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For Internet trolls, Freedom of Speech is not Freedom from Accountability

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anonymity on the internet Every few years, when a well-known and roundly reviled Internet personality is outed by investigative bloggers, a vocal minority attacks the unmasking as a violation of free speech.

The argument, trotted out most recently by defenders of Michael “Violentacrez” Brutsch upon his 4,700-word public shaming by Gawker as “the Biggest Troll on the Web,” boils down to this: “No one deserves privacy, but we deserve anonymity.”

As a highly active Reddit user, Brutsch spent years sharing salacious pictures of underage girls as “jailbait,” voyeuristic photos of women in public and much, much worse, including pictures of dead teenagers. Now that his unsettling hobbies have cost him his job, supporters are claiming that the outing by Gawker’s Adrian Chen is a threat to free speech across Reddit, which bills itself as “the front page of the Internet.”

This idea, that bloggers are somehow threatening free speech by outing anonymous Internet users, shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the First Amendment. It is not an impenetrable shield for anonymity, nor does it make any American immune to accountability for our actions.

The First Amendment protects us from our government, but rarely from each other. In other words, the same law that gives Brutsch the right to say despicable things also gives Chen the right to call him out for it.

In fairness, being confused about the Constitution’s protection of free speech is understandable. The First Amendment is so short, it could be reprinted verbatim in two tweets, and yet it is quite possibly the most complex and carefully parsed law in the land.

The First Amendment is a protection granted by the government against the government. But outside journalistic circles, it typically gets simplified down to the idea that we can say whatever we want without repercussions. Of course we can’t.

Free speech always carries implications far beyond the legal system. It can get you ostracized by your friends, families and peers, not to mention making it difficult to find a job or seek public office. That’s always been the case, but it used to apply only in rare cases of whistleblowers and political dissidents. Today, the Internet has opened the danger of accountability to millions who live in a digital universe where being anonymous is the norm instead of the exception.

In times gone by, anonymous authors and snarky gossip columnists made the decision in advance to hide their identity specifically because of the content they were creating.

Today, that model has been flipped. Many Internet users begin within the comforting cloak of anonymity and then, seduced by the lack of consequences for their actions, start saying things that they would never say in public. Some devolve further into trolls, clutching that anonymity cloak as if it made them invisible. When it is suddenly stripped away, they realize just how precarious of a situation they’ve made for themselves.

Their only hope at that point is to recast themselves martyrs of free speech. They see their impending accountability and use it to terrify their legion of anonymous Internet peers. “Today, they came for me. Tomorrow, will they come for YOU?”

That’s an argument that occasionally has legs. When a record label sues an Internet service provider for the names of its users in hopes of finding an illegal downloader, we all get nervous. Companies rarely have the right to know about what we each do in the privacy of our own homes, and all of us are right to be concerned.

But in the case of Internet trolls like Brutsch, we’re not talking about being exposed for our private actions. We’re talking about being exposed for our public actions. We’re talking about accountability.

And it should be noted that Brutsch did relatively little to hide his identity. He attended public Reddit meetups and put himself up for questioning in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” Q&A session. Brutsch’s wife and son are reportedly active on the site, as well, and have linked their accounts to his. His voice even appears on podcasts. Chen didn’t subpoena anyone to learn who Brutsch was or rifle through the man’s garbage; he just put a few obvious clues together once he got the right tip.

When word got out that Chen would be publicly identifying Brutsch, some Reddit moderators retaliated against Gawker by removing links to the popular blog from the areas of Reddit that they curate. The Politics Subreddit moderators went so far as to say they were punishing Gawker for its “serious lack of ethics and integrity.”

These moderators are well within their rights to evict Gawker. However, in the process, they send a pretty hypocritical message: “You suppress our guy and we’ll suppress you.” Since when do Redditors wage their battles by limiting access to information?

Reduced traffic is a consequence Gawker and Chen were likely prepared for. There’s no law guaranteeing them fair treatment on Reddit, just as there is no law guaranteeing outed trolls like Brutsch fair treatment anywhere else.

Photo Credit: Bigstock

Should Twitter Comply with NYPD?

