Just sent this to the marketing director of the Odeon Cinema group, following up yesterday’s post on the matter, and trying to pursue the ‘the network is doing your innovation for you, for free, so why not use it’ approach:
Dear Mr Tevere,
I read with some disappointment your correspondence with Matthew Somerville, the web developer who had undertaken in his spare time to make a version of the Odeon website that was easier to use, less confusing and – most importantly – corresponded to best practices in terms of making information accessible to all, including those with disabilities.
While I understand your view that the information on your website has been used without permission, and that you have had feedback from customers feeling misled by Mr Somerville’s web service, I would urge you to re-examine your position.
Mr Somerville had effectively provided your company with a prototype for a much more successful, inclusive, and legally compliant* web service. The consultancy fees that you might expect to pay for such a thing would reach six figures. He had done this out of frustration with your existing web service, a frustration echoed by many other potential Odeon customers, and one which garnered a certain amount of negative publicity for your brand at the same time as Mr Somerville originally created his site.
At this time, I was interviewed for MacUser magazine and drew attention to the deficiencies in your web service and the solution offered by Mr Somerville as worst and best practices on the web in terms of e-commerce and design.
At that point in time, your company’s corporate communication around the issue could have been characterised as ‘cautious but enlightened’; this time you seem to be erring on the side of appeasing your corporate lawyers, to the detriment of your customers.
You are now at another point of opportunity: To harness the work that Mr Somerville has done and come to an amicable agreement with him around your respective intellectual property (your data and brand, and his excellent prototype); or, to take the cautious route of ‘business as usual’ and deal with the negative publicity that will bring.
If you choose the former, then the benefits I think will shortly become obvious to you, the rest of your company and your customers. Design for accessibility is just good business sense, as market leaders in e-commerce like Tesco Online** have found, and getting something for nothing is surely even better business sense.
Whether you call it ‘market’, ‘open-source’ or ‘networked innovation’, embracing new ideas from enthusiasts outside the threshold of one’s own company is seen as the way forward for product and service development by the Financial Times, The Economist and the Harvard Business Review, among others; and certainly finding a compromise in this spirit would maintain Odeon’s image in the business press as a pioneer in using new channels for marketing.
I look forward to hearing Odeon and Mr Somerville announce a win-win way forward, and reading the column inches of praise that decision will inevitably lead to.
* “Web Accessibility and the DDA” : http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/01-2/sloan.html
** The Guardian, 10th July 2004: “Access points for shopping on the web : Tesco gets a four-star rating in the supermarket league”
‘It’s not just those with these special needs that are using the site, as the simple design is attracting a much wider audience, to the extent that online shoppers are spending Â£13m a year on it.’
Jack Schofield, Guardian Online
Ian Betteridge, technology journalist and contributor to MacUser magazine
Bill Thompson, technology journalist and contributor to BBC World, OpenDemocracy.net
Also posted to my weblog, http://www.blackbeltjones.com where I also intend to publish any replies I receive.
Let’s see what happens.