About Chris’ thing

Dunno that this is worthy of a blog post, but I figured I’d get in on it anyway.

Chris is being harassed by a bunch of guys right now because they’re saying that the blog post he wrote on his Dadomatic blog changed the way they see him. I’m not here to criticize that; they can think what they want and trust whomever they like.

That said, if they find themselves mistrusting a dude who’s been giving them solid gold (for FREE) for basically 2 years straight because of one post, that’s utterly insane. There isn’t a single person in the world that would stand up to the scrutiny they’re placing him under.

It’s weird because a lot of people I know from the web are amongst the most giving people I know, and yet, these armchair philosophers at the heart of the credibility debate don’t really go out and add much themselves aside from their alarmist “policing”.

In real life we forgive people for stuff all the time. Our perceptions are malleable and drift towards the easy-going, but online it’s somehow the opposite. We’re quick to criticize and it’s hard to make us forget, with people’s reputations being seriously damaged in the process. We then defend what we’ve said to keep internally consistent when we would normally apologize. It’s ridiculous. How is that helping anyone?

It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize, but hard to go out and make things happen. If you’re used to the first, maybe go out and try to do the second. It’s more rewarding and you may sleep better. Don’t be a hater. Just sayin.





15 responses to “About Chris’ thing”

  1. Amber Naslund Avatar

    Ah, Julien. Normally I comment when I have something to add. Instead, just thanks and yay.

  2. Sonia Simone | Remarkable Communication Avatar

    People are so nutted up having to decide is this “right” or “wrong.”

    The energy is there because people love Chris and they trust him, and they’re scared that maybe what he did wasn’t ok, that he might have betrayed that trust. There’s a lot of clinging to arbitrary big-T Truths, or scraps that seem like maybe they would add up to one side of the big-T Truth depending on how we analyze it.

    We made (well, we wanted to make) the metaverse a utopia, and like all utopias, we’re now collapsing under our own ideals.

    I find myself again and again muttering, “oh for christ’s sake, use a little common sense.”

  3. Dave Brodbeck Avatar

    As usual Julien, your wisdom is evident in this post. This whole thing is a giant pile of BS, what is everyone’s problem? Chris made it clear on dadomatic (full disclosure, I write for dadomatic) that it was a paid post. Everyone with a problem should go back and read the freaking post.

  4. Lucretia Pruitt Avatar

    I believe you may have put your finger on something. Chris does give a lot. Maybe that’s what makes him such an appealing target to those who are slinging arrows. It’s much more notable to take down Superman than it is to take down Bob the guy from next door.

    Still, it’s just amazing how many people made this about Chris rather than about paid/sponsored posting. That’s sad.

    Great post yourself – easy to see why he’s working with you.

  5. Sean Bohan Avatar


    Chris pays it forward every single day. He spends more time talking about us, encouraging us, celebrating the rockstars and adding value than anyone else out there. He works it: the network, his blog, the business, the people. His blog posts challenge us, share his insights and give us ideas every day. His tweets spend more time shouting out what others are doing than promoting his own site/work/event/etc.

    He doesnt try to be one of the cool kids – he is liked because he is a real nice guy who is humble, who doesnt take cheap shots and who is genuinely interested and interesting.

    I wrote 20 more angry lines about this and the folks who used their time and effort to take shots at someone but deleted it. Maybe these folks will catch up to Brogan someday in deposits into the Karma bank – but I doubt it.

    It’s easier to tear down than build up. It’s easier to cry “AUTHENTICITY” and bogus claims of “looking out for someone’s brand” and invoking Cluetrain than actually making things happen, being authentic, developing their own authority through hard work and effort and getting stuff done.

    It’s easy to be a critic, hard to be a creator.

  6. Connie Reece Avatar

    Ditto what Amber said. And I have to agree — nobody gives away more knowledge and insight than Chris. Just gives it. And he gives behind the scenes too.

  7. Mitch Joel - Twist Image Avatar

    I don’t think giving something away for free and then posting an advertorial is the issue. From my own perspective it’s how it was done. See, if someone does give something away for free for two years and then decides to change/modify that format, they have every right. I think if Chris had “set it up” and let people know that this was going to happen, there would be nothing to talk about. Because the post just appeared and surprised some people, it raised a few eyebrows as to “why the sudden change.”

