Monday, March 31, 2008

Seeking StaticOff Reviews

Has anyone actually used the StaticOff?

It's a wall switch replacement. After a series of unpleasant exchanges with the StaticOff inventor, I find myself wondering if the product actually works. I have no proof either way, having never used one myself.

If you've used the StaticOff, please post your review, positive or negative, as a comment to this post or e-mail me at staticoff @ onlineconfessional dot com

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Thing is, this actually tastes pretty good

Friday, March 21, 2008

StaticOff, again

Anyone reading my blog the last few days will know that there's been a few exchanges between myself and the inventor of StaticOff. I've now made the following Youtube comment:
halleyscomet March 21, 2008
I stand corrected. According to the user "StaticOff" the product will prevent an actual shock. I still think installing a bunch of custom light switch plates in your home is overkill, but if that's what you want to do about static electricity you're welcome to do so.
Hopefully, this will assuage Shalom Wertsberger. He clearly wasn't satisfied with "correcting" me with technical details about his product, but insisted upon getting me to acknowledge that, having never actually USED the StaticOff, I could not say with authority that it didn't work.

This started when I posted a Youtube comment that was based upon a misinterpretation of the commercial he'd posted. He, instead of realizing it was a simple error on my part, reacted as if I were some sort of psychopath out to destroy his business.

Shalom Wertsberger continued his hostile, aggressive tone throughout the subsequent exchanges, going so far as to equate an error about his product to lodging false accusations of child molestation.

I made a simple error. I thought the StaticOff was nothing more than a grounded metal plate. If Shalom Wertsberger has approached me in a friendly tone and explained the product's features in a calm manner, I'd have either deleted my Youtube comment or posted an apology. It could have been resolved in a fairly level headed manner.

Maybe he's been a lawyer too long and is just used to all human interaction being a contest of wills, a battle to the end. Even in his March 21, 2008 post to this blog he refuses to acknowledge that phrases like:

Your comment is 100.00% wrong, ahs(sic) nothing to do with reality, and I believe shows extremely poor judgment: You set up your mind with hardly a clue as to the facts.

Are a poor way to initiate any kind of communication.

Now, I could go though his last contact and write a detailed response but there really isn't much point. He's only going to respond with more hostility and anger. He thinks having invented the StaticOff gives some sort of moral high ground against anyone who criticizes it.

Despite the damning criticism of US Software Patents from actual experts and the fact that the patent office itself has responded by instituting changes to their procedures, despite the fact that the patent office is turning to peer review to reduce its use of internal "experts" Shalom Wertsberger still has an astounding level of confidence in the legitimacy of his software patents.

I wonder how Ron Popeil would react to a lone, apparently inaccurate, Youtube comment about one of his products?

If Shalom Wertsberger is going to continue advertising online, he really needs to brush up on his people skills and work on more level headed responses to Youtube comments. This time his ego and anger issues ticked off a computer Geek who decided to do a bit of research during lunch. Next time, he could start a flame war with someone like Tim Henson of Distorted View (NSFW) and God help him if he steps into that world.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

StaticOff's inventor is still making a nuisance of himself

I got another youtube message from the man claiming to be StaticOff's inventor.

Mar 19, 2008, 08:52 AM


staticoff bad mouthing.
I note with great interest that not only have you spent a great deal of time on your own website attempting to, for want of a better term, bad mouth static off, but you have started to visit other blog sites etc where Staticoff is mentioned to post anti-staticoff comments. I find this rather destructive on your part and somewhat rather cowardly and childish, especially considering you have not tried the product. I would hope that from now on, you find some other way to handle what appears to be too much free time on your hands - maybe you could invent and patent some product.
Thank you.


It would appear that Shalom Wertsberger's brief moment of clarity in his revised Youtube post was in fact an aberration. While his tone is far more muted than in past messages, he's still hostile and condescending.

I can't help but wonder why he's so interested in my Blog and what I had to say about his product. If he'd simply ignored my Youtube comment, or posted an articulate and hostility free technical response, that would have been the end of it. He still hasn't realized that this isn't about StaticOff, but about his disproportionately emotional response.

I'm not going to try StaticOff for two reasons:

1. I don't need it. I get a static shock at home about two to three times a year. Some of the rooms in my home have pull chains on the lights as opposed to light switches, meaning there's no convenient location in those rooms to install StaticOff. I'm not going to buy a few dozen $10.00 light switch plates and get in the habit of touching them when I enter a room to avoid a mild annoyance.

