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The Almighty Buck The Internet Your Rights Online

Annual Fee For Your Comment? 553

CaptainThunderbolt writes "Imagine this: you read an interesting story on Slashdot and you have a comment to make, so you login only to be greeted with a message saying you will need to pay a fee in order to make your comment. Seems ridiculous, doesn't it? Why on earth would you pay just to make a comment? Well, that is exactly how thousands of Aussies feel right now. AtomicMPC is an Australian PC Magazine with a fiercely loyal readership and an equally loyal online community. Yesterday it was announced that access to the most popular sections of the forum will soon attract a $20/year fee unless you are a magazine subscriber or a high-ranking forum member. The reaction to this announcement triggered the most vicious backlash I have ever witnessed as the website feedback forum went beserk. Users baulked at the idea of having to pay to access a community which the feel they are responsible for creating and I must say I understand how they feel. Is this a trend I should worry about? Will I one day have to pay a membership fee to access other popular forums?"
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Annual Fee For Your Comment?

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  • by Short Circuit ( 52384 ) * <mikemol@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @12:53AM (#12416664) Homepage Journal
    Now might a good time to disable the "Subscriber Bonus" by default...that way, they won't know who you are.
  • by Creepy Crawler ( 680178 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @12:57AM (#12416681)
    After all, Capitalism is the best, right?

    Well, after you run off every worthwile user who donates their time making content, well...

    I wonder how much it would cost if Slashdot paid hundreds of worthwhile scientific people to make +4 and +5 comments?
    • by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:10AM (#12416807) Homepage
      Libratarians like to say that the Marketplace will take care of it. This is a good place to let it do exactly that. Don't pay, don't comment, don't contribute. Go someplace else and watch the site wither on the vine.

      • "Libratarians ..."
        I'm a Scorporiotarian --- what should I do??

      • Don't pay, don't comment, don't contribute. Go someplace else and watch the site wither on the vine.

        The market only responds to the high-order bit, where the decision about which bit is highest-order is also decided by the market.

        Suppose you have a great Chinese restaurant near your house. The food is world-class. The owner is nice. But the service is consistently slower than you wish. You can't simply stop going there and expect a new one, just like it, to pop up to compete. The market doesn't work that way. It can't discriminate why you are failing to send it money. Especially if you're eating Indian food at the restaurant next door in the interim, in which case it will conclude you have stopped liking Chinese, and you're more likely to get two Indian food restaurants than an Indian and a punctual Chinese one.

        It's common in US Presidential elections for newly elected Presidents to claim, as our latest president did, that The People actively wanted the whole platform, when in fact mostly all a vote ever shows is that "for some reason(s), you thought this president was better (or less bad) than the other." It certainly does mean "for all reasons" nor does it help you discover for which reason(s).

        Salon Magazine [salonmagazine.com] tried the same thing as is being complained about here quite a while back. They wanted to charge people for posting on TableTalk [salon.com], their online forum, but continue to allow people to read for free. I was incensed. Charge the content producers and let the users get things for free? As a sensible poster, I stopped posting and went away. Salon continued, though, in spite of that.

        What's hilarious to me about complaining about such matters here is that Slashdot [slashdot.org] is a haven of free software buffs--that is, people who champion the idea that people should pay to produce stuff (you do have to eat while you code) but you shouldn't have to pay to use stuff (you don't pay for the result of all that free software that it cost someone to produce).

        Perhaps the human mind is some sort of capitalist market, deciding what rationales are most and least important based on internal market forces that we can only barely understand because we see only that same, elusive, high order bit of outcome. Maybe understanding the process from the outcome is more than we should expect...

        • ...people who champion the idea that people should pay to produce stuff...

