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Old 09-23-2018, 06:28 AM   #1
darryl
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KBoards Disaster - Could it happen here?

The first 2 links below are to articles at the Passive Voice. They relate to the acquisition of KBoards by a Canadian Company called Vertical Scope which operates a business of buying online forums in the course of its search engine optimisation business. It is alleged that this company has little interest in actually maintaining the communities it acquires. In the case of KBoards it seems to have quietly introduced a new Terms of Service document with a rights grab and claims ownership of at least future posts and possible past ones. An intemperate representative of the company apparently went online and poured oil on the growing fire, claiming ownership of all data and expressing the view that they did not need to delete any posts even pursuant to the GDPR. They claimed the right to use posts for purposes of their business together with the poster's full name. Mods were apparently instructed not to remove any posts.

Dumpster Fire at KBoards

Passive Guys Comments

I highly recommend reading the comments but If you did not you should at least read the comment to the first linked article by Paul Sadler. This is a direct link:

Paul Sadler's comment to first post linked above

I suspect that Vertical Scope is over-reaching, at least in the case of posts existing before their acquisition. However, no one wants to incur legal costs to enforce their rights on something like this if they can reasonably avoid doing so. I also suspect that KBoards as a continuing community is doomed.

Mobileread may well find that we have an influx of new members, and/or existing but not very active members who start contributing more extensively. But the obvious question this raises is can it happen here. I certainly have no right to expect that the owner of a board like this one will resist temptation if it comes in the form of a reasonable sum of money. If Vertical Scope or a company like it was to acquire Mobileread my understanding, unless I have missed something, is that each of us retain the copyright on our posts and would be able to delete them. Certainly I would not continue to post under terms such as Vertical Scope used on KBoards. But the major problem for me would be the loss of the Mobileread community, to which I attach some value. This of course is not just a concern in the case of Mobileread but with virtually all similar forums.

Over to you, Alex.
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Old 09-23-2018, 08:32 AM   #2
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Communities come and go, especially free communities such as this. Sometimes they get bought out, sometimes the owners lose interest and shut them down. Hopefully, this one sticks around for a long while.

I have two rules about posting. First, I never post anonymously. My user name is typically my name (yes, I really am P. Walker). Second, I try not to post something that I wouldn't want to read quoted in the paper (I've had that done, btw A reporter quoted one of my postings in one of his articles without my permission).
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Old 09-23-2018, 10:33 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by darryl View Post
If Vertical Scope or a company like it was to acquire Mobileread my understanding, unless I have missed something, is that each of us retain the copyright on our posts and would be able to delete them. Certainly I would not continue to post under terms such as Vertical Scope used on KBoards.
Their terms sound pretty much the same as ours, actually (except the use of the poster's full name part). When you registered with MR, this is what you agreed to:

Quote:
By contributing to this forum you grant us royalty-free, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive permission to publish, use or edit your entry in any way deemed appropriate by us.
I think you'll find that pretty much every online forum has something similar.
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Old 09-23-2018, 01:12 PM   #4
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Communities come and go, especially free communities such as this. Sometimes they get bought out, sometimes the owners lose interest and shut them down. Hopefully, this one sticks around for a long while.

I have two rules about posting. First, I never post anonymously. My user name is typically my name (yes, I really am P. Walker). Second, I try not to post something that I wouldn't want to read quoted in the paper (I've had that done, btw A reporter quoted one of my postings in one of his articles without my permission).
I've been a member of several communities whose owners decided to take the forums down. One forum was archived so it is still accessible however the others got completely zapped. Such is the nature of the internet.

My two rules about posting are as follows. First, always post anonymously. Second, never delude myself that anything I post is of any importance that someone would quote in the paper.
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Old 09-23-2018, 01:20 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ricky D'Angelo View Post
Second, never delude myself that anything I post is of any importance that someone would quote in the paper.
I live by a similar rule -- even in real life!

Never delude myself that anything I say is of any importance to anyone but myself (and barely that), actually.
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Old 09-23-2018, 01:25 PM   #6
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There are several instances of large companies acquiring forums. And it's not just this alleged Vertical Scope company in Canada. From my personal experience (as a user, not mod or administrator, on two such forums that were acquired) the forums end up being trashed by the company that does the acquiring. The forums are still there in name and remain accessible, but all the long time members leave. Post counts drop to nothing. I'm not sure what business model is being followed by the companies that are doing this, as buying something and then destroying it seems counterproductive. My hunch is that it is political or agenda driven rather than profit driven. If my hunch is correct, Mobileread might slip out of the noose since there's not much someone with an agenda could have against book enthusiasts (maybe I'm wrong).

The problem may come by indirect association though. And example from here in the US: The company REI stopped selling CamelBak products (they make backpack hydration bladders so you can drink on the move while hiking). Who could be against that, and why would REI do such a thing? It's because CamelBak is owned by a company, that is owned by a company, that has some subsidiary, that owns a company, that sells firearms. And REI wants to engage in Virtue Signaling against firearms. So poor CamelBak is caught up in REI's idiocy. There is no business reason that REI might have done this, they don't sell firearms, but they have an agenda against them and trashed CamelBak in the process.
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Old 09-23-2018, 06:27 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haertig View Post
There are several instances of large companies acquiring forums. And it's not just this alleged Vertical Scope company in Canada. From my personal experience (as a user, not mod or administrator, on two such forums that were acquired) the forums end up being trashed by the company that does the acquiring. The forums are still there in name and remain accessible, but all the long time members leave. Post counts drop to nothing. I'm not sure what business model is being followed by the companies that are doing this, as buying something and then destroying it seems counterproductive. My hunch is that it is political or agenda driven rather than profit driven. If my hunch is correct, Mobileread might slip out of the noose since there's not much someone with an agenda could have against book enthusiasts (maybe I'm wrong).

The problem may come by indirect association though. And example from here in the US: The company REI stopped selling CamelBak products (they make backpack hydration bladders so you can drink on the move while hiking). Who could be against that, and why would REI do such a thing? It's because CamelBak is owned by a company, that is owned by a company, that has some subsidiary, that owns a company, that sells firearms. And REI wants to engage in Virtue Signaling against firearms. So poor CamelBak is caught up in REI's idiocy. There is no business reason that REI might have done this, they don't sell firearms, but they have an agenda against them and trashed CamelBak in the process.
1- Vertical Scope is owned by Torstar. Of Harlequin self-dealing infamy. Which is one reason the authors on the forum are riled up.

2- There *is* a business model behind the move and it doesn't require new posts. The value is in the existing posts (the more the merrier) and the keywords used in the posts that will surface in Google/Bing/DuckDuck/etc searches, capturing eyeballs for related ads they will attach to the pages.

(Rather like google adwords: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AdWords)

For example, in a thread about editing conventions (say Oxford comma wars) they can attach ads for one of the covert Author Solutions feeders. And that is just one reason Mobilereads is a potential target. Theoretically, anyway.

3- They have already bought a bunch of narrow focus sites (hence the "Vertical" in the name) and have been raking in good money off the search engine hits. Think of a website devoted to historical gun designs--muskets, pin guns, palm guns, etc--serving as a feeder for both assault rifle and gun control ads. As long as the purchased text is relevant enough to the subject to honestly surface in queries it can generate income. It's a bulk business producing small per-page view income but by capturing eyeballs by the zillion it adds up to big money.

4- Of course, to monetize the posts they bought, they have to keep the content in place. It won't do them any good if every contributor goes back and "edits" all their posts into blank pages. So their TOS has to claim ownership so they can archive the state of the site and keep that frozen version in the path of the search engines.

This is just another example of the internet dictum: "If you're not the paying customer, you *are* the product."

Last edited by fjtorres; 09-23-2018 at 06:39 PM.
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Old 09-23-2018, 06:40 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ricky D'Angelo View Post
I've been a member of several communities whose owners decided to take the forums down. One forum was archived so it is still accessible however the others got completely zapped. Such is the nature of the internet.

My two rules about posting are as follows. First, always post anonymously. Second, never delude myself that anything I post is of any importance that someone would quote in the paper.
Oh, it wasn't important in the slightest. Why would you think that something has to be important to be quoted in the paper? It was a sports forum talking about my alma mater's football coach a number of years ago.
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Old 09-23-2018, 07:01 PM   #9
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I'm always pleasantly surprised any forum I join has the ability for a user to edit their own posts or delete them entirely. Many don't so I always post as if I can not edit or delete anything.

