Transparency and Integrity

Russell Buckley from MobHappy, who I respect a lot and who has always provided great, brutal feedback when required, emailed me this morning slapping me around the head regarding a couple of issues I want to air here because I think they deserve a broader forum for discussion, as they touch upon issues I haven’t totally got my head around yet.

The first is regarding a somewhat defamatory entry made in my Wikipedia profile recently by someone who chose to remain anonymous – although, by looking at the IP address, I know who it is. The entry reads:

In 2007 Cameron sold out and excepted cash for comments from Telstra which included running shows about Telstra without owning up to the fact he is accepting money from them. He finally let it slip on the 11th Episode of On The Pod with Duncan Riley.

Now this isn’t the first time people (mostly this same person) has chosen to write shit about me in my Wikipedia entry. I’m not sure what the point of it is. Apparently they either don’t understand that Wikipedia is *supposed* to contain accurate, factual information – or they just want to be a dickhead, annoy me and waste my time. Needless to say, the person who wrote this didn’t ask me anything about what I’m doing for Telstra. He just wrote it up there based on a comment I made on Duncan’s show.

For the record – Telstra engaged my services recently to produce a series of podcast pilots for them which will be run off of their website, not TPN, starting in the new year. I haven’t mentioned it in detail because they have asked me not to – they want to “launch it” in the usual Telstra way with a full PR process. Fair enough. Since they have engaged my services, I think you’ll find I have kept my blogging and podcasting about Telstra agnostic as always – I wrote something as recently as this week saying their NextG wireless card didn’t seem to perform as well as Three’s NetConnect card on my testing. If this is “cash for comments”, then they are getting the raw end of the deal. The ironic thing is that they actually engaged my services, I believe, because they knew I would be an agnostic voice coming in and doing these shows, not somebody who is on the Telstra payroll. I make enough money from TPN that I don’t *need* to take corporate work. If anything, it cuts into the time I have to do TPN work. I take it, though, when interesting projects come my way and when I think the client genuinely shares the same vision I have for what podcasting should be about. In this case, the Telstra team I am working with share my vision. So I’m excited about it.

Anyway, here are the two questions I have about defamatory comments in Wikipedia:

1) What do you think the acceptable procedure is when people write shit about you? Should you a) amend it yourself (making sure, of course, that you log in and therefore put your changes on the record, not like this person or Adam Curry would do) or b) alert the Wikipedia editors about the issue or c) blog about it and hope somebody fixes it for you?

2) At what stage do you think people will realize they can be sued for writing defamatory comments in Wikipedia? I know back in February 2007 a pro golfer Fuzzy Zoeller sued a the owner of an IP address after allegedly defamatory comments were left on his Wikipedia entry. Personally I’m not a big fan of legal alternatives until you’ve tried all other possible avenues, and when I read this thing about me I just though “dickhead” and meant to blog about it but didn’t get around to it until Russell slapped me over it.

The other issue Russell asked me about is my sponsorship recently from Global1Training and the interview I did with Dr John Demartini. I won’t go into details about Russell’s concerns (he can do that here in the comments section if he thinks it’s appropriate) but I did want to mention that I’m doing a follow-up interview with Dr Demartini this Tuesday and would welcome your input into my questions for him. For the record – when I did my first interview with him, I had never heard of Global1Training and they approached me a few weeks later about sponsorship ideas. So if you have any concerns about my interview questions with John the first time around, know that there wasn’t even the suggestion of a commercial relationship until weeks later. And if you listen to that first episode I actually talked with Dr Demartini about getting him back on the show during his next trip to Australia, which happens to be this week. Just in case you were wondering….

