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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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Hey That Blogger Stole My Content: How to Deal with Content Theft

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stopthief

A blogger’s words are like a  store’s inventory. If merchandise is stolen, the shop loses sales. If others are stealing a blogger’s words or using his content, there’s really no reason for him to bother anymore as. Exclusive content is important for traffic and ad sales. In short, it sucks when someone else is using the fruits of our labor to build traffic and community for their own blogs and websites. Here’s something many brand new bloggers don’t know: It’s illegal to take someone’s content without asking.

Several years ago I had a few very famous battles with content thieves, and I’m happy to report I won each. The uproar over content theft (or content-jacking as Michael Stelzner calls it) seems to have died down a bit, with it, the ability to fight the scammy and spammy people who steal our words. After dealing with it again over this past weekend, I learned many newer bloggers had no idea they could fight content theft and that it was illegal. Thus, this brief primer.

Why steal content?

Why would anyone want to steal content from a blogger? Really, it doesn’t have as much to do with the blog or the blogger as much as it has to do with stocking a blog with content in order to bring in traffic and revenue. It takes too much time and money to write or hire writers to create enough posts for a profitable, popular blog. However, some unsavory types use feeds to pull in content relating to certain keywords and phrases to stock their own blogs. The readers of these blogs have no idea the content isn’t original and that it’s being pulled from feeds.  Many of these splogs or spam blogs use a partial feed so if readers want to read the entire post, they can click through to the original blog. The damage is already done, though, as readers went to the spam blog first. Of those original readers, maybe half will click through to read the real blog post.

How do I know if someone is using my content without permission?

There are are several ways to check to make sure your content isn’t being ripped off:

Google Alerts: Sign up for Google alerts using your blog’s url, title and your name. Not all ripoff bloggers will link to your blog, but if they do it will show up in Google alerts. Some bloggers even set up alerts for the titles of some of their posts now and then to find out who is ripping them off on a regular basis.

Search Engines: Use quotes to run unique sentences through various search engines to see if anyone besides you is using your content.

Deep Linking/Pingbacks: If you link to other posts in your blog, you will receive pingbacks every time someone posts your content.

Copy Scape: Copyscape is sort of a search engine where you can run links to your blog posts and it will tell you if anyone else is posting the same content. You’re only allowed the first few each month for free, so choose wisely.

CopyGator: CopyGatpor detects who is using your feeds for their content. I haven’t tried this service before, so I can’t recommend but it’s free and worth a shot. There are several ways it works, the first is to post the CopyGator widget n your blog, the widget changes colors every time someone rips off your content. You can also enter a specific feed and receive alerts.

How do I get a content thief to remove my content?

Content thieves can be nice or nasty. They’re counting on your not wanting to be bothered with a whole lot of email and ceases and desists. They’re thinking you probably don’t know this sort of thing is an illegal copyright violation. In fact, some even try and convince you that if it’s on the web, it’s public domain. It’s not. If someone has stolen your content, you can ask them nicely to remove it from their blogs. If they refuse to comply, go ahead and send a cease and desist. Give them a day or two to comply. If they still don’t take down their content, contact their host. You can find out who is hosting a blog by doing a whois domain search. In most cases, the host will give the offending blogger 24 hours to remove the content or lose hosting.

Jonathon Bailey of Plagiarism Today has a fantastic set of stock DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) letters to use to request the removal of stolen content. He has sample letters for the content thief, the host and even for search engines. Usually when I send a cease and desist to the content thief, I don’t have to resort to contacting the host, but I have done so several times. These letters are a great tool for any blogger’s arsenal.

Don’t Let Content Thieves Get Away With It

Content thieves get away with their theft because they can. They do it because they figure no one will fight them on it. Don’t let them get away with it. They’re your words and if someone is going to use them, you should be adequately compensating.

United Airlines Sucks!

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So back on May 23’rd of this year I was flying home out of Schiphol Airport after two long weeks working two separate trade shows in Europe.  I arrived at the airport almost three hours early and was one of the first in line to check in.

