Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Freedom

It strikes me as interesting that my last two posts were both, in an indirect way, posts on freedom. First I posted on SQL Server Central being bought by an industry vendor and losing its independence. Then I posted on passing away of Milton Friedman. And I think there is a connection between these two things.

Mr. Friedman believed, as I do, in free and unregulated markets in which this kind of move that Red-Gate made is nobody's business but of the parties involved directly in the transaction. I couldn't agree more. So why are we and others making any noise about it? My answer is simple - to stop the spin and pretenses currently being woven by Red-Gate's spin doctors. Red-Gate bought a site and they bought it for the brand, the membership list and, I believe, the control of information on the site (and probably some other things I didn't think of.) So why not just say so? Because it would be a terrible PR to just go and say "we won't publish negative reviews of our tools, we won't publish positive reviews of the tools of our competitors, we won't allow advertising from our competitors" and so on. Since Red-Gate won't say it - I guess somebody else has to say it.

2 comments:

Simon Galbraith said...

Ivan,

Thanks for your comments on our purchase of SQL Server Central. I'd like a chance to respond to your concerns about the purchase.

I'll summarise our intentions here and explain in more depth below:
1. SQL Server Central will publish fair reviews of Red Gate products using publicly available verifiable sources.
2. SQL Server Central will review other vendors products fairly, if they let us do so.
3. We aren't running the site to generate money from advertising any more so won't accept other people's adverts.

To explain in more depth:

SQL Server Central has relatively few reviews, those that are there are valueless. According to Andy, Steve and Brian they stopped doing these because they were more hassle than they were worth (that hassle was from advertisers seeking to influence the outcome of the review). Those reviews that do exist are all 4-5 stars irrespective of the quality of the product reviewed. Those reviews serve the SQL Server community very poorly. Although there are legal concerns, to do with the restrictive EULAs that most vendors insert to prevent unbiased reviews, we are investigating having an expanded vendor section of the site.

Although none of this is set in stone (mainly due to those legal concerns) we considering having forums about all 3rd party tools and having paid for reviews by respected MVPs and others. No one will be allowed to change anything in a review but will be able to put their comments in after it.

I'd be interested on knowing what we could do to make this work for you and what we would need to do to reassure you about the editorial process we would go through.

Thanks for bringing this up,

Simon Galbraith
Red Gate Software

Ivan Erceg said...

Simon,

First of all, thank you for your comments. Coming from you I think it's safe to say that this is an authoritative answer on what plans you have for SQL Server Central (for those that are not in the known, Simon is one of the founders of Red-Gate.)

You will forgive me but for now I will remain respectfully skeptical about Red-Gate publishing unbiased reviews of their own tools and of the competitors or not influencing the editorial content in any way. I see think it's only natural that you will want to isolate your products from any bad reviews. I also don't see SQL Server Central ever publishing something in the line of "ApexSQL XYZ product is much better than Red-Gate ZYX product", not even "ApexSQL XYZ is the only tool in its class". However, I'm prepared to be proven wrong.

In either case, I don’t have any issue with Red-Gate influencing or even dictating the content of SQL Server Central - it is now, after all, your site. My only issue is with presenting SQL Server Central as somehow still independent or better off like this. It was vendor-independent-but-ad-dependent last week - now it's ad-independent-but-vendor-owned. I simply don’t see how this will improve the objectivity or quality of the information on the site. And if I understand correctly, the ads will still be there - on the site and in the newsletters - only those will be Red-Gate-only ads. Again, this is only natural but if I may say so, your ads are no less annoying than those of other vendors.

Regarding your comments on the practices of vendors in our industry, I can tell you ApexSQL doesn't have any provision in its EULA with regards to limiting the publishing of reviews. However, I have heard (but couldn't confirm) that Red-Gate does have a provision to that effect. Do you care to comment on that? ApexSQL also never paid nor tried to pay any site (or some other kind of publication) to exclude ads of our competitors nor have we pressured anyone to make better reviews of our tools that what those deserved. I'm not saying that other vendors do that - I personally wouldn't know - but you mentioned it so I wanted to go on the record regarding our marketing policies.

Thanks again for commenting and clarifying your position - I appreciate that you took the time to do so.

Thanks,
Ivan