The bottom line here is this: I think I’ve been doing this show long enough for regular listeners to know my attitudes towards transparency and integrity when it comes to advertising and commercial relationships. I genuinely value people like Russell calling me out when they are unsure of what’s going on – it makes me realize I need to be constantly vigilant about revealing my commercial interests as early as possible. There is a balance though between revealing them and keeping my mouth shut when I am working on projects for clients who want to reveal them in their own time and way. That’s just business. If I had been writing or podcasting really positive stories about Telstra lately I would feel obliged to reveal that money had changed hands but as I haven’t been doing that, I can sleep at night.

Any questions?

31 thoughts on “Transparency and Integrity

  1. Cameron, this really disturbs me. I don’t know the legalities but you are not bound by the same “cash for comments” disclosure laws as the likes of Allan Jones and John Laws are you? I would hope not anyway.

    But I am sure you would have signed an NDA with Telstra, especially if they wanted to keep their podcasting under wraps. So in this case your NDA would have to override anything else.

    Unless you are constantly going on about Telstra in a positive light (and if you were, you’d be shot down in flames in your comments), not just one podcast, there is NO ISSUE HERE WHATSOVER.

    On the Global1 issue, I think you have been pretty up front about that already on the Laptop Sponsorship issue.

    As for the Wikipedia entry I’m not sure about that. Maybe you should just add a link to this post containing all the hopefully positive comments coming up about this blog post.

    And hopefully that “dickhead” will get the message that he is the lone voice here.

    Basically Cameron, full support to you… just keep on doing what you are doing… but a few more podcasts will be good…

  2. Maybe in the blog posts you should have declared the Telstra interest, in a way that would have made the posts in question a lot more cutting of Telstra.

    Now that you have cleared the issue in public. It can be referenced and the facts put straight on Wikipedia

  3. I think all of A, B, and C are appropriate measures but would stop short of litigation unless it was something really awful being alleged. Love this dickhead’s grammar too – excepted.

    I also think you were right not to mention the deal you had going since you had promised Telstra they could have their launch – whether you were bound to or not, clients aren’t going to trust you if you go around ignoring agreements.

  4. I have no problem owning up to being the “Dickhead” (I have no problem with this, I am a Dickhead) that put the entry into Wikipedia.

    I find it interesting that of all the people on the face of the earth that objects to someone putting this into wikipedia is you! Firstly, the entry was referenced (as Wikipedia likes). It pointed to a podcast where you admitted to it! So what is your objection to the wikipedia entry? In this post you admit to accepting money from Telsra. You and the network you have run have done a number of podcasts with Telstra recently and most have been in a really positive light. This after years of bagging them over many things.

    I agree that if you have a NDA with a company you should keep it to yourself, but the point is that you didn’t! You went and blabbed your mouth about it.

    Now I find it interesting that you have a huge issue on this and expect it taken down yet have no problem with the Richard Giles comment. As you say, you haven’t done Telstra any favours so won’t people see it as the joke it is? If you are going to argue that some come to Wikipedia who don’t know you and might take it the wrong way, A) why make the silly comment B) surely it would look bad having comments about a bust up with your Co-Founder of TPN and a Co-host of the show. To me that could suggest that you don’t work well with others and if I was going to partner with you and was looking to find out about you, perhaps that would make me think twice.

    But the other hypercritical point about this is that you have no problem slandering others on less information and with more slanderous comments but as soon as someone questions you, you have a good cry about it! Man, if you can’t stand the heat, perhaps you should stay out of the kitchen! If this was George Bush or John Howard that had said something like this you would have done a week of podcasts about it and how bad they are!

    So if you are offended by this, I apologies that you are offended! I do think you need to clear up your transparency and perhaps that comes from the fact your basically an newbie at this and finding your feet. I disagree with Jodie and think you would do well to follow the radio guide lines as you will leave yourself open to less of these type of concerns as everyone will know where your coming from.

    Oh, and Michaela, you are exactly right that my grammar is terrible (if it wasn’t for computers, I wouldn’t have finished year 10, much less completed a Uni Degree). Doing my VCE and getting a Uni degree remain the individual accomplishments that I am most proud of!

