08.19.09

Visible Technologies Funded by Former Microsoft People

Posted in Marketing, Microsoft at 4:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

May Also be Breaking British Laws That Forbid Buzz Marketing

Tin man
Bot-guided pseudo-opinions

Summary: Unethical marketing firm funded and run by Microsoft veterans, who are managing some of Microsoft’s brands by intervening in social networks

YESTERDAY we wrote about Visible Technologies, which manages perceptions [1, 2] for Microsoft. We showed that there were many incidental connections between Microsoft and Visible Technologies at the business and staff level, but a financial relationship was not shown at the time. After some searching we managed to find who funded Visible Technologies when it was younger. It turns out that they are funded by ex-Microsoft staff via the Ignition shell that we wrote about before. It is filled with former Microsoft executives who give money strategically.

From the Seattle P-I:

Visible Technologies, which is announcing $12 million in venture funding Monday from Ignition Partners and WPP Group, is trying to solve that problem. The 4-year-old Seattle company’s products not only allow clients to track conversations on blogs and news sites, but also actively participate in them.

[...]

As a result of the investment, Michelle Goldberg of Ignition Partners has joined the board.

Goldberg said that Visible has a compelling technology that helps companies manage their online reputations.

Michelle Goldberg used to be at Microsoft. The large majority of Ignition Partners is just Microsoft veterans. To the naked eye, however, the investment above would probably trigger no suspicion.

It did not take long for more Microsoft veterans to join this company which does the AstroTurf campaigns for Microsoft (where such practices, when used in a more political arena, are also causing trouble like war, global warming, and other travesties that promote or justify harm in exchange of money). Here is Visible Technologies and Microsoft exhibiting together like a couple:

Webcast with Visible Technologies and Microsoft

On Thursday May 22nd I’ll be participating in a webcast with Blake Cahill from Visible Technologies and Marty Collins from Microsoft.

Visible Technologies has another site, called “VisInsights”. It’s like another identity, just like TruCast and TruPulse. “Another visible technologies site [is] trureputation.com,” says Ryan. The “About” page of VisInsights says:

Visible Technologies LogoVisible Technologies is a leading provider of online brand management solutions for companies and individuals in today’s rapidly changing new media environment

The site contains big tags like “Brand Management” and “Reputation Management”. They are also concerned about some of their practices seemingly becoming illegal here in the UK. Those British laws must be such a nuisance to them!

Buzz Marketing techniques to become illegal in UK?

[...]

I am not sure how this one slipped by me late last week but thought I would share the update from the IPA in the UK. Effective on the 26 of May 2008 certain activities will become a criminal offense when the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations becomes effective.

Seeding positive messages about a brand in a blog without making it clear that the message has been created by, or on behalf of, the brand will be an offense. Using “buzz marketing” specialists to communicate with potential customers in social situations without disclosing that they are acting as brand ambassadors will be an offense.

From the comment found here:

Last night I read an article in the Post Intelligencer about this company called (ironically) Visible Technologies that’s in Seattle. Their whole job is to monitor comments about their corporate clients that show up on blogs, forums, etc., and report back so that the company can respond. I think ‘anonymous’ is a faceless man in a suit.

Based on the Seattle Times, Visible Technologies may leave no disclosures. Microsoft certainly does not [1, 2, 3]. Yesterday we quoted from the The Seattle Times the following: “Clients pick an “author” or opt for anonymity. Visible [Technologies] also has a virtual army — thousands of personas registered with online forums.”

“So many to choose from,” remarks Ryan, “I wonder how many postings on forums are the same person from Visible Technologies replying to themselves. As of August 2006, they only had 28 employees, so either they did some hiring or those 28 employees are each 10 different people on every forum they “monitor”.”

Professor Walter Carl had something to say about such marketing techniques:

One of the age old debates by many who don’t know much about Word of Mouth Marketing is the argument that it’s okay to pay people to be a shill for a company. The problem is that many of them never reveal who they are working for. There’s a good interview with Professor Walter Carl of Northeastern University on NPR. I recommend you give it a listen!

Here is an example of AstroTurfing gone bad. Visible Technologies is quoted in the article.

Marketing campaign sinks Cruise Critic

[...]

“People are looking to people online to validate a purchase,” says Blake Cahill, senior vice president of marketing at Visible Technologies, whose clients include Microsoft and Panasonic.

