HP forces MicroServer fan page offline?



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


  1. Fuck HP. I have sold, supplied and supported countless of their products over the years – they were my go-to recommendation for business line notebooks for about four years. And then I discovered that if one of their ‘authorised’ micro-PCI-Express Wifi cards goes kaput you have yo either pay them three times what one is worth or go without – cards not on the whitelist aren’t only not supported, if installed they brick the notebook. No internal Wifi upgrades for you, Mr Joe Consumer! Then, to stop the practice of BIOS hacking to remove the whitelist HP started encrypting and signing the BIOS, even going to the effort of writing new locked down BIOS files for old notebooks and getting staff to advise customers to ‘update to the latest BIOS’ as the first step in problem solving (not unusual, the problem is the way that update fundamentally changed the notebook and the owner’s freedom and flexibility to use it). And yes, other manufacturers also use whitelisting to control the use of aftermarket upgrades. Screw the lot of them – I won’t sell your products and will do my utmost to advise consumers and business customers of your practices.

    And before anyone calls me on an OT comment, I believe practices like this demonstrate exactly the type of behaviour and internal culture that HP are being criticised for here. As a company HP demonstrate disdain for their customers, particularly in their consumer product segments. They essentially admitted as much when they decided to axe their whole consumer decision (since rescinded and the CEO sacrificed, but if you think that was limited to one person you’re being naive in the extreme). If you buy HP you buy a limited device that HP will try to control as much as possible while providing as little support as possible, all while charging a premium rate. There are far, far better alternatives out there. Vote with your wallets.

      • Not quite – being a PC manufacturer that adheres to open standards there is a consumer perception that HP PCs and Notebooks can be customised, repaired and upgraded much like any other PC. The reality is that’s not really true – HP are trying to lock up their hardware in a very Apple-esque manner. No, they’re still a very long way from Apple’s closed house environment, but they would if they could, and that’s something very few consumers appreciate.

        I’ve never sold a single Apple product by choice (not really suitable for business environments). I recommend against Dell servers because of their limited and ‘locked down’ design. I no longer sell or recommend HP, Dell, Toshiba or Lenovo notebooks because they unilaterally limit consumer choice of compatible hardware products due to whitelisting (and it’s now something I check before writing proposals for competing products, too).

        • What’s left that to recommend if you don’t endorse the big 4 who actually design there laptops for business grade use. Eg: low cost, good warranty, proformance for business application. Now if your rant is actually about them not performing well for clients with home uses, then yes I agree. But every laptop has it’s own quirks some more so than others. You can’t expect them to support the masses of add on devices. Thats what an approved list is for. If the approved wifi card breaks, log it with the manufactor. If it breaks the laptop, log it with HP. They have white list and if it does break if you are well within right to ask them to fix it. If they won’t under warranty take it up with the ACCC.

          What HP has done is very heavy handed, and is uncalled for. Won’t stop me looking at their next line, seems to a good step for home users and tech heads. It’s very shiny.

          • Yea, I agree it’s problematic, and for large deployments you can’t really get away from one of them, but I try if I can and it is in the best interests of the client. Interestingly it increasingly is – Asus & Gigabyte have extremely compelling products lately – Asus even have a specific business line these days. It is pretty rare that I can’t find a product outside the major brands that will do the job, usually better and cheaper too. My experience has been that there’s no loss of quality and reliability either, but then I steer clear from the likes of MSI and Acer.

            As for vendor qualified lists, I have absolutely no problem with VQLs. But if it’s good enough for a manufacturer to use VQLs for HDD compatibility with RAID cards and memory compatibility foe mainboards and servers, it is good enough for them to use a VQL for notebook parts. It is easy enough to have an exclusion clause in the warranty T&C too, although I challenge you or any manufacturer to demonstrate an instance where a PCI-E card actually damaged a notebook. There is absolutely no technical or support justification for imposing an artificial technical limitation on use of standards compliant aftermarket components. They do the purely for business reasons, to limit consumer choice and lock them into their supply and support chain. And HP are the worst because they have gone to extraordinary lengths to stop owners from bypassing these controls.

            So yes, I will do what I can to demonstrate my distaste for their anticompetitive practices as long as it doesn’t compromise the solutions available to my clients. The very great majority of the time it doesn’t even rate as a factor, though.

  2. I only see assumptions that it was HP that caused the takedown.
    Before getting all upset with HP, get the facts.
    If it was HP, then HP may deserve your wrath, until then, how about a little ‘innocent until proven guilty’?

  3. It was probably just some HP compliance group on autopilot. HP has been very supportive and interactive with IT pros around the microserver on things like coffeecoaching, so it makes no sense that they would dump on a fan page like this. There’s no way there’s the same dude at HP handling the products AND who also watches after copyright BS.

    Just make another fan page and give it a different name that’s not does not include “HP”. I’m sure everyone will jump right back into it, especially after all this press. It may get more likes than before! Just moderate any info about unannounced stuff and I’m sure they will leave you alone. Keep that for blog sites or whatever that’s harder for them to take down. Facebook is a pushover for corporations whining about their brand.

    btw, I love the old microserver – Got 2 at home and one at the office. Can’t wait for the new one.

    Since he owned the page, can he get that content back from facebook somehow to re-post to a new fan site?

    • “Since he owned the page, can he get that content back from facebook somehow to re-post to a new fan site?”

      Nobody on Facebook owns anything on there – it’s all the property of Facebook.

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