Friday, August 22, 2008
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.
CEO and Co-Founder
In sum, her post does not enumerate a single detail of "which" or "any" Terms of Service provision we violated. Neither has their Legal Counsel in private correspondence today. Considering the magnitude of the damage and inconvenience that has been caused by Ning's actions, common sense dictates that even a small factual basis be provided. But there is none given.
Regardless of whether one utilized WidgetLaboratory products, this is a serious error in judgment by Ning as to the impact they are having on the public confidence in their "platform." We challenge Ning to rectify this situation in a manner that parallels its own promotion of the Ning "platform" as a place to build your personal site, business site, or even third-party widgets. We are ready and able to prove that our products had no negative impact upon the Ning network or any Network Creators. In fact the opposite was true, as our products enabled many Ning networks to thrive where they might not otherwise have been able. We assert that it was our growing popularity and penetration into their user base that formed the basis for Ning's actions this morning.. plain and simple.
If Ning is not willing to act in accordance with its own promotional materials and public statements, then this is something that anyone should consider insofar as their "platform" is concerned. There are still ways that this can be resolved without further damages being caused to you and your site, and we welcome Ning to consider our invitation to negotiate the same.
The only channel we have available at the moment is through Ning's Legal Counsel, Robert Ghoorah. At this time, we can only state that we have communicated very clearly to Mr. Ghoorah that we have a full and complete technical and communication record that begins from the moment we started our company on Ning's platform back in November of 2007.
Without revealing any further information that would prevent a graceful resolution of this matter and a restoration of "normality" to your networks, we can state as follows:
WidgetLaboratory has provided an eight-month history of almost "immediate" response to any and all technical issues raised by any one at Ning. We have responded at 4am on a weeknight, and on Christmas Eve, New Years, and Fourth of July weekend. Regardless of when or where, we have always provided an immediate and complete response and resolution for ANY issues raised by Ning that would relate to any "technical" issues with our products on the Ning platform. We have also received the brunt of Ning's "own" technical problems and absorbed blame for issues that never had anything to do with our products, but were inherent bugs in Ning's own architecture.
There were NEVER any warnings or notices by Ning as to any violations of Terms of Service due to Networks being "negatively impacted", as there has not been any such negative effect. It is very sad and further ironic to us then, that without one ounce of proof or substantiating evidence, Ning is now making allusions to the fact that WidgetLaboratory was terminated (as well as our own personal web sites on Ning) for the following reason:
"Unfortunately, this is a black and white issue of WidgetLaboratory violating our Terms of Service after multiple warnings and negatively impacting the Ning Platform. We had to act and did so...the answer won't be to bring back WidgetLaboratory. Our Terms of Service are there for a reason. Please know we did not enter into this decision lightly."
WidgetLaboratory CATEGORICALLY denies that this is true. As of 10pm CDT last evening, our CTO was on the telephone with Ning's Senior VP of Engineering (Jay Parikh) in an effort to provide moral and technical support after Jay suggested that he and his team were exhausted from all of the work that they were having with the recent "update" by Ning to their own platform.
We will continue our efforts to encourage Ning through their legal counsel to resolve this matter amicably, and in a way that would be beneficial for all concerned, especially all of you... our mutual customers.
Thank you for your ongoing support and kind letters. We will continue our efforts to get Ning to communicate with us in a manner befitting a company that has claimed from it's inception to be the "place" to build widgets and solutions, rather than one that is acting capriciously or without any concern for its own customers and third-party developers.
TechCrunch (first story)
TechCrunch (second story)
TechCrunch (third story)
Valleywag (first story)
Valleywag (second story)
Thank you for your cooperation!
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This action by Ning was completely without any notice, was without any merit, and in our opinion was done for the sole purpose of eliminating a company that had started to provide a useful and valuable service to all of you. We have a full and complete documentation of our relationship with Ning from the very first moment that we contacted them in November of 2007 and met with them subsequently to get their blessing for creating our company and products. The facts and details contained therein will substantiate our claims regarding Ning's actions.
We have achieved a level of market penetration into the Ning community that has made WidgetLaboratory a somewhat "essential" resource for add-ons and widgets. Based upon the personal phone calls and correspondence from the entire Ning team, including their entire Executive staff, it would appear that they decided to elminate WidgetLaboratory for anti-competitive purposes alone. This is truly ironic to us, given the fact that our products have demonstrably INCREASED the popularity of Ning and caused more customers of Ning to purchase their Premium Services. This was truly a win-win-win relationship between Ning, WidgetLaboratory, and all of you.
We assure you, our valued customers, that this matter will be resolved favorably and that we stand 100% behind our products and our legal rights to offer them on the Ning platform. We ask for your patience and understanding this morning while we attempt to obtain any information at all from Ning.
We are now attempting to get Ning to at least answer our emails or phone calls, but to no avail. They have removed not only WidgetLaboratory, but also our personal websites on Ning (including Trikepilot.com), which further demonstrates an ulterior motive, as that site was about flying trikes and had nothing to do with WidgetLaboratory whatsoever. We have the means and the method to bring this matter into the public light should Ning not immediately reconsider this somewhat short-sighted action this morning. They have not harmed WidgetLaboratory alone, they have (most importantly) directly and intentionally harmed ALL OF YOU and your business endeavors, as most of you have built your business sites utilizing our products and Ning.
Please refer back to this page for more updates as the situation progresses.You can also follow the Ning Network Creator's Forum for more information and to voice your opinion directly to Ning at this LINK.
CEO and Co-Founder