Archive for the ‘Consume!’ Category

Posted by Tim Ireland at January 18, 2012

Category: Consume!, Old Media, Teh Interwebs, Tories! Tories! Tories!

My scanner is having some emotional problems right now (it’s never quite recovered from the mammoth task of scanning all those Page 3 girls) so formal recruitment and data distribution for The PR Transparency Project will be subject to a minor delay.

In the meantime, I thought it would be appropriate for me to acid-test the waters with what I suspect will be one of the most contentious items from this 1997 book about Tim Bell and get it out of the way. Having read the book, I can assure you that there are many more items of greater relevance to any discussion about Tim Bell’s conduct as a PR/ad executive (more), so if we can all get past this and move on, that would be a very good thing indeed.

I post the following without comment or analysis. While the following passage only refers to ‘Bell’, it is definitely about Tim Bell, Chairman of Chime Communications (holding company for a portfolio of 35 companies including the Bell Pottinger group), and it is an accurate scan and verbatim* transcript of Page 45 from The Ultimate Spin Doctor: The Life and Fast Times of Tim Bell (ISBN-10: 0340696745). I did not personally witness the incident, and being only 7 years old at the time, I would expect Tim Bell to be rather glad that I didn’t.

Mr Tim Bell, Mrs Palm, and her five lovely daughters.... allegedly

———–

EXTRACT FROM PAGE 45 OF ‘THE ULTIMATE SPIN DOCTOR: THE LIFE AND FAST TIMES OF TIM BELL’

This exhibitionism asserted itself somewhat differently in one of the most controversial incidents of his life. In the early hours of 21 October 1977, three days after his thirty-sixth birthday and close to the peak of his advertising career, Bell stood naked in the bathroom of his second-floor flat at 13c West Heath Road overlooking Hampstead Heath, and exposed himself to several women while masturbating. At 8.35 a.m. he was arrested and a month later, on 19 November 1977, appeared at Hampstead Magistrates Court. According to the official conviction certificate, he was charged with ‘wilfully, openly, lewdly and obscenely’ exposing himself ‘with intent to insult a female’ under Section 4 of the 1824 Vagrancy Act. He was found guilty and fined £50 with seven days to pay. Curiously, this newsworthy case was never reported in the local newspaper, the Hampstead and Highgate Express and only his close colleagues at Saatchi’s knew of it. To his credit, Bell never flinched when the incident, which later assumed an importance of some magnitude, was raised. He admitted the conviction but denied that the event took place. He confided to a colleague that his lawyers, Butcher Brooks and Co. advised him to plead guilty to avoid a scandal.

———–

[*Hyperlinks have been added. One to a Google Street View of the property involved, and one to the relevant Act. Text has not been altered.]








Posted by Tim Ireland at January 16, 2012

Category: Consume!, Old Media, Teh Interwebs

After his company was caught secretly editing Wikipedia on behalf of some very unsavoury clients toward some no-less-unsavoury ends, Tim Bell has had the audacity to project this wrongdoing back onto Wikipedia and Teh Internets as a whole:

James Thomlinson, head of digital at Bell Pottinger, apologised, admitting: “We did get some of the things wrong.” But he called for Wikipedia’s rules to be updated, blaming the wrongdoing on its “confusing” editing system and “the pressure put on us by clients to remove potentially defamatory or libellous statements very quickly, because Wikipedia is so authoritative.”

Lord Bell, who as Tim Bell advised Margaret Thatcher on the former British prime minister’s election campaigns, said he was sorry the situation occurred but was less apologetic about the content of the changes.

“As far as I am concerned, we have done absolutely nothing wrong whatsoever … We did not make any change that was wrong, it’s a means and ends discussion,” he said.

He said he believed Wikipedia’s guidelines implied that “if you are a paid adviser, you must be lying. Obviously we find that offensive.”

He bemoaned the lack of a “regulatory body” to complain to online, where reputations can be destroyed “in one minute”.

Source: Financial Times (subscription required)

That last assertion comes to you from a shameless liar who has spent decades destroying the reputations of others covertly for personal and political gain, and this behaviour continues into the 21st century. What comeback did any of these victims hope to have against Tim Bell’s anonymised attacks? This is blatant projection from a sock-puppeting liar, I won’t stand for it, and neither should you.

Tim Bell’s straw man relies on the widely-held view that there is little-to-nothing wrong with lobbying on behalf of a client (OK by me), making factual updates to Wikipedia (OK by me), or attempting to put your best face forward in the top ten searches for your name/brand (OK by me)… but what Bell Pottinger have engaged in is secret lobbying, including some wholly unacceptable commercial updates to what is supposed to be a reference library, in an attempt to covertly influence both Wikipedia and the top ten searches for a series of names/brands.

It is clearer now more than ever that if we wish to change how things are done at Bell Pottinger, the person we need to reach is Tim Bell, and we are going to reach him through the top ten search results for his name. We are, at the same time, going to attempt to bring about positive change in the PR industry as a whole.

When I say ‘we’, I mean me and you. Yes, you. If you’re up for a bit of danger and detail, that is.

Speaking of the latter…

Lord Tim Bell is Chairman of Chime Communications plc, a communications group which owns Bell Pottinger Group plc* (aka Bell Pottinger), the multinational public relations company that bears his name, and follows his principles.

The problems Bell Pottinger have run into recently stem directly from Tim Bell’s long-standing resistance to transparency. He appears to think that secretly editing a reference library in favour of commercial interests in exchange for money is OK, and this ethical blind spot has been there since long before the web and Wikipedia became an issue. Mr Bell needs to learn that the age of secret lobbying is over, and while it may be difficult to change the mind of someone as obstinate as he, I think we have a jolly good shot at changing the landscape that surrounds him in the attempt.

I invite you to join an informal lobbying group with one simple demand; that PR companies/professionals declare any profile(s) they use to edit Wikipedia, name and link to them plainly in the ‘About Us’ section of their website, and link back to that same website from their Wikipedia profile(s).

(This, in much the same way that web users would expect them to declare the names of Twitter accounts under their control, for subtly different but fundamentally similar reasons.)

Once PR companies/professionals declare these editing profiles and link to them from their sites (and link back to their own sites from these same profile pages), we enter Wikipedia territory. There is a significant debate to be had here about whether these profile pages generally should list all of the previous profiles/edits at the outset in a clear declaration of interest, but with the exception of Bell Pottinger and other bodies operating under Tim Bell**, personally I think it a matter for PR bods and Wikipedians to negotiate between themselves. It is not within my power to grant amnesty for any past indiscretions, and that is at the heart of that particular debate about any company who has not yet been caught out; should their new account be impacted by any of their past activity, and what measures can be taken to clean the slate?

Getting back to the simple demand for transparency, we are going to face some resistance here from people like Tim Bell who do not agree about the need for it.

To counter this resistance, we are going to speak softly and carry a very big stick. But first we are going to seek to bring vital perspective to the debate about transparency while initially demonstrating the effectiveness of our very big stick.

Here we reach the part about making an example of Tim Bell.

Tim Bell is all about shaping reality more to his liking by using image, lies and illusions to make others behave in ways that get him what he wants. He earns money by claiming that he is an expert in reputation management and his underlings make all sorts of claims about their capacity to ‘cleanse’ the top ten searches for names and brands by means both fair and foul.

The current top ten results for ‘Tim Bell’ are presently dominated by absurd puff pieces where Bell is simultaneously described as “the most influential man in PR” as he nobly declines the title of “founder of modern PR”. (Interviewer: “Lord Bell thanks very much for your time today.” Bell: “Please call me Tim.”)

Seeing as Tim Bell rejects the concept of transparency outright, those of us who ultimately pay the price for his profiteering are going to have to impose some; we are going to displace much of the existing top ten with factually accurate and highly relevant material that Tim Bell would much rather faded into the distance. Note use of the word ‘relevance’ here; we do not seek to G-bomb anyone, but instead feed new and entirely legitimate relevance into the system.

