Groupbuilder.com tried to buy freestompboxes.org

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modman
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Post by modman »

Some months ago I was contacted by Faith Lopez, an employee of groupbuilder.com, about selling freestompboxes.org. I did not believe it at first, so did not even reply to the first emails. They kept coming, until they got a snarky response to the effect of "Why would I deal with some dodgy firm that incorporated in Panama?" Still they said they were very interested and could formulate an offer on the basis of some statistics, so I sent them some very basic statistics and they came back with an offer and I had a very nice chat from Alabama, by the name of Angie. I suspect they found out about FSB through recently buying the long-standing Groupdiy.com forum.

Who is Groupbuilder.com?
Even though the website lists an address in Panama, it’s just a P.O. box. On the same address there is a postal box for a company running a porn cam website by the way. On company information websites, however, we find another PO box in San Marcos, Texas, with a company phone number leading back to a real estate company Roth, run by Keith UBBEN. Maybe they recently moved off-shore to Panama? There seems to be $6 million of assets in Groupbuilder - In my conversation with Angie she did mention a Texan was running it.

What does Groupbuilder.com do?
The only reason for them to buy up forums is to put advertisements on them. Because existing forums have a fixed audience and because they show up in Google results, they give them a steady amount of ad views. However, once the takeover happens (and the software is changed), the core members will get angry and simply leave. GB does not care: they don’t need a community, they just want a steady amount of views to please their advertisers. Note that they set up the forums in such a way members can turn the ads off. But this doesn't matter - the core members are only a minority of the traffic.

Who is Angie?
She came up on https://www.homesteadingforum.org and became a main moderator after helping each and every member out in any way and literally becoming a legend on the forum. When the forum was sold to Carbon Media Group, she stayed on as admin. Posts on this forum also indicated that her (now deleted) linkedin mentioned her working for Carbon Media. All this created a bunch of interesting hysterics in the homestead which made clear that:
  • forumsoftware changed, disorienting long standing members...
  • ads were run on the forum for short term financial gain
  • content was copied to other forums owned by Carbon Media to fake activity
Suspicions on GroupDIY.com
The owner of this forum simply took the money and ran... without even explaining on the forum what had happened. The reaction of the core members is telling: why didn't he ask us of money or help... Somebody realized something was up when his recent donation to the forum show up addressed to Groupbuilder. Angie tried to do some crowd control, achieving the exact opposite... This of course, resulted in a walkout of long time members, which may be exactly what they wanted. They only care about the written posts, the content that makes for the Google hits.

Selling forums to Carbon Media Group from Michigan
Groupbuilder only acquires forums to sell them to the Carbon Media Group, who also have a portfolio of forums. They are an advertisement agency, and it seems they are selling the ads that appear on the forums. Carbon Media Group was doing a pretty lousy job according to Glassdoor.com, and eventually went bankrupt earlier this year. Luckily they were bought by...

Verticalscope.com
“Through targeted acquisitions and development, VerticalScope has built a portfolio of more than 1200+ websites with more than 1.7 Billion posts of content and more than 101 Million monthly active users - and growing.” It's part of Torstar, the group around the Toronto Star, now owned by John Bitove and Paul Rivett. John is the son of John Sr., a self made man in the Canadian restaurant business.

I kept them on a leash a bit because I did not see how the forum would be valuable to them, how it could at all make money. Of course I wanted to check out Angie experience with forums and their problems, she doesn't have a clue - sending out newsletters to reactivate members? is this 1995? The way these agencies uses forums is radically different from what they write on their websites... supporting communities? Why? How does this generate money for them? All I can come up with is: views on ads by unsuspecting people who google... who get a bad feeling from forums... it's just all ads!

I didn't create the content on fsb, although I could be held responsible for it, still it would feel like betrayal to so many of the great and small contributors to this forum.

We have no ads, nor will we ever have them, thanks to our Patreons. Just one dollar a month for as long as you wish, special access areas are lifetime perks, even if you just sign up for a few months. This allows us to afford a very nice scalable (size, speed) server without much difficulty. It does require a lot work maintaining all server software ourselves, that it's working so well, is only thanks to BIG G...

Maybe with GroupDIY (and others?) bought up, there is more need than ever for an independent forum? This is still the treasure trove where you can read Analogman calling us 'internet terrorists,' Clay Jones revealing the Landgraff and CJOD, BJF's endless wafflings and Wampler inviting JHS over here in 2007 because he looks "like a smart cookie"...

