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Saturday, 15 July 2017

Misleading, Excessive & Potentially Dangerous Blog Ads

misleading ad
A very misleading ad that shouldn't be allowed on Adsense...
I've been on an extensive "ad hunt" lately.

Full disclosure: I have ads running on this blog. No big reveal; you can clearly see them. Google Adsense has paid me roughly once a year since I started this blog (shows how little I make) and I get the occasional payment from my affiliate program for the Craftsy, Creativebug and CreativeLive promos. (On that front, I've recently made some decisions about Creativebug that have led me to change my ad focus for it slightly.)

That is, however, the extent of it. From the beginning, I've tried to keep the location of those ads as unobtrusive as possible. The ones running along the sidebar are not in your face and the ones within each post essentially act as dividers for my typically lengthy dissertations.

I suspect that regular readers probably don't even pay any attention to the affiliate ads that break up each of my blog posts, like this one.

Check out Craftsy's latest promos...
[affiliate link]

All in all, I believe this blog has been considerate of visitors in keeping intrusive ads to a minimum. If you're a blogger, are you doing your part to ensure a pleasant experience? If you're a reader, please do tell us what irks you about online ads.

Misleading Ads

About a month ago, I found out that Adsense was offering up a new (new to me; its actually been around since 2015) ad type called matched content. First and foremost, it's pretty much the same thing as any "related posts" widget that you might already have, as I do. The idea is to keep readers around for as long as possible by drawing their attention to similar content that might be on one's blog.

Which is an excellent idea, in and of itself.

However, the immediate result (seen below here) wasn't necessarily attractive. In fact, this example even shows an oddball repeated link that I can't account for, given that I obviously have sufficient posts to fill this unit.

Google Adsense Matched Content Ad Type
Google Adsense's matched content ad unit...

I tried it out briefly, only running it on my three most popular posts. When I went back to one of them (my original Wave Purse Organizer tutorial) after a week or so to see what was up, this was the ad unit that was showing...

Google Adsense Matched Content Ad Type
Sample of Google Adsense matched content ad unit running on my blog...

Excuse me, but none of those links are to my blog! You'd think that at least one of my own posts would have been a better candidate as matched content than any of the above, wouldn't you? After snooping around, it became clear that all instances of that ad unit were actively promoting outside sources about 98% of the time.

Potentially long story short, even though my related posts widget (shown below) will only appear when an individual blog post is selected, it's not getting replaced by Google Adsense's matched content ad unit any time soon.

My existing related posts widget...

The odd thing is, the main reason that I didn't slap this up all over the place from the start is that I knew this ad unit would eventually end up serving up actual ads. (Duh, why else would Adsense develop it?) I'm not a fan of ad links intermingling with content links. Just my personal opinion, but quite often, those are set up to be intentionally and deliberately misleading. Not to say that this one is — although in my examples above, they don't seem to differentiate between external and internal content — but there are definitely ad types that rely on you being unsure that they are ads.

For example, you can find this AdChoices ad unit on a well-known sewing blog. I've actually chopped it down considerably; the actual list is at least three times as long.

The first time I visited this particular blog, a variation of the above was placed within the body of the blog post that I was reading. I clicked on one of the links, and it took me to who knows where... because quite often these links are not as helpful as one presumes they might be.

Then I left.

There are variations of mixed use ad units that identify what is "ad" and what is "content". To me, if that distinction isn't crystal clear to your visitors, you're obviously trying to fool them into clicking. At best, that's not nice. At worst, the practice might end up harming your reader's computer (more on that later).

Consider this tidbit of info from MarketingCharts.com:

Blog excerpt from MarketingCharts.com...

Guess how most people feel when they've been "tricked"?

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But it's a free world/internet, so individuals tend to do as they please in terms of plastering ads on their own turf.

Excessive Ads

By the same token, I'm free to do my browsing elsewhere if I'm confronted by so much advertising that my head spins. (Or quite literally, the "loading page" icon spins... and spins... and spins....) Here's an example.

blog page with too much advertising


The above was taken from an unidentified sewing blog and what you see here filled up my whole screen. It's actually not necessary for me to worry about mentioning the blog's name, since the ads are doing a fine job of hiding any identifying content.

