wp-content-uploads-2010-06-screen-shot-2010-06-10-at-10.47.13.pngThis week began interestingly when I commented on a Telegraph article on the iPhone 4, which had it’s ‘10 reasons not to buy the iPhone 4‘, none of which were factually grounded.

I commented saying that it was poor journalism considering it was false information, but the shock came when my comment was promptly deleted. What followed, as you can imagine, was a storm in a tea cup of accusation to the writer of the article and the Telegraph when it was clear they were not just deleting but actually EDITING a large number of the comments that people were making.

Of course, we all know how poor this behaviour is, but I want to look at it in the light of another post by Vikki Chowney at Reputation Online the week before, looking at a recent example of crisis management from Starbucks.

Starbucks’ Facebook page was jacked and a large number of offensive messages were broadcast to it’s 7.5m fans. Starbucks got to work and deleted the comments (which took a long time), but then received criticism for removing all presence of these messages without acknowledging what had taken place. Vikki asked me for my insights, but I think our friend Olivier Blanchard made a great comment in which he said what I was quoted as saying better:

Deleting a comment because it is “inconvenient” is a big no-no. You can’t do that in this space, as Nestle found out. However, deleting (or not approving) a comment because it is purposely offensive and malicious is absolutely fine. I wouldn’t bury the deletion though. It doesn’t hurt to state that one or several comments were deleted because they were offensive and violated the the rules of acceptable behavior on the community page. That takes care of the transparency issue. Starbucks shouldn’t sweat it, though. They did the right thing and acted responsibly in this instance.

Here’s my point: Transparency in 2012 will mean documentation of every action.

You can’t just change anything anymore. The Wikipedia model, that every change (no matter how miniscule) is documented is going to become the standard.

For the Telegraph, this means that if you really must moderate and eject comments that touch your brand, then you need to put them in an ‘eject section’ that can be perused if users so wish. (By the way, watch this and tell what is difference between Nestlé and Telegraph?)

For Starbucks, it means and me and Olivier pointed out, you need to acknowledge the incident at the least.

Your Leading Thoughts

  • How do you think this will effect bloggers like myself? Like editing pages and posts?
  • How do you think this translates into deleting tweets, etc? Does this mean we have to think a lot more before we tweet?
  • Most importantly: Why is transparency becoming a big deal?

Archived Comments

  • http://www.sytaylor.net sytaylor

    I get & agree with this whole post. But why the 2012 mention, unless we’re making illuminati / age of aquarius reference?

    Transparency is key. What I find interesting is the UK Governments current attempts to be transparent and ask for help cutting the budget. By involving the population, you force them to think, instead of the current back seat driving ‘politicians are all the same’ apathy type response.

    My view is they’re still missing the mark though. They need to articulate the light at the end of the tunnel. The idea of “big society” is nice, but they’ve given it the wrong term. It’s about tribes & movements. Tribes start movements. Movements create change. Government is by its nature bureaucratic.

    Can people implement the democratised / movement based policy making in the social arena (such as journalism?). That’s a good question. Old media have editors, and avoid anything that conflicts with their narrative. The time has ended for this kind of power. Wikipedia / The Huffington Post are both open to graffiti and subjectivity. The swarm can be wrong & when it is, this leads us down blind alleys. The swarm usually self corrects over time though. Especially when that swam is made from intelligent nodes… like the human conciousness swarm. AKA the internets :)

  • / Scott Gould

    I didn’t mention it (and should’ve), but I think this will be big by 2012 – maybe even a basic law passed of some description.

    What you’re hinting at here is change management, right? I think those people who are transparent from the beginning, and know how to ‘do’ change management, have no problem with transparency. It’d those who haven’t been that have a hard time.

    Love the swarm analogy – and yes – this approach requires a strong burst of start up energy. But like Wikipedia, people come to respect it over time.

    Thanks for your input Sy. Every time we talk I’m realising more how we’ll be collaborating before long!

  • http://www.sytaylor.net sytaylor

    Ok cool, its just I know some 2012, END OF DAYS type nutjobs. Had me worried there for a moment ;)

    It’s interesting that both Cameron & Clegg are TED.com junkies. Cameron even gave a TED talk on open data. I just HOPE they have the political will to produce some results & are able to inspire people. It’s all been a bit doom and gloom with expectation management lately. I mean fair enough, the deficit is HUGE… but canada did it.

  • http://www.iscamedia.com Lukejames

    Agree. Bad form from the DT and clearly a ‘filler’ item misfire!

    Maybe a new series: When posts go wrong! would be a hit.

    The BBC website, for example, moderates offensive and derogatory comments which is justified. However, if we want agreement (or just don’t want anyone to disagree) then why publish online in the first place. Unless it was a deliberate marketing ploy?

    Am I being too cynical?

    Wiki? Well, I have problems with the Wiki model and there’s a lazy approach to research that relies way too much on it so I’m not a fan of the analogy.

