PR Pitching

I was just reading a blog entry by Steve Rubel about the fact that he is receiving more PR pitches (for what he does not say) and that his inbox is full of poor quality pitches. We get a few of these a week from different companies a web site or a developer and I was thinking about what I thought about the practice and agreeing to review their product.

Steve was mainly concerned about the fact that the quality of the PR pitches that he was receiving were getting worse than better. Which is surprising since it seems one of the best ways to get noticed in a crowded space is to get blogged about by an A-lister. You want to put your best foot forward and deliver quality all round, not just your product or site. Even if you have a great new start-up or a good quality product it might be ignored if the pitch is crap.

So we at The Global Geek Podcast get a few of these “pitches” a week. I am sure we are not getting the volume that people like Steve Rubel get! But we get a modest few. Usually it is for a site review or something like that. One of the segments that we have in the podcast is called “Sites and Services”. It is actually one of the most loved segments of the show and the one that generates the most feedback from developers and listeners both. So it stands to reason that we are pitched, plus they get a link in the show notes. Generally, we just get a pleasant email saying something like, please have a look at [site name] and consider for review in the podcast.

It feels great to know that companies want us to look at their product. We are fairly new at this so it is a bit of a buzz. But the way that I respond to these is that I look at them all. We don’t review them all on the podcast though. If it is crap or does not interest us it gets the boot. If we include it in the podcast the the response from the developer is often mixed.

Occasionally the developers and owners are none too impressed at what we have to say. We don’t trash sites but we do give our honest opinion. We do this with a few things in mind. That is we think of our audience and we think about what we stand for. I wonder if the developers thought about this before they sent us an email?

Our policy is that we review or report on a website or service based on the fact that we are users. Not uber geeks, users. If I recommend a site in the show then I do not want our listeners writing to us flaming us that the site was for example “hard to understand” or “had a bad interface” (or just generally shit). If we think it is cool then we say why and how and they are the reactions that we think our listeners will have to it. That doesn’t mean a website or service has to be simple, you might have a bloody unreal website with great features and it might even be revolutionary but if there is no instruction book then your effort is wasted on the user. (This happens a lot)

Yes, we have even had hate mail as a result of a review. But when you put your product out there and ask for it to be judged then you better be confident in your product and also be prepared to accept what has been said. Or we get email back saying that we did not “get it” and here is some more information about the service so we might better understand it. Okay, so if you need to tell us what it is about and how to use it or what is so good about it, then why was that information not included on the site? How do you expect the public and the average “user” to understand and adopt your technology?

The best feedback that we have ever had for sites and services are those which have been unsolicited or non-pitched, sourced with our own resources. Ironic. These are the ones that give us a link in their company blog and are very thankful that we spoke of them. Nice.

Steve Rubel goes on to mention the tatic that Pete Cashmore from Mashable has taken to overcome the in-box inundation of pitches that I am sure he has. That is to post pitches “as is” and unedited on the blog then to add his own take on the service or whatever it is. Good idea but hard to do for a podcast. Although we can just report it and let the listeners judge it. But then we want to let our listeners know where the best or the useful or the special or the remarkable is not just have a look and judge for yourself.

I just hope that The Global Geek in-box doesn’t resemble a Web 2.0 mash-up as time goes on. I don’t have enough time to do what I have to now, but we are always open to suggestions. Just one tip to the potential “pitcher”: Don’t pitch your website or service with an assumption as to what the reviewer might say, it might be glowing or it might be negative it might be mixed. Take that on the chin and agree or disagree or be thankful that it was tops. Or better; use it to improve what you are offering and ask the reviewer back to reconsider their initial verdict. The latter speaks volumes.

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Omnidrive to Launch in a Few Hours

Omnidrive LogoJust noticed that the Australian Company Omnidrive is about to move out of private beta and go live. The service has attracted a lot of attention over the last couple of months and being an Aussie myself I am proud to give it a mention here.

Omnidrive is an on-line storage solution that offers a free 1Gig account with more storage available for a fee. 10Gig will cost you 40 bucks a year, not bad. Larger storage is available on application for what is described as a reasonable price. The latest on the company blog says:

“… give us a bit more time and we should have the sign up link there for you in a few hours, we will keep you posted on the blog here.”

Nothing so far, but the word is that at 0001hrs PST the site will go live.

The service offers a web interface as you would expect and also a client that will be available as a drive on your system. Correct, right along side “My Computer” (cool eh.). This sounds exciting. Seamless integration with your operating system. There is a client for Mac as well. The uploading and downloading of files works in the background and you can control the bandwidth so that your system resources are free to do what you need to do effectively.

All your data that is stored on Omnidrive is encrypted and safe. However, there is the ability to share your stored content in the space of two clicks of the mouse with anyone you choose.

