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The Almighty Buck The Media Technology

Toys For The Rich To Cultivate Product Popularity 136

ChipGuy writes "Newsweek is reporting on a new elitist club called the Silicon Valley 100, an exclusive group of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs like Marc Andressen, Esther Dyson, Chris Shipley, and Ross Mayfield. The Schwag Set will get a lot of free stuff which they will either recommend or not, to unsuspecting masses. Dan Gillmor thinks 'it is oddly creepy', and urges people on this list to 'bow out of this exercise entirely.' Om Malik says it ironic that 'the first product being offered is a shitter! What Crap!'"
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Toys For The Rich To Cultivate Product Popularity

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  • Elitists are bad? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tarcastil ( 832141 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @06:50PM (#11444178)
    Sorry, slashdot community :(
    • Exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @07:33PM (#11444431)
      The first post nailed this stupid article with a stake through the heart.

      wake up dudes, the world works in a hierarchical fashion not because it can but because in fact this works well. Look at how scientific research works. Sure there might be lots of little folks that could be great seniour researchers if only they could get funded. But it costs too much to identify these folks. Its better in general to go with a trusted senoir researcher than require omniscience on the part of funding agencies.

      that was the long recognized flaw of the command economy in russia. it could not effectively gather the information that a market economy could

      thus elitism as a filter to diseminate useful information about a limited availability product in an optimal fashion is not a bad idea.

      • Re:Exactly (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Yokaze ( 70883 )
        > that was the long recognized flaw of the command economy in russia.

        Um, except the economy in the Soviet Union was hierarchical. In fact, much more than a market driven economy. And actually quite elitist (Politburo)

        > Look at how scientific research works.

        Science is actually fairly non-hierarchical. Guess, why it is called peer-review. Yes, there are more famous scientists and they are usually better funded and one listens more to their words. Still, another scientist is the king of his own lab, n
      • Re:Exactly (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Blittzed ( 657028 )
        Unfortunately it doesn't work like that in the real world. What actually happens is that the money goes to the institutions rather than the individual. The so-called sandstone or elite type of institutions get the bulk of the money based partly on who they are. I am not saying this is the only criteria, but it is certainly a part of the process. I work in the system, I am a researcher, I apply for grants, I have seen the process in action. Even the people who work at these type of places admit that this occ
      • Oh this is great - I've been looking for somebody who has their own alternate "nonhierarchical" world which proves that a hierarchical social structure works best!

        Note to goombah (how appropriate):
        Just because all you know is ignorance is no reason to spread it around like disease!
      • Re:Exactly (Score:2, Interesting)

        by asuffield ( 111848 )
        > the world works in a hierarchical fashion not because it can but because in fact this works well


        > But it costs too much to identify these folks

        What you have actually demonstrated here is that capitalism implies hierarchial structure. This is neither new nor particularly insightful; it is an elementary tenet of anarchism that capitalism is the cause of this. That doesn't mean it works well, it just means that capitalist societies will inevitably do it. It's a demonstration of why capitalism su
        • Why does capitalism suck? I know communism sucks and socialism sucks too. I was born in the USSR and live in Canada - oh, the Irony!

          Statistically capitalism works much better and I pseronally like it more. I don't think it sucks. What sucks is that this supposed capitalism (in the US for example) is not a pure Free Market but just like anywhere else it is a protectionist environment and it is driven by human condition - hand washes hand. Just like anywhere else. So this 'capitalism' is a mix of a who
      • The first post nailed this stupid article with a stake through the heart.

        I think the point of the article was that companies are attempting to influence a group of people whom the technical community look up to. If free samples are to be given, then it's natural to pick an 'elite' to give them to.

        While, as others have pointed out, this kind of thing is hardly new, it's disappointing to see commercial interests attempt to bias the information that we recieve even further than it already is. While o

      • The "usefullness" idea is tainted by the freebe. Doctors who were given drugs ,hotel stays etc by reps took tests later to see what drugs they would prescribe when 2 or more drugs worked equally well. The researchers were given access to to the doctor prescription records. It turned out even the doctors who thought they didn't, said stated in the survey/test that they wouln't be influenced by sales pitches,freebes, prescribed the drug much more often that was made by the guys that sent them away, made th
    • I don't think I need anything else in society.

