Why I’m still disappointed in Yammer.

by Gil Yehuda on July 2, 2009

in Enterprise 2.0

Disappointed is too kind a word. I’m really upset at Yammer. What can I do but blog about why I’m so upset? Tell me if you think I’m right.  I know Yammer does not understand how I feel (despite my previous blog posts).  In fact, they are looking forward to this blog post!!

  1. Gil Yehuda
    gyehuda As a bonus I also composed another blog post about #yammer. This one will be good. 30 Jun 2009 from TwitterBerry
  2. yammer_team
    yammer_team @gyehuda We look forward to reading your blog post on Yammer. Let us know when it’s up! =) 30 Jun 2009 from web in reply to gyehuda

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I wonder which sentence they’ll quote. Let me explain…

I believe the behaviors that make Twitter interesting could be applied to workplace collaboration. In order to test this hypothesis I conducted research. I spoke with industry experts and many prospective clients of microsharing solutions. I also met with vendors in this space. Some agree that microsharing is game-changing, but many people do not. I also experimented with enterprise microsharing personally. In 2007 a colleague of mine in one of Fidelity’s R&D labs created a microsharing solution based on social bookmarking. We knew that social bookmarking was a powerful technology with very low adoption, so we tried to boost usage by adding a microsharing component to it. In 2008 I started to use Yammer when I was at Forrester to see how that works. We knew that this space would soon be flourishing with many vendors, and we figured Yammer would be easy to set up and experiment and then discard it. Note: I’ve since used a few other tools. Note also: I’m no longer employed by Forrester, and do not speak on their behalf.

As a result of the value that I perceived, I blogged that I set up a Yammer group as a way to displace a monthly meeting that I ran, but was not well-attended anymore. In the discussions about closing the monthly meeting and experimenting with a Yammer group, a colleague threw out an off-the-cuff motivation: He calculated the opportunity cost of the meeting to be about $10,000 provided that everyone attended instead of billing clients for consulting work.  He meant that he did not want to have this monthly meeting anymore. I said it would be simplistic to say that we “saved $10,000” using Yammer, but if we could accomplish the information-sharing goals of the meeting without taking the time to hold the meeting, then we’ll have saved something.

My point: Enterprise microsharing is potentially valuable. Despite many people who react negatively to “Twitter for the enterprise” — people hate useless meetings even more. So if a microsharing tool can displace a meeting — that might get some positive attention.

Enter Yammer’s PR department. They took my blog post and linked to it on their forums and then tweeted it. There’s nothing wrong with that. But they created a new title “Yammer Enables Fewer Meetings – Saves Forrester $10,000 a Month” – yikes that’s not what I said! In fact the blog post did not mention the name Forrester – this was quite deliberate. I don’t speak for Forrester and did not want anyone to misquote me.

Then they made a fake case study. They took an image of me they found online and image of Forrester’s corporate office, and crafted what appears to be a case study. They took an excerpt from my blog and edited it to say what they wished I had said. Neither I nor Forrester were contacted by Yammer to give permission to endorse them. Forrester has a very clear policy about this sort of stuff, and they have a legal and citation department whose job includes making sure that companies do not do what Yammer did. I don’t have a legal department. I’m just a guy with a blog. I blogged my surprise and disappointment in Yammer’s abuse of my words. I hinted at the small-mindedness that they exhibited by using an analogy to diapers. Subtle enough to convey a point.  Then I asked Forrester’s citation department to contact Yammer. Within a day or two, all references to the fake endorsement were taken down.

I actually expected an apology.  It would have been a great way for them to ensure that despite the misstep on their part, they would keep my positive impression.

Update: in the comment section below, Yammer has issued an apology.

Last week I hosted a panel at the Enterprise 2.0 conference, and Yammer’s VP of sales participated on my panel along with 4 CEOs of other microsharing companies. I paid special attention to make sure that would I not use my position as moderator to make Yammer look bad.

  1. keri pearlson
    kpearlson #e2conf #e2conf20 amazing moderation by @gyehuda. Good job. Thanks for the insightful questions.
  2. Amy
    sengseng @gyehuda great job moderating the #e2conf20 panel.

