Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Transparency in the Internet era

Over the past weekend we released Version 1.1 of Starfish CI to the App Store. Within hours we'd discovered that a bug had crept in between v1.0 and v1.1 - the app continues to work, but the screen resolution on Retina iPads is screwy and it doesn't look as good and professional as it did and as we want it to. We're embarrassed that this slipped through our testing.

Now, with so few users of such a new app it was really tempting to stay quiet about this and work hard on the fix before too many people noticed. After all, what we'd lose in short-term disillusion we'd gain in that there'd be no Internet history of the blunder for people to find through Google in future.

But we think that's entirely the wrong approach. It doesn't sit well with our ethics; and it doesn't make sense in the Internet era - If we don't blog and Tweet and acknowledge our problems (as well as shout about our good points) then others will. And we'd look worse.

So, in practical terms, we've done some things:

  • We've written a blog post; and we're updating that regularly with new information as it becomes available
  • The post admits we got it wrong; says 'sorry' and asks for patience while we fix it - and gives, we hope, sufficient info about what went wrong and what we're doing to remedy.
  • Each update to the blog is highlighted on our Twitter account.
  • We're using other parts of our Internet presence appropriately: we updated the App Store description to refer to the blog; we've used LinkedIn; even this blog post might help ...
  • We've learned (the hard way) not to have just one communications channel (because that might be the thing that goes down!).
We've tried to learn from experience: while we are having our, relatively minor, hiccup Google Drive is apparently 'down' (we saw this from other Twitter users): even the biggest companies have difficulties from time to time with software. And there are plenty of stories of major brands suffering as a result of their silence.

Further, years ago in another company, one of our suppliers went out of business in the early hours of the morning, affecting us and each of our customers. While colleagues worked on a a solution, I made contact with our customers a top priority. Within hours we'd restored service and re-located the business operations to an emergency location where we stayed for a few weeks before we could make a planned, controlled, move back to new facilities. We kept everyone informed throughout.

In that last case what could have been disaster turned into a positive illustration of the lengths we'd go to for our customers. In this present difficulty we're too busy resolving the problem to be playing it for positive spin for the future. But still we hope that customers will appreciate that in the UK we worked on this until 03:30 this morning; and there's not been much sleep in America, either!

On balance, I'd rather be transparent, for better and for worse, than try to pull the wool over others' eyes.

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