Should the External Miles and Points Resources Forum on FlyerTalk Be Closed?

W henever I run into some of my colleagues who write articles at BoardingArea, their faces grimace, bristle and cringe by my mere mention of FlyerTalk — and one reason is because of the External Miles and Points Resources forum, where members of FlyerTalk are not shy about expressing their disdain about a number of different issues.

Should the External Miles and Points Resources Forum on FlyerTalk Be Closed?

“I think the External Miles and Points Resources Forum reflects very badly on this website”, opined FlyerTalk member CMK10, who is also the elected vice president of TalkBoard on FlyerTalk. “The amount of value it adds is heavily outweighed by the type of conversation it generates.”

He then argues that “This is supposed to be a community website and a resource for all things travel. A forum where the conversation is skewed towards mocking and bashing bloggers doesn’t seem to add to that. The amount of moderation that has to happen there is staggering. Threads quickly turn into personal attacks among the posters and posts are deleted frequently.”

As expected, there has been a debate amongst FlyerTalk members in what has become a mixed reaction to the proposal — and that includes at least two “bloggers” who write articles at BoardingArea.

“I think that board started out with the noblest of intents but it has turned into a snark/criticism/bashing board”, posted FlyerTalk member bthotugigem05, who is also known as Andy Luten of Andy’s Travel Blog. “In the past two months the ‘Post to share unique blog posts with original content’ topic has exactly one post on it. It just seems that people are not looking to share unique things that they’ve learned from bloggers, rather they have simply found an area to criticize (for the most part) 3-4 bloggers over and over again.”

FlyerTalk member sbm12 — who is also known as Seth Miller of Wandering Aramean — had submitted some analysis:

“It is all kvetching, all the time. And decidedly not in the same way that the discussions about loyalty programs happen in those forums. The conversations there are not informing the broader FT membership of developments and such in the industry or really anything else of value to the community.

“On the front page of the forum (covering the past 9 weeks) there are 9 threads about blogs or sites with more than 100 posts, representing a total of 5300 posts. Of the 385 members who have posted in those threads a full half of the ‘content’ comes from only 14 members (self included). It is just the same people saying the same thing to each other over and over again. That’s not a value-add environment. And it should not be too surprising that two of the voices here defending the value it provides to the community are atop that list.

“If it was about discussing the industry or 3rd party events or anything else that engaged a diverse portion of the FT membership and built rather than tore down I’d likely have a different view. But that’s not what it is. And I believe the numbers reflect that.”

Reasons For the Separation of Weblogs and Contributions to FlyerTalk?

“Yes, they contributed in the past.” FlyerTalk member Mary2e responded to the part of the discussion pertaining to FlyerTalk members who used to contribute heavily and constantly to FlyerTalk in the past but now concentrate on writing articles for their weblogs instead. “Now, it seems like they use FT as a place to get information to compile into their blogs — blogs from which they earn a living. I don’t think I see many, if any, continue to contribute. Now they’re just doing whatever they can to drive the clicks to their site so they have a chance of earning some credit card referral bonus.”

That aspect of the discussion reminds me of the following statement posted by FlyerTalk member Adam1222: “The thing is what could be constructive criticism is consistentLY either ignored, or responded to with claims of ‘bashing’. The forum and bloggers could have more of a symbiotic relationship (the same goes for bloggers and their commenters), particularly since we were initially one community. Now there is a big line between bloggers who are paid by credit card marketers and otherwise taken care of by hotel and airline PR, and the rest of FlyerTalk. The bloggers have chosen to be responsive to Chase and SPG, and not the community.”

Some people might refer to the sale of FlyerTalk by Randy Petersen to Internet Brands in 2007 as the beginning of the current situation, which at one point became acrimonious enough to the point where a lawsuit was filed against Internet Brands — and ultimately, Randy Petersen resigned as community director of FlyerTalk back in November of 2010. The lawsuit was eventually settled due to a supposedly amicable agreement in March of 2011 — but not before the “damage” had already been done, where people apparently “chose sides” in what was perceived as the fracturing of a relatively small community of frequent fliers.

Randy Petersen — who founded such entities as InsideFlyer, FlyerTalk and BoardingArea — has always been adamant over the years about the sharing of information pertaining to frequent travel loyalty program miles and points freely; and that philosophy became ingrained in many frequent fliers. To some, the monetizing of distributing information which they believe should be shared freely is perceived to be sacrilegious at best — and they perhaps feel a betrayal of sorts as a result.

Others find the quality of weblogs in general to be substandard and lacking in such areas as newsworthiness, grammar, spelling, knowledge and photography as five of many examples which supposedly part of the impetus for the creation of such weblogs as TravelBloggerBuzz — not to mention the lucrative activity which he calls credit card “pumping” — and the animosity perceived by FlyerTalk members who post at the External Miles and Points Resource forum…

…and that is why CMK10 questioned the purpose and existence of the External Miles and Points Resource forum: is the blatant criticism too acerbic to be of any use — or is it justified?

