[new members] Vendor participation in the forums. What about their friends, insiders, promoters, and influencers? - Page 2

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voozy

#11: Post by voozy »

HB wrote:1). A vendor contacts a member offline and offers them free product in exchange for starting a "user experience" thread in the forums. The member doesn't disclose this arrangement. Should we be willing to look the other way if it was a long-time member with an extensive site history?
It would be ok to handle this with a severe private warning to the member saying to come clean about the arrangement. If they then post a disclosure in the thread then let it slide, at least for a first offense. I don't have a big problem with a regular opening such a thread if they acknowledge the source of the gear and such threads aren't a significant fraction of their forum presence, but that's just me. EDIT: also don't jump on technical infringements where there's an obvious connection that the person failed to mention explicitly, but there's no purposeful concealment. A friendly private reminder is enough in that case. I do see some reviews/threads like that.
What if it's a member who joined today solely to start the thread?
Ban immediately but quietly, and privately offer to let them come back as a sponsor as long as they are upfront about everything, or as a member if they agree to say what happened, stop promoting, and wait a reasonable period (e.g. offer to shorten ban to 1 week conditionally).
2). A vendor is busy, but recognizes that online forums can be leveraged to their business advantage. They hire a coffee enthusiast who blogs occasionally and asks them to respond to questions about the vendor's products in the forums. The enthusiast is supplied with equipment and a small payment for their trouble. Their posts may mention they received "loaner" equipment, but omits the fact they're receiving regular payment for their ongoing efforts.
Ban noisily "pour encourager les autres" and make a very visible post saying what happened. But be willing to let them back in some time later after the dust has settled, provided they promise not to do that again, and to sign up as a sponsor if they are going to promote stuff.
Would it matter if the forum member declared "I'm a paid reviewer" or "I'm compensated for my time spent answering EspressoBiz's product-related questions"?
In this case treat them nice, just like any vendor who showed up a little too impatiently to read the rules (I think those people are handled a bit roughly here sometimes). Basically say they are welcome to post here but they have to treat their posts as promotional and they have to sign up as a sponsor and they should ask the vendor to pay for that. Actually I don't know how much that costs, but if it's a lot and the person's presence is lower than a full scale vendor's would be, maybe there could be a "vendor associate" level or something proportionate.

You've probably seen this already, but if not, you might check it for ideas: https://www.reddit.com/r/Coffee/wiki/promo
Everyone drinks Voozy.

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another_jim
Team HB

#12: Post by another_jim »

HB wrote:In the two cases above, it's fair to argue the vendor is circumventing this site's "no commercial posts" rule by proxy. Would it matter if the forum member declared "I'm a paid reviewer" or "I'm compensated for my time spent answering EspressoBiz's product-related questions"?
The revision in the discussion guidelines doesn't mention answering questions, just correcting factual errors. The guideline assumes that the vendor or spokesperson is identified; the same would apply to answering questions.

Both can be abused with a concealed shill making factual errors or asking questions that result in a sales pitch (I once worked for a controls company in which another employee got several fake prospective customers come to us with "problems" whose solution required the product of a startup in which he had an interest). So I don't see how answering questions can be more readily abused than correcting false facts.
Jim Schulman

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redbone

#13: Post by redbone »

At times my senses go off when I read glaring reviews about a product that I've seen and tested even if mildly and have almost an opposite view of. I find reading overseas coffee forums gives me a greater perspective. Somehow feel the distance and at times different language decreases the odds of contamination.
Between order and chaos there is espresso.
Semper discens.


Rob
LMWDP #549

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civ

#14: Post by civ »

Hello:
HB wrote: 1) ... willing to look the other way if it was a long-time member ...
No.
HB wrote: What if it's a member who joined today solely to start the thread?
No.

/ steps on to his box
As in many other aspects of human interaction, I firmly believe that transparency is also of paramount importance here.
That said, I think that behaviour such as this from any member is unacceptable.
And if it is from a a long-time member with an extensive site history even more so.

I'm on my way to completing (my first) 12 years on Dan's remarkable HB site this month, the place I decided to stay in after having a thorough look at all the other english language forums available in May 2007.

In the past three or four years I've seen this type of thing slowly but steadily creep in and cannot only say that I don't like it, not one bit.
I believe it is taking away part of HB's essence/shine/whatever: I cannot really define it but it is there and is an important part of this forum.
/ steps down from his box

Of course, these are just my $0.02 and as it is well known, YMMV.