More insight comes from here where Visible Technologies gets mentioned:

Most social data aggregators (like TNS, who is great, along with many of their stellar competitors like Visible Technologies, Radian6 et al) usually apply sentiment scores using a mix of people and programs. Unless a live analyst (fluent btw in both the local language and vernacular) is making the decision about whether a post to a blog or a tweet or blip is positive, negative or neither/neutral, you should be very suspicious of the accuracy – and more importantly, actionability – of any “score”.

And it gets expensive quickly asking a live analyst to manually read, assess and score hundreds of thousands of such posts or tweets. So we all rely on technology to help, and it’s a great but not perfect science.

You can do like we do and create language cartridges specific to the product domain or category and that helps. Or have our social media analysts scan samplings of the machine scored outputs of our data aggregator partners and fine-tune the “sentiment scores” from this.

Some time ago, Visible Technologies hooked up with the Aberdeen Group to justify its practices, just like Microsoft's patent troll, Nathan Myhrvold, funded a so-called ‘study’ to justify his hoarding/trolling which harms everyone.

Companies are learning how to leverage social media and tap into the rising tide of consumers participating in social network sites, blogs, wikis and Twitter.

According to the “The ROI on Social Media Marketing” report from the Aberdeen Group, sponsored by Visible Technologies, marketers have developed the tools and methodologies to drive marketing ROI by listening to and learning from customers and prospects.

Visible Technologies’ TruCast is also abused in other areas of society:

“some of them are fakes” … but that doesn’t stop MSNBC, CNN, and FOX from reporting the fake information as news… that should tell you something right there.

The way that is happening is they didn’t come out of Iran in the first place. A firm like Burson-Marsteller has been behind them from the beginning, using technology they readily advertise on their website called TRU-CAST (which basically means, in the new Orwellian Speak, “lying on the webcasts”). They’re “shaping” the story to help force a regime change in Iran through the use of social media site like FaceBook and TWITTER.

“The understanding of “sentiment” allows us to FOCUS THE MESSAGE in a way that traditional media would not allow us to do.” Visible Technologies talking about the tool Tru-Cast

[...]

TruCast (Visible Technologies): Burson-Marsteller partners with Visible Technologies to helps clients interact, manage and grow their brands in the blogosphere and social media communities. With TruCast, Burson-Marsteller clients gain the following benefits:

o Social Media and Blog Monitoring to track viral conversations about the client’s brand and products and to react quickly to online dialogues affecting the brand
o Social Media Learning and Measurement to brand Influencers and activists, assess the conversation volume about your products and brand
o Social Media Marketing and Customer Engagement to drive influential peer-to-peer, word-of-mouth promotion and measure marketing programs and media campaign success

[...]

“The Visible Technolgies “Tool-kit”, the Tru-Cast Platform, the “Engagement Console” enables us to actually ACTION that analysis, to LEVERAGE that insight. It enables us to participate in the conversations, to FOCUS OUR MESSAGING… to help us better target how we place our messaging

Some other names of companies that engage in similar practices can be found here: (we saw some before [1, 2])

Radian6 has many competitors like BuzzLogic, Nielsen BuzzMetrics, and Visible Technologies. Brogan argues that these services are too expensive, charging upwards of $50,000. Radian6 has some solutions that are as low as $500/month. The big difference, said Brogan, is with Radian6 you get the toolset, not just a report at the end of the month that tells you what’s happening. Other services may charge you for every requested change. Radian6 lets you change the terms and tweak until you see what you need to see.

Marketing firms go further than this and may even create fake blogs (or “flogs”).

Whether it’s creating a “flog,” or posting a shill review on Amazon.com, many people have taken to using the Web to help shape opinion, while also obscuring their own identities.

There’s this recent article from Business Week.

If “pay per post” lets online writers shill for cash, why not go all the way and sell real-life opinions, too?

Well, Microsoft has done that too. Microsoft bribed professors who mentioned its software. Here is Microsoft’s Jon Udell speaking about Visible Technologies.

You could of course monitor those conversations using the existing suite of awareness tools: search, link aggregation, tag aggregation. But a new breed of power tools is emerging, and she’ll be using the ones provided by Visible Technologies.