On my desk is a copy of The Ultimate Spin Doctor: Life and Fast Times of Tim Bell by Mark Hollingsworth. The contents are at present largely invisible to Google and other search engines. That is about to change.

This is an unauthorised biography that Tim Bell tried very hard to prevent, and it’s a fair bet that Bell doesn’t want material*** from it populating the top search results for his name, not least because he is going to look like a hopeless manager of reputations if he cannot cleanse his own top ten.

Tim Bell bio book

Chapters from this book will be shared out to participating bloggers who are part of our lobbying group. Each will then write a post based on any short extract they may choose to draw from the chapter assigned to them. In this way, the 10 chapters will be shared among an unknown number of bloggers, and the top fifty or so searches for ‘Tim Bell’ will begin to take on new relevance.

(Psst! Chapter One of this book talks about Tim Bell pretending to be Australian in the hopes of bypassing the class system, and I sure hope I draw that one myself, but I expect the most popular chapter will be the one detailing Tim Bell’s conviction for ‘wilfuly, openly and obscenely’ exposing himself ‘with intent to insult a female’ under Section 4 of the 1824 Vagrancy Act.)

Also, once I/we start releasing verbatim extracts from this published material, portions of it will begin to appear in Wikipedia, coalescing into legitimate points of reference on that page, which will probably remain the highest search result for his name.

(Note – One cannot legitimately participate in this lobbying group while editing Wikipedia entries relating to Tim Bell, especially not anonymously. It goes beyond hypocrisy; it amounts to a conflict of interest, it is not fair to the wider Wikipedia community, and it is wholly unnecessary; allowing what we publish from the book to filter into Wikipedia naturally will be more than enough.)

Please keep in mind here that we are talking about the online publication of material that has seen print without legal challenge. That said, Mr Bell may choose to exploit a little-known loophole in English libel law that allows him to challenge each instance as a fresh publication (see: The Bastard Duke of Brunswick) and if this does happen, then Bell can be expected to use any or all of the following methods to effect removal with the likely exception of #10 (consider yourselves warned):

Bell Pottinger guide to online reputation management

I expect what is going to test if not defeat Tim Bell’s capacity for reputation management is the ability of any web user to conduct themselves according to his standards, and it is on this note that we come to the hook…

Those of us familiar with Teh Interwebs know that there’s a world of difference between your average Joe maintaining a single anonymous blog/identity and PR boffins using multiple false/anonymous identities on behalf of clients for money, and we can’t expect Tim Bell to learn that much in such a short time, but I am hoping that the prospect of dealing with an unknown number of anonymous account holders based in several different countries will help him to better appreciate his own position, if only to the extent of having him revise his policy on covert lobbying.

Admittedly, there is a danger that within the group of people who target Tim Bell anonymously but legitimately, there will be people with a hidden vested interest who use this exercise as ‘cover’ to engage in a little subterfuge for reasons of profit, politics or personal payback (i.e. to attack him illegitimately), but should Tim Bell change his mind and decide all of a sudden that he doesn’t think it appropriate to lobby covertly, then my support for anonymous briefing against him will fall away naturally, as will that of others.

Now that point is made, I hope you understand the primary reason why I do not publish the chapters immediately today, and instead provide Mr Bell with a single and short-lived opportunity to consider the scope of what I propose. It is entirely possible that the above has the potential to change his perspective even before it grows beyond the status of thought experiment. (And if he doubts my capacity to engage at this level, he should search for ‘Billy Brit’ and consider that it took less than a week to effect total pwnership of that brand in Google, at a time when Google moved a lot slower than it does today.)

Should Tim Bell fail to take advantage of this opportunity, we can go about making an example of the man with our consciences clear and our position unassailable. Should he unexpectedly take the opportunity to embrace transparency, the effectiveness of our very big stick will be clear to others, who will take note.

Either way, it will then be time to put the following repeatedly and succinctly to any and all in the PR/lobbying industry, and those operating at its fringes:

PR companies/professionals should reveal the name any profile(s) they use to edit Wikipedia, state this plainly in the ‘About Us’ section of their website, and link back to that same website from their Wikipedia profile(s).

The nature of this campaign should make it clear that these changes are in line with public expectations about what is fair and right. Those in PR who believe otherwise will, of course, be free to lobby for secret lobbying, and I wish them luck. They’re going to need it.

The landscape of PR is about to change. Clear boundaries are about to be set, and the covert lobbyists who operate outside of them are about to become far more obvious than they would prefer.

(Psst! If you’re a blogger and you want ‘in’ on the outing, recruitment begins shortly, and chapters will be distributed randomly soon after that. Please stand by.)

——

[*Also Good Relations, Harvard, Stuart Higgins Communications and Resonate, but I’m sure we’ll get to those PR company names and Chime Communications plc too in good time if the fight looks like taking a while; we’re talking consequences so natural that effort will be required merely to keep this powder dry. Then there are client names, and all the relevant client-specific ammo Bell Pottinger have yet to defuse because they refuse to name their past editing profiles or even admit to any wrongdoing.]

[**Tim Bell is prone to telling people what they want to hear in order to get what he wants. Should he ever announce a change in policy regarding tranparency, only complete disclosure of Wikipedia accounts/edits to date is likely to convince me of his sincerity in this matter. I am not inclined to take Tim Bell at his word, because it means nothing.]

[***Some people in PR, like some people in law, do not mind being portrayed as bastards. Often, bastards are needed by other bastards. But Tim Bell cannot afford to be made to look incompetent, or petty, or disloyal to clients who suddenly find themselves mired in scandal. Material covering all this and more is contained in Bell’s unauthorised biography, and he won’t want it out there, though he may be forced to pretend otherwise shortly.]

[It should go without saying that this principle should apply to anyone engaging in PR-like activity, including SEO companies/professionals offering any image-oriented services. I personally do not edit Wikipedia. At all. I advise clients against it generally and against covert forms of influence quite specifically. I recognise that mine is a rigid standard, but I do not seek to impose it. Rather, I seek to popularise a widely-agreed standard of transparency for those who do engage in Wikipedia editing as part of their PR efforts. Just tell us who you’re paid to represent when editing what’s supposed to be reference material, folks. It really is as simple as that.]

[Declaration of Interest: Due to a minor matter of libel against me that Carter-Ruck refuse to discuss, I have a vested interest in compelling Tim Bell’s chosen law firm to take part in any form of communication/negotiation. That said, this is only going to happen if Tim Bell does the most stupid thing imaginable and risks unleashing the Streisand effect. That said, I have good reason to believe that Tim Bell is prone to bouts of extreme stupidity, so better safe than sorry.]

—–








Posted by Tim Ireland at January 12, 2012

Category: Consume!, Search Engine Optimisation

Hi folks. I’m facing some delays on the Dorries matter (mainly waiting for evidence; the Met are 5 weeks late), but I’m sure we’ll be back on track shortly.

In the meantime, here’s an open letter to loan company Wonga.com, who today reacted to a massive backlash (more) by claiming they did not actively target students.

To: john.moorwood@wonga.com
From: Tim Ireland
Date: Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 9:44 AM
Subject: “we do not actively target students as potential customers ”

Dear John,

If you do not target students, how do you explain the following Page Title and META Tags that are still live on the same page where you claim “we do not actively target students as potential customers”?

(*Please note that chevrons have been replaced with brackets to avoid any data display issues. Otherwise, code is verbatim.)

