Work For Hire: Proper Attribution Vs. Blatant Content Theft

There...  Now It's Mine!

Kids, just because you say it’s yours does not make it so.

There’s a disturbingly large contingent of delusional people that feel that a consultant’s work is automatically “work for hire”.  These are the folks that feel they can buy an image for $5 and maintain exclusive rights or pay a web developer $100 and have a web site that is unique, professional, and functional.  What’s worse is that they assume that ownership of rights of use (think Creative Commons licenses) means full ownership – there’s a world of difference there, kids!

Personally, I feel the term work for hire is a dirty phrase.  The average client has tight budgets and can’t pay for full ownership and exclusivity yet the expectation is that a consultant or freelancer always offers their services as WFH.  This is simply not true, nor is it fair.  It’s bad business for all parties involved.

So, WTF is “work for hire”?

I’m no lawyer but I’ve dealt with lawyers and legal jargon enough to understand that there are explicit and implicit rules for establishing ownership to intellectual property or content of any sort.  “Work for hire” essentially means you work behind the scenes and maintain no rights.  When I do work as a ghostwriter, I get paid large sums up-front for the right to give up any credit.  This means I can’t make any claims to the work, not even on a resume, unless I keep it anonymous.  Ghostwriting is the exception to the rules stated herein and, unless you sign an NDA or NC contract that stipulates ownership explicitly, the rights to content and end products are shared as far as I’m concerned.  Am I wrong in thinking this?

Consulting is tricky because there are no real standards for billing rates but pretty much every client will try to underpay if they can get away with it.  This is understandable: everyone wants more profits and savings.  The typical assumption is that you do the work, then it’s theirs, and you move on until you’re needed again.  This is what I call “one and done” work – it’s a real grind and rarely worth the effort unless you’re desperate.  These days, I do not bother with work for hire projects because…

  • It rarely leads to referrals or future work (unless maybe I beg).
  • It is not very profitable, nor is it efficient use of time.
  • It pulls me away from things that create long-term value for my brand(s).

I appreciate the fact that everyone is looking for a deal and wants to maximize investments but no one wants to be an indentured servantProject parameters and boundaries must be set to protect all business interests and circumvent any squabbles.  I’m all for giving freebies and value-added services but I’m not going to work for peanuts and neither should you!

…And now for story/rant time with Yogizilla!

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What Winter Storm Pax Has Taught Me

Winter Storm Pax has taken the South by storm (pardon the pun). In Georgia, around 105,000 people were or are still without power. Over half a million people were part of the Southern black-out in Virginia, Albama, and Georgia in total. I am part of the fortunate few that does not have to wait until Saturday (February 15th) or later to have service restored. It’s been quite an experience!

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It was scary at first feeling so isolated. Nights were cold and dark. Roads were blocked and there was not much to do. With no Internet access and limited cell phone service (and battery life), it was like a taste of the apocalypse to some. Sure, that may seem extreme but, in our connected culture, never underestimate the effects of isolation and doing things the slow way!

Three whole days of no power has given me plenty of time to reflect on a number of things. Part of me is disappointed power was not restored sooner.  I was caught in the midst of scheduling a bunch of posts and preparing some new shows. We had to cancel HorsePLAY! LIVE last night, which sucks, but we’ll bounce back!

Allow me to share some introspective and personal development tidbits…

Gratitude & Perspective

Like many of the folks in Augusta and the CSRA, I am grateful to have my electricity return.  It was easy to get bitter about being in the dark (quite literally) but when you think about all the engineers, police officers, fire men, and other emergency personnel away from their families for long stretches of time, a fresh perspective dispeled such angst. Some of these folks worked double or triple shifts to bring people back online quickly.

We all have had our own trials and tribulations to deal with during the aftermath of Winter Storm Pax.  Some have had damage to their homes and vehicles, others have had to deal with injuries and death. These realizations are humbling.  I am grateful now, more than ever, for what My family has and less worried about what we lack.

Without this perspective, it would be easy to be cynical or jaded. One could say the diligent efforts of Georgia Power and other companies was purely driven by self-interest; after all, getting customers back online ensures billability. On the flip side, we have already established the diligence and sacrificed required to restore electrical grids throughout the South. Let’s not forget the efforts to clear all the trees and roads.

As a whole, I think many of us focus too much on white whine and first-world problems. We forget how much bigger the world is and how fortunate we really are. Be wary not to develop a sense of entitlement, folks. Every day is truly a blessing!

