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greg janza
Revamped Forums
on Oct 4, 2018 at 4:12:10 pm

Ignore if this is already in the works but a major hindrance here on these forums is the inability to direct message individuals. Will that be a feature in the new design?

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Tim Wilson
Re: Revamped Forums
on Oct 9, 2018 at 8:47:48 am

[greg janza] "...a major hindrance here on these forums is the inability to direct message individuals. Will that be a feature in the new design?"

We'll acknowledge that this has been a request, and I'll tell you what we're thinking, but I'm going to gently disagree with the characterization of "major hindrance." People who want to be reached in the COW can make themselves reachable, as indeed you've done with your COW profile page. Someone who wanted to get in touch with you could do so via your LinkedIn profile, for example. A quick Google search on your name brings up lots of other alternatives.

Some folks include their phone numbers in their sigs, and we have over 10,000 service listings for our members. People who want to be found are making themselves findable, plus Google...so it's highly unlikely to me that there's no way to track down someone you want to track down with just a couple of extra clicks to say, their Facebook or Twitter profiles as well, which they're probably already used to watching for messages.

In fact, one of the things holding us back is how accessible people already are through their real names and COW profiles. We've had a number of high-profile folks scale back their participation here because they were getting phone calls at home about questions that really should have been asked on the forums.

This one was reported to me as a direct quote from an editor on Oscar-nominated features: "Hey, I'm sorry to bug you at home, but I didn't want to ask this in the forum. I really like Final Cut Pro, but everybody is telling me that more movies use Media Composer. Which do you think I should learn?" --- and he said he got bunches of these kinds of calls. At home.

By the way, I assume you understand that I'm not suggesting that you would be doing any of this nonsense. I'm speaking generally, and giving you some insight from what we've heard after over 20 years of operating forums in this industry.

We've heard from other folks they're getting unannounced office visits. People just dropping by because they know the person's name from the COW. I don't think that private messaging at the COW would reduce this sort of thing, but might become yet another avenue for the noise of excess access.

The larger issue for me on the admin side is that this is all directed by code, right? Software. The problem is that most of the off-the-shelf software we've looked at conceals private interactions between members from administrators, which is unacceptable to us. We're entirely liable for everything that goes on through our infrastructure, including interactions that we can't see, and we really can't risk that. Besides, we're looking at off-the-shelf solutions because we'd like to get a little further away from the custom code business so that we can focus on building communities.

And even if we found the administrative toolset we were looking for, imagine if we were to disclose something like, "100% of your private interactions will be monitored and archived, and if we feel that you're making an inappropriate inquiry, we not only won't send it through, but in some cases will close your account and alert the authorities" -- well, you can guess how well that would go over. We'd certainly not be inclined to debate it. That's the only responsible position to take, but I can imagine for a lot of folks that this would make private messages a non-starter...so why go through all that trouble for us on the development and admin sides?

It's different for something like Facebook, where it's well understood that you're being watched at all times, and they have thousands of staffers doing the watching.

Which frames up the overall issue for us, that we have over 300,000 members, not all of whom we'd WANT to have private access to other members, and we lack the staffing to provide the kind of monitoring that is otherwise very easily provided for public posts.

And yes, of course, we'd set up standards (receiving messages would be turned off by default and you'd have to enable it, people wanting to send private messages would need to have complete public profiles including xxx number of posts, etc.)....but it's still a lot of work for limited benefits that can already be derived via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or contact information already provided in sigs and service listings, vs. a considerable new set of administrative tasks and potential liabilities.

So this is not to say, "we've decided that the answer is no", but to give you some insight into the conversations that we've had about this over the years. The folks we regularly turn to for advice in the COW have also tended to respond negatively to the idea.

We do see some benefit to going the other way altogether, and allowing people to set up private groups, where they themselves have their hands on the dials to adjust the signal-to-noise ratio by excluding "noisy" people in the first place. fwiw, we do have some variation of that with the "Ignore" button on people's profiles, so that their original posts are invisible to you if you're so inclined...but we'd be no less responsible for the interactions there than we are in the public forums. There are limits to how many new jobs we can create for ourselves.

I think it'd be different if we had a forum with a few hundred or even a few thousand members, but it really is well north of 330,000 current members, with over 12 million visitors a year. One of the ways we've managed this volume with a small admin team is by keeping conversations corralled within the forums, and not spilling over into an unknown number of additional channels.

Anyway, this is probably more answer than you were looking for, but we're spending more hours than most reasonable people would imagine poring over every aspect of interfaces, approaches, and toolsets, and we're not taking any request lightly, or lightly brushing them aside. Everything is open for discussion, including this.

Thanks as always!