          No, the people who believe in free markets champion the basic concept that people should get paid if they provide desired goods & services, and shouldn't expect to get paid otherwise. Why should someone get paid over and over every time someone ELSE distributes their work, when the creators put out the effort to create that work only once? If they want to keep getting paid, then they should keep producing, just like any other c

        • by stlhawkeye ( 868951 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @05:04PM (#12424964) Homepage Journal
          What's hilarious to me about complaining about such matters here is that Slashdot [slashdot.org] is a haven of free software buffs--that is, people who champion the idea that people should pay to produce stuff (you do have to eat while you code) but you shouldn't have to pay to use stuff (you don't pay for the result of all that free software that it cost someone to produce).

          I thought Slashdot believed that everything should be free and I can optionally pay for if I think it has value. Like, I should be able to LISTEN TO THE DAMN CD before I have to pay for it. The WHOLE THING not just like one track. I should be able to READ THE DAMN BOOK before I have to pay for it. It's no good spending $50 on a book if it doesn't contain the knowledge I need. I should be able to _WATCH THE DAMN MOVIE_ before I pay for it. That's why I download, so I know if a movie is worth buying or not. I buy _MORE_ movies because of this, and MORE CDs and MORE books. I also should be able to drive my car before I buy it, and not for like 5 miles but DRIVE IT UNTIL I AM DONE WITH IT. It's stupid that I have to pay for a car when it might turn out to not work for me in 5 years when gas prices go insane. I should be able to LIVE IN THE DAMN HOUSE before I have to pay for it. How do I know if I'm going to like going up and down stairs to do laundry, or what if a tornado hits it and ruins it? I wouldn't ever have bought it in the first place if I knew that was going to happen. It's such crap that I have PAY for things before I get to use them. What's next? Are they going to expect me to BUY MY FOOD before I eat it? How am I supposed to know whether or not I like it until I've eaten it? And if it sucks why should I have to pay for it? That's such bullshit. It's all corporate greed, trying to screw me over.

    • ...after you run off every worthwile user who donates their time making content...

      This is similar to what happened at Builder Buzz back in the day. CNET decided to take the "our site, our content" bit to extremes. The biggest contributors to the discussions didn't like the idea of CNET charging people for 2-3 years' worth of content that they'd donated for free, with the understanding that others would be able to make use of it for free, and left. This in spite of the fact that many of these folks (including me) were offered free subscriptions.

      sign me, "Former Builder Buzz Community Leader"

      (BTW, if you've ever wondered what happened to the original Builder Buzz crowd, a number of us hang out here [hiveminds.org] now. Feel free to drop by sometime and say Hey.)
      • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:50AM (#12417065) Journal
        I remember briefly being a coder on a MUD. The owner was a very loud mouthed advocate of OSS and GPL, and I figured that, hey, it's just as good a project as any to take part in. And I actually wanted to give something back to the community.

        In hindsight, I should have been suspicious of anyone who plays the GPL champion but doesn't actually have CVS access or released any code in years. But, still, I figured it must at least be a community among those donating the content, if not open to the world at large.

        It turned out that behind the scene it wasn't even vaguely near being either OSS or a "community", or was just becoming something else. The "waah, others are copying our content" paranoia had struck big time, after someone had discovered a few of their rooms on another MUD. Think a Stalin officer purges class paranoia to find which spy is giving content away to others. You were treated like a thief until proven innocent... and there was no way to be proven innocent.

        The real ridiculous part is that room descriptions and such were stuff that you didn't even have to be a coder or a builder/wizard/whatever-you-call-it to see. Any player could just bloody well turn on logging in their MUD client and have the descriptions for whole areas. But try telling that to the owners.

        I suddenly needed to go through a ridiculous bureaucracy just to get the files I needed to do my work.

        Worse yet, others needed to go through that bureaucracy to see _my_ code. They actually didn't even bother any more. I couldn't shake the feeling that it's like donating code to Microsoft, just for the sake of being locked by someone in a vault and called _their_ property.

        I left and never looked back.