Let me say for the record that there's nothing wrong with running a few ads. No reasonable person will boycott your blog just because you have ads on it. (Most of us incur some costs in creating and sharing our blogging adventures, so by all means recoup some of those!) There are even online experts who say that ads are part of an overall professional look, so feel no guilt if you have them. But as with all things in life, don't overdo it!

We get that some people do this "blogging thing" for a living and need to make money. BUT... how much of that money should come from the advertising? There should be a limit as to how many ads one wants to cram onto the screen. Having visitors run screaming for the hills in frustration — or having pages that take forever to load — surely can't be a wise business objective.

Then there's the proliferation of ads that require you to interact with them.

Have your ears been assailed by autoplaying video ads lately? Clicking on them in a panic doesn't work as quickly as you might like. (Or at all; I've read that some ads have fake mute/pause buttons!) Do what I do and set your Volume Mixer to mute your browser. You'll have to turn it back on when you visit specific sites where you do want to hear the content, but you're guaranteed of silence in the meantime.

use Volume Mixer to mute your browser
My Volume Mixer muting CNN Breaking News on my browser ...

Almost as bad are the ads and overlays that partially cover up the screen or content and require you to hunt down and then click — very carefully — on an "x" or a [close] icon to make it go away, like this:

ads that cover content

Advertising that you need to engage with to make it go away so you can see what's underneath...

Sometimes it's a challenge just to find the icon that will close the offending object. Again, the reason for the difficulty is the hope that you'll "miss" and instead click on the ad.

By the way, a close cousin to these ads are the "subscribe" notices that open up as soon as you land on some blogs. (I just got here and you're already hitting me up to subscribe?) Some people — like me — are just commitment-phobes when it comes to subscribing to blogs. I may actually visit on a regular basis, but getting smacked by that "in your face" invite every time is super annoying.

Whatever the case, I really don't understand why people choose to do business that way; i.e., betting that the percent who "don't mind" is higher than the percent who are actually pissed off.

Potentially Dangerous Ads

Scroll back up and take another look at that screen full of ads. Note the appearance of two "start download" ads.

The graphic at the top of this post (shown here again, below right; the big "x" is my creation) was an actual ad that appeared as I was drafting this very post. It was the first time that I had seen it and it really bothered me for the fact that it didn't seem very explicit about what exactly one would be downloading by clicking on it.

misleading ad
Never click on this type of ad!
I wanted to check it out, but couldn't click on it for two reasons. First, it's against Adsense policy to click on one's own ads and, second, one should never click on these types of ads!

What I did was copy out the extremely long hyperlink to a text file to sift out the URL embedded inside. Turned out to be emailaccountlogin.co — just like it says at the bottom; it's apparently an extension designed for Google Chrome that allows you to sign into your various web mail services more "easily".

Whoa, that's a winner of an idea... O_O

I decided that I don't want this ad appearing on my blog, so I added the domain to my Adsense blocked list. After confirming that my settings were blocking all ads for downloadable utilities, I've also begun to block any ad that features an ambiguous "START DOWNLOAD" as the primary graphic. (Hence, the "ad hunt" that I mentioned at the top of this post... which is likely to be an on-going task.)

Like this one:

This one probably qualifies as spyware... 

First of all, you should always read an ad carefully. "Start merging you files"? If they can't even write proper ad copy, you probably shouldn't trust it. (Virtually all of these ads that look more or less similar will take you to a page where you will be prompted to install a toolbar that might be difficult to remove.)

Oh and look here:

Ditto with this one!

Wow — that ad designer is actually getting a lot of work! ;-)

Note that the content of a blog post plays a major role in triggering the types of ads that appear on your page. If you have the word "download" in your text several times, it will likely cause your Adsense feed to run one of these ads. (So if you see one on this page as you read this, that's why... just don't click on it.)

