Would you trust these proofreading companies?

23 03 2017

I’ve written before on the subject of so-called ‘predatory’ journals – essentially unscrupulous or even downright fake open access publishing companies that will pretty much publish anything if you are willing to pay for it. I quite often get emails from these companies asking me to submit my “eminent research” in some completely random field, or even trying to recruit me as a reviewer or Associate Editor.

Recently, a new – and I suspect not unrelated – form of spam has started hitting my inbox: companies offering me their proofreading services.

As an academic editor and proofreader myself, I’m hardly ever likely to want to use someone else’s services, so I tried unsubscribing from these emails (not that I had ever subscribed in the first place, of course!). Unfortunately, this seemed to have the opposite desired effect: instead of removing me from a mailing list, I seemed to get added to it again, such that I started to get multiple emails per day from the same companies!

I also started noticing patterns. The first batch of emails I received was from a company called Cognoscenti. But then I started getting very similar emails from another company called Swift Proofreading… then Donnish… then SpringerEdit. In fact, to date, I have received spam from so-called proofreading companies going by eight different names! (Skip to the end to see the full list, plus some others I’ve discovered!)

Now, I’ve never used any of these companies, and I don’t know anyone who has, so who am I to say they are not legitimate? All I ask is that if you are considering using one of these companies, just read the following and make up your own mind as to whether you think you can trust them… (And if you decide you can’t, why not drop me an email! 😉 )

Here are a few things that definitely do not add up: 

  • All of these companies use a pretty much identical website theme.
  • Several of them have used almost exactly the same blurb on their home pages:
    • “Swift Proofreaders is one of the leading online editing and proofreading firms. Our company’s primary objective is to provide users with swift, proficient, and affordable editing and proofreading services.”
    • “Phoenix Proofreading is one of the leading online editing and proofreading firms. Our company’s primary objective is to provide users with professional, proficient, and affordable editing and proofreading services.”
    • “Donnish Proofreaders is one of the world’s leading online editing and proofreading companies. Our company’s primary objective is to provide clients with prompt, professional, and affordable editing and proofreading services.”
    • “Cognoscenti is one of the leading online editing and proofreading firms. Our company’s primary objective is to provide users with professional, proficient, and affordable editing and proofreading services.”
  • Given that these are supposedly proofreading companies that claim “error-free work”, some of them have some suspiciously bad spelling and grammar, e.g.:
    • “Manuscript must be submitted in the Ms-Word document.”
    • “Donnish Proofreaders offers moderate charges, as it also depends on the volume of your research work in question.”
    • “Savant Proofreading give your manuscript the attention they deserve.”
  • Most of these companies do not list their editors. OK, they don’t have to, but of those that do, the names all seem suspiciously generic and I have not been able to verify a single one.

Who Is it?

Oh and hey, you know what else is interesting? Despite the fact that the spam I get from these companies all indicates that they are based in the USA, UK or Canada, a quick Who Is check reveals that the domains were in fact all registered by one of two people: a Clinton Clarke, or an Erumevwa Ebenezer, both from the same town… in Nigeria.

What’s more, SpringerEdit (do you think genuine publishing giant Springer might have something to say about that name?) and Cognoscenti, which were both registered by Ebenezer, are associated with the email address, “swiftjournals@gmail.com”. Swift Proofreading, registered by Clarke, is associated with another of his websites called – you’ve guessed it – Swift Journals (and there’s that familiar looking site template again…). A Google search on the Swift Journals Gmail address reveals that Ebenezer is associated with 17 different domain names (including some I’ve already mentioned, and some that no longer exist), all with a common proofreading or publishing theme.

What about Mr Clarke? A Google search on his email address reveals that he is associated with over 100 different domains! Some of these have already been mentioned, others hint at similar proofreading or publishing services, but others include names suggesting pay day loans, courier services, and one has a domain name very similar to that of a global banking corporation, which flags up a “Dangerous” phishing warning if you try to go to the URL…

Decide for yourselves…

Here is a list of domains associated with “proofreading companies” I have found (so far!) that all fit this pattern. There may be others! All of these are associated with “publishing companies” with the same names, too. Let me know if you come across any others!

