February 1, 2010

Check Out My New Acura-- ads?

ACURA.JPG
this is not an Acura ad


I.

I send my partner a note:  "Check out my new Acura ads!"

Acura is having a 24 hour promotion to coincide with the release of its new car, hence the ads you see today on my site.  The ads mean money, of course, but I sent the note with some pride.

The ads signify a form of success, that my blog is Acura-worthy for advertising.  Never mind if that's true-- that word "signify" indicates something else going on:  I'm judging the quality of the site by the ads on it.

I've never judged a person by their actual car, because I'm hyperconscious of product branding and message, I am always alert to the deception.  But here I am using the ad itself as a signifier.

Subtle flash animations, good photography or design, and of course the product in the ad-- all these things are signals to me about the site that has them.  Of course, the ads mean different things to different people-- Acura ads may symbolize a sell out, or out of touch-- but the point is that the ads themselves, not the car, symbolize something.  And what it symbolizes is: this company endorses you. 

Many sites like mine have google ads, which only "pay" if you click on them; hence, they pay very poorly.  But they're easy to install, so most sites have them.  Consequently, it's as much the ubiquity of Google ads that signifies "amateur"  as the absence of the more branded display ads (e.g. Acura.)

People often comment about what Google ads I have on my site, but I have no control over them, whether it's advertising a camera or ginseng extract is up to them, not me.  Frankly, I think Google uses it to punish bloggers.  I wrote an only minimally critical piece about Google in 2007, and ever since then they've been serving Dianetics ads and destroying my email with the Android.
 
But not that I am aware how I (previously unconsciously) made a judgment about websites based on the kind of ads it serves, the scientific question becomes: does the ad change the traffic?

So I looked.

II.

It's only a few hours into the Acura ad campaign, but I can tell you the trend: it hasn't increased the number of hits to the site, but it has changed the click through rate.  About 10% more people by this time have clicked through to read posts (in other words, fewer people landed on the homepage and left without clicking on a post.)  I am amazed at this result, but there it is. The presence of an ad for Acura enticed people to stay awhile.

Bigger websites out there should take note.  If you run a stock advice site, make sure your ads are from the big brokerage houses and banks, simply because it looks like they endorsed you.  And if you really want to look like a professional, dump the Etrade ads and get WSJ or Goldman Sachs to advertise with you.

But if it turns out to be true that the type of ad alters reader behavior, then the next question to ask is: what would happen if you placed a fake Acura ad on your site?  Copied one from some other site and slapped it up there?

People already do this to themselves:  luxury car logos as necklaces (old school, I know); college stickers on the rear windshield.  This isn't the same as having the product around to brand you; nor is it the same as the product itself prominently displaying the logo (e.g. Juicy on the butt).  This is a conscious decision on a person's part to take the brand (not the product) and use it to endorse themselves.

Could you command a higher subscription rate if your ads were better?  Could you get better advertisers because they see an Acura ad is already there?  Could you manipulate the market by using fake ads?

I'm not sure this has ever been studied, but the ramifications are huge: for one thing, it would mean the end of display advertising.  Why would they pay you, when you maybe should be paying them?

----

http://twitter.com/thelastpsych

---

For those with ad block-- do me a solid and turn it off when you visit this site.  It's better than a subscription...











Comments

that is a sweet car... (Below threshold)

February 1, 2010 5:49 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

that is a sweet car

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I suspected something like ... (Below threshold)

February 1, 2010 5:50 PM | Posted by Digby: | Reply

I suspected something like this was generally happening everywhere, especially when I saw magazines advertise other magazines in their own pages. Why would Time advertise the WSJ within its pages? Certainly they got paid, but I'm guessing they like the company.

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Basically this is like the ... (Below threshold)

February 1, 2010 5:52 PM | Posted by Anon 3:16: | Reply

Basically this is like the guy at the company party who brings the eye candy, or the wedding ring as chick magnet.

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Hmmn yes but were we told s... (Below threshold)

February 1, 2010 7:41 PM | Posted by Wonders: | Reply

Hmmn yes but were we told so the faithful click the button.... I did, I was here anyway and it took nothing, but only because I was kindly told how the ads work ;)

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See, I sort of thought mayb... (Below threshold)

February 1, 2010 8:37 PM | Posted by robotslave: | Reply

See, I sort of thought maybe you, of all people, would be a little more aware of the problems of using a sample size of one.

Not just "one blog," mind you, but "one day with the new ads."

