Some Good Reasons to Avoid Adobe CC

When Adobe CC (aka. Adobe Creative Cloud) first came out I was intrigued. As someone in software design myself, I am not inherently opposed to a monthly/yearly licensing system, although I believe it needs to be done right and it has to be an option provided alongside the traditional “buy this software once, own it forever” style licensing. While the CC service isn’t right for my personal use (I have a commercial-use CS5 Master Suite that suits my needs), I signed up my company for the Creative Cloud for Teams version. Although there were undeniably some advantages to the CC suite (being able to use the software on any computer made it easy for me to work from home), the overall negatives are so bad that I absolutely do not recommend it.

1. One plan does NOT fit all

Despite numerous complaints about the lack of plan customizability, Adobe seems to have no interest in offering their customers options on what software and how much cloud space they want. After using CC for a few months, I realized that the price (7,000 yen–approximately 70USD–per month, per license) was extremely high given that Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign were the only software we were using. The 2GB cloud space was also not used, nor was there any need for it in the foreseeable future. Ultimately, I realized that I had set myself up to waste a lot of money I couldn’t afford to spend because of the rigid pricing plan setup.

2. An untenable contract

When I was signing up I didn’t think much about the “required one year” contract (to be absolutely clear: the one year contract was mandatory for the type of service I signed up for; there was no “month-to-month” option). I assumed at the time that I would try out the service for a year and then decide if I wanted to continue or not. It did not, but should have, occurred to me that “you’ll be billed 50% of your remaining contract obligation” was a huge red flag to stay away. I have dealt with some ridiculous cancellation policies, but this takes the cake. There is literally no valid reason to force your customers to pay 50% of a service for a product they can no longer use. I will say it again: Adobe has absolutely no justification for forcing users who quit within their first year to pay 50% for services that won’t ever be rendered. It is greedy, and it is wrong.

3. Poor handling of payment

A second red flag I ignored when signing up for CC was that they required a credit card for their service. Any good online service offers their clientele options: credit card and automatic bank pay are the two standard, with other options including services such as PayPal and (in Japan) Pay-easy. Adobe only supports credit card, and as of May 2014, they don’t allow pre-paid cards such as the one that I use for my company.

And the problems with payment don’t end there: there are no options to control when/how you pay. You give them your credit card information and they bill you each month automatically. If there is a problem, the system automatically re-tries once a week until your account becomes inactive due to non-payment. There is no option, not even going through customer service, that allows you to bill outside of the rigid and unforgiving automatic system. Again, any good online service offers their clientele options such as pay for a year, pay the balance due immediately, etc.

4. Extremely poor customer service

Adobe’s help page has been described as “labyrinthine” with good reason. Navigating their FAQ is bad enough, but actually getting to a page where you can get in touch with customer service is nigh impossible. You can’t use a search engine to get the information you want because they restrict access to the page with the customer service links to logged in users only and you can only find that page by searching through all of the links on their unhelpful “help” site. Woe to anyone who tries to navigate based on their “helpful” support form.

If that wasn’t bad enough, they charge you money (for me it was 10 yen a minute) to access their telephone help line, which has a ridiculous amount of menus and an inability to immediately go to an operator (which caused frustration when I was trying to get another callback from a staff member whose call I missed). And they charge you money to sit there and listen to all the ways that the support staff aren’t authorized to help you!

Between two days I spent about 3 hours of time on the phone trying to get my payment problem fixed and the phrase I heard most often was “I am sorry, but I can’t do that.”/”I am sorry, but I’m not authorized to help you with that.” While I do not think that the customer is always right, I do think that if I am paying 14,000 yen a month PLUS 10 yen a minute to your company that your support staff have an obligation to get my problem fixed or let me out of my contract without hassle. Adobe obviously does not feel that way.