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Right now, the story is gaining momentum online. Someone on Twitter has threatened to launch an “Aurora style” shooting at Mike Tyson’s one-man show in New York City (of course, the person is referring to the devastating shooting in Aurora, Colorado which occurred on the opening day of The Dark Knight Rises and resulted in twelve deaths). Law enforcement has asked Twitter for the user information of the person who sent the tweet–and Twitter won’t comply.

According to ABC News, the first tweet was sent August 1 and read:

This s**t ain’t no joke yo I’m serious people are gonna die just like in aurora.

When someone on Twitter contacted the potential shooter on August 3 to ask if he had changed his mind, he tweeted back:

no I had last minute plans and I’m in Florida rite now but it’ll happen I promise I’m just finishing up my hit list.

Could this be nothing? Just someone with no sense of what is appropriate to joke about and what is not? Indeed. But, is Twitter taking privacy too seriously and not paying attention to the context that shapes things?

It was just days ago that Guy Adams had his account suspended for tweeting the corporate email address of an NBC executive, saying it violated that person’s privacy (the suspension was later overturned and the email was published on at least one website, so it wasn’t actually private). I get that Twitter wants to protect privacy. But, when maintaining that privacy can result in deaths, I say throw it out the window.

I love Twitter and I use it daily. If Twitter amended its Terms of Service to say that the minute a user tweets a threat of any kind, they are not longer covered by privacy laws, I’d gladly accept that revision to the TOS. Because, as a law abiding citizen who never intends to threaten people, I have no problem with that.

However, I know many of you are going to play the free speech card and I’m all about being able to say what you want. But doesn’t a tweet that threatens to kill people fall into the same category as yelling “fire” in a crowded theater? Do you want people like this guy to be protected by privacy clauses? Would you gladly relinquish a little bit of privacy for the common good?

Let’s hear what you think! Should Twitter cooperate with the New York Police Department to potentially avoid another mass shooting in America?

Disclose This: How the FTC Has Left Bloggers and Publishers Dazed and Confused

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Many bloggers and other content creators do their best to disclose to their audiences when they have received money, gifts, or other special perks that supports the content they make available for others to enjoy for free. Despite these efforts, most bloggers and publishers may still not be following the FTC’s disclosure rules. Even for people who actually know about these guidelines, there’s still great confusion over what they’re supposed to disclose, and exactly how to do it. (See FTC’s New Dot Com Disclosures: What Every Online Marketer Needs to Know to learn more about the FTC requirements and upcoming changes.)

Even long-time veterans in our industry are left scratching their heads over where things are with the FTC. New Media Expo’s CEO and Co-Founder Rick Calvert is one of the thought leaders in our industry who I thought really understood this issue from both the perspective of the marketer and the consumer, and who was also willing to come out on the record over what has been a highly sensitive subject.

Grant: What do you think of the FTC’s requirements for disclosure of material relationships for guest bloggers and other outside content contributors?

Rick: I do think they are appropriate, I think disclosure is good. I think that as a publisher, and any type of content creator, you should always disclose if there is some potential conflict of interest with any type of relationship with somebody who is posting content; and so that definitely applies to guest bloggers.

For example, we’ll let people who exhibit at our show post a guest blog on our blog. But, we disclose that they are an exhibitor, we tell you who they are, and we also require that their post not be commercial – so it’s not promoting their product.

Now other people could have a different standard than that. It depends on what the audience that post is meant for. Some people want those types of product presentations, since that’s what that audience is looking for. But again, if somebody paid for that, or there is some sort of business transaction happening, you definitely should be disclosing that relationship.

Grant: Or, if it’s something someone received for free (or at a significantly discounted rate wouldn’t normally be made available to them?)

Rick: Oh sure, something for free – free travel, a gift card to Starbucks or an Amazon, that sort of thing.

Grant: Many of the most widely read and subscribed to blogs in online marketing, like New Media Expo, will naturally feature guest bloggers as speakers at their events. The FTC’s Press Officer informed me that those are also likely fall under business relationships, which should be clearly disclosed.

