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Jeff Nielsen

"Censorship" and Support - a Developer's viewpoint

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I see many current posts about "censorship", pro and anti developer comments, support issues and general discussions about rights and responsibilities of developers.I cannot speak for other developers but I would like to set out my thoughts on these issues from our point of view:Having more or less completed an exercise in free distribution of an update to one of our aircraft, I've gained new insight into the attitudes of some of our customers and indeed users of our freeware offerings.The vast majority of our users and customers are civilised, patient and tolerant people who are not only happy to put up with the occasional, and very rare, delay or setback in our service to them, but they are kind enough to thank us when things do go right.However, there is a small but significant minority of customers and users who are intolerant, rude, demanding, unreasonable and selfish and seem to believe that we should run our business entirely to suit their individual convenience and to hell with anybody else. I emphasise that these people are in the minority, but they are sufficiently awkward and aggressive that dealing with them not only seriously delays our response to others who are more reasonable, but they often post things publicly that are completely untrue and potentially damaging to us without any justification whatoever.A typical case is that of a past customer who may be entitled to an update, but has changed his e-mail address, or puts up e-mail blockers. That's fair enough, and we accept that this will happen. But some of these people then write to us and bitterly complain that we did not notify them of the upgrade, and when we write back and ask for sufficient evidence about their original purchase, they offer absolutely no information in return, have lost their receipt (it takes about 30 seconds to print out or save a receipt), and do absolutely nothing to help us to help them. And this is not in pursuit of something they were as of right entitled to, but in pursuit of something free which we were never obliged to give them in the first place!In several cases, we actually made herculean efforts to contact people whose e-mail addresses were blocked or invalid, and while most of these were appreciative some of them actually posted here, despite the fact that they had already recieved and successfully downloaded their updates, STILL complaining that they had received bad service, and one person actually publicly claimed that we were trying to exploit people by deliberately cutting off our upgrade schedule and making cash out of this "opportunity", whereas in fact we had devoted many many hours to tracing them, and the whole exercise has cost us a great deal in lost sales, manpower, and admin costs. We have not made a single penny from this upgrade.But those entirely untrue posts are in the forums and everyone can see them. I agree that developers have a responsibility towards their customers, but equally users have a responsibility not to post untrue, knee-jerk allegations which give an impression to others that is wholly unreasonable and bordering on the libellous. I note that even when these posts are proved to be completely unfounded, the original poster almost never takes the trouble to either retract their statement or to apologise, and often threads are locked so that the offending posts are still there but the target of those posts often have no opportunity to answer them. I firmly believe that this and other forums should urgently review the way they allow people to access them. If people want the opportunity to make statements that are contentious, or wish to avoid what they describe as "censorship" then I think they should logon with their real names, and not hide behind a handle or untraceable name. If that was implimented then the playing field is level, and those making controversial statements, which may in many cases be perfectly justified, at least signal to others that they are willing to take the responsibility for the statements made.To some extent payware is indeed "fair game" and I would be the first to agree that the customer, if genuinely badly served, must have a right to complain and to let others know his views. But with that right comes an equal responsibility not to over-state one's case, not to "milk" or labour the point so that the complaint is out of proportion, and not to make rash and untrue statements which actually serve to diminish the credibility of the complainant.Where freeware is concerned, I believe the rules are completely the other way round: If someone has taken the trouble to give something to others, no matter how "good" or "less good" it is, it is quite outrageous for downloaders of that gift to post here DEMANDING support, make unreasonable complaints, or worst of all, rubbish the efforts of the author. If you don't find a freeware item to your taste then simply discard your download, or even say it is not to your taste, but to actually post a comprehensive put-down is unacceptable. In one case a recent and appallingly bad mannered thread of this kind was locked and to my amazement someone else re-opened the subject in another and by implication repeated the exact same put-down.In many cases the people posting these ill-mannered threads are invariably those who have rarely, if at all, made ANY contribution themselves and time and time again I see the same individuals repeating this attitude over many months. If subscribers to this and other forums really do believe that they are part of a "community" then it would be nice if they acted as though they were part of it, and not sling mud around gratuitously. I apologise for the somewhat long-winded post, but I really feel quite strongly about this.Kind Regards,Rob Young = RealAir Simulations

