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May 01, 2008

Facebook Keeps It Real - Commentary on Story2Oh!

Ali Barrett, Simon Beals, Devon Ross and Jory Goudge had their profiles deleted on Facebook this week.

Why?

They are all fictional characters created by screenwriter and executive producer, Jill Golick who presented Story2Oh!, Evolving TV Storytelling to Social Networks at CaseCamp Toronto 7.

Several CaseCamp attendees were “friended” by Ali Barrrett or Simon Beals prior to the event. Although Gollick Golick disclosed their fictional status on other social networks, she admittedly didn’t disclose that information on their Facebook profiles. Many of them felt duped and questioned the lack of transparency. Others felt it was all in the name of artistic expression and that made everything okay.

Facebook’s terms of service are very clear when it comes to user conduct. In addition to other terms that may have been violated, members agree not to “impersonate any person or entity, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent yourself, your age or your affiliation with any person or entity”.

Although I questioned Gollick Golick on her lack of transparency and she addressed my concerns in person following the presentation, I didn’t complain to Facebook. I suspect there may have been those in the room or Facebook representatives who did.

I’m the first to admit the creative on Story2Oh! was brilliant and engaging. The production quality of the videos was top notch (maybe even too professional for YouTube, but I digress). Compelling content is certainly essential but when it comes to social networks and other forms of social media, TACT is key:

  • Trust
  • Accountability
  • Credibility
  • Transparency

Story2Oh! character profiles on Facebook were anything but transparent and in my opinion, therein lies the crux of problem. Particularly on a service that so many rely on to mediate their real, non-fictional relationships.

What about you? Do you think when it comes to the arts and other forms of creative expression in marketing campaigns, we can push the envelope, and, disregard trust, accountability, credibility and transparency in the social media playground?

Additional Links
As you can imagine, folks at CaseCamp and across the blogosphere have wildly differing opinions about TACT in this particular context. These include:

~ | ~

Editor's Note
There are three things I wanted to share that relate to this.

  1. Alternate Reality Games (ARG), a tactic used by some marketers as well as artists, rely on participants walking the line between real/not-real.  There might be some lessons and best practices from this space.
  2. Penguin Books UK is doing some interesting things with online storytelling via their project We Tell Stories.  One of their stories include blogs that are character-driven and not identified (on the blog) as fictional.  Another good example to look to.
  3. Last year we had a piece on Character Blogs.  Opinion varied wildly on that as well.  Some of these characters were better known that some of the ones in Story2Oh! - does that matter?  If they start on TV, are we more forgiving?

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Comments

Great post Eden. There are two sides to the camp here, obviously, and this is one that is not often heard.

Anyone violating a ToS, and publicly speaking about it is bound to get caught - just look at the Gizmodo shenanigans at CES this year (which I thoroughly enjoyed): http://gizmodo.com/343348/confessions-the-meanest-thing-gizmodo-did-at-ces

What comes out of every CaseCamp I attend, and any Web 2.0 conversation I have, is that transparency is the key to conversation. No one likes getting duped, conned, or mislead - on the web, in person, or anywhere for that matter. The web merely accelerates things, and word does not only travel quickly, but in this case painfully.

I thought the Story2Oh presentation was fantastic. I loved the idea, had a great laugh, and would love to see it continue – in any online medium. I’d subscribe, but I have trouble keeping up on my real friends, let alone made up ones. Something like this was bound to happen even without CaseCamp. Heck, even real people like the Scobleizer got banned from Facebook (http://scobleizer.com/2008/01/03/ive-been-kicked-off-of-facebook/). If you want to create a bogus Facebook profile (like I have :)), try not to tell too many people about it. A secret is just that until too many people find out, then – in this case – it can become a problem.

Arieh, Glad you enjoyed the post. I agree there are at least two sides to this camp and some people have their emotions quite high.

Personally, I don't have a problem with bogus Facebook profiles as long as the creator is upfront and doesn't use deception to make friends.

Transparency is everything and a clear disclaimer would have made a world of difference to me. Then again, I don't work for Facebook and they have a clear position on bogus accounts according to their TofS.

I, too, was intrigued by this concept at Case Camp, it was certainly interesting. That said, the Facebook profiles of the characters DID indicate they weren't real people; "Simon Beals" added me and this was noted right in the profile.

Rick, I agree the concept was interesting. From a content and production perspective, the project rocked.

I didn't see any indication in Ali's profile when I received her invitation for friendship, nor did some other people. Another friend of mine was rather upset he'd been misled into accepting Simon's friendship. In fact, Jill admitted there was no disclaimer and apologized to me after the presentations.

I got added by Ali after signing my name up for Casecamp. I never accept people on Facebook that I don't know that I read through the profile and it clearly stated that she is a fictional character from Story20h at her occupation line. I realized right away that I was invited, because I signed up for Casecamp.

I think the same true for couple of people as well.

I agree that there was no big disclaimer or anything like that, so it was easy to be mislead.

My advice is don't people to your facebook that you don't know personally.