My thanks go out to those facing the bitter cold and dangers while helping restore order!

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Staying On Spec & Other Consulting / Subcontracting Tips

Thanks to Triberr, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and Google+ (okay, sometimes LinkedIn and Facebook too), I have gotten to know many of you in the blogosphere and B2B space. I don’t need to tell you how hard consulting is, especially if you work from home. Understanding our collective challenges and drawing from our discussions and collaborations together, I have compiled some handy-dandy tips and insights. Today, amidst all the buzz about Valve announcements and SteamOS, I’d like to take a look at a subject that I can (and will) write a book about:

Consulting & Subcontracting Tips: How to Play Nice with Cients and Their Contractors / Coordinators

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Subcontracting is probably the easiest way to bridge the gap between major projects and supplement our existing revenue streams. Consultants and agencies almost always will take help if they have overflow work and feel overwhelmed. The risks and challenges I have experienced firsthand are as follows:

  • Less opportunity to build a relationship with the client.
  • Usually more about tactics than strategy and creative control.
  • As a result of the aforementioned, you essentially have to be a hired monkey.
  • Chances are your relationship will be short-lived regardless of value added.
  • More taking orders than providing proven strategies and complete solutions.
  • Keeping the relationship going usually means stroking several egos.
  • Essentially becoming a ghost or uncredited entity.

In short, you have to do as you’re told even if you have a better, more cost-effective solution. You have to swallow your pride and realize a subcontractor relationship may only serve as a brief income source and, if you’re lucky, it will translate into referrals and full-time roles.

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Are You In The Service Industry? (HINT: We’re ALL in the service industry.)

Every now and then, I’ll see someone throw out the term service industry. Now there’s another one of those mis-used phrases and words. From my perspective, we’re all in the service industry.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that small businesses and start-ups are all about service. Yes, I said before that it’s all about storytelling but that’s what carries your service standards (or lack of them) further.

Think about this carefully: customer service is a huge part of what we do.. Without proper execution and end-to-end support, even the best design and systemization will fail. Knowing this stark reality, we see large corporations still getting it wrong and somehow coasting along. They’re always a quarter away from closing doors or being bought out for that very reason, I’d say.

So, yes, this is another one of my rants but I think this is a discussion we need to have, yes?
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Triberr Rocks, But Not For The Reasons Most Love It Or Hate It

So here I am doing my usual social media thing when I get mentioned on OsakaBentures.com via Disqus.

Before I go off on a tangent, I want to be clear.  I dig Saul and I appreciate that he sticks by his ideals and principles.  I just can’t agree with his views on Triberr, even if it’s the popular opinion (and I may get some tomatoes thrown at me), because it’s that sort of stuff that has made people hesitant or disdainful towards Triberr, IMHO.

Now allow me to rant about why I feel Triberr ROCKS but most people just “don’t get it”…

As I do my usual SEO schtick, I find tons of mis-representative content about Triberr.  Just Google “Triberr” – it’s rather overwhelming!  I’ll quote Nicole Crepeau’s Triberr article from Coherent Social Media:

In fact, there are things I love about Triberr:

I love the goal for which it was established: to give more exposure to smaller bloggers.

I love that being in Tribes can help keep your blog in front of your network and keep their’s in front of you.

I really like the new headline testing feature.

I like the way Triberr’s founders, Dino Dogan and Dan Cristo are ever present and responsive, and generally keep the discussion positive and professional–even when things have gotten a bit rough.

I like the fact that it’s working for people and increasing traffic to their blogs.

I like Dino’s thoughts about a union for bloggers, to enable bloggers to make a living at blogging.

There’s only one thing, actually, that I don’t like about Triberr:

I don’t like the auto-tweeting. 

I quote this not due to laziness but because I believe there’s no point in regurgitating what’s already out there on the blogosphere, especially when the aforementioned seems to be the consensus.  The automagical part is something folks either love or hate.  We get that.

No Triberr - From Coherent Social Media

"No Triberr.. BAD Triberr!" - Thanks Coherentia.com!

The problem with Triberr is not Triberr..  It’s YOU (shame on you!).  Okay, maybe not *you* specifically, but people that don’t use it in an ethical manner or at least manage expectations properly.

What we have here is an issue with semantics, framing, positioning, or whatever you want to call it.

