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Rules New Vendor Member Level -- I need your help!

Jwest7788

Well-Known Member
Administrator
Premium Member
#1
Hey everyone, I hope all is well!

I've created a new member level here in the forum's Account Upgrades page:
https://canadianhobbymetalworkers.com/account/upgrades

(In case you didn't know, this can be found by clicking your username, then clicking the button "Account Upgrades")


The new level is a "Vendor" Level.

Essentially, in the last month or so, we've had 5+ users join our forum with very obvious intention to represent themselves as businesses, and try to drive traffic to their own company websites, etc.

As everyone know's, we've been working around the idea of sponsorship opportunities, article creation, Generic banner advertising on site (I really do not want this),... generally looking to try to generate additional income to allow us to do more exciting things.

The users coming with the intent to advertise themselves are essentially circumventing our attempts to generate revenue for group projects, while also, essentially, mixing text based ads into our conversations.


The new Vendor level is intended to try to straighten this out a bit.

With this new member level come some new forum guidelines that I need everyone's help with to keep everything under control.

Before I begin, you'll see that I reference "Business users" --> This is intended to mean user accounts like "JwestWeldingInc." and "CalgarySuperMachiningCo" "CalgaryLaserCutting", etc.
User accounts obviously made for a business.


No longer allowed without a Vendor upgrade:
Self marketing by business users
Posts intended to drive forum members to private companies with the intent to self market services by business users
Links to private company website's by business users


Still allowed:
Everything we've always done as a community! The rest of the rules, antispam, moderation stuff, etc. is not changing.
(Examples below, these apply to all users:)

@Alexander can share a great deal link from kijiji or amazon
@Janger can ask about the difference between two local service providers, linking to their websites
@PeterT can share details of his radial engine build, sharing links to suppliers for the materials he used
Got old tools? Throw them on the classifieds
etc. etc.

Our ability to speak about vendors and service providers is not intended to get caught up in this new vendor level thing.
We need to be able to communicate about current events like that slice & dice knives thing, that thread about calgary metals, and classes at sait, or events and training setup by members directly, etc.


There will probably be some growing pains associated to this, and I can already see some conversations that we'll need to have down the road. (The inbetween stuff like @CalgaryPT 's skunk trap project fall into a weird middle ground, but my hope is to be lenient with members in this regard, but we can all chat it through later to decide.)






I've taken a list of these users over time, but want your input: Should we go backwards and clean this all up, or just have the rule moving forward?
If we do clean up old stuff, or as new content is produced that isn't in line with our goals, what is the correct action for us to take? Simply send a note and remove the post? Warn the user? Delete the user? Some combination?



I want to finish up by making it clear that this has not been created in response to any single business user, but instead due to the increasing number of business users.

I really need everyone's help working through the policies and also flagging posts that go against this rule for moderation. Ideally we would reply to the user explaining that "you need to be a vendor member to post that" type of thing, along with flagging for moderation.


What are everyone's thoughts?
 

Bofobo

Well-Known Member
#2
perhaps a vendor could be restricted to a vendor area, so as to avoid advertising in threads, projects that members choose to market commercially could still be placed in that section ie: skunk trap, while vendor accounts looking to only sell or advertise materials, consumables etc cannot post in another area of the forum. a vendor account could carry a fee allowing that account to post into the vendor area while a premium member who still contributes outside of advertising can post in the vendor area if desired, while basic members cannot post in the vendor area they can view the vendor area.
 
#3
Sounds like a good plan.

Iirc the general rule on PM is if you're they're to contribute ( regularly ) they'll tolerate you promoting your business. If you're only there to generate sales and push traffic to your site then pay up. Either way everyone gets what they want/need and we all win.

Personally I find it kind of scammy when dealers try to promote their business with alt or off named accounts. If anything this change is a benefit to them.
 

Janger

(John)
Administrator
Premium Member
#4
Good work Josh lots of good thoughts and ideas. I think the concept is good and for now I suggest we simply allow vendors to chime in with relevant responses to problems and peoples needs. Eg I need to powder coat this stuff and a vendor can reply to say we do that. I think that would be reasonable.

I do want to ask about the vendor fees. Does it say $120 / month? If you don’t mind me saying I think we will have no vendors at that rate. It’s punitive. @jmottle would you care to comment?
 
#5
Missed that detail. Need to agree with John on that, $ 120 seems steep. At a 20% margin you need to guarantee a $ 1000 in sales a month just to stay ahead. Maybe, but maybe not to.
 

Janger

(John)
Administrator
Premium Member
#6
Oh also let’s not try to go back and change stuff. Too much work. Maybe invite the vendors to become vendor members at reasonable rates. In some orgs you pay by your size - bigger pays more - but I think we should charge by what is reasonable for the service etc. Not sure what reasonable is though.

