Playing the Wordy C Book Club blogger game by FCC Rules...
Because I spend an inordinate amount of time being silly on-line some of you periodically forget that I am a Paralegal. Translated: Sometimes I actually write something useful for you to read. Today, I am going to go out of my way to be somewhat useful because I have to answer some book club e-mail (a lot actually - sigh) so lets start with the this is not legal advice disclaimer and have a general conversation about blogging within the rules.
I am an independent contractor running a small business so I believe Advertising Practices and Answers for Small Businesses is a must read 36 page PDF. I'm bringing this to your attention because I figure if I start with the nice government PDF you'll forgive me for the hypothetical hell I plan on putting you guys through later (LOL). I write across 45 websites and am not silly on-line all the time so this is me letting a few of you know that some of you have managed to flip my b*tch switch this evening. Consider this my inspired answer for those of you daring to mess with my newbie writers... I take being a mentor seriously and will be sending a few of you links and there may be homework (said the mentor from hell). I want us on the same page so I am going to quote the government and ask you some questions. Ready? Read... ;-)
Question: Did you know that "Hearsay is "a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted." Fed. R. Evid. 801(c) (emphasis added). "A 'statement' is (1) an oral or written assertion or (2) nonverbal conduct of a person, if it is intended by the person as an assertion." Fed. R. Evid. 801(a) (emphasis added). The Rules of Evidence do not define an "assertion." However, courts have held that "the term has the connotation of a positive declaration." See, e.g., United States v. Lewis, 902 F.2d 1176, 1179 (5th Cir. 1990); Lexington Ins. Co. v. W. Penn. Hosp., 423 F.3d 318, 330 (3d Cir. 2005). Many courts have categorically determined that computer records are admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 803(6), the hearsay exception for "records of regularly conducted activity"--or more commonly, the "business records" exception--without first asking whether the records are hearsay. See, e.g., Haag v. United States, 485 F.3d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 2007); United States v. Fujii, 301 F.3d 535, 539 (7th Cir. 2002); United States v. Briscoe, 896 F.2d 1476, 1494 (7th Cir. 1990)." ??? Tweet much? Facebook much? Blog much? Talk smack in e-mail much? Is social media part of your regularly conducted activity tied into your business activities? Advertise in social media much? Does Blog = Business Log?
Hello newbie blogger. Are we thinking yet? My pretend job as a virtual mentor is to get you to think... Need legal advice? Go ask a lawyer. Paralegals do not give legal advice/opinions. Realtors have no business giving legal advice either. If a broker starts giving you a legal opinion and is not a lawyer run like hell... If you are a wee bit curious where I'm going next, hop on over to that first link for "Advertising Practices and Answers for Small Business" because next I'll be Quoting From Page 3: Under the Federal Trade Commission Act: (1) advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive; (2) advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims; and (3) advertisements cannot be unfair. According to the FTC’s Deception Policy Statement, an ad is deceptive if it contains a statement — or omits information — that: (a) is likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances; and (b) is “material” — that is, important to a consumer’s decision to buy or use the product. According to the Federal Trade Commission Act and the FTC’s Unfairness Policy Statement, an ad or business practice is unfair if it causes or is likely to cause substantial consumer injury which a consumer could not reasonably avoid, and it is not outweighed by the benefit to consumers.
For the newbie bloggers trying to market themselves and their interests/businesses you really need to get this.
FYI: I like quoting the government when I want to make a point. It keeps me out of trouble too (LOL). Learn that trick when you want to say something factual and not waste time debating the unsubstantiated opinions of your rivals who want to control your blog. YOU, the writer are responsible for what you write on your blog. If you don't look into your subject but let someone dictate its content, ask yourself if you want to be the one holding the bag because someone told you writing something is a good idea to bring you traffic through controversy...
Wordy C Point of Order: The irreverent parody and facetious snarkiness that periodically litters my intellectual property goes out of its way to avoid libel, slander and defamation within the playful insults marking my misbehaving/misconduct engaged in between me and my social media friends.
FRIENDS being the operative word because if you engage in a blog war with the wrong person you may possibly find yourself in litigation. Anything is possible... If that unfortunate event ever happens, pointing to X, Y and Z blogger(s) as an example of why you think your sanction is unfair is not how you influence people and make new social media friends or get you out of your hypothetical woe. You should not want to be me or any other blogger. You should always want to be yourself.
