Community Forums and Message Boards, take 2

Jason, over at the Original Prop Blog, responded to my post disparaging message boards with a lengthy post of his own. He writes:

“Having been an administrator of a number of online discussion forums, going back about a decade now, I have a different take on Fong’s views above.

It really isn’t a technology problem, but a people problem.  Two of the biggest issues are moderation and anonymity.

Some forum admins just don’t have clear rules and expectations, and allow (in my opinion) inappropriate participation.  More, larger forums with no moderation allows for a minority to control the culture, the discourse, and drive away those holding opinions with which they do not agree.

Another problem is the anonymity of most forums – people can sign up as whoever they’d like, and as many times as they’d like, and again affect the forum in a very negative manner.”

In regards to moderation and anonymity, these are the exact two problems I have with message boards. These private forums require creating an account to participate (although, some forums like the RPF, allow viewing without having to log in). Letting members create usernames that mask their identities goes in the face of transparency. Here’s a suggestion that can kill two birds with one stone: use Facebook or Twitter to log in. That way there is no need to create a new account and there will not be an identity issue. Of course, a transparent private board is an oxymoron. From what I’ve seen, moderators are almost never unbiased. If any post gets edited or deleted, moderation has failed. If there are any ads from users, the message board has been compromised.

I agree with Jason that there is a people problem here. But you can’t get rid of the people, so the next best thing is to use the tools of technology to limit their antics. I say eliminate the moderators and pull away the curtains.

(Jason, if you’ve wondered why we’ve been bantering back and forth from my blog to yours, it’s because I refuse to create an account in order to post on your site. Oh, and as far as waiting for Profiles to address any open questions, good luck.)

14 thoughts on “Community Forums and Message Boards, take 2

  1. Thanks, Fong. I actually recently migrated my reader comment system over to Disqus, so there are now more ways in which to dialogue (without the overly involved registration requirements), though I enjoy reading your responses here on your own site as well.

    I agree Facebook could be a step toward mitigating the anonymity issue, but you can still make up a fake identity on Facebook (though it’s not as easy as making up fake accounts on various websites). Twitter, on the other hand, would only be helpful for those that register with more identifiable account names (and again it’s easy to quickly make up a fake/anonymous account).

    But I totally disagree on the moderator view… you need some moderation or a board can devolve into total chaos. There is a way to mod in an unbiased way, it’s just that not many people possess those skills. But, unfortunately, given human nature, you are usually going to have to do something to deal with the minority of people who exist to simply cause problems for others.

    My view is, if you make people use their real names (first and last, verified), and you don’t allow them to edit their messages after a reasonable amount of time, then people act more as they do in the real world, and think more about committing words to screen.

    Jason

  2. Is there an unbiased moderator in the collectibles community? One that doesn’t edit or delete posts? One that doesn’t take advertising money from users? One that will not succombe to pressure from friends or advertisers?

    Not from what I’ve seen so far. Every prop forum is run by someone who’s “aligned” with someone else, who’s picked “a side.” Objectivity is non-existent.

    Making users use their true identity is a start. FB and Twitter logins are options–there are others. But the unbiased moderator is maybe a myth. You either remove the moderator and let users do the moderating (but you have to have users who are not afraid to speak up when they see something grossly wrong). Or, you set up bylaws to govern the forum and make transparency the highest order.

  3. Hey Fong,

    But if you’ve never been a member of any of these forums, I’m not sure how you’ve formed any opinions about them?

    Suggesting that users be the moderators… I’ve seen that before – it’s called chaos, which results in never ending flamewars and trolls and division.

    It’s really not all that complicated. But you need to have someone in charge who is capable of being fair and thoughtful.

    But you and Profiles never had any presence on any of these forums, so it seems like your mind was made up and maybe it was just never worth the time and effort?