Maybe we could have a vendor sponsorship area where the vendors can post a message describing their area and people can ask questions.
 

PeterT

Ultra Member
Premium Member
#7
Yes I’ve seen vendors sections work well in other forums. It keeps things tidier because their content mostly stays in dedicated buckets vs having them troll posts to point out potential products or services that can quickly become a distraction. We probably want to hear about deals, product announments, catalogs, shipping etc. But maybe under their own section? I’m not sure what the website or financial implications are, I’m just saying this might be a cleaner more controlled division as we feel our way.
 

Alexander

Super User
Moderator
Premium Member
#8
Josh and i spoke about the potential use of a vendors specific section but I was worried about how long our current list of categories was. Also I would like to see contributing vendors get maximum exposure to there business. The concern would be that the vendor specific posting area would be a ghost town and that wouldn't serve anyone well. This is still open for debate and you are on the right track copying what other form are already doing.
 
#9
Hi Guys,
I'm going to chime in here to plead our case as RSX. We are indifferent to what is being proposed. RSX is 3 guys, heavily invested into the metals industry 24hrs a day, as we work/own/hobby in machining/fab. We built our company to provide a peer-to-peer service to solve the issue everyone has -- sourcing metal. Since we operate similar to Kijiji, but with a payment system within, we do not make enough coin to afford 120.00/mth as we do not operate like a conventional business. Our margins are not anywhere near 10% on a transaction. Trust me, this is not going to be our day job running an e-commerce. We structured our business to help everyone in the industry fulfill their needs, not line our pockets.

Our first post about how who we are and how we can help members source, find or sell their excess materials was made on June 7/18, and has 88 views, 0 replies. We can't justify the cost for advertising or the cost for membership given that our business structure isn't a conventional 'make revenue' business model.
 

CalgaryPT

Well-Known Member
Vendor
Premium Member
#10
There will probably be some growing pains associated to this, and I can already see some conversations that we'll need to have down the road. (The inbetween stuff like @CalgaryPT 's skunk trap project fall into a weird middle ground, but my hope is to be lenient with members in this regard, but we can all chat it through later to decide.)
For the record Josh, I wouldn't see the post about my skunk traps as "weird middle ground." I see it as clearly commercial and now that the rules are in place I would upgrade to vendor level if I were posting the same post now. Alternatively, I could have told my story without posting the link or mentioning the company name. Interested users always have the option of PM'ing the poster for the details if needed.

There will be growing pains no doubt, but I wouldn't bang your head too hard trying to find a compromise for posters if you think the line is close to being crossed. The acid test should be if it benefits the poster, it's likely commercial and should require Vendor level IMHO.
 

Dabbler

Well-Known Member
#11
Vendor sponsorship has got to be a pretty hard decision to make. I don't care about the costs or other details personally, but at least you have only a few levels...

In contrast to this HM has been struggling for the past year about sponsorship, and you can see that they have a completely new set of subscriber levels. At HM, they have made donating far too complicated.
 

Bofobo

Well-Known Member
#12
a vendor area should be a ghost town, provided to keep a list of contributing companys on the page as refrence to members who can shop the respective venders outside of the forum while leaving space within the forum for reviews from members using provided services, yearly cost of a vendor account should be minimal, say $40, but that comes with heavily restricted access, i suggest that a premium membership includes the right to post in the vendor area as a vendor if said member can provide a service; anodize, skunk trap, cnc services, powder coating, media blast, heat treat etc.
For instance its currently free to comment/post anywhere except the premium members area, which is not where the real essence of the forum lays IMO. I understand the desire to allow vendors to post in threads across the forum but i do not see a value in turning my build writeup into a sales pitch because it may be possible to "advise" me of some offered services. Where as having used a provided service through the vendor area in the build, i would be more than happy to provide descriptions and cost etc of my experience.

In this way i can choose to promote vendors rather than have a vendor choose to advertise in my thread.
 

Jwest7788

Well-Known Member
Administrator
Premium Member
#13
Thanks for the feedback everyone. @CalgaryPT, in particular, your comment has really quelled a lot of the stress on my mind about this.


@Alexander, @Janger and I had a long chat about this the other day too, which did help solidify some thoughts.

Astutely, Alex and John helped to simplify the discussion:

1) Whats the long-term goal/purpose of the forum?
-->
2) What is the goal of the vendor level?
-->
3) What do we need to do to achieve those goals?



My stance has always been that I would prefer this stuff to be decided with the community, I don't want to be some evil overlord, but this is my personal stance:

1) Whats the long-term goal/purpose of the forum?
I have thought about this in the past, but it wasn't until our conversation that I really spent the time to verbalize it.

In this specific order:
I) This group was always intended to help alleviate the stress of everyday life by allowing me to do something I enjoy with a group of people with similar interests.

