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It is better
to not be on
the web than
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John Sumser

is more
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John Gall

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(July 09, 2001) On Fisherman's Wharf, there is a famous panhandler, known around the world as the "Tree Man". He holds a recently pruned branch with leaves on it in front of his face. As tourists walk down the street, he jumps into their path screaming "I'm a tree, I'm a tree." He thinks it's art. The tourists find it amusing. The cops find it a nuisance. Local business people think it's damaging. Nobody cares enough to do anything about the damage. He, therefore, gets the privilege of living in his delusion.

The same sort of thing happens on the web. It's a very hot medium. Anyone with a branch can pretend he's a tree.

Unlike television (a warm media), paper ( a cool media), radio (a warm media), the web creates a feeling of instant intimacy. Somehow, text and images consumed from a screen create an unfiltered internal dialog unlike any of the previous forms of communication. The dynamic is little understood though widely experienced. Web based communications are instantly more credible and involving. It may be as simple as staring into the flickering display. It may be more than that.

In print, the word "we" sounds imperial. On the web, it is an inclusive term. In theory, people should come before profits. In reality, without profits, there is no room for people. In theory, a democracy is a good business. In reality, it is leaderless. In theory, lots of input all the time is a good thing. In reality, it creates a haze of distraction and results in bad decisions.

The Real World, like the web, is a hot media.

When the tree-man projects his fantasy into your world, it, at first, seems all the more real and threatening. The sad underpinnings of his desire to be important without long years of work fade into the screen and all you can see are the leaves. Poke a little further and you'll find vague accusations and groundless paranoia. In the final analysis, you'll find a need for attention and the desire to be important without doing the legwork. Give him his money and he'll go away. He's a panhandler, after all.

If this sounds obtuse, we apologize.

For the past several weeks, we've been dealing with an online version of the tree man. Capitalizing on current weaknesses in web technology, this person launched an aggressive assault on our brand, reputation, internal mail systems and business. Pretending that cruelty and mis-statement are somehow protected speech, our personal "tree-man" spewed oversized metaphors and pure venom. Were it a more competitive marketplace, we'd have assumed that it was the work of a competitor. Although the process was irritating, infuriating and damaging, it provided us with additional experiences in the web environment. (The more trafficked your website is, the more you are likely to encounter this form of terrorism.)

We found ourselves asking fundamental questions about the utility and importance of the web. We dug deeper into the Public Relations issues associated with online recruiting. We hired the nastiest lawyer we could find and sent him to discover the terrorist's identity prior to litigation. We increased the levels of site security and anti viral protections. We tried to learn from the experience while addressing the terrorist's criminal behavior. We filed the paperwork required to shut it off.

As Recruiters and members of the Recruiting industry, we've always had to deal with the sad, lonely and frustrated people of the world. In the purely physical days, they could be rooted out of the process through interviewing or by ignoring them. The web makes that harder. They weasel in through email, build websites and spread gossip through chat boards. As mentioned last week, we "monitor and sue when appropriate."

At interbiznet, we've always maintained a policy of ignoring anonymous communication. It's simply not a businesslike form of communication. We wonder about the real utility of recruiting systems that emphasize it. We simply can't process information without knowing something about the source. We rarely pay attention to email from free-email accounts unless the writer provides clear identification.

On the other hand, we pay very close attention to criticism from the e-Recruiting and Human capital universe. A letter from an identified reader or vendor will, when time avails, lead to an interesting dialog. We're not staffed to answer every piece of mail we get (although more advertising could certainly help with that aspect); we're not staffed to provide responses to every query for additional information on a topic (though we do offer consulting); and, we tend to be grumpy with people who want us to do their homework for free (we call them shoplifters in the office).

We clearly miss some things and misunderstand others. Our approach is to provoke thought and conversation by taking strong positions. Over the years, we've had to reverse ourselves (as we recently did in the case of Job-scraping services). In general, however, we're pretty consistently right about the direction of the marketplace. Where we're uncertain, we take positions designed to cause thinking.

That said, let's get back to business.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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© 2013 interbiznet.
All Rights Reserved.

Materials written
by John Sumser
© TwoColorHat.
All Rights Reserved.

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         Materials written
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