No matter how many times I tried to explain that I wanted out of my contract because customer service was failing/refusing to fix my problem, the cancellation representative could only reply with, “There is nothing I can do about that. Unless I hear back from support that there is nothing they can do to even temporarily fix your problem, you are going to be held to the 50% repayment if you cancel.” So, not only does Adobe refuse to let their cancellation representatives offer compromises in an effort to work with their (likely soon to be ex-)customers, they also put me in the position that if my problem was fixable in the short-term but not the long-term that I would not be able to get out of my contract, even though Adobe was failing to provide me with the full extent of the services I was paying a steep monthly fee for. Which basically says to me, “You are paying us money and have to fulfill your end of the obligations, but we are a powerful company and in no way hold ourselves to providing you with the service we led you to expect. Nor will we release you from your contract unless there is absolutely no way around it, even if you run up against the same exact problem every month.”

By not authorizing their customer service staff to work with clients, Adobe is making it harder for customers to continue using their services. I flat out told the cancellation representative and I will flat out say it now: after all the shit I was put through over a payment issue that should have been a non-issue and after the way that none of the customer service representatives were able to work with me on getting a speedy resolution to my problem, even if I had to stick out the rest of the one-year contract there was no way in hell I was renewing.

Now, it turns out that my story has a bit of a happy ending. Because Adobe changed their credit card policy (with, I should add, no notice given to me) in a way that made it impossible for me to pay, the contract was terminated without any additional fees (not even the month of use that I had been trying to pay for). Ultimately this will save my company a lot of money, even though I now have to spend the time figuring out what software to use instead of CC (the first thing I am planning on trying out are the free, open source software alternatives: Gimp, Inkscape, and Scribus). Normally I would have just bought the one-time license versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign–which I had been considering doing after the one-year contract was up–but Adobe’s service was so terrible that now I want to avoid buying any of their products if possible.

So, for those of you interested in checking out CC, all I can say is: Buyer beware! Adobe makes nice products, but their service is terrible and their contract sets you up to be screwed out of a lot of money.

Posted in Personal | Tagged | 1 Comment

On slut-shaming, deleting comments, and respectful discourse

ETA 2011/03/06: It turns out that my comments were marked as spam, not deleted; they have now been published. For some reason Blogspot, unlike WordPress (which most of my experience is with), displays your comment as properly posted after you hit the “post comment” button, even when it’s been marked as spam. I’m leaving the post up, but most of what I was talking about no longer applies to this specific situation.

ETA 2011/04/24: I am closing comments because at this point I don’t think there is any more productive discussion to be had on the subject. The last 2 or 3 comments, which have not made it past moderation because they have been in blatant violation of several of this blog’s discussion rules, have been nothing but abuse of me that ignores the fact that 1) I’ve made the above retraction, and 2) that Wundergeek and I have resolved the situation amicably and with no hard feelings. This post will remain because I take responsibility for my words, even when I have said things that later turn out to be wrong, but as of now the subject is closed for discussion.

Go Make Me a Sandwich is a blog by an artist and gamer called Wundergeek that’s starting to gain some readership and respect within the online feminist gamer community. I write this post because I feel that if I do not make a public record then many people in that community — a community I care very much about — may never be aware of the kinds of lines Wundergeek draws when it comes to what she does, and does not, allow in her space.

This all began as me grumping on twitter about feminists who slut-shame (inspired in part because of how often I noticed while reading Go Make Me a Sandwich, which had made it to my “Read Sometimes” list, Wundergeek calling scantily clad female characters sluts/slutty/etc) and progressed into an internet discussion/argument on slut-shaming language. I had been debating writing a comment calling Wundergeek out on her slut-shaming. I have very little time to waste on futile efforts and while a feminist should understand how to gracefully take being called out, in my experience a lot of feminists just shut down and stick their fingers in their ears. After reading one of the posts I linked, Maverynthia decided to call Wundergeek out. The argument spilled over to a different post and because I had respect for Wundergeek’s deconstructions of the depictions of female characters, figured (wrongly) that it was worth my time to try explaining the problem. Continue reading

Posted in Personal, Popular Culture, Sex, sexuality, and sexual politics | 10 Comments

This is why I hardly read blogs anymore

In the past year the amount of (feminist) blogs that I read regularly, or even on an occasional basis, has shrunk to fit on one hand. Literally, aside from keeping up with Iris, the only blogs I regularly read are Hoyden About Town, The Border House, Geek Feminism, Sociological Images, and Shakesville. That’s it. There are a few more that I’ll browse when I’ve already read everything on the above blogs.

