Friday, March 30, 2007

It's just starting to sink in

If ALL Head Lemur's accounts were hacked, as he claims, then the real celebrity attacked here was Head Lemur, and that was always the point: to discredit and destroy him entirely.

Under this analysis, what confused the issue was the mean, but not over-the-line remarks made on the blog as a matter of course.

But if Head Lemur, and not Kathy Sierra was the target of the attacks, that changes things entirely.

So, that is to say, contrary to what I said below about this settling down, this is just getting started.

My remarks about celebrity stand, though.

Celebrity was at the root of the Kathy Sierra incident

So the firestorm around the Kathy Sierra incident seems to be dying down, and a couple things are clear.

First, Chris Locke is a bit of a jerk. He has poor judgment on when to pull a site. His brawling mannerism does not bring out the best in people. And he doesn't get the the misogyny thing. At all.

That's probably about it on Chris Locke. As advertised, he's brilliant, and he's not nice.

And Allen, in case you haven't heard, was hacked and had nothing to do with the comments either.

So the initial question Kathy asked (how could A-list people do such a thing) has been answered. They didn't.

Still, as a person that runs a number of online communities, I'm interested in why this happens, again and again, regardless of whether the perpetrators are A-List or B-list or just plain trolls. People have been saying it's anonymity that's the problem.

Well, true enough. There's a good linky summary of that issue here. And any administrator of a community site knows the disproportiate time they have to spend booting out trolls. The discussion of how to solve that has been going on a long time. It will continue.

What interests me about the incident, though, is not the overdone question of anonymity. The part that interests me is the aspect of celebrity.

Celebrity is a form of dehumanification. And during the height of the Age of Broadcast, we somehow come to believe that enduring vicious personal slurs was part and parcel of that dehumanification. When celebrities were a gang of 1000 millionaires, that was passable. Not right, but passable.

In a Web 2.0 world where everyone is a celebrity, it becomes a problem. Remarks about offing David Hasselhoff may be seen as rebelling agains the idea of Baywatch and bad pop records. Do remarks about offing Kathy Sierra rebel against the idea of Kathy Sierra? And where is the line?

Michelle Malkin is a celebrity, and an unlikeable one at that. Here's her take on the situation. So do we draw the line of shock under Malkin or over her? At what point do you become famous enough that you are expected to take this stuff in stride? At what point were you abrasive enough, or wrong enough you were asking for it?

This problem will only get worse. I'm a celebrity. My wife is a celebrity. Everyone with a MySpace page is a potential celebrity. You're a celebrity.

We got through the Age of Broadcast with one set of rules for celebrities and one set for rules for us. Celebrities were asked to recognize attacks just came with being in the public eye.

As that distinction fades, it's time to reevaluate that model.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Human-ness and All Too Human-ness

This is disturbing. And until they figure out who did it, I've removed Chris Locke links from this site.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Yes, I'm on Twitter.

More on that later I suppose.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Go Daddy, and hiding as a marketing strategy

Go Daddy went down Sunday. For me it was particularly painful since a political blog I am involved with was at that very moment hosting a live-blog session with a State Senator.

And what was Go Daddy's reaction to one of the biggest DNS outages in internet history?


It was barely announced on their blog. And partially because Digg-ers duped more than they digged, the story never got traction in real time.

So, for the moment, the silence strategy seems to be working for them. But if your site went down too, you should post about it. Building the whisper to a roar is the only way to show companies hiding as a marketing strategy is so 1994.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Mizzou, Neo-Nazis, and Facebook protests

If you didn't hear about the Neo-Nazi protest at Mizzou, you can read rather mundane accounts of it here, or, for much better coverage, you can see the photos on Facebook, or look at the student reaction.

The most interesting thing to me is that the student group PROTEST NAZI HATE MARCH at Mizzou called for no protest at all.

Apparently the Facebook group was started to organize a protest. However, Mizzou, through traditional channels, let the students know that not attending the event was the best strategy:

This weekend, Columbia will play host to the National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi group, that has obtained a permit to hold a march in downtown Columbia. According to Larry Brown, an assistant professor in the University of Missouri-Columbia Department of Geography and an expert in hate groups, the best plan is to ignore the group and spend time engaged in positive activity.

