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You are here: Home   I've Been Censored!
 
I've Been Censored!
Or How NOT to Properly Run a Web Forum

Posted 12-01-03

 
 

<Climbing up on the soapbox>

     As some of you know, I've been a very active participant of the FTE '67-'72 truck forum. Anytime somebody's had a question, I've done my best to answer it to the best of my abilities. There have been times I've spent an entire evening doing nothing but answer questions, edit photos, etc. to use specifically on the FTE forum to help others out. It was a labor of love, for the most part...I'm a very enthusiastic supporter of Ford pickups, and have always conducted myself in an appropriate manner on the forums. I've never called anyone a name, I've never used bad language. In the 6 months I was an extremely active participant of the FTE forum, I'd logged almost 400 posts! I had a small photo album in the Gallery section (with nothing but pictures of my '67 F-100 shortbox) and also had two hidden galleries with pics of items to use in my replies...pictures of items specifically requested and directly relating to '67-'72 Ford pickups. I even once made a special trip to my shop across town to take photos of something on my truck in regards to an inquiry on the forum. I came back, spent time editing the photos and posting them to the FTE forum to help someone out. In fact, I've been nothing but helpful, courteous and completely professional...or so I thought.

     My own Ford pickup website is slowly becoming a good research resource for those inquiring minds who simply need good information on their '67-'72 Ford pickups. I've spent a LOT of time researching various topics out and posting the results, usually with pictures and detailed information, usually in response to inquiries on the FTE forum. I posted a pointer to it every time I added something which I thought would be of use to the participants of the FTE forum....and I've received nothing but praise from the many participants of the FTE forum for the many hours of work I've put into my site.

     However, that apparently wasn't enough...or perhaps, too much!

     In the interests of making my Ford site all that it can be, I initiated my own web forum, where we can call discuss our trucks in an almost unmoderated manner. Unlike the FTE forums, we'd be free to list items for sale. Unlike FTE, we'd be able to discuss vendors (good AND bad) and not have our posts censored or deleted entirely. I never gave my forum a thought that it would EVER be competition for FTE. I'm just one guy banging away on a computer out in the middle of Nebraska (Ford country!). But apparently, the powers-that-be at FTE see things differently.

     At lunchtime at work today I decided to pop onto my forum to see if there had been any new posts overnight. There WAS one...somebody asking what happened to several of the threads I'd initiated on the FTE forums. Confused, I logged onto their forum and was overwhelmed by what I found.

     A majority of my posts to the forum over the past 6 months has either been deleted or severely edited. My signature file (which was COMPLETELY appropriate to the forum, according to and abiding by their own rules) no longer had my website address in it. My Photo Gallery has been "Hidden by Admin".

In other words, I'VE BEEN CENSORED!

     I posted a a very polite inquiry on the board requesting an explanation on why my posts were deleted or edited, my Photo Gallery hidden and my sig file severely edited. That post immediately generated several responses from people wondering as well, and thanking me for my hard work. Unfortunately, that thread lasted a whole 15 minutes before it was deleted. One of the people who responded in that thread almost immediately posted an inquiry as to why the thread was deleted....and it TOO got deleted!

Why? Well, listen to the owner of FTE:

==================================================

Date: Mon, 01 Dec 2003 00:27:17 -0500
To: wp442@yahoo.com
From: "FTE Support" <service@ford-trucks.com>
Subject: Inappropriate use of FTE

Please do not use FTE to promote competing forums. I have spent years and countless thousands of dollars growing FTE and using the results of my efforts to promote your forums is inappropriate.

Thank you,
Ken Payne
Ford Truck Enthusiasts, Inc.
http://www.ford-trucks.com


==================================================

Hmmmm....so the countless hours I spent on FTE helping out the people who come to your site are meaningless? Wouldn't a simple request to "not use FTE to promote [my] forums" have been much more productive than the excessive and heavy-handed approach taken?

Hey, wait!....as I'm typing this, I get another e-mail from Ken:
(my lines are in blue, his response in red)

=================================================

Date: Mon, 01 Dec 2003 16:34:05 -0500
To: wp442@yahoo.com
From: "FTE Support" <service@ford-trucks.com>
Subject: re: Why have my posts been deleted?


>>Why have my posts been deleted?

