Schadenfreude

A Couple of Extra Zeros Would Look Good | March 14, 2006

I got an e-mail this afternoon, pointing me in the direction of the Shared Spaces blog. The matter at hand concerned Foldera, the self-confessed Outlook-killer (more like competitor, but hey, we’re all for litigious The Sun-inspired phrases) I’ve mentioned earlier. I’ve even discussed it with the Foldera CEO, Richard Lusk, which, at closer inspection, isn’t the seldom honor I first assumed it would be. Richard’s all over the block.

The Shared Spaces author contemplates whether or not the apparent number of 650,000 “total requests” is the actual number of sign-ups, or if it was simply the accumulated number of workers employed at the companies related to the person that signed up.

He puts it like this:

I wonder what exactly that number [650,000] represents, however: is it:
(a) the number of individuals who have visited the Foldera home page and filled out the sign-up form; or
(b) the number of individuals who have visited the Foldera home page and filled out the sign-up form MULTIPLIED by the number of employees they say work at their firm.

Well?

Ah, but what do you know. Good ol’ Richard is lusking around the corner (again, Web 2.0 not only allows me, it ENCOURAGES me to make up words. Especially in relation with extremely bad puns) and sheds some much-needed light:

The answer is B.

Hmm.

The press release is very clear about how we arrive at the overall number-it says:

“based on the number of registrants and the number of employees they indicated in their organizations”

OK, fair enough. But why would you want to cause this kind of speculation? Later on, he compares the actual numbers―correctly assumed by the Shared Spaces blog entry author as approximately 6500―to those of Microsoft Office Live, which in addition has been open for registrants for four months longer than Foldera.

Why not put this in the press release? Unless it contradicts press release etiquette, wouldn’t this look better than releasing a rather OTT, hard-to-believe sign-up figure that is backed up by vague sentences (“based on the number of registrants and the number of employees they indicated in their organizations”) and no comparisons at all?

6500 is a great figure, a fact made expressively clear when compared to those of MS Live Office. 650,000 is unrealistic, misleading and delusive―and I don’t see how it does Foldera any good. The people that read their press release are probably well-versed in the industry and has a basic idea about what such a figure should be.

So why not make it as clear as possible? It probably won’t lose them credibility, but avoiding vague, delusive numbers would at least prevent the risk of it. And, in my opinion, the actual number is no less impressive, but much more feasible.

I wonder how wide-spread this is. I can imagine, in other instances, that figures such as this one in connexions that are far more critical are also far more difficult to expose as incorrect, delusive, maybe even flat-out lies.

Press releases so vague and generic that it’s nigh-on impossible to notice.

It may not be very important, and it may be common practice in several industries. It still leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

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4 Comments »

  1. Funny how there are no comments or reactions to this post.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — March 17, 2006 @ 7:33 am

  2. You are right on. The whole blogsphere has been mislead by this company – just read their press releases carefully – that’s the only place it has to be truthful -it’s a public company

    http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/060228/netu020.html?.v=45

    What a shame!

    Comment by DavidB — March 24, 2006 @ 10:05 am

  3. Haarball, Anonymous Coward, and DavidB,
    I wasn’t at Foldera when the press releases in question were written, and as you’ve seen, wrote and published the Shared Spaces report mentioned above (http://www.shared-spaces.com/blog/2006/03/quick_links_mar_3.html) in response to a push-back I received from a friend. We now know how the number was derived, and now that I’m at Foldera you have my word that I will do everything in my power to ensure that we communicate openly, honestly, and transparently going forward. I do sincerely believe that that has been the intention from day 1, however.

    With respect to the “6500″ vs. “650,000″ issue … I think it raises a valid point for discussion that applies to more than just Foldera, and I’m interested to hear what you think. Here’s the dilemna: the Foldera application, like many other collaborative / sharing / participatory applications are designed for sharing within a group. Hence when one person signs up, they get the true value from it when it is shared amongst their colleagues … when their colleagues share an Activity Folder containing shared tasks, calendared events, documents, etc. So what number should a company like Foldera represent to the market as being its potential user base: the number of people that clicked the sign-up form, or some calculation of the “network / sharing effect”?

    My position, as I wrote on the Shared Spaces post noted above, is that I don’t care which number is used, as long as the company is clear about it in their communications. What do you think?

    Let’s discuss further,

    Michael Sampson
    Global VP of Word-of-Mouth Marketing
    Foldera, Inc.

    Comment by Michael Sampson — April 28, 2006 @ 2:45 am

  4. “I don’t care which number is used, as long as the company is clear about it in their communications.”

    Exactly. It’s all about phrasing. When talking about “number of sign-ups” a company should clearly state the actual number of sign-ups. Anything else would be a lie.

    On the other hand, when using phrases such as “potential user base”, a much higher figure will be in play. The phrases “number of sign-ups” and “potential user base” are inherently different, thus the figures being used in relation to them will probably be equally different.

    I think Foldera crossed a line (a vague one, at that) when they stated the amount of sign-ups being 650,000 instead of being honest, open and transparent about it. It would barely have lost them any customers at such an early stage, and the risks of deriving from the truth for the sake of marketing rarely pay off even in the slightest.

    That’s pretty much the gist of it, from my point of view. I believe that Foldera intended to be honest the whole time and that this can be filed under ‘bloopers’ in the cellar archives of the Foldera complex, but it’s still something I fear as being a widespread phenomenon in all types of marketing.

    I appreciate the openness.

    Comment by Haarball — May 3, 2006 @ 1:49 pm


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