[title]Student Loan – Alternative to Education Loans | Wonga.com® Official Site[/title]
[meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=utf-8″ /]
[meta name=”description” content=”Are you a student? Need a fast loan? For loans in the UK, Wonga is the fastest! Wonga gets you cash within 15 minutes of approval.” /]
[meta name=”keywords” content=”student loan,student loans,short term loan,cash,credit card,personal loan,loan,money” /]
[meta name=”robots” content=”index,follow” /]
[meta name=”DC.title” content=”Student Loan – Alternative to Education Loans” /]

source: http://www.wonga.com/money/wonga-student-loan/ (mirror – ‘view source’ to see the code)

You also claimed the following in that same statement on that same page:

“The previous article on this page was several years old and one of many brief pieces we have written about the broad subject of credit since we launched our online loans service. No-one was directed to this page, nor was it prominently promoted on the website.”

But there is a prominent indexable link to this page from your front page and every other page. It is one of only 13 links of this type, so it is clearly a high priority and promoted very heavily in SEO terms:

Payday Loans | Short term Loans | Cash Loans | Cash Advance | Fast Cash | Quick Loans
Quick Quid | Loans Online | Loans for bad credit | Borrow Money | Student Loan | Student Overdraft | Credit Card Debt

A similar page which also carries today’s statement targets queries about student overdrafts (a link to it is included in the list referenced above). This page ranks 8th in Google for queries for ‘student overdrafts’, and this is clearly by design and not by accident. According to SearchMetrics, you also currently rank 34th in Google for ‘student loan’ and 19th for ‘loans for students’.

Do you still wish to pretend that these pages were an accidental afterthought of no current significance to you?

Be warned that I am an SEO professional with over a decade of experience, and I am unlikely to react favourably to further distortions. Also, this is an open letter that I have published on my blog, so do yourself a favour and don’t waste my time by hiding behind the sofa and pretending that you’re not home.

Tim Ireland
www.bloggerheads.com

As usual, you can expect updates to follow. Cheers all.

UPDATE – I think it’s best if I let the resulting correspondence speak for itself at this stage:

From: John Moorwood
To: Tim Ireland
Date: Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 10:23 AM

Hi. We will be removing the pages / links completely soon, we just wanted to have a message there temporarily to make a few points.

[John Moorwood ]
Sent from my iPhone

From: Tim Ireland
To: John Moorwood
Date: Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 10:26 AM

Yes, but the ‘points’ you make are demonstrable lies and distortions, and I have published an article saying/displaying this quite clearly. Do you seriously have no response to that?

Tim Ireland

UPDATE – Greg Power has noticed that Wonga.com are still actively bidding for queries relating to students and student loans in AdWords. This is completely distinct from their SEO efforts/excuses, and it is not something that happens by accident. Wonga.com are actively pursuing students and trying to flog them loans at a typical APR of up to 4214% while claiming that they never intended to do any such thing:

Wonga

UPDATE – Take a look at this page from the Wonga site (spotted by Tom Hatton). It features an expensive-looking video that tries very hard to look like a news programme. The nice lady behind the desk encourages students to use Wonga.com in order to avoid “a nasty debt hangover after graduation”. (Hey, why risk “hefty overdraft fees” when you can simply take out a Wonga loan with an APR of over 4000%?)

Wonga.com removed the page very quickly after it was spotted/highlighted on Twitter, but if they ever remove the video itself, the text on this mirror of that page contains the entire script. I have also saved a copy of the video should Wonga.com ever care to deny that at the very end – during the fade-out – there is a blink-and-you-miss-it alert in news-ticker style text (spotter: Jon W). This text announces that “unauthorised” debt with Wonga carries a 46,000,000% interest rate. No, totally not kidding:

Bloody hell, Wonga

Wonga.com’s repeated claim that they did not intend to target students is a demonstrable lie, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

[MINI-UPDATE – I previously typed ‘47,000,000%’ when the accurate figure (as per the screen capture) is 46,000,000%. Now corrected.]

UPDATE (16 Jan) – Errol Damelin, founder and CEO of Wonga.com, has been made aware that his staff lied about targeting student loans. He took no detectable action in response, and offered no reply; he simply forwarded my email to the same people who have been lying to the public. (Just for the record, should he later wish to pretend that he knew nothing about this at the time.)

UPDATE (16 Feb) – It is now over a month since this article was first published. Yesterday, I emailed the CEO of Wonga.com for a second time, and for a second time, I watched as the recipient merely passed the email on to underlings who continue to (a) ignore this evidence and (b) stand by a demonstrable lie:

To: Errol.Damelin@wonga.com
From: Tim Ireland
Date: Wed, Feb 15, 2012 at 8:47 AM

Dear Errol,

Wonga.com currently invest heavily in TV ads claiming that they offer “straight talk” about money. Meanwhile, they stand by what you know to be a demonstrable lie about targeting the student loan market.

It is over a month since I last wrote to you about this matter. I should warn you that I tracked my last email, so I know it was read by the recipient and then forwarded to the same team at Wonga who continue to stand by a demonstrable lie.

What does this mean? It means that you cannot claim to be unaware of the details*; you do not enjoy the luxury of plausible deniability.

This dishonesty and inaction in the face of due criticism is entirely unacceptable. I seek a response to my article (see link) and my original email (below), plus a fitting explanation/apology for my being stonewalled by your staff, even after I contacted you directly and pointed out that they were ignoring me and the evidence I had published:

Wonga.com are lying about student loans

A man in your position cannot afford to turn his back on evidence that his staff are misleading the public about their practices. I urge you to take this matter seriously and respond today.

Tim Ireland
www.bloggerheads.com

(*Unless you’d care to take a page from James Murdoch’s book, and claim that you saw the email but didn’t read it.)

To: Errol.Damelin@wonga.com
From: Tim Ireland
Date: Fri, Jan 13, 2012 at 10:01 AM

Dear Errol,

Since the initial (dishonest) response, your staff have seen fit to ignore me rather than admit to any of the evidence I have uncovered that reveals they lied about targeting students.

Wonga.com definitely did target students, and there is evidence that they assigned budget to do this in SEO, in PPC, and even through video production:

Wonga.com are lying about student loans

So I dare to email you in your mighty tower of ivory and ask just what in the hell is going on at Wonga.com, and if you approve personally of (a) the targeting of students in this way, and (b) the dishonest response to the resulting backlash.

I would even go so far as to mention that you may want to cast an eye over your customer base and determine if there are any customers you have gained through your targeting of students who are currently accruing any significant debt with you; it’s a ticking time bomb.

Tim Ireland
www.bloggerheads.com

PS – How do you justify a penalty rate of 47,000,000%?








Posted by Tim Ireland at June 14, 2011

Category: Consume!, Old Media, Teh Interwebs, The Political Weblog Movement

Recently, staff at Times Higher Education surprised a lot of their readers and supporters by seeking to promote themselves in blogs with the name ‘bloggerheads’, and acting both arrogantly and dishonestly when it was pointed out to them that someone (namely, me) had already been using the name for 10 years:

Ann Mroz: patronising, unpleasant and dishonest
The Times Higher Education correspondence
THE tank on my lawn (and how/when it got there)

John Elmes claimed that editors senior to him came up with the ‘bloggerheads’ name for his “round-up of the scholarly web”. Editors senior to Elmes then claimed it was the work of editors junior to them.

Me, I dare to assume that because it was John’s baby, he at least had some say in naming it. He certainly sought to retain the use of ‘bloggerheads’ in a thoroughly unreasonable fashion; it was Elmes who initially asked me if I had “copyrighted” the name (i.e. before I was passed on to senior editors who asked if I had trademarked the name) and it was Elmes who, at a peak in our dispute, took to naming the feature ‘The Bloggerheads’.

That said, the arrogance and dishonesty I encountered went right to the top; Editor Ann Mroz initially pretended that I had no rights under law because I had not trademarked the name, and then changed her position when I called her bluff. The Deputy Editor (Phil Baty) claimed that Times Higher Education were not aware of my site before using the name ‘bloggerheads’, but my site tracking says otherwise, and a week after I confronted their lawyer with this finding, no-one at Times Higher Education has offered any kind of answer to this.

