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Utility Wants $17,500 Refund After Failure To Scrub Negative Search Results

samzenpus posted about two weeks ago | from the if-you-don't-have-abything-good-to-say dept.

Businesses 110

mpicpp Points out this story about Seattle City Light's anger over negative search results and its inability to get them removed. Seattle's publicly-owned electrical utility, City Light, is now demanding a refund for the $17,500 that it paid to Brand.com in a botched effort to boost the online reputation of its highly-paid chief executive, Jorge Carrasco. Brand.com "enhances online branding and clears negatives by blanketing search results with positive content" in an attempt to counteract unwanted search engine results. City Light signed a contract with the company in October 2013 and extended it in February 2014. The contracts authorized payments of up to $47,500. Hamilton said that he first raised the issue of the utility's online reputation when he was interviewing for the chief of staff job in early 2013. "All I saw were negative stories about storms, outages and pay increases and I raised it as a concern during that interview," he said. "And then after I started, [CEO Jorge Carrasco] and I discussed what we could do to more accurately represent the utility and what the utility is all about, because we didn't feel it was well represented online." Thus, the Brand.com contract. City Light says that it only ever thought Brand.com would help it place legitimate material in legitimate outlets—talking up some of the positive changes that have taken place at City Light during Carrasco's tenure. Instead, it appears to have received mostly bogus blog posts.

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110 comments

You can polish a turd. (5, Funny)

sjames (1099) | about two weeks ago | (#47442581)

The Mythbusters showed us you CAN polish a turd. This suggests you still can't polish a CEO.

The natural conclusion is left as an exercise for the reader.

Re:You can polish a turd. (5, Funny)

pollarda (632730) | about two weeks ago | (#47442599)

Let's see.... What you are saying is .... If ducks float and witches float then ....

Re:You can polish a turd. (5, Funny)

arth1 (260657) | about two weeks ago | (#47442709)

... we're having Peking Witch for dinner?

Re:You can polish a turd. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47445757)

Let's see.... What you are saying is .... If ducks float and witches float then ....

Witches burn because they are made of wood. Wood floats just like a duck because they weigh the same. So if a person weighs the same as a duck, they therefore are made of wood and *must* be a witch.

Re:You can polish a turd. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47442703)

Typical west coast corporate astroturfing.

Shit isn't supposed to stink in the Pacific northwest, so you pay someone to say otherwise.

 

Re:You can polish a turd. (1)

davester666 (731373) | about two weeks ago | (#47443547)

It takes a lot longer and a lot more effort to polish a turd as big as this CEO.

Re:You can polish a turd. (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about two weeks ago | (#47443737)

Mythbusters notwithstanding.

When asked to polish a turd, what they are really asking you to do is cover it in glitter and spray paint.

Never forget that and actually try to polish a turd.

Re:You can polish a turd. (1)

TWX (665546) | about two weeks ago | (#47446033)

Well, it is possible to polish a turd another way, but it takes a very, very, VERY long time.

Corpolite [wikipedia.org]

hope they win (4, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | about two weeks ago | (#47442609)

On the one hand, it was a dumb purchase on the part of Seattle City Light. But on the other hand, I do think there needs to be some crackdown on bullshit advertising in the SEO/PR sector. Maybe if a few companies get sued for breach of contract, they'll be more careful what services they claim to offer in the future.

Re:hope they win (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47442693)

"bullshit advertising" ... Using bullshit as an adjective implies there is some advertising which is not bullshit. Just "advertising" works equally well.

Re:hope they win (1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47447911)

"bullshit advertising" ... Using bullshit as an adjective implies there is some advertising which is not bullshit. Just "advertising" works equally well.

I disagree. There is plenty of advertising which isn't bullshit. Ads for products most often are full of bullshit (though there are a few from time to time that aren't). On the other hand, ads for local businesses are often (though not always) fairly straightforward, simply indicated the products they sell or services they offer, and where they are located.

Re:hope they win (2, Informative)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about two weeks ago | (#47442795)

...I do think there needs to be some crackdown on bullshit advertising in the SEO/PR sector.

Oh please! The very premise is based on fraud. People should just learn to ignore it. And we desperately need alternatives to Google. It is so heavily compromised. It's hardly anything more than a barroom trivia and shopping site.

Re:hope they win (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47444935)

...I do think there needs to be some crackdown on bullshit advertising in the SEO/PR sector.

Oh please! The very premise is based on fraud. People should just learn to ignore it. And we desperately need alternatives to Google. It is so heavily compromised. It's hardly anything more than a barroom trivia and shopping site.

no one is stopping you from using Bing, or even Yahoo! if you're so inclined

Re:hope they win (5, Insightful)

theskipper (461997) | about two weeks ago | (#47442835)

I think the interesting question is how will Brand.com get this negative story about themselves scrubbed/buried in the indexes.

(This smells oddly recursive, especially if they wrote a white paper about how successful they were ;)

Re:hope they win (3, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | about two weeks ago | (#47442965)

It actually feels like they are trying to put a positive "victim" light on themselves.

"We hired this company because we felt our good side wasn't being shown on the internet and asked them to market all the good stuff we've done, and they turned on us and just started spamming garbage everywhere! That's not what we wanted!"

