Astroturf: Fake Bloggers, Go Directly To Jail!

Astroturf: Fake Bloggers, Go Directly To Jail!
Fester points to Gawker:

“..the UK is about to make it a crime for companies to misrepresent themselves as consumers in their online marketing. That means, for example, that a company setting up a fake blog to hype its own products could be prosecuted, fined, and jailed. Free speech? Whatever. This is an awesome development. And bloggers can be locked up, too!”

AdAge has the story here. 

Back to school

We woke at 4:30 am this morning to drive 185 miles from Cotuit to Derby, Connecticut to watch our daughter row for the University of Virginia against my alma mater, Yale and their arch nemesis Harvard-Radcliffe. Seven and half minutes of rowing, only the last two minutes of which are visible to the spectators standing on the balcony of the boathouse, but the drive was worth any minute, as this was my one and only chance to see her row this year after three years of loyally going to races in eastern Massachusetts.

The bad news is her boat, the novice eight, lost. As did the varsity first and second boats – a blow as Virginia is ranked third nationally after Cal/Berkeley and Yale. Yale Women’s Rowing is arguably the best over time as it was one of the earliest and produced a disproportionate number of Olympians, including Ginny Gilder, whose family donated the magnificent new boathouse that replaced the tired aqua blue bunker I rowed out of in the 1970s. I was kind of happy to see the Bulldogs do well, but had to empathize with my daughter who rowed a very tough race down a choppy course into a brisk and cold headwind. It was also her first race after a frustrating season of back injuries, and I know she climbed into the bow seat in part because she wanted us to see her behind an oar.

The races were run on the Housatonic River, and while the boathouse was unrecognizable (this was my first visit), the view across the river and the finish line to the dam downriver was very familiar and brought on a bad Pavlovian reaction as that stretch of water in front of the boathouse docks is where I spent probably the most miserable 90 seconds of my entire life, sprinting down the last 500 meters of a 2000 meter race in an oxygen debt sort of like smothering in a dry cleaning bag while splitting a cord of wood at the rate of 40 whacks per minute.

Blisters are a rower’s badge of courage

(apologies for video quality, FlipCams are not cut out for filming rowing)
When the races were finished I explored the boathouse bays and marveled at the gleaming new Vespoli shells, the vast docks, the wakeless catamaran launches. Rowing is one of those things where the clothing may improve and the boats may get a little better, but in the end it’s the same hard work it has always been, an impenetrable experience for someone who has never done it, an addiction for those who have.

We took on three laundry bags in anticipation of the end of semester move back to the Cape, handed over a grocery bag of stuff to eat during the ten hour bus ride back to Charlottesville, hugged our goodbyes and headed into New Haven in search of apizza – that’s correct – “apizza,” the uniquely New Haven nomenclature for a pizza pie, but one cooked in a coal oven in a way that most connoisseurs of pizza would agree gives New Haven the proper title of best pizza on the planet.

The usual spots on Wooster Street – Sally’s and Pepe’s – open at 4 pm, so we went to Modern Apizza on State Street, which opens for lunch. I had never tried Modern before, but am glad we did. I wouldn’t rank it above the aforementioned masters, but it’s a very very good pizza, better than anything I have seen outside of New Haven, and right in the ball park with the charred crust and general gestalt.

After lunch I took my wife and son on a walking tour of the Yale campus. It was a gorgeous spring day, the trees were in full flower (I love the Emerson line: “The earth laughs in flowers.”), and we started at my residential college, or dorm, Timothy Dwight. Alas, security has changed and the gates were locked, so we peered through the bars and walked into the center of the campus and my favorite place of all, the Sterling Memorial Library, where I spent most of my time either studying, writing, or working as a printer in the library’s letterpress. Fortunately tourists were allowed in and it was very cool to show off one of the world’s greatest libraries to my family.

The Harkness carillon was pealing as we pulled out of town and so we returned to Cotuit with a spare pizza in the trunk.

