A Pixeled Revolution – By the User, for the User

It is strange that a company whose entire product, service, and business model is build around Web 2.0 and the blogsphere would underestimate the power of the two. But very recently, MyBlogLog did. The outcome was probably the first-wave of a pixeled revolution.

As of late, Shoemoney has been a thorn in their side, calling them out on their shortcomings. When he finally exposed a security flaw and showed people how to visit blogs as other MyBlogLog users, MyBlogLog banned him.

Now, a blog is about having a conversation. It’s about the democratization of the flow of information. As Mitch Joel put it:

A Blog is the glory of a personal voice – warts and all. That is why people are gravitating toward them. […] We want to know that business cares about us and treasures our loyalty. We want more… and we’re starting with a conversation that has a human voice behind it.

This is a point is that MyBlogLog should have understood. After all, their entire raison d’etre is to enhance the cause of the blogger. So when a blogger exposes a security flaw that compromise the reputation of its users, they should have been grateful, not vengeful.

Consequently, it wasn’t long before a backlash ensued. Suddenly, MyBlogLog’s most valuable user base, SEOs, started boycotting the service. Mind you, MyBlogLog offered a typically corporate rationale:

To be clear — we did not ban shoemoney for posting about exploits. Although we would certainly have appreciated that he email us first, it’s his decision where he would like to publish them. We banned him for publishing other people’s data on the site and urging readers to spoof them. On what planet is that not a bannable offense?

Of course, that didn’t mean that users were biting. Shoemoney’s posts had had that human voice, and that post-facto rationale wasn’t cutting it. The boycott wagon saw some of the highest profile SEO-bloggers climb on board, including Andy Beal and Michael Gray.

What MyBlogLog had done, in effect, was tantamount to a democratically elected government censoring the press. It was if the Nixon administration locked up Bob Woodward. Consequently, the voting public took to the streets. A day later, MyBlogLog issues a formal apology and their humility was humbling:

A lot of people I respect immensely have written in to tell me that I screwed up, and after a point, it becomes impossible to avoid the truth. We banned Shoemoney originally to keep him from updating his list of User IDs on Wednesday night, which I think was the right thing to do. But after fixing the exploit, I should have unbanned him and thanked him for finding it. But I didn’t. I screwed up.

Like the Mensch that he is, Shoemoney accepted their apology with grace and dignity. What we saw, though, was just the first in a series of waves of a pixeled revolution. When it comes to Web 2.0 and right & wrong, there are no more shades of grey, just a dazzling variety of users who are seizing a medium, and taking the power of information back from the control of multi-national conglomerates.

Even if those conglomerates (MyBlogLog is owned by Yahoo!) harness that power, they might be able to ride it, but cannot steer it any longer. In other words, if online marketers really are big kids, then they’re more like the self-empowered students of the 60s who shook up the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1964 and brought us Woodstock, than just a bunch of giddy teenagers who want things done their way, but are too rash to know what’s up.

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