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Troll Weekend on RFD

September 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Looks like the Red Flag trolls are out in force this weekend:

Image

It’s too bad that you cannot “call anyone out” on RFD anymore. These guys have “established” accounts and are well-practised at “dancing just inside the lines.”

I’ve previously posted about the mbg troll account. He’s a seasoned troll that should have been banned a long time ago. Joshray is also a habitual troll, dancing within the lines. I suspect the person behind this account is the same one behind the notorious and banned user, Kommander_Kornflakes. Lastly, jungeon is an established super-troll. I have no idea why he has been allowed to make over 3,000 posts without getting perma-banned.

All of these accounts just waste people’s time and bandwidth. Furthermore, it is possible that all of them are actually the same user, using some kind of proxy service to mask his IP. I have no idea.

Categories: rfd Tags:

Comments On RedFlagDeals.com’s Direction and Eventual Decline

July 29, 2012 2 comments

As I promised in a previous blog post and in RFD’s Comments and Suggestions area, it is time for me to post additional comments on the direction of the site, why I think its leadership is failing, and the ultimate decline in the quality of the site. This, if left unchecked, will lead to a deflationary spiral in site traffic and revenues leading to the “eventual decline” to which I’m referring.

Is this eventual decline inevitable? No. But avoiding it will require RFD’s administration to undo much of the damage that’s been done in the last few months.

Let’s look at the big picture.

RFD’s parent company, Yellow Media, is in decline. Their stock price has dropped nearly 99% of its value since its highs of 2011. For the fiscal year ending in Dec 31, 2011, they recorded a net loss of $2.83 billion and a net debt of $1.5 billion, compared to a market cap of about $0.096 billion. To date, the market cap as dropped to about $0.036 billion. I won’t get into the various doubts surrounding Yellow Media’s latest recapitalization plan, but the information is easy to find.

I think this explains a lot of the recent changes on RFD that aim to cut down on “low content” posts and to get everything “spit-shined” to make it look like a valuable and business-like commodity. I think it’s a reasonable hypothesis that RFD is both trying to allay complaints about objectionable posts on the forums, and simultaneously, make RFD look like an attractive asset so it could be sold off for cash.

The approach, like chemotherapy, has a few side effects.

Why is this so important? Consider what people see when they first visit RFD’s Forums. It looks something like this:

Looking more closely at this welcome page, the true Spirit of RFD is revealed. The welcome message says it all:

RedFlagDeals brands itself as Canada’s Largest Bargain Hunting Community. It’s a Community.

And why does a community matter? It matters because RedFlagDeals is about Deals. The posting and discussion of shopping deals is the lifeblood of this community. And what is it that causes deals to be introduced in the community? A small minority of deals actually come via RedFlagDeals and its affiliates. The great majority deals are overwhelmingly posted by random unpaid people. Said randoms are not employees of Yellow Media and have no real employment or financial connection to the company. This involvement of randoms is why RFD has so much more value than the weekly flyers delivered by Canada Post.

This large involvement of random unpaid people is particularly interesting because RedFlagDeals draws much advertisement and referral revenue from all of the web traffic. In fact, most press releases and marketing data related to RFD mentions the millions of unique visitors per month.

So why is it that random people go to the time and effort of writing up and posting deals on RFD? I can think of only two possibilities:

  1. They love RFD so much that they want to drive a lot of traffic to the site, causing money to flow into RFD’s bank accounts.
  2. They want to help other members of the community by informing them about great products and saving them money.

Clearly, the answer is #2, otherwise there would be no actual discussion or commenting permitted in Deal threads. Furthermore, RFD has an integrated “THANKS” feature, showing how the community appreciates the deal-finder’s efforts, again showing the interconnected nature of the community. More importantly, this also shows how the community acts like a team of unpaid interns, doing work that drives real financial benefit into RFD’s pocket. Furthermore, if the community decided one day to simply stop posting hot deals, RFD would quickly shrivel up and die. The reality is that in their business model, RedFlagDeals and Yellow Media depend on a community of unpaid individuals to provide a large amount of material that is ultimately used for RFD’s and YLO’s for-profit financial gain.

