Normally, I would not continue to give readers the blow-by-blow on our outstanding complaints with the company Yoast, which is best known for its Yoast WordPress SEO plugin, over a review of our site. We describe the numerous errors and omissions in this post; our fundamental beef is that the Yoast Review he gave us was not what he promised on Yoast’s website, as in giving recommendations that were based on an investigation of our site.
However, in comments on our post about Yoast’s poor performance on its Yoast Review, Yoast’s CEO Joost de Valk, complained that we had not published all of his correspondence with us. This again reveals his inattentiveness to details, since we had released the correspondence in full (save content-free cover notes) since the beginning of our dispute up to the time when the post launched.
Yoast’s demand is puzzling since it is what Lambert would call a reader assisted suicide request.
This is Joost’s e-mail on March 14, 7:02 AM (four hours after our post on the Yoast SEO Review of our site launched):
I’m sorry but as I said, no further discussion of how you perceive what we did will bring us closer together. We have given clear advice on what you should do, for instance with the CSS files. If you say “we only have one CSS file”, it shows that you don’t know what you’re talking about on the technical front. That’s not a problem, it just means you have to give the review to someone to deal with it. Blaming your site’s speed on your third party ad server instead of saying: ok, our site should be faster, what can we do about it, which would get you to a completely different position. You see, dealing with those CSS files better would improve your site speed, as would several other changes we’ve proposed.
Your other remarks were that we don’t understand your business. We do. In fact, I dare say I understand it better than you do yourself from the web publishing point of view. You obviously had a different expectation of what we’d say and obviously would have liked us to agree with a lot of the choices you’ve made for your site. We don’t. You paid us to give you our expert opinion on your site, that’s what we did. You don’t like that, that’s fine with us, but we did what you asked us to do. Large amounts of text won’t change that. I will not give you a refund, as we did good work.
In all honesty, having done almost a thousand of these reviews, I’ve had one instance before where we got into a discussion. In that case I said the same as to you, we worked with the client to explain some of the things they needed to do that they didn’t understand and in the end they had a better site for it. I’d love to do the same with you.
Joost de Valk
CEO at Yoast
Note the disconnect between the tone and the substance. He acknowledges in the first sentence that he has now said twice that he is unwilling to consider our itemization of the errors and omissions in his report. He repeats his deliberate misrepresentation (or worse, misunderstanding) of the CSS issue, and incorrectly insinuates 1. that doing something about it would make a meaningful difference in site speed and 2. that there actually is anything we could do further. On 1. we’ve had our host prepare analyses of what causes our less than ideal loading speed, and the host performance is very speedy. As we told him, but he keeps ignoring, the speed issues are due entirely to third party served ads and related tracking. On 2, he refused to acknowledge a remark we’ve boldfaced repeatedly, that had we taken his advice on CSS and minifying, it would have broken the site.
So basically, his communication to us continues to be a Big Lie, that if he keeps saying things that we’ve told him in considerable detail are untrue, that will somehow make them true.
Joost e-mailed us again at 3:51 PM:
I see you’ve chosen to publish an article. I respectfully ask you to take down the report and all my emails from that article, as I haven’t given you rights to redistribute it and the copyright is mine. Failure in doing so will result in a DMCA request with your hosting provider.
We’re still willing to solve this differently and help you get the best out of our knowledge, I hope you will reconsider your actions and take advantage of my offer.
Joost de Valk
CEO at Yoast
As for your offer to “give us the best of your knowledge,” you were supposed to do that in the report you prepared for us and abjectly failed to do so. We’ve repeatedly told you how to remedy that, either by doing the necessary work to understand our site and business and prepare the report we were promised, or issue a full refund. We’ve gone to considerable effort to show you how pervasive and significant your errors and omissions were.
You failed to perform the basic work necessary to provide us with useful advice. Your replies to our e-mails have simply built on on and compounded your errors and omissions. Unless and until you redo the underlying work, your offers to answer questions merely assure a continuation of the “garbage in, garbage out” process that has characterized your dealings with us.
As to your threat, I suggest you familiarize yourself with copyrights. As a consultant and long-standing writer and publisher, I’m very familiar with the relevant US law and the attorneys who haev given us our foundational advice on intellectual property includes the attorney who wrote the US government’s very first licensing policies and contracts.
To have an enforceable copyright, you must file with the US Copyright Office in advance of publication of the particular work and pay a fee of $35. If you can provide proof that I can confirm with the US Copyright Office, I will of course honor your request and take the report proper out of the post, but the rest of the post will remain up.
Admittedly, many parties do respect copyright interests even when the needed steps to perfect them in the eyes of courts have not been taken. However, you did not have me sign a non-disclosure agreement. Your report is also not password protected, so anyone who has the URL can view it for free. You’ve effectively made it public.
Finally, and far and away the most important, I paid for your report. That means to the extent that the report is intellectual property, it is considered to be “works for hire,” and my company, not you, is the party who owns any copyright interest.
As for the rest of the post, there is nothing that you can ask to have taken down. I warned you repeatedly that I would publish both my letter to you and the report, and you raised no objection at the time. And I must note with some amusement that you complained in my comments section about my failure to publish all of our e-mail exchanges, As I explained via a reply, the post launched at 3:00 AM on March 14 and the message you appear to have wanted published was sent after that time.
You have already made a public statement that you wanted our correspondence published in full. So your position is contradictory: publicly, you pretend to want full transparency, and insist I provide ever bit of correspondence between us, yet privately, you want confidential treatment. You can’t have it both ways. And since your request for to have all our correspondence published was made before the world, prior to sending your takedown request, that would seem to carry greater weight.
If you issue a full refund, I will remove the embed of your report from the post as a courtesy.
Oh, and I’ve told my webhost I’m indemnifying him, so the post is staying up.
Update 3:00 PM March 16: Joost sent this message at 9:39 AM. It appears he is sensitive to having the report accessible:
I have just issued a refund, so please take down the report. In hindsight I should have done that immediately and spared us both a lot of trouble.
I wish you all the best for your future business.
Joost de Valk
CEO at Yoast
I thanked him in my reply and told him that my credit card issuer does not yet show that he has issued a credit, and once that they confirm that he has, I will take down his report as promised.