I don’t get excited about the reach multiplier aspect.  I do SEO and I’ve seen how pure traffic is worthless unless you are engaging and have some decent concept about inbound marketing, authenticity, and conversions thereof.  You need to build trust, help others, and show you care before others do the same in return.

Now, what DOES excite me is what Dino Dogan has often told me in private and in public:

Triberr is the great equalizer.

Yes, I know, we have some a-listers in Triberr and they’re mostly good people.  Truth be told, I’d say 60-80% of the current users on Triberr would likely not be on there if there were not these sorts of social media and online marketing rockstars.   Some folks just want their link juice, so to speak.  In spite of those folks that draw in the fanboys, suits, and bean counters, I still believe in this vision: giving smaller bloggers and thought leaders a chance to find their own captive audience.

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Would You Rather Live In A House Alone On The Hills? (A Lesson In People Skills)

Social media and blogs.

It means something different to everyone and that’s great – diversity is the spice of life, after all! When I think about social media, I think of interactive marketing; that is, engaging people in meaningful ways, building conversations and organic community-driven content, and creating lasting impressions. The lure of the blogosphere is pure, honest communication, ideally with a strong sense of community attached. Community is the operative word. Certainly, there are striking similarities and overlap between social media and blogs. Heck, blogs are social platforms, when fully unlocked…

What does social media and blogging mean to you?

The interactive marketing approach has a simple prerequisite: caring about people. If you genuinely try to help or take interest in people, good things will come (say, for instance, starting REAL online conversations ). In fact, Christian Hollingsworth of SmartBoyDesigns.com expresses the value of genuine selflessness in ways few others can. I highly recommend checking out his blog as it’s one of those rare finds that has useful information and compelling stories all In one place. Christian’s blog serves as social proof of how catering to human audiences can very well outweigh technically-heavy SEO and SMO efforts.

If it is a known fact that PEOPLE (customers, audiences, clients, team members, and fans) drive our business, why don’t more folks value more people?

You may contest that statement by saying, “Don’t loyalty programs do just that?” Sure, loyalty programs have been “all the rage” in the past six years or so but that’s just more machination, not humanization. I feel that approach to customer appreciation and retention still misses the mark (though game mechanics are fun and effective). That’s for a whole other discussion, though…

Here’s where my analogy comes in (I promise this won’t be a shallow analogy, like those BloggingBookshelf.com warns of)! Ask yourself…

Would you rather live in a house alone on the hills or in a thriving community? Do you prefer a rural, suburban, or urban setting? What do you think that says about you?

There are two essentials components people seem to miss with regards to social media and blogs:

  • Context: Build messages that interconnect and are both relevant and significant. Frame and position comments so they have higher impacts.
  • Community: Engage people in authentic, compelling ways to build networks and natural referrals.

Let’s focus on the latter, which is where my analogy really comes into play.

Alone In The House On The Hills
I’d hate to generalize but doesn’t it seem that most businesses are very distant from their customers? It certainly would seem that they are oblivious to our real needs. All the billions of dollars that go into traditional marketing and silly research, all to target meaningless demographics. I mean, for Pete’s sake, some people outsource public relations, customer service, and marketing. Even social media management is outsourced.. WHAT?

I understand the need to focus on core operations but this approach lacks authenticity. It sends out the message to customers, “You’re not worth my time.” Key players in every business should become the face of their company. Look at Google’s Matt Cutts or, my personal favorites, D&D (Dino Dogan and Dan Cristo) of Triberr. These guys give otherwise faceless entities a real soul, which makes people care more.

From what I’ve seen, most businesses live in their own exclusive little bubbles, the lonely houses up on the hills. They’re so disconnected from the people driving their businesses that they’ve lost touch with the world as we know it today. More often than not, this breeds a sort of arrogance and ignorance. Hey, they’ve made it this far so why change things up now?

If you forget the people that got you where you are now, they’ll soon forget you. If people don’t matter to you, you won’t matter to them.

Those living far away from the rest of the world live through mediators and mere numbers. They make dangerous assumptions and mainly coast by on luck (brand power doesn’t hurt, either). They don’t try to make warm connections with the people “below them”. To them, their inner circle should only be comprised of highly-successful, high-class folks. Their elitist ways make them miss out on communities that may like to get to know the real people behind their brands and monikers.

Suburbia: I Like You If You Play By My Rules
Those that choose residence in suburban communities are closer to the rest of the world. They may have more struggles to keep them honest, if not humbled. Still, they like uniformity and may buy into the status quo. As such, they rather hang around people like them. Much like those living in their own lavish worlds far, far away, change scares suburbanites.

