Saturday, October 4, 2008

Read, You Will

Links from my Delicious Bookmarks:

Oversharing, Blogging, And Transparency: Notes—And Quotes—From A Talk
Susan Mernit reports on a talk she gave at Arse Electronika, the conference about sex and technology and culture, on blogging, transparency, authenticity, and identity.

Mediabistro Panel topics?
What kinds of panel topics would you like to see produce in 2009?

A Slip of a Girl: I Read, I Rant; It's As Simple As That
Who told you to make a 'cutsie website in flash'? Whoever it was, they ought to be shot. The person/persons behind the push of flash are idiots because...

High-Five Fridays, The Banned Book Week Edition - (NWS)
Celebrating Banned Books Week the Sex Kitten way.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Uh-oh, The Villagers Have Pitchforks & They Want Digg's Secret Editor List

OK, so maybe that title's a bit 'too much' in terms of link bait ~ becoming more like flame bait. But it seems to match the mood of Internet villagers upon hearing that Digg employs invisible editors.

I concede that nameless, icon-less, user-name-free persons (who are empowered to do more than dump the spam and protect kiddies from porn, but who can also edit submitted links/stories) could should be less invisible; folks should not only that someone has the access to edit, but know who it is, even if it's Monster814, so that users can take the issue up with them in the event they feel some censorship was at work. That would be 'transparency' vs. 'invisibility'. But is anyone honestly surprised by this?

Anyone who has ever moderated a forum, or their own blog comments, knows there must be some human involvement here. And if folks don't know by now that humans are biased creatures, with their own points of view, if not out-right agendas, well, that person doesn't understand how communities work, and, fundamentally, how Digg works. I'm not just talking about Internet communities, but real communities of actual lifeforms.

However, it seems to me the real danger or upset here is not that Digg uses editors, nor even that users cannot see/communicate with them, but that Digg doesn't seem to even understand it's own purported purpose.

If Digg is to be a democracy, where The Public of users, or members of the Digg nation if you will, determine the success and failure of Digg's gross national product, why don't the citizens have any control in the elections or evaluations of the public officers who over-see such things? Shouldn't the citizens have the right to know, address, challenge, or at least report on those who are in charge of citizen security (protecting them from public enemies #1 & #2, porn and spam, respectively), and who, due to access, shape public policies (editing for outcomes to suit own beliefs)? Where's the public accountability in the democracy that is Digg?

Some of you will likely counter with facts declaring that Digg is not a nation, but a business; &/or pick at some flaw in my (very brief & greatly simplified) civics comparison. But spare us all; the former because Digg compares itself to a great democracy, the latter because I've not been hired as your Civics 101 instructor.

What matters here is that in Digg's growth the mission has been somewhat lost, and as such it stands on shaky gound. It's not that it cannot adjust; it certainly could...

But while they are busy defending their need for invisible editors, the public sees shadowy figures in the dark. That's a PR problem. Domestic and foreign. When your GNP is based on user created content, you'd better be taking the matter of public perception to heart; those villagers with pitchfolks matter.

Meanwhile, as Digg founders are busy rationalizing, others are ready to exploit. If secret editors were intended to keep the country safe, the borders are now in danger.

I found this story at Scott's blog, along with the above image, and that's what I'll leave you with today.

You may now sort our your feelings, & write a response.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Changing Signs Of The Times Charm & Disarm

I didn't just post this because we had such a giggle spotting it on the road that we turned the car around to snap the pic, but rather to illustrate that there is something very charming and in fact disarming when we see the people in business.

I've noticed this in my business too. When sites are too corporate, too serious ~laced-up & polished to the point that personality and humanity are absent ~ the interest wanes. I do believe that in the age of the Internet, with its user driven content and blogging, that credibility suffers too.

The formality that once translated to 'good business sense' and trust has shifted to a transparency that not only lets consumers see inside, but like Michael Keaton in Gung Ho, lets consumers know it's fun too. We want to have some sense that the culture is less rigid and more able to deal with and reflect our own cultural 'Casual Friday' changes.

A sign like this reminds us that there are folks employed there, just doing their job, and maybe even having some fun while they do it too. And that means more to folks driving down the street than some ad in the Yellow Pages, or even a slick skyscraper ad at the big boy websites. And what do they see or sense when they do arrive there?

What sort of things can you do to charm and disarm, to let folks know that there are real people working to create/sell/deliver your product &/or services?

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Beware Branding Marks

The New Deal: Band as Brand:
Though [Paramore's] success is in large part due to smart pop songwriting and a fashion-forward frontwoman, music executives and talent managers also cite Paramore as a promising example of a rising new model for developing talent, one in which artists share not just revenue from their album sales but concert, merchandise and other earnings with their label in exchange for more comprehensive career support.

If the concept takes hold, it will alter not only the way music companies make money but the way new talent is groomed, and perhaps even the kind of acts that are offered contracts in the first place.