If you have mad funny loyal friends like I do then by all means have fun with your friends but if you don't have the same type of social media relationships because you are delusional or mistaken regarding how much you think you are liked/esteemed then BEWARE the coming virtual smack down. It will come if you cross the wrong person spoiling for a real fight while you play fight with them. The Internet is littered with examples of soured relationships. Heed the warning when people ask you to chill because some people may only warn you they are serious once... I have had to moderate/arbitrate enough behind the scene squabbles across several forums to know exactly what I am talking about...
Social media peeps have electronic accounts that time stamp and document interactions. If you've been talking to people for four years who introduce you to people over the summer who introduce you to people two days ago, never assume the two day person will have the same tolerance for your humor the three month or four year social media person may have. Some people click right away and some people never find comfortable common ground even though they have a person or interest in common.
Advice: Learn how to play with the people you know and be quick to apologize to everyone when you are in the wrong or make a social media mistake you don't know you are making and someone tries to whisper in your ear in an effort to help you. Just because one person does something doesn't mean you can do the same exact thing. When in doubt, ask, ask and ask again. The whole point of being in social media is to be social, not set yourself up for a lawsuit because you followed behind people who don't know the person, platform, group, club, community and/or FCC rules.
If you are a business person active on-line make no mistake about this: YOU ARE POTENTIALLY MARKETING YOURSELF WITH EVERY COMMENT AND MICRO-BLOG YOU MAKE. You need to know the rules. Yes, there are rules. If you don't learn them Facebook and Twitter could theoretically be just as dangerous as an errant blog moment. Think I'm kidding? Pssst... Google is your friend. Go play in the search engines and read the rest of this post later...
For the peeps sticking with this conversation: We all need to be on the same page so you need to continue by reading the FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION 16 CFR Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. For those of you with short attention spans here's the 20 page sum and summary PDF version. For the rest of us who actually enjoy reading novels and can keep up with a massive bit of ambiguous confusion spawned by a government who clearly enjoys running amok in the regulation our lives, click here for the infuriating short version.
Yes... I said INFURIATING SHORT VERSION. Some of the examples will make you go WTF? Seriously? Oh... okay. Um.. OMG - WTF??? (but only if you're a thinker who likes to argue and debate - LOL) ;-)
Made you NOT want to read that, did I? Um... Well... I was kinda playing toward some of your negative expectations, after all it is a government PDF (and I did promise you a wee bit of hell - evil grin).
Don't let my being irreverent fool you. The short version is really quite useful for starting arguments (and only 12 pages of miniature hell) but since some people can't stand blog posts with more than 600 words I have to get my snarky digs in now to make the negative people run because this is going to be an off-centered Wordy C post of more than 600 words (LOL). Psst... I like being facetious when I answer my e-mail (and sneak the useful stuff in - silly grin). Besides, if I don't link to it someone else will and say I missed it (evil grin) after all, you are going to want more examples of how NOT to get into trouble, eh?
THE FCC GUIDE has a wealth of interesting facts for one to ponder like:
"For purposes of this part, an endorsement means any advertising message (including verbal
statements, demonstrations, or depictions of the name, signature, likeness or other identifying
personal characteristics of an individual or the name or seal of an organization) that consumers are
likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experiences of a party other than the
sponsoring advertiser, even if the views expressed by that party are identical to those of the
sponsoring advertiser. The party whose opinions, beliefs, findings, or experience the message
appears to reflect will be called the endorser and may be an individual, group, or institution."
For the curious, I'm writing this post specifically for the newbie bloggers and a couple of oldies who want to run a fun book club like mine. Unfortunately, I was sent negative book reviews for "an opinion." This is me stating I hate books that suck and wont waste the valuable digital real estate of any of my blogs writing a negative review. I might give it a low star rating on Amazon but I'm not going to say anything in writing about it.
Writing is subjective.
We all like what we like.
Why trash a writer if you don't have to? If you feel you must you certainly don't need my permission to do so. I will not do it for you either. If I trash someone it is because WE have issues - me and that person. Ranting has never been an issue for me (LOL). Neither has defending the people I care about. Those battles I get to pick, not someone else... Book Club matters to me and if you start your own then do it well, be fair and let it be how you really feel about the subject you are writing about.