>>Just curious....why have a lot of my previous posts on this board been removed?
>>I'm referring to those posts of mine mentioning updates to the VIN data plate
>>code pages on my website. Every one of them have been removed from the board!
>>Have I done something to offend the powers-that-be? If so, I apologize...but I
>>think it would have been nice for someone to at least inform me what they're
>>doing and why. Granted, it's not my board, the owners are free to do with it
>>as they please...but to the best of my knowledge I've been nothing but helpful
>>and forthcoming since I came on here 6 months ago, and certainly haven't done
>>anything to cause any ruckus in any way. So what's going on??


First you stepped up to the line when you started inviting users to your chat
instead of ours. Then you crossed the line when you when you started using
our site to invite users to your forums.

Normally I do not allow continuous site promotion (cheer leading), especially
when its excessive (about 1 of every 5 of your posts mentioned your site). I
allowed it because you are an active, contributing part of the FTE community.

FTE is a family operated business, and I've spent 7 years and tens of thousands
of dollars growing, funding and marketing the site. It is not fair to me to
allow someone to use the results of my investment to market a site with
competing services. Frankly, I was quite angry when you posted the invite
and removed many of the links to your site as a result of my mood. I felt that
you took advantage of FTE's user base without asking me for prior permission. I
insist that you not use the FTE site to announce your forums and chat again,
and the amount of your site promotion to your site decrease. If you can abide by
this I don't intend to continue link removal.

I'm sure you would feel the same way if you had a shop and one of your
customers came in and invited your clients to his workshop.


>>....and it gets even MORE interesting! I just tried to log in to check some of
>>my other previous posts, and was informed my account has been disabled!


Your account was not and has not been disabled. If you tried to access
a post moved off-line it would give an access error.


>>Plus my sig file no longer has my website address in it...

Correct.

>and my photo gallery has been "Hidden by Admin"...both of which have
>nothing but Ford pickup content on it!


That was not done by me. It was Eric or Dennis, completely independent of me
and prior to anything I said to them concerning you. They check the albums every
couple of days and hide them when they contain items solely for posts
(ie, diagrams, charts, etc.). If it contains only your truck, they would
leave it. When I hide an album I don't put "Hidden by Admin" in it, I just hide it and let
the system dispatch an automatic notification email. AFAIK, the ablum
[SIC] has nothing
to do with your site posts.


>(all albums with items meant solely for forum posts are
>I was able to find a couple posts of mine which were NOT deleted, but they were
>edited to remove my website address.


No quite. A very small fraction of your posts were moved off-line.

>Does my starting a Ford pickup website suddenly turn me into competition or
>something??


No, but forums and chat do.

>I don't know, but I think I deserve an explanation here.

Now you have one. I didn't send anything to you last night because I
try to not have discussions while I'm angry. Also, this is a private between
you and I. If you insist on discussing it on the forums I'll remove those
posts ---I don't think this needs to escalate any further than it already has.


-Ken Payne
Ford Truck Enthusiasts, Inc.
http://www.ford-trucks.com


==========================================================


     WHAT?! "...I don't think this needs to escalate any further than it already has..."???? Ken, it didn't need to escalate AT ALL! I'm a very reasonable man, and a simple request to tone things down would have had a much better response and I would have apologized and immediately complied! If I was 'stepping up to the line' in your forum, why didn't you let me know beforehand that it wasn't my place to stand? If I 'crossed a line', couldn't you have let me know, without suddenly getting an attitude and getting happy with the delete button? (My gallery IS hidden, by the way...probably because all my photos have a watermark with my site URL on it.)

You say you've "spent 7 years and tens of thousands of dollars growing, funding and marketing the site". While this might be true, aren't you kinda forgetting the tens of thousands of participants in your forum who have made it what it is for you?? People come back to your forums because they are getting answers to questions from knowledgeable people. It's the enthusiasm of people like me that FUND your site! Well, actually it's their purchases of your advertiser's products that fund your site. How in the world does my little rinky-dink web forum offer ANY competition to you, when I accept NO advertising from commercial vendors at all? In fact, I've even helped PROMOTE your site! For just ONE example, check out this thread from another Ford truck forum:
http://ftw.truckmoxie.com/forums/topic.ten?id=228494

     You go on to say:

--------------------------
It is not fair to me to allow someone to use the results of
my investment to market a site with competing services.

--------------------------

     "Competing services"??? Ken, I HAVE no services! Only information, nothing more. Oh, and my forum, of course....but one where we aren't being censored. I have to think you have a LOT of GALL to stand there and basically accuse me of taking advantage of you, when you do it on a daily basis with tens of thousands of people! Now isn't that a little like the pot calling the kettle black, to coin an old phrase? You said yourself "I allowed it because you are an active, contributing part of the FTE community."