I'm not so sure this is a social media story as much as it is a social science experiment. We all know that social science and psychology experiments are not transparent.

I must say I am okay with this as it was not shilling for anything. The ethics play out differently (for myself at least) if involves a big brand trying to sell something or push a controlled message in a deceptive manner versus a playful social experiment that bends the rules.

I do understand the nature of the concern, don't get me wrong. But this is not on the level of a Sony PSP blog or a RV'ing across America for Wal-Mart.

What it does raise is an interesting debate around our personal investment in time and effort when we connect with people in these spaces that we don't really know and immediately assign values of trust, authenticity and affiliation.

My key insight/takeaway is that the story was designed to be non-linear. There was no central hub to get all the info and thus engaged people across multiple platforms. In fact, the real story is the extension of the storyline itself. That is the novel piece of Story2oh.

Interesting comment Michael. I was particularly interested in this session at Casecamp because of the social science experiment aspect. If we look beyond the goof-up about Story2Oh not being transparent (which Jill acknowledged on her blog) I think it's fascinating to see this twist on entertainment and story telling.

Over the last 10 years or so, our TV entertainment has become more and more reality based. And now we're seeing our reality start to incorporate entertainment. Can the execution improve? Absolutely, transparency is key. But I think the Story2Oh story is intriguing for a glimpse into what story telling and entertainment might hold in the future.

Two key aspects I see (although I'm sure there are lots more). The non-linear nature that Michael has already referred to. And secondly, how the interaction of real people will impact and steer story telling. It will be interesting to watch how this evolves.

re: TACT - I'm sorry (not really) but no matter how thin you try and slice this up, it's still baloney.

People want to be entertained. They willingly engage in the "suspension of disbelief" in order to be entertained - that's how strong it is. They've immersed themselves in books, games, television, movies, etc...

One only has to look at the show LOST and its plethora of seemingly real link sites, videos, email blasts, etc...(www.hansofoundation.org)and you understand the need for people to immerse themselves WITHIN THE STORY.

Story2Oh did just that. It opened a window across several platforms for people to "peek in" and immerse themselves in these characters lives. It was soap opera without the P&G ads.

Interactivity is here, folks. You can read about how interactivity guided a Canadian show called REGENESIS and actually sent people to a real location in search of clues which were later woven into a story.

HEROES encourages people to text or log onto their site. next season they are introducing characters voted on and actually created by the audience.

People want to be entertained. They want the fantasy made real. They so want to believe.

Re: Facebook - The fact is that people were too damn lazy (yes, you) to read the profile of the person they were "friending" and opted out of making a decision. If they had actually looked at the person's profile they would have seen who and what these characters were...

But what's really heinous is the idea that people who attended a conference in "new" media were so closed-minded and somehow offended (though I really don't see how they could be. You would think they would want to learn how it was done) that they decided to "tell on" Jill and her storytelling team instead of simply ending the "friendship."

Those folks will never think to the future. Those folks will never be able to innovate, adapt or overcome. Those folks hold the rest of us back. They are a sign of the "grim meathook future" (look it up) that awaits us if we keep doing things the same old way we always have instead of getting down to the business of learning and growing up.

And let's be real - no page on FB represents "reality." Every page is crafted, sanding off all the blemishes and warts and presenting the best possible "you" there is.

Great post Eden. It amazes me that you were able to write something so essentially unbiased considering the comments already circling the blogosphere.

And to Bill re: new media people being closed minded--I completely disagree. These people use social media every day for both personal and professional reasons. They are paid based on their transparency; their ability to interact with people online while fully disclosing who they are, who they work for and why they're in a specific space. These people are making sure the blurred line of authenticity isn't completely crossed forever.

I don't disagree with everything you said, but most of the people who attended CaseCamp aren't in the business of interactive screenwriting.

"Social Media" includes every possible way human beings interact. We are not mere pawns - consumers - dully waiting to be told or sold what to do and buy. We converse. We share. We share our ideas, our views, our songs, our poetry and our art. We engage with others in gossip, political discourse and shameless marketing punditry.

Social media is where we gather to tell each other the stories of our selves. We have done this for millennia - around the fire, in the marketplace, in the school yard, around the water cooler, or whilst lying on a hill together beneath the stars.

We tell the stories of ourselves. We tell the stories of each other. We create ourselves and we create new worlds. We tell stories.

Creating characters and scenarios in social media is not a crime - it is not an aberration - it is not deceitful. To lie to gain power or money - to lie to deceive, manipulate and abuse - these are acts of deceit which must not be tolerated. To create, to craft, to entertain, to enlighten, illuminate and engage - these are not lies - these are stories - they are songs and dances crafted with words and images, sights and sounds, characters which generate empathy and bring out the best of ourselves. That this happens in a social forum, instead of in the lonely dark of a room with a TV screen, should be deemed a good thing and encouraged.

To "rat out" someone who makes this effort - as if they were committing some crime - is pathetic and small minded. Because someone creates something that is "not real" doesn't mean it has no value or no purpose. That fiction can draw together people in their real lives is something to be valued far more than the so-called "reality" of plain talk, sales and marketing.

