When is it Ok to Delete a Comment or Why David Gee and Hewlett Packard Think the Blogosphere Should be a One Way Conversation

Update: Earlier today I posted this article about having my negative comments removed from an HP corporate blogger’s post by the blogger. Since this article, David Gee, the blogger involved has reinstated my comment on his blog and has in fact admitted that HP made a mistake in censoring my comment and has described the deleting of my comment and its subsequent reinstatement as a learning experience in a follow up post. In a post entitled, “Taking it on the Chin, Gee writes, “This was a good learning experience for us and we strive to maintain honest and open communication with our customers. If we are going to use blogging as a legitimate connection between us and our customers, we need to choose either to be in all the way or out. We choose to be in. We want to hear from you.”

I would add that David made this change prior to this story being picked up, at my suggestion, by Slashdot. Although today’s situation may illustrate that a small blogger through amplification of the blogosphere can have a meaningful impact, I think that HP honestly reassessed the situation and made the change.

This is a really positive thing and I commend and applaud David Gee and HP for in this case doing the right thing. As a new blogger I welcome David to the blogosphere and look forward to his and HP’s contribution going forward. In my book both David and HP have moved up a notch.

Original story below.

Yesterday while perusing Steve Rubel’s excellent PR blog
Micro Persuasion I noticed that he had a post up which seemed kind of complementary towards Hewlett Packard. Steve had posted on HP’s new podcasting effort by Nora Denzel, HP’s senior vice president and general manager of HP’s Adaptive Enterprise and Software Global Business Unit. Apparently she’s doing a new little thing called “Agility Radio.” It looks like her latest podcast is titled, “CIOs will be judged by agility in the next decade,” you may be right Denzel, especially in the agility of removing comments that are critical to your company or product. Steve went on to point out that although Denzel’s podcast may be a corporate first that there were already a few other HP corporate bloggers popping up out there.

So imagine my surprise when I posted a well written respectful comment critical of HP on the first HP blogger on Steve’s list, David Gee, the head of worldwide marketing for HP’s management software business, only to have it promptly deleted and my HP passport (required to leave comments) revoked. In fact David not only killed my comment and turned off my access but he shut down comments for that post entirely. I guess this is one way to deal with criticism Dave. And welcome to the blogosphere by the way, it looks like you’ve almost officially got a month under your belt and you’re off to a good start. The post that I left the comment on was entitled “Customer Intimacy.” I guess you don’t really want to hear from customers who aren’t so intimate huh?

Now there are legitimate reasons to remove comments. Mark Cuban had a post out yesterday which outlined some of his problems with comment spam. Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson also recently posted on the problem of people misrepresenting themselves and offering purposely misleading comments. My old pal Michael Gartenberg over at JupiterResearch doesn’t even allow them on his blog, although he’s gone out of his way to still try and get bloggers involved in the conversation including a little joint blogging that I did with them a few weeks back. But one reason in my opinion that it is not valid to remove comments is strictly because someone is critical of your company or product. This is lame and I would have thought that HP would have known better.

Although I’ve removed a lot of comment spam I’ve always left comments up that are critical of me or of what I’ve written. I’ve only removed one non spam comment to date and that was because the language was especially offensive and vulgar.

Some companies get it and are using the blogosphere to their advantage. I think the work that Robert Scoble is doing at Microsoft is an excellent example of the way that a company ought to embrace the blogosphere and corporate blogging. But you know what? I doubt you’d ever see Scoble taking comments down because they were critical of Microsoft. For two reasons really. Reason number one is that sometimes you can learn a few things from your critics and believe it or not even convert them from critics to fans by listening to them. Reason number two is that sometimes trying to silence someone who is critical of you only ends up amplifying the original criticism in the end.

So my advice to you David is that if you aren’t willing to engage or discuss problems with HP through your blog (or I didn’t even so much as get an email from you), then you’d probably still be better off just ignoring the comments rather than trying to make them go away.

For those of you wondering what my comment was about, below are the before and after screen shots (funny thing that way David, you can take things away on the internet but sometimes they come back). You will need to click on each to blow it up to see it.


