Friday, August 22, 2008

Questions and Answers after response from Ning's Legal Counsel

We have been patiently waiting for Ning's legal counsel to inform us as to what part of Ning's Terms of Service were violated. We have thusfar only received a "canned" response, as enumerated below. We have, however, had some time to carefully review and consider all of the points of view that have been expressed on the Ning Forums, TechCrunch, and other places. We believe that it is important to clarify a number of issues:

Since WidgetLaboratory is not publicly funded, does not have anyone to account to other than our customers, and is prepared with documentation to demonstrate that the facts are on our side, we believe it time to provide answers where none are otherwise forthcoming from Ning. To wit:


1) Each and every time that Ning suggested that any of our products had required "attention" on our part, WidgetLaboratory immediately provided a solution that was received cooperatively by Ning and solved the issue.
Since the very first widget we created in December of 2007, Ning has had the ability and taken full advantage of being able to reach us at a moment's notice. Each and every time they needed assistance or required a modification to our code, we made the changes in compliance. In sum, Ning has ALWAYS been able to get full reliance, compliance, and subordination from WidgetLaboratory to ensure that our products have no negative impact on their network whatsoever;


2) WidgetLaboratory has been extremely protective of all client and customer relationships and preservation of private information.
There has been some speculation that we violated some Terms of Service that relates to customer data or privacy. THERE HAS BEEN NO SUCH CLAIM MADE BY NING. The ONLY claim made by Ning's Legal counsel at this time, as would form the basis for our removal, was that our products had "unduly degraded the performance of the Ning platform." There is no other claim of wrongdoing, at all, and there never has been any wrongdoing...particularly of that nature;

3) Unlike the last eight or more months, in this case Ning made no effort at all to contact WidgetLaboratory to inform us that we were having any negative impact on the performance of their networks prior to their sudden termination. Despite having been developing products on Ning since December of 2007, and dozens of personal phone calls and emails to us at all hours, in this case Ning provided NO WARNING WHATSOEVER that WidgetLaboratory products were having a negative impact as would cause Ning to remove us entirely. More relevant, Ning cannot demonstrate that our products had any negative impact in this case because there is no proof to be found;


4) Ning's means and method are demonstrative of bad faith motive.
Even if one were to speculate for a moment that there were a "network" reason for TEMPORARY removal of a product from the Ning network, because of a major degradation...that does not explain whatsoever why Ning has PERMANENTLY removed WidgetLaboratory without any opportunity to correct these alleged problems. Given the magnitude of the damages to Ning Site Creators caused by Ning's unilateral decision today, common sense dictates that Ning would have simply asked us to remove any product or products that were causing any issues, and then allowed us to restore these as soon as any alleged code problems were resolved. Instead, Ning completely removed all WidgetLaboratory contacts with the Ning network, banned our Executive Team from the use of their network via IP Blocking, has taken down our personal recreational websites (such as Trikepilot.com), and has otherwise today blocked or deleted or banned anyone who has made any post at the Ning forums that would convey the other side of the story. This extremely "unusual" behavior is not indicative of a company that is acting in "good faith" to keep their networks operational. We allege that it was punitive, calculated, and designed to remove WidgetLaboratory, a company that was providing a popular service on their network. Ironically, a service that seemed to have generated more positive publicity and use of Ning than any other source of publicity;


5) Gina Bianchini is suddenly "silent".
The strong-willed woman who stood up to Michael Arrington and told him where to go... is now suddenly unwilling or unable to provide any facts to support Ning's claims that WidgetLaboratory was doing anything wrong? Her silence on this subject speaks volumes. Our only reason for not publishing the full documentation of our position at this very moment is our belief that "discretion" will allow us to reach an an amicable resolution of this matter with Ning that restores our customers' products and functionality immediately. Such a resolution would help to mitigate the damage and losses already caused by Ning's unilateral actions this morning. We have expressed to Ning's counsel that a more appropriate resolution of this matter would have been, and still should be, the restoration of WidgetLaboratory and its products to the Ning network while a more "long-term" solution is worked-out. Such a solution would protect the CUSTOMER above all other interests, as it should be;


6)Where is the regard for the customer?
Talk is cheap. True support and dedication to your customer base are not. Ning has over one hundred million in Venture Capital by their own reporting. WidgetLaboratory had no funding whatsoever. Nevertheless, with only a handful of employees, WidgetLaboratory was able to elevate itself to a position of supporting more than five thousand of Ning's largest networks with a dozen or more highly-valued products. We further had more than one million Ning members utilizing our Who-IM and Chat products, which were moved to our own Cloud servers back in January in order to avoid causing any load on Ning's framework. We have built our company and reputation on being THE BEST at CUSTOMER SERVICE and creating NEEDED products.