Commonly known as “multiple rights” or “360” deals, the new pacts emerged in an early iteration with the deal that Robbie Williams, the British pop singer signed with EMI in 2002. They are now used by all the major record labels and even a few independents.
While I post this as a bit of marketing news, I also can't help but wonder what this really means for the word 'artist'. Music is an industry, a business, and certainly celeb status helps push product (both their own product, music, and the products of others), I wonder what this means for those of us who want music. Real music, not 'a brand'.

It wasn't that long ago that 'world music' had appeal for some of these very reasons ~ we wanted music for music's sake, not some commercialized glut.

Admittedly, the panache of posh persons has always been a regular in the marketing and making of damn near anything and everything; but this open move towards acts signing these 360 deals seems to be counter-productive to the current age of transparency... Now we the consumers know what companies, acts and performers are the least artistic. For it's not about the music, getting it out there, but some sort of success measuring stick which must include marketability beyond the main product. In other words, bands are not to be signed unless they are great cash-cows ~ selling more than CDs to music lovers, but shoes, shampoo and heaven knows what else.

In the case of established artists, like Madonna, this is not so shocking. But what of the new artists? Who won't be signed because they either have no track record of being able to push other (non-musical) products at us or are viewed as not being able to reach such commercial status. Shouldn't recording artists be judged solely for their ability to sell records?

In an age of cynical consumers, such transparency could bite the hand that pretends to feed. I know when I see its be-jeweled fingers pushing, I'll certainly be suspicious.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sex Pros Make Better Bloggers

That's what Secondhand Rose says. Here are a few key points in her essay (which is not to imply you shouldn't read it all ~ on the contrary, it's good stuff!)

She begins with a discussion of the standard practice of sex pros to use a stage name, pen name or other 'name that is not your real name' in order to keep yourself safe, shield your family & friends, as well as to signal when you are performing. Rose believes this standard practice and mind set is what makes for better blogging.
Because it is so natural for professionals to draw these lines right away, we are more prepared to think of privacy as a right which also applies itself to others.

...If more bloggers understood the tentative nature of trust I believe less mistakes would be made, less hurt and anger would ensue.
On the specific issue of censoring for the people in your personal life, a question asked by The Man With Secrets: "Would you say, however, that what you write about someone remains unchanged once you know they are reading it? That's an important question, I think."

Rose replies:
My answer is, "No, my writing does not change because someone I know is now reading what I write."

To me it's not a matter of "What do you write?" but one of "Who do you tell?"
Next she quotes Tom Pain:
Sometimes I think the burning "need" to confess is really a passive-aggressive response of "I'm going to educate you about this situation whether you like it or not." Acceptance of alternative lifestyles is in vogue these days, despite the inherent risk of pain and confrontation.
I must admit, this runs rampant in our culture ~ especially with those in sex work or advocates for positive sexuality. We tend to be on a mission, which is understandable, but we shouldn't do so at the risk of others or to make choices for them. Here I'll refer you here to Silent Porn Star's post on this:
Fundamentally I am anonymous for the ease of things -- but it angers me too. Why should I have to do this? Why should I have to shield and 'protect' family and friends from such associations when nudity, sexuality, is completely natural and normal?

Being a child of the 60's (technically born in, however those first few years I was but an infant), I do believe that if you're not part of the solution you are part of the problem. So sitting back resting on my anonymity feels like I am wrong there too.

While I'd truly like the world to be free enough to sexuality as a whole, I do realize this is not so. And any battle I would pick on behalf of being part of the solution would mean I was selecting this battle as one for those I know and love as well. So I let the cool waters of unselfishness sooth the agitated heated waters of these unjust realities.
Finally Rose points to the ethics of the matter of censoring your blogging:
Suggesting a blogger taint their stories or the presentation of their stories based on who is reading them is saying that it would be fine for any reporter or reviewer to go gently in areas where they knew someone. Would you even suggest that a movie critic be kind in their review of a film because they knew the director? Would you expect a restaurant reviewer to take it easy on a friend's restaurant? If we knew that either had done so we'd call them unethical. Why would sex bloggers be any different?
Why indeed.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

No Payola

One sure sign this pay per posting crap is way out of hand is that now we have "organizations" like DisclosurePolicy.Org which try to make this all sound ethical. As if this should sound ethical. :snort:

According to that 'organization':
By disclosing the purpose of a blog, bloggers are letting readers know more about the information they'll be reviewing. Bloggers retain the freedom to write original content, as well as select which advertisers they will represent in exchange for gifts or money. Any ethical concerns will remain where they've always been - on the individual level. Because it is a blogger's freedom to select which topics will bring them payment, he/she remains responsible for his/her own reputation.
I say those of who not only believe in transparency but in authority as well ~ those of us with ethics ~ band together and tell everyone that we don't, we won't, accept paid posts.

