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(With apologies to TeddyPig, there aren’t any torn nylons or running mascara involved… that I know of, at least)

So. No sooner do I wince at the latest cyber flounce than I find myself pondering whether to say something about my disappointment with a particular online venue, and my reluctance to lurk—let alone post!—there anymore.


Hypocritical of me, probably, because I also find all sorts of reasons and justifications to post a long screed. Things like, “I’ve belonged to this community for a number of years” and “I’m a frequent contributor” and “I have not indulged in hyperbole or name calling.”

Thankfully, the decision has been made for me. Someone extremely level-headed, respectful, articulate, professional, and kind has been banned from that forum for ohmygawdhowdareshe! asking questions about what appears*** to be a new moderating policy: holding people accountable in that forum for what they say elsewhere online. Considering that I agreed with her—only I would have probably worded it a bit more *ahem* forcefully—all down the line, all my posting on the issue would get me would be a) post deleted, followed by b) banning, with a corollary of c) “we are doing the best we can but all those mean people keep coming here to provoke us.”

***I use the word “appears” advisedly, because while it is not stated anywhere it’s been used on more than one former community member during the past few weeks.

All of the above, plus the whole “no cyber flouncing for you!” thing, made me refrain from commenting on the… well, drama in progress.

And in the end, does it matter what I think?

Probably to very few people, to be sure, but hey! when has that stopped me?

So here you have some disjointed thoughts on the matter—skip at will.

The dynamic between a venue’s owner and the community that forms around said venue, is certainly an interesting one. On the one hand, what is the purpose of creating a blog, website, forum, online group, but to have a thriving and growing community around it? On the other hand, when—if ever—do the rights of the community supersede those of the owner?

Though strictly speaking I would say that the answer to the second question is “never,” I can also easily see how the community can make life tiresome—if not painful—for the venue’s owner, to the point where this individual can give up and close the place down, or transfer ownership to someone else. (I have seen this last happen twice in the same forum in the last four plus years, by the way.)

And while it is true—as has been argued—that a forum owner (i.e., whoever pays for the space, and whose name is up there at the top) has the right to do whatever s/he pleases in that space, the reality of it is that once a person has taken an action, s/he must be ready to deal with the consequences—pleasant, unpleasant, or downright repugnant as they may be.

(That is the part that seems to trip most of us humans, from where I sit. We tend to think that we are ready to deal with the fallout, but often we simply can’t—perhaps because we tend to think “best case scenario” and hope for it, while ignoring the much more probable “worst”? another question for another day, I guess.)

So, for example, a public figure—say, an author?—who has her name prominently displayed in her own readers’ forum, has to be prepared to deal with the consequences of hosting an un-moderated board.

There are so many great things coming out of online communities—from initiatives to help authors, fundraisers to help those affected by natural disasters, advocacy, education, and so much more! Friendships that start online can—and often do—translate into real time, face-to-face relationships. From books to recipes to advice on personal matters, people get to know each other and to trust each other. But with the good comes the bad, of course, as communities are made of people, with all the accompanying human failings.

When the un-moderated approach becomes untenable (which happens with every online community out there, as more new people who do not know all the inside jokes and relationship history join in), the author/owner has to be prepared to take responsibility for the actions of those she names as moderators, as well as face the reactions of her readers’ community, and how all this spreads about the world wide web.

Of course, there are ways to minimize negative backlash, do damage control, and slant facts and events to present the author’s side in the most favorable light possible, but in this particular case it would seem that radio silence is the author’s policy.

(Out of the blue speculation: perhaps said silence is intended to ensure plausible deniability when, months from now, there is another “I had no idea this was happening, I was writing!” message somewhere? If that is the case, I predict epic failure myself—public figure + her own board + her chosen representatives/moderators = own the consequences.)

Now, here is something interesting, and not quite as trite as the usual flouncing.

I asked a few days ago here whether the people indulging in cyber flounces truly expected moderators and/or owners of online venues to change their policies to accommodate the flouncer. Coco posted in the affirmative, which would seem to validate the sheer number of flounces we see all over the place.

In this particular case, however, the people who either have left on their own (mostly vanishing without a word, although a few indulged in the occasional flounce) and the people who have been banned, span the entire spectrum of opinions on pretty much anything with one exception: the lack of respect towards the community members as a whole, by a very vocal minority, that was tacitly endorsed by the owner/author’s silence.

So—ah the irony!—it would seem that that one thing (respect for every member of the group, regardless of his or her ideas) has been enough to allow this incredibly diverse group of people to create their own community, with spelled out rules and guidelines that are, on the whole, both more tolerant and more reasonable than the ones professed by the original community’s current moderators.

