This post may be astroturfing March 29, 2006 5:00 PM   Subscribe

This post, following on the heels of this earlier one, may be astroturfing. [more inside]
posted by Malor to MetaFilter-Related at 5:00 PM (34 comments total)

Both are about commercial sites, and both link to powerloafing. The user makes very few comments to MeFi.... they're decent, but five in a short time followed immediately by a commercial post.... followed six weeks later by another link to the same place..... strikes me as odd.

Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but I wanted to point it out as a possible problem.
posted by Malor at 5:01 PM on March 29, 2006

It smells really fishy, but the whois info on the two sites (revvar and powerloafing) don't seem to be linked in any way. On the other hand, it clearly says on the main page of Revvar that people get 20% of the ad revenue just for linking to videos on the site... there doesn't seem to be any associate info to the links in the post, though.
posted by crunchland at 5:09 PM on March 29, 2006

The new revver post really smelled weird to me and I pulled it after it got a lot of flags. I don't know about the earlier one. If anyone turns up anything more concrete, let me know.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:26 PM on March 29, 2006

I wrote this email to revver's PR team, just to check.

I am one of the two admins on Recently a brand new user posted a really spammy link to on the front page. This sort of thing is usually against the rules (spam links are against the rules, enthusiastic "hey I like this thing I found" are okay). Since you are the PR company that handles Revver and I know you are fairly blog savvy, I want to ask a straightforward question:

Do you have people working for you (in whatever way you want to interpret "work") whose job it is to promote your clients' interests on blogs in guerilla marketing style, and is this post your work in some way?

If so, you should fire the guy who posted the link. If not, perhaps you should try to hire him since he almost got below the radar.

In any case, as an overworked site admin, I hope this isn't something that your company is involved with. It's distasteful, wastes my time, and spreads ill will towards your client.

Thanks for your time.

Jessamyn West
MetaFilter site admin
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:49 PM on March 29, 2006

How reasonable!

I would be tempted to not give them the time of day.
posted by fire&wings at 5:53 PM on March 29, 2006

Dear revvar,
Welcome to dumpsville. Popultation: You.

posted by blue_beetle at 5:57 PM on March 29, 2006

I would be less concerned about the revver connection than I would be about the powerloafing connection. It could very well be that the poster is not connected to revver at all, but is using his FPP about revver to pimp powerloafing.
posted by ooga_booga at 5:58 PM on March 29, 2006

Yeah the powerloafing guys are weird, what sort of a person uses Flickr but has no tags at all?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:25 PM on March 29, 2006

This reminds me why Jessamyn is admin, and I am not.

Nice email to some probably not so sincere individuals.
posted by rollbiz at 7:43 PM on March 29, 2006

Jeez, I didn't mean to make a problem for anyone. I am not affiliated with Revver, but I do think it's great and deserves some mention on Metafilter. I'm also not affiliated with Powerloafing in any official capacity, but I am good friends with some of the people involved. Yes, I've pimped it on the net with the best intentions - it's a funny site and I love the folks involved. Neither had been mentioned before on Metafilter and they seem appropriate. Revver is a great new compay that actually gives revenue back to the artist, a pretty revolutionary idea. Please don't anyone lose sight of that important element. I included Powerloafing among the representative links because a couple weeks ago it switched to a completely Revver-based system, the only one I could find as an example. Please call off the hounds.
posted by Blingo at 8:02 PM on March 29, 2006

I thought Revver looked interesting. I posted one of my Sailor Martin movies there just to check it out, see what kind of hits I get.

* * *

Astro Zombie's spamming! Astro Zombie's spamming!

posted by Astro Zombie at 8:35 PM on March 29, 2006

I have found the videos amusing in a 'what, me worry' or SNL style of yeah, wtf style of attitude.
posted by buzzman at 8:48 PM on March 29, 2006

Hounds? We get hounds?

Nobody told me we get hounds.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:10 AM on March 30, 2006

jessamyn, let us know if you get any replies. Very civil. Kudos.
posted by keijo at 7:04 AM on March 30, 2006

Blingo -

you might want to try a different style of composition for your posts to avoid suspicion of PBP.* Be pithy. People here like pithy posts.