Post a button or banner at your blog or website to let others know that you just won't take part in payola.

I recommend that you link the button to your own policy or ethics page/post, and include a link here so that others may join us too. If you do post a link to Marketing Whore, post a link in the comments to show me (and to help others who may be unsure what to say about their policies). Or email me with the link. Either way, I will add your blog to the blogroll.

Please do not hotlink (steal bandwidth); if you need help with images, go here.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Paid Per Posting: A Whore By Any Other Name, Still Smells Fishy

Sorry for the relatively crass post title, guaranteed to irritate sex workers (and women) everywhere ~ and the long post ~ but I really feel strongly about this.

Grab a beverage, light a cig if that's your dealio, and settle in ~ this whore's got stamina. (She's long winded & goes the distance.)

Maybe I'm just too old and remember the days of payola all too well, or maybe it's because I'm not only aware of the cultural swing to consumer mistrust but am part of it, but paid postings make me ill.

I seriously thought paid postings would be a short-lived mistake, and I'd never need to write about it. But lately, not only am I seeing the blight on more and more blogs, but it's so bad that blog directories are now asking if you participate in such activities and others are even tossing such bloggers out of their listings. Oh, if only that would be enough to convince folks that paid postings are a bad idea. But apparently it's not.

Paid posting is the devil. Not just annoying, not just a stupid thing to do, but literally a way to sell your integrity, and the soul of your blog and company if not your personal soul.

I'm not talking about when a writer gets paid to write, even 'on assignment,' or posts which are sponsored in the sense that someone pays a fee to have their ad in a post rather than a sidebar or other ad spot. I'm talking about when someone gets paid to writ about a specific product/service/company period. It's not merely 'like' payola, it is payola.
Payola is defined as, a secret or private payment in return for the promotion of a product or service. The term originates from the record industry; but isn't limited to it.
Media which is paid to present products, services, companies, candidates etc. should be marking these funds as advertising revenues and presenting these products to the public as advertisements. If not, if they publish articles, run videos, air interviews etc. for money, they are taking a bribe.

Don't kid yourself, or let another fool you, into believing that being paid to blog (write, publish, or otherwise present) about a product (company, service, performer, candidate or other entity) is ethical or effective. It's not.

In our current climate of mistrust, a thinking reader is often looking for the hook ~ what's this author's intent, what's the blogger have to gain from posting this, what's the reporter's bias? This means that the average visitor to your blog is looking for a reason not to trust you. Paid postings just prove them right, and you terribly, woefully, wrong.

(If you agree with me, you may stop reading now and go get an ice cream cone ~ unless you're morbidly fascinated by this sort of train-wreck. If you don't agree or don't know what pay per post is, then read on my children ~ you might get that ice cream cone yet.)

What happens when a blogger is giving selling their opinions directly on products ~ without even trying them?!

Think I'm exaggerating? Think again, kids. Look at this from FAQ for advertisers:
How It Works

There are two ways to participate:

1. You can search for and purchase reviews directly by browsing through our database of active bloggers. Once you purchase a review and provide some details about the review you want done, we notify the bloggers. The blogger would then accept or decline your review request. Once accepted the blogger has 7 days to write the review, post it on their blog, and submit the URL into our system for you to see.

2. You can also post an opportunity so that bloggers can search and find you directly. An opportunity is similar to posting a job opening. Bloggers will search for relevant advertisers in order to find work. Posting an opportunity will increase the number of reviews you can get completed.
And this is from their FAQ for bloggers:
How it Works

There are two ways to participate:

1. You can create a profile for your blog(s) in order to attract advertisers. Advertisers will purchase reviews from you, which you have the option to accept or decline.

2. You can also search for advertisers directly, and bid on jobs. Our unique bidding system allows you to negotiate your rates with advertisers in order to maximize your earnings.

Once you have accepted a review opportunity, you have 3 days to complete your assignment. Upon posting the review on your blog, you must enter the URL of the post into our system.
Not a single mention of product being delivered to a blogger ~ in fact, not a single mention of the products actually being used! Now what the hell is that about?! That's not a review, that's an infomercial (at best), a paid endorsement by someone who has never tried it (at worst) or just a plain old advertisement.

In fact, it seems that actually trying the product is discouraged. Here's a quote from's blogger FAQ:
Q: How much time do I have to write my post?

A: Once you have selected Take this Opportunity, you have 6 hours to complete the requirements as listed in the Opportunity and submit the post via PayPerPost. It is best to begin research and work on the post as soon as you have decided to accept the Opportunity.
Are we to believe that within 6 hours one has been sent or purchased the item, used it, and written a review?

A review means that one has tried the product or service and is giving their honest, unvarnished thoughts. Clearly, these are not reviews.

How on earth is paid posting not considered payola by everyone?

