Ethical? Job Posting on IxDA

26 Oct 2010 - 5:20pm
4 years ago
13 replies
1201 reads
DerrekRobertson
2010

// update 1:04 AM WED OCT 27 2010

Thank you to everyone who answered today. Seriously, I really appreciate your mentorship.

Good to hear from Elizabeth Bacon, whose Portland IxDA chapter events I've attended. Thank you also for your simpathy Yvonnia. CWS, Monkeyshine, Christian, Eduardo all raise good points, so here's some clarification in response :

  1. The post I submitted is not public on Mr. Follett's site. However, I'm still providing public content for his media property. I registered, created a profile with avatar/picture and a copy of my bio. This I believe is non trivial because the membership of an online community is commonly an indicator of that community's' quality, and Mr. Follett is free to solicit any number of professional ID applicants (without being required to be transparent by our Job Board), although he did admit to me over the phone that he was "considering 30 people for 2 or 6 'Expert' positions".

  2. In Mr. Follett's first email to me, it sounds like I'm being offered a job, albeit not in strict enough language: "If you're interested in taking the next step, we would need you to write a "mock" review on a sample concept. This is just to make sure that we're all on the same page before adding you to the panel and giving you access to client concepts. It is also a good time to ask any questions about the process and expectations." (my bold emphasis)

So, in answer to the comments regarding the black and white, contracts and managerial strategy - under normal circumstances, I collect a down payment and walk clients through a fee schedule. But this was a $50 gig between two people who should do business together: a writer with experience, talent and a BA degree, and a publisher with a new venture, budget and initiative to reach out to IxDA.

I'll admit, I took a risk, and it didn't pay off. I feel scammed, but I should have got a contract in place, period.

So, one last thing, to Mr. Follett, if he's reading, which I doubt because he joined the day he posted the job, but if he is: I'm a user of your site.... aaaand I feel a little scammed.... perhaps the user experience of your site could be improved a tad yes? Maybe you can ask one of your "experts" about that.

// endof update (and rant)

 

Fellow Designers,

I have a little dilemma. It concerns freelancing on the net and not getting paid, and I think it should concern at least a few other people here so here goes...

Two weeks ago on our Job Board, there was posted an opportunity [1] by a user registered as Concept Feedback, whose real name is Andrew Follett from Oak Park Illinois. The opportunity was to write for ConceptFeedback.com - a writing gig for "Experts" who would be paid $50 per review on web design mockup.

I email a letter of interest, Mr. Follett replies with the details and complements on my work, and after some technical difficulties that eat up a tiny bit of my Saturday morning, I spend two hours writing a design critique [2] for Mr. Follett's media property, ConceptFeedback.com, and submit it.

So three days go by, no word from Mr. Follett, I follow up with an email, then a phone call. On the phone Mr. Follett is genial and I get the sense that he's launching a new venture so I'm polite and he assures me he will read my submission with his partners and get back to me.

A week goes by, no word. I follow up again this morning, this afternoon a rejection from Mr. Follett, saying that there were so many applicants, and it was a very competitive, that I've been "wait listed", tough decision and so forth, good luck.

First question: Should I remove my content from his website?

Second question - maybe more important: Are Mr. Follett's actions ethical? If I hadn't persisted I doubt he would have ever got back to me, and my work would be earning him revenue on his media property, for which Mr. Follett advertised a job on our discussion forum.

Thank you for reading! - Derrek, @neonsunburst

 

[1] http://www.ixda.org/jobs/usability-expert-conceptfeedbackcom/28034
[2] http://neonsunburst.posterous.com/design-critique-nursingresumeproscom

Comments

26 Oct 2010 - 5:45pm
Yvonnia Martin
2009

Hi Derrek,

I am so sorry to hear about what happened to you. Did you at least get paid the $50 for your time? Because it sounds like you held up your end of the deal by providing 'actionable usuability reviews'. Was there a contract between you two? I've been burned so many times in the past that the first thing I start talking about is the signed contract before work. I actually remember that "Feedback" advertisement and it smelled like a B.S. gimmick, so I stayed away from that one.

