The Power of User Feedback: SpinSpotters Talk Back to Facebook’s Zuckerberg


By Amy McDougall, SpinSpotter Community Manager

Ah, the power of user feedback.

In his latest blog post, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced his decision to revert to the company’s old Terms of Service policy after listening to countless users express opposition to his changes yesterday.

That’s not to say he won’t unveil a new TOS version again soon, but with Facebook’s new Bill of Rights and Responsibilities in place, users can now offer their two cents on policy revisions that impact how Facebook handles personal information.

One of the main user concerns that rose to the surface yesterday was that the all-too general wording in the new TOS made it seem like Facebook could justify sharing personal content in ways that would violate user privacy.

I’m pleased to know that our SpinSpotter community wasted no time in speaking their minds on this issue. From user devlo de-spinning Zuckerberg’s statement that Facebook’s policy “is consistent with other services,” to user prepare_for_y2k exposing CNET’s minimization of user concerns as being as nothing more than “hysteria,” SpinSpotters took action by jumping right in. Well done.

Does this call for a larger effort to dissect and de-spin privacy policies of other services we trust with our personal information? Which company policies would you like to see de-spun? Twitter? MySpace? LinkedIn?


SpinSpotter Announces “Hall of Shame” for Online Spin

Posted by Amy McDougall, SpinSpotter Community Manager


So much for easing into the new year, huh? From mounting job losses to inauguration hoopla, the abundance of January news made me feel like a bloated belly after Thanksgiving dinner. Quick, somebody hand me a Tums.

Speaking of thanks, we owe huge props to our SpinSpotter community for capturing some of the most glaring spin on the Web over the past month. We hope this list sparks some enlightening discussion with journalists, bloggers, editors, and anyone else ready to make the Web a more honest place. Continue reading

You (Yes, You) Can be a BRITA on the Web

By Amy McDougall, SpinSpotter Community Manager


While moving last weekend, I discovered that the BRITA water filter from my old apartment won’t attach to my new kitchen faucet. “Big deal. I’m no water purist snob,” I thought, as I started to guzzle it straight from the tap.

But before the water even hit my esophagus, I spit a mouthful back into (and all around) the sink. Why? Because it tasted like a corroded sewer pipe, not H2O. (Not that I’ve ever tasted a corroded sewer pipe, nor am I encouraging you to try it now or ever.)

The moral of the story: People need good water filters, just like people need good information filters. (Yep, I really am making this stretch of a parallel here.)

If we want to be a society of well-informed voters and confident consumers, then isn’t it time we step up and become the hyper-critical readers, hawkish media watchdogs, and superhero SpinSpotters who will straighten out twisted truths, flag misleading press releases, and cast light upon sloppy news reporting? Isn’t it time we become BRITAs on the Web—extracting the pollutants, calling out the B.S. as we see it, and restoring its tastiness and trustworthiness?

Some brave souls are already tackling this task, and thank goodness for that. Pop science watchdog groups like Health News Review and crowdsourced news organizations like NewsTrust are modeling some innovative ways to monitor information without neutralizing the rich and divergent perspectives that make the Web such a full and fascinating place.

So, which websites and tech tools do you trust to deliver the most uncontaminated truth?

(Disclosure: The author received no commission from BRITA for this free plug. However, she wouldn’t reject a gift card from the company, since she hasn’t had a sip of water since the aforementioned “regurgitation incident.”)

When reading online becomes a conversation

By David Camp, SpinSpotter CMO.

I’ve been thinking about the way that we have all been trained to read online content (and any content, whether news or other, analog or digital) in a fairly passive and solitary way.  Even with the advances in Web 1.0/2.0 regarding feedback loops, etc, it is still a small minority of online readers that seem to approach reading as an active, critical-thinking, directly participatory act.

Clearly, the rise of Web 3.0 social media tools can make reading online a completely proactive, multilateral act with lots of feedback and sharing and re-envisioning and re-crafting of original content, completely transforming the way people interact with information on the web.  (It’s no secret that our hope for SpinSpotter is to be among the catalysts that enable this kind of transformation.)

We need to train/remind/encourage each other to approach “reading” online as an interactive act, one that requires critical or active thinking, not simply passive reception of information to consume.  In this scenario, reading becomes something different:  a conversation between a creator of content and one who consumes it.  This is a fundamental transformation of a long standing, hard-wired human behavior.

Regardless of one’s level of engagement or interests, there is an innate human instinct and trait to be critical, but with wave upon wave of ubiquitous media hitting us we’re starting to lose it.

How can we encourage people to be critical and proactive when they surf the web?  To make their voices heard?  Every web surfer (especially those that wield the swords of social media) has the potential to be an agent for change (for whatever change they desire, however frivolous or serious.)

