Kevin Warnock

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Archive for February, 2013

Consumers should be permitted to voice record conversations they have with companies

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http://AntiGodaddy.com home page, February 26, 2013 screen capture

http://AntiGodaddy.com home page, February 26, 2013 screen capture

To my knowledge, in the United States it is illegal to record conversations unless you have permission of the parties you’re recording. I believe the rules are more lax in some jurisdictions, but those exceptions are not that helpful if one wants to record a phone conversation with a company representative, because call centers are so dispersed over the planet. A representative could be anywhere.

I think United States Federal law should be changed to specifically permit consumers to record conversations they have with employees and other representatives of companies. Nothing stops me from asking for permission today, but I have never been granted permission when I have asked, so that’s why the law should be changed.

Companies routinely give themselves the right to record calls, so they should understand why a consumer would also want to have that ability.

I came to my recommendation January 29, 2013, after I had a frustrating conversation that day with Brian G., a supervisor at Godaddy, the Internet domain name giant. Brian’s email address is briang@godaddy.com. Brian refused to give me his last name, citing a Godaddy security policy.

On or around December 14, 2012, I learned a domain I’ve been wanting for a dozen plus years was in ‘redemption.’ This means the prior owner didn’t pay to renew it, so the registrar placed the name into redemption, a kind of holding place for domain names before they are eventually released to the public for purchase.

My heart raced. I was going to finally be able to reacquire the Hotpaper.com domain. I sold the name in 2000. My first reaction was to write to my friend Dan Luis and ask if I could pay the redemption fee to Purple, the company I sold the name to a dozen years ago, so they could retrieve the name from redemption status. This would then give Purple the right to transfer the name to me.

But after I composed the email to Luis, who I have been in touch with as recently as 2012, I decided to run this idea past GoDaddy, which was the registrar for Hotpaper.com.

I told the representative about my connection with Purple and proposed doing what I just outlined. The representative then advised me to  not bother, and just sign up for GoDaddy’s Domain Name Backorder service, which cost about USD $20.00 and included a full year of registration. This made the cost for getting the domain about $8.00, which is just 1/10th what it would have cost me to pay Purple to get the domain out of redemption status.

The representative told me that since GoDaddy was the registrar for Hotpaper.com that they would be able to get the domain name for me through their backorder service. He said that if Hotpaper.com had been with another registrar then they would have had to fight to try to get the name. The representative assured me multiple times that in this situation their backorder service was a sure thing. Not once did he even hint that I would be rolling the dice. Had he alerted me that I was speculating, I would have hung up and pursued the sure thing of contacting Luis.

Either Luis would have redeemed the name for Purple to hold on to, or he would have allowed me to redeem it through Purple. Luis would not have ignored me and let the name hit the open market — he’s my friend, and even though we haven’t seen each other in ages, we share a bond, for we both sold our companies to the company that is now Purple. Why am I so sure of this? Luis is the one that keeps our association alive by saying hello to me from time to time, not the other way around. I believe Luis respects me and does not want to upset me, so he would not take an adverse position, especially on something like this that is of no consequence to Purple, since they retired the Hotpaper name around a decade ago.

I would have been fine had Luis redeemed the name and had Purple hold on to it for decades to come. My desire is for the name to not fall into third party hands, so it was great that Purple paid the registration on the name for so long after they stopped using it. I saved over USD $100 over the last decade thanks to the kindness of Purple. Thank you.

I have explained to GoDaddy that their representative promised to get me the Hotpaper.com domain and failed, and to fix this failure they need to buy the domain and give it to me for the backorder fee I paid. This is a case of an employee being insufficiently skilled and trained, and their failure led to this sad result. GoDaddy the company is at fault, I believe. Yes, there may be some fine print somewhere on the GoDaddy website explaining the backorder process is akin to gambling, but GoDaddy’s sales representative negated that fine print.

I believe I was behaving reasonably when I took the word of the GoDaddy representative.