As a blogger, you have an ethical responsibility to differentiate advertisements from your own content (i.e. your comments, opinions, recommendations, interviews, articles etc.). Even if you do not consider yourself to be part of The Media, nor wish to be, you have this responsibility. Think of it this way; when you ask your friend what movie you should see this weekend and he tells you, "Even Almighty," you trust him, right? But what if he was paid to say that? And he never told you?

Paid per post is just that.

(And how would you feel about Universal Films for paying your buddy to tell you that?)

I know, I know, there are some sites/programs which make it clear that the blog post is a paid post via buttons, banners and links. This does alleviate the matter of the hidden agenda from the reader ~ however, this leads to a whole other set of problems which prove pay per post is just bad business.

Number one, the fundamental flaw with admitting that you get paid per post is that your entire blog and everything you say is now suspect. It's not just me saying that. Be honest with yourself; if you read in any of my posts that I was paid to write them, wouldn't they naturally be suspect? Wouldn't I naturally be suspect?

You know what kills me? When bloggers fill their headers and their sidebars with buttons which read, "Hire Me! A Post On This Blog Is $15" (or $30 or whatever price they put on their integrity). Authority lost in the name of transparency, that's what this is. That button screams, "Hey! Me, my blog, and I have no integrity! Buy us!" What authority can you possibly have or earn when you announce that you and your blog are for sale?

And they call me a whore. :snort:

While these hideous announcements are at least honest, what does this do for the advertiser? Do you trust or like people who bribe people? Those companies, politicians, entertainers, etc. who use pay for posts are doing just that.

In our current climate of distrust of corporations and marketing in general, people are all-too-ready to point fingers at those who would be so unethical. And it won't be just the blogger who suffers with a poor reputation, but the advertiser as well.

Besides, it's a waste of ad dollars. These blatant bribes are not going to be effective.

Knowing that a blogger is paid for their posts severely limits the blog's appeal. Would a paid review, a blog post be meaningful to you? Likely not. Who is going to bookmark or regularly visit this blog? Would you read a blog or subscribe to an RSS feed in which 70% (or more) of its content was ads? Probably not.

Of the few that do visit, either out of friendship with the blogger or those who just stumbled in for the first time from from a search engine query, are these visitors part of the advertiser's target market? For that matter, how can a blog which is 70% paid postings have a target audience? So even if these were credible reviews and ads at credible blogs how could these ads even be worthwhile to the advertisers?

It's a lose-lose scenario.

Amazingly, quite a number of these bloggers in pay per post programs (and there are a growing number of these), have high rankings, linking authority at Technorati and other signs of 'greatness.'

How do they do it? Well, I'm no member of these programs, but it's pretty clear that they are organized, armed with blogger tools, and know just enough to be dangerous ~ for the short term anyway. For no matter how many people you get (trick into) visiting these blogs, the bottom line is no one is trusting them enough to believe what they say. Translation: No one is going to rush out and buy/consume the products and services which are presented.

One of the tools these programs offer is the "Get Paid To Review My Post" buttons. These are designed to get others hooked. Not just other bloggers and advertisers, but blog readers looking to make a few bucks.

I've heard the intention of the "review me" buttons and links are to provide the check & balance of the system. If a blogger consistently gets poor reviews, then they'll be ranked less or otherwise deemed less worthy to advertisers. This is to ensure the quality. (Quality I can only guess is determined by some rather meaningless criteria, for by now credibility is non-existent.) Aside from the obvious potential of misuse by other jealous bloggers, the friends of bloggers and the advertisers themselves (who can keep a blogger's fees as humble as their attitudes), the whole system is rife with misuse by the program managers themselves.

As noted before, I've been at sites where the owners told columnists to download the Alexa toolbar so that our visits would help increase the site's ranking. So it's not a big leap to imagine that when advertisers stop buying posts these programs will direct members to 'give folks a break' and give nice reviews so that they can gain and retain advertisers. A plea to 'help the program so you can continue to be paid' is a strong motivator for many, and since the average (admittedly not generated with a large sample) I saw for paid post reviews was $7.50 per review, that could add up rather quickly. Those reviewing members are going to respond.

Of course, it's just as likely that the programs will actually direct it's members posting negative or neutral 'reviews' to let up a bit to help the site gain and retain advertisers. Ditto on running about and clicking the links to advertisers to inflate numbers. Since these bloggers are in it for the money, not the authority, not the love of what they blog about, they are going to submit to these requests.

The whole thing stinks like rotten fish sitting in the sunshine. Don't let pay per post folks blow sunshine up your skirt with their talk of revenues and other matters which cloud the issue, which is one of ethics.

Decent bloggers care about their authority. Decent companies care about their image. And paid postings destroy both.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ethics, Advice and Fencing

In the LA Times Karen E. Klein addresses the question of starting a new retail business.