* Pepsi Blue Pimping
posted by carsonb at 8:10 AM on March 30, 2006

Revver is a great new compay that actually gives revenue back to the artist, a pretty revolutionary idea. Please don't anyone lose sight of that important element.

Blingo, maybe you're not really used to the culture here, but posting like you're reading from a press release is a really bad way to get the community behind you. I think people have been pretty civil about it, but linking to your friends' site twice in two months when you haven't contributed much otherwise looks a little fishy. Nothing "deserves" a mention on MetaFilter; it's a large community and everyone has their favorites. You've made yours known.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:24 AM on March 30, 2006

Well, he posted a defense, which seems resonable. Metafilter links to commercial sites all the time.

posted by delmoi at 9:33 AM on March 30, 2006

He pimps it in his fucking apology.
posted by fleacircus at 10:56 AM on March 30, 2006

Metafilter links to commercial sites all the time.

Not commercial sites we have a connection to. That's the whole point.
posted by languagehat at 11:23 AM on March 30, 2006

So this guy is an self-avowed self linker and isn't banned? The guy's first link should have been made to projects. As it is, it's a self-link.
posted by ooga_booga at 1:42 PM on March 30, 2006

My read was that the powerloafing site is done by friends of his which makes it not a self-link unless I missed something.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:45 PM on March 30, 2006

Very well, I cede to your judgement and recall the hounds which shoot bees from their mouths.
posted by ooga_booga at 2:10 PM on March 30, 2006

That wasn't an apology fleacircus. (and, I'm a she) I'm no astro turfer. Delmoi makes a good observation about commercial sites, and I'm not sure how one could extol the virtues of a new company without sending up flags like crazy. Languagehat, I have no connection to Revver, nor to Powerloafing which is a tiny passion project done out of a living room, and could hardly be called commercial.

I now see how the misunderstanding happened, but I assure everyone my two measly posts on mefi are legit. I have a couple friends who work on Powerloafing, a site that very few knew about until recently. I work in the entertainment business in LA, and I have friends on dozens of projects, some of them horrible and well known, but this project was actually really good and not well known. I put it into the mefi search engine and nobody had mentioned it yet. After being a long time lurker of MeFi, I finally had something good to post! It's so hard to find anything that hasn't been covered to death. It was a well-received post, and Powerloafing has since been lauded in other media. I'm proud to have brought it here before it hit the big time.

I learned about Revver through Powerloafing when they switched their system over. I searched for Revver and it had never been covered at mefi, and seemed a perfect post. Finally, after querying a million things, I had my second post!

Since there is hardly any info available on revver, I included Powerloafing among a variety of illustrative links. In my small world it seemed perfectly okay to include it, but I see now how it threw up red flags, it being the subject of my only other post. I actually avoided linking to any Revver press releases because I did not want to appear a spammer, and I was caught by surprise when the accusation flew anyway.

To sum up: I’m not a press agent, guerilla marketer, or pimp for my own site. I’m sure that the Revver Marketing Dept. will respond with a “Huh?” since I don’t know anyone at the company. I plead no contest to “spammy,” but I'm not spam, those are my honest opinions.

I hope Astro Zombie, or Allen.Spaulding, or someone else who responded positively to my Revver post can reintroduce it to the metafilter mainpage, free of the taint of Blue Pepsi. I think it deserves a full discussion. I’m sorry to have brought a negative shadow onto two great sites. I’d now like to retire from public life, spend some time with my family, and lurk out of the spotlight for a while.
posted by Blingo at 2:33 PM on March 30, 2006

Blingo: it sounds like you had the best of intentions, and I'm not calling you names, but don't you see the contradiction between "I have no connection" and "I have a couple friends who work on Powerloafing"? Just because it's not your site doesn't mean you have no connection. And the reason for the ban on posting links to sites we're connected to isn't that it's inherently Evil, but that the more connected we are to something, the less able we are to look at it objectively. Self-linking isn't only about "Click this link so I can make $$$," it's about "Isn't my baby the cutest you ever saw?" and "My friend's band is awesome!" Those things are much less likely to be true for other people than they are for you and your friends and family. Hence we're supposed to post stuff we ran across and liked because it was good on its own merits, without any prejudice based on our connection to it.

