There’s that old saying about how nobody knows you aren’t wearing pants on the web. This often creates a false sense of security that results in people doing stupid things. Take this example from VMware that came about as a result of noticing something interesting in the customer reviews for Fusion on Amazon.
With this context in mind, last week we ran across a couple of negative user reviews on Amazon.com that seemed out of character. They seemed especially out of character given that both posters had posted 5-star reviews of Parallels Desktop for Mac, prior to posting less-than flattering reviews of VMware Fusion. After a little investigation via LinkedIn, based on the user names that the reviewers posted under, we found that these reviews were not from actual users but from employees of a competitor, Parallels.
There are two things that come to mind here, the first being that I really dislike anonymous review postings. I make it a point to clearly identify myself on this blog and I almost always post comments, reviews, whatever, under clearly identifiable user names. I don’t have a problem defending what I write, arguing vociferously on any issue that interests me, or being identifiable in my web existence. The point is that it keeps me honest, and I believe it gives me credibility with people who read my stuff because they know it’s me, not me hiding behind a pseudonym.
The second point is that companies need to be proactive about setting acceptable guidelines for employees to follow when representing the company in non-company sponsored forums. With regard to the VMware vs. Parallels post I linked to above, the incident deflected from the legitimate issues regarding products and veered into the tactics that someone at Parallels. VMware won this round because Parallels made themselves look small and deceitful.