Sometimes when I'm hangin' with my marketing and PR homies, we talk about major communication gaffes on the Interwebs ... you know the kind (they're practically legend by now): Walmart, Sony PSP. Some of my less-technical colleagues want to know how people "find out", so sometimes we'll have a slightly technical conversation which generally ends up with glazed over eyeballs and the admonition "Just be transparent and authentic and there won't be a problem" ringing in the uncomfortable, befuddled silence.
Now, I am no cyber-sleuth, but I am a mite more technical than the average marketer. I've been watching my analytics for new and fun keywords that are leading people here to MNIK. Not surprisingly, after my post about Genebase and the DNA Ancestry project, I've been getting a lot of searches relating to Genebase: "genebase complaint", "genebase ripoff", "genebase bad dna test" to name a few (note - the last one was from a US military base - yikes!).
Fair enough - to be expected. MNIK indexes pretty well generally and blogs are favoured by Google as well. In addition to the US military base, I also got a few visits from Genebase's PR firm which was also to be expected. Genebase should be pleased that someone is monitoring the blogosphere on their behalf.
And of course, I also got a number of visits from generic ISPs, like Shaw (my provider), Bell and Telus. A lot of visits from Telus.
I also received a comment on the Genebase post ... from an "Yvonne" who left a great deal of information which was very helpful, very details and slightly unexpected - but possibly Yvonne is simply that sort of person. This is a screencap of my notification email about the comment, capturing her IP address:
Coincidentally, Rosemary also received a comment on her post about the same topic. It was a much less helpful comment from a (presumably) different author, but there was one striking similarity:
Spot it? Same IP address. (Note: in case Yvonne is a real person with a real email address, I didn't publish it. I believe "KJ's" email is not a real one - though if you have firstname.lastname@example.org, I'll bet you get a lot of spam.)
Curious, I used my old friend ip-lookup.net:
Ahh ... so that explains some of those Telus visits. But that's as far as I could take it. When you click on "Neighborhood" you simply get a list of sequential IP's: d154-20-151-100.bchsia.telus.net, d154-20-151-101.bchsia.telus.net, etc.
I'm sure there are some super-geeky folks who know how to pin it down even further. There is an application out there that let's you look up the location for an IP address. It gives me a location in central Vancouver for the above address - but it is likely that the location is simply where the Telus router is located. I performed the same test on my IP address and it mapped mine out in Abbotsford, BC while I am in, reality, much closer to downtown than that.
But mapping the location isn't really all that important (and possibly a little dangerous if people believe it to be accurate which it isn't).
Now, I don't have any clue whether Yvonne and KJ represent Genebase or its agencies in anyway shape or form. And I don't actually care. This post isn't an accusation, but an illustration of a point: we all leave digital footprints. And by following those footprints, it is relatively easy to figure out if something is disingenuous or real, authentic or fraudulent.
Now, to be fair, it is possible (and I know that someone will correct me if I am wrong) that this could be two different people. The comments were about an hour apart according to the email timestamps. If Telus allocates IP via DHCP then, conceivably, the IP address could have been reassigned to someone else. But I'm betting dollars to donuts it's not.
So, if you are a communications professional and you're out there scanning the blogosphere for posts about your clients ... I would absolutely encourage you to respond. But in an authentic and transparent way! I can imagine a comment left on the Genebase post that said something like (Note: this is a fictional comment.):
Hey, Kate ...
Wow, it sounds like you've been having a frustrating time with the ProductName from CompanyName. I work with CompanyName to resolve customer issues. I've emailed you privately with my contact info; please give me a call and give me a chance to address your concerns. If you or your readers would like a little more info about the project, you can check out XYZ site.
Also, we've heard the comment about our pricing being out of line. We actually perform our tests in-house and run the Quadruple Quality Check (QQC - patent pending) on all samples; other DNA kits, including the one you mentioned in your post, are outsourced to labs that do not perform to the same standards. You can see a comparison, including sample margins of error, of these quality checks on our website at companyurl.com.
I really hope you'll give us an opportunity to address your specific concerns. Thank you for trying ProductName.
Sincerely, FirstName LastName at RealEmailAddress
Wouldn't something like that have started a more interesting conversation?
However, this type of comment seems to be anathema to a number of communications professionals. Why?! I don't get it. I would be DELIGHTED to receive such a comment and the reputation of the company would soar in my estimation.
David Jones over at PR Works recently blogged about the new corporate Blog Council started by Andy Sernovitz. One of my clients, Petro-Canada, is a member of the Blog Council and I'm hoping that this kind of transparent communication with bloggers is at the top of their agenda.
So, in the meantime, fellow communicators ... watch those footprints.
Photo Credit: Seriously by iamilk