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Afterwards I reached out to the folks from Yammer and asked if they thought I treated them fairly – and they said “yes” – but with that sheepish look, knowing that I was wronged by them and they did not even apologize.

Now I see that Yammer has restored their misquoting endorsement in a different part of their website. Not only did they fail to apologize. They put the post back up!

Update:  I see Yammer has since removed this post again  – within 12 hours o f this blog post being published.  Thank you.

So why am I writing this? Let me tell you that this is not about me. I’m just a guy with a blog. Let’s not talk about me. Let’s talk about you. You might be interested in a microsharing solution; a Twitter-like tool for your enterprise. When looking at your options, you will encounter Yammer as one of them. It will appear attractive to you since lots of people talk about it, and you can use it for free.  However when you use it for free you are engaging in a trust relationship. You trust them to respect and manage your intellectual property – and you do so without quid pro quo financial consideration.

So how do you know if you can trust Yammer to be a faithful steward of your intellectual property?  In a socially mediated world, reputation is everything.  In your calculation of Yammer’s reputation, will you consider how Yammer treated my intellectual property? I’m just an industry analyst in their marketplace.  What about the fact that they heeded Forrester’s request (one of the most influential voices in the social media marketplace), and then restored the offending post?  Who should you trust your intellectual property with?  I suggest that reputation is the essential consideration.

No one is perfect.  Over-eager PR folks sometimes make mistakes in judgement and procedure.  They break the code of behaviors.  It happens. An apology is a great way to restore trust.  But a repeat offense!? nah, that’s just too much guys. Since you know that you were asked to take down the unauthorized reference to the fake Forrester Case study, and since you did take it down, and since you since re-posted it, I see that we are no longer going to be effective using the official channels.  You are asking me to play “Whac-a-mole“.  So consider this post a whack.

I write this blog to help my readers understand the Enterprise 2.0 marketplace and the nature of socially mediated collaboration.  So let me help you by offering some advice.  If you are looking for an enterprise microsharing solution, let me remind you that there many options – some that install in your data center, some that interlace with your other enterprise systems, some that provide more features at lower costs. And I’m glad to help you analyze your needs and find the right solutions for you.  I’m pretty familiar with the other microsharing options out there and I trust that they will work for you.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ken Domen August 10, 2010 at 6:16 am

RT @ConvergentWorld: RT @socialworkplace Why I’m still disappointed in Yammer. | Gil Yehuda's Enterprise 2.0 Blog http://bit.ly/c6DcUb


2 Convergent World August 9, 2010 at 3:51 pm

RT @socialworkplace Why I’m still disappointed in Yammer. | Gil Yehuda's Enterprise 2.0 Blog http://bit.ly/c6DcUb


3 The Social Workplace August 9, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Why I’m still disappointed in Yammer. | Gil Yehuda's Enterprise 2.0 Blog http://bit.ly/c6DcUb


4 Vitaliy Demur August 15, 2009 at 4:33 am

Dear Gil, please do not be nasty to Yammer, please contact us…
I represent LADevelopers Inc. (http://www.ladevelopers.com ), California based software development company specializing in custom Web 2.0 applications for enterprise. We have a lot of experience working with Yammer product and have an established relationship with this company. If you have any issues with Yammer API, or looking to build a custom product based on Yammer API, we can help. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.


5 Gil Yehuda August 17, 2009 at 9:49 pm

Do you really think I was being nasty to Yammer? I don’t. I think they made a PR blunder (publishing a fabricated “case study” with no permission from me or Forrester – the company that does not employ me, and that I don’t speak on behalf.) — very amateur behavior on the part of the people who did this PR act. This does not reflect directly on their product, API, or my feeling about their company in general. And I believe I handled this properly by asking Forrester’s citations department to contact them. (Note, my follow up email to their VP of Legal bounced back – and I explained all the details above. Did you read?)

As an industry analyst, I investigate and report on my market for the benefit of my customers. I’m not going to claim that I’m devoid of emotions, but I do not believe that I was motivated to be nasty. After all, this all started when I reported a positive result by using their product.