While I am pleased that THE have finally removed all references to ‘bloggerheads’ from their site, I am greatly disappointed by their refusal to investigate/explain this discrepancy, their general dishonesty, and their apparent last-ditch effort to pass the following off as a condition of that removal:

“I must ask you to please remove your blog post header describing our editor as “dishonest” and the picture of our employee from your website immediately.”

I was even more disappointed to later discover that no explanation or apology of any kind was in the offing (especially after I had produced evidence suggesting that it was not quite the innocent mistake Times Higher Education had made it out to be).

I was, however, entirely unsurprised to see that the new name Elmes/THE had chosen was entirely lacking in invention; John Elmes’ round-up of the scholarly web is now named… ‘THE Scholarly Web’:

John Elmes: genius

(slow hand clap)

Unlike certain MPs, I am not sniffy about those who have been educated at university, but I reserve the right to point and laugh when it is clear that such an education has been wasted.

To close, for those who have some degree of faith in Times Higher Education, it is my sad duty to inform you that the magazine is staffed by the type of people who do not admit to mistakes, and instead seek to erase them, while bullying anyone who dares to make a noise about it; i.e. in one very important respect, they are no better than your average tabloid. I am sure that media-watchers especially understand what this means about taking anything THE claim at face value; they will know what a veneer of perfection usually hides.

Regrettable, but there it is. There is no getting away from the fact that Times Higher Education were entirely dishonest in their dealings with me, and then sought to erase their mistake rather than admit to any of that. They certainly don’t have any intention of acknowledging their error in print. How can you trust anything they commit to print if that’s their attitude?








Posted by Tim Ireland at June 3, 2011

Category: Consume!, Old Media, Teh Interwebs, The Political Weblog Movement

The following is a copy of a letter I have just sent to the lawyer that Times Higher Education referred me to earlier this afternoon. I did not hear from this gentleman before close of business today, so I did what I normally do in these situations… I continued to dig around in an effort to find out just what the hell these people were playing at.

The letter will reveal what I found about an hour ago. Monday may reveal if it is of any significance of not.

Until then, I leave you with this…

Dear Mr [lawyer’s name snipped],

I think it only fair to warn you that I have just isolated the Service Provider for Times Higher Education (THE) in my site tracking, and have found evidence that contradicts their claim not to have known about my site before May 13 (i.e. when I first emailed them, taking issue with their use of my name).

We were not aware of your blog and I assure you that there is no attempt to hi-jack.
(Phil Baty, May 13, via email)

As you can see here, their first mention of the name on their site (as an upcoming feature) was on May 5:

“Starting next week, Bloggerheads – what the blogs are saying”
http://www.freezepage.com/1307137423LHYVOYNNTI

This, BTW, makes it clear that the feature was originally meant to be a blog about blogs from the beginning, which is something Baty et al later tried to downplay/deny (a lot), but I digress.

My point is that I am detecting a visit from before May 13. From before May 5, even.

This is an important issue, as I still have every right to be upset about how THE reacted after the fact if they had merely blundered in initially without looking, but it strikes me as a strong indication of bad faith if THE were indeed aware of my site before using the Bloggerheads name. In fact, it might be taken by some as an indication of outright dishonesty.

I shan’t tell you the exact date/details just yet. Why not have their IT people have a peek at the relevant http records first, and find out what this reveals from their end? This simple investigation should take a few minutes and may reveal someone from a different department, or perhaps even a different office in the same building accessing my site, which would leave us mainly with the reaction after the fact to deal with. Of course, I’d probably have to take your/their word for some of what they say they have found, but right now I have the added insurance of withheld details (i.e. not only the date) so in the unlikely event that THE are foolish enough to pull a fast one, there is a good chance that any fiction will be found out, if you’ll pardon my alliteration.

By the way, this is an open letter, and it has been published on my site (minus your name/details, as you’ve shown no sign of requiring exposure so far). I hope that does not strike you as too confrontational, but the fact of the matter is that THE parked a tank on my lawn and tried to claim ownership of my humble board with a nail in it.

So, please, I beg of you; don’t be moaning about my board with a nail in it until you get that bloody tank off my lawn and repair the damage to my grass.

Cheers

The Tim Ireland
www.bloggerheads.com








Posted by Tim Ireland at June 3, 2011

Category: Consume!, Old Media, Teh Interwebs, The Political Weblog Movement

(Psst! If you are new to this issue, please read this first.)

The following is the guts of my correspondence with staff from Times Higher Education after they tried to claim ownership of the name ‘bloggerheads’, the name I created in 2001 (see screen capture below).

John Elmes and 'THE BLOGGERHEADS'

The correspondence clearly shows that their argument switches from a question of copyright to one of trade mark, and that they begin to seriously stonewall from the moment I called the latter bluff and registered the name as a trade mark. These key points have been highlighted (by me) in bold.

The overall exchange has been edited for brevity, and one individual email has been subject to a minor edit to remove details that should remain private for personal security reasons. As usual, any such edits (and/or corrections of minor typos etc.) are marked [like so]. The exchange up until the point they accuse me of bad manners is complete and unedited so you might make a judgement about my manners for yourself.

I’d like to think I showed considerable restraint when they offered to re-label it ‘THE Bloggerheads’. I made the mistake of assuming good faith, and I was confident the issue would make itself apparent almost immediately. I was wrong, obviously. John Elmes made a particular point of switching his use of the name to ‘The Bloggerheads’ at a key point in this dispute.

From: Tim Ireland
To: john.elmes@tsleducation.com
Date: Fri, May 13, 2011 at 11:38 AM
Subject: ‘bloggerheads’

Please consider a [using] new name. This one’s taken.

Cheers

Tim

From: John.Elmes@tsleducation.com
To: Tim Ireland
Date: Fri, May 13, 2011 at 3:08 PM
Subject: ‘bloggerheads’

Dear Tim,

Thanks for your email, I appreciate your concern.

I just wanted to know if you had any copyright to the name. I only ask because my column is a small addition to a specialist higher education magazine, and the subject areas tend to differ drastically from yours.

I was having a look around the net and found this:
http://www.abeano.com/bloggerheads-new-for-2011-transparent-dummy-mag-tropical-waste/

It seems as though we aren’t the only ones to have utilised the expression ‘Bloggerheads’.

Kind regards,

John

John Elmes
Editorial Assistant
Times Higher Education
26 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4HQ
Tel: +44 (0)203 194 3315
www.timeshighereducation.co.uk

From: Tim Ireland
To: John.Elmes@tsleducation.com
Date: Fri, May 13, 2011 at 3:27 PM
Subject: ‘bloggerheads’

I raise the issue as a matter of manners. I am aware that others have shown poor manners, thanks.

Will you consider using your own, unique name?

T

From: John.Elmes@tsleducation.com
To: Tim Ireland
Date: Fri, May 13, 2011 at 4:55 PM
Subject: ‘bloggerheads’

Dear Tim,

I will raise it with my editors, but their view (they are the ones that came up with the name) was your site is distinctive enough to my column to remove any conflict. It is certainly different in terms of aesthetics, font and motivation, so we believe it won’t be an issue

Best,

John

John Elmes
Editorial Assistant
Times Higher Education
26 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4HQ
Tel: +44 (0)203 194 3315
www.timeshighereducation.co.uk

From: Tim Ireland
To: John.Elmes@tsleducation.com
Sent: 13 May 2011 15:27
Subject: Re: ‘bloggerheads’

Please advise your editors that if you intend to promote yourself through Twitter, any hashtag you use will be the same as my username. We will most definitely intersect in a way that is an issue for me, and I will ask you again if you (or your editors) will seriously consider using a unique name of your/their own invention instead of hijacking the one I have been using since 2001.

T

From: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
To: Tim Ireland
Date: Tue, May 17, 2011 at 3:44 PM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Dear Tim,

Thanks for your emails to John Elmes.

We were not aware of your blog and I assure you that there is no attempt to hi-jack.

