Sunday, 29 June 2014

A Conversation

So after I posted my statement about review units and crowdfunding on Head-fi, it was removed within 10 minutes pending moderator approval.

The reason given by Jude, the administrator of Head Fi, is that he is concerned about the possibility that many reviewers may begin spamming the forum with their own crowdfunding pitches.

In my original statement I did not link to my campaign. I did not post the statement to drive traffic to my campaign. I posted it to provoke discussion among the review community about crowdfunding as a model for reviews.
Of course it was important that I should disclose that I was running a crowdfunding campaign, since I stand to financially benefit from any discussion about crowdfunding reviewers.

I offered to remove any and all mention of my campaign from the statement. This was denied. Jude is concerned that any discussion at all about crowdfunding will cause a hoard of wannabes and potential scammers to spam the forum with their own crowdfunding pitches.

While I understand his concern, this hasn't happened. We have not even begun to have a discussion about alternative models for supporting reviewers. We don't know who would be funded, and in all likelihood, only a very small number of well established reviewers would be given small amounts of money. Head Fi is preventing a positive discussion to prevent a problem which has not even materialised. Essentially the decision means that the site would deny this movement a chance of success because it might become successful.

It was only after I offered to remove any and all references to crowdfunding and essentially make my statement an ineffectual tirade against review units that I was allowed to post. This put me in the uncomfortable position of simply posting a problem with no solution and no declaration of my own interests. Meanwhile it gave the moderators the option to lock the thread as soon as the thread inevitably turned to crowdfunding, and they could exercise this option at any time.

I started the thread and a discussion began, though obviously since my main proposal was absent it wasn't a particularly compelling argument. Then I find out that a few posts down, simply by linking to a post someone made in Reddit that had NO REFERENCES to crowdfunding in the quoted text, this was enough to have a mod delete the link within 2 minutes and give me another warning. Despite the fact that, you know, stealing someone's words and not attributing posts is a dick move generally speaking.

So by now I had figured that I was being watched and that the mods were waiting for any excuses to lock the thread. Apparently by somehow indirectly linking to something that contained the terrible c-word I would do somehow implant the idea into everyone's brain, inception style, that the doors were open to spammers and scammers, and out of those spammers and scammers I am somehow public enemy number one.

The administrators of Head Fi, an immensely successful and profitable forum, are being paid to moderate the forum. That means they should act to moderate spam when it occurs, not move to censor the userbase out of the prospect that it will occur in the future.

More broadly, this is a tremendous double standard. The spirit of my proposal is to foster a more objective and responsive reviewing community by having reviewers crowdfunded by the people who enjoy their reviews. Reviewers spend great effort on their reviews. In essence they work for free on Head Fi, which generates traffic, which drives sponsors to the site, which generates profit for the administrators. 

And yet I cannot open my mouth to begin to suggest a model where reviewers get supported by the community for more objective reviews, despite the fact that I am an established member who has contributed to the community over time, and I have certainly driven traffic to the site.

Meanwhile, sponsors who pay for the privilege, like Light Harmonic, get to have their Geek crowdfunding campaign talked about all over Head-Fi.

So again, sponsors get protected because they pay to maintain the site.

Community members do not get protected even though they generate a huge portion of the site's traffic and thereby its profits.

I am sure that Jude feels that his reasons are valid.

But again this is the original problem that I pointed out in my original piece of writing. The net effect of this decision is to protect sponsors in the name of guarding against a threat which has not materialised. Because Head Fi is not funded by its members, but by sponsors, the interests of the sponsors influence every decision made on the site.

And when I proposed a way to return some of Head Fi to the community, it was censored.

I am done.

In the interests of balance, I reprint below the entire conversation.

joe
Today at 8:55 am
Hi a_recording,

Your post--the complete, unedited text of which can be found below--was tentatively deleted.

Toward the end of your post, you're pitching your crowdfunding campaign to raise money for your YouTube channel, and that's not something we've generally allowed here.

Jude is traveling right now, but I'm going to leave this to him to make a final decision about.

Best Regards,
Joe

cc: jude

a_recording
Today at 8:58 am
Hi Joe,

I deliberately did not link to the campaign and made minimal mention of it because I knew there would be questions about that, but I felt it was absolutely important that I disclose that I did indeed have a campaign as this is naturally important for the reader to know.

