The best way to silence one's critics

A small Australian software firm is suing its critics, which is probably why it's a small software firm.

I couldn't help but comment on this news out of Australia that 2Clix is suing an online forum because a few forum members think 2Clix's products stink. The open-source world thrives on transparency. Not so with dear little 2Clix, which wants everyone to speak nicely about it, regardless of truth. Even in the proprietary world, this is extreme behavior.

The problem with such vendor-defined truth is that, well, it's often not very truthful. Dialogue is actually helpful for establishing such truth and motivating purchase decisions. Apparently, 2Clix can't see this.

From the article:

In a statement of claim filed with the Supreme Court of Queensland, 2Clix said the comments, published in two threads between between late last year and July this year, led it to sustain "a severe downturn in monthly sales."

It specifically referenced more than 30 comments by Whirlpool users, many strongly advising people to avoid the software at all costs and complaining that advertised features were not actually available in the product.

One of the comments cited by 2Clix read: "The software became such a problem that we threw it out recently...We stuck with it for over two years but in the end the many hundreds of lost hours of work and high stress levels (were) not worth it."

It's possible that these online statements were false, but there are better ways of proving this. Like with the products themselves.

I read stuff about me all the time online that is false. And I'm sure that I occasionally say things that turn out to be untrue (which is why I've become so good at repentance. :-) But the way to silence critics is not with a gag order: it's with the truth, demonstrated with source code, profits, etc. Lawsuits resolve very little.

John Roberts, CEO of SugarCRM, is fond of talking about the power that SugarCRM's forums bring to the company...even when commentary on the forums is against the company or its products. Or perhaps especially because of it. Transparency helps to sell software, and transparency doesn't always agree with a vendor's perspective on its own software. But I, like most people, prefer to buy things with my eyes open, rather than closed.

As for 2Clix, it needs to join the 21st century. Maybe it's software is as bad as the forum members complained. Maybe it's not. But by suing those who speak out, it's doing itself a huge disservice.

Via Slashdot Firehose.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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