How to spot an AirBnb scam

2 03 2017

Given my previous research into fakers and scammers on freelancing platforms, I’m almost ashamed to admit that I very, very nearly fell for a scam myself recently! This time, however, it was on the holiday apartment rental site AirBnb.

What is AirBnb?

airbnb_logo_belo-svgAirBnb was founded by some cash-strapped tech guys from San Francisco who started renting out an air mattress on the floor of their apartment to delegates attending Silicon Valley congresses. They built a platform to allow others to do the same, and the idea grew to something akin to a paid-for version of Couchsurfing, where you can rent spare rooms and second homes. Now, allegedly, AirBnb is the world’s largest accommodation booking site, and it’s increasingly used by short-term lettings agencies as well as the more traditional AirBnb ‘hosts’.

I’ve used AirBnb loads of times, and have had a fantastic experience each and every time. My husband and I have been hosted by an Emirati property developer in Dubai and an airline pilot in Gothenburg, rented a harbourside apartment in Nice and a casita in the Texan desert. I’ve used AirBnb for business trips, whether alone in a 1-bedroom apartment near to the Minneapolis Convention Centre, or with colleagues in a villa with private pool in Brazil. Most recently, and closer to home, my husband and I and 4 friends rented a beautiful apartment together for a weekend city break in Bath.



This amazing Barcelona AirBnb for 6 people, with roof terrace and private pool, can be yours, but it’ll cost you over £400 a night, not £300…

Fresh from that trip to Bath, myself and the same group of friends are now looking into taking a mini-break in Barcelona – and since we all enjoyed our previous AirBnb experiences, why wouldn’t we do it again?

We found this apartment: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/1025760 – a stunning 3/4 bedroom duplex with a private pool and roof terrace hosted by a lettings agency called Valencia Luxury. Alas, it was much more expensive than any of us wanted to pay.

But hang on, what’s this!? The same apartment, listed by someone called “Sofie“, for over £100 per night cheaper? https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/14373796 (NB: these links have been reported and may now be inactive.)

We did think it was a little strange that the same apartment would be listed twice at two completely different prices, but having never had a bad experience with AirBnb before, I trusted the site and wondered if perhaps the same apartment was managed by more than one lettings agency. Also, sometimes larger apartments are listed more than once if the hosts rent out the rooms separately, as well an entire place.

Sofie’s listing, the cheaper of the two, contained an email address and requested that anyone interested in booking should contact this email to check availability. My friend did so, and received a prompt and friendly reply asking us to send a contact name, address and phone number, as well as a copy of a piece of photographic ID and a utility bill so as to receive “pre-approval” for the property via AirBnb. They then provided lots of helpful information about how, once pre-approved, the payment process would take place through AirBnb’s secure payment system.

Since I have an AirBnb discount voucher to spend and lots of positive reviews on my AirBnb account, my friend passed over communication with the host to me. I had actually drafted an email in reply, and was just looking for a utility bill to scan when my husband came home and said, “Er, is it such a good idea to send all that personal information over email? Why do they want a utility bill?!”

Dodged a bullet


FYI, it is forbidden to include contact details in AirBnb listings or AirBnb messages. Click to enlarge and notice that the email address provided here has spaces in it to stop it being automatically detected and removed.

I instantly felt very stupid! I have a verified AirBnb account, which means that when I submit a booking request through the AirBnb website or app, the host can be assured that I have already provided verified contact details and ID – there should have been no need to send all this information in advance, especially not via email. However, still not quite ready to believe that we were being scammed, I sent a message to “Sofie” via the AirBnb message system, confirming our dates and asking her to pre-approve us that way. Funnily enough, I have not yet heard anything from her.

In the meantime, I did some research. Using a Google reverse image search on one of the AirBnb photos, I discovered that the apartment we were interested in is also listed on Valencia Luxury’s own website. Valencia Luxury seems to be a reputable outfit, with hundreds of positive reviews going back several years, a fully verified AirBnb account, and a 100% response rate to AirBnb messages.

Conversely, ‘Sofie’s’ listing gave almost no information about the apartment, other than the same photos as the Valencia Luxury listing, an email address to contact and the message, “PLEASE do not book before you contact me! All the bookings made without prior contact will be canceled!” It also had no reviews.


