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Case Study: Asking Playing With Fire to Give TPM Credit

From this thread:

Email #1: Enlightened Collaborator Requesting Fair-Value

Here's the first email I sent to Alex:

Hi Alex,

I recently discovered Playing With Fire and man, what a great channel! I love your work (emotional value-giving)! My name is Ali Scarlett and I’m a bestselling author (positions me as a high-status/high-value individual).

Your (balances the "you" and "I", making sure to start some sentences with "you" so it doesn't seem like a "me, me, me fest") recent YouTube Short, "3 Major Red Flags Over Text," was shared in the forum at where I noticed that a few of the examples you used came from that site (takes the honest, direct approach about the situation).

That's cool, they were great examples and I think they enhanced the Short (starts off agreeing + building up the content he created from the examples). However (avoids "but" to avoid negating the agreeing + compliment), I noticed you didn't give credit to TPM for those screenshots (and, my bad if you did and I simply didn't notice) (continues the honest, direct approach + gives him the benefit of the doubt).

You're (again starts off with "you" to avoid making it "all about me") already listed on their "best resources" page, plus recommended on their forum (frames TPM as a value-giving, collaborative party supporting his work), so I think it'd be even more win-win if you gave them credit when you borrow content from their site in the future (honest exchange talk + avoids focusing on the current mistake so as to help both parties move on from it).

But, it's up to you (on your honor gambit), and I'll continue checking out your content regardless (offers continued value-giving + avoids dangling my support as a carrot over his head).

Kind regards,

- Ali

P.S. Lucio Buffalmano, the head of the site, is a friend of mine, hence why I reached out (again, continues the approach of being both direct and honest). But, he was cool about it and doesn't seem to see it as a big deal (makes sure to clarify that I'm not reaching out because Lucio couldn't, he simply didn't really care to) (and neither do I) (again, minimizes the mistake so as to avoid conflict). I simply think it'd be more win-win to give that credit (avoids using the word "fair" to avoid coming across as a game-player pulling moral judge frames).

A few notes on this:

  • Taking the honest, direct approach: I could have approached it as "just a random guy who stumbled across your content, happens to know about TPM, and wanted to drop a quick note that you could give them credit". But, the honest, direct approach seemed better (and, as I'm thinking about it more while writing this, I'd say it was the much better move).
  • Focusing on giving credit in his future works: I wanted to avoid stirring up a conflict over this one Short. So, by keeping it about giving credit in his future content, I minimize the negative impact of the message. (If I only care about the future content, then that implies that this one was truly not a big deal.) And it also avoids the slippery slope of going back and forth over this Short (which would be a diversion that misses the point—it's not really about this video, it's about giving credit where it's due).
  • Acknowledging and power-protecting Lucio: one concern I had was that if I didn't mention I'm a friend of Lucio's and he learned that on his own (which isn't difficult information to find), it could come across as sneaky/shady. And if I didn't mention that Lucio was unbothered by the situation, there could be a misunderstanding that Lucio was indeed bothered by it, but not assertive enough to handle it himself (and so I had to step in on his behalf). I sought to avoid both of those negative outcomes by bringing up Lucio, mentioning our friendship, and letting him know Lucio's thoughts on the Short (it wasn't a big deal to him).
  • Avoids using the word "fair": to avoid making it seem like I'm pressuring the guy with a moral judge frame. That not only could've been less persuasive (since he could feel like saying "no" just to push back on being pressured into a corner), but could've made me come across like I'm game-playing (I started out the message positive with emotional value-giving, then by the end, I'm pressuring him about how he was being unfair...that incongruency probably would've made the compliments I gave him earlier on look fake).

Since I couldn't find his email address, I submitted this email via his website's Contact Us form with my official author email (more "authority" self-positioning).

Note: when I say "authority", I don't mean in terms of having the authority to control his behavior, but in terms of being a high-status expert in my field. While most of you probably understood that, I still thought it'd be prudent to provide that quick clarification in case Alex reads this since we use that term "authority" in different ways here at TPM sometimes.

His Response: Offers to Give Back Credit

40 minutes after sending that email, he responds:

Responding so fast is probably a good sign of quick customer service in his business given that I submitted this through his Contact Us form.

But, I should also note that I reached out to him on Instagram with a shorter version of the email as well. And since I'm verified, my message probably stood out more in his Instagram inbox.

Either way, he had the choice to ignore it and instead took fast action, offering to give back credit now on the current video. A really high-class move, in my opinion :).

Then, before I saw that email he sent, he sends me two more:

When he said he's monitoring the TPM thread, he didn't just link to the thread, he linked to my specific post.

So, there's a chance he felt bad (another sign of good character), hence the follow-up email explaining how he found the images.

Really kind of him, and now, so far, we're wrapping things up.

Email #2: Wrapping Up

This was my latest email to him:

Again, giving him the benefit of the doubt (and thread-expanding on it which makes it come across more genuine), sharing the links, and clarifying that it's really Lucio's blog (so I don't take credit for Lucio's work/business :).

