18
May 16

On the Microsoft Pro-EU position – how not to write a letter

I wrote in a previous post that I have a gut feeling about the EU referendum. In fact I have a gut feeling about most things, which is all the more reason I like to subject myself to criticism. Come and knock spots off me, show me how I’m wrong. In fact I’ll go out to seek the counter argument. I’m opinionated, but I’m not entrenched. It’s entirely likely I may rebut everything I find – or everything you say – but at least give me the opportunity to do so and to have the debate. The debate is just as important as the outcome.

Which is why the media coverage of the referendum has been so frustrating to date. It hasn’t been a debate about the issues, rather one about the rhetoric of the debate. The debate is about the debate.

Anyway I’m not complaining about media representation here, I’m angry about something completely different.

You may have heard in the news that Microsoft wrote an email to their employees and business network urging them to vote to stay in the EU.

Well, it wasn’t really an “urge”, because it had nothing compelling in it whatsoever.

I suppose if you’re a huge organisation, for PR purposes you can’t possibly go too far down the road of siding with one political movement over another. Unless it’s taking a stand against outright evil, it’s best to be safe.

Here are my notes on the Microsoft Email. Michel Van der Bel, you have let me down, you have let your team down, but most of all you have let yourself down:

MPN

In the interests of balance, here’s a letter from a small online bookshop based in Lincoln that I received with a shipment last week. Forget the different political positions that Microsoft and Anybook.biz have for a second; this letter is refreshingly different from Microsoft’s letter in the following ways

a) It’s very specific about the industry they are in, rather than the business itself

b) It is laden with statements of fact. While these need fact-checking, at least there is something to pin an argument on

c) it is direct, and it says how it will affect consumers as well as the business

1


18
May 16

On Empathy, and the Referendum to Leave the EU

asset

Many months ago and early on in the unfolding story of the British referendum to leave the EU, it was common to hear the electorate – at least presented by the media – decrying “we feel that neither side has really come up with a good enough list of reasons to” [delete as appropriate]: leave / stay in the EU.

As the months have worn on, this narrative of voters’ views presented by the media hasn’t changed, and we are still hearing that people aren’t being armed with the information they need.

Yesterday’s episode of The Today Programme was a case in point; a voter discussion group put together by global market research firm Kantar said “I just need a list of Pros and Cons for me to make up my mind”. The same message came through loud and clear from others in this research group, yet only one of the members of the group had actually picked up the leaflet that was delivered through their door and read it.

Yes this was a government leaflet which presented information from one side. But isn’t one-sided evidence a fantastic entry point for the inquisitive mind to learn about both sides’ arguments? There’s nothing like an outrageous statement from one camp to make you try and disprove it. All the better if that opening gambit is harder to disprove, as it can lead you down all kinds of other avenues of enquiry.

When my friends and family tell me they are not sure which way to vote, I ask further questions to determine whether they are like me, somewhere “In The Middle” as opposed to very much not like me “On The Fence”. Because lazy I am not, and un-engaged I refuse to be.

(Note, I’m “somewhere in the middle”, not bang in the middle, and I definitely have a gut feeling from which I will not depart.)

Being “In the Middle” doesn’t mean I am not decisive on an issue. It certainly doesn’t mean I blow whichever way the wind is blowing. It just means that I know there are Pros and Cons and although the decision is important, I consider it “swings and roundabouts”. I may be better-off in one way, and worse-off in another.

The best analogy I have for the decision – and the tone of the debate – is if my firm were deciding to switch suppliers for a major contract. Despite going to tender, and assimilating hundreds of pages of technical information about service provision, there are still unknowns. (Known ones, and unknown ones…) Colleagues will be battling out the detail, suppliers will be making false claims, it’s our job as the ones making the decision to decide on the criteria for a decision. Once that’s done, you weed out the rubbish claims and work through the good ones. There’s no right or wrong – just different.

I have sympathy with voters who feel frustrated by politicians. Perhaps deep down inside they too know there’s no right or wrong, and when politicians present their side as a matter of morality or patriotism, it turns us off. It’s not wrong to move your services from EON to Scottish Power, and we immediately switch off when someone tells us it’s something we should be scared about. Likewise we switch off to those trying to bait us by telling us the outcome is certain when we know there can be no certainty.