Interactive screenwriting - social media theatre - should be encouraged. Toss a few coins at the busker, if you will, or walk past and ignore them whilst hearing their songs. But don't push them off the streets and claim the path as yours alone.

Shame on anyone who tries to silence the telling of our stories. No doubt you shall find yourselves as cretinous characters in a tale yet to come - and deservedly so.

That's it for now - you've wasted enough of my time.

Cheers.

The law of unintended consequences comes into effect.

I first started hearing from "new media" types when I worked on MediaTV in the early 1990's. So I've been in this conversation longer than a lot of people.

But I always approached it from the side of the creative person working in traditional media. For years, I have heard presentation after presentation from someone in new media talking about the things that were possible, just around the corner, etc, etc.

In practice, within organizations, what it's meant is "here's something else we're going to ask you to do, add to your workload, without understanding what it is you do, how you do it, or what your needs are."

In other words, the "great conversation" has gone precisely one way.

You have plenty of marketers out there trying to use new media. You have banks trying to "target" teens and getting whacks a dough for doing it.

Meantime, the recent experience of creatives has been to walk a picket line for three months for the barest right to not be totally screwed over and have your work repurposed with NO compensation.

So you may not see it, but the current state of the nation between creative writers and storytellers in old media and this new frontier you're trying to build? It's a little bit raw.

Enter this contretemps. Now, let's keep in mind this is more than a year after fake commercials aired on TV during LOST, after Lonely Girl 15 did the same fake thing on YouTube. You invite someone who's trying her best, making NO money, to try and figure out a way to put content into the new media world -- not marketing, but storytelling -- the very thing you're supposedly trying to attract.

And this is the result?

Facebook? don't blame em. Their terms are their terms.

But I think Casecamps got a cred problem now.

I'm back to where it all started, and where my American writer brethren were when they walked a picket line this year.

You want to lure us to this thing? Shovel a whole lot of money our way. Because this partnership thing you guys promise in "figuring out the potential" seems to me to be the same uninspired snake oil B.S. you were all selling back in 1993.

Casecamp is clearly not a welcoming place for people who are actually trying to cross over from success in old media, to new.

Not when you're getting shirty over arguments that happened more than a year ago in the USA.

Not a fine day for the Canadian New Media Community.

Who exactly was "hurt" (say financially, emotionally) by this Story2Oh initiative? I mean, you make it sound like their was a great upheaval in society due to this so-called lack of transparency.

War of the Worlds, anyone?

I suggest you chill on the sanctimonious finger wagging and just appreciate what seems like a really creative social media experiment in story telling.

Great post Eden and the posts are insightful too.

Regarding Facebook's policy that users must not "misrepresent yourself" - well I guess my account AND EVERY SINGLE FACEBOOK USER should now be deleted.

Everyone, to some degree, omits facets of their personality from their FB profile and includes information that isn't exactly genuine to present a tailored image of themselves.

This is all familiar ground as this debate happened years ago on Friendster with the "Fakester" controversy (very eloquently covered by danah boyd's article Friendster and Publicly Articulated Social Networking
http://www.danah.org/papers/CHI2004Friendster.pdf

Excellent, Glen, that's truly the point. If these are old debates, but somehow new to Casecamp, it makes a pretty poor case for any creative who wants to be "groundbreaking" with the group of people who go to CaseCamp.

You can't push the envelope -- or invent the new one, with people who are offended, put out, or off -- by old arguments.

If the Canadian New Media Community isn't even up to date with what's been done and discussed already, then explain to me again why we should be looking to partner with you?

I queried a number of people after the presentation and there was almost a knee-jerk reaction to believe anything that wasn't 100 percent real was wrong. Our new media pundits have conned us so well out of the possibility of storytelling within social media. Not too sure they're right.

The authenticity litmus test for me - was anybody hurt by the faux authenticity?

Unlike Walmart, Sony, Dr.Pepper and many others (although I disagree with Michael - it doesn't have to be just a large company to get you in social networking trouble), there likely wasn't a large enough negative impact here to get so riled up, it was intended as entertainment/ a joke. Not too sure is anybody unfairly benefited - we'll find out if the architects of story 2.0 get more work.

The recent real life campaign Obay provides a good example of storytelling and buzz and merely teased us into being entertained/curious. Nobody hurt.

Strangely, and it would appear I'm in the minority, I just didn't think it was that good.

If this was attempt to create genuine characters that we followed and cared about - i was neither drawn into them, liked them or connected with any of them and found the documentary videos trying way too hard, that anybody who had common sense would realize these weren't real identities.

Whereas there was a suspension of disbelief with Lonely Girl and Wigout, this clearly was "look at me, look at me, I'm creative" superimposed on another medium.

For me, the big miss Story 2oh provides is not its slight of disclosure hand, but instead, it was not understanding the new medium well enough to involve people effectively and not feel like TV 2.0h

Who "told" on our little Facebook storyteller? Oh let's see..... Casecamp was started by Eli Singer and friends, Eli now works at Segal, and Segal represents Facebook in Canada.... Hmmm, pretty tight circle.