There has been a lot of buzz recently about on-line storage solutions with the launch of services such as MediaFire, box.net, and Badongo. Omnidrive is the latest in a series of products that offer a similar service. There are a few things that set Omnidrive apart. However, this space looks like one that is going to be very hot over the next twelve months as the best of them float to the top. Expect to see some very competitive pricing and expanding services and feature sets. Competition is what will make the best of these services attractive and effective solutions. Watch this space.

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch describes the service as:

“a product that I and millions of others really need… as good or better than anything else I’ve seen out of silicon valley recently. It has been in development for 12 months.”

High praise and I look forward to giving the service a spin myself. Perhaps you are looking for a superior online storage solution and might want to try it, looks like you could do a lot worse than Omnidrive. Plus the logo is cool.

Storage Mash-Up

Facebook Privacy Issues: I Don’t Get It

This last week saw a huge problem blow up at Facebook the social networking site “…an on-line directory that connects people through social networks”. Basically two new features were rolled out; “News Feeds” and “Mini Feeds”. From what I can gather they are like any News Feed aka: RSS type of deal, as you might have for a blog. These features allowed users to see what their friends were up to such as; items added, pictures, comments and the like. What Facebook did not realise was the outrage this would cause from users.

So these new features were rolled out and there was a revolt. Here are some of the actions taken by users:

In my effort to try to understand what all the fuss was about I have found some of the reasons that users have issued as to why the new features are unwanted. I do not have a Facebook account myself so this is all I have to go on: Here are various quotes taken from a few sources and since they seem to be talking for the masses…

“It damages what privacy was left on Facebook. Before Feeds, it was already easy enough to stalk anyone at your school, and everyone on your friends list; but with the advent of Feeds, it is now nearly impossible not to be “stalked” or to “stalk””

“Without even trying an individual now knows the changing relationship status of individuals on their friends list”

“It is almost impossible now to keep your information to yourself…”

“Before Feeds there were steps that could be taken to prevent your information becoming everyone’s property; now there is literally no option to prevent your information from going completely public.”

“This feature was not requested by the users”

“People that I have spoken with are perturbed by the overwhelming collection of personal information that is displayed about friends, acquaintances, and other Facebook buddies.”

“Despite the fact that this does not “violate the privacy policies already in place,” we feel that it is invasive and directs us to information that we are not normally interested in.”

While not ranking too high on the priority list, there were issues raised about the aesthetics of the additions.

“There are other reasons users are complaining, ranging from the fact it takes away the time-wasting aspect of Facebook to aesthetic complaints about the new look.”

I am not sure if this is truly representative as there are 9.5 million users of Facebook. But there are reports that there are 100 thousand users belonging to the “Students Against Facebook News Feed” group. So that is a fairly large representation and not to be ignored. So I will assume that the anti-feed lobby is a fairly universal feeling among users.
This all created a huge buzz, resulting in an issue that has become much talked about until steps were taken to subdue the masses on Facebook. Indeed the CEO himself responded personally to the negative reaction that the features received.

The issue seems to be resolved in so much as the Facebook people have developed a bunch of privacy controls to give the user control over what is put into feeds, if anything; and who can see them. That sort of thing anyway.

While I do not criticize users for the way that they feel. I would also argue that any company should put the users first and listen to them. I would also say that if they feel this way, even with the exaggerated responses that are inevitable that there must be truth in their concerns and these should be addressed.

But here is the bit I just do not get. News feeds within the blogging community are valued and relied upon as a useful tool and an accurate indicator of just how many real readers you have. It also helps you disseminate information. For me I would be devastated if I lost the feed from my site. Indeed the changes were reviewed favourably by some. But to me the reaction by Facebook users flys in the face of contemporary feeling and sentiment of the Internet community and information sharing. To me it is the equivalent of me asking WordPress to allow me to have privacy controls over my RSS feed and allow some people to access it and not others. Sure this can be done with secured RSS feeds that require passwords but I have not set up a public blog to do that. Maybe that is not the case on Facebook.

I am not criticizing the users of Facebook for the way they feel. Certainly there looks to be a generalised fear of “stalking” and harassment. Perhaps even assault in real life, but this was not stated. This may be a genuine fear and well founded. However it does seem a little “school playground” type mentality in so much as they seem to want to stick to their “clicks” and groups and maintain their privacy within those groups. This is a strange concept to me, seeing it in on-line communities. It could be argued that it comes accross as immature, but that is from the outside looking in. Not sure if this is a reflection of the demographic or not but I would expect that there was a large school-aged user base, given that these are the groups where Facebook started; colleges, schools, areas, regions etc.
Adding to that it looks like you could belong to a group within Facebook that was your school. I can see how some information getting out could be damaging to an individual at that level. However that in turn would cause me to ask why is that people are putting that sort of information in a public space on the web.

So that is what I see and how I have seen the whole Facebook fiasco. I am quite open to being corrected in regards to the finer points of Facebook. However, I am looking at it from an information sharing and the comparison to RSS feeds and the differences that can make in a tight community. The prompt action and changes made by Facebook are to be commended.