When I hear that people are “On The Fence”, this is what makes me shout at the radio. Of course we don’t know what the UK will look like outside of the EU, we can never have a full picture of 21st Century UK outside of the EU.

Some say “look at Norway”. No, this is Britain, it’s entirely different. Some say “the UK will be returned to pre-Cold War days”. No, this is the 21st Century, and we haven’t just fought a world war. Also Britain didn’t “join the EU”, it was an alliance member of the Council of Europe after the war and was a formative influence, since which time much has changed. Britain joined the EEC much later in the 70s.

History was my weakest subject at school, but I remember being taught the definition of Empathy. This is a pretty good version: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it.

So when I learn that the reason my friends are “On The Fence” is that they haven’t been presented with a clear set of Pros and Cons, I want to shout “get a grip and stop blaming your lack of understanding on a lack of evidence”. It’s EMPATHY that is required to work out whether you want to stay in a situation in which you have no experience of not being. The story of Europe unfolded over the course of decades and you won’t find hard evidence of what it will be like if we left. Arguably we need to apply just as much empathy in working out what would happen as a result of staying in the EU, as we can’t possibly know what’s going to hit us in the coming years. Either way, decisions are best made with empathy, not facts.

My suspicion is that some voters hide behind their lack of engagement in the political process by demanding facts from politicians, when they should really be taking-on the decision for themselves.

For this is the beauty of democracy: the freedom to make your own mind up. In a representative democracy, it isn’t the responsibility of our leaders to educate us in the facts.

So I have a low tolerance for voters who, when it comes to voting day, recoil and stay with what they know because they never got off the fence. That’s just damned lazy.

I’ll give you a few days during which time you can say you’re “on the fence”. After that, I’ll say outrageously illiberal things like “you shouldn’t be allowed to vote”.


10
Jul 15

From Russia With Cash – barking up the wrong tree

I have no links with estate agents in my life. I don’t like them, I don’t dislike them. As a portrait photographer or in any other capacity, I’ve never had one as a client myself.

Channel 4 last night aired a documentary called “From Russia With Cash”.

It featured secretly-filmed property viewings by a fictional character called Boris who stole money from the Russian government and tried to buy a multi-million pound property for his blonde mistress. Estate agents from the following firms were filmed: Winkworth, Marsh and Parsons, Domus Nova, Chard, Bective Leslie Marsh.

A sexy title, and a very exciting premise for someone like me who cares deeply about the housing crisis we are facing in the UK, specifically the abnormal levels of investment that are seen to push-out genuine buyers (not just financial investment buyers) who want to make their homes in London.

The buyers I’m talking about want to live here perhaps because they want to be near family, perhaps because their job brings them here, or perhaps they have lived here all their lives and want to settle – to live in a property they own. Or maybe they just want a piece of London if they can possibly afford it. We all know they probably can’t.

Within 10 minutes of watching it became apparent the premise of the documentary was flawed. It was aimed squarely at exposing the inherent corruption in the estate agency business. Or so I thought.

Whilst the estate agents in question hardly showed visible outrage or shock on their faces when the fictional buyer looking around said he would be using stolen money, neither did they show any evidence whatsoever of wrongdoing. Read on – I’m not playing ball from estate agents. I’ve no reason to. The reason I’m angry by this documentary is that it was a great opportunity to properly explore and expose the real problems in the industry as a whole. Or indeed in problems with the housing market itself.

The documentary was punctuated by snippets from QCs who spoke hypothetically and said nothing that was untrue, and nothing one might disagree with. There were other narrators who said things such as “just plain wrong” without going into any detail as to why these secretly-filmed agents were wrong. Indeed the after-game statements from the agents themselves were very strong indeed and in my opinion almost completely vindicated their behaviours.

Most of the estate agents came right out and said words to the effect that they were not qualified to advise on issues of money laundering. Some of the estate agents went on to say that this would be done according to the law by legal professionals once the transaction proceeds.

True, some of them said “you will need a good lawyer, I can recommend one”. But does this really class as unethical?

Estate agents are low hanging fruit.

All this documentary showed was that estate agents essentially smiled and nodded during the viewings. There was not a jot of evidence to suggest the agents even considered the viewings to be credible let alone that they might end in a transaction. Of course they didn’t close it off – they are hoping for a sale. That’s what an estate agent does. Should they have laughed out loud at fictional “Boris” and said “no way mate, we aren’t going to help you”? Indeed if they had thought he was credible, what’s to say he didn’t have a car full of Russian men with guns waiting around the corner? A silly suggestion, but my point is that of course the estate agents smiled and nodded. I would too. It was a charade.