BTW, just for the heck of it, Google Facebook Segal Toronto and see whose profiles come up on the front page. Nice job Jill!

So let me ask this question. Do we think those of us that work in marketing don't create fiction?

Do we really think Dove = self-esteem? I mean isn't that the same company that owns AXE aftershave, with all the half dressed women in the ads?

I personally spend about half my day trying to figure out how I can create "differentiation" for products that have none. Isn't that fiction?

To get on a high transparency horse on what is basically an art project and experiment is not only ludicrous in my mind, it's completely hypocritical.

I did a little searching to see if anyone else covered this presentation. Here is the most comprehensive one at Dead Things on Sticks. Note the links to other blog posts, too:

http://heywriterboy.blogspot.com/2008/04/brave-new-world-not-fully-distributed.html

Thanks so much for keeping the discussion going. I've been following along and will have more to say later.

Note to Tara, there are links to other posts including Denis McGrath's blog in my original post.

Amazing debate. Not dissimilar to the one around Wigout last year in relation to transparency/authenticity and all that social media evangelist stuff.

We've come to the intersection of media, art and commerce with this episode.

The medium here is Web 2.0/social media/social networks. It may be pollyanna and in conflict with McLuhan, but I like to think of media as agnostic. Empty vessels. Delivery mechanisms for content. The users of this medium determine what's appropriate. They decide to consume or not. The "rules" will evolve with the users' preferences.

Art = content. Some of it is information, some of it is entertainment. It all deserves to live, be seen, be discussed and judged on its own merits by the medium's users/content consumers. I expect real artists to challenge conventions, usurp authority, break rules and hold a mirror up to society and force people to look. In this case, they have created a conversation around story-telling, fiction and creativity within a world populated by many who are trying to set some standards about content sharing online. Hard rules about presenting information as fact should be established. I support that. Should the same rules apply to trying to perform art and entertain within the Web 2.0 space? We'll never get agreement on that.

And, of course, that brings us to commerce. Trying to entertain me secretly to sell me a product i.e. "Bridezilla Wigout" sets my teeth on edge. If I'm seeing an ad, I'd like to know. You aren't really artists if your ultimate goal is to sell me shampoo.

So where does that leave us? It's the same place every commercial medium eventually gets to. There will be an uneasy, ever-evolving relationship between the champions of the medium, the artists and the commercial interests, but ultimately the greater community will decide what experience they want to have.

I think what bugs me the most about this whole thing is the lack of basic decency and understanding in this matter.

I mean, hey, if Jill broke a site's TOS, that's fine - but there was no consideration given at any step along the way. Especially knowing what she was trying to accomplish.

No one saying 'hey, you broke the TOS we're going to have your accounts deleted' no warning, no chance for her to at least back up parts of her story that are now irrevocably deleted.

Someone was sneaky, went behind her back and had her creation destroyed.

Simple as that.

There could've been open communication. There could've been pleasantries and warnings, there could've been time and accomodations made through the use of 'communication' (that wonderful word that seems to be thrown around but seldom acted upon) so that she would not lose vital information.

All of those things COULD have happened.

But someone chose not to.

And THAT is what gets under my skin. It's unnecessarily destructive. It was an action that served no purpose other than to create harm.

We can talk about sitting around in circles and singing kumbayah all day and dreaming of the wonderful world we want to 'create together' but until people start acting with basic Human decency you can kiss that dream goodbye.

What's most troubling to me is that it's such a simple thing - a courtesy if you need the label - and it was missed (or ignored). Frankly, it all seems very cold to me.

And that, perhaps, is the greatest shame of it all.

Did you guys see the Blair Witch Project? So scary. I hope they find those three kids. That Jill woman probably knows more than she's saying...

Thank you everyone for keeping the discussion civil and omitting the mudslinging that’s happening on related posts away from One Degree. I wish I could respond to everyone and I have a lot to say, but I’m going to take another approach ...

Jill Golick and I have been in touch with each other and there doesn’t appear to be any anger between us. In fact, there seems to be a lot of mutual respect. It’s sad others are trying to polarize us while debating some of the issues that arose as a result of her presentation.

I agree with Brandon that Facebook’s reaction was harsh and as I’ve mentioned earlier, I don’t have a problem with character profiles on Facebook.

I support CaseCamp and other similar events. Just because a heated discussion is taking place in the blogosphere, doesn’t mean the credibility of a forum that gives so much to the community and does so for free, should come into question or to an end as some people have suggested.

As I commented on Mathew Ingram’s blog earlier today, I think there is a much bigger issue at stake than whether or not characters should be allowed on Facebook. I am saddened that we are unable to ask questions at venues like CaseCamp without creating firestorms and personal attacks.

These events exist to help us learn from one another. It’s okay to disagree as long as we can do so in a civil manner. Unfortunately, some of the discussions on other blogs have been quite inflammatory.

Life isn't always warm and fuzzy. Part of the learning process is being able to discuss issues and think critically about new ideas in a mature manner. If we can't do that anymore, what's the point?

