Command-and-Control vs. Listen-and-Participate Monday, Jul 17 2006 

In my previous post about Naked Conversations, I mentioned two schools of PR that Scoble and Israel believe are in practice today. One is the command-and-control school in which PR professionals believe that they should keep communicating they way they have been and perhaps add a little spin to make the company look better. The second school, which is also referred to as the new school, subscribes to a listen-and-participate philosophy. Those PR professionals who follow this philosophy believe in taking a conversational approach by listening and responding to consumers’ needs.

Jeff Jarvis has a great post that demonstrates these two schools of communication. Amanda Chapel, a PR professional gets into a heated debate with Jarvis regarding his previous post about his dissatisfaction with Dell. Amanda’s arguments are basically consistent with the command-and-control school of communication. She argues:

He (Michael Dell) should care about a good product and an identified market. That does NOT necessarily mean individual customers… You have one vote. I suggest you don’t buy Dell. Period. Anything more than that is an attempt to hold Dell and its shareholder hostage. We don’t owe you anything!

Why care about individual customers? Well, I think this is obvious, individual customers together equal a collective of customers, which then equals Dell’s meal ticket. It’s scary to think that this woman is a PR professional giving advice to corporations. Amanda goes on to argue that:

You (Jeff Jarvis) grossly overestimate the value of the customer relationship. Excuse me, businesses don’t really want “relationships” with their customers. It’s too expensive, it’s too messy and the return is nominal at best. Not even the most prolific hooker wants a personal relationship. Our job is to provide needs/wants/desires and then present clients with something special. If I did my homework, I will be rewarded; if not, I will be punished. The money is on the dresser. End of transaction.

OUCH!!! To some extent, Amanda has a point. Businesses should not be concerned about building a personal relationship with customers. They should be more concerned about building a business relationship. Today is my birthday. If I had a Dell Computer (which after reading this I am glad I don’t!!), I would not care if they called to wish me a happy birthday. However, I would care if a Dell representative cared about my issue with its product when I call it’s technical support line. See the difference? If Dell is the type of company that believes the transaction is over once the money is paid and the product leaves the store, then I will think twice about recommending a Dell computer to my mother.

Dell has a potential blog swarm on its hands. Richard Edelman weighed in on Jarvis’ issues with Dell on his blog. Apparently, in a previous posting, an intern from GCI (a PR firm representing Dell) took a few stabs at Jarvis for his views on Dell. Edelman argued:

This arrogant and ill informed foray into the blogosphere only hurts those of us trying to move beyond hack flackery and into substantive dialogue that respects opposing views and gives consumers all the facts.

Amen. Maybe Dell should be an Edelman client 🙂

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Wearable Computing? Tuesday, Jul 11 2006 

According to Tim O’Reilly, the National Science Foundation (NSF), has approved a grant to investigate the software infrastructure necessary to support wearable computing.  What is wearable computing?  According to MIT:

Wearable computing hopes to shatter the myth of how a computer should be used.  A person’s computer should be worn, much as eyeglasses or clothing are worn, and interact with the user based on the context of the situation.  With heads-up displays, unobtrusive input devices, personal wireless local area networks, and a host of other context sensing communication tools, the wearable computer can act as an intelligent assistant, whether through a Rememberance Agent, augmented reality or intellectual collectives.

What an amazing concept!  Could this mean the end of the need for a post-it note?  I usually find the post-it useless for the purpose of reminding me to do something because I have to remember to look at it.  This wearable computing idea is great for someone like me who is experiencing rapid memory loss at a shockingly young age.  Besides, I think we can all use an intelligent assistant from time to time.  The best part is you don’t have to worry about this assistant talking back or complaining 🙂

Fair Use Landmark Case Monday, Jul 10 2006 

On June 12, 2006, the Stanford Center for Internet and Society’s Fair Use Project announced that they will be defending Carol Shloss in a law suit filed against the Estate of James Joyce. Shloss is a Joycean scholar who published Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake, which discusses the relationship between James Joyce and his daughter, Lucia and the influence this relationship had over his “acclaimed work of literature, Finnegans Wake.” In this case, Shloss is seeking the right to use “quotations from published and unpublished materials relating to James Joyce on a scholarly website about him.”

The lawsuit alleges that the Estate is notorious for filing suits against individuals who use Joyce’s work. A Stanford Law School press release states:

The lawsuit states that the Estate sued sponsors of a global Internet webcast reading of Ulysses that took place on Bloomsday 1998; that event was sponsored by the Prime Minister, the President, and other politicians in the Republic of Ireland. Further, the lawsuit contends that although the Estate does not hold copyright over medical records of Lucia Joyce and many letters relating to her, it has consistently leveraged the threat of denying permission to use James Joyce’s work if material relating to Lucia Joyce – of which the Estate does not approve – is published.

How ridiculous is this? The Fair Use section of the U.S. Copyright Act states that one of the factors to be considered “when determining whether the use of a work in any particular case is a fair use” is whether the purpose of use if for commercial or nonprofit educational purposes.” This case is considered to be a landmark case that will have significant implications for those in the academic field. Lawrence Lessig, the lead attorney for Shloss in this case, argued:

Her work is not the kind that copyright law seeks to prohibit. Instead it is the kind of scholarly, critical work that is protected, and that should always be protected, by fair use. We seek a clear statement from the court that such academic use of copyrighted materials is protected under fair use.

