Thursday, July 19, 2007

Real People

As part of my ongoing attempts to keep up with the industry, I've been reading through the Sunbelt and VitalSecurity blogs. For those of you who don't know, folks at Zango and folks at those two companies haven't always, shall we say, seen eye-to-eye on everything.

That's perhaps not too surprising. On the one hand, Zango has made mistakes: we've (unwittingly) done business with folks it would have been wiser to stay away from, and we didn't police our distribution networks like we should have. We've acknowledged as much in the past, and we've paid our dues (and then some). (And for what it's worth, anybody here at Zango can tell you that nobody's shouted louder or gotten more angry than yours truly whenever we found a bad distributor. Frankly, I probably yelled louder than I should have: repairing relationships with some of the co-workers I got angry at has taken a while.)

On the other hand, it's no ding on them to point out that companies like Sunbelt and Facetime have their own vested interests. They've got investors and balance sheets too, and the more people whose machines they can identify as "infected", the more software they can sell. In other words, they look pretty good any time they can make Zango look bad. It's possible this doesn't influence them as much as I suspect, but you can't deny that this is the dynamic. In addition, and mostly to their credit, they have all the righteous zeal and indignation of any narrowly focused and highly committed community. As we all know, there are plenty of bad guys out there well deserving of their wrath. (It's been rather fun watching PaperGhost take out YoGangsta50.)

But for some time now, Zango's business partnerships and practices have been as solid and trustworthy as we can make them in this fallen world. In light of that, it's disappointing but probably not surprising that our critics have given us very little credit. And the result, as you can imagine, is that there's real tension between our company and theirs.

So reading through their blogs has been enlightening. I was struck especially by this post, which shows a picture of the people who banded together to help Julie Amero. I have to confess, I was grateful to that entire community for the work they did to help her. For those who don't know the story, it's summarized here, though the blank Wikipedia prose scarcely does justice to the situation. It scares me how badly our justice system went awry, and in the end, it wasn't the justice system that saved her: it was, well, the righteous zeal and indignation of a narrowly focused and highly committed community.

In addition, it's good to see that, as frustrating as they can be sometimes, our critics are real people too. They're a community; they're friends. They go out to dinner: they laugh at each other. They inexplicably reference stupid rap videos. There's another side to them that doesn't exactly come out in the incessant arguments and debates. That's good for me to know.

In the interests of full disclosure: part of my hope in posting this is that our critics will also realize Zango isn't quite what we've been made out to be. We support our community. We do fund-raising for the American Cancer Society. We don't take ourselves seriously; we do take money from each other at poker. We've been identified as one of the best companies to work for in Washington State for three years running. And although it's difficult to demonstrate to anyone who isn't in on our near-daily compliance meetings, we try really hard to do the right thing.

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