Did the secretly recorded conversations on the phone with the fictional character’s agent show any unlawful or wrong behaviour? What I heard were agents explaining that at this stage they wouldn’t be asking questions.

I’m really gutted that Channel 4 have totally missed the point with this. There was nothing to suggest that money laundering law was broken, as explained by a number of the statements given by the estate agents after being contacted for comment. Amusingly Channel 4 chose to show these perfectly reasonable statements in black and white – the irony.

Domus Nova stated “No offer was made and therefore no transaction was in prospect.”

They said “we recorded the viewing on our AML [anti money laundering] log despite not having any ID information from the fake buyer and requested that an offer was made through solicitors registered in England and Wales.”

Sorry Channel 4 – I’m with Domus Nova on that one!

Another agent stated that they have a regulatory duty to perform anti money laundering procedure on the seller with whom they have a relationship, but not a potential buyer who hasn’t even made a formal offer. Just someone fictional who shot the breeze.

Channel 4 – you used to make groundbreaking documentaries. This was far from interesting let alone groundbreaking.

Never let facts get in the way of a good story, that’s what I say.

Again I say, I’ve no reason to defend the profession of estate agents. Again I say: I don’t have a single estate agent friend nor do I have any business connections with estate agents. I am an active campaigner in local community group issues and the hyperlocal movement, and wholeheartedly support the #ReclaimLondon movement.

The reason I’m annoyed by this is that this television programme only served to divert discussion away from the issues that face real London wannabe homeowners.


27
Jan 15

How Kerning Could Save Your Life

As someone who buys electronic goods from China on a regular basis, I am used to looking closely at the CE logo to check how close together the letters are.

For my buying habits it doesn’t matter. I’m dealing with low-voltage stuff. The worst that could happen is a component might overheat and cause a fire in my loft space melt a bit.

hazymat-CE-marks

It’s not that the Chinese make dangerous electronics. It’s just that they (I should be specific; “they” means the Chinese Export regulatory bodies) don’t do a great job of checking whether the electronics they do make are safe, or whether they are likely to kill you.

I’m probably splitting hairs.

Recently I bought a job lot of COB – as in “corn on the cob”, or “Chip On Board” – LED light bulbs. Gladly mine were safe by design, but as this video shows I got lucky.

 


09
Jan 14

An open letter to my Facebook friends

Facebook, it seems, has become a front-end for cheap, baiting, advert-laden websites like Buzzfeed and apparently my Facebook friends are falling for it by the droves by posting links to “Top ten tatoo fails”, “8 reasons you are single”, “10 things you can do to be nice to a single person”, etc.

I thought Facebook and its evil advertising ways was the devil – not my friends themselves!

Get out there and create your own engaging content, write your own blogs, talk about your own life experience, create your own world – an authentic one, one that does’t pander to the brain-numbed masses, one that requires some kind of attention span to read – instead of posting links to pointless articles that only draw your friends into the frivolous world you inhabit online!

It doesn’t matter if you aren’t a great writer, photographer, baker, political mind, whatever. Your friends will read it and like it because it’s you, because they are your friends, and because you expressed a piece of yourself.

I have no problem with posting links to newspapers, news stories, or even the odd mild distraction to your friends.

But spare us the copious amounts of crap that line the pockets of sites like Buzzfeed who only exist to bait link clickers, and to profit from the lemming-like nature of unthinking humans.

Such websites have utterly no intention of making a positive contribution to humanity, to an online community, no intention to inform or educate. They are not built around a particular subject or theme. They are the internet’s cess pit and you are pulling your own friends into it when you post such links. Stop it!


10
Jul 12

Surely nobody thought “Fiscal Union” was really a good idea?

Far from being an Orwellian nightmare, I love the idea of greater fiscal and political union with our neighbours. Maybe it could even work… in 100-500 years?

But right now, as long as different countries within Europe teach different versions of history, value different types of trade, have different climates that affect their vastly diverse national identities – and not to mention different politics – I believe a single currency is a terrible idea.

Why? A given generation’s workforce in a given country (or ‘economic zone’) depends on the social values of its predecessor generation(s).

