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You Shouldn’t Censor your Critics

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A story from Turnip of Power came across my feed reader this afternoon. It seems that they’ve had their Entrecard account deleted for making less-than-favourable remarks about Entrecard’s owner on Twitter. In addition, the Tweet feed on Entrecard has been amended to remove any unflattering remarks. Entrecard also states the following:

Entrecarders are expected to be on their best behavior. Any intentional use of profanity or harassment directed at other Entrecarders or Entrecard Staff using Twitter will result in immediate account deletion. We have a zero tolerance policy for harassment at Entrecard

So far, so storm in a teacup. But something about this story makes me uneasy. First, does it not seem a little capricious to ban people simply for not liking everything about your service? Imagine if Microsoft’s Terms and Conditions said that you couldn’t make any criticisms of their products or Bill Gates! Every company should be able to withstand valid criticism. And if a proprietor is unhappy that some customers aren’t enamoured of his profile picture, perhaps he should change it.

Secondly, the act of banning users for using a different and separate forum strikes me as overkill. If I blogged that I hated the new Facebook interface on a WordPress blog, should I get banned from Facebook? As it is, people who hate the new interface can actually set up groups to voice their opinions, and as far as I’m aware, there has been absolutely no comeback from the Facebook administrators.

Businesses can improve their processes by listening to their customers. I assume that Entrecard installed their Twitter widget so that users could see what people were saying about Entrecard. Apparently they expected all of the comments to be favourable, but the fact that they weren’t is no reason not to display them, or to ban users who had criticisms to make.

If I were Graham Landon, Entrecard’s owner, I would see the negative Tweets as an opportunity. They give an insight into what users don’t like about the service, and offer the chance to put things right by addressing these issues. Rather than banning users, contacting them to find out how they would like the service to improve would be a far better (and profitable) way of resolving the matter.

Customer feedback is important because it allows businesses to know what they’re doing right and where they’re going wrong. To try and shut it down is to alienate the people who are responsible for driving up profits. If customer feedback is ignored, a business cannot come up with a coherent strategy for moving forward. Let’s hope Mr. Langdon realises that.

[Image by Guerretto]

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12 Comments

  1. fragileheart says:

    Whlie I’m completely on Turnip’s side, I do agree that Graham had a bit of a reason to be upset that he used profanity in said criticism. However, I do think that Graham took it too far.

    I understand the need to censor profanity but saying that no one can make any negative remarks is unrealistic and detrimental to their service provision.

    In other words, I agree with you!

  2. Alan says:

    That’s good as far as it goes, except for the fact that Graham Langdon has been ignoring and not listening to his membership since Day 1. None of the problems which are bringing about Entrecard’s decline are new, and Graham has been repeatedly told by many people in the Entrecard community what is wrong and needs to be fixed.

    The fact is, Graham is just about out of money, He had planned to build up a big membership in Entrecard, then sell the company to make a killing. Unfortunately, the economy tanked and nobody is buying companies that don’t actually make money. Entrecard is hardly the first company to try making its virtual currency equivalent to cash (some of the MMPG’s come immediately to mind) but it’s freewheeling credit economy, in the earlier days when Entrecard Credits (EC) were openly bought and sold for about $6 per thousand.

    When the rules were changed and open trading in EC no longer allowed, a great deal of the value went out of the system, imho, and with it Graham’s chances of making Entrecard into something really big. At this point he has heavy server and website administration expenses and income limited to minimal advertising and what I would bet are very minimal sales of EC for cash at an inflated rate.

    IF Entrecard were to be sold to a new owner with the resources to invest and the dexterity to talk With rather than Down to its user community and even at least on occasion to Listen to that community, it still could be Really Big. Most likely, however, Graham will simply run out of money, shut the site down and move on. Anyone taking bets on how much longer Entrecard will last?

  3. Stephanie says:

    @fragileheart
    You don’t have to agree to get approved over here! I can understand why Graham is upset, but I just don’t think it makes business sense to start alienating users, especially with a social site like Entrecard.

    This is a very young blog, but I can easily imagine getting negative comments from readers if they disagree with a POV in the future. Luckily comments allow for a discussion. It’s a bit different if contacting site admins can only be done by email.

  4. Sorry, to disagree with the lovely Fragileheart, but the word “asshat” is not profane. No more so than the word “association” is profane for containing the letters “ass”. It’s internet slang for a moron. Secondly, profanity is not banned on the twitter network. Use twittersearch to check any curse word you know and they are all there. If you find my language a bit salty, don’t follow my twits. Finally, what Graham did is expressly against the twitter terms of service. By banning me, he was attempting to intimidate me from using the twitter service to express my criticism of his own network. I still love you Fragile, but you are way off on this one.

  5. Stephanie says:

    @Alan
    I’m not a gambling woman, but if Entrecard isn’t earning much money off advertising and also has huge overheads, I’d be worried for its continued survival unless if’s a labour of love for Mr. Langdon.

    Of course, he could recover from his current parlous state, but that would mean addressing the issues raised by users and trying to make Entrecard a more fulfilling experience. Again, if he’s unwilling to listen to criticisms, the only way for the site is down.

  6. BigPappa says:

    Wow, that seems kind of un-American doesn’t it. I remember when Turnip of Power was the TOP user on Entrecard. I can also remember when Cow and Chow put it out to the masses and soon fell out of love with it.

  7. Beamer says:

    What sucks for me is that I am very paranoid of the Internet anyway, and I am leery about saying anything bad about Entrecard anywhere, just because I don’t don’t know what the hell will get back to Entrecard. I should just bail from Entrecard, But I have what was about 90 bucks worth of Entrecard credits I can’t sell and don’t want to lose.

    I am beginning to wish I had never heard of Entrecard.

    Beamer

  8. Stephanie says:

    @Turnip
    Different people have different definitions of profane. If this blog wasn’t run by committee, there would be much more swearing and profanity – but that’s only because I have the vocabulary of a docker. I may be the editor, but I do take the wishes (and temperments) of the writers into account.

    Mr. Langdon really doesn’t want to know what may have transpired if I had been an active Entrecard user.

  9. Stephanie says:

    @Beamer
    If you’re unhappy with the service that you’re receiving, the most you can do is send an email to explain why you are leaving before you run away.

    You’re unhappy with a service you have invested in. The best course of action (in my view) is to deny it any further publicity. Of course, this is all dependent on you, but if you are unhappy you ought to take action.

  10. Beamer says:

    I totally agree and If I felt safe in discussing further details …

    Such a mess.

    Beamer

  11. Alan says:

    @Stephanie,

    I don’t gamble either but honestly I don’t expect Entercard to last too much longer.

    And I would encourage Beamer to be brave and voice his concerns and opinions. GL Asshat does not own the whole Internet and you’ve every right to express your opinions.

  12. Stephanie says:

    @Alan
    Beamer may be worried about losing everything he has in his Entrecard account. It’s one thing to make a decision to leave a website. It’s quite another to be unceremoniously kicked out. On this occasion, seeing as Entrecard is banning users simply for negative feedback, I’d probably exercise caution too.

    I’ve got about six different logins that I use on the web, simply because I don’t want any of the sites I use to be able to track my movements and monitor what I’m saying. I delete cookies for the same reason. While knowing what your users are up to can be a valuable behavioural analysis tool, it can also be put to sinister ends.

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