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I'm sure the sense of `reasonable` comes through from the actions of RAS and the reason those threads are left locked but visible is so that the foolishness of the poster can be there for all the world to see! The free update was widely published on many differetn websites other than your own. No-one could reasonably argue that they have been `left out` but that doesn't mean they shouldn't have the right to complain that they have.However, I also feel it is important that developers - any developer - should NOT be the ones who call the tune as to what is and isn't acceptable in a forum excepting their own. Just as there are intransigent and bullying customrs, so there are equally bullying developers with attitudes and business models that are simply unacceptable. And we can all name them, thanks to posts in this and other forums where customers have been able to vent their annoynace and frustration. Overall I'm convinced Avsim forums gets the balance about right. If you really feel a thread should be removed, use the alert system. And that's the same for all users of the forum, developer or simmer, contributor or not.I suppose the question is does this forum exist for the benefit of the simmer or the developer? Just as an argument could be ranged that customers shouldn't post what isn't true, the same reasoning could be used to suggest that developers should stay in their own forum, and simply ignore what goes on anywhere else. To suggest that paying customers have fewer rights to moan just because the developer has been reasonable is to fly in the face of human nature and I must say, rather reflects on an underlying opinion of the customer base to not have the sense and reason to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff. We are all capable of mounting spirited defence against injustice. And I think most of us are capable of spotting it without it being flagged by a developer. Real Air Simulations, amongst others in the freeware and payware market, have amply demonstrated that good customer relations breeds good customer defence of criticism and ultimately, that kind of defence is more effective than any amount of censorship as it doesn't just remove the post from view, it actually shows up the complainer to be making complaints that are unfounded and not justified. And thats an effective marketing tool.I know FSD International have recently made public the fact that certain ex-customers have been excluded for their unreasonable behaviour so perhaps RAS might learn the lesson of those who seek to publicise their disaffection by publishing the names of the `unreasonable` customers. A simple comparison with the names on the threads that you think unfairly attack RAS would lead to a knowing wink and a rasied eyebrow - and then we would all know where these people are coming from.But if you try to exclude these `unreasonable` threads you are assuming for yourself the role of judge, jury and executioner and I don't think anyone would find that acceptable, even from a reputable organisation such as Real Air Simulations.Allcott

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Hi Rob,I read your post with interest (as I do all your posts). I believe this comes down to an issue of manners... on both sides of the community. The ugly truth is that there are not so pleasant customers, and there are not so pleasant vendors. Such is life... works that way in all endeavors.I'm familiar with the incident you wrote about regarding a customer's recent treatment of you. Such things are unfortunate and unfair, especially when one considers the amount of effort you put forth to get that free upgrade into the hands of your customers. But you can't please everyone all the time. You had to make the business decision to balance your desire to get that upgrade to ALL your customers with the risk of suffering unacceptable losses to pirating. There was no way you could have succeeded in getting the upgrade to ALL your customers... even with the incredible effort you excerted. There were simply too many variables in the operation that you had no control over.With regard the above incident I would hope that you concentrate on the positive feedback you received rather than the few customers who complained about your effort.Now we come to the matter of censorship. There's plenty of it around here. Sometimes too much, sometimes not enough. I was recently locked out of a thread when a popular payware developer accused me of having an "agenda" against them. When I demanded proof of such I was locked out of that thread. I was accused without proof, and then locked out. Not fair, but it happens. Even a hobby has it's business side.All this brings us back to the subject of manners. Most of the time there are plenty to go around, but at times there are precious little. On both sides... customers and vendors alike. I will grant that dealing with bad manners is much easier for the customers... all they have to do in dealing with bad manners is make the reasoned decision to no longer purchase from a vendor who treats them badly. And in time that vendor will disappear. Not so easy for a business. I know because I'm a business owner myself. Time has taught me that no matter what you do there will always be customers who can't be satisfied.We see examples of bad manners here (and ofter forums) almost daily. Some people are mature beyond their years while some will never have enough years to gain maturity. Age doesn't matter, bad manners run the spectrum of years. In the end all we have is our own definition of proper manners, and to hope that others will as well. Too bad it doesn't always work out that way. Such is life on the Net in the world today.Regards,