As for your comment: Were you just looking for a place to put an ad for your services? Do you think that my readers will interpret your comment that way? I think they may. If so that would not look so good for you. Now, if I would have posted that I’m asking people to share the names of companies that provide Yammer API development, then your comment would be apropos. But starting with the remark that you think I was being nasty, and ending with what sure appears to be an ad (selling development services to an independent analyst?) — well that just seems like you need a PR makeover too. Just saying.


6 Gil Yehuda July 7, 2009 at 9:55 am

Note to the careful reader:
I see that David Schwartz VP of Legal & Corporate Development at Yammer is no longer listed on Yammer’s management page: http://www.yammer.com/about/management and I’ll note that emails I send him a few weeks ago have bounced back.


7 Glenn July 5, 2009 at 5:49 pm

You’re not the only one talking about opportunity cost with respect to Enterprise Collaboration. It seems that some post Enterprise 2.0 Boston conference chatter (see http://it.toolbox.com/blogs/future-of-work/enterprise-20-conference-aftermath-32715) opportunity costs is the main ingredient in determining ROI for Enterprise Collaboration.


8 Janelle July 4, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Gil – You were right to be frustrated and angry at this “case study.” I admire your willingness to not only bring it to light, but to engage in a dialogue with Yammer after their apology. IMO, the apology should have come from someone on the team rather than an anonymous poster (the tone of the apology, by the way, is shocking – as if they feel they did no wrong).

I don’t, however, believe you should have given them as much credit as you did post-apology. I don’t think it was a PR blunder, but rather a concerted attempt to make the company look more robust, well-known and well-used than it is. I say this for the following reasons.

1. The Avaya case study that was one on their site was not approved either. I have first hand knowledge of this. The “study” was pulled from an individual’s blog who wrote about Yammer at Avaya. His likeness and reprinting of his information were used without his knowledge or permission.

2. The Deputy Tech Editor of the NY Times, David Ghallager, had to repeatedly ask for Yammer to remove what appeared to be an endorsement by the NYTimes on the Yammer homepage. From @davidfg’s twitter feed:

@yammer_team: Can you take the apparent NYT endorsement off of http://www.yammer.com ? I think you know why it’s problematic.
1:35 PM Apr 20th from web

Hey @yammer_team: I though you were taking down the fake NYT endorsement? Would be nice. http://yammer.com
1:16 PM May 7th from web

The NYT logo was pulled several days later.

Ultimately, I don’t think Yammer is out there trying to be harmful, but they’re eroding trust in the tech community by asking for forgiveness vs. permission. It is my firm belief that, in a company run by several people with legal backgrounds, they believe that bringing in top tier clients by any means greatly outweighs any problems caused by using logos and case studies without permission. I think they knew exactly what they were doing, but this isn’t how you run a business. I’ve serviced clients in 2 different industries for more than a decade, and you simply don’t abuse their relationship with you for your own gain.


9 Kami Huyse July 3, 2009 at 3:27 pm

PR Beware: In the holy grail search for case studies, don’t do this, no matter how tempting http://twurl.nl/5a83yl


10 Gil Yehuda July 3, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Dear Yammer team,
Thanks again for the clarification. Indeed we will keep the lines of communications open. As you see, I post your clarifications here, and respond to your emails.

I’m glad when someone takes my blog posts, which indeed are in the public domain, and uses them (with attribution and link back to me). But you can’t recast the article to say what I did not say. I think someone should have reached out to me and asked if I approve the title and quote. I would have asked you to edit it back to convey my original message.

I asked Forrester to handle this since 1. they had more to loose than I did and 2. they have a citations department that does this kind of clean-up for a living. I figured that you’d heed their request. Which you did (eventually). In my blog posts on this topic (search my blog for “Yammer”) I immediately updated the text to indicate when you responded and how.

Your clarification confirms to me and my readers that the PR blunder was not deliberate. Moreover I now understand that you did not perceive a need to apologize. I still assert that it was a blunder.

I invite people to comment on this. If I should have done differently — let me know. If Yammer should have — let them know. I’d rather leave this blog discussion knowing that we all learned something from it.