If I have an objective criticism that I think may make something better I start by asking authors questions, not trashing them. I believe I can write a better review if I understand the virtual world the story is confined to. You need to discover what works for you. Besides, my ideas may be the ones that suck if I don't understand the authors or characters so who made me the taste master of the moment, eh? Don't let people send you to other people like you are incapable of forming an intelligent opinion regarding something you read. Only an idiot would hold Dr. Seuss and Edgar Allen Poe on the same five point check list so stop asking me about how I do it. I'm always talking about my fave authors on my blog so if you haven't figured out I actually talk to them in social media then what more can I say? If you don't read and enjoy romance novels why would you review one? So you can piss on a rival's review? Seriously?
The only way you are going to drive traffic to your site is if you have original content people want to read.
Want to write a book review? Learn the genre, learn the authors in a genre and write from reading experience not hubris. Writing book reviews is always subjective... Write them if you care about the book. If you are going to write them be fair... Don't be negative because you want to incite a particular type of conversation or think to promote a rival by knocking another writer. Asking me to opine on your negative book review is like asking me to write a blog post about the fact you don't have the balls to stand by your own opinion and want to drag other social media peeps into your shit... Newbies, don't get caught up in that. E-mails can be forwarded and captured by court orders, which is why I like answering my e-mail in public sometimes but I digress...
Back to the FCC Guide point of order - PLEASE Note: I am the individual and Book Club is the virtual group. When my book club bookies write their own blog posts, they are each individuals and Book Club is still the virtual group... Some of the participants are in the ActiveRain Group Club Chaos while some members are not and host their own group forums across cyberspace. Why is that important? Because you do not want to be held responsible for what other people write... Seriously...
The other bloggers who hang out with me are free to write what ever they want so it is a misconception hat I have a monopoly on the bookies. I don't, it's impossible and I wouldn't want to ever be held responsible for something someone else wrote. I will delete a comment off my blog in a New York minute so don't even think of starting crap over here. Got something positive/negative you want to say - go write your own blog post.
We need more bookies sharing good reads. It would be nice if other writers would populate the Realtors and Friends that Read group (and create more forums to share what ever it is that interests them). It happens to be a very nice ActiveRain forum with approximately 90 ActiveRain members and could use more readership opinions and book reviews because I post way too much over there and there needs to be an equitable balance. If you are going to write endorsements (book reviews are endorsements / marketing / advertisements) there are three points of order from § 255.1 General Considerations you need to pay attention to:
(a) Endorsements must reflect the honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experience of the
endorser. Furthermore, an endorsement may not convey any express or implied representation that
would be deceptive if made directly by the advertiser. [See §§ 255.2(a) and (b) regarding
substantiation of representations conveyed by consumer endorsements.
(b) The endorsement message need not be phrased in the exact words of the endorser, unless
the advertisement affirmatively so represents. However, the endorsement may not be presented
out of context or reworded so as to distort in any way the endorser’s opinion or experience with
the product. An advertiser may use an endorsement of an expert or celebrity only so long as it has
good reason to believe that the endorser continues to subscribe to the views presented. An
advertiser may satisfy this obligation by securing the endorser’s views at reasonable intervals
where reasonableness will be determined by such factors as new information on the performance
or effectiveness of the product, a material alteration in the product, changes in the performance of
competitors products, and the advertiser’s contract commitments.
(c) When the advertisement represents that the endorser uses the endorsed product, the
endorser must have been a bona fide user of it at the time the endorsement was given.
Additionally, the advertiser may continue to run the advertisement only so long as it has good
reason to believe that the endorser remains a bona fide user of the product. [See § 255.1(b)
regarding the “good reason to believe” requirement.]
I don't get paid to do this. I do this because I love supporting the work of amazing artists and the authors we love paint fabulous pictures of virtual worlds with words... Their characters are our virtual friends we like to keep tabs on. Their new projects are the focus of our incessant chatter and undivided interest.
P.S. Twitter and Facebook posting is considered micro-blogging. If you have a business page/stream over there FCC rules apply. You have to disclose what your endorsements are based upon. If someone pays you to say or promote something you better fess up or you're breaking the rules... Just sayin' you might want to know what I know before you pretend to act like me. There really is a method to some of my fangirl madness and I love the collective, creative minds of my fave authors. They are bloody brilliant (so go write about people you like and stay out of trouble - LOL). ;-)