I figured that GoDaddy would have an advantage in ‘catching’ domain names dropping from their registry in the same way that high speed Wall Street traders benefit from extremely close proximity to stock exchange computers, so much so that high speed traders rent space in premium Wall Street colocation space to get faster connection times, since the speed of electricity is only so fast.

I have never bought a domain through a name catching service, so I was not an expert when I placed the order. But I felt the representative I ordered through knew what he was talking about, because he was so articulate, well spoken and because his explanation of why GoDaddy would definitely get the name sounded technically and practically believable.

If I had recorded that conversation, I believe GoDaddy would buy Hotpaper.com on the open market and give it to me for the backorder fee I have already paid. The conversation was so crystal clear and frankly damning that GoDaddy would not want to risk the recording and this story hitting the front page of Reddit, where I predict GoDaddy would have taken a beating from the readers of that news site.

This domain issue is of little importance. I survived a dozen years without the domain, and I’ll be fine without it for the next dozen or three dozen years. I have Hotpaper.net if I ever want to do anything Hotpaper related in the future.

The right for consumers to record calls with businesses, without notice, however, is a right US residents should have. There are so many business that will only correspond with customers over the phone. All banks I know are like this, and will simply not engage a customer by writing emails or letters back and forth. If you try to send a letter, often you’ll get a letter back asking you to phone. Banks I am sure force business to be conducted by phone because they know there will not be a record the customer can keep and refer to or publicize if the customer is mistreated.

Customers need to be able to believe what they’re told by company representatives, which, sadly, is a bigger and more difficult issue. I appreciate and recognize that I should have independently verified by reading the fine print on the GoDaddy website what the representative told me. I didn’t do it because the representative was so confident and self assured, and because the stakes were not material. Frankly, I’ll save hundreds of dollars over the years by not having to pay to keep the Hotpaper.com domain for myself, so you can even say GoDaddy did me a favor by the failure of their representative to explain how their backorder service works.

Companies should do the right thing by their customers when their representative makes such an obvious and glaring error. If a car dealer sells you a lemon, they’ll have to buy it back from you. If a doctor amputates the wrong limb, they’ll pay you plenty. If a lawyer drops the ball and forgets a filing deadline and you lose your case as a result, she’ll pay you.

Here we have a salesperson that sold me a product by misinforming me about its most important workings — whether intentional or not is irrelevant. This strikes me as fraud, though I am not a lawyer. GoDaddy should fix this apparent fraud by buying the domain and delivering it to me.

While researching this story, I found the website Anti GoDaddy, which collects GoDaddy horror stories from consumers. I posted a screen shot of this site’s home page at the top of this article. Notice the reach of GoDaddy — the embedded advertisement near the top of the page is for GoDaddy.

If this domain had been really important to me, I would have not handled the matter so casually. On a scale of 1 to 10, the Hotpaper.com domain ranks a 0.1. Note that I have not linked to the domain so as to not give traffic to the domain name speculator that ended up acquiring the name. The last time I checked, which was just once, there was a generic page offering to sell the domain.

The US Federal government should allow recording of conversations by consumers with businesses to reduce the harm that comes from currently insufficiently documented conversations. I suspect there are thousands of people that lost their homes in recent years because a bank told them verbally not to worry about their loan modification delays, but then foreclosed anyway. Had those promises been recorded by the consumers, the banks may have not been so quick to make promises they couldn’t respect, and homeowners could have pursued other options with more awareness of their true situations. The ramifications of only the business being able to record conversations are likely widespread and quite substantial, in every field, with every size business. It’s simply not fair to let only one party avail themselves of voice recording technology. Society would not stand for lopsided court reporting during trials, where the transcription was for the benefit of only the defendant or only the plaintiff. Why does society permit injustice with documentation outside the courtroom?

Laws need to change. I don’t know about the laws outside the United States, but I suspect this post applies to most of the planet.

Written by Kevin Warnock

February 26th, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Letter by Kevin Warnock to Jayne Salinger of the San Francisco Bar Association concerning the San Francisco Mock Trial

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Moderator for San Francisco Mock Trial 2012 finals, February 23, 2012 at Golden Gate University. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

Moderator for San Francisco Mock Trial 2012 finals, left, February 23, 2012 at Golden Gate University. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

Dear Jayne Salinger,

We have never met.

