Why I’m Thinking About Quitting #TNI

 

Update: I now help run #TTOT (Travel Talk on Twitter). More info on that can be found on the Facebook page or this post by wanderfolly, who talked to Melvin from TravelDudes about its creation.

 

Part One: The Book

OK, this is a bit of inside baseball, so let’s set up the players.

ZipSetGo runs Travelers’ Night In (TNI), a weekly event on Twitter, where various travel-minded people answer 10 questions based on a travel topic, bouncing ideas and opinions off of each other. I’ve hosted the event a couple of times, which means I’ve been one of the people that puts out the initial questions.

On January 12th, 2011, Pam at nerdseyeview.com posted “Q1: Who Owns Your Internet Noise?“, wherein ZipSetGo is outed as selling a book based on tweets from TNI that had been mentioned for the past few weeks. Not a surprise to me, as I’d seen the tweets. Not bothersome to me, as I wasn’t listed as someone who would be in the book.

Here’s part of ZipSetGo’s take, as seen on Pam’s blog:

From the Zip Set Go Team:

Thank you for allowing us to provide our viewpoint on your blog!

The #TNI book was never intended to upset anyone nor was it intended for financial gain.  As the creators of the Travelers’ Night In #TNI twitter chat, our intent has always been to bring together avid travelers and learn about the world from each other – the book was just an extension of that idea.

That’s nice, but the immediate question is, if the point isn’t for profit, what are you doing trying to sell a book with no explicit mention that the profits are going elsewhere?

One of the main complaints was that ZipSetGo’s disclaimer, which allowed them to publish the book without any real consent on the part of its quoted tweeps, goes against that of Twitter’s itself.

ZipSetGo (emphasis by Pam):

By participating in Travelers’ Night In (#TNI) weekly Twitter event, you understand that your tweets or tweeted pictures may be used in an article, recap, blog or book by ZipSetGo.com and you agree to release and authorize the use of such content without compensation (except as prohibited by law).

From Twitter’s terms of service:

You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services.

Not exactly in sync, eh?

Well, fine. Legalese and such isn’t everyone’s bag. ZipSetGo puts the event together, people would probably be involved regardless, right?

Let’s look to the comments.

Part Two: The Comments

The first one, from JoAnna at kaleidoscopicwandering.com set the tone, ending with:

When someone else makes money off of my words without me knowing about it, that’s a problem. I may sit #TNI out from now on.

After her, a long string of people state their general discomfort and question their future involvement in TNI.

There aren’t more than a couple major exceptions to the overall tone of “This sucks and I don’t know if I want to be associated with it anymore.”

  1. Michael Hodson of goseewrite.com says that he doesn’t feel any real need to protect the intellectual property of his tweets, since they’re relatively short.
  2. Jeremy B of budgettravelintentions.com has a string of arguments that don’t make sense to Pam or myself. A few of them:

2. Your tweets – Let’s be honest here. Your tweets are all over the internet. They are public. Any Joe Blow could go out there, use your Tweet, give you no credit for it, and make money off of what you say. I am not saying this is right but I am saying this is a huge issue because many of you know about it.

3. TNI is a mutually beneficial relationship. You get to meet and connect with other travelers, share tips and stories, gain and get new followers, and gain a bigger audience for what you do in the process. As a result of TNI, have any of you profited monetarily from the relationships/tweets on there?

4. Your legal rights here are a valid argument. I don’t deny that. I actually agree that using pictures should definitely require permission. My personal opinion – it’s a bit petty to fight over a right just because you can. If it was a post or writing, I would be upset. However, tweets are already public, I am not looking to make a profit off of them, and I think the book can be mutually beneficial. In short, is this really worth fighting about – your legal right to your tweet that you probably never even care about before now because of a travel community that you are part of?

Regarding #2, if you’re not saying it’s right, then why is it a possible defense?

#3. I haven’t made a cent off of anything related to this. I knew that they were and wasn’t bothered, because I enjoyed it. I wasn’t bothered by the book, but rather, at this point in the comments, what felt like lying about the profits.

#4. “Tweets are already public” doesn’t make sense. Could someone plagiarize my blog posts, then? Those are public. There is obviously a line and that line may be different to different people.

Jeremy B then goes on to say that the problem is treating ZipSetGo as an enemy, not as a friend. What kind of a friend uses your stuff without asking, then tells you that that was the arrangement the whole time, despite the fact that you never knew?

