Friday, January 30, 2009

Online Advice

When the owners first send a mail asking employees to think about every phone call, yes every phone call, then attack floaters that their organisation has hired given the guidance from the top (guess where from?) over the years. Then in a more recent mail attacks the organisation for being lazy and sleeping on the job. This is not a good sign!
But now their 'celebrity' correspondent attacks people on the internet as having malafide intentions instead of engaging with them. I believe that a 4500 member group on Facebook is not malafide, rather it is symptomatic of a crisis. The best way of dealing with this is engaging with users. The Naval Chief drags up an old controversy and the only journalist to come to your defence is an old friend and the paper which prints your column but several others keep quiet - does the establishment concur or is the defence of the journalist not seen as worth it. 
I really don't know about the veracity of the allegations, I was in college during the Kargil War and really didn't bother watching every waking minute of it on telly. But we lost a lot of soldiers in that war and their memory, above all else must never be forgotten nor must Musharraf's treachery, remembering Kargil for this is stupid. 
But why are there so few defenders, why did Admiral Mehta have so many people back him? And there were people supporting him, you got that sense at dinners and parties. Have so many bridges been burnt over the years and do so many people have it in for her? Or is it the failure to recognise that there is a problem. And there is a way to deal with this problem, and not go about it in a ham handed way.
Let me think of some answers here.
Firstly, most blogs are not sensational or have thousands of readers. Many of them are small, personal and opinionated. However, if several thousand people all over the world have a negative opinion about you, something that can be gauged from a variety of sources such as Technorati, deal with it. The beauty of the internet is that it is democratic, it can give someone completely useless fifteen minutes of fame, it can also bring down somebody. I will agree that there is a lot of slanderous stuff online, like the stuff about me having sex in an ATM (I wish!). And yes, there are bloggers who will spread such unsubstantiated bunkum more and might cite Wikipedia as a source (the perils of trusting Wikipedia, then again journalists across India do, I mainly read Wikipedia for WW2 stories like this cool one). When the number of such bloggers is low, you can hopefully ignore it, but when a large number of the online population starts grumbling - take notice - and engage. You engage with readers and viewers - no wait, that is just Delhi dinner parties. 
But back to my point, the internet and especially Google Search is becoming rather integral to all our lives. Many of us do ego-search. Now when something like this happens, there is a lot of cross-linking across blogs. Now, if you have the Google toolbar on Firefox or IE (PS: anyone know how to see PR on Chrome?) you see a little green bar, that represents pagerank, which is calculated by a complex algorithm, that includes these links and the term. More links like this and your Google search results are doomed - well as you can see - they're not very good right now. Shit, I really didn't know they were that bad. Damn, I'd be pissed off if things were this bad too. 
Regulation is not the answer, because you can never shut up all your critics online, because you'll have critics everywhere. You'll have your supporters too. But many critics can be won over if you bother to engage. They're not like the Pakistani government mired in decades of thinking of India as the enemy. They're desis, like all desis they have strong and often misguided and misinformed opinions, I mean we still vote criminals in huge numbers into Parliament. That is not the point, as an opinionmaker, your job is to not only shape opinions but also to an extent be shaped by opinions. The latter part isn't happening.
Oh, and the next time you say 'Regulate the Internet' - don't expect online support for the 'Please do not regulate TV Channels' plea that you guys will put out. Listen, recognise the internet as the future of media distribution, engage with it, participate in it and not just with 'zombie fans', and hey... maybe next time, the shit won't hit the fan. This is not meant as an ill-itentioned post. I don't want to get at anybody nor do I have any malafide intentions towards anybody, but this sort of whacked out response bothers me.

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