This brings us to the reason why I believe RFD is going into a decline. The site administration’s attempts to keep the site “clean” have the side effect of stamping out much of the camaraderie and discussion that arises when people in a community come together to talk about their interests. The presence of heated debates, acrimony, humorous discussions, and clowning around in relation topics that are loaded or controversial are what happens in a large community. That’s reality. It’s what makes people feel connections to each other. These communal connections are the driving forces that cause random people to post Deals so their community friends can benefit.

When all of the fun and camaraderie are stamped out, RFD’s administration is essentially expecting people to act like “employees” that work for free for the benefit of Yellow Media’s bank account. If RFD wants to control its viewership to this extent, then they should also hire a team of paid full-time deal-finders, and only these people should be allowed to post deals. This would give RFD the moral authority to control its community to that extent. Otherwise, RFD’s administration should pay close attention to the old adage: “Don’t s**t where you eat.”

If this cycle continues, the many of the most active community members will slowly fade away due to the lack of a properly functioning community. This will lead to fewer deals from the most active members, thus driving less traffic to the site, causing the community to be even worse, etc. This is why I fear a deflationary spiral. RFD is shooting itself in the wallet.

Reality

I don’t expect the changes to the management of the RFD community to be altered in direction any time soon. RedFlagDeals is part of the Yellow Media group, and that company has certain very specific business goals at this time. Furthermore, the original founder of RedFlagDeals (Derek Szeto) is no longer involved in the site’s administration. I doubt Yellow Media really cares about the long-term direction of the site at this time and is more interested in quick-fixes to make it a sellable asset.

The Administration of RFD is not ignorant, and they probably know exactly what’s going on; I speculate that their hands are tied due to the management direction from YLO. I speculate that the only real recourse against this kind of situation would be for people to stop posting deals en masse. Most likely, the only winner is Derek; RedFlagDeals and its parent company (Clear Sky Media) were acquired for just under CAD $10 Million in preferred share from YPG.

Looking at RedFlagDeals.com, the site has grown to enormous proportions in terms of activity and membership numbers. I expect that the computer hardware and staffing necessary to run it is non-trivial, and as such needs the resources of a real commercial entity to maintain itself. Therefore I wonder if this is really some limiting factor in internet communities: Once you reach a certain size, you have to conform to the standards of a large corporation to receive financial backing consistent with the same. It may be that RedFlagDeals has reached this wall. If that is the case, its Administrators should expect that this will only open the door for more smaller sites to fill the “community-void” that is opening up on RFD.

On Leadership

ReadFlagDeals is suffering from a perceived leadership-void.

A lot of changes are being implemented in the community, much to the chagrin of many members. Changes in websites, business, and life are inevitable, and some people who fancy themselves to be “leaders” fail miserably in successfully bringing change. And that is what’s happening on RedFlagDeals.

RedFlagDeals has a leadership void because there is no perceived overarching direction or vision. True leaders bring their subjects through difficult decisions or transitions because they show that their actions derive from some specific goal or mission statement. (As corny as it sounds, this is why teams and companies make up mission statements.) Great leaders know that they must have the appearance of working under the guidance of some higher power or direction. If RedFlagDeals wants to make whatever changes are necessary without annoying the same people that supply its lifeblood of Hot Deals, its administration needs to show some greater transparency and be more clear with where everything is heading and the overall goal and direction for the site.

That’s my piece. Over and out.

Footnote

This section was originally at the top of this post, but I moved it down here because I think only about 5% of readers would care.

I had delayed in writing this post partially due to an excessively busy work schedule (i.e. real life) and to give RFD’s administration a chance to respond to my comments. Since no response has been received, and some people have already voiced concerns along the lines of what I’m proposing, that’s why I have chosen to post my piece.