Example: let’s talk dinner parties. Your average dinner party of middle-aged professionals in Germany would hold an ‘engineer type’ in the same esteem we Brits hold ‘artist types’ (i.e. high esteem). The UK is largely numerically illiterate and, with the possible exception of medical professionals, we pretty much like to make fun of scientists.*

* I attend dinner parties (not with the middle-aged) with people who do like scientists. I am basing this on media representation, proportion of elected MPs who are actual scientists, the take-up of science subjects at ‘A’ Level or degree, school results in science and maths, and other soft statistics / observations.

If, within the global economy, money is to be made from science rather than art, then Germany is going to whip our asses, whichever metric you use to define economic success (GDP, GPI, etc.)

Now let’s say Germany and the UK were in some kind of hypothetical fiscal union. Given the above, the UK would need to become more competitive on a global scale, otherwise it would run out of money and not be able to buy drugs for the NHS or pay teachers to maintain a decent education system. It would have to ask Germany for a loan. Of course, it could go elsewhere looking for a loan, but I’m pretty sure Germany might have something to say about that.

Sure – in the short term, the ailing UK would benefit from being in the fiscal union, as it would mean it could pay for those drugs, teachers, police, prisons – and maintain some kind of status quo. But it really will need to buck-up its ideas. The problem is: how can it become more competitive? The UK can’t simply change its interest rates – they no longer exclusively control the bank! Businesses can’t magically pay their employees more to attract more talent.

British people won’t magically decide they suddenly like scientists over artists. Worse still, the position of Germany would ironically make Brits dislike scientists even more.

(Aren’t we already seeing the above phenomenon, where although a country is benefiting from being in union with stronger country, they are ironically resenting them at the same time?)

Eventually Germany would have to say to Britain, “right. You need to become more numerically literate if this is going to work”. Germany would invest in education programmes in the UK for decades, but this wouldn’t address the core issue.

This scenario can only end in one of two ways:

1) an amicable break-up of the fiscal union
2) full-scale … wait, don’t mention the war …

The above is of course a hypothetical, over-simplified version of the truth.

But tell me dear readers, do you agree with the basic analysis?


09
Jul 12

How to configure your NTL 250 to work with wireless

If you are merely browsing this blog, don’t read the below. It’s dull as dogs. This is for incoming google searches.

(Hint. If you actually want to configure wireless for your NTL 250 cable modem, skip to the far quicker and superior “Option B”.)

This blog is for the benefit of anyone who might be going through the same problem as I did…

Option A

  1. Call Virgin Media and request a new wireless cable modem router, because yours is faulty. Argue with them over 3x 25 minute phone calls because they say they didn’t provide the original, and your only option is to upgrade your internet connection and take-on another 12 month contract because the NTL 250 cable modem is out of date and they no longer provide separate wireless routers.
  2. Choose “a bit of classical” as your hold music. Hey, I can choose hold music! Oh wait, they are playing “Jurassic Park”. #fail
  3. In a cavalier fashion, purchase a wireless access point on Amazon
  4. Review the “order dispatched” email and immediately KICK YOURSELF when you read the words “wireless access point”. You need a “wireless router”. Who the hell buys those things? The NTL 250 is a cable modem, and is not a router.
  5. Await shipment. Maybe the Wireless AP you purchased can handle routing as well. It seems to do everything else under the sun, it’s one of those TP-Link devices that seem to have taken over the low-end market. They have awesome chipsets and a web interface that doesn’t make you want to pull your hair out, which more than makes up for the unbelievably cheap plastic they are made from. Take THAT Netgear…
  6. Stop kidding yourself. Really, a router is a router. A Wireless AP is a Wireless AP.
  7. Out of desperation head to Maplin. Make sure you get a Wireless *Cable Modem* Router this time. Uh oh. The only wireless cable modem router in stock is a Netgear.
  8. Scream and struggle and tear your hair out because your Netgear web interface randomly hangs, you never know if it actually ‘applied’ the settings you painstakingly entered, and you can’t get the thing to play ball.
  9. Attempt to use the Netgear “auto detect modem settings”. Yeh, that was never going to work.
  10. Attempt to manually set the router’s IP address and DNS servers (even though they should be dynamically assigned) as if this will somehow help.
  11. Hit Google, pore over various VirginMedia broadband forum posts, none of which assist in configuring your NTL 250, all of which conclude with “Virgin will send you their new Superhub”. Call Virgin once again to say your wireless router is faulty, can they send you a “Superhub”, no they can’t, not unless you upgrade, take-on another 12 month contract, etc.
  12. Ask to speak to Virgin’s tech support team, you need assistance configuring a wireless router for your NTL 250 cable modem. “What is the make and model?” Netgear. “We are unable to support Netgear wireless routers”.
  13. Phone up again and lie, tell them you are setting up a Linksys. They tell you “set your router’s settings to ‘dynamic’. No need to enter any logon information. No connection username and password. DHCP will provide your router with the correct IP address, DNS, gateway”. ARGUE. Say you’ve done that but it is simply not getting an IP address. Angrily explain you have no way of getting online because they won’t upgrade your router and won’t replace your existing one, then eventually hang up because they can’t help you.
  14. Curse, Google some more, etc.
  15. … notice a setting on the Netgear. A strange setting, one that allows you to hard-code the MAC address of the router’s cable modem interface. Think to yourself “surely they don’t filter MAC addresses at the exchange, given they haven’t even bothered to set up any kind of connection encryption in the first place”. (Or perhaps it’s their way of helping NAT to actually work. Either way, it’s dumb.)
  16. Get online within a few minutes of the above.

