24 August 2014

Commercial realities


Caution - massive venting session commencing. And apologies for the generalities.

For quite a number of years, I have been involved with a particular online forum - and for the last probably 6 years, as a Moderator and Admin. It wasn't anything special, but it was ours. It attracted a ragtag bunch of misfits, losers, funny people, pains in the arse, borderline (or just outright) sociopaths and pyschopaths.

The domain name itself was owned by one person, who was an Administrator in name, but very much hands off in the actual administration of the site. The bulk of the heavy lifting was done by the Mod and Admin team, which fluctuated in names and numbers, but always had a core group of 2 or 3 of us to maintain consistency.

We had built the site on the premise of it being staunchly independent - no commercial pressures, no-one wanting to influence the editorial or the narrative. We made no claims on copyright or IP. If you wrote it, it was yours.

I had drifted away from the place about 3 months ago - at the time the pendulum had swung too far into the red - too much work, too much putting out spotfires, not enough enjoyment, and I made a decision to draw a line under it and move on. But I'd still been keeping in touch with the other Admins and Mods.

To say I was absolutely floored the other night to hear that the domain name owner had sold the site to a media company of sorts. Further investigation would have it appear that this particular company targets internet forums for the wealth of traffic and contextual information on whatever topic is discussed. Their business model is to direct all the traffic through their servers, crawl it with as many bots as they can, get the Google ranking up, which drives up the price that they can charge for advertising space on the page.

Truth be told, I don't really understand the model - but, bottom line, they're not buying it for the love of running an internet forum. They're buying it because they want to make money off it.

To say the forum community is outraged is a pretty clear understatement. The feelings of betrayal and loss are obvious. Frankly I am disgusted. There was absolutely no warning, consultation, information or anything given - just a pretty simple 'by the way I sold the site.'

What shits me the most is that the person that has sold the site has ostensibly sold it *with* the content - which in my opinion is not his to sell - refer my earlier comment about copyright and IP. And the new mob are playing very coy about how a person would go about removing their content from the site.

Not to mention the fact that the person in question paid precisely $0.00 for the site when they inherited it in 2005 (from another person who didn't have the time or the energy to stay involved).

Frankly, it stinks. Do very little, get your Admin and Mod team to do the heavy lifting (and we did it because we enjoyed it), and then sell out and take the profit.

No idea how much it was sold for, but some interwebbing about indicates that this new mob have bought similar sites for tens of thousands of dollars. We're not talking chump change.

Anyway - the summary is, I'm pissed off, this stinks, and I'm venting.


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