About.com has pushed me almost as far as I am willing to be pushed. They are about to start requiring us to use this stupid newsletter creation/publishing tool which allows the newsletters to be sent out in HTML format so that ads can be included. Of course, there is no text-only option--they tell me it's being worked on. Of course, I am pushing back and refusing to use the tool until the send via email option is no longer available. Today I got a nice note (really, not sarcastically) from a subscriber saying he hoped my newsletter wasn't going to the new format because the color scheme was hard on his eyes. I forwarded it to tech support, and I'll keep forwarding and flooding them with this stuff until they do something about the text-only option. Besides the readability issues, not everyone WANTS to get the HTML format, even if they can.
I've been reading up on other topics, too--things you're not supposed to do, like bandwidth theft and use of pop-up windows. Bandwidth theft is basically framing another site's content in your site's frame. About.com does this, and I've gotten some nasty letters from Webmasters of sites I linked to. About also uses pop-up windows for ads. Some I don't mind, like Amazon's free shipping ad. But pop-ups can crash some people's browsers so they have to restart. About does only one pop-up per day for each user. That's a nice thing, but a pop-up is a pop-up is a pop-up.
The pop-ups and framing are minor things I tolerate. Combined with the pay cuts, the total disregard for accessibility concerns, and this latest stuff they've announced my reasons for being unhappy with them are multiplying. Now they are creating a tool for publishing articles. We'll be able to still use HTML, but using the tool just means extra steps and load time.
I spent lots of time going over my contract last week, and if I understand correctly the noncompete clause doesn't apply to my existing site because it was up before I went to work for About. One of the things the PTB have made clear is that they don't expect us to put in more than 20 hours a week on the sites. Of course, most of us put in more because we care and because when About makes mistakes we end up cleaning up the mess. Instead of showing the PTB that there is good reason to pay us what we're worth, this just gives them more fuel for the argument that we'll work for free because we like the topic. I'm getting tired of that mindset. That's the kind of mindset that makes people have to do jobs they hate so they can survive and hopefully have time left for doing what they love.
So now I am devising my quit About strategy. I've decided to devote no more than 20 hours a week to the site, and the other days I'm going to put my energy into things that I have the power to control, like bringing income in through my other site. "Monetizing" is the PTB's favorite word. I'm not the only person who's getting ready to leave the network, and I'm not the only person who's cutting back on the workload. Most of us care about the topic and the people who need the info, but a lot of us are no longer willing to work for pennies while the PTB sit there with their feet up. About is going to hurt some because of this, but (to use their own words) we're in a recession and we all have to do what's best.