None of what I’m about to say is new, it’s a trend that has been around for a while but it seems to pick up speed and/or to now be on the shores of my network.
Remember the days when blogs were about self expression and we were oh so proud of how anyone could have a voice, how we could be our own media, build our own connections, do our own thing, write about what we love, write with better, more personal and better informed voices? Well that’s still there, thankfully, but more and more bloggers and “social software” users are seeing dollars, seeing reputations and corrupting what they were doing.
Remember astro turfing and how we dislike and laugh at it? Remember when the “unwashed masses” came to blogs with crazy, over the top, insulting, unrelated and generally useless comments? Well I’m sorry to tell you this my friends but you’re wallpapering your blog with astro turf and you’re pandering to those same masses. Forget letting people understand what they’ve found, forget letting them “get it”, lets con them and screw them over seems to be the order of the day.
Links on blogs aren’t to be asked for, teased out of and expected. Links on blogs are for the writer to point to a story, person, service, product that she likes, respects, hates, finds funny, wants to show, wants to talk about, feels interested by, revolted by, challenged by.
When Bob is proud and excited about his new discovery and the long thought-out post he wrote and Twitters or Jaikus or Facebooks about it, that’s great, it gives me a chance to read it before I get to my feeds. It’s like when Bob arrives at a party and is proud and excited about his new discovery and talks about it enthusiastically. When Bubba Twitters or Jaikus or Facebooks about every f0cking post or podcast he gets out, whatever the length or interest or frequency at which he writes or podcasts, that’s annoying. It makes me feel like I’m at a chamber of commerce 5@7 and he’s shaking my hand on one side and handing me his business card on the other.
When you are so into your brand that you don’t want to dilute it, don’t want to lose any credit or visibility or reputation by giving credit where credit is due, that’s not only annoying, it’s small. When you do so while at the same time selling your clients on the joy and fun and virtues and potential of blogging, and video blogging and podcasting and of creating meaningful, self sustained, impromptu networks of open and sharing people well that’s wrong and even smaller.
When you SEO, SMO and Whatever O your blog within an inch of it’s life, it’s a bit lame but ok, sure, you want to reach more people, you’re earning a living. But when you also prone taking out the personal, trying to sanitize and reformat how you are perceived, when you do so saying that marketing sucks and there’s a new way, tell me, what’s the difference? When you’ve optimized, sanitized and publicized your content with the aim of reaching a wider audience and generating more revenue, how are you not what you wanted to overthrow? You’re just doing the same thing quicker, and adjusting in a sneakier manner but don’t kid yourself, you are now Them.
We use these tools and promote them to our friends because we can express ourselves and create networks but I always thought networks were the tools to reach friends and colleagues. More and more it seems like the network is just that, the network. You’re not reaching friends, you’re reaching network units. You are not “friending” people you want to know and interact with, you’re “friending” viewers. You are not “a” media in the sense that you are your own means of distributing your thoughts and interests, you are “the” media, a money grabbing, self interested, profiteering, people using media like the ones you claimed you wanted to take down.
And before some people feel targeted who shouldn’t, let me say that it’s all in the intent, in the understanding, in the tone. Some of you are tone deaf. Pretty much all of the above can be done in a respectful manner. You can come to a blogger meeting wanting to meet people, happen to make an impression, friends, contacts and down the line get some business out of it. Or you can come to the same meeting cards in hand, networking, thinking of dollars, of publicizing yourself. See the difference?
(Unless of course the purpose of the meeting is business, don’t get excited Yulbizzers ;) )
It’s in the tone and it’s part of a pattern (or lack thereof). When Sylvain Twitters about his company looking for a job candidate, he’s reaching out to his tribe, to his friends and colleagues. You know he’ll be happy to give a hand in turn when he can, you know he’ll give credit, mention partners and cite sources. He’s using the technology to enhance the social aspect. When Bubba links to his most recent ad-ridden post, without any comment and you see he’s got 666 friends, you have to wonder if the tone is right.
When Chris uses his networks, pushes on every side, uses his influence. He’s promoting ideas, communities, standards, issues. He’s trying to find solutions, he’s reaching out to others to make something bigger happen, he’s working on something that has value to him and to others. When Bubba uses his network to promote the conference tickets for which he’s getting a commission… Wrong tone, wrong pattern.
When Alex links about every article his coworking space is in. He’s not trying to optimize revenue, to get more suckers to pay. He’s brimming with pride about the community space he’s building, he’s sharing the joy. Intent, tone.
It’s not that complicated and we used to all do it. Now more and more of us—hopefully it’s still us—are losing sight of that. Sure, I could just opt out of it, I could unfriend the “offenders” but that sucks, it’s turning away and forgetting the good thing we had.
As people are going green, organic, bio, locally grown, slow food, carbon neutral, low impact, etc. Our web is going the opposite way, it’s going money grabbing, corporate, marketed, optimized, sanitized. As we realize how polluted we made our backyard we are polluting the virtual meeting place we just found.
My web was organic and I want it that way again.
[Update] Should have posted this when I wrote it Saturday because now the same Sylvain beats me to it and mentions the Ethic of reciprocity.
Let’s just agree that I wrote the cliffs notes version of your long and insightful post ;-)
We must be in the zeitgeist.
I’m standing up at my desk, clapping.
Well thought out and expressed, and most of all, done with the best intentions. Hope you’re being heard.
now i feel better about maxing out at the 20-readers-a-day level cause I can’t be arsed to worry about how to up my seo, write things most people want to read (ie. top ten reasons leopard will rock your world or hit rock bottom), and pull in the big adsense bucks (all 7 dollars and 47 cents of them).
more thoughts on this to come, but keep in mind part of the “problem” is that more people have arrived on planet social media, and with them come all the problems and benefits of the rest of the universe.
word, sing it brotha!
Is there such thing as starting a virtual slow clap? If so, that’s me you hear clapping.
smile moment of blues? :)
Karl: We’re not all as zen as you are ;)
But you know… maybe we bring this on ourselves. As online social networking becomes more and more pervasive, the subtext of the message is that our “value” lies in how connected we are.
Look at Facebook apps like “Touch Graph Photos,” where you get this crazy java-based mesh, kinda like a dynamic mind map, that shows how you, all your contacts, and your contacts’ contacts, are connected. People are eating that stuff up.
So in many ways, the goddam “Web 2.0” has created a culture of connecto-narcissism (you can quote me on that). Forget about the old days when you were valued according to your looks. Now you’re valued according to the size and quality of your Facebook and Myspace friends lists.
I see “connecto-narcissim” as a different issue. It’s a more severe addiction, not profiteering.