2. Trying the product would require I buy it and I have no interest in giving money to someone who is arrogant, hostile and condescending towards me because I made a critical comment.

My favorite line from his message is, "maybe you could invent and patent some product."

Perhaps he missed the fact that I consider his invention to be a silly, frivolous waste of time and money. I can painlessly discharge static electricity by tapping my wedding band to a grounded surface. My favorite watch has a metal band. Tapping THAT against a grounded surface will painlessly discharge any built up static.

I will admit while Shalom Wertsberger's product may be silly, he does have a decent marketing machine. The commercials are of typical "late night infomercial" quality and they manage to be amusing without being painfully annoying. The video contest he's running is another clever bit of marketing. For $500 and a little time, he'll get a lot of free advertising. Then there's the placebo effect that will work to his advantage. A lot of people will get in the habit of touching the StaticOff and just assume it worked if they don't get zapped, even if they didn't have enough of a charge to shock them anyway.

No, I have every reason to think Shalom Wertsberger will make plenty of money off StaticOff, even if it's a useless, pointless product. Just look at your local "As Seen on TV" store if you need proof that people will spend good money of junk they don't really need.

I'd really like Mr. Wertsberger to calm down. He has an advertising budget while I have a little time and a blog with a PageRank of 1. A few wiseass remarks on the Internet won't hurt his business, but his hostility and aggression will.

I also suggest that if he wants to advertise online he should develop a thicker skin. The Internet can be harsh and if he continues to react with this much anger to his critics he'll have a heart attack before the year is out.

Is StaticOff using Black Hat SEO?

Link farms are an old technique for artificially inflating your web site's search engine ranking. The general idea is to toss up a relatively useless site that consists of nothing but links to other sites, most of whom pay for inclusion in the link farm. This technique is part of the "Black Hat Search Engine Optimization (SEO)" toolkit. Google is constantly refining it's algorithm to reduce or eliminate the impact of Black Hat SEO techniques.

More refined versions will have shoddy articles or a line or two of ad copy about a product. Think of these sites as the web equivalent of a channel dedicated to showing nothing but commercials.

When doing research about StaticOff I noticed that a lot of the sites lining to StaticOff looked a lot like such link farms, or look like sham sites created just to link to StaticOff.

For example:

http://everything-network.weebly.com/
http://everything-network.quotaless.com/
http://www.everything-network.co.nr/

This site contains a link to www.staticoff.com and image to the product. All three URLS have similar content and they link to each other. All three URLS are based on free web site services, so the person who started this particular link farm didn't even need to spend much money on it. The site "Content" is little more than links to other pages, most of them just jumbled together under general headings, without so much as a comment on WHY a particular link is supposedly worthwhile.

everything-network looks like a textbook example of a link farm, offering little to nothing beyond pages of links.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The inventor of StaticOff is mad at me and seems a bit unstable

Background

I was on Youtube, checking out a video a friend had sent me. One of the "related Videos" was a commercial for StaticOff Zapper Stopper. The StaticOff is a metal plate that you attach to your wall. You're supposed to touch the plate when you enter the room to discharge any static charge you've built up, thus avoiding a painful shock to friends and family. The commercial makes it look like the plate is grounded, which makes sense given it's intended function.

I found the product to be exceedingly silly for a few reasons.

It requires you to touch a specific object when you enter a room. This is inconvenient. I can see it making some sense if it's installed next to a light fixture, but even then, that only helps if you enter the room and happen to be flipping the light switch. My last apartment had pull chains in almost every room, so there was no location where it would make sense to install such a plate.

Static shocks aren't that hard to avoid. Your choice of clothing is a major factor. I tend to wear cotton around the house and will wear slippers or go barefoot. As a result I rarely get a static shock in the house, even during the Winter when the home is quite dry.

A properly humidified home will drastically reduce opportunities for static shocks.

Now, if you have shag carpeting throughout the house, wear rayon socks when walking about and wool sweaters with rayon undershirts, I can see the potential use of special plates installed throughout the house for you to discharge. That said, a good pair of house slippers and a few sweat shirts for wear in the home strikes me as a far more practical and economical method of avoiding static shock. This has the further advantage of leaving your walls intact.

It was with these, and many other thoughts, I made the following comment to the Youtube video:


Halleyscomet:

March 14, 2008

All this does is provide a grounded surface. You STILL get a static shock, it's just discharged on the plate instead of some other random object. Touching a metal doorknob will accomplish the same thing.


The Inventor Responds

I'd thought that was the end of it. Four days later I logged into my Youtube account again and found I had a couple messages from StaticOff.