You wrote the following brief statement to me via a Facebook message on February 27, 2012:

“Hi Kevin,

I am the director of the mock trial program you attended last week. Thank you for taking such wonderful photos. Unfortunately these photos cannot be made public as the students are minors. And including their names is also not advisable. Can you plesae cease in posting these photos and remove where applicable?

Thank you.
Jayne Salinger
The Bar Association of San Francisco”

You wrote to me because I wrote on February 24, 2012 this article about the 2012 public finals competition for the San Francisco Mock Trial program. I illustrated the article with photographs that I took at the mock trial, including those shown here. You said that because the students are minors that my photographs cannot be made public. This blog is public.

When I first read your message, I wondered if I had done something wrong by posting the pictures. So, I did some searching and found around 89 pictures of the 2011 San Francisco Mock Trial finals, on that program’s Facebook page. Presumably most of these photographs are of minors, since the Mock Trial program is for high school students. I presume you are aware of the contents of the Facebook page for the mock trial program that you direct.

Student playing a police officer explains exhibit to Havel Weidner at San Francisco Mock Trial, February 23, 2012. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

Student playing a police officer explains exhibit to Havel Weidner at San Francisco Mock Trial, February 23, 2012. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

I also thought back to my four years as a staff photographer for the newspapers at the high schools I attended — Lab School at the University of Chicago and McAteer High School in San Francisco. The photograph captions typically identified the subjects by first and last name, so I knew that at least back then the practice was permitted.

Today, February 25, 2013, I discovered that student journalists still name students fully, in stories and and captions accompanying photographs, because I found via Google the article Case closed – Mock trial dominates in the high school newspaper published by Lowell High School. This Lowell newspaper article is publicly accessible on the Internet.

Lowell High School won the 2012 San Francisco Mock Trial championship, and later won sixth place in the California competition.

Since my research I conducted after receiving your message indicated I was most likely allowed to post student pictures to my blog, I put aside your message.

I did not reply to you at the time, but I always intended to address your concern.

My plan was to speak with you in person about this matter, at the San Francisco Mock Trials final this year — 2013. My reasoning for meeting you in person was so that you would be able to hopefully directly assess my character.

Last year, as I wrote on my blog, I discovered the Facebook page for the Mock Trial program in San Francisco. I ‘liked’ the page back then, so I have been getting status updates ever since. Today, I got a status update saying that Round III is coming up. Sadly, unlike last  year, dates and times are no longer listed. Last year the page listed the time and date in the following status update before the trial:

“Congratulations to Lowell and School of the Arts for making it to the final round of the 2012 Mock Trial Tournament! Final round is TONIGHT at Golden Gate University Law School, 536 Mission, Room 2203. Teams from Lowell and SOTA may arrive at 5:45 to set up; guests/spectators may arrive at 6 p.m. to get a seat. The round will start at 6:30. Good luck to both teams!”

I could not find any information anywhere on the Internet about when the finals are to be held this year, which meant I could not meet you in person as I planned to do.

I believe strongly that the Mock Trial finals should be public, and to encourage that, I wrote this post.

Had the finals been public this year, I would have attended again, and I would have found you there and spoken with you at some length, which would have obviated my need to write this post.

San Francisco Mock Trial February 23, 2012. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

San Francisco Mock Trial February 23, 2012. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

My blog post last year was good press, and you should have welcomed the post, and you should further have linked to it from the Mock Trial Facebook page and from the San Francisco Bar Association page for the Mock Trial Program.

Getting press is difficult.

Getting press is important to success in life.

I see that Mock Trial has received almost no press, outside of student newspapers. Student newspapers count, of course, but coverage by unrelated journalists like me is far more credible.

Chuck Rasnikof, a political science teacher at Lowell, sat next to me while I was covering and photographing the 2012 Mock Trial finals. We spoke for twenty minutes, and had a good conversation.