Zittrain | Stark warning for internet’s future

BBC carries this interesting piece on Jonathan Zittrain’s warning about the rise of closed devices (e.g. gaming consoles like the Xbox 360) leading to a closed network. (As a marketer of “Generative” nodes, or PCs, I obviously would have to agree):

“With the second billion of the planet’s citizens due to go online in the next 10 years and an avalanche of online-enabled devices hitting the market with each passing year it would be understandable to assume that the internet is in a healthy position.

The 1960s vision of a network of networks has grown into a tool that encircles the globe, drives economies and connects citizens.

But Professor Jonathan Zittrain, one of the world’s leading academics on the impact of the net, is warning that the future is potentially bleak.

His book, The Future of the Internet: And How To Stop It, highlights key concerns about the direction online society is heading in.

“I want a recognition from people that the network they enjoy now is in many important respects a collective hallucination,” he said.

“If too many of them start treating it as a cash and carry service they are going get the network they deserve.”

Zittrain is the professor of internet governance and regulation at Oxford University and co-founder of Harvard Law School’s Berman Center for Internet and Society.

He said the “happy accident” of the net, which was designed by researchers for researchers, resulted in an open platform which facilitated innovation because it enabled anyone online to implement ideas at the edge of the network.

He calls these technologies “generative”, meaning open tools that can be put to a multiplicity of purposes.

Fundamental backbone

A PC is a good example of a generative device because it can be reprogrammed for many uses, and one machine on the net can impact every other without compromising the fundamental backbone of the network.

He contrasts generative devices with “sterile appliances”, closed systems which appear to give consumers access to the net.

He argued such devices were damaging innovation and potentially putting easilly-abused powers into the hands of a few companies and governments.

Marketonomy: Web 2.0 Expo: Bloggers vs. Reporters

Marketonomy: Web 2.0 Expo: Bloggers vs. Reporters

Christopher Kenton is at Web 2.0. This insight hit me hard. I remember the days when the press room was the rowdiest place in the building. Comdex. Massachusetts State House. Now — press rooms are morgues. All the fun is with the bloggers. You betcha.

“When you walk into the media lounge, it’s deadly silent. There are a couple of rows of banquet tables, about half full. People diligently typing away, head down. You walk two doors down to the blogger lounge, and you can hear the buzz outside the door. Similar rows of tables, but they’re all full. There are couches with people lounging with their laptops. Pandora radio is set up putting out tunes. There’s a small video/sound stage setup for video interviews. But most of all, people are engaged in conversation everywhere–talking while posting, twittering, texting.”

Bedtime reading for the dysfunctional family in all of us …

From Gawker: “If you’re in the market for a good story-time read, I recommend My Beautiful Mommy, a heartwarming tale of personal growth and breast augmentation by plastic surgeon Michael Salzhauer. The book is aimed at helping kids understand that even mommies can be insecure. See, even adults love instant gratification; but for them, face lifts work better than candy …”

From Boing-Boing: It’s Just a Plant.

Thanks to Uncle Fester for the pointers and laughs.

Try to detect it …

I am in the process of evaluating a horde of monitoring tools and applications as the time has come to move on from the freebie model we kludged together two years ago to something that will support the organization’s global interest in Social Media and reputation management.

So, here is chapter two in my Social Media Marketing 201 series – how to monitor buzz about your organization for no money down, and how to know when it’s time to hit up the powers that be for some real money to spend on a real solution.

Free: yup. It costs nothing to detect the chatter about your company. There are two solid solutions for blog search – perhaps you’ve heard of Google? Thought so. Google Blog search is a good thing. And then there is Technorati, which sort of defined the space. Both are great tools, but you can automate searches of specific keywords and phrases and then syndicate those searches as RSS feeds out into a blog reader such as Bloglines or (in my case) Google Reader. Then you just need to remember to scan the blog reader a couple times every day.

Not to drop a coprolite into any vendor’s soup, but beware of claims that they detect stuff better than Technorati or Google. They are basically selling an aggregator/reader and offer some stuff above and beyond like influence maps and sentiment metrics in a shared space so you and your team can look at the same stuff. That’s great, but maps are eye candy (sorry map people, I really don’t need to see some spiderweb of connections) and sentiment metrics remain, for the most part, mainly binary sucks/rocks, green/red statements that do doodly squat to drive an action.