Times Higher Education (THE) is a specialist higher education magazine, and our “bloggerheads” is dedicated entirely to scholarly/higher education policy debates on line, covering blogs and social media. It is quite clearly distinct from your blog, with a clearly separate audience.

It is clearly labeled with the strap: “A weekly round up of the best on the scholarly web”.

We have no intention to promote this column on Twitter using the “bloggerheads” hashtag.

As a courtesy to you, we have also added the THE logo to the name, which is now: “THE BloggerHeads”

Kind regards,

Phil Baty

Deputy Editor, Times Higher Education
Editor, Times Higher Education World University Rankings
26 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4HQ
Tel: 0203 194 3298
http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/THEWorldUniRank
Twitter: http://twitter.com/TimesHigherEd

From: Tim Ireland
To: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Date: Tue, May 17, 2011 at 4:07 PM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Thank you for that at least. I would prefer there is no room for confusion, and I reserve the right to protect the name ‘bloggerheads’ should it become an issue. I really would prefer that you consider changing the name to a unique name of your own invention, though, and think it would be wisest in the long run.

Tim

From: Tim Ireland
To: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Cc: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Date: Tue, May 31, 2011 at 7:26 PM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Phil, despite your assurances, the predictable has happened and users in Twitter are referring to you as ‘bloggerheads’ and not ‘THEbloggerheads’ as promised. I also note that you continue to bill yourself as ‘bloggerheads’ on your site, and this is turning up in the top ten for searches for my website, crowding out other web presence[s] in my name:
http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=416093

I once again request that you create your own unique name instead of using the name I have been using for over 10 years.

(Please don’t embarrass yourself by citing others’ use of the name; this use emerged in the middle of a campaign of harassment, and I fully intend to take the issue up with this other web user, as soon as I am able.)

Bloggerheads is a unique name of my own invention. You have no business using it. I ask you again to stop using it.

Instead, try inventing your own name. Like I did.

From: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
To: Tim Ireland
Cc: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 9:12 AM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Dear Mr Ireland

Please forward me your trademarking documentation and I’m sure we will be happy to comply.

Kind regards

Ann

Ann Mroz
Editor
Times Higher Education
26 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4HQ
Tel: 0203 194 3326
http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/
Follow THE on Twitter: http://twitter.com/timeshighered
Follow Ann Mroz on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AnnMroz

From: Tim Ireland
To: “Mroz, Ann”
Cc: “Baty, Phil”
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 9:31 AM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Why not say what you mean? You are happy to trade off a name that I invented if I cannot defend myself with costly legal muscle, and you care nothing for the inconvenience it will cause or the lack of respect it shows.

I can easily prove that I created the name and have been using it on the web for 10 years. That has until recently been good enough for others and it should be good enough for you… unless of course, you are the type of organisation that likes to stamp on the little guy.

Even the New York Times had the good sense to modify their use of the name to ‘bloggINGheads’. They understand that marketing yourself on the web requires some sensitivity to others inhabiting the relevant community.

I will ask you one more time to show me a modicum of respect and engage your mind(s) just long enough to come up with a unique name of your own invention.

Please, show me the respect I am due. You would not like it if someone seized control of your name.

Tim Ireland

From: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
To: Tim Ireland
Cc: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 9:33 AM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Dear Mr Ireland

No, I would not like it if someone seized control of our name which is why I took the trouble to protect it by legal means.

I always show respect to people who are polite.

Kind regards

Ann

Ann Mroz
Editor
Times Higher Education
26 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4HQ
Tel: 0203 194 3326
http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/
Follow THE on Twitter: http://twitter.com/timeshighered
Follow Ann Mroz on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AnnMroz

From: Tim Ireland
To: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Cc: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 9:37 AM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Please do not pretend that everyone is in a position to defend themselves in this way, and please do not insult me further by calling my manners into question after the way you have treated me.

Do you intend to continue using the unique name that I created, despite my very clear objections?

T

From: Tim Ireland
To: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Cc: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 9:52 AM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Allow me to explain the situation to you:

I will repeat that I have been subjected to an extended campaign of harassment, targeting myself and my family, causing great distress and considerable financial difficulty. I have never had cause to invest in a trade mark before, as for many years previous to this, simple respect within the web community was enough. I am certainly not in a strong position to rush out and do it now.

You risk compelling me to undertake this expense, and I do not think I am giving anything away by revealing that you may be able to swoop in an register it in your own name, despite your knowledge of my moral claim to it.

Neither move casts you in a good light, and I fully intend to make this dispute public if you refuse to be reasonable. I would remind you that you are seeking a brand to promote yourself in the blogging community, not distance yourself from it by charging in with a steamroller.

I will ask again: Do you intend to continue using the unique name that I created, despite my very clear objections?

T

From: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
To: Tim Ireland
Cc: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 10:19 AM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Tim,

We adopted the name “Bloggerheads” for a small column on page 24 of our magazine, without any awareness of your blog.

We note that the name is not protected by you, and is indeed used by others on the Internet.

We note that the content of the THE column is entirely unrelated to your blog – we look exclusively at social media on higher education issues, a very narrow field.

Our distinct content is clearly marked in a sub-heading to the column: “A weekly round-up of the best on the scholarly web”.

When you alerted us to your blog, as a courtesy, we immediately agreed to re-design the column masthead and change the name of the column to “THE Bloggerheads”, incorporating our protected brand “THE” (Times Higher Education”), to make the clear differences even more explicit.

The website now displays the column as “THE Bloggerheads”: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=416254&c=1

We have also agreed, again purely as a courtesy, that we will only promote the column as “THE Bloggerheads” on Twitter and other social media.

We have been courteous and considerate throughout, and have made these clear concessions as a matter of good will, without any obligation on our part at all.

We feel these concessions are quite sufficient and entirely reasonable.

I trust that in the event that you decide to make this “dispute” public, you will reproduce this response in full.

Thank you for your correspondence,

Phil Baty

Deputy Editor, Times Higher Education
Editor, Times Higher Education World University Rankings
26 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4HQ
Tel: 0203 194 3298
http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/THEWorldUniRank
Twitter: http://twitter.com/TimesHigherEd

And, as you will note, that is exactly what I have done. I have reproduced their response in full. In fact the full exchange above is entirely unedited, and I am really pissed off about being compelled to have to take it to this step because it necessitates a public acknowledgement of specific difficulty my stalker has caused me. Normally, this is something to be avoided with people engaging in this type of harassment, as it tends to encourage them.

Unfortunately, to protect my sole source of income, a site I have invested 10 years of my life in, the point must be made publicly that both Ann Mroz and Phil Baty were made aware of the issues surrounding an immediate investment in a trade mark registration.

Back to the correspondence:

From: Tim Ireland
To: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Cc: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 10:41 AM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

How am I back talking to you now, Phil? Is it because you were the person who claimed to have invented the name, thereby causing this dispute?

I have already explained that I was in no position to protect myself from the small number of two-bit operations who also sought to capitalise on my name. I have been in contact with these other parties since you sought to capitalise on my name yourself and use their hijacking as an excuse. Please don’t embarrass yourself further by using these people as cover (or by excusing your ‘mere’ use of it in the back pages of your magazine). You already admit that you chose to use the name to promote your web initiative without first determining if someone else in the web community was using the name (a simple search in Google would have alerted you to my blog and the various other web presences in my name using this same name) so you cannot now defend its continued use by pretending that you were always aware of this.

I am bloggerheads. It is my creation, I use the name to blog about blogging, and I have done so for 10 years.

Specialised arena or not, you seek to blog about blogging, and despite your assurances/concessions, people are already using my name to refer to your web round-up.

Oh, and we are most certainly in dispute, despite what your scare quotes might imply, and I would welcome the opportunity to air this matter in full, as well as your earlier correspondence and the arrogance it reveals:

I trust that in the event that you decide to make this “dispute” public, you will reproduce this response in full.