'When I'm not busy shopping…" Ah. Confirmed consumerists applauding the destruction of (ooooooh sorry nothing for sale at Story2Oh!) sheerly creative endeavors between twitters and retail therapy, AND WAIT!!! It's all in the defense of the 'duped'....Hm.

But thanks for suggesting how important it is to really *know* what is, and isn't, real. And tactful. And authentic. You marketers, you sure can get a point across. Knowing this caliber of confident moralizing, DIY social policing, and anonymous snitchery is considered 'the inside scoop' for Canadian marketers is such a gift. I'll sure see befriending a total stranger despite Facebook's warnings against it differently from now on.

Especially if it's someone as honest as the 'upset at CaseCamp'... who were clearly so starved for genuine humanity in their online experience, they had to beat up on an artist to feel better about themselves for being about five years behind what most assume when using a social network, these days.

What a sly self-portrait of the Monetized Online Community you've presented to the Purely Innovative, Unpurchased, Priceless One. Thanks for your frank and doubtless honest desire to engage … more customers. The artists stand truly warned.

I'm going to weigh in here and say a couple of things: first off, the visceral, and personal attacks, does no one any service. It's uncalled for and unwarranted.

Secondly, and I'm sorry to say, art is subjective. Some may like it, some may not. If someone doesn't, I know it's hard not to take it personally, but it happens. I've had things I wrote get ripped apart (including copy & strategy through the years); that's life, it's not personal.

Third, the issue that as marketers within the social media space face is clear: our community (both business & consumer) expect us to be transparent, or at least not duplicitous and break the TOS of the platform we are using. Jill admits she hopes to make money off of this and sell the stories (and technique of distribution I would assume) to brands. She presented at an event for the "advertising community" which in and of itself makes it commercial art. That means that it becomes a business issue, and as such, the business realites, which in this case mean doing two simple things: not pretending to be a real person and interested in getting to know people before the story started; and not violating the TOS of one of the platforms that was used, where the expectation is that the person is real.

In social media transparency and respectful engagement will actually do more to bring the creative craft forward than doing things the old skool ad way and deceiving people into paying attention.

btw - I never even paid attention to the story as I thought Ali was a young student I'd met at a meetup and didn't really care about her status updates about her boyfriend. So I certainly don't feel that I was *duped into wasting my time*

Well, Karen's post above has to rank as the most entertaining of the bunch, I have to admit. I'm not sure who the "Purely Innovative, Unpurchased, Priceless One"is, but he or she should feel quite chuffed to have someone so noble (albeit relatively anonymous) defending his/her honour. :-D

If we wonder why this community is so concerned about transparency and authenticity, it is because the argument can easily flip the other way. For example, in the recent Freshbooks talk for Third Tuesday Toronto I was put on the spot to come up with some comment or criticism about Freshbooks. My critical comment ended up actually making them look quite favourable, as it turns out. Joseph Thornley posted the video to his blog Pro PR, and unfortunately someone accused me of being a "set-up". See especially the third video and the comments.

It is no wonder people are on edge, if every little action is scrutinized and questioned.

Anyway, I had forgotten about this related example until I was reading Saul Colt's great comments about this tonight. Maybe I'm just one of his imaginary customers?

Namaste,
Connie

PS. Sorry--had all the links for you here but the comment function has removed them.

Editor's Update (May 3, 2008): Following are the links that Connie originally submitted.

Freshbooks video on Joe Thornley's blog: http://propr.ca/index.php/2008/freshbooks-execs-listen-and-respond-to-customers/

Saul Colt's post
http://saulcolt.blogspot.com/2008/04/some-of-my-best-friends-are-imaginary.html

Sorry, Connie, URLs are automatically linked - you don't have to do the HTML. I'll try to add something about that to prevent future frustration. If you send them to me, I can add them into your comment.

I do find it interesting that the two people who don't use full names and who don't have links to blogs or profiles are some of the more vitriolic reactants. Their email addresses seem legit, otherwise I would delete the comments (per our comment policy).

But I do think that says something about who takes transparency seriously, art or not.

Wow, yes, clearly Karen Walton, writer of Ginger Snaps, WGA, WGC, contractee of production companies both American and Canadian, generator of real dollars in the money making creative media can't possibly know what' she's talking about.


You had a shot here, guys. You could self examine. You could say, "no! wait! why are all the creative people so upset at this?"

But no, you retreated into your smug marketing speak -- and best yet, seized on the thin balsawood raft of, "Well Jill expected to make money off it."

No. Jill listened to all your whorey come ons about "experiment in the new media" and did something. And unlike the lot of you who had a budget, and all your corporate backers, she actually ponied up her actual, "for reals" money because she was trying to figure out the gauntlet you threw down. You know, the one that says, "content is king?"

And lo, she violated the rules of your world. And you, in your reaction, smacked her down and slammed the door and then in the wake of the reaction of the creative community fall back on your rules and jargon, completely missing the point that YOU ARE THE ONES THAT CONSISTENTLY TALK ABOUT THE NEED FOR CONTENT.