I belong to another forum where users can edit their own posts and several do go thru their posts every few months and edit them to take out whatever response they made. I don't see the point, seems quite paranoid to me.
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Old 09-23-2018, 07:54 PM   #10
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There *is* a business model behind the move and it doesn't require new posts. The value is in the existing posts (the more the merrier) and the keywords used in the posts that will surface in Google/Bing/DuckDuck/etc searches, capturing eyeballs for related ads they will attach to the pages.
Ahhh, I hadn't thought of that business model. We should call it The Leech Model. I was going to suggest The Remora Model, but remoras are more of a symbiant than a parasite. Leech fits better.
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Old 09-23-2018, 08:02 PM   #11
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Their terms sound pretty much the same as ours, actually (except the use of the poster's full name part). When you registered with MR, this is what you agreed to:

I think you'll find that pretty much every online forum has something similar.
Thanks for that Harry. I couldn't find that on the site and would not have found it particularly objectionable at the time depending on the other terms. Vertical Scope claims the whole of the copyright and other rights. But the matter of concern for me is not the right to use my posts. Unfortunately they are generally just not that good!

I was not previously aware of Vertical Scope's business model. I suspect Mobileread is a very valuable target. It is longstanding, has a large number of members and valuable information on all sorts of subjects. Some of its threads do rank very highly on search results.
It also has an excellent library of Public Domain works. And Vertical Scope is no doubt well aware of its existence if it was not previously.

My concern is the loss of the Community as an active forum for which there is a need. It would not be the end of the World. But it would be a sad development. Having said that, I would not of course expect owners of target boards to refuse reasonable cash offers.

Last edited by darryl; 09-23-2018 at 08:04 PM.
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Old 09-23-2018, 10:09 PM   #12
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But the matter of concern for me is not the right to use my posts. Unfortunately they are generally just not that good!
I disagree.
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Old 09-23-2018, 10:28 PM   #13
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Their terms sound pretty much the same as ours, actually (except the use of the poster's full name part). When you registered with MR, this is what you agreed to:

Quote:
By contributing to this forum you grant us royalty-free, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive permission to publish, use or edit your entry in any way deemed appropriate by us.
I think you'll find that pretty much every online forum has something similar.
I would have thought that the MR agreement was a grant of specific rights by the user to MR, rather than full transfer of copyright as appears to be being claimed for this KBoards thing. Yes, the grant is pretty broad, but it seems to me there are a few distinctions:

* It is not clear to me that MR would have the right to on-sell those rights; this is usually a distinct aspect of copyright and one not explicitly covered by the agreement.

* The agreement explicitly speaks of "non-exclusive permission to publish" which I interpret as saying that the user is entitled to also publish the content of their posts elsewhere. If full copyright has been transferred this would not be the case.
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Old 09-23-2018, 10:44 PM   #14
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Ahhh, I hadn't thought of that business model. We should call it The Leech Model. I was going to suggest The Remora Model, but remoras are more of a symbiant than a parasite. Leech fits better.
They're stealth leeches.

From the TPV site,

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/dumps...re-at-kboards/

...where Passive Guy reports:

Quote:
The new owner appears to be VerticalScope Inc., a privately-held corporation headquartered in Toronto. VerticalScope evidently purchases vertically-oriented web properties. The company’s website lists sites in the following categories:
Automotive
Powersports
Technology
Sports
Outdoor Equipment
Pets
Outdoor
Home Improvement
Hobbies & Collectibles
Health & Wellness


PG searched for KBoards on the VerticalScope website but was unable to discover into which vertical the company plans to place KBoards. PG checked the VerticalScope Press Release page but could find no mention of KBoards.

VerticalScope further describes its business strategy as follows:

We leverage our deep in-house expertise in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Internet marketing, and traffic acquisition to build highly targeted, successful online communities and websites. Our arsenal of tools includes a significant portfolio of irreplaceable, generic domain names we have acquired over the past decade. These domains drive organic type-in traffic to our web properties resulting in hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts arriving at our network every month by means of direct navigation.

Through targeted acquisitions and development, VerticalScope has built a portfolio of more than 600+ websites with more than 25 million aggregate pages of content and more than 105 Million unique visitors per month – and growing.

Note the buzzwords about traffic and SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
It's all about selling ads.
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Old 09-25-2018, 11:53 AM   #15
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It seems a KBoards member has established a new board at:

https://www.writersanctum.com/

It seems to be growing rapidly at the moment. The Authors group there in particular are appalled by the rights grab.
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