Doubly ironic when the author whose name is in the header professes to encourage tolerance for all beliefs and opinions.

begging-kittyMy main quandary, though, is whether this latest author(‘s representatives) behaving badly will make me quit reading her books. (Man, that would really suck bricks.)

Update: and the online community in question is gone in smoke. Perhaps now that finis has been put to the whole affair, people who were affected in different manners and to different degrees can move on, forget and, with time, forgive.


  • Um. The community moderators were reprimanding or banning people based on things they said elsewhere and not even on the board? That’s whacked. o.O

    The “it’s my site, I run it the way I like” may be true, but at some point, it can become toxic. I used to be part of a web forum run by a well-known author who would ban people because they disagreed with her on a writing matter. I recall an incident in which she banned someone because she was convinced they gave her a “scathing” review on Amazon. (The reviewer said that the book was weak in comparison to the author’s other work… hardly scathing.) The person that got banned had never even read the work, and the reviewer e-mailed the author to clarify the situation. The author accused the banned person of using IP masking software to hide that she wrote the review…

    *shakes head*

    The sad thing, that is only the tip of the iceberg as far as that author’s behavior goes. I have stopped buying her books as a result, as have several other people.


  • Aaaaah, the old shut down the website strategy.

    I expect it will be back with NEW! IMPROVED! NO MEAN GIRLS ALLOWED! signs.


  • Sam
    March 8
    3:02 pm

    Now I have to go click on one of my other favorites. I’m afraid it won’t be there.


    edit to add: Phew! It’s o.k., still there.


  • I don’t think Any moderator/owner should change their policies to accommodate a flouncer. It’s the owner’s forum/blog/what-have-you. I do think, if a person is going to open something that has any potential at all to grow into a community, that person has a responsibility to step in before things get nasty. Too often, they don’t. And that’s where you end up with the disappearing website.

    It’s also the poster’s responsibility to remember, technically, they’re a guest on that forum. They have no right to lose all sense of respect and manners just because they’re hiding behind a keyboard.


  • Riley
    March 8
    3:39 pm

    SB’s board was the first message board I ever started visiting. It’s sad how this whole debacle has made me lose respect for the author. Her and her mods actions caused the meltdown and yet at the same time it was so unnecessary. If she had hired experienced mods and just listened to some advice the board could have lived on.


  • new moderating policy: holding people accountable in that forum for what they say elsewhere online.

    okay, I’m sorry. My brain stopped here. i can’t even process anything else

    You’re telling me somebody running a forum tried to set up a public policy that people can be held accountable (ie: banned, dressed down, lectured, whatever) by the forum owner?

    I’m boggled. very much so.


  • LIke Shiloh…I’m boggled too. And who has time to police everyone everywhere? And oh man does that ever smack of Big Brother at its worst?

    I once hung out at an author’s forum. It got a little whacko there as far as what you could and couldn’t say–extremely so. The list of rules was miles long and got to the point where other than hello and utter worship of the author and the author’s books and characters there really wasn’t much else allowed. I left and haven’t been back since. I don’t like being policed or censored and I was force fed plenty of rules in Catholic school as a kid and don’t want to go there again. Those kind of places make me extremely uncomfortable.


  • Shiloh and Jaci, there was no public policy–one way or the other.

    See, here’s the thing.

    The rules pre moderation were vague and highly open to interpretation. The stated rules with moderators were… the exact same rules.

    The community, to my knowledge, was never made aware of any specific rule changes–but at least one banned member received a note from the moderators explaining that it was her behaviour elsewhere that motivated her banning *there*

    Another poster simply asked whether policing members’ activity elsewhere was, indeed, a policy or not. After some to and fro, mostly public since the moderators refused to answer her privately, this second person was banned.

    Much rending of vestments and pulling of hair ensued, with the end result being that the community is no more.


  • Jaci, I can make a guess who’s site you quit visiting. I left one that sounds very similar to the one you mentioned.

    And see? That’s where the Napoleon complex comes in. If the person who asked about policing members elsewhere (which to my way of thinking, unless it slams the board owner on other sites is ludicrous at best) just asked, wasn’t confrontational, then there really is no justification for banning him/her.

    I try to be polite, but it doesn’t always matter. Sometimes disagreements can get really hot, and let’s face it, we’re all human. But to drag something a member did somewhere else on the net, under the magnifying glass and reprimand them and then ban them? Well, it’s probably better that the site is now gone. It’s just too bad all the other members who weren’t involved have to pay the price too.

