Schoolyard Bullies
January 26, 2006

NOTE: Please make sure to read the update at the bottom of this post!!

Despite being an early adopter of the internet � I got a VAX account in college and played on MUDdog, learned PINE for email � I was rather late getting into blogging. I've seen a lot of fads come and go � or more accurately, I've seen a lot of trends rise and fall in popularity. At first, I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the blogosphere. In May, though, I began Red Monkey and added my voice to the many others already out here. I also began helping a friend move out of Blogger and into his own domain � so I got an education in blogging pretty fast.

And one of the first things I did was to surf other blogs, looking for a way to get the word out about Red Monkey and generate more traffic. After a little futzing around, I settled on BlogExplosion. The interface was easy to use, and the benefits were great. I loved it � I got a a fair amount of traffic pretty quickly and managed to get some regular readers. I began exploring more and more of the site, and became more a part of a community instead of mindlessly surfing others' blogs and hoping that they were doing more than mindlessly surfing mine. I joined the "shoutbox" a kind of not-quite chat room where different members could come and talk to each other � about blogging, their lives, or just be silly for a while.

Besides the shoutbox, I had one other feature at BlogExplosion that I really, really enjoyed. Battle of the Blogs. Here you could pit your blog against another blog � bet credits and let 15 other people read the two blogs and decide which one they liked better. Particularly when you're just starting out in blogging and perhaps not getting a lot of comments, this was a really cool way to get some validation that you were doing something people enjoyed. When I was surfing blogs at B.E., I noticed that other traffic exchanges were posting blogs and getting them traffic through B.E. I tried out BlogAdvance, but found it really hard to navigate and hard to get used to. I had a referral button to them on my site for a while, but I really didn't go there and utilize their service very much. Then I saw another one � BlogMad. This one claimed they were "coming" but that they weren't ready yet. They were offering extra credits to those folks who signed up early, and it sounded like they had some incredible stuff planned.

Life went on. My blog grew � my readership seemed to be growing, although I'm rather lackadaisical about checking that out. I have NO idea how many people read my feeds and I use statcounter.com more to monitor my entire site than to just review my blog.

But, life seems to encourage drama at every turn and in every aspect of our lives. BlogExplosion and blogging was no exception. One night in the shoutbox, someone comes in and begins attacking B.E. � for, as far as I could tell, no reason at all. Myself and some of the others in the shoutbox immediately began defending B.E. Two moderators made appearances rather quickly and eventually kicked the highly obnoxious parties out of the shoutbox. That was that. I figured this was simply the case of another blog traffic site being jealous of B.E.'s success.

Then I began hearing stories � people who were banned from BlogExplosion because they had a BlogAdvance button on their site. People who merely disagreed with a moderator being banned.

I still figured this was just a lot of hooey. People with gripes trying to blame others. I'd talked to many of the moderators on several occasions and thought they were pretty cool. Jeff, called "blog," and OHB (orange-haired boy) seemed pretty cool. Jeff was a bit stand-offish, but I would expect that from someone running a large web service like B.E. Can't have a lot of time to chatter with the peeps if you're running a good service (unless you have 8 million employees and no responsibilities yourself). The third moderator, Rachel, seemed a bit caustic and blunt, but that's not a bad thing. Her blog is pretty hysterical.

Then, for no reason that I ever figured out, things began changing. I heard more stories of B.E. members getting upset with the moderators. More tales of bannings and just plain bad customer service. It was now starting to get a little disturbing. Then a few people I had made friends with in the shoutbox seemed to be getting attacked by another friend.

We'd been very quickly reduced to kids in the playground sandbox. Was depressing � but such is life. Whatever.

And then, more drama. One of the moderators, acting on her own rather than as a representative of B.E. began talking rather publicly about some of the members. She insisted left and right that it was her right to bitch about members as a private person, and this is true. However, she was na�ve in the extreme to insist that this shouldn't reflect on B.E. After all, this is the issue of blogging about work in a microcosm. If you complain publicly about a client, you really shouldn't be surprised when word gets back to that client and you lose that account. It doesn't really matter if you complain publicly in a bar or a restaurant or a blog or a public park. If you say something about a client publicly and it's overheard, be prepared for consequences to your business.

Within a matter of a few weeks there seemed to be a schoolyard "us and them" mentality springing up. People acted as if you were part of either the "in group" with the developers and moderators, or part of the "shoutbox group" � or, of course, people who had simply been surfing and not using the shoutbox and forums might simply be considered unaligned. The weird thing was that what group you were "a part of" seemed to change depending on who you were talking to.