     Doesn't that sound just a little hypocritical of you, Ken? While you're using of all us for your own monetary gain, we, on the other hand, simply want to talk trucks with other people with similar interests. Nothing more! I'm making no money doing any of this...it's simply of love of old Ford trucks that I spend the time and energy I do. And of COURSE you "allowed it"! It was (partly) the time and effort I put forth for the benefit of your forum participants that many of your forum visitors returned. (Don't get me wrong...I'm not taking a lot of credit, but I WAS helping out quite a bit, you have to admit...oh wait, you DID admit it!) How else do you think your forum became popular? Because of people who come to the site, converse, exchange information, etc. People were coming to the forums to get answers from people like me, because word was getting out they could get answers there. And while they were GETTING those answers, you were getting paid for all those banner ads flashing in their face, getting a percentage of the profits from people clicking on those banner ads and visiting those vendors from your website. You don't think that you using your forum to attract people to chat, so you can plaster YOUR choice of vendor's ads all over the page isn't USING people? Of COURSE it is! You're using those same people to make a buck or two...but only in a manner that YOU get to dictate. YOU get to tell them what to talk about and what NOT to talk about even if it's directly related to the topic of the forum...and if they "cross the line" you'll censor them, plain and simple, with no warning whatsoever...and won't even allow them to discuss it with you in an open forum. I tried 3 times to post messages afterwards, and they never lasted more than 15-30 minutes, with you saying instead "If you insist on discussing it on the forums I'll remove those posts...".


---------------------
>Does my starting a Ford pickup website suddenly turn me into competition or
>something??


No, but forums and chat do.
---------------------

     Ah...now we're getting to the meat of the matter!

     Ken, one of the main reasons I created this web forum was because of the way you censored what was on yours. The internet (and chat forums especially) should be a free exchange of information about the topic at hand. People come to the forums to get information. They want the whole story...not what some forum host chooses to tell them. Your problems with various vendors are just that...YOUR problems. You're not only punishing the vendor in question, but the people who come to the forum, for they're not being given all the information they need to solve their problem.

     My forum was created because we want to talk, for example, about:


LMC TRUCK.COM

out in the open without fear of getting our hands slapped or our posts deleted. We want to discuss which  forum participants have what good used parts for sale out in the open, without feeling like we're dealing our spare parts on the black market. We want to actually mention that some vendor who advertises on your site has something in their catalog which is substandard and should be avoided. When you attempt to CONTROL the information you present, Ken, rather than just telling it like it is and allowing the people to make up their own minds for themselves, you alienate the very people who came to you asking for help. And chances are they'll be less likely to return in the future unless as a last resort.

---------------------

Also, this is a private between you and I. I insist that you not use the FTE site to announce your forums and chat again, and the amount of your site promotion to your site decrease. If you can abide by this I don't intend to continue link removal.

---------------------

   Sorry, Ken...ain't gonna happen. I don't believe in hiding if the subject at hand is as important as this one. If I have something to say, I'll say it in an OPEN forum for all to see and read, so they can make up their own minds. Doesn't matter if the agree with me or not. I will NOT toe the line for anyone...period. If you're so worried that my little forum is that much competition for you, you really need to get a grip! That site has taken over your life, man! I'd rather stay with my own small forum, even if it doesn't have as many participants as yours, simply because the people who DO use mine are probably more apt to be genuine. They won't have to worry about pissing someone off, getting sanctioned, deleted, chastised, etc. They can speak freely and openly....within reason of course. There are always exceptions, but I don't believe this was even close.

     I like information. I want to know it ALL...good AND bad! It's painfully obvious, once again, that a free exchange and sharing of information is not possible at your forums. That's too bad.

     <heavy sigh> OK....I guess the bottom line is this, folks. I like Ford trucks. Period. I have no beef with vendors. I have no problem with people trying to help each other out with spare parts. Not only is it the American way, but it's one of the main reasons the internet was developed in the first place: to share information. If I wanted censorship, I'd go somewhere else...or stay at FTE, but that ain't gonna happen either. Ken can have his little corner of the internet. I have no problem with him running his corner the way he wants. I have no problem with any of the great people I've met on his board to continue to patronize his board. It's your choice. However, if they should decide to check out mine from time to time, that's great, too. If you find you can't discuss something on his, by all means come over to mine and talk till you're blue in the face. I'm not going to say I won't miss the Ken's forums, because I will. But life's too short to butt heads with someone over something like this. I'm just going to shake my head and walk away. I've never been a political person...but I AM passionate about certain things in life. I just think this could have been handled in a much more mature manner and not pissed anybody off. Oh well, such is life! To quote a line in a popular Bob Seger song...'turn the page'.

