Weirdness on the Web: Odd Little Online Piece Brandishes My Name

As NRDC’s federal transportation director, I spend my days urging lawmakers and others in Washington to help move us away from Big Oil and all the problems (spills, tax breaks, pollution, climate change, to name a few) that come with our petroleum-based society.

Needless to say, Big Oil companies don’t exactly consider me their good buddy.

So you can imagine my surprise when I just discovered that I was being apparently used by the owner of a Web site, called the Energy Collective, to try and sell advertising to none other than Chevron.  Salon has the story here.

Let’s be clear: I was as shocked as Salon was to discover that Social Media Today, publisher of the Energy Collective, was apparently using my blogs to try and solicit advertising dollars for itself. I have no relationship with Social Media Today, business or otherwise. To be candid, I can’t say I’ve spent any time looking at their site until today.

Like other Web sites, the Energy Collective simply re-posts (or as NRDC’s social media guru just informed me, the correct term is “cross-posts”) the blogs that I write for NRDC’s Switchboard, our own independent blog site. Energy Collective and other outfits - Huffington Post, Grist, others - regularly does this with other NRDC policy experts too to bolster and augment their content.

Neither I nor anybody else at NRDC whose blogs appear on the Energy Collective or anyplace else other than NRDC Switchboard has any control over what they use. The only notice we get that our blogs are reposted – er, cross-posted – is the occasional automated response from a site. We aren’t partners, cohorts or even acquaintances as far as I know with anybody at Energy Collective, Social Media Today or any other site

And we certainly aren’t influenced by or involved in advertising sales in any way, shape or manner.  (Frankly, if I were, I wouldn’t exactly be picking me or my blogs to try to solicit ads from Chevron or any other oil company. My last blog, about Big Oil’s groveling for tax breaks amid the debt talks in Washington, isn’t exactly something you’d expect from Chevron’s playbook).

Apparently Salon reporter Justin Elliott tried to contact me for his article. But I don’t think he tried very hard. I got a single voicemail on my Blackberry about 5:30 pm on the night before his story ran. Since I don’t get very good cell phone reception at my office unless I press my face and my phone against an outside window, I didn’t even know he called until I double-checked it after his story. I don’t know why he didn’t bother sending me an email or leaving me a message on my office phone.

I don’t claim to know a lot about technology. A colleague kidded me recently about a little wooden contraption I keep on my desk that I use to organize index cards to keep track of my thoughts as I’m writing anything important. “How quaintly analog,” I was told.

But one thing I did learn from this little incident:

Obviously, with “cross-postings,” online advertising, real-time Internet reporting and everything else, the new world of the Web can weave some tangled situations.

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