Frustrated with Zvents

[This has been appended]

I’m not typically interested in taking the time to talk about my frustrations with companies who I’d like to work with, but this is very annoying. Over the past few months Citysquares has been working on building some nice partnerships. Some are content providers offering a unique niche offering that would fit nicely into our site, and provide the users, or businesses, with some nice value-add.

One example of this is Constant Contact, the well known eNewsletter company. I’ve had the great pleasure of getting to know one of their co-founders, Randy Parker, over the past several months. Randy has actually become an adviser to Citysquares, and an immensely helpful one at that. He put me in touch with Alec Stern, their Vice President, Strategic Market Development. Immediately, I was impressed with the care and attention Alec gave to Citysquares. Are we a massive account for them? No, not yet anyway. But see, that’s not the point and Alec understands that on many levels. That’s his job. And it’s my job to make sure these kinds of deals get done, so that we continue to provide more and more value to our audiences.

That is an example of a good partnership, already. Even though I haven’t signed the docs yet, it’s just a matter of days, and Alec and I ping each other often just to keep the momentum.

Here’s a bad example:

Citysquares is about to launch some nice new features, things we’ve been talking about for a few months but have finally invested some dollars into. These aren’t world changing features, but they’re big additions for us. The work we’re doing now is going to lay the groundwork, technically speaking, for some pretty exciting features. But we need to lay the concrete first, which is what we’re doing now. So, before we can launch, eh hem, “user generated” features like events, activities, even our own twist on citizen journalism, we need to pull in some content in the meantime, RSS feeds. Standard stuff. I happened to be doing some homework this past weekend on who’s pulling events and news feeds, and from where. Upcoming is a big one, for events. Townonline.com used to provide feeds for their many papers, but they don’t seem to anymore. Undecided

Boston.com is yanking events from a site called Zvents.com. I spent some time on Zvents this weekend and was quite impressed with the content they seemed to provide – a lot of it. They’ve got some pretty nice filtering abilities too. And best of all, I can pull that query/filter from their site in a feed. Oh, well, that’s what I should be able to do. After spending about 2 hours going through the painful process of running queries, sorting them, and noting the RSS URLs, it turns out – they don’t even work.

So ok, they don’t work. Not the end of the world. They’ll fix it, right? Won’t they? 24 hours later, not fixed yet. I send them an email. No response. Still not fixed. I send them another email. No response. Still not fixed. I send them yet another email, and test again, nope – still not working. So at this point, I honestly don’t even care if they fix it. Why would I want to use them now? No thanks. Looks like Upcoming is our choice for now. Not a bad choice, especially because at least those work.

My point? Don’t offer a service that’s broken. And if it’s a technical glitch, people will understand, but at least have the sense to respond to their emails. That’s just business 101 – talk to your customers and users.

A few days ago we had a user go on Citysquares.com who added six reviews within a very short period of time. And let me say – she is not getting paid for that (at least not by us). I made sure to send her a personal thank you email, welcoming her to Citysquares.com, thanking her for using the site, and for her content. I did not hear back from her – but that’s ok. I did what I know is the proper thing to do. Recognize that a user not a “user” – they’re a person, with a pulse. And that person can very quickly impact our brand.

Anyway, enough. I think I’m a little sleep deprived. I’m getting testy. Good night.

Update on 2007-03-06: I have been exchanging numerous emails with Tyler at Zvents. It’s been a total pleasure working with him, and I can say that I am now a happy Zvents user. Although we haven’t yet launched the Zvents features on our site, I am comfortable moving ahead with them and Tyler has given me some confidence that these technical matters, as well as the communication matters, should not resurface again