A Method for Improving Social Hygiene?

Dave Rogers has been writing about marketing within the frame of "Social Hygiene" here and here. At the end of the latter he wrote:

If we're going to have any hope of preserving some space for purely social interactions, where someone isn't manipulating us for the purpose of seeking a competitive advantage, we're probably going to have to make one. But I wonder if it isn't already too late?

One of the ways I reduce comment spam is to band certain words from being posted in comments. I was at first hesitant to do this, because someone might have a legitimate reason to mention propecia, for example. But then I realized that I don't want to hear other people's thoughts on propecia even if they aren't spam. So you can't comment on propecia here, depsite my ability to use the word three times in a single paragraph.

After reading Dave's post, I wondered if this technique couldn't be expanded to ban commerce from a social space. Here's how I would do it if I didn't already have far too many projects started:

Run all conversation through a filter. Submit each word in the text to the USPTO trademark search with a URL like this one for propecia. If any results are found, replace the word with [commercial product], and maybe give each user an anti-karma value like "pawn of the man" with a point for each time they use a trademarked word. So because I've used the word propecia five times now, my name would say: Scott Reynen [Pawn of the man level 5] or something like that. And then you could kick me out if my POTM level got too high over a given period of time.

I'm sure this plan could use improvement, but I think it's entire feasible to ban all trademarked terms from a social space, and I think it would be an interesting experiment, if nothing else.

Heh! Interesting idea, but I'm not sure if you're being facetious or not.

It's possible to talk about commercial products and services within a strictly social interaction, because they may be an aspect of whatever one happens to be relating. The problem is marketers wish to exploit this aspect of social interactions (hence, "markets are conversations") to seek a competitive advantage.

I've been thinking about my own writing. I used to link to Amazon listings for many of the books or movies or products I was discussing, so people could read others' reviews and as a convenience if they wished to obtain a copy of the book or movie, or buy the product themselves. In some instances, it was more or less an endorsement, although uncompensated. In other cases, it might have been a criticism, though I think I've been less inclined to link to things I'm criticizing because it is often construed as an endorsement.

I think that in the future, I'll be somewhat more careful about how I go about discussing products and services. Cultural things like books, movies, songs, articles and the like pretty much are one of a kind and have to be identified.

In the case of my Panasonic DVD recorder, I didn't link to the product on Amazon, because I didn't want to make it more like an endorsement. I identified the specific product because I wanted others who might have bought the product and had difficulty with it to find my description of my experience which might offer some clues regarding their own difficulties.

But in other cases, I think I may be less likely to identify the specific product, instead referring more generically to "the computer," "scanner," "DVR," etc.

Working with my parents over the weekend to print my father's pictures from 60 years ago was a strictly social activity. I'm grateful that technology has afforded me the means to gain easy access to those images, and to help reproduce them, but I don't want to give the impression that I'm promoting Epson. Hopefully, I was critical enough of their software to make that clear.

Finally, I'm not a socialist, though I've been wondering if my thinking along these lines is going to lead me there or not. I don't think so, because I believe I have some understanding of the failures of socialism as an "-ism." But I don't think we have, as yet, a thoughtful appreciation of the failures and disadvantages of commercialism as an "-ism," instead only seeing its success at creating wealth an a wide range of products. It creates problems as well, and I think we're going to begin experiencing those more acutely as marketers, compelled by competition, intrude ever more aggressively into what were formerly purely social spaces and interactions. To say nothing of the disparate and unequal concentrations of wealth, consumer debt, waste disposal, energy consumption, and a host of other problems.

Bit of a Gloomy-Gus, aren't I?
I'm not being facetious exactly, though I can understand how it might sound like that with my "pawn of the man" label. But when you think about it, the common use of "karma" to describe what is actually popularity is no less absurd. It sounds to me like we have very similar economic philosophies.

I think it would be interesting to see how much of our conversation actually revolves around the market, and I think querying the trademark database provides a simple, if not entirely accurate, way to do that somewhat objectively.

Okay, now I am going to add another project to my list. I'm going to make a tool that you can feed a web address, and it will highlight all the trademarked terms used on the page, and produce a "corporate shill" score. I'm sure it will be fun to play with. Maybe I'll make some graphs and see if there aren't some hidden correlation between frequency of trademarked terms and various site rankings, e.g. Google PageRank, Technorati 100, etc.

Thanks for the inspiration, Dave.

Be number 3:

knows half of 8 is