If you’ve been paying any attention at all to the real estate social media/networking space since last Friday, you are no doubt aware of the lawsuit filed by The Lones Group against Daniel Rothamel. I won’t rehash all the details in this article ”“ there are plenty of places to get more info on that. Here is the actual legal complaint ”“ that’s a good place to start if you are interested in the details.
The article I published on this subject, The Lones Group v. Rothamel: A case study in destroying your on-line reputation, has just about taken on a life of its own. At the time of this writing, it has 523 Facebook “likes”, 237 comments, and it has been linked to more times than I can count.
This article, the one you are reading right now, is being written to clarify a few things. And as I am prone to doing, to offer some opinions as well”¦
Why I wrote the original article
I wrote The Lones Group v. Rothamel: A case study in destroying your on-line reputation, for two reasons:
1) It was an attempt to try to show people what can happen in the social media space. Things can move swiftly via social networking channels ”“ be they the good, the bad, or the ugly. People need to understand this, and consider it before they take any action ”“ whether that be filing a law suit, writing a positive or negative review, or opining on anything. Be aware of how social networking, and those in the “social community” work. I still feel that this is sage advice whether you “actively participate” in social networking or have nothing to do with it. In today’s business world, social media / networking is a fact of life. You need to understand it, even if you don’t ever plan on utilizing it.
2) I wanted to get the word out that donations were being collected to help Daniel with his legal defense fees. Daniel is my friend, and I am very proud to call him a friend. I stand by my friends, possibly to a fault. Honestly, I’d take a bullet for Daniel. In my opinion, Daniel is being shot at (not literally of course. It’s a metaphor). If a friend needs help, I want to help them and lawsuits are ridiculously expensive. I am not privy to Daniel’s financials, but I am confident that spending many thousands of dollars defending himself in a lawsuit puts a strain on him and his family (and his family brokerage was also a named party in the suit). I’m certain that anyone with a one-year old and a mother with breast cancer doesn’t need the additional stress and expense of financing a legal battle.
That’s it. That was the sole purpose of the article.
Why I did not write the original article
Since the article was published, I have been accused both publicly and privately of 1) attempting to damage the business and name of Denise Lones and/or The Lones Group; 2) trying to “stuff Google” and take over search results for Lones Group related search terms; 3) caring only about getting backlinks and traffic; 4) bullying and leading and/or inciting a mob; and 5) various and sundry other things.
All I can do now is give you my word that none of that was my intent. You can take my word however you want to. Some will believe me, some won’t. If you’ll bear with me, I’d like to address each of these items.
1) I have no desire what-so-ever to damage Denise Lones or her company. As I mentioned in my original article, I’d never even heard of them until Friday. I have no idea if they are adept at what they do. They have glowing testimonials on their website, and a few people have come forward since Friday and said Denise is a good person and very good at what she does. I have no reason to doubt any of that. I’m sure they do excellent work. Damaging the Lones Group serves no purpose.
2) “Taking over Google” for Lones related search terms does me absolutely no good. No one looking to buy or sell a home in Phoenix is going to be searching for Lones this or that. Yes, my post now ranks pretty well for a couple of search terms related to the Lones group. I’m in the process of addressing this, more will follow below.
3) Backlinks and traffic related to this post mean nothing. Not to sound all pompous, but this site has on the order of 80,000 backlinks. Another dozen or two isn’t going to matter. Yes, the traffic to my post has been heavy, but again, the people reading that post are highly unlikely to ask a Thompson’s Realty agent to help them buy or sell a home ”“ and the major purpose of this blog is to connect potential Phoenix area home buyers and sellers with our brokerage.
4) The “inciting a mob” is an interesting thing. Anyone remotely familiar with the real estate social networking space could see this coming. Daniel is a man of great character, he shares willingly, and he is widely respected in the real estate social media space. I don’t know anyone that enjoys seeing people they respect get sued. That there was a backlash should not have been a surprise.
Did I lead this mob?
Here is where I made a mistake. And I’ll apologize right now for making that mistake. For whatever reason, there are a lot of real estate agents that read here and respect me and what I have to say. Of that I am thankful. It humbles me. I need to do a better job of remembering that when I write emotionally charged articles.