Despite your tangential defence about what may appear in page 24 of your magazine, you are using my name, you are using it on the web as well as in print, you did not even have enough regard for the web community to check if someone was using the name ‘bloggerheads’ before committing to it, and you have been stubborn, evasive and unreasonable since I called you on it.

I have repeatedly stated that I would much prefer it if you created your own name. This challenge appears to be beyond you, or perhaps you are the type of person who refuses to back down even when they know they have made a mistake.

I will ask you again:

Do you intend to continue using the unique name that I created, despite my very clear objections?

T

From: Tim Ireland
To: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Cc: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 10:56 AM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

I might also add this [snipped for security reasons]

In short, you compel me to commit to considerable expense and inconvenience at a time of great difficulty.

I would really rather that you were reasonable about the matter. Why not use a name of your own invention? Where is the problem here? Have you foolishly invested money in use of the name without doing so much as a Google search for any other instances of it? Is that why you compel me to commit to considerable expense and inconvenience? Or are you merely being stubborn because of the arrogance this suggests?

T

It was at this stage I considered the only way to end the matter without wasting days/weeks of my time was to meet the trade mark challenge. We had a lonnnng discussion about it in this house. We couldn’t really afford the expense, but Bloggerheads was a vital source of income. How could we not protect this asset from someone who was so obviously hostile in their seizure of it?

After the trade mark registration process was completed and relevant documentation secured, I called their bluff:


From: Tim Ireland
To: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Cc: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 12:28 PM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Congratulations. You have compelled me to undergo the expense or registering my unique name as a trademark at a time when we can ill-afford it.

Now, are you going to be so difficult that you continue to use the name in the ~6 months it will take to process the application, or are you going to finally decide to play-act at being reasonable now you’ve put us through this major inconvenience?

Tim

From: Tim Ireland
To: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Cc: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 1:09 PM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Well? I’ve called your bluff. What’s your response?

T

From: Tim Ireland
To: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Cc: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 1:27 PM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

To be clear; I expect a response this afternoon.

Putting aside the patronising way you dismiss my moral claim to this name, you gave me the impression that if the name was protected as a trade mark you would comply with my wishes. I have today begun the registration process, and now you refuse to budge from your existing position, even though you appear to have NO CLUE about the circumstances in which the name came to be used in your magazine and on your website. You can’t even name the sub-editor you imply presented the name as an original piece of work.

Did you mean what you said about trade mark, or was it merely a bluff? I have cause to be upset with you either way, but I will be especially upset if it is the latter, after I explained my circumstances to you.

Do you intend to continue using the unique name that I created, despite my very clear objections?

Tim

From: Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
To: Tim Ireland
Cc: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 2:18 PM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Dear Tim,

Can you please direct all further correspondence (and phone calls) on this matter to our Information Assurance Officer, Arshid Bashir.

He is on arshid.bashir@tsleducation.com
Or 020 3194 3384

Thank you.

Phil Baty

Deputy Editor, Times Higher Education
Editor, Times Higher Education World University Rankings
26 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4HQ
Tel: 0203 194 3298
http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/THEWorldUniRank
Twitter: http://twitter.com/TimesHigherEd

After offering a summary of the issue that was complete bollocks, Arshid Bashir refused to engage on the matter of trade mark (and tort, as raised in the email that followed his summary):


Bashir, Arshid Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 4:36 PM
To: Tim Ireland

Dear Mr Ireland,

If I can first of all very briefly introduce myself: I am responsible for independently assuring to the TSL board that all functions and activities comply with all legal and regularity requirements and obligations.

Looking at your concerns expressed over the exchange of emails, can I suggest that we limit ourselves to the core issue and not become embroiled or distracted by side-issues or assumptions and conjecture.

If I can summarise your position:

1. It is your contention that you have prior rights on the title ‘Bloggerheads’ which you have used on your website for a number of years, but which had not been registered as a trademark.

2. And, although an accommodation was mutually and informally agreed a few weeks back by prefixing our use of the word ‘Bloggerheads’ with the word ‘THE’, you have subsequently became dissatisfied based on search engines results ranking our content too highly, relative to yours.

3. You are also unhappy we may use ‘Bloggerheads’ as a Twitter hashtag as this is your Twitter user name. We have clarified this is not our intent.

Whilst I can appreciate your views on ‘ownership’ of this word and subsequent discontent that your web presence may have been impacted; it is clear that TSL is not, and has not been in breach of any trademarks or any other proprietary rights.

I am sorry that our position may not be one that you would like, however TSL has neither sought nor would wish to seek to undermine the rights of others. In my opinion I also think it is highly unlikely that consumers or visitors to our respective content would confuse either web site with the other and therefore unlikely to be detrimental to you or us.

Can I also advise you that all future communication from within TSL will be by myself.

Yours sincerely

Arshid Bashir

From: Tim Ireland
To: Arshid.Bashir@tsleducation.com
Cc: Ann.Mroz@tsleducation.com, Phil.Baty@tsleducation.com
Date: Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 4:50 PM
Subject: FW: ‘bloggerheads’

Your summary of my position is rife with assumption and conjecture, but happily I do not have to explain myself any further to protect my rights.

I have now approached an experienced intellectual property lawyer and I have been informed that it appears that the THE is committing the tort of “passing off” in respect of “Bloggerheads” and that it appears you would not have a sensible defence to a claim. I have a substantial and prior trading reputation in respect of my expertise of blogging and web-related matters that pre-dates your entire website by many years.

Accordingly, please remove the references to “Bloggerheads” from your site immediately.

Tim Ireland
www.bloggerheads.com

PS – Both the Editor and Deputy Editor have been CCed, because it was they who (a) gave me the false impression that I needed a registered trade mark to protect my rights, and (b) gave me the false impression that they would cooperate were such a trade mark registered. With all due respect, this matter has been needlessly complicated by these organ grinders playing lawyer, and I have every right to inform them of their error and expect an apology to go with their immediate cooperation.

Arshid Bashir answered this challenge… by refusing to address it in any way. In a phone call (that I recorded) I asked Bashir if he had a response to the tort issue. He replied; “we do not have to answer every email you send us”. I pressed him further, and he responded; “I do not think it would be productive for us to debate the matter”. Then he hung up on me.

Arshid Bashir now refuses to answer my emails or take my calls. Any attempt to reach Ann Mroz, Phil Baty or John Elmes results in my being referred to Arshid Bashir (who now refuses to answer my emails or take my calls).

I think it’s safe to interpret not only the copyright and trade mark challenges as a bluff, but the ‘concessions’ also. Here I will remind you that the ‘concession’ of referring to themselves as ‘THE Bloggerheads’ (i.e. T.H.E. Bloggerheads) quickly changed to their use of the name as ‘The Bloggerheads’ (i.e. the one, only and original accept-no-substitutes bloggerheads) at a peak moment in this dispute.

As for some of what they claim in mitigation, most of it is laughable and contradictory in places (e.g. senior editors blamed an un-named junior editor for the decision to use the name, the junior editor I spoke to blamed senior editors), plus it clearly paints a picture where the matter is mainly insignificant from their point of view. If this were the case, then it would be an insignificant matter for them to stop using my name.

However, they refuse to stop using my name, and I think this correspondence includes several instances revealing bad faith on their part. Key to this was the stark bluff from Ann Mroz that she would respect my rights if I went through with the trade mark paperwork.

After compelling me to reinforce my ownership with trade mark, they now appear to be waiting for me to engage lawyers, at further expense they know I will have difficulty meeting.

(Instead of using a rude word here, I will let you choose your own, but I ask that you not repeat it under comments. Let’s not do these people any favours.)

UPDATE (2pm) – Times Higher Education have just emailed to say that they “can confirm we have decided to change the name of our column in THE”. Unfortunately, they offer very little detail beyond this apart from some apparent conditions (!) so I have responded to the relevant requests, and will let you know of any outcome in due course.