But, I guess this does beg for some sort of vetting or regulations (oops, I said the "R" word). Again, I'm so sorry to hear about what happened.

Just my two cents,

--Yvonnia

26 Oct 2010 - 7:05pm
cwsouthworth
2010

You will have to remember you are talking to a management person with this stuff. Its a different mindset. Especially if they are dealing with a startup or a small company as a freelancer part of what you have to do is make ensure your working relationship begins and continues on good footing.

  In your scenario, it seems like somebody got ahead of the hiring process. Taking applications and also requesting applicants do work...bad plan.   On the other hand, it takes time to write a good resume/cover letter so perhaps this is just par for the course.   Next time try asking for a retainer fee up front. If you are a professional and they are serious about what you do then its not a problem. (more informally this may be the lunch/dinner tab.)

After that you can talk later about a larger contract and working agreement.

  Paying you a minimal amount up front is good business. Everyone gets a chance to stick their toes in the water without diving into a contract and getting quoted on clientsfromhell.net.

  Cheers,   CWS  

26 Oct 2010 - 6:05pm
monkeyshine
2010

Hi. I don't see anywhere in your email where there is an explicit agreement that you will be paid for your work and effort. Am I missing something?

26 Oct 2010 - 8:05pm
Christian Snodgrass
2008

I didn't either, but it seemed implied. That is why I called it "unethical" (vs. "illegal" which would be the case if there was an explicit contractual agreement).
- Christian

26 Oct 2010 - 6:05pm
Christian Snodgrass
2008

Well, I'll start with the easier points.
Not getting back to you because he is busy is not exactly professional, but it's not necessarily unethical.
Now, if the agreement was that you would get paid $50 per review, and the review is displayed but you are not paid... that is unethical. Depending on the agreement, if the review is publicly visible it should be paid for.
If this is the case, then yes, I would indeed remove my content from the site.
- Chris

26 Oct 2010 - 7:05pm
Eduardo F. Ortiz
2008

I see it in black and white;

  • If your payment was pending review, then your content shouldn't be live.
  • You should have discussed how the payment would be made and when.

What would I do? I would remove the content and take the time wasted as a loss. I would also take screenshots before that, for posterity.


Good luck.

26 Oct 2010 - 11:12pm
Elizabeth Bacon
2003

Are people OK with this?? I feel like IxDA should stand up and say that this seems like a rather terribly unethical way to put a request for work out there. As I read this, the work was used and not paid for! What the hell, crowd-sourcing via job posting?

Curious for other's thoughts,

Liz

27 Oct 2010 - 12:05am
monkeyshine
2010

I have been on a tear about crowdsourcing for design...so, I'm absolutely onboard in regard to spec work. However, I don't think we have enough information to judge here. I'd love to hear more information regarding what deal was made (or not). From what I read in the original posting it sounds like a misunderstanding but I'm not clear on the details.
The bottom line is if you are seeking out freelance gigs, you should always have a contract and a clear understanding of the terms (and a down payment) before ever doing any work on a project.
Deanna

27 Oct 2010 - 3:00am
DerrekRobertson
2010

Good to hear from Elizabeth Bacon, whose Portland IxDA chapter events I've attended. Thank you also for your simpathy Yvonnia. CWS, Monkeyshine, Christian, Eduardo all raise good points, so here's some clarification in response :

  1. The post I submitted is not public on Mr. Follett's site. However, I'm still providing public content for his media property. I registered, created a profile with avatar/picture and a copy of my bio. This I believe is non trivial because the membership of an online community is commonly an indicator of that community's' quality, and Mr. Follett is free to solicit any number of professional ID applicants (without being required to be transparent by our Job Board), although he did admit to me over the phone that he was "considering 30 people for 2 or 6 'Expert' positions".