Until today, Tiger Beatdown was on the latter list. Now, the writing style of the blog has always rubbed me a bit the wrong way because of how easy it is to cross the line from pointed sarcastic critique to being just plain mean. The posts I had read had seemed to be careful to keep it pointedly sarcastic, though, so I figured I’d stick to a casual readership until I had reason not to. Continue reading

Posted in Anti-oppression activism, Feminism, Privilege, The Evil -ism's | 6 Comments

New post at Better by Design

Just posting here to let everyone know that I’ve written a post about sexism in Stardock’s new game Elemental: War of Magic over at Better by Design: Stardock’s Elemental and what it says about the state of games

Here’s an excerpt:

The Unit Design chooses facial features (eyes, face shape, skin color, etc) randomly, but allows you to customize unit weapons, armor, equipment, clothing, and hair… but not sex. Yes, you heard me: the Unit Design function does not enable you to choose the sex of your units. At least not by default. It turns out that only races who choose the Egalitarian bonus (at the cost of one point) are able to have both male and female units. The campaign faction is not egalitarian; in fact, only the Kingdom of Tarth is. So, breaking down the makeup of the default factions: only 1 out of 10 of the factions (10% of the total factions) allows for the creation of female units, while 90% (9 factions) force male unit creation, and 0% (0 factions) force female unit creation.

Posted in Gender issues, Link Blogging, Privilege, The Evil -ism's, Video Games | Comments Off

Moved to WPMU

Some of you might notice that the blog has a new look; this is because I’ve moved over to WPMU and am using the new default WordPress theme. Still busy with school, still no time to blog, though. Sorry!

PS. For the first time in the blog’s history I’ve enabled user registration, so if you’re interested go ahead and sign up. This installation of WPMU uses BuddyPress, so registered users can have access to a few fun social networking style features. Right now not much is set up, but if anyone wants to me add profile fields or whatever, leave a comment here or MSG me and I’ll see what I can do.

Posted in Shrub.com Related | Comments Off

Brian Ashcraft, let me do your homework for you

In Kotaku’s grand tradition of shoddy reporting and lack of any decent research, Brian Ashcraft has written an impassioned but so supremely hypocritical article on the RapeLay controversy (link roundup) that I felt compelled to briefly bring this blog temporary out of retirement in order to take it down. Since this topic is triggering, the rest of the article will be behind the cut. Continue reading

Posted in Abuse, rape, and domestic violence, Japan, Pornography, Sex, sexuality, and sexual politics, The Evil -ism's, Video Games | 11 Comments

Ableism is not feminism. Spread the word.

I know this blog is in retirement (my internet time these days is practically nill), but when I saw Meloukhia’s An Open Letter to Feministing (hat-tip: Hoyden About Town) I had to cosign it.

Yes, it’s that important.

Posted in Anti-oppression activism, Feminism, Privilege, The Evil -ism's | 2 Comments

Update on AmazonFail

First off, it has been noted that the de-ranking wasn’t limited to GLBT issues and erotica, but also notably affected books on disability and sexuality as well as feminist books, books on sexuality, and books on topics such as suicide prevention and rape.