If you feel you have to wait for Jude's decision that's entirely up to you, but I've already linked to the thread in several places which makes things slightly awkward :(

Best,
Lachlan


jude
Today at 11:51 am
Lachlan, while I do understand what your concerns are--really, I do understand what your concerns are--we just can't have people pitching their fund-me campaigns on here. In stating it that way, I'm not trying to cheapen what you do. I'm working on the summer update to the gift guide right now, and up against a deadline that I'm getting increasingly scared of as each minute passes--so I know it can be hard work. We also make videos from time to time, so I know that can be hard work, too.

But you have to put yourself in my position here: if people see someone (on a site that currently reaches around two million people per month) pitching his personal funding campaign, I can assure you many others will do it, too. We're just not going to see these forums used to post a bunch of send-me-money pitches; and if there's money involved--and especially if someone is showing good results in doing it--then I can assure you that's exactly what will happen.

I'm the one who deleted your post in the diary thread. When a post is deleted here, simply posting it elsewhere and linking to it is effectively the same thing as posting it here.

Yes, I understand you didn't link to it, but still...

I hope you understand, man.

Best Regards,
Jude

cc: joe

a_recording
Today at 11:54 am
Hi Jude,

I understand your decision, but in order to start the discussion about crowdfunding and to make a positive change in the community it needs to start somewhere.

I am willing to remove any and all references to my crowdfunding campaign in the piece. I am really not trying to pitch my campaign. I think it is important to make at least one mention of the campaign somewhere in the statement because I stand to financially gain from the discussion, but if you would prefer that not to be there I am happy to do that too.

I want to move the community to a point where even one day Head Fi might be crowdfunded. I think the discussion needs to start somewhere, I really do...

Best,
Lachlan

jude
Today at 12:06 pm
Lachlan, at this time, I'm not interested in having Head-Fi crowdfunded. Years ago, we used to have a program called "Contributing Memberships," but we discontinued it when Head-Fi became self-sustaining. While I appreciate that you might want to move Head-Fi in that direction, that's something I'd have to decide.

I understand you think it an important discussion, and I'm sure some others would agree. But, for now, there will be no promotion of individual crowd-funding here. Again, I'm not going to allow everyone who wants to write a review to promote his crowdfunding campaign to pay for gear to review. Or to help cover living expenses. Or to help make a tuition payment when funds get tight in a Ramen-heavy semester.

Again, I get where you're going with this. And I believe your intent is good. But I'm not here to police every single self-crowdfunding campaign that may start if we allow one like this here, so we're simply not going to allow this for now.

Also, please make sure to read the rules/terms of use, as accepting money for reviews (even if it's from your readers/viewers) would technically make you a member of the trade here (for example, Tyll is one, too, so it's not a scarlet letter or anything).

Best Regards,
Jude

cc: joe

a_recording
Today at 12:59 pm
Jude,

I understand your position. But if Geek can talk about their crowdfunding campaign as much as they like and I cannot even begin to start this discussion, I'm tremendously disappointed in what appears to be a double standard.

You say that you do not want to police every campaign, but nothing has happened yet. The conversation hasn't even gotten off the ground.

Please reconsider this decision.

Lachlan


Lachlan,

Light Harmonic is a sponsor, and they are exempt from some of the rules specific to Members of the Trade. It has been that way for years.

Generally, non-sponsor members of the trade can not come into Head-Fi and promote their own crowdfunding campaigns, or advertise their own products/services in the Main Forums.

http://www.head-fi.org/a/terms-of-service#user_mot

Second, Light Harmonic is a member of the trade, and an established one at that. So if a disinterested third party posted about their campaign(s), even if Light Harmonic wasn't a sponsor, then that would be allowed.

I have no issue if an individual wants to raise money for himself using crowdfunding (or any other legal/ethical means, if that's what he wants to do), it's just that Head-Fi is not going to be the place that happens.

There are now a lot of people who've become audio reviewers, and a corresponding increase in audio reviewer blogs, sites and video channels. Perhaps you think I should allow all of them to raise money for themselves via crowdfunding here--and if you did, then we'd just have to agree to disagree.

Best Regards,
Jude

cc: joe

jude
Today at 2:38 pm
I wanted to comment further about what I said here, and expand on it a bit, as I didn't really finish that paragraph, and sent my message too soon:

Quote:
Second, Light Harmonic is a member of the trade, and an established one at that. So if a disinterested third party posted about their campaign(s), even if Light Harmonic wasn't a sponsor, then that would be allowed.

I have participated in crowdfunding campaigns (as a person who kicked money in), and was on a panel about it at CES. On the one hand, I like the idea of companies being able to get a head start with one. On the other, I also have a lot of the same reservations that Jason Stoddard shared in this post.