    Jason

  4. I have been in plenty of forums to know how they work. Like I’ve mentioned, these message boards have been the same since the 1990s. Yes, I’ve suggested no moderators, but I’ve also suggested strict bylaws. These are just options. If you insist on having moderators, then they must be transparent and unaffiliated. That means not taking ads from your users. That means no deleting threads because a user requested. It means get out of the way. Set bylaws and enforce them. That should be the job of moderators. You don’t take sides. Don’t tell me these things don’t go on. I’ve seen it. The collectibles community is very small. Don’t you think word gets around? You don’t need to have a “presence” to know. There are a lot of good people on the forums. Friends, clients, etc. But when you see threads being blatantly edited or deleted and the moderators fein surprise, that forum has lost its integrity. When you see obvious ads and sponsors being promoted, that message board has lost its credibility.

    What I want to see is a board or forum on a neutral site. You need a platform that is not being controlled by someone who has a stake in the game, so to speak. What’s wrong with doing it out in the open? Facebook discussion boards are Google+ Hangouts are examples of neutral sites. There are ways ascertain real identities, so that’s not an issue. The Obama campaign uses Google+ Hangouts for example. If its good for POTUS, it’s got to be good enough for the prop community. Right?

    • But you are making a blanket statement about discussion forums in this art market, but, as far as I know, you are not a registered member at any of them, correct? And many you must be a registered member of in order to view without restriction, and in full context.

      I’m not in disagreement with the issues you’ve raised, but I think if you haven’t “experienced” these forums, then you are kind of tying your hands behind your back with your analysis.

      I still run my own forum at Original Prop Community, and I require members to sign up for the Directory on the Original Prop Blog first, which requires identity verification through PayPal (and before anyone suggests I profit at this, I charge $1, and having this in place costs me a loss of probably $20+/month due to all the fees).

      But one of my rules on my forum is that, if you wish to be a member and participate, you must registered with your real name, provide contact information, and your real world first and last name is your username displayed wherever you post on the forum. The forum has been going since 2008 with zero problems, and I really don’t have to “do” anything as moderator. Everyone knows everyone “in the room”, so to say, and there have been no conflicts or issues. The forum runs itself, for the most part. There are no advertisers or affiliates or anything, and I take no donations for the operating costs.

      When I started the OPC, it was public viewable, but required registration to participate. I’ve found, in this hobby, no one wants to have substantive discussions if they don’t know who is reading it. I then split it to have a public section and a private section… and the publicly viewable section was dead. For a variety of reasons, people in this field simply don’t feel comfortable participating on a forum that anyone could read.

      I have been a member of many of the other forums, and even served as admin of the Movie Prop Forum for years, and generally left all of them due to issues I had with moderators/admins… for the most part allowing people to post using sock puppet and fake accounts. If there is no transparency or accountability, I have no interest in participating. Poor moderation and no requirements on identity verification makes these forums inherently flawed.

      So I’m with you there, but I’m just disagreeing with some of your finer points, based on my experiences as both a user and as an admin of many movie prop forums over the past 10 years. I’ve clocked literally upwards of 5,000 or even 10,000 posts on these forums, and have owned and/or run three different forums about movie props, excluding the OPB.

      As far as taking sides go, with issues that have cropped up in the past, I’ve tended to take friends to task more than others, just to make clear that there is no bias.

      Again, if you have a “wild west” atmosphere for a platform, with no one in charge, you will have nothing but problems whenever you are dealing in an area where commerce is a fundamental aspect (buying, selling, trading, etc.). Money leads to agendas. Competition leads to agendas. When I was running the movie prop forum, a tool I found to be invaluable was simply asking questions. If you ask pertinent questions to someone in a respectful way, you can get to the heart of the issue. If you have a moderator-free platform, no one has to answer any questions; no one is accountable to anything.

      I think for a successful and fair atmosphere, you need identity verification as well as appropriate moderation, just as a starting point.

      Jason

  5. I don’t think you are reading what I wrote. Moderators are fine, as along as they remain neutral. You are right that I have no idea what your site is about, because it is PRIVATE. By its nature, it is not transparent. No one can read anything there. Your argument that no one will say anything substantive in a public forum goes against transparency, which is what you’ve been advocating. Yet, you accept ads on your site (even if you say you don’t for the forum, you do for the general site where the forum is nested). The fact that the forum is closed off does not inspire confidence in the public. Also, the RPF and MPF are commonly referred to, but nobody talks about your forum. Is there a gag order? Can no one talk about what is discussed there? Do users agree to non-disclosure upon signing up? This is really convenient for you, because I often see you mention that people ask you about certain things (especially when it comes to issues involving Profiles), but you don’t disclose who they are. You want Profiles to open up about their business practices (which they don’t have an obligation to since they are a private company), but you run a private forum. This seems like the pot calling the kettle black.