As an FYI, I also don't run ads from various "sensitive" categories that Adsense allows by default. All of this may be overkill (and yes, it will reduce my overall Adsense earnings), but let's just say that I'd like to reduce the chances of people clicking on something and then finding malware on their systems. And I know that people who visit my little corner of the web will also visit other corners, so they may never remember where they picked up any unfortunate bits of code, but it's the principle. We all need to do our part to reduce the danger and lunacy.

Speaking of malware, remember when I covered similar ground in my posts about unscrupulous crafting websites? While handbagspurses.info doesn't exist anymore, unfortunately 4crafter.com and isewfree.com are still out there.

So again, as a blogger, do you care how the advertising on your blog is being received by your readers? Have you ever opened up the various tabs on your Adsense account to see how you can review and block adverts that appear on your site?

And as a reader, have you been sufficiently frustrated by ads that you never return to a blog or website in question? Here's your chance to tell 'em what you think!

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Striking While the Inspiration is Hot

misc crafting supplies
What did I make with this in twenty minutes?
I assume that if you're reading this, you're a sewing person and probably crafty or creative in general.

What I'd like to know is how and when you harness your creativity.

The moment you find yourself thinking, "hey I'd like to do/make that", are you then able to take advantage of that more or less immediately, or is that a virtual impossibility?

If you let go of those moments, what happens to that initial spark of inspiration? How do you keep it alive? Does it join an ever increasing list of "must do"s? (And if so, do you actually keep such a record?)

On the other hand, if you're one of those people who instantly does something the moment it strikes you, how exactly do you manage that?

I'm asking a lot of questions today, aren't I? (Jot down your answers right now and share them with me in a comment later.)

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It occurred to me recently that I'd like to know how "crafty" people craft. Obviously, those who have jobs are somewhat hindered by them, but it would still be interesting to know how they manage their moments of inspiration.

Ultimately, I'm curious about this: does crafting when the inspiration strikes produce a better final result than putting it off for some other time?

Let me give you an example. Last December, I came upon a suggestion to use a separate pin cushion to keep track of "lightly used" sewing machine needles. It seemed like a great idea since I had been keeping mine in various ways that often saw me confuse my "keepers" with my "waiting to be thrown away-ers".

Not really needing a tutorial to make a pin cushion, I quickly gathered up the supplies that you see at the top of this post and created this little guy in under half an hour. With a preconceived idea of what it should look like, I knew it would be quick. (For me, crafting on the fly requires that the project be small and easily accomplished. I have a thing for "quick wins".)

pin cushion crafted by eSheep Designs
A pin cushion in less than half an hour...

The body is made out of two circles (between four and five inches in diameter) of red felt. I cut an "x" in the middle of one of them for turning and stuffing purposes (cotton balls) and then sewed the two together all the way around the edge.

While I would have preferred to use embroidery floss, I resorted to this intriguing spool of variegated thread that was part of my care package. (That has certainly been the gift that keeps on giving!)

variegated nylon thread
Red and black nylon thread...

While it's not as thick as embroidery floss, once doubled up, it worked fine to segment my tomato and add the required definition. On the other hand, repeatedly feeding the needle through the same place in the centre of this thing was not entirely easy to do.

After my stuffed sheep project, I only had uneven scraps of black and white felt left, so I used the old "fold into quarters and cut" freehand method to create flower shapes out of what I had. Then I stacked them on top of the exposed hole in the middle of the tomato.

pin cushion crafted by eSheep Designs
This was pretty much a free form "quick to completion" project... just what one needs for crafting on the fly!

Most tutorials will tell you to close up that hole by hand-sewing it; I didn't bother. I also didn't bother securing the flowers in any way.

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For the finishing touches, I found three red buttons in my bag 'o' buttons, each with four holes. I stacked them up, stuck some pins down those holes to hold everything together and my "inspired in the moment" crafting project was done. Other than the sewing together of the circles, I did this standing at my kitchen counter, a mere twenty minutes before starting dinner.

pin cushion crafted by eSheep Designs
A quick and easy satisfaction of a crafty inspiration...

And here it is, holding two of my "can still use" sewing machine needles.

