There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

Today Robert Scoble wrote a really interesting and thought-provoking article on his blog about the alleged suspension/removal of Joel Comm’s Facebook account. He draws a parallel to the revocation of Robert’s own Facebook account and makes a good case for Facebook being outta line.

Here’s my response to Robert:

In defense of you, Joel and countless others who have been suspended or removed from Facebook, it certainly doesn’t seem like you’re being treated fairly. It’s hard to imagine that someone with 5,000 confirmed Facebook friends and ten times as many followers on Twitter could be considered a spambot. Generally speaking, online communities, wikis, social networks, etc. have a way of policing themselves; content that other people enjoy gets shared and promoted while spam and other “noise” gets blocked or ignored. Facebook and other social sites would all be best-served by this sort of grassroots self-policing, rather than a top-down approach.

However, there’s a subtle point to which some other readers have alluded in the comments. You wrote, “I don’t support companies that ‘erase’ MY data without my permission.” What you may not realize is that based on Facebook’s TOS, what you think are “your data” actually are not “your data,” not by a long shot, not once you’ve posted them on Facebook.

If you think there are safer or better places than Facebook to put “your data” on the internet, you’re also mistaken. Take a peek at Google’s TOS. In particular, read section 11, where you hand over all rights to “your” content to them (except basic copyright, which you automatically have any time you produce an original work and put your name on it). You’re basically giving Google a free license to use your content — even for their own commercial gain!

Everyone knows that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. In return for providing “free” distribution of “your” content, companies like Facebook, Google and the likes are creating massive databases of incredibly valuable “information capital.” This in turn allows them to offer you a “free” service while they sell this information capital — the stuff you gave them, remember? — to advertisers. That pays their bills, which in turn allows them to continue to give you “free” content distribution.

Average people (who upload videos of dogs on skateboards, etc. to Facebook) don’t care about data ownership and are perfectly happy to hand the rights to their content over to Facebook or Google it order to share it more easily with their friends. Average people — however — aren’t one man media outlets, either, but YOU are. So, being an internet/social media mogul, I’m sure you understand that content distribution isn’t free.

The solution? Host your content yourself! People like you and Joel have the resources to pay for your own hosting AND you have loyal audiences that will follow you wherever you go. You can leverage social media to help the viral spread of your content, but the obvious goal of your participation in social media and social networking should be to drive eyeballs/click-throughs back to YOUR site so people can view YOUR content, ensuring that YOUR advertisers get bang for their buck.

It really all boils down to two old sayings: there’s no such thing as a free lunch and you get what you pay for. Want to pay for your own hosting and distribution? Then you can own your own content. Want to get free distribution from Facebook or Google? Then be prepared to give them something in return.

How to Convince Your Company to Pay for a SXSWi Pass

sxsw2009Times are tough, right? Everyone is slashing spending, especially around travel and conference budgets. But you need (read: want) to be at SXSWi. So it’s time to convince your boss that your attendance at SXSWi is something that the business needs to be successful.

Fortunately, if your company does or wants to do anything with the interwebs (and seriously, who doesn’t these days?), this is easier than you thought. Just follow these five easy steps.

1. Look at the SXSWi speaker/panel lineup and pick ten panels that are relevant to your line of work. I’m a web 2.0 developer with more than a passing interest in social media, so this is easy. But the panels run the gamut of topics, so you should be able to find something that works for your business/industry. Here’s an example: Building Personal and Company Brands with Web 2.0 Tools. Every company wants a stronger brand, right?

2. Copy the titles and abstracts into an e-mail to your boss and elaborate on how you’ll benefit from them. More importantly, give specific reasons why what you learn will help you and your team, peers, etc. achieve 2009’s business goals. To continue with our example, my company needs to grow our social media cred. The panel consists of Saul Colt, C.C. Chapman and Gary Vaynerchuk. According to their bios (on their web sites), Saul is “an accomplished marketing professional, with more than a decade of diverse high-level experience and a respected publisher” and C.C.’s company, The Advance Guard, “focuses on helping brands of all sizes smartly and strategically leverage emerging technologies for radical marketing programs.” Gary doesn’t really require an explanation, but if your boss has been living in a cave, then you might want to drop a few adjectives like “inspirational” and “passionate.” Example: This panel will help me form an action plan on how to grow my company’s social media cred, following the examples set by these three extraordinary social media mavens.

3. Outline the maximum line item costs for the event. The pass, the travel, the hotel and the food. If you really want to go, make your food budget less than $50/day, your hotel budget less than $100/day and cover the rest (if necessary) with your own cash. Don’t provide a total, as it might overwhelm your boss at first brush. Besides, I’m sure he or she can add.

4. Plan a post-conference re-cap meeting. This is crucial! Set a date and make a list of team members who you will invite, including your boss. During this meeting, promise to share the highlights of what you learned at SXSWi and what you recommend that the business do differently. Explain how these revolutionary ideas will boldly move the company forward in ways they never could have imagined.

5. Split the difference. Remind your boss that the conference takes place Friday-Tuesday (March 13th to 17th). If you travel after work on Thursday or on Friday morning and return to work the following Wednesday, you’re only missing three days of work AND you’re donating your time to the company you love so much over the weekend.

There you have it, your “free” pass to SXSWi. Well, it’s not exactly free. You have to deliver on all the promises you’re making to your boss, especially if you want to go next year! Now if only it was this easy to justify the music festival. . . .

(Thanks to allisonb00, the inspiration for many things in my life, including this blog post.)

BIL Conference 2009 Selects The Social Collective to Provide Conference Social Network

(I-Newswire) – Long Beach, CA

The second annual BIL Conference, scheduled to take place on February 7th and 8th, 2009, announced today that they have selected Herndon, VA-based BDG‘s white-label conference social networking platform, The Social Collective, as their provider for conference registration and social networking services.

BIL is an ad-hoc conference for people changing the world in big ways. It’s a place for passionate people to come together to energize, brainstorm, and take action. Last year’s BIL had over 300 attendees. This year, almost twice that have already signed up on the social network. Confirmed speakers include TED Prize winners Cameron Sinclair of Architecture for Humanity and Eric Rasmussen of InSTEDD.

Other proposed talks include Silona Bonewald’s (founder of The League of Technical Voters) “Transparent Government Starting With The Federal Budget” and Ben Huh’s (of I Can Has Cheezburger) “What’s Funny About The Interwebs.”

BIL’s “unconference” format permits anyone to speak, so interested parties may sign up to give a talk.

The talks are then “favorited” to the main stage by peers, or remain in a breakout room if they don’t receive enough favorites.

“We chose The Social Collective because it’s a great way to herd smart people,” said BIL Conference co-chair Todd Huffman. “In addition to posting new talks and adding talks to their favorites, people can create and join groups, engage in discussions, make a new network of friends and keep their new relationships alive post-conference. The format was a great fit for BIL, but I can see it working well at more structured events, too.”

“We’re really enjoying the experience of watching and participating in the growth of the online BIL community, powered by The Social Collective,” said BDG chief and one of the The Social Collective developers, Chris Bucchere. “The BIL team has been a pleasure to work with and the community has been very supportive of our efforts. The outstanding content and people involved should make BIL one of the must-attend events of 2009.”

For additional information or to register for free, visit the BIL Conference web site.