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Removing Mentions/Discussion on Competitors

by Tom | 5th, December 2011

When running an online start up or business where you have facilities such as discussion forums or a comment system you might be tempted to remove mentions and discussion relating to the products and services of your competitors. It’s something we’ve thought a lot about when developing Construct 2 and are confident that our choice to allow discussion is the best direction to take.

There’s no point censoring if you have the best product

Do you have the best product between you and your competitors? If not then censorship might be one defence you can put up to stop users leaking over to competitors. Lack of confidence in your product or general fear of losing market share are a couple of reasons why a company might choose to censor mentions of competitors.

It’s not a very healthy indicator from a customer’s point of view if you choose to strictly censor mentions of competitors backed by these reasons. It’s also not addressing the root cause of why they feel they need to censor competitors and legitimate discussion around competitors. It can indicate a lack of confidence in their own offered product.

Censorship is a nonstop uphill battle

At Scirra we generally don’t believe in censorship of competitors. It’s not really what the Internet is about or was designed for so if you decide to pursue the censorship of competitors route it will be a tiring non-stop uphill battle for you and anyone that helps in the running of your website.

Nonstop uphill battles are generally something you want to avoid. At Scirra it’s just two of us working full time on Construct 2 and this website. If we also had to manage a strict policy on censorship of competitors it would take up a lot of our time which we would rather spend improving the product and services.

SEO

One of the great side effects of not censoring competitor’s names and product reviews and comparisons on your website is that you start to rank well on competitor’s names in searches.

Every day we see search engine referrals from people who are looking for competitor’s products who stumble across a forum post that another company might have decided to remove if it were posted on their website. Sometimes these users stick around and download our software. These are users we now have obtained who would otherwise have not found out about us if we decided to censor the post.

Not only will these visitors be landing on your website where you have a chance to make them aware of your option, the discussion will likely favour your product. It’s your website after all.

If you decide to censor you are putting up a wall around your website to stop people leaving. But what a lot of website owners don’t realise is that this wall will also sometimes stop people coming in, or stop them reading good things about your option.

You could argue censorship is beneficial to you

In some instances censorship could be argued to be beneficial. This perhaps would be in environments where there is no material difference between end delivery of the product. For example in online commerce ordering the same product from company A and company B has the same end result, you (hopefully) end up with the same product in both instances with only minor differences in delivery timeframe and other associated services/benefits. Censorship of competitors in those environments is a lot more understandable: software products are often significantly different, but stores generally send you the same product. Customers also tend to chop and change retailers at the drop of a hat anyway, but there are usually much bigger learning or technical obstacles to switching software.

Censorship isn’t beneficial to you

It’s important when developing a software product to keep in touch with people’s demands and needs. If a visitor comes on our site and says “I like Construct 2 but it doesn’t have this whistle like this company has in their software” we can respond actively to this query by planning on adding it to a future release. This tends to make people happy! And the end result is we have steered Construct 2 in a direction navigated by the demands of our users.

It’s too easy to lose touch with what people want and how they perceive your competitors product and your product if you wall yourself in with censorship of competitors. You can actively go out and find this information for yourself, but the extra dynamic of a visitor comparing a competitor on your website can sometimes reveal important information that won’t be available elsewhere. It also hands valuable information to you on a silver plate and forces response. If responses were not forced it would become easy to be complacent which can hurt you badly in the long term. It’s important to align yourself with the needs of your customers.

It puts a strain on the community

A strict censorship policy will put a strain on the people in charge of monitoring the website. It will also add more confusion when people post perfectly reasonable questions in your forum and their threads/posts are deleted/edited without notification. It will also cause confusion for borderline rule breaking discussions. It’s hard to treat everyone equally in such cases so it can also create an environment where people feel unequally treated. Some users will also question why their posts were censored. It can have a significant downside on their perception of your business as well as not being very welcoming.

A difference between censoring and trolling

Censorship is a different issue to deleting messages on your site that are not constructive and serve no purpose but to aggravate. We do delete these messages as it’s not going to serve anyone positively but it’s important to note this should not be confused with censorship. There are many perfectly reasonable discussions and questions involving mentioning competitors and these should be allowed. Deliberate aggravation should not be!

Censorship shouldn’t be a big deal for you

If you firmly believe you have the best product of the available ones it might be worth reconsidering your censorship policy. It can provide unexpected benefits (for example new visitors from searches) as well as create a more interesting, open and honest community that hosts interesting debate and information.

These factors mean you end up with users who are more open minded, confident in their choice and who better understand the benefits of your product over the competitors. These users can also create strong arguments advocating use of your software to others. Open minded users help make Construct 2 what it is today, since many of their suggestions have made it in to the software, including many ideas we’d never have realised by ourselves.

