Justified Image Grid – an astonishing correspondence

This is the story of what can happen when an Oldie like me – fairly internet savvy, but no tech wizard – meets one of the true back-room-boys online. It’s a bizarre unfolding of what seemed to be a simple matter – buying a piece of software to make my website look better and load faster. The software is a Plugin for WordPress called “Justified Image Grid”. “NextGen” is a gallery plugin. 

If WordPress and Plugin have lost you already then jump ship quickly – this is not for the technically faint hearted! to make things easier to follow, my comments are in bold, my emails in normal type and the replies are in italics.

I’ve put a lot of time in lately to getting my website to look right and load quickly, all the time struggling with the mysteries of WordPress. This JIG (not the kind we woodworkers are familiar with) seemed just right for the job. It meant shelling out $27 but that didn’t seem too bad if it did what it claims, and the reviews were excellent. So I clicked the “buy now” but got a nasty surprise. This is what I wrote to the developers:

I intended to buy Justified Image Grid, but decided not to for these reasons: 1 You ask for too much information about me. 2 Your password request is the most complicated I have ever come across. 3 You express the price in dollars. 4 You ask for VAT in dollars.

Surprisingly I had a reply. Before I’d even got past the pre-amble there were the names of no less than 3 companies or groups I had never heard of. Apparently I have an “Envato Market Profile”. News to me.

From: Belcovio support

Sent: 09 August 2018 08:56

To: twynog [at] gmail [dot] com

Subject: Re: [CodeCanyon] Message sent via your Envato Market profile fromtwynog 

It’s not us that ask you for that, it’s the whole marketplace, it’ll be same for anything purchased here. We have nothing to do with these rules. If you want you can pay via bitcoin directly so you can remain anonymous.

BITCOIN? Me? I wrote back:

On Thu, Aug 9, 2018, 11:20 Richard Turner <twynog [at] gmail [dot] com> wrote:

Thanks for the reply 

I’m not sure what you mean by the “whole marketplace”. Who will use the data you demand? Are you saying that once I have an account with you, you will never send me an email? I have frequently bought stuff online on a “guest customer” basis. You don’t need my postal address to sell me a piece of software, and I don’t see why “the marketplace” needs a password, let alone the longest and most complicated I have ever been asked for. Why make  your customer angry before the point of sale? All I want is to be able to show a grid of pictures on my WordPress home page. Your JIG does this with NextGen galleries which I have already set up. I’m ready to pay $27 which is the price you quote. This is a retail price so should have any taxes included. It is dishonest to quote one price and then ask for more at the checkout, and especially a figure in US dollars which would not apply in the US.  

To repeat, I would very much like the opportunity to buy your software for the price you quote, but and not willing to set up an account which I do not need. 

Richard Turner

Wales, UK

The next reply was even more surprising:

From: Belcovio support

Sent: 10 August 2018 17:03

To: Richard Turner

Subject: Re: [CodeCanyon] Message sent via your Envato Market profilefromtwynog 

Hi, 

When you buy JIG or any similar product that is sold on CodeCanyon, you buy like this. It’s not our system, we don’t control it or set the rules. Think of it as you were buying an app on Google Play or Apple Play store. It’s just that they are way smarter and include the VAT in a reverse-way in all their prices. We don’t like how Envato (the owner of CodeCanyon) handles this and there is generally an uproar about this in the author forums. They don’t wish to earn less in case of an EU buyer (the VAT itself is added due to regulatory requirements). There is no rule that states we/they couldn’t just absorb the loss in the net sale due to reverse applying the VAT to EU buyers. What’s more concerning is that they don’t do this with other countries, we have no way of invoicing properly to Canada for example where there is GST/HST similarly to VAT in EU. If you go to any store in the US, every price is without tax, and they only apply it to your basket at the counter, as every state has different %. So this is customary to US buyers. Same is true if you order from non-UK Amazon, at the end of the checkout you’ll see a price difference that reflects the tax % difference in the Amazon locality vs UK tax %. We guess you could open an Envato account in a relative’s name that is not from the EU, so no VAT will be added to the invoice.

On Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 6:40 PM Richard Turner <twynog [at] gmail [dot] com> wrote:

Hello again 

Thanks very much for a considered reply. I seem to have hit a sore place! Perhaps one day you will change your marketplace. It’s hard sometimes to accept that we have to follow whatever is the custom in the US when using the web. It’s a form of cultural imperialism which they seem completely oblivious to. WordPress for example greets me with “howdy”, and shops are always stores. How about a rebellious gesture: cut out the middle man. Send me your bank details and I will send you £20 for the software! 

Good luck anyway.