Now, don’t get me wrong: suburbia (or a more isolated rural life) is not bad in itself. We all deserve to upgrade our lifestyles after hard work and persistence. What I’m getting at here is that the suburban lifestyle still represents an exclusive mentality to some degree. At the very least, living in suburbia can create a comfort zone, making it hard to see beyond your immediate community, your self-imposed bubble (and the biases that come with that).

If you work from home in suburbia, the disconnect will be significantly greater unless you make a concerted effort to venture to the “great beyond”. Still, you should still recall what it was like when things weren’t quite as good.. Or maybe you’re struggling now and that reminds you to keep people on the forefront of all your efforts.

Hey, some of us live well beyond our means so it’s important to recognize and learn from that.

I look at a majority of businesses out there as suburban communities with so much uniformity, conformity,and familiarity that nothing really sticks out. This would be the complete opposite of what Seth Godin refers to as “being remarkable”. I’d place a particular emphasis on social media and blog execution when mentioning such shortcomings. It’s the same story repeated several times, with some slight deviations here and there. Whoopdy-do! If you fail to step outside that big box filled with congruent little boxes, you may very well be out of touch with those not in your particular bubble or inner circle. There is another world out there, you know!

The Urban Apartment Complex Dwellers Party With All
When you live in a mixed community, which is natural in urban settings (especially melting pot cities like NYC), it’s much easier to appreciate, if not embrace, diversity. Think of all the different stories in urban communities. These people represent the “average person” better than most homeowners.

The further we get away from the “renter” mentality, the less we can appreciate the very real struggles and consumer behaviors out there. This may very well be why sales are at all-time lows for many former powerhouse brands, especially in the retail, real estate, and financial sectors. Those too far away from the people that, really, make up most of the marketplace, have a hard time understanding honest working class folks.

When’s the last time the big wig living far, far away came by to ask for a favor (some sugar maybe)?

Chances are it never happened and never will. Most taste BIG success and forget what life was like before it. Their worldviews get warped and their minds close off to new, contrasting ideas.

These so-called “shakers and movers” share success stories that don’t speak to us because they are so lofty, preachy, or just full of horse dung. Those of us that live or remember living in tight-knit, “middle class” communities know how to relate to people. Thus, your choice of residence can very well reflect who you are as a professional whatever.

Imagine what savvy customers will infer from your social context and online presence (or lack of it): do they understand your intentions or are they calling you out on your less-than-genuine ways?

80/20, 1/99, 5/80 And Other Fun Numbers
Mitch York (About.com) wrote a piece on the 80/20 rule and how it may very well be outdated – I agree completely! I know this guy personally and have great respect for him. He’s a people person and, more importantly, he can admit when he is wrong. Mitch went from supporting the 80/20 rule to challenging it, simply because he placed more value on people.

Your typical bean-counting business entity focuses on the 20% of their customer base that generates 80% of their revenues. In a more realistic interpretation, it means they don’t care about you unless you’re a big spender. It’s a broken system but, truth be told, we can’t treat everyone, let alone our customers, equally.. So there’s some merit to the ‘ol 80/20 system…

Here’s the rub: those people in “lesser” communities and social circles ARE your business!

Who do you think deserves more of a reward: the customer that refers tons of business to you and is your best promoter, or the one that buys the big-ticket items but still “shops around”? Think about that a bit. Your attitude here can be a deal maker or breaker!

Our perspectives change as our lives change. This is why social media is crucial: it connects us with fresh perspectives and gives us needed reality checks. It also shifts the balance of power. We’re slowly but surely moving away from the 1-5% controlling all the wealth and/or influence. Audiences and customers are looking to connect with REAL people. Fakers are losing ground – step aside for the future industry leaders, suckahs!

The “urban dwellers” are usually the ones in the mix, meeting new people and building influence. There tends to be more trust and respect amongst close friends than between professionals. Knowing this, marketers are still talking (down) AT people or just making noise – it’s absurd! What do you respond more to: recommendations from friends you trust (and that care about your best interests) or those from highly-regarded professionals you respect?

No matter where you are in life or where you reside, don’t forget to look out the window. Better yet, walk out the door and visit people that help you challenge your own thoughts. You may very well be surprised what you learn!

Building Residential Communities With Blogs And Social Media
How do you get people to take interest and stick around?

