LP: Can you introduce yourselves?
II: My name is Igor Ilyinsky, and I am the founder of a company called Firmwise. We help small and midsized law firms with their web presence and try to get them to move the needle with their marketing.
LP: As well as your main web business, you became famous in our little
world for setting up Igor’s Spam List, an open source list of all
the dodgy awards out there, after you got sick of your clients getting ripped off. Can
you tell me how the idea came about?
II: Sure, so it’s a crowdsourced list. We put it together because there were some days when we would get maybe a couple of dozen emails from clients saying “hey, is this a reputable award” or “have you heard of this”. Sometimes those days would be crippling for us. So rather than have to reply to 50 different emails saying “no, this is not valid” or “yes, this is legit”, we decided to assemble a list based on our intelligence, and put it into an online spreadsheet that’s available to everyone. It wasn’t done as a business effort, it’s not something we charge for, it’s just for the general benefit of the community at large. What we’re trying to do is streamline the process because these mass emails come out and hit a bunch of attorneys at once, and they have no way of knowing whether these things are valid. The marketing people, the administrators at these firms, have no way of knowing if they are valid, so we at least try to provide some collective intelligence that helps everyone make informed decisions.
LP: So tell me about your graded system – it’s not black or
white, spam or no spam?
II: Generally speaking, we try to filter things into big buckets, but not ever spammy award is “pure spam” so we have a few different classifications. We want firms to understand that there could be some value for a firm in going forward with one of these awards if their business could benefit from it. But that’s a business decision they have to make. On the other hand, there are many that are pure spam, there’s no reputation behind the organization providing these awards, it’s purely a pay to pay scheme, and you get no value out of payment.
LP: The worse ones are the fake awards, where they’ve done no research,
they’ve made it up?
II: Right, they’ve done no research, they have no audience, so you can pay them any amount of money but anything they distribute doesn’t get any traction or potential prospects. They’re just a complete waste of money. So, we mark them as pure spam. But then there some that are not pure spam and are reputable, and have a specific focus. Let’s say you’re a trial lawyer and your work in product liability and you know the manufacturing industry, this might be a viable award for you as that’s their audience, but in many cases, they fall somewhere in between.
LP: Do you have plans to develop the products? At the moment, it’s a
basic piece of technology. Are you considering doing anything with it, or just leaving
as it is?
II: Not really. The intent was always to keep it open and available to the entire community. We don’t own it, we manage it. Sometimes we get enquiries from organizations that want to improve their rank or reputation. We don’t control that, but I’ve been contacted by a few people who say that my organization is legitimate, and somebody posted that we’re not legitimate. We say to them that we need evidence, you have got to put us in touch with a couple of firms whose internal people can vouch for you and say they have had some value. Otherwise there’s no way for us to know.
LP: So you wouldn’t take down something marked as spam if the owner of
that business protested?
II: No, we don’t just take it down, because we didn’t put it up in the first place. The beautiful thing about the list is that generally what happens is a bunch of people will get an email, normally it’s the marketing person that gets the email from the attorneys saying “I was nominated for this award. Should we go forward, buy the plaque, the ad placement”. Many of the marketing people will now look at the Spammy Awards List to see if it’s on there. Someone will put them on the list initially, but at least one of say 50 will have requested further information to the point where they have made a decision as to whether to purchase or not. That’s the valuable information – the additional insight behind the organizations. Not just “yes this is spam, no this is spam” but “for most people this will not be beneficial” or “you can go forward with a free program but they try to upsell you on a $1000 sponsorship”. There’s a catch somewhere. That’s what people want to know about and that’s what the list is intended to provide.