In terms of the massive PR fail that has been going on, Amazon went from the vague and not very credible “glitch” explanation to this:

This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles – in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon’s main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we’re in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

Here are some good posts that point out the flaws with Amazon’s explanation:
This Is Not A Glitch, #amazonfail
Seattle PI has new #amazonfail statement
Amazon’s censorship sparks angry protests
Amazon Rep: This was not a “glitch”
Amazon Is Embarrassed By “Ham-Fisted Cataloging Error”

There’s also the disconcerting parallel between the pattern of the feature/glitch/whatever showing up on books from smaller presses first and only after some time has passed does it start showing up on books where people are likely to notice. As Lilith Saintcrow explains:

Now. Do you remember the Amazon POD fiasco? Cliffs Notes version: Amazon tried to take over a significant chunk of the print-on-demand industry by quietly removing “buy” buttons from small-press POD publishers who didn’t use Amazon’s POD service. The buttons would come back–if you switched to Amazon’s POD service, in essence giving them a bigger cut. It was greed pure and simple, and they started it with smaller presses and only backed off when there was a bit of a hullabaloo and larger presses (who still use POD technology) banded together to tell Amazon where to stick it.

We have the same pattern with AmazonFail. First very small press/authors are targeted, probably to gauge how big of a stink they’ll raise. If Amazon is not convinced the outcry will outweigh the (perhaps perceived) profits, it slowly mounts until Amazon has captured what it wants. The fact that Amazon has shot itself in the foot with this does not mean it wasn’t a deliberate step taken with another end in mind.

We also need to examine the implications behind Amazon having paid someone money to code this feature — regardless of whether this incident was a policy, a “glitch”, a mistake or whatever. Patrick does this in his post Amazonfail & The Cost of Freedom:

Think for a second about what Amazon did here. In the world of ecommerce, the search is king. Almost everybody who shops online visits a site to find a specific product. By intentionally obscuring and manipulating the search results of your site, you are making a clear statement: We don’t want you to read these books. I can tell you from experience that if something is difficult to find through a search, it will not sell. Not only was this a suspicious action on Amazon’s part, it had the potential to be very “successful” (ie, it would’ve greatly decreased the sales of those titles).

After quoting the above, Lilith Saintcrow responds with:

Exactly. This powerful weapon was created FOR A REASON. No company spends money on a tool that powerful that they don’t intend on using. A huge squawk over it being used improperly one time will not stop it from being used improperly in the future as soon as the hubbub dies down–but greater choice in Internet suppliers might.

In terms of how I’m feeling about the issue, Amazon isn’t getting my money even if it does offer an apology. I feel pretty much the way that are pretty much summed up in Kelley Eskridge’s take on Amazonfail from a managerial perspective:

Amazon is perceived right now as everything from deeply clueless to desperately stonewalling to deliberately deceptive. And of all the errors you can make as a manager, this is the worst — to communicate in a way that distances people even further. Amazon will never fully regain credibility with many of its customers, and they have no one to blame but themselves. They gave a generic “Daddy’s working on it” answer to a deeply divisive situation; they communicated “at” stakeholders instead of directly to them, on their own online turf; and they have so far refused to engage with the notion that people aren’t just curious or concerned, they are offended.

Lilith Saintcrow’s amazonfail-related entries is probably the most comprehensive breakdown I’ve seen yet and I would highly recommend reading through all of them.

Posted in Books, magazines, etc., Companies Behaving Badly, Discrimination, Feminism, Sex, sexuality, and sexual politics, The Evil -ism's | Comments Off

Amazon censors women and queer people

So, I’m sure everyone has heard by now, but Amazon has recently made the decision to remove the sales rankings of so-called “adult” books in order to ensure that they don’t show up in some searches (like the default search) and bestseller lists.

Their rationale? The censoring books primarily written by and for queer people (and, in the case of erotica, some non-queer women as well) was done “[i]n consideration of our entire customer base”:

“In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.”