10% is in the ballpark of the bump I'd expect from regular users clicking through out of curiosity, to see how far you've sold out, to see if you've got the annoying new ads on your article pages as well as your home page.

But then, you don't know a damned thing about web metrics; you're just a psychiatrist, after all.

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So, say you put a fake ad. ... (Below threshold)

February 1, 2010 9:38 PM | Posted by Joshua: | Reply

So, say you put a fake ad. Do advertisers get upset with you for misrepresenting their product as being associated with your site? Of course, that's if advertisers get a choice where their ads go, which I'm going to assume is somewhat limited or general. Do they get to be more specific than, "No smut please," or, "Please don't put our ads on Democratic / Republican / Green / Socialist / Libertarian Party websites"?

I can see advertisers sending cease and desists to a limited range of sites if people start building street cred through fake ads (shaving a Nike swoosh in your hair just doesn't cut it anymore I guess), but for the most part will let things go, since hey, free advertising. As long as you direct to their official site of course. Which, if you didn't (say it's a static image, or just dumps into an Acura "fan" site*), they'd be less likely to find out about. And as long as you don't decide to name the site, "Acura Presents: The Last Psychiatrist".

Also, now that you have cracked the code, is Google going to dump you back to Dianetics hell?

* - I will just assume such things exist without looking.

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Not that TLP needs defendin... (Below threshold)

February 1, 2010 9:39 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Not that TLP needs defending, but I have never understood why a segment of the public gets furious when someone charges for content or puts up ads. Especially for blogs. I don't read many blogs, but I do read this one, not because I agree with what he says (more than half the time I don't) but because he (she) forces me to a higher level of discourse. In any event, I recognize that his posts take some time to craft, so why not be compensated through some mechanism or other? Why does that provoke anger?

I wonder if the "ad branding" he writes about here isn't in effect: the ads induce a feeling of exclusion. He's able to manage the interplay between ideas and economic reality, while others feel shut out from one or the other? I'm not trolling, this is a question for robotslave and others.

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"advertisers get a choice w... (Below threshold)

February 1, 2010 10:28 PM | Posted, in reply to Joshua's comment, by RobotDespot: | Reply

"advertisers get a choice where their ads go, "

Its not very hard to figure out. acura ad sales employee says to google ad placement employee: I want my ad on sites where people who can afford our product go. Google ad placement employee completes request. And then goes to google cafeteria for lunch and to that day's google talk featuring S. Nasser Ghaemi titled "Bernays and Bureaucracy: How to Entrench Yourself in a Bureaucracy and Ensure Career Sucess." Acura ads sales employee says wow that was easy. I am glad I studied marketing in college and not history. I am going to the bar now to get shitfaced. goodnight.

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I don't know -- I completel... (Below threshold)

February 1, 2010 10:45 PM | Posted by Chiara: | Reply

I don't know -- I completely ignore ads on blogs. I'm not a normal person, so maybe other people pay attention to ads on blogs, but I find it hard to believe that people would click through to your blog because of an Acura ad. Correlation is not causation, etc.

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Sorry, but the adblock stay... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2010 5:37 AM | Posted by Gronk: | Reply

Sorry, but the adblock stays. One of the reasons I like your blog is that I have never seen an ad on it. I guess that goes for all post-adblock sites which use sensible paths for their advertising materials. If it comes to that, I'll gladly pay a small fee for your writing - but let's not discuss such harsh measures ahead of time. It's quaint, but someone is still tolerating advertising at the moment, it seems.

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TLP - "Could you get better... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2010 10:05 AM | Posted by brainchild: | Reply

TLP - "Could you get better advertisers because they see an Acura ad is already there? Could you manipulate the market by using fake ads?"

A version of this has gone on in print media forever. Start up magazines (and ones not doing so well) often offer ads to "desirable" companies at basically the cost to print the ad to attract other advertisers and to make themselves look good. Not sure if anyone online has put up fake ads to manipulate the market or associate themselves with a product/company but it's an interesting idea.

Also, there may be other factors in increased click through to specific blog entries other than advertising (word of mouth or links, a topic that's more interesting to more people - such as weight loss - etc). Or it could be the prestige associated with glossier or seemingly more upscale ads.

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Little towns in New England... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2010 10:46 AM | Posted, in reply to Gronk's comment, by entitled young person: | Reply

Little towns in New England are quaint. Ads will never be! paying for good writing is not a harsh measure. a fat hardworking professor in college once told me theres no such thing as a free lunch unless you work for the fed. govt. i've found this to ring true...like freedom.

