Brutally honest feedback about Seafile and the current fiasco

Dear Daniel and Jonathan, (only you two are listed in the About page)

Unlike others, I’d like to comment on the current state of things. I’m a paying Pro customer and I actually wish to support you, but I feel some things must change dramatically if you are to actually get out of this alive, and potentially succeed in the future. The following may sound a little blunt (too little time), apologies in advance.

I had purchased my license in early January from seafile.com – as the order confirmation email subject and images inside it clearly say – but all the emails were signed by Seafile Gmbh and the download links were all from the .de domain. From the very beginning it all felt very amateurish and fuzzy. Two apparent companies, gazzilion download places, open source code, closed code, multiple github repos, borderline rude replies from what appeared to be team/support members (i think mostly german ones, daniel and johnathan were ok, but it’s the general perception regarding a product that’s affected), untested fixes deployed, shady documentation, broken scripts, etc. This would be fine for a community project, but not when charging a fee. Right now I am asked to register when trying to download the Pro version from the link I received in the email…

Your .com website could be much more professional. For example, there is no clear contact section (it’s hidden under About with an obscure email icon - one may think that you don’t want to be contacted); or support section for customers; or download section for the Pro version. The blog with actual news is hidden away. Some past attempts to get support for problems received delayed or no replies, or was asked to post in github, sometimes I had to resort to forums where some attitudes were rather abrupt (possibly german, I don’t know, but I shouldn’t care).

It makes one wonder. Who am I a customer of? Seafile Ltd or Seafile Gmbh? The order confirmation emails are anything but clear. Where do I actually get support from as a paying customer? What guarantees are there time-wise? How am I kept up to date with important news or changes? Where do I actually download the thing I paid for? I now see a very obscured link to the Pro version in the forums - that’s hardly the professional choice!

And right now, as a paying customer I’m being exposed to an absolutely ridiculous mud-fight that makes two companies look completely unprofessional, unattractive, and inexperienced. Both companies chose to fight in public in a manner resembling two adolescents hitting puberty, driving away paying customers and potential customers. You are both playing with your customers’ money and time, and also with your own future!

More importantly, it raises concerns whether either of you are capable to act professionally and responsibly enough and provide a service customers paid for. They didn’t pay you to put on a public entertainment show. They paid you to develop software and to provide actual support for it.

Here’s my brutally honest feedback - no particular order

  • The worst possible reply to these criticisms is “they started first”.
  • Stop posting public information about your fight with Seafile Gmbh! It makes you look like a 13-old schoolgirl who is wasting their customers’ money, and drives serious customers away.
  • Hire a lawyer immediately to deal with all of it and to advise you on how to communicate to the public and to your customers!
  • Hire a professional web and content designer and put up an actually professional website.
  • Add clear sections on the website for News, Contact, Download of Pro, Support for paying customers, Bug reports. Currently it’s chaotic and feels amateurish.
  • The German website already looks and reads a lot more professionally (despite their blog post regarding the fight with you being pathetic) and this very reason alone can get them more customers! Don’t ignore this!
  • Hire someone who can communicate in a more professional, more diplomatic manner, and with better English skills. Your level of English is not a problem per-se (I have no problem with it), but it makes you look less professional given today’s context and the fiasco you’re currently riding. Don’t underestimate this!
  • Keep your paying customers updated via email whenever anything important happens, including changes to the software that may affect current installations.
  • Despite popular belief, customers are actually not expected to go out of their way and dig obscure blog posts or the likes to keep up.
  • Keep a single domain name for everything.
  • Don’t release updates/features without really extensive testing … a single hitch can topple a customers’ business. The Pro version must not be treated the same as the community version.
  • For example, I wanted to migrate from sqlite to mysql by using the official migration script and the official docs and it all extremely buggy and left my database in shambles. Asking for support was a bad experience (I believe it’s still not officially fixed).
  • Provide official and actual OS packages. The current Pro package and installation procedure is anything but professional!
  • Don’t use paying customers as guinea pigs (yes, it happened to me in the past). You cannot ask your paying customers to try untested fixes or on-the-spot ideas. It can affect affect their business!
  • Be prompt and also upfront regarding support timeframe for paying customers. You sometimes reply quickly other times very slowly, and other times ask paying customers to post in Github when they report a problem. That is not acceptable.
  • You may want to take some IT business/management courses or, if you can’t afford the time, hire an advisor for a fixed term. Learn from established companies.