Ken: If I'm no longer allowed to use your forum to promote my little site when something of value or interest is posted there, I really have no problem with that. I won't be back. Your problem is solved and your "competition" has been vanquished. However, then I really think it's only fair for you to no longer continue to use my posts to help out YOUR visitors. I respectfully request that you remove ALL my posts, not just ones with my links in them or ones of your choosing. If you DON'T remove all my posts, then it can only be construed that you ARE indeed a very hypocritical person who won't stand behind your own convictions. It will be obvious to those who frequent your board that you mean business and serve as a reminder to them to not get on your bad side and to walk the line that you draw for them.

I choose to not live life like that. There's too many good things and good people out there to enjoy and experience...and too many Ford trucks to be compulsive obsessive over.

I've said my piece. I'm off my soapbox now. The page has turned...on with life.

CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE FORDIFICATION FORUMS...
WHERE YOU CAN SAY WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER
OR NOT I OR OTHER FORUM PARTICIPANTS AGREE WITH IT!

  • Did a popular vendor screw you over? POST IT!

  • Did you have a good experience with a vendor? POST IT!

  • Do you have some used parts you want to unload? POST IT!

  • Do you disagree with me and think Ken is right in his position?  POST IT!

  • Do you simply want to talk trucks in a relaxed environment with other Ford truck lovers, without having to watch what you say anymore?

POST IT!

 

UPDATE: July 2, 2006
Since posting this little rant several years ago, I've gotten (and continue to get) MANY very positive responses from it. Some folks have stated that they've joined these forums specifically because of this piece, or have at least started severely curtailing their visits there because of it. I've decided to post a few of the unsolicited e-mails I've received concerning the behavior and policies there. The names have been purposely omitted to protect their identities, since the owners of 'The Dark Side' (as it's referred to here) have proven time and time again that uttering any disparaging remarks, however slight they might be, are grounds for immediate termination of their account there. In a couple cases I've also done minor editing in regards to spelling and punctuation to help readability.

Read on:
 

11-21-04
     I am a member of Ford truck enthusiasts, Fordsix.com, fordtruckworld.com - (which is useless for older ford trucks).
     At one time I was a moderator on FTE and now (for reasons unknown to me) I am not.
     I never received any notification from the FTE administrator. I started working a lot of hours and I wasn't home that often but when I went online I noticed that I wasn't a moderator of my forum.
     I would like to say WELL DONE , I just read your "I've been censored" page.
     I found the LMC topic on FTE quite juvenile and foolish. I was e-mailed by Dennis from FTE and told that I should not talk about LMC because Ken had a problem with them (After I posted a answer to a question about the availability of a part from LMC). Dennis went on to say that LMC does not give away free tech support, where as FTE has the forums to answer questions about products sold at [there].) Again a very emotional e-mail- (Like I know about Ken's PERSONAL BUSINESS!)
     My point being good, bad or indifferent you should be able to discuss the products sold by LMC .
     I have found that LMC sells some products that I have found very difficult to find else where.
     People are going to buy the parts they need from where ever they can ( At least I do).
     I do not own a 1967-1972 ford truck...but I intend to join your forums and help out as much as I can.

1-9-05
 I just ran across your site. SWEET is what I say. Very well put together, very professional looking, I'm impressed. I read your "I've been censored article" with interest. I am afraid that I know others that Ken felt like they were pissing on his cash cow....I am guilty of spending more time there than I should as of late. I did become a moderator there so I could keep up with what is going on...

1-10-05
...I just read the "I'm censored" and can't believe the way you were treated. I used to go that site some, but not now. Keep up the good work. I'll be chiming in some on your forums...

3-14-05
I read what you had to say on your site about FTE. I agree with what you have to say. For what it's worth to you I have seen guys on there looking for parts that I have laying around and have posted back and offered to give them the parts and had the post either deleted or had the thread locked up. I was not trying to sell anything, or make any money. I was just trying to help a fellow enthusiast out. Also, I have seen guys looking for parts that FTE's sponsors don't even have. LMC has the parts, but you can't say that. In my opinion, an enthusiast site should be set up like yours. Where people can openly discuss parts, procedures, and anything else that pertains to this hobby including other web sites that have useful information. On to better things. Your web site may be much smaller than FTE, but you have got a ton of information and excellent pictures. I actually drive a 73 model. As you well know a lot of the stuff interchanges. I also have friends that drive trucks any where from 65 to 77. I would like information about becoming a member of your site...

