Home » Books in General » Open Thread

Open Thread

24 September 2018

PG received a suggestion that he post an occasional open thread.

For any who are not familiar with the term, an open thread is one in which any visitor can post a comment or question that invites responses from other visitors. You do that by clicking the Comments link to this post and typing your question or comment.

PG requests that posts and replies on the Open Thread conform to the Comment standards of TPV as expressed on the Comments page. These include:

The rules on comments are simple. You can disagree with me or others, but be reasonably civil and non-abusive. I’m a bit old-fashioned on language, but if you want to use asterisks or a substitute word, that solves my problem. I use a plugin that catches some language and inserts its own asterisks.

As is obvious, The Passive Voice is generally about writing, publishing and the people who do it. I’m not going to be a Nazi about on-topic, etc., but if you want to talk about investing in gold coins, your bargain-basement SEO consulting fees or enhanced sexual prowess, please take those conversations elsewhere.

If you’re an author, publisher, agent, etc., a low-key commercial announcement is OK from time to time, but don’t go crazy. I don’t mind relevant links in comments, but will zap comments and commenters that link to spam.

My spam filter catches zillions of spam comments each day. If you’re a spammer and somehow get through, I’ll send your comments to the Delta Quadrant and sic all the Nigerian princesses on you.

PG expects an open thread may be more wide-ranging than the comments on a particular post PG makes and doesn’t have any problems with that.

If you haven’t made a prior comment on TPV, the comment spam filter will hold your first comment for moderation. Once it’s approved, your subsequent comments should appear as soon as you submit them.

Books in General

38 Comments to “Open Thread”

  1. PG posted this comment to populate this open thread.

  2. Here’s a question.

    What lessons should online communities learn from the KBoards fiasco?

    How are authors different from those who visit other discussion boards?

    • 1) I think it should be a lesson that selling a board isn’t something that will work out for anyone not getting the check, so if one cares at all about the board, ask the members if they want to buy it first.

      2) That VerticalScope is a very nasty company. My heavens.

      3) One of us stepped up most heroically and opened a new board (WriterSanctum), where a good many have migrated to, so the lesson is that we, as a community, must actively support and engage with the person responsible. Perhaps we should even look at some method by which such a sale couldn’t happen in the future.

      As to the second question, I think it sounds very precious to answer if I use the words in my head. I’ll use something other than that answer. Basically, it comes down to use.

      Claiming ownership of a photo of someone’s car is a very different animal than claiming ownership (not just rights, pure absolute ownership) and all *derivative* rights to a book cover. Imagine that!

      I don’t think VS actually understands that if their answers are what we’re left to go by. Based on the bar-brawling nature of their “Communications” director’s comments, I get the impression they think of all their forums as something very different than KBoards in both content and tone. Perhaps they are, which is why the purchase and insistence on that TOS makes this one a bad buy.

      • VS is owned by Torstar.
        Of Harlequin infamy.
        So they fully understand the scope of their rights grab.
        But, much like Author Solutions and they giant multinational publishers they see content producers of all kinds as a natural resource to be strip mined.

        You nailed it with number 2.

      • My own impression is that VerticalScope views online communities as commodities.

        One of the comments I read (I don’t remember where) is that the digital properties VerticalScope has acquired are pretty much dead with respect to reader involvement, discussions, etc.

        • The fact that it was sold comes down heavily on the commodity side. Perhaps a lesson is that these boards are indeed commodities that can be bought, sold, and used for whatever purpose the owner chooses.

          Asset and property rights trump community.

      • Perhaps WriterSanctum’s ToS should include lines that should it change hands that the old ToS will remain in effect. (No, not sure that would really work, but you need a way of not simply having another sale/ToS change to another bad player …)

      • 3) One of us stepped up most heroically and opened a new board (WriterSanctum), where a good many have migrated to, so the lesson is that we, as a community, must actively support and engage with the person responsible. Perhaps we should even look at some method by which such a sale couldn’t happen in the future.

