blog Far be it for us to intimate that HP isn’t a huge fan of the free press (although there was that little, rather scandalous episode where it spied on journalists in the US, funny how these things stick in your memory), but it does rather look this week as though the global technology giant has gone a little too far in an attempt to keep some not-even-sensitive information from reaching the public this week.
Some of you may be aware that local IT professional Joel Dickins has for some time been running a rather useful Facebook page dedicated to the HP MicroServer, an excellent HP line which is used by many geeks in their households for varied duties from media serving to NAS functionality and so on. HP’s been pretty friendly with Dickins in the past because of the community he’s built, and why not? After all, he’s an admitted customer and is providing useful information to other customers — some of whom, I believe, would describe themselves as ‘fans’ of the MicroServer line.
However, all that changed this week when Dickins re-posted a photo of the new generation 8 MicroServer which a HP employee had published on Twitter. Let’s go back to that again: Re-posted. Material which a HP employee had already published. It wasn’t Dickins who leaked the information in the first place; he merely highlighted it, as any fan would do. The result came swiftly … with Facebook sending Dickins an email noting that the page had been removed for violating its terms (something that usually only happens if the brand concerned complains). Dickins writes on his blog:
“I then checked Facebook and sure enough – the page is gone. Somewhere over 900 likes, an engaged community of Microserver users, posts and information going back nearly 2 years, lots of goodwill … all gone. Hell, there was more than one HP employee that had liked the page, including the former Product Manager for the Microserver G7 who was promoted to the DL385 range after a very successful initial model.”
The really puzzling thing is that Dickins had been cooperating with HP all along. Back in April, when a similar leak occurred, he was asked by HP to remove some similarly re-posted information about it and did so, despite the fact that the news was available in many other places on the Internet. Dickins writes:
“All this info went onto various forums around the world and is still available, however I was asked to remove it from the Facebook page. I elected to comply with that request at the time as a gesture of good faith to HP, and try to forge some sort of partnership with them.”
To our mind, what has happened here is just ridiculously heavy-handed. An Australian fan of some of HP’s products developed an online community around enthusiasm for those products, posting news to that community which was openly available elsewhere on the web. In the process, he built a relationship with HP’s own product managers, which seemed very productive for both sides. And yet, when a tiny blip occured in the relationship, such as Dickins re-posting information that a HP employee had already been made public, some bureaucratic pencil-pusher in HP appears to have resort to the nuke option and asked Facebook to remove the whole community. Wonderful.
There’s a lesson here for Dickins: Get your own hosting somewhere HP can’t shut it down. That’s a basic for someone acting as a journalist online, which Dickins clearly has been — and a good one at that. But there’s also a bigger lesson here for HP: Don’t terrorise people who love your products enough to obsess about them. In fact, don’t terrorise anyone (well, perhaps Dell). The kind of enthusiasm displayed by Dickins should be rewarded as much as possible, not unilaterally shut down. HP should be lavishing attention and praise on this guy for showcasing its products as much as he did, not sicking its legal team onto the situation.
There is, of course, the possibility that HP had nothing to do with the Facebook page removal and that it was an entirely innocent and coincidental move by Facebook. However, as far as we’re concerned, the action which HP should take in the situation should be the same, regardless: It should try and get the site reinstated. Why would HP be happy with a situation where a fan community for one of its product lines is deleted from the Internet?
And just one little reminder for the brass out there at Palo Alto, as well as well as those who work at HP Australia. The image you were so concerned about being published has now been replicated at the top of this very article on Delimiter. Are you going to try to shut down Delimiter as well? Let’s see how that will play out with the rest of the media and your customers. Here’s a hint: Not well.
Image credit: HP