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This year two of the sites I am a regular user of, SCN and Facebook, both changed their Terms of Service. Although not exactly planned, I found myself being involved in both sites process to introduce these to their users. And these processes couldn’t have been more different.

I will start with Facebook’s, as I don’t think it needs much introduction.
It seems Facebook’s way of making changes to it’s service in general it is to change first, followed by a backlash from the users, before they change the changes to accommodate their users. The last couple of years there has been several big incidents: Beacon, Terms of Use and a couple of design changes.  I have asked myself for some time now how long they can do this before their users stop trusting them. I already saw traces of it this week, when many users were busy accusing Facebook of changing their policies to let third-party advertisers use their photos.

Now let’s take a look at what happened when SCN changed their Terms of Service.
Before releasing the final version, the SCN team reached out to a group of people called the SAP Mentors (disclaimer: I am an SAP Mentor), to get their feedback and input on the new Terms of Service. This process started in October 2008 and the final version was introduced to the users in May 2009 just to give you a picture of how much time we needed before all parties involved agreed. The final version was pushed out to the users on May 27th and it almost went by unnoticed. Compared to Facebook’s ToU I didn’t hear anyone complain or feel that their interests were not taken care of. There were no loud outcries or no one warning other users.

In the week following the updated Terms of Service I only saw tweets like:
– New SCN terms of service. Approved.
– The Mentors have been involved in shaping the Terms of Service so I know they are OK.
Funnily enough there seemed to be more questions about how the SCN team had made the pop-up window notifying the users, than about the new terms itself. The users were more concerned with how it was done technically than doubting that the ToS were good.

So what made the SCN team reach out to this group of people?
The SAP Mentor Initiative identifies and provides special status to exceptional and high-value members of our SAP Developer Network (SDN) and Business Process Expert (BPX) communities.  SAP Mentors are role models who differentiate themselves through the high quality and frequency of their community contributions, their perspectives, attitudes, and interaction styles.  They are subject-matter experts who are passionate about SAP and share their opinions and insights with the community.

Having a group of trusted users, who will give honest and direct feedback, proved to be very valuable in this situation. Looking back at it I would say it was a successful cooperation and I hope there will be more coming in the future.

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4 Comments

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    1. Anonymous
      Hi Mark,
      Thank you for the heads up!
      It is definitely not every day I gets to see my name in Forbes 🙂
      I hope there will be more processes like this one for the Mentors in the future, I think we all learned a lot from each other and had fun on the way too.
      Best,
      Anne
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  1. Moya Watson
    i do miss @yojibee but i’m so happy to see major media picking up on @akpetteroe — high time! well earned! hope to see you more in the Press, anne!
    -m
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