      This is a good place to find friends who actually do know what they are talking about most of the time :)

      Where else can you be modded so democratically?

      God/Allah/Jesus/(your own pick) bless /.!

      BTW I use toilet paper, step on the flusher and wash my hands every time thank you very much! :)

  • how is this new? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mmkkbb ( 816035 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @06:51PM (#11444189) Homepage Journal
    this is no different from hiring someone for a paid testimonial.

    except that the reviewers are not necessarily going to present a positive review. why is this important?
    • by metlin ( 258108 )
      Well, even if one out of the 100 reviewers presented a vaguely positive review, marketing would ensure that the opinions of those that disagreed are just drowned and the opinion of this one guy is pumped up and used as a marketing tool.

      That's how marketing works :-)
    • I concur. Who cares? A bunch of rich people get some free stuff. So? How is this different from any other day?

      Newsweek seemsto be scraping the barrel this week for stories.
    • I would suggest that most reviewers will give at least a minimally positive review to anything that's not blatantly offensive to their sensibilities. The reviewers may be rich, but they also live by those human dynamics that occur when people become part of an exclusive group.

      This reminds me of those "teen fashion boards" at local department stores, where the store lets popular and attractive high school girls join an exclusive club to recommend products to other girls. How many of these girls will actu

    • by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @08:30PM (#11444734) Homepage
      Bingo. And marketers have been doing the same thing with Hollywood celebs for years. I just saw a show about celebrity wardrobes and how the company producing a kind of shoe gave free pairs to celebrities, who in turn wore them, and then they sold like hotcakes.

      There is not a single damn thing that is new about this, or that makes it News For Nerds unless you count the fact that these guys are from Silicon Valley.

    • At least they have to pay INCOME Tax on all those gifts!!
  • Getting free product from vendors to create mindshare (with the expected result that you will recommend said product) is a pretty common thing.

    Even post bubble, vendors tend to take care of sales reps and techs...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 22, 2005 @06:51PM (#11444198)
    This is why the Segway is so popular....
    • Considering that I have yet to see a single one of those overweight and underpowered motorscooters in my whole life, I don't see how it could be considered popular.

      I live in the Big Apple, so I'd expect to have seen one by now if they were even remotely popular.
    • ...popular with law enforcement and perhaps the postal service. ;) Well, maybe those people in the Northwest, too.

      Seriously, though, I hardly ever see 'em anymore, after that "new Segway" luster faded..
    • The parent post is both funny and insightfull because it gives a great example of the obvious flaw. I have seen one Segway in my entire life (looked like the kid got it second hand). I was looking forward to what was billed as a "revolution in personal transport". It had marketing megaflop written all over it when the "secret broke", slow, expensive and impractical compared to existing skateboards, push bikes, rollerskates and wheel chairs.

      The problem with elitist thinkers is that because they had one br
  • by Anonymous Coward
    and the people who practice it are the children of the devil.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 22, 2005 @06:54PM (#11444222)
    Just what the rich need... more stuff for free. How about giving the products to random Joes on the street with the requirement of getting a review from them on it?
    • becuase no one cares if random joe has it. sure it may eventually spread through friends, but if you give stuff to someone who might be (or pass along to someone) on tv or get talked about in a rag like people or us, then you have just hit a larger section of people at once.
      • On the other hand, I wouldn't by a car, computer, cloths, or name-your-own product-X just because someone famous uses them. I'm a trend setting, and like to be unique and think for myself and my needs. To follow someone like the rest of the sheeple in the world is an insult.
        • You, or someone else, might, though, if that person was considered knowledgable in their field. These aren't exactly run-of-the-mill "Celebs" here. There's definitely a status boost when a respected name in the tech field says "this is good tech".
      • but... how many "average joes" (like me, and probably you, too) could really care less if Esther Dyson and Marc Andreeson like that electric toothbrush/gum stimulator?

        This is simply a marketing excercise. At the very least, the "reviewers" get paid to do it. How many people buy products because Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Taylor, Steve Tyler, Brad Pitt, et al. get photographed wearing/using it?

        OMG, Brad Pitt photographed wearing Hanes whitey-tightey underwear? Sales boosted at Wal-Mart by 10%!!!
    • and urges people on this list to 'bow out of this exercise entirely.'
      Honestly, can you really expect people not to take free stuff? Smart rich people get and stay that way by being cheap, what better way, then getting free toys.