Sofie’s profile was conspicuous in its emptiness…

On checking the Who Is record for the domain name of the email address (rent17.eu, FYI – a blank website), I discovered it was only registered in January 2017 by someone known only by a Gmail address (A John Greenwood, not a Sofie). Sofie’s AirBnb profile was only established in August 2016, gave no biography or information, was not fully verified, and she had a dismal 42% message response rate.


I messaged Valencia Luxury and they advised me that they are the legitimate owners of the apartment. The other listing, not authorised by them, is indeed part of a scam.

Scam research

Searching online for details of other AirBnb scams, to my surprise (though I’m not sure why it was a surprise!) I found that lots of people have had similar experiences. Here are a few examples reported in The GuardianThe Huffington Post, and this one in The Telegraph, which also concerned an apartment in Barcelona!

A common thread running through these stories was that, in each case, the host and guest had been in contact by email. Sometimes, as in our case, the host specified an email address on the AirBnb listing (which I now know is completely against AirBnb’s terms of service), but sometimes the correspondence was initiated through the AirBnb site, with the host later claiming that the message platform wasn’t working so the conversation continued by email.

Phishing for info

But, in her email to us, why did “Sofie” take the trouble to explain that payment would be conducted via the AirBnb system and harp on about how secure it was? Because, if we had provided the information she requested (which, in itself would give plenty of ammo to use for identity theft!), the likelihood is that we would have been “pre-approved” via an email purporting to be from AirBnb but with a subtly altered email address. That phishing email would then link to a fake website to process payment….which would not have gone to AirBnb, or secured our reservation on the apartment, it would have just vanished from my bank account never to be seen again.

How to spot an AirBnb scam

I have loved using AirBnb and this experience won’t put me off using the site, but I will be far, far more careful in future! Here are my top tips for how to spot an AirBnb scam.

  1. NEVER EVER contact an AirBnb host via email. ALWAYS use the on-site or in-app messaging system. It can be confusing because if you receive a message via the official platform, you do also receive that message via text and/or email, and you can reply directly to the platform via those emails as well. However, scammers often use fake email addresses that are subtly different from the official AirBnb ones. To be on the safe side, always access and reply to your messages from within your logged-in AirBnb profile, and never click on links in emails – they could redirect you to a very convincing phishing site. Furthermore, it is against AirBnb’s terms of service for the host or the guest to provide their contact details (including email addresses, phone numbers, Skype usernames) before a booking is confirmed, so if a host asks you to email before this stage, it’s definitely dodgy.
  2. Check out the host’s reviews. Of course, there are genuine hosts who don’t have any reviews yet simply because they are new, but for the novice AirBnb user, the safest thing is to choose a host who has some history, e.g. positive reviews and a verified account. Better still, some experienced hosts are even awarded “Superhost” status, meaning that they are fully verified and vetted and have received consistently excellent reviews.
  3. Check out the host’s profile. Most AirBnb user profiles have a completed biography section in which they tell you about themselves. In our case, “Sofie’s” biography was completely blank. This can indicate a new host who hasn’t filled out their profile yet, but I would argue that if they are serious about listing their place, they should take the time to give you some information. As I’ve found out with freelancing platforms, scammers are often repeat offenders, so if one profile gets closed down, they’ll simply open a new one. Tracking scammers can become a bit like a game of digital whack-a-mole. Check when the profile was created and if it’s very new, has no or a very brief biography, and no reviews, proceed with caution.
  4. Check out the host’s response rate and response time. The “The Host” section on a given AirBnb listing will tell you their response rate to AirBnb messages. In our case, Valencia Luxury’s response rate was 100%, and their response time “within an hour”. Sofie’s, on the other hand, was a dismal 42% within “a few days or more”. Clearly she doesn’t like AirBnb’s paper trail…
  5. Use Google Reverse Image Search. This is a trick I’ve used a lot to find out whether freelancers’ profile photos are likely to be genuine. Right-click on a photo of the apartment listed on AirBnb. If you’re using Google Chrome, there is an option to directly “Search Google for this image”. If you’re not on Chrome, right-click and select “Copy image URL” (or your browser’s equivalent wording). Then, go to www.google.com/images, click the camera icon on the search bar and paste the URL. Google searches its indexed pages for websites using this image. It doesn’t always return results, but when I did this, I found the apartment listed on Valencia Luxury’s own website, so I knew that *that* listing was the real one. You can also use this trick on the host’s profile picture. Again, it doesn’t always return results, but when I’ve done this with Freelancer profiles, I’ve found that (for example) “Bob Smith’s” photo was actually pinched from “Dave Jones'” Facebook profile, or that it’s stolen from some random website.
  6. Be suspicious and ask questions. If, as in our case, you find two similar listings by two different hosts, message both hosts (through AirBnb, of course) and ask them to explain. Apartments can be listed more than once if rooms are rented out separately, and hosts who own similar apartments within the same building do sometimes use the same, or very similar photos to list different properties. However, whole apartments should not appear on AirBnb more than once. When you think about it, it doesn’t even make sense to do this if genuine – why have two listings with an average number of reviews, when you could have one awesome listing with lots of reviews?

