Six Apart Strands Bloggers

As I have said before:

  1. Good customer service is often the responsibility of the customer.
  2. With every problem there is also an opportunity.

I was reading about the Stranded Bloggers announcement/rebuttal on Mena’s Corner this morning. When I finished, I emailed the link to Mike and Paul with a subject line of “Bloody Brilliant.”

…it was frustrating for us to receive support requests because of a poor infrastructure on someone else’s end — especially on a version of Movable Type that had been heavily modified by sources other than Six Apart.

Which begs the question, does Six Apart have any obligation to users of its software regardless of its modified state? Answer: Yes, because Six Apart says so.

If you’re in search of a new host for your blog, contact us and we will let you know about a couple options that we recommend. Specifically for your benefit we have worked on a discount program with a preferred host, Media Temple, to help you during the transition to a fully supported and sustainable platform for your blog. And, if you’re interested in trying TypePad, which has advanced moblogging functionality built right in, we can also steer you in the right direction.

mBlog used MoveableType, heavily modified apparently, but it still was a Six Apart product. For them, there was no second thought about being accountable. Kind of a captain-of-the-ship scenario.

mBlog’s take:

mBlog has attempted to provide an exceptional service for the blogging community at no cost. Unfortunately due to member abuse, inability to reach agreement with Moveable Type and hosting cost overhead we have incurred an extremely high deficit. We stand to incur further costs which we hope that our members’ gratitude will help us offset. Unfortunately we can no longer offer support or continue this service at penalty to us.

A number of requests from our members have prompted us to offer a restoration service at a nominal fee. To obtain an archive of your files for import into an alternate blogging system please enter your mBlog name below.

Whatever the terms that were not able to be agreed upon between mBlog and Six Apart, this was an opportunity for good customer service which Six Apart is following through upon, and mBlog is missing. Some people look at it as the cost of doing business when they should be looking at it as an opportunity to offer service.

Six Apart is weakening my first maxim, and strengthening my second.

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5 Responses to “Six Apart Strands Bloggers”

  1. A. Casalena Says:

    I have a somewhat different take:

    I’m not sure how this is customer service–it looks more like customer acquisition. Six Apart isn’t servicing any customers of mBlog/MT here–they’re trying to look a little better in the face of the fact that their licensing policy shift caused mBlog’s extinction and they were publically blamed for it. They’re using this as a chance to pick up the customers. Mena’s response doesn’t address this in the least.

    Six Apart is disgusing political defense under the guise of accountability, which is sort of weak. Do you really think 6A’s institutional investors feel that it’s “the right thing to do” to service customers of stolen/modified products? No–6A isn’t taking any support calls here, and 6A doesn’t care about modified/runaway MT installs. In fact, they’re working to remove those (like they removed this one). That’s the opposite of support. This is licensing cleanup.

    mBlog clearly was clearly put out of business by a conjunction poor operations and Six Apart’s new licensing scheme, which undoubtedly placed the cost of their free users somewhere at 10-20x their previous estimates. That’s their own fault. Additionally, their “restoration fee” is simply abhorrent. Their business model moved from just kinda lame (free product written by someone else) to absolutely disgusting (extortion).

    Sad day, indeed. But Six Apart’s move strikes me as really far from anything humanitarian. Real accountability would have been reaching an agreement with mBlog to protect the interests of the bloggers who were now affected by the licensing shift. 6A can’t do that anymore, due to their newfound funding shift and focus to give their new institutional investors a 6-10x return. An actual humanitarian action on behalf of bloggers would have been not accepting their current position with regard to MT licensing.

    I dunno. I’m not impressed.

  2. Mena Trott Says:

    Real accountability would have been reaching an agreement with mBlog to protect the interests of the bloggers who were now affected by the licensing shift.

    I’m sorry, but you can not comment on negotiations that you were not involved in. There is a lot to the mBlog story that I’m choosing to not write about. You assume this is about licensing and not about their desire to discontinue the service on their own. mBlog, as far as I know, existed before we even changed our licenses in May. Believe me when I say that we certainly tried to work with mBlog to prevent the displacement of webloggers.

    Since you apparently run your own weblog hosting service, I think you should give us the benefit of the doubt and understand that servicing customers is indeed important to us.

  3. A. Casalena Says:

    Mena,

    I assumed the situation was complex. I was replying to this post and the analysis here, not the morality behind the actions taken. With regard to the action–it was completely appropriate and exactly what I would have done.

    They inappropriately named you as a cause of their demise–which was clearly their own responsibility/fault. Your response in that regard was understandable as well.

    I was commenting on if I thought this was customer service or a humanitarian action. I still don’t believe it was “customer service” in the support call sense, which is fine, and it is completely different than assuming that you want anything but the best for this industry and bloggers in general. You obviously do.

    You also absolutely have the benefit of the doubt. I’ve got a huge amount of respect for 6A’s accomplishments and products–you’ve done excellent work and you’ve done a phenomenal job with everything (including the customer service–which is a really difficult thing to do right).

    Congratulations on the success and keep up the good work.

  4. Matthew Oliphant Says:

    Well, what drew me to write about this initially was the language used on both sites about the issue.

    mBlog uses a lot of negative (subjective I know) language like, “Unfortunately we can no longer offer support or continue this service at penalty to us.” Mena’s post used more positive (again subjective) language like, “Specifically for your benefit we have worked on a discount program with a preferred host…”

    Further, in terms of customer service, I see many levels of customer. Part of customer service is getting people to be customers in the first place. Potential customers deserve as good customer service as current ones, I think we would all agree.

    I don’t think solely of support calls when I think customer service. Customer service is every communication between the company and the customer. Each of those points of communication are opportunities to make a sale, increase trust, gather feedback, improve a service, improve reputation, etc.

    Within each of these categories are the different levels of customer from those people internal to the company, through vendors that use your products/services to provide a service, to the end user (and potential end users).

    A company provides different levels of customer service to each of these different levels of customer, but to me the interactions are essentially the same: you want to make these people happy so they will continue their involvement with your product/service (whether they pay you or you pay them;).

    So I look at this situation, with outsider eyes, and without first-hand knowledge, and think mBlog is pulling the plug and charging people to get their intellectual property back. Six Apart is offering some options to people they have no direct (read contractual) obligation to. But they understand that these people are users of their product (even if it has been changed) so they fall into a level of customer that they need to work with.

  5. N Davis Says:

    Mblog is in the wrong here, no doubt. But I am not at all impressed by 6A’s self-serving advice to displaced bloggers.

    Mena Trott suggests that people turn to Media Temple. Yes, they’ll get 3 free months of service, but ultimately, they will have to pay — not only for hosting, but also to use MT on a month-to-month basis. By doing so, these people will actually net the Trotts more money over time than if the displaced bloggers went out and bought an MT license. That’s service?

    Mena Trott’s advice may indeed be helpful to some bloggers done wrong. But more than anything, it is 6A that will benefit if people take her anything but altruistic advice.

    This is not a criticism, per se. MT is a good product; I use it myself and gladly recommend it to others. The developers obviously do good work. As for the company, it exists to make profits. Nothing wrong with that. But come on: Should businessfolk merit a halo for mining others’ misfortune to attract new business and labeling the effort “customer service?” That’s insane.