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In answer to the questions ... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2010 10:48 AM | Posted by Per Jørgensen: | Reply

In answer to the questions in your next to last paragraph: Yes, yes, and no.

We are keenly aware of the effect of association. Not just that of ad to site but also site to advertiser -- cool advertisers don't want crap sites. Throw in your blogroll, too: Who you endorse reflects on you.

Who is this "we," kemo sabe? We reside in the intersection between marketing, advertising, and Web design. The name of the game is conversion rates. Of the people who visited your site, how many did something worthwhile to you and your advertisers? Associations are, of course, part of that equation.

Advertisers knew this long before the Web. You already know it, too, because you watch TV. The show you watch determines the ads you see, which is how you can tell you're sharing a show with a crap demographic when Vince hogs commercial break to sell you ten ShamWow rags for $19.99. I think you've commented on something similar before.

So, yes, you can charge more if your advertisers are better. Chicken and egg. You can get better ads because you already have better ads. Ad buyers look for existing associations just as much as your readers do. And, no, you can't improve your cred with fake ads: You can't make ads as good as Acura's agency's ads. If you could, you'd do that for a living instead. (The advertising industry wants you! You'd be amazed how much money is in bullshitting for a living!) Besides, the cease and desist letter will soon show up, and you'd be back to One Rule ads again.

Mind you -- and this should relieve some of the shame of those dianetics ads -- there's not an automatic guilt by association with crap ads. Dianetics ads are so obviously malplaced on your site that there's little harm. The opposite is also true: A crap site will not be improved by cool ads. The cool-to-crap distance between site and ad can't be too great, or the illusion fails.

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(The advertising industry w... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2010 11:45 AM | Posted by legal pad: | Reply

(The advertising industry wants you! You'd be amazed how much money is in bullshitting for a living!)

eh. come on guy. how do you define b.s? perhaps you would be amazed to find it in every industry. you sound like a sheltered academic.

I love 'universal' brand yellow legal pads. they are made in usa and are very useful to my work.

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Unfortunately, counselor, I... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2010 12:06 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Unfortunately, counselor, I work in the trenches. If I didn't have to work with ad agencies I'd have the luxury of academic detachment.

I don't define bullshit. George Carlin already did that for me.

For the more academically inclined, you might prefer (the sheltered academic) Frankfurt's definition. Either way, if the shoe fits etc.

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Unfortunately, counsellor, ... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2010 12:11 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Unfortunately, counsellor, I work in the trenches. If I didn't have to work with ad agencies I would have the luxury of academic detachment.

I don't define bullshit: George Carlin already did that for me.

For the more academically inclined, you might prefer (the sheltered academic) Frankfurt's definition.

Either way, if the shoe fits, etc.

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Unfortunately, counsellor, ... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2010 12:14 PM | Posted by Per Jørgensen: | Reply

Unfortunately, counsellor, I work in the trenches. If I didn't have to work with ad agencies, I would have the luxury of academic detachment and hence feel no need to include snarky parentheticals in my posts.

I don't define bullshit: George Carlin already did that for me.

For the more academically inclined, you might prefer (the sheltered academic) Frankfurt's definition.

Res ipsa loquitur.

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Per - "Dianetics ads are so... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2010 12:28 PM | Posted, in reply to Per Jørgensen's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

Per - "Dianetics ads are so obviously malplaced on your site that there's little harm. The opposite is also true: A crap site will not be improved by cool ads. The cool-to-crap distance between site and ad can't be too great, or the illusion fails."

Well said, ad placement is a job within itself because of the importance of context (though the job entails more than that). A very misplaced ad can be very entertaining!

And as someone who does do some work in advertising and PR to pay the bills at times, but whose main professional focus is on art and culture, I totally agree that a lot of advertising is about bullshitting (and some of the people in the industry are hugely overpaid, though not everyone is). Greenwashing, creating false associations, massaging the truth, etc are what it's about. I'd also ad that a lot of people who work in the "creative" side of advertising and who work in marketing aren't actually very aware of what they're doing on any deeper level or how propaganda/advertising works on a psychological and cultural level. There are lone geniuses, of course, and quite a few artists do ad work on the side but they're in the minority.

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I write copy for Egyptian c... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2010 1:21 PM | Posted by Lone Genius: | Reply

I write copy for Egyptian camel tour company. I don't agree with brainschild. Everyone at my company is given a list of books to read on human psychology and have to read biography of Bernays and book on camel anatomy.

