This is going to be long, so I'll wait while you get a snack and something to drink.
OK. Comfortable? Good, let's get started.
As many of you have probably noticed by now, there have been some big changes here on FanNation in the last year or so. Some good, some not so good and some that just make your jaw drop to the ground in amazement.
FanNation was originally the brainchild of a company called Sports Tech Inc out of Connecticut. The company was founded in 2006 and comprised of some former ESPN employees and some other internet brainiacs. The goal of STI was to create a site that would be the leader in fantasy sports as well as a forum where sports fans from around the globe could meet and discuss the days top news stories. It would be a place where sports fans could express their views through blogging, message boards or unique topic challenges ala Throwdown.
In February 2007, Time Warner began the process to acquire the rights to FanNation from STI . The explosion of membership by being coupled with SI.com and the SI magazine took the membership level of 100,000 up to about 4 million worldwide. In the first month.
STI was kept on to continue to run the site while Sports Illustrated began what I assume to be (having been in the technology sector for many years), a site analysis in order to get to know the technology, develop changes and either overhaul it or revamp it - which I assure you will happen eventually. In my opinion. and from what I can see and understand (again, many years in tech), for Time Warner and SI, acquiring the site was never about the look of the actual site on the frontside. It was about the cutting edge technology that STI used on the backside to develop it. They wanted a site to couple with SI.com but to create it from scratch would have taken months if not years. ESPN had already purchased Jayski and True-Hoop. ESPN had already launched a beta version of their fansite. If Time Warner wanted their Sports division to be competitive, then they had to do it fast.
I believe, the problems began with the surge of memberships. Neither SI nor STI expected that the site would grow as rapidly as it did. As I said, membership surged from just over 100,000 to almost 4 million in one month according to published reports. With that type of unexpected site traffic, there most certainly will be problems. The original site wasn't designed for that type of traffic and as expected, issues were encountered when posting, saving, page viewing etc. There were probably page delays, cache problems, database problems and all kinds of issues you would expect with a rapid and unforseen traffic growth. However, Time Warner didn't make its billions by not expecting things. Surely, a company that size, or even SI would understand that when you advertise the launch of your new Fan Based website, in a magazine with over 23 million readers each week and 3 million subscribers, you're likely to get some traffic? This was extremely poor planning on the part of Sports Illustrated and Time Warner. They simply failed to anticipate and subsequently dedicate the resources to manage the growth.
Several months ago, SI finished their "analysis" and decided on the changes and direction they wanted the site to go in. They began by phasing STI out and going to a third party company to "moderate" the site - at first just on weekends - then, nights and weekends, and now, from what I can see, its just about full time with a couple of SI interns supervising. The people administering the site are now from SI, not STI. STI is a great group of people who do not deserve to be slandered or in any way held responsible for the multiple issues going on at FanNation right now.
The STI brain charged with the job of Site Administrator was Josh Harrisking. Surely you all know Josh? Josh adminstered and he moderated. At one time, FN actually solicited help from some volunteer users to act as moderators. Surely you remember Krobe09 ? Neither are with FanNation anymore. Krobe for his own reasons, but Josh was unhappy with the changes and direction SI was planning for a site he poured his heart and soul into, insulted by the offer they made to make him an employee and decided to take his family and return to Seattle. Josh's time with FanNation came to an end Memorial Day Weekend. That's when all hell broke loose.
Let's talk about just some of the problems since Memorial Day weekend when SI took over the reins and administation of the site.
On the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend, a FN user by the name of Homey D jokingly responded to another user on a T & R thread with the words Punk A.$.$ BlTCH. With minutes, his account was banned by moderators. Yet, someone from a soccer group, was able to post something like this "let me put it to you this way....u need to go stick a d*ildo in that p*ssy of yours and get the f*Uck out of here you stupid C8unt" and nothing. Not a reprimand, not a warning, nothing. That user certainly wasn't banned? Why not? Surely that comment was far more offensive?
There were multiple throwdowns created by a couple of newly registered users. These users had offensive names and hard core porn as their avatars. The TD's topics were pornographic and extremely offensive, not just to the women on this site, but to alot of men as well. Lest we forget, there are many many minors on this site. There were no moderators to remove these users, or their TD's. For 3 days, the site ran rampant like Kindergartners without a chaperone at the zoo. The site was basically just looted all weekend. It was a hell off a weekend.