Whether there is any truth to that, who knows.

Re:hope they win (1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47443225)

"We hired a PR firm to make us look better."
That's not a crime. It's not even morally wrong, unless the means chosen was fraud or the like.

"The PR firm started acting like complete idiots and is making us look bad."
Not a crime, either, but probably a contract violation. Seattle Light is right to want their money back, if the firm couldn't deliver.

Re:hope they win (2)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about two weeks ago | (#47443783)

"We hired a PR firm to make us look better."
That's not a crime. It's not even morally wrong, unless the means chosen was fraud or the like.

To me this sounds too much like asking police to racially profile someone without racially profiling them for comfort.

I would love to hear how a PR firm makes companies look better online without lying and misleading.

Do they make blog posts saying how great the company is and include the fact they are working for a PR firm and being paid by company to produce content on their behalf? Or just leave that part out? Any examples of how it can work in a way that is not "morally wrong"?

Re:hope they win (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47444555)

Public relations can be as simple as starting a blog and posting about the positive projects your working on that customers may never otherwise know about. For instance my company is in the hardware business. We develop products dependent on hundreds of other companies products. The reality is no technology product is the sole inventor of one company/person. Anyway- we're the only company which is focused on developing 100% free software hardware. While there are many devices that are free software friendly what most people don't know is that we're the ones responsible for making that other companies hardware work. It was a side-effect of making our own hardware work better.

So now you might be wondering why you should care? You should care because if your buying hardware from companies who don't care we'll not be able to get your other hardware to work better.

This blog is a public relations move, but in no way is unethical. It's merely letting people know why they should care about the work we're doing and how our company is different from other companies.

Re:hope they win (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47444963)

"We hired a PR firm to make us look better." I would love to hear how a PR firm makes companies look better online without lying and misleading.

Most likely they just promote whatever good has been said about the company, even if there's very little of it or it is disingenuous. All you have to do is push the bad stuff down a few pages. Heck, pushing it off the first page will probably be good enough so 99% of people don't see it.

Re:hope they win (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47445253)

Http://ilccyberreport.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/tiny-iowa-county-takes-on-the-king-of-online-defamation/

You might find this article interesting..

Brand.com is a rebrand of a company called reputationchanger.com, which was launched by the convicted felon Adam Zuckerman soon after acquiring a SQL injection technique (in 2011) which was used to add "noindex, nofollow" tags to complaint website pages and comment pages on blogs which effectively removes a page from search engine results.

It's long but worth the read to download the search warrant linked in the article ( https://www.dropbox.com/sh/6orjid9iahp0568/AABQZSlC2iOzDIRzc7i1SzL3ai ) if you want an early preview of some of the dirt which will likely be getting coverage soon in the news cycle regarding the reputation "wreck and repair" racket which is an ongoing extortion racket in the "online reputation management" and seo world.

http://www.paladinpi.com/blog/paladin-investigations-2/social-waterboarding-chapter/

has further commentary to help digest the search warrant document.

The big dog with millions in investment capital (and looking to IPO soon), Reputation.com, is one of the primary actors in this racket, having been caught buying the company/website "removeyourname.com" of the hacker Matthew Cooke which was peddling the SQL injection code to all of the ORM companies stupid/sleazy enough to take the bait for some quick cash wrecking then repairing middle class business owners and professionals who could afford to pay to stop the pain.

Complaint sites, mugshot sites and revenge porn sites are the trifecta on the "wrecking" side of this racket, with the "repair" side being offered up by sites such as reputation.com, brand.com and countless multitudes of smaller sites sprinkled around the internet acting as franchised feeders into the main cartel of "repair" reputation companies which are in collusion with the "wrecking" industry by either outright ownership and management of the wrecking sites which they can remove content from or by paying agreed upon fees to "outside the network" sites.

Re:hope they win (1)

theskipper (461997) | about two weeks ago | (#47445615)

Wow, I'd say "intriguing" describes that best. Seedy world.

(FYI, your dropbox link had an 'i' appended; the working link is https://www.dropbox.com/sh/6or... [dropbox.com] )

Re:hope they win (5, Insightful)

mtrachtenberg (67780) | about two weeks ago | (#47443219)

It's beyond just dumb. This is the sort of waste of public money that really should be criminal. At the very least, the CEO and his Chief of Staff should be dismissed. Call it encouragement to resign if that's the way it's done these days, but if someone getting paid $200K plus thought this was worth it, that person is not worth it.

Re:hope they win (4, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | about two weeks ago | (#47443897)

Agree. This isn't an SEO issue so much as stewardship issue. Utilities shouldn't be advertising, unless it is part of some kind of public service goal (like informing poor people of benefits programs or something like that).

Utilities are generally monopolies. If I want electricity for my home, there is exactly one place to get it. If I don't want it, that should be fine. There should be no expenditure of what amounts to a form of tax dollars to advertise services that aren't in competition with anything else.

Ditto for utilities sponsoring the Olympics and such. If funding the Olympics is a valid political goal then it should just get a spending bill in the legislature like anything else.

Re:hope they win (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47445023)

Seattle City Light is owned by the city of Seattle.