    Molly

  5. “You and the network you have run have done a number of podcasts with Telstra recently and most have been in a really positive light.”

    Which podcasts would those be Molly?

    “I agree that if you have a NDA”

    I never said I have an NDA, just a request to keep the specifics of the project quiet for the moment. I have mentioned working with Telstra but I haven’t disclosed what the project is (in terms of which division, what I am producing for them, etc).

    “yet have no problem with the Richard Giles comment”

    The comments about Richard are childish and puerile but, again, I don’t like to edit my own Wikipedia entry. The only times I have done it were when there was blatantly false information about my kids or TPN up there. Even then I didn’t like to do it.

    “you have no problem slandering others”

    Who have I “slandered”, Molly? I always take great care what I write or say about others online and if I give an opinion I state it as that, not as fact. I certainly don’t go around defacing other people’s Wikipedia entries.

    “you need to clear up your transparency”
    I don’t think I have had anything yet to “clear up”. I haven’t published any shows about or with Telstra since my contract with them that were in any way favourable to the company.

    Just face it Molly. You’ve stepped over the line and lost the plot dude. Deliberately talking shit about people and trying to damage their reputation is not only stupid, it’s dangerous.

  6. As an objective bystander, I think that for Molly to write that Cameron “Sold out” on Wikipedia is her/his personal opinion and a wildly innapropriate (and innacurate) statement. It doesn’t belong there. Instead of trying to hurt Cameron publically, Molly, you should have emailed him personally with your concerns. Cameron, I say you have every right to remove Molly’s post from Wiki. You’ve always stuck me as a fair and honorable guy, and a straight-shooter. I’m pissed off FOR you. What Molly did was an unfair cheap shot.

  7. I am disappointed in your actions, Molly. I tried chatting with you on Skype but you POQed so I guess I’ll have to say this here. I co-host a podcast with you (non-TPN) and I find you to be generally a top bloke and a solid person… except when it comes to Cameron. For some reason, Molly, you have taken it upon yourself to be the mosquito buzzing around Cameron’s head. I don’t know why. It doesn’t make sense.

    For the most part your annoyances have been harmless, but vandalising Wikipedia goes too far. I’m not saying Cameron is lilywhite, but there are better ways to engage him than making unfounded statements on the bloke’s Wikipedia entry. It’s no good trying to be Cameron’s conscience if you can’t justify your own actions.

    Don’t be a dickhead, mate.

  8. “Which podcasts would those be Molly?”
    The Take Two Show for one has had numerous on Telstra including one that could be mistaken for an ad about their mobile content. You also did an interview with someone from telstra and whacked him with a wet letturce.

    I will give you that the “Sold Out” comment wasn’t need or is provable, but the rest of the comments are facts and referencable. I wasn’t in the right place mentally when I added to the entry.

    Molly

  9. Wow, so now you are not only trying to besmirch *my* reputation, but the reputation of the Take Two hosts, Garry Barker and Leon Gettler, two of Australia’s most respected and senior business journalists? Do you even begin to realize the quicksand you are stepping into?

    I haven’t listened to all of their shows lately but I can guarantee those guys aren’t Telstra shills and would be furious to know you have suggested their integrity as journalists has been compromised in any way.

    The last time I did an interview on G’Day World with someone from Telstra it was back in MARCH!!! Seven months before I started doing any consulting for them. And since then I have written several negative posts as well as conducted a series of interviews with CEOs of Telstra’s ISP competitors which weren’t favourable.

  10. I think that Molly has admitted fault in putting this information on Wikipedia. It appears to me that he is saying there are some things that seemed true and that he would still like to bring them up, but not in that forum. Molly, do you feel that that is an accurate statement?

    I know I have shot emails off at times that were out of line, and this might have been a similar thing. I know of many others who have come to grief with similar situations because of the immediacy of the internet.