      Since the people getting these products should have a good amount of tech knowledge, hopefully their reviews will be well done and informative, instead of "This product is cool"
  • by JDevers ( 83155 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @06:57PM (#11444238)
    but do most of them contain grammer this horrific? The linked article read more like a stream of consciousness e-mail (a poorly written one at that) than a published piece of literature.
    • This is /. remember? The article doesn't have to make sense, or even be in a language anyone knows. It just needs to be able to handle the /. effect and it will get posted.
      • Huh? Since when do only articles that can survive the /. effect get posted? If every website could handle the load, it wouldn't be called the /. effect -- it'd be nameless and have no effect on anything. By definition, the /. effect is what happens when a website that can't take the load gets front page coverage on /.
    • by arturov ( 447349 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @07:07PM (#11444296)
      but do most of them contain grammer this horrific?

      Not as bad as the average slashdot post.
      • Yea, but that is a spelling error and not a grammar error and definitely not a grammer error ;)

        Seriously though, one has to see the difference between a single spelling error versus a multiple paragraph article that appears to be written by an eighth grader as a cell phone text message.
    • but do most of them contain grammer this horrific? The linked article read more like a stream of consciousness e-mail (a poorly written one at that) than a published piece of literature.

      How 'bout dictionaries []? :-)

    • Normally, I don't bother correcting other people's grammar or spelling. When somebody else is obnoxious enough to do so, though, then makes four errors in two sentences, I just can't help myself.
      1. Spell "grammar" correctly.
      2. "Stream-of-consciousness" should be hyphenated, as shown here.
      3. "Poorly-written" should also be hyphenated.
      4. "Grammar as horrific as this" is a more accurate construction than "grammar this horrific". Or, consider: "... do most of them contain such horrific grammar?"

      As I said, I wo

      • 3. "Poorly-written" should also be hyphenated.

        Incorrect. You do not hyphenate "-ly" adverbs such as "poorly". Please see: []

      • The most important different is that I made a near worthless post on a message board, this is barely more formal than an e-mail. The grammar I was criticizing was not only in a far more formal editorial posting by a senior writer for Business 2.0 magazine it's grammar was FAR worse than mine. Did you actually read it?

        "Newsweek has lowdown on something" is the beginning of the first sentence of the article. My problem I guess isn't that the grammar is really bad, but that it doesn't seem that the author
    • The link to the Newsweek article seems to go straight to page 2.

      If you go back and start reading from page 1 it seems to make a bit more sense.
  • I wish I had the influence for people to give me free things just so I could tell them it wasn't absolute crap!

    "What do you think of this sir?"
    "Meh." *Scuttles away with new toy.*
  • I sure hope CowboyNeal is considered special enough to get schwag. Maybe there should be a sort of anti-special list, consisting entirely of subgenii, who get nothing but weird swag.

    At any rate, it's wrong to create any sort of poll or list and not have a CowboyNeal option. 'Nuff said.

  • Yah.. that's what i want. Advice from marc andressen..
  • Piracy? (Score:2, Funny)

    by jfonseca ( 203760 )
    Om Malik says it ironic that 'the first product being offered is a shitter! What Crap!'"

    Hey pal you gotta pay for Windows.
  • Sour grapes? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Quixote ( 154172 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @07:05PM (#11444286) Homepage Journal
    Not to diss Om Malik or anything, but I'm wondering: could his irritation be due to the fact that he didn't get included in this "el1te" club ?

    I wonder if one of the invitees responded with this Groucho quote:
    I refuse to join any club which would have me as a member.

  • Andreessen Biography : []

    His career:

    Beginnings at the University of Illinois

    Netscape .

    What happened to Netscape?
  • by ashitaka ( 27544 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @07:10PM (#11444307) Homepage
    You haven't lived until you've experienced the pleasure of a toilet-seat bidet. These are becoming a standard fixture in Japanese homes. If you think North Americans have a good sense of hygiene (Slashdot denizen excepted), think again.

    You'll never just wipe your ass again.
  • by sanityspeech ( 823537 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @07:10PM (#11444309) Journal
    As any PBS junkie knows, there is a market for everyday people willing to hawk a merchant's wares. [] What is disturbing is that it appears such people are in no short supply. []

    Word of mouth is the best form of advertising. What bothers me is that characters that push agendas under the guise of neutrality [] are becoming more prevalent all the time.