The check in crew showed up all smiles laughing and joking with each other and seemed to really enjoy themselves for about 30 minutes while about 50 people in line watched and wondered why they weren’t taking their stations and helping us.

Finally they open. I get to the counter and asked the United agent if I could change my seat from a window to an aisle. She was very polite but told me the only aisle seats were premium seats and it would cost me 100 + euros to upgrade.  I had a long flight ahead and didn’t want to get stuck in the window like I had on the way over so I agreed and paid the fee to upgrade.

A couple of hours later I get on the plane and notice the plane is more than half empty and there are tons of aisle seats available all over the aircraft.

When we land in Chicago I tell the agent at the gate what had happened. She tells me there is nothing she can do and sends me to another counter.  I talk to the agent there, she says nothing she can do and I will have to call their main number when I get back home. I ask for a supervisor. She comes over, I tell the story for a third time and she tells me there is nothing she can do and turns he back and walks away from me while I am still talking.

I was stunned.  United Airlines just straight up ripped me off! I was going to do this blog post when I got home and tell the story but noticed United was on Twitter. So I sent them a Tweet. Go a reply within a day or so. Told the person the story via DM and never heard back.

Now today I come across this fantastic United Breaks Guitars video.  Dave Carroll who wrote the song and created the video definitely lost more than I did but was basically treated the exact same way.  Dave plans to eventually air three videos and get to one million page views. He is already over 200,000 page views (and nearly 2,500 comments) in two days so I think its a pretty safe bet he is going to make this goal. I for one will do everything I can to help him get there and hope Dave is able to come play this song live at BlogWorld in October. Maybe Dave could use several thousand of us all singing the “United Breaks Guitars” chorus together and use it in one of his videos?.

Do you have a story to tell about how United gave you the short end of the stick?

If so please leave a comment below or send us a link to your own post and we will link back to you here.

If any of you have ever heard my Social Media 101 talk you have heard me say “If you treat your customers badly then you deserved to be punished for it and social media allows your customers to do that”.
Well United you deserved to be punished for your actions but take heart. Social media also allows you to make up for your poor service and complete disregard for your customers like Dave and my welfare and do it in a very public way.

I for one am not to proud to forgive and Dave strikes as the forgiving kind of guy as well. Hell he gave you nine months to try and make it right!

btw, you can read the full story on Dave Carroll’s website here.

So what’s your United Airlines customer service nightmare story?

I know lots of you have them.

Facebook as Terrorist Recruiting Tool?

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Could this be a big ‘uh oh’ for Facebook?  For now it doesn’t look like it, but this recent bout of news does raise some questions as to exactly how Facebook is going to begin addressing some of the more questionable uses of their social networking site.

We all know they were quick to address and shut down two Holocaust groups that sprouted up on their site and were, according to Facebook, spreading hate.  The question is, how is Facebook going to go about addressing the recent news that terrorists might be using their site and service as a recruiting tool to find like-minded individuals.  Can you say Yikes?

According to news that is filtering out of the Middle East:

“Terror groups are turning to Israeli citizens on Facebook and other social networking sites and offering bribes in exchange for information, the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] said on Monday afternoon in a warning issued to the public.”

In addition to trying to uncover information, it appears many people that are suspected in terrorist organizations are tracking other websites and forums in which ex-soldiers frequent, trying to find people willing to divulge information or find new members.  The bottom line is, this is scary and it does raise questions about how Facebook can walk the delicate line between preserving its users privacy and not allowing itself to be used for subversive activities.

How CAN they walk this line?  It’s one thing to deny and shut down groups that are outwardly and publicly announcing their beliefs, but another story entirely when all of this is going on behind the scenes through personal messages and very quiet recruitment.  How should they address this?

Sound off…

Facebook Gives Two Holocaust Denial Groups The Boot

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Looks like pressure finally got to Facebook and they did what I am sure the vast majority of people will agree, was the right thing.  Freedom of speech in this country is beyond vital.  The ability to say what we feel, when we feel it without censorship or controlling is one of the things that makes America what it is, and when issues arise that test that, you’re always going to have controversy.  Hopefully Facebooks decision today will put an end to at least some of the controversy as they seem to have their bases covered in why they removed them.

