I like teasing, having fun and joking with people. Last Thursday, in case you forgot, was April Fools day, and usually on that day I fool someone. And, I get fooled. There is a difference between being fooled in good fun and being made a fool of by someone you trust. I was made to look foolish by someone I trusted.
Chris Brogan’s book Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust is one of the best books I’ve read recently about the inner workings of the social media. Trust agents are people who understand how to build a network of people using social media, people who trust their judgment and ultimately may be customers. Through time spent interacting with people socially, a reputation is built, a brand that has enormous influence in a positive way with this network of followers. Obviously, there is much more elaboration about trust agents than this cursory explanation. That’s why you should read the book.
I like this quote from the jacket flap: “Today, the most valuable online currency isn’t the dollar, but trust itself.”
Back to tasteless pranks.
I follow people on the Internet who I trust. If someone I consider to be expert in her field checks sources and has never led me astray, she (or he) just might be a trust agent. A good example of a trust agent, someone you may know if you’ve been on the Internet for a while is Fred Lang. For years Fred wrote a great newsletter, filled with tips, advice and answered questions for subscribers. If Fred said it, you could take it to the bank. His newsletter, The LangaList merged with Windows Secrets in 2006.
And The Prank?
Someone else I have followed for a number of years posted a tasteless April fools prank last week. There are certain things that simply aren’t funny. Among them are spam, viruses, and most things that appear harmful to anyone using the Internet. Social norms most people take for granted are lost on some people. Anything that smacks of race, politics or religion is off limits on or offline. And if you happen to be an Internet trust agent, it is not in your best interest to make a spurious joke regarding a potentially harmful subject about the Internet.
So, for me all credibility with this former trust agent is gone. April first is no excuse for posting erroneous information online. If there had been a follow-up, a gotcha, some sort of posting to let me know this was a joke, it may have been different. I discovered I had been fooled by another commenter who did see the “joke.”