Option B

Here’s how to set up your wireless cable modem router with your NTL 250 or 255 (thanks to Virgin Media for all their wonderful help):

  1. Make sure you buy a Wireless Cable Modem Router
  2. Find the MAC address of your cable modem. If you are lucky, it will be written on the underside of your NTL 250 or 255 cable modem
  3. Input this MAC address into your wireless cable modem router
  4. Most modern wireless cable modem routers should magically work once you have done the above
Easy, huh?

01
Feb 12

Top Ten Grammar Peeves

I recently read one of those annoying graphics that are being shared on Facebook.

What makes them annoying is not that they are faddy, inert, and positively dull, but that they are low resolution JPGs of plain text which have been resized to look like arse.

Anyway, the latest – which I simply couldn’t let lie – was this.

Top Ten Grammar Peeves

  1. It’s “I couldn’t care less.” “I could care less” means that you actually do care.
  2. An apostrophe is never used to form a plural.
  3. “Literally” means it actually happened, not that it figuratively happened.
  4. “Loose” and “lose” are two different words.
  5. “Your” and “you’re” are also two different words.
  6. “Their,” “there” and “they’re” are actually three different words.
  7. “nonplus” does not mean what you think it means.
  8. “Affect” is a verb. “Effect” is a noun.
  9. “It’s” is short for “it is” and “its” means “belonging to it.”
  10. “Irregardless” is not a word.

So I read this and thought “nothing gets up my hackles like a pedant who is wrong”.

Firstly the phrase “I could care less”, whilst a little American in tone, is perfectly acceptable. In fact it is rather subtle. It means “it may be possible for me to care less, in which case I might; however I do not”. Such linguistic subtlety has clearly passed-by the writer of this little ditty.

Secondly why has the writer consistently included punctuation marks not relevant to the sense within the quotation marks? Fowler’s A Dictionary Of Modern English Usage states that “all signs of punctuation used with words in quotation marks must be placed according to the sense”.

As for “literally” meaning “actually”, what rubbish. It means, “in a literal sense” or “pertaining to a literal”. In fact my dictionary says it is often used as an acknowledgement that something is NOT to be taken literally. Such is the flexibility and subtlety of the English language, and any true lover of language will appreciate this, rather than getting annoyed by it.

The word “affect” can be a noun as well as a verb, and in this form is synonymous with the word “emotion”.

Finally the word “irregardless” has an entry in my Concise Oxford English Dictionary, an edition from about 12 years ago. If that doesn’t make it a word in some official sense, I don’t know what does.


21
Dec 11

The Pluralist Paradox

Deep down inside of me, there is a swing voter waiting to get out.

A true British I-don’t-really-know-what-I-think voter, someone who could go both ways. Hell, I could go three or four ways.

I know, dear imaginary reader, you are thinking, “but how can someone so … so – political – how can you not be true and loyal to a single party?”

Don’t get me wrong. The swinger inside of me is not the typical British non-thinker. Not the common man on the street who waits until there is a critical mass of others to think on their behalf so they can chime in at the last minute and back the winning party. Not the fickle man on the street who just loves to complain about whichever party is in power and backs the opposition because, “there’s no possible way we could have four more years of the same old [insert current governing party here]”.