    I understand the difficulty in creating and maintaining an objective forum. But that is what we are debating, no, how to come up with something that fulfills transparency and remain neutral? I have already laid out my case against the current state of message boards due to their politics and ulterior agendas.

    Your case argues for a closed environment, with complicated sign-ins. I’m simply advocating to use better technology to verify identity and eliminate biased moderators. An open and neutral platform. If its transparent, it has to be open for all.

    • Fong,

      Earlier today you wrote this:
      _

      “Yes, I’ve suggested no moderators, but I’ve also suggested strict bylaws
      _

      Now you write this:
      _

      “I don’t think you are reading what I wrote. Moderators are fine, as along as they remain neutral.”
      _

      Um… not sure how to reconcile those two statements…

      Another comment from you:
      _

      “You are right that I have no idea what your site is about, because it is PRIVATE. By its nature, it is not transparent. No one can read anything there.”
      _

      Well, you are very welcome to register, and registered members can read EVERYTHING there. Many Facebook pages are also “PRIVATE” in the same manner – if you are not a registered member of Facebook, you cannot read the content. My forum is no different from Facebook in this regard. Actually, my forum is more transparent than Facebook, because after you register one time, you can read everything on the forum (after you post your own introduction). With Facebook, you have to be friends, and/or it is dependent on each user’s privacy settings. Yet one of the models that you suggest is Facebook groups, which require users to register for Facebook, just as my site requires users to register. So what is the difference?

      You want transparency, as do I, but it is a trade off – some people will not open up with honest discourse with their real names/identities if anyone can read it; but they are willing to be open and honest if the audience is as well. So everyone posts with their real first and last name, but the audience is limited to those willing to make the same commitment.

      The RPF subsequently launched a publicly viewable subforum for original props and costumes, and if you ask Art, he will tell you that he asked me about this beforehand, and I was 100% supportive, as it provided another alternative in this art market for public debate and discussion (and I’m all for more forums, more blogs, more debate).

      I have advertisements on my site, but they do not affect or influence my content whatsoever.

      The purpose of the Original Prop Blog is to benefit the public. I fund it personally, to the tune of many tens of thousands of dollars, and no auction house or dealer has ever offered to make any donation or contribution in the 5+ years I’ve been running it. The funds generated from ad revenue is a drop in the bucket compared to the monetary expense of operating it, not to mention the significant non-monetary costs.

      More from your post…
      _

      “The fact that the forum is closed off does not inspire confidence in the public. Also, the RPF and MPF are commonly referred to, but nobody talks about your forum. Is there a gag order? Can no one talk about what is discussed there? Do users agree to non-disclosure upon signing up?”
      _

      Oh, hold on a second, I’m trying to control my black helicopters remotely…

      Okay, thanks. I think it is funny that you are coming up with these speculative questions. Seriously? A gag order?

      I’ve never had “the public” (or any one individual) ever once complain to be about the registration-required nature of my forum. Not once.

      I’m sure no one talks about my forum because there are not many members, and the activity pales in comparison to the RPF and MPF. It’s also drama-free. I’d like to think it’s well-moderated… so I get the sense that maybe you would therefore actually enjoy it, if you bothered to check it out, rather than simply speculate about how awful it must be…

      Maybe you should actually sign up for some of these forums to see for yourself, rather than coming up with conspiracy theories? I don’t know – I get the sense you are annoyed by their existence, yet have never bothered to actually become a member of any of them? Which I’ve always found quite baffling, as the MPF in particular could serve as a tremendous free information resource for your former employer.

      More from your post:
      _

      “This is really convenient for you, because I often see you mention that people ask you about certain things (especially when it comes to issues involving Profiles), but you don’t disclose who they are. You want Profiles to open up about their business practices (which they don’t have an obligation to since they are a private company), but you run a private forum. This seems like the pot calling the kettle black.”
      _

      People that ask me about things, probably 9.5 out of 10 times, do so privately. Most of these questions I keep to myself. But if someone has a particularly interesting or important question, I might bring it up in an article. If I sense someone simply has an agenda or an axe to grind with a particular company or individual, I ignore it. But as the media, the media sometimes have confidential sources of information, and in these cases, if the information and/or question(s) are valid, and stand on their own, it is worthy of mention.