Rick: I really thought that was interesting to learn about, since I don’t think the FTC has ever actually included that information anywhere before that you need to disclose if somebody is speaking at your conference. Again, we have no problem with that and we do anyway, but that just seemed a little strange that the FTC would even think that far, and that deep.

Grant: Do you think the FTC has some issues with how they communicate their regulations to the online marketing industry?

Rick: I think the answer to that is, does the average blogger know about these regulations?

Grant: How about even veteran thought leaders in this space? Take the example of Search Engine Land’s Editor-in-Chief, Danny Sullivan. He himself has reported on the FTC’s activities for the search space for over a decade, and recently published an open letter to the FTC on search engine disclosure compliance – and even he was completely unaware (mistaken, even) on the FTC’s guest blogger disclosure guidelines.

Rick: It’s pretty indicative that if Danny Sullivan doesn’t know what these regulations are, I think it’s pretty safe to say that overwhelming majority, the vast overwhelming majority, doesn’t either. I don’t know how to describe the significance of that any stronger. The vast majority of people in our industry – social media, blogging – have no clue what these FTC regulations are and how they apply to us.

Grant: Do you think that most people who are entrenched in the online media and marketing ecosystem, who’ve started out in it and have been in it for so long – may not have the same understanding of FTC compliance laws versus the more traditional media industries?

Rick: I would assume that people like Huffington Post, AOL, Forbes – traditional media companies that are involved in social media – should know what those regulations are because they comply with those things in their normal, traditional media business. But I would bet you the average blogger wouldn’t. I could name dozens and dozens and dozens of conferences in our space – technology conferences, online marketing conferences, search conferences, social media conferences – they probably have no idea of those regulations or how they apply to them.

Grant: From my experiences as a long time blogger who’s been a freelancer or done guest posts for many different online marketing publications, I can say there’s so much confusion with publishers on what they believe the FTC disclosure guidelines are. You could even get completely opposite opinions from one publisher or another on why they think they don’t apply to them.

Rick: I wouldn’t fault any of those people either; it’s the FTC who has done this horrible job of making people aware of these regulations.

Here’s just for an example: There are 3.9 million active mom blogs in the United States alone. That’s one of these spaces where this is prevalent, where people are concerned about disclosure. It’s where a lot of people write posts either as guest blogger or on their own blog; or they will let a company write a guest post; or they will ghostwrite a guest post. What they don’t always disclose is if there is some sort of business relationship going on. A lot of times it’s just for free products, or a nice free trip for the blogger. But a lot of them are not disclosed. As big as that space is, it’s only just one example of how prevalent this is across our industry, where people need to be concerned about disclosure.

Grant: The FTC says the larger issue here is consumer transparency and building trust, so consumers can feel as though they can safely do business online, and so businesses can play fairly. I think most people who follow these guidelines can agree that the FTC isn’t intentionally trying to cause confusion, although there are certainly unscrupulous people in our industry who will try to take advantage of that confusion.

Rick: Right, because people who are doing things like that, don’t care. They either are knowingly violating those guidelines or they don’t care what those guidelines are and nothing the FTC does is going to change what they do.

Grant: How much of the problem do you think is how the FTC can do a better job of catching criminals, versus better educating the public?

Rick: If the FTC finds out about somebody who is breaking the rules – maybe blatantly breaking the rules with forethought and doesn’t care and so they prosecute them, and it ends up with a fine most likely, that gets in the news, but that doesn’t really educate anybody.  It might scare a couple people, probably not, but it doesn’t really do anything to address the problem.

Grant: Clearly the FTC doesn’t have the resources to monitor the entire Web, with millions of bloggers and publisher sites. Where do you think the maturity of our industry is today to support independent watchdog groups – across social, search, blogging, etcetera – that can do the kind of monitoring with the expertise behind it that is trusted by both the industry and consumers alike for what they find and report – and can have the ear of both mainstream media and government?

Rick: I think there could be a place and it’s probably a good business opportunity for somebody. That’s probably the best solution, but New Media already has its own solution. Someone can start a watchdog blog where people can report something that they think might be a violation, and then you could review it and say, “Well to us, this is in compliance or this is not in compliance, and this is exactly what wasn’t and this is what they have to do to make it in compliance…” and if the FTC wanted to weigh in on that – it would be amazing if the FTC did that, but I doubt they every would.

Grant: So some people reading this are going to ask, why hasn’t there been some kind of watchdog association yet?

Rick: Well, there have been several people who tried a blogging association. We tried when we started BlogWorld and realized pretty quickly there is no critical mass to support that. For video, you know any type of video association there is, is only going to deal with traditional media entities, not independent publishers in any way.

This is something we always have to remind ourselves being inside the bubble of new media, is this space is still so new, and we really are still in the Wild West. We are, I think, years away from any sort of association type of governing body to lay down ethical practices and standards that anybody is going to agree on.

Grant: The FTC says in their documents that they apply the same legal standard for online media and offline media, or new media and traditional media.

Rick: But do they really? If that was the case, then people should be able to do things just like infomercials on television or on radio. I believe in having high standards for disclosure and transparency, but what I don’t want to have happen is the government impose that standard on us in New Media and not impose it on traditional media, and end up creating an unfair playing field.

Grant: What do you think that those of us can do in the New Media industry for improving trust and consumer transparency?

Rick: I think it is important for us as digital content creators to try and set a higher standard for ourselves; We have to remember why we came to the Web in the first place, I think it is incumbent upon us to create that higher standard and support it – however we do it is up to all of us.

To learn more about FTC guidelines as they pertain to online marketers, be sure to read the full report, Pay Me To Trust You: An Online Marketer’s Guide to the FTC’s Revised Guides for Disclosures of Endorsements in Social Media.”

Are Bloggers Different than Journalists?

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I’ve spent lots of time in newsrooms, for both print and broadcast news organizations. My first job was as a reporter; the ethics of journalism were pounded into me at an early age. Be objective, don’t do anything to tamper with the integrity of the story, and report the facts. As a blogger, however, I can’t say I follow those same rules.

Should a journalist be so removed from a story that they let someone die?

A photo journalist at the Washington Post recently wrote about watching someone endure the fatal consequences of a snake bite; all the while she took pictures, documenting the man’s death. The article, “Why I Watched a Snake-handling Pastor Die for his Faith” chronicles the photo journalist’s ethical dilemma: to help or to remain objective. In the end, she maintained her distance and shot the photos.

Would a blogger remain as objective?

In 2005, milblogger Michael Yon was embedded with an American troop in Iraq. When the soldiers found themselves under siege, one of whom was shot three times and another who was in hand to hand combat, Yon picked up a rifle to join the battle. You can read an overview of Yon’s story by checking out, “Michael Yon versus General Brooks.” In short, Yon inserted himself into the “story” to help save a soldier’s life.

What about citizen journalists?

In this day and age, every one of us can be a citizen journalist. With video and still cameras on nearly every cell phone, all of us can–and do–capture the world around us. But, as “regular people” do we just capture what we see or do we get involved?

Case in point, a video was captured this week during a road rage incident in Los Angeles, California. Four men got out of their cars after the altercation and two guys filmed the encounter from the safety of their car. One man was severely beaten and repeatedly kicked in the head, but the men behind the video camera did nothing to intervene. The video is below.

It used to be that the “media” were are all trained journalists. They represented formal news agencies and their reporting was held to an ethical and professional standard. But, with the rise of new media, anyone can start a blog, podcast, or Web TV series. Any of us can capture video with our phones and upload it to YouTube or Facebook in seconds. No editor, no news director. We’re all self publishers; we’re all media.

So, where’s the line? Do all of these groups play a different, but important, role? Is a journalist removed, a blogger engaged, and a citizen journalist a voyeur? Is one of these ways right and the others wrong? Or are the differences important, with each of these groups serving their own unique purpose?

Revenge of the Nerds: Why Baiting Your Readers is a Bad Idea

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Not Alyssa Bereznak. Obviously.

I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a bit of a nerd, and right now the nerds online are all flustered over a recent Gizmodo post where blogger Alyssa Bereznak wrote some pretty offensive things about a recent online dating experience. The basis of the story is this: she went out with a guy who she deemed to be way too nerdy for her and proceeded to write an entire post making fun of the guy, even though he didn’t really do anything wrong. The “moral” of her story was that you should research a person using Google before you go out together.