Mar 14, 2008, 09:00 AM

Your comment regarding StaticOff

Sir,
Your comment is 100.00% wrong, ahs(sic) nothing to do with reality, and I believe shows extremely poor judgment: You set up your mind with hardly a clue as to the facts.

First, for the facts: Assuming you have sufficient technical background to understand the following:
The StaticOff touch points are electrodes are connected to an internal high impedance circuit that is in turn coupled to a non-linear device, which is connected to ground. The combination provide a slow, controlled discharge of the static charge. The RC constant of the circuit provides a very short but very important time delay, that allows you to get sufficiently close to the electrode without getting zapped, unless the charge level you carry exceeds 97 KV.
While this may happen, it is extremely rare -- it was the highest we were able to create and maintain on our bodies using a 150 KV source at extremely dry conditions. Normally, between 40% and 17% relative humidity a person does not collect more than 40-50 KV, and below 17% this number climbs to about 75-80 KV.
Therefore, when properly using the StaticOff device, YOU DO NOT GET A STATIC SHOCK. (using properly means touching the touch points, rather than the grounding screws).
The static shock you get when for example you touch a door knob, is due to the speed of discharge. The air ionizers and turns real fast from a good insulator to a good conducting path having but a few ohms. The charge of several thousand volts is discharge at a great rate, controlled by Ohm's law. While the amount of energy is small, the speed causes the pain.
When you use the StaticOff device, the speed of discharge is greatly reduced. The circuit characteristics allow you to get close and touch the electrode without a spark. Thus there is no static shock.

Now, I hope you will have the integrity to publicly admit your error outright, or buy the product, test it, and THEN admit your error.
And yes, I do take offence (sic) when someone who has no idea of the facts calls my invention and product a sham.

I wanted to give you a chance to correct things yourself, without humiliating you by exposing your ignorance. I expect that you will do so in the next 124 hours.
Regards
Shalom Wertsberger
Inventor, CEO, StaticOff


The first thing I noticed was the very hostile tone of the message. I'll admit, I was less than generous in my original post, but Shalom's response shows a considerable amount of aggression. It's been my experience that being polite generally gets better results. The overt hostility in phrases like "You set up your mind with hardly a clue as to the facts" leaves me disinterested in what he has to say. If he really had the facts on his side, would he REALLY be this hostile and angry in his reply?

The technical detail in his message certainly sounded plausible, at least to a layman such as myself. Touch the plate for a few seconds to painlessly discharge any built up static. Even if it works, I still consider it a silly, inconvenient waste of money, but I think the same of a lot of the products advertised on late night television.

It was the open hostility and challenges to my intelligence that caught my attention the most. I again wondered, if he really has the facts on his side, why would he bother stooping to such lowbrow tactics? I've dealt with some shady salesmen over the years and my gut reaction is to question the legitimacy of anyone using Shalom's tactics.

Another response from the Inventor

I'd like to point out that Shalom's 124 hour deadline gave me over 5 days to respond, but "Shalom Wertsberger" chose to post his next message in only 4:

Staticoff
Nobody's comet,

You have not found sufficient courage or decency to respond to my previous message inviting you to correct (or at least argue for) your ignorant and stupid remarks regarding my invention.

Since you failed to show basic integrity, I posted a comment, trying to correct the damage you caused by your irresponsible remark, and let the world set their opinion on you as the pompous, ignoramus and indecent coward that you are.
What a disgrace to Edmond Halley!
Shalom Wertsberger
Inventor and CEO, StaticOff.


Notice the greeting. My Youtube username is "HalleysComet" a reference to the stellar body named for Edmond Halley. Shalom Wertsberger starts off literally calling me a "nobody" because I hadn't responded to him quickly enough. That's hardly the way to get people to do what you want. Again, an issue that could have been resolved through patience and civility is instead approached with outright aggression. The entire message just berates me for not having responded to his post as quickly as he would have liked. He rants and raves and through the tone of his writing I can almost see him foaming at the mouth as he thinks of various ways to insult me.

More Youtube Posts

Finally he made a youtube post and I posted a reply:

March 18, 2008
StaticOff

Your comment is 100.00% wrong.
The StaticOff touchpoints are electrodes, connected to a high impedance circuit that includes a non-linear device. The combination provides a slow, controlled discharge of the static charge.
Therefore, YOU DO NOT GET A STATIC SHOCK USING STATICOFF.

I privately provided you with opportunity to withdraw your dumb comment. Since you did not, I hope everyone will see you what you are.

