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Is the profile page designed to create spam lists?

By Jay Garmon Contributor ·
At some point, our privacy conversations were going to go down this road, so let's get the subject out in the open right now.

If this were a public forum, I'd probably get my hand slapped for the level of candor I'm about to engage in (it's happened before, which is why some of my own threads have been pulled in the past). But you guys are my guys, so I'm willing to put my cards on the table.

The community group's top priority right now is encouraging users to fill out their profile pages so we can know more about them. We have every intention of mining that data so we can tell advertisers and vendors exactly who our audience is, and what subjects they are interested in. We're no different from any other media company that way, except we want to collect data directly, without going through Nielsen ratings.

Does that mean you're going to get spammed because you fill out the profile? Only if you want to.

The only way a vendor or third party will get your e-mail address via TechRepublic (or other contact information) is if you explicitly give it to them during a white paper download. A high percentage of our white papers are "gated" and require that you tell the vendor about yourself and your employer, data which the vendor will then use to generate sales leads.

Will TechRepublic be skipping the middleman and directly selling your profile data to these vendors, so they can spam you without your permission? Absolutely not. That's bad business, and could become pretty painfully illegal here in the short term. So no, we won't do that.

Why the interest in the profile data, then? Because vendors pay us for most of the whitepaper downloads that occur on our site--but only if the "right" people download the white papers. Hypothetical example: Novell wants network admins downloading their NetWare white papers, but it has no interest in high school students who download the white paper so they can hack their school network. That's a useless lead. When Novell comes to us and says they want x number of leads--but they have to be netadmins from companies with at least 250 employees--we need to know whether we have enough people who fit that description on our site. Otherwise, we're taking a lead order we can't fulfill.

The profile data is necessary to help us ensure we aren't populating our white paper directory with content no one wants to consume, as well as help TR develop new articles, downloads, and newsletters that our audience most wants to see.

In a very real way, we're using the profile system to combat spam. Direct marketing--the root of much spam--is a pretty crude science. Take x number of names, assume y percent of people on the list will respond, blast the list and await conversion. Rather than ever try and target the list, you just get it as big as possible, and assume that some minute fraction will be interested and responsive. Sending more gets you more, inboxes be damned.

With the profile, we want to serve up hypertargeted content, based on the preferences you explicitly state. Our content. Vendor content. Third-party competitor content. Community content. All equal, all based on what you tell us.

Ideally, you'll be able to fine-tune the content you receive, so the only white papers you even see are those that precisely match what you're interested in. And even then, you'll have to explicitly download them and explicitly fork over contact data; we won't tell vendors a thing.

Moreover, the profile data will also be the basis for a host of social networking connections, but that's a secondary goal right now. Of course, it's Monday, and that could all change by Wednesday, but I wanted you guys to know what's going on before the spam paranoia overflowed.

We don't need to know who you are, just what skills you have, what duties you perform, and what you're interested in. That helps us cut down on spam by making sure vendors don't have to settle for crappy direct marketing.

Jay

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Perhaps

by Oz_Media In reply to Is the profile page desig ...

Hi Jay, perhas if you were to require THAT information SOLELY from anyone choosing to download whitepapers.

It could be listed as an opition in the main sign up form, "if you wich to download whitepapers..." or ven just as an addition on th whitepaper download page, as this is where the informtaion is provided. To offer a cliet an accurate list based in general user base is never going to be accurate enough for them.

I have worked VERY closely with LIST generators etc. as a call center manager in the past, and then helped control these calls made my call centers as a QA manager for the CRTC, I've seen both sides of the coin. Spam is no differet than telemarketing in the numbers respect, (hang on 3 minutes to post)...okay I'm back. Never mind WHO is creatig or buying these lists, they will ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS complain of inacurate data, it's just the way the idustry works, because they in turn sell THIER lists for the best dollar which is 100% dependant on information accuracy. If you pay $40,000 for a list, your marketign dept can verify and update that list and resell it to others for $50,000 and you actually make money by buying a list for your own marketing needs. you wil never please them completely, it can't be done.

If people WANT to gain access to your whitepapers, let them offer info at that point.

One thing I've noticed is that my login Id is not accepted on your downloads pages, I register again and set up password etc. Then the next time around it is no good again, so I register again (always with the same info) and so on.

Don't think for a second that TR is not a place for social engineering, although a few feeble attempts have been made on my own information (one turned up nothing but old info, the other was just an idle threat). I think it is the people that see this going on that are the ones most worried about such info on your site.

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My Take

by willcomp In reply to Is the profile page desig ...

I have no real problems so long as I control who contact information is released to.

There must be some price to pay for having such a superb FREE service. TR has to produce revenue somehow and I prefer it to be from corporations with deep pockets instead of users with shallow pockets.

The e-Mail address I use on TR is an alias tied to my "real" address. If I start seeing volumes of mail directed to that address, I would immediately suspect TR involvement in some manner. Just my way of tracking where what comes from.

Dalton

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Well Jay TR must be doing something right

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Is the profile page desig ...

I personally get more unsolicited e-mails from M$ Partners than from TR and I always chose the "Do not allow Third Party to contact me" option on the MS pages which seems a bit pointless to me.

Anyway most of what I've received via TR has proved useful and I for one fully understand the pressures on any business.

Incidental I loved the "This could all be changed by Wednesday" bit as I've done my fair share of developing and happily I've long since escaped that side of the business. Now my only main problem is with installing networks as what is originally quoted on generally bears absolutely no resemblance to what I finally deliver, but you just have to love the business with all of its pressures and unobtainable deadlines.

Don't you?

Now who do I complain to about the content of this discussion? {I hope things work out a lot better for you than you think they will!}

Col

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Vendor Mailings

by BFilmFan In reply to Well Jay TR must be doing ...

I never get any mail from vendors from vendors here. I am willing to trade my time at looking at an email for the following:
Pens
T-shirts
Hats
Stupid Office toys (light up bouncey balls are in high-demand and frequently stolen from my desk!)
Funny Advertising Posters (the one with the man with his head stuck up his butt has always been popular with everyone but the CEO, CFO and board room directors)

We're IT professionals. Most of us deal with the vendors for the freebies. And we all know it.

So when do I get some goodies?

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Come on be fair

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Vendor Mailings

We all know just why the CEO CFO and so forth are not happy with these things it's because they deride them and they seem to think that the invisible head up their own but is theirs.

In one of my previous jobs the management tried telling me who I could and who I couldn't speak to, I as usual ignored everything I was told and continued along as always funnily enough when I worked this way things got done quicker and my department was far more profitable.

In one case I was actually reproached for making too much money as that department was only supposed to be there for the benefit of the customers and we where only supposed to take in small amounts of work {the hard ones that no one else could fix.}

My only comment was if we where not making a profit I wasn't doing my job properly but I could cure the problem immediately if they consented to giving all my staff a massive pay rise we would again be in the RED. After that the complaints stopped.

Col

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