Gizmodo is a popular tech gadget blog, so as you can guess, most of their readers are a lot like Alyssa’s date. The vast majority of comments on the post and the comments I’ve seen on Twitter, Facebook, etc. are negative, and many are extremely negative. There are a lot of things I personally find offensive about her post, but what I (and many others) keep coming back to is this: Why is a post dumping on nerds be allowed on a major tech blog, where most of the readers fall into the nerd category?

Some have speculated that Alyssa’s post was purposely offensive to her readers in order to drive traffic. Maybe that is the case; I don’t know. If that’s what happened, who made that choice? Alyssa? Gizmodo? Again, I don’t know.

What I do know is that baiting your readers in this manner is a bad idea.

Sometimes linkbait works, and sometimes it doesn’t – but if you’re being purposely negative, you’re playing with fire. I fully believe that you should write posts that express your opinion, even if your readers aren’t going to agree. If that makes sense for your blog, do it. But it’s a fine line to walk, because if you’re expressing an opinion simply because you want to drive traffic, that choice is going to come back to bite you. Here’s why:

  • For some people, this will be the first time they hear of you or your blog.

Who hasn’t heard of Gizmodo? It’s a huge blog, right? Well, yes…but there are definitely people who have never heard of it. Maybe this is the first you’re hearing of it – and let me ask you, what is your impression of Gizmodo? Even if you’ve heard of Gizmodo before, this might be the first time you’re hearing of Alyssa. What is your impression of her? The point is, the first experience a new reader has with you is their only experience with you. Make sure it’s a good one – or at least one that represents you well.

  • Some of your regular readers won’t be back.

If you’re being completely honest on your blog and people don’t like you and what you have to say, that’s one thing. Let them go. It’s better to have 100 readers who really “get” you than 1000 readers who feel “meh” about you. However, if you’re writing bait posts, some of your regular readers are going to stop reading your site. You don’t always have to agree with members of your community, but at least respect them enough not to stomp in their faces by making fun of them. The nerds who Alyssa offended and who may very well have been some of Gizmodo’s biggest supporters might not be back – and that’s some pretty hefty revenge for any blog.

  • Traffic spikes are just that – spikes.

Let’s say you have a post that is super helpful and goes viral. You’re going to see a huge traffic spike, which is awesome. When things calm down again, some of those people are going to stick around to read more, and even though it might be a small percentage, that’s how you build a traffic kingdom, block by block. But what if you write a post that goes viral for a negative reason, like the Gizmodo post? When things calm down, what’s the likelihood that anyone will stick around to read more? So not only do you run the risk of losing regular readers, but you also won’t gain new ones for more than a day or two. Spikes are only spikes, not sustainable.

  • It’s ethically questionable.

There’s no law that says you can only write what you 100% believe. Frankly, though, the ethics behind doing something like that are questionable about best. It’s a personal choice, I guess, but I would have a hard time sleeping at night if my name was attached to a bunch of stuff I didn’t actually believe.

Overall, I think the Gizmodo post was a really bad idea. I’m not just saying that because I was personally offended by what she wrote. I’m saying that I think it simply didn’t make sense to be posted on a site where nerds are your fanbase. Was the post purposely meant to bait readers? I don’t know. Maybe. And if so, I think it was an even worse idea. There are a lot of really positive ways to get traffic that take the same amount of effort and have much better long-term results.

Have you read the Gizmodo post? Has it changed your impression of Gizmodo or the writer? Do you think there are any benefits to baiting readers with an offensive post?

Custody Order Requires Father to Take Down Blog

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Last week a judge in Bucks County, PA required a father to take down a blog under threat of incarceration and/or risking losing custody of his children.

The blog, ThePsychoExWife.com (which is currently down), was created in 2007 to attract others going through difficult divorces and custody situations – offering support and information via forums, news, and articles. A portion of the site IS dedicated to telling a story, based on true events, regarding a very contentious divorce and custody battle with the father’s ex-wife. But the father claims no ownership of the blog.