As somebody who lives in Seattle, I'm more than happy to pay for the failed contract. It was a large part of why we're not having to give the CEO a $60k a year raise. So, even after paying for the bullshit contract, it's still costing us less money. And thanks to this bullshit getting into the national press, it's unlikely that he's going to be able to get a job at any other utility for a while.

Overall, the utility customers are coming out ahead on the deal.

Re:hope they win (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about two weeks ago | (#47446423)

Nothing against a utility promoting itself by pointing out what it has achived, such things do need community support. However promoting the current CEO is clearly a form of political advertising for the benifit of the CEO, not the utlility. The full amount should be recovered from the CEO, after he is sacked for (legalised) embezzlement.

Who decided CEO needed reputation-washing? (1)

billstewart (78916) | about two weeks ago | (#47446475)

What's a publicly-owned utility doing trying to hide the negative reputation of its CEO? Leave aside the question of whether the folks they hired to do it could do the job at the price they were charging, they still should have the guts to admit that the CEO they hired is the CEO they hired, and if they don't have the guts to do that, they should have hired somebody who didn't need reputation-washing.

Re:hope they win (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47448033)

It's beyond just dumb. This is the sort of waste of public money that really should be criminal. At the very least, the CEO and his Chief of Staff should be dismissed. Call it encouragement to resign if that's the way it's done these days, but if someone getting paid $200K plus thought this was worth it, that person is not worth it.

Isn't using public funds for private purposes still a crime?

Re:hope they win (1)

Ryanrule (1657199) | about two weeks ago | (#47448139)

of course he was worth it. otherwise he wouldnt be ceo. but he is ceo. so he is worth it.

Jorge Carrasco (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47442613)

Jorge Carrasco sounds like a real moron. Maybe he'll try to get this article suppressed.

Re: Jorge Carrasco (1)

billstewart (78916) | about two weeks ago | (#47446483)

LMGTFY.COM/Anonymous+Coward+says+Jorge+Carrasco+sounds+like+a+real+moron

Dude! It says "The page you were looking for doesn't exist." Oh, noes, he was successful!

Re: Jorge Carrasco (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47448079)

https://www.google.ca/search?q=Jorge+Carrasco+sounds+like+a+real+moron.+Maybe+he%27ll+try+to+get+this+article+suppressed.&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=rcs&gfe_rd=cr&ei=BN_DU8X3LIGN8QeSj4DYBw

I guess instead of being passive aggressive, if you had used actual Google you may have found it.

I don't get it (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47442615)

That sounds like a legitimate way to attempt to alter search rank results, mentioning the link and name repeatedly. Did they actually speak to and control what was happening? It sounds like they threw money at someone and yelled GO FIX THIS with no direction or oversight and so the company just did the basic job with no instructions. I'm taking a wild guess that the mostly negative online reviews are a result of this type of hands off old boys club 'let the peons work while we master architects go play golf' attitude when it comes to important projects. If they gave a damn they would have been hands on instructing the company which avenues to pursue to alter their brand online and how to go about doing that.

Re:I don't get it (2)

sjames (1099) | about two weeks ago | (#47442669)

With fake news, fake blogs, and attempting to find an excuse (ANY excuse) to have an article taken down or de-listed?

You have lowered your expectations WAYYYYYYYyy too much.

Re:I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47442725)

If they gave a damn they would have been hands on instructing the company which avenues to pursue to alter their brand online and how to go about doing that.

If they were able to do that, what would be the point of hiring this company in the first place?

Re:I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47443045)

Because of the resources it takes to repeatedly create little fake articles. Someone actually has to be paid enough to eat and house themselves while doing that, more likely a large team of people are required for that and then all the overhead logistics that go along with the entire setup. I can see why they paid a company to go ahead and do that but I don't see why they didn't oversee the project and direct their idea as it was executed.

Brand.com should have never taken that contract (2)

rebelwarlock (1319465) | about two weeks ago | (#47442623)

Don't take a contract you can't handle. If you claim to be able to do something, and you can't, you're in breach of contract. It doesn't matter how retarded the whole situation was - you agreed to do something and took money for it, then failed to follow through.

Or they could have gotten a better CEO (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47442639)

Have fun with the Streisand Effect.

Who likes their utility? (4, Insightful)

alen (225700) | about two weeks ago | (#47442647)

People have hated utilities for as long as I can remember along with oil companies and starting in the 90's drug companies. And most recently ISP's and tv companies

Re:Who likes their utility? (5, Insightful)

Known Nutter (988758) | about two weeks ago | (#47442673)

And who cares? It's not like you have a choice, particularly with real utilities. You can't just get your power from somewhere else. In the Bay Area, PG&E in constantly running campaigns to improve their reputation, mostly associated with the San Bruno disaster. Why? Shareholder value? If so, I guess I don't quite understand what public reputation of a utility has to do with shareholder value. Perhaps state and municipal permitting related to system construction, rate increases with the PUC to fund said construction... ...thinking outloud here, it seems.

Re:Who likes their utility? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47442769)

See, this is what really pisses us off in Seattle. We don't have a choice. Our utility works relatively well and we have some of the cheapest electricity in the country. So, with that being the case, I don't mind not having a choice. Yet, stuff like this wasting of $17,500 causes our rates to go up. It's stupid. The real reason they did this was to bolster Jorge Carrasco's image so he could demand a bigger salary, which he lobbied our mayor for. He was trying to point to his reputation as a reason that other utilities were interested in him and, you know, if you want to keep him, pay him more... The guy should be fired.

