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
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...
“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?
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...