Mistakes Were Made: How Tons Of People Started Slamming EasyDNS For Actions Of EveryDNS

from the error-correction dept

There's a famous paragraph that made the rounds a few years ago purporting to show that people really look at the first and last letters of a word and then assume the rest, more or less. It was:
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
Of course, it turns out that this isn't quite true (and the research wasn't done at Cambridge). However, it is true that when people are reading quickly, they can sometimes sort of "guess" the word they're going for with the first and last letter. It seems that happened on a large scale last week, much to the chagrin of one particular company.

As you may recall, last week we were among those who wrote about EveryDNS killing Wikileaks.org's website, claiming a terms of service violation for getting DDoS'd. Before I did the post, I had checked EveryDNS's website, and hadn't seen any info about the takedown. Soon after I posted the story, however, the very first comment in the story said "Check EasyDNS.net's website" claiming there was an explanation. I quickly went to EasyDNS... and immediately noticed it looked entirely different than the EveryDNS site I had gone to originally, and rechecked the article. It was clearly supposed to be EveryDNS (as I had written), and the commenter was wrong (I also found the post that EveryDNS did put on their website about the issue). I pointed out that the commenter meant EveryDNS (and that I had now seen EveryDNS's explanation).

It turned out that that first commenter's mistake -- swapping EasyDNS for EveryDNS was done by a lot of people. I discovered that later, when someone from EasyDNS stopped by our comments to ask us to make the "correction" more prominent. And I was confused, because we hadn't made any error -- but had only corrected someone else in the comments. I then went and saw that EasyDNS had an entire blog post slamming journalists for repeatedly using their name in the stories about Wikileaks, including the NY Times, the Financial Times, Gawker, GigaOm... and us. Of course, we hadn't made the mistake, and I found it a bit amusing that, in a story about a lack of fact checking and publishing false information, EasyDNS had done exactly that to us. So I dashed off a quick comment on their blog post, and the EasyDNS guys were quick to correct the error and apologize both in the post and over email (thanks!). But it does highlight how easy it is to make a quick mistake when reporting on such things... even when you're reporting on mistakes!

Of course, the mistake had little impact on us... But for EasyDNS, it's apparently been a massive pain. The company has spent the past few days alerting people via Twitter that they were falsely accused, had nothing to do with Wikileaks, and did not, in fact, take the site down. Yet, it's one of those things that doesn't die (though, the company also put up a post about whether or not it would work with Wikileaks -- and also now appears to be doing some of the heavy lifting for elements of Wikileaks, these days) .

This is one of the reasons that I get a little wary of internet mob justice, of course. Lots of people are running around blaming the wrong company, because they're swapping an Every for an Easy. Of course, the IP lawyers in the house will say that this is what trademark law is supposed to be about -- that there shouldn't be two such companies since people can (and obviously do) confuse them. But it appears that both companies lived peacefully together in the world for quite some time before all of this mess.

In the end -- I'm not sure there's a good answer to all of this. The fact is mistakes happen. We make them all the time too (though, we didn't in this case -- even if we got blamed for one!). It can suck for those on the receiving end. For us, in this case, it wasn't a huge deal, but for EasyDNS, it clearly has been a major distraction. Hopefully it's active efforts on Twitter and various comment boards will help clear things up for most people. Perhaps the real lesson is that when you do make a mistake, and are informed of it, you should correct it as quickly as possible, and apologize for the mistake. And then everyone can get on with their lives.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Freak, Dec 6th, 2010 @ 4:36pm

    Missing a word

    "The company has spent days using its Twitter account trying to let everyone who falsely accuses them, that they had nothing to do with Wikileaks, and did not, in fact, take the site down"

    This sentence needs a 'know' in it somewhere :p
    And actually, perhaps a restrucuring. No matter where you put 'know in there, it doesn't sound good.
    Perhaps:

    "The company has spent the past few days alerting people on twitter that they were falsely accused, had nothing to do with wikileaks, and did not, in fact, take the site down"

     

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  2.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 4:41pm

    Re: Missing a word

    Ah. Good suggestion. Changed it to your version.

     

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  3.  
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    Kingster (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 5:14pm

    Many might say that EveryDNS and EasyDNS fed off of each other's customer mistakes... "Hey Joe! Where do you have your DNS stuff handled?" "I dunno, Jim, EasyDNS, EveryDNS, something like that!"

    So... With the good... Comes the bad.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    JC, Dec 6th, 2010 @ 5:25pm

    Mike, I agree with an overwhelming majority of posts you have here.

    However, trademark law should be there to avoid these messes.
    What I took from that paragraph is that everything was fine, until it wasn't.

    Kind of like saying that everyone hates lawyers, until they need one.

     

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  5.  
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    Mike S (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 6:37pm

    EasyDNS

    I've done business with EasyDNS and they are top notch, sucks that this happened to them because of fact checking, lack there of I mean.

     

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  6.  
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    kyle clements (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 7:46pm

    Re: EasyDNS

    I've never done business with EasyDNS myself, but I recently met someone who works for EasyDNS.
    This person was quite upset with the whole situation, saying that the company prides itself on it's reputation for customer service, not abstract technical specs printed on a box.

    Tech specs and low prices are things that are easy to advertise, while a good reputation requires a lot of work to build.
    A mistake like this one has the potential to wipe a lot of that reputation away.

    This person made some nasty comments about how bloggers utterly fail as journalists.

    Then we pointed out the irony that so bloggers think they are journalists, yet they don't fact-check and spread false information, while Techdirt frequently states that it is not journalism, and they were the only place that got the story right!

