I'm honored to be included in The Silicon Valley 100, a group of influentials formed by Auren Hoffman that gets free crap. Its kind of like schwag for a virtual tradeshow with a decentralized cocktail party.
Newsweek has a scoop on the group, which includes Marc Andreessen, Tim Draper, Stewart Alsop, Aileen Lee, Igor Sill, Bill Gurley, Ron Conway, Heidi Roizen, Katie Mitic, Pat House, Rusty Rueff, Hooman, Trevor Hewitt, Sean Parker, Brad Templeton, Joi Ito and Zaw Thet.
The larger question is whether an endeavor like the Silicon Valley 100 inadvertently transforms natural Connectors into public-relations flacks. Does it dilute these bigwigs’ influence when companies are, in effect, buying the chance to get worked into their cocktail chatter?
Dan Gillmor goes one step further:
I hope the people named in this story -- some of whom are friends of mine -- will decide either to disclose what they're doing, or bow out of this exercise entirely.
The first item is a high tech toilet seat. My wife and I discussed accepting it and decided to pass this time, too silly for us -- otherwise I would have disclosed to my readers. I was potty-trained in the era of water shortages in environmentally hyper-concious Palo Alto. She grew up with Soviet toilet paper. I have personally learned to flush every time, and developed a shit or get off the pot ethic. So there, more than you wanted to know, and well beyond disclosure.
As readers know, I have a personal interest in influence marketing and tinker with related social networking models. So crap or not, this will be interesting to participate in. I think this differs from being paid to market or write about something, all choices and the risk I take with my social capital is mine.
Joi posted his own disclosure and policy (he also posted an audio interview with Auren). I don't think I am on this list because I am a blogger, but because I am one, let me put it clearly: If I accept a product or service I will disclose it, may write an opinion about it, not sure if I will keep it or not it as I explore this grey area openly. What do you think? Keep it or flush it?
UPDATE: Slashdot implies recommendations would be given to unsuspecting masses, as do comparisons to BzzAgent in Dan's post. Not in my case, at least. Its one thing to be paid to write or talk as a shill, as with Marqui. Its an entirely different and quite frankly disgusting notion to be bribed to deceptively sell to friends and report back their marketing data. I took an additional step of adding a disclosure statement to my bio, lest I lose the trust of readers and friends. I appeciate the constructive comments and suggestions.