      Recently someone (confidentially) brought to my attention the question about the “Monty Python” helmet sold by Profiles in History that appeared to be the same helmet sold a few months earlier as from “Henry V”. The questions that arise from that information have nothing to do with who brought it to my attention. Who contacted me was immaterial to the topic and questions, and by maintaining such confidences, people are comfortable sharing information with me that may be useful to the mission of my site.

      Regarding your other comment, I don’t see the parallel between what I do (own and write for a consumer-oriented news and opinion website that does not make a profit or sell anything) and what Profiles in History does (an auction house that both authenticates and sells tens of millions of dollars of memorabilia annually, as well as features in an entertainment “reality” television cable series).

      More, I actually answer the fair and valid questions that “real” people and companies ask of me, so how am I not transparent? As an example, here I am answering your questions…

      As far as the forum goes, how is my forum any different from 50 people participating in a group e-mail chain? Is that “not transparent”? What about a dozen people group e-mailing each other? What about two people e-mailing each other? Is that too “private”, and thus not transparent? What about five friends on private Facebook pages having a dialogue about the hobby? Where do you draw the line? How many people must be in communications in a form that is not published for the entire world to see (free and without registration), by which it is “private”, an affront to the public, and thus non transparent?

      Back on topic, you are welcome to start your own open, publicly viewable, and transparent forum, but you will attract a small subset of the hobby, which is fine. I’m just speaking from the experience of having run three online forums in the hobby over ten years, and know many of the principal participants in this space, and know their views on this topic fairly intimately.

      Do you have any interest in starting your own forum? Just out of curiosity, why are these issues on your mind? Do you wish to implement your ideas yourself, hope that an existing forum (or forums) change, or hope that some third party reads your missives, becomes inspired by them, and runs with them him or herself? Or is it merely an intellectual exercise?

      Below is a super top secret post I published on my non-transparent private forum (sarcasm – couldn’t help it…), back in 2009… having now re-read it, more than three years later, it helped me to remember that I quizzed probably a few dozen long-term hobbyists and forum participants about their opinions on this very topic.

      __________/__________/_________/__________

      Posted 04 June 2009 – 05:46 PM

      Hey Everyone,

      As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been pretty busy lately, but I’ve had some changes in mind of the Original Prop Community for a little while, and am finally making some of those today.

      At the outset, I was honestly on the fence as to whether to make the forum all public, all private, or a mix of both public and private content.

      Ultimately, after receiving a lot of great input from collectors about the merits of all three, I decided to experiment with a mix of both public and private, for reasons already noted previously.

      While I am very much an advocate of openness and transparency, I believe that application thereof is just as important.

      Candidly, I don’t know that having the publicly accessible area really added anything to the forum. The public topics didn’t seem to have any more hits than the private ones did, so it seemed like the visits to the site were almost exclusively made by registered members. As such, I don’t know that the trade offs that came with splitting the forum in half were warranted.

      I did pick the word “Community” for a reason (and not just because it starts with a letter in-between “B” and “D” :lol:). I would like people who belong to this community to know one another, be comfortable, and perhaps truly know the “audience” for their contributions.

      I know from my recent visit to Burbank, in meeting up and having lunch with a number of hobbyists, that we all have opinions, but they are shared more freely in controlled, comfortable environments. While there is still a bridge between the OPC and Claimjumper, maybe closing the walls and being less concerned about the eyes of strangers will bring us a little closer to that virtual sit down and chat.

      So, beginning now, I have condensed things a bit, and non-members can see nothing except the login page and registration page.

      We still have transparency, in that all members must jump through my various and unique “hoops” to join, including the notorious use of one’s real first and last name. But maybe making things a little more intimate, and a little less complicated will be a step in the right direction.

      I am always open to change and new ideas, so I really consider this an evolutionary journey. And no worries, I will never “declassify” private information, so you won’t come to this URL tomorrow and see that I’ve done a 180 and made everything public.

