EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

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 this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

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. Moving Away From Windows to GNU/Linux and the Abandonment of Windows as the Modest Proposal These Days

    Morale of GNU/Linux and an embrace of GNU/Linux is very high, despite recent propaganda from Microsoft MVPs and boosters (primarily security-themed and Munich-themed FUD)



  2. Korean Press Slams Microsoft Over Patent Extortion Against Linux/Android as New Abuses Resurface

    Harsh words from the national press of South Korea as Nokia's role in Microsoft's anti-Linux tactics becomes more apparent



  3. More Good News About Patents and Their Demise in the United States

    A roundup of news about software patents and patent trolls in the land where these thrive



  4. Links 31/8/2014: Linux 3.12.27, Akademy 2014

    Links for the day



  5. Links 30/8/2014: Jailhouse 0.1, *buntu 14.10 Beta

    Links for the day



  6. Links 28/8/2014: Many New Games, CTO of Red Hat Steps Down

    Links for the day



  7. We Are Gradually Winning the Battle Against Software Patents

    The once-elusive war on software patents is finally leading to some breakthrough and even the Federal Circuit reinforces the trend of software patents' demise



  8. Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) Companies Versus FOSS Moles (VMware, Sonatype, Xamarin)

    A look at three entities which pretend to be pro-FOSS but are actually FOSS-hostile and very much determined to replace FOSS with proprietary software



  9. Links 27/8/2014: GNU/Linux in Space, China, LinuxCon

    Links for the day



  10. FUD Against Google and FOSS Security Amid Microsoft Windows Security Blunders

    In the age of widespread fraud due to Microsoft Windows with its back doors there is an attempt to shift focus to already-fixed flaws/deficiencies in competitors of Microsoft



  11. Microsoft Spin Watch: IDG Turns to More Microsoft Propaganda, Hires Microsoft Boosters

    Media in Microsoft's pocket is telling Microsoft's lies and deceives the public for Microsoft's bottom line



  12. Microsoft's Massive Tax Evasion Becomes Better Known

    A new report about Microsoft's admission that it plays dirty tricks with tax (sometimes using moles in government) is increasing awareness of Microsoft's criminal aspects



  13. Links 25/8/2014: China's Linux Revolution Imminent

    Links for the day



  14. Links 24/8/2014: GNU/Linux Specialisation and Benchmarks

    Links for the day



  15. Links 23/8/2014: GNU/Linux Growth

    Links for the day



  16. Microsoft-Funded Attacks on Android Security and Patent/Copyright

    A look back at examples of people who smear Android and are receiving (or received) money from Microsoft



  17. Blowback in Chile and Munich After Microsoft Intervention

    Microsoft's attacks on the digital sovereignty of countries involves lobbying, corruption, an attack on standards (e.g. ODF), an attack on FOSS policies, and even an attack on accurate reporting (truth itself)



  18. The End of Microsoft is Nigh

    A look back at a tough year for Microsoft and a not-so-promising future



  19. Links 22/8/2014: Linux Foundation LFCS, LFCE

    Links for the day



  20. UPS Burned by Microsoft Windows, Gives Away Massive Number of Credit Card Details

    UPS is the latest victim of Microsoft's shoddy back door with software on top of it (Windows); attempts to blame FOSS for data compromise actually divert attention from the real culprit, which is proprietary software



  21. Microsoft's Funding of ALEC and Other Systemic Corruption

    Microsoft role in writing of laws by proxy, via groups such as ALEC



  22. Microsoft is Still Preying on British Taxpayers, Playing Politics

    Some news from the UK showing how Microsoft uses politics to extract money out of taxpayers, irrespective of their preferences



  23. Microsoft's Patent Troll Intellectual Ventures is Collapsing as 20% of Staff Laid Off

    More good news regarding the demise of patents as Microsoft's leading patent proxy is collapsing more rapidly than anyone ever imagined and software patents too are collectively doubted



  24. Links 21/8/2014: Conferences of Linux Foundation, Elephone Emerges

    Links for the day



  25. Links 20/8/2014: Linux Event, GNOME Milestone

    Links for the day



  26. Corruption Watch: Microsoft Lobbying Designed to Kill Chile's Free Software Policy and Promote Microsoft With Subsidies, More Dirty Tricks Emerge in Munich

    icrosoft is systematically attacking migrations to GNU, Linux and Free software, using dirty tricks, as always



  27. Vista 8 Such a Disaster That Even Microsoft Cannot Cope With It, Vapourware Tactics Start Early

    Microsoft's Windows-powered services are failing and Windows gets bricked by Microsoft patches, whereupon we are seeing yet more of Microsoft's vapourware tactics (focusing in imaginary, non-existent versions of Windows)



  28. On BlackBerry and Other Patent Trolls

    A roundup regarding patent trolls, starting with the bigger and latest joiner, BlackBerry's new patents apparatus



  29. Links 19/8/2014: Humble Jumbo Bundle 2 Betrayal, Mercedes-Benz Runs GNU/Linux

    Links for the day



  30. BlackBerry -- Like Microsoft Nokia -- Could be the Next Patent Proxy Troll

    BlackBerry is restructuring for patent assertion (i.e. trolling) in the wake of some alliances with Microsoft


CoPilotCo

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

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts