Ayende @ Rahien

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Unethical behavior

Ben is pointing out something that I find flat out infuriating, a TFS MVP had removed a comment talking about SVN & Git from his blog with the following explanation:

“No offense, but I deleted your comment.  I make way too much $$ on Team System training & consulting to go publicly plugging alternative options.”

I am… disappointed. I started to write shocked, but it is not the first time that I have seen stuff like that happen.

What bothers me even more, if you can’t deal with critics on something that you are doing for a living, how can you call yourself an consultant in the field? How can you actually point out the options if you refuse to even look at them or engage in conversation about them.

This make me seriously doubt the professionalism of the person in question, to say the least.

image

Independent expert? I don’t think so.

Real world answers? Hardly.

Update: Ben Day has posted a reply about this.

Comments

Paco
07/27/2009 06:46 PM by
Paco

Sounds familiar. He is not the only MVP doing this.

Eyston
07/27/2009 06:53 PM by
Eyston

Is it still unethical if he isn't an MVP?

I guess I don't see the connection, or I'm missing something. He didn't remove it because he is an MVP, he removed it because it might hurt his bottom line. Or because he is an MVP he is supposed to be above worrying about his bottom line?

I'm confused.

Benjamin Day
07/27/2009 07:26 PM by
Benjamin Day

Yah...I kinda screwed up on this. I didn't mean to make it seem like I was ducking the criticism of the product -- but it sure has heck came off that way, didn't it?

Anyway, in case anyone's interested, here's my response:

blog.benday.com/archive/2009/07/27/23233.aspx

Thanks,

-Ben Day

Microsoft MVP for Team System

João P. Bragança
07/27/2009 07:33 PM by
João P. Bragança

The issue is false advertising. If the tag line was 'Microsoft Experts. Better Answers' I don't think it would be much of an issue.

Anyway, by not being open to constructive criticism he is only shooting himself in the foot. Rather than deleting comments that affect his bottom line (short term) he should forward them to Microsoft. Perhaps if they received more constructive feedback on their products from their MVPs they'd release a better product and make more money (long term) AND make our lives much easier!

Simple Trade is about screwing people over on every single deal possible. Capitalism is about establishing long term trust relationships. You make more money that way.

Eyston
07/27/2009 07:57 PM by
Eyston

Not to dwell (and his reply seems pretty comprehensive) but I still don't see the problem.

If he is not a Microsoft employee or paid by Microsoft, he is independent. No? His shilling of TFS for his own benefit doesn't in anyway conflict with the statement about being independent -- he isn't doing it under pressure from Microsoft.

Oh well.

Chris Nicola
07/27/2009 08:18 PM by
Chris Nicola

Ben, I think it just shows a degree of laziness to delete a comment that way. Unfortunately, by solving your problem that way it undermines the concept of blogging and the honesty of ideas that I think is implicit or at least expected.

You obviously could have responded with carefully thought out and presented arguments (as you now have) but instead your first response was, "I disagree with this person but I don't feel like responding to them, and since this could hurt my bottom line lets just delete it".

The funny thing is, I find it hard to believe any thinking person could believe a single comment on a blog could affect their bottom line. Lets be honest you did, in fact, "duck criticism of the product". Not because you couldn't handle or respond to the criticism but because you didn't feel like it.

We are all (as my fairly odd gym teacher used to say) "naturally human and therefore naturally lazy", however next time I'd just try going with just not responding.

Benjamin Day
07/27/2009 08:35 PM by
Benjamin Day

Hey Chris,

I agree -- one comment wouldn't probably hurt my bottom line. As I wrote in my post, I wasn't against having the discussion, I just wasn't interested in having it in public. The side effect of how I did it clearly sent the wrong message.

-Ben

Adam L
07/27/2009 08:35 PM by
Adam L

Ah, yeah, I have to actually agree with Eyston.

I use a lot of open source technologies in my own work, and a lot of both OS and MS software for my employer.

Ben is obviously a consultant for Microsoft technologies, not technologies in general - so if you are looking for the best-of-breed, you wouldn't go to him - if you want to make the best decisions on MS technologies (which is a line of thought a lot of medium sized businesses have), then he's your man.

Sure, it conflicts with the ethos of open blogs, but, if his realm is MS, then one could very well argue that commenting on other products is off topic, and could fairly be deleted.

Its nice to see people defending open source tech, but targeting this guy is not really relevant.

Ben Scheirman
07/27/2009 09:04 PM by
Ben Scheirman

Ayende,

You might want to edit the post to include a link to Ben's response. I think he deserves to have his response heard.

I for one give him +1 to coming out & admitting that it wasn't a good idea.

Ayende Rahien
07/27/2009 09:33 PM by
Ayende Rahien

Adam,

I am sorry, but answering the question: "Why should I choose tech X vs. tech Y?" is something that you should be answering.

Especially when you represent yourself as an expert in teh field.

Ayende Rahien
07/27/2009 09:42 PM by
Ayende Rahien

Eyston,

For a TFS consultant, I would say yes.

For an MVP, more so.