        Though I suppose the damage had been done. Around that point is where "OSS" and "GPL" stopped being magic words for me. Was a bit of a rude awakening at the reality that some people will pay all the lip service in the world, but only because they like having a free ("as in beer") OS on their server. Ask for access to _their_ code, though, or in this case to code that they just took from others anyway, and it's suddenly "Noo, you can't take my preciouss."
        • by DenDave ( 700621 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @03:14AM (#12417475)
          What you describe is a more troublesome problem than that of community fora being payware. it happened to a dutch /. clone, tweakers.net. Basically they translated /.s and made themselves quite a name in the process, then when they had a significant following of sycophants, they made it payware. I don't this as big of an issue as what you describe. Any sycophants who are happy to pay are free to do so. The problem of gpl violation and un-orthodox practices is more worrysome. The most visible one at this point is to my knowledge YellowDog's reluctance to release the code of their linux-on-ipod installer code. You can buy it but there is no cvs or sourcecode repository that I know of.

          *please correct me if I am wrong!!*

          anyway, it sucks but if every website was a ship, the captain's word is law and primate under god....

          • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @04:34AM (#12417795) Journal
            Well, I'm not saying it's more or less troublesome. I'm just saying that IMHO the problem is that someone takes _your_ donated content (whether it be code, news submissions, whatever) and makes it _their_ property. It leaves a bitter taste. Whether it's for money, or for someone's "my MUD is bigger than yours" ego, or like UO back then did trying to turn voluntary helpers into unpaid corporate workers with quotas and deadlines, is IMHO a secondary fact to the fact that they're taking something donated and then acting like it's their property.

            All of it just IMHO.
            • One thing that people forget about dotations (and other gifts) is that once the time/money/car/whatever is donated IT IS NO LONGER YOURS and you have no say in what happens to it. That is what donated means.

              If you give me a tie for Christmas, and I never wear it, that is my right. If you donate code to my projest (as opposed to lisencing it to me) then I can use it, not use it, sell it, whatever, 'cause it's mine.

              On the flip side, if you want donations you have to use the donations that you get in ways
          • The most visible one at this point is to my knowledge YellowDog's reluctance to release the code of their linux-on-ipod installer code. You can buy it but there is no cvs or sourcecode repository that I know of.

            AFAIK the GPL allows selling of source-code, provided that the copy you sell is also GPL:ed so that the person can modify it, give it away, or even sell it if he wants to.

            Also, if it's _their_ installer, then they don't have to GPL it, so it might be copyrighted under another license.
        • Reminds me exactly of planescape. Its an "open source" role playing game. I am a programmer by day and compser by night. They were looking for composers, I thought it would be a lot of fun...

          Long story short, the *CODE* for the RPG was all GPL, but all the game content, was curiously licensced under the planeshift license, which was bascially, "we o3n jou!" I started asking people, hey, why shoudl I as a musician assign my copyrights to you again? Why do you need that in an open source game? The were bullheaded and said basically "thats how it is."

          Like a year later it leaked that the top brass had secret plans to sell the game all along, and were basically harnessing open source enthusiasts and naieve artists/musicians/writers to develop a proprietary game for them. I confronted one of them about it and all they had to say in their defense was "we never said we WEREN'T going to sell it."

          • by acraigps ( 881056 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @11:50AM (#12420895)
            I'm not sure where to even to begin here. First the name is PlaneShift not planescape. Second the content is licensed under a different license because it offers both the team and the person some protection. If somebody later on decides 'I don't want that model in game anymore' then we are screwed. Many artists want their stuff not opensource so they can control how it is used. I suppose you think that if I write a book with OpenOffice I should have to give that away for free as well? As for the last stuff I hope by 'brass' you mean the sink or something. What you claim has *never* been the policy and nobody from the team has ever said anything like that.
            • I respect your opinion but Im sticking with my story :) And yes I realize I bunged the name and I do mean planeshift. When I offered to give them an irrevokable license to use my music -- but allow me to keep the copyright, they still found that unacceptable. I really think they're up to some funny business.
              • Well, not sure how to convince you ( and others ) otherwise. Any copyrights are assigned to the Nonprofit organization and I can tell you that as one of the officers of that organization I will never vote for going comercial. We've already turned down several offers. The flip side of this is that we want unique content that is not used elsewhere. Now I can see how people can consider this to be somewhat against the OSS idea which is why we have the seperate stuff for art and other content. I know that pe
    • by FLEB ( 312391 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:41AM (#12416999) Homepage Journal
      After all, Capitalism is the best, right?