I love how this little thing turned out. Had the thought been shoved aside, it probably never would have been made. Which is certainly not to imply that this pin cushion is a life-altering addition to my world, but sometimes maybe we should just take those inspired moments and run with them.

I actually had a couple of those moments late last year. Along with this little pin cushion, a lightbulb came on in my head about refashioning fleece scarves and also about making quickie lip balm carriers. Both ideas were well received.

Don't miss the Spoonflower 2 for 1 fat quarter sale this weekend...
Take a look at my Pride & Prejudice throw pillow made with a fat quarter!

Unfortunately, I'll never be able to measure in any quantitative fashion whether one produces a better product the moment inspiration strikes versus waiting for later. I did, however, have a recent experience with a scheduled project that ended up giving me all kinds of grief. (You'll see it in a couple of weeks.) And just a few days ago, I ran an impromptu paracord bracelet making session with visiting relatives that was highly successful, because everyone involved was gung ho to try it in that moment. Would it have turned out so well had I told them beforehand that "I'm going to give you a paracord tying class tonight"? Dunno...

What are your thoughts on that?

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Celebrate Canada 150 With Me

A Canada Day tree...
Today marks the historic occasion of Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation. It's a day for all Canadians to be proud and thankful for what they have. To be sure, our country and our lives are not without issues but most of them are miniscule compared to what they could be.

The majority of my posts are prepared weeks in advance, and this one is no exception. So while I can say that I will be partaking in some of the local festivities this Canada Day, I don't yet know what they will be... and the extent will depend on the weather.

For the past many months, however, I have been creating little tributes for the occasion and displaying them around the house. I thought I'd share them with you today.

This picture that you see here is of our birch tree in the front yard. We had it pruned last fall and a rather substantial lower branch was removed by the arborist. When I saw the flat surface that resulted afterwards, I told my hubby that perhaps I should paint a happy face on it.

Months later, we decided that it was the perfect place to display a little bit of Canadiana.

How did I do it? After tracing the perimeter of the flat surface roughly onto a sheet of paper, I sat down and drew this, which was then scanned and colourized to see if it would pass muster.

Drawing a modified Canadian flag for a branch stump...

We both thought that the design would stand out sufficiently, so the next step was to decide how to transfer it onto the tree. Actually painting it wasn't the ideal solution. After mulling it over, I decided to make something out of paper that I could just somehow glue.

So I picked up some red and white poster board, cut out the required elements and then applied several layers of Mod Podge to get this result...

My Canada Day tree "sticker"!

I figured the Mod Podge would protect it from the elements for at least the remainder of the year.

That flat surface of the tree faces the street, so it has been a unique sight for people walking or driving past our house.

My other Canada Day crafting revolves around flowers. These ones were made out of scrapbooking paper per my tutorial.

Canada Day paper flower by eSheep Designs
Canada Day mini flower...

The above mini flower is at the centre of a small potted arrangement that's been in our main bathroom forever. Hanging from the window in the same room is this larger set of flowers.

Canada Day paper flowers by eSheep Designs
Large Canada Day designer flowers...

I had previously said that if the weather cooperates, I'll hang these out on our tree, but now they look too nice to be moved from where they are! (Plus, the weather this weekend holds the distinct possibility of rain virtually every day.)

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Remember my fabulous fabric flowers tutorial? I had previously made one out of waxcloth, but for a Canada Day version, I tried ribbon.

ribbon flower by eSheep Designs
A variation of my fabric flowers made out of ribbon...

It turned out pretty well. The bonus part is that it became an almost no-sew project, since all I had to do was cut a scalloped edge along a 2.5" wide length of ribbon, gather it, and then hot glue the strip together. This particular ribbon was red underneath, so I could have reversed it for a different look.

My last decoration is a set of three "floating" maple leaves. Using the same poster board and leaf template from my tree decoration, I cut out six leaves. I Mod Podged the heck out of them on both sides and then Mod Podged a fishing line between each pair of leaves.

Closeup of one of my floating maple leaves...

Until it was time to take them outside to hang over our front window, they were strung from a light fixture in our upstairs hallway, as shown below.

