Mike Franks (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an old friend of mine who works for Social Sciences Computing at UCLA. Here are his comments about something that might improve consumer trust of web content:
Now that it's getting more common to see privacy notices on business websites, here's the next step. Post your business plan, or at least enough of it to make us believe in you and what you're offering. I guess I'm aiming this at any of the many websites that offer a free service or product of some kind. I'm no lawyer, and I think I'm only averagely cynical, but many times I've come across websites with services that sounded too good to be true, and I got exactly the opposite message than the one I'm sure they wanted to give.
My parents always taught me, if it looks too good to be true, I should stay away. And I'm sure in this cynical age, many others feel the same way.
One example: I was helping a friend look for web conferencing software this evening, and we found http://www.ivisit.com/ which looks great (and I don't see any for-fee upgrade version), but I'd like to be able to read a quick statement and know where they're coming from.
And if you're going to write something, give examples and avoid any jargon. Take the case of http://www.homestead.com/ -- a site that offers free websites. They say something, but the jargon doesn't mean anything to me. "We can afford to offer this excellent service for free because we generate revenue from Element partnerships, sponsorships and services and co-brand partnerships." Hunh?
The problem I face without this information is that I'd start to get cold feet, thinking, "Where's the money?" I don't want to have to try to dig deeper into someone's website and have to try out the service or figure out what the catch is. I don't object to other people using their websites to make money, and I realize free services cost somebody money. But without knowing, I feel like I'm missing part of the equation. Instead of being open and interested, the mood changes and I start wondering...
So, avoid all this confusion. Just post a simple statement of what your business plan is, at least in regard with any free services you offer. Here are some samples:
I'm sure you can do a better job at explaining your business plan. And, I'm sure you won't want to give away all your secrets. But treat us like reasonably intelligent people and give us enough facts to make a decision. Remember, this is the new economy.
A review of Groove Networks' collaborative software is out for VAR Business. I liked being in the groove, and hope more people begin to use it.
An analysis of management service providers for cNet's Enterprise web site. Entitled, Someone to Watch Over Me, it looks at the various different vendors who will monitor your web and Internet servers.
And today's front-page article in the NY Times mentions the perils of HTML email, something I pointed out to you readers in my essay last March.
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