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Must have been a slow news day. Spero News covered the dubious spamming practices of Christianity Today On-Line - the internet affiliate of Christianity Today (CTI) the magazine.

Why are folks upset?

Well, to blame, in my opinion, is our inconsistent definition of "spam." Is leaving a comment on a blog containing a link to your own blog or company spam? What if that link contributes in some way to the conversation taking place in the comments? What if the comment leaver is using a pseudonym? What if leaving a comment drives traffic to the commentor's site or business?

What do you think? Was CTI or Mr.Herman spamming or not?

And thanks for the linkage Spero News. I haven't gotten any traffic from you yet, but...Wait, you linked to me in a news story your unsuspecting readers will read and then, you know, click on. An of course now I'm linking to you. So, in a round about sort of way you benefit by linking to me. And doing so isn't spamming your readers because...

Blurry lines. Definitions - or a chill pill - needed.


Blogger euphrony said...

Hey, I saw your post and thought you might want to check out the great articles on <subject> at www.this_is_not_a_working_website.com.

But seriously, am I Kosher with the way Michael Herman - aka Michael Joseph aka M. Joseph - was posting: no, not completely. I think it is completely valid for him to post such links, even using a pseudonym (as I do), without disclaimer of his association with CTI, as long as he is a part of the discussion and not merely an interloper. Hit-and-run postings like the ones highlighted by Spero News are nothing more than advertising through a whisper campaign (watch The Muppets Take Manhattan, great whisper campaign and Kermit in a fake mustache) while the Big Name Company is trying to appear to be the Common Man. We’ve seen it before, with the debacle of the Sony movies receiving glowing reviews from the Sony PR department and in The Big Thing Music that you highlighted a month ago.

In the blogosphere, if you are going to post links to your own corporate interests, then be a legitimate part of the discussion in the blogs. If you are not part of the discussion, then buy some ad space. Shaun, you’re still looking for a few bucks for the live recording, right?

Blogger Kat said...

Wow. It seriously must have been a slow news day. Or perhaps the author had recently read a Hardy Boys Book and wanted to be a sleuth for a day.

While Mr. Joseph's...er...Herman's comments may have been a bit less than sincere, it most certainly wasn't worthy of all the effort that the author went to or of the length of that article.

Emily Post has yet to write a book about eManners. Many, many people do not fully understand what the rules are for blogging, email and web communication. We've got to give a lot of grace for those who might not be very web savvy.

In any case, I hope the author had fun being a Hardy Boy for the day and that Mr. Herman's comments will now be above reproach.

Blogger Chaotic Hammer said...

I guess I'm using a pseudonym also...uh, yeah. We actually call them "handles" where I come from (the old time BBS world, predecessor to the blog). I guess that there's no real reason for doing this (at least in my case), it's just a fun/silly thing to do. There may be people who are notorious criminals and secret agents, but for most of us it's just an "online identity", sort of like taking on the name Dragonslayer when you play a video game or something. I'll be happy to tell anyone who asks my real name, I've got nothing to hide. But be forewarned: You've never heard of me, and won't have any more of an idea who I am after I tell you than you do now.

There is always going to be a certain amount of intermingling between those who have a commercial interest and those who are simply participating for ideological or discussion reasons. After all, this is a professional musician's blog. Shaun makes a living (or used to, anyway) in the industry, and there are people he works with professionally, people he knows personally, and everything in between who might have an interest in tapping into his audience. There are ad banners all over most web pages, where it is hoped that visitors with a certain interest will see a targeted message inviting them to another site.

I guess it's the gray area in between that is being questioned here, and there's not going to be a satisfactory answer because each case is a little different. When the comment was left here on Shlog, Shaun knew who Mike was, had a little fun with him, and everyone moved on. There are so many links on any given web page that anyone who has spent any serious time web surfing knows that you simply can't click on a majority of them, there isn't enough time. The sheer volume of web pages and links is quite overwhelming. And I believe that studies say our attention span while web surfing is extremely limited. (Hello to the one guy who is actually reading my entire comment!)

