Mark Ragan asks that he be judged by his actions

Mark Ragan sent me another email regarding the removal of the Social Media Club group from MyRagan. (Background to this can be found here, here, here and here.)

I’m posting Mark’s email in full because I believe that the issue of control within commercial social media spaces is important (and because he agreed that I should do so).

Many people gloss over the fact that spaces like Facebook, MySpace or MyRagan are owned by a commercial operator. And that owner can establish the rules to serve his own purposes. The owner can change the rules and apply them as he sees fit. And the licence agreements of many (most?) of these sites transfer ownership of the content I generate to the owner of the site.

Search engines do not index the content on these closed, commercial spaces. So if the owner of the space removes my content, it is gone. Truly gone. (Chris Heuer discovered this the hard way when Mark Ragan deleted the Social Media Club Group and all its content from MyRagan.) On the other hand, if the author of a blog that exists in the open removes or edits that content, it persists in the Google cache and anyone interested in seeing what was there can find it.

Control to establish rules, change them, and apply them. Ownership of content. The ability to edit or remove that content. The ability to grant or withhold access.

That’s a lot of power.

It sounds a lot like the power that owners of traditional media have exercised. And the most respected of those traditional media proprietors are those who do not attempt to impose their own views on the content, but instead concerned themselves with producing the highest quality publication.

In my view, if the owner is “hands off” of the content, the space can thrive and serve its members well.

Here is what Mark has to say in the email he sent to me:

My mother loved that old saw, “Words are cheap.”

Well, I am tired of trading accusations with Chris, and I am nearly certain he feels the same way. So here is what I propose. it’s actually quite a perfect end to his debate.

Judge me by my deeds.

If my critics are correct in their assessment of me, I will:

–Rule MyRagan with an iron hand;

–Stamp out conversation that doesn’t advance the goals of my organization;

–Cram products down the mouths of my vulnerable members;

–Use the site to bludgeon my customers with advertising;

— And generally impede the free flow of information that is not beneficial to me and my company.

I think this is an accurate summation of what has been predicted of me.

Chris said that my reconstituting of the Social Media group came about because I felt threatened by his success at achieving 100 members. Well then, watch me. Several groups will soon approach those numbers. They too are headed by consultants, most of whom are barely known to me. We should be seeing heads roll any day now.

So judge my actions. Here is what I predict:

—That I will never attempt to squeeze economic advantage from MyRagan members through crass advertising, spam e-mails and conversation that always points toward Ragan products;

— That MyRagan members will hardly know I exist. They have already gotten along fabulously without me.

— That conversation will flow unimpeded by the dictates of my commercial enterprise, Ragan Communications.

— That the site will remain pristine with the line between editorial and advertising clearly marked.

— That Ragan will offer up not only a meeeting place for MySpace-type networking, but a place that communicators visit for the best content on the market.

Finally, I predict that Ragan will go on being what it has been for nearly 40 years–an advocate, news source and sometime entertainer for the corporate communications community, an organization that understands its customer better than nearly anyone else and always tries to do the right thing.

Print this out, tape it to the wall, measure me against it.

Then let’s meet back here in a year. OK?

If Mark runs MyRagan in this way, I think that it is unlikely that there will be repeats of the mistakes that were made in the removal of the Social Media Club group.

But there’s just one more thing. Mark suggests that we “meet back here in a year” to assess how he has performed against these measures. A year? Mark, you can expect that your performance against these standards will be monitored and measured daily. That’s the reality. Information sharing and learning now proceeds constantly and virtually instantly. <!–