Of four crowdfunded campaigns I've participated in, I've received two of the four products. One seems likely never come, and is looking pretty grim (with strong backlash by the supporters); and the other is well behind schedule. In a meeting I had yesterday, I found out that another crowdfunded project I was interested in is in deep doo-doo. (I can't discuss that one any further than that, as it was shared with me in confidence.)

Given this personal track record with crowdfunding, it is with an increasingly skeptical eye that I'm watching which crowdfunding campaigns I'll allow to be promoted here, especially when they're by unknown companies, and even when posted by disinterested third parties. However, the parties posting aren't always of the disinterested third party variety (even when it may look that way on the surface): we've also found that some people are promoting crowdfunding campaigns and getting a kickback when their link is clicked on (which is probably why they're promoting the campaigns). When found, we've deleted those links.

Again, I have no problem if an individual wants to raise money to buy gear to review, to raise money to get through college, etc., etc. It's just not going to be happening on Head-Fi.

Best Regards,
Jude

cc: joe

Jude, 

As I have said, I am willing to remove any and all references to my own personal campaign in the text. You are saying the discussion about crowdfunding cannot happen at all unless we pay to be members of trade. I don't see how this is fair given that many reviewers here have given so much to this forum, for free, and they are what has made Head Fi the destination that it is today. I am suggesting a way to make the community better, and while the details and the way that this would work will become clear in time, I am astounded that even a discussion of the topic is disallowed.

Head Fi generates profits from the participation of its members. The reviews bring eyeballs to your forum, and the eyeballs bring sponsors. Yet beginning a discussion about how those members could be rewarded for their effort while at the same time produce more objective reviews is not allowed?

As the admin of a profitable forum, you are being paid to moderate these forums. If you are concerned with spam, then your job is to moderate the spam. But the spam has not even emerged. We have not been bombarded with crowdfunding pitches yet. We haven't had the spammers emerge. We have not even begun the discussion. In all likelihood only a small number of reviewers on Head Fi would even bother trying to crowdfund their reviews given the small chance of success. I understand the concern behind your decision but the net effect is that you are preventing positive discussion because of a bogeyman.

I understand you will not move on this issue. I accept that. But I am very disappointed and I have to reconsider my participation in the forum.

Best,
Lachlan

Not all members of the trade are sponsors. Sponsors do pay, and are exempt from some of the rules. Sponsors are certainly not exempt from all the rules. You are correct that Head-Fi does generate revenue. This is true of just about any large forum. Head-Fi lost money (a lot of money--my money) the first few years--it has certainly not always been profitable. I had no idea it would grow to what his has grown into, but I also won't apologize for the fact that it's not bleeding cash like it did in the past. I have never argued against the fact that the community is what makes this place what it is, Lachlan. You will never hear me taking credit for what makes this place special, and I think it fair to say I'm among this community's--and this hobby's--most ardent fans and proponents. Anyone who has ever been with me at any meets or other audio events will tell you I never accept a thank-you for Head-Fi without clarifying that Head-Fi would be just an online echo chamber if it wasn't for the community--that it's not me to thank, but the community. But, no, that doesn't mean I feel obligated to open up these forums to individual fundraising campaigns to fund gear purchases for reviews. That's not likely ever to happen, Lachlan. You have your fundraising campaign up, and I have no problem with that, and wish you luck with it. You seem to understand why I'm not allowing people to promote their own send-me-money-to-buy-gear-to-review campaigns. Simply put (and to answer the last sentence in your first paragraph), I don't think openly allowing people to ask this community to send them money so they can buy gear to review is the path to making this community better. If I did think so, I'd allow it. Yes, people post here, and contribute to this community, for free, and I hope in doing so that everyone who does--especially the regulars--get something out of it for themselves. However, I would never expect nor ask any one of the community members here to do it if he felt there was nothing in it for him, no value to him whatsoever (or, even worse, if doing so was a net-negative in his life). Now, Lachlan, I am working against a deadline here (for the gift guide), and I already work between 80 and 100 hours per week, every week, even without the gift guide. I hope you understand, then, that I'm not going to continue to go back and forth about this, because I think I've already made my position clear. I understand you disagree with that decision. And I also understand that this may bother you enough for you to stop participating here, which I'd be very sincerely sorry to see. Best Regards,Jude cc: joe

Jude,

I'd like to repost the article but remove the entire last sections including any references to crowd funding or any other solutions. The statement will simply be a commentary on what I think about review units. Do you have any objection to this?