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Lone Genius - Sorry if I of... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2010 2:14 PM | Posted, in reply to Lone Genius's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

Lone Genius - Sorry if I offended you, I have no doubt regarding your camel expertise! How many people actually work in the advertising department? Or are you talking about the whole operation including tour directors?

What I'm talking about are people who work for ad agencies and communications companies and work on numerous different campaigns - not someone who writes copy for a specific company. It's not just copywriters but also creative directors, graphic designers, web analysts, marketing experts and associated fields. (Web metrics and user experience experts do tend to be more engaged with certain pertinent aspects of psychology.) I've just found there's lot of pop psychology and superficial understanding of culture in advertising - read any book promoting the marketing strategy of the moment for a taste of it. Not surprisingly, there's a lot of image and not a lot of content (the medium is the message, etc). Since I do some commercial copywriting myself, I'm not excluding my own work from this assessment. Nor am I saying ALL communications work is like this or there aren't clever ads, I'm just agreeing that the dazzle them with bullshit factor is high (not that it can't be in academia too!)

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1. You are judging this bas... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2010 2:23 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

1. You are judging this based on a few hours? I think you need a lot more data before you can draw conclusions on this.

2. I use Firefox with ad-blocker. I only found out Facebook has ads a few months ago, and I didn't know you had any ads on your website.

3. Ads detract from the browsing experience. It's what Seth Godin calls "interruption marketing." It worked well in TV and radio when people had no choice -- they were forced to sit through the ad if they wanted to watch/hear the rest of their program. In the age of the internet, it doesn't cut it, because we can always go elsewhere and if we do sit through it, we resent it. Try permission marketing instead (opt-in). And if you need to subsidize your blog (you are a psychiatrist making a psychiatrist's salary, aren't you?) you can always hit up your loyal fans (including me) for donations.

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"Ads detract from the brows... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2010 2:38 PM | Posted by Entitled young person: | Reply

"Ads detract from the browsing experience. It's what Seth Godin calls "interruption marketing." It worked well in TV and radio when people had no choice -- they were forced to sit through the ad if they wanted to watch/hear the rest of their program. In the age of the internet, it doesn't cut it, because we can always go elsewhere and if we do sit through it, we resent it. "

What the great supply of uneducated anonymasssssssses dont understand is that ads in some way shape and form paid for your favorite fcking television program. tv networks run on ad revenue. programming doesnt get created for free. !
SO in the age of the internet, ads will still cut it unless of course you want to pay directly to your source of entertainment/information. If not, then writers or "content creators" like this blog author will not survive and you will become bored and shrivel up and die or be forced to talk to people. NO FREE LUNCH BIOTCHES. unless you want to be a slave and live in a totalitarian society...oh wait...

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"In the age of the internet... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2010 3:12 PM | Posted by Entitled young person: | Reply

"In the age of the internet, it doesn't cut it, because we can always go elsewhere and if we do sit through it, we resent it. "

No, no, no. Where are you going to go when no one is paid for their work????? There will be nowhere to go.

Please don't fall into trap of 'entitled young person who thinks they are clever but they are actually a dumb sucker' and think everything is free. You will become poor.

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Thank you for that revelati... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2010 3:12 PM | Posted by Anonymous Mass: | Reply

Thank you for that revelation, Oppressed Young Person. There is no way readers of Alone's blog would have thought of that, left to their own devices. Again, thank you!

Now, ahem ... your post was made at 2:38 PM. Aren't you supposed to be in class?

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I think you're reading too ... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2010 3:34 PM | Posted by Greg: | Reply

I think you're reading too much into this. I've written a rebuttal here.

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They didn't sya "Free" they... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2010 5:06 PM | Posted, in reply to Entitled young person's comment, by caeia : | Reply

They didn't sya "Free" they said they'd subscribe, which I think is reason able for some kinds of content like blogs.

I think in general print media on the web should use that model anyway -- the content of pages tends to improve with a subscription and paid staff. Having to click through ads is a pain at times, and in my case I've had problems with PC slowdown when a site uses too many ads.

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"There is no way rea... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2010 5:27 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous Mass's comment, by Duh: | Reply


"There is no way readers of Alone's blog would have thought of that, left to their own devices. Again, thank you!"

you are welcome because that anonymous person above didnt think of that. read his post. he seems to think that tv programs grow on trees.

Yes, I am teaching class. I have to get back to work now.