Specifically the question is, "I'm working on a business plan for a lingerie store but feel overwhelmed about where to get information on economic trends. Can you please help?" But no matter the venture or location, the advice is still rather sound. Use the contact information in articles and advertisements to further your research, talk to suppliers but remember they are trying to sell you something, so take what they have to say with the old grain of salt, and attend trade shows:
Attending a trade show will give you enormous insight into your new industry, how it operates, who the big players are and where the niche opportunities exist. Finally, visit some companies that cater to the same market you will but don't sell products that will directly compete with your store. "Most small-business owners are more than willing to speak about trends in their own business -- as long as they are sure that you are not a competitor," Keane said.

Take willing entrepreneurs to lunch and ask about sales trends, locations, what to focus on (quality, price, service) and what problems they encountered early on. "Speak to as many people as you can and see what resonates with your own ideas for the business. Most of all, remain open to learning new insights," Keane said.
Anyone who has ever gone this route, either attending trade shows or otherwise trying to interview other business folks regarding their business, knows this isn't as easy as pie.

On one hand, you've got the sunshine blowers who want to make you happy by warming your bum as they blow their sunshine up your skirt. On the other, those who are so tight lipped you wonder why they ever agreed to talk with you. There are also those middle-of-the-roaders who tell you generic stuff, sitting on the fence as far as giving you the truth of where things (like sales volume) lie.

With any of these folks, the interview is more like a fencing match where your direct question is a thrust and they parry.

Oh, and don't forget the flat-out refusals. Some folks won't even bother to talk with you at all.

Why the fencing? Why the refusals? Because people zealously guard their shit.

Everyone is in competition with everyone. (Or after the interview they will be.)

It seems that the only folks will to be interviewed (or happy to have their brains picked) are those who feel they are helping a student with a school report. Then it's all blither-blather ~ at least until the savvy student asks a question which seems too intelligent. (You know, a question which contradicts something they've said, or one that requires an answer with real information. Oooh, that's scary and upsetting for the interviewee.)

You could ask all the questions in a submissive round-about way, creating the illusion that you are dumber than a box of rocks. Of course, this means you'll have to hope they think you're such an idiot that they let some info slip ~ but not a large enough idiot for them to become annoyed and cut the interview off ~ and that they aren't just messing with you for their own entertainment purposes (and noob stories to tell their cohorts later).

It would seem that the only way a person interested in learning the facts might obtain them is to lie and say they are a college student (or high school if you can pass for that). But even then, most of these people present their industry as the best one for students to enter (they are no threat at entry level jobs), which is hardly the information looked for.

I don't think it's ethical to lie about the nature of who you are or your fact-finding mission. But I also don't think it's very ethical to say you'll be interviewed or talk about the industry if you're not really going to dish. With a respectful nod to 'knowledge is power' and the fact that knowledge does have worth and should be compensated accordingly (hence my own fees), I do wonder why people guard their own shit to the point of their own detriment.

Yes, to their own detriment.

People, "Experts," lose credibility when they don't follow through, especially in the guise of mentoring. Professions suffer when ignorant people join their ranks. Businesses falter when folks plans and dreams are fostered on false facts. Blowing sunshine, shoveling BS, and, yes, even avoiding answering questions only leads to bad decisions. These lead to bad press, bad reputations ~ and entire industries suffer (i.e. one bad lawyer apple ruins the whole barrel).

I am a member of several professions &/or industries which suffer from the idiotic actions of its members &/or public perception. For example, the adult industry, publishing, and marketing (the latter likely holds 1st Place in general mistrust these days).

Not coincidentally, these are some of the industries and professions not exactly prized for their knowledge sharing (you could also insert the buzz-word "transparency" here).

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Peek-A-Boo Transparency

When it comes to visibility on the Internet, there's a delicate balance to maintain.

Transparency is desirable, but as any woman can tell you, you certainly have to protect yourself.

Des Walsh writes discusses anonymity from a practical sense, but so does Jennifer Woodard Maderazo at PBS.

The dilemma is between being known and credible, and being 'found' and frightened.

Obviously I'm a huge advocate of pen names. I have a history which makes them second nature and deal in a subject matter which makes one mandatory. So I began my life here on the Internet with a working name ~ a professional name I work under. (Gracie Passette, not just The Whore; I find the latter fun.) And I advocate pen names for anyone, in any profession. I don't believe that pen names make you less credible.

(I often think it would be great if you could literally make a name for yourself in your 9-5 cubicle, and say work as "John Peterson" rather than use your birth name. It makes it so easy to un-plug at the end of your work day when you stop being "John" and start being David aka The Real You.)

But if this doesn't sit right with you, or if you've already begun your career with your real name, for heaven's sake be careful about it. Consider what you share, how you share it, and with whom you share it. Tell the truth, but cloak what you can.

It's like dressing to tease, but still allowing for some modesty.

(In truth, many bloggers etc. use their real names not for their current level of credibility, but for the vanity of it).