In case you’re a bit out of the loop, Facebook has been receiving pressure from outside sources after some Facebook Group Pages were created that spoke out against the Holocaust and denied it ever occured.  There were two groups in question at the heart of this controversy, “Holocaust is a Holohoax” and “Based on the facts…there was no Holocaust,” and both were removed from Facebook today as it was determined that they were violating Facebook’s Terms of Service allowing messages that spread hate on their Walls.

The issue here is, there are still many groups like this that still exist on Facebook.  According to reports:

“Despite Facebook’s decision to eliminate two Holocaust Denial groups, numerous others remain on Facebook. These groups have names like “Holocaust: A Series of Lies,” “Holocaust is a Myth,” “the holocaust that the Jewish believe in is very big lie,” “Holocaust denial & Anti-Zionism,” three different groups named “F–K Israel And Their Holocaust Bulls–t,” and “1,000,000 for the TRUTH about the Holocaust.””

Why the other groups remain might be questionable to many, but Facebook has said they have to uphold that freedom of speech and these groups, while maybe not extremely popular to many, are merely “engaging in legitimate discourse about a controversial topic.”  Until those groups “cross the line” into hatred, they will do nothing.

All of this is controversial, that much is clear, but it does raise some important questions:  How far should Freedom of Speech go with online social networking?  What should be allowed and what should not?  Isn’t the simple fact that groups exist denying one of the most devestating and tragic events in human history enough to be called hateful?  These are big questions, important questions, and they all need answers.  What do you think?

Twitter Worm Spreads Over Easter Weekend

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Isn’t Easter supposed to be the time of getting dressed up nicely, maybe going to a church with your family, eating too much ham, eggs and rolls and finding bright colored eggs hidden all over the yard?  I’m fairly sure the last thing it’s supposed to be about is the spreading of a new worm that is aimed directly at and infects Twitter accounts.  Have we officially entered into a new era of virus attacks?  Are social networking sites next?

If that is indeed the case, and new worms are being developed that target social networking, things could get extremely ugly, extremely fast.  This most recent worm that spread over this Easter weekend throughout Twitter and is bringing up a great deal of questions about the safety of this type of networking and ways to avoid it in the future.

According to reports:

“The attack began around 2 a.m. Saturday from four accounts. Twitter’s security team hunted the malicious code and secured compromised accounts throughout the day. Nearly two hundred user accounts were compromised by the worm on Saturday…Another wave of attacks hit on Sunday, but the blog didn’t say how many additional accounts were hit. The company says it removed nearly 10,000 tweets that could have been used to spread the worm.”

Yikes.  As you know, both Facebook and MySpace have also been used, in the past to spread some nasty code and viruses, but Twitter is a different beast.  If someone is figuring out ways to spread malicious code just by using Tweets, that opens the door for a huge number of different devices vulnerable for infection.  From laptops to desktops, cell phones to email, a lot can go wrong.  Keep your eye on this one, you haven’t heard the end of it.

Will Toyota Honor Their Warranty?

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This is an interesting experiment. A good friend of mine bought a new Toyota Camry in March of 2006.  A few days ago he had some car trouble and took it to the dealer. Toyota of Temecula Valley.  It sounds like his engine is blown and that the dealer is going to try to stick him with the repair bill even though he purchased the extended 100,000 mile warranty.

I advised him to start a blog and detail his experience.  He did. You can find his blog My Toyota Camry on blogspot. Please read the whole story, stay tuned and link to his blog to see if we can get Toyota to do right by him.

Wikipedia Founder Has “No Problem” with Fraud

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I first heard about this story this morning. /HT Infothought. The basics; A wikia employee (a for profit entity related to Wikipedia) who calls himself Essjay on Wikipedia and claims the following academic credentials “a tenured professor of religion at a private university” with “a Ph.D. in theology and a degree in canon law.” turns out to be 24 year old Ryan Jordan who now admits to having no advanced degrees and never having taught anywhere (has he even graduated anywhere) in his life.