At this point in the comments, I still wasn’t too bothered. What knocked me off the edge was ZipSetGo’s book retraction/’apology’ later in the comments. In full:

By ZipSetGo on Jan 12, 2011Reply

The #TNI book has been removed from publication and will not be published in the future. For the record, there were only 19 copies published and 7 of which were ordered by our team. All profit will be donated to charity. As stated earlier, the intent of the book was only to further share the fun and informative chat that #TNI has become, however this discussion has removed anything “fun” about it.

Those who seem most bothered by our actions are not even in the book and seem to be fighting for a much bigger issue over intellectual capital. That being said, we hope that all who are championing this cause find solace in winning this tiny battle you have undertaken.

This riled me. And continues to every time I read it.

It’s bad enough to pretend that a book which is obviously for-profit isn’t, then try to write it off by saying that now it’ll be donated to charity.

But what really disgusts me is the complete disregard for the legitimate concerns of such a broad group of people, some, who are much bigger than ZipSetGo is in the travel blogger community, such as Nomadic Matt.

Once again:

we hope that all who are championing this cause find solace in winning this tiny battle you have undertaken

I’ll give myself the last word.

Roni Weiss Reply:
January 12th, 2011 at 10:24 pm

Not a fan of the petulant half-apology.

“tiny battle”?

If you had your intellectual property being unknowingly used for profit, would you not be concerned with that, as well as the precedent?

I love the whole numerical thing, too.

If it was wrong, it doesn’t matter if it was 1 book or a million.

The intent, for most of us, is to seek greater exposure and with that, hopefully some monetary gain. We all have friends outside of Twitter. It’s ridiculous to pretend that we’re only doing this stuff for the kindness in our hearts and the community aspect.

If people are fighting who *aren’t* in the book, that makes their arguments *more* viable, because what they have to gain is simply attacking an unjust issue, as opposed to worried about their own stuff.

Was the profit going to charity before? Doesn’t seem like it.

I wasn’t particularly anti-ZipSetGo before this, but I’m beginning to wonder.

Inconclusive Conclusion:

Do I really want to contribute to the financial success of people that so wholly disregard the opinions of a great number of people that have helped them get there? Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t want to cut my nose off to spite my face. There are principles involved, yes, but I really do enjoy TNI and the people therein. I think the best way for me to get out of this is if someone else started an event like TNI. Jeremy B jokingly suggested that I do.

Hell, I’m a leader. Maybe I will. But at the very least, I wouldn’t mind jumping ship. The captain doesn’t seem to care about her crew anymore.

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28 Responses to Why I’m Thinking About Quitting #TNI

  1. Jeremy B says:

    I share this because Roni’s perceptions of my stance on this are inaccurate and not reflective of my opinion or my approach to this. This is just one comment and some of Roni’s reflections on what I said are not in context with everything I said on this matter.

    Point #2 I was just making the point that yes, anyone could still your tweets and make a profit off of them. If this is strictly a legal matter, then you could become obsessed with protecting your tweets. I was pointing out that the issue here is not so much the tweets being used but the lack of communication on this issue because people found out about tweets being used. Most people probably would have been OK with tweets in the book if they knew.

    Point #3 TNI has always been mutually beneficial as numerous people gain followers, find new people to follow, and connect with other travelers. Nobody said a mutually beneficial relationship had to be monetary. If you gain a friend, a reader to your blog, or money (some blogs get paid based on hits), then you have benefited. My point was that this is a community where everyone has benefited from the relationships which leads to…

    Point #4 My desire to just see this resolved peacefully, regardless of who is right or wrong. To isolate the phrase “tweets are already public” is completely missing the point. I stated very clearly I understand the rights people are fighting for. I stated that for myself, I pick and choose my battles and on this one I don’t care. I’m not defending ZipSetGo. I am sharing how I feel about my tweets. Then you go off on a tangent about plagiarizing posts. Yet you completely miss where I said “If it was a post or writing, I would be upset” in the same point.

    I stated very clearly that I understand why people are upset. I stated I have no problem with people being upset. I just stated for me, I don’t care as much about this as others. Is this siding with ZipSetGo? Not at all, yet your post slants it that way and that doesn’t accurately reflect my opinion. My goal behind this, clearly stated throughout my comments, is that as a community we handle this respectfully regardless of how you feel this happened. As travelers who have enjoyed TNI, I believe this was a misunderstanding more than an attempt to intentionally harm anyone. And it is with that attitude that I think a more respectful and friendly approach to this should be made.

