The COW groans

Creative COW error messageA little issue is brewing in various forums and mailing list regarding Creative COW’s moderation policies. The COW has always been pretty upfront that it moderates posts. Tim Wilson celebrated as much in a 12th anniversary congratulatory piece.

Today, this seems head-slappingly obvious. Every single significant online community, including the few, small email-based communities that remain meaningful, every single one of them is moderated. Zero exceptions. Forum members across our industry even want to be moderators themselves. THAT’s why it seems obvious now.

Yet The Lindebooms came under personal attack for years, and sometimes still do, for a practice now virtually universal in our industry, and in the hundreds of thousands of forums across the web that have been founded since Ron & Kathlyn started theirs.

By the way, it’s not that nothing off-topic is ever allowed. Off-topic conversations are sometimes critical for keeping the community together–as long as they don’t tear the community apart.

Please note that the following intends no disrespect whatever. But it’s worth noting that one of the longest and strongest holdouts to moderation was our dear friends at the Avid-L, some of whom are also leaders in The COW. “The L” came to an acrimonious split in 2005 over the lack of moderation. The core of that group in its new incarnation moderates both its membership and topics.

Again, no disrespect intended. I’m just saying that moderation works. The Lindebooms started it in our industry. Others have followed.

I look back on all of this and remember what they say: history is written by the victors. Well there you go.

Understood. But that’s not the whole story. Avoiding flames and way off topic posts is laudable. The COW goes much further, disallowing posts that mention competing sites. A COW user can’t say to another, “The answer to your question can be found at this site…”

That’s too bad. Ron, Kathlyn, and Tim should be a little more secure than that. In the age of Google, eventually the user will find that answer anyway. Would they rather Google be that user’s first option? The COW is big. It’s successful, and it can afford to allow the free flow of information — or eventually it will become irrelevant.

Most troubling is the extremely misleading error message (pictured above) one receives when mentioning the unmentionables like DigitalProductionBuzz, Total Training, or Pixelcorps. Would you trust a site that isn’t totally upfront about its moderation policies?

Moderation works, but censoring the free flow of valid information is a poor strategy. Lots more on this at GeneralSpecialist.

12 Thoughts on “The COW groans

  1. They have now blocked out 2,500 people in the broadcasting business by IP-blocking our IP addresses. And all this for discussing it at my private blog (not even in their forums.)

  2. This most surprising element of this behavior is that they don’t have to behave this way. The Creative COW brand is strong and secure. All they would have to do is simply request that people don’t post external links to the COW, and warn them that repeated violations will not be tolerated.

    If the COW allowed external posts on an honor system it would strengthen the brand.

  3. You’re right about them not having to behave this way. Their brand may be secure, but a financial pinch might be inducing some paranoia (or, as some have suggested at Jonas’ site, a mental disorder).

    It seems really out of step with this era of free sharing of information.

  4. I don’t think it has anything to do with mental competence. It’s a business decision, and motive is really unimportant.

  5. Ethan Anderson on June 26, 2007 at 12:37 pm said:

    I had a major blowout with this guy about a year ago. I posted a question in the AE forum that was subsequently moved to the beginner AE forum without notice (a serious question, from an 8 year AE vet). Not that big a deal. So I re-posted, not knowing what happened, remarking on how my post was zapped… you should have seen the personal flame he sends me. “You don’t tell me where and how I move posts on my board… yadda, yadda, yadda”

    Really left a bad taste in my mouth, haven’t been back since.

  6. Gary Childress on June 26, 2007 at 11:39 pm said:

    Last time I looked, their top banner said “Number One with Media Professionals”, not Media Hobbyists. Most pros who use the web to gather information or solve problems have several favorite sites they frequently look at, not just one. There is no good business sense in trying to hide other sites from users. This is a situation where small minds breed paranoid behaviors.