It may very well be one of the toughest things to do when we try to get out of our comfort zones. Blogs and social media can ease this process but you have to do it the right way. Embrace diversity, which means accepting ideas that may be radically different to yours, even if you don’t agree. In doing so, people will be able to relate to you and rarely question your authenticity and intentions. They’ll come back because you made it worth their time.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: a business blasts a message to you (and oodles of other unsuspecting targets) about a new product or service and your only thought is, “Why should I care?” The social media space is becoming quite crowded, so it’s only natural we have some screamers, rambling on about stuff that doesn’t speak to us on a personal level.

While your place of residence may be nice, why not explore a little?

All communication mediums are bound to be tainted with lazy marketing and blanket messages. We’re seeing the same interrupt-based and intrusive marketing happening on the blogosphere and social media. GOOD NEWS: We can change all that as caring neighbors and good-will ambassadors.

EVEN BETTER NEWS: We have the opportunity to differentiate ourselves by reaching out to people and taking the extra steps to acknowledge those that truly appreciate relationships. Be real neighborly: knock on some doors and introduce yourself. Share some stories, maybe have some adult beverages together too. Like the old Snapple commercial, show people who you are by stating (implicitly, preferably), “I’m a real person!”

This warm marketing and social networking approach is particularly useful when reaching out to people we may have lost touch with or overlooked before. Take interest in what others are doing or trying to achieve. People love being remembered and recognized. BTW, I do too (Hint-Hint, Nudge-Nudge)!

If you look at the direction things are going in, there’s a shift from mass anonymity to everyone trying to share and, sometimes, identify who they really are. This self-discovery and self-valuation may very well be the face of things to come. Actually, it’s already here – just look at StumbleUpon, Facebook, Empire Avenue, LinkedIn, Klout, PeerIndex.. The list is virtually endless, and with good reason: we’re remembering what we lost in our lives and each other amidst all the noise and mindless/soulless consumption.

The Internet, much like old-school businesses, has been mostly faceless and soulless until recent years. Warm connections and thriving communities switch things up, giving people a sense of being welcomed, if not needed. The more personal the engagement, the more lasting the impression. Let’s ditch the mass-appeal one-size-fits-all stuff. It doesn’t really work, no matter what you think the numbers tell you.

…And here’s the part you could have skipped to (sorry about that):

The idea here is to build communities that make people want to take residence, or at least visit often. The change has to start with you. Build that trust and be a little vulnerable: your next friendly neighbor could very well save your lonely venture!

Are you on the top of a hill (no, you’re not a bill sitting on Capitol Hill but that works too!), screaming down at the people below? Maybe you just don’t bother and let others do the human interaction for you. What excites you more in a web site or business: a massive, faceless community or a smaller, more tightly-knit community?

I hope my analogy here has made you think about how your established residence in social media communities, blogs inclusive, really make people feel. We could all stand to go the extra mile to let someone know, “You matter to me.” I think I will start today… How about you?

The Video Game Industry: Economy Of Gaming And The State Of Video Games

Recently I posted my long-delayed “Economy Of Gaming” article on Duel Pass Online (DPO), citing the driving forces behind video game pricing and subscription fees. The key take-aways were as follows:

  • Video games cost money to make and maintain, so someone has to foot the bill somehow.
  • There are plenty of cheap online gaming options out there.
  • Free online games are not always what they’re cracked up to be.
  • Paid video games are better than free video games usually.
  • You get what you pay for.
  • Gaming companies need to put the gamer at the center of everything.

I’d like to revisit PlayNoEvil’s article on the negative impact of used games and piracy on the video game industry. The author of the articles on PlayNoEvil.com makes some very valid points. He discusses how it’s easier to see how profits shift with the growing popularity of used video games, whereas piracy is mostly a non-issue.

If you do a little digging, you can see that large corporations waste quite a bit of resources with their anti-piracy and copyright efforts, along with virtually pointless interrupt marketing. You’d think it would make more sense to just re-invest that money in research and development. Building innovative video games with incentives for early adopters and long-term supporters seems like a smarter investment of the billions of dollars thrown away with silly business.

Any self-respecting gamer will invest money on their gaming lifestyle and favorite video games, especially if they have strong online components. They want to keep their favorite video game franchises alive so it only makes sense. Surprisingly, even though online gaming has kept many video game companies alive, some fans wish there were video games with only single-player modes. I understand the need for story-driven video games but the money makers and trends point to a better way… Continue reading