Categories: rfd

Clever Sig on RFD

June 29, 2012 1 comment

I saw a clever sig on RFD, belonging to wayne74:

Can you believe it? They sent my income tax return forms back to me! In response to question # 4, “Do you have any dependants?” I replied – “2.1 million illegal immigrants, 1.1 million crack heads, 4.4 million unemployable people, 901 thousand people in over 85 prisons, and 650 idiots in Parliament.
Apparently, this was NOT an acceptable answer.

Who the hell did I miss?

I love the attitude here. If more people thought like this, it would be a different and better world.

Categories: Canada, rfd

Commentary and Questions Regarding Inconsistent Application of Forum Rules on RFD

June 15, 2012 Leave a comment

This message is directed to oranr and the RFD Administration. I made this post to obtain clarification on forum rules that I believe have been applied in an inconsistent and nonsensical manner. I also made it because I think we need an intelligent commentary instead of apparently fake non-decisions, and because silence means consent. This post is cross-posted from the RFD Forums.

I have chosen to post rather than send a Private Message because the locking or deletion of this kind of thread would answer some questions and be, in itself, very telling.

Background:

Up until two days ago, my forum signature contained two (2) links:

  • A link to my blog
  • A link to third party real-time chat site, which has an affiliated outside forum created by an RFD member – I’m sure you know it well. (link added on my blog only: TinyChat)

Two days ago, I received the following message:

(…) Please be advised the following action has occurred to your signature.  As the title reads, I have removed the external link to the chat room. As you there are advertisements in the chat room, it is no longer allowed to be linked too. It is self promotion/advertising and this is against policy. It can not be put back into your signature. If you do put the external link back into your signature, you will lose all signature privileges. (…)

The issue:

Oranr, your justification is complete nonsense.

Period.

The justification for deleting a link because “there are advertisements in the chat room” is highly illogical. This is true because:

  • RFD’s Forums contain countless of posts with links to outside sites with banner ads. These sites promote themselves or other products and services for financial gain. If you did not permit linking to sites with advertisements, you would have deleted all of these posts. (Examples: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 )
  • Nobody on RFD makes money from the chat room I had linked.
  • Nobody on RFD makes money from the chat room’s affiliated forum – banner ad revenues were disabled months ago (verified with forum owner).
  • If RFD was bothered by external banners, you would have deleted the link to my blog many years ago, yet you actively chose to not do so when you edited my sig, implicitly showing that some advertisements in linked sites are OK, and that you don’t see a link to my blog an RFD rule violation. (Note: I do not and have never made financial gain from my blog.)

Perhaps you could clarify RFD’s position on linking to sites containing banners if you could please answer the following questions:

1. Does linking to a site not affiliated with anyone on RFD, which has revenue-generating banner ads, qualify as self-promotion / advertising? (i.e. Reddit, Google, ArsTechnica, Facebook, Engadget, HardForum, Youtube, Globe & Mail)

2. Does linking to a site affiliated with someone from RFD, which is non-commercial and without banner ads, qualify as self-promotion / advertising? (i.e. Flickr, Instagram, personal Twitter, personal hobby website)

3. If the answers to both of the previous are YES, then what is wrong with an RFD user’s non-commercial site, where the service provider adds banners and keeps the revenue for themselves? Am I missing something here? Doesn’t my blog, which you, oranr, have ACTIVELY chosen to allow in my forum signature, fit this exact description?

4. Are you afraid that the outside forum affiliated with the Chat Room will pull some of RFD’s audience away? I think you should be thankful for this kind of thing because it acts as a catch-all for the kind of conduct that seems to be deleted from RFD these days. RFD actually benefits from having Off-Topic conversations channelled elsewhere. Furthermore, the greater the audience, the more off-topic chatter will be directed offsite. (Note: A general decline in the quality of deals posted on RFD is now inevitable, with many users gradually drifting to other competitor deal forums. I am planning a separate blog post on this topic.)

