Every now and then we get a post like this. While it is technically asking for feedback, I feel like that may be a bit of a sneaky way to circumvent the self-promo rules (apologies if that assumption is wrong @quantumcloud)
But I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Is there value for you in giving and receiving feedback on commercial products? Do you want to see posts like this in the community?
Hey @quantumcloud, how about investing in a community before posting thinly-veiled advertisements? This is pretty blatant self-promotion in my opinion, and absolutely violates the “If you sign up and post links to your own work or site immediately, that’s not cool” rule.
I love that users who are invested in the community and here to get and give feedback. They should absolutely feel comfortable sharing their work here.
It’s pretty clear that’s not you.
You’ve been around here for less than a month, have two post replies (including the one above me), and the only topic you’ve posted is advertising your own work. You’ve spent a whopping 9 minutes here to boot. Even your product domain is barely a month old.
If you want feedback from a community, invest in that community before asking for help. Spend more than 10 minutes there before shilling your product.
If it were up to me, I’d be polishing up the ol’ banhammer for you.
Sorry, @HAWK - I know this post is a fiery. I’m simply passionate about this community and the people that make it great. If @quantumcloud is willing to put time and effort into building relationships here and participating in the process of getting and giving feedback, I’m happy to have him. Perhaps we need a minimum “like” score or post/reply count before being allowed to post external links?
So that is definitely possible here – I can manipulate the Trust Level thresholds – but the reason I haven’t done that is because many legit first time posters need to publish links, whether to their portfolio or to a site that demonstrates their question. I don’t want to make the barrier to entry high for those people.
Apology accepted! I’m sorry that I held you up as a public example but I was genuinely curious as to whether there was potential value for the community.
I despise posts like the one mentioned and I report them the second I see them (I missed this one) without hesitation. I feel pretty fiery about them too! I get at least one email a week (through my personal email/social media channels) from complete strangers claiming to want feedback on a portfolio and the second I reply, they start harassing me to sign up for some product I want nothing to do with. I am not OK with this and when I call them out on it, they get really mean really quickly and this is the one place where I feel safe to help people who genuinely need it.
I’m a few hours late to the party on this one but I feel really strongly about it.
I think the links should be deleted from @dougcollins post. I posted a single link to the live demo only (obviously a new domain expressly for the demo purpose only) - not to our main company website or even the product landing page. @dougcollins’ post contains multiple links to our main website which can be misleading people.
I am not looking for freelancing works or advertising here. This plugin lets you do some unique things. I wanted to know if it had any genuine usage and interest for the front end developers.
My timing was bad and I recognize that. But I needed feedback now - when the MVP is ready, to decide whether it is worth spending more time and effort on it. Not after 1 month. My thought process was as simple as that. Hope you can understand.
I love to learn and teach when I have a chance. It seems like for this community this is a teachable moment.
We talk about Dark Patterns in web design often here. DarkPatterns.org, one of the go-to resources for exposing anti-design, has this to say about what Dark Patterns are:
Dark Patterns are tricks used in websites and apps that make you buy or sign up for things that you didn’t mean to… If a company wants to trick you into doing something, they can take advantage of this by making a page look like it is saying one thing when it is in fact saying another.
From a UX perspective, we tend to focus on conversations surrounding blatant dark design and avoiding gray areas in work.
However, sometimes products and services we create offer the opportunities for others to use them in ways we didn’t intend. @quantumcloud’s original post here was a great example or dark design in a forum post.
Unfortunately for the purposes of this response, Quantumcloud’s original post has since been deleted. The original posting, however, was concerning their new “Slider Hero” WordPress plugin. The initial paragraph stated that it was a new product, hinting that it was yet-to-be-released. A link to the company’s page for the product followed, along with a description of the plugin features. The post finished by stating that it was a new product, and asked for developer feedback.
Tipping Their Hand
There were a few things that were fishy about the post:
Quantumcloud was a new account here, with only a single comment response in the 1-month life of their account prior to posting this topic.
The copy in the product description sounded suspiciously like it was copy and pasted from marketing material. It was teeming with happy words (such as exciting, interesting, useful) used to make a product seem more interesting.
The word “developers” in the final paragraph hinted that this posting was copy and pasted from a similar post on another forum geared towards developers.
Posts like this are usually made on high-value, SEO sites geared towards tech professionals to gain both attention from the user base. Hopefully this elicits one or two positive comments, which then show highly in search results for the product. It’s an old trick, but if done right, it works.
Fortunately, this community has seen posts like this from time to time, and is very good at roundly ignoring them. The post never garnered a single response until @HAWK created this topic to discuss the potential usefulness of these types of posts, as it appeared just-borderline-enough to be a plausible call to help.
Calling Out Quantumcloud
I’ve been around here for a while, and have been using professional forums in varying capacities for years. It was pretty clear to me from the beginning that this was an advertisement masquerading as a call for help, meant to get the attention of the tech community of potential WordPress plugin users.
Before anyone could call Quantumcloud on their antics, they attempted to save the situation:
This set me off more than the original post, and I responded in an overly-heavy-handed manner.
Fiery? Absolutely. Offensive to Quantumcloud? Possibly.
Inaccurate? Absolutely not.
How Dark Patterns Damage a Business
Having been called out, Quantumcloud went into damage control mode, and for good reason. As an online business that relies on the trust of its web-savvy customers, the initial reasons why it posted (free advertising on a highly-SEO’d site for its target audience) would now work against it if it couldn’t salvage the situation.