Everything seemed to come to a head, at least as far as I was involved, when BlogExplosion began a new chatbox and got rid of the old shoutbox. The new chat is an awesome Flash application which added audio and video feeds to the chat experience. Way cool! As with any change, of course, some people didn't like it. Some didn't like the new bells and whistles. Some couldn't use it from work. Some guys in the Middle East couldn't use it because their connections were too spotty or slow. New people used chat as older voices wandered away. Such is change.

Then, a few members of B.E. installed shoutboxes on their blogs or websites and all hell apparently broke loose. There was talk of cliques and voting blocs voting against different groups in Battle of the Blogs. Blog entries were written, blogrolls decimated as very polarized camps began deleting each other. In the midst of the relatively petty bickering, though, I saw something particularly disturbing.

Two of the moderators began answering support tickets in a manner that was often rude and completely uncalled for. The language deteriorated into accusing various members of somehow taking advantage of BlogExplosion's services.

Members began leaving in droves.

And, then, the talk of a voting bloc began to heat up. I entered a battle and it was over in less than two minutes from the first hit recorded at statcounter.com until the last vote recorded. Oddly enough, statcounter.com also only recorded 9 hits instead of 15 � and 5 of those votes were from the same IP address � supposedly something that couldn't happen with their voting scripts. If I wasn't getting 15 hits to my blog, and the battle was over before people could really read my posts, then there was little sense in battling at the moment.

I shrugged it off. People had hurt feelings, people were pissy � and as much as I love Battle of the Blogs, this just didn't seem to be worth fussing about. People are people, no big deal. After a few days, I decided to try again to battle. That was Friday, the 20th. That battle was started at 7:15 in the morning � around noon, people began asking me what was wrong with my battle. I didn't know � I'd been stuck at 6 votes for a while, but didn't see that as too terribly unusual. At least this battle was taking a relatively normal amount of time instead of two minutes.

No one could vote on the battle.

I laughed it off. Probably some weird glitch in the script. The battle stayed stuck. Well, maybe some of the programming types had figured out a way to hang my battle. Kind of unlikely unless people were a LOT pissier than I had thought � or truly that bored. Who knows. Support tickets were filed by at least two people wondering why the battle was stuck. No response. The person battling against me filed a support ticket.

No response.

Members began talking about it. A moderator in the chat room said it would be fixed "some time today." That was Monday.

Yesterday, another battle got "stuck."

I relaxed. Ahh, see, they are just having issues with the battling script. Surely now they would have to do something about the stuck battles.

They fixed the other battle.

Mine is still there.

No one has yet to hear back on the support tickets.

You see, they don't need to be nice to their BlogExplosion members anymore. They've now opened up BlogCharm � a blog-hosting service where you can get a fabulous template and get paid to blog. You see, they're offering a great deal � ads on your blog � but they split the ad revenue with you.

There's just one hitch: the same people who do not understand that they are offering a customer service based service to people are running BlogCharm and BlogExplosion. Think about it. They've gotten all these interested bloggers to their site. Surely some of them are ready to leave Blogger and Blogzy and some of the other free platforms. They've built up a nice base of clients that they can now make a lot of money off of.

If they can keep their bloggers around, that is.

You see, one of the things they forgot about is that they have now pissed off writers. Writers who have some readerships. The word is rapidly getting out that if you use BlogExplosion, be careful. You can get banned for simply having your blog hosted on the wrong server. Or disagreeing with a moderator. The sense of community and fun that was there is now shifting and collapsing.

Maybe it's all just the way of the internet. People who are only somewhat connected through 1s and 0s are drifting away. But if that's true, why do we blog? Aren't many of us doing this for the sense of community and that moment of connection between writer and reader? Isn't that the point between having the capacity to leave comments and begin discussions?

Is the internet really just an excuse to be rude and hateful because you can't see the other person or because you can more easily ignore them than those you are physically around on a day to day basis?

I don't know why my battle at BlogExplosion has been stuck for a full week without a word from the moderators. I don't know why they refuse to answer the support tickets that have been filed.

I don't know why they fixed the issue with one frozen battle and not with the one that had been there longer. I don't know why the moderators seemed to suddenly turn on some members and became rude � and in some cases downright hateful.

