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Why I Think Some Will Protest Blog & Forum Transparency

stop-comment-hijacking1.gifI can imagine a million + 1 reasons some will be stubborn about making comment ip addresses public. But a few sinister ones come to mind. I’m not saying this about anyone or any company in particular so lets just make that clear now, this is more about the future credibility of the forum and blog communities that have the capacity to set public opinion in a direction in which they choose, or take advantage of those venues who are not paying attention to the direction at all.

One must look no further than the story of John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods and how he admittedly used sneaky means using blogs to sway opinion about the value of a competitor. The truth about what is said of John Mackey can be said of many who are guilty of it in other ways all around the blog-o-whatever. Reality tells us that unscrupulous people will do unscrupulous things to further their gains, but the question you have to ask is why more isn’t done to at the very least curb the problem. That’s easy. Many of those who will protest such a move may be guilty of silly things like prodding conversations using the same hidden methods- a different email address that isn’t public, a new name you’ve never seen in a blog before and voila you two can sway a conversation- or better yet, goat another blogger into a frenzy to get blog ratings. Everyone loves a great verbal fist fight even though we publicly protest such childish actions.

The act of using blogs as a means of furthering ones own public relations efforts is not uncommon. Over at sandiegohomeblog.com a certain commenter became famous when he was banned for nasty comments only to reappear as someone else using the same slant (he later confessed to his multiple personality disorder when caught). This commenter would inject himself into conversation and blast whatever the Bergs were saying that day. Did this hurt the overall point of the message? Not if you were a Realtor or fan of the Bergs, but if you were a consumer the thread would read as if Kris or Steve’s comments were ill advised, they were ill informed, and thus a challenge to their overall credibility. Add in the possibility of the mystery commenter injecting his opinion in the same post under several names, his attack now appears to a consumer as an consensus, but it was never that- simply, it was a lone gunman and his valued opinion. The Bergs were able to isolate ant out this individual, but in a larger venue such as a forum, how do we know this is not more wide spread? If a consumer had all of the information, then they could gauge for themselves, and remove the idea of consensus, and then a consumer is left free to consume the information in an honest and sincere way.

How big is this problem? One must only look back to the 2001, 02, 04, 06, and now the soon to be 08 elections to see how political blog spin today is now being used in business blogs. In the age of the instant opinion, one must google no further than “real estate blog” to see this same political tactic in action. Does it happen in other professions? Of course, it is a more subtle method but you see spam in blogs daily posing as sincere comments. But under the surface, what you have is a comment with a motive.

Many want to stop it, but I have a feeling there are many motives as to why not to stop it, but there is no damn good reason that we should at least make every effort to at the very least educate the consumer that the may be being spun in much the same way digital media is used to spin the facts.

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Does ip exposure stop the madness? No. It has simply become our focus to encourage major forum and blog moderators to take responsibility and begin the conversation of ideas to create ways of insulating from this type of commentary, as well as exposing the abuse of the past. Every moderator sees every ip address, and every consumer hopes the moderator monitors for this activity. But the larger the forum or blog grows the harder it becomes to isolate. That is why it is imperative that the information be given to the consumer so that they can make their own judgement calls as to what is the truth.

It seems many realize the problem but want to just ignore it, we hope you will help us expose this very anti-web2.0 style of marketing and consumer manipulation.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network. Before AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation has received the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular offline events. He does not venture into the spotlight often, rather he believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits and develops, so he gives all credit to those he's empowered.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Bob Wuest

    March 29, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Anonymity is used by many on the web as a means of creating spin – either positive or negative. This article provides an idea for discussion around how to reduce the occurrence of anonymous spin.

    But this is no end-all solution. If I grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks I get a dynamic IP address assigned while I’m there. Then across the street to Panera – another IP address. So abusers (and everyone else!) are not tied to their IP addresses.

    I’d love to find a way to punish those who use the guise of anonymity to promote mis-information on the web. Unfortunately, I think publishing IP addresses is not a good way of accomplishing this.

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