Summary

I have occasionally been the target of the wrath of some FlyerTalk members — most recently, for the use of my photograph to identify The Gate

…but I have taken the criticism me and my colleagues to heart, as I believe that there is merit to what FlyerTalk members say — regardless of the level of perceived harshness. I have learned from that criticism and have applied it to the articles which I write. As I have espoused numerous times over the years, feedback is a gift — especially when someone is willing to take the time and effort out of his or her life to give me that feedback.

I also specifically let all “sides” clearly know that I have not taken any “sides”, as I still have relationships with all areas of what was once a cohesive community of frequent fliers. Yes, I write articles daily for The Gate at BoardingArea and am a contributing writer at InsideFlyer; but I also log into FlyerTalk multiple times per day — serving and assisting fellow members of FlyerTalk — and still work with Internet Brands on projects as well.

In other words, I have not forgotten my roots when I first decided to join the frequent flier community on the Internet years ago; and I have no intention to do so in the foreseeable future.

As for the fate of the External Miles and Points Resource forum, I would prefer that it remain open — I read or peruse most of the discussions in that forum religiously enough that it is one of the forums to which I have a subscription — but I would also like to see less animosity and more constructive feedback towards “bloggers” in general.

I would also like to see this passionate community of frequent fliers reunite once again with the intent of helping each other get the most out of frequent travel miles and points — especially at a time when earning and using them has generally become significantly more difficult.

Source: Internet Brands.

4 thoughts on “Should the External Miles and Points Resources Forum on FlyerTalk Be Closed?”

  1. Levy Flight says:

    I have a landline at home which acts as a honey pot for junk calls. i never use thst line or listen to the voicemails, i use my cell phone and dont give out the number to marketers. In the same way this forum in Flyertalk might be helping to distract the community that would clog up the good fora on FT. Perhaps it should be kept so they can be self absorbed there and leave the other threads alone?

  2. The forum should be kept of course. It is one of the few I regularly visit 🙂

    It acts as an important sounding board to point out that this hobby/sharing community is under attack by the pumping bloggers who long ago sold their souls to the devil. Ooops, meant to say Chase Bank lol. I see it as the Yelp of blogs businesses. I mean, who really thinks this is about people trying to help their friends and family fly for free anymore?

    The only bad thing about it is we have some overjealous moderators deleting posts….looking at Oliver right now haha

    I could say more but need to finish my next post!

  3. PSL says:

    I’m a longtime FT member who doesn’t even read that particular forum, so I can’t offer any specific opinion except to say that, in general, people are getting increasingly vitriolic about anything on the web that doesn’t suit them. It’s a sad state of affairs.

  4. Eric says:

    CMK10’s premise is full of sound bites and fury, signifying nothing. Oliver2002, the moderator of the forum, says that no one has ever been suspended by him and that he doesn’t need to do that much moderation. If there are personal attacks, I’ve always seen those posts taken care of by Oliver2002.

    CMK10 complains that a blogger’s “sexuality was discussed” to make it sound like there was a problem with gossiping about someone’s persona life – without fairly noting that these were discussions about points the blogger had raised regarding being a gay man traveling to certain countries – certainly fair game for discussion.

    There are plenty of threads on other forums on FT with repetitive complaining and griping about companies and even corporate leadership – they just don’t stand out as much I guess because, for example, the AA forum is huge, busy, and full of so many threads. To focus on a fairly low activity forum is unfair particularly when certain other forums on FT are notorious for some rather bad behavior…none of which is addressed even when mods are alerted.

    Some bloggers (not you) have shady business practices, mislead readers, and even plagiarize copyrighted material (at least 3 instances by two different BoardingArea bloggers). Discussion about those folks is going to be kind of negative at times. But there is constructive feedback and there are fans and supporters of the same blogs who chime in on the forum as well. No one is forced to read any thread in the forum.

    The blogs being critiqued on the forum are commercial businesses – they’re as open to criticism as United Airlines or Hilton Hotels – all of whom receive much more negativity and vitriol on FT than any blogger. And several of the owners have reached the point of being public figures – TPG, VFTW, OMAAT appear on TV, online, and in magazines

    I find it not coincidental that CMK10 started the thread about the same time that Randy Petersen did another drive-by posting on the EM&PR forum complaining about the posters on that forum (incidentally, pretty much the only time Randy posts on FT is his occasional drive-by on the EM&PR forum). I think CMK10 and others are upset in no small part because of personal relationships with Randy, Gary, and others…and residual hero-worship of Randy since many of the blogs being critiqued are hosted here at BA.

    FlyerTalk is going to end up going the way of the dinosaur, between its ancient technology and “old boy/girl network” mentality that infects everything from moderation to forum issues such as this. Case in point, InternetBrands asked for open feedback from members about “If I ran FlyerTalk…” Complaints over moderation were frequent and similar enough that it’s obvious there is a problem. Yet when IB just posted its poll of the most common items from that feedback, it left out moderation and forbade discussion of that issue…without telling members what, if anything, would be done in response regarding moderation (perhaps in a separate exercise). Posts that basically asked about moderation feedback appear to have been deleted (ironic, eh?). So FT doesn’t seem to have the will or desire to change and I find my participation there waning. Instead there are private communication forums, Reddit, and other means for sharing with other like-minded folks.

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