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On Discourse, Civility, and Vendors; or, JoVE and ACS and bullies

By sheer coincidence, one vendor demonstrated the fallacy of another vendor’s beliefs in the space of the last few days. I give you two vignettes:

The American Chemical Society dismissed Jenica’s report about SUNY Potsdam dropping their subscription to ACS by calling out blogs as unbalanced, discourteous things.

A spokesman for the American Chemical Society said that the group would not offer a response to Ms. Rogers’s blog post or the conversation that’s sprung up around it. “We find little constructive dialogue can be had on blogs and other listservs where logic, balance, and common courtesy are not practiced and observed,” Glenn S. Ruskin, the group’s director of public affairs, said in an e-mail message. “As a matter of practice, ACS finds that direct engagement via telephone or face-to-face with individuals expressing concern over pricing or other related matters is the most productive means to finding common ground and resolution.” (from this morning’s Chronicle of Higher Education, with apologies for their paywall)

So public discussions on blogs and email lists lack civility, but private one-on-one communication is good for finding common ground. Got it.

Meanwhile, the JoVE sales force have taken that to heart and prefer to sell their product to individual faculty members rather than to librarians (actually a fairly typical practice), getting the faculty to request their product from the library. And apparently this one-on-one communication between individuals can also be unbalanced and discourteous. Here is the email one JoVE salesman sent to a faculty member who wasn’t really interested in the JoVE product in the first place.

—— Forwarded Message
From: Max Radbill <max.radbill@jove.com>
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2012 10:18:24 -0700
To: 
Subject: Completion

Tom-

I am writing not to ask if you ever evaluated JoVE, but to question your integrity. By asking me to set up a trial for what I am assuming you wanted only to use a protocol from JoVE and then be done with JoVE. This is the reason I am questioning your integrity. Before the trial you said,you would be able to evaluate JoVE in the time given and if useful for you and your student you would endorse JoVE highly. This, of course, never happened.

For me this is a completion of the transaction that has been lingering. My conclusion is that you lied to get what you want and you lack integrity.

Max

Max Radbill
Account Manager
Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) <http://www.jove.com/>
17 Sellers St., Cambridge, MA 02139
tel. 617.765.4362 (office) | tel. 774.254.3451 (mobile) | max.radbill@jove.com

You’ll want to read the full email string on that one, and JoVE’s apology is here.

I bet we’d have universally civil discourse if we took the humans out of the equation. Short of that, it seems that it’s possible to be a complete jerk in any format.

Work Cited:

Howard, J. (2012, September 26). “As Chemistry Journals’ Prices Rise, a Librarian Just Says No.” Chronicle of Higher Education. Washington, D.C.

7 thoughts on “On Discourse, Civility, and Vendors; or, JoVE and ACS and bullies

  1. Those companies are bullies pure and simple. I saw the apology from Jove, and that supervisor should indeed be embarrassed, shocked, and appalled. If I had been that salesman’s boss, “strictest disciplinary action” would mean that that salesman would be fired. Such lack of common manners and behavior should not be tolerated in any workplace and certainly not towards a potential client. Lack of skills at a job is one thing (you can train for that). Lack of manners and common courtesy is something you either bring in to a workplace or you don’t. And as far as I am concerned, if you don’t bring your best behavior, go work elsewhere. I read that e-mail and just cringed.

    Best, and keep on blogging.

  2. I’ve worked with two different reps from JoVE. While JoVE’s reps are, as a rule, persistent, I would not characterize either one of the reps I dealt with as rude.

    Iris is already aware of this, but for others reading: marketing directly to faculty instead of librarians is not a new tactic, and it’s not exclusive to JoVE. I suspect on many campuses a purchase or subscription request from a faculty member carries a lot more weight than a request from a library staff member (or maybe even from several library staff members).

  3. “JoVE sales force have taken that to heart and prefer to sell their product to individual faculty rather than to librarians, getting the faculty to request their product from the library”

    Interesting tactic and maybe it works (probably better that unsolicited trials, or just cold-calling acquisitions librarians). But still, it’s not like the professor in question makes the final decision about what to purchase, or is likely to have any clue about the present budget.

  4. Yes, the practice of going to faculty can be a good one. I get miffed when the faculty get pressured, but in general the faculty are the ones who know the curriculum’s needs.

    On the topic of ACS, Glenn Ruskin, Director of the Office of Public Affairs for the American Chemical Society, just wrote to CHMINF-L. He says that the Chronicle misrepresented him. Here is the email in full:

    From: Glenn Ruskin < G_Ruskin@acs.org>
    To: “‘ chminf-l@list.indiana.edu‘” < chminf-l@list.indiana.edu>
    Subject: RE: [CHMINF-L] More on Potsdam’s cancellations from Chronicle
    Date: Wed, 26 Sep 2012 20:04:14 +0000
    Accept-language: en-US
    Stephen:

    Many thanks for sharing this with me. Let me assure you that it was not my intention, nor the intention of ACS, to denigrate blogs or users/contributors of blogs or listservs.

    My comment was directed toward the blog that was the subject of the Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) story. Unfortunately, CHE did not use the totality of my comment as I think it would have been clear that I was speaking specifically to the blog that was the point of the story. Here is the totality of my statement (bolded section was omitted by CHE):

    “We find little constructive dialogue can be had on blogs and other listservs where logic, balance and common courtesy are not practiced and observed. As a matter of practice, ACS finds that direct engagement via telephone or face-to-face with individuals expressing concern over pricing or other related matters is the most productive means to finding common ground and resolution. Therefore, we will not be offering any response to this blog posting or the conversation that has ensued.

    I respect and appreciate responsible bloggers, those that thoughtfully engage on those blogs as well as those that utilize listservs. No insult was intended, and apologies to those that interpreted the comment that way. These outlets provide important avenues to further dialogue and collaboration and are valuable assets in the ever evolving digital age.

    The individual responsible for the above cited blog certainly has the right to her opinion, but that does not excuse rude behavior or her use of profanity and vulgarity in addressing ACS or its employees. While not evident in the most recent postings, I won’t repeat what she has posted in the past. But I think you would agree that vulgarity and profanity postings do not lend themselves to meaningful, productive and civil discourse, thus our decision not to engage any further with her on this topic.

    Glenn

    Glenn S. Ruskin
    Director, Office of Public Affairs
    American Chemical Society
    1155 16th St., NW | Washington | DC 20036
    T 202-872-4475 | F 202-872-6206
    http://www.acs.org
    ACS Chemistry for Life
    American Chemical Society

    ACS Vision – Improving people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry

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