And yes, I took offense.

Shalom Wertsberger
Inventor, CEO, StaticOff


The above post was not actually posted as a reply to my comment, but as a reply to the video itself.

halleyscomet
No one is going to buy, or not buy, the "Static off" because of one lone Youtube comment, but your hostile tone in responding to my first post will leave people with the impression that you're trying to cover up a lack of facts with anger and aggression.

Why not just state where I'm supposedly wrong in a polite, educational tone? Why stoop to personal attacks? It hardly leaves the reader with confidence in you or your company. How do you respond if a customer wants to return a defective unit?

I start Digging

I can't help but wonder how such an angry, aggressive man runs his business and conducts himself with his family. He clearly thinks being a condescending jerk will get him his way. I decided to do a bit of digging.

I quickly found the StaticOff Blog. It only has a few posts, but it links to TheForecaster.net's review of the StaticOff The article contains two choice quotes from Wertsberger and his partner Shai Levite:

"It’s not snake oil," Wertsberger said. "It's a real solution and it works."

"It's just like any other medicine," added Levite, who used to suffer from static shock.


So, they're insisting it isn't snake oil and comparing a high tech grounded metal plate to medicine. Something tells me the folks over at The Skeptics' Guide To The Universe would join me in saying these quotes raise a few red flags.

One of the first Google hits for Shalom Wertsberger was a link to the "About Us" page on saltamar.com. The company name is Saltamar Innovations and their web site describes them as:

... a patent firm specializing in obtaining patent protection for the software and electronics industries. Our experience in those fields allows us to thoroughly understand the invention and provide you with the best possible protection.


The Patents

The Saltamar Innovations site mentions having 18 years of experience in software patents. Oddly, I didn't find any links on their site to patents that they'd filed. Patents DB however gave me a listing of patents filed by Saltamar Innovations.

Here are some examples:

Interacting augmented reality and virtual reality

A combination of interacting virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) system is provided where the system automatically switches from VR to AR when the user selected viewpoint coincides, within tolerance, with the observable AR viewpoint. The invention discloses an apparatus adapted to provide easy access and automatic switching between AR and VR, and method thehrefor.

Basically, this is a patent on situationally switching between virtual reality and a HUD. It was filed in 2001 and granted in 2006. Cyberpunk and computer gaming fans will notice that this boils down to a few drawings depicting an idea that's been around for at least a decade or two before the patent was filed. It even sounds suspiciously similar some of the technology described in the Sci-Fi classic Dune.

I wonder if anyone has patented "An immersion virtual reality (VR) environment attached to a life support system, allowing the subject to remain in VR indefinitely."

Call management via television

A telephone call management system and method are disclosed, allowing for call review where a voice mail message being recorded for a specific telephone may be played on a television associated therewith during the time it is being recorded. Optionally, the call may further be retrieved and rerouted to the user telephone responsive to a command entered via the television distribution gateway, and any call may be recorded responsive to commands entered via the gateway.

The patent was filed in Filed on 2002-07-02 and issued on 2007-10-02. The Jetsons depicted video phones decades before the filing. I wonder if the patent holder has tried to get royalties from the folks who make computer controlled conferencing and voice mail systems.

This is another patent that's not really an innovation. Playing a phone call through a Television and providing a video interface for managing and playing back phone calls are hardly innovative concepts, nor were they such in 2002.

While many of the patents were legitimately inventive, Saltamar Innovations filed a fair number of "inventions" that typify why so many developers want software patents abolished all together.

Return Volley from Shalom Wertsberger

An hour or two after I posted my response to his comment, Shalom Wertsberger made another Youtube post:

Your comment is 100.00% wrong.
The StaticOff touchpoints are electrodes, connected to a high impedance circuit that includes a non-linear device. The combination provides a slow, controlled discharge of the static charge.
Therefore, YOU DO NOT GET A STATIC SHOCK USING STATICOFF.

Shalom Wertsberger
Inventor, CEO, StaticOff


You'll notice that he rewrote his original response, taking into account my comments about his hostility. He also deleted his original post and my reply, removing the public evidence of his aggressive and condescending attitude. If I hadn't copied and pasted the comments into this Blog Post, they'd have vanished down the memory hole.

In the end, my brief encounter with the aggressive inventor of the StaticOff left me with the image of a hostile man in need of Anger Management therapy. I feel sorry for his family and business partners. I also find myself questioning the legitimacy of his product's claims, given the deranged attacks he used to defend the invention.