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behind netvocates (and it’s link to customscoop)

By on May 31, 2006 in citizen journalism | 28 comments

I was looking at inbound links this evening and came across one originating behind the firewall of a company called NetVocates which is a "blog intelligence and advocacy service". The website blurb says, reasonably enough: "…blogs frequently impact an organization and its products and image in uncontrolled and often unexpected ways. In addition, the sheer volume of blogs, message boards, and other discussion forums makes it difficult for organizations to effectively monitor the activity relevant to them." Organisations want to know what people are saying about them online – that makes perfect sense. However, I spent a bit more time on the NetVocates site and found this: "NetVocates then recruits activists and consumers who share the client’s views in order to reinforce those key messages on targeted blogs – and rebut misinformation when appropriate." So they hire sockpuppets to go out and pretend to be "ordinary users" when they post stuff on blogs? ANYONE THINKING OF HIRING A COMPANY TO DO THIS needs to think very seriously about the backlash that’s likely to happen if people find out. Don’t believe me? Then see this post about a company that tried it and got caught. Other bloggers who have found themselves visited by NetVocates include: PSoTDMake Chai, Not WarCracksInTheFacadepandora’s jar of mixed nuts What do each of these have in common? Well, based on a very brief visit to each, I’d say they all discuss political issues at least some of the time. On my visits, Pandora’s was discussing nuclear power plants in Australia, Cracks most recent post was about American troops in Iraq but the following post had a link to an article about energy, MakeChai describes himself as a "Pakistani American Muslim… human rights and responsibilities advocate…" and PSoTD has a "leftie blog" badge on his site and reckons the netvocate people visited this page about the Al Gore movie. I also just found this guy who posted about Net Neutrality on the day he was visited. I’m starting to worry… So who are they? Well, a search of the whois database on network solutions, where they registered their domain name late last year, found that the owners are Griffin Strategy Group, LLC who list an email address at eoutreach.com as their contact and a non-sense contact phone number of 999 999 9999. Searching based on the listed zipcode + "Griffin" I found this page which seamingly ties netvocate to a profile on iKarma for Chip Griffin, Chief Innovation Officer at CustomScoop, a trademark of "eOutreach Solutions, LLC". Which leads me to a biography of Chip who also has his own blog here. Customschoop has actually been featured in TechCrunch and in this post on Micro Persuasion who, I reckon, don’t have a clue that Chip is also involved in a company like NetVocates. So returning to the whole who is Chip Griffin question, a quick google search throws up lots of stuff. He seems to write a lot of stuff of interest to Republican candidates, congressman, etc and his own blog says: "Griffin worked for a variety of politicians, think tanks, and public relations firms in the Washington, D.C. area. In addition, he headed townhall.com, a conservative internet portal." I won’t embarrass the guy by telling you he used to be into knifemaking and castle wolfenstien… So do people out there know that the guy behind NetVocates, a service that watches blogs and message boards then hires "activists and consumers who share the client’s views in order to reinforce those key messages on targeted blogs" is also the guy behind CustomScoop, a service that’s getting some kudos in the blogosphere? Somehow I think people haven’t noticed – what blogger would talk up a service that has a sister service that, basically, pays people to post comment spam?! There’s still some room for a bit of sleuthing around this… have you been visited by NetVocates? What was your content about? Maybe you’ve been approached to "blog" or "comment" by them? Let’s find out more. — Update 22:52 BST: It looks like cracksinthefacade and PSoTD both posted about the Al Gore movie, as did the Pandora’s jar guy – so someone has paid to find out what people are saying about the Al Gore movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Did you post about the film? Did you get inbound links from NetVocates? More interestingly, did any user comments appear and what did they say? Let’s see if any feedback posted looks similar… Update 18.22 BST 06/01/06: Chip has posted a bit of info on his blog in response to this and posts made by other bloggers. One paragraph of it, if true and I have no reason to doubt that it is, makes me feel quite a lot better about the idea of NetVocate asking people to post comments (see my other post – I’ve since changed my mind about that). Chip says: We have a few basic principles we ask all of our staff and the activists we work with to operate under. First, we ask our activists to only engage on issues they actually believe in. Second, we ask everyone not to lie about anything. Third, we ask our activists not to create multiple online personalities to engage in blogosphere conversations. [see my other posts about netvocates] bookmark this post: del.icio.us l Digg l Furl l ma.gnolia l Newsvine l reddit l Yahoo MyWeb l Track with...

web 2.0 – list of all lists

By on May 31, 2006 in online community, social software |

The Web 2.0 Group has created a comprehensive, some would say almost sickenly obsessive, list of “web 2.0” sites and services. Almost every day they add a few which makes it a bit hard to follow which is where this nice, user friendly, albeit not as current, version of the list comes in handy. Someone enterprising should create a celebdaq like market where people can use imaginary cash to speculate, buy, and sell shares in these – but act quick, we all know what happened last time…

mapping the growth of flickr

By on May 31, 2006 in academic studies, online community, social software |

mapping flickrs growth Originally uploaded by lynetter. Lynette Webb has used various publicly available statistics to map flickr’s growth [see image]. She’s requested help finding more stats to fill in the already interesting picture and I know that a few people around here are likely to have such stats – so please do post a comment or contact Lynette. For links to the stats she’s already used, see the original post on flickr. (Lynette is an old friend who I worked with at TalkCast. This image is used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license – thanks...

news international looking for moderators

By on May 30, 2006 in online community, social software |

News International has permanent, full-time jobs for overnight content moderators / discussion hosts. The jobs, advertised here, are office based in London and pay is £17-23k. It looks like whatever News Corp’s new thing (it’s not a myspace job although they are in the process of getting their UK myspace portal up and running) is going to be a full-on 24/7 operation focusing on "current events… sport, popular culture, media".

online dating, murdoch on future of newspapers, wifi hotspot chat

By on May 29, 2006 in location based services, online community, online dating, social software | 1 comment

I knew that a lot of people were meeting on internet dating sites but, in all honesty, I had no idea exactly how huge the numbers have become. EHarmony, but one of the main US dating sites, reckons that “over 33,000 members” got married over a 12 month period. Now that is a lot. See Mark Brook’s post on Online Personals Watch for details. Speaking of Mark, he’s also posted about Rupert Murdoch’s belief that the future of his newspaper businesses depends on their successful integration with myspace. And for those of you who use wifi hotspots, why not have a chat with other people using the same hotspot? Mark’s got details of that...