You aren't faking anything, just being discrete for safety reasons. And anyone who thinks you have something to hide, some hideous skeleton in your closet or facet of your life you are trying to hide, is well... Partly right. Maybe not about the skeleton. But you are trying to hide some part of yourself so that you can be safe and live your life. (As can your family and friends.)

Not using your real or birth name isn't any different than electing not to put up photos of yourself. But then again by the same token, don't use a name which belongs to someone else or describe yourself (character, integrity, knowledge etc.) other than what you are. That's like using a photo of a model; that's misrepresentation, lying.

Sure, when you become famous you won't be easily getting that table at (insert whatever hot spot for dining you'd like), but then you won't have someone following you to your home either. Or at least you've made it more difficult for them to do so.

Being accessible is a huge part of credibility; but that doesn't mean you must allow anyone, everyone, into your home.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Are You Wired For Transparency?

Wired Magazine's recent issue, Get Naked and Rule the World is making the rounds ~ as much for Jenna Fisher ("Pam" from The Office) and her provocative photo as for its coverage of the matter of corporate transparency.

The issue's feature content is:

Smart companies are sharing secrets with rivals, blogging about products in their pipeline, even admitting to their failures. The name of this new game is RADICAL TRANSPARENCY, and it's sweeping boardrooms across the nation. Even those Office drones at Dunder Mifflin get it. So strip down and learn how to have it all by baring it all.

Which is to say it's all about what the boys of Naked Conversations have been saying: business being open and honest and talking with employees, customers, and partners.

Ironically, the feature on the 'transparent' and no-longer-evil Microsoft sort of well, backfired...

A dossier "which summarizes Microsoft execs' efforts to plant the story, and gives tips on how to handle the magazine's reporter, Fred Vogelstein, makes for astonishing reading. But it's more embarrassing for the Conde Nast magazine than it is for Microsoft: the author appears to have promised Microsoft that he'd show them the article well before publication, which is against the policy of most magazines."

(Here's Vogelstein's reply.)

It seems the emperors are too afraid to really be naked; many just want the 'new clothes' so they can look naked. But you either are naked or your not. (Naked Suits just don't work.)

Talking about being transparent has lots of folks in a tizzy lately. To be sure, as the authors of Naked Conversations point out in their book, blogging and transparency aren't for everyone. And there are risks to consider.

Among the concerns are the matters of the competition scooping you and the embarrassing boo-boos being out there because all this open and honest talk is instantly published.

For example, the new (Beta) Assignment Zero, a Pro-Am collaboration among NewAssignment.Net, Wired, and those who "choose to participate" is "is an attempt to bring journalists together with people in the public who can help cover a story."

The investigation takes place in the open, not behind newsroom walls. Participation is voluntary; contributors are welcome from across the Web. The people getting, telling and vetting the story are a mix of professional journalists and members of the public -- also known as citizen journalists. This is a model I describe as "pro-am."

The "ams" are simply people getting together on their own time to contribute to a project in journalism that for their own reasons they support. The "pros" are journalists guiding and editing the story, setting standards, overseeing fact-checking, and publishing a final version.

An interesting concept, they are already wondering about their transparency issues:

I wonder if this thing isn't *too* transparent... I don't think it's appropriate for people to see our sausage being made, so to speak; much of what's posted is written unprofessionally or stolen wholesale from other site... What does transparency mean to you? What are we trying to accomplish?

The replies are interesting; especially those on the "degrees of transparency." You can't be partially naked ~ at least not for long. *wink*

Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of transparency, but in the world of news ~ where 'scoop' is even more meaningful than at an ice cream shop ~ this is a big test of the issues.

On a related matter...

In With a business model like this, who needs enemies? the idea of 'open' takes a slightly different turn when thoughts turn to Open Access Vs Closed Access publications. (For those in the adult business, consider this paid subscriber membership vs. free sites.) Just how can publications pay those bills? Is giving it away a model that can support costs?

If the argument for transparency is one of human warmth, accessibility and being liked, then open source or 'see for free' is a very legit question.

So, can you afford to be transparent? Before you get naked, remember to look at it from all sides ~ even the unflattering angles. Because that's how they'll be looking at you.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Book Review: Naked Conversations

Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers, by Robert Scoble & Shel Israel

This book isn't just a business book or a book for marketers ~ it should be required reading for anyone interested in understanding what communication is all about, the dynamic of consumers in our current culture, and the phenom known as blogging. It also is an enjoyable fun read.

I'm not just saying that because it's got 'naked' in the title. This really is one hell of a good book.

(If you're in a hurry, you may want to skip my review and just go get a copy now, for my final rating is Buy It Now!! For those who want to know why, please do continue with the review.)

Scoble and Israel are legends in blogging. They didn't become legends simply because they hopped on the technology quickly and posted often, but rather because each understood the power of blogging for the blogger and the blog reader. This passion is what separates their blogs from the rest. This passion is also the essential difference which separates this book from the herd. And they articulate it well.

