It isn't what they say about you, it's what they whisper.”
~Errol Flynn

Ugh – miniOrange

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It’s not that I’ve had a bad experience with a software company – this isn’t my first rodeo, I know what that looks like and I blow it off.  This article doesn’t get into the emails, the back and forth or the number of bugs I helped them fix before I figured it out : this is about predatory licensing and product descriptions intended to move people into a paying tier knowing their software doesn’t work and crowdsourcing the public to be their QA department.

WordPress has thousands and thousands of plugins to choose from, some are incredible, some mediocre and some are just unspeakable.

Note to self, always read reviews.

Some are free, some are trialware and some are payware, just like any other software.  I’m used to open source software and checking things out before you run with it – nothing surprising here – it’s like any other marketplace.

miniOrange has a ton of positive reviews, mostly by bloggers typing up “The best x-number of WordPress plugins for y-purpose…”, some articles were helpful, some weren’t.   Turns out, they’ve been used to push a predatory software company based out of India, which I hadn’t learned about yet.  Here’s how it works:

  • Glossy store front (website) with as many “great user experiences” as you can fake
  • Make your plugins available and then give them as many five star ratings as you can fake (giveaway: when every single one of them is five stars AND has identical verbiage).
  • Google your application space – in this case, authentication, then
  • Make sure all your Google reviews are positive by writing them yourself
  • When bloggers want to check out your software, send them the latest version and provide top notch service so you’ll get a positive review
  • In all your literature ensure the customer that the free tier does exactly what they need
 
Then:
  • Put all your beta / test code in the free tier, effectively crowdsourcing your QA department.
  • When customers start writing saying the free tier isn’t doing what it’s supposed to, tell them they need to upgrade to the next paying tier. While they deliberate, file a bug report.
  • If they pay up, tell them to download different “pro grade” software with the bugs fixed.
  • If they don’t, ignore them, you got what you needed out of them.
 
Where’s the predatory part? 
  • Be up front about the software type (freeware, trialware, payware). If you’re only going to be polite and give working software to people who pay for it, fine.  There are people who admire Trump all over the world but they’re honest about it, there are plenty more that are simply criminal but the ones you’re looking for are good, honest companies.
  • If something doesn’t work, good customer support is to apologize, get more information and then work to fix it.   If you email miniOrange in good faith about a bug, they tell you to get into the next level licencing tier (against what’s spelled out in their licensing and product description).  When you don’t do it they stop talking to you but take your bug report and use it to enhance their top paying customers’ experience – that’s just rude.
 
This is why this site uses 2FAS – good company, good, clean product, support and documentation.  The user experience was great right out the door.  I support honest companies and 2FAS is one of ’em. 

How to spot predatory vendors:

  • Everyone spot-checks the reviews, but what do they say?  If every single one of them is a full five-out-of-five, that’s suspicious.  If all five star reviews on five sites have the same wording, it’s a giveaway.
  • Look at the names of the “Great product!!  Will buy again!” posters on some of the blog comments, then Google that name and see if they work for the company.  If they do, drop ’em like a hot rock.
  • For anything you buy, from a gas grill to a software product, Email customer support with a fake problem.  If they never get back to you or are rude when they do, that’s what you can expect after you buy it.  Sometimes they write right back and are polite and helpful – now you know that’s what you can expect instead.
  • Some companies will hire PR staff to Google themselves, find and respond to every single negative rating they get with “We’re so sorry! Thank you for writing this review, we promise we’ll do better.”   If you see a bunch of negative reviews and constant “We’re so sorry!”  replies, you know what?  They’re not really sorry, what you’re reading about is normal. (On the other hand, if you see only one, maybe two of those and all the rest are good, that’s a good sign!)
  • Use a different search engine: PR staff always use Google, but they don’t use duckduckgo.com, yahoo.com or others.  Nine times out of ten you’ll get the real dirt there.
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