Linkbait and Monopoly: Responding to Your Criticism

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What’s good for the goose is good for the gander as they say. In that spirit, I have received and listened to several complaints from readers, friends and spectators over the past few days.

Some of the criticism was fine — everyone’s entitled to their opinion — but seemed to be a defense of ideas that were being questioned. And as such, the Teflon Revolution post written with Ike Pigott serves as my answer. But other criticism merits a deeper inventory and either a response or an amends. So dear reader, here are my responses:

Linkbait and Gearing Up

I respect Ed Shahzade a lot, and committed to him that I would consider his criticisms. The ones I’d like to address directly are in the above tweet.

The gearing up one is easy. The first and most well-read punk social media post — the one that really started this conversation, IMO — was published just before my daughter’s early arrival. Mindless and Elite was an extension of that concept using specific ideas from individuals who have top ranked blogs. I have blogged again on the topic since and am going to continue (more on this coming). So I would argue that I had the most welcome interruption possible, not that it was a vain attempt to jump start traffic.

In that original post, it concluded with, “P.S. This post will not accept trackbacks. Keep the SEO.” None of the ensuing posts (see the Punk category) had that denotation, and all of them accepted trackbacks. So I can see why Ed might feel that way. I have turned off trackbacks and added a writer’s note to both the Mindless and Teflon posts indicating that links and SEO were not my intent.

Now as a blogger, you can usually tell when a post has fire to it. From this post forward any “punk” post I write will have a disclaimer declaring that trackbacks are turned off, and to encourage bloggers not to link to the posts, but to consider them in the context of their own efforts. Further, I have changed the settings on the blog to only allow comments for one week on any post. Point being, the circus is not welcome here for very long.

Monopoly and Spin

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So am I spinning as a differentiator? If not, what am I doing? There is a strategy, and it’s very simple: Shake up — even disrupt — the current online communications idea market, inject new ideas, and inspire a return to core community values. These posts are thinking challenges.

When I was researching and writing Welcome to the Fifth Estate, I found myself constantly stumbling on bubble gum, meme oriented social media theory espoused by the most well read communications and marketing bloggers. Conversation seemed enforced, stiff and frankly wrong. Some of it may be intent or more likely, we are simply a market and a group of thinkers that are too comfortable with a successful formula.

So my intent is to do the following:

1) Break the monopoly: An unintentional monopolistic stranglehold is in place from the industry’s top voices that ignores and does not allow for criticism and dissent, and worse, the injection of new ideas and approaches (unless it comes from them of course).

Many of these people have called me friend in the past. They may not choose to anymore. That is fine. The principle that idea markets need to be open comes first. I hope we will see a renaissance in conversations between all industry bloggers, but if not, I hope to support a smaller faction of less well known voices that do engage in healthy discourse.

2) Provoke new thinking: We have become formulaic in our thinking about social media, and it is often thoughtless in the sense that it revolves around getting the most views, impressions, etc. instead of building real relationships. This industry is dangerously close to losing its best potential — fostering great relationships between people in and out of communities, organizations and companies. Instead, it is becoming its worst nightmare — a creator of shallow “value propositions” or a thinly veiled spam machine to achieve “Return on Attention.” In that sense, most of the posts I read remind me of Monopoly! Better buy Boardwalk first!

Dissent is often expressed as a list of wrongs. These lists are amusing, full of vitriol and fun. They have been published for years, here’s one I wrote in 2008. They haven’t worked very well as a mechanism for change.

So these new “punk” posts are directly trying to infuse ideas into the challenges, and provoke new thinking. Malcolm McClaren, the punk ethos of challenging discourse, moving conversations off Twitter and open fan pages and on to blogs again and groups, etc., are all examples of this.

Regardless of the above motives, some people will always accuse me of spinning this for market leadership. That’s fine. I am actively conversing with others who feel the same everyday. In that spirit, I will explore with others the possibility of moving the punk conversation off of this blog in 2011, and into a newer wider platform that is clearly not a personal blog. :) In the interim, perhaps it’s time to add a roundup post to the repertoire to highlight some of these other great minds.

Ugly Discourse

“When liberty comes with hands dabbled in blood it is hard to shake hands with her,” Oscar Wilde.