The basic difference here between us is that the act of writing for the screen requires a basic level of constant self-examination, and self-analysis. That's the only way you can create characters.

If you'd open yourself to it, or, in fact, any possible view other than your own, you might learn something.

But instead, nope...you choose to ignore and invalidate the feelings of the people you hope to attract to your medium.

"It can't POSSIBLY be us!"

That, clear as a bell, is the very essence of FUCKTARDERY.

I must have missed the posters, radio announcements and bulletins on the evening news calling out "FACEBOOK NEEDS CONTENT".

When I'm on facebook I'm seeing what my friends are up to. I'm looking at their vacation photos. I'm finding out who's reading what books and what they thought of the latest film. We're telling each other stories and jokes and playing games with one another.

What I don't need on facebook is to have to puzzle over each and every friend request that comes my way and figure out if this is one of the hundred some-odd folks I met at an event like Case Camp or just some hack trying to hook me into their vehicle for product placement.

It's all very simple. Don't pee in the swimming pool or you won't be asked back for the next swim.

Now if someone wanted to get really cynical, one might wonder if this weren't a digital murder of fictional characters but an e-suicide. This project certainly has had a lot of digital ink and attention thrown its way the last couple of days. Easy enough to cast the villainous shadow on the dark haired marketing lady demanding honesty whilst escaping any less than truthful indiscretions as an artistic martyr. Would also be a heck of a way to land a deal with some company that, unlike the rest of us, doesn't care about pee in the pool.

In the name of transparency, I must come clean. I may have dark hair and I may have asked a provocative question at CaseCamp but I am not a marketer. I'm actually a digital communications specialist and blogger who loves the social media space. I'm trying to learn more about it just like the rest of you.

Fortunately, most of the comments on this post are intelligent and insightful, regardless of the point of view. Unfortunately, some of them are downright ugly and close-minded, making it difficult to have a meaningful dialogue between the arts and digital marketing/communications/PR communities.

Could everyone just chill?

I appreciate your passion. I love my artist-colleagues for rising to my defence.

I admire the other side for failing to use swear words (except in the case of Tamara's rather venomous comment on the Story2Oh! blog about no one giving "a rat's ass about my characters" - I only mention it here because she's so sanctimonious above).

The damage is done. People's feelings are hurt. My work is destroyed. Time to move on.

Thank you for being involved, thank you for caring so much.

Ali and Simon got into a battle of the blogs. You should probably watch all three videos and read Ali's blog posts, but I'm not sure what the rules of self-promotion are in this space, so I'll only link you up to the last of the three videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gStWhHURJsc&feature=related

(On YouTube: boytellsall, mexican standoff)

Jill, as I mentioned on your blog, I did use a harsh phrase on your blog "no one gives a rats ass". I did so because as we all know, it's a bit hard to "take the high road" when you're reading (before commenting) that you should be "culled from the herd", are "fucktards", "idiots", etc. etc. If you had removed those venomous comments from your blog and not allowed your community to verbally attack people they didn't know, and who's opinions they also didn't fully know, you would have gotten a different line from me. Which, on your second post, you did. Although you still aren't addressing the issues we've raised.

But then again, I'm someone who was your audience since you *proactively* friended me on FB and Twitter and lied in your profile and note. Guess what? That's what we're talking about here... and that's what a company would worry about happening with *their* consumers if they used your tactics.

Why on earth is that so hard to grasp?

Oh, and Jill, sorry you feel your work was destroyed, not sure that's an accurate take, but if you take some time to self-reflect, it was not us who did it.

Facebook was one channel you used and we called you out for the tactics used there. Had you read their TOS before proceeding, or even admitted you were wrong (not our rules; their rules) initially when it was brought up and apologized this wouldn't be an issue and we'd be discussing the "story", not the "tactics".

Curious: has everyone been "transparent" about who is one another's (Facebook or otherwise) friends? Particularly when it comes to the social media hall monitors. Just wondering.

Tara, I know several of the people who have left comments on this post. I consider many of them friends. Some of my friends have challenged my point of view. It has not affected our friendship. There was no mudslinging, just forthright, open and honest discussion and idea sharing.

In fact, I even told one friend not to throw his support behind me if he didn't agree with what I was saying. Another told me he disagreed with me and I encouraged him to leave a comment.

Does that help?

Tara, I know every person on this thread from the marketing comm side (and it's a diverse bunch - PR, client side, agency, education). I like them all; disagree with some of their comments, agree with others.

Two things:

1. As someone who has worked over the last 26 years in print, radio, television, film *and* new media, I am saddened to see a nasty 'my media' versus 'your media' streak in some of the comments. Media, whether for art or profit or both, is like air. No one is entitled to lay exclusive claim to it, and everyone is entitled to use and experiment with it. Enough with the simplistic labels!