11 Gil Yehuda July 3, 2009 at 1:42 pm

I was trying to be gentle in my assessment of Yamer’s action — as I assume that the motivation was good, but the execution was poor. Barry and Jamie commented that I was being quite kind actually. My conclusion is trustworthiness is everything in the social-sphere. The free-model with the claim-your-network for money is a perceived by CIOs as extortion – and that erodes trust. In order to thrive in this market Yammer needs to earn trust. Case studies are a great way to demonstrate that others have earned their trust. But they have to be real studies. Real = paying customers who approve the message.

Susan, don’t feel awful defending Yammer here. My use of Yammer generated a success story that I shared on my blog — and I attributed Yammer as the tool we used in that case. I’m not Anti-Yammer. I know that others use it and like it too. In fact they have the best known brand in this space — forging the marketplace forward with their innovation. But I think they took my good-will and crossed a PR line. At first it was a blunder, but then it appeared to go over the top with 1. involving Forrester’s brand and 2. having this pop up in at least 4 different places on their website, even after they were asked to take it down. I think they should have known better and done better.

BTW, I do not fear that Yammer will leak customer data. I’m confident that they spent countless hours ensuring that will never happen. But the challenges of intellectual protection are more subtle than just data leakage. Thus on an emotional level, I’m upset and disappointed. On an objective level I don’t have a fundamental lack of confidence in their ability to do well by their customers. But I know that 1. they are not the only game in town, and 2. I honestly don’t think they are the right solution for many of the enterprises that I encounter. But if they have 40K companies who do use their product, I’m not worried that my little dissapointment in their PR will have a big impact on them.


12 Yammer Team July 3, 2009 at 1:03 pm


With respect to your assertion that Yammer made a “repeat offense” by “re-posting” the offending materials, your readers need to understand a couple of relevant facts:

You never contacted us directly to ask us to remove the materials. Had you done so, we would have reacted sooner in removing the piece. As soon as we received an email from Forrester, which we now know was initiated by you, we responded right away and removed every piece of content they cited. However, both we and Forrester overlooked a link within our Blogs section. Had we seen it, we would have removed it, which we have since done. In any event, we never “re-posted” the materials after we were asked to take them down.

In light of this, the conversation in Boston (in which you say we gave you “that sheepish look, knowing that I was wronged by them and they did not even apologize”) should make more sense. When you told us after the panel words to the effect of “See, I treated you fairly”, our reaction was a puzzled look, not a “sheepish” one. We were puzzled because (1) as the moderator of the panel, you were expected to be impartial, and (2) we did not know that you felt “wronged”. Had you communicated with us directly, the apology we have since issued to you would have been forthcoming sooner.

I hope you can see the ways in which this episode has been amplified by miscommunication, rather than deliberate “offenses”. We made an honest attempt to promote on our site a “success story” (your words) that was already in the public domain. It was our assumption that as a blogger you would want your article promoted as widely as possible. However, when we were contacted by Forrester to remove it, we immediately obliged, and believed we had rectified the situation. We did not know that independently you felt wronged. We hope to keep lines of communication open in the future to avoid misunderstandings.


Yammer Team


13 susan scrupski July 3, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Ouch! Pretty harsh, Gil? I totally understand your irritation with the Yammer folks. It seems as though this was more a case of bumbling management/oversight relative to “left hand aware of right hand’s actions” that is typical of fast-growing startups. To draw the conclusion that enterprise users should veer away from Yammer as a result because of its misuse of your intellectual property, that may be a stretch? [You know how much I respect you Gil, so bear with me here!]

If Yammer had “leaked” something confidential you said while a user of Yammer, that would be grounds for not only outrage, but legal action. We used Yammer at my former employer and I know our folks had concerns about Yammer’s security, privacy, and IP-related protections. Some refused to use it for that reason.

Yet (although I feel awful defending Yammer here), speaking from experience, I once told the Yammer folks via a DM: “Yammer is like group therapy for our company.” It was an amazing tool, and a gateway drug to introducing neophytes to the always on/always easy practice of social interaction and sharing. Granted, I haven’t really experimented with other tools, but I was extremely pleased with the experience and the pro-adoption effect it had on our employees.

