By Alfred Donovan
The ground-breaking “TellShell” discussion forum launched some eight years ago by Royal Dutch Shell Group was suspended early in November 2005. Since then visitors to the forum have been greeted by the following message: –
“Thank you for visiting our site. We’re currently redesigning our forum and plan to be back on-line with regular, business focused discussions in the future. We’d like to thank you for all the comments, views and opinions you have shared with us over the years and look forward to being back again shortly. All of the previous debates have been archived and are available to view from this page.”
“Tell Shell” truly was an innovation being the first “blog” of its kind. It provided a means for Shell to generate direct feedback from stakeholders and the public and engage in dialogue with them on the forum. To people who do not understand the background it must be puzzling that “Tell Shell” has been suspended, apparently indefinitely, at a time when blogs are the rage all around the globe, being introduced on countless websites every day.
The suspension was no surprise to me. On 26th October 2005, Mondaq published my article entitled: “The Slow Death of the ROYAL DUTCH SHELL PLC “Tell Shell” Internet Discussion Forum.“ It focused on the barrage of criticism about Shell management in 2004/5 made by “Tell Shell” contributors generally and more recently, in relation to Shell’s underhand censorship policies used in operating the forum, directly at odds with its claimed support for freedom of speech on the Internet.
Commonsense suggests that if the suspension of the forum was not a panic move prompted by the growing criticism mentioned above, Shell would have had the new version ready to roll out, instead of interrupting the forum for an undisclosed period of time.
Self-evidently no one at Shell management now wants to hear the honest feedback from “Tell Shell”, particularly at a time when Shell has been plagued by scandal (including the reserves fraud and associated class action lawsuits) as well as management incompetence leading to massive cost overruns on mega E&P projects, including Sakhalin2.
It is ironical that my article discussing the death of the forum was the last critical posting to appear on the active “General Discussion” forum. I had not anticipated that it would hasten the end of the forum in its former guise.