    Edited to add: I didn’t mean for my previous post to sound pompous and I’m sorry if it came across that way. I moderate a HUGE board but would never think of banning someone for something they did somewhere else unless, like I said, it was slamming our board to others and then continuing to come on as if everything’s fine. If they’re trolling on my board or deliberately being nasty, and they show no signs of stopping, that’s another story. You have to take the other members into consideration too. Still, there should be a set of guidelines posted that you can refer to and only ban as a last result.


  • Riley
    March 8
    6:59 pm

    Here is a direct quote from a Moderator (I can post the name but don’t really want to get into that. I was screen capping the board because I was expecting to get banned for questioning the policy along with quite a few others)

    “We do, however visit other romance sites on our own and it’s possible that if we find your posts alarming elsewhere, we’ll keep a closer eye on you here too”

    The above statement was made after the first member was banned for comments made about the book on AAR. And I want to make it clear that the member’s comments were simple criticisms of the book. While the author and her mods would like to believe otherwise (so it will in some way justify their actions) all the conversations on all the different romance blogs have been confined to criticisms of the book itself and the marketing of the book and couples by the author. There has been no anti-gay comments whatsoever.


  • CindyS
    March 8
    8:31 pm

    Message boards owned by authors has been something on my mind lately. What do they gain? Why would they want the hassle? If there are enough fans of the author then won’t they in the end create their own place to chat up his/her books? Then they truly have ‘denial’ as their option. It’s not an officially sanctioned space so no worries.

    I have to say I only visit an author’s board if I have a question that I figure a ‘fan’ has already asked and had answered. I know not to engage anyone.

    I know that someone is going to say ‘it’s for sales and to keep interest in an author’s work’. If you are a new author I could see doing this. You would and should have time to go to your boards and keep an eye out. If you are already a best selling author, then why bother?

    The first time I encountered a board with rules I didn’t agree with was a ‘publisher’ forum. Said right in the rules, the owners of the message board are the authors so no talking bad. Okay. I don’t want to be where I need to tread a fine line or have my hand slapped because there was a scene in a book I didn’t get.

    No thanks. There are other places I can go and have honest and open discussions.



  • Somehow I’m not surprised this happened.

    After the tirade on B&N it was pretty clear, not the slightest criticism would be tolerated by the author and her friends.

    AL, could you clarify

    So—ah the irony!—it would seem that that one thing (respect for every member of the group, regardless of his or her ideas) has been enough to allow this incredibly diverse group of people to create their own community, with spelled out rules and guidelines that are, on the whole, both more tolerant and more reasonable than the ones professed by the original community’s current moderators.

    Is there a new fan-based, not author-based board? Or did you mean something else?


  • heh, so much for naming the sin, not the sinner, huh?

    GrowlyCub, new board, non-author sponsored. Do a search for Book Lovers Message Board.


  • Tracy S
    March 8
    9:42 pm

    Doubly ironic when the author whose name is in the header professes to encourage tolerance for all beliefs and opinions.

    I think PROFESSES is the key word there because honestly, I didn’t see it. I think she tolerated your viewpoint only if it coincided with her own. I am much more conservative politically than the author and her friends and those that agreed with her could be as nasty as can be, but if a conservative person would defend themselves~BAM!~they were evil. *shakes head* It’s too bad because I used to buy her books the day they came out. No more.


  • Almost the same thing happened on Lora Leigh’s board.
    If there was talk about books, anything other than “Ohmigod, this is the best book EVER” was deleted. They said it was because the author might be reading and it would hurt her feelings to read anything negative.

    There was a post about the then current BDB book and I said “It wasn’t as good as the few black dagger books, but there were some eye catching parts”.
    My post was deleted because of the negativity in it. (and I still have the email I got from the mod about it)

    Also, someone I know had several of her posts deleted when she questioned the mod.. even posts that were happy go lucky and not at all questioning. Then she was told that her posts were deleted for things she said on blogs outside of the forum.

    Something similar happened to another reader who posts regular here on this blog. I want name her, she can name herself if she wants too.

    I still adore LL’s books, but I don’t go to her board anymore. It feels too much like I’m going to get into trouble from my mommy if I say something that is less than sugar and Spice.


  • Marianne McA
    March 9
    12:09 am

    I’m just still sad about it. I’ve mostly only lurked for the past while, and – while I did go back to read the DoN discussions – I couldn’t in all conscience agree with the definition of freedom of religion that members were supposed to endorse, so I had mentally left the Board when that became a requirement.

    Didn’t know it had gone until Annie emailed me. So, no opinions, because I wasn’t there – but really sad because it was a great place in it’s time. I have, however, a book that PS sent me from the NY(?) signing, which is signed by a lot of the BB members who were there, as well as Suz, which is a nice memento to have.


