On Wednesday, February 13th 2013, Fitness SF’s site was taken down by a disgruntled vendor. He claims that he was not given the respect nor money due in a project he worked on and decided to take serious action. It wasn’t the courts or the better business bureau, but self help, in an ballsy move.

Frank Jonen posted the following in place of his client’s site:
fitnesssf screenshot

Fitness SF had a reply:

“On Wednesday evening, our domain name Fitness SF was hacked and stolen by an individual named Frank Jonen. Frank was hired on May 16th, 2012 to develop a functional website for our brand. A $5,000 payment was made to him on the same date. In his proposal, he stated that the website would take 10 weeks to complete. He missed numerous deadlines including our brand launch in September. In December, he voluntarily passed the incomplete and non functioning website to our new design firm.
Now, Frank is attempting to portray himself as the victim when truly the victim is Fitness SF as he attempts to get paid for work he did not complete and has decided that blackmail is the way to accomplish that.
Fitness SF”

The Issue

Unfortunately, Fitness SF’s reply begs more questions than it answers:

  • Was the site truly ‘hacked’?
  • Did they change their passwords?
  • Why is the site still down?
  • Who is right?

There are always three sides to every story.

I recall when I first started out freelancing. I put together a fairly simple website for a bar in San Francisco’s Castro district were I was working the door at the time. I charged them peanuts considering the going rate as the job was more of a favor and ultimately a portfolio building piece. You can imanage my dismay when they bulked at the invoice. Rather than argue I just lowered my rate. I won’t say what I did was right, it was a means to an end, I had a good job and didn’t want to make waves. But ultimately, I did myself and every web guy out there a disservice. Many clients seeking out this type of work has very limited knowledge of what’s involved, and with cousins and brothers and next door neighbors that can haphazardly throw together a web presence, people think it should be next to free. Never mind the WYSIWYG tools that are now practically free when you register your domain. To their credit they have gotten much better than they were. Do you remember when they first came out? Shudder.

So back to the case in point, I sided with mister Jonen right out the gate. I understand this was jumping to a conclusion and prolly wrong, but we all love to see an underdog get his day in court. But there’s more in this case. After all, he presents a very good argument on the page. He is clear, concise, and articulate in his argument and his presentation of other projects for FitnessSF is outlined in the links he provides.

Choose your side…?

What I find most fascinating about this debacle is that when I tweeted this:
fitness sf tweet 1
They replied with a ‘please read our side of the story‘ tweet.

Then I tweeted this:
fitness sf tweet 2

Why no screen shot of their tweet to me you ask? Well, when you click on @fitnesssf, a really unfortunate message pops up on twitter:

The plot thickens.

My point with this article is not to choose sides. When a falling out happens, people always gravitate to one side or the other, usually based on personal experiences. This situation was handled poorly on both sides, and the take away here is communication and security matter most in client relationships. There was obvious miscommunication, and questionable security practices. On Mr. Jonan’s side, he could have taken a more appropriate action, there are avenues for this sort of thing. On Fitness SF’s side, they could have discussed their unhappiness with the product and lack of progress, not to mention they could have moved their site (the whois on fitnesssf.com shows Mr. Jonan owns the domain and has since February 2012).

Furthermore, this proves their site was not ‘hacked’. Hacked implies control was seized by nefarious means, this site was merely taken down.

Who wins?

Well, no one. But when you have a problem with a vendor, the first thing you do is secure your assets and do everything you can to keep it out of the public eye. Though a this point, Frank Jonen has won the first round via first attack, and Fitness SF’s reply lost them the second. This is a PR nightmare for the club and they will have to wade through the resulting quagmire. With this issue, they had more to lose in a city that is full of techie geeks, a lot who started out small like myself and understand the in’s and out’s of not only running a business, but a tech business.

What do you think?

2.19.13 – Update:

Looks like all is well again. http://fitnesssf.com/ now points to their site and their twitter account has been reinstated. I can’t find any details online as to the resolution, no explanation is offered. My guess is that someone got a check.