Nowhere to Hide

Walter Kolosky is a businessman and jazz fan in Braintree, Mass. He has contributed dozens of jazz reviews to Italway.it, a site run by an Italian ISP, as well as to Geocities and Angelfire. He runs Windows 98 and has shared his technical difficulties on Computing.Net.

He recently launched Ecomonics.com, a collection of links to e-commerce resources, including a newsletter I run.

Because he frames these links inside his own navigation bar, I called him in an angry mood. I called Ecomonics a “roach motel” (users come in, they can’t get out) and told him it replicates the business model of a 1995 site called TotalNews.

Kolosky didn’t know the story, so I enlightened him. When TotalNews opened, it framed news sites like MSNBC, putting its own ads around their content. Those sites sued the company and forced it to sign a “link license” promising to stop the practice. I visited the site recently and it now opens links through a new browser window. I also met one of its founders at an industry event recently. Roman Godzich has gone on to other things, and has sinned no more. He’s a good guy. And he did acknowledge that the original complaint was valid.

Kolosky said he’d run his business idea by the managers of a big site, which was interested in an investment. He also compared the way he frames links to the work of AskJeeves.

He’s right on that, up to a point. If you enter a term like “msnbc” at Ask.com, you’ll be taken to the news site within an AskJeeves menu bar, which includes an ad. But one of the entries in that bar reads “remove frames.” Ecomonics doesn’t have this.

In fact, Kolosky admitted, he’s pretty new to this business of being a web entrepreneur. He took my complaints calmly. We had a nice talk.

But as I hung up the phone, I asked myself, What if he hadn’t been such a good guy? What if he felt the way Mr. Godzich did at the start of the TotalNews controversy? Godzich was pretty angry back then; he felt persecuted. Getting the whole story on his past, I realized, is the work of a minute.

So, too, with Mr. Kolasky. I found the data in the first paragraph with a single search of Google. I found his home phone number quickly at Lookupusa.

The point is that your life where you are and what you’ve done is now an open book, and it’s been an open book since 1995. If you take a stand, it will be remembered. If you anger people, or get sued, it will be remembered. And anyone who thinks about doing business with you will be able to get this background, quickly, easily, and inexpensively.

So today’s clue comes from the movie “Harvey,” from a short speech by James Stewart’s Elwood P. Dowd: “In this world you can be oh, so clever, or oh, so pleasant. I’ve tried clever. I prefer pleasant.” So should you.

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