Thursday, May 19, 2011

How to apologize correctly, Seeking Alpha edition

I don't really know why I'm still on Seeking Alpha's mailing list as a contributor, as I stopped using that website as an outlet many but many moons ago and have also made it quite plain to the SA people that I've zero interest in being part of their world in the present or future, but on their list I am. This means I get all the dist list mails they send out to real contributors, including one today that was really quite breathtaking in its arrogance. Here it is pasted out in full:

Dear Otto,
We thank you for your article contributions. We have recently changed our procedure for all authors and now require photo IDs for identification purposes.

Please submit a photo ID along with an updated phone number and postal address. Kindly e-mail this information to so we can continue to post your articles on the site. To make this process as efficient as possible, please include a link to your SA profile in your e-mail.
Thank you,
Contributor Development Team

When I read this, it was "thank gawd I haven't cared about them for a long while", because if this is how they speak to and value their current content-makers I'd hate to think how they treat people like me who've slagged them off on more than one occasion. Seriously, it's like "give us your photo and personal records and documents or you can't play with us any longer" and a very large case of WTF from Otto. And I thought this until a second mail arrived, signed by head honcho Eli Hoffmann. Here it is in full:

Dear Contributor,

Earlier this afternoon, our Contributor Development department sent out an email that I was not made aware of, and that I feel the need to apologize for and explain.

At Seeking Alpha, we have always, and will continue to embrace contributors' right to anonymity. We do require, for our internal records, contributors' real names and contact information.

In a few cases - particularly contributors without established blogs or online personas - we have nothing more than contributors' word as to their true identity. Hence, we have discussed initiating a policy that would require some form of substantive verification that a contributor is who he says he is - potentially via photo ID. This was only a discussion, however, and had not and has not been finalized. Also, it would obviously not apply to authors that participate in the Premium Partnership Program (we already have their banking details); authors with whom we have an established relationship; and authors who have an established online persona using their real identity.

Furthermore, the email was abrupt bordering on rude; failed to clearly explain what we were asking for and why; and made it sound as if we were making a 'my-way-or-the-highway' ultimatum.

I apologize sincerely for both the email's tone and content.

For those of you who have already complied with the request, rest assured that we will treat your personal information with the utmost discretion and security.

Seeking Alpha shares confidential contributor information with no one, and will never - short of a court order -  publicize contributors' contact information or anonymous contributors' identities.

Once again, please accept my sincere apologies for the misstep.


Eli Hoffmann

So it's fair to say that even though I disagree with their business model and Seeking Alpha isn't my thing, Eli Hoffmann is a good person. It takes integrity and honesty to stand up just a couple of hours later and say "we goofed, I'm sorry" like that. Kudos to you, Eli, you can take me off your distribution lists now if you like.