One of the reasons that the MVP were established is to give actual feedback and to respond to the community as people who have real world experience about the product.

Microsoft is always going to say: Buy Us!

MVPs are supposed to be more objective.

The way the reply is phrased, I would expect to get a more objective answer from the TFS Team than him

Adam L
07/27/2009 09:48 PM by
Adam L

Hi Ayende,

Yes, that is a fair point, perhaps my take on the topic is a little different to that of the majority.

When visiting Ben's site, his home page makes it fairly clear that his focus is MS tech:

"Benjamin Day Consulting ... specializes in the design and development of software applications using Microsoft technologies with an emphasis on Visual Studio Team System (VSTS) and Team Foundation Server (TFS)"

So I guess my point is, if his focus is MS, then any other vendor is irrelevant to his cause. To hold a discussion on those competing products on his own site, which is geared around MS, may not be his field of expertise, so why should he be expected to wade in to those depths?

I think the boundaries of this discussion are somewhat blurry, and the reader perspective is somewhat coloured by whether one believes that he is providing MS consulting, or consulting in the general domain space.

Good discussion, however, blog ethics is perhaps something that gets overlooks a little too often?

Ayende Rahien
07/27/2009 09:53 PM by
Ayende Rahien

Adam,

It is acceptable to say something like: "this isn't the place for that"

Deleting the comment with the given justification doesn't seem right

dirk bunglethorpe
07/28/2009 01:18 AM by
dirk bunglethorpe

TFS is the bane of my existence. I'm sure it's a great project management tool but I need a flexible source control and build environment, and it's neither. And I have to pay through the nose for it. No thanks. I build Windows software but give me open source unit test, build and source control tools any day of the week.

Mike Brown
07/28/2009 01:37 AM by
Mike Brown

Have you heard of stereotypes. Generalizing the actions of one person across the entire group to which they belong is where stereotypes arise. Even generalizing the actions of a significant number of members of that group across all members is not a good idea.

Your implication by putting the MVP logo in association with this faux pas (for which the person apologized) is that this is par behavior for MVPs.

I pride myself on keeping an open mind toward technological approaches. As a realist, I know that I only have so much time an energy to devote to learning different platforms, therefore I have focused on Microsoft technologies over the past few years. Nevertheless, I do keep my eyes and ears open to know at a minimum what alternatives are out there.

I can point to a number of other MVPs who take the same approach toward technology. The nature of the program does put a bias toward those who specialize in Microsoft tech. But the implied message here is that Microsoft is somehow buying our objectivity through the program. Nothing could be further from the truth inmy case. I will point out the flaws that I see, make suggestions on useful features and functionality, and voice my opinions good or bad regarding what's coming out of Redmond.

"Independent Experts" means we are not MSFT employees but we have deep knowledge of a given Microsoft Tech.

"Real world answers" means that we give answers to questions based on our actual experience with the tech. It's no different from Apple's program, or Sun's, or Oracle's

Grimace of Despair
07/28/2009 06:46 AM by
Grimace of Despair

Anyone figured he willingly unleashed this fuzz? This probably beats any paid ad campaign :P (was the first time I heard of him, but then again... who am I)

Chris Smith
07/28/2009 08:53 AM by
Chris Smith

The question I ask myself is simply as follows:

Is it ethical to accept the label of MVP in the first place?

An MVP label ruins any credibility in the "unbiased judgement" category. When a commercial entity slaps a medal on someone for pushing their products, I think my company's best interests may not be catered for. I think that is a fair conclusion.

For reference, and back on topic, I get paid a lot to rip up dev teams and to bin TFS as it tries to do EVERYTHING in a half-hearted, costly, medicore fashion, rather than doing the important things well. Picking and choosing ideal bits of tech that suit your organisation will get you further.

Also, the paid support at Microsoft is terrible at best and at £185 a hit (last check), the open source community are far more reliable, less costly and somewhat more honest and responsive. When was the last time something actually got RESOLVED on Microsoft connect or directly in any reasonable amount of time.

Ayende Rahien
07/28/2009 08:58 AM by
Ayende Rahien

Mike,

Are you aware that I am an MVP?

I wasn't trying to generalize, I was trying to point out the inconsistency between the Ben's approach to MVP (which seems important to him, since he mentions it even in blog comments) and the incident.

Bunter
07/28/2009 09:25 AM by
Bunter

This thread and poor MVP's not so solid response makes one think what would happen for example, if Jetbrains would come out with their own version of C# IDE? I'm pretty sure huge amount of not so tied up developers would jump the boat leaving Microsoft only with the platform.

Lagging behind, producing monolithic huge solutions, aiming for the dummiest and telling people (and considering it normal or at least inevitable) how it takes 25+ persons for Microsoft to change a light bulb is not a way to great success any time soon...

Paul
07/28/2009 10:02 AM by
Paul

Ayende, I'm disappointed bloggers like yourself and Jeremy Miller are fanning more flames on to this.