Since both bloggers understand what blogging is all about ~ meaning they understand the way it connects people and provides for conversations, not just the technology or the fad aspects ~ they were able to put it to use for corporate communications. And least you believe that's the stuff of dull memos and notes from even duller meetings, Scoble and Israel are here to set the record straight: Corporate blogging is anything but dull.

By baring corporate souls and participating in dialogs with consumers, fans, media, detractors, share holders, competitors, investors and any other person who wishes to talk, companies shed perceptions of cold exteriors ~ or at least show that inside it is warm, caring and human. Blogs are the perfect mechanism for talking with rather than 'at' your market.

According to the authors the cornerstones of blogging are Authenticity, Passion, and Transparency. (You know The Whore preaches on the first two, and the latter ~ which has become such a buzz word that you will be soon sick of it ~ is not far away in posts here either.) When corporations use blogs, either by allowing employees to blog or having the head honcho do so, they open themselves up to a public of consumers and have conversations ~ or as the title says, naked conversations.

For those who fear getting naked and blogging themselves (and the book does cover which corporate cultures and individual types of people should not blog) they can still make wonderful use of blogs by conversing at the blogs of others (which still is participating in those conversations) and even just listening (i.e. reading at other blogs and incorporating that into their business).

These conversations are currently popular and powerful ~ and only becoming more so. The authors say the popularity and power comes from The Six Pillars of Blogging:

1. Publishable.

2. Findable.

3. Social.

4. Viral.

5. Syndicatable.

6. Linkable.

While the authors admit that blogs are not the only places or methods to do these things, blogs are currently the only mechanism for doing all of them at once. (A clever reader can therefore take these Six Pillars and extrapolate them into use in other areas.) The combination of the six leads to conversation, buzz, Google Juice, & trust. As others join the conversation you not only have more of the six but more of the buzz, juice and trust.

If blogs were once thought of as too childish, as lacking any credibility in 'real business,' it is now a fact that those companies that do not blog are now the ones with a credibility problem.

Businesses which do not embrace and enter conversations via blogs will pay the price. Consumers (stock holders, clients, investors, customers etc.) are increasingly wondering, "Why is company X afraid to blog?" If your company doesn't blog, your market will find (and do business with) one that does.

If you think that the authors and myself are preaching to the choir (you are after all reading at a blog, and a marketing blog at that) and therefore you have nothing to learn from this book, you are mistaken.

Along with pointing out why you should blog, including examples of how companies have benefited from blogs and interviews with high-ranking bloggers (corporate and individual bloggers, international bloggers), the authors discuss the mistakes. Using real examples as illustrations the authors give you the dos and don'ts of blogging ~ and tell you what to do if & when you or your company makes a mistake. More than just discussing blogging faux pas, they tell you how to use a blog to handle any mistakes or crisis.

In other words, now that you're convinced you'd like to play, Naked Conversations gives you the rules of the game, a list of key players, and tells you which fields are best to play on. It even acts like a cheer leading squad on those tough game days. What more can you ask for?

For those who cannot wait for their Barnes & Noble to open up, nor next day Amazon shipping, you can read about the book & its concepts from the authors as they wrote it here at the archives of the Naked Conversations Blog. But don't kid yourself that the free read will satisfy you. You're going to want this book ~ not just to enjoy the sensations of a paper read on the sofa, but for the ability stick post-it notes on stand out pages so you can quickly refer to it later. (My copy has so many yellow post-its sticking out it looks like Big Bird.) This book is definitely a Buy It Now!! (plus two exclamation points).

Title: Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers
Author: Robert Scoble and Shel Israel
Publisher: Wiley (January 2006)
ISBN-10: 047174719X
ISBN-13: 978-0471747192

The Whore's Book Review Rating System:

Buy It: A must have for your shelf.

Buy It Now: Not only a 'must have,' but so good, you should rush order it.

Check Out: Go to your library and read it. (If it means more than that to you, then you can buy it or put it on your wish list.)

Pass: Not worth your time or money.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Stop Cyberbulling Day

Today is Stop Cyberbullying Day.

Prompted, I'm sure by Kathy Sierra's problems, which is the topic of a huge percentage of blog posts this week and has been listed in the top three searches at Technorati all week.

Along with stopping any bad behaviors you have yourself, this is a good day to spend some time thinking about the issues, your rights and role. Cyberbullying isn't just the problem of The Attacked and The Attackers but has implications for bloggers and others in the community, such as linking behaviors etc.

You know that I'll suggest treating your blog, forums etc as police states, but there is more to consider. Nordette Adams has covered many aspects of the issue regarding Sierra's situation, including the fall-out. It's in Adams' blog post at Confessions of a Jersey Goddess that you'll see most of the issues you need to consider.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Why Pen Names Are Useful

In case you missed it, the full story on Kathy Sierra: "Death threats against bloggers are NOT 'protected speech'".