I don’t think I am the Don of the re.net mafia, but I should have realized that some folks would read my post, gloss over the hoped for “social media lesson” and react ”“ potentially spitefully ”“ to what I wrote. I should have been crystal clear in my article that my opinion was we needed to rally around Daniel, not go on the attack against Denise and The Lones Group. I didn’t make that clear. I personally know many of the people that have written about this and I firmly believe the vast majority have Daniel’s best interests in mind. But there are some negative things being said about Denise and her company. I’ve heard she has gotten phone calls and emails that were downright nasty.
That is just wrong. It’s wrong on many levels. It seems that some of these calls and emails were anonymous. Not only is that wrong, it’s also cowardly. If you don’t have the sack to put your name on something you want to say, then you should just not say it.
You don’t have to like Denise Lones, you don’t have to like the legal system. But Denise has every right to file a lawsuit. We live in a very litigious society, and that bothers many people ”“ myself included. But that doesn’t mean Denise is evil for filing a lawsuit. Is the lawsuit misguided? Yes, in my decidedly non-legal opinion. Was there a better way to handle it? Yes, in my opinion. I think picking up the phone and calling someone and saying, “Can we work this out?” is the place to start. Starting with a Cease & Desist letter just starts the whole thing out on an adversarial foot. But that’s just my opinion. Denise apparently feels differently and that is her right. If you don’t like her having that right, if you don’t like the U.S. justice system, then”¦. move. Or try to change it. But don’t attack someone for exercising their rights. Disagree, sure. But let’s be civil about it.
What I’m doing now
Earlier today, I flagged my original article as “noindex, nofollow”. That means that Google will no longer index that post. I don’t know how long it will take Google to de-index the post, but it should get de-indexed at some point (and if an SEO wizard is reading this, tell me what, if anything, else I can do to get it de-indexed). Below is a screen shot of my WordPress backend showing the post is set to noindex/nofollow.
I’m considering deleting the post entirely, but I still think it helps provide a valuable lesson. So for now I’m leaving it in a published state. If I need to delete it in order for it to disappear from Google, I will.
I have also removed references to the post from other sites I control (ThompsonsRealty.com, Active Rain, and Trulia). If I write about this lawsuit again on those sites, it will only be to promote the site that I set up for Daniel’s legal defense fund.
What you should do now
You are an adult, I can’t tell you what to do (heck, I can barely tell my children what to do). It is my hope that no one attacks Denise or her company. “Attack the idea, not the person”, debating in an open, honest, non-adversarial way is a good thing. Leaving anonymous voice mails, dissing an individual or a company (especially someone you do not know), being spiteful and hateful ”“ those are bad things. If you love and/or respect Daniel Rothamel like I do, then do what you can to raise awareness for his defense fund. That can certainly be done without attacking Denise or The Lones Group. Support Daniel ”“ financially, spiritually, or just let him know you’re thinking about him and his family. I assure you, that means a lot to Daniel, Kari and Patsy. You can leave him a message of support here.
I can’t make you de-index a post you wrote. That is a decision only you can make. I’m sure some people will think I’m backing down to the pressure of a vocal few. Think what you will, but I’m de-indexing the post because in my opinion, it’s the right thing to do.
To Denise Lones
I am sorry, and I apologize. I didn’t mean to help incite a mob. There was no intention to bully you, but I can see how it comes across that way. My post led to some of that and for that I apologize. Do I wish you’d drop the lawsuit? Of course I do. I wish that you and Daniel could work things out together. Perhaps with a mediator instead of a jury trial and all the expense that entails for both of you? But you are within your right to sue, that can not be argued.
To Daniel Rothamel
I love you like a brother. I think you know that I would take a bullet for you. Hang in there my friend. Give that beautiful Ava a kiss from “Uncle Jay” and lay one on Kari and Patsy for me too. We’re praying for your Mom too and know she will beat the evil that is cancer.
Photo Credit: limaoscarjuliet on Flickr. CC Licensed.