Ok so the guy is a fraud and so every entry he has ever made at Wikipedia now needs to be questioned. Fine. Frauds come along and scam very smart people all the time. I questioned Wikipedia’s hiring practices in the comments section over at Infothought and Hacking Cough.

Do they do any kind of background checks on the employees? A cursory call of his references would have outed young Ryan.

Who is their CPA? A bookie who always dreamed of being an accountant?

Ok so they have some lax business practices so did Enron, and WorldCom and lots of other companies.

Here is the straw that broke this camels back. From the New Yorker article:

He was recently hired by Wikia—a for-profit company affiliated with Wikipedia—as a “community manager”; he continues to hold his Wikipedia positions. He did not answer a message we sent to him; Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikia and of Wikipedia, said of Essjay’s invented persona, “I regard it as a pseudonym and I don’t really have a problem with it.”

Excuse me? The guy is a fraud and you have no problem with it? He is your employee and you have no problem with it?

Ahhh that is exactly one of the things that is supposed to make new media different from old media. Self correction and all. Any new media CEO who goes around covering and making excuses for frauds is no better than Ken Lay.

Wikipedia is definitely a new media trail blazer, we would love to have them as part of our event but Jimmy Wales needs to rethink his position on this one pretty damn fast.

This small bit from Freakonomics:

This is hardly a felony, but it does make you wonder about what else happens at Wikipedia that Jimmy Wales doesn’t have a problem with.

I am no attorney (nor have I ever claimed to be one on TV or otherwise) so I have no idea if what Ryan Jordan did constitutes a felony or not, (any legal experts want to weigh in?) but in the world of journalism and media what he did is certainly one of the highest crimes imaginable. He claimed to be someone he was not, claimed to be an expert on subjects he is not, claimed credentials he does not have to give weight to his positions, numerous entries on Wikipedia and misrepresented himself as such to several people outside Wikipedia.

Game over, any legitimate local newspaper let alone encyclopedia would fire him immediately and begin researching everything he ever wrote for them.

/rant off.

More from the Freakonomics post:

For me, a more interesting question is the degree of Schiff’s error: should she, e.g., have insisted on some verification of Essjay’s credentials, or at least omitted his academic claims. This illustrates, if nothing else, how journalists get lied to, pretty regularly.

Also, FWIW, has anyone else noticed that Wikipedia entries often exhibit a rather serious interest in a subject’s religious background — particularly if the subject is Jewish? It turns out that Sergey Brin of Google has also noticed this. (I am about to get on a plane so I do not have time to look, but I am curious to know how Brin’s Wikipedia entry has changed since the article linked above was published.)

I don’t know anything about anti-Semitism or anything else at Wikipedia but that is exactly the danger of allowing a fraud to live among you, let alone protect him. Everything you say must now be questioned and taken with a very skeptical eye. Your integrity is ruined until you cut it out and come clean.

**update 2:02pm**

I jumped the gun a bit when reading Kelly’s comment. It looks like we agree completely on this one. here is an excerpt from kelly’s post at Nonbovine Ruminations:

Quite frankly, a man who would lie about his academic credentials, and then use those credentials to add undue weight to his own opinions in debate on Wikipedia, does not deserve to even be allowed to edit Wikipedia, let alone sit in judgment over those who do.

Over the past few years, a number of people with included false claims on their resumes or CVs have lost academic leadership posts (for example, Eugene R. Kole, former President of Quincy University, who resigned when two of the degrees he listed in his biography were found to be fictitious). It is startling and telling that Essjay, after revealing similiar lies, is not only not censured, but in fact elevated to one of the highest positions of responsibility that Wikipedia has. Clearly Jimbo has decided to demonstrate just how much unlike academicia Wikipedia is.

NBR has several other posts in Wikipedia that can be found here, here, here, and here.

My original update below for all to see.

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