      Anyway, feel free to respond here if you have any input or ideas. I was going to solicit some thoughts on this before acting, but in this case, my mind had pretty much been made up.

      Thanks to all who have breathed some life into the place – as always, I really appreciate it.

      Jason

      __________/__________/_________/__________

      Cheers!

      Jason

  6. Jason: Thanks for your exhaustive education in the creation and maintenance of message boards, and for sharing a post from your forum. I have no doubt that you have a lot of experience and have given much thought to this topic.

    I am very much interested in how communities come together. This is an intellectual exercise for me. It’s fun and now that I’m not at Profiles I get to see more of the prop landscape. My opinions of message boards are simple. I think they can be better. I think technology is an answer. I mentioned FB and Twitter and you rightfully pounced on these. However, they are suggestions. There are also many other options.

    I repeat from my last comment:

    “I understand the difficulty in creating and maintaining an objective forum. But that is what we are debating, no, how to come up with something that fulfills transparency and remain neutral? I have already laid out my case against the current state of message boards due to their politics and ulterior agendas.

    Your case argues for a closed environment, with complicated sign-ins. I’m simply advocating to use better technology to verify identity and eliminate biased moderators. An open and neutral platform. If its transparent, it has to be open for all.”

    Perhaps there is no perfect forum. Perhaps there is no way to eliminate trolls and people who just want to cause problems. Again, this is an intellectual exercise for me. I really hope that people who are running their forums come up with their own answers (and if possible, share what they have come up with and why). Your opinions are appreciated. But even your calls for transparency is tempered with the acknowledgement that there are trade-offs.

    With regards to your invitation for me to join your forum, I will respectfully decline. I’m just not interested in joining any message board. If I have anything to say, I will say it on Twitter, Facebook or here, and anyone can engage me likewise.

  7. Since transparency is the topic at hand, what is the status of the lawsuit brought against Jason DeBord and The Original Prop Blog by Alec Peters/Propworx. I see many articles on The Original Prop Blog about Profiles in History, Premiere Props, etc. but no mention of Propworx. How is it going since Propworx is now in bankruptcy?

    David Allen

  8. I really enjoy your blog Fong. To the point, honest, and a no bs zone. After reading this dialog between yourself and Jason I noticed a pattern. Jason seems to become defensive any time you mention certain observations he does not agree with. While it seems fair to disagree, it does not seem fair to skim over certain points you mention with drama and hyperbole.

    I would like to address a few things mentioned by Jason. Since he quoted and responded to your posts I am going to quote and respond to his.

    Quote by Jason: “Um… not sure how to reconcile those two statements…” regarding Fong disusing use of moderators on forums.

    Fong suggested no moderators. He didn’t say they should not be utilized under all circumstances. Fong also said, “Moderators are fine, as along as they remain neutral.” Upfront and clear comments. I was able to reconcile those two statements quite easily.

    Quote by Jason: “The RPF subsequently launched a publicly viewable subforum for original props and costumes, and if you ask Art, he will tell you that he asked me about this beforehand, and I was 100% supportive, as it provided another alternative in this art market for public debate and discussion (and I’m all for more forums, more blogs, more debate).”

    100% supportive of the RPF? That is not what Jason said in a 2009 post on his forum.

    Quote by Jason: “By way of background, I contacted an RPF member who copied photos of original prop IDs used in Terminator from the YourProps and Profiles in History websites, printed them out, laminated them, and offers them for sale for $20 each.

    I sent a message asking him to consider a different perspective – with regards to consequences of putting exact copies of an original into the marketplace – and by the time I sent a follow-up message to his reply (which was dismissive), there was a full blown public topic on the matter, based on a misrepresentation of my private dialogue with him.

    I think I made all of my points on the RPF. To me, it is just obvious that it is going to continue to be an ongoing problem, and there is no possibility of any good will efforts by the replica makers to account for any of the problems their activities create for original prop hobbyists. So it really shifts the additional burden on the original prop community to react to the problem as best we can.”

    Did Jason also post the above publicly on the RPF in the spirit of “public debate and discussion”, or did he just post it secretly on his private forum? Do RPF members know how he truly feels about them?