RT

I really didn’t expect to hear from them again, but they don’t give up easily this lot. The next message was from PayPal asking for £20 from “Bálványos Péter” . This could only be the software. It seemed a bit risky sending £20 to someone I knew nothing about, but I paid and then got a message from Dropbox:

Hi Richard,

Firsh (firshee [at] gmail [dot] com) invited you to view the file “justified-image-grid-premium-wordpress-gallery.zip” on Dropbox.

View file

Enjoy!

The Dropbox team

Success! I’d bought the fabulous Justified Image Grid for a good price. Now all I had to do was install it and get editing. Little knowing what I was letting myself in for I wrote back:

On Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 8:06 PM Richard Turner <twynog [at] gmail [dot] com> wrote:

Excellent!  

I’ve not loaded a preset from a file before, but I see there is a pdf with instructions so I should be OK.  

Ironically I had found a way to get a grid of sorts on my home page, but this will be better, and it feels good to bypass the system! 

Not sure what you say in NZ, but we say 

Cheers 

RT

Ominously my next 2 mails were downbeat:

Hello Firsh 

I’ve spent hours trying to upload the zip file but, even after installing the dropbox app I can’t get it to work. This is what I get when I unzip the original folder: (screenshot) 

Can you help?

Hello 

I have the zip file for JIG online, but can’t figure out how to upload it. When I try to download the file to the dropbox app it won’t open as a zip file. How do I get the file from dropbox online to a place where I can upload it to WordPress? 

Richard Turner

I had this reply:

You just need the zip next to the documentation and upload that. If you try to upload the whole thing along with the documentation to WP it won’t work.

Cordially,

Belcovio support

Clear as mud; I was still stuck, and wrote this: 

Using MS Edge browser, this is what I see when I open the file you sent to dropbox. I simply can’t access the zip file. I’ve also tried Internet Explorer with the same result.

RT

OK – I’ve finally got it, but not from any of your suggestions. I managed to transfer  just the .zip file from dropbox online to my dropbox account. Previously I had saved the  folder and got nowhere. From my dropbox account I was able to download it in a form which could, at last, be uploaded to wordpress.  

Despite all the hassle I wish you well – perhaps a simpler method might be better?  

RT

On Sun, Aug 12, 2018 at 9:45 AM Richard Turner <twynog [at] gmail [dot] com> wrote:

Hello again Belcovio 

“Not that man again!” Well, the good news is I’ve achieved most of what I wanted to achieve e with JIG: all my galleries now look great. There is one more thing I need, a JIG gallery or album on my home page with each picture linked to one of the galleries in the galleries page. Easy? 

Thanks for you patience 

Richard Turner

 

From: Belcovio support

Sent: 12 August 2018 11:13

To: Richard Turner

Subject: Re: home page

Yes there are numerous ways, but it depends on the content source and your setup.

Approach 1 is:

You have a featured image on each gallery page/post.

Use index JIG in recent posts mode to capture those pages/posts by featured image and JIG automatically links to them.

Approach 2:

You already have an index gallery of various images that correspond to some galleries.

You can manually add links to such gallery pages/posts on the shown images using custom links feature.

Disregard custom links everywhere, except on the index JIG. General settings > Custom link’s target.

This is so that once you see the linker image among its related pics in the gallery, that linker image doesn’t link to the page it’s on again.

Cordially,

Belcovio support

On Mon, Aug 13, 2018 at 8:35 AM Richard Turner <twynog [at] gmail [dot] com> wrote:

It’s no good – I’ve tried for hours yesterday and this morning to understand what your email refers to but I can’t figure it out. Have you any idea what this stuff is like to a non-specialist? It’s like trying to decode some ancient manuscript written in an unknown language.

This is what I have:

Various NextGen galleries of different categories of wildlife, each with a featured image.

This is what I want:

A home page displaying the featured image  for each of the galleries, which when clicked takes you to the gallery. That, for now, is all I want.  

How complicated is that?  

RT

From: Belcovio support

Sent: 13 August 2018 12:47

To: Richard Turner

Subject: Re: home page 

Hi, 

Now that you mention you are using the NextGEN source, that uses different approaches. My previous email was for normal WP media library. 

Here is a video. I don’t show approach #3 as it has a prerequisite and is too advanced. One of the 2 approaches in the video should work for you. 

https://www.screencast.com/t/xalYVAZ5 

Cordially,

Belcovio support

On Tue, Aug 14, 2018, 11:16 Richard Turner <twynog [at] gmail [dot] com> wrote:

Are you Firsh?

I’m grateful to you for sticking with this, but brace yourself – it’s getting worse!