5. Do you think that RFD members are making affiliate revenues or other benefits from the chatroom or affiliated forum? As mentioned earlier, neither case is true. (OK, well there is a “little” secret. In all fairness, I should let you know – we’ve had some awesome Unofficial RFD meetups at restaurants, bubble tea, bowling, coffee, karaoke, ramen, pho, go karts, board games, and are planning an awesome Toronto beach fun day. Please do let me know if deriving this kind of benefit from signatures or links qualifies as “self promotion.” If that’s the case, I guess I’ll have to acquiesce to your point.)

Reminder: Nowhere in this post have I asked for the chat room link to be reinstated.

I hope you realise that this post contains advice made in hopes of helping you run RFD more smoothly.

Oranr, I do not think you are stupid.

What is the real issue here? You aren’t stupid enough to actually believe your own excuses. Are you trying to marginalize that particular chat site because some of the people who use it get their posts deleted on RFD? If that is the case, then you should say what you mean and face the real issues instead of making childish pretend-excuses. As Judge Judy said, “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.” It leads to the loss of others’ respect.

I should also remind you: Great leaders in community and business know that “Conflict is a dish best served fresh.” If you pussy-foot around the real issues and make fake excuses, you fail to truly resolve issues. Conflict starts to grow mould and becomes really stinky, creating a putrid and conflicted air in the community. That’s what’s beginning to happen on RFD. It creates more drama and wastes everyone’s time, turning off some users permanently from the community. This kind of action just causes you to lose respect from other senior members of the forum who aren’t habitual offenders, and who actually come in making helpful threads, posting deals, etc.

This means that users who keep breaking the rules — the REAL rules, i.e. not something your imagination cooked up, which conveniently fit the situation — should be banned from RFD instead of you making up silly non-arguments for removing links. Oranr / RFD, please serve this community by clarifying your position; Stop making fake excuses and take care of business.

* * *

The follow-up article is here: Comments On RedFlagDeals.com’s Direction and Eventual Decline

Categories: rfd

Posting Milestone

February 19, 2012 Leave a comment

How in the world did I rack up eleven thousand posts on the RFD Forums?

The mind boggles.

Categories: rfd

RFD’s New Forum Style

November 6, 2011 Leave a comment

I honestly don’t mind the new style of the RFD Forums too much. A lot of people are complaining, but I think it’s like what happens when Facebook re-designs and people start wailing.

The one major thing I would like to see is a change to make links more visually distinctive. Currently, it is too difficult to determine whether text in a post is a link or just normal text because they look too similar.

Categories: rfd Tags: ,

User “MBG”

August 20, 2011 1 comment

I’m pretty sure the user mbg is a troll account. I’m susprised at this since he has 9000+ posts already and I haven’t noticed him until recently.

Perhaps he was a stealth account created by another troll, who has only recently activated this account for trolling.

I also suspect that he is an Asian who’s pretending to be a white guy by using a homebrew-looking white-guy “self portrait” avatar.

Categories: rfd Tags:

Identifying Thread Taggers

December 17, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m guessing most people don’t know that in RFD’s vBulletin Forum, you can identify the user who added each tag to a thread. Just hover the mouse over the tag and you will see it:

You can do this even if someone else started the thread.

Edit (2010/Dec/19) – It appears that RFD management has seen this post and disabled this functionality everywhere except in your own threads.

Categories: rfd

Troll Resurgence On RFD

August 22, 2010 Leave a comment

I have known for some months now and I’m going to call it here for everyone to see that the user Joshray is a formerly banned troll who started a new account.

Categories: rfd

Four Demerits Well Worth It!

I got penalized by 4 infraction points on RFD for using the term “Bellshit” while criticizing Bell Canada in one thread.

Four Points well worth it!

DEATH TO BELL CANADA!

Categories: rfd, Uncategorized