A Web 2.0 cautionary tale

Recently, over on the A-List at Control.com, there's been a very interesting thread. In it, one extremely unhappy user of an HMI vendor's product has used the A-List to trash that vendor over and over for a couple of weeks now. The vendor has responded, other vendors have responded. Several defenders and other detractors have posted-- and the vendor in question has received a permanent Internet black eye. There are more than 23 posts so far in this thread. I am not listing the name of the thread because I don't see any reason to damage the vendor any further...but I am certain you can figure out what it is and go there if you want to see this horrible trainwreck unfold. As the current set of public service television spots aimed at protecting teenagers from predators says, "If you post it, it is forever." The A-List has been on the Internet since at least 1994 or 1995. Its archives are Google searchable, and believe me, old posts show up in searches. A simple Google search for "Walt Boyes, control.com" turned up 1200 or so posts, by me, to the A-List, dating back to 1996. This thread, then, perfectly illustrates the pitfalls of Web 2.0 for both the vendor and end user. The vendor must cope with the fact that the Internet has acted like a "force multiplier" to the opinion of one end user...while end users must learn to take these threads as much less than Gospel-truth. For the first time, it is possible to, as a single end user, do either great benefit or great harm to a vendor, and not be accountable for it. The A-List, for example, allows completely anonymous posting. I have seen several (means more than two or three) vendors posting surreptitious praise for their own products there over the last few years. So what is to keep a vendor from pretending to be an end-user and using a forum like the A-List to trash a competitor? As we move forward into the brave new world of Web 2.0 it is cautionary to remember that we are still dealing with Human Nature 1.0...

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  • Anyone who has ever contributed to a widely read forum will eventually write something he or she regrets. One of the interesting things about these internet forums is the accessibility of the forum to many who would otherwise never consider contributing.

    I have written some things I'm not proud of. However, one needs to look at the whole picture, not just the one or two things someone writes in one context.

    The Web 2.0 hype is really nothing more than what we have been doing since the late 1970s: Posting information on an electronic bulletin board of some sort. All the web part of it does is dress it up in an interface that everyone thinks they're familiar with.

    In any case, the customer rants must be offset by the unscrupulous marketeers who "Astroturf" new products on such forums. I have no problem with a blatent advertisement. However, sneaking in a covert ad by posting a glowing endorsement from someone who isn't even really a customer doesn't endear me toward their products or services either.

    This is the end result of such forums: People feel mostly anonymous. So they say things they would never say face to face. They also exaggerate and lie. The hard part is keeping oneself honest in a forum where there really isn't much incentive to do so.

    That's what separates the experts from the wannabees.

    Reply

  • I think that anon posts are pretty much worthless for all of the reasons elaborated by Walt. If someone doesn't have the guts to put their name on a post, it can't be worth much.

    Dan Hebert

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