So, go free, use Google Reader, syndicate in some blog searches, manually sub some feeds from communities and forums, and get ready to weed through a ton of noise to find the signals that matter. And, one last thing: hiring an outsider to do your monitoring for you is suicide. You positively absolutely should monitor stuff yourself. Be paranoid, get in the habit of fretting about the stuff you are missing. It’s a good place to be.

Paid: When do you need to pay for a social media monitoring tool? Let’s assume you are tracking and issuing a report to somebody on a weekly or daily basis (note to self, blog in future on reporting formats) on what you’re seeing. Sooner or later, if you do this right and if your brand and industry attracts a lot of SMM activity, you are going to find the distribution list expanding. More people are going to want to know what you’re seeing. And pretty soon they are going to want to directly monitor the buzz themselves. The primary thing a free/homegrown solution won’t do is permit a workflow model that will let the person doing the monitoring open an incident and assign it to someone best qualified in the business to resolve or answer it. Don’t underestimate the breadth of the people who will sooner or later need to know.

Workflow – the system for easily distributing issues is one area a paid “enterprise reputation management” system should excel at. Enterprise systems are for the big guys – not necessarily the customers with high volumes of detected hits, but ones that have a complex organization scattered over multiple timezones and continents. It’s one thing to see it, it’s another to start a timer, assign, and then resolve it. Workflow is the big need we have right now.

Response: the mechanism for responding and working with a forum poster or blogger is sometimes built within the tool. Nice to have perhaps. I have never tried such an integrated system, but I would be hard pressed to call it a need-to-have.

Metrics – as I have said over and over, nothing in this world is more Dilbert than metrics for the sake of measurement. Sentiment metrics are particularly vexing, volume sentiments are crap. Be wary of tools that purport to deliver metrics. I subscribe to the manual scoring method of sentiment. If it really matters then the only viable way to tell whether a post is positive or negative is to read it and make the call. Doing so will entail enlisting the support of a team of monitors or moderators, or, if you are a sole operator, doing it yourself.

Nathan Gilliatt has compiled an excellent Guide to Social Media Analysis
and could teach the PhD level series on this topic. I’ll report back as we go into deeper trial with the various solutions in market and let you know where we end up. Thankfully I have a great team in Mark Hopkins, Tim Supples, and Esteban Panzeri to guide us through the thickets. Their statement of requirements is very solid and if they agree, I’ll post them in a subsequent post.

 

 

 

Randall Rothenberg: War Against the Web – Business on The Huffington Post

Randall Rothenberg: War Against the Web – Business on The Huffington Post
This column by IAB CEO Randall Rotherberg on the HuffPo got me worked up. If you work in web marketing, web publishing, or any web content field that depends on advertising to sustain your business — then read this and get pissed. The privacy goo-goos are out in force and need a lesson in web anonymity. I’ll post in depth on the issue when I get out of this airport.
Meanwhile, read Randall’s post:

“Every Web site you visit is a product of “third parties.” The Web is a web; when you browse, anonymous data is exchanged continuously among service providers, sites, ad-delivery companies, content developers, analytics firms, and many others. Place undue operating burdens on this ecosystem, and it’s the ad-supported specialty sites, niche media, independent blogs, minority publications, and Mom & Pop dot-coms (thousands of which depend on third-party representatives to sell and convey their ads) that will suffer the most. Right behind them will be the traditional newspaper and magazine companies that are developing third-party online networks to augment their reach.”Do-not-track” is synonymous with “do-not-improve.” Observation of Americans’ consumption behavior has been a staple of marketing research at least since Tocqueville reported on our obsession with “commercial and industrial occupations” nearly 200 years ago. So, too, today: Online behavioral analysis is essential if marketers and media are to enhance their products, services, entertainment, information, and news offerings. Regulatory restrictions on the collection of anonymous preference information will consign us to an economy based on inefficient speculation. How can we advance the way we communicate the virtues of green cars, social investing, or charitable giving? Guesswork, I guess.