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Comments

16
pkeod 3,560 rep

I am so glad with your decision on this. Reading the title in my e-mail gave me chills.

Let's give some SEO shall we? Clickteam (Multimedia Fusion) made many mistakes - so many that I now refuse to use or pay for their products. Censorship was one of their most stupid mistakes. I tried to explain some of these same points to them but they deleted my post. :)

Bravo for reason!

Monday, December 05, 2011 at 4:25:28 PM
14
EgoAnt 6,408 rep

I think this is a great policy. People on forums can be uncharacteristically blunt - but if you avoid taking their comments personally and instead read them as ways that you can improve your product (or at least manage expectations) then you will be better off in the long run.

Censorship is never the answer. Unless you are Apple Inc. - then it's the ONLY answer. ;)

Monday, December 05, 2011 at 4:25:40 PM
13
Mipey 13.2k rep

Pretty much true. You want more exposure? Don't censor.

Monday, December 05, 2011 at 4:26:10 PM
9
Braxmule 6,991 rep

Open discussions are always much more helpful discussion :)

Monday, December 05, 2011 at 4:41:37 PM
10
rayroman 4,152 rep

Fantastic decision. Those who censor usually have something to hide. You guys are top-notch in every aspect.

Monday, December 05, 2011 at 4:58:17 PM
10
Mulkaccino 7,316 rep

You're decisions make me happy to be a Construct user, not only because it's a great product but also because there's a lot of integrity in the way it's creators do business. Great job as always, guys.

Monday, December 05, 2011 at 5:16:11 PM
9
TELLES0808 22.8k rep

A good decision, You really have the skills and sense of Community Mr. Tom.

Monday, December 05, 2011 at 5:42:20 PM
13
Bigheti 17.0k rep

In my country (Brazil), in the 70's, we passed a strong military dictatorship where censorship was imposed and many died for expressing your opinion contrary to the Government. Result: stagnation in the progress of a civilization for decades!
The decision of the team to discuss this matter Scirra already demonstrates transparency, honesty and sense of excellence in your product Construct2. I believe that with the advent of Web 3.0 companies that survive will be those who are willing to "listen" to your customers and prospects ... and the team Scirra already looking that way. Down with censorship, freedom to the exposition of ideas as intelligent beings who respect other people's opinions!

Monday, December 05, 2011 at 5:44:25 PM
7
hero_bash 3,939 rep

I actually saw this coing. Good form :)

Monday, December 05, 2011 at 5:56:20 PM
7
ludodesign 30.3k rep

I am from Brasil too, I totally agree with @Bigheti

Only delete spam of others. Construct is very open and say everthing of changes, problems and other things in this blog.

I happy to say. I like of the company Scirra, like a sentimental thing, not only a work thing.

Monday, December 05, 2011 at 7:06:07 PM
8
adyo 2,702 rep

Until you can offer something that's cross platform and not just for Winblows users, I think it's important to help people find something professional that will work on the platforms they're accustomed to.
Scrirra's products look awesome and I hope they make the jump to OSX some day and it makes me sad that they haven't.

Monday, December 05, 2011 at 7:13:39 PM
6
tavitooo 5,108 rep

Great policy and decision. I love the work you do SCIRRA! great guys!

Saludos desde Peru (a Latin America)

Monday, December 05, 2011 at 7:14:51 PM
7
Velojet 21.0k rep

An extremely well-argued and thoroughly convincing case for your policy, Tom. Being able to read in the Scirra Forums about comparative features of competitor platforms reassures me that I've made the right choice in going for Construct 2!

Monday, December 05, 2011 at 7:49:43 PM
7
lorddon 1,630 rep

A thousand times yes. I've seen sites that censor all mention of competitors and it just comes across as un-professional and childish.

Kudos to you folks!

Monday, December 05, 2011 at 7:56:48 PM
7
bobwaite1 4,883 rep

Adyo: While I don't work for Scirra directly I felt strongly enough to mention that most macintosh computers today offer a dual boot system, where as most mac users can boot into windows. As a mac user myself I don't agree with your comment because I can run scirra construct 1 & 2 on my mac and on my PC as a result. If you are using an older mac then I recommend upgrading to a newer version that has windows included. Making a product for multiple O.S.'s is costly and in this case I believe it is not their responsibility but your own as most professional mac users have upgraded to the new dual boot Macintosh's. Good job Scirra again on a great product, you are MILES ahead of both Click Teams Multimedia Fusion 2 and Game Maker in my book! Looking forward to the end result!

Monday, December 05, 2011 at 8:16:09 PM

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