     

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  7.  
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    Lisae Boucher (profile), Dec 6th, 2010 @ 10:06pm

    It also shows the importance of trademarks and why it's important that your name can be distinguished from that of your competition. EasyNet and EveryNet are apparantly very, very similar...
    Trademark dispute, anyone?

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2010 @ 2:03am

    Re: Similar names

    Years ago Tadpole (who planned to make serious workstations in laptop form factor) had some excellent press one morning. The city of London were buzzing about them. At lunchtime all the traders went to the wine bar and in the afternoon "Frogmore" (an unrelated company, possibly in something like property management) spiked it's stock price.

    My point is, morons in a hurry can confuse very different things. Every and Easy are not that similar to anyone paying attention and god forbid anyone started making trying to make tademark law on this basis.

    Given that the European "EasyJet" owners have been able to close down various companies calling themselves EasyXXX, is anyone seriously suggesting they should be allowed to go after EveryXXX too ?

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Jesse, Dec 7th, 2010 @ 2:31am

    The cool thing is EasyDNS can now take all that anger that was wrongfully turned at them and turn it into support that they wouldn't have otherwise had, by throwing their support behind Wikileaks.

     

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  10.  
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    Lisae Boucher (profile), Dec 7th, 2010 @ 3:16am

    Re: Re: Similar names

    At least it showed that this world is full of Morons in a Hurry, considering the number of people who mistook EasyDNS for EveryDNS. I even wonder... If EasyDNS was the real culprit, would EasyJet then be in trouble too? How many complaints did EasyJet get about "them" closing Wikileaks? :-)

     

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  11.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Dec 7th, 2010 @ 5:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Similar names

    Actually, the problem here isn't two similar names. It's circular reporting.

    Probably, only one or two people got it wrong. Maybe only one. Everyone else just read them, instead of checking for themselves.

    MSM Fail.

     

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  12.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Dec 7th, 2010 @ 5:15am

    Trademark, smademark...

    Actually, the problem here isn't two similar names. It's circular reporting.

    Probably, only one or two people got it wrong. Maybe only one. Everyone else just quoted the first idiot, instead of checking for themselves.

    MSM Fail.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Arnon, Dec 7th, 2010 @ 12:42pm

    Re: Re: EasyDNS

    Kyle,

    While I appreciate that you were paying attention, I must take a quick moment to correct your comments re my comments (we're gonna end up in some reductionist meta-comment any minute now!). I did not, to the best of my recollection, make nasty comments about how bloggers (as a class) fail at journalism.

    True I made some peeved comments, chiefmost among them that I had lost a lot of faith in the very concept of on-line journalism as anything more than blogging. My specific rant there was on how let down I felt after years of defending the concept of bloggers as journalists (supporting the issuing of press creds and so on) to find that the counter-arguments (mostly regarding professionalism and journalistic ethics) could hold so painfully true. At the time, I had spent a rather long couple of days dealing with the matter. I was pleased to find that so many of the various blogs and news-sites (eventually) fixed their errors. Some fairly classy mea culpas in a few cases too!

    The only outright nasty remark I made was very specific in nature, and did not attack journoblogging as a whole. :) It referred only to a single example thereof, and I believe the comment in question was "$REDACTED is a journalist like my piercer is a doctor."

    I'll cop to being snarky about that in particular, but despite my personal angst around the matter, I hold zero antagonism towards the industry as a whole. It's STILL where I get most of my news.

     

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  14.  
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    kyle clements (profile), Dec 7th, 2010 @ 12:54pm

    Re: Re: Re: EasyDNS

    I got some facts wrong?
    its a good thing I'm commenting in a blog, then.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Mark Jeftovic, CEO of easyDNS, Dec 7th, 2010 @ 2:10pm

    Similar names in the DNS industry

    It's an interesting question about the similarity in names, especially in the DNS industry.

    For the most part, the DNS business is a pretty friendly one amongst competitors. There have been confusions between EveryDNS and easyDNS before:

    When EveryDNS was acquired by Dynect, several tweets mistakenly reported that we were the ones acquired. No real harm done.

    During another episode when everydns was under a DOS, people mistakenly tweeted that about easydns. Again, not a huge deal.

    On a lighter note, this year on April 1, DNSMadeEasy and easyDNS announced their "merger", at DNSMadeEasyDNS.com.

    Until now, all harmless mixups and harmless fun between fairly friendly competitors.

    This episode really changed the game however. I personally put this on the mainstream media who are quite obviously putting out "journalism" based on stuff they cobble together on twitter and from blogs, WTF is that?

    It's a goddamn joke and a pathetic excuse for serious journalism. Then after they cause havoc with somebody's reputation, after their stories get picked up by about 1000 aggregators, they just put a small disclaimer at the bottom of the article "Oh, we said easyDNS, we didn't mean to".

    Doesn't really undo the damage.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    JC, Dec 7th, 2010 @ 8:03pm

    Re: Similar names in the DNS industry

    Do you think pursuing trademark violations would have helped to prevent this from happening?

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Mark Jeftovic, CEO of easyDNS, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 11:56am

    Re: Re: Similar names in the DNS industry

    Within the context of domain names themselves, a necessary ingredient to prove infringement against one's own name is the element of a "bad faith" registration. In the case of everydns.net we never felt that existed, meaning: we did not feel that everydns.net registered their name to deliberately confuse people intending "easydns". We still believe that.

    From a trademark perspective, our trademark is on "easydns", and trademark's are very specific. In fact (and I'm going from memory here, might not be bang on) but the Canadian trademark examiner had us disclaim any claim against "dns" on it's own, as being too generic, before we were awarded the mark. Our mark is very clearly for "easydns".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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