Anyway, I hope this blog post is helpful! If you have any other tips then please leave a comment below!

Are online freelancing platforms creating ‘digital sweatshops’?

12 04 2016

Image: marisaorton, via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In an effort to tear myself away from my time-sucking, one-woman mission to save humanity from the perils and pitfalls of online freelancing platforms, I haven’t blogged here for a long time, so hello!

However, today, while flicking through Asia Research 2016 magazine for an entirely different reason, I came across an article that I found very interesting, so I wanted to share it with my followers (crikey, there are 622 of you now!).

The article, “Exploring the global flow of digital labour,” (see page 10 of digi-mag) describes a project by Professor Mark Graham (Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford) and collaborators to investigate the structure of virtual production networks in Africa and Southeast Asia.

In the article, Professor Graham questions whether virtual workplaces, such as Upwork and Freelancer.com, really are addressing unemployment gaps through globalisation of the labour market, or whether they are exploiting people in low-income countries in what he terms “digital sweatshops”. Indeed, data from oDesk highlighted in the article suggests that the demand for virtual employees comes from wealthy western countries, while the labour itself comes from low-income countries, with “labour sellers” acting as middle-men in emerging economies.

Here on my own blog I have expressed my concerns about the exploitation of cheap foreign labour through online platforms, particularly when it involves unethical practices such as plagiarism, copyright theft and black hat marketing. It seems I’m not the only one who is worried about these things, and whether governments and freelancing platform companies are doing enough to safeguard workers who receive minimal pay and next to no social protection.

Partnering with the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and funded by the International Development Research Centre of Canada, a goal of Professor Graham’s research is to identify areas where policies might be implemented or improved to help young and other vulnerable people benefit from the online workplace, and to protect them from digital exploitation.

I look forward to reading more about this work!

Open Access and the Problem of Predatory Publishers

8 02 2015

Last year, I had two scientific papers published in the Journal of Experimental Botany (here, and here, if you’re interested!). For one of these, I was the first author, which was incredibly exciting! Little ol’ me, without so much as a Masters, let alone a PhD, with a publication record! Hurrah!

However, being a published author brings certain annoyances, largely the problem of ‘predatory’ journals.

A librarian chap called Jeffrey Beall has come up with a list of so-called ‘predatory’ journals and publishers – you can find the list here, and a PDF of his selection criteria here. Essentially, unlike ‘proper’ open access publishers, which have rigorous policies and editorial and peer review systems in place, predatory journals will publish just about anything as long as you give them money. They often have bogus editorial boards (or boards made up of people you’ve never heard of), do not peer review manuscripts or have a rigorous process for doing so, and despite many claiming to be based in the US or UK, they all seem to be terribly bad at English spelling and grammar.

In recent months, I’ve had countless emails from companies – without exception all appearing on the Beall’s List – inviting me to submit a manuscript. Given that both of my published papers appear in the Journal of Experimental Botany, I’m not quite sure why these companies feel that I will have anything to offer on the subject of meteorology, or archaeological research, but there you go. Really, they’ve just scraped my email address from J Ex Bot and are trying their luck. It’s very annoying.