    Don’t see anything wrong with deleting tweets if they’re incorrect, misconstrued or wrong. Transparency doesn’t, in my mind, mean documentation or more of it. It’s a little too bureaucratic and fascist in its mentality and doesn’t sit well with me. In fact, it could even be counter-productive. If the self-edit mode is too strong, we start to become afraid to be transparent and ourselves. Failed political systems have been the instigators of this in the past.

    I’d go the other way. Some blogs are badly researched too and the best thing for everyone would be to delete those posts so they’re not in the system. If it’s wrong, change it. That’s freedom of speech too isn’t it?

    Media is just media. There’s no such thing, in my mind, of old and new. It’s like saying old photography or New Labour. There’s just photography and politics.

    There’s some poor journalism, some poor blogging, some poor plumbing and some poor-in -every profession. If we put ourselves out there then we have to take the rough with the smooth.

    I don’t like the idea of more laws and legislation. You’ve highlighted an issue that’s being self-governed and transparent as we all communicate about it. I feel that’s enough.

    Best wishes,

    Luke :)

  • http://twitter.com/andjdavies andjdavies

    agreed. at the guardian open platform event (summarised here – http://platform.idiomag.com/2010/06/the-guardia...) Adam Freeman made a great point in response to brand protection concerns:

    Brand protection is now about responding quickly and honestly, not about constraining what the customer can say or do.

  • / Scott Gould


    Interesting to know they are TED fans – did not know that!

  • http://twitter.com/alexthegreen Alex Green

    The DT thing was crazy and unnecessary, as there was no feedback at all to the readers as to why certain comments were being edited or deleted, but at least it didn’t descend into the fracas that the nestle facebook mess did!
    In all fairness, the DT article writer was responding to people directly on twitter and denying that he had anything to do with the moderation, but it was still a silly mess!
    I agree that transparency is going to be getting bigger and hopefully that will mean that people begin to be a bit more thoughtful before they post / flame.
    Well thought-out, carefully phrased comments (and those that are proof-read) are much easier and more pleasant to consume and reply to!

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Luke

    Thanks for the thoughts. Do you not see things going this way at all, with regards to some kind of law?

    And if not, what are the repercussions of a lack of transparency? Or does it not really matter?


  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Drew.

    Loved your last sentence there, so I tweeted it earlier. Such a good saying


  • / Scott Gould

    Do you think there is a dark side to transparency at all Alex? A negative to it?

  • http://twitter.com/alexthegreen Alex Green

    I guess we need to put a ‘McLuhan filter’ on ‘increased transparency’ to evaluate it’s impact.
    So, thinking on the fly… this may not work as ‘increased transparency’ isn’t ‘new technology’ and I think the process only really works when looking at new technology, but I think it is probably a valuable exercise, I will probably learn something by looking at the exercise in a different way – evaluating a concept rather than a product or technology.
    There are four considerations –

    What does it enhance, amplify or ‘extend’.
    What does it reverse into – every media when pushed to its extreme will reverse into its opposite intention. (example the car – pushed to the extreme stops being something that increases the speed of transportation and instead creates traffic jams)
    What does it obsolesce – what is no longer needed / becomes obsolete as a result of it.
    What does it retrieve – what previous thing, action or experience does it bring back from a past technology.

    For “increased transparency” (I am assuming across the board, not just web comments but articles, TV, all possible life aspects, digital and non-digital.)

    ENHANCES: Honesty – you can’t lie and still hope to cover your tracks.
    Accountability – you are unable to delete or completely edit out anything you say, meaning you can’t deny anything you say and you are therefore held accountable for it.
    Fairness – with general increased transparency, it could be argued that everyone will be treated more even-handedly (pay / benefits etc.)

    REVERSES INTO: Life in a goldfish bowl – anything you say will be used in evidence against you, maybe its then more likely to have bits of older things you say quoted back against you, maybe you change your mind, maybe people misconstrue you more if you can’t completely edit out things when you change / correct?? Everybody knows everything about everybody else, whilst not really a problem per-se if you have nothing to hide, it becomes a privacy problem.
    Invasion of privacy – alluded to above, nothing is hidden or hide-able in a completely transparent system and nobody can have any secrets or private / personal areas.
    Data clog – if we go down the total transparency route and nothing can be deleted or edited without it being logged in intricate detail (wikipedia) then eventually we risk having too much data to be able to sift through (sometimes feels like that already with the web!)

    OBSOLESCES: Legal transparency would remove the requirement to ‘self-police’, it would also possibly reduce fear in online exchanges / transfers / transactions.
    Face-to-face contact – you know everything there is to know already?
    This is the hardest one, it may actually not obsolesce anything!

    RETRIEVES: Trust and community – vitally, people can begin to trust each other again in trusting communities – nothing can be hidden so we know that people aren’t lying or disguising things, back to the times when people lived in big groups, trusting and supporting eachother?
    Knowing what you are getting – it has been far too easy over the recent digital age to be able to open various accounts in various places and create pseudo / imaginary online personalities, maybe a the way we are going with transparency and maybe if there is some kind of law passed, this will mean that we end up knowing what we get again much like knowing who the bloke selling vegetables at the village market is, as it used to be. Know the person, because there’s no way of disguising things.

