Time for a quick rant.
At my last job, I used Spiceworks to monitor my network. At one point, I figured out that they collect data about my network and send it home to their servers, so that advertisers can hit me better. No worries, I thought. I read their TOS and found that the data is supposedly anonymized. That was enough to satisfy me at the time.
Now, I happen to work for a company that sells a product that Spiceworks customers might use, and we discussed advertising with them last year. At the time, we elected not to buy, but they encouraged us to be active on the forums and participate in the community.
So, I did just that. While not the most frequent poster, I got two ‘Best Answers’ and racked up enough points to move up a couple of their levels. You know, typical forum participation thing.
Naturally, I subscribe to the firewall and networking forums, where my company’s product fits in. And a few people asked for advice, and I chimed in with a recommendation to check out our product. Note that I was logged in as myself. I didn’t create fake accounts to astroturf. I’m not in sales, I’m not in marketing, and I don’t get a commission. I didn’t paste in copy from a brochure. I wrote a response tailored to each individual, from sysadmin to sysadmin, addressing their exact question. I have a few years of experience in IT, and I don’t like marketing BS. My responses were completely appropriate.
Next thing I know, I start getting PMs from Spiceworks people. They’re censoring my posts. Why? Because advertisers are supposed to pay. This seems kind of silly to me, because I think I’m providing pretty relevant information. So I check out their ToS:
“You may not post or transmit any advertising, promotional materials or any other solicitation of other users or Members to use or buy products, goods or services except in those areas (e.g., a classified bulletin board) that are designated for such purpose.”
I didn’t do any of the above, of course. I just answered a dude’s question. The number of general posts I wrote is much higher than the number of posts I wrote containing any information about my employer, so I would also argue I contributed quite a bit to the community, without being spammy.
Now, if they want to have a rule that says an employee may not say a word about his company’s products, then fine. Put that rule in the ToS (ironically, Spiceworks themselves would then be in violation of that rule), and tell your salespeople to stop telling potential customers to be active in the forums. But their policy as it stands now is quite hypocritcal.
Oh, and one last thing. One of their employees took it upon himself to email my PMs to my boss. I actually already printed out everything, and we had discussed it at length, and my boss agreed with me, but that’s beside the point. Internet etiquette states that a “private message” is private, and is not disclosed to anyone else without your consent.
So, to wrap it up:
- Spiceworks sends network data to advertisers, which may or may not be anonymized and may or may not be secure.
- Spiceworks censors forum posts.
- Spiceworks forwards PMs to other people.
If you use Spiceworks, consider switching to something else. For me?