Plus, he fell for a copper wire theft scheme and gave tens of thousands of dollars of wire to the thieves.

Maybe he *IS* the con... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47443259)

Let's see:
    1. ousted from his last three jobs
    2. trying to scrub his reputation to get a $60k/year raise
    3, just happens to 'fall' for a con that gets $120k worth of materials

Sounds more like the con is in the hen house if you know what I mean ;)

Re:Maybe he *IS* the con... (2)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about two weeks ago | (#47444019)

2. trying to scrub his reputation to get a $60k/year raise
3. just happens to 'fall' for a con that gets $120k worth of materials

About point 2: $119,000, not $60,000

About point 3: The stolen material was recovered.

Misappropriation of Public Funds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47443855)

Does anyone else question the legality of a public entity spending funds on reputation management? Sounds a lot like the NSA.

Re:Misappropriation of Public Funds (1)

billstewart (78916) | about two weeks ago | (#47446493)

Seems like it to me. But it doesn't sound like the NSA; they're usually better at it than that.

Re: Who likes their utility? (1)

C0R1D4N (970153) | about two weeks ago | (#47442783)

In some areas you can get the whole town behind switching to a new company. Has happened quite a bit to JCP&L after Hurricanes Sandy and Irene

Re: Who likes their utility? (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about two weeks ago | (#47443767)

SF would have PUDed long ago, but PG&E owns all the transmission into the bay area anyhow.

So they prefer to continue getting fucked the old fashioned way. Kind of surprising for SF.

Re: Who likes their utility? (1)

billstewart (78916) | about two weeks ago | (#47446507)

I don't know if San Francisco itself wants that. The Bay Guardian was agitating for it for years, but that doesn't mean the city as a whole was in favor of it. Besides, they've got the Hetch Hetchy Dam providing much of their power supply, and it's been more reliable than much of the rest of the Bay Area's power.

Re:Who likes their utility? (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about two weeks ago | (#47442819)

>Why? Shareholder value?
-
It seems simple enough to me: increased customer satisfaction (aka reputation in a captive market) means you can inflate your prices and/or reduce the quality of service with less backlash.

I can't think of any other reason a monopoly would care about it's reputation.

Electricity providers though, there I could see some motive. They are beginning to lose their monopoly with solar becoming a viable and cost-effective alternative in most places. If you can pay for ten years worth of electricity up front you can get the next 10-20 years after that free.

Re:Who likes their utility? (2)

Known Nutter (988758) | about two weeks ago | (#47442955)

It seems simple enough to me: increased customer satisfaction (aka reputation in a captive market) means you can inflate your prices and/or reduce the quality of service with less backlash.

It's not quite that simple. Using PG&E as an example, they cannot just inflate their prices. Rate increases must be approved by the State of California Public Utilities Commission, as must rate increases for every other utility in the state.

Re:Who likes their utility? (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about two weeks ago | (#47443775)

Indeed. And how much more successful do you suppose their lobbyists will be in facilitating such rate increases if they have a good reputation to bank on? The worse their reputation the more people will protest against rate increases, thus increasing the political capital politicians will have to spend to pass them, which in turn will increase the size of the campaign contributions necessary to get them passed.

At some point it becomes more cost effective to run PR campaigns in hopes of increasing approval ratings and thus lowering the size of the necessary campaign contributions.

Re:Who likes their utility? (1)

Imrik (148191) | about two weeks ago | (#47443241)

A good reputation can result in a pay raise for the executives.

Re:Who likes their utility? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47442823)

In PA we can select who produces our power but the delivery is monopolistic for obvious reasons. I don't know many people who actually have ever switched providers when this became law though. I wonder how many people even know they can.

Re:Who likes their utility? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about two weeks ago | (#47443923)

Many utilities operated under a cost-plus arrangement. If they waste more money, they make more profits.

That is why stuff like this has to be prevented.

This is why Bell Labs back in the day got Nobel Prizes. This wasn't corporate philanthropy - at the time they could consider that R&D expenditure part of providing phone service and charge higher rates to recoup it, plus a profit on top. When the rules were changed, Bell Labs died (at least, in the sense of what it used to be).

Re:Who likes their utility? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47444557)

> And who cares? It's not like you have a choice, particularly with real utilities. You can't just get your power from somewhere else.

Actually you can. When I was living in Boston about 10 years ago they decoupled delivery from generation. So you could buy your electricity from a variety of producers. I was too ignorant back then to undestand the point, as I think the majority were, so I never bothered to investigate. I've since moved so I don't know how its all worked out. I think parts of Texas have similar setups.

Re:Who likes their utility? (1)

Eythian (552130) | about two weeks ago | (#47446089)

It's quite possible. I have a choice of power companies (and am planning to change some time soon.)

Here, generation, and retailing are all split up (not sure how lines maintenance works, I think that might be regional, but done though your retailer.)

This means a) I can pick my retailer, and b) they can compete, along with the generation companies.

(I'm not really contributing much here, just adding a little bit of possibly interesting information.)