Some people misconstrued the intent of the Mindless post to be a hatchet job on the persons cited. It’s not my intent to “take out” people. Far from it, this was about the above goals. If they embrace a more vigorous discourse, I would be thrilled. If they don’t, I’ll still foster that discourse with other people.

That being said, sometimes feelings are hurt, names get tossed about like kindling, and discourse becomes ugly. Right or wrong, when it became clear that many of you were perceiving the ongoing conversation to be a blood feud, I stopped immediately.

We Livingstons are a mouthy bunch. Bred in this environment, I have learned interesting ways to make my voice heard, some of which I am constantly trying to remove from my behavior patterns. Maybe Darwin should step in, I don’t know. Regardless, I speak about my beliefs and do so with passion. The topic in its own right is very challenging. Both my personality and the general conversational thrust will always rub some folks the wrong way.

This is an unfortunate truth of the forthcoming conversation. Ideas need to be challenged and as such ideas are usually attributed to a blogger. That means criticism will occur, and as a result, some egos will be offended.

For every Sam Adams we need a Thomas Jefferson, and while I have achieved neither of these great men’s heroics, I hope our Thomas Jefferson arrives soon. Until then and in that spirit, I will endeavor to be mindful about people’s feelings when discussing their ideas. When there is a rising cry of foul play, I will listen and, when appropriate, try to address these situations.

To demonstrate my sincerity in this matter I am donating $100 to Civilination. This 501(c)(3) believes that free speech is enhanced through civil dialog and a rational exchange of information and ideas. By fostering an online culture in which individuals can fully engage and contribute without fear or threat of being the target of unwarranted abuse, harassment, or lies, the core ideals of democracy are upheld.

Thank you for your feedback.

Trackbacks on this post are turned off. This post does not seek to generate in-bound links, instead it will hopefully inspire people to consider the ideas discussed in the context of their own efforts.

11 Replies to “Linkbait and Monopoly: Responding to Your Criticism”

  1. Apologies are always good. The political scene in the US would be so entirely improved if people could say, “I stand by what I said, but I’m sorry if it hit you in the wrong way.”

    I’d like to toss my perspective on your main point. I am not really sure that the “leading bloggers” or thought leaders or whatever you want to call that group are the movers of the current sentiment you are lamenting.

    I think back to one of the first posts I read when I was in this space – it was about the incredibly difficult task of telling people, “No, I can’t sit down and write your entire company strategy for you.” I think some people who are trying to break through in Social Media may be getting: lazy, envious, dependent, or other.

    I think people approach folks like you mentioned in your last posts and say, “Oh, OK, so I need to do exactly what they say and then I will get success.” They don’t understand that what is being thrown out are frameworks. Skeletons of strategies. People need to put their own meat on these ideas. What worked 3 years ago probably will not work now. So what has changed and what kernels can you still use?

    Since it’s holiday time, let me garner the image of decorating sugar cookies. Everybody has a sugar cookie, which is their strategy or path to whatever goals they want. All of the blogs out there are the icings, the sprinkles, the cinnamon buttons – all of the stuff that can enrich your cookie. But if you just keep dipping into 1 bowl of icing and think that’s going to get you a really pretty cookie, you are going to be disappointed, and you are going to become bitter.

    You have to use your own brain. You have to adapt the advice that is given so that it fits what you want and need to do. Whether that advice comes from you, Mr. Livingston, or anyone else in the Social Media world, it doesn’t matter. People need to engage their own brains to make it all work.

    That’s my take anyway.

  2. Very thought provoking post Geoff; plus it can’t have been one that was that too easy to write.

    Without being challenged we get nowhere.

    I completely agree with you that it’s easy for some to think that the colonisation of the social web’s already happened and there’s not much room for dissent and punking it up. Bravo to you for taking that on.

    I wrote a not-so-effusive post about the antics of a well-known social media celebrity ‘guru’ once and wow did I get rounded on so the experience you’re talking about rings true.

    With any revolution, including this social media one, there’s always a cabal that’s quick to get in there and say what the revolution looks like, to make it their own and, in doing so, take all the propulsion out of it.