The list is long and there are too many to list … but if you’re committed then I think you can do it.

At this point please consider a professional message (and I do mean professional - not the silly type of the recent blog posts) to all your customers in which you explain in brief that you are undergoing structural changes (don’t mention the mud-fight), that they will receive prompt support during this period, outline a clear list of items (with a clear timeplan) you are planning to undergo for the next period, and very clearly and warmly invite them to provide new suggestions and/or vote on the items that you have already identified, and provide a professional avenue for them to provide such suggestions (don’t just ask them to reply via email or leave comments on your blog - show that you care about them and their views). Sent this both via email and also post it visibly on the website … don’t obscure it as a blog post. Create (now!) an account on http://uservoice.com and put that list of future items in there, and include the link in the email.

If I were you, I would cease ALL development of new features right now, and start prioritizing the non-code issues like all of the above and putting in place an actual and working support context for paying customers.

Remember, you are selling a product and are charging a very hefty fee (it doesn’t matter if some competitors are more expensive). You simply can’t afford to appear inexperienced, childish or unprofessional … sadly, that’s how you appear right now especially given this public mud-fight with the German counterpart.

Bluntly put, get your act together and you may just make it!

EDIT: Right now you have pretty much a single trump card: a pretty good software idea and software product - don’t blow it. However, given that another company (with some resources and manpower) is trying to take ownership of it requires you to be orders of magnitude more careful and more adept in order to succeed! I hope that you are now investing in top-level professional help - it doesn’t look like you two alone are experienced enough to really succeed and be profitable.

I wish you the best of luck!

p.s. While I decided not to renew my license for now, I will follow your progress from here on and I will support you if I can.

8 Likes

May I ask what happened to the other developers? I vaguely remember quite alot developers listed there last time I’ve visited About - Seafile.

It would be nice to have an overview there to know who is responsible for a certain part of Seafile (for example: the smartphone applications).

…and link all other existing domains under your control to it.

I get what you mean but in the end this should done for the whole community, not only the paying customers. Most of the people interested in buying the Pro version will try the community version first.

w0rd!
Beside all the critic comments that are necessary now and in the near future a big THANK YOU to you Seafile developers for this great software!

You can find it here: https://www.seafile.com/en/team/

Hi @qnxor

Thanks for your long suggestions!

Seafile GmbH helped build the shop for us. So we trusted them and direct shop.seafile.com to their shop. But sometime later, they secretly changed all links (including those sent in email) to .de domain. In general, we also think the previous situation between Ltd and GmbH was very confusing. And we already tried to ask them not to build so many confusing pages. But they wouldn’t listen… I think after we clean up the current dispute, that would actually be better for the customers.

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Strange. When I visited the page yesterday there were only two developers listed. Anyway: thanks. So the Seafile team is overall as I remembered it.

Comprehensible but (although it is not my business) maybe there is a way for a peaceful fork?

I’ve suggested here a clear fork (only the open source part with a new name) for Seafile GmbH and until now a lot of active community members share the same point of view that Seafile GmbH is not going the right way. So although some points sounds comprehensible Seafile GmbH is risking to loose the community on their current way.
Maybe this offers an opportunity for a peaceful fork (eg a kind of settlement out of court with some financial offerings for Seafile GmbH for choosing a different brand/name and only fork the open source code and as compensation for their good work in the last years)?

We’re not against a peaceful resolution. If they return the trademark and stop “forking” the proprietary code base, we’ll negotiate a settlement with them. Law is always the final choice. Sorry for not being comprehensive enough.

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Thanks, I’m very relieved to hear that! :slight_smile::+1:

Any chance we can get a different color beside the “orange/yellow” color out of this whole fiasco??

I personally think orange is great and now that customers are already confused because of the blue change by Seafile GmbH i wouldn’t do this now - or in the future. Orange belongs to the whole seafile brand.

But it would be nice to see an option in the Server to customize the colors for every individual installation.