Just to be clear, the criteria for the “adult” material that they’re using is pretty damn sketchy:

But as an online petition points out the following publications remain on the sales ranking system:

-Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds by Chronicle Books (pictures of over 600 naked women)
–Rosemary Rogers’ Sweet Savage Love” (explicit heterosexual romance);
–Kathleen Woodiwiss’ The Wolf and the Dove (explicit heterosexual romance);
–Bertrice Smal’s Skye o’Malley which are all explicit heterosexual romances
–and Alan Moore’s Lost Girls (which is a very explicit sexual graphic novel)

while the following LGBT books have been removed:

–Radclyffe Hill’s classic novel about lesbians in Victorian times, The Well of Loneliness, and which contains not one sentence of sexual description;
–Mark R Probst’s YA novel The Filly about a young man in the wild West discovering that he’s gay (gay romance, no sex);
–Charlie Cochrane’s Lessons in Love (gay romance with no sex);
–The Dictionary of Homophobia: A Global History of Gay & Lesbian Experience, edited by Louis-George Tin (non-fiction, history and social issues);
–and Homophobia: A History by Bryan Fone (non-fiction, focus on history and the forms prejudice against homosexuality has taken over the years).

There’s already a push to google bomb them by creating the phrase “amazon rank” as a synonym for being censored in regards to queer and/or erotic material (with careful attention to inconsistent logic). It’s made at least one newspaper, a letter writing campaign, and there’s even an online petition.

Here’s the letter I wrote to their customer service:

To whom it may concern,

I am one of the many who was shocked and disappointed by Amazon’s recent decision to remove the sales rankings of certain books in order to keep them from showing up on most searches and bestseller lists. As I am sure many others have said, the criteria for “adult” that the company has chosen to apply is inconsistent and ill-thought-out. Regardless of intention, the result of this decision was to further marginalize already marginalized groups such as women and queer people while leaving the explicit material of privileged groups such as men and heterosexuals largely untouched.

I find this level of lack of foresight and competence in a company unacceptable. For a web-based company, the decision to change even one part of the fundamental structure of its website is something that needs to be undertaken with great caution, thought, and care. In this case, before anything was done those in charge needed to clearly define the criteria for labeling a product “adult”, doing everything possible to ensure that said definition was as internally consistent and free of bias as possible.

By focusing on queer books (regardless of actual explicit content) and erotica (a genre with primarily female authors) while leaving clearly explicit but more normalized versions of “adult” material intact, Amazon has created an image for itself as a company that supports homophobia and sexism. I may be only one person, but I am still part of Amazon’s “entire customer base” and I do not feel that Amazon took my interests into “consideration” at all when the decision was made to make it harder for me to find books on queer theory, DVDs about the queer experience, and depictions of romance and sex written by women for women.

Before this happened I had intended to make a sizable purchase of various books, DVDs, and games from your site, but I cannot in good conscience support your site while this policy is in effect. I hope that this decision will be rescinded quickly with a full public apology given to the authors whose sales you have hurt and the customers who you have inconvenienced, and that any further consideration into the separation of adult material from non-adult material will be undertaken with much more deliberation and care than was taken with the current policy.

Sincerely,
Andrea Rubenstein

Amazon’s doing this has, obviously, pissed me off. Even more so because, living in Japan, I don’t have easy access to the kinds of English books and DVDs that I consume on a regular basis and therefore was gearing up to do a major purchase so my dad could bring it to me when he comes to visit. Now I need to take my shopping elsewhere, which will create more hassle for me than working with a company that already has my information on file. But, really, when the decision comes down to hassle versus supporting a company that obviously disdains me and my interests I’ll take the former any day.

For those of you interested in knowing more, here’s a link farm.

Via Tamora Pierce.

Posted in Anti-oppression activism, Books, magazines, etc., Censorship, Companies Behaving Badly, Gender issues, Privilege, Queer Issues, Sex, sexuality, and sexual politics, The Evil -ism's | 2 Comments

All the RE5 discussion needed was a Nice White Gamer

Dear Nice White Gamers,

I am glad that you, unlike the Not Nice Gamers, understand that we don’t live in a post-racial world. It’s nice that you’re able to see the the word “racism” in the same paragraph as “video games” and not launch into the “it’s just a game!”-type knee-jerk reactions that can be summed up as, “”Gamers want games to be taken seriously until they’re taken seriously, and then they don’t want them taken seriously” (hat-tip: Kieron Gillen via Brinstar).