What is inexcusable is the PR bungling you suffered, and I personally think the apology above from the Yammer team was superficial, not heartfelt. If Yammer wants to restore its trust reputation as a reputable player in the 2.0 community, the company should blog a sincere apology on its blog in a human voice (not scripted/edited as this one was)… similar to what Mark Zuckerberg does when Facebook screws up. In short, I would be extremely annoyed with the company, as well, but would think twice before throwing 40,000 babies out with the bathwater. (Yammer claims 40K companies using the product– that’s a nice onramp to social tools.)


14 Samuel Driessen July 3, 2009 at 9:55 am

Why I’m still disappointed in Yammer. http://tinyurl.com/ljl9xo via http://www.diigo.com/~driessen


15 Gil Yehuda July 3, 2009 at 8:53 am

Dear Yammer team,
Thanks for your apology. I trust that your original intent was to leverage my kind words about my Yammer experience. The intent was ok. The execution was not. And it got worse, not better. And that raised many concerns — as you can read above in the comments. Thanks for resolving this now.

You can begin to restore your reputation by simply filling your site with case studies supplied by paying customers who agree to endorse your product. Ironically, you are the most recognized brand in this space, so you don’t need to scrape for PR. You just need to deliver .


16 Yammer Team July 2, 2009 at 11:51 pm

Dear Gil,

We’d like to offer you an apology. It was not our intention to mischaracterize your views or imply that your former employer Forrester had officially endorsed Yammer. Rather, we were attempting to make fair use of your published statements about your experience with Yammer there, which you called a “success story”.

To provide your readers with a little context, you wrote that:

“It might be simplistic to say that we saved $10,000 a month using Yammer. But in some way it’s a reasonable way to measure the value that open microsharing brought to the company. After all, it freed our time, it allowed valuable communication to happen as needed, and it opened the conversation to others who would not have participated otherwise. I call that a success, thanks to microsharing behaviors.”

While our summary of your article was an honest attempt to portray its contents, we consider the views of the original author to be controlling in determining whether we succeeded. Obviously we did not. We have ceased to use your piece and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.


Yammer Team


17 Gil Yehuda July 2, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Thanks. I’m not a lawyer, but I have a lay-person’s understanding of contracts and trust relationships. Maybe Yammer’s model works legally, maybe not. I don’t know. But I do know that if people don’t trust them, their business model will crumble. What’s interesting to me is that they violated trust in a blatant way (as Poul pointed out). What’s more interesting is that a number of comments here show that other people don’t have confidence in their business model either.

When I was first briefed by Yammer last year I asked them if they thought that CIOs would resent their business model, and consider it extortion. Their response to that and my follow up questions gave me the sense that they did not understand why anyone would have a problem with their model. I think they were very mistaken.


18 Gil Yehuda July 2, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Barry, Jamie,
Thanks — I was giving the benefit of the doubt to Yammer at first, ‘cuz I’m really a nice guy at heart and I assume the good in people. But the game playing really upset me. And upon further reflection, I realized that this story is important for clients to understand and consider too.


19 Jamie Pappas July 2, 2009 at 8:57 pm

Wow! Thanks for sharing this story! What a blatant abuse of client trust. It’s a shame when something like this happens, and even more of a shame when it’s called out and seemingly cannot be resolved professionally and expeditiously (especially given that it never should have happened in the first place!).

I am not fond of Yammer as an enterprise for a number of reasons, namely that it’s advertised as a “secure” micro-blogging tool for enterprises, which is simply not the case, and this just reinforces my current opinion.

I applaud you for giving the Yammer folks the benefit of the doubt in referring to them as ” Over-eager PR folks” – I, however, think that characterization of this incident is way beyond that.

This, among other things, will certainly factor into my recommendations for micro-blogging tools for EMC.

Great to see you at #e2conf!