A month or so ago, I also had an email inviting me to become an Associate Editor for a predatory journal. Er, what? I used to work for BioMed Central so I know all about the criteria a potential AE needs to fulfil – a strong record of highly cited publications, society or association leadership, extensive experience of being a referee or other senior editorial positions, etc. I don’t want to put myself down here, but it’s fair to say I’m not qualified to be an AE. I have two published papers. Two. No PhD. Plenty of experience of copy editing manuscripts, but none in peer reviewing them. I’ve joined a couple of societies to get cheaper conference registration fees, but I’ve certainly never held a position of responsibility at one. In short, if they want me to be an AE then they’re really scraping the barrel!

Just yesterday, I had yet another badly written email inviting me to submit a manuscript, this time to Global Journal of Science Frontier Research, whatever “science frontier research” is, published by Global Journals, Inc (US) (GJI). Yes, you’ve guessed it, they’re on the Beall’s List. I should have just deleted it, but I was in a mischievous mood, so I replied to “Dr R K Dixit”, stating that I didn’t wish to have anything to do with any publisher on the Beall’s List.

Today, to my surprise, I received a reply – not from Dr Dixit (who, incidentally, is on the Editorial Board of GJI along with two other people with the same surname…hmm…), but from a Steven Mills from the Customer Care department. I won’t republish the whole reply here because it was really long, but it was ridiculous. If it was supposed to persuade me that his was a reputable and legitimate company, it completely failed.

Most of the email made no sense whatsoever, and was written in such appallingly bad English that I almost couldn’t be bothered to decipher it. There was talk of “stumbling rocks” and “funny lists”, extensive inappropriate capitalisation and an inability to correctly use the indefinite article. In one place he referred to “pear review”, and in another “peering reviewing”.

However, in the bits I could understand, he seemed to be giving Jeffrey Beall a right slagging off! Mills accused Beall of being a “mere librarian” of “fully questionable authenticity”, with “limitations” and a “shallow and misguiding” knowledge of research. He accused him of playing “dirty tricks” because he allegedly works for a “mafia” of “Commercial Capitalists”, paid commission by certain big-name publishers to champion their pay-for-access journals over those with an OA model. He even accused Mr Beall of setting up a fake Nigerian mirror of the GJI home page, though quite why he’d want to do that, I have no idea.

Mills attempted to reassure me of GJI’s calibre. “We are pioneer journal publishing house,” he said. “We have rigid quality control mandatory procedures viz. Peer Review and Plagiarism Check. We are having highly qualified team of approximate 1200 nos. pear reviewers.”

Um, yeah, not convincing me, Mills…

“We are registered organization at Delaware (USA) [but their US address is in Massachusetts?] and affiliated to Open Association of Research Society (USA).”

I googled the Open Association of Research Society (the name of which totally doesn’t make sense, by the way!). This organisation is allegedly registered in Delaware, but its website is riddled with exactly the same kinds of spelling and grammar errors as the GJI website – oh, and they have really similar logos… Who else thinks GJI made it up?!

After his long tirade of abuse and waffle, “Steven” closed by thanking me for bringing this “serious conspiracy” to his attention and vowed to take “suitable stringent legal actions against Mr Beall for showing our name in his list of fake journals mischievously if he does not apologize publicly and withdraw his allegation”.

Yeah…good luck with that.

Scientific copyeditor at your service

9 10 2014

Wow, I haven’t posted on this site for a LONG time. Sorry about that, I’ve been very busy as usual! But I have something for you today that I wanted to share…

In the course of my day job at the University of Warwick, I compile a weekly ‘Arabidopsis Research Round-up‘ of recently published, UK-based scientific articles in the area of Arabidopsis research. (FYI: Arabidopsis thaliana is a small weed used as a model organism for plant research – you can find out more about it here: http://youtu.be/hWAb30Ggl5o.) This involves reading lots of abstracts of new papers and condensing them into easy-to-read summaries, which we then publish on the GARNet website, blog, and on the Arabidopsis Information Portal.

Today’s Round-up will include this article, led by a Chinese team but also involving a British scientist from Rothamsted Research: Yang L, Zhao X, Paul M, Zhu H, Zu Y and Tang Z (2014). Exogenous Trehalose Largely Alleviates Ionic Unbalance, ROS Burst and PCD Occurrence Induced by High Salinity in Arabidopsis SeedlingsFrontiers in Plant Science, DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2014.00570.