There is a practice (called "splogging" in the Blogtionary), where a robot program visits blog comments and leaves a bunch of links to totally unrelated random websites along with a phony little comment like "Hey, neat blog!" or something. But it seems that in this case, the guy actually visited the blogs, read them, and left a link that was relevant to the discussion. I know people don't like the appearance of "conflict of interest", but this is being awfully nitpicky in my opinion.

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Kat, I too was pretty amazed at the lengths the ticked blogger went to in investigating the source of Mike's comments. How angry does this guy/girl get when someone cuts them off in traffic? Do they follow them home so they can chew them out when in their driveway? Even if the perp lives in another state? Across country? That, seems to me, is about the gist of what they did to Mike. Was he wrong? I don't know - I know and like the guy so I'm the wrong person to ask - but even if he was...was it worth all the hassle of tracking him down?



Blogger Rachel said...

I've been victim to misdirected techniques such as this guy's mistake...we're not very forgiving when it comes to this apparent spam entering our blog world. Funny how that works. Really, what it all boils down to is people wanting other people to give their ideas a chance...in the form of words or a product. The rules of conduct need be better defined in this ever growing world of blogs and comments.

Blurry lines indeed.

Blogger Bene Diction said...

Hi Shaun:

Thanks for the link!

Spamming is a grey area and we felt it was worth discussing.

I'm sorry the story didn't send any hits your way, all the best with your career.

Blog on!

Blogger M. Joseph said...

Hey, it's me. I'm "that guy" (Mr. Herman.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I've interviewed Shaun a number of times in the past. I've worked at CTI for that past 10+ years. And, I still like grilled cheese sandwiches).

Now that we have the formalities out of the way, I want to make a few comments about this whole thing, and add some info that hasn't been put out there by either Spero or the Bene Diction blog.

Everything has been talked out between the Bene Diction and Spero folks (they're connected to each other -- they're not two completed different web properties). We're cool, and they understand that it was just an unfortunate situation. I was lazy in the website address I used, and they were quick to judge my actions.

In speaking with the author of the Spero piece -- a self-described "citizen journalist," READ: blogger -- I explained that my intentions were not to drum-up more readers for our website. He believed me because the Bene Diction blog has a low number of readers (as does my blog, so that's not a slam), and ChristianityToday.com serves out more that 10 million page views every month. So, it's not a good use of my time as a CTI employee to take 5 or 10 minutes to post a comment on a small blog in order to generate traffic.

My purpose in posting a comment was two-fold. Yes, it was in part to add to the conversation that was begun by the post at Bene Diction. We had created a collection of links that bloggers have shown interest in, so, I was going to 2 or 3 blogs each day that week to let the blogger and the blog's readers know about where they can continue to learn more about the topic.

The second purpose was the greater one. I've been slowly developing a contact list of bloggers that might someday become guest bloggers for our growing collection of CTI website blogs. I've also been growing this list of bloggers in order to create a community of individuals who are passionate about telling people about the issues that we also cover.

I've had numberous email conversations with some of these bloggers in my little community where I've conencted bloggers who weren't aware of each other. I've also be able to go back and forth and discuss the issues about which we're both passionate. Those interactions were fantastic and I wouldn't trade them for anything. True community growing between Christians who've never met is special (Shaun, you know that to be true for sure).

It was all an unfortunate situation that took, literally, 5 or 6 hours to work out over the span of a few weeks. That's 5 or 6 hours I'll never have back, but, I learned some important lessons.

I hope my post here helps explain things a little better. That's for extenting my unwanted 15 minutes of fame Shaun. No really, thanks a bunch. :)

You're the best, Shaun, and I really hope we'll hook up again soon. Tell your publicist to schedule a trip up here to Chicago to visit CTI. I'd love to hang out if our schedules jive.

Best (and not spamming, I swear)

P.S. I typed this out pretty quickly and don't have time to adequately spell-check so...pls excuse the errors. Hopefully you still get my gist.


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