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Website Forums and Blog Comments Post Prostitution  

:: Friday, June 23, 2006 ::

I try not to judge and let people bumble along with their own choices. However, I'm noticing an increase in the number of post sluts and am curious at the incentives behind this new form of self promotion.

My entire Internet career has always been based on supporting people and their web projects. There is one area, however, that I can't walk into with any sort of pride. That area is inflating a web site property with fake information, or worse, personal attacks, just to get links or traffic.

It's bad enough that people come to a web design forums, with the sole intent of promoting their own forums. I see this a lot, at Cre8asiteforums. Forum owners, or potential forum owners ask us, "Nobody comes to my forums. How do I get them to come?"

One solution they use is paying for posts. I really struggle with this choice.

My incentive for launching Cre8asiteforums' earlier incarnation, when I was a SEO back in 1998, was to offer support and advice to those learning how to optimize web sites and submit them to search engines (which we used to do back then.) I wouldn't dream of inviting someone to make up responses for the membership. Even when I was just starting out, the thought of falsely inflating the old Cre8pc Website Promotion club, or anything regarding myself, never occurred to me. I guess that makes me very dumb in today's world.

In Today's World

One company out there pays people to write posts at 9 cents per forum post, and sells the posts in bulk to forums who pay for packages of posts. The service didn't say the writers had to be qualified in any subjects. It doesn't sell "choose by topic" posts either. When you send in payment, you have no idea what you are buying. The writers themselves just have to be able write in English.

I think it's a sign of where we are going. We, as an industry of web desginers, SEO's, marketers and bloggers, are considering using any possible means to get noticed. It doesn't seem to matter if we write cruel comments in blogs. It doesn't matter if you post in forums in the hopes of getting an engine to follow the link to the site you just spammed the forum about or the link in your signature. (At Cre8asiteforums, we purposely send search engines on a URL joy ride to Pluto.)

John S. Rhodes, of the WebWord Usability Blog came up with a way to increase the number of posts in his blog.

When I saw his plan, I thought it was interesting because a post from him, with his reputation, is a nice gesture and something worth inviting to your own blog. I'm not sure how he could keep up with the demand.

He wrote,
"I promised to write three (!) blog postings for every posting on WebWord. That seemed pretty fair to me. Iím happy to say that since yesterday, Iíve ďPaid It BackĒ to six different people. I think that my comments were interesting and useful, but maybe not."

Note that he shows concern for quality and usefulness.

I decided to see what folks might think about this idea, so I asked, in Pay to Post Blog Comments. One member, remembering a recent reaction to Paying for Posts, wondered what the difference is. He wondered why John's idea is acceptable, and the forums fake posts idea may not be.

I think the difference is the incentive. I opt for authenticity, integrity and honor. But, that's just me. And, I feel responsible for the reputation of the forums I work for.

Ammon Johns, my co-Admin at Cre8asiteforums, compares the practice of paying for posts to Snakeoil Salesmen.

He says:
"Take a look at all the posts you have ever thought worthwhile. I'll bet that in every case the reason for you thinking those posts worthwhile was the genuine human element. The fact that someone genuine was offering genuine advice or the benefit of genuine experience.

Now imagine paying for a post that is not genuine, and is likely to be 'made up' just for the sake of pennies. Does that add anything to the value of the forum, or does it, as I firmly believe, actually reduce the value of the forum?"

So, you can pay for posts and possibly fool your forum members. It reminds me of when we get several people joining Cre8asite at once, or when someone signs up from the same IP, with several different user names. They come to "talk to each other", and falsely ramp up discussion to promote a web site or new product. Desperation breeds greed. I get that. I think it's reputation damaging marketing.

You can post blog comments and say just about anything and get away with it. You have the freedom to destroy a company's or person's reputation, if you so choose. It's an unpleasant choice and I'm sorry to see it used on my friends. And, myself.

On the other hand, some folks find ways to thank and support people in positive ways too. The Website Hospital at Cre8asiteforums is one such place. It offers free web site reviews for those who ask for them. I'm always amazed at how generous the majority of members are when they help their fellow web folk.

We don't pay for those posts. They aren't professionally written, or edited for perfection.

Like many blogs, they are written from the heart, by people who have one.

:: posted by Kim Krause Berg on 6/23/2006 10:01:00 AM

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