Were this not a fact, we would not have "earned" the attention of Ning, nor would we have garnered their backlash this morning. In our opinion, WidgetLaboratory proved to be a threat and a slight embarrassment to Ning because we provided the products that Ning's customers so desperately wanted and needed. Despite our documented efforts to integrate ourselves into Ning's corporate structure, our numerous personal conversations with Gina and her staff asking them to consider working directly with us, and innumerable changes to our code to ensure full compliance with Ning's "architecture", we were always treated with a degree of hostility. The reasons for this are now clear.

Whether you used our products or not, WidgetLaboratory provides a much-needed service on Ning and fills a void that has remained from Ning's "reincarnation" in 2006. We stand ready and willing to be judged in both the court of Public Opinion as well as a court of Law. More reasonably, however, we ask that Ning reconsider it's recent action and restore our products to our mutual customers before any further damage is done from loss of the same. There is no factual basis for any claim that our products have an adverse effect on their network that cannot be resolved in a matter of minutes or hours, should we be afforded the same opportunity that we have been over the last eight months.

Spencer Forman
CEO and Co-Founder
WidgetLaboratory

15 comments:

Sardor said...

I had a problem on my network and they said that it's WL fault and they told me to remove WL widget and I did after that they said WL was NOT the problem.

Voice of the Veterans Community said...

As the hours trick by, this action becomes more unsettling.
We used WL's to fill in the holes of functionality Ning did not provide. This is not a slam against Ning, its a big world and they have development priorities, as I do. WL filled that hole with great products and support. Even when I misunderstood something, they fixed it for me. Ive use their product on a number of sites. A win win for everyone. They were always professional, supportive and went the extra mile.
Then Nings Black Friday. I only heard my site was crashed from a member. Then I find pages of data, my estore, all lost, gone. Tabs are hanging in the air, links going nowhere.
When I try to patch the site, the stmp access is blocked? So now I sit with hundreds of hours of work gone; not by a server crash, but by a comapny who considers my sites insignificant. So they decided to pull the plug to wash my content down the drain.
The money I spent with WL, not an issue. They gave me that & more.
Its the way Ning acted, with total disregard for thousands of sites. There is no excuse we could have NOT be warned of a possible problem, to take care of our data. But they are more concerned with covering their legal back.
I am not hopeful the will reach an understanding and restore WL and our networks.
So do I let myself open for this to happen again.
No, my search begins for a vendor who respects their customers. This was not my fight, but I became collateral damage.

The Guru said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Guru said...

Wow, this is full scale intense..
Technology Insight

baseballraab said...

This decision is extremely infuriating, unprofessional, unethical and damaging. The loss of content, code, time and money across networks is staggering.

As a premium member, I pay to own my code as written in the TOS.

Whether I personally wrote the code or bought code from a third party, it is still my code. If there is a problem with any code I use that violates the TOS, then ethically, Ning should address that problem with ME.

If Ning has a problem with a particular company, then that is between the company and Ning. Having a dispute with WL over a particular matter does not give license for Ning to remove MY content and MY code.

Say you rent an apartment, and you go out and buy a Whirlpool water filter to attach to your kitchen sink faucet. Later the landlord gets into a dispute with Whirlpool over their dish washers. Because the landlord has a dispute with Whirlpool, does that give him license to seize your water filter?

I find it hard to believe that ALL code WL sold violated the TOS, therefore it is unethical for Ning to remove ALL code that WL provided. I own the products I paid for, not WL.

Furthermore, the Ning hosted websites (Developers & Network Creators) are littered with recommendations for WL products.

Zohra said...

Didn't thish ave to do with their 'unexpected DOWNTIME' from last thursday'??? Maybe i am paranoid or something but its very coincidential ;-)
Zohra

Zohra said...

Maybe you guys could find some coƶperation with socialgo.com and create something really really awesome...

But i suggest before you guys start anything, MAKE GOOD and CLEAR agreements (LOL!!!)

David said...

Baseball,

Well said. It is OUR code.

I'm waiting for the fog to lift but I will say that Spencer, you have been more than forthright and creative.

I trust Ning will see that this is win-win and do the right thing before its too late. if not, I too will consider an appropriate response.

Me wonders if this did get, all too personal????

But only good things to say about WL.

Hey, I'm just one guy helping out thousands of teachers from around the world. No profit motive and forking out the cash myself. But I like the best (I'm Swiss after all) and WL convinced me of that.

David

Behind The Wall said...

Since Ning allowed and often promoted WL, are they not guilty
of violating their own TOS?
I really think this is a case of
taking their ball and going home.
They can't stand someone else getting
great reviews. It's their own fault.
If they'd given NCs what they asked
for in the first place, this would not be happening.

Web-Mum said...