HP Comment Before


HP Comment After

Now I’ve been unhappy with some things at HP for a while particularly as it relates to their support for their Media Center product. Suffice it to say it’s been horrible. After paying HP $99 for lifetime telephone support I have found their tech support to be seriously lacking. I have had tech support individuals tell me that they did not even know what Media Center was. I have had HP tech support individuals consistently misdiagnose my problems and although I suppose you should probably know that Google is better than most tech support professionals anyways I had expected more from HP. Further, in my opinion, they totally botched the most recent Media Center upgrade. Microsoft had provided HP free discs for the upgrade and HP had a buggy website that took about 8 weeks to get discs out and didn’t even include all of the upgrade software provided to them by Microsoft. < br />
Anyways. If you are going to do corporate blogging and you are going to allow comments I think you’d be better off not deleting the ones that are critical to your company or product. Just my two cents.

Also, not sure if people noticed it or not in my screen shots — you have to enlarge them to read them — but I’ve already saved over 20 minutes using the Google Accelerator. Whooo Hooo.

Update: It would appear that David Gee has changed his mind and has reinstated my comment along with a comment from him saying he would pass the feedback along. A good first step. I’ve asked for an explanation as to why it was removed and hopefully will hear back soon.

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32 Comments

  1. HP is a terrible company. I’ve dealt with their products and personnel on a personal and professional level for the last couple of years, and it has left a bitter taste in my mouth each time. I think part of the reason MCE hasn’t caught on as much is because HP was the primary big vendor for a long while (at least they were the only ones I heard about).

  2. Anonymous says:

    Slashdot picked up this story, but neglected to mention that HP reinstated the post; I might suggest moving the Update: to the top of the post.

  3. Anonymous says:

    …I posted a well written respectful comment…

    Yikes. You call that a well-written comment? Yes, it was a bad decision to temporarily remove your comment. Just like it was a bad decision on oyur part to write in the style of a 14 year old.

    -jim

  4. Anonymous says:

    …I posted a well written respectful comment…

    Yikes. You call that a well-written comment? Yes, it was a bad decision to temporarily remove your comment. Just like it was a bad decision on oyur part to write in the style of a 14 year old.

    -jim

  5. PrezKennedy says:

    When you get right down to it… who really cares? Their server, their rules. If they want to remove your comment, that’s totally up to them. If they want to reword your comment for their own enjoyment, that’s up to them too. The fact that this made it onto Slashdot makes it even worse, like making a mountain out of an ant hill.

    When HP comes to your blog and tries to shut it down for voicing your opinions about how you believe their products and support suck, then you’ll have every right to be upset.

    This really is a non-issue.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Just one thought… your comment (as seen in the screenshot) wasn’t particularly coherent, focused, on topic, or well written.

    A polite letter to the office of the president actually explaining what your issue was would be 99% more likely to actually get you what you want.

    So ? to HP for deleting the comment and -1 to you.

    Further, I don’t think a corporate blog stands for the premise that every comment will be maintained forever. I mean if Competitor Y decided to hire X people to astroturf the HP blogs, I think it would be irresponsible to just leave the comments up.

  7. Anonymous says:

    99% more likely? So, that is almost twice as likely, right? 🙂
    Yes, I agree that his post was not well-written. I can see why it was removed; it looks like graffiti by a child trying to make fun of the other content on the site. Misleading because it copied the style of the rest of the story, I think. Just my two cowardly anonymous cents. 🙂

  8. Anonymous says:

    “he had a post up which seemed kind of complementary”…

    You probably meant “complimentary”.

    — Alan

  9. Anonymous says:

    You paid $99 for lifetime phone technical support for HP products? Do you know what wages they pay technical support representatives? Not enough to expect the kind of service you are looking for. They’ll pay minimum wage to anyone willing to sit in a call center trying to answer technical questions from people like yourself who should already know better. What are you going to do with that, call in the year 2017 and say your HP Deskjet 712C printer stopped working? NOW WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT THAT!?!?!

  10. Anonymous says:

    What is the point of writing a deliberately provocative message, referring to the part about encouraging people not to buy HP products? Does it have any relevance what so ever to the issue you raise? Would it be significantly too difficult to write about the issue, “I feel that the telephone support I received has been subpar” without inserting additional provocations? You misrepresent your post as being well-written and respectful, characteristics that demand just as much from content and meaning as it does from the literal expressions used to convey the meaning.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Your comment was anything but well-written. In fact, it was pretty provocative. The fact that you actually bothered to take screenshots suggests you were expecting some kind of deletion and an ensuing story ripe for a /. submission.

