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!!
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.
— this quote was brought to you by quoteurl
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.