Actually, here, this is a quote from the very first post made on this forum. Post #1 by Member #1.
This forum was created for those locals, both far and wide, who wish to meet like minded metalworkers, no matter the walk of life.
Thread: https://canadianhobbymetalworkers.com/threads/welcome-our-brief-history.1/ (Also, I'm leaving the missing hyphen in "like-minded" for posterity. lol)

II) Help build our community of Canadian (and global) metal workers. This is a fantastic set of skills that can double as a hobby and should be shared as much as possible.

III) (Least high on my priority list) is to generate revenue. The only reason this even makes the list, is because of the ability for future funding to allow us to further the previous two goals. Building our community by solving the problems that many of us have. Access to supplies, services (e.g. relevant learning opportunities), or collaborative initiatives like group projects, without breaking the bank for individuals to do so.

2) What is the goal of the vendor level?
Essentially, in the last month or so, we've had 5+ users join our forum with very obvious intention to represent themselves as businesses, and try to drive traffic to their own company websites, etc.
When I first started brainstorming through what eventually became the vendor level, I was trying to preserve the first two points above, generally, keep the community awesome.
I use the word "preserve" specifically. Unsolicited self-benefiting text-based ads, mixed into user-contributed content will take us further and further from the core values I had in mind at the beginning of this crazy fun ride.

3) What do we need to do to achieve those goals?
The vendor level as I envisioned it was actually a compromise on those core values from the moment I posted this thread. I think we're best off without any ads on the site. At the forum's current readership, I have the ability to load this site up with Google banner ads and we would generate more than a Vendor user or two (at the current price) would contribute.
I don't want that though. (Would anyone here like some banner ads? lol )

The compromise is that the first two goals of the forum are better off without any business users posting ads. However, that's both a policing pain in the rear and also pretty standoff-ish, while simultaneously preventing room to grow in future.

So, a compromise is in order, a Vendor member level.


Does it say $120 / month? If you don’t mind me saying I think we will have no vendors at that rate. It’s punitive.
John wasn't exactly wrong here.
I've been working behind the scenes building proposals and hosting lunches with potential formal sponsors of our forum. At this point, I feel we're pretty close at securing a sponsor. A single sponsor would have a much better effect on the community. One sponsor, or a whoooole bunch of vendors running around, are the options I see in front of me.
From a potential sponsor's point of view, do you think sponsoring our group will be more or less appealing if we have a half dozen vendors (potential direct competitors) paying to post on the forum?

The Vendor member level and rules that come with will stop the forum filling with posts don't make it through the test:
The acid test should be if it benefits the poster, it's likely commercial and should require Vendor level...

Keeping all of the above in mind, here's the rollout:
  • We are standing firm on the price associated with the Vendor member level.
  • Come Aug 1, we'll be cleaning up existing posts that fail the acid test from anyone without a Vendor Member level.
  • Starting now, if everyone can start hitting the "Report" button on posts which fail the acid test, we'll be gathering reports and moderating in the same way that the likes of HM and PM do.

Thanks, everyone!

JW

================================

Taking off the "admin hat" and onto a more casual conversation. :)


perhaps a vendor could be restricted to a vendor area, so as to avoid advertising in threads, projects that members choose to market commercially could still be placed in that section
Yes I’ve seen vendors sections work well in other forums. It keeps things tidier because their content mostly stays in dedicated buckets vs having them troll posts to point out potential products or services that can quickly become a distraction
As @Alexander eluded, we did discuss this option too. It's not off the table, but I know that this section is also an easy target for SEO spam. It's not off the table, but I need to dwell on it some time more.




Our first post about how who we are and how we can help members source, find or sell their excess materials was made on June 7/18, and has 88 views, 0 replies.
Your insights have been quite helpful for us during our discussions, Thank you!

Ultimately this is an assumption, but I'm sure we will get some confirmation from other members.
Our group has always been "gunshy" about advertising on the forum. I think we've all been aware of "the acid test" type concept since long before we started chatting about a Vendor level.
In the same way that many folks use PVR to skip past commercials, use Adblockers on their computers, or simply zone out when driving past a billboard, or as the radio ads play.
I'm betting those 88 users who saw the post recognized it, as I said before, to be unsolicited self-benefiting text-based ads, mixed into user-contributed content. The modern equivalent of a radio ad being mixed into the media.

Vendors will benefit from having all of us actively support them as a Vendor. This is the true reason businesses will consider the Vendor member level. It's not paying for access to post self-serving content. The true benefit is having our whole community rally behind a business.
When a group chooses to support us, I am confident we will support them in return.

In this way i can choose to promote vendors rather than have a vendor choose to advertise in my thread.
Just my 2 cents in that regard!

JW