I'm not sure how many of you peruse the T&R's but its rare that a thread stays on topic for more than 3 posts let alone 3 pages. NFL, NBA, MLB - what I call the Big Three - routinely have threads that reach over 1000 comments by 5pm EST. If 100 of those are topic related, I would be shocked. However, none of those non topic posts are removed, nor are they monitored since there are countless number of offensive or rude comments posted daily. If you were to wander over to the Soccer T & R, and post a non topic related comment, it is immediately removed and you are warned. I'm beginning to see a pattern. I can only assume that with the Euro Cup happening, SI is hoping for more international traffic on soccer related boards and threads and they don't want us picking our noses in front of the guests. More traffic means more advertising revenue.
If you are in a private group, that group is no longer private. The private threads created for your group end up on the front page of FanNation. I've seen one for Buc's Place by Tracy and one for Pillow Talk by Chaka up there in the last week. The moderators (the 3rd party company) have been instructed NOT to moderate private groups as they are considered private. They're doing it anyway. The private groups ARE being monitored. Daily. Posts are removed for no reason that I can see other than the whim of some geek sitting behind his computer wishing he was in one of those groups because he has no life. I created a private over 21 group and asked people who I had pleasant and interesting conversations with on everything from sports to religion to politics to join. I did this on the advice of Josh so that others would not be possibly offended by anyones political or religious views. Both subjects, along with race are volatile anywhere they are discussed. So on that advice I created a private group. Now that group is being moderated and as I said, posts are being removed arbitrarily that noone in that group found offensive, so why should the moderators? One such post was simply WTH? On any given night when you go to the community page, you wont see too many comments in the section on "What the Fans are saying". Its empty. Know why? It's because people are in private groups talking amongst themselves.
All of this tells me a couple of things.
First, that SI is in over their heads right now. They don't seem to have any idea what they are doing and should have thought long and hard before they said "OK STI, we're taking over, see ya". It was and is an extremely painful and unbelievably mismanaged and chaotic transition. SI is doing a terrible job of updating content and fixing the problems that need fixing. The site freezes at whim, logins time out for no justifiable reason, links and user features once available before are not available now or were out of commission for a week or more or work sporadically. The caching on the site is abysmal. Some users are complaining that after spending up to an hour writing a blog, inserting pictures and extra time formatting, only to hit the publish button and find that they have lost it all because their login either timed out or was somehow cached out. (Tip, write your blogs in Wordpad or Word or some other word processing program and then you have a backup. This will not work in Mozilla however until you change your Mozilla configuration file to allow copy and paste).
Second, the moderator company they hired is doing an absolutely horrendous job of moderating this site and are overstepping their authority and their bounds. They have become increasingly intrusive and invasive. When you get an email from a moderator and try to reply to it, the email comes back as undeliverable. Well that's helpful now isn't it? I have no idea if they are using a UNIX mail or a some sort of Squirrel Mail or what they're using but come on, reroute the mail from STI to SI already. Thats just poor management at the very lowest level. Thankfully, I have a direct email connect with someone from SI and can get answers to my questions. Im one user. Out of supposedly 4 million. Shouldn't the other 3,999,999 have the same access?
People are being banned or removed for saying some trivial minor things and having posts removed that just say WTH? Yet users like Jamman can post images of extreme hard core pornography in his profile and as his avatar. Users like Totally Jive can call people names, insult them, their families, their very existence on this planet, and yet are not removed even after countless complaints. People can create groups dedicated to lusting after some actress, write blogs dedicated to music videos, half naked women or any number of non sports related topics, but you absolutely cannot post the word BIP followed by BOOP on a soccer thread. If you do, you receive a warning to stay "on topic".
SI needs to get their collective heads out of their collective arses and then maybe they wouldn't be so uptight. Maybe if their employees worked more on the site issues and spent less time doing Throwdowns and posting in T & R's, we could get somewhere. SI, if you need a list of technical problems with or much needed enhancements for the site, I have a list for you.You could start by controlling the spam posts from intermingle.com . Drop the hammer on your moderator group. Stay out of the private groups, start being less intrusive and provocative. Work on your cache system, your database indexing. Need some busy work? Code the drop down lists for friends so that the names appear alphabetically. (Yes, I know it does in FanMail, just nowhere else. Why?) Allow user created folders or tabs in FanMail so that messages can be saved somewhere other than a generic inbox. There's alot you COULD be doing.
SI has taken what was a mostly fun and interesting site and is systematically bit by bit, destroying it. As I said, I've been in the technology field a very long time. I know how user based sites work. This one seems to be slowly imploding. And it doesn't have to be that way.
The FanNation Moderator has responded on page 6.
**** Update**** 6/14/08
SI has posted a blog in response to this one
Never let it be said that Im not a fair person.