I'm so disheartened by the decision to remove WL. I don't understand all the legalities of this but I do now see the problem of staying and I am already looking for ways to move my site elsewhere.
If they can take out WL just like that then they could do it to anyone at any time. How can you build a business on something as unstable as that?
WL made ning a place where you could monetize your site effectively and now it's all gone - along with the money I invested in products.
I've lost all trust and faith in Ning, I think their actions are an utter disgrace.
Thanks to WL for trying to keep us in the loop as their is very little coming from the Ning camp - again this leads me to trust you more than the guys at Ning too.
I hope that this isn't the end of WL and that some collaboration will again be made available to website owners in the future!

I would imagine that Ning had plans for a 'supertabs & media now' style package and the more popular that WL got, the less need there would have been for using their versions.

What I really don't get is that these products are compatable with Ning - WL have proven that, so why the hell does Ning keep rolling out these lame upgrades with naff blog improvements when we could do with the facilities like WL provided!

Would it really have been so hard for Ning to have partnered with WL so that rigourous testing on these products could have been done before being released across the board?

The whole thing makes no sense to me what-so-ever but I think that it's been handled incredibly badly and has left a bad taste and a sense of distrust in the air.

I for one won't be staying with Ning after this and it's a shame because as a whole, they supplied a great service - but I'm too damn nervous to build a business on a platform that can be whipped away from me in a heartbeat and frankly I don't trust Ning now - that was violated by their actions!

EG & MS - I could do with some help to get a site up and running away from Ning with similar functionability as was available on Ning. If you need a site to work with as an example of what can be achieved without Ning - then please let me know, I'd be only to happy to play guinea pig to that one!

Failing that - if you could recommend a good site builder then again, please let me know. I feel the time has come to fly this baby on my own!

Karen M said...

Ample Notice, Warnings? — Having personally gone through a situation like this, but in the incident in which I was also publicly humiliated with my removal, there was Indeed no Ample Notice nor Warnings as had been headed to..

I am more inclined due to my experience to respectfully more believe WidgetLab more so than ning.. they are bigger, and definitely are looking for more ways to capitalize their network. Social Networks as a stand alone premise is not a Huge Revenue Generator, so as i see it, removing something that could be possible competition would make sense..

Then of course in lieu of anti competitive laws and such like one will need an “excuse” to just remove a competitor from a business site, especially if one may be considering a similar product for yourself and want to protect your members — did this happen in this situation.. I don’t know.. , but this is what happened to me, and this situation does have that similar kind of stink to it.. How does it go.. if it smell like, it must be?

It is easy to believe the big popular guys, because if they say so, it must be so… but one would think that by now, we should know better than that..

WidgetLabs, hopefully all will go well for you, that is is indeed you are being true and upfront.. Also feel free to reach out to me.. Who Knows.. ;)

karen mattonen

sonicsuns said...

I read Ning's announcement and subsequent clarification, and found them both to be utterly uninformative. Ning insists that it is being as open and transparent as possible, and yet it refuses to divulge a single detail regarding the case. This leads me to suspect foul play. Perhaps they simply felt that WidgetLaboratory was making too much money.

catriona97 said...

Before I purchased WL products I contacted Ning and asked them if the features I was looking for would be available soon. Their response was "it's in the pipeline, but not the near future." So far since I've been a member (since Feb.) they haven't produced a single feature that would enhance my network. Yet, WL has produced numerous products. Not sure how a large company like Ning can only manage to come up with new templates in the last 6 months, while two guys at WL came up with 10+ products.

For me this is a case of Ning not liking the fact that someone (WL) was providing a useful product and making money off it. If WL was actually violating the TOS, why did they wait 9 months to get rid of them??? Why did they promote them and allow them to promote themselves in the forums? It just doesn't add up.

I too am looking for a place to move my network. If WL doesn't come back, I'm gone. Even if Ning were to come out with products similar to WL tomorrow, I'm still leaving. I am not about to invest more money into a company that basically screwed my network and has so little regard for the time and effort I've put into it.

Here's a link I found that might be useful if you are looking to move! http://www.rsitez.com.

Spencer, good luck! I still think you should create your own network! :)

Web-Runner said...

I can't stay without answer...I create http://widgetlab-friends.sixgroups.com/

A friendly Community to help (as we can )WL to survive ...

I'm not from WL...just an happy customer...Until yerteday ,and the Ning's Crime...

In this Community we can share information ,ideas ,and prepare our response...

I need some volonters to help me in this friendly work...

gary said...

Both parties had issues and dare I say it, valid arguments, but the outcome was that 2000 networks who used both WL and Ning in good faith are the real victims. Those network owners should have been given advanced warning so we had a chance to take stock of what we were about to lose and alert our members.