        I’m also moving over to WS but with the same thought posed above, i.e., will this happen again? Maybe I should read WS’s TOS but not sure that would answer the question. Of course, anyone willing to provide the blood, sweat, and tears should be entitled to something in return, but where’s the line? And does it matter?

      • 3) One of us stepped up most heroically and opened a new board (WriterSanctum), where a good many have migrated to, so the lesson is that we, as a community, must actively support and engage with the person responsible. Perhaps we should even look at some method by which such a sale couldn’t happen in the future.

        I’m also moving over to WS but with the same thought posed above, i.e., will this happen again? Maybe I should read WS’s TOS but not sure that would answer the question. Of course, anyone willing to provide the blood, sweat, and tears should be entitled to something in return, but where’s the line? And does it matter?

      • What is WriterSanctum and where is it? Mr. Google was no help.

      • One of us stepped up most heroically and opened a new board (WriterSanctum)

        Please give a link. A search on ‘writer sanctum’ returned too many hits to count and includes a role playing game, a publishing house, a writing prompt generator, and sites hosted by The New York Times and the Phoenix Star.

        • Right now, the host is having an issue with the actual link, so I’ll post both.

          The main one is this:

          https://writersanctum.com

          The one that it’s shifting to at the moment as the host works out their issues is:

          https://writersanctum.com/index.php

          • First, thank you for the links to Writer Sanctum.

            Second, both links led to the same site. Both took minutes to load. How many minutes? Three. When I clicked the tab, I saw a good logo and a lot of white space and some misaligned text and an invitation to register for the site. When I clicked register, my screen when black. It recovered after a couple of minutes. I thought, “I’m not gonna try that again.” IMO Writer Sanctum ain’t ready for prime time. I put it on my calendar to try again in a month.

            • FWIW I had Kindle for PC open at the time (reading Breaking News), and the faults in Writer Sanctum played merry hell with it. I will let you know how bad the damage is.

    • Another question to ask is what made the previous owners decide to sell?

      The sell seems totally out of the blue, but there was a recent kerfluffle regarding KU and the inability of some to name people they viewed as scammers.

      There was quite a bit of rage directed at the previous owners and the mods. The previous owners had to explain the reasons they had made that decision in order to quiet things down.

      I think that incident was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

      • My understanding is that the original founder of KBoards died and his family took over the site.

        The heirs may not have been as committed to the project as the founder was.

    • My knowledge of copyright law fills a thimble to overflowing. But, suppose KB posters had included some standard language at the bottom of each post indicating they reserved all rights to the specific posting to themselves. Or some variation of that tactic. Would it make any difference?

  3. Excellent!

    I had a question on another thread that only got one cryptic reply, so I will try again.

    There was a phrase that was new to me, apparently from the movie Cocktail.

    “All things end badly, or else they wouldn’t end.”

    That seems to be the flip side of:

    “All’s Well That Ends Well”

    That’s two sides of the same coin with high value.

    When I look at coins like that, I always remember the edge of the coin, and try to figure out what that represents.

    Question: What would be an “ending” that fits between “All’s well” and “end badly”.

    One variation is:

    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.

    Please list any other possible “middle ending”.

    Thanks…

  4. “Open thread” at my house means “Oh drat, another button fell off.” 🙂

  5. No more Kboards? OMG, how did I miss this? Can someone please point me toward the announcement/post/whatever with the details? (I know they were bought, but that’s about it…)

  6. Do you leave your screen door open in the summer?

  7. The KBoards fiasco has potentially enormous implications for online communities, which is what these Boards are. They are communities based around the particular forum. The VerticalScope business model is new to me but should not have come as a surprise. As the internet moves from its somewhat amateurish community roots to be dominated more and more by commercial concerns, these types of things will happen increasingly. The old KBoards Registration Agreement was adequate for a community board, but one only needs to look at the new VarticalScope terms to see the much more rigorous terms which commerce demands. Most non-commercial boards do not seek to obtain the copyright to all contributions, though many do obtain for themselves a perpetual non-exclusive non-revocable royalty free licence. KBoard’s old terms did this but provided specifically for the determination of this license when the content is no longer on the Board. Others do not provide specifically for the termination of the license, but this does not necessarily mean that the license would survive the removal of the content or that the content could not be removed. Unfortunately this issue is uncertain until litigated or a solution is legislated. Clearly VerticalScope wants to own everything, as no doubt do its competitors.

