What is censorship?
It seems some on the eHow forums, including community manager Rich, need a bit of a refresher course, so from Wikipedia:
Censorship is the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the government or media organizations as determined by a censor. (emphasis is mine)

Corporate censorship is the process by which editors in corporate media outlets intervene to halt the publishing of information that portrays their business or business partners in a negative light. (emphasis is mine)

I've lost count as to how many posts have been deleted, but it is a LOT. Some of the posts were republished on a new blog, Post Toast, and some I was able to see before they were deleted. Some are lost forever, perhaps. One thing is certain, many of the ones I saw did NOT call out or attack any member, or even eHow. They were not abusive, either. They simply asked hard questions of eHow -- questions all of us have a right to ask, and a right to expect an answer for.  

As always, eHow seems to prefer the silent approach. Don't answer the hard questions at all. If it gets too intense, too close to the mark, or too hard to ignore, just delete it.

Rich, the community manager, sadly has to bear the brunt of the anger. I feel for him, since it seems clear eHow chooses to give him precious little leeway as to what he can tell angry members. Nevertheless, Rich is not completely without power, and has shown, in the deletions of posts and threatened banning of members, that he needs public relations training along with his bosses. 

Here are a few starters, if you happen to stop by, Rich:
  • Establish rules, post the rules clearly, and administer them CONSISTENTLY -- you have been saying for as long as I've been a member (2 years) that anyone can speak freely on the forums and we can always have a reasonable debate and difference of opinion. In fact, you said that not long ago, during this UK mess, when I made a rather lengthy (I know, what's new) post in which I criticized eHow's actions with regard to the UK site. Someone posted behind me that he expected my post would be deleted. But you left it, and said that as long as we are polite and reasonable we can have any discussion. Unfortunately, now, people are having their posts deleted for simply asking a hard question, while others call people out (with or without giving the name) and their posts remain.
  • When members are arguing with each other, and you feel the need to step in, it is usually prudent, in the wise traditions of the US military and US elementary schools, to punish BOTH or ALL members, not just the ones you aren't friends with. I can appreciate that it's hard to read every single little post and sometimes even if you do, it goes on for a while, and you can't remember who started it. It doesn't matter, Rich. Just delete both, or ban both. BOTH get the same, exact punishment.
  • Personally I don't agree with permanent punishment for arguing, such as being banned from eHow or banned from forums, as some (always the same ones, who are on the friends side and very much want you to ban certain people for good) have suggested. That is especially harsh in such an emotional and extremely important situation as the UK problems. But my suggestion would be to block both from the forums  for a day or two (which is a long time of the forum during heated discussions). BOTH parties are banned, though.
  • Be honest. If you have no choice (orders from above) but to delete posts about certain topics, at least come up with a creative, round about way to say so -- and then again, delete ALL posts on that topic, not just some.
  • Remind your bosses that eHow has long been known for one great thing: the ability of the members to say anything on the forums, no matter how detrimental to eHow, and though certain members would attack viciously, eHow would not. Perhaps this is just not the best time to change that policy.
It seems clear that the only way eHow will have any chance to come out of this with any of their reputation in tact is to simply come clean and own their own problems.  I'd much rather hear, yes, we set the UK site up to steal traffic and pay no writers. Would it make me mad? You bet. I'm already mad. But I'm a whole lot madder when I see eHow saying flat out, "We did nothing wrong. You better watch what you say about us."  Of course, owning your problems also implies correcting your problems. I don't think I'd be far out of line in saying up til now most, if not all, members would have been willing to work with you on the best way to make such corrections as are needed. At this point, I can't be sure, but it seems like that is no longer true since eHow taken bullying to even lower levels than before. I dare say, eHow may be seeing far more of many members than they would like. Hiding behind those TOS seems to be yet another false move for eHow.

Read more:

eHow a public relations disaster

1 comment:

JP said...

The amount of posts that are being deleted really surprises me, although one would think eHow would cease to surprise me.

I do understand a company being able to keep their forum under control. But, it's definitely slanted in their favor. Sometimes I think Rich does not even read the replies. The fact that he didn't understand why the UK thing was a big deal baffles me completely. I posted about tags still showing on the UK and he told me to contact DS. Huh?