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Dear Seafile GmBH and Ltd,

I’ll post this in both new forums.
It’s like in the real world, nothing is just black or white. What I want to say, is, that I can understand both of you in one or the other way. It seems that both of you have good arguments and both of you have contributed a lot to the seafile project. But it also seems, that both of you made errors. Maybe it would have been better to meet each other 1:1 and have some german (or chinese) beer together but I’m afraid that it’s too late for this!?

As far as I can see the ‘advantage’ of Seafile GmbH is the so called “german Gründlichkeit”. They have discovered and (partially) solved (or at least they are on the way) the legal problems around the seafile project like the registration of trademarks, licensing stuff, copyrights etc. They also have adressed problems with frequent changes in the roadmap and Alexander has developed the absolutely important installer script. Although an official package inside the most important Linux distributions would be even better.
All these aspects are essential for companies using seafile, especially in europe and especially for a product like seafile, they need reliable structures in order to plan for the future. Also true for the private users.

On the other side I see the main advantage in point of technology in Seafile Ltd. They alone seem to have the deep technical expertise of the core functionalities of seafile.

So the problem is: both of the above is absolutely necessary! And if it’ll go on like it seems to be now, that both of you will take their own way, I fear that may be the end of a great product!
Let me justify this: forks are not necessarily bad, sometimes competition also strengthens! This may be true for bigger projects with lots of ressources. But for a project like seafile with just a few people here and there, it’s a desaster! There is so much work to be done (code development, testing, documentation, internationalisation, support, marketing, sales and distribution, legal stuff, …) that I assume, just 2 or some more people neither in germany nor in china neither can have the expertise nor the ressources to handle all of these areas on their own.

So for us as the community this is a really sad situation! Looking at owncloud/nextcloud I always were sure, to ride the right horse with seafile and now this…

Please be advised to argue but not to mud-wrestle! It’s important for the community and for the customers to know all important details in order to make a (hard and well-founded) decision with whom to go in the future but please don’t react like in some other forked project where the former partners virtually are at war against each other! I personally will immidiately leave a project / community which (re)acts like this, regardless of the quality of the software!
And: please find a solution in regard of the naming: we don’t need 2 (or more) different projects with the same name ‘seafile’.

What we as user (private and commercial) really need to know now is what are your plans for

  • technological roadmap (and especially for the german part: how do you plan to achieve this?)
  • clearing the ‘legal stuff’ like licensing, copyright, registered trademarks etc. (here the chinese team seems to have some homework to do?)

Just my 0,02$ and I keep my fingers crossed that Seafile will live on!!!
Jochen

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[quote=“Robbie, post:8, topic:69, full:true”]
Any chance we can get a different color beside the “orange/yellow” color out of this whole fiasco??
[/quote]I don’t think this is a good idea! Please stick to your corporate identity. The clearer it is the better. Especially in this situation.

For my side is too much lalalala.
In the past we see many projects that a company THINKS to do better than original owner or a part of engineers takes the code and they do something different.
Nas4free → Freenas
Open Office → Libre Office
Recently Owncloud → Nextcloud
etc

We don’t need you free criticism and sarcasm. Instead do you have a good idea ?
Absolutly no. Just stay in the shadow and flood forum.
Daniel and Jonathan are adult and know what can they do.
Need money ? Crowdfunding
Need ressource ? I thing there is many good dev in Python and others languages
I see actually in “about” 11 people working on the project. https://www.seafile.com/en/team/

I think it’s a good idea to offer several color themes for users (theming) and possibility to replace the logo.
Otherwise, keep the yellow for the identity of the project.

You will always have my unconditional backing.

+1 To Jochen

Yes, but that would require you to actually read my post …

I’ve just discovered Seafile when I wondered if there was an open source system that I could implement on my Windows server (which costs me a lot) so I didn’t have to pay Dropbox et al. So I’ve come to Seafile from scratch and something must have changed over the last two years because I found the current website incredibly professional and easy to use. The installation instructions for Windows server are some of the best I’ve come across. Installed and for it working on the LAN. Which ports do I need to put though the firewall - ohh there they are. I’m impressed.

Don’t want to be your dealbreaker but the manual and also the website lack any information about windows not being supported anymore for Seafile server. The webpage improved somewhat but for a timeframe of two years more could have changed. :slight_smile:

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Seems to work fine…

Good information thanks for sharing
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