Tim Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
Creative COW


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Bouke Vahl
Re: Revamped Forums
on Oct 9, 2018 at 9:13:50 am

I totally disagree with Tim about being forced to monitor private messages, but that is beside the point.

What I totally do agree on is NOT implementing such a service.
I would immediately opt out of direct messaging on this forum. Not cause of the private issues, but I hate to answer the same question again, and it is nice to build a database where people can find answers.
(And yes, I also had private questions that, If I respond, send back to the forum instantly.)

And yes, people who need me outside the forum know where to find me, and that works out just fine.

Bouke
http://www.videotoolshed.com


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Tim Wilson
Re: Revamped Forums
on Oct 9, 2018 at 9:47:15 am

[Bouke Vahl] "I totally disagree with Tim about being forced to monitor private messages, but that is beside the point."

You're right, your disagreement is beside the point, because I'm right. 😁 If something inappropriate happens in a private message on a Creative COW server, Creative COW is legally responsible for the content. There is no ambiguity whatsoever on this point in US law.

It would be nice to say, "Well, we didn't know anything about it, it was just between those two people," but we don't have that luxury. So our two options would be, fine, we'll gamble that nothing inappropriate will ever be said in a private conversation -- but if you saw the posts we haven't approved over the past 20+ years, you would never even consider this option; there is some genuinely terrible stuff that people have tried to post --

-- OR to say, we know for a fact from our decades of experience that this is an unreasonable risk to assume, so we will monitor all private conversations the same way we do public ones, and because we are ethical, we will fully disclose this so that people can make informed decisions.

I do understand that this may be different in Europe, but we are based in the US, and bound by US law.....AND the laws in every country we operate in. Which is something like 200 countries and territories, several of whom are every bit as strict about this, even if some are not. These are not corners that we can cut.


[Bouke Vahl] "I would immediately opt out of direct messaging on this forum. "

We have heard from some people who would be happy to receive private messages, but truly, the vast majority of people we have contacted to ask have said exactly what you have.

Thanks for your input and your support. 👍


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Bouke Vahl
Re: Revamped Forums
on Oct 9, 2018 at 11:05:55 am

[Tim Wilson] " If something inappropriate happens in a private message on a Creative COW server, Creative COW is legally responsible for the content."

I can't believe this. An ISP (and in some sense CC is alike) is not fully responsible for the content. In fact, if my ISP spies on my mails, it would be the same as the mailman opening my letters. But, granted, US laws are strange and a very good reason not to go to the US anymore, but all this is becoming highly political and forbidden banned contagious OT ☺
(Besides I'm no lawyer nor want to become one. But I totally understand not hiring one, just stay on the safe side)

[Tim Wilson] ", because I'm right."

Don't steal my lines!

Bouke
http://www.videotoolshed.com


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greg janza
Re: Revamped Forums
on Oct 9, 2018 at 2:37:03 pm

Tim, thanks for the thoughtful and exhaustive response. Now with all of that perspective, the request seems unnecessary so I'll rescind it.

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Tim Wilson
Re: Revamped Forums
on Oct 11, 2018 at 2:37:02 pm

[Bouke Vahl] "But, granted, US laws are strange and a very good reason not to go to the US anymore, but all this is becoming highly political and forbidden banned contagious OT ☺"

Kidding aside, if we were an ISP, you'd generally be right, but we're just a site, and we are responsible for what's posted here.

We learned this the hard way when we hosted member demo reels. We had over 10,000 of them here....and then we started getting letters from lawyers. LOTS of letters from lawyers, all telling us the same thing: the unlicensed music in these reels was sitting on our servers, so WE were responsible for the licensing fees. Not even the guys who made the reels. WE were the ones distributing it, so WE owed the fees.

Needless to say, our response was to take them down. 😂 Anyone who wants to post their reel to the COW now has to use an embed link from YouTube (which now pays licensing fees for otherwise unlicensed music) or Vimeo.

(And to completely agree with your earlier point, it's not the ISP who's in trouble for that unlicensed music. It's the SITE, in this case YouTube or Vimeo, and they've had to create complicated agreements with rights holders to deal with the same kinds of lawyer letters that WE used to get.)

But the same principle is generally true for posts. If somebody makes a post with threatening language, offering cracked software (which used to be a big problem for us, less so these days), or with images that violate standards in the region in which they're viewed, or any other of the many things that we already monitor for, WE'RE responsible.

And that's fine. We ARE responsible. We really do watch every post, and we have no complaints about that. That's why we get paid.

The only problem is what happens when we're not able to watch a potentially massive number of private channels. That's what we're wrestling with.


[Bouke Vahl] "Don't steal my lines!"

Hey man, I only steal from the best. 😂


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