But, Nice White Gamers, you do not deserve the plate of cookies you’re passing around. And, even if you did deserve those cookies, you should not be passing them around. This is because (among other reasons) white people patting other white people on the back for being aware of racism is, in itself, kind of racist.

If a post, written by a Nice White Gamer over a year after the first criticism (made by a POC 1 I might add) was linked in the gaming blogsphere, that offers a shallow interpretation and no links to the more in-depth criticism that has been posted is “the first time I’ve read people actually thoughtfully examine the perception problems of RE5″, you need to stop and think about why it is that you are ignorant of the plethora of writings made by POC (especially when a simple google search of “racism” and “Resident Evil 5″ will at least give you a starting point). I’ll give you a hint, it’s something referred to in anti-oppression circles as privilege.

On that subject, it is a Nice Person fallacy that “considerate” conversation is praiseworthy in every situation. Yes, I know we’re taught the whole “you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” line, but “politeness” isn’t a neutral concept. Praising someone who said something bigoted for phrasing it and/or the ensuing discussion “politely” privileges politeness over not saying something bigoted. It puts you on their side instead of the side of the non-privileged individual/group that was targeted by the bigoted remark.

Let me give you a tip, from one Nice White Gamer to another: you aren’t as nice as you think you are. Being one small step above the Not Nice Gamers, who are blatantly racist and/or deny that racism is still a problem, is not praiseworthy; it’s the bare minimum. And, as long as you continue to be satisfied with having only the bare minimum level of awareness, your continued cluelessness regarding oppression and how it operates (and how you, as a white person, benefit from racist systems) will continue to perpetuate harm on POC. In the grand scheme of things, that puts you not on the side of anti-racism, but rather on the same side as the Not Nice Gamers.

For those of you who want to raise the bar and confront your own racism and privilege (in the process hopefully becoming an ally), I’ll give you some advice. Take a breather from posting your thoughts on racism and start doing some reading on the subject. Lurk in forums that regularly have discussions on race, racism, (and for bonus marks, other issues such as gender and sexuality), but don’t participate in those discussions until you have at least a base level understanding of how racism/oppression works and how people (including you) wittingly and unwittingly contribute to it.

Even if you aren’t interested in raising the bar, for the love of little green apples, at least have the decency to keep your thoughts (as they are on something you know very little about) to yourself. If you think a discussion on racism is something you want to post about on your blog, then link what other people (preferably POC) have said on the issue. But don’t act as an authority on the issue (or allow yourself to be praised as one) and don’t act as if your thoughts are new or revolutionary when they’re not (hint: linking other people who have said similar things avoids this misconception).

Seriously.

Sincerely,
A Pissed off Anti-oppression Activist Gamer Nice White Lady


1 POC stands for Person/People Of Color; it is the current standard in most anti-oppression movements for referencing anyone who isn’t white. Sometimes, especially in feminist spaces, you will see the term WOC, Woman/Women of Color. Note to Nice White People: know these terms, use these terms.

* My title is a reference to the “What These People Need Is a Honky” trope, which can be summed up as:

White guy flees from his own culture for personal reasons (to set him up as different from those with white privilege). White guy meets natives. Natives educate white guy. White guy learns the way of natives, possibly also converting a native person who was originally doubtful of him, thereby proving white guy’s worthiness. White guy fights for naties. White guy makes dramatic escape while the native guy dies, possibly trying to help the white guy. The movie then ends with a dramatic coda and captions that inform the audience that despite white guy’s triumph, the Situation Remains Dire.

The key to all this is that the entire movie is about the white guy’s personal growth and realization and that people of color serve only to further the white guy’s epiphanies.

I leave it to you, Nice White Gamers, to figure out the connection between that and my open letter.

Posted in Anti-oppression activism, Privilege, Racism, Video Games | 13 Comments