I, and others, have written on the use of pen names when blogging, but it bears repeating.

For those who think safety isn't an issue, read about Kathy's situation and ask yourself if it isn't time to consider pen names differently. Even if you appear at conferences and make other public appearances, a pen name can make it more difficult for someone to reach you. Even if just extra minutes, it's a head start, right?

Ditto on a work address, even if only a P.O. Box at the UPS store.

I should also add that I do not feel death threats, to bloggers or anyone, fall under the 1st Amendment rights. No one should feel the need to protect themselves with a a fake name, but then no one should fear walking down the street, or feel afraid in their own home; but that's the world we live in for now.

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Saturday, March 3, 2007

Help Me to Help You

I spotted a new marketing blog today: Adult Blog Marketing. "Adult link lists, porn directories, top sites, and link trade reviews. Who lies, who tells the truth, and who is just a bit shady. Find out all the adult marketing details here."

True to its description, the blog has (so far) stayed on task reviewing and commenting on opportunities for adult bloggers. However...

You know The Whore link surfs and I followed a link from this marketing blog to his personal blog, Alternative Albany. There I found this post, Should I be honored or offended?, on his less than happy experience with one of the sites/programs he'd reviewed. (An interesting post by the way.)

I wanted to offer this man the opportunity to use the Sex-Kitten.Net feed. (Normally reserved for personal friends and sites I read at often, I do allow other sex bloggers to join with a link back. His blog is worthy of such an agreement.) But the only way I found to do this would be to post a comment at that entry. That seemed rather spammy to me as I don't know this man, and my only reason for posting would be to post my link... Would that be considered spammy, or taken with what I believe I have, "the best of intentions." Unsure, I looked for a means of contact.

I looked high, I looked low. I used the search function. I checked the sidebar several times, but I saw no contact information.

I went back to the first blog, the marketing one, and the same problem exists. His pretty blog graphics highlight a search function, but it doesn't work. (The blogger nav bar search is notorious for not working well, so as expected it didn't show anything for 'contact.') This blog was so new I was willing to look through the few posts and I found an email contact listed ~ right there with a strong (bolded all caps) warning about posting comments. Problem solved? No. Not really.

At this point I was too annoyed at having to go through so many hoops simply to offer him an opportunity and decided against contacting him. (Perhaps he will see my links to his sites, visit here, and get the information? If so, the offer still stands.) Instead I decided to make a point for all of you. Post your contact information. Make it easy to find. Don't make it so damn hard for folks to bring you gifts.

By the same token, if you have rules or policies for posting, contact, etc., put it someplace where folks can find it. Help them to help you.

If they can't reach you, they can't help you.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I Know You Want To Remain Anonymous, But...

The Internet is loaded with people hiding behind the invisible cloak of user IDs and free email accounts. The feeling that no one can see you, tie your words to your soul, is quite liberating. Even those who are not pretending to be something or someone they aren't, those who are being quite real, feel empowered to divulge and express as they will not be recognized at the office water cooler, in line at Wal-Mart, or by that annoying next door neighbor. But sometimes too much anonymity is a bad thing.

Which brings us to the Quick Questions, Quick Answers post/contest.

What all those questions had in common was that none of those asking included links to or other information about their blogs. How can I provide any opinions of that which I cannot see?

If you want my opinion or advice you'll need to show me what you are talking about. Without those facts I can't do much more than spout generalities ~ and successful marketing should be about individuals and individual markets, not generalities. So, please, do not hide yourself, your blog or website.

I realize that as The Whore I can be quite intimidating. Direct, opinionated people can be. It's not that I want to be a meanie-meanie-bo-beanie; I just calls 'em as I sees 'em.

In spite of hundreds of views to that post showing that the collective 'you' did see the contest, I had no emails for the contest. Therefore I must conclude folks were afraid of even emailing in guesses for fear of being 'wrong' and somehow mocked. Listen, I won't mock you, personally attack you, or otherwise berate you for an idea, guess, comment, or even a disagreement with my point of view. (See? I'm not naming any of you here, am I? *wink*)

I don't (and won't) publicly display your name, site or otherwise 'out' you without your permission. Even in blog 'field trips' I'll wait to share with the class after you've made fixes (if even needed). This blog is about learning, field trips are for illustration, the only dumb question is the unasked one, etc. None of this is a witch-hunt to embarrass folks.

So stop being so anonymous.

I cannot promise individual consulting to each and everyone of you, however at the very least I will see general patterns and discuss them here. And, if you're willing, we'll take a field trip to your site or share our conversation.

But I can (and do) promise that without information, URLs etc. I won't be able to give you the answers you seek.

That all said, if you'd like to resend your email-O-questions with your blog/website URL, please do so.

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