    People don’t feel like Chris gives them stuff, they feel like they are equal and a part of a community with him (meaning they feel they have skin in that game) – which makes them feel a level of ownership (right or wrong). On top of that, Chris was giving his opinion and thoughts away for a long, long time and suddenly he’s accepting money for his opinion. Whether we like it or not, to some that changes their perspective of the person (for some it’s fine, for others this is very taboo).

  8. Rob Cotter Avatar

    This debate has become too complicated for a single tweet, blog post, or blog comment. Yet, I still feel compelled to comment.

    Who are the “armchair philosophers”? Let’s sit everyone down on a panel in order to the heart of this issue. Of course that won’t happen, but it disturbs me that there is a lot of criticism about “mob rule” without identifying who that is. After Chris Brogan’s “Advertising And Trust” post (http://www.chrisbrogan.com/advertising-and-trust/) it became clear to me who the mob was. And it wasn’t his detractors. In fact, a loyal community emerged to praise, defend, and applause Chris. There’s nothing wrong with that, but of the HUNDREDS of posts most people failed to correctly identify the real problems with what he did.

    So what did Chris do that was so wrong? That’s a tough question to answer because wrong isn’t the right word here. It’s more of an ethical issue for me. He’s a hybrid marketer, journalist, publisher, consultant, social butterfly, influencer, thought leader, and soon-to-be author of a book. He’s also a good guy and a family man. He’s everything we relate to. That being said, he’s using every deflection in the book under the guise of “experimentation”. He can claim not to be a journalist–so the rules don’t apply to him. He can claim not to be a media source—so the rules don’t apply to him. etc.

    Personally, beyond Barb Gibson’s great blog post—on Saturday I believe it was—I was set off a second time by this line in his “Advertising And Trust” defence: “You’re not buying my words. You’re buying my attention, and renting my audience’s attention.” That’s not why I’ve been following Brogan for more than a year now (I was late to his game). I assumed perhaps too naively that he knew the personal / professional ethical boundaries of being an experimenter and leader. (His job is to: “help businesses figure out what to do with all this social stuff”.) To rent my attention is a really bad way to treat an audience. It also means that I’m part of his experiment too. I didn’t want to be an experiment, I came to learn. For someone to BUY your attention means that audience size = authority = revenue. Why not just launch an online magazine that reviews junk in that case? Or a brand review site? Whatever.

    To me all of these social channels reflect the opposite. We trust certain people, certain communities, and to another degree certain corporations. I am not questioning the content of Chris’ character at all here: I’m just saying that my definition of what Chris Brogan does professionally is more in the “expert” realm. He’s a leader. And leaders don’t take kickbacks in my book. If that’s a controversial opinion I’m going to go out on a ledge to say that the digital marketing world is MORE SCREWED UP THAN EVER. But it isn’t. This is a growth industry. To me pay for post is an old idea. I call it “payola”. And coming from the publishing/music industry, payola is a word that carries enough weight to analyse and even scream about at times.

    Since you mentioned the noise coming from the sidelines I want to add a personal touch using my story. I run an online ad network. People probably hate the idea of me since “ad network” usually conjures visions of display ads, rich media, etc. You know: I’m one of the “traditional new media marketing” guys. If I personally took money from a concert promoter, I’d be blacklisted by their competition. If I took one penny from a major record label, I’d be blacklisted by all of the other major labels. It’s my job to keep my nose clean, give clients what they’ve paid for, and remain NEUTRAL. Why? Because I actually earn my living from representing web sites. They’ve hired me to be an honest broker. Obviously I cater to my clients because they “pay the bills”—but that in no way means that I can force my opinion on my audience (my publishers).

    That’s just a small angle. There are many others. I’m just not into brands owning what I do or what I say in public. I prefer seeking out the end game rather than saying something sponsored that can hurt my relationships with brands in the future. It’s a long road to travel. I think another thing is that I don’t know Brogan as a critic of much of anything. Obviously he’s not going to walk into K-Mart and yell “K-MART SUCKS!”. Right? That’s the point. He’s being paid. He can’t really shit on his own experiment right? That’s just a guess but that’s where my “objectivity” and “transparency” debate ends. Whether or not you’re a journalist doesn’t even matter.

    And despite all of this noise, I would personally worry more about what the CEOs are saying. Or what leaders like Mitch Joel are saying; that trust isn’t transferable. And he’s right. So beyond my madness and ranting, I’m going to add that the experiment was a failure in the first place regardless of what I deem ethical or not.

  9. Julien Avatar

    Hey Rob, thanks for this monster of a comment. 🙂

    I see what you mean about you being unable to take money personally, but the comparison gets a little murky when:

    a) The payola is totally out in the open; and
    b) Your business is your personal channel.