    Here's hoping that one of the community's most revered icons [] never sells out.
  • Sex Toys (Score:3, Funny)

    by SunFan ( 845761 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @07:16PM (#11444340)

    That'd make for some great Schwag Set blogging!
  • sub-plot out of William Gibson's novel Pattern Recognition.

  • This is such a normal and acceptable process that it annoys me this is even posted here. People with products have to create buzz, and one way is with a silent salesman type thing like this. This is in no way similar to paying something to talk up your product.
    • It may be normal, but it should be completely unacceptable. Here's why. It's not about "giving free stuff to rich people". It's not about elitism. It's about trust and free market.

      If you trust someone for advice on geeky stuff, and that someone then turns around and starts pushing things because they got them for free with the expectation that they will eulogize about them in print, **and** they don't reveal this, then you are duped and none the wiser.

      Free market needsa trust. Reliable information. That's
  • I'd hate to sound like I'm accepting of this sort of nonsense, but since when is any of this actually news? It's been going on for a long time in some form or another. I've seen it happen and I've seen the very amusing reactions companies generate when what they thought was a sure-thing positive review backfire horribly. I'm not entirely certain why it's suddenly some sort of big deal now though.
    • I'd hate to sound like I'm accepting of this sort of nonsense, but since when is any of this actually news? It's been going on for a long time in some form or another.

      Steinway succeeded in getting one of it's pianos installed aboard an early "boomer," the SSS Thomas A. Edison, in 1961, perhaps the ultimate in product placement. Cold War Sub Piano Part of New Museum Exhibit []

      Clark Gable was frequently photographed in a Dusenberg he probably never owned.

      • Clark Gable was frequently photographed in a Dusenberg he probably never owned.

        Actually, it can be seen here. [] It was said to be his favorite automobile.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @08:39PM (#11444774)
    The entertainment elite are constantly given free stuff in the hope that their wearing/using/talking about it will promote the product.

    It's a truism in hollywood that nobody will give a dime to struggling actors who could really use a hand, but once they make it big and don't need anything from anyone, they are practically buried in freebies - free clothes, free cars, free tickets, free jewelry, free beer, you name it they get it all for free.
    • The entertainment elite are constantly given free stuff in the hope that their wearing/using/talking about it will promote the product.

      Sure but those people have made careers out of bathing in publicity. This list is composed of private people who may or may not enjoy someone claiming an endorsement from them. Don't put fake endorsements past the marketing department that gave you the Apple Switcher and is famous for name dropping whenever it can. The "creepy" reaction is right on target.

  • This is not a new trend, folks, people have been giving things to the wealthy since times immemorial. It's simply a way of trying to curry favor with the powerful, the idea being, that little favor with the powerful goes a long way. In this case, their favor means the marketing power of their name.

    There was an interview with Trump recently, where he talks about how most of the time if he goes to a restaurant he doesn't frequent, they give him the food! Now why would they do this? (hint: it's not because

  • Wow, what a slow news day... An article on rich people getting free stuff. ,=- * * * this article
  • by btempleton ( 149110 ) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @09:26PM (#11444980) Homepage
    I certainly was planning to be open about how I got products if I talked about them. I suspect most of the other folks are too. I jotted a brief note in my blog about it [] like some of the others.

    It's really not some sort of elitist club, not even a club, nor much that new.

    I do agree that by giving stuff to folks who write or are influentical, they do increase the chances that they will get written about. I presume that's their goal. There are certainly no requirements that we speak fondly of the products, but the historical tradition is people are far more likely to evangelize a new product they've seen than they are to curse something new nobody knows about, so on the balance it's been a win for vendors to do giveaways like this.

    I know in the old days of magazines it was worse. Most software reviews were good for the same reason. If an obscure product came along and was bad, they just didn't write about it. If it was good, they might write. If it was famous or the company pulled enough strings (ie. bought lots of advertising) that got them a review, even at places with decent editorial firewalls, though it didn't assure a good one. If you saw a scathing review, it usually meant the company was so famous they had to review the product, or the company had pushed super hard to get one, good or no.

    Truth is though, I, nor most of the people on the list aren't bought so easily. If you hear about something from somebody, you should judge how much you trust them in general, not whether they got the thing free.