And you know what, I really don't care. I was using a service that I enjoyed. The customer service of recent has been abysmal. So why continue to use the service? There are other services out there. Still, it saddens me to see what was an incredible service go down the drain.

I hope that the customer service at BlogExplosion turns around soon and the petty crap has run its course. I won't hold my breath, though.

I am curious to see just how much longer they'll be silent about the stuck battle. How much longer they will ignore it and the support tickets.

How much longer they can afford to ignore their customer base. And how long before their new customer base at BlogCharm twigs to the lack of customer service and care practiced by most of the BlogExplosion staff.

UPDATE
After filing a support ticket today, I received an almost instantaneous response from the main adminstrator of BlogExplosion. He seemed very hurt and upset by the insinuation (or, really, outright statement) that customer service seems to have been forgotten or has gone by the wayside. Apparently they "have been looking at this issue at length over the last couple of days ... We are trying to source the issue."

The puzzling bit, however, is that he insists that they have been answering "all support tickets within 24 hours for months now. I don't have an answer for BOTB yet but we are trying to desperately find out why." And, for me to settle down (which is a well-deserved rebuke ... I don't get mad often, but when I finally do!).

However, I know that at least 3 tickets have gone completely unanswered for several days.

The question remains, then ... what happened to those unanswered support tickets ... and why was one battle fixed within a day, but another broken for a week?

UPDATE 2:
Well, this morning, the battle was "released" some time this morning and voting commenced!

I've no idea what locked the battle up, but hopefully we'll hear something from B.E. soon.

I do want to say that the lead administrator over there responded VERY quickly to my ticket. I don't know why the other tickets went unanswered ... but once I did officially notify B.E. the situation was cleared up very promptly. Kudos for that.

Posted by Red Monkey at January 26, 2006 6:06 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

 

angie said:

Very well voiced, ender.

January 26, 2006 6:28 PM

 

Carol said:

Wow! Interesting and long post. Thanks for writing about your experiences with BE and BOTB.

January 27, 2006 6:19 AM

 

ktsmith said:

THREE unanswered support tickets from myself this week PLUS a post on the BE blog. I am ticked because I actually pay money toward BE and you are absolutely right. The customer service has beyond sucked.

I don't care about the cliques that are made because I am not a cliquey person. My feelings are spared when I am shunned but when I am blatantly ignored I get pissed.

Oh and support tickets on other issues have taken more than 24 hours. I filed one for a thumbnail issue and it took 7 days for me to get a response. As for my BOTB support tickets, they haven't even sent me a "piss off" response.

January 27, 2006 9:00 AM

 

T. said:

Where the heck have I been? I didn't know any of that. Guess I don't pay much attention to the shout box. I did notice your battle sitting there...and sitting there....and sitting there. I actually thought I broke it cause I voted and then it didn't move again. LOL. Glad to see they finally fixed it. Did you win at least?

January 27, 2006 6:41 PM

 

OldGuy said:

Interesting observations ender, and I hope you don't have any more problems.

January 27, 2006 6:45 PM

 

�madbull said:

when i read this i got one question... actually i had that question during the whole post :: did you delete your account @ BE...

if i have such a rant about something/some place i leave that place...

January 28, 2006 7:04 PM

 

Red Monkey said:

that's the difference between me and you, madbull. i hope that things will change for the better instead of leaving in a snit.

i was really tickled to see things with that battle resolve so quickly after i entered a support ticket. i am still worried that so many other tickets were completely ignored. but, jeff and the others are quite busy and spread thin. still ... why the silence for so long? was a very odd thing when a simple "we don't know; we're working on it" would have made every one who sent in a ticket feel so much better.

January 28, 2006 7:20 PM

 

�madbull said:

uh...i think jeff and the other where mainly working on the blogcharm platform (no and i didn't have any contact with them)... if you know the platform and check what be (already) made out of it, youmight notice loads of differences with the basical code... a thing even 'competitors' didn't notice...

in a matter of 'difference'... true we both have been 'stacking up', just i know that i for myself, once i have vented i have no needs to 'go on in a 'scret corner''... i was really disappointed by your ip ban... you, who uses the 'friend word' (sorry friends grow online in IM, a place where i have to give you an addy for and even then accept you), should have known that (at last) that day that when i state something i mean it (no this is no flame or what so ever)... and that when i say not interested in that place... you know (i hope) what i mean...