Oh, and here's one final project that is near and dear to my heart since it was my first pattern for sale... I made a Canada themed flap for my Hot Hues Convertible Crossbody Fooler Bag.

Hot Hues Convertible Crossbody Fooler Bag by eSheep Designs
A new flap for my Hot Hues bag...

In truth, I don't think it quite "goes", but at least it's a demonstration of the concept behind this (occasionally controversial) bag! And it served to give me other ideas about how to use all that ribbon that I have.

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Of course, three days after our holiday, it will be the birthday celebration of our closest neighbour. I, for one, know that the US of A is turning 241. (The bicentennial being 1976.)

Floating maple leaves by eSheep Designs
Floating maple leaves...
We Canadians mostly accept that the majority of Americans know very little about Canada, other than as a deliverer of cold air in the winter. (We make fun when a prize offered on a TV game show is "a trip to Canada!" Really? Is it to Tuktoyuktuk to see the northern lights? To Jasper or Banff National Park to admire the Rocky Mountain scenery? Or to cosmopolitan Montreal to soak in the culture?) To be honest, many of us resent the lack of interest and knowledge on the part of our closest neighbour, but I'm actually fairly pragmatic about it. When you live on top of the mountain, it's hard to be concerned with what's below you.

Still, in today's world, a little knowledge can be an olive branch, so I thought I'd close this post with a list of ten fun facts about Canada for our American friends.
  1. Several months ago, I saw a video of a couple of young American girls being asked what they thought Canada's population was. After a bit of discussion, they settled on a guess of four thousand. Now, population totals are impossible to get bang on the gong, but in reality, our 150-year-old country has about 36 million inhabitants. Way more than four thousand, but on the other hand, that's just about the population of the state of California.
  2. Measured in total area, Canada is larger than the US. If you count just land area, the US is bigger.
  3. The next time you're asked to identify the capital of Canada, try to recall that our equivalent of your Washington D.C. is Ottawa, Ontario.
  4. Our metropolitan areas are much like yours in appearance; you won't instantly see a vast wasteland with nothing but igloos and polar bears as soon as you cross the border. (I actually lived in Canada's remote north for many years and never once saw an igloo. And the closest I came to a polar bear was a polar bear pelt that hung in the Yellowknife Inn.)
  5. Speaking of igloos, our weather is not so much different from yours except for the extremes. Due to our location on the globe, we don't generally get temperatures over 100F degrees but temperatures into the 90s can be experienced in all areas of the country during the summer. (And of course, Canadians refer to those temps as "the 30s", but the metric thing is a whole other matter!)
  6. The basic equivalent of your fifty states is our ten provinces and three territories. Eight of our provinces touch our longest common border while twelve of your states do the same. Since we only have thirteen entities, perhaps you can learn the names of some of them. I'm familiar with the names of all of your states and can readily list off over forty of them at any given time. (On an episode of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, when a contestant asked for assistance with the question of "There are exactly seven what?", 44% — the vast majority — of the audience answered "provinces in Canada". The other options were islands in the Cayman Islands, countries that end in -stan, or nations in the European Union. The correct answer is countries that end in -stan.)
  7. Speaking of provinces, maybe start with Prince Edward Island. It's the equivalent of your Rhode Island in that it's our smallest province. However, PEI actually is an island... and you can get there by car from Rhode Island in about eleven hours!
  8. Canada is not totally "to the north" of all of you. If you live in Detroit, you can actually drive south to get to Canada, to Windsor, Ontario to be exact. (And of course, if you live in Alaska, you can head east to Canada too.)
  9. We had a female prime minister waaay back in 1993. She didn't serve long, and was never actually elected to the position.
  10. Finally, in a great show of sportsmanship and goodwill, take a listen to 18,000 Canadian hockey fans — from my own home city, no less — clearly singing the Star Spangled Banner when the mic failed for Brett Kissel. I've heard jokes all my life about many Americans not knowing the words to their own national anthem... well, we know 'em. ;-)
Whatever side of the border you're on, enjoy the birthday celebrations, people!

