A HISTORY OF THE EPINIONS BLOWS DOGS PROTEST
OCTOBER 24, 2001
Epinions.com announces that it is going to change the way it pays people who write on the site. The company also announces that is has taken away the abilities of its writers to edit or delete their reviews. The full texts of these announcements are here. The revocation of the "edit/delete" function was the most controversial change. The company explained that it had taken the action, "in an effort to ensure that reviews on Epinions remain accessible to all Epinions users."
OCTOBER 24, 2001
Epinions writer Sordid-1 organizes an action in which writers posted their protests. Links to some entries in the event, which was called the Epinions Blows Dogs Write-Off, are here.
OCTOBER 29, 2001
Epinions restores the abilities of its writers to edit and delete their reviews. In a letter to "Dear Valued Members of Epinions," the text of which is here, Epinions CEO Nirav Tolia said the decision to eliminate the "edit/delete" function was made to prevent writers from protesting changes in the site's payment rates by taking away their reviews. Tolia wrote, "Simply put, we made the decision because in the past we have experienced deletions in response to Eroyalties changes, and we feared something similar would happen again. We all know that losing massive amounts of content would harm the collective good of Epinions.
"However, that fear did not justify the manner in which we made the change: without soliciting any feedback in advance. For this mistake, I personally -- and all of us at Epinions -- am sorry. We all make mistakes, and the only way to move forward is to learn from the experience and determine to make better decisions in the future."
Tolia committed himself and the company to restoring the trust of its writers: "But, let's return to the manner in which we made the change, because thinking through that action shed light on a more troubling realization: the lack of trust between Epinions and its member community. Specifically, we assumed the worst would accompany our Eroyalties-related decisions and acted accordingly. The lack of trust obviously is felt by both parties, as became clear in the many emotional reactions to our decision.... However, we do not desire a lack of trust, in either direction. The pain around this situation cut into all parties, and it will take time for it to recede. Trust is very difficult to earn, and even more difficult to regain. In order to avoid this mistake in the future, and also begin rebuilding trust, we have decided to create a "Member Advisory Board" of select Epinions members. The mission of the Advisory Board is straightforward: to help us solicit member feedback before implementing major changes to our service."
But Tolia criticized some Epinions writers, whom he did not name, for including in their EBP protest pieces profanity and other material he said was not appropriate. "We understand anger, but feel a serious line was crossed. Epinions is only as strong as its top members, and the recent behavior of many members -- especially those who hold respected titles on the site -- was inappropriate, and weakened the site's value to all users."
SOMETIME AROUND OCTOBER 29, 2001An e-mail, purportedly written by Epinions CEO Nirav Tolia, is sent to some Epinions writers who did not take part in the EBD protest:
"I am writing to personally thank you for your admirable actions on the site the last few days, specifically around the EBD protest. While we
appreciate and encourage all feedback -- both negative and positive -- the off topic and offensive nature of EBD is completely inappropriate and has no place on Epinions.
"You may be wondering why we are not punishing those who wrote/highly rated EBD reviews. It was a difficult decision, but we decided to take the
opportunity to rebuild trust with the entire community. We decided to take a chance on people -- give them the benefit of the doubt, and see what
"If EBD-style protests erupt in the future, there will be consequences.
"After much deliberation on the issue, we felt this is a special circumstance. Also, let me assure you that we didn't bring back edit/delete because of the protest. We made that decision based on the constructive feedback received.
"We will not respond to threats.
"What you guys did was more than admirable, and we will never, ever forget you for it. Even before this situation, you possessed our loyalty and
"We know you are our top contributors. Your actions in this especially difficult time simply reinforce that realization. We know who truly loves Epinions, and will not forget.
NOVEMBER 24, 2001Writers were still waiting for Epinions to establish a writer's advisory committee that the company said would enable it to discuss changes in Epinions' policies before they are implemented.