I told Rasnikof how I was invited to the Mock Trial finals by Devon Ivie, an exceptionally impressive high school senior I had met February 22nd. Ivie struck up a conversation with me on the MUNI Metro while she was on her way home after the final practice session for the trial. McAteer High School used to be in the same building where she was attending high school at the time, School of the Arts (SOTA), so we had something in common. She shared with me her plans after high school. She told me about her affection for playing the flute. She told me about Mock Trial, and sold me on the wisdom of personally attending the finals. Finally, she told me her name, which made it easy for me to ‘friend’ her on Facebook. She accepted my friend request the next morning, before the finals that evening.

After the finals were over, I said hello to Ivie and her real-life lawyer mentor. I asked Ivie to find her teammate Havel Weidner so that I could meet him.

Weidner was a key participant in the trial, and to my ear, played the most significant role in the outcome. I wanted to interview Weidner to confirm my understanding of his closing remarks.

That night I edited the pictures and wrote the blog post, since I knew there would be interest in the pictures. After four hours of concentrated writing and Photoshop editing work, around 3am the next morning I published the post, which I intended to be the first of two posts.

I also posted the pictures to my Facebook account.

Havel Weidner and others at San Francisco Mock Trial, February 23, 2012. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

Havel Weidner and others at San Francisco Mock Trial, February 23, 2012. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

Ivie and some of her friends discovered the pictures I posted to Facebook, and there was a flurry of sharing and her friends asking my permission to tag themselves, which I granted.

I suspect that you discovered my blog post through Facebook, since I link to my blog from my Facebook account.

I even got a Facebook friend request from Ivie’s friend Christina Rey. I had not met Rey, but I remembered her speaking during the trial. I accepted her request.

Then, about the time you sent your message above asking me to take down my pictures and remove the names, both Ivie and Rey defriended me.

I have not been in touch with Ivie, Rey or any of the other mock trial students since then.

It’s extremely rare for people I know that I have met in person to defriend me, and since it happened around the time you wrote to me, that makes me think you or other trial organizers had a hand in that. There was no independent reason I can think of for Ivie and Rey to defriend me, as I had just portrayed them well in front of all their friends and made them ‘famous.’

Here is my guess as to what happened:

You saw my Facebook pictures of the trial and the rapid sharing and tagging going on. You found out that I am not connected to the competition. You concluded my picture postings were undesirable. You persuaded Ivie and Rey to question their decisions to share and publicize the pictures, which they probably perceived as ‘getting in trouble.’ You may have even told them to defriend me, but even if you didn’t order them to defriend me, you probably made them feel like they did something wrong and that it was smart to distance themselves from me.

I meet dozens of impressive university students per year, and I end up helping and mentoring a small percentage of them.

I was so impressed with Devon Ivie that I was planning to help her, though I never got an opportunity to offer my help. Thus, it was sad and it remains sad that I have lost contact with her before I was able to speak with her for more than half an hour. I did determine that she warrants my assistance, from my conversation on the metro and from watching her perform very admirably during the trial. She is articulate and impressive.

If my guess as to what happened is true, then I ask that you handle future similar situations much differently.

Students about to graduate from high school are not young children that should not appear on the Internet. Instead, they are nearly adults, probably just months away from adulthood. These particular students are among the most legally savvy minors I have ever encountered. They argued their case exceptionally well.

These students did not and do not need ‘protection’ from the modern press, of which I am a part. To the contrary, they should be encouraged to solicit press coverage when appropriate.

There were unfilled seats in the auditorium at Golden Gate University where the 2012 finals took place. Those seats should be filled, when possible, with reporters, bloggers and other journalists. I suggest that during Mock Trial you train students to interact with the press. Real lawyers have to contend with the press, since cases sometimes are partly ‘tried in the press.’