Saturday, 24 June 2017

When it Comes to Reviews, Be Constructive or Be Quiet

think before you review
Anyone can write a review, but not everyone should...
It goes without saying that we are all familiar with TripAdvisor reviews and eBay feedback. In the former, you can write out detailed opinions of a hotel, restaurant or tourist attraction; good, bad or ugly. In the latter, you're given a very limited number of characters to sum up your transaction and then the opportunity to rate various things on a five point scale.

The internet is basically awash in reviews these days.

Whether a given review is helpful to anyone, however, is another matter altogether. I will say right here, right now that — free speech aside — some people should just refrain from spouting their opinions. Furthermore, some sites should think twice before offering up the review process to anyone and everyone.

Be warned: I'm about to vent.

In the aftermath of Craftsy's 2016 site revision, they have amped up the requests for pattern and product reviews from their users.

Craftsy review prompt

If you've made any sort of "purchase" on Craftsy, you've probably seen this in an email...

Customer engagement is considered a worthwhile pursuit by online businesses. So I understand the motivation behind this. And don't get me wrong, Craftsy has been very good to me personally. But some of the changes that it's made and the loose ends that are still hanging from the recent site revamp are a source of irritation.

I think that when you open up a forum for people to review a course or a pattern, it's only fair to provide a platform for the other side to respond (as they do on TripAdvisor). Craftsy has not done this. As it sits, when someone writes a review of a pattern, the only engagement option the designer has is to click No on it (for not helpful) or Report (which I have no idea what that would do).

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Obviously, if one is going to put oneself "out there" on the internet, one must develop a thick skin. That doesn't excuse the misguided folks out there who think that just because they have an opinion, it should be shared.

Personally, I don't have the time to go around and sniff out every bit of feedback about my patterns and respond to them. When I do encounter them, however, and the opinion expressed is so clearly ill-founded, it's frustrating not to be able to respond. (I freely admit that! I don't curl up into a ball and cry my eyes out, but it's bothersome.)


Craftsy review
Review of my Hot Hues Convertible Crossbody Fooler Bag...

The above is a review of my Hot Hues Convertible Crossbody FOOLER Bag PDF pattern. In this more recent post, I discussed how some people had inquired about the lack of a top opening.

The person who wrote this review must have difficulty reading and following instructions because on page 29 of the actual PDF, there is a heading for Close Up Top Seam. If the instructions underneath were then followed, she would never, ever, ever end up having to look "into a bag with the wrong sides of pockets and fluffy stuff showing on interior pieces".

And yet she writes that she "followed the instructions to the letter".

I was actually so appalled by this review that I revised the description of the pattern to address it. (I won't bore you with it here; if you're interested you can check it out by clicking through to my Pattern Shop from the menu bar across the top of the blog.) I also added a new photo of page 29 along with big bold text across it that says "THIS BAG DOES NOT HAVE AN OPENING ACROSS THE TOP".

Here is another:

Craftsy review
Review of my 5 Minute Lip Balm Carrier...

My lip balm carrier is literally the simplest thing I've ever made. This reviewer — who self-describes as a professional level quilter — was befuddled by it. Moreover, she seems to lean towards sarcasm with the quip that a "puzzle brain" is needed to complete this project. Oh, and although she couldn't figure it out, it was "quick". To be honest, this one struck me as being written by someone who was a few drinks over limit.

You see that "1" beside the "No" for Helpful? That was me.

Here's yet another:

Craftsy review
Review of my iPod/Mp3 Player/Gadget Case...

The iPod/Mp3 Player Carrying Case was one of my first freebie tutorials and also a very simple project. My issue with this quilter's review (is there a pattern here??) lies in her belief that she actually "bought" this pattern — let's be clear, it's free — and then deems it worthy of only 2/5 in terms of "value for money". Oh, and the title/complaint? Of course it's "not the same" when she freely admits that she changed some parts of it.

You see that "1" beside the "No"? That was me again.