    Congrats Molly on finishing Uni as well, I know of plently of students I teach who drop out or fail when they have problems with grammar, so your pride in that is truly justified.

  11. Sorry Mickey, his accusations were just complete and utter bullshit. He hasn’t been able to give one single example of me doing a positive show about Telstra, before or after my production work for them. He took one comment I made about Telstra and made up the rest of the story. To claim “cash for comments”, he is alleging that I or one of TPN’s hosts has been paid money by Telstra to make positive comments about them on our shows. And there is ZERO evidence of that claim. Until he agrees to that point, he is still slandering my integrity and I take that very, VERY seriously.

  12. Fair enough Cam. From an outsider’s point of view there is a lot of info to digest. I’m sorry for you that that happened, and Molly should probably just admit that he was wrong in his info.

    I have always found you to be of the upmost integrity and a top bloke to boot. Just my opinion

  13. Let’s not beet around the bush here people, let’s look at root cause in order to fix this:
    Root Cause = Jealousy!

    Molly, in life bringing people down to appear better than them is an extremely difficult way of getting ahead. Try focusing on your own merits and move forward.

    Nice one with the degree and all, but you are only one of many. It takes a unique person to stand out above the rest and Cam does this with absolute finesse – that drives you crazy doesn’t it Molly? Hence you are being a little annoying nuisance! Step back and have a real good look at what you are doing, you are just getting Cam heaps more support.

    Sure, we need to have watchdogs to ensure integrity and transparency are maintained in our CC media, but please let it be accurate.

    btw you may have noticed quite a few people have stopped following you on Twitter – your little stunt has proven to backfire.

    I have the solution – if you follow this you will be successful (as it is my job to make people successful):
    1. Make a public apology to Cam without the caveats (even though you have typed that you “apologies” you really haven’t)
    2. Focus on yourself and write a five year plan

    Stand out by being extraordinary!

  14. Thanks Beti.
    I have said I was wrong and I was. To clarify the “wasn’t completely false” I only meant that Cam admitted whether jovally or not that he was/is accpeting cash for comments on the On the Pod Episode 11. The only reason I bring this up was that its not like the entry was with out any merrit, there was what many may take as an admition on the record. That is also where I took the analogy to the Richard Giles comment on the entry. I do now understand that the dig was to strong and I have already appologised for that. Its Cams right to accept or not the appology, and I will accept his decision.

    I also accept that some may not follow me on twitter, that is again there right.

    For me now this is the end of the matter, I am not making any further comment on this unless it goes to court.
    TIA
    Molly

  15. TIA? I am always out of the loop on posting abbreviations. Half the time I don’t know what the conversation is about (not in this thread) because it’s all LOL and JMTC. These crazy kids today…

  16. To get the quote out in text, this is the comment Cam made.

    “You can’t deny the fact that we’ve been royally screwed over by the level of control that companies like Telstra have had in this country in the last 10 or 15 years. Not saying anything about the current administration, because they’re actually paying me money, and ah, you know, I’m on cash for comments. But ah, ha ha ha ha. But ah, you know we have suffered from that in this country.”

    Molly, you’re probably the only person in the world that would see that as a serious admission that he is taking cash for comment, because a) he had a good laugh about the statement, b) he just finished saying why Telstra have screwed the country over in the last 10 to 15 years.

  17. I didn’t listen to the whole of your last de Martini podcast so maybe you asked him this already. What is the difference between a motivational speaker and a religious leader? It seems to me that the lines often blur. Especially if the motivational speaker espouses some kind of spiritual side to their teachings. Does having so many people following his teachings in their lives make him feel powerful? If so has he ever wondered what he could do with this power? Do motivational speakers have political influence in the way that religious leaders do?

  18. Charlie, that’s a good question. I guess it depends on what the motivational speaker is espousing. If their advice is logical and rational, then that makes them the complete opposite of a religious leader. If they have some sort of quasi-spiritual angle then they are as dangerous as the traditional religious leaders I guess. Interesting question about whether or not they have (or exercise) political influence. I’ll add that to my list of questions for Demartini today! Thanks!

