Contrived Transparency

There is way too much talk about transparency going around. Seriously. I’m guilty. Apparently, 40,292 other people are also guilty.

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Transparency is one of those buzzwords people like to throw around to demonstrate that they’re savvy in the business of social media. If we have a blog, says one marketing strategist at XYZ company, we’ll be seen as transparent.

Transparency. See through. Invisible. In social media, it means that we’re open and honest. We don’t try to pull the wool over customers, or users, or readers eyes. We trust openly and want to be trusted openly.

However, this is more often than not, contrived.

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Contrived transparency indicated that this notion of being honest and open is not a culturally accepted thing in a company. It’s a strategic decision made to drive sales. It’s a devious, and by it’s very nature, non-transparent way of saying, “You’re stupid enough to believe that I’m a great person to do business with because I’m doing all the right things and sending all the right signals”.

Yep. Contrived transparency.

Guy: Maybe when we’re done here, we can go back to my place.
Girl: Sure, but you do know that I’m not going to sleep with you on the first date, right?
Guy: Oh, I wasn’t thinking that at all!

Yeah, right.

Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

7 thoughts on “Contrived Transparency

  1. That’s exactly why I hate that word in the contemporary online context. Intentional or not, every online identity choice has layers of prompts between the communicators. If the “appearance of transparency” is the motivator of the online communication choice, how can that be characterized as anything but an opaque layer?

    Hey, that sounds obtuse and meaningless! How do I get “opaque” to be the buzzword?

  2. Besides regretting not seeing you for more than 20 seconds in the hallway (or so it felt), I think you’re on to something. In fact, I’ve been enjoying the hell out of your blog lately. Keep it up, Aaron. I’m enjoying your work here.

  3. Every time people do something innovative or genuine or sincere that then nets them a serious financial or social gain, it gets exploited by all the others just trying to make a buck or get their 15 minutes. Happens in every industry and walk of life.

    The funny thing is that most of the time it’s pretty “transparent” what their real intentions are.

  4. You didn’t go far enough, Aaron.

    The “tactically transparent” hurt the rest of us through guilt by association. I don’t want to see an entire profession tainted by the actions of a few using slash-and-burn techniques. It makes us all look bad. Healthy skepticism is always warranted, but those taking advantage of trust risk stunting new relationships for us before they start.

  5. Hey Eric- nice to see local press around these parts. ;)

    I think you’re article addresses transparency as it should be addressed. The problem is, as Ike, suggests more one of tactical transparency which is simply put on to achieve a purpose and real transparency which builds trust and authenticity.

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