Judge Diana E. Gibbons issued the following order:

Father shall take down that website and shall never on any public media make any reference to the mother at all, nor any reference to the relationship between mother and children, nor any reference to his children other than “happy birthday” or other significant school events.

The father – who chose to remain, and continues to remain, anonymous through the entire process so as not to involve his children – plans to file an appeal on the grounds that his civil rights (including the 1st Amendment) have been violated. And the results of this appeal will be crucial to the future of parenting, divorces, custody, and children. It could impact your social media usage as a parent – pictures, Twitter updates, blog posts, everything.

Whether or not you agree with the father telling the particular stories on the blog, this does bring up a larger issue of what you can and cannot post on social media sites and forums.

As Save ThePsychoExWife.com says: We must win this appeal in order to protect our freedom of speech – just because you are divorced doesn’t mean you give up your civil rights … We must stand up to this violation of the First Amendment. We must protect our freedom of speech and not allow family judges to use our rights against us when deciding custody.

You can learn more, read the judge’s orders, and offer your help at Save ThePsychoExWife.com.

Rumors and Non-Disclosure Agreements

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On Saturday, Mashable added another rumored feature to the growing list of iPhone 5 modifications. The CEO of Sony, Sir Howard Stringer, confirmed that Sony is manufacturing a camera sensor that will be used in the iPhone 5. Production of the sensor has been delayed due to the tsunami and earthquake in Japan. It is now assumed that there will be an 8-megapixel image sensor for the iPhone 5.

Danielle Liss While most people were looking at the infographic summing up the rumored iPhone features, I was thinking about non-disclosure agreements. (I have an Android phone; I’m not always in lawyer mode.) If this was truly a slip, Stringer could be facing serious consequences if there was an NDA in place. But, as Calvin Lee of Mayhem Studios was quick to point out on Twitter during a brief discussion, no one ever seems to get sued when these Apple leaks happen. So, no NDA or planned?

Non-Disclosure Agreements

NDAs are contracts between two or more parties, companies or individuals, that define confidential information and how access to confidential information should be restricted. This type of agreement is frequently used to protect trade secrets, which are generally not known to the public and by which competitors could gain an advantage if such information was made public.

An NDA may be used by companies that are considering entering a business relationship, but wish to protect their confidential information until a final determination is made. In some cases, employers may use NDAs with their employees.

Contents of a Non-Disclosure Agreement
The NDA must define who is a party to the agreement. Next, the NDA will typically define what is considered confidential information. It is important to note that information that was already available to the public will not be considered confidential. The parties may agree to other terms that tweak the definition of what information was public. If a dispute arises, the definition of public information could play a critical role in resolving a dispute.

An NDA must also define what the confidential information may be used for and how it should be maintained. It is common that an NDA will request that confidential information be returned if the parties sever the business relationship.

NDA agreements often contain a provision for liquidated damages. If the NDA is violated, there will be a set figure that the violating party is required to pay.

The Impact on Social Media
NDAs are commonly used between brands and the bloggers who promote them. If you sign an NDA, ensure that you only share the information that you are permitted to disclose. Do not share any future advertising campaign information or product releases with your audience or even your family. Don’t try to bolster your SEO by using keywords for a future campaign that is about to be released that you have inside information on. This type of activity could easily backfire, leaving you in breach of the NDA and with a severed relationship with your brand.

Conclusion
NDAs are commonly used. If you have questions about the terms, ask before you sign. Most importantly, protect the confidentiality that you’ve agreed to and you shouldn’t have any problems.

How to Make Your Blog More Honest

Author:
Scott Ginsbert

Scott Ginsbert Honesty is scary.

Not just for you, but for the people around you.

THINK ABOUT IT: Any time you honestly, sincerely and candidly share your opinion about something that matters to you, there’s always that one insecure, cynical twit who just has to remark…

“Why don’t you tell me how you really feel?”

Um, I just did, you think.

But it doesn’t matter. Most people are standing by for sugarcoating. And when you say something that’s too real, too close to life, it makes them squirm.

As George Carlin once said:
People have trouble dealing with reality. They can’t face the truth, so they invent soft language to protect themselves from it. It’s a grotesque evasion, and language makes me want to vomit. Well, maybe not vomit. It makes me want to engage in an involuntary personal protein spill.

