All that appears to be true on the Internet is not necessarily so. This is not news, but the real identities of people online can be easily hidden or real motives obscured. Sometimes this is out in the open, other times it’s done behind a guise of trickery and deception.
Look no further than coverage from earlier today of the fake identities of two bloggers. To quote the Guardian from 14 June 2011:
A second supposedly leading lesbian blogger was exposed as a man masquerading as a gay woman, a day after the Gay Girl in Damascus blog was revealed to be the fictional creation of a married male student from Edinburgh.
How do we know what is real?
I don’t have any easy answers (though knowing the person in person is a pretty sure safeguard). The example above might be far fetched but I would say this issue is relevant for not-for-profit organisations.
I’ll share a little example closer to home.
At the recent Connecting Up conferences I gave out brochures inviting people to sign-up to my email newsletter. As an incentive, I said anyone signing up by 10 June would go into the draw for one of three copies of The Networked Nonprofit book (see my book review).
Although a little underwhelmed by the 35 sign-ups, I was even more baffled by the number of people signing up who did not use an organisational address. Intrigued I searched for the unique URL (www.commonknowledge.net.nz/new_wp/sign-up) I pointed people to and found the link listed on contest.co.nz and gimme – a people powered guide to free stuff.
These are websites where anyone can add details of any give-away. It can be for anything: big, small, commercial, fun.
Noticing three of my new subscribers are from the same family and previously won prizes for nappies, books and movie tickets elsewhere, I have to wonder how many signed up to win the excellent book. And how many to receive my pearls of wisdom, ahem.
I will never know. But I do know that some of the recent sign-ups are probably not genuine. People added their details so they could go in the prize draw.
All this suggests that raw figures are too crude a way to record success. Having large numbers if an unknown percentage are not necessarily genuine is not terribly insightful. Better measures relate to interaction and engagement.
So, I’ve learnt my lesson: interpret raw figures with caution. Fortunately, I was not using the information collected to make a decision my business depends on.
Prize draw winners
Thanks to everyone who recently signed to my email newsletter after getting a brochure recently.
Winners of the 3 copies of The Networked Nonprofit book are:
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/beautyredefined/