"These groups thrive on people who will respond emotionally," Brown said. "They will come with racial slurs, derogatory comments and the swastika. Their whole attitude will be to get folks to respond to them in a very angry way. Then they go away and let the community disintegrate.

"A good strategy is to not go to the march, because you don't know how you might emotionally respond. The other strategy is to go the alternative events happening in the community. Find some place positive to go, or stay back, and be quiet, peaceful and observant. Do not return violence for violence."

This information appears to have been disseminated to the students through multiple channels, including the Facebook group.

As you can see from the photos, it didn't stop a clash between the Neo-Nazis and the police, and there appears to have still been a small counter-protest, but things could have gone much much worse.

I'd be interested to know if the administration coordinated at all with the Facebook group creators, but I'm not that ambitious. If someone reading this has more information, let me know.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

When YouTube is TheyTube

I have my College RSS pointed to YouTube (thanks Karine!), and I end up watching the first 10 seconds of a lot of student work.

Today this Easy Mac Death Metal piece comes over the feed, produced by a group of students that seem to produce a new video every couple days.

The piece begins with a number of jokes about farting and defecation, and then proceeds to what actually is a pretty amusing interpretation of a Death Metal song as being about someone stealing your Mac & Cheese.

It's nothing I would ever want my institution's stamp on, but my guess is the video will get more hits than anything else Keene State has produced (it's got 22 hits as of this writing, but just watch).

Interesting question -- we all know how to catch the breeze when something we are unabashedly proud of goes viral, and we know how to get a crisis plan ready if something undeniably negative may be floating to the top of YouTube.

But if I know something like this might go viral, does that help me at all? I imagine not. A video that simultaneously says some of our students are enterprising, creative, funny, and overly obsessed with defecatory humor is probably just unusable down to the level of its DNA.

But I'm happy to hear a counter-argument. Could such talent be harnessed for the good of the college? And if so, how?

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Astroturfing to become illegal in Europe

There's a sleazy side to all business movements, and PR 2.0 is no exception. In the new world of social marketing one such practice is "astroturfing", the process of faking grassroots support through impersonating a consumer.

Now the Europeans have made this practice illegal, starting the end of this year. And it's my hope that America will soon follow.

How strict are the regulations? Well, even an author that reviews his own book on Amazon under a pseudonym would fall afoul of them, and could be taken to court.

I'm more than a little familiar with astroturfing: in the last election I exposed a House Representative's staffer's attempt to astroturf my personal political blog, which did not work out so well for anybody.

The truth is though that it's always tempting to fudge the line: I sympathize with the Congressonal staffer, who thought he was using every means at his disposal, and had lost track of what this new media world is about.

So it's worth remembering the core of PR 2.0:

1) Talk in your own voice
2) Engage with the world
3) Embrace the fishbowl
4) Create compelling content, not compelling cases

The important point re: astroturfing is right there at the top. Talk in your own voice. Always. Primarily, that means to not hide behind the the "voice of the institution": realize that trust in this new world is personal, and that you as Mike Caulfield are far more trustworthy than your institution. Trust sticks to people, not buildings.

If you are Mike Caulfield, then be Mike Caulfield. It's really that simple.

The flip side of that first point is of course to not trade the voice of the anonymous institution for anonymity, or worse, for a charade.

I always think back on that Policy Director coming on my site back before the election and pretending to be a Democratic Activist with "doubts" about whether this guy was beatable. The real problem was it was too clever by half.

Had he come on and said, I'm Charlie Bass' Policy Advisor, and I think you maybe don't understand the compromises we have to make to get things done here...or if he had written a brief argument against minimum wage, as Tad Furtado, Charlie Bass' Policy Director, it would have been striking, and much more effective. Here would have been the Policy Director of my Congressman coming Down-From-The-Mount to discuss this issue with our little blog community. Instead of scandal there would have been engagement. And who knows, maybe they might have won the election.

As we promote our colleges and universities, it is useful to remember the power of the personal and the real over the fabricated.

Talk in your own voice. Always.

It's not just a good idea. It may soon be the law.