Post #398

Trackback on business sites

13th May 2004, early evening | Comments (15)

Trackback is an interesting thing. Sometimes you get nice comments from it, and sometimes, as in this post from Mena at Six Apart, you get your arse handed to you in a sling (I’ve never fully understood that phrase, but I’m going to go out on a limb and use it here).

Six Apart say they are: [Committed] to a Free Version, while getting our pricing right. The post’s trackback entries say:

And so on. In fact, it was so noticeable that P.J. Doland wrote this:

You would have to be insane to enable Trackback on a corporate blog. Look at the links at the bottom of Mena Trott’s post about the new licensing terms for Movable Type 3.0.

The mob has spoken, and it’s publicly viewable on the company site.

He’s right, it’s admirable to show that as a company you’re open to criticism, but is it entirely good for business?

Update: This wasn’t a post specifically about Six Apart’s announcement, but more on the decision to allow public reaction (in Trackback form) to a company on that company’s own web site.

No-one’s going to mistake Trackback data as coming from the company itself, but still, when unflattering text appears in the Trackback section it can’t reflect well on that company, unless it’s as a measure of their openness and willingness to accept reaction/feedback from their user base.

So, don’t get hung up on the Six Apart issue, I’m more interested in the general concept of external data being displayed on a company web site, when that company has no way of filtering that data.

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Comments (15)

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  1. Rafi B.:

    It's all 'bout the money. doom doom dai dai da doom. First throw the line, then pull in the hook.

    Posted 13 minutes after the fact
  2. Nollind Whachell:

    Personally, I think it's great that companies are starting to do this because it has the opportunity to create an open dialogue between the company and the people. Royal Dutch/Shell (Shell Oil), for example, have messageboards where people frequently say that the company has hired guns in Africa killing people for them. They don't delete these messages and they don't hide behind a false front making themselves unaccessible to people. They want to be prove themselves to people that they are not what other people think they are.

    In this case with Six Apart, the people have spoken, they are obviously pissed off. Now it is up to the company to decide what they want to do about it. Will they stick to their guns or will they be flexible and listen to the people? Will they be asking people for feedback as to what specifically they are upset about and how can they change their existing licensing fees to accommodate them? If they don't create some sort of dialogue with these pissed off people then yes I think this openness is a waste of time because it isn't leading to anything.

    Posted 38 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Mark
  3. Jack:

    Yeah and the trackback list is just getting bigger and bigger...

    The announcement of MT 3.0 is a barely a day old and you can't help but wonder how many of those entries are just a knee-jerk reaction to the prices and licenses. Maybe it will turn out to be a really great product worthy of our money and everyone will get on with their lives.

    I think the whole idea with Mena's Corner was to satisfy the nostalgia for the "just Ben and Mena" face of the organisation which seems to be slowly fading away. But the more popular you are, the more critics you attract and there is a certain point where you'd rather be trying to improve yourself then sift through tonnes of complaints. I imagine it would only be worse if they enabled comments too.

    I think that once you get too big to please everybody, then you shouldn't be asking for everybody's opinion. :P

    Posted 42 minutes after the fact
  4. Scott Johnson:

    It's very admirable that they left trackbacks on. Probably not a smart move in hindsight, but it is admirable. I think the pricing issue will be sorted out and in the end 6A will do the right thing. After all, the current proposal doesn't seem *that* bad.

    Posted 2 hours, 19 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Pickyin, ↓ Mark
  5. Pickyin:

    While it may not be entirely positive on the business; as Scott has pointed out I agree that I respect Six Apart for keeping their proposal open to critism, bombs and what nots.

    Let's just hope 6A will actually read those trackbacks and keep the reasonable ones in mind when they begin implementing the new prices and licensing policies.

    After all, the purpose of business is to keep your clients with you while squeezing the dosh out of them. >)

    Posted 2 hours, 55 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Scott Johnson
    Inspired: ↓ Mark
  6. Matt:

    It has certainly been interesting to watch the reactions roll in. and have been unreachable for quite a bit today, I guess from the blogosphere traffic, which is saying a lot.

    Posted 3 hours, 8 minutes after the fact
  7. Matt:

    Wow, I just went and it's at 244 trackbacks! Someone should tally them and see how many are negative, positive, and neutral.