    I mos def agree with you that the experiment is a failure. If I were either Chris or Kmart, I would back out of this space pretty quick as I don’t want the animosity of so many people.

    As for Mitch, it does seem that, yeah, trust is not transferable in this way (a blog post). But what if it’s different than that? Do you feel that trust in Chris is transferred to the company he works for? If so, would a sitewide sponsorship type thing work?

  10. Patrick Avatar

    I’m wayyyy on the edge of this story and didn’t really follow any of it so I might be off on some of my understanding but :

    @mitch “they feel like they are equal and a part of a community with him (meaning they feel they have skin in that game) – which makes them feel a level of ownership (right or wrong)”
    I’d say WRONG, equal as in intellectual equals and equals in communicating on the same level sure but they are not the same, they are readers and there’s a writer. There’s a shit load more effort on Chris’ part than on the readers’ and it’s his space so they can’t harp on him for making decisions on how he acts in his space using his time to write his content. Equal as in two equal persons does not mean equal stake just because they read and comment. They can sure give an opinion as a reader prefering something but attacking is a whole other thing.

    @julien I think it’s in part the same problem as with a lot of things online; lack of bandwith. As open as someone can be online and in their writings, unless it’s a veeery personal blog (and even then), as a reader you are missing A LOT of things about the person and thus judging him only on that small part. They act in a manner they wouldn’t offline because that “infraction” affects the whole of what they know of him (in this case only what he writes) so it’s majorly important in that context. Add everything else about Chris, including his face in person if you were yelling at him and suddenly that “infraction” is a lot smaller, there’s a lot more data affecting your opinion/mood/reaction. People should get used to putting things in perspective and not simply on their “relation” with the content and the person writing it. There would be a lot less yelling.

    @Rob You seem to be forgetting he’s not writing FOR you, he’s writing about what he’s thinking, what he’s doing and offering it to you for FREE. He’s not buying your attention, he’s GIVING you something. You might be right that he crossed some line here but I think this attitude that he somehow owes you something because of the way you perceive everything he gave you FREE is ludicrous to me.

  11. Mitch Joel - Twist Image Avatar

    This is a great conversation and it reminds me of two amazing quotes on the subject that I recently re-read:

    “We are suspicious of marketing. We don’t trust strangers as willingly. Buzz is suspect. It can be bought. Instead, consumers and business people alike are looking towards trust. We want our friends to tell us it’s good. We want someone we know to say we should look into it. Marketing spend might start at awareness, but in the Trust Economy, communities are king, and ROI stands for Return on Influence.”

    And this one:

    “Look at any glossy print advertisement for a new product. Is there a smiling person holding that product? Who is that person? Do you trust celebrities to tell you what’s good? Why should a testimonial from someone you don’t know sell you, especially when you KNOW they were paid? Now, what if your friend told you about something they love—no money changing hands, and without any incentive? What if your friend simply really loved a product or service? Wouldn’t you feel compelled to follow their suggestion?”

    Both are from an amazing PDF ebook called, Trust Economies, written by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.

  12. Mitch Joel - Twist Image Avatar

    … and let me add, this is NOT and attack. I love that eBook and have sent it around countless times. When I was working on my chapter on trust for my book, I re-read it to make sure there was not too much of their influence in my own thinking. Both Brogan and Julien are very close friends. This is not about what Chris did, it’s about building trust in a low-trust world and what that means in a media channel where every single individual is a publisher, media channel and opinionated reporter.

  13. Rob Cotter Avatar

    Hi Julien,

    To your first point, I’m using the word “payola” in the sense that if you take money from someone, it then effectively alters your behaviour.

    So to answer the first part of the question, I have to fall back on saying that decades ago the payola was also totally out in the open. I didn’t work in the industry at the time, yet I can still see and compete TO THIS DAY against remnants of that system. It’s not a solid argument from my part I’ll admit because Brogan was very honest with audience. It’s not like disc jockey told their listeners that they played certain records because they got paid. But it speaks to the general point that once we decide to run the blogosphere into the ground by upping the “pay per post” ratio, we also run the risk of driving away new voices. Old voives might even disappear and go back to $1000 per hour paid consulting. Why? I think because much like academics we’re in the idea business to some extent. We’re not merchants. We clearly want to help companies SELL SELL SELL more products, but there has to be a clear line in the sand that removes the marketer from selling directly to the consumer. Then we get into the negative side of advertising by asking ourselves: is this propaganda? Or does the corporation have our best interest in mind. That’s another debate altogether and one where my rate is $1000 per hour to discuss. But I digress.