  19. As the person who started Cam’s wiki entry, the defacing does not bother me at all, though the fact that it was Molly does.

    When I discovered the entry, I posted to twitter and Molly direct Twittered to me to say that the “information was referenced” even if the spelling was wrong. In my view this was a direct attempt to stop me editing/removing the entry and keep this (clearly spiteful and incorrect) information live. In the end I did not remove the offending items, someone else did, but this chain of events serves to show that Molly was NOT just having a joke, but rather wanted this erroneous and character questioning item to remain.

    Regarding the very existence of a “Contrversy” section of Cam’s wiki entry. I wrote 90% of it and I believe much of it is spot on. Cam is a person who says what he thinks, calls people out and does indeed generate controversy. As I understood it, and still do, he and Richard G did have a falling out of sorts. The other items I believe are true also.

    That does not mean that every time Cam says something, or a dill like Molly interprets something to be “scandalous” does it need to be on his Wiki entry.

    God damn, that would mean the “controversy” section would be bigger than the rest of his entry combined.

    Tom

  20. Tom, I guess it’s time to clear up the Richard G. controversy then. 🙂

    Cam and I never fell out. One of those things people should ask people about.

    I loved doing G’Day Word with Cam, but because of my business commitments, and marital issues, I had to let Cam know I couldn’t keep committing to do the show. He understood completely, and supported my decision.

    Other than Cam having a joke about his “ungrateful protege,” which he always said light heartedly (and often to me when I called to chat with him), what else would make people think that?

  21. Ha ha ha, Cam you are the biggest Telstra knocker I know, hats off to Telstra for inviting you into the fold as I am sure they will get plenty of feedback!

  22. Sorry I’ve missed the debate on this – I feel like I lit the touchpaper and ran away!

    Firstly, Cam, I hope you meant that I was “brutal” in a nice way 🙂 In any case, the point I was making was for you to clarify where you stood publicly and to defend your reputation. There’s plenty of people who would assume you’re “guilty as charged”. It’s all too easy to throw away years of doing the right thing because some self-confessed “Dickhead” casts unfair accusations.

    That applied to the Wikipedia entry and Dr Demartini, where (as you’ve done now) you clarified the course of events and it’s perfectly above board, as I hoped and expected it to be.

    Anyway, the main point seems to have resolved itself. The culprit ‘fessed up and hopefully Wikipedia will be changed to reflect reality.

    On to Demartini. I think Charlie’s comment about him being a little like a religious leader is interesting. Actually, many of these people have messianic qualities – they’re certainly charismatic communicators trying to convert their followers to their way of thinking and interpreting the world. They promise peace and happiness if we follow their advice.

    Or if you want the good old Wiki quote:

    “A messianic figure is a person who is viewed as having a number of the characteristics of the Messiah in the eyes of a particular group. These usually include that the person is charismatic, influential, develops a power base, is appealing to a large group that views itself as oppressed in some way, and appears to offer a way to overthrow that oppression.”

    Hmm…pretty fine line, I’d say. And note that it doesn’t say whether the content of their teaching needs to have a spiritual angle.

    The question I’d like to raise with Dr Demartini though is a little different, but is a rather sensitive one, because it involves his dead wife, who died tragically young of breast cancer, a few years ago. It might be perceived as being off limits somehow. What do we think?

    Anyway, Athena Starwoman (as she called herself) was an astrologer, or someone who believes that the planets’ alignment when and where you were born influences your life. Like religion, there is no evidence for this. At best, it’s a belief system based on faith. At worst, it has no scientific basis in fact whatsoever. While there are a fair few scientists who would admit to religious beliefs, I don’t believe that there are any who give credence to astrology.