The most often tactic when things go south like this is to claim good intentions and complain that you were treated unfairly, in one manner or another, by the person calling them out in one manner or another. The call out is then asked to be deleted, which removes the negative feedback agains the company, thus retaining their positive reputation.
That’s exactly what Quantumcloud did when it became clear the situation with their initial post could not be salvaged.
You’ll notice, however, that none of the links in my post were misleading. One lead to a page that tracks new domain registrations, which certainly doesn’t have a horse in the race. The others lead to Quantumcloud’s own portfolio and Behance profile. It’s hard to see how content they created is misleading, unless, of course, they were the ones doing the misleading.
The Last Gasp
My usual response to this thinking would be something along the lines of “If you want professional UX feedback, hire a UX professional. We do not work for free. This community is not your free work force at your leisure when you need us, and to ignore when you’re done.” Quantumcloud lists 22 employees on LinkedIn, and not a single one is a UX professional. It’s clear UX isn’t a priority for them.
It was already pretty apparent that this likely wasn’t a MVP (minimum viable product), but a fully-functional product that’s been released to the general public and marketed hard. Fortunately, an easy route to finding out how ready for primetime a product like this might be is to check how hard it’s been marketed.
Unsurprisingly, it’s been marketed pretty hard.
Note: I use screenshots below because I don’t want to give Quantumcloud any additional free advertising, but I can happily provide links to these pages if requested.
Slider Hero was advertised on Quantumcloud’s Twitter account…
…on their Facebook page a day before creating your post here…
Three of those ratings come from accounts created within the last four months and have reviewed only a single product - Slider Hero - and have no other activity.
This, of course, smells of sham accounts created ahead of time to boost a plugin’s ratings through review manipulation.
In fairness to Quantumcloud, I couldn’t find evidence of similar vote manipulation occurring on other plugins they have available on WordPress. I’ll leave it to the reader whether or not to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Quantumcloud’s Likely Next Steps
Quantumcloud’s playbook from here, as far as UXMastery is concerned, is pretty apparent. They will take one of three courses:
Claim a misunderstanding and attempt more damage control.
Bluster and angrily deny the claims above, possibly threatening legal action against either me, the site, or both, which will never be followed through on.
Silently admit defeat by deleting their previous posts - and possibly account - from these forums.
Option 1 is unlikely, given the evidence posted here against them, and will be countered with more research on my end if attempted. Option 2 is more likely, but results in further bad publicity. Option 3 is, strategically, the best route, though it will undoubtedly result in negative feedback on Slide Hero and Quantumcloud showing up relatively early in search engine results.
More often than not, in my experience, companies caught in these situations take routes 1 or 2, though I’m hoping personally they’re exit the high road by route 3.
The Lesson: Always Critically Evaluate Content for Dark Patterns, Even on Trusted Sites
Quantumcloud has apparently tried very hard to dupe us. They have a vast social media footprint, and absolutely know what they’re doing when it comes to marketing WordPress plugins.
Given all of the evidence agains them, we can only be left with the assumption that Quantumcloud’s post here was exactly what it seemed - a thinly-veiled advertisement that was part of a much wider project launch.
I’m ecstatic that @HAWK caught this post and brought it to the attention of the users, as it provides a very good teaching moment for the community. In an era where we gather the information that encompasses our digital life through many channels and the President of the United States routinely accuses established and respected news sources of fake news, critically evaluating what we read imperative to uncovering the truth.
Although this relatively innocuous post from a small web development firm on the other side of the world is far less impactful than Russian social media ads used to sway the US elections, the concept of violating user trust is the same. It is absolutely a dark design pattern, and we as a UX community should treat these posts as such.
If nothing else, Quantumcloud has provided us with an excellent case study in why these types of dark patterns and posts - and these types of accounts - have no useful place, and should be banned.
@dougcollins Thanks for taking the time to write such lengthy response. Obviously, you like writing - which is a good thing. I love reading. Much of your reasoning is aking to conspiracy theories - but it is interesting nonetheless and thought-provoking for me personally. Thanks for that. I had already apologized and cooperated in every possible way. Nothing I say or do will change anything. You have already drawn your conclusions, predicted all possible alternatives in all the parallel universes and passed your judgments.
What actually went on here is extensively detailed in your last post. So, thanks for that too! Anyone is welcome to draw their own conclusions.
Exactly. Or go do some actual user research and compensate people for their time.
These are absolutely some dark times that we are living in and we need to call out and stand up to dark patterns and unethical practices in UX/whatever is going on at Quantumcloud. Enough is enough.
I am very disappointed to see that they didn’t take the high road in this case and not only apologise but also demonstrate through action a willingness to be an active and supportive member of this community by providing meaningful responses to some of the other discussions.
Also. if I’m understanding this correctly - the original post was an advertisement for a thing that creates advertisements?! That makes me feel uneasy.
I hope they do take you up on your offer to participate in an interview.
That would have been excellent. I never expected that to happen. We are great about helping out those who want to be a part of the community, but @quantumcloud apparently never had that intent.
Yeah, pretty much. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.
Me, too. If there are genuine reasons behind what appears to be pretty nefarious advertising practices, I’d love to understand them. I would be very pleasantly surprised if they did agree to a chat, but something tells me that I’m likely not to hear back from them.
Sorry for the delay in response because of the weekends. I have been transparent about everything including my name, what I represent and what my intention was. As you did some research, you know well that I did not present any misinformation. I would be happy to answer any question you might have provided that you keep an open mind. I would also love to get more active in the community as time permits.