It's amazing to me how FSB developed from describing an industry into becoming an integral part of the industry. Free stompboxes: you could build a terrific distortion box from an old clock radio, for no money! 100 guys build it. One Dude uses a Toshiba TRM-291 clock radio and gives it to Dick Wiener (from the famous band the Willie Johnsons), now everybody wants one. Toshiba TRM-291 clock radio prices go through the roof... some jokers uses other radio's, but you know that doesn't sound the same, more importantly, doesn't fetch those prices on Reverb.com

Even in the 60's you could build your own fuzzbox - with a schematic from a magazine or kit, just copy the schematic with a pencil and paper in the local library. Free information, groovy!
The same in the beginning of the interwebz: a lot of people said, wow, we can freely share information here, now we got all the schematics we always wanted. Some build a business off that... often without expecting it.
Freestompboxes beginnings: if we work together, we can share information legally about unobtainable mojo pedals so everyone can build what they like for little money and learn something on the way. Now that the schematic is out, it's impossible to make money off this circuit?
kloncentaurschematic.jpg

But some of the prime threads have over 200k views... maybe a thousand had a commercial interest in mind = 0.5% of the visitors. Were still here for the community at large. For a long time, the forum was very members only, so we had a lot of peeping members who never spoke. I realized that was the wrong way to go - when people want to visit fsb, I want it to have an open door, show what it has to offer. We have no need for members who sign up and don't post. Still posting your own findings, experiments, designs is the best way to contribute to the forum. Share FSB thread links on youbook, facetube, instagram, twittor, tiktok, whatevor!

Why are you sharing this here?
The people at Groupdiy.com didn't know what was happening to them, but their initial questions and research did help me along the way. Maybe the next forum owner they write to will go googling for info and find this. Freestompboxes.org has no commercial interest, only the mission to make stompbox building information freely available on the web for everybody.

thanks for reading this far,
please feel free to comment, elaborate, critique my interpretation of the advertisement situation. not an expert is business at all...
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Post by ppluis0 »

Freestompboxes.org has no commercial interest, only the mission to make stompbox building information freely available on the web for everybody.
100% agree with this point of view !!!

Modman, if you can keep the forum running without sell it to any of the aforementioned commercial groups, this means another level of independence, which is good IMHO

Cheers,
Jose

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Post by Jarno »

Oh wow, I am also a member at GDIY, but that could very well be the end of that forum, given the fact that you basically give up ownership of the things you post, so many knowledgeable people post their designs there, and they, rightfully so, object to not being able to set boundaries to the use of their IP.

Thanks Modman, for your effort!
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Post by peterc »

Great info. As a previous contributor at groupdiy, I did not realise the underhandedness of what has happened. Thanks

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Post by PRR »

modman wrote: 06 Oct 2021, 11:09Who is Angie?
Thank you for this extensive research.

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Post by mozz »

Aguitarforum.com got sold to some MOMO group and screwed us over. A lot of content was lost but happily aguitarforum.net was bought and we moved most members over. They only want it for profit. Our messages sent through the forum were opened and any email links were harvested. I think even the tool that owns tdpri and a bunch of other guitar related website is a scumbag.

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Post by Katherine186 »

Thank you very much for posting this. I was wondering what to do with a website I inherited. All of your research helps me to know to not sell to these people and find a way to preserve the important historical writings (Artilces).

Katherine A
Shannondale and Beyond
WV USA
Shannondale.org

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Post by modman »

mozz wrote: 07 Oct 2021, 21:35 Aguitarforum.com got sold to some MOMO group and screwed us over. A lot of content was lost but happily aguitarforum.net was bought and we moved most members over. They only want it for profit. Our messages sent through the forum were opened and any email links were harvested. I think even the tool that owns tdpri and a bunch of other guitar related website is a scumbag.
Hi Mozz, this is interesting... but isn't MOMO some kind of software development company? Did the buy the forum just to give their product exposure? I cannot even access Aguitarforum.com without downloading the app? How are new users interested in the content going to find the forum if Google cannot index it? Sorry took a while to reply.

Katherine186 wrote: 07 Nov 2021, 16:54 Thank you very much for posting this. I was wondering what to do with a website I inherited. All of your research helps me to know to not sell to these people and find a way to preserve the important historical writings (Artilces).

