This story is related to business principles group dynamics and communicating with ones clients using forums and groups. It started as a small missive but seems to have grown a bit as I thought of the various lessons that one could ponder over.
Forums and public groups on the net have a interesting characteristic and dynamic.
The one thing that has become fairly obvious to me, is that, if the moderators and 'owners' do not take charge and responsibility and do not give clear direction as to what is and what is not allowed, their initial good intentions will dissolve into disarray and eventually come under ochlocratic rule which it seems is similar to democratic rule according to some.
One of the patterns that always seem to evolve, is that over time, there will develop, a core group of individuals, who will contribute and post most of the information and feedback and offer advice and then occasionally get emotional and upset but then go back into their 'normal' mode - just as we do in everyday life. As a list owner, one should look for and encourage good information flow within the membership but if the individuals get out of hand or off topic or keep just being downright obnoxious then the 'moderator/owner/big cheese' must step in and do the necessary. If they don't these individuals can ruin a good thing and take your business out.
Now the majority of forums, lists and groups do not charge for their being, but what if you pay to subscribe to a forum? What understanding is there now between the forum/site owners and paying members? It would appear like many things, that as soon as payment for services comes into being, a gremlin comes out known as rights. A belief is born, that there is a right in return for the services paid for. The right is not related to the service or information or product that one is buying. It is a right related to the method of communication. Because I am in your shop buying stuff, I can speak to you how I wish and you have a right to treat me in a similar way. I have a theory that the higher the payment the greater is the demand of these rights. Sort of the right theory, but that's another story.
Another related topic, is the scenario where there are many customers, each paying, what is seen by the owner - as a pittance for great services rendered. This according to certain business oriented individuals results in the application of Pareto's principle - the 80/20 rule. Its a kinda fit in or go away principle on the basis that I have many more customers and the meagre offering you pay does not warrant that I spend so much time on you. If fact if I can avoid you all together its even better.How does the 80/20 principle relate to the 20% portion? Can the wronged individual affect the 80% if he is part of the 20%?
There exists this particular forum and site, familiar to some of us,where one actually pays a monthly subscription, in order to glean great words of business interest.
It has been hijacked from time to time by individuals and groups within the list and the owner has had an occasional bleat, but never actually done anything except to tell the various people to play nicely. Recently the dynamics got really interesting again.
There are these 'paying customers' who believe it is their right, that they can abuse and arrogantly go about trying to bully their ideas and opinions on any subject under the sun at anybody out there on that forum. The idea that they are actually creating a problem for another's business is completely foreign to them ignored. Its like, one of your good customers coming into your shop and abusing another of your good customers that is there for the same or even a different solution and the first customer informs him to go away if he does not like attitude and opinion or the subject matter and who does he think he is anyway. What do you do when a group of customers come into a shop and start bullying another customer of yours just because he did not agree with the group or does not want to align with them? Its like the scenario where you go into a bar and the guy propping himself up there says, "wot you looking at hey"?...and his mates stand around him with leery grins and there's that air of expectation of a fight. Ok...you have not done that because you are all decent folk. Of course the new customers and potential customers see this and think.....'perhaps we should go away as well'.
An even more amazing trick was that the owner actually left his shop while this was going on, saying 'sort it out now and be big people' and 'I'll be back in the morning when I am feeling better'.
Over the past three and half years, the discussions with this shop keeper have revolved around bad systems, lack of business information and poor customer service along with other bad customer issues.
Nothing has changed in his own business - all this preaching and no doing - just carry on regardless. In fact... treat your regular customers even worse like you don't need this problem in your life. Strangest thing?
Being one of these paying members and having discussed some of the above in the past with the owner and continually watching the bullies bully and the righteous be right, expecting the world for my charitable monthly hand-out and not getting anything in return except repeated funny attitude I finally decided that they should go it alone without me. Yes, I know they lost a big fighter for the cause....but what can one do?:
So squeezed this pimple this weekend and it has all gone away. Nobody said - Thanks for your support over all these years, sorry about the errors of our ways and sorry to see you go bla bla bla. Not that I expected anything - I just wanted to see if there was some sort of decent communication there and practising what you preach stuff. A last glimmer of hope in the small business world. Even though you pay in advance for the month, they just flick the switch and rip you off. Cannot be disappointed with the outcome as it was expected, I suppose.
Now the reason I wrote all this was because I know of a really great forum right here -
with no subscriptions, no arrogance, no expectations, no bullies, no bleats about how long your post is or how pedantic you are, lots of good humour, on target, on form, on balance, no moans and groans about how sick you are or that you are lost out there in the big wide world and seriously victimised, no get lost if you don't like it and this is our right and we will say what we want regardless of who's in charge, no promises of information that never arrives, no pulling of posts because they are too controversial and might implicate someone even though they don't, no paranoid owners waiting for someone to rip them off somehow and I thought....
Great job guys, well done!!
Keep up the good work.
PS...The other forums as well...like Norri's Guitar Forum and Kobus's KabbalahConcepts group and Roberts Ming Kung Fu School..that are all doing great stuff out there and running along the same lines - You guys rock.