Re:Who likes their utility? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47442753)

Not mine. Everybody here loves the Power Board. Of course, that's most recently because they started offering high-speed fiber internet and compared to Comcast, anybody would be decent, and they're just plain AWESOME.

Now true, some people did complain about the TVA flooding their homes, and Ronald Reagan waxed eloquently about how horrible they were, but the reality is...the people in the area LIKE the TVA, and don't want some Southern/Duke/Enron company coming in.

Re:Who likes their utility? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47445427)

Seattle City Light has been fantastic for as long as I've lived in Seattle. The rates are incredibly low relative to most other areas I've lived, I've never had a bad customer service interaction, and their billing website is extremely plain and simple.

That's Fine (5, Insightful)

Greyfox (87712) | about two weeks ago | (#47442653)

If they want to go after a SEO company for not optimizing their search results, I don't see anything wrong with that. But has Seattle City Light considered just NOT SUCKING as a strategy to improve their reputation? Seems to me that analyzing the root cause of the problem ("Man, we REALLY suck!") and fixing it ("Hey, has anyone thought about maybe trying NOT sucking?") would be a good bit less expensive. Seems like only an idiot would say "Hey here's an idea! Let's pay 20 grand to some company and then we can keep sucking!" Of course, as a power company you kind of have a captive audience, so it seems like you could really suck all you want to as long as you don't capture the attention of various regulatory bodies in the process.

*shrug* I don't live in Seattle, so I don't know anything about it, but the internets say they suck pretty hard. I'm guessing their SEO company kind of sucks, too. Birds of a feather, eh?

Re:That's Fine (3, Interesting)

Spad (470073) | about two weeks ago | (#47442683)

Utilities can really only have neutral or negative reputations.

Think about it, how often do you go "Wow, that was some amazing electricity I used this morning! It came right out of the socket when I needed it and didn't electrocute me at all"? You don't, because you expect those things as a basic requirement of the service and there aren't really many added extras they can provide to help you view them in a positive light. On the flip side, if there are outages or faults you almost automatically acquire a negative view of them and again there isn't really a lot they can do to counteract it.

Re:That's Fine (3, Insightful)

Guppy06 (410832) | about two weeks ago | (#47442777)

On the other hand, TFA seems to indicate that this SEO fiasco was less about trying to improve the utility's reputation than about improving the executive's personal reputation.

$18k of company money to try to justify a personal $60k/a raise really doesn't sound good.

Re:That's Fine (2)

Imrik (148191) | about two weeks ago | (#47443245)

It gets worse, the contract was $64k of company money, only $17.5k had been paid out so far.

Re:That's Fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47442825)

I love it when my power doesnt go out, I really am happy when I get through a storm w/ my power not going out. I'm rather frustrated when my back up power kicks in repeatedly to compensate for undervoltage :). Really annoyed when prices go up w/ no improvement in service though :(

Re:That's Fine (1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47442827)

Bull. For me locally (NOT in US) the utilities have received praise from the customers for handling unexpected outages well.

The best way for an utility company to get a positive imago is to actually stick money to emergency readiness and upkeep of the hardware. Yes, it costs money, but when shit hits the fan and you shrug it off in no time (instead of giving excuses to the media while sucking), it pays off big time.

Re:That's Fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47442895)

If they sent me a letter through the post saying they're going to reduce my rates year on year, that would help give them a positive reputation. Or if they warned me about outages in advance, or offered me reliable alternative energy sources at reasonable prices, etc. etc.

Re:That's Fine (2)

PPH (736903) | about two weeks ago | (#47443071)

I'm sure the guys who made off with 20 tons of copper wire [king5.com] could be persuaded to write a positive piece about Carrasco.

Analytics and incentives is an extra (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47443075)

Here in BC we have BC hydro and Fortis. BC hyrdo provides power usage statistics for your home per hour on their web page with a ton of ways of looking at the data trends. This type of data can really make it clear where you are wasting power such as usage during the day due to leaving AC on. They also provide an incentive if you reduce power usage below a personalized target.

Unfortunately an area is serviced by one or the other and I don't have the these features with Fortis.

FYI: These features required a new generation of power meters which communicate over the internet so it is definitely not a quick thing for a utility to add.

Re:That's Fine (2)

volmtech (769154) | about two weeks ago | (#47443079)

Actually, yes, during the severe electrical storm yesterday my lights only flickered a couple of times. All the tree trimming and lighting arrestors Florida Power and Light has installed since the 05 hurricanes has helped a lot. Even with these cost and the retiring of one of their nuclear plants my cost per kWh has only gone up a few percent to $.10. Improving service without raising cost does generate good will. Next time they need a rate increase they wont have much getting one.

Re:That's Fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47443345)

Actually, yes, during the severe electrical storm yesterday my lights only flickered a couple of times.

Wow. The only thing that flickers here is the sky during a thunderstorm. I think I am spoiled here in Europe (I could live with less thunderstorms 5 of 7 days had one last week).

Re:That's Fine (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about two weeks ago | (#47443799)

Google 'lightning incidence map' and avoid looking like a smug idiot next time.