No, my swinging tendencies come from much, much deeper within me. My struggle is thus:

On the one hand, surely our socio-economic outlook looks far prettiest when people are allowed to do what they want whilst not harming others; a liberal, pluralist society? What is wrong for you might not be wrong for me, and therefore we should agree not to legislate for what you consider to be wrong, because it would be unfair for me. Instead we should just hang out / do business with people who have similar views to our own.

Of course we should have high taxes and good quality public services. This isn’t a matter of politics, it’s a matter of economies of scale: pooling resources allows us to reduce overheads. (I’m talking theoretically, of course.)

But on the other hand – and please excuse my Newtonian worldview (blame my Christian parents) – given that humanity, if left unchecked, tends towards selfish and greedy behaviour, perhaps after all it doesn’t look that fabulous when people are allowed to do what they want.

Here I cite the global financial crisis as being caused by unfettered or poorly-regulated capitalism.

Or what about society and the family? It is horribly non-liberal to interfere with matters of the family: married couple tax breaks between man and woman, making it legally difficult and expensive to get a divorce, reducing benefits to single mothers and punishing walk-away fathers who don’t take responsibility.

Whilst the above may offend our sense of social liberalism, let us hypothesise what their long-term effect on society might be, and therefore the effect on our economy and, eventually, our wealth as a nation of individuals. In economic terms, those societies defined by people pulling together (be this around the traditional unit of the family, or otherwise) are the ones that generate wealth for their futures. Those societies that are fragmented and socially disorganised are the ones that get poorer.

Given humanity tends towards greed and ultimately destruction (we agree on this, do we not?), and given in my example of the family above this would mean men will love women then walk away from them unless there is a compelling financial reason not to, perhaps a liberal society with fewer rules is a less successful, inferior one?

I used the construct of family to make my point, but this could equally apply to other constructs.

And this is the crux of my indecision. Conservative rule is too socially prescriptive. Labour rule causes too much fragmentation of society to allow for growth or progress. Liberal Democrat rule… well, our party just gets laughed-out or shouted-at most of the time.

What is my problem with political loyalty? Why do I mistrust staunch Labour party members, staunch Conservative party members, or staunch Any party members?

Is it that my world view espoused above is essentially flawed? Is it that I’m merely a liberal mind trying to get out of a conservative body? Or is it because my politics derive too directly from the existential questions in my head? Or is this a common Paradox of Pluralism?


29
Sep 11

eBay – the final straw

This will be a short post, in point form. Because the subject of eBay is a damned boring one.

The history of eBay as per Mat:

  • 2003 – eBay seems cool, amazing way of getting a bargain
  • “Buy it now?” – surely that defeats the object of an auction?
  • Hmm, teaming up with evil Paypal. Paypal evil because they pretend to be bank. Paypal not real bank. Paypal not registered with FSA. Paypal naughty people with bad reputation for freezing people’s accounts and denying them access to their own funds.
  • Wait, I am required to offer Paypal? Two sets of fees. Kidding?!
  • Wait, I am now required only to use Paypal? But – *voice wells up with tears* – they still aren’t even registered with the FSA …

… three years later …

  • Hrmm, at least I can still use this thing as a buyer to consume disgustingly cheap electronic accessories from Korea or Japan
  • What’s that you say? A replacement battery for my camera that lasted 4 times as long as my original Canon one, costing less than a tenth in price including delivery from Taiwan?! A USB cable car charger thingy for £0.26 plus £0.85 postage? All hail the global free market! (Gah, I hope nobody was … like … tortured or abused during its production. Right?)
  • I find the security features of this site increasingly … draconian? Verify by SMS text message every time I log in? Automatically logged out after 10 seconds of inactivity? Purlease!

… final straw …

  • Ok I really need to sell something. Start writing auction. Craft the wording. Wait, I haven’t checked the fees in 7 years. Let me check the fees.
  • TEN PERCENT of final value? As in, TEN? 10%?
  • PLUS AN INSERTION FEE?
  • Plus other fees for screwing with my listing, allowing big photos, and making it purple and bold and shit?

It appears there are alternatives to the monolithic beast that is eBay. I shall be investigating those.

Maybe even one that allows me to interact in such a way with my customer so as to allow them to actually pay me with real money?