Get out when things don't make sense anymore.
This week I received an email from Thyme, the COO of 9rules, informing me that the user agreement had changed, and that I must agree to the new terms to retain my membership.
My first thought was "Nice, it is about time they updated the membership agreement. I wonder what new stuff is addressed or highlighted?" After reading for a couple of seconds my good vibes quickly soured. I discovered that the change in the agreement centered around participation in the private forum and/or "my.9rules".
Let's be clear here
This is not a post about how unfair the new requirements are, although I don't agree with them, or the reasons given by members to justify them. The idea that the weight given to a members content should be gauged by their participation in a private forum or social community and not by the quality of said content is absurd. Life's not fair, write better content.
I haven't had a featured article on 9rules in years, the guys at Particle Tree have been writing better development focused articles than I have (for instance) of course they should be given more exposure than me. But I have moved past the point of this entry, so lets get back on track.
I want to talk about something else that is more profoundly disturbing, and the reason for my exit from 9rules. What my friend Rich likes to call "astro-turfing" or the faking of grassroots and the secretive, non-inclusive nature of how this decision was reached. First lets talk about astro-turfing.
When is a community not a community?
When it is forced, that's when.
Community is very important to me, it is one of the driving forced behind Habari, so don't think I am poo-pooing the desire to have more dynamic, engaging community. The fact of the matter is that I left the private forums (which I was very active in once upon a time) because the content of the forum was either requests for members to digg each others entries, or someone hocking a service.
I don't want to help you game digg, and I don't want to wade through a thousand posts from people looking for a new freelance job. I want to see topics that matter: free speech online, blogging as a foundation stone of new media and journalism, how blogging changed the world of wartime reporting. Things that matter.
That wasn't happening so I left the forum. Forcing participation now will not increase the quality of the community interaction. It will only make it hollow and forced.
Transparency in all things
Now on to my last point. The email from Thyme informed me of a couple of things that were just mind-boggling:
There was a discussion in the private members only forum, about this topic. No mention was ever made via email, even though the topic at hand was that some members didn't participate in the private community(e.g. the forum where this discussion was taking place), which meant that we (I being one of those people) had no idea there was a problem until we were being given an ultimatum.
How hard would it have been to send one network wide email that said "There is an important, far reaching discussion going on in the Clubhouse, you really should check it out."?
Not hard at all and would have let those of us who were disconnected from the forum know something was going on.
- Said forum is now closed and inaccessible, which means now that I have to make a decision, I can't actually be informed about the arguments that were presented and the discussion that happened.
- I can't discuss this with other members now, because I am not allowed into the new private forum until I agree to be active in the forum I don't have access to.
So long and thanks for all the fish
I have to say I think this was handled poorly. Had there been a brief email sent around letting the members know that a discussion was happening, I would have shown up, since this is the type of thing I am actually interested in. Things that matter. But it didn't and I didn't, so here we are.
Unfortunately the way it was handled tells me that I am no longer valued as a member of 9rules, which is a shame since I really believe in the ethos that Scrivs founded the network on: That there needs to be someone out there who connects people with good content.