    Virtually all online forums are vulnerable. They were generally established by individuals and remain under the ownership of either those individuals or associated entities. What usually began as a hobby with little thought of reward has now become a valuable commodity. Who can blame an owner for selling. Imagine that you had started a board 10 years ago. You then paid for hosting and other expenses from your own pocket. Perhaps you got a little money from donations and later from ads. Often this did not even cover costs. And now, 10 years later, you can sell for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. The bigger the Board, the more it is worth. Even if the Board had been a labour of love for me, I suspect I would take the money and get over it. So any sizeable community board is a target. And any such board targeted is likely to be sold.

    I am a member of a large and excellent reading board, and have made many posts there. I have posted about VerticalScope and raised the obvious question.
    So far the answers have not been re-assuring. Unfortunately my posts are hardly works of genius nor are they of relevance to my assets or livelihood. I retain the copyright in these posts but the Board does have a license of the type referred to above. This is of no real concern to me, though it may be of real concern to some, as Ann Christy so clearly points out earlier in these comments. It is one thing to have a license to part of your work in the hands of a community board, but quite another to have it in the hands of a commercial entity seeking to actively exploit it.

    My real concern is the loss of the community. Anecdotally it seems that VerticalScope has no real interest in maintaining the communities it purchases, and is quite content to let them die a quiet death. Whilst such companies could in theory continue to run the Boards in their original spirit as well as reaping the SEO benefits, they choose not to do so. I can only guess at the reasons. The first is probably the trouble and cost. The second is that they do not wish to content themselves with a license to content. They want to actually own the content lock stock and barrel. The whole of the copyright to any posts. Much like the academic publishing model now under siege, they acquire copyright in works for free, to the exclusion of even the original author. Because these are assets which will be shown on their balance sheets and will quite likely reflect in an increased price should they ever themselves sell.

    I applaud the establishment of WriterSanctum, and will quite possibly join if I am eligible, though I’m a reader rather than a writer. But the problem remains. Terms of Service can always be changed, and the Board is essentially someone’s property and can be sold. Some thought needs to be given to how a Board can be structured to avoid this problem. I will post separately with some ideas on this. Basically the easiest and less costly would be terms of service which limit the value of the information to the owner. Other thoughts include a Trust with appropriate objects in the Deed, possibly a charitable trust.

    • To the best of my knowledge, readers are super welcome. There are even sub-boards set up just for readers and book discussions without all the other stuff in the way.

    • Good observations, Darryl.

      If you check some of the posts on TPV from last week, you’ll see some thoughts on the copyright ownership issue.

      It’s not as cut-and-dried as VerticalScope says it is.

  8. Probably the easiest solution is to render the sale value of a board negligible by way of the Terms of Service. Terms would include something like:

    1. Contributors retain all copyright;
    2. Board has limited revocable license to display the content on the Board;
    3. Changes to terms of service take effect 7 days after a user specifically accepts them during which time that acceptance can be revoked;
    4 If the new terms are not accepted within a reasonable time the Board may terminate the account in which event the license to display the content continues in effect until revoked or until the Board at its option removes the content. If the Board does not terminate the account then the old terms continue to apply.

    Whilst something like this may work for new Boards it is unreasonable to expect owners of current Boards to give up their valuable property.

    An alternate idea is for those wanting to establish new Boards have ownership of those boards resting with an umbrella organisation, perhaps a charity or foundation. It would be much easier and more likely if some existing charity or foundation were able to do this and were interested. For instance, an organisation like the EFF or the Free Software Foundation would be unlikely to sell Boards to companies like VerticalScope.

    Certainly if something is not done the worst case scenario is that all community boards will be acquired once they reach a certain size.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.