    My thoughts on this, and I have a few, are more accurately understood in the context of what I wrote spread out over a number of comments. To single them out in this post and wrongly put words in my mouth misleads people who may read this as to what I actually stated and felt.

    Disclaimer: Because of conversations I had with @GoApril, I was actually aware of the book idea as well as other things months before other people knew. So I was not caught off guard about this and so my point of view is completely different than everyone else on here. My approach on this has been to help heal the wounds. I have chosen to not take any side on this. I understand the frustrations but also believe that the actions on the part of ZipSetGo are not intentional. With that in mind and given what I already knew, I have just proposed a peaceful solution to this and am not dismissing anyone’s opinion or taking anyone’s side.

  2. roniweiss says:

    No one really understood why you thought it was being handled disrespectfully.

    You saw the tone as ‘combative’ when it was critical and concerned.

    I feel like I can speak for more people than just myself when I say that I’m not sure how you wish it was handled.

    What does “resolved peacefully” mean? No one is going and shooting people or threatening violence in any way.

    How is a potential TNI boycott anything but peaceful?

  3. Jeremy B says:

    I stated all along I understand being upset. But read some of the comments. Some are quite vengeful and upset at ZipSetGo.

    I understand people being upset about their rights and the lack of communication. Yes people were very upset and wanting to boycott TNI over this. However, did anyone stop and think that maybe this wasn’t intentional? Wrong maybe but if getting your toes stepped on was accidental, is the high level of frustration and disgust really needed?

    It’s like someone being angry, bitter, and hateful because their bag was stolen when all that happened was someone picked it up accidentally because they thought it was theirs. Then the person whose bag was stolen calms down and realizes the amount of anger they have over the perceived unjustice wasn’t quite what it should have been.

    While that may not be a perfect analogy, I think it makes my point. People shouldn’t jump the gun that assume that ZipSetGo was out to get us all along just waiting to make big money over our tweets. They thought the disclaimer and emailing people were enough. Obviously it wasn’t. I just don’t think there was intent their to justify the level of frustration, even though a wrong was committed.

  4. roniweiss says:

    To me, it doesn’t matter what their intent was.

    What matters is how they handled it.

    1) By lying about the book’s clearly for-profit intent.

    2) By dismissing the complaints/concerns of a wide spread of its participants (read: the people responsible for their success), by blithely saying that they hoped they were happy for winning something that no one felt was a “tiny battle”.

    And as for intent, that matters to others. Because when you feel like you are a part of a community and then feel treated as a pawn who will go along with whatever is thrown at you, that’s not going to endear you to the leaders of the ‘community’.

    Once again, you are using words that don’t apply. No longer wanting to be involved in a Twitter event when you don’t agree with the policies of its organizers is not ‘vengeful’.

    As for your analogy, let’s play it out.

    So, ZipSetGo picked up the bag. The person yells at them for “stealing their bag”.

    ZipSetGo responds, “Here’s your stupid bag. I hope you’re happy you have it back. By the way, I wasn’t going to steal it.”

    But in the interim, you’d seen a description of your bag on Craigslist or eBay, but it’s then taken down.

  5. Jeremy B says:

    I can’t speak for them. However, as an emotional person, I am sure you can relate.

    They accidentally pick up the bag thinking it was theirs. They realize it isn’t theirs, come give it back, only to be greeted by people standing outside yelling at them, saying how deceitful and wrong they are, and saying they don’t want to deal with you any more.

    Might your reaction be a bit of emotional response to these attacks if you just made a mistake and hadn’t taken the bag on purpose?

    As for the lying/deceiving part, I can’t speak to that as to what their intentions were. Maybe they thought it was enough to put the disclaimer out there and email people with no negative feedback and think they had done enough. Then they get responses like this and are a bit shocked. I don’t know.

    As for the community aspect, you’ve done TNI for a long time. How many times were you on TNI when prizes were given away? You know sponsors were involved to do this which means people paid money to be a part of TNI. And as a travel community, people of TNI benefited from it by getting some great prizes.

    So don’t say you didn’t know money was a part of this and don’t say that the leaders of this community weren’t trying to give back to you as well.

  6. roniweiss says:

    Right, but that’s my point.