All the best,


20 Claire Flanagan July 2, 2009 at 8:24 pm

First, I was at E2.0 and I’m sorry I missed that session (that’s the challenge of E2.0 so many good tracks to attend). Second, I have other reasons why I’m not fond of Yammer and your example adds another to the list. Thank you for exposing the issue. I feel more companies need to take note. While microblogging can absolutely be an important component in an overall enterprise collaboration solution – Yammer’s particular model is flawed for too many reasons that legal, security and other privacy folks could explain better than I could. But your example just illustrates why all the legal, security and data privacy folks will say ‘see how can you trust that company with your data?’


21 Barry Camson July 2, 2009 at 7:07 pm

The behavior that you describe is really appalling! I don’t think I would excuse it as due to the hyperactivity of folks in their PR department. It appears blatant. I think the real case that ought to be spoken about would be in a course entitled “Ethical behavior in business.” Aside from being unethical, it is really a shortsighted approach to business.


22 Gil Yehuda July 2, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Oliver, indeed. I’d be much more impressed with real case studies. You know me pretty well and you know that I would not make this up — you can see it as clearly as I do. Ironically most small companies try to leverage analysts to help them. I just don’t get it.

George, (the CIO of Forrester) Let me wish you and my former co-workers the best of luck with your new solution. You have some of the best minds working in your shop and I enjoyed being part of it.


23 George Orlov July 2, 2009 at 3:56 pm

We will be migrating Forrester off Yammer in the very near future, as soon as we are able to bring the other platform online. Our primary concern was protection of IP.


24 Oliver Young July 2, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Yikes! I have seen plenty of small vendors that list former clients on their wall of fame, but making up case studies is pretty bold. And yet there it is, on their site: “Yammer Enables Fewer Meetings – Saves Forrester $10,000 a Month.” Amazing.


25 Gil Yehuda July 2, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Chris, I did not see Dennis’ post. Please share the link. You share words of wisdom, as usual. Thanks.


26 Gil Yehuda July 2, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Poul, “Guru”, thanks.
Paula, in my case here Forrester and I were the victim of image abuse. If they once did something bad by you, that’s between you and them. But I don’t deserve to be stepped on. What makes matters more uncomfortable for me is that I’m no longer an employee there and I do not wish to be entangled in their PR issues. Sorry if I sound snotty here, but this post isn’t about you. You chose to post something on their site. I did not chose to be posted on Yammer’s.


27 Chris Yeh July 2, 2009 at 2:02 pm

It’s funny–Dennis Howlett had a tangentially related post today as well. There seems to be a lot of folks in the space, both vendors and practitioners, who cheerlead and overstate their case.

As a baseball fan, I compare these folks to young pitchers, who try to throw every fastball with 110% effort. They tend to be wild, and in your case, seem to have hit the batter!

Far better to learn how to pitch, which involves knowing when to give it a max effort, and when to take something off the pitch. Other times, you simply want to get the batter to put the ball in play, and trust in your defense (the product experience) to win the day.


28 Paula Thornton July 2, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Odd, I got the same response from Forrester when they stepped in to badmouth me to my employer because I’d been posting strong opinions on their site.


29 SocialGuru July 2, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Very well said, kudos to Gil! Great points.

And I agree 100%. Trust is the core element behind socialmedia. Spcial media tools are where users create profiles to present their images and represent their brands.

Yammer’s PR department is playing a very risky game. I had a similar experience at Deloitte (and heard from friends at Cisco that they had a similar experience too). Both of these companies have employees using enterprise microblog tools other than Yammer. However, their company names are displayed on Yammer’s website as if Yammer is their recognized vendor. Very misleading…

There should be a law against this. If a company is not contacted to give permission, no vendor should be allowed to publize facts that are not approved. I am not a lawyer, but I’m guessing there are regulations out there for this kind of stuff.


30 Poul Hebsgaard July 2, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Whow quite a story! – a quote from the E2.0 conference stuck in my mind (I forgot who said it) but it was about the risk of “bad behavior” when social media like tools are deployed inside the firewall – “I cannot prevent you from being stupid but now at least I can see how stupid you are”. This seems like real “bad behavior” in public – they should apologize!


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