Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Exaggeration and Deception are Normal on the Web

I received my usual batch of SPAM this morning. All kinds of emails promising I would make thousands upon thousands of dollars from some "home based business", and tens of thousands a month from this or that "exciting business opportunity".

People continue to fall for this stuff. Even though there are literally hundreds of thousands of websites promising to make you rich; and even though the odds of my get-rich-quick site making significant money are probably smaller than me (at 56) making the PGA tour, people continue to fall for this crap.

It has to be a combination of greed, laziness, and stupidity that drives the "market" for get-rich-quick online businesses.

I'm not saying everyone who dives into their own "work-at-home online business" is greedy, lazy, and stupid. Most are just naive. And since the entry costs are incredibly low (websites are cheap, your spare time is cheap), and there is virtually no risk...voila, we have hundreds of thousands of new "entrepreneurs".

What bothers me most about the web is the level of dishonesty, misinformation, and deception we tolerate in the name of "entrepreneurship".

I am not talking about the really blatant scams — like the letters from would-be minor bank employees and government civil servants from obscure African countries who need your help to liberate $67 million from the bank account of a dead finance minister. I get at least one of these incredibly blatant attempts at outright deception every day

No, I am talking about the other twenty or thirty emails I get every day from well-meaning newbie consultants, "entrepreneurs", and "internet marketers" who are peddling more innocent sounding "business opportunities". These people have usually aligned themselves with some con-artist-with-a-marketing-scheme. The con artist / guru then encourages them to make outrageous claims for the plan. After all, if you don't hype the hell out of a scheme, nobody will buy it. And if nobody buys it, it will be a failure.

"You want to be successful don't you?" OK then. Go ahead and lie about how successful the plan is. Even though you have a pretty good idea it won't work. And even though you know it has not worked for you (yet?).

Perhaps this is just symptomatic of our age. What's a few exaggerated claims about something as insigificant as "home-based business opportunities"? After all, we're prepared to tolerate Colin Powell and Tony Blair making exaggerated claims about WMDs that result in a few thousand people being slaughtered, numerous towns and cities like Falluja being blown to bits, and untold millions of dollars being spent on weapons that could otherwise buy food, housing, medicine, water...

Hey. What's the big deal?

-- Rick

P.S. This morning I received requests for 5 links back to one of these newbie home-based-business sites. This always presents a dilemma for me. Should I go ahead and exchange links because this person sounds sincere, and is not making outrageous claims? Or should I reject the link exchange because this is just another site with a 98% chance of going nowhere? In this case, I chose the former.