I have a severe hearing loss, which makes videos difficult. Normally there are subtitles of a sort, and your previous videos had the usual computer generated subtitles, but not this one. Sometimes I can understand what is being said from the audio, but in your case it is very quiet, even with all the sound parameters at maximum. Trying to follow the video with no sound, I’m getting even more confused. Is there no way you could write instructions that I can follow? OS is Windows 10, browser is Edge, website as below. 

RT

From: Belcovio support

Sent: 14 August 2018 11:18

To: Richard Turner

Subject: Re: home page 

Hi, 

Oh no 🙂 Yes I’m Firsh the developer. Belcovio is the publisher. 

The old videos were created over a span of days. I wrote the captioning by hand. That quality level is unsustainable on the long run if I were to create a video series without this being my main job. 

I even installed OBS the software game steamers use, as that accepts microphone volume at maximum, in comparison to the old software I was using. 

Just send or create me a temporary WordPress admin user to your site and I’ll set it up.

 

From: Belcovio support

Sent: 14 August 2018 13:09

To: Richard Turner

Subject: Re: home page

I have not received the admin account yet.

I was quite proud that I had managed to send him a user account, but I wasn’t surprised it had not worked. I tried something simpler: 

User Name Firsh

Password    z)0mr4gg5rch!DMLomgsyLz^ 

Hope that works

 

From: Belcovio support

Sent: 15 August 2018 11:02

To: Richard Turner

Subject: Re: home page PS

The login works, I’m getting there but it’s not finished yet.

Cordially,

Belcovio support

 

A day went past; then another day. I was getting impatient:

On Thu, Aug 16, 2018 at 6:53 PM Richard Turner <twynog [at] gmail [dot] com> wrote:

I’ll wait until tomorrow, but I’m not comfortable with this situation so will remove you as admin tomorrow (UK time) if I haven’t heard back from you. If you can still help I can always put you back again.  

RT

Was he too busy? He’d managed to put my home page into a nice grid but the links weren’t working. He must have hit a snag and given up.

Hi,

The site has some problems I haven’t been able to find and resolve. Tried disabling all plugins, and there is no conflict that would explain this. For some reason, the gallery links don’t work the standard way. Could be something related to NextGEN since JIG relies on it handling these links. The same NG+JIG version combo works fine on my server.

So I solved it with JIG Recent Posts mode that links to Pages, in the manually specified order, using their IDs. Each page linked has a featured image now. This is not the most automatic way but it will do until you have dozens of galleries.

While I did some of it I again recorded a video, but no sound this time. Decided might as well just record it, maybe you can learn something from it.

http://www.screencast.com/users/firshee/folders/Snagit/media/788d198c-aad2-4d44-8d03-0e6477e3c6ed

I set some good slugs on the pages as they had something like years as their URL /2017-1/ or similar.

A big problem is that some of the images are the original resolution, which prevents them from working with many things. They are too large to be inserted as featured image, you can see it struggles in the video while a normal size image works well. When switching the lightbox the 28MP image is jagged to zoom and loads slowly, compared to the rest of the site which is fast. I recommend uploading images (after batch processing) in JPG 65% quality and no larger than 1920 px on the longer side (like I do on the JIG site)…

My timezone is GMT+2. Sorry it took so long, I thought it was a JIG issue, but it seems more like a NextGEN weirdness.

Cordially,

Belcovio support

It is just so heartening to know that these anonymous tech geeks really do care. It must have taken Firsh hours of working time, first to enable me to buy on my terms,  and then to use the software. I can’t help wondering though if more women were software developers would things be less complicated? People like Firsh (and they all seem to be male) seem to thrive on arcane jargon and massively convoluted methods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Responses to Justified Image Grid – an astonishing correspondence

  1. Chris Robertson says:

    As an ex-geek I did understand most of what Firsh was saying and I am in awe of his patience and persistence. The WordPress interface is an amazing piece of Open Source software which has multiple user-guides; the plugins for the software are less well supported. But you seem to have hit on a good one Dick and their plug in has certainly improved the look and functionality of the home page. Well done you for persisting (I would probably have given up sooner) and well done them for their customer support (I spent several years doing on-line and phone-line support and I think I would have been throwing darts at your picture!).

    • twynog1 says:

      Yes, I could almost feel the whoosh of the darts’ flight feathers! I’m going to post them a good review, though I’ve no notion of what nationality Firsh is or where he is based.

  2. Heie says:

    Great story, makes an entertaining read. And so lovely that he went out of his way to help you. Heart-warming 😊

  3. twynog1 says:

    Glad you enjoyed it – I wasn’t sure how readable it would be!

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