  12. I doubt that there’s any major corporation that can make a lifetime support service both worth having for the serious tech customer and profitable for them. Let’s face it, staff won’t spend long working in a phone tech support unit when they can make more money elsewhere. A shame, but an economic reality too.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I personally find this whole article overblown and offensive.

    First, your comment was not well written. My 8 year old son can write more coherently.

    Second, you state google can do better than any technical support professional. There is good tech support and there is bad. HP has outsourced most if not all of theirs overseas. I am IT professional and have worked in the tech support trenches before. I find it offensive. Google is a tool a good Tech Support professional will use, but only one of their tools.

    Third, you then pander to a forum that is frequented by a lot of IT and tech support professionals and expect them to rally to your cause.

    Sir, you need to learn some manners, and respect, and not run around insulting on one hand and expecting those you insult to rally to you.

  14. Patrick says:

    Who takes screenshots of the comments they make?

  15. moldor says:

    * * WARNING * *

    HP vent follows…

    While I’ve had my share or problems with HP products over the years, I’ve always found their technical support people to be pretty good, considering some of the crap customers the have to put up with, and I’ve dealt with everyone from the laptop guys up to the HP9000 division.

    Their “call centre” is, however, quite another matter.

    Once upon a time, I could call Compaq or HP and be assured of getting a tech. support person who not only understood English, but knew what I was talking about. Indeed, it got to the stage where instead of sending a tech out to “diagnose” the problem and then ordering the parts, they took my word for what was wrong and the parts came with the technician. We had a very good working relationship, which is as it should be.

    After the HP/Compaq merger, however, things went doen the proverbial toilet bowl.

    Moving the “call centre” to India is the single biggest commercial mistake HP (in Australia, at least) has ever made. Not only can’t you get someone with a good understanding of the English language most of the time, but if you ask a question that deviates from their pre-set list of things they “are allowed to talk about”, you’ll be lucky if you get hung up on.

    I was kept waiting the other day for over an hour to ask a simple question about an nx9010 laptop (I ordered one without the wifi mini-PCI card, having been told I could add it at any time – you can, but there’s no antenna provided in the lid of the machine unless you order a laptop WITH the card – which they didn’t tell me a the time, did they ?).

    HP/Compaq will continue to loose market share in this country until they improve this area of the business. I have friends who work for HP and they all feel the same, however they need their jobs and so can’t be too critical of management.

    Hopefully something can be done… but I’m not holding my breath for it to happen…

  16. Anonymous says:

    I see a lot of comments about HP not being able to make a profit on their $99 lifetime support policy, but I have to ask:
    Who offered lifetime support for the price at $99 in the first place? That would be equivalent to me offering to mow your lawn forever for $99, then refusing to perform the service after you paid. If they wanted to “make a profit”, they should have set the fee at a more reasonable level. Don’t blame the customer for expecting the service they paid their money for. It’s interesting that they decided to reinstate your comment. Keep on them, they need to see honest comments from their customers if they’re going to address their problems.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Why do some people feel it necessary to berate others when they stick- up for themselves. To all the anonymous writes who did not have the balls to list their name but do have the balls to b**ch and moaned at what they thought as an atrociously written comment:
    The technical quality of the writing is a mute point. Why does it matter if the author did not form concise and focused sentences, paragraphs, and an overall story? If someone misspells a word or puts a coma in the wrong place does that negate his thought? I think not! Evaluate the comment for what it is, a critical look at HP by a user who had paid for a service and was frustrated with said company. Do you really think a letter to the company would have help any more than a post on a company blog? Give me a break, ya’ll can send me a letter and I promise I will read it and respond. Why don’t you hold your breath until I do. People who correct grammar and spelling mistakes in informal writing are useless, kind of like people who correct others when they are talking. Nobody likes those people. All ya’ll who posted negative comments are worse than Thomas and should be spanked by your mothers because you chastise him for posting a comment on a web-site that was not well written (in your meager and pathetic minds) but you post an even less relevant and more childish comment on his blog for absolutely no reason. Such as “Yikes. You call that a well-written comment? Yes, it was a bad decision to temporarily remove your comment. Just like it was a bad decision on your part to write in the style of a 14 year old.” You call him a 14 year old. That is incredibly intelligent and philosophical. “Yikes” is that a technical term? Slashdot was correct in running the story. Ya’ll must be Bush supports who think it was okay for him to tell the public only what he wanted to and not what the really reason was for the US to go to the middle east. And you must have loved what the great news icon Dan Rather who had only the best interest of the public in mind when he ran a story (that he new was fake) about Bush’s military serves. These were well-written stories, who care about the content. You probably think both men were right in going to the public with there stories because they were well written. Ya’ll probably think Rosa Parks should have stayed in the back of the bus because she was not well spoken, or Hitler was a great person because he was a great orator. It is so sad that people like you are around, when someone expresses them selves and you kick them for absolutely no reason other than they were not as well written as “you” would have liked. Why do you care if it was well written. Look at the content of what Thomas said and look at what HP did. Those are the stories and that is what Slashdot reported on. I hope there are less and less of you in the world as I come into adulthood. The more people that have a voice (whether well written or not) make this world a better place. Keep up the good work Thomas and Slashdot. Follow as many stories as you can.