2. Perhaps someone else has already made this small but important point, but having 'fake' Facebook friends in your Facebook profile (regardless of whether or not you realize it) can actually put your own real Facebook profile and account in jeopardy of being deleted. While I greatly admire the innovation behind Jill's Story2Oh! project, I do wish this project had not put my Facebook profile at risk by having the fictitious 'Simon Beals' ask to be one of my friends. (I did not respond.) Experiment with the medium (in this case, Facebook) all you want, but please don't put my own use of it at risk.

There is a precedent to the collision of storytelling and new mediums. Tara mentions it about - The War of the Worlds original radio broadcast (NOT the Tom Cruise version).

WOTW used a new medium in an unexpected context - hence, confusion was created.

Same thing here. And it's confusion that deserves to be discussed. Not so much b/c "marketers were duped" but because there are larger social implications for overall trust in media. As David Jones says above, we're at an intersection of art, media and commerce. And it's a pretty busy intersection.

I wasn't at Case Camp this time around, but it *sounds* like people just wanted to ask some questions about this particular use of the medium. As marketers have pointed out above, we're trying to tell stories all the time (often with little success and usually attached to desired monetary outcomes). So as a group of people who have actually rallied against fake profiles and false information across a lot of social media in an attempt to be upfront about their marketing activities, it *is* disturbing when another group, artists, come in and can play all they want - the general expectation (both social and legislative) of transparency of artistic creation is much less onerous than that of marketers.

And this isn't a value judgment against artists. Artists help us push boundaries. But there is a concern that by using the medium in this way, it will become more difficult for marketers to continue to experiment in this medium. Essentially one of Tamara's points above. Marketers are already accused of deception on a regular basis (possibly even more than lawyers). But I don't know why we can't have a dialogue about these issues (as well as the story itself) and, instead, well, resort to being jerks.

Jill and Eden seem to have entered into a respectful dialogue. That's a lesson for all of us. At the risk of sounding all "Rodney King", why can't we discuss and learn and push boundaries together? I think that was the whole point of having Story2Oh! featured at CaseCamp.

@Denis .. I have to disagree with your assertion that marketers don't engage in a basic level of "constant self-examination and self-analysis". If you read a sample of the social media marketers blogs, both here and in the US, you'll find a LOT of self-examination and self-analysis. Possibly too much. :)

@Jill .. self-promotion and links are welcome if they are relevant to the topic of discussion. Since we're discussing your project, definitely relevant.

@Rob .. oooo, conspiracy! I like it! Would be a fitting point of closure :)

I've just posted a comment on the Story2 blog, but thought I'd chip in with it here, too.

First up, I’m very impressed with the way Jill has handled herself through this. There are lots of vitriolic and hateful comments/posts out there but she's handled yourself with dignity and grace, even though she's at the centre of this. It’s a small thing in the big picture, but it reflects very well on her. If only everyone else would follow her lead…

I find it fascinating that there’s an assumption that someone contacted Facebook to have the profiles removed. Sure, that might have happened, but it’s also entirely possible that there was a Facebook employee in the 350/400-strong audience or that someone at Facebook picked up on the controversy that erupted at the event. All of the people I know who have commented here - Eden, Connie, Tamera and others - pretty much *live* online. I know they would much rather discuss this openly than report it to Facebook.

The assumption that someone went “running to the teacher” is a little premature, I feel, but regardless it has spread to the comments on other posts too. That’s a shame, because it detracts from the debate that’s going on. I’m on the PR/communications side and I had issues with the transparency (Jill *explicitly* said at CaseCamp that the characters friended people at the beginning before they disclosed they were fictional), but I feel like I’m learning a lot from this. There was a way to avoid this and hopefully Jill learned from that side of things. Hopefully other people are learning too.

Let's keep it civil, though.

[crossposting to http://story2oh.com/2008/05/01/i-hear-ya ]
Leaving aside, for a moment, the issues of trust and identity, there is a very important issue that this whole kerfuffle raises, and that's one of ownership of data.

Many of us are playing in these assorted walled gardens and sandboxes building significant value through the addition of our content. While these tools make it very easy to import your data, there's scant options available to export your data in an easy and meaningful way.

While Jill can keep a copy of the words she inputs into facebook, what options were there for exporting the contents of her wall ... or her photos ... or videos. Nevermind all of her contacts. Let's not forget Scoble got tossed off of facebook for trying to export into Outlook the birthdays of his friends. Yet another way to violate the TOS.

Even if we all play by the rules, nothing says Microsoft can't buy out Yahoo and shut down delicious. What options then for all the bookmarks and tags and comments you've built up over the years. Should Google suddenly decide YouTube was a bad idea, what then for all the video content and community that's been built.

Unless your data resides on your own machine, there is scant recourse available to you at this point of time. The discussions and debates over data-portability and ownership of data are important ones that any of us in this space should be keeping a close eye on - and more to the point, participating in the discussion.

Rob, you raise some excellent points. I am very concerned about who owns the intellectual property existing inside walled gardens (as you call them) such as Facebook. This is one of the reasons why I personally dislike Facebook and won't allow it to be the place where my own meagre artistic attempts (primarily photographs and writing in blogs) live.

