WebGuild Using Questionable Tactics To Promote Events

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Are you going to the Web 2.0 Conference later this month? No, not the one put on by O’Reilly in San Francisco. I’m talking about the Web 2.0 Conference & Expo put on by WebGuild later this month.

Or do you plan on attending the popular Future of Web Apps Conference? Not the one put on multiple times per year by Carsonified. This is a different Future of Web Apps conference, also held by WebGuild.

Confused? So am I. I hadn’t heard much about WebGuild, but recently dozens of spam comments started appearing on TechCrunch lambasting us for not promoting WebGuild’s Web 2.0 Conference. Examples:

Why aren’t you guys covering what is important in Web 2.0 like the Web 2.0 Conference. They have an early bird that ends in days. Don’t you think that would be of interest to your reads that Apple store line up and CapGemini related crap.

As per your comment # 4, # 16 and # 18 – you keep saying that you are site that covers Web 2.0. How come you TC is not covering Web 2.0 Conference & Expo on Jan 29, 2008. As a reader this is more important to me than some of the crap I read. I went there last year and it was a blast http://www.webguild.org/meetings/web20/2008/

The last Web 2.0 Conference & Expo will take place on Jan 29, 2008. After that Web 2.0 will die. It will be no point going to Web 2.0 related conferences after that.

These comments are made by various names, but they all have one thing in common – the same IP address. And that IP address is also the same one used by WebGuild’s President, Daya Baran, when he leaves real comments on TechCrunch.

What’s Going On?

I emailed Tim O’Reilly and Ryan Carson to see if they knew about the events and what their position was. O’Reilly, anxious to avoid situation like this one, said he reached out to Baran to ask him to change the name but never heard back. Ryan Carson was unaware of the event, but was not happy to see the use of the brand his company has built up over the last few years.

I also spoke to Baran on the phone. He said that his conference names are descriptive of the content and perfectly valid. Any legal attempts by O’Reilly or Carson to stop him from using the names, he said, would be comparable to the RIAA suing people for copying music. In short, he was unapologetic, and he also claimed that he was unaware that O’Reilly tried to contact him.

Baran also denied that he left the spam comments. He says he has a number of interns and volunteers at this office, and they may be leaving the comments.

Is This Ok?

Putting legal issues aside, This is still not ok. O’Reilly and Carsonified took a lot of financial risk and time in building up their brands around their conferences. For someone else to come in, take the brand and put on their own conference around it is just not ethical. To compare this with people downloading music is a red herring. A better analogy would be a new band calling themselves U2 and selling CDs under that name. It just smells off.

In fact, attendee confusion is the biggest issue I have with the event. Someone new to the community may have heard about the Web 2.0 Conference or The Future Of Web Apps, click on one of the spam links and buy a ticket for an event they think is something else. I asked Baran if he thought some people might be confused by his conference names. His response was “I don’t know.”

The confusion issue is real. I actually first emailed Ryan Carson to ask him if he was putting on the Future of Web Apps conference in partnership with WebGuild. Given how immersed I am in this community, I’m pretty sure that if I was confused, others will be, too.

Apart from these issues, WebGuild seems like a legitimate organization. They hold monthly events with high profile speakers at Google and elsewhere. Baran claims they are a non-profit organization, and that he takes no salary from his position there.

So why wade into grey areas of trademark infringement and blog spamming? Run the business clean, and build your own brands and community. That’s my advice.

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