Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Why I Don't Use a Ghost Writer

Why I Don't Use a Ghost Writer

By Dennis D. McDonald

In Guy Kawasaki Discloses Ghost Writers, Defuses Issue, Dave Fleet discusses Guy Kawasaki’s disclosure that Kawasaki uses “ghost writers” for some of the “tweets” that emanate from his Twitter account. It appears that Kawasaki waited till he was “outed” about this practice, then he owned up to it and expressed a lack of concern. Reading the comments around the web about this discloses a range of attitudes, from livid moral outrage to a smug, “You weren’t stupid enough to think that Kawasaki was REALLY sending all those Tweets, were you?”

I admit to a lack of moral outrage. I had already assumed Kawasaki was building a publishing infrastructure like some other A-listers. I expressed as much in my blog post Are You Building Professional Relationships or a Publishing Platform? The revelation about Kawasaki’s ghost-twitterers thus didn’t surprise me.

But there’s another issue here that goes beyond assembly-line twittering. Have you received a Twitter direct message? I have; it’s another example of a social network establishing its own walled-garden email system. Sometimes it’s very useful, and sometimes it isn’t. I fall in the “I think it’s useful” category since I frequently use it to communicate with people I know that are using Twitter. 

But have you ever received a Twitter direct message from Guy Kawasaki? I have. He responded to a technical question I had about Alltop and RSS feeds. I was surprised to receive it but I thought it was a nice thing for him to do.

Now I wonder if it was really from him.

Why is this important?

It’s important since it makes us aware of how careful we need to be about communicating online. Guy’s motives are primarily commercial. He makes no bones about that, which I do find refreshing. My mother always said never to judge a man harshly by what he has to do for a living, as long as it’s legal. I respect Guy’s success and entrepreneurial spirit and wish him success.

Once I realized Kawasaki wasn’t using social media to develop relationships but just to sell, I just unfollowed him on Twitter without really thinking about it more. I was just not interested in being part of his publishing infrastructure anymore. Besides, Kawasaki’s Alltop was beginning to remind me of the early years of Yahoo! and its categorization of the web, though mightily updated. It’s something nice to know about in case it’s needed, but I don’t need Kawasaki’s auto-generated Twitter “spam” telling me about it dozens of times a day.

It does trouble me that I now question whether the message I received from Guy Kawasaki’s account was really from him, or was it from someone using his account. Are others using online messaging like this? If so, that should be a warning about doing business and building relationships online.

And that’s why I would never use a ghost writer on my personal web site. It’s a public expression of myself and my interests, an online resume, and a personal soapbox, all rolled into one. The last thing I would want anyone to wonder is whether I’m really the person responsible for what appears here.

Copyright (c) 2009 by Dennis D. McDonald

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