Suppose I went into an Apple store, tapped potential customers on the shoulders, and started telling them that Windows Mobile is superior to the Apple iPhone. The store may respond in many ways:

1) They might shout even louder than the iPhone is better

2) They might have me removed from the store

Either of these would be appropriate and legal responses. You might hope that they would take option 1 - the product should stand on its own. But option 2 is also a perfectly legitimate response.

What this TFS blogger did is exactly that. He openly makes a living off promoting a product. He didn't lie about SVN's capabilities, he didn't commit fraud. All he did is ejected a customer from his store.

The fact is the blog is his, and he has every right to decide what the content is. And anyone who expects to get unbiased advice from a single source is an idiot.

What infuriates /me/ is people like yourself and Jeremy leading a witch hunt against someone just because they are financially motivated and don't handle things the same as you, even though they actually did nothing wrong. You call the behavior unethical and claim he is not an expert. He doesn't have to be an expert and supporter of competing products to be an expert in TFS, and his behavior was completely ethical. If this were any other industry, Ben wouldn't be apoligising on his blog. He'd be suing you for slander.

Stephen
07/28/2009 12:36 PM by
Stephen

Uh it's more like Apple standing up and inviting discussion about the iphone and then someone says.. but I can do blah blah blah with a win mobile phone for less..

But using Apple is a bad choice, because I WOULD expect them to drag me off and leave me on the bottom of an icey lake somewhere.. because they are media nazis.

All this kind of crap is why I won't get into blogging, not only would it be yet another pointless blog- but I risk becoming someone who gets into these daft e-'cat fights'.

alwin
07/28/2009 04:28 PM by
alwin

@Paul

That he has the right, does not mean it is the right thing to do.

Suing for slander for this, what?!?. Only in America I guess...

BTW that Ben is apologizing helps to repair his image too. In your analogy: he's also fixing the PR of his 'store'.

Ayende Rahien
07/28/2009 10:10 PM by
Ayende Rahien

Paul,

Your analogy is flawed, it would be like they had you booted out by security by asking the clerk to explain the benefits of iPhone vs. Windows Mobile because they didn't want other customer to hear the discussion.

That is not an acceptable behavior.

Neither is shouting, by the way. Reasonable debate and argument is, shouting is just a scare tactic when you have no backup.

The fact is the blog is his, and he has every right to decide what the content is.

Yes, he does. The fact that he did this in this manner, and explain his reasoning means that I consider his behavior unethical.

It also means that I wouldn't trust his judgement in the future.

And anyone who expects to get unbiased advice from a single source is an idiot.

There is a difference between getting biased information from a clearly biased source and what was done there.

leading a witch hunt against someone just because they are financially motivated and don't handle things the same as you

Dude,

a) I think you need to relax a bit.

b) I have a financial interest in NHibernate. That doesn't mean that I wouldn't engage in discussion about it in this blog, or try to hide contrary opions.

The problem isn't that he is financially motivated, the problem is the way he goes about it. And it would have been perfectly all right to say that he didn't want to discuss it there if he didn't feel like it.

he is not an expert.

No, I said he is not independent expert. He doesn't have to support other products, but he should be able to do a comparision between the option. For that matter he did, after the whole thing blew open.

He'd be suing you for slander.

Are you familiar with the guy who sued his mother for the trauma of his birth?

I keep getting amused by the legal culture in the US, but that is beside the point.

I don't believe it is ethical to suprress information that is important to your customer in order to increase your sales, period.

And I think that deleting a comment with that reasoning is doing exactly that.

Tod Titties
07/29/2009 01:08 AM by
Tod Titties

I'm not sure which is more disappointing:

  1. How much time you folks have to pump into a bunch of meaningless community drama instead of doing something useful.

  2. How naive the lot of you are about how the world of business actually works.

  3. How much you collectively seem to care about what's a meaningless designation in the real world.

How's about people get back to work on things that actually matter rather than giving each other a self righteous community reach-around? Nah, that won't happen, someone probably pre-bought soapbox time... but this is why our community sucks and logically will always suck.

TT, out.

Dan Finch
07/29/2009 05:31 AM by
Dan Finch

TT: I don't think you know that much about this or that "world" either. Your words are not the words of a man who believes he does. I can't find any part of your comment that makes any sense.

Philipp
07/29/2009 08:16 AM by
Philipp

The initial punchline about him making money off TFS looks much more blunt if taken out of the context, and I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have put it that way if it had not been a private conversion.

Looking at the whole letter, a might be somewhat concerned about Benjamin's ability to being open-minded. However, I think it's much worse what Ben did: Taking that sentence out of the context and posting a private letter on his blog. From an ethical point of view (business ethics means a lot to me when it comes to working with people), Ben would be the last person I'd ever want to work with.

And I must say, I'm disappointed to see you getting in line here, too. Was ridiculing him by including his MVP header ALONG WITH HIS PICTURE really necessary? Sorry man, but I think that's just low, too.

Ayende Rahien
07/29/2009 10:29 AM by
Ayende Rahien

Philipp,

Just to note, that is not his pic there, this is the standard MVP logo from the MVP site.

No idea who that guy is, but I think he is just a stock model

Comments have been closed on this topic.