I was going through my RSS feeds yesterday, when, to my surprise, I came upon a glowing review of the tech blog I used to write for. “Techi.com Will Not Bore You” proclaimed the headline! And when I clicked through, I read a shining review of how original the content and magnificent the site was. Surprisingly, for a design site, there was no mention of the site design itself, which, at least from this designer’s standpoint is plain, at best.
The sentence that really caught my attention, however, was “I’m familiar with the guy behind this project and can honestly say he knows what he is doing.” I, too, am familiar with the guy behind this project. His name is Walter Apai, and he is also the guy behind Web Design Depot, a clearinghouse for web design links that has had middling success on the web. He’s also a self-admitted control freak, micro-manager and will freely admit to knowing little to nothing about technology or how to run his business. From what I gathered while working together, he got lucky once and is hoping to replicate his success with Techi.com.
So, the problem is, I know full well that Walter doesn’t have any idea what he’s doing. And when I commented to that effect with my credentials on the post, my comment was “held for moderation” and then never appeared. That seemed strange to me, because my comment was relevant, on topic, and I was certainly qualified to comment.
So I commented again under another identity, also in a negative manner, to see how it would be treated, and it, too, was never posted. By now it was pretty clear that this was not a post that the author, one “Brant Wilson” wrote freely or because he was actually endorsing the product. Normal blogs and blog posts allow for free conversation and exchange of ideas, even when they may not fully agree with the poster or their ideas. I had suspected from the tone of the post that it was a plant from the start, and by this point I was pretty sure.
So I posted one final comment, letting the author know that one must indicate when one runs a paid advertisement, and that one cannot pass off a paid review as one generated organically.
SURPRISE!!!! Suddenly at the top of the “review,” this paragraph was added:
Disclosure: This is a paid review, if you wish to purchase a paid review for your website (I have a 90% turn down ratio so if I turn you down don’t take it personally) contact us
I don’t know about you, but for me, this pretty much trashes the credibility of both sites in one fell swoop. That disclaimer should have been at the top of the article from the beginning; it should not have taken mine or anyone else’s prompting to show up. As for Techi.com, this continues to underline the problem I have with Walter Apai- you can’t purchase credibility, you have to earn it. It’s not luck. Astroturf just isn’t worth it, it hurts everyone in the long run because it’s just fake, and the fake stays with you.