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Something powerful has happened with the explosion of the Web.
The Internet gives people who don't know each other the power to find each
other through e-mail lists such as groups.yahoo.com,
through newsgroups such as those organized on groups.google.com,
and through Web sites such as about.com.
E-mail lists and newsgroups are used to share common problems and to help solve
those difficulties. Through Web sites such as slashdot.org
and epinions.com, people can exchange
opinions about topics of interest -- technology, world events, products,
travel...you name it. Individuals have opinions, and they're using the Web to
Talking the talk
Some companies are having a hard time adjusting to the open communication
that the Web is making possible. Case in point: the recent legal action Ford
Motor Company vs. BlueOvalNews.com. Ford reportedly sponsored BlueOvalNews.com,
a Web site for Ford vehicle fans. The site includes pages on all the Ford
vehicles, photo essays on favorite models, and information on manufacturing and
future technologies. BlueOvalNews.com claims to be dedicated to providing
balanced news of Ford's products to its customers: "BlueOvalNews is a
totally ALTERNATIVE Ford news source with a different twist. If you're just
looking for Ford press releases, you've come to the wrong web site."
BlueOvalNews.com learned about problems with the 1999 Ford Cobra Mustang
through various newsgroup discussions. When the problems were reported on the
Web site in an article compiled from Ford internal documents, Ford stopped
sponsoring the site and sued. BlueOvalNews.com won the court case and two days
later Ford issued a recall on the vehicle. In spite of the recall, Ford is
appealing the lawsuit.
Companies can choose to fight consumers who use the Web to share product
problems. Is this the best way to treat devoted customers? I think not!
Because the Web also presents an open forum where people can discuss this
kind of treatment, Ford's handling of the situation is bound to create a
backlash. Attorney Scott McKay used the BlueOvalNews.com Web site to invite 1999
Cobra Mustang owners to join in a class
action lawsuit against Ford. I don't know if the lawsuit is justified. I
don't even know who is right or wrong. But I do know that devoted customers and
fans should be treated well -- especially when they are having problems with a
MVPs speak out
Microsoft recently had a close encounter with the power the Internet brings
to the people. Kevin Weeks of Developer News provided the facts in the news
Again", where he wrote: "In a reversal of its decision to cancel the MVP
program, Microsoft has announced the program has been reinstated."
As a Microsoft MVP, this situation affected me personally.
On Thursday evening 21 Oct. 1999, Microsoft's private newsgroups for MVPs
were buzzing with talk of the shutdown of this award-based, volunteer program. A
few had received an e-mail from Joseph Lindstrom, director of business
development, which read in part: "Due to customer feedback and requests for
more direct Microsoft involvement, we are changing our newsgroups
strategy...Microsoft will redirect their investments previously made in the MVP
Program to the newsgroups overall and driving customer awareness of this
valuable resource." Others didn't receive the e-mail until the next
morning, but MVP Buddies (Microsoft employees who support the MVP program)
confirmed its truth.
By Friday evening 22 Oct. 1999, Microsoft MVP Karl Peterson had set up a Web
page with news on the situation and
a mailto link for sending feedback to Lindstrom, Steve Balmer, Bill Gates, and
other Microsoftees. A fair share of the 600 Microsoft MVP's posted messages in
Microsoft’s product support newsgroups, providing links to Peterson's Web site
and inviting customers to use the link to send feedback to Microsoft.
By Saturday morning 23 Oct. 1999, DevX.com
was making plans to expand its newsgroups to provide a home for all the MVPs.
Meanwhile, the MVPs were discussing other invitations they had received via
e-mail to post on various newsgroups and Web discussion groups. Even if
Microsoft didn't agree, it seemed that others viewed this group of 600 experts
on Microsoft products to be an asset worth saving.
Throughout the weekend, the MVPs shared copies of messages sent by
Microsoft's customers to Lindstrom and others protesting elimination of the MVP
program. MVPs also shared rumors that Microsoft was being flooded with thousands
of e-mails from customers requesting that the MVP program be reinstated.
Their voice is heard
On Monday afternoon 25 Oct. 1999, only four days after sending out the
original e-mail, Microsoft recanted its decision. Lindstrom sent a new e-mail to
the Microsoft MVPs, stating: "Clearly, the feedback received recently is in
strong support of the MVPs and the great contributions they make in the
newsgroups. Based on this feedback, we will reinstate the MVP Program effective
Microsoft MVP Christian Desbourse joked, "600 MVP's collaborate over the
whole weekend to get a user to find the undo function." If rumors are
correct, not one but thousands of users found the undo function this weekend,
thanks to the force of the Internet.
Power to the people! And power to Microsoft for listening and for taking such
swift action in support of its customers' wishes!
Home Articles We've Written Internet Incantations