UPDATE (damn near 5pm) – Times Higher Education have ignored my response to their conditions/requests, and have instead referred me to their lawyer, who has not yet been in touch. It looks like they mean to leave me hanging all weekend. Charming.

UPDATE (11:45pm) – Their lawyer might not have managed to make contact today, but Times Higher Education have late this afternoon removed from sight every page on their site that used the title ‘bloggerheads’. So we’re on our way to a resolution at last.

By the way, you may note in this correspondence that THE claimed to have been unaware of Bloggerheads before May 13 (i.e. when I first emailed them, taking issue with their use of my name). About an hour ago, I looked into my site tracking data and detected a visit from before May 13:

Bloggerheads – THE tank on my lawn (and how/when it got there)

I’m a guy who likes to be positive right down to my blood cells, so I am hoping this is not the indication of bad faith it appears to be.








Posted by Tim Ireland at June 1, 2011

Category: Consume!, Marketing, Old Media, Teh Interwebs, The Political Weblog Movement

[MINI-UPDATE (03 Jun) – THE object to my use of the word ‘dishonest’ in this headline. I stand by my use of the word, but as a courtesy, I have placed this prominent and immediate link to the relevant correspondence so readers might better judge for themselves.]

Regulars of Bloggerheads will be aware that my family and I been through some difficult times recently. During the rolling crisis, several two-bit operations have sought to hijack the ‘bloggerheads’ name that I created, but my priority has been those attempting to associate this unique name (and mine) with paedophilia, stalking and what have you.

Recently, I complained to staff at the magazine Times Higher Education about their use of ‘bloggerheads’ – a unique name that I created to title my blog about blogs – to title a web round-up feature (i.e. their blog about blogs). I repeatedly made it clear that I wanted them to come up with their own name, especially when they clearly planned to use it to blog about other weblogs. They pretended there was no room for confusion, offered to put ‘the’ in front of it as a “concession” and left it at that. Almost immediately references to their magazine started turning up in Twitter and Google in searches for my unique name.

I complained again. They gave me the very clear impression that, were the name protected as a trade mark, they would immediately comply with my wishes.

Several times I pointed out to them that I had a significant and demonstrable moral claim to the name dating back many years, but they dismissed this notion in the most patronising way possible. I also pointed out that if they seek to market themselves on the via web/blogs, then there are far better ways of going about it than hijacking an existing name, which is one good reason why the expense of a trade mark has never been necessary before now in the decade I have been using the name ‘bloggerheads’.

I also pointed out that I was busy battling an ongoing campaign of harassment, and their position compelled me to spend money we could ill-afford at the moment, but they stood firm on their position (along with the ridiculous implication that they had searched the trade mark database but not Google when they decided on using this name as their own).

Ultimately, Times Higher Education Editor Ann Mroz left me with no choice but to trade mark the name so I might call their bluff and take further steps to protect it from recent misuse and/or appropriation by their organisation and others.

But now I have begun the trade mark registration process, they have changed their position, and plan to continue using the name as they have before!

That’s a class act, all the way. After compelling me to trade mark the name, now they’re going to compel me to await the completion of the registration process (and then, presumably, take them to court) before they will be in any way reasonable about this.

Their Deputy Editor can’t even name the sub-editor they claim ‘invented’ the word, but Times Higher Education staff are unwilling to admit that they made a mistake by using this unique name without first researching it. They even have the audacity to minimise the significance of its use from their point of view (e.g. it’s ‘only’ on page 24 of their magazine), but surely if it’s no big deal to them and a bloody big deal to me, then that’s even more reason for them to back off and do what they should have done in the first place; come up with a unique name of their own invention.

[Other, smaller, organisations who have recently sought to appropriate this name have also been contacted about this matter today. I am hoping that they will be more reasonable. I certainly can’t see how they can top this response from Times Higher Education. I realise THE are in the education sector, but surely they’ve grown out of playground games by now.]

UPDATE – Check the comments for a contribution by ‘Malcolm Kent’. It was submitted using false details, and is an obvious sock-puppet.








Posted by Tim Ireland at May 10, 2011

Category: Consume!

I’d like to begin by insisting that you read Unity’s long post about what 10 Yetis have been unleashing on the public for a long time now; the scale of their pathetic avarice should not be underestimated:

Ministry of Truth – Sex Education, Churnalism and 10 Yetis – A Cornucopia of Crap

10 Yetis came to my attention in the middle of Nadine Dorries’ widely-mocked abstinence ‘education’ campaign when they released the results of an absurdly unprofessional and leading survey about parents’ attitudes to sex education. 10 Yetis refuse to say what prompted them to conduct and release this poll, but (a) I don’t think I am wrong to suspect that they saw a little media storm brewing and sought to exploit it, and (b) their refusal to answer this question and others honestly – or at all – is the reason for this post, so they may want to re-think their current ‘stonewall’ strategy.

(In fact, the good people at 10 Yetis should also be advised that if they are going to claim expertise in search engine optimisation, they will want to at least pretend to be dimly aware of the capacity your average blogger has for repeating questions in public when these questions are ignored and/or dealt with dishonestly in private.)

To be fair to Charlotte Horsfall (“Consumer PR Exec @10Yetis PR Agency”), not all of the following deceits are hers and hers alone. Some belong in no small part to her boss Andy Barr and anyone else who had a hand in conceiving/executing their bottom-feeding business model, but there’ll be time enough to address these people later.

Deceit #1

Charlotte Horsfall was asked who commissioned this survey/poll. Her answer:

BabyChild commissioned the survey of British parents of children age between 5 – 11 years.

‘BabyChild’ is the name of a white label store owned by the same people who own and operate 10 Yetis. To pretend distance by presenting them as a client is entirely dishonest; the poll was. in truth, self-commissioned; a PR company sought to promote their own web store through a survey.

Deceit #2

This one may not be entirely on Charlotte (it depends on who wrote/approved the press release) but the information was released in a way that risks giving a false impression that the survey was conducted by a company that had a relationship with a relevant customer base and/or some associated experience/expertise. White label stores do not work in this way, and in any case there is no evidence that the survey was conducted among customers of that store (see #3):

A survey has been conducted by a leading independent baby product review website in the UK to ask parents how they feel about their children learning about the subject in a school environment. www.babychild.org.uk polled 1,732 parents in the UK, with children aged between 5 and 11 years old. – source)

(Psst! 10 Yetis boss Andy Barr cannot pretend that this happened without his knowledge/approval, as he publicly gloated about the success of the PR stunt in which he is quoted as the co-founder of BabyChild.)

Deceit #3

Given what the press release claimed/implied, Charlotte Horsfall was asked; “Was the site conducted on your site, or among your customers in some other way?”

Instead of saying ‘no’ (which would have been an honest answer), Charlotte said this:

“BabyChild conducted the study by using an opt-in database that has access to over one million consumers all responses being anonymous.”

Charlotte has refused to elaborate any further on this, but if we’re to go by other amateur surveys they’ve conducted, this is a reference to the third party website SurveyMonkey, and somewhat akin to someone claiming they are part of the Murdoch media empire because they have a MySpace page.

So, not only are 10 Yetis dishonest, but they are the type of low-rent company who do things on the cheap while pretending theirs is a far grander and more professional affair than it really is.

Deceit #4

Charlotte Horsfall was asked if her company was a member of the MRS (Market Research Society). Her answer:

BabyChild are not members of the MRS.

The more correct answer is, of course, that 10 Yetis is not a member of the MRS (Market Research Society). This alone should make anyone wary of portraying them (and/or otherwise relying on them) as if they were a serious ‘pollster’; they are not.

In fact, 10 Yetis appear to conduct polls purely for the purposes of generating publicity (and this mainly for what they describe as “internal clients” when they stray anywhere near the truth).