But even leaving out high profile cases that are partly tried in the press, there is legitimate value in having students try to get bloggers and reporters to attend the finals. For example, consider these benefits:

  • Learning how to contact and form a relationship with journalists
  • Learning how to pitch a story
  • Learning how a published story can help or damage a mission
  • Publicizing accomplishments for the benefit of university admissions officers, employers and others who will be searching for information on the students for the rest of their lives
  • Helping schools fund raise from alumni and others by giving schools stories they can point to that demonstrate success of school programs

High school students don’t get many opportunities to be featured in the press. When seniors in high school go on to become freshmen in college, the likelihood of coverage in the press temporarily goes down, I fear. Only as university students establish themselves are they likely to be featured in the press. Years pass. Lessons about nurturing the press are not typically taught in university, and time is money, so teach students about the power of the press now, which you still have a chance.

I have been a journalist for years — since I was 13 if you go back to when I joined the newspaper staff for the Midway at Lab School.

Ms. Salinger, your Facebook post to me is the first and only attempt somebody has made to stifle my efforts.

I was and remain shocked.

Thankfully I kept my blog post from February 24, 2012 on my blog, which gets hundreds of viewers everyday.

While preparing this post, I discovered that  you named SOTA student Havel Weidner in your Internet post Mock Trial Coaches Help Students Increase Diversity Pipeline from May 2012, after your message to me.

I find it curious that you feel it is alright for you to name a presumably minor student, but an actual journalist cannot.

Note that I never wrote the second post I said above that I had intended to write. I was planning to write up the actual case, and comment in detail on the performances by the many student participants. That post would have easily taken eight hours to write, but after your discouraging February 27, 2012 Facebook message, I chose to not write the post, as I didn’t want to be criticized a second time for my writing. I also didn’t want to irritate a bunch of smart lawyers, so I censored myself, for which I am embarrassed. I should have written that post. I cannot write it now because I have forgotten too many details to write a quality article.

I acknowledge that I make a lot of guesses in this post. I apologize if I have guessed incorrectly. But even if I missed the mark on exactly what happened and when, my advice that you should encourage press coverage of the Mock Trial finals stands.

The performances I observed at the 2012 Mock Trial finals were the most impressive performances I have ever seen by a group of high school students. That what used to be McAteer High School is now churning out students so impressive gives me hope for humanity. McAteer was a dreadful and simply awful school, and it’s only through my attendance at Lab School earlier that I am able to write this blog.

The San Francisco Unified School District should be promoting Mock Trial as well. The district gets beat up in the press, and Mock Trial is so good that it should be featured prominently in the district’s public relations efforts.

According to Facebook, Devon Ivie is friends with Jasmine Lee Lee, a freshman at University of California Berkeley. Lee also graduated from School of the Arts. I met Lee in January, as she is the co-founder of an Internet startup headed by my friend Iskander Rakhmanberdiyev. I mentor Rakhmanberdiyev, and Lee has watched me advise Rakhmanberdiyev and others. I mention this news, which I only discovered today while writing this post, to give you a sense as to who I mentor and about what subjects I can advise.

Devon Ivie at San Francisco Mock Trial finals, February 23, 2012. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

Devon Ivie at San Francisco Mock Trial finals, February 23, 2012. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

If you or anyone organizing the mock trial did not praise Devon Ivie for her outstanding work in getting me to cover the 2012 San Francisco Mock Trial finals, then please contact her and heap some praise upon her – in writing and by phone if you can spare a moment.

From where I sit, Ivie is a rising star, and her outgoing nature that led her to strike up a conversation with me should be strongly and repeatedly encouraged, for that nature will bring many successes to her in life.

Thank you for reading this and please appreciate I am a huge fan of the success that is Mock Trial. That evening a year ago was one of the highlights of 2012.

Kevin Warnock

PS – My advice for Jayne Salinger applies everywhere impressive adolescents are found. It is wrong for society to try to ‘protect’ people like these students by keeping their names and pictures off of the Internet until they become adults. For better or worse, the Internet is like a credit report, only more important. People perform searches on other people, and they always will. If new adults have no report because they have no presence on the Internet the day they turn 18, that harms society. Of course, young people need to be educated about the perils of the Internet as well. People should not post material that reflects poorly, since such material has a tendency to last forever. These students at Mock Trial were likely putting their very, very best foot forward, which makes my blog posts about them ideal early installments for their Internet ‘reports.’