My Letter to Jerry Kelly at Madwire

[Jerry Kelly at Madwire wrote me, apparently hoping to get on the phone with me to discuss my post about Madwire.  This is what I wrote in response.]

[To Jerry and everyone else at Madwire, I will not go away so easily.  I believe that you sometimes do things that are, in my opinion, very uncool to unsuspecting small business owners, and it’s time to either change those policies, or deal with the push-back you are owed as a result.]

All of this is hypothetical.  And all of this is my opinion.  All of this is intended to be seen as the point of view of one individual whom is speculating.  I do not intend to defame any company.  I am merely posting an email I sent, to the best of my knowledge, and altered only as necessary to protect myself and other people,  so that others can read what I wrote, as a matter of historical fact concerning what I wrote, and as a matter of historical fact concerning my feelings and opinions at the time.

[For the record, someone I know signed a contract with Madwire, and when they became unhappy with the results of the relationship, as far as I recollect, they copied the new website Madwire had enabled for them to their own hosting account, which as far as I recollect, was a breach of the contract they signed with Madwire.  As far as I recollect, Madwire (or Madwire’s legal representation did) then give the person I know  a certain number of days to either pay a certain number of dollars, which I recall being around $6,000 (but someone involved closely recalls it as more), or if the amount was not paid, to the best of my recollection, Madwire would sue the person that I know.   To the best of my knowledge, and to the best of my recollection, this really happened.  If Madwire continues to harass me about talking about this, I will be forced to post actual documents such as credit card billing records and emails from Madwire’s legal representation]

 

Hello Jerry.

I’d prefer to talk via email for now.
I have not worked with Madwire myself, but I do know someone who has. That person felt very abused by the experience.  And I know for a fact that they didn’t recieve the results they were promised by Madwire’s sales people.  And in the end, when they tried to end the relationship, they were not only told they couldn’t take any of the dev work with them (fine if that’s what they agreed to), but that they needed to pay a big chunk of money (for damages?) or they would be sued.
Intellectual Property is a valid thing, and I can’t blame anyone for wanting to protect their rights.  But making a few minor customizations to an off-the-shelf WordPress theme and then claiming that it’s your own intellectual property is pretty bogus, especially since WordPress is itself GPL software and so was the theme in question.  I know because I looked at the GPL License statement in the theme’s stylesheet.
And then, attempting to extort (or something like extort… this is just opinion) money over the matter is really uncool, beyond being unothadox for the kind of claim in question.  A simple cease and disist or DMCA takedown to the hosting company would have sufficed and is the proper procedure, as I’m sure you know.
Meanwhile, I don’t think Madwire is “evil” or anything silly like that.  I think Madwire has some practices that may need to be tweaked in order for some customers to not end up feeling lied to or preyed upon.
If Madwire is going to do business with people, then Madwire is accountable for its customer relations.  Throwing money at trying to surpress customers’ bad experiences is not a sustainable approach to marketing.  Eventually, every company will have some disgruntled former customers out there.  Madwire should expect to be no different.
So since Madwire has done such a good job covering up any bad reviews, and even creating dubious positive reviews, my little blog post has become a focal point, since almost nothing else out there seems like legitimate customer feedback.  I have been contacted by dozens of people wiith stories similar to the person I know that worked with Madwire.  If they represent a small minority of Madwire’s customers, then that small minority is going to be reflected online somewhere, whether it’s commenters on my post, or somewhere else.
And to be clear, I don’t have particularly strong feelings about Madwire, as much as I have strong feelings about accountability, honesty, the freedom and democratization of speech etc.
What would Madwire expect to happen if it (even only occasionally) [redacted] people with baseless lawsuit threats or routinely over-promises results?  I would think that Madwire would expect to get a little bit of pushback from those things. Perhaps that pushback is part of the cost of doing business.  Or maybe it’s an indication of some policy changes that need to happen.  Or maybe a little of both.
I hope this clears up for you where I am coming from.
And Also, I suggest that you try to be involved in the conversation about your company directly.  For instance, you could comment on blog posts like mine when you come across them, and try to be a reasonable and tranparent voice for your company, rather than [possibly] sneaking around, [possibly] trying to take people’s websites down, [possibly] having fake commenters and reviewers troll and spam the web, [possibly] filing things in courts to get unfavorable websites un-indexed and all that stuff, which at the end of the day, just makes your company look a bit shady, don’t you think?
Thanks,
Andrew