Re:That's Fine (1)

melkhorn (1663445) | about two weeks ago | (#47443181)

It may come as a shock to some of you that I should resort to this sort of comment at this phase of the discussion, and perhaps your fears are well grounded, but utilities can have either neutral or hot reputations.

Re:That's Fine (1)

s0nicfreak (615390) | about two weeks ago | (#47443283)

Well, that's only if you've only ever lived in places with good electricity service that doesn't go out regularly, electrocute you nor set houses on fire on a regular basis. As someone that has lived in places like that as well as places with no electricity, and places where there were actually options for utility companies - I can appreciate good electricity service.

Re:That's Fine (1)

Dutch Gun (899105) | about two weeks ago | (#47446523)

Oddly enough, I'm pretty impressed with my local waste hauling company. I was getting overcharged for the size of garbage can I had for a number of years without me noticing after containers had been switched out to different types. I placed a single call to my utility company, and they told me they'd have to contact city hall, who manages the city-wide contract and billing. "Great, I'll never see that money", I thought, with quotes about "fighting city hall" coming to mind. A few weeks later, I see a full refund in my online account for the overcharged amount. The employee had followed through and taken care of things for me with just that single phone call. WTF? Excellent customer service from a utility? Mind blown.

In general, I rarely complain when mistakes are made. After all, we all make mistakes. What really counts to me is how those mistakes are dealt with. I think I might write a letter thanking their customer service department. It's probably a rare enough occurrence in an otherwise relatively thankless job, so it would be nice to know that their efforts are actually appreciated.

So yeah, thumbs up for my local waste disposal utility.

Re:That's Fine (2)

Grow Old Timber (1071718) | about two weeks ago | (#47442731)

SEO stands for Sucking Executive Officer

They actually believer that can work? (2)

thieh (3654731) | about two weeks ago | (#47442657)

I would imagine if Brand.com is actually effective Rick Santorum would already have used it back in 2012.

Re:They actually believer that can work? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47442711)

Gross. Someone is named after santorum? That is one gross slang term for a last name. Did he come from a long line of (amateur) porn actors?

Good news (1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47442679)

Seattle CIty and Light has some *new* search engine results that have displaced any previous negative results. All of the controversy about the CEO's conduct regarding this and a few other recent scandals have completely obscured the previous negative stuff they were worried about!

The Repairer of Reputations (1)

Depili (749436) | about two weeks ago | (#47442685)

Maybe they should have just went with the Repairer of Reputations, as outlined in The King in Yellow...

The Tattered King (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | about two weeks ago | (#47442691)

Repairer of Reputations?

lol (3, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about two weeks ago | (#47442761)

Interviewer: So what can you do for this company...
Interviewee: There's this dude down the street with Magic beans!
Interviewer: You're hired! Now go get them beans!
Interviewee: You really bought that? er... ok... you realize that was an interview and much like televisions commercials I'm expected to exaggerate right?
Interviewer: You promised me beans give me some beans!
Interviewee: ooook... here ya go...
*2yrs later*
Interviewer: These beans aren't growing!... lets just sue that bean salesman, clearly these beans were defective..
Interviewee: I really need to find a new job but I don't want to go through another interview like that last one...

Seattle politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47442803)

Quote: "City Light says that it only ever thought Brand.com would help it place legitimate material in legitimate outletsÃ"talking up some of the positive changes that have taken place at City Light during Carrasco's tenure. Instead, it appears to have received mostly bogus blog posts."

Is Carrasco really that stupid? It'd cost a fortune to persuade even a few people to legitimately post good things about Seattle City Light. They'd have to be located and persuaded, a process that might include a payment that'd still make the posting illegal. Bogus post are far cheaper.

Seattle City Light does have problems. It's rate problems flow from selling off a coal-fired plant that supplemented the city's hydro-power. Replacing that lost power has driven up prices. They also come from expensively subsidizing high-capacity electric car outlets in homes. In addition, a lot of people get ticked off because ice and wind storms can mean they lose power for a week or more. And last but not least is the fact that Seattle City Light's management seems more interesting in drowning out criticism than listening to it.

The reality is that Seattle and the King County that surrounds it are badly governed, with politicians mostly beholden to special interests from land developers and construction unions to 'save our salmon' environmentalists.

Re: Seattle politics (1)

drainbramage (588291) | about two weeks ago | (#47443209)

No, Carrasco is not that stupid.
The Seattle politicians are THAT stupid, they are a first surface reflection of the voters.
The prices in Seattle are a leftover from hydro projects completed decades ago.
Washington/Seattle politicians and SCL are eroding that resource and shifting the monies to their pet constituents.
And the local press is the fat cheerleader.

