosecuted under law. Seriously, I think any one of us has either heard of “gray-area” situations like these, or experienced them in person. I can practically guarantee you that the boys and girls who have gone through the situations I described above will have more sequelae and will experience more long-term trauma than the boys who’ve had sex with their teachers in recent news. It’s pretty much a given. Yet which situations are getting more attention? These ones? Why? Because it makes it easy for prosecutors to look good. And it makes for good news. That’s why. And it’s hypocritical.

I could go on and on and talk about situations that are much worse than that, like serious rape cases, or sexual torture, or sexual mutilation. These are much more serious, yet in terms of news coverage and severity of punishment, they’re simply not getting the attention they need. In some cultures, like Africa, female circumcision, a form of sexual mutilation, is condoned and accepted by society.

Right here in the States, I’ve heard of a case where a girl was repeatedly raped by her father from an early age, with her mother’s permission. To this day, the girl cannot bring legal charges against her parents. I’ve also heard of a girl who was loaned out (prostituted) to perverts by her mother from the age of 3, in exchange for drug money. That sort of stuff is is really screwed up. That should be the stuff that gets obsessively prosecuted. Instead, we have rapists that can get away with only a few years’ punishment, then get out and rape again and again, while these teachers in the news right now are put through the works for doing something that was pretty much consensual.

Everyone is now rushing to pronounce the verdict and crowd around the “victims” when there are countless other real victims all around us that are getting no positive attention at all. I say look at each teacher-boy encounter individually, mete punishment in accordance with the gravity of the crime, keeping in mind the attenuating circumstances, and if some of those situations only deserve a slap on the hand for the teacher, let’s be honest enough to admit it, as a society. And let’s also be honest enough to admit when a crime is heinous enough to deserve the death punishment (don’t get me started on that).

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Why you shouldn't "let go of difficult clients"

I recently read an article entitled “Letting Go of Difficult Clients“, written by Amy Berger and featured in the August 2006 issue of The Costco Connection. I do not agree with the views she expresses there.

While there are times when a relationship with a client has to be severed, none of the conditions presented by Ms. Berger in her article are truly qualified. What’s more, they encourage a sort of irresponsible attitude, where consultants who don’t comprehend the meaning of the client-consultant relationship and the level of trust that’s involved with it, fire clients on a whim, severely endangering the projects with which they’re involved.

Let me go through her article and explain what I mean:

  • “The client seems ambivalent.” This is perfectly normal. I don’t know of many people that can afford to spend thousands of dollars without carefully considering the options. I also don’t know of many people whose schedule allows them to do the things they’ve planned all the time. Unexpected circumstances always come up and delay things. If you fire a client based on a delay that couldn’t be helped, you’ll end up looking like a heel. If you hang in there, you not only get the contract, but also gain a deeper level of trust with the client.
  • “You can’t tell who’s boss.” Exactly how can you help someone’s immediate and unexpected transfer? Sure, if you want to lose your contract, go in there and blow off steam about how “disorganized” they are. But if you want to keep the contract, you go and meet with the new principals, and agree on how to move forward.
  • “Your communication styles don’t mesh.” Since when have two people’s communication styles meshed completely? Let’s get serious! There are husbands and wives who don’t manage their communication well, and they live together day in and day out. It’s your responsibility as a consultant to be flexible, and work with the client to ensure proper communication.
  • “The client is overinvolved.” Most people take some time to get sold on a new idea. The more different this new idea is from what they’re used to, the more time it takes for them to understand it, and it takes yet more time for them to trust it. If the client doesn’t get back to you immediately with feedback on what you present him or her with, wait, and occupy yourself with other projects in the meantime. Give them gentle reminders from time to time, and express your availability to discuss the project further if needed. Eventually, they’ll come around, or they’ll move on. But let that decision be theirs, not yours. Exactly what do you lose, as a consultant, if you spend a minute or two a week crafting a short message to remind the client of the project? You only stand to gain a contract, and your gentle persistence will help soothe the client’s fears.

Let me give an example to illustrate this last point. Two years ago, I started working on moving a client’s offline, paper-based business, to an online website that would automate the tasks she did by hand, saving her countless hours of drudgery. She was used to the paper process, understood it well, and knew it worked. But she also knew she needed to make a change, because managing it on paper took up too much of her time. When I put forward the idea of a website that could do all she did on paper and more, she was reluctant, but I gently persisted, and with the aid of mutual friends, she was finally persuaded to go forward with the project.

Within a year, she started to see the benefits, and got excited. But it took two years for her to realize the full potential of moving her business online, and now she finally admitted that I’ve changed the way she does business. She told me she now realizes how easy it is to run her business this way, and has started to look for a house in a different area, because she no longer has a need for a physical presence in the area that her business serves.

What’s the moral of this story? If you expect a client to change their views based on one presentation or a meeting, you’re kidding yourself. It takes time, months and even years, for people to make sense of something that’s completely new to them.

Now here are the circumstances when you can start thinking about firing the client:

  • He or she doesn’t pay the bills. I’m not talking about delays of weeks. That’s normal, and with big businesses, that’s even expected. Something tragic may have even happened that has severely limited their finances. But when they keep saying the check’s in the mail, and it never arrives, that’s when it’s time to get serious. Verifiable lying is always a good indicator of a client that needs to be fired. Besides, the problem of non-payment is easily solved by always asking for a percentage of the project upfront. That way you’re guaranteed at least a part of the payment, and if need be, you can get the other part with the aid of a mediator or a lawyer, although I’ve always tried to avoid those routes. Our society is litigious enough as it is.
  • He or she abuses your time. By this I mean several calls a day for weeks on end, that you know are unnecessary, and that review the same objectives, time and time again. There’s nothing wrong with checking on your progress, in particular if the deadline is looming or the project’s critical, but when you start to screen your phone calls because you fear he or she might be calling and they’re going to waste your time once again, that’s when it’s time to re-evaluate your relationship with the client. I’m not saying you should fire them right away, but you should try to set boundaries. They can be as simple as limiting the contact to 1-2 phone calls or emails a day, or more complicated, depending on your relationship. Only when that doesn’t work is it time to think about severing the relationship.
  • The language or behavior gets abusive. It’s normal for a client to get upset, or feel frustration. People have different temperaments, and some get upset more easily. Change is usually one of the most common reasons, because it prompts fear. People fear the unknown, and when they’re afraid, they get upset more easily. Technology is another frustration-inducer. It’s hard for an older individual to catch up with the younger folks who’ve grown up with technology and can speak its language. Don’t misjudge a client’s frustration for truly abusive behavior. Instead, look for a pattern. If the behavior is always angry and abusive, then this client’s not for you, and I daresay, not for anyone.

But if you messed up, and the client calls you, and he or she is angry or frustrated, whose fault do you think it is? Theirs or yours? Don’t try to escape providing good customer service by blaming the client! That’s my fear when I read Amy Berger’s article. On one level, she’s encouraging consultants to provide half-hearted service by bailing out when they feel like it, and that’s just not right. It pays to always examine thoroughly what’s going on before jumping the gun and firing the client. You’ll find your relationships with your clients get much more rewarding that way.

Oh, and if Amy or any of you still feel like firing your clients willy-nilly, send them my way. Tell them to go to Exprimare and to contact me. I’ll see if I can help them.

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