    Quote Jason: “I have advertisements on my site, but they do not affect or influence my content whatsoever. ”

    Julians and Propstore are advertisers on Jason’s blog and after looking at his blog I noticed a lack of any negative articles concerning them. I mention this because Julians has had a few negative public articles written about them by mainstream media. One being the bed frame Michael Jackson died in. Propstore, which appears to have a good reputation, has according to past MPF forum posts, sold a few props that were deemed fake. I don’t recall seeing any articles on the OPB mentioning either subject concerning his advertisers.

    Quote Jason: “The purpose of the Original Prop Blog is to benefit the public. I fund it personally, to the tune of many tens of thousands of dollars, and no auction house or dealer has ever offered to make any donation or contribution in the 5+ years I’ve been running it.”

    “Tens of thousands of dollars?” That amount seems to be extremely high. I know a few friends at my school who run web sites and they pay about 90 bucks a year in hosting fees. Maybe Jason should re think who he uses as a host provider.

    Maybe the large amount is from all of the trips Jason takes to attend the various prop and costume auctions he writes about. That can’t be it. I think I read that Jason has never attended an auction of props and costumes ever. Not one. Strange for someone who professes to be so interested in the subject. He did attend a gun auction once where a some weapons used in a few films were sold…

    Looking at my comments here I realize I am now typing as much as if not more than Jason, so I apologize in advance Fong.

    Thanks for the opportunity to contribute.

    Terry Brennan

  9. Fong,

    This and your last previous post regarding forums have been a fascinating read and there are a lot of points you make in which we agree, especially those regarding the fact that forum software, almost ALL forum software, is horribly antiquated. Could a true solution be created? Absolutely, but not without 100s of thousands if not millions of dollars of capital investment. I own and run three forums, the most prominent being the RPF and I can tell you, if someone would build a better mousetrap than the vBulletin forum software, we would be the first in line with our credit card in hand. The issue of antiquated software has nothing to do with control and everything to do with content and content management. There is no current social media platform (that I am aware of) that allows people to archive dialogue in the way a forum does. Try to create a detailed tutorial on facebook or twitter… can’t really be done.

    In regard to your concerns about moderation and bias, that has zero to do with the platform and everything to do with people and no matter what technology you have behind a community, people never change. While any good staff member works very hard to remain unbiased, there is no such thing as a true lack of bias without hiring a continually rotating third party moderation team to systematically enforce the rules. Most forum based communities don’t have the finances to afford that option and if they did, the result would be so antiseptic and detached that you would essentially destroy any sense of community that exists and undermine the entire purpose of having a community to begin with.

    It is easy to stand on the outside and say, “this is how it should be and this is what you should do,” but I am sure, having worked for Profiles and having had countless people say those things to you, you know that issues are rarely as simple or black and white as an outside critic makes them out to be.

    You are correct in saying that there is no perfect forum, but I would argue there is no perfect internet platform period; not Facebook, not Twitter, not vBulletin, not even this blog software. There is also no way to completely avoid trolls, liars, troublemakers and people who are solely out to serve their own interests, often at the expense of others. The best one can hope to do is have policies in place that deal with those kinds of issues as quickly as possible and minimize the amount of damage they are able to create within the community. As your community grows, this issue becomes more and more difficult and you become something of a victim of your own success. I don’t think there is any easy answer and believe the best thing we can do, is to simply continue to see what works and what doesn’t and be willing to continually refine our policies and procedures to best serve the community.

    In regard to transparency, you and I and our generation are not likely to every see any significant amount of true transparency on the internet. I believe that will be more prevalent in future generations, but never in ours. Again, this is not a technology issue but a people issue. As tech savvy as we feel that we are, many in our generation (30-somethings to mid40-somethings) still seem to have a fear of the internet and still feel a need to separate their internet persona from “real life,” not realizing that your online presence is very much a part of your real life. Beyond that, people love the anonymity of the internet to allow them to do and say things they would never say in real life. They are not going to give that up easily and a platform that requires a facebook or twitter login is going to do nothing to change that. Again, this is not a technology issue but a people issue and you are NEVER going to change people. You can try to fight it or you can simply accept that people are going to be the way they are going to be and you can try to work around those facts of human nature.