  7. Andrea on June 30, 2007 at 2:29 pm said:

    Weird that Ron and Kathlyn don’t even want to address the issue. Tim Wilson says in his announcement “it might take me a while to respond”. Why not just say “I have to check with Ron before saying anything” I don’t know what the Lindebooms are doing that prevents them from addressing this issue themselves. I hope for their sake it is something lucrative.

  8. Before turning this into more than it is, understand that COW team is likely changing the terms of service, documenting that change, and looking for an acceptable way to spin it for current users and advertisers.

    It will take time. Don’t expect any reversal of policy. The COW has always been an extremely sponsor-friendly environment. That won’t change. There are no professional journalists in the leadership. It’s not about getting it right, it’s about making advertisers happy. Totally legal, and ethical provided policies are clearly stated. (Currently those policies are not.)

    The COW’s a good place for a quick answer, but pretty useless for critical evaluations.

  9. Well, I am emailing links to this article on the generalist blog to ALL of the Cow’s sponsors and letting them know that I will not be using any of their services as long as they support the Cow’s practices by continued advertising. I urge others to do the same.

  10. I just want to express my sincere empathy with you, over this matter. It seems that, and especially Ron Lindeboom, the owner, is grossly nasty to their forum members.

    He closed my account without so much as a warning (well, AFTER closing it he wrote me a vague e-mail), but I can tell you that the trigger was probably my asking bloggers who own the new XDCam EX about the audio frequency response. CreativeCow must have been given orders from Sony to hush me up because of my exposing the awful audio on the HVR-V1U last year.

    You can read MY beef with CreativeCow here:

    Good riddance to the Cow. Some of those people (not all) are not only impolite, they are downright technically WRONG and spreading false information.

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  12. This is all very interesting. On a lark, I thought I’d google “Ron Lindeboom problem”… wow, the search results are plentiful.

    In a nutshell, I was libeled a day ago on the Cow’s boards, by Lindeboom himself.

    1 and 1/2 months ago, I posted a notice within my own job available posting, to please not respond unless you are really serious. A number of people had responded to my initial post, applying for the job, then flaked within a couple weeks. (A job that was a 4-figure job, for 20-30 seconds of motion graphics.)

    I wasn’t rude in my posting, but was a bit annoyed that so many of the Cow’s responders would be flakes. And in this economy. Given I was on “Moderate” anyway, if Cow didn’t like my post, they wouldn’t let it go through.

    But they did. However, someone on the Admin side interspersed surly comments within my post, identified by “Cow’s Admin Response:”

    Fine. I hadn’t been back to ever see these. Then, I get notified of a new post to the thread and go look. This is now 45-50 days later. Lo and Behold, Ron Lindeboom posts himself, railing against me and libeling me. I email him privately, asking him what the issue is, and why are you libeling me?

    He’s upset, because: a) someone voted on my thread (or post) and give it a “kudos” or a 5 star rating (I don’t even know what these are), so he’s pissed off at that; b) he claims he emailed me privately after my initial post 45 days ago, and that he reprimanded me in that email; and c) I posted his reprimanding email at CC.

    What??? I wish “b” were true, I’d love to see his “reprimand” of me for my innocuous posting. And… if he really did send me an email that shows him in a bad light, how could I ever get this posted at CC? I’m on “Moderate,” who there would allow this post to go through?

    This man will not reason; all attempts to reason/inquire/clear up by email only result in more anger and personal attacks from him. He will not admit he’s mistaking me or this situation for something else (or maybe he’s just crazy?). And he will not return a phone call (yes, I called his office to try to straighten out this apparent misunderstanding).

    Obviously, he’s got a problem. I stand by this post, and have emails to back this up. I actually wished I had cached the post at CC he libeled me on, but he removed it within a couple hours and deleted the entire thread. And then banned me.

    Whatever his problem is, be it psychological issues, ego issues, insecurity issues, or a combination of these… it’s a real shame. It’s a disservice to the creative community at CC, but thankfully, there are other places to go to post job opportunities, etc.


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