Friday, October 12, 2007

The Dark Side:

Web 2.0 is a wondrous thing. It enables Wiki models of collaboration in a myriad of guises. RSS feeds of the collective wisdom of some of the most innovative thinkers on the planet happen daily in your Goggle Reader. You as an entrepreneur are able to broadcast your story to billions of people at virtually no cost. Web 2.0 allows this humble blog to be created and you to read it. Truly Web 2.0 is a wondrous thing.

There is a Dark Side however. A recent NY Times article “Dealing With Damage from Online Critics” highlights part of the problem:

“As the power of the Internet grows, businesses small and large find themselves confounded by disenchanted employees, suppliers and competitors who seek fertile ground to air grievances online.

Armed with little more than a Web connection and a keyboard, these detractors can do everything from irritate, via a scathing review, to causing serious business problems by using message boards to reveal company secrets or spread rumors of unethical behavior. They may also start a gripe site or register a Web address in their target’s name.

“There is all type of damage by miscreants on the Web to a business,” said Marc S. Friedman, chairman of the intellectual property practice at Sills Cummis Epstein & Gross in Manhattan. “The number of methods depends only on the creativity of the wrongdoer.”

A multitude of sites such as Yelp, Zagat, and Yahoo among others allow anyone with an internet connection to review a restaurant experience. The change here is that if you had a bad experience you would share that experience with the manager and allow them to correct the situation. Now one simply publishes their views online with no interaction with the restaurant. There are many cases of legitimate grievances that are handled in this fashion and restaurants need to adjust their responses to deal with it.

The real danger and the Dark Side that this posting is about is the nefarious grievances. Someone can post a story about your restaurant that is an outright fabrication, and because of the internet, the fabrication could spread worldwide before you as a restaurateur are even aware of its existence. It is this Black Swan that poses the greatest danger. While you sleep, the world’s view of your humble little enterprise could be totally miscast. The damage can be irreparable and your recourse is limited. Sadly people will notice a negative view far more than they will notice a positive truth. I put the question out there, how can you protect yourself? At a minimum, restaurants need to Google themselves daily to discover what might be out there.

Web 2.0 is a wondrous thing, however there most definitely is a Dark Side