    Going back to the issue of bias for a moment, you ask:

    “Is there an unbiased moderator in the collectibles community? One that doesn’t edit or delete posts? One that doesn’t take advertising money from users? One that will not succombe to pressure from friends or advertisers?”

    I would ask you, is there ANY company, magazine, webpage, manufacturer or group of more than two people who don’t face these same concerns on a daily basis? It is not that your questions are wrong, but that you seem to be singling forums out as if they are somehow unique in having to deal with these issues when this is a societal issue, not an issue of a certain platform. If you feel that you have answers for these issues, I am all for hearing them (and I say that sincerely, not sarcastically), but if you truly do have answers, the ramifications could change the entire world… not just some tiny niche market on the internet.

  10. Art,

    Thank you for chiming in on this. You probably have more experience than anyone in our community in running forums, so your insights carry a lot of weight. I am very glad that you have all these issues in mind. I appreciate that we can discuss them maturely and openly. I believe that the health of the prop community is only as good as how open these discussions can take place. It’s analogous to democracy and free speech. I hope we can continue to bring more issues to light. And the more people involved in these discussions, the better it will be for the entire prop collecting community.

    • Sam,

      I am always happy to discuss these issues because I certainly don’t have all the answers and am always open to hearing different viewpoints from which I can cherry-pick the gems and incorporate them into our policies and procedures to better serve our members.

      In regard to “democracy” and “free speech,” we may not completely agree, at least when it comes to an internet platform. As Americans, we have had the concepts of “freedom of speech,” “democracy” and or “rights” impressed upon us as long as we have been alive. Many have fought and died to ensure that we have those liberties within our society. However, I have found that those same liberties can create a very slippery slope within an online community. When I say that, people usually take immediate offense and even outrage. How dare we tell them they can’t say what they want or can’t “vote” to get what they want? Well, because it is our “house” and we want to cultivate a certain vibe and community within that house. It is no different than that you are doing here, on your blog.

      If every response an individual made here on your blog was either off-topic or continually spewing vile obscenities and posting crude photos, would you continue to allow that individual to practice their “freedom of speech” or would you eventually feel the need to limit their freedom in order to get your blog back on track.

      The same could be said about democracy here on your blog. Let us consider that a poster, here on your blog said that they felt you should change the focus of your blog to “Hello Kitty” and then they brought dozens of their friends to support them, to the point that there was a majority of posters who demanded you change your focus to Hello Kitty. Would you buckle to “democracy” and do what the majority wanted or would you say “This is my blog, and I feel the best direction is this.” In such case, you are showing yourself to be a monarch and not very democratic… but it is the only way to maintain order. Otherwise, you will be tossed to and fro by every individual who can drum up a large enough number of supporters to create a majority.

      I am all for a staff that is as minimally invasive as possible, and I think anyone who has been on the RPF over the past three years has seen that we have pulled back immensely and try NOT to get involved in situations if we can help it, but instead try to let things play out publicly, letting the chips fall where they may. Even now, that is not always possible and certain things do have to “censored” and our members’ “freedoms” do have to be limited in certain ways in order to maintain civility and peace, not to mention helping minimize legal issues from offended parties.

      Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts as well as the thoughts of others on these matters as I know passions run very deep on these type of issues. For me, the passions usually lean more towards the practical side of things and towards making sure the community doesn’t tear itself apart than towards ensuring everyone feels that their “freedoms” have not been trampled.

      On a final note, while we have always been VERY open and honest about not being a democracy of any type, we do listen to our members and their suggestions. Some of the best changes we have made within the community have not come from our own minds, but from the brilliance of our members. There is a lot of power in diversity and having a lot of eyes looking at a problem. More often than not, it is our members who provide a solution or helpful suggestions on particular issues, where, left to our own devices, we would have gone in a different, sometimes inferior, direction. While they don’t have the ability to dictate or demand, they are very well aware that we do listen to them and we do hear them and it makes a massive amount of difference in what they are willing to endure when they don’t agree with us. I think that trust that has been built over a number of years is one of the best things we have going for us and helps make the entire community stronger and more cohesive between staff and member.

  11. Pingback: The Message vs. The Messenger « haxbee

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