As someone without extensive lab experience, it’s not unusual for me to sometimes get a little stuck when reading complex scientific papers. But, with a a little effort, and the help of Google, I’m pretty good at unpicking the terminology to work out what the paper is really about so I can translate it into plain English. This paper, however, took a little more unpicking than most; in fact, the abstract didn’t even make sense in places!

Here is my copyedited version of the manuscript’s abstract:

Although Ttrehalose (Tre) has been reported to play a critical role in plant response to salinity, and the involved mechanisms remain involved have yet to be investigated in detail. Here, the putative roles of Tre in the regulation of ionic balance, cellular redox state, and cell death were studied in Arabidopsis under high salt conditions. Our results found that the salt-induced restrictions on both vegetative and reproductive growth in salt-stressed plants were largely alleviated by an exogenous supply with of Tre. The mMicroprobe analysis of ionic dynamics in the leaf and stem of inflorescence stem highlighted the Tre‘s ability to retain the K and K/Na ratio in plant tissues to improve salt tolerance. The In flow cytometric (FCM) assays of cellular levels of ROS (reactive oxygen species (ROS) and PCD (programmed cell death (PCD), displayed that Tre was able to antagonized salt-induced damages in both the redox state and in cell death. and sSucrose did not play the same role with Trewas not shown to have the same effect. By cComparing ionic distribution in between the leaf and IS (inflorescence stem (IS), we found that Tre largely improved was able to restrict Na transportation to IS from leaves since that the ratio of Na accumulation in leaves relative to IS. was largely improved due to This shows that Tre was able to restrict Na transportation to IS from leaves. The marked decrease of Na ions, and the improved sucrose levels in IS, might account for the promoted floral growth observed when Tre was added to the saline solution. At the same time, endogenous soluble sugars and the activity of antioxidant enzymes activities in the salt-stressed plants were also elevated by Tre to counteract high salt stress. We concluded that Tre could improve Arabidopsis salt resistance with respect to biomass accumulation and floral transition in the by means of regulating plant redox state, cell death, and ionic distribution.

I contacted Frontiers in Plant Science about this via Twitter, and they assured me that this is a provisionally accepted manuscript that has not yet gone through the copyediting and typesetting process. Still, if I’d been reviewing this manuscript, I think I’d have pushed for a pre-acceptance copyedit – especially as one one of the authors on this paper is English himself!

I would always recommend authors to have a native English speaker read through and comment on a manuscript before submission – even if the author him or herself is also a native English speaker. Of course, I would love that editor to be me (contact me for copyediting and proofreading at a very competitive price!) but it could just be a friend or colleague who has not worked on the document.

Minor mistakes such as inconsistent formatting or mixed use of British and American English can be ironed out by the publisher’s in house team (if they offer this service – not all do!), but, in my opinion, it just doesn’t make sense to submit something that doesn’t make complete sense or which is full of errors. As an author seeking to have your work published, you’ll want to make the review process as easy as possible for the editors and reviewers. Not only will this speed up the process, but it could make the difference between getting published in a low impact journal when you were aiming for a higher impact one, or even getting published at all.

Perhaps I am being pedantic and impatient with the publication process – what do you think?



Follow up to “How do I delete my Freelancer Account?”

3 03 2014

A few years ago, I wrote this blog post with advice on how to close your Freelancer account. Until now, I had never had the need to follow my own steps, but I recently discovered that I had in fact committed the cardinal Freelancer sin of having two accounts – oops!

It seems that at some point in the past I had set up another Freelancer account with a different username. If I recall correctly, my intention at the time was simply to close my “missylisa153” account (because I hate that username – it’s a relic from my very first email address at the age of 15!) and replace it with an account with a more grown-up sounding username. 

As it turns out, I didn’t close my original account because I didn’t want to lose the record of my positive feedback, and I didn’t ever start using the new one. In fact I forgot all about it. [Funny story: I only rediscovered the second account when, on the hunt for more fake freelancers, I googled myself to see if anyone had stolen my identity. When I first saw my second Freelancer profile, I jumped to the conclusion that it must have been faked…but then I realised that I could log in with my own email address and password so it must have been mine all along!! Ooops…]

I digress. The point of this blog post is to issue a warning: if you have requested Freelancer to close your account, please check that it is actually closed

I followed my own advice (from this post here) and submitted a ticket to Freelancer’s support desk. It took them THREE WEEKS to get back to me. When a support agent did eventually get back to me, the email said this: 

Hello Lisa,

My name is Will and I am here to help you about your account cancellation request and hear out your feedback.

