In 2014, I had a client named Todd. Todd was a friendly but socially awkward guy and we had done a fair share of business together in the past. He came to me with a new project that sounded interesting and we accepted the work. It was a civil issues project, focusing on local city ordinances and elections, allowing citizens to “upvote” issues that were important to them, all done via a mobile app. Todd would sell the reports back to the city, then the county, then the state. The project was partisan neutral and the reports would be available to anyone interested in purchasing a copy.
My company’s role would be to harvest massive amounts of data from various city and county websites and provide a back end to the mobile interface to collect user data and their upvotes for any given topic. We would also generate the reports. It was a lot of work because city websites are generally awful, without standards, lacking quality or any consistency whatsoever. At least back in 2014.
Another company would be creating the mobile app. They were known as Citronium. I interacted with their owner and a couple of their lead developers and engineers throughout the project. We were all making progress and were looking towards the impending launch date. Things were going well.
Not long before the launch date, Todd ran out of money and stiffed my company for more than a few thousand dollars. He did the same to Cintronium. The project halted and we all eventually went our separate ways.
The owner of Citronium contacted me a few months later and we chatted about collaborative projects as well as our options for what we could do with the existing codebase of the Meocracy project we essentially “owned” (my contract is crystal clear in this department) and we bounced a few ideas around.
Citronium asked if Ibex Data would represent them contractually here in the U.S. because they were losing sales by not having a domestic presence. You see, Citronium was based just outside of Moscow. Keep in mind this was still 2014.
I respectfully declined the invitation. Ibex has always been about hiring U.S.-based developers, engineers and designers. We have never hired offshore. This has always been a key tenet of my company so I couldn’t make an exception.
That was the last I heard from Citronium, at least until this weekend. I discovered while doing some “research” that Citronium had been using the address and one of the mobile phone numbers associated with my company as their own. While I’ve never received any mail or calls for them, their search engine presence along with my company’s information was nothing short of an alarming discovery. This was mostly SEO tactics, but if Russia-located Citronium appeared in search results above Ibex Data for our contact details, my company’s reputation was very likely damaged. It may have cost us any number of contracts over the years. It might also explain a few of the mysterious “thanks, but no thanks” declines I’ve received recently because my name is personally tied to both address and mobile details.
Now I have the miserable task of dealing with Google to try to disconnect their names from MY company and the reputation I’ve spent 10+ years solidifying.
The irony of the project and its participants in 2014 – in light of current political discussion – is not lost on me. I’m really glad I stuck to my guns and our core standards. But, damnit, I’ve got more important things to do today.