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RobI completely agree with your sentiments and you have my sympathies.In the past, I have myself complained quite a few times about a certain developer and the way he conducts his 'business', and have received many emails both in support and in disagreement of my comments about this 'developer'. Some may not agree with my comments but at least I stand by them and don't hide behind a false name which may be difficult or impossible to trace, etc.Whilst some may not agree with posts from unhappy payware customers, in a free democracy they MUST have the right to voice their opinions if for no other reasons, and as in my case, a warning to some of the newer members of the community. But these posts must be factual and accurate in their content and the writer must assume full responsibility for his/her comments.I have always used my real name and have suggested to Tom Allensworth in the past that in my opinion, ONLY real names should be allowed in an effort to 'level the playing field' as you put it and discourage malicious posters. For various good reasons, it would appear that this rule cannot effectively be implemented and unfortunately, such malicious posts will therefore probably continue.Perhaps a way through this might be to somehow allow the developer to reply to such posts even after a thread has been 'locked'. I'm sure that this would be possible by applying to have such a reply posted through the forum administrators as a 'last word'. That would certainly 'level the field' a bit and in all fairness, allow the devlopers their Right of Reply.Toni.

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Hi all who've responded so far.I agree with all the points made, and it is perfectly true that most intelligent and perceptive forum users can make their own mind up on the balance of posts viewed, so maybe I was unduly worried in my paragraphs about payware.But regarding freeware I feel strongly that it is just not acceptable to write-off authors who are doing their best to contribute. That is not to say no-one should comment at all, but if someone takes the trouble to effectlvely knock on your front door as says "here is a free addon. Take it or leave it as you wish", it's just plain bad manners to then write a public letter saying the gift was rubbish. Thanks for the interesting and well-thought out responses!Kind Regards,Rob Young

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I have never purchased anything from RAS.....therefore I am one of the people that would be potentially "swayed" by the "unreasonable" posts about your company. It also doesn't help that, after being burned many times, I always read as much as possible all comments in all forums about a developer/product before I purchase.However, according to one of the replies above, the developer is ultimately responsible for the perceptions of his customers/non customers. If the developer has a good track record then his cusomers will immediately jump to his defense whenever these "unreasonable" posts are made. I must say that you have proven yourself and that "unreasonable post" in question would not be enough to make me change my mind about purchasing one of your products.Another thing you have to learn is that this world is a very big and exciting place made up of many plants, animals, etc. It also has people....everyone of them being different. On Earth, we do not have that Bland and boring situation sometimes depticted in SciFi films where everyone dresses the same way and bows together, and talks the same language, etc. This is a good thing....but unfortunately, because of this, we would always have people that are hard to please, downright rude, trolls, etc. Once you decide to deal with the public, it is inevitable that you will come across a few of these people at some point. There's nothing you can do about it. You just have to accept it and move on. Now, about the incident in question.....the posts about the free upgrade/patch. You have made a business decision to make the upgrade available to your customers for two weeks only. You have gone out of your way to ensure that all your customers have received it. Kudos to you.....I truly admire your sense of loyalty to your customers in a day when most developers would not have gone that extra mile.However, the post in question was an opinion. The person who posted had the opinion that limiting the patch to a couple of weeks was a bad decision on your part. In my opinion, there is NOTHING wrong with that post, as long as it was done in a civil manner. Now its up to you to defend your decision (which you did). But you cannot say that a person cannot disagree with you on a public forum that is not your own. I'm sorry, it just doesn't work that way. No matter what insane lengths you go through to please everyone, you will not succeed. Because (and you can come to that conclusion, mathematically, biologically, using psychology or whatever other means)....it is impossible to please everyone all the time. So I think that people voicing their opinions about you, your company, your product is perfectly ok....providing they are civil and they outline clearly their reasons. You also have the choice to defend yourself. As for freeware, there are very few posts where someone slags a freeware product. This is just not the "norm" in these forums. Every now and then, someone pops in and takes a whack at a freeware developer/product and the community immediately shoots him/her down. So don't worry yourself about freeware bashers.....they are very few and far between.