Best Regards,
Lachlan 


Lachlan, no I do not. However, if it gets to the crowdfunding discussion, then there will be moderating involved; and if it just keeps going there--especially if it's by your hand (or anyone else that is setting up their own crowdfunding campaign, or has one set up), then know now that it'll likely be closed. That such a self-crowdfunding campaign is run through Patreon doesn't make it any different to me than if someone posted a thread in the forums to say, "I'm a reviewer, please send me money to buy gear to review, and possibly even to cover some of my living expenses. You can PayPal me at paypal@acme.com," which is a type of thread neither I nor any of the other moderators here would allow. Patreon doesn't make it any different than that. To be clear, I have no problem if you or anyone else wants to raise money for gear, living expenses, tuition, etc.--this just isn't the place it's going to happen. You have your channel, you have your website, and those would certainly be more appropriate places to ask for direct monetary support for you, your channel, and/or your living expenses. Best Regards,Jude cc: joe


Okay, thank for the confirmation. I don't intend to lead a discussion about crowdfunding, but should I at least warn that any discussion about crowdfunding will be moderated so that gives you less posts to potentially clean up? Or I can simply not mention it. Whatever you feel is best.


Lachlan Just don't go in the direction of crowdfunding, and we'll see what happens. Best Regards,Jude cc: joe 
a_recording, I read your post and noticed your signature at the end. When I clicked on it, the first thing I was presented with was your Patreon video. As a result, I edited your YouTube link from your Head-Fi signature. What you are doing in asking for money to fund both the purchase of gear and your living expenses makes you a member of the trade here, which, of course, there's nothing wrong with, but for whom there are additional rules that apply: http://www.head-fi.org/a/terms-of-service#user_mot If you have any questions let me know. Your original, unedited signature can be found below. Best Regards,Joe cc: jude

Hi Jude,

No problems. If it is still necessary after removal of the link, please change my account to member of trade status. Though, I do note that there are other posters here who also ask for donations on their personal webpages, such as ClieOS and lJokerI, so I would request additional clarification on the rules in that case.

Thanks,
Lachlan


a_recording, Your link to the reddit post was deleted from your post. When a post is deleted here, posting to the exact same post somewhere else isn't okay with us. If you link to the crowdfunding version of your post here again (which you already did once before, and it was also deleted), then we will lock or delete this thread, too. We've already explained our position on self-crowdfunding posts here. Regards,Joe cc: jude

That reddit link is a permalink to a specific comment in the reddit. It is not a link to the original article, and the original article is not reproduced in reddit.

I am well aware of the conditions placed on this thread and I did not link to anything untoward.

I have to give attribution to the original poster. 


Lachlan, that's for you to figure out then, in terms of how you want to edit that post; but if your edit includes posting a link to your self-crowdfunding discussion (no matter where it is), this thread will, as Joe stated, be deleted, or, at the very least, locked. By now, Joe and I have both made clear our position on the discussion of please-send-me-money-to-buy-gear-and/or-support-my-living-costs campaigns here. I've discussed this with the other active moderators here, too, and they seemed to me to also be in agreement with this position. --Jude-- cc: joe


Jude, this seems outrageous. Your entire response to this topic is to treat me as if I am sneakily trying to slide in a pitch to my crowdfunding campaign.

You won't allow me to declare my interest, which is unethical. You won't allow me to attribute a simple quotation from another person, which is unethical.

You keep hinting to me that I should be a member of trade even when technically there are other reviewers who would fall under the same rules.

I feel as though you are simply harassing me arbitrarily.

Lock the thread if you want. Sooner or later someone will come along and say the magic c word and that will give you sufficient reason to close the discussion. You are obviously watching my posts like a hawk and I am insulted and upset that you cannot trust someone who has contributed to the community and is simply trying to suggest a way of improving it.


I am done.


Lachlan, as I said before, I understand you disagree with me, and I also understand that this may bother you enough for you to stop participating here, which I'd be very sincerely sorry to see. This isn't about trust, Lachlan. I've explained my position, and you disagree. You haven't changed my mind, and I'm not going to change yours. Are you the only one allowed to be firm in his position? I'm not accusing you of sneakily trying to slide a pitch for your self-crowdfunding campaign here. What I did say was that we won't allow that discussion here, and, yes, to my mind that also includes linking to it elsewhere. I am done with this, too. We disagree. And I don't think there's been much (if any) ambiguity in either of our positions. --Jude-- cc: joe