It is unfortunate to hear that you would like to close your account. If there is anything that we can do to improve the site or our services, we would appreciate your feedback. 

Freelancer.com offers a lot of opportunities both for employers and freelancers. If you need any clarification regarding how Freelancer.com works, I will be more than happy to elaborate on it for you.

I look forward to your kind response.

Now, I am super busy right now and must admit that I didn’t read this email properly. I assumed that Will’s email was an acknowledgement that my account had been closed. Instead, it was a vaguely-worded request for feedback so that they could have the opportunity to change my mind. Furthermore, the ticket I had opened to request the account closure had been CLOSED as if it had been resolved. 

Logging back into the account that I thought I’d closed, I reopened the ticket and gave them this feedback: CLOSE MY ACCOUNT!

They did so within a couple of days. 

Beware Freelancers, if you have requested account closure, please check that your request has been honoured. 

Warwickshire Life 6: Genetic Modification and the Great British Potato

24 02 2014

potatoesUnfortunately my sixth offering for Warwickshire Life’s online magazine was published a little too late for National Chip Week (last week!) but never mind! This article looks at the humble spud, and some of the challenges that face British growers. In particular, I highlight some new research published by members of The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, which describes work to develop and trial genetically modified potatoes.

You can read my article here: Genetic Modification and the Great British Potato.

Warwickshire Life 5: Breeding a British Baked Bean

8 02 2014

This week’s Warwickshire Life post was a difficult one for me to write! The subject was baked beans – which have to be my all-time most hated food! I hate them so much I’m even avoiding putting a baked bean photo on this blog post because even the sight of them makes me feel queasy!

Nevertheless, the science is interesting, and that’s the main thing!

Read: Breeding a British Baked Bean.

You can also view this Youtube video from the University of Warwick that explains more about the research project:

Fake Freelancer Profile uses Photograph of Missing Woman

5 02 2014

AsaffronUpdate 12 Feb 2014: This user profile has now been deleted. Success!

Update 17 Nov 2015: Information about the genuine freelancer affected by this story has been removed on their request.

My quest to get the many fake profiles on Freelancer.com shut down ramped up a gear today, as I made a very disturbing discovery indeed. I’ll explain…

The Freelancer profile ‘Asaffron‘ has been on my Watch List for a few days now – I was initially suspicious because some of the user’s feedback was negative and criticised ‘her’ professionalism, but when I dug a little deeper I found that the content of Asaffron’s profile was plagiarised from the Elance profile of a genuine freelance writer from the US.

I managed to find this writer on Twitter and gave her a heads-up on the plagiarised Freelancer profile. She wasn’t happy, as you can imagine! In fact, she posted a cease and desist project, specially for Asaffron!

But it doesn’t end there.

Madison ScottThough the text of Asaffron’s profile matched the Elance bio, the photos didn’t match. So who was the pretty, smiling young woman with flowers in her hair?

Luckily, Google Images has a nifty reverse image search function that is just perfect for this sort of detective work, so I uploaded Asaffron’s photo to the search engine and hit Search. I wasn’t quite prepared for what I discovered!

Turns out, the girl in the photo is Madison Scott, a young Canadian woman who has been missing since May 2011. Maddy, who was 20 when she vanished, disappeared after camping out at a party by Hogsback Lake, near her hometown of Vanderhoof, BC. She hasn’t been seen since. You can watch a documentary about Maddy’s disappearance here (53 mins): http://vimeo.com/82034871.

Of course, it is entirely possible that the person behind Asaffron’s fake profile didn’t know that the photo they’d chosen to hide behind was a missing person, but whether they did or didn’t, it highlights just how serious this problem of Freelancer identity theft is becoming. This isn’t some harmless little scam, ‘borrowing’ an identity to make out that you are more qualified than you really are, or that you are from a native English-speaking country when you are not.  At best, this is copyright and identity theft. At worst, as we have seen, this has far more serious ramefications.

Find out more about Maddy Scott at http://madisonscott.ca/.

LogoBee posts for January

31 01 2014

Here are the links to the blog posts I have written for graphic/logo design company LogoBee this month:

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