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.