No need to run off and hide; just try to find more good stuff to post.
posted by languagehat at 3:43 PM on March 30, 2006

I don't know. Saying that Blingo is connected to that site just because she's friends with the people who produce it. Eh... A bit of a stretch. The fact that the site popped up twice in two posts, well... and considering the first post of the site seemed to get positive feedback, we should be willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, and only put her on double-secret probation.
posted by crunchland at 3:55 PM on March 30, 2006

Saying that Blingo is connected to that site just because she's friends with the people who produce it. Eh... A bit of a stretch.


What does "connection" mean to you? To me, friends are by definition connection. Aren't we likely to overvalue our friends' activities, and isn't that the issue here?

And I think it's clear from my previous comment that I am giving her the benefit of the doubt.
posted by languagehat at 3:59 PM on March 30, 2006

Yeah the powerloafing guys are weird, what sort of a person uses Flickr but has no tags at all?
posted by jessamyn at 8:25 PM CST on March 29 [!]

Me, because I don't give a shit about tags.
posted by cellphone at 4:20 PM on March 30, 2006

Lauguagehat, I think the distinction is clear enough, but I live in Hollywood: I'm not connected with Arrested Development, but I have friends who work(ed) there. I’ve never worked there, gotten paid by them, or even consulted informally, so I'm not "connected" to the project. I suppose the word "connection" is to Hollywood dwellers as "snow" is to Eskimos, it has 13 sub-meanings, sometimes depending on voice inflection. (Same with "friend," but that's a whole different subject.) I don't think there's a rule against posting something you've gleaned through social contacts, or even friends; that would be needlessly restrictive and would eliminate posts from people like me, who catch wind of interesting entertainment projects early. I think the policy is against self-linking, as jessamyn pointed out, and I agree with it. Of course, the freer policy could result in posts like “my friend’s band is awesome.” But, what if this hypothetical poster's friend does have an awesome band? I’m willing to give the hypothetical band a chance before I hear it. I also see how a post like that could bring down the holy wrath of the mefi hounds, and I can assure you my next post won't be about any of my friend's bands.

I don't believe I've broken any mefi rules, except sounding spammy, but I accept my double-secret probation status nonetheless, and humbly await my next chance to post something good.
posted by Blingo at 5:42 PM on March 30, 2006

Hi Jessamyn,

Thanks for your e-mail. No, it was not posted by Edelman.

Edelman does not encourage this behavior within its account teams, and
we'll investigate whether the link originated from Revver and counsel

Rest assured, Edelman has no interest in performing "astroturf"

Best Regards,
Betsy Damus
Just as an FYI. Blingo, I think you should let this drop. It's clear that your version of MetaFilter where linking to your friends awesome band is an excellent thing to do and the more restrictive version where it's practically self-linking are somewhat at odds. And while neither is quite how we do things here, many people err on the more restrictive interpretation and bristle when they see posts talking about how awesome some new way to make money is.

Also, if I were you I wouldn't talk to languagehat about eskimos and snow, but that's just me.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:48 PM on March 30, 2006

I'm glad I've been cleared by Edelman of the astroturfing charges. Consider it dropped. best wishes to all.
posted by Blingo at 5:59 PM on March 30, 2006

And Blingo was her name-o.
posted by ColdChef at 7:16 PM on March 30, 2006

Saying that Blingo is connected to that site just because she's friends with the people who produce it. Eh... A bit of a stretch.

No. Not at all. Most of links on MeFi are to things absolutely disconnected from the person posting the link.

By comparison, posting a link because it's your personal friends' neat new thing is, indeed, absolutely is connected.

We have tens of thousands of users. I prefer we all err on the safe side when making a front page post. We can well afford to be extremely selective: MeFi will not be harmed by our conservative silence.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:36 PM on March 30, 2006

I guess you guys are right. Back in the early days of Metafilter, every web 1.0 guru was friends with every other web 1.0 guru, and there was incestuous weblinking left and right. But in the post clinton/bubble/2.0 days, you're probably right.
posted by crunchland at 7:52 PM on March 30, 2006

I guess you guys are right. Back in the early days of Metafilter, every web 1.0 guru was friends with every other web 1.0 guru, and there was incestuous weblinking left and right.

Heh. That's precisely what I was going to say.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:06 PM on March 30, 2006

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