The Humpty Dance is your chance to do the hump (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47442821)

All right! Stop whatcha doin' 'cause I'm about to ruin
the image and the style that ya used to. I look funny
but yo I'm makin' money see so yo world I hope you're ready for me. Now gather round
I'm the new fool in town and my sound's laid down by the Underground. I drink up all the Hennessey ya got on ya shelf
so just let me introduce myself My name is Humpty, pronounced with a Umpty. Yo ladies, oh how I like to hump thee.
And all the rappers in the top ten--please allow me to bump thee.
I'm steppin' tall, y'all, and just like Humpty Dumpty
you're gonna fall when the stereos pump me.
I like to rhyme, I like my beats funky,
I'm spunky. I like my oatmeal lumpy. I'm sick wit dis, straight gangsta mack but sometimes I get ridiculous
I'll eat up all your crackers and your licorice hey yo fat girl, c'mere--are ya ticklish? Yeah, I called ya fat. Look at me, I'm skinny It never stopped me from gettin' busy I'm a freak
I like the girls with the boom I once got busy in a Burger King bathroom I'm crazy. Allow me to amaze thee.
They say I'm ugly but it just don't faze me. I'm still gettin' in the girls' pants and I even got my own dance
{Chorus:}
The Humpty Dance is your chance to do the hump
Do the Humpty Hump, come on and do the Humpty Hump
Do the Humpty Hump, just watch me do the Humpty Hump
Do ya know what I'm doin', doin' the Humpty Hump
Do the Humpty Hump, do the Humpty Hump
Verse Two: People say "Yo, Humpty, you're really funny lookin'"
that's all right 'cause I get things cookin' Ya stare, ya glare, ya constantly try to compare me but ya can't get near me
I give 'em more, see, and on the floor, B, all the girls they adore me Oh yes, ladies, I'm really bein' sincere 'cause in a 69 my humpty nose will tickle ya rear. My nose is big, uh-uh I'm not ashamed Big like a pickle, I'm still gettin' paid
I get laid by the ladies, ya know I'm in charge, both how I'm livin' and my nose is large I get stoopid, I shoot an arrow like Cupid, I use a word that don't mean nothin', like looptid
I sang on Doowhutchalike, and if ya missed it, I'm the one who said just grab 'em in the biscuits Also told ya that I like to bite
Well, yeah, I guess it's obvious, I also like to write. All ya had to do was give Humpty a chance and now I'm gonna do my dance.
{Chorus} Breakdown: Oh, yeah, that's the break, y'all
Let me hear a little bit of that bass groove right here
Oh, yeah! Now that I told ya a little bit about myself
let me tell ya a little bit about this dance It's real easy to do--check it out Verse Three:
First I limp to the side like my leg was broken Shakin' and twitchin' kinda like I was smokin' Crazy wack funky
People say ya look like M.C. Hammer on crack, Humpty That's all right 'cause my body's in motion It's supposed to look like a fit or a convulsion Anyone can play this game This is my dance, y'all, Humpty Hump's my name No two people will do it the same Ya got it down when ya appear to be in pain
Humpin', funkin', jumpin', jig around, shakin' ya rump,
and when the dude a chump pump points a finger like a stump
tell him step off, I'm doin' the Hump. {Chorus}
Black people, do the Humpty Hump, do the Humpty Hump
White people, do the Humpty Hump, do the Humpty Hump
Puerto Ricans, do the Humpty Hump, just keep on doin' the hump Samoans, do the Humpty Hump, do the Humpty Hump
Let's get stoopid! {Chorus}
Oh, yeah, come on and break it down Outro:
Once again, the Underground is in the house I'd like to send a shout out to the whole world, keep on doin' the Humpty Dance,
and to the ladies, peace and humptiness forever
{Music and fade}

oijkposfjigso dfigjsdo gijsdoijf g osdif jgsodi fjgsodfi dfoigjsdof jgsdoijgs od ijfgsdoigosdjigosid jgfoisdj gosdijgfod ijgsodifjg dsgdsfgfgfgfgf

clear the fairway (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47442829)

remember to thank our lucky star wars wmd on credit cabals http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=public+utilty+hostage 'weather' watchers http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=wmd+weather etc....

Did we all miss the point? (3, Insightful)

Yew2 (1560829) | about two weeks ago | (#47442867)

Im a little disappointed in these comments! I dont see anyone complaining that a utility is even spending money on this sorta thing, much less a publicly owned utility....did I miss the part where we started enjoying abuses from the mono/duopolies to which we are all conscripted?? From the rich right down to the poorest or poor in our citizenry, we all pay for utilities, one way or another. It could even be argued that the brand of gravy fed the homeless is one slot cheaper because soup kitchens pay these bills too. Has the world gone mad?? Since when can a public resource use funds in this way? Where is the outrage? Where is the inquisition? I would even go so far as to say even were this service offered for free of charge to this utility that they are engaging in a cover-up! Fraud! Deceit! Pitchfork, anyone? Hello? Anyone?

Re:Did we all miss the point? (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about two weeks ago | (#47443819)

Im a little disappointed in these comments! I dont see anyone complaining that a utility is even spending money on this sorta thing, much less a publicly owned utility....did I miss the part where we started enjoying abuses from the mono/duopolies to which we are all conscripted??

I hear you but I'm still working through my blind hatred of reputation management firms.

Re:Did we all miss the point? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47445217)

http://ilccyberreport.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/tiny-iowa-county-takes-on-the-king-of-online-defamation/

You might find this article interesting..

Brand.com is a rebrand of a company called reputationchanger.com, which was launched by the convicted felon Adam Zuckerman soon after acquiring a SQL injection technique (in 2011) which was used to add "noindex, nofollow" tags to complaint website pages and comment pages on blogs which effectively removes a page from search engine results.