  2. In Mr. Follett's first email to me, it sounds like I'm being offered a job, albeit not in strict enough language: "If you're interested in taking the next step, we would need you to write a "mock" review on a sample concept. This is just to make sure that we're all on the same page before adding you to the panel and giving you access to client concepts. It is also a good time to ask any questions about the process and expectations." (my bold emphasis)

So, in answer to the comments regarding the black and white, contracts and managerial strategy - under normal circumstances, I collect a down payment and walk clients through a fee schedule. But this was a $50 gig between two people who should do business together: a writer with experience, talent and a BA degree, and a publisher with a new venture, budget and initiative to reach out to IxDA.

I'll admit, I took a risk, and it didn't pay off. I feel scammed, but I should have got a contract in place, period.

So, one last thing, to Mr. Follett, if he's reading, which I doubt because he joined the day he posted the job, but if he is: I'm a user of your site.... aaaand I feel a little scammed.... perhaps the user experience of your site could be improved a tad yes? Maybe you can ask one of your "experts" about that.

27 Oct 2010 - 6:05am
Rhonda Ranney
2010

First of all thank you for posting and warning us about Mr. Follett.

I don't think there is any question. Pull your content, delete your affiliation with his site, and cut your losses.

Live and learn, I wouldn't waste any more of your time on it, there are bigger and better project out there.

The pisser is he posted on our job board, and wanted something for nothing.

Good luck,
Rhonda:)

27 Oct 2010 - 7:23am
bminihan
2007

It may not be ethical, but that doesn't really matter...at least you only lost a few hours, vs a month of hard work then quitting or being laid off because of a bad fit.

Without a contract, I'd always go into these things assuming you'll lose whatever time you put into them.  A few years back, on a lark, I applied for a "game programmer" position with a large-ish game company.  Suffice to say, I'm not a game programmer.  They sent me a 20-question "programming quiz" that rivaled my final exam in Data Structures back in college.  I enjoyed the challenge and sunk at least 20 hours into the test, but ultimately knew that I got most of the questions wrong (I don't do well with tests, as you can imagine).

Anyway, I didn't expect much out of the effort, and chalked it up to "further refining my career plans by closing off a potential route" =].

But I digress...  I do feel bad for what happened to you, but then again, I would try to see other positives about the situation:  perhaps his site could "take off" and your profile could garner some additional business, with or without the help of the guy who didn't pay you.  A long shot, I know, but you've already put in the effort. 

Bryan

27 Oct 2010 - 8:46am
Concept Feedback
2010

Hi Derrek,

I'm sorry you feel "scammed", however, that was not at all my intention. ConceptFeedback.com is indeed a startup, and we were looking for top quality usability experts to join our expert panel. I came to IxDA because I knew it would be a good place to find talent. The only way for us to reasonably gauge an applying expert's experience, writing skill, and fit on our panel (outside of taking their word for it), is to require the completion of a "mock" review. To be fair to our clients (and to our own reputation), we need to be thorough about properly screening each of our expert applicants.

I do apologize for the wording in my e-mail, which I agree could have been better phrased, but I assure you, my intent was genuine. I also would like to apologize for my delayed response, which was due to the nature of the application process. We had a larger response than I had anticipated, and it took me a good amount of time to analyze each application and review.

If you have additional questions about the process or how we operate at ConceptFeedback.com, I would be more than happy to answer them. Feel free to send me an e-mail or give me a call. Thanks again for taking the time to apply.

Andrew Follett

28 Oct 2010 - 4:40am
DerrekRobertson
2010

Well this has come full circle.

Thank you for your response Mr. Follett. I accept your apology - although, I disagree with the assertion that the best way to gauge expertise is by soliciting "mock" reviews. Would not a more respectful approach be to provide a small budget to a selective pool of talent to compete for a contracted position? Also, consider that there is little value to your business in collecting "mock" reviews when you could ask for real reviews which you can then really turn around and sell for real money. I mean, you don't ask your barista to produce you a mock cappuccino before you decide to buy one do you?

Fellow designers, I believe this thread of ours is deeply related to today's post by Julie Stanford [1], which borrows from The Win Without Pitching Manifesto [2]. Both of these are excellent reads on strategy to avoid circumstances like the one Mr Follett and I got ourselves into.

[1] http://www.ixda.org/node/28192

[2] www.winwithoutpitching.com

 

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