It must be exciting for Microsoft to ponder these prospects. “Those kinds of people are the reason I turned on comment moderation for all comments,” argues Ryan. “[The] default for WordPress is that after you approve one comment, anything else they post automatically gets added, so I had people make one innocent comment then spew a bunch of crap while I wasn’t looking.”

“Can’t you funnel this PR money into making your products not suck instead?”
      –Ryan
Chris Pirillo is associated with them,” he added. “Pirillo has been a Microsoft shill for a while. They send him Windows shirts and baseball hats and free copies of all their stuff. Pirillo blogs about them [there is a video there, too]. Good video, seems to explain what they do.”

In his own blog, Ryan concludes as follows: “It’s getting to the point where the web is so deluged with astroturfing agencies like Visible Technologies that you can’t trust anything you read, which is their entire goal to begin with.”

[...]

“If this page gets a hit from Visible Technologies or Microsoft, I’d like to say that instead of trying to yell over your critics, might I suggest actually fixing the very real defects in your products they’re complaining about?

“How much are you guys paying these people to do damage control for you after you turn our PCs into black boxes for the MPAA and decide to save $1 per unit on the XBOX 360 console by skimping on the cooling system leading to five times the failure rate of the PS3, and nearly ten times the failure rate of the Wii?

“Can’t you funnel this PR money into making your products not suck instead?”

“No other large companies as far as I know use their employees as attack dogs to silen[ce] dissent. It’s time for Microsoft to stop this nonsense.”

The Prickly Prince From Microsoft Strikes Again

Share in other sites/networks: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Reddit
  • email

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. Links 24/11/2020: Linux 5.9.11, Istio 1.6.14 and LibreOffice 7.1 Beta Released

    Links for the day



  2. Lots of Good News Today

    A quick roundup of news and key developments; most of them are positive and they give us hope



  3. Massive Collective Action Begins at the European Patent Office Today, Demanding Change and Forewarning the Management (Litigation)

    The financial "hoax" at the EPO (taking away money from staff to feed a gambling addiction of managers) needs to stop; staff has begun mass-mailing the management, threatening legal action



  4. EPO Management is Still Distracting From the 'Elephant in the Room' by Corrupting Media and Academia

    Under the EPO's dictatorship the law is being routinely violated; in order for the public to not pay attention or receive mixed messages (resulting in confusion) the EPO is manufacturing so-called 'studies' (which patent offices aren't supposed to do; they should focus on patent-granting while complying with the law)



  5. EPO's Central Staff Committee on Latest Meeting With Office Dictator: “No Meaningful Discussion Could Take Place.”

    Whilst allegedly preparing legal action the staff representatives at the EPO report on the lack of progress after so-called 'dialogues' (merely a false impression of consultation)



  6. Growing Concerns That EPO Staff Has Been Placed Under de Facto House Arrest by an Entirely Unaccountable Office

    "House arrest" is excessive and disproportionate. So says the Central Staff Committee of Europe's second-largest institution (which surprisingly enough the media is failing to properly study and investigate) as it highlights yet more human rights violations.



  7. IRC Proceedings: Monday, November 23, 2020

    IRC logs for Monday, November 23, 2020



  8. Internal Error: Unified Patent Court and Unitary Patent Incompatible With the Constitution and Basic Laws

    The FFII has issued a statement for Members of the Bundestag, Members of the European Parliament, Members of the Council, German Presidency of the EU, Chancellor Merkel, Commissioner Von Der Leyen, Commissioner Reynders, and Battistelli's buddy Breton



  9. The EPO is Using Hype Wave and Buzzword to Promote Illegal Software Patents in a So-Called “Digital Conference”

    The "HEY HI" or "AI" hype is misused by the Office; not just in person but also in webstreams, which basically serve as a vehicle for illegal agenda



  10. Dutch Delegation and German Delegation at the Administrative Council of the EPO Upset at the Office for Secrecy, Working Behind the Scenes to Crush Productive Staff

    Less than halfway through his term at the Office, Battistelli's buddy already faces growing criticism and, according to the Central Staff Committee, he "was emotionally affected by the intervention such that he was not able to effectively reply to the questions of the delegates."