    “To the freedom of the people and not the Corporation”
    Atticus Agios

  18. Anonymous says:

    Well-written comment? While I don’t agree with HP’s decision to remove the comment, and also agree that HP in general sucks, I’d hardly qualify your comment as “well-written”. Rude and annoying are perhaps better descriptors…

  19. Anonymous says:

    Anyone can delete comments for whatever reason, if it’s their blog.

    This does happen, will happen, and if people don’t like it, they should stop reading the blog.

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  21. jc says:

    I too have become a HP fool.
    I purchage m7248n for my twin boys.
    I have been given them my hand me down computers that I have built good motherboad, cards clean os instalation , but you can only sink so much into upgrading.
    This media thing is old I been using ATI All in wonder cards for years, so this on paper look to be a great deal.
    I was worried about this os I told them that I wanted just XP Pro, but they said that it was built into this XP media 2005 OH I am out of space and its seems I am one many

  22. jc says:

    I too have become a HP fool.
    I purchage m7248n for my twin boys.
    I have been given them my hand me down computers that I have built good motherboad, cards clean os instalation , but you can only sink so much into upgrading.
    This media thing is old I been using ATI All in wonder cards for years, so this on paper look to be a great deal.
    I was worried about this os I told them that I wanted just XP Pro, but they said that it was built into this XP media 2005 OH I am out of space and its seems I am one many

  23. jc says:

    I too have become a HP fool.
    I purchage m7248n for my twin boys.
    I have been given them my hand me down computers that I have built good motherboad, cards clean os instalation , but you can only sink so much into upgrading.
    This media thing is old I been using ATI All in wonder cards for years, so this on paper look to be a great deal.
    I was worried about this os I told

  24. Scott says:

    Don’t feel alone. Dealt with email support for a replacement keyboard. Bought my laptop dv2047 from Sam’s Dec 8,2006. Contacted support in Jan about the spacebar. The only way it would actuate was if you hit it dead center. A couple mm off and no joy. Asked to ship a replacement (billing software and client’s files a bit sensitive, and have some software that has limited number of keys. No way I could go without.

    They sent me the instructions for replacing it, but wouldn’t send the keyboard (5 back-and-fourths later). By this time I’m using a bluetooth keyboard, so isn’t a pressing issue. (Did I mention that I was an electronics calibration and repair tech and ran two labs in the AF?)

    Flash forward to Nov 07, less than a month left on warranty, and I don’t have the keys loaded, and figure that I can get along without the billings for a week. Contact them and state a preference for self-install. They came up with the same mantra (India–mantra—ah, what’s the use) and tossed in a new twist: They say that the laptop warranty expired in Aug.

    So, I have to email a copy of the receipt, plus fill out forms–will supposedly hear from them immediately about the update warranty date. Nada. Nothing. No communication what so ever.

    So, the warranty is out, I will have to pay about $80 for a keyboard, and I’m pissed.

    Will I recommend HP or Compaq to customers (I do VAR medical systems and teach part-time)? Probably not. They can stop sending me business system catalogs.

    I’ll probably still support their printers, since I can second-source the parts, and they are workhorses. But I’ve got three (two HPs and one Compaq) laptops in, and I’ve basically told the owners to replace them with Dells. Three more customers have been advised to go with Dell servers. All for a freaking keyboard. Original support #KMM14560722V43597L0KM.

    (During the last segment of tech support conversation, I replaced a screen, partial case, and DVD drive in a Compaq r3000 for a client (her daughter’s friend sat on it)).

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