      Yep. People will buy elsewhere when a seller does something dumb like this.
      • by hackstraw ( 262471 ) * on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @11:29AM (#12420604)
        People will buy elsewhere when a seller does something dumb like this.

        You greatly underestimate the stupidity of the average capitalist consumer.

        If people actually were to take their business elsewhere or simply not buy junk from greedy companies then there would be nothing like the ridiculous cell phone rates with the privileges of paying extra for "going over your monthly minute allotment" and paying an even more ridiculous fee for the privilege to stop using their "service" (they call this breaking your contract agreement).

        I mean, lets count the number of other services that we have one to two year lock-in contracts in order to use. Yet people have been more than willing to pay so much extra for the convenience of being able to talk to people in stores, while walking down the street, while driving, and my favorite, when they come over to your house.
        • by j-turkey ( 187775 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @11:53AM (#12420931) Homepage
          You greatly underestimate the stupidity of the average capitalist consumer.

          Is it stupidity, or they just value the service more than you and are willing to go through what you're not? Are the companies greedy, or just trying to turn a buck? Have you looked at their SEC filings to see how much they're really making? Don't they have a right to charge whatever they want, since they've invested billions in their infrastructure, or do you just deserve the service for free?

          Wireless companies are a little more willing to beat up on individual consumers than businesses. However, in order the subsidize their phones, they have to lock consumers into a contract. Terminating your contract early without cause is a breach of contract. Otherwise, providers would either have to charge an insane amount of money for the phones, or simply lose gobs of money on them. Since they're a business, they won't jsut eat those dollars and not turn a profit. Besides, most will allow you to go contract-free, but you won't qualify for discounted phones or their most aggressive rates. Some providers have business level agreements (for multiple phones) where contracts aren't required (like Nextel and Cingular/ATTWS). Others have these requirements. That's where capitalism comes into play -- you have a choice, and if you don't like your choices and don't want to play, you don't have to.

    • After all, Capitalism is the best, right?

      Good point, yes it is. Free Market systems will choose the best course. Naturally, a website cannot simply sit around making no money and expect to continue providing content.

      The real problem is the people who have come to expect a "free as in I'm too cheap to pay" community on the web. Of course, I guess we could just ask the government to entitle us with "free as in payed by taxpayers who are too stupid to notice the rising taxes" web services.
    • Well, after you run off every worthwile user who donates their time making content, well...

      I wonder how much it would cost if Slashdot paid hundreds of worthwhile scientific people to make +4 and +5 comments?

      Beyond the fact that, yes, that's precisely how markets work...

      Rob and Jeff have explained repeatedly that the vast majority of Slashdot readers don't go past the front page, and that those are the cheapest, most profitable readers to serve as the front page is cacheable. In fact, the site's prom

  • Oh dear (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @12:57AM (#12416682)
    This is an entirely original occurence, a trend like this would be Something Awful.

  • fees happen (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yagu ( 721525 ) <yayagu.gmail@com> on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @12:57AM (#12416684) Journal

    I, for one (and hopefully not the only), would be more than willing to pay a fee for something I find useful... Just because it started out free isn't a guarantee it stays free.

    And, juxtaposed with other things in my life.... $13/mo for tivo subscription (and don't flame me about mythtv.... time invested is worth money, too), $600 insurance/year to drive my car, $30/mo for ISP access, $30/mo for satellite TV.... I only marvel so many things have been so free for so long. So, in context with other things I pay for, I'd happily pay $20/yr for something like the right to do this on slashdot. Not saying it should happen, but sometimes things just gotta be paid for!

    I may not WANT to pay for yet another "thingy", but it's a system of choice, and if the sum total of things I want and their costs exceeds my budget, I selectively cull thingies until equilibrium is re-established. It's the way the market works.