    Them not taking the high road is the whole problem.

    If someone yells at Obama, “You’re an asshole!” What should he do?

    It’s what true leadership is.

    And they have not demonstrated it in any way during the whole debacle.

    “Give back to you” is a very naive perspective. It’s a way to keep people involved so the people therein can make money off of it.

    Which is fine, provided there is honesty. And there hasn’t seemed to be.

  7. roniweiss says:

    Plus, it isn’t about the disclaimer, with the lying.

    They claimed that the intent of the book wasn’t for profit.

    Do you buy that?

    And they use a lot of backwards language to try to make it sound like they asked people for permission, when in reality, at least some people were not notified until after the book was on sale.

  8. Jeremy B says:

    I can’t speak to the intent of the disclaimer, the profits for the book, or the request for permission because I wasn’t privy to those decisions or how that was handled.

    As for the prizes and stuff, again I think that is where TNI is mutually beneficial. And by that, I mean both sides can benefit beyond the money aspect. You can call it an unhealthy co-dependent relationship if you want but there is benefit on both sides.

    I do understand the emotional response if they get this level of frustration and animosity if they didn’t realize they did anything wrong. However, to compare the leadership and accountability of the President to that of ZipSetGo leadership is a bit of a stretch. This isn’t even Microsoft we’re talking about here.

    They’re human. It may have made things worse than they were. I don’t know. I do understand the reaction even if I disagree with it.

  9. roniweiss says:

    When your entire community is pissed at you, you’ve probably done something wrong.

    A defensive reaction is not going to endear them back to you.

    If you have their ear at all, I would suggest telling them to have a bigass apology with all the bullshit taken out, because if they try to smooth this over as they did in the first place, claiming to be angels, or in the second place, lashing out in passive-aggressive tones, they aren’t going to hold on to many people who’ve been involved for quite some time.

  10. Melvin says:

    I’ve already posted my thoughts on the other post, where I also found your link.

    Right now, I’m not attending TNI anymore, but in the end it still rocked. Mistakes were done, but it would be a shame to let the whole fun go because of that.

    Let’s just be a real cool travel community & improve TNI to something bigger together!

    For me, that sounds better than quitting! :)

    It would be great if you would go for it as well!

  11. roniweiss says:

    The problem with ‘improving’ TNI is that it’s ZipSetGo’s project.

    Whether or not anyone wants to work with them anymore is debatable, at best.

  12. Melvin says:

    You two guys having a nice chat for yourself here… :) I’ll join, if you don’t mind. :)

    It’s up to them to improve it. If they won’t, I’m pretty sure it’s the end of TNI after seeing all the comments.

    Then you could see who made TNI a success.

    Jeremy, I knew that there were sponsors, but I didn’t know that they also paid for being one. There is also a possibility just to throw in great prizes without also paying for it. Imagine the prizes if they would have put up the paid amount into the prize as well! That’s the way to go!

    When I had the feeling that it was running like that I felt treated wrong, as I think I was a big part of helping to get TNI to its success, just like every other co-host & all the people attending TNI.

    Seeing all the comments now, it shows clearly that the decisions of getting paid by sponsors & selling an ebook were the wrong ones. But that’s what can happen and mistakes are there, to learn from them.

    I’m have no problem to give it another go, especially with the girls, as they did a great job before.

  13. roniweiss says:

    So is your take that if they resolve to not make money off of it, then you’d be fine with staying around?

    My first step toward getting back involved in any project run by ZipSetGo is an apology that rings true. Acknowledgement of mistakes and perhaps some sort of honest timeline of how it went down.

    Beyond that, I think I might just go with majority opinion on this. If the people that I like talking to aren’t there anymore, that sort of defeats the point for me, anyway.

  14. Abi says:

    Well, it’s taken me a while to read down this far! As for “You know sponsors were involved to do this which means people paid money to be a part of TNI.” – I disagree with this – and agree with Melvin. It’s possible(common?) for companies to give things away as prizes without paying whoever hosts the prize (Passports with Purpose is the best travel community parallel I can think of.) I know that’s not a huge point in all of this but I think it’s worth mentioning.

    So far, the ZipSetGo responses have hurt their cause – it will be interesting to see what they say once things have calmed down a bit.

    Out of interest – how do you trademark a hashtag?