    Posted 3 hours, 9 minutes after the fact
  8. Teller:

    The tallying would be a bit complicated as many trackbacks are not in English, some in languages not widely spoken (as mine, which is in Estonian). But I'm rather annoyed by the general whining because something that used to be free is no longer free. As if 6A is Red Cross or public property or whatever. I say that MT has been extremely valuable for me in past 1.5 years and if I decided for some reason to upgrade then I'd find the money somewhere.

    And noone's pushing anyone to upgrade for that matter...

    Posted 4 hours, 57 minutes after the fact
  9. David Barrett:

    Yeah. We still have version 2.661, which is still free.

    And if we want a better feature set, we can roll our own. MTs been annoying me for a while now; it's awkward using something with the post-model to handle a general website, but I still need something with that model for my blog.

    Posted 8 hours, 34 minutes after the fact
  10. Mark:

    "The Cluetrain Manifesto" [] may be of interest here?

    It's not a meme any more, and even its authors have stepped back from some of the theses; but most businesses would agree that it's very useful to know what your customers are really thinking (and vice versa)

    ...Though it's what you _do_ with that information that lets you look back and assess whether it was worth the cost

    Posted 11 hours, 36 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Nollind Whachell, ↑ Scott Johnson, ↑ Pickyin
  11. Lee:

    I can't see many companies wanting this feature included in their sites. The smaller, customer-focused firms maybe, but every large firm, no matter how good their customer service, has unhappy customers. Some more than others.

    I doubt any of them would be eager to air their dirty laundry, nor do I think it would necessarily be a good thing for me as a potential customer. I understand you can't please all of the people all of the time and that every company has their group of haters.

    Posted 12 hours, 29 minutes after the fact
  12. Nollind Whachell:

    Most people today are much more informed about the products that they buy than ever before. Want to know how good something is, just do a search on the Web on a web site or message board. It's pretty easy to do. Companies can't hide behind glitzy censored websites or million dollar ad campaigns anymore. If their is a problem with their product, the people will find out about it and spread the word. The question here, as I mentioned before, isn't that the problem has been found, it is how the company decides to address the issue. As I've told a lot of companies in the past, it can take years to develop a customer's loyalty but it only takes a few seconds to lose it.

    As for company haters, you'd be surprised how quickly you can convert these people back as well. I've spent a lot of time on computer gaming message boards and answering webmaster emails from gamers. I've had guys screaming profanity at me saying they will never buy anything again from the company but all I had to do was treat them like a human being and talk to them in a normal voice instead of a corporate one and they usually calm down (and even apologize afterwards for their behaviour).

    Posted 13 hours, 36 minutes after the fact
  13. Justin:

    I'm curious if by showing Trackback links, the negative publicity is heightened or intensified. It's not like it's difficult to find negative publicity about a company - take Verisign (please!). Verisign lets the anger against them sit on the virtual fringe and by not acknowledging the backlash, they can claim on their site of 99.9% satisfaction, etc. It creates the feeling that anyone who doesn't like Verisign must be a religious zealiot who turned their unsatisfaction into a crusade.

    I guess I'm thinking along the lines of mob mentality... by letting groups get involved, voices rise, and reasonable grumblings can snowball into group rage. Under other circumstances, people would grumble to themselves and deal with it.

    In the case of MT, perhaps they assumed that, although it will offend many people, the people who leave aren't bringing revenue anyway, and the ones who stay will either have a zero net-effect or compensate six apart while getting better value for investment. It also means that if they make an unpopular decision, they will be held accountable in a very transparent manner, which could be very attractive to end-users.

    Whatever you think, it sure creates an interesting dynamic.

    Posted 17 hours, 56 minutes after the fact
  14. Sian:

    Well, at least they are getting a hell of a lot of publicity out of this, whether it be good or bad, especially since it's been very quiet over at Movabletype lately. I haven't seen this much buzz over a CMS ever. Could end up being a PR coup.

    Also nice to see Matt taking advantage of the current sitation and taking time to posting on blogs commenting on the release of MT3D.

    Posted 18 hours, 42 minutes after the fact
  15. Khurt Williams:

    In my opinion, any company or industry that is not willing to listen to and act upon feedback from its core customer base is doomed to eventual failure.

    Posted 2 days, 16 hours after the fact

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