I hate that these non-constructive reviews have actually encouraged bad behaviour on my part. Am I hiding behind the vengeful belief that if someone writes ridiculous reviews, they can be ridiculed in return?

Perhaps I should say "you just can't fix stupid" and leave it at that.

Oops... that's more bad behaviour, isn't it?

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Of course, I'm not the only one falling victim to the twice as many people express their dissatisfaction as satisfaction rule of thumb. I took a quick look through some freebie patterns by other Craftsy designers and found these dubious reviews among generally favourable ones.

Craftsy review
A reviewer who thinks that her opinion is of value despite never having made the project...

Even though this person has not yet made the bag, she gives the pattern 3 out of 5 stars. (By the way, the stars are interpreted as excellent, good, average, fair, poor. In my mind, if I were to recommend something, I'd better have a higher opinion of it than just "average".) This is also a free pattern, yet she rates it 3/5 on value for money. She has not yet followed the instructions, but they get a 3/5 also. Oh, and how much do you want to bet that she has not contacted the designer ever... yet there's a 4/5 rating on that.

(Speaking specifically to that point, I have other reviews on which I've been rated in that designer responsiveness category and I can honestly say I have never heard from those reviewers. Just as eBay doesn't let you rate the shipping when the shipping is free, Craftsy would do well to implement the same, or at least add an N/A option to some of these questions.)

Take a look at this one:

Craftsy review
A review by a person who thinks that just because she learns better by video, the pattern isn't good!

This reviewer also thinks that a free pattern is only worthy of 2/5 in terms of value for money. This whole review sounds as though the designer should have anticipated this person's difficulties and made something just for her.

And yet another:

Craftsy review
A review by a person who thinks a pattern should be customized for her...

Stating your wishes for what a free pattern could have been doesn't make for a valid review. I've made this analogy before: if I'm handing out free mac and cheese dinners and you decide to take one, any feedback you have about it shouldn't be that you wished it had been lasagna instead.

I'll go one step further and say that if it's free and you didn't like it but it didn't cause you health problems, then just zip it.

Not to focus on Craftsy for this whole post, let me turn to CreativeLive for this last example.

Slightly different now, because this is a review of Betz White's Build Your Own Tote: The Basic Bag course. It's the first of three classes that go through how to make a personalized tote bag. By the title alone, you know that it's basic and that it's a tote bag, arguably the most ubiquitous sewing project out there.

On CreativeLive, you start a review by giving a thumbs up or down on a general recommendation of the course. This was the only one to give it a thumbs down.

review of Betz White course on CreativeLive
A review of Betz White's Build Your Own Tote: The Basic Bag course on CreativeLive...

In this review of Betz's course, the reviewer starts by complaining that the class is for a beginner, which she herself isn't. And yet the rest of it seems to imply that she couldn't find any way — either through this class or elsewhere online — to make this bag without wasting her time. (Ironic that she didn't mind wasting her time doing all that googling, but I digress.) This is about a tote bag. And she complained about being frustrated because she was an experienced student. Why take a class for making a basic tote bag if you're "experienced"?

As I am with any reviews of my own creations, I don't have an issue with a negative review if you have a legitimate complaint. And by legitimate, I mean that you've read the description to know what you're buying in the first place. You then followed the instructions to make the project, but had issues. You then contacted me about those issues... but then I just didn't help you at all.

Or maybe you believe I promised something that the product just doesn't deliver.

Unless that's the case, leaping onto the nearest review platform to spew opinions — that are often contradictory and not based on fact — doesn't help anyone and likely discourages the designer. To top it off, it often makes the reviewer look bad. If a review helps no one and makes you look bad, why write it?

All things considered, I bemoan the essential lack of empathy and appreciation. People should turn the table around before writing and hitting "submit". Before slamming someone in this little independent crafting world with a less than glowing review (particularly when it's for a free item, OMG), it would just be nice to take a moment and sit in that other person's seat and consider, how might these comments be received?

Yeah, I know: I'm probably just preaching to a wall.

The people I'm talking about won't see this. Or they will and won't understand it because they don't have the patience to read properly... or because there aren't enough pictures... or a flippin' video.