Finally, notice the last move:

Ali: "However, I'm a moderator there, so let me know when you update the description and/or comments section and I'll let the community know via that thread you mentioned."

He said before that he's monitoring that other thread. So, by offering to update the community in that thread when he updates the video, I'm offering to shine a positive light on him and his character.

And especially when that positive mention is in a place where he had initially lost some points with the community, that can be very value-giving.

Now, We Wait 🙂

The final power move :).

I wanted to post this now rather than waiting until after he's updated his video because I'm not sure when I'll have the time to write this by then.

And since done is better than perfect, I think it's better to have an incomplete case study that I can always update later than a fully finished one I may struggle to get around to writing at all.

However, as you guys have probably guessed, this also puts a little positive pressure on him to follow through on his word so we can end this case study on a good note.

And, if/when he does, this thread will be another shining reminder of his moral warmth + value-giving attitude.

If you guys have any thoughts or feedback, happy to read them.

Lucio Buffalmano, John Freeman and 4 other users have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoJohn FreemanJackKavalierMehdi ELKMats G

And, it's done :).

His email response:

And the comment:

Jack and Kavalier have reacted to this post.

Hello Ali,

I think you did great and it is a very honest and diplomatic message. What I see is:

The difference in investment is huge. The slight issue I see is that the initial problem is not quoting the source. So I would have expected a higher investment from his part on addressing it.

Finding it on Google image sounds to me like an excuse. He did not address the fact that there was no quoting in the first place. If it was me I would have presented my excuses and acknowledged that I made a mistake. So this part of acknowledgment is missing I think. Also, it is a bit strange to me that he found it randomly on google images and at the same time is aware of the thread concerning him. So I would tend to think that he's been reading the forum and/or PU before. Maybe not or just after you send this message but still it leaves room for doubt.

By saying: I'm "monitoring it" it sends a bit of a "I'm watching you" which to me has a slight overtone of threat (might be my knowledge of English) as in "be careful what is said in this thread. So there is a PM in there for me.

Offering to correct shows goodwill. However not acknowledging the first slight feels like there is some self-power protection. I think this power protection was already been giving by you, so there was room for acknowledgment of the initial mistake without loss of power.

So I see a bit of power hoarding here but the correction lowers it a bit.

So overall: great diplomacy from you, correction but not admission from him. In terms of actions: he followed up, in terms of communication something is missing for me.

Lucio Buffalmano, Ali Scarlett and 3 other users have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoAli ScarlettJackKavalierMehdi ELK

Hi John,

Yes, in the interest of pure and total honesty, I felt that saying he's "monitoring" the thread was a bit of a covert power move. Like saying, "I got tabs on you and what you guys are saying about me (and it'll be factored into whether or not I give you what you're asking for)."

Plus, I also felt a small "my bad" would've been appropriate and helped smooth things over. Instead, he simply said, "Added as comment," and left it at that as if withholding credit was cool and no apologies were necessary. (And maybe none were, but it would've rebuilt more rapport with me if he did.)

However, I do still see a lot of positives:

  • Responding fast to my emails and sending multiple messages: a sign of caring.
  • Acting fast on the situation and giving multiple links: albeit he said in his email "feel free to send the link" (implying he'd only share one), he added both links anyway.
  • An overall positive final outcome: especially if he continues to give credit to TPM when he borrows from the site in the future.
John Freeman, Jack and Kavalier have reacted to this post.
John FreemanJackKavalier

(And maybe none were, but it would've rebuilt more rapport with me if he did.)

In my opinion, apologies are dues. In this day and age everybody knows about quoting sources and what it is called when they are not. I'm coming from the scientific World so I admit I might be biased. However, I still think they are dues.

Responding fast to my emails and sending multiple messages: a sign of caring.

This could also be interpreted as taking measures in order to save one's reputation, from a machiavellian point of view.

An overall positive final outcome: especially if he continues to give credit to TPM when he borrows from the site in the future.

Yes, there is room for collaboration. However, I think a message at the beginning of the video would be great. This is not a zero-sum game. PWF viewers can be (and are are) also TPM users/viewers. So there is room for win-win here.

Lucio Buffalmano, Ali Scarlett and 3 other users have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoAli ScarlettJackKavalierMehdi ELK

Thank you for this, Ali!

Both the action, and the sharing of the lessons learned.

And thank you John as well, great points.

It's an interesting case study for sure, but I'll purposefully sit it out of it for being a party involved, and to let it rest without drama.
Edit: but needless to say, that's just me, and if anyone wants to add anything, go for it of course.

Ali Scarlett, John Freeman and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Ali ScarlettJohn FreemanJackKavalier
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Thanks Ali for sharing. I like how you wrote that first  email I’m saving it for future reference.

Good on him for answering and adding the source.

I am not buying that he didn’t know about the blog  before, when you Google to find the images you see the link to TPM.

also, he has a potential previous strike with another video looking very similar from one of TPM YouTube channel.

honestly, this is disappointing because it makes him look dishonest.

I agree with John apologies or due

Lucio Buffalmano, Ali Scarlett and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoAli ScarlettJohn FreemanKavalier
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