    Equally, there are probably as many believers or people who “think that there might be something in it” as people who hold “conventional” religious beliefs today. So it’s a pretty controversial subject. But that’s never stopped Cam yet.

    By the way, if this comes across as overly sceptical, it might be because I’m a Capricornian and we’re naturally like that 🙂

    Anyway, if Cam is prepared to attack people of faith, surely he should be even more scathing about people who believe in astrology? Especially people who promote the belief system and make a living from it, like Starwoman did. In her online (unofficial) memorial http://www.solsticepoint.com/astrologersmemorial/athena.htm, it says that

    “Athena built an empire as a popular writer and media personality. She offered celestial advice in many genres, from, Vogue, Star, Elegance, Trump Style, Woman’s Day, Woman’s Weekly and other Magazines to numerous newspapers all over the world.”

    So she definitely did OK from this.

    The extension of this argument is that a relationship is surely based on sharing the same values. So either Demartini believes in this, or he was condoning and actively supporting someone who made her living from promoting something he believes isn’t true. Both possibilities would seem to be worth exploring and debating – I am genuinely interested in what he says, not trying to score points or something. I enjoyed his first interview and a lot of what he said seemed to make some sense, so I’d like to hear what he says about this.

    This would be a lot easier to raise if Athena Starwoman hadn’t died in tragic circumstances. But Demartini said in the first Podcast that he’s happy to talk about her and made it pretty clear that he (for one) doesn’t regard her as being off-limits or taboo. So I figure it’s OK to raise it, no?

    Hope I haven’t lit another touchpaper here. Anyway, I guess whether you raise it is your call Cam.

    Russell

  23. Hey Russell. 🙂

    I did my follow up interview with Demartini yesterday and asked him about Athena and astrology. I also asked him Charlie’s questions. I think he answered both of them well.

    I think, however, that there is a HUGE difference between astrology and religion. While I may think astrology is bunk, and people who believe in it are delusional, I can’t name any wars fought in the name of Athena Starwoman. I don’t think astrology pushes a philosophy of violence and intolerance like Christianity does. I don’t hear of political leaders using Athena to determine public policy.

    You get my drift. While both are unscientific and irrational, religion is far more insidious than astrology.

    Then again, I guess religion CAME from astrology in the first place. Primitive humans looked up in the sky, noticed that the sun and the planets had an affect on the earth and decided they must be sky gods.

    ANYWAY. I asked Demartini some questions about astrology and I’ll be interested to know what you think of his answers. The show will hopefully be up today (just waiting on something from his people).

    Thanks again for the wakeup call sir.

  24. Cam

    In fairness to the religion comparison though, you’ve often attacked it on the basis that it’s delusional (in your view). And that therefore it’s the duty of rational people to point out how irrational it actually is on the basis that if they believe that…what else might they believe in due course?

    Indeed, you’ve also applied this to the idea of non-fundamentalist, live-and-let-live, peaceful religious people.

    Same applies to astrology, surely? If they believe that, what else will they believe next?

    Look forward to the interview!

    Russell

  25. One thing I was kind of expecting to come out of this whole argument was more discussion about disclosure of commercial arrangements in new media.

    How many blogs (or podcasts for that matter) disclose where they have received free products or services or even monetary gain and then given positive feedback.

    And what are the ethical obligations for such disclosure?

  26. Russell, “in fairness to religion”?? I don’t think I need to be fair to religion. But anyway, listen to how Demartini responded to the question, tell me what you think. In retrospect, I possible could have questioned him harder on the issue, but the reason I have him on the show is to talk about success, not about his late wife’s astrology. And I don’t necessarily think you can be held accountable for your spouse’s views on things. I know my wife doesn’t share my views on MOST things.

    Ned – I think it’s pretty standard in the blogging and podcasting community to be very transparent with regards to disclosure. Most of us are cluetrain disciples. And we know that if you don’t disclose when you should, your rep gets burned and you’re history.

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