btw... jason(x)(xx) wasn'tme... but you would/might be ver surprised when youknow whom it was...

anyway... i find it sad that you 'behave the way you did', but i gotta be fair as well and admit that i enjoyed the 'last time you were at be-chat' and even adressed me the parole... but at the sametimei didn't really know 'what to think of that'...

like you have read somewhere else,the sbhof was never anything of my realinterests... got to many occupations... but it was 'something for a place i liked'... at least at the start of it...

thinking back of someof the comments you left at MWL i would have thought you personnally 'went deeper' inlife (even online, since time brings out the real natre of persons online as well)... sorry 'd00d'

i can't hide my disappointment...

sorry for typos, but it is drunk saturday :D

January 28, 2006 8:32 PM

 

Red Monkey said:

ahhh, it all goes back to this shoutbox issue, eh? go back and read this again.

madbull, i like ya. don't always like how you behave, but that's okay. you don't always like how i behave. such is life.

i don't see how that shoutbox issue has anything to do with b.e., though.

January 28, 2006 9:23 PM

 

�madbull said:

uh...maybe because the 'makeout party'was the turning point...the moment where somepeople from be-staff started to 'express their 'feeling' evenmore(as well on there personal blogs as in support tickets')

BE (someof the people ) have always been publiclyhated... and that is a thing that goes on nowadays... check http://boycotbe.blogspot.com(hope the urlis correct) or read what blogadvance wirrites(even if i would/might) like deb as a person... i can perfectly understand some of the BE-staff that they become 'ruder'... that is just a logical behaviour'... i would react in the same way... having built severalcommunities (biggest one with upto 9000 unique IP's a day) i know howmuch time goes into such a platform and how much hate comes out of it... knowing me you can imagine that i wasn't the politest one either... but at the same timethe first one to help as well...

and yes... also you mentionned in a 'hidden way' the shoutbox issue (no i don'tmean the sbhof and tagboard... couldn't careless for something,otherwise i would never have integrated the actual tagboard)... it all goes backto the 'make out fest'... even not the love shack... even if i didn't really agree with that one (who am i anyway) i still have sea in my links and that knows a lot... think you can imagine that...

but having more then 30.000 memebers and some people who didn'tfeel appreciated anymore...even starting their own service... yeah that was the reason why i joined BE...i had read a lot bout their battle and appreciated jeff before i joined... guess you can imagine that's how i am... just like you know what i think of botb... how i even asked everyone to vote against me...

sadly but true it seems that a lot of people will go different ways... but yeah that's life... one is sure... i will 'stay' at BE... and liking somethingmeans 'sticking up my head in some asses', i am totally aware of that and don't give a damn bout it either... i know what i did (not) and that's all that counts...

anyway this was my last comment... i wouldn'tmind to read an answer... but i don't care bout the 'anti-be stuff' anymore either... and yes i have read your post several times... even before i commented the first time...

January 28, 2006 9:38 PM

 

Red Monkey said:

sure whatever the explosion was over the shoutbox at b.e. seemed to be a turning point ... i never understood that explosion and tried to ignore it as far as i could since i was not there for the explosions.

the issue here is customer service ... which up until the last few weeks, i thought was great. and b.e. is still an impressive service to me. i still like it at b.e. i still like jeff and the others.

it doesn't take long to reply to a ticket with "we don't know what's going on, but we're working on it."

January 28, 2006 9:52 PM

 

Deb said:

I've read with interest your last two postings about BlogAdvance and how you find it hard to navigate.

Just like BE, we have a customer service system and if you had sent in a support ticket explaining that you were having problems with using it, someone would have got back to you and explained the functions. There have been one or two other people with similar issues who have sent in support tickets and their questions were quickly answered and they now surf quite regularly.

If I'm the person you have issue with over at BlogAdvance, I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is. I've always said what I thought and quite frankly you don't have to like me as a person. Just like BE, we are extending a service to people and you have the choice of using it or not.

We are a community built by bloggers for bloggers and if you stopped and saw what we were doing in our forum rather than go off on biased opinions in a competitor's shoutbox then you would know this.

I don't see the need for me to be silent anymore than you feel a need, but please, before you comment on your inability to use BlogAdvance and make it some bad point for other potential bloggers, at least exhaust your resources before you comment.

Nice blog.

February 11, 2006 6:16 PM

 

Red Monkey said:

and after that comment ... i rest my case about blogadvance.

February 11, 2006 7:10 PM
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