    If you think about it, what logic in there is giving a false good review for a bribe, if the bribe is a free version of the product you don't like very much?

    • If you think about it, what logic in there is giving a false good review for a bribe, if the bribe is a free version of the product you don't like very much?

      The potential promise of getting yet more free evaluation stuff you don't like?
    • I hope it blows up. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by twitter ( 104583 )
      Brad Templeton, or someone claiming to be him says:

      ... I, nor most of the people on the list aren't bought so easily.

      Indeed, the high reputations of those on the list is what makes the whole thing so nasty. Bill Gates was just bragging about this kind of cheesy scheme in a BBC interview []: always want to get in to avant-garde households and then start the word of mouth...they can come and say: 'Wow I really like that!' So it builds momentum ...

      He was talking about the media center, the one that b

      • "News flash, Bill, it has to work for people to say they like it."

        MCE2005 *does* work. It works damn well. The system wakes up and records at the right time. It's easy to set up. It supports a broad range of hardware. It has a nice interface. The conflict management system is good. The UI is fast. FF/RW and :30 jump / :8 jumpback are instant.

        There are plenty of nice touches - it will tell you why a show didn't record (e.g. "Cancelled by ", "System Off", "Conflict", etc.). It will tell you which user delet
  • How do I start the Slacker 100. 100 slackers with blogs and websites that didn't cash in on the Tech boom to get free schwagg. Heck we can start small with a free bottle of Bawls, and Ipod mini's.

    Slacker #1 right here who is with me?
  • Big Dog: "I want the toilet seat." Little Dog: "I want the toilet seat." Big Dog: "_I_ want the toilet seat." Little Dog: "Ehh... hmmm... I want the toilet seat!"
  • If you haven't heard of bzzagent, this is well worth reading and being aware of: html?ex=1259989200&en=6dc3f3878659a642&ei=5090&par tner=rssuserland []
    (nytimes registration required, yadda yadda)
    It too references Wm. Gibson's "Pattern Recognition" in its investigation into this insidious marketing technique.
  • Esther Dyson's dad...Mr. Dyson sphere himself []

    "Aye. An actual Dyson Sphere."
    Make the pain stop... [].jpg
  • the big problem... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by povvell ( 767117 )
    ...with this kind of 'behind the scenes' buzz-making is that

    a) These people are not really trained to evaluate products properly and
    b) They probably don't have the time to do it well even if they were trained.

    The reason these buzz schemes don't want to use journalists or other professional reviewers is that journos know what to look for in products they're reviewing. They have the experience with similar types of product, and know of potential pitfalls which can slip past the amateur reviewer. That
  • The problem with the "elite" is that they're effectively living in a different world from us. Something that they might like might be viewed as completely and utterly ridiculous to us.

    Just take a look at the "successful" people around you. Look at the way they behave. Often they have got where they are through bullying, backstabbing, cheating, lying and double standards. Look at how they drive, look at their politics, look at their opinions.

    They are often the people perpetuating the pointy-haired culture

  • I find this story interesting because I worked on implementing a similar project 7 years ago. The idea was, the consulting firm I worked for would partner with CNN to select the "100 most influential people in the world." These people would be given special IBM laptops they'd use to log onto a web site every so often to answer brief surveys. CNN could then take that information and, I don't know, build a show around it or something.

    I helped build the prototype web site (which looked pretty cool for '98, I
  • These people aren't really so much "rich", as "famous". Their wealth derives from mainly from their punditry, which is usually less insightful than merely choosing what trend to comment on. The echo chamber nature of their layer of society, where one "right place, right time" win, even for the "right person", put them in a role defining other places/times which have never been nearly so fortunate. This marketing system harnesses their spokesmodel power directly, discarding the veil that these celebs have an
  • The reality is that these Silicon Valley members can say whatever they want about the Swash. They don't get paid. The company gives up a lot of $ in product to try and get word of mouth out. This product is just like Tivo -- you need evangelists to tell you how awesome the Swash is. Once you try it, you'll never go back. I know. I use one everyday and the heated seat alone makes me happy to go to the bathroom - a place I previously hated due to cold toilet seats. The warm water wash functions are the

It isn't easy being the parent of a six-year-old. However, it's a pretty small price to pay for having somebody around the house who understands computers.