But in order to realize this they have to think differently when they surf the web, and remember that now there are easy, direct means of objecting, agreeing, protesting, recasting, policing, criticizing, sharing, etc, pick your verb, in one’s effort to eliminate the noise and get to a version of the truth about a topic that feels right.

Reuters: Who needs balance and context?

By Todd Herman, SpinSpotter Founder

Reuters has soothing news for you: President Obama has promised a fresh-start with the “Muslim World” (read: all Muslims everywhere, even those who may not want a “fresh start”). Rueters has even more soothing news: according to Obama supporter and Muslim member of Congress Keith Ellison, the promise has “already excited the ‘Muslim World.'”

Indeed; it excited some of them enough to burn pictures of President Obama—as he spoke. Note to Reuters: you may use the fact-checking for free.

Balance may not always be easy to provide but, when it so clearly is, it comes across as either negligent, lazy or dishonest to not provide it. It would be wise of newsrooms to monitor the blogosphere as much as they monitor CNN.

Wanna Go for a ride?

Hi.  I’m David Camp, SpinSpotter chief marketing officer and incurable ideologue and evangelist.  I’m writing to introduce myself, provide another portal into our business thinking and progress, and most important, solicit your feedback.

We’ve been at this a few months now and I continue to feel the same enthusiasm and mission-like attitude as on day one.  All of us on the team have always aspired to marry vocation and avocation in a single business pursuit.  In the arc of our careers, there are rare points in time where certain circumstances, personalities and ideas align to create a context where big, transformational things are possible.  Things that go beyond business and the pursuit of profit.  (Thanks Tim O’Reilly for Rule #1:  Work on things that matter more than money.)  Things that contribute to the greater good around us in enduring ways.

Our mission is simple and bold:  powering people to bring truth and transparency to information on the web.  Gulp.


We’re all passionate about this, and while we have a long way to go to realize this vision and lots of obstacles in the way, we also believe deeply in journey as reward.  And the road ahead is as exciting as it is unpredictable.  We invite anyone listening to hop in and join us on this journey.

One more thing we believe, and something essential to everything we do:  openness, authenticity, humility, and an always-on, 2-way feedback loop.  We are an enabler business, where the power and wisdom of the crowd far exceeds anything we can do ourselves.

Today we launched another version of our product to support Internet Explorer (along with our Firefox toolbar already live.)  You’ll also see some updates to the website in terms of what our product can enable across all categories of online information. We think SpinSpotter can have broad appeal regardless of one’s interests.  Whether you’re a news junkie seeking unbiased reporting, looking for truthful product reviews, reading a Wikipedia entry, or evaluating someone’s LinkedIn profile or anything else online – you should be able to ask “Is that true?” and get an answer that gives you confidence.   (Thus the origin of our new tagline you will see on our homepage.)

Please have a look.  Download the Spinoculars plug-in if you haven’t already and experiment a little while you’re surfing the web (installation is free and easy, and should take less than a minute, really.) Then tell us what you think.  If you think there is merit to what we are doing, than hold on and continue with us on this journey.  If you don’t, then easily uninstall the plug-in and say no thanks.  Either way, please say something!  We listen carefully.

We’re hoping to keep on a regular, monthly product release cycle, where new features are regularly added.  (And as you are probably painfully aware, we have lots of features, many basic and some advanced, that we are in great need of providing to you quickly…)  For starters, in the near future we’ll be adding features that make it much easier for SpinSpotters to share ideas, navigate to great content, and stay plugged into the world of Spin.

Thank you.  And sorry for the long-winded hello.  (Brevity is not my forte…) This movement (seriously, that’s how we think of it) will be built on the foundation you can help build. If you have any questions, ideas or criticisms, we’d love to hear them.  You can reach me directly at

David Camp

Google, Your Tea Kettle, and the Destruction of Planet Earth

By Amy McDougall, SpinSpotter Community Manager

It would be an understatement to say that journalists are strapped for time and resources. I read about their fight for survival every day in places like Publishing2.0, EatSleepPublish, and The Knight Digital Media Center’s Online Journalism Review. And, as one who studied print journalism in college and has worked at a few news organizations over the years, I’ve seen what the pressure to pump out stories and fill column space can do to journalists. It’s not pretty.

But hiding conflicts of interest? Putting words in the mouths of your sources? Relying on one “expert” source to be the backbone of your story? Making leaps to associate Google, a tea kettle, and the destruction of our planet? News flash: Generating hype based on bad research is NOT OK, people.

In case you missed it, check out the original Times of London piece, and then a TechCrunch article that debunks the parts that needed debunking.

Wouldn’t you agree that stories like these only confirm our critical need for media watchdogs, fact-checkers, and SpinSpotters? I mean, if we turn our heads and let inaccuracies infest the Web, our planet may not combust, but our heads certainly might.