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The young person is 'Entitl... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2010 8:26 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous Mass's comment, by Eric Nelson: | Reply

The young person is 'Entitled', not oppressed.
i think the poster is trying to make a point about
internet generation thinking everything is free
hence he named himself 'entitled'.
you didnt get that?

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OK. Changing the poster's m... (Below threshold)

February 3, 2010 11:36 AM | Posted, in reply to Eric Nelson's comment, by Anonymous Mass: | Reply

OK. Changing the poster's moniker to "Oppressed Young Person" was a riff off the following statement of his: unless you want to be a slave and live in a totalitarian society...oh wait....

Check my moniker. Is there a trace of irony? Hint: "anonymasssssssses"

You didn't get that?

If the poster's moniker was intended as irony, he might have followed up with a post that didn't combine in a perfect storm the tone, content, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation of -- wait for it! -- an entitled young person of the Internet generation fishing for attention (which I, obligingly, am now supplying).

Troll meter went off, you see.

Red flag one: "What the great supply of uneducated anonymasssssssses dont understand [...]" Translation (new and improved, now with 100% more capitalization and spelling): Everyone's a moronic sheep except me, and I will set you straight!

Red flag two: "tv networks run on ad revenue. programming doesnt get created for free." Stating the painfully obvious, as if the audience of this blog, of all blogs, weren't capable of considering that angle.

Red flag three: Calling everyone BIOTCHES. No translation necessary. Extra credit for all caps and reference to black slang, you gangster, you!

Red flag four: "you will become bored and shrivel up and die or be forced to talk to people." Projection, anyone? Given the tone of the post, it seems unlikely the poster spends a great deal of time in pleasant face-to-face conversation.

Red flag five: "unless you want to be a slave and live in a totalitarian society...oh wait..." Translation: I'm oppressed. In other words, nobody listens to me and I'm really pissed about that and working really hard on my victim pose.

Thank you for your time.

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I laughed. Sure, a lot of c... (Below threshold)

February 3, 2010 12:06 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous Mass's comment, by Basil Valentine: | Reply

I laughed. Sure, a lot of content's fungible, and economic considerations do inform how I spend my time, but I think this blog is worth the ads, even if it now raises a lot of questions about the content. I don't think I need to point out how ads might influence, consciously or unconsciously, the production and consumption of the articles, but seeing the blog move in a slightly more commercial direction makes me feel a bit uneasy. There shouldn't be a difference between writing for respect/convictions and writing for that plus a little cash on the side, but somehow, indefinably, there is.

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People often comment abo... (Below threshold)

February 4, 2010 12:18 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

People often comment about what Google ads I have on my site, but I have no control over them,

Er, yes you do.

http://adsense.google.com/support/bin/topic.py?hl=en&topic=154

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Having my own website which... (Below threshold)

February 7, 2010 4:02 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by The Rambling Fool: | Reply

Having my own website which runs Google Adsense, I have to disagree with the last post.

Sure, it isn't true that he has "no" control over the ads. But it isn't true that he has much control, either. If he finds a very specific ad that seems to be bothering several users, yes, he has the power to block that ad. However, Google decides by and large which ads should be on each page. He has no control over the general types of ads which appear on his site. In the end, he can sit around all day, refreshing his webpage, looking for ads that may bother people, or he can accept that this notion is a slightly ridiculous one, and realistically he has little control.

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i'm NOT here for the acura ... (Below threshold)

February 9, 2010 2:11 PM | Posted by the0ther: | Reply

i'm NOT here for the acura ad. i'm here to comment about clothes with the brand-name on the ass. i love this, because i like checking out the asses, but also it opens up an opportunity for acting obnoxious.

try this: everytime you see a girl wearing something with a huge brand name on the ass, read it out loud and don't be shy. see what happens. please report back on your findings.

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I see of a lot of "position... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2010 12:16 PM | Posted by KWL: | Reply

I see of a lot of "positions" but no discussion around validation, internal and external, which is the point of the post. Interestingly, a lot of the discussion was in itself validation of the poster by the poster. So....., apparently we wear more than jewelry, cars and ads as validation. Language and beliefs are our validations as well.
KWL

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early lifekobe bryan... (Below threshold)

April 23, 2010 3:21 AM | Posted by basketball shoes: | Reply


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I propose not to hold off u... (Below threshold)

June 18, 2011 2:05 AM | Posted by KatherynMontgomery: | Reply

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very nice post <a href="ht... (Below threshold)

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