  15. Melvin says:

    Herewith I trademark my own hashtag: #TravelDudes-tm

  16. roniweiss says:

    @Abi: I just never thought there was a question that ZipSetGo was profiting from it. So when people didn’t know, that surprised me. Either way, as I noted, it’s not even the profits that upset me.

    @Melvin: Sorry, already trademarked #TravelDude and that’s too close, so there’ll be confusion. You’ll be hearing from my imaginary lawyers.

  17. Nick says:

    I just shut off TNI because it’s too damn noisy. And it was fun for a few weeks but it ceases to be valuable as a travel tool or at least, meeting people.

  18. roniweiss says:

    It was always funny to me when people apologized to their followers for the upcoming barrage.

  19. I do have fun at #tni.I’m not much concerned about the use of my tweets as I hardly give tips, photos etc. My tweets would probably have not been considered to be included in the book anyway.The thing that bothers me about the whole thing was the lack of clarity or straightforwardness about the intention of coming up with a book to be sold for profit. If it had been for charity from the very start, it would not have raised the shackles of many. It may not net the ZipSet group more than a 4 figure sum anyway. But that’s beside the point. Many feel used. For me, the closest parallel I can think of is of a lothario throwing parties to attract lady friends and filming his peccadilloes with these same ladies then compiling these shots to create a “sexy time” film and selling these off to whom ever may be interested. A bit harsh, but that’s how it comes across to me. But will it stop me participating in future #tni? Perhaps not.

  20. roniweiss says:

    So, in that metaphor, you’re an unrepentant slut?

  21. Jeremy B says:

    Melvin and Abi, having talked to April, I was privileged to information about ZipSetGo and TNI that others weren’t. I knew about the book, a possible TV show, sponsors, and other things months ago. So I say this from a completely different perspective than others. I was already aware of what is going on so I am not as shocked or angry as others.

    Abi – I probably should have said “I know sponsors were involved” rather than saying “you know” and assuming everyone knew what was going on.

  22. roniweiss says:

    It does confound me that people didn’t suspect that they were getting something more from the sponsors than just prizes for the participants.

    Seems naive to me.

  23. Abi says:

    Well…again. I’ve been involved in plenty of situations where prizes have been given out but the hosts haven’t been paid directly. If someone pays someone to promote a product then that’s usually called advertising (or advertorial depending on the terms…or an unethical bribe but that’s not what I’m saying went on here!)The first two are easier to spot on blogs and in newspapers than on twitter. I use hootsuite and a yellow bar pops up every now and then to announce that a tweet has been sponsored (which I assume means paid for) – never saw that on TNI, so I thought that meant that they weren’t paid to tweet.Of course I assumed that the TNI team were making money out of it somewhere – I just thought that it was in a more indirect way as a result of raising their own profiles.
    Is that naive? Possibly, possibly not. I never gave it that much thought before – but I don’t believe that I’m the only one who would have followed that logic. Anyway, as we all agree, this is a small point! Just wanted to explain my thoughts on why so many people were surprised – as it may help TNI and other people work out a better way of handling situations in the future.
    @Jeremy – yep, information and actually knowing a person give you a different persective to a disclaimer and a couple of paragraphs on a blog. Just can’t help but thinking that this whole thing could have been avoided with that information being freely available (even promoted) right from the start.
    Thanks to both of you for taking the time to consider my points – better get on with the work of the day!

  24. LOL. Not so much an unrepentant slut but a chronic party freeloader.

  25. Melvin says:

    A possible TV show? Wow! I guess I would have made a very strange face when I see myself suddenly on TV without knowing it before! ;-)

    That’s the first time I hear about that.

    Most of the times sponsors pay money, but doesn’t have to be like that! They could also just sponsor prizes!

    In social media you have to be really careful how to make money. I think that you can only do that through the back door & really careful.

  26. roniweiss says:

    I still think that making money isn’t the problem, nor even unintentionally stepping on toes.

    The problem is not owning up to the fact that you’ve upset key members of your community and continuing to pretend that you’ve done nothing wrong.

  27. Jeremy says:

    If their book got published, and I bought a copy and saw I was quoted, then put my quotes on my website to share, would I then get sued for copyright infringement of my own material?

  28. […] The hosts of #TNI, pressured by the aforementioned discussion and in an attempt to improve the situation, later announced that only 19 copies were published and that the profits were given away to charity. However, by then the issue had already been magnified to the point where some participants and co-hosts of #TNI had decided it was time to call it quits. […]

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