23 November 2006

Over to our sister agency, Miserable…

Interesting story filed by John Oates over at El Reg this afternoon about goings on at business networking site Ecademy…the one whose “cause is to build the world’s premier Trusted Network.”

Oates tells the story of how “seventeen members of Ecademy…have had their accounts suspended following a row on the company's messageboard. One member was banned for using the word "shit" while others were banned for posting messages in a thread which questioned the original decision. One member was even banned for making rude remarks on a different website.”

There’s some back and forth between Ecademy management and Ecademy members... accusations, denials…the usual.

Now, Ecademy boasts that profiles appear high in Google rankings and members are encouraged to use profiles to advertise their businesses. Consequently several of the banned members - including a number of successful business people - responded with threats of legal action for defamation of character and libel when their accounts were blocked without warning and they were accused of using false identities.

Ecademy issued a series of retractions - claiming that members' accounts were merely 'suspended' and that members had not been 'banned'…although the message "This member has been banned" appeared prominently on the website in place of their profiles for some time.

Ecademy management were recently reported in the Telegraph to be looking to sell their company for up to £20m. Ex-members suspect that in the light of this article, Ecademy management were seeking to remove anybody likely to criticise either their policies or their claims regarding membership numbers. The management unsurprisingly denies this.

According to The Register, management have appointed a "psychosexual therapist" as a mediator, but he's busy until December 1st. Oddly - or not - those banned were less than chuffed that they would have to wait more than three weeks for a resolution. In the meantime, they continue to pay Ecademy for membership.

Interestingly, Ecademy does have a PR representative in Jenny Rose…who is no doubt dusting off her bluffer’s guide to crisis management. Still, she seems an optimistic sort...her company’s called Happy PR.

Time for a rebrand?


Richard Jones said...

I think the post by the Chief Executive to me was the best. On this thread discussing the consistency of management action he wrote (the header came from my post he was replying to)...

The sadness in all this is the approach to criticism
by Glenn Watkins on 15-Nov-06 3:38pm


Fair points, well made.

With one exception - we don't block people for criticising us or customer service(!) How odd you should think that.

Well three hours later when almost everyone who had contributed to it (or were mentioned on it in one case) were blocked/banned, it didn't seem quite so odd!

The furore among the Ecademy members is that they saw the thread and it was not a serious argument by any means. The CEO said my points were fair, the founder said I had Ecademy's best interests at heart and then bang - someone lost their temper and took out the whole neighbourhood including me. Others among the evicted said almost nothing and one who was blocked didn't appear on it at all. Their name was mentioned on the thread though so apparently that was enough.

A very reasoned attempt has been made to get management to even explain what went on but I think someone has painted themselves into a corner and can't get out now.

Given the lack of replies to emails and to some phone calls, the lack of any kind of response to a request to return made by the evicted group and the belief that this process can go on forever, many of the group consider Ecademy has not even tried to resolve their mistake in good faith.

Someone in Ecademy management should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

Richard Jones

rc said...

How ironic, my efforts to have my profile removed from ecademy over the past 18 months or so have failed miserably. I guess lots of inactive ghost members will help with those compliant membership numbers.

Now if I could login and say 'shit' a little maybe that would do the trick?

Ahh, but it won't allow me to log in to delete the profile because I won't pay for membership and round it goes. It is a pioneer in being a Kaftaesque social network ;-)

Stephen Andreassen said...

It has been coming for a while. Despite Ecademy management's professed values of "Honesty, Openness, Transparency", there is little evidence of any of those values being adhereed to.

The membership numbers are deliberately overstated. Try asking questions about the membership figures on their front page, and you'll find out how transparent they are. People are "disappeared" regularly, with no comeback. The recent oustings have caused a ruckus because the banned/suspended are high-profile and well-respected, and because so many were banned at the same time. Many more have been quietly disappeared in the past, often for no particular reason.

At least one person has been banned for comments made outside the Ecademy site. Another prominent member was banned last year for pointing out that Penny Power, a member of management, had blatantly lied about membership statistics on BBC Radio. This person did nothing except telling the truth, backed up with Ecademy's own data. Rather than apologising, or correcting the error, the knee-jerk reaction was to ban the member.

Something that has caused great concern is that the majority of the recently banned/suspended members have not even broken Ecademy's Terms and Conditions or Code of Conduct, let alone the laws of the land (the land being the UK, where Ecademy is based, but equally applicable to most other democracies.).

These respected business men and women now have to contend with potential clients Googling them and finding that they are banned from Ecademy. All at the whim of a management who won't even respond to individuals to explain why they have been banned.

There have been recent stories saying that the management are looking to sell, with the only rumoured figure being £20m. All I can do when I see this is laugh. I have a copy of their latest (publicly available) accounts, which show that they have a net worth of £353. Not thousand, or million (hahaha). Just £353. On top of this they have revalued their website from less than £3,000 to almost £2,000,000. In a year. Because of this they have a tax liability of £574,000 which is due next April. £353 ain't gonna cover it.

Anyone doing due diligence will see that £20m is laughable. As well as the tax liability, there are over 250 BlackStar "Life members", who need to be serviced for, well, life.

Unless there is a bidding war (again, hahahaha!) Ecademy is worth a pittance. They appear to have far more liabilities than prospects.

Banning a lot of respected, well connected people with resources could well be the final nail in the current management's well deserved e-coffin.

Stephen Andreassen (another member who was banned at the whim of the management)

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite reworked clichés is, "Power attracts the corruptible" and this applies perfectly to Ecademy. The beauty in having power over others’ membership rights is in NOT using it only to remind everyone who is running the show. But Penny Power couldn’t spell ‘tact’ if I spotted her the first four letters. Penny states, “Think carefully everyone, Ecademy is not going to adapt to this nastiness and held to ransom”. Instead Ecademy won’t adapt to anyone, anything or any idea which might cause members to think Ecademy is a community rather than a failing business held to ransom by a husband (Thomas) and wife’s (Penny) odd fundamentals revolving around “emotional wealth” as pseudo-religious business attitude.

Consider, if you will, how did such good business people come to Ecademy as customers and then become oh-so-very corrupted they must be banned from using the site? Thirteen very different people all shut out of their online community on an overcast mid-November day by two power-crazy people who make up part of the Trifecta From Management Hell: Penny Power and Glenn Watkins. The third, Thomas Power, was wandering around outside trying to understand difficult concepts like how those little people get inside the television and is the Tooth Fairy shaped like a tooth or a fairy.

Anyone looking at this situation wonders if there was gross unfairness these thirteen rallied against which prompted the final solution of Ecademy’s blocking each subscriber's account. Isn't someone making an ass of themselves an opportunity for a community to spurn such behavior of their own volition? If yes, how does one spurn Ecademy management? I think the punch line here is, “Very quickly”.

Sadly, the management of Ecademy is so fault-ridden, so horribly devoid of brilliance, so pathetically embarrassing that no cerebral course of action can be offered by them to mend a difference of opinion. The brutal, "You customer. Me management." way of dealing with online members would make Tarzan look at his feet with shame and mumble something about treating others with respect.

Ecademy's management consistently handles customer relations with such a heavy hand that their knuckles actually leave the ground. Quite a feat for these small-brained, weapon wielding creatures.

Most sincerely,

Anonymous said...

Oh look, there's more on El Reg here:


"With warm regards" - how very sincere.

Anonymous said...

If anyone is going to 'buy' Ecademy then regardless of what management will claim the buyer should insist on a proper due diligence exercise and get forensic IT in to repudiate site log data and provide their own interpretation of the truths and trends over the last 5 years regarding site utilisation/hits activity.