    In the Brogan example it was completely honest, open, and very obvious (he mentioned the setup multiple times even). Obviously he’s not going to sell himself out for $500 right? From that point we can assume that Chris’ paid post will be fairly objective because the promotion rules weren’t stringent. He could blog about his experience at K-Mart and say whatever he wants. Fine. He did what the job required. He didn’t even have to stray beyond or promote K-Mart without reason. Easy check. Cheap “experiment”. No accountability.

    This type of promotion falls under one’s ability to “manage the gray”. (Hat tip: @CC_Chapman) I think where I take issue is that Brogan sets everything up with Izea and then follows through with everything himself. I’m presuming they discussed the promotion to determine how it would unfold right? So assuming everyone *thinks* this is good idea, it could ABSOLUTELY NOT be an objective “experiment” because Brogan put forth his winning framework and then executed the plan. So like I say in my last post: since he can’t tarnish the experiment the post HAS TO BE POSITIVE (or at worst lukewarm) for the experiment to succeed. But it couldn’t possibly end poorly. He set himself up.

    Talking through this I realize I’m probably more concerned with the premise in general. But they real key, in my opinion, is that we can applaud the attempt but how is that taking a risk then? How is that an experiment? It’s not. It’s throwing at a dart board to see if you can hit the bullseye. I guess in some way it takes a lot of the “expert” out of the expert. Everyone can throw a dart.

    To your second point: “your business is your personal channel.” That is an interesting question. Never really thought about it except that speaking for myself as an entrepreneur that my business is also my personal channel. All of the great info, ideas, and streams of ideologies directly plug into how I run my business and more importantly WHO I do business with. For example, I did business with @mitchjoel at Twist Image some months ago. Even if I love the work his team outputs I don’t go out there promoting it on my blog or through my company. That would make me look inauthentic in the public and therefore reduce my reputation in the eyes of the top decisionmakers. At the end of the day: I want my words to matter and this K-Mart post was a such a bore that it didn’t even deserve a read. But I read it because Brogan wrote it and there again we come back to the debate whether or not I should see him as an expert. And forget my opinion because I’m still a nobody. But did you notice who kept silent? A lot of big guns.

    As for the trust not being transferrable, I think that Chris Brogan IS that blog post. He is what I read from him. I don’t know him as an individual beyond what he discloses publicly. That’s why I have a hard time to separate the author from the words when it comes to “advice” on anything. Whether from an expert, friend, etc.) So I just Chris Brogan. I don’t trust K-Mart. (Not for any real-world reason or anything, but I wouldn’t trust them because of Chris. K-Mart is a corporation. Chris Brogan is a human being.

    The sitewide sponsorship is one way to go. What I think could help transfer trust is a long-term relationship with a brand. If Chris said, “Microsoft just gave me a million dollars to blog for the next year” I’d say take it! It will give him the chance to keep doing his thing and maybe over time he’ll share his experience with Microsoft. Then I can make a decision for myself whether I trust Microsoft based on what he says about them. If he doesn’t say anything at all even better–then I can worry less. It’s not necessarily that the trust isn’t transferrable, but it sure as hell isn’t in one blog post. Also, if you take money from Microsoft it would be generally helpful not to blog negatively about Apple right? There we come full circle again trying to figure out whether he’s objective. I just prefer to keep my content ad free. Ad supported is a different thing.

    Anyway, should we just start writing a book about this? I’ve said too much and it leads down too many roads. That said, it’s been a great discussion all around. Brogan kicks ass–I just think the next step into these conversations with major brands is to make sure we really think about what we’re doing in public. Protocol sucks but we need to follow it to earn trust from the decisionmakers.

  14. Gab Goldenberg Avatar

    Reminds me of a recurring point in Guy Kawasaki’s new Reality Check. Judge others on their intentions, and yourself on results, rather than the other way around.

  15. Jean Avatar

    Julien, here’s a little “nerd power’ for you on this one (I suppose my expensive education should serve for something):

    “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Out upon your guarded lips! Sew them up with pockthread, do. Else if you would be a man speak what you think today in words as hard as cannon balls, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today. Ah, then, exclaim the aged ladies, you shall be sure to be misunderstood! Misunderstood! It is a right fool’s word. Is it so bad then to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
    (Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”)

    Good advice, that. I failed to finish that class but I managed to retain a little something useful.

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