And I admit it: I’ve dabbled with dishonesty before. And I completely understand why human beings do it.

It saves face, shifts the blame, avoids punishment, evades confrontation, protects your situation, spares people’s feelings, helps you get your way, makes you feel better about yourself and manipulates the way others perceive you.

What’s not to like?

THE ONLY PROBLEM IS: I’m a horrible liar. Honesty is too much a part of my personal constitution as human being to do it. And when I don’t tell the truth – to myself, to others and to the world – my body broadcasts it like a drive in movie.

So I just tell the truth. As often as possible.

Which doesn’t mean I never lie. But I’m doing the best I can.

AND DON’T GET ME WRONG: I would love to be dishonest. But frankly, it’s simply too much work. And I’ve got books to write.

That’s what I never understood about the corporate world: They treat honesty like it’s some sort of organizational initiative.

Excuse me, but that’s freaking ludicrous.

First of all, if you have to tell people you are – you probably aren’t.

Second, honesty shouldn’t have to be a policy. If you have to tell your people to tell the truth, you need new people.

Third, if your company wants to earn a reputation of truthfulness, make honesty a constitutional ingredient – not a corporate initiative.

That’s what blogging is all about: Honoring the truth. Honoring your truth. Honoring other people’s truth.

So what if it scares people?

Tell them how you really feel.

It might change everything.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How are you branding your honesty?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “11 Ways to Out Google Your Competitors,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

Bloggers Unite to Urge Release of Comrade

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Sure, bloggers may be a competitive lot – especially when they’re struggling to capture readers in a crowded niche. But there’s one thing they often band together on – freedom of speech and civil rights.

A collective of bloggers and activists have launched a blog to campaign for the release of Ali Abdulemam, a blogger and the editor of Bahrainonline.org (recently shut down) in Bahrain. Abdulemam was considered an icon among Arab bloggers for his courage in speaking the truth and pushing for government transparency and reform.

Unfortunately, Abdulemam was arrested last week for “publishing false news” and there’s speculation that he’s been tortured for the crime. After one week he is reported to be in solitary detention and has not been allowed to see his family or lawyer.

The blog (http://freeabdulemam.wordpress.com/) is a place to find news and aggregate posts from those pushing to free Abdulemam. Bloggers, from Morocco to Bulgaria have taken up the cause and have demanded that Bahrain authorities free him as soon as possible. They urge you to tweet about Ali and send a message to Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Khalifa (@khalidalkhalifa) – but they request that you be polite and respectful to protect Abdulemam’s safety.

I, for one, am planning to join in and support his release.

Dear Gurus: Let’s Talk Less and Listen More

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Dear Gurus: It’s Time to Talk Less and Listen More
By Hadji Williams

It’s been about three weeks since Keith Elam, one of the most accomplished artists of my generation passed away.

As one-half of Gang Starr, Elam was truly a Gifted emcee who pioneered an ill poetic street corner philosopher’s eloquence not yet heard prior. Between his Gang Starr catalog and his groundbreaking Jazzmatazz work, he proved to source of seemingly Unlimited Rhymes. And his willingness to discuss everything from the writing process to manhood to parenthood to politics to crime made his lyrics truly Universal.

Looking back, April 19, 2010 saw the passing of perhaps the only non-east Indian who could rightfully call himself a guru with a straight face. Elam’s death also got me thinking about all the other so-called gurus out here…

A while back I met a guy who’d penned the definitive book on Twitter. I know it was the definitive book on Twitter because he said so. And so had his publisher. Now the guy admitted to never having worked for Twitter. To my knowledge he didn’t even know anyone who did. He hadn’t even been using Twitter very long himself. But no matter.

He had a book, a title, and full schedule of speaking gigs and media appearances to validate his self-inflicted gurudom.

Now, the easiest thing would be to insult, slander folks like this. That’d be the one-off sureshot that would garner plenty of RTs, comments, and e-daps. But instead, I wanna try something different, beginning with a question:

What if all the gurus, particularly those of us in marketing, PR and social media, just said—out loud:

“I don’t know.”

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