I can understand why copyright holders would want to protect their work from individuals who are only seeking commercial gain through the use of their material. I cannot understand, however, why they would fight against scholars’ use of this material. While the former is used for personal gain, the latter seeks to educate and inform the public. These Estates and their agents should be honored by the fact that renowned scholars, such as Shloss, are providing information that will further the public’s understanding of classic works of literature, art, and so forth. Scholars should be able to produce their work without the fear of being sued by Estates who interpret the law too narrowly.

Protecting Consumer Privacy in an E-Commerce World Tuesday, Jun 20 2006 

Google announced today that they are joining the Consumer Privacy Legislation Forum.  This group, consisting of other companies such as eBay, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems is "calling for federal consumer protection legislation."  The Forum believes that there should be a uniformed consumer privacy legislation that will protect consumers from improper use of their personal information.  The are arguing that a uniformed law would make it easier to handle cases of abuse regardless of the state in which the crime occurred.

With the rise in concern about identity theft, it is important for companies to focus more on safeguarding individuals' personal information.  Many people are still afraid to conduct business online because of the fear that their information will fall into the wrong hands.

 In April 2001, The Federal Trade Commission, as well as other federal agencies with consumer protection jurisdiction, joined 12 other countries to form econsumer.gov.  Their mission is to:

Enhance consumer protection and consumer confidence in e-commerce.  Using the existing Consumer Sentinel database (a database of consumer complaint data and other investigative information operated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission), the incoming complaints will be shared through the government Web site with participating consumer protection law enforcers.

Although the countries do not pursue individual complaints, if a number of people complain about a particular issue/company, law enforcement agencies can spot this trend and choose to take action.

Has the RIAA Gone Overboard? Tuesday, Jun 20 2006 

According to a Project Opus report, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) plans to challenge YouTube for the use of videos in which amateur dancers are shown "hamming it up to popular songs." The RIAA is arguing that since these videos do not seek clearance, they are in violation of copyright laws. Needless to say, this has the blogging community talking.

In a blog post on Searchblog, John Battelle argued

Good f'ing lord, RIAA. Wake up. This is how we use music in the real world. Get over yourselves.

There are valid arguments that can be made on both sides of this issue. Of course it seems innocent, these are just amateur videos of kids having fun. Why pick on them? Let them enjoy themselves.

On the otherhand, it is copyrighted material being used without the permission of the copy right holder. Shouldn't the RIAA have the right to protect its property? If individuals or companies are profitting off the use of someone else's material, doesn't the owner have the right to be compensated? Tricky, Tricky!!!

Google Having Second Thoughts??? Tuesday, Jun 13 2006 

According to a blog post by Rebecca MacKinnon, Google’s Sergey Brin may be having second thoughts about their decision to launch a censored version of Google.com, Google.cn.  He argued that he is not sure it was the right thing to do.  According to a International Herald Tribune article, Brin told reporters:

We felt perhaps we could compromise our principles but provide ultimately more information for the Chinese and be a more effective service and perhaps make more of a difference.  Perhaps now the principled approach makes more sense.

This seems logical…right?  Couldn’t the government tell Google, “it’s our way or the highway?”  Then Chinese consumers will suffer from the loss of a valuable resource.  I don’t understand why all the pressure is being placed on Google when competitors such as Yahoo are also adhering to censorship rules.  I can understand why citizens are frustrated but it seems that their anger is a little misdirected.  Google should not be the only company taking a stand against censorship.  It will take a united front to win this battle. 

Google could, however, set an example and allow the pressure to shift to their rivals who will then be forced to take a stand.  It seems obvious that as long as these search engines agree to censorship, the situation will not improve for Chinese consumers.  In the current situation the government has nothing to lose.  So why should they concede?

Social Networking May Be Used Against You… Monday, Jun 12 2006 

MySpace users beware! According to a NY Times Article, famous social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook are being used by recruiters as a background checking tool. What a genius idea?!! Although some may argue that this information should not be used against applicants, I say "why not?" A recruiter has the right to know if an applicant is capable of making responsible decisions. Posting your picture on a website and proclaiming to the world "I AM A POT SMOKING SLUT," does not scream responsibility. I do not blame recruiters for wanting to know if this is an individual they want representing their company/university.

I am not against these social networking sites, however users should be more cautious about the information they share. It's a shame that most of these kids are probably doing this in an attempt to look cool among their peers. We have all probably been there before. I know I have…I was smart enough not to post it on a website…until now 🙂

Being turned down for a job or denied admission to a university is a hard way to learn the lesson of oversharing, but it is obviously a lesson that some teenagers need to learn. As Scott Karp said:

Young people may be naive but they are not stupid. The generation just hitting puberty will watch the class ahead of them get screwed out of college admissions and job offers as a result of too much online social networking. And they won’t make the same mistake.