Katherine A
Shannondale and Beyond
WV USA
Shannondale.org
Hi Katherine, thanks for writing.
I had to read about Shannondale on wikipedia to somewhat understand what the forum is about and this is somewhat baffling to me. You live on a privately owned piece of land without a city council and use the forum as a means of communication among the inhabitants? Or to preserve articles and news? Like a newspaper?
In that situation I can see that selling to Groupbuilder would be absolutely detrimental to your forum. You need to use your user base to find (part-time) volunteers if you don't want to run the forum yourself and a day to day basis. Donations are a great idea to cover operating costs of the forum, Patreon works great if you keep the minimal amount down. I think it's more important to have 10 people contributing $1 than have 3 contributing $4. I hope this helps, not entirely sure.
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Post by modman »

Trying to restore some dead link I came across guitarscanada.com, here's the message from the admin August 2016
https://www.guitarscanada.com/threads/important-forum-announcement-please-read.82129/#post-740049 wrote: Almost 17 years ago I created a website that consisted of one page. GuitarsCanada.com was born. It grew steadily and went through many changes. In late 2005 I decided to add a forum to it and not much later that forum took on a life of its own. Since then we have added a ton of resources to this community much of it coming from you, the members. I have said many times over the years that GC belongs to all of you now, the members who support it and contribute to it.

Many times over the years I have been approached to sell the forum. I have always declined because I enjoyed the tinkering and had the time to devote to it. The last few years have become harder to put the time into the background work and maintenance. Life changes, career changes and maybe even some old age.

I was approached again about a month ago and this time decided to explore the offer. The time felt right. It has always been important to me that if and when I did decide to sell the site that it would be maintained and taken care of in the same spirit and with the same level of care as we have always tried to provide. I believe that I have found such an organization and a vast staff of highly trained server side and software experts. It is also a pleasure to say that the company is Canadian owned and operated.

Therefore, I would like to announce today that I have concluded the sale of GC to Verticalscope.
https://www.guitarscanada.com/threads/the-canadian-guitar-forum-is-not-secure.129713/#post-1223473 wrote:3 other threads on this. SSL certificate (used for browser to/from site HTTPS encryption and site authentication) expired on Fri at 8pm. Site admins/owners nowhere to be seen and no way to contact them.
Then I found this:
https://www.hackread.com/verticalscope- ... -affected/

Then the company went public to get more money:
https://privatecapitaljournal.com/verti ... o-to-125m/

Note also that the commercial forum software they are using is https://xenforo.com/purchase/ -- it's the software big companies like Gibson and Mattel use for their forums. Big G told me "it's not just big companies... there is.https://forums.rgc.ro/ although my adblocker has to work overtime with this site"

Exactly my point.
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Post by FiveseveN »

modman wrote: 13 Nov 2021, 12:06 there is.https://forums.rgc.ro/ although my adblocker has to work overtime with this site"
I feel haunted and attacked :lol: https://forums.rgc.ro/profile/2954-fiveseven/
It's been a couple of weeks since I removed it from my bookmarks bar and therefore my daily routine. It's been a ghost town for years now, time to let it RIP.
Strange you should mention it, since it's an Invision (formerly IPB) board and has been since I can remember (15 years).
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Post by The G »

Well, our talk forked quite a bit towards forum software. At that point, I pointed to Invision, which is the one used by those big companies, actually. Modman was probably mislead by the textless link I provided.

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Post by modman »

So sorry, I went a bit fast there.

Still Xenforo and Invision look very similar. Some research shows that the latter has three times the market share the former has - still only a few thousand websites. It's not clear whether they also manage the forum on the level of moderators, but I don't think so. Groupbuilder was also quick to assert that I could still run the board on a day-to-day basis. I then realised that they would only take care of the technical aspect.

Also the layout of these is quite similar and not so efficient in my opinion. But that's maybe because over here we do not think of threads as disposable in the way Napoleon: today's newspaper is tomorrow's toilet paper. This is really what Facebook is all about, so I don't think forum software should go in that direction. My current view is that 'commercial' forum software is for people with commercial interests.

There are disadvantages to phpbb, but commercial software does not address these issues. Phpbb is what I love about the internet: I do believe these are all volunteers on different locations, not a company.
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Post by Fender3D »

WHOA WHOA WHOA...
Wait Modman, porn cam and pedals? such a combo may be exciting nonetheless.... :horsey:

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Post by modman »

Fender3D wrote: 16 Nov 2021, 17:34 WHOA WHOA WHOA...
Wait Modman, porn cam and pedals? such a combo may be exciting nonetheless.... :horsey:
[smilie=imslow.gif]
Nah, we already tried that in about 2010 when Big Bad Bill & the Boutiquer Bunch DMCA-ed us out of our lease with hostgator.com -- it did not go well: these illegal warez and porn servers are under constant attack, taking the server down every other week.
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