eBay discussion gone awry...
Most everyone is aware eBay provides its users with a discussion forum found under the "community" tab on every eBay page.
As in most discussion forums, the goal is to provide user generated content in the form of help, advise and guidance for new and seasoned users alike. Community discussion, tips & tricks and overall general best practices discussions are available on these forums.
The social aspect has always been strong on the eBay forums and this is why eBay is generally accepted as being the very first social network every introduced on the Internet.
Comradeship built among the eBay members within the forums increased the user loyalty for eBay, a loyalty many brands would dearly love to re-create.
So What's the Problem?
I have used the discussion forums over the years, both for asking questions and as a more seasoned seller, to answer the questions posed by newer members. I must say my frequency of visits to the eBay community forums has diminished over time.
The comradeship and helpful spirit seems to have been supplanted by a more mean spirited and bureaucratic genre of users on the eBay discussion forums. eBay has allowed the inmates to take over the asylum so to speak. With the current system of forum rules and enforcement, the situation will only get more disadvantageous for eBay over time.
Where is the Police?
These discussion forums are policed by the members themselves. When a rule is broken or when a rule can be construed as broken, members in the know can report the supposed rule breaker to the eBay authorities.
This system could possibly work, if these supposed eBay authorities or moderators would then take a moment to read the specific offence and confirm that a violation had in fact occurred.
Apparently the eBay employees tasked with these policing duties do not have the time for these kinds of confirmations as they will remove a post or ban a member simply because another member said so. Looking at the actual violation seems to be a waste of time for moderators on eBay forums. Better to just remove or ban and ask questions later. Of course the removed party has no method for asking these questions and therefore the problem is removed forever.
We all know eBay is a huge community, the eBay forums are also quite large and unwieldy to manage. Yet some other way of handling the reports of abuse must be devised. Good members are being mistreated by the discussion boards simply for speaking their minds and joining the conversation. Other members who feel they must direct the conversation will simply report non-conforming discussion group members as rule breakers, whether a rule had been violated or not.
When enough reports of rules violations occur (and these reports can be organized by a certain group of like minded members against an unsuspecting outspoken member) the non-conforming member is banned from the forums by eBay. This is done in many cases without review or any sort of due process.
eBay devised this self policing system because they wanted to keep the place clean and tidy without too much employee involvement. eBay seems to have failed to realize that some members of these forums, while appearing to be helpful to eBay, are actually damaging the companies reputation with these bogus reports of rule breaking and forum violations.
Case in point:
This morning I received a comment on one of the TA Journal posts which on the surface appeared to be spam simply because it was just a link to a video with no other meaningful text or discussion. I took a look at the video to confirm it was in fact spam. I don't think it is.
The comment was posted by a former eBay member and apparently former eBay forums member who is so frustrated with the internal politics and workings of the eBay discussion forums that they produced this video and posted it on YouTube. They did this once they were banned from the forums and one can only assume left eBay as a result.
In the video, terms like "Feedies", "Cheerleaders" and "Tools" are used to describe members who use the forum rules on eBay to remove members they do not happen to like or agree with.
I have encountered these types of members in the discussion groups and I have been threatened with the wrath of same openly and directly within the forums. I have never been reported (to my knowledge) or banned but I have experienced the chilling effect of being advised that I should change my tune and conform if I wished to remain as part of the discussion forums.
Frankly I am too busy to duke it out with forum groupies so in most cases I just went about my business. But if one were to become defensive when hearing these threats, it appears that the "feedies" and "Cheerleaders" and "Tools" can and will use the power of mob rule to remove anyone who does not conform.
Forums Damage eBay Reputation
This situation damages ebay's reputation and causes members, new and old, to look elsewhere at an alarming rate. eBay should find a way to mitigate this damage and alter the forum rule enforcement procedures on the discussion boards so they can not be gamed so easily by these "Tools".
I did not produce this video or have anything whatsoever to do with its production. Certain eBay members are named in this video and if your name is on the list, please contact the video producer with any complaints. The video is freely available on YouTube it has been inserted here merely for reader convenience.
As always, comments are open below...