Dear Fiona (if that IS your name)

Hi Michael,We just posted an article, “100 Unbelievably Useful Reference Sites You’ve Never Heard Of”  (No link love here – MS) I thought I’d bring it to your attention in case you think your readers would find it interesting. Either way, thanks for your time!

Fiona King

 

Dear Fiona – So glad I heard from you yet again, because I had saved a link to Stephen Francouer’s post “On Not Being Scammed:”

http://www.teachinglibrarian.org/weblog/2008/07/on-not-being-scammed.html

I hope Stephen doesn’t mind me shamelessly quoting his whole post – I just can’t help myself:

In the past month, I’ve received a couple of emails from “Fiona King” asking me to write about some library-related content on two different web sites that both focus on distance ed. I didn’t pay much attention to those email messages, the like of which I mostly receive from vendors hoping that I’ll mention their product on my blog (which, by the way, I never do).

I noticed that a few bloggers, though, had decided to post links to the blog posts that Fiona had suggested. Wondering who was behind the distance ed sites where those blog posts resided, I did a little investigating and discovered:

  • neither site has any sort of “about us” or “who we are” content (first red flag)
  • each site had a different person who registered it (learned this by doing a whois lookup)
  • after googling the two people who registered the sites, learned that they are in business together and hope to get “fabulously rich” through SEO efforts and viral marketing of their blog network
  • after searching the web for info on “Fiona King,” I came to the conclusion that she is the creation of the two bottomfeeders who created the distance ed sites

Although the content that “Fiona” asks us to link to is somewhat interesting, the methods that are being used to get us to link to it and the ulterior motives of the folks behind these emails is troubling at best. I have no interest in linking to their content just to help them “monetize” blogs under their control. They’ll have to find other ways to make money not involving me.

I had always felt a little weird about your emails before and now I know why. Please do not send me links again.

Sincerely,

Michael

 

Thanks Stephen for the insight into this “troubling” practice.

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3 thoughts on “Dear Fiona (if that IS your name)”

  1. I’m curious as to your opinion of the actual material being pushed. My take on the “100 unbelievably useful” list is that it’s pretty bland and safely ignorable, but there’s an interesting question here.

    If the link were to some incredibly useful material, would you refuse to link to it because the purveyors have a vested economic interest? Conversely, if the sites/blogs in question were “legit” would you link even if the content was only moderately valuable?

    My point is, I definitely understand the desire to not be a stooge for somebody’s get-rich-quick-2.0 scheme. But at what point do you say “yeah, you’re trying to cash in on a blog network, but I don’t care because the content is valuable?” Or do you hold firm and refuse to link to something cool because it’s run by bottomfeeders?

    To be clear, I don’t think the issue really comes up in this case. The site you mention looks pretty weak – definitely not worth propping up some fly-by-night marketing scheme. I’m just curious what you think about this, especially as more and more companies decide that “viral + blogging” is a hot buzzword combo. For instance would it have been okay to link to “I Love Bees” even though it was an elaborate advertising scheme?

  2. For me, the issue was not really about the content on the blog posts but really about the lack of authenticity in the people behind the site. I don’t mind linking to commercial sites as long as they offer some accountability about who they are and what they are up to. On the sites that Fiona King asked me to link to, there was no attempt to explain who the posting author was (no credentials, no bio, no nothing), nor was there any info about the blogs themselves (what company or organization or institution was responsible for the blog). That lack of transparency is, for me, a major red flag whenever I am evaluating a web site (and that’s what I teach my students in workshops and course-related lectures that I do at the college where I work). Even if the content was really outstanding but there was still that lack of information about authorship, I wouldn’t bother linking to it; sites like that just smell funny to me, regardless of whether they are trying to “monetize” the site.

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