*warning potential linkbait post coming up. Heh.

I’m noticing a disturbing trend of large well known companies who invite passionate Web 2.0 evangelists, or knowledgeable bloggers or bumbling social network strategists (me) to “meetings” to discuss “potential” working arrangements.

These companies then proceed to question, prod, probe and otherwise force themselves on the (usually) solo operator or small business, all the while taking notes. One manager told me he had spoken to around “200” web 2.0 people (OMG!), and developed pages and pages of notes for strategies. No paid-for business ever comes of it (nor was ever going to) but they got a lot of information for free. Where’s our industry organisation to protect us, hmmm?

So when yet another guy from yet another large company yesterday at that Social Networking conference I spoke at, handed out his business card to all and sundry, inviting them to come and “have a chat”, I gave him the evil eye. I might be wrong and he is legitimately wanting to potentially engage everyone in paying work. I admit, I’m becoming jaded and cynical. But please don’t tell me this is how business has always been and always will be done, I won’t accept that. We can’t go shouting from the rooftops about transparent companies and ethics and corporate social responsibility and communicating honestly with the customer and then simply sit back and accept being groped and date-raped, having our IP snatched from us, by the big boys. At a minimum that’s sending mixed signals.

Do we value ourselves and our knowledge? Are you charging for ‘discussions’? If that company was able to pull in 200 consultants for free ‘briefings’ are we collectively not respecting ourselves and our expertise?

The Australian Web 2.0 community of developers and bloggers and whatnot are a motley bunch but we (in the main) know our stuff. We are also articulate, passionate and generous with our time and our knowledge. Of course we are, we reflect the core values of web 2.0. But I’m ready to pinch and bite and hair pull the next big corporation that tries to rip off me or any of my friends. To the death.

You. Have. Been. Warned.

What should we do about this? We aren’t just consultants anymore: we also have a powerful media distribution channel and voice through our blogs and communities. Do we name and shame these b*stards? Do we warn each other of nasteh behaviour in private forums? Or is it every man (and pixie) for himself/herself?

Oh and while I’m ranting, PR companies need to stop sending articles to my friends who blog asking them to blog about stuff for free. You are a PR company, you get paid for doing that: the journalists you send stuff to get paid, the newspapers get paid with advertising and subs. We do blog stuff for free, of course we do, but unsolicited emails from strangers is spam in my book. If you haven’t built a relationship with the blogger that is not based on them doing stuff for you, don’t bother.

Grrrrrrr. Grrrrrr.

(I’ll be back to my normal sweet *cough* adorable *cough* self soon. )

EDIT: These guys are discussing it too: ServantOfChaos and ZestDigital