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Mama Deb
mamadeb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
Timing of apologies

Even in the best of circumstances - when there is nothing else going on, when there is space for thought - if one makes a major mistake, it takes time to apologize. The worst thing one can do is to just rattle off a statement without considering all the ramifications. In fact, we saw just that in barak25's response to CNET - poorly worded, panicked and, over and above talking to the press before the users, making things worse.

And this was not the best of circumstances. They weren't sitting around thinking, "Okay, that's done." As soon as the suspensions happened, they got complaints, and they had to be operating in complete panic mode from then on.

Panic mode is a bad time to make apologies.

It's even worse when everyone (and for good reason - I especially approve of maxing out the comments in news because it showed we were more than passive users and why we were angry. I still have some doubts about fandom_counts, but this? This was well done.) starts complaining and posting and linking and so on at once.

So - the fact that he apologized in 30 hours? And that he did it well - not perfectly, but well (We made a big mistake. It was our fault. We're very sorry for making the mistake and for all the harm we caused, and we are working to correct it as fast as we can. This is why we made this mistake and we did it wrong, and we are very sorry. No defensiveness, no insulting the users, just sincerity and, okay, fear.) - it's impressive.

I'd rather have a well-thought out apology than one that makes things worse.

And I thank gmth for what she said.

Comments

THANK YOU for saying this.

I've been very frustrated by the tone of comments over at the news post. I understand the anger, but it feels like we're all asking to be given the benefit of the doubt (with regard to interests), without being willing to give the same respect to LJ admins and ownership.

A professional PR department is something they desperately need. A simple "Hang on -- things didn't work they way we expected. We need 24 hours to review and will get back to you" would have done a lot to keep people from getting angry.

I still think that the interview with CNet was a bad idea. Even apart from the comment about the community they want -- which sounds like it doesn't include me -- you're right about not doing anything too fast.

The interview with CNet was a bad thing, PR wise. But it also was the thing that made me realise that the CEO was out there and if CNet could reach him maybe so could I. *shrug* Not that I'm CNet or anything...but I know Silicon Valley people and I know corporations.

Barak Berkowitz is the person who responded probably because I found a way to get a message directly to him that did not go through corporate ear-flappers. Keep in mind that most of the people who have been answering comments are volunteers or low level staff. I worked at a corporation that screwed things up and I got to handle the phones because I was the lowest level person there and the one who could be spared to deal with people while the experts worked on the problem that was upsetting them. I decided to try to get a message directly to him. He has a typepad blog. I registered for typepad and commented there. As his blog is moderated, his comments are emailed to him for his approval at an email that he actually reads.

He got back to me within 2-3 hours (I wasn't really counting, but I was shocked that it was so fast) of receiving the message I left at his personal typepad blog yesterday and said he would look into the matter. I believe, from the tone of his reply, that mine was the first non-hysterical response that had reached him and the only response that did not go through a bunch of volunteers answering comments or staff answering phones first, and that he was and is upset by what has happened and the fact that people who work for him have been so slapdash and thoughtless. He said it would take possibly a day to get started working things out at about 4 PM yesterday (I think--but the time is in my journal, he commented there) and he apologised before I went to bed.

He got dogpiled by other posters in my journal and I had to freeze the thread. I personally think he is doing just fine. His apology is not well worded in places but neither was my original message to him, we were both in panic mode and doing our best. I think it was less than 12 hours after I reached him that the apology was posted and I think that people are being idiots complaining that all the journals aren't back yet because really, how fast can they review hundreds of journals?

I can easily imagine him going back to his staff after we exchanged messages and the hours and hours of debate and discussion that must have ensued at 6A. I've worked in the corporate environment. There will be some fumbling around before things are put completely to rights. The best thing we can do right now is NOT BE JERKS. They have the power, we don't. The TOS gives them the right to delete whatever they want and our space here is rented. I understand the impulse to scream and rant and rage, but in your own journals--not in communications with these people who are not part of fandom. This man is not part of our world and we need to remember that. What he sees right now is the face of fandom. We have the power to control what it looks like.

I'm ticked at the people who are blaming 6A for being taken in by the nutjobs. I know how Barak Berkowitz must feel--exactly like I did when I found out Fandom Scruples, who manipulated me into making an ass of myself and into a war with the Quill, was my Very Good Friend Ms Scribe. It's a terrible feeling and I wish him well.

I'm not sure why everyone's saying it was such a bad PR mistake to give an interview to Cnet? You don't have a response prepared for the users yet, but then a big news site ask for a comment, what are you supposed to do? Tell them no and let them post a story without your side?

Yes. Because you actually have a *responsibility* to your users.

I don't think there was a *right* thing Berkovitz could have done when CNET called him. If he'd refused the call, CNET would have reported that. If he'd said "No comment", CNET would have reported that. And he would have been jumped on just as hard. "What isn't he saying? Why won't he talk to the reporters? What secret is he hiding?"

And if he had a smooth prepared statement, he would have been jumped on - this time rightfully - for not saying it on LJ. But he didn't because, see - panic mode.

So, given the situation, and the panic behind the scenes - what would you have had him do?

Well, obviously it all boils down to "Not Panic" and "know where the towels are".

At that particular moment? Tell CNET "call back in 15 minutes", slap up a "we know there's a problem and we're working on it" post on news.lj -- even just that much -- and tell CNET, if pressed, "we know there's a problem and we're working on it." Then no more. Because you just *don't* let customers & employees find out about policy changes through your statements to the news. *Never*.

I disagree. That is, I think there needed to be a "We are aware that there are problems and we are working on them right now" statement within 2 hours. Every 6 hours there needed to be updates, even if just a differently-worded version of "we know, we know, we're listening."

6A has said that their *core business* is building online communities. This was clearly disrupting their core business, and when that happens it's imperative to at least let your customers know that you are trying to do something.

Yes, there did need to be that. But there wasn't. And that was a mistake that HE OWNED UP TO in his apology.

we-e-ell -- in my opinion, no. He said he's sorry, but we have no information about how come they behaved in such an unprofessional way. Members at a social networking site *have* to be able to trust the process, and I don't think we can, right now.