Deceit #5

I’m going to close by including the full text of their entirely unscientific poll (below). The leading nature of the questions should be obvious (and this has been addressed by Unity in any case), but I would also like to draw the last three questions and their responses to your attention.

If one is to give this poll any credit, using these last 3 questions, one can use it to argue strongly for sex education in schools; the respondents’ children appear to seek information about sex at a younger age than it is taught in schools, and the majority of parents are ill-equipped to deal with it themselves.

10 Yetis could just as easily have come out against what Dorries proposed, because the ‘findings’ of this poll are a meaningless muddle of mendaciousness. Not that such an effort would be welcomed by anyone supporting an evidence-based position; this is an amateur effort that sought to jump on board a debate about our children’s sex education in the hope that this would generate some cheap publicity.

Well, here we are, 10 Yetis; here’s your publicity. Choke on it.

The 'BabyChild' survey conducted by 10 Yetis

[Psst! I know times is tough, but if you are working as an employee or ‘intern’ for these no-hopers, you could do better. You may even wish to seek out PR experience with a charity, or some other organisation that puts the public interest ahead of pathetic profit streams. You’re likely to do far less damage that way, and you may sleep better most nights.]

UPDATE – Some related posts:
Cath Elliott – The great 10 Yetis circle jerk
Richard Bartholomew – An Abominable Sex Education Survey








Posted by Tim Ireland at April 20, 2011

Category: Consume!, Humanity, Search Engine Optimisation

In the coming weeks and months, I am going to be writing quite a lot about a goal-oriented philosophy I have dubbed scaling. Several projects will be based on this same philosophy.

For reasons that should become clear to you almost immediately, I wish to begin with the modest goal of explaining this philosophy and the dual meaning of the word ‘scaling’ when it’s used to describe it.

‘Scaling’ is a term I first applied to a specific method in search engine optimisation where you gain immediate if modest returns via search engines, and then gradually build on this over time in a way that brings ever-present and increasing rewards with each incremental improvement:

Scaling Relevance

OK, so now you know enough about Page Titles and their importance/role to understand this key example; what follows is a Page Title that is descriptive, contains a call to action, and also contains a combination of keywords that might be of importance to a site selling chocolate. A brand new site with no reputation to speak of has no chance of being the top search result for ‘chocolate’ immediately, but the site owner might hope to immediately/quickly be a high search result for a more unique (but still potentially lucrative) query such as ‘buy chocolate online uk’. If they work on the link popularity of their site over time, the likelihood of them performing for more lucrative queries increases, (important bit #1) they are enjoying increasingly lucrative rewards on their journey to this goal, and (important bit #2) they do not have to pay some joker money to come in and fiddle about with their keywords on a monthly basis because all of the relevant keywords are contained within a single, unchanging Page Title.

NomNom (UK) – Buy chocolate online

Contains:
– chocolate
– buy chocolate
– buy chocolate online
– chocolate uk
– buy chocolate uk
– buy chocolate online uk

Coordinating Relevance

Of course, the example above only takes into account a single page and Page Title, as it is designed mainly to help you appreciate the point (i.e. it is not a strategy in itself). What you need to do is scale your relevance on a site-wide basis, and it is here I hope you will understand how it is possible to generate a commanding search result for your entire product/service range without attempting to list every product/service on your front page, and how it is possible to have every Page Title on your site working towards your main keyword strategy without having the same damn Page Title on every single page. (I still see this on some sites. It makes me want to cry.) At the top are three Page Titles, one for the front page and one for each of the main categories, and under that is the keyword query pattern that should help you appreciate how scaling works on any scale:

NomNom (UK) – Buy chocolate online
NomNom (UK) – Buy dark chocolate online
NomNom (UK) – Buy milk chocolate online

chocolate
chocolate uk
buy chocolate
buy chocolate online
buy chocolate online uk
dark chocolate || milk chocolate
dark chocolate uk || milk chocolate uk
buy dark chocolate || buy milk chocolate
buy dark chocolate uk || buy milk chocolate uk
buy dark chocolate online || buy milk chocolate online
buy dark chocolate online uk || buy milk chocolate online uk

(read more)

This method is unpopular among SEO providers who seek monthly cheques from their clients, as it rules out any earnings from constant keyword shuffling and focuses investment on long term goals instead of short term gain through various shortcuts/sidesteps such as AdWords. However, for you to learn about the philosophy of scaling, you need to appreciate this choice of paths from the client’s point of view; if the client wishes to generate an immediate high search result for ‘chocolate’ or bypass the need for an organic result and instead place ads adjacent to the highest results, then a hefty investment will be required to either generate a sufficient number of inbound links to the site and/or pay for advertising bills.

This kind of journey involves a threshold that most of us could not hope to meet immediately, as it requires an enormous monetary investment of one form or another before any results/rewards come in:

Now compare this to the philosophy of building your site with a scaled generic keyword strategy (as outlined above) and making modest, ongoing investments designed to improve your site’s reputation:

When used to describe this philosophy, ‘scaling’ does not just apply to the increasing size of the goals and rewards at each step of the way (i.e. the measurement of amounts and dimensions); it also describes the journey you take on the path to your ultimate goal (i.e. your means of ascent via these same steps).

One thing that has put people off political blogging in recent years is the entirely false sense of scale pushed by ‘leading’ bloggers who have not only been cheating by lying about their traffic statistics for years, but responding to criticism by sniffily rejecting the author(s) as insignificant according to this scale, and asserting their authority over them using these same (fabricated) traffic numbers. It is in this way that they set themselves up as gatekeepers of information in a field where they themselves insist that information should be allowed to flow freely. (One of them even had a widely-understood policy of withholding link-love from anyone who dared to be critical of him. I’m sure I do not need to name names for people to understand the way this might be used to force an agenda on a false premise/mandate.)

Party politics involves a similar deceit that convinces not just candidates but voters that the only viable path lies through assimilation with established parties.

To give other examples outside of politics, until recently, the threshold one had to cross before you could hope to make a living from the music or video production industry was enormous; you were going nowhere fast unless you had a deal with one of the monster-sized organisations, who had a vested interest in maintaining that same threshold and associated illusions, seeking to justify it with the same flawed ‘quality’ argument I describe in relation to political blogging. A similar false threshold persists in the world of print.

I hope to awaken you to the possibility that in the 21st century, with the advent of the web especially, you do not need to scale impossibly steep inclines or beg for favours from the wazzocks manning the cliff-tops.

The rewards of this awakening are potentially immense; think about all the people who sold out their values and/or surrendered a great deal of personal power just so they might hope to secure a seat, gain a record deal, have a script produced, write for a newspaper, have a book produced, or get a product made and/or on the market. See Dragon’s Den especially on this last point, and the impossibly large amounts of expenditure retailers/supermarkets require before they will even stock your goods; this path leads only to stagnation, and dross, and the joy of eating out of a trough.

Scaling is about your right to realise your own potential, and making it happen through realistic and manageable means.

The philosophy not only allows for success in line with your potential, it allows you to halt, change direction*, or even fail part-way while still enjoying rewards… and without crashing disastrously to the ground.

Most importantly, it destroys the illusion that stops some people from moving toward their goals at all until it is far too late.

(*Sometimes a journey is required to help us learn more about our potential, and/or to offer us the insight that drives our goals. It is much easier to change direction gracefully when you are not falling off the side of a cliff.)








Posted by Tim Ireland at February 9, 2011

Category: Consume!, Tories! Tories! Tories!

Via @scotchtwit I discover there is a variety of potato (exhibitor grade) called the ‘Nadine’:

Potato ‘Nadine’ Exhibitor Grade (Solanum tuberosum)

Exceptionally smooth skin with shallow eyes. Cream flesh has firm, moist waxy texture and does not discolour on cooking. Double eelworm resistance and high common scab tolerance.

Even the picture is uncannily accurate:

Nadine screengrab

Can I get an ‘amen’?








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