Monday, August 31, 2009

FTC to Monitor Blog Reviews

FTC to Monitor Blog Reviews

Just when you thought the government couldn't get anymore involved with your life, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has decided to take a stab at regulating blogging. This would be the first time that the government has tried to control what is said or done on individual blogs. Their reasoning is that many people go online each day to search for "everyday Joes and Janes'" reviews of certain products before making a decision about purchasing them themselves and that often times, bloggers who post reviews of products aren't disclosing the perks or any payments they are receiving for making such reviews. They claim bloggers are receiving "free laptops, trips to Europe, $500 gift cards or even thousands of dollars" for 200-word blog posts.

While the FTC sees this as troublesome, most of the blogosphere (on both sides of the political aisle) sees it as, well, ridiculous, and many of them are taking to their blogs and pointing out the reasons. Many of them are claiming that no company has ever approached them, asking them to take part in such a deal and they probably never will. As Ed Morrissey of Hot Air points out, if it were the case, it wouldn't exactly be cost-effective for the companies doing the paying,



No one has ever approached me to write a blogpost for “thousands of dollars”, not at 200 words or 20,000 words, to sell a product or not. If there are bloggers making that kind of money for 200 words, well, God bless you. I don’t know who’d be foolish enough to make that kind of offer. Maybe it’s from the new Government Motors marketing department, because I’m not sure the blog exists that can generate the sales necessary to make that a cost-effective strategy.


Millions of people across the United States have blogs and most of the little guys are probably thinking this program would only apply to the bigger, more notable blogs. The government would never be interested in the blog where you post pictures of your baby's first birthday or your fantasy football scores, right? Think again. The FTC cites a popular program with Amazon that allows bloggers to post links to their favorite books, movies, and music, and receive a very small percentage if one of their readers purchases the item based on the blogger's recommendation. Harmless enough and most people who are intelligent enough to be reading a blog probably understand this concept without having to be informed about it by the government. Furthermore, no one has ever made "thousands of dollars" through this Amazon program.


But the government sees it differently. The FTC sees this as pulling one over on your readers and basically assumes blog readers are unable to think for themselves. As Morrissey and others point out, if a blogger wants to maintain their readership, they must remain credible and that is a task that is up to the blogger, not the government. When readers begin to realize that a blog is not credible, they'll get their political opinion or celebrity gossip elsewhere. It's one of the few places where the free market is truly allowed to be free these days, but for how long? Anyone in the United States can create an unlimited number of blogs and say or do almost whatever they want with them, but with new government regulations like this being examined, you have to wonder if those days are numbered.



Says Morrissey,

This is the equivalent of using a bazooka to kill a fly. If the trade and consumer issues in the US are resolved to the point where the FTC’s biggest problem is bloggers recommending books and DVDs to their readers, they’ve just made the argument for their dissolution.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

BuzzBoost appears to be Broken

Cheech: "Why do they call it BuzzBoost?"
Chong: "I don't know, I got your Buzz Boost right here, he, he."

If you are a feedburner fan, like I am, then you probably are experiencing problems with feedburner like some of the fine folks on FeedBurner Help Group.

Here are a few comments from others:
mintmark: BuzzBoost Malfunctioning. Only Incomprehensible HTML Displayed
BuzzBoost appears to be malfunctioning. Our auctions are now a mess! Only incomprehensible html is now displayed. Is there an good alternative service that converts RSS to HTML? If this situation isn't corrected soon, we'll be forced to remove Feedburner from all of our sites. Until now, Feedburner has been an excellent service. It would be advantageous (and good business sense) if Feedburner posted the status of thier service. For example, "We're sorry, but we are currently experiencing some technical difficulties with BuzzBoost." We have many clients who purchase high ticket items from our auctions -- auctions which can not now be seen.

baz: I am having the same issue on my page. Interesting to see that it was at some point working. On Aug 26, 7:46 pm, mintmark wrote: - Hide quoted text -- Show quoted text -> BuzzBoost appears to be malfunctioning. Our auctions are now a mess! > Only incomprehensible html is now displayed. Is there an good > alternative service that converts RSS to HTML? If this situation isn't > corrected soon, we'll be forced to remove Feedburner from all of our > sites. Until now, Feedburner has been an excellent service.

It would > be advantageous (and good business sense) if Feedburner posted the > status of thier service. For example, "We're sorry, but we are > currently experiencing some technical difficulties with BuzzBoost." We > have many clients who purchase high ticket items from our auctions -- > auctions which can not now be seen.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Social Media and Politics

Social Media and Politics
Since announcing his candidacy for governor of Ohio on June 1, John Kasich has made use of several popular social networking sites to get his message out to the people of Ohio. Besides taking advantage of mass emails that have become a common form of communication for campaigns, the Kasich campaign is also taking advantage of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to get information out to as many people as possible, as fast as possible.

These new social media make it faster and easier for the campaign to get the message out to more voters than a regular email blast. By linking to their sites, to the campaign site and emails, it makes it easy for voters to find and sign up to receive updates, which are made much more frequently than emails are sent. Not only can they update their fans and followers more readily, the updates are more likely to be forwarded to others when comments are made, or with retweets, getting the message out to more people than a regular email.

Barack Obama has already shown us how a campaign can effectively use these types of social media to get their message out to as many people as possible and how effective it can be to get their message directly to the people. Kasich has become another politician that has taken notice of the advantages of using these social media in what is sure to become the norm for future political campaigns.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Recovery.gov Redesign Costs Taxpayers $18 Million

According to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Recovery.gov was meant to be a "user-friendly, public-facing website to foster greater accountability and transparency in the use of covered funds." The website was established by the Obama administration to allow taxpayers to monitor the "progress" being made by stimulus dollars and includes features such as weekly updates of agency funding notifications, financial and activity reports; map presenting state-by-state funding and recipients of funds and the resulting projects; and tools for the public to report waste, fraud, and abuse of recovery funds. But the amount of taxpayer dollars being used to fund the project's redesign has raised some eyebrows this summer.

According to ABC, the Maryland firm Smartronix was awarded an $18 million contract (lasting through 2014) to make the new website, "Recovery 2.0." The dollar amount allocated for this project is seen by many as a misuse of stimulus dollars. Conservative blog Hot Air points out that another website that serves the same function as Recovery.gov, for the entire federal budget, operates at only a fraction of the cost. The Republican National Committee also created an ad, suggesting the move is "outrageous" and "unreal."

Smartronix provides services for a number of government clients. In 2007, the firm received $47 million in government contracts alone. The Washington Examiner points out that Smartronix president Mohammed Javaid, vice president Alan Parris, and partner John Parris have contributed a combined $19,000 to Democrat and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer since 1999, leaving many to question whether or not other companies received the opportunity to bid on the project.