I object to Facebook owning someone's work and being able to pull it down as they have done in this case. It is despicable, and something that artists and other creators should pay attention to. It is something that I think about with my own blog (that is now 4 years old) that resides on Blogger which is owned by Google.

All of this could easily be here today, gone tomorrow. The question also arises, how much of this ephemeral culture we are creating be preserved for the future? Definitely some things to explore.

There are some interesting comments here and I am glad that one degree allowed this topic to be discussed. I said everything that I wanted to say about this on my blog so the only thing I am going to add is that cereal is delicious!

Saul
saulcolt.com

Thanks @Dave Fleet & @Rob Clark for posting the link to the Story2Oh article I commented on yesterday. It's a tad upsetting that I was called "sanctimonious" on this post after Jill had clearly read what I wrote on her blog post yesterday evening.

Kate, my comparison of the evil/horrifying/what-have-you Facebook "friending" by not-real Ali and Simon, etc. to War of the Worlds was meant to be ironic.

Really, Jill's Story2Oh may be creative and (apparently for some quite) controversial, but it is hardly of the epic proportions of War of the Worlds, particularly in terms of people being "hurt" (as I phrased it in my first comment).

Snippet from http://ufo.whipnet.org/xdocs/orson.welles/

"As it listened to this simulation of a news broadcast, created with voice acting and sound effects, a portion of the audience concluded that it was hearing an actual news account of an invasion from Mars. People packed the roads, hid in cellars, loaded guns, even wrapped their heads in wet towels as protection from Martian poison gas, in an attempt to defend themselves against aliens, oblivious to the fact that they were acting out the role of the panic-stricken public that actually belonged in a radio play. Not unlike Stanislaw Lem's deluded populace, people were stuck in a kind of virtual world in which fiction was confused for fact.

News of the panic (which was conveyed via genuine news reports) quickly generated a national scandal. There were calls, which never went anywhere, for government regulations of broadcasting to ensure that a similar incident wouldn't happen again. The victims were also subjected to ridicule, a reaction that can commonly be found, today, when people are taken in by simulations. A cartoon in the New York World-Telegram, for example, portrayed a character who confuses the simulations of the entertainment industry with reality. In one box, the character is shown trying to stick his hand into the radio to shake hands with Amos n' Andy. In another, he reports to a police officer that there is "Black magic!!! There's a little wooden man -- Charlie McCarthy -- and he's actually talking!"

In a prescient column, in the New York Tribune, Dorothy Thompson foresaw that the broadcast revealed the way politicians could use the power of mass communications to create theatrical illusions, to manipulate the public.

"All unwittingly, Mr. Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater of the Air have made one of the most fascinating and important demonstrations of all time," she wrote. "They have proved that a few effective voices, accompanied by sound effects, can convince masses of people of a totally unreasonable, completely fantastic proposition as to create a nation-wide panic...."


Unless, of course, One Degree has some huge, cross-sector reading public.

Note to Jill: I hope this experience hasn't dissuaded you from future creations in this still-newish medium (or channel), and exploring new boundaries. (Let alone giving public presentations. I bet most of the CaseCamp crowd was actually in your court, as few people enjoy seeing a presenter badgered.)

One Degree might want to do a poll on how egregious (or not) its readers feel was the Facebook aspect. (The friending bit, not the removal of the profiles.) That way people can weigh in (anonymously) with their true feelings, unburdened by existing friendships on loyalties (on either side), personal agendas, and so on.

Just a thought.

Or maybe it's time the thread dies. It's certainly had a good (if sometimes heated) run.

It'd be interesting to find out what kind of efforts or to what extent Facebook is actually enforcing the "real people" policy? If you do a simple search on your favourite actor or actress, I'm sure that they're not the real deal..

I "friended" Simon Beals and before I did, I clicked on his name to investigate how I know or don't know him. While doing so, I saw the disclaimer that he is a fictional character. The responsibility lies on both parties.

I have no problem with Facebook enforcing their own terms and conditions, as long as they do so consistently. If the ToS says no fake personas, then Facebook needs to delete ALL of the several thousand false identities cluttering up the social media space. To do anything else is simple discrimination.

And therein lies my beef - whether Jill's actions were against the ToS is a moot point. Facebook, by implication, has established a pattern of permitting and hosting profiles that directly convene their own ToS by consistently allowing such profiles to exist.

Do a search for "mascot", "bear", "cat" - Facebook is rife with pretend accounts belonging to mascots, stuffed animals, family pets and people who died long before Facebook came to be. Many of those predate the conception of Jill's profiles and are still "alive and kicking" on Facebook. The real discussion should be on what basis Facebook chooses to discriminate against one "fake" persona over "another".

The basic rules of the real world society in which we live require rules and laws to be applied equally regardless of who is breaking them. Facebook has an OBLIGATION to enforce those rules equally and consistently, or not at all. To permit them to do otherwise has bigger and more serious social implications. It's one of those thin edge of the wedge conversations.

And please, don't start about how difficult it would be for FB to figure whether a new profile is real or not because the ease with which I'm able to find them indicates not even the basic attempt at policing has been made.

The comments to this entry are closed.

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