    I doubt this is exhaustive (exhausting though it may read) and perhaps you want to add some things to one or more areas.

    Does that answer the question?

    Maybe there are some negatives to transparency.


    p.s. I like a lot of what Lukejames says, good solid thinking – sometimes we just have to swallow the bad along with the good!

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Hi Scott,

    I started a comment, erased it, started again and then figured I would mine my thoughts for a blog post of my own. But since you were so encouraging on Twitter (great technique to get interaction on your blog, by the way) I’ll have another go and try to make a relevant contribution to an extremely interesting topic.

    I really think this issue is more about privacy than anything else. I’m not sure the general public – or even the social media practitioners like myself – have really come to terms with how much we’ve changed the world. Your experience proves just how transparent things have become. Even if we try to hide our actions, we’re still found out and that applies to business and individuals equally.

    When I speak about using social media in business I invariably get some stalwart maintaining social media is a fad and there’s no reason to worry about any of it. I actually had a senior manager at the Australian Computer Society tell me the whole wired world is going to implode soon and we won’t be talking about this in 5 or 10 years. (I think maybe he invested in a BetaMax and has been technology shy ever since.)

    Here’s what I think. We’ve bargained away our privacy which means we all have to manage ourselves as if we were in a fishbowl. Trying to influence brand opinion by manipulating comments is the most misguided thing I’ve heard. You’re right, all actions must be documented. Every incident where you have to do it is a potential PR mine field but, if done properly, is also an opportunity to rally your supporters.

    I’m going to do an op-ed piece on my own blog about privacy and transparency. Thanks for helping me formulate an idea that’s been bubbling in my mind for some time.

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Sarah

    Thanks for the comment – I value interaction and engagement highly on this blog, so I’m really happy you’ve added your thoughts to the discussion.

    First of all, LOL at the BetaMax comment – appreciate the humour. It’s also a good example of why people don’t like technology, right? They invest in things that change – which means we must invest in concepts before technology, as far as I can see.

    I love your line here, “Trying to influence brand opinion by manipulating comments is the most misguided thing I’ve heard.” It is ludicrous – but is the mark of a broadcast model desperately trying to make sense of the next social communication innovation.

    Did you post your peice on this? I’d love to read it!


  • http://www.iscamedia.com Lukejames

    Hey Scott,

    Sorry for the delay in replying.

    Interesting discussion going on.

    First though, if there is a law – it’ll probably backfire insomuch that, as Alex says (concisley),
    “anything you say will be used in evidence against you, maybe its then more likely to have bits of older things you say quoted back against you, maybe you change your mind, maybe people misconstrue you more if you can’t completely edit out things when you change / correct?”

    I like the freedom to change my mind. I *want* the freedom to change my mind.

    Editing has a bad name: there are many essential legal aspects that the edit addresses. How many blogs have liability insurance? I’d actually prefer the laws to be workable regards defamation, libel and bullying online (this could be part of the same package I guess – but would need some serious thought as to the practical application).

    Using the Cease and Desist system is a nightmare. It’s way too easy for people to publish the wrong information online but a nightmare and get it removed. There are some things that no amount of PR management will address. As the European/International law stands, it’s pretty feeble and unable to protect. There IS transparency of abuse, defamation and bullying right now, however, it’s the legal backup to dealing with these unsavory areas I’d like to see increased.

    Just to throw a spanner in here. What about the transparency of the photographic edit? Film/advertising? There have been some high profile cases re. ‘thinning’ celebrity front cover images. All these things are connected.

    Personally, I think SM has the power to self-govern and highlight – the collective/group/peer pressure is very powerful. Unfortunately, it can also work against us when ‘people’ get their facts wrong or just don’t do their research. People make mistakes. We all do.

    Another side is that there are, genuinely, people who need to be online but cannot, whether it’s because of mental health problems, physical or sexual abuse etc be as transparent as most. They need a level of privacy. We mustn’t guilt-trip these already vulnerable people and drive them away from real life-savers like Twitter and Facebook. There are so many sides to this subject.

    Sorry if this has veered away a tad! I do get pretty passionate about this stuff.

    The fishbowl? We should be careful of what we wish for. It’s never been a particularity good environment for fish and oxygen rapid depletion is a big problem ;)


    Luke :)

  • / Scott Gould


    This is gold stuff!

    – agree with your points, I’d add:
    – preparation. You have to more carefully plan and think things through first

    Reverse into
    – agree with this goldfish bowl. That is the side I can’t stand – it feels so petty, you know? The quote “as for forgiveness, not permission” as a motivation to act gets lots here because we become all about correctness, right?

    – Not sure legal policy would erode. In fact, I wonder if, due to the nature of humans to lie and spin, that transparency would obsolete much.

    – Trust – yes, perhaps, though I wonder if trust would come because we were forced to be transparent?