    The trick, and the hope, is that this revolution remains a more democratic one, full of many voices, complex truths, eternal variety and enduring, creative fascinations of many colours. This post of yours is a big part step in that direction, so thanks.

    1. Anne: The increasingly systematic bullying and use of flash mobs to punish opposing voices is the mark of this echo chamber. For some reason, offended egos think this justifies their think, or protects it. Instead, it creates resentment, stifles the industry, and builds a groundswell of disrespect.

      I wrote the phrase “when appropriate” in the final section. It was in direct reference to the bullying/flash mob throw down. That will only receive what it deserves – stated resistance and a turned cheek. In my case, I tend to use those moments as motivation to continue with more fervor.

      I am sorry you experienced that. It has become all too common. I hope you keep going in the face of it.

      Thank you for your words!

  3. Geoff, thank you for your donation to Civilination, it’s very much appreciated.

    Online attacks of individuals and ensuing flash mobs are unfortunately much too common these days. Passionately argued positions are desirable, yet the foundation for these debates should be the civil, rational and fact-based exchange of ideas and information.

    Andrea Weckerle
    Founder
    CiviliNation

  4. Thanks, Geoff.

    I earnestly hope that anyone who read the other stuff also reads this.

    There is somewhat of a truth to the fact that the Internet has driven us more toward being a generation of talkers rather than doers. But you have been and are both, in my experience. I think those who know you (still friendly or not) know this much to be true about you. If they don’t admit that? They don’t really ‘know’ you or they are denying it to themselves.

    Too often, speaking out against something is perceived as linkbait because that’s exactly what it is. But I suspect even Ed knows that you weren’t doing that. Twitter is a medium all too quickly used and often regretted at leisure.

    I don’t know that anyone truly intends to ‘release the flying monkeys’ when s/he blogs in response to someone else’s post. I think there’s a certain amount of ‘I’ll just link to the post and respond to it and see what the response is from my community over here’ that rapidly turns into mob-mentality on behalf of those who follow the link.

    I may be deluding myself in some cases – but a particular A-List blogger accidentally did this to me a few years back and when he discovered that I was being threatened, publicly trashed and deluged by ugly words & personal insults? He not only went back and amended the post with his apologies, he commented on my post to that effect, and posted a follow-up to let people know that he didn’t condone that sort of behavior.

    The echo-chamber-release-the-hounds mentality is kind of common in the ‘mommy blogosphere’ – but it’s also seldom in the control of the A-List bloggers when it happens now. I have seen instances where the bullying & deluge of dissent was carried on without the blogger being staunchly ‘defended’ knowing it was happening, (having not read or linked to the post herself,) but finding out about it after the fact due to name-searches.

    I love the donation to CiviliNation. I love knowing they exist. I love this post. I love that you have found a way to help ne to understand that you meant what YOU *said* and not what I *heard*. Thank you.

    1. Well, Lucretia, I’ve heard many negative things about me since the post, so Ed’s no different. I dished it out hard in the post, so I’ll not complain, nor will I be swayed. For every negative comment, I got three thank yous. Thanks for sticking it out with me.

  5. Geoff – I think it’s great you challenge the status quo and those who only echo one another for no reason. Not sure why some need to bully, or gang up together, but some do it.

    I think it’s great to have a network of folks who have your back, but shutting down intelligent conversation by getting 10 of your friends to shout someone down is neither productive nor professional.

    Solid reminder to watch your back and be strong in your convictions…and still, don’t be afraid to admit when you’ve made a mistake or that you’re strong enough to still be friends even if you disagree.

    Thanks for sharing another side of things. Always insightful and thought provoking.

    1. Thanks, Phil. It has and remains quite an amazing thing to see how this is falling out. Punishment, taunting, passive agressive remarks from many quarters. It was clearly a disruptive post. Back to mediocrity. Thank you for your support!

      1. That sucks man. I like intelligent discussions, and I am happy to disagree with you…or anyone for that matter. Guess that’s why you and me are mediocre…NOT!

        Keep being you brother. Like I said, I’d rather you remain strong and passionate in your convictions than give in to the mob mentality that is so pervasive from many.

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