  • I don’t know what the underlying situation here is but taking in some of-board action is potentially reasonable. Here are some real situations I have seen as a mod.
    * Member targets women from the forum and sends them explicit emails and is abusive when ignored or rejected.
    * Member gets annoyed with people after arguments of forum and repeatedly flames their blogs and guestbooks with violent threats.
    * Member runs a blog devoted almost entirely to saying how crappy the forum is and how morally evil each moderator is, yet continues to particpate there sweetly.


  • I was wondering if you were going to address this…

    I sort of agree with teddypig and wouldn’t be shocked if the board doesn’t reopen (again) at some point. Then again who knows.

    I think it is sad, I like her books. I like the author for the most part. I am thinking she has drink her own koolaid but hope I am wrong.

    No author should surround themselves with nothing but fangrrls. They end up like LKH or Lori Foster. At the same time I do agree with some of what she said at the B&N forum. When the book is published, it is published. The author can’t change it. And they SHOULDN’T it is their name on the book.

    The thing is I don’t think readers expect that, ok not most of them anyway, the author can’t argue a bad review into a good one by belittling, judging, reasoning, threatening or bargaining with the reading. So either don’t say anything or just thank them for their time, answer their questions if they had them and if they were rude ignore them. You still got their money. You win.

    I haven’t read all… 50 pages? at AAR but what I have skimmed… there is nothing there to make her fear for her life and uh if she did, contact AAR, get the IP’s, take it seriously and do something about it. The OMG something is wrong on the INTERNET way about it? uh just makes it look like nothing is wrong but a diva’s nose out of joint


  • I was a lurker there for a while off and on. It was while I was ‘off’ that most of the drama went on.
    It’s sad to see it gone – there seemed to be a lot of nice caring people there. But I think the author has done herself some serious damage with her ‘do as I say – not as I do’ attitude. In the world of ‘authors behaving badly’ I’m sorry to say – but in my opinion she is a poster child.


  • Star
    March 10
    1:26 pm

    Just wanted to thank you for being so eloquent in describing a horribly sad event (at least for me). If just a few things had been done differently (sooner?) we would have seen a happier outcome.

    As for me, the ‘if I don’t acknowledge it doesn’t exist’ policy is nothing but self-serving and wrong. One can see what one gets while doing this. And — naming mods who are actually posters of the board puts those posters in such uncomfortable ‘set up to fail’ positions as to be just this side of cruel. Naming moderators who have actually flamed and slandered other posters during heated arguments? Completely self-serving and doomed to fail.

    I will be watching and waiting to see what this author, who has in the past craved interaction and reader attention — does without this vital link to her reader community.


  • Louise van Hine
    March 11
    8:51 pm

    Hm, seems like I am one of the few who doesn’t know the source site/author/situation, but maybe that’s just as well if it’s gone now anyhow. Unmoderated blogs run by an author for readers is not a good idea. Never a good idea. Many author-run blogs are small affairs, for fans who read the author and are discussing the publication or plot or whatever. It should be understood if someone comes gunning for the author and is disturbing the flow of an otherwise friendly discussion, then whoever is responsible for moderating can just delete the nastygram and move on without it becoming a flamefest. But unless it’s REALLY a nastygram, an author running a public blog needs to grow a bit of skin to take a certain amount of negative commentary. I think this is controlled quite a bit by the personality of the author, and how volatile the normal discussion is around that author. But if someone is foolish enough to set up an unmoderated forum and finds they can’t take it, changing the rules midstream and then banning people just breaks down all the mutual trust the blog had before, and maybe it’s just as well to close the discussion community down.


  • Rosemary Laurey
    March 12
    1:10 pm

    Karen: Have you seen this?



  • Marianne McArdle
    April 23
    4:54 pm

    Hi all,
    Used to post on Brockmann’s board a few years back and occasionally lurk there still. I used to post as “thestar” and I’m waving hello to some familiar folks I see here. Anyway, went to lurk there the other day and was so surprised the board was gone. Followed some thinks and ended up here.

    What’s troubling me is the post from Marianne McA on March 9 at 12:09a – which is not me… someone else here have the same name?

    Curious minds and all that…..


  • Marianne/thestar: Marianne McA was one of the original posters at the now defunct SB’s board. Funny coincidence but just that 😉

    Have you discovered the Book Lovers Message Board yet? Many of the regular posters and sometimes lurkers at SB’s board visit it regularly.


  • Marianne McArdle
    April 23
    6:35 pm

    Hi again,

    Wow – there’s two of us… double trouble! LOL

    thanks for the update! Haven’t been to the Book Lovers board, but I’ll check it out..



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