It's long but worth the read to download the search warrant linked in the article ( https://www.dropbox.com/sh/6orjid9iahp0568/AABQZSlC2iOzDIRzc7i1SzL3ai ) if you want an early preview of some of the dirt which will likely be getting coverage soon in the news cycle regarding the reputation "wreck and repair" racket which is an ongoing extortion racket in the "online reputation management" and seo world.

http://www.paladinpi.com/blog/paladin-investigations-2/social-waterboarding-chapter/

has further commentary to help digest the search warrant document.

The big dog with millions in investment capital (and looking to IPO soon), Reputation.com, is one of the primary actors in this racket, having been caught buying the company/website "removeyourname.com" of the hacker Matthew Cooke which was peddling the SQL injection code to all of the ORM companies stupid/sleazy enough to take the bait for some quick cash wrecking then repairing middle class business owners and professionals who could afford to pay to stop the pain.

Complaint sites, mugshot sites and revenge porn sites are the trifecta on the "wrecking" side of this racket, with the "repair" side being offered up by sites such as reputation.com, brand.com and countless multitudes of smaller sites sprinkled around the internet acting as franchised feeders into the main cartel of "repair" reputation companies which are in collusion with the "wrecking" industry by either outright ownership and management of the wrecking sites which they can remove content from or by paying agreed upon fees to "outside the network" sites..

As a Seattle resident... (1)

yayoubetcha (893774) | about two weeks ago | (#47442927)

If I wasn't pissed before, I am now.

In other news... (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about two weeks ago | (#47442989)

customers want $175.00 refund for failure to provide good quality power

Public money wasted (3, Insightful)

mtrachtenberg (67780) | about two weeks ago | (#47443201)

$17,500 to polish your CEO's reputation? The CEO and the Chief of Staff should both be fired. Or, in keeping with the CEO's resume, encouraged to "resign." And suing to recover the money is likely to cost the public more than just giving up on the wasted funds. Just cut your losses, Seattle.

The article "Jorge Fiasco" wants you to forget (3, Informative)

McGruber (1417641) | about two weeks ago | (#47443229)

I RTFA and learned that this is the article that "Jorge Fiasco" (Jorge Carrasco" wants google and everyone else to forget about:

Short Fuse: Jorge Carrasco's Polarizing Tenure at the Top of City Light [seattleweekly.com]

I also see that the deal with brand.com has cost Jorge Fiasco a six figure pay raise: The Seattle Times: No pay raise for City Light CEO Jorge Carrasco [seattletimes.com]

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray says he will not give City Light CEO Jorge Carrasco a pay raise, citing “judgment” issues, including a contract aimed partly at boosting Carrasco’s online image.

Murray made the comments at a City Hall news conference Wednesday.

The Seattle City Council had authorized a pay increase of up to $119,000 for Carrasco, who currently makes $245,000. Murray’s office previously had said he was considering raising Carrasco’s pay by $60,000.

Re:The article "Jorge Fiasco" wants you to forget (3, Informative)

McGruber (1417641) | about two weeks ago | (#47443261)

Another article Jorge Carasco would like you to forget: The Seattle Times: City Light leader Jorge Carrasco fell for copper con [seattletimes.com]

Last year, two men claiming to be members of the Cherokee Nation who had traveled from Oklahoma came to Seattle with a simple goal: score some scrap copper.

Dressed in beads and fringed suede, with one wearing a cap that said “Native,” they headed to the offices of Seattle City Light, where they chanced upon its superintendent, Jorge Carrasco, in the lobby. They told him they ran a nonprofit that taught disabled children how to make jewelry and needed some copper wire.

Minutes after meeting them, Carrasco authorized the men to be given some scrap.

But the two were actually con men. Once inside City Light’s secure facilities, they were able to drive off with 20 tons of copper wire and scrap metal worth $120,000.

Blog posts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47443317)

Instead, it appears to have received mostly bogus blog posts.

This worked so well for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Why wouldn't it work for a public utility?

Call to action (2)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about two weeks ago | (#47443731)

Everyone who runs sites where users can post comments should add language to terms of service forbidding using your service to spread paid propaganda.

Adding a dialogue asking if you are operating on behalf of a reputation firm would be even better because then they become guilty of circumventing an access control when they lie to gain access.

Using insane corporate laws against corporations = priceless.

A Better Term (1)

Guy From V (1453391) | about two weeks ago | (#47444345)

I think this falls under the "gaslighting" utility service.

The ultimate leson here (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about two weeks ago | (#47445035)

If you are a company who is hired to scrub clean the reputation of Jerks - they will still be Jerks.

Seriously it's a no-win business model. There was a reason they had bad publicity in the first place. There is a reason they'll turn on you.

Re:The ultimate leson here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47445361)

Clearly the ultimate leson wasn't in spelling. :)

Re:The ultimate leson here (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about two weeks ago | (#47445389)

Eggsackly!

A better idea (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about two weeks ago | (#47445139)

They should have just hired Barbara Streisand to handle the situation instead. She's have the same results, just at a lower price.

What Jorge Carrasco doesn't understand is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about two weeks ago | (#47445375)

You can't polish a turd.

brand.com (1)

issicus (2031176) | about two weeks ago | (#47445525)

the soul crushing experience it must be working there...
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