  11. Links 23/11/2020: GNU Guix 1.2.0, Evaluating Precursor’s Hardware Security, Kdenlive 20.08.3, Kodi 19.x Beta, Vulkan 1.2.162

    Links for the day



  12. Links 23/11/2020: Linux 5.10-rc5, GIMP Turns 25, 4MLinux 34.2, Escuelas Linux 6.11, MPV Player 0.33

    Links for the day



  13. How to Put on Airs of Professionalism Like a Boss

    "Boardroom suits are not meant to be flashy, but to conform. Simple lines and smart ties -- the opposite of what Richard Stallman would wear, show that you are either a well-machined cog or a serious adversary."



  14. IRC Proceedings: Sunday, November 22, 2020

    IRC logs for Sunday, November 22, 2020



  15. Legal Action at the European Patent Office (EPO) Leveraged Against Management... for Robbing EPO Staff and Robbing Europe, by Extension

    The EPO is being looted for its value; the staff is rightly concerned and there’s legal action on the way, filed reluctantly as there’s clearly no other option (a last resort/necessary recourse)



  16. Cory Doctorow at Privacy Week 2020 on DRM, Freedom/Software Freedom, Regulation, Etc.

    “We Used To Have Cake, Now We’ve Barely Got Icing” by Cory Doctorow.



  17. Links 22/11/2020: KaOS 2020.11, Calindori 1.3, KStars 3.5.0

    Links for the day



  18. New Position Paper on the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Says It's “Not the Best Solution for Europe” -- Clearly an Understatement

    UPC proponents (profiteers) aren't enjoying support anymore; not only has progress stalled (come to a complete stop) but the whole debate about the UPC (or anything conceptually like it) turned toxic and negative because facts come out, overriding lobbyists of litigation giants



  19. Mortality Rates Increase at the EPO and Christmases (or Holidays) During Corona Mean Fewer Days Off

    There's still no sign (other than hand-waving and empty gestures/smiles) that the EPO's management wishes to right the wrongs and undo the damage done over the past decade or so; in some ways, today's management is worse than ever before (grossly incompetent and eager to break the law at every turn)



  20. Newly Abnormal: A Crackdown on EPO Staff and Labour Rights in 'Survey' Clothing (Willis Towers Watson)

    In a very characteristic fashion, with zero consultation/input from staff (or staff representatives/union leaders) EPO President António Campinos proceeds to implementing illegal ‘reforms’, assuring any remaining non-sceptics that he’s just another Benoît Battistelli



  21. IRC Proceedings: Saturday, November 21, 2020

    IRC logs for Saturday, November 21, 2020



  22. [Meme] Good Advice From the FSF, So It's Time to #DeleteGitHub

    A good gift for the FSF would be git; not GitHub, but git



  23. Go Distributed, Go Encrypted, Go Secure, Transparency Still Possible

    Earlier today we enhanced access to our (sometimes anonymised) IRC logs by issuing text (ASCII) versions, which will from now onwards be a nightly/daily occurrence; we're also making everything we publish accessible from a large number of IPFS nodes (akin to P2P)



  24. IAM Celebrating and Glorifying Illegal Patents With Fake 'Awards' and Bogus 'Endorsements'

    IAM's fake 'awards' are nothing more than business and agenda-steering lies; it's time to call out again the real corruption that's driving IAM (which is itself supporting and advocating corruption)



  25. Been There, Done That: Team UPC's 'October' Becomes 'Early November' and Now Late November

    The self-serving litigation fanatics who mislead their customers are still at it; Bristows says that UPC has no issues other than “delay”



  26. The Only Real Dialogue the 'European' Patent Office is Having... is With Litigation Parasites, Even Foreign Ones

    The EPO's mask falls off again, revealing a ruthless herd immunity-like mentality that welcomes patent trolls, threatens/condemns actual scientists, harms Europe and basically does a disservice to everybody



  27. Inside the EPO During Corona: SUEPO (EPO Staff Union) and the Central Staff Committee Blast the Office for Illegal Practices and Threaten Legal Action

    The Staff Union of the European Patent Office (SUEPO) and the Central Staff Committee (CSC) are escalating their tone; the management of the Office and the Organisation is running out of time as staff loses its patience and its tolerance for the repeated abuses by the administration



  28. IRC Proceedings: Friday, November 20, 2020

    IRC logs for Friday, November 20, 2020



  29. Links 21/11/2020: Coreboot 4.13, EasyOS 2.5, Wine 5.22, Gmusicbrowser 1.1.16

    Links for the day



  30. Links 20/11/2020: Xfce 4.16pre2 and Qt Releases

    Links for the day


RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

Recent Posts