The trio that brought us Blue Security and their Blue Frog, the DOSing service that planned to DOS spammers, and that went belly up after a spammer instead DOSed them (well, duh), has apparently decided that spamming is more lucrative (again, well, duh), and has founded a new company called Collactive to do just that.
Eran Reshef, Amir Hirsh, and Rotem Nir, all founding executives of the defunct Blue Security, are the CEO, President, and VP of Legal and Finance, respectively, of the new Collactive. Joining them is a fourth Blue Frog cronie, Itai Lahan, who was director of product management at Blue Security, and is now VP of Products at Collative.
So, just what is Collative, and why is this newsworthy?
Imagine that you post something to Digg, or YouTube, or Del.icio.us, or another social networking site.
Now imagine that you want to get it voted up to the top of that site.
How about if you could pay to have hundreds – maybe thousands – of people who may not have actually read what you posted – who may not even <b>care</b> what you posted – nonetheless vote for it?
That’s what Collactive does.
How much would you pay for that?
And just how ethical is it?
Well, we can’t help you with the first question, because there are no prices up on the Collactive site – you have to submit a request and let them contact you.
But we can help you with the second question – it’s not ethical at all.
Why not? Well, let’s look at how it works. Using the Collactive interface, you’d create an “APB” (All Points Bulletin) about your story in the Collactive system, and “send that to your fifty friends,” says the Collactive site. “They’ll receive a nicely formatted email with a BigYellowButton(tm) that will prompt your friends to take immediate action. When they click through to read the article, they’ll see your talking points alongside the article itself, along with another BigYellowButton(tm) next to the article that will prompt your friends to take action. Your friends will stop being passive readers and become active participants.”
Ok, so far that doesn’t sound so bad, does it? If all 50 really are your friends, why they’d want to vote for your story, right? But what if, for example, they are your 50 employees? Is it ok to game a system by requiring your employees to vote for your post on Digg?
What if they are complete strangers who never even bothered to read the story – who just voted for it with a Pavlovian click of the mouse because that’s what Collactive users do for each other, right? After all, if they don’t vote for your Digg, YouTube, or del.icio.us story, maybe you won’t vote for theirs. That’s how these things (and the human psyche) work. (Don’t believe us? Read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – it’s eye opening!)
Of course, nowhere in the Collactive marketing material on the Collactive site does it come right out and admit that this is how it will work. In fact, a casual reader could assume that this really is just a system for you to let your friends – and only your friends – know about a story you just posted. Kind of like a phone tree. Of course, we all know that people just email their friends, or have them subscribe to RSS feeds for that. You don’t need a service – especially to pay a service – for that.
But as it happens, we like reading those pages on a site that most people avoid like the plague like, oh, privacy policies and terms of service. And here’s what the Collactive terms of service reveals:
“IF YOU USE THE PARTICIPATION SERVICE YOU HEREBY AGREE TO TAKE THE FOLLOWING ACTIONS AND GRANT THE FOLLOWING AUTHORIZATIONS TO COLLACTIVE INC.:
You agree to become a member of Collactive Inc.’s user community (the “Collactive Community”).
Users who use the Management Service (â€œManagersâ€?) may send You APBs.
You understand that when using the Services, You will be exposed to APBs from a variety of Managers…”
In other words, you can bet your sweet bippy that what we have here is a Digg gaming (or
From their “enterprise” section:
“The Internet is no longer static: it’s a dynamic Web 2.0 stream of news, opinion and information designed to be clicked, moved, commented or voted on and then sent to others to do the same. Collactive’s commercial service makes it clear and simple for groups to make their voice heard through collective action via Web 2.0 sites…. The APB is a call to your supporters to take collective action. A single click gives them the power to impact the news cycle.”
The power to impact the news cycle.
That must be “Web 2.0″ for “game the system.”
Is it right? Is it ethical?
But let’s put that question aside for now, because there’s more…
Next, says Collactive, “The Collactive APB would activate Yahoo’s ‘email this’ feature to email this story forward. Emailing a story creates a two-fold effect â€“ it increases the readership with the immediate email recipients and also increases the chances of this story hitting the ‘most emailed’ list at the site.”
So, now Collactive is encouraging all of your ‘friends’ to spam your story to all of their friends.
“Your Collactive APB will harness the collective action of your friends and supporters, taking a story or video that might have only been seen by a few hundred people and making it visible to thousands, even millions of people on the Internet.”
Currently Collactive will help you game Digg, Del.icio.us, Reddit, YouTube, Netscape, and Care2 (a social networking site for activists). And, says Collative, they are “working hard to add more sites to this list.”
“Your story will no longer be a random entry buried in a public forum, but an important item featured on the front page of a popular website.”
Of course, they can’t promise that, but people will sure pay for that, won’t they?
And that’s what not only Reshef, Hirsh, Nir and Lahan are banking on, but so is Sequoia Capital, because, yes, somehow again these folks have managed to get venture funding for one of their ideas. I wonder how much Benchmark lost on Blue Security, and whether Sequoia considered that.
If you aren’t thoroughly bemused by now (or maybe more), let us leave you with this thought, straight from the horse’s mouth:
“Collactive democratizes Web 2.0 sites by providing simple, easy to use tools for lay people to access and influence content that was designed and built to be accessed and influenced.”