Cheers,

CIV

ira
Team HB

#15: Post by ira »

HB wrote:You're right that the number of posts per day is pretty high by the site's historical standards, but given 10 moderators in multiple time zones, a well-designed reporting system thanks to phpBB, and handy moderator tools like the "thread cooldown", I'm unconvinced we're approaching the end of civilization. :lol:

And yet, the number of repeat very basic questions from very new members is getting higher, what is the best * for $*" being one of the most common and most annoying. I respect what you've done, IMHO other than BIX which I consider in its early days to have likely been the best BBS there will ever be, you have the best forum I ever expect to see. But, when the traffic gets to high you start to lose input from the people who got it here and the quality of the questions start to change, commonly going down.
HB wrote:That was a complicated story. Those who are interested, see decent_espresso's first and second thread. I closed the thread after numerous complaints from members both publicly and privately about delayed delivery. Those types of repeated, customer-service related discussions are tiresome to moderate. At some point, I have to stop it out of respect for the moderators who volunteer to help run this site. I understand that will sometimes curtail discussions that have the potential to be enlightening.
And properly, the complainers should have been chastised or banned, John never was anything but honest about what was going on or why he was late and never acted like his goal was to lead people on. He was honestly trying to make the world's best espresso machine and was doing things to make the machine far better what the complainers were promised, and only because his standards would not let him deliver something less than what he came to realize was possible.

Ira
★ Helpful

ira
Team HB

#16: Post by ira »

Here's an example of where this goes completely wrong:

Royal Coffee Lab & Tasting Room

Why is there a disclosure on this message? It's absurd and almost insulting to the members who have been here a while, isn't it.

Do I have to add:

Disclosure: I am not a professional espresso repair person and am not in a position to make any money from the help I'm offering. But to be completely honest, I will occasionally repair machines for money when people who manage to find my door, show up with a broken machine in hand.

to every message I post trying to help someone?

Ira

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HB (original poster)
Admin

#17: Post by HB (original poster) »

another_jim wrote:So I don't see how answering questions can be more readily abused than correcting false facts.
Answering questions "to be helpful" can easily be turned into a sales pitch. That's what prompted the update in the first place. Correcting a factual error is more objective since presumably the vendor would have to clearly state what was factually incorrect.
civ wrote:In the past three or four years I've seen this type of thing slowly but steadily creep in and cannot only say that I don't like it, not one bit.
I've avoided citing specific instances of questionable posting habits so as not to derail the conversation, but if you see something that looks fishy, feel free to report it. The reports are anonymous.
ira wrote:...John never was anything but honest about what was going on or why he was late and never acted like his goal was to lead people on.
I suspect that the members lodging these complaints would strongly disagree with the above. At some point moderators cannot and should not arbitrate disputes; stopping the back-and-forth by closing the discussion is the best [imperfect] solution.
ira wrote:Do I have to add... to every message I post trying to help someone?
No, but double no given your long site history.
Dan Kehn

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yakster
Supporter ♡

#18: Post by yakster »

ira wrote:Here's an example of where this goes completely wrong:

Royal Coffee Lab & Tasting Room

Why is there a disclosure on this message? It's absurd and almost insulting to the members who have been here a while, isn't it.
I added that as an afterthought because of this discussion.

Really, I'm not entirely sure I should have posted that at all as it was from a promotional email I received from Royal, but the classes sound interesting, just wish they were on weekends.
-Chris

LMWDP # 272

ira
Team HB

#19: Post by ira replying to yakster »

The fact that you did it because of this points out the absurdity of the discussion. I hope the forum is not a democracy, it's hopefully more like a benevolent dictatorship, with the knowledge that the dictator makes money from this and it behoves him to keep it as productive as possible. If it ever gets to be a democracy, it's done for. Personally I think that if you're making money from a product at which case you're a vendor and either you or your sponsoring vendor should pay your vendor fees and you should be treated like a vendor. Examples of this likely include people Like DaveC, who seems to make money by consulting on and helping design coffee products. While he seems honest and truthful, how do we ever know the reality?

Of course you should have posted it. This forum is about learning and the number of users who are on that list is likely small. No different than posting a link to a new Kickstarter you think is interesting. Common sense should have said it's OK to post and that certainly you are trustworthy enough that your posts should never need a disclaimer.

jbviau
Supporter ★

#20: Post by jbviau »

voozy wrote:...Ban noisily "pour encourager les autres"...
You mean "pour *décourager* les autres," no?

Full disclosure: I'm not a native speaker of French, though at one point I lived in Avignon, France, for 10 months and subsequently taught French at a few universities here in the U.S. 8)
yakster wrote:I wonder if it would be worth implementing a system for this when you post a message. You could have a check box or radio button asking if the post is a review or recommendation and if it is have the poster select one of the roles that you already listed and then the post could be appended with that role with a link to an explanation of what the roles mean. Does that sound heavy-handed?
I do think this sort of thing would feel heavy-handed.
HB wrote:Do you believe there needs to be guidelines that explain what's expected from forum participants in the latter categories (Insider, Promoter, Influencer, Friend)? If so, what?
No, aside from the expectation of transparency with respect to "gain, financial or otherwise," as Craig put it.

I don't mean to be dismissive of this topic, Dan. I just think you all do a good job moderating (thanks), and we members are [mostly] mature, sufficiently skeptical adults capable of sniffing out bias and making rational decisions.
"It's not anecdotal evidence, it's artisanal data." -Matt Yglesias