3-30-05
...By the way, I've written a few of the vendors I've used that are supporters of FTE and told them about what happened and that I thought they should know that their customers are being harassed and banned from FTE because they are also members of another 67-72 (I didn't say Fordification-didn't want to drag you into it) site...I got a couple responses back thanking me for the information, and that they would monitor it... I thanked them for their consideration and urged they investigate more before they negotiate a new contract with FTE...

3-30-05
I'm happy to see another site dedicated to the 67-72 ford trucks. I actually heard about your site on FTE, so your getting some good publicity in FTE's forums...

4-13-05
I would like to say thanks for having this site.
Secondly I joined up [recently] and got my proverbial arse kicked out of FTE.
No great loss but I will see that prick at the Supernationals and get a word in...

4-28-05
...I read your rant about FTE and your not alone. its getting bad over there...

5-19-05
I have been looking for sites such as yours for some time and I am very pleased to have found it. I read your correspondence with your "competitor" and your censorship, "Stick to your guns and let 'em have it", I say. I too share your philosophy of free knowledge and people helping people. Keep up the good work...

6-11-05
I was once a user of FTE, I was not very happy with 1) trying to be accepted to where I could post and such. 2) the greater-than-thee attitude of some of the folks in FTE. I think you have done an outstanding job with this site. As we say in Texas Damn Bueno!!

7-7-05
...the reason you got censored was because your lil ol' site blew the doors off their huge site with LOTS of very direct information, you showed them up !

8-16-05
I am writing to thank you for your efforts re your marvelous website. One day I hope to have enough disposable cash to make a donation. In the meantime I can only offer my moral support & some information for your gristmill, to wit: I am a retired legal researcher who has been employed by many attorney's & paralegals, etc. in the past. What Ken Payne from FTE has done to you is unconstitutional & thereby both unlawful & illegal (there is a difference).

10-26-05
Hi...You may recognize my screen name from slick60s and FTE (if you ever go there still). I had a run in with Ken Payne as well and I am no longer spending much time there. The guy is a real @ss....

1-17-06
...My dad read the censorship and said those people sound more like dictatorship. Anyway he thinks they should hire you...

I read with interest your drama regarding the FTE and I have to say, I support you. I've been to the FTE in the past (not as an active participant) to look up stuff on my [truck]. It's only as good as a "try to fit all" site can be...I moderate a forum for where I work, and I try to be a diplomat about it, but I have had to block a person because they never had anything good to say, but it is pretty clear to me that wasn't the case with you. Oh well, I say. I'd have to say your site is the quintessential resource for the 67-72 truck. Great job!

5-5-06
I totally agree with your information as to the censorship issue. It is your information that is being supplied and your venue that will give a more free exchange of information rather than clog up his site. I am glad you have your own site now...

6-30-06
I'm fairly new to your website, and just found and read "I've been censored!".
     Ken makes a couple of good points, but I still think he's a bit over the top when it comes to protecting his interests.
     I've long since quit visiting FTE on any sort of regular basis, primarily because one of his rules is that you can't mention any other websites in his forums. I didn't realize this would be a problem 'til I tried to explain to another participant that there was info available on-line on how to build a solid-state instrument voltage regulator. I couldn't tell the guy where to go! I eventually realized that FTE exists only to market itself on the assets that the forum participants provide for free: tech knowledge, enthusiasm, and a ready, well-defined market. I began to look for alternatives, which I found in Project Bronco (focus on 78-79 Broncos and M-block engines) and FordSix.com and Inliners International, all of which do a better job of addressing my particular interests ('73-77 trucks, M-blocks, and the big six). I haven't been to FTE in months. Last time I went there, a small pop-up reminded me that I hadn't posted anything in a long time, with the additional implication that I had a duty to participate or something to that effect.
     I discovered Fordification several months ago when someone on the American Truck Historical Society forum (aths.org) referred me to you for info on the Advance Adapters Ranger overdrive, which I now plan to buy primarily because of the info you've made available (and when I do, I'll be sure to mention why I chose them).
     In the end, I have to side with you in this matter. My primary motivation for forum participation is to learn, to benefit from the experience of others and perhaps share some of my own. I understand the need to turn a profit, but to put blinders and muzzles on participants is self-centered and short-sighted. FTE didn't have info on building a solid-state instrument voltage regulator, but participants there might've been able to learn through FTE where to find that info, and they would've remembered FTE for that and returned. They didn't, they won't, 'nuff said.

 

 
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