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"I cannot speak for other developers but I would like to set out my thoughts on these issues from our point of view..."Rob,This is pretty much universal among all developers. So don't feel like you are being picked on. Everyone who runs an Internet-based business has to deal with rude, demanding and unpleasant people. And of course, the occasional Internet troll.The fact is there are a very few number of people out there who are unhappy in their lives, or have a need to vent their emotional frustrations in life on someone else, and they use the anonymity and shelter provided by the Internet to do so. Don't let it get to you Rob. Just do your job, provide first class service, and believe me, the other 99% of flight simmers really do appreciate it.Keep the blue on top!http://www.fsd-international.com/team/TD_forum_sig.gif

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Real Air Simulations contacted me via email regarding their 260 upgrade. If they had not beeen able to contact me because of an email bouncing back to them, then that would have been my fault, not theirs. If people have changed their address for some reason, then it does not take much to email the company, after the upgrade is released, and give them the new address, it was advertised here and elsewhere enough times. Other than Carenado, UK2000 Scenery, RAS is the only company that emails customers regarding this as far as I can see. After I downloaded the 260 upgrade I even bought the Decathlon.So to anyone that is wondering about them after reading this thread, they are good, reliable and produce stuff that works, and also treat their customers extremely well.And to RAS, I would even pay a couple of quid for an upgrade, as I did with UK2000 scenery. two excellent comapany's from the UK.Anthonye

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My experience of both RAS and FSD are that they are fine companies who will bend over backwards to help their clients when necessary.My own opinion is that, as with other sectors of "real life" there really isn't any excuse for bad manners.As an example, I recently recieved some CDs with FS9 upgrades from another distinguished vendor. As it happens the first CD was blank - they are probably writted on CDR to order, and this one obviously escaped the "QC" process !Now I could have emailed back citing how pathetic this is and demanding a replacement. After all, I want to install them in sequence and will now have to wait. This would be the "rude" approach, and I suggest wouldn't get me very far. Instead I merely pointed out that the error had been made and requested a replacement, offering to supply the original CD and codes. I most certainly am no saint, this is just how things should be done, in my opinion. If some of this complaining, offensive minority stopped and considered the circumstances under which many of these "cottage industries" work they might better understand how innocent mistakes might happen.We have all seen good people give up and quit the scene because of shoddy treatment. It would be tragic if the likes of FSD or RAS did the same.Best Seasonal wishes to all the developers and their unofficial support staff for their help in making our "game" what it is.Alastair

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Exactamento Alastair. Good manners and a fundamental acceptance of "treat others as you would want to be treated" goes light years toward overcoming issues large and small. I don't know about the vendors and freeware authors out there, but I can say that my tolerance for idiots (defined as consisting of one or more of the following traits: arrogant, disdainful, rude, self-aggrandizing, petty, immature, and many more) has grown pretty small, if not non-existent.

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Rob - As well as your post was written, it comes across as whiny. You're in business. Sometimes business isn't fair. Deal with it.RealAir has some great products, but now I'm much less likely to buy them, not because of the negative posts but because of your unprofessional reaction. Air your griefs in your company staff meetings, not on a public board. Right or wrong, you ultimately lose when you continue with this practice.

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Hello Dennis,I do not believe it is unprofessional to appeal for reasonable manners whether I am a private individual or running a small business. I do not agree that fundamental values change because of this distinction - I'm running a small shareware business, not a cut throat corporate giant.If you are less likely to do business with us on the basis of one post, that's your affair. On your abrupt advice ordering me to "Deal with it", I am - by asking for the good manners. I'm sorry you feel that is whining.Kind Regards,Rob Young

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...Changing the subject a bit here, but do you guys have any preview information on the Scout posted anywhere yet? I looked on the RAS site but couldn't find anything.Looking forward to it whenever it arrives!Thanks,Dave

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HI Dave,We are building the Scout at the moment. It'll be some way off before we are near to announcing it as being ready. It won't be a Decathlon with Scout performance but a new aircraft.Thanks for your interest.Kind Regards,Rob Young

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Hi all,can someone confirm that "It'll be some way off before we are near to announcing it as being ready" means "it will take some time before..." ?hehe sorry I'm a frenchie and I'm not so good at phrasal verbs so I try to guess !Thanks,Tony

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