    And, for the record, I sometimes fear the OSS/(and linux) community hurts their cause by their sometimes overly militant won't pay for anything mantra. I once asked a commercial vendor of a really good product if they'd consider vending a linux version.... they responded they were too small of a shop and really couldn't afford to create a version for a community that didn't want to pay for their product. Not speaking for the "community" I did tell that company I thought there may be more of a paying public out there in the linux world (but I really don't know). ~

    • Re:fees happen (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nos. ( 179609 )
      The strange thing here is not paying for a service that used to be free, its paying, in essence, to provide that service others. A forum, or comment based site like slashdot's main attraction is the content contributed by its users. Lets face it, if all we wanted was tech news, there are a lot of other sources. So, its intelligent (or funny) comments and disucssions that bring us back, but at the same time, we're the ones providing that content and disucssion. So, would I pay to create content for a sit
      • by yagu ( 721525 ) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:18AM (#12416864) Journal

        I can empathize with your stance you wouldn't want to provide profit (e.g., for slashdot) when you (and the community) are the providers of the content. But, in my opinion (and I don't know the economics of the posted article's site, nor do I know slashdot's), the fee requested or charged seems modest and I'm guessing it barely covers the cost of providing the systems, the bandwidth, etc. to support the forum. Again, I may be wrong about that, but I don't see this akin to gouging and submarining the user population.

        On the other hand, were they (or slashdot) to ask something more like $20 A MONTH, I'd question their motive (as I question Microsoft's), and would probably step back and take a look as to whether I still considered posting on that forum at that price a "deal" I'm willing to take.

        Again, market forces. Yes, we in many ways create and sustain communities like slashdot, but I know from experience putting something like this platform together, maintaining it, and sustaining ain't easy, and it ain't free. So, I'm willing to cut slashdot a little slackdot (even though it wasn't slashdot the original post points to -- just wanted to use the slackdot pun -- even though it was a bad one..)

        • Re:fees happen (Score:3, Insightful)

          by WIAKywbfatw ( 307557 )
          If the forum of a popular IT website can't fund itself through advertising then there is something definitely wrong.

          Sorry, but there's no way in hell I'd pay to provide content, especially if my content then was to become someone else's copyright (which I bet just might be the case here).
    • Re:fees happen (Score:5, Insightful)

      by applef00 ( 574694 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @03:12AM (#12417468) Homepage
      I don't know if I'm alone it this, but I don't find Slashdot useful in the least. I mean, this isn't flamebait, but that's probably what it's going to be seen as. Slashdot is fun, but I mean, really. The news that's posted here is inherently culled from other sites. Maybe it takes a little longer for me to find the tech news I need, but the day Slashdot starts charging me to read/post is the day I stop reading/posting. The fact is that most things that start off free are free for a reason: nobody wants to pay for them. Looking at ads is one thing. Shelling $20 a month is another. Like I said, not flamebait. But go ahead and mod me down if you want.
      • Re:fees happen (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Angostura ( 703910 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @06:17AM (#12418115)
        But you're looking in the wrong place for the value - the value of Slashdot isn't as a news aggregation service, the value is a place to see the opinion of other Nerds and to get your own opinions sanity-checked.

        It doesn't actually matter whether you disagree with the other opinions you find. Personally, I find it useful just as a way of seeing other angles that I mighht have missed.
  • by Stick_Fig ( 740331 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @12:57AM (#12416689) Homepage
    The SA forums have been doing this for years, and you know what? They're popular as hell.

    I think that people don't like paying for something they used to get for free, but there's precedent for it. The OP needs to stop pretending that there isn't.

    • by John_Booty ( 149925 ) <johnbooty@NOsPam.bootyproject.org> on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:14AM (#12416838) Homepage
      I recently went through this at my own site, but we faired much better because we handled it with a lot more class than the owners of this Australian site. The result was a member community that has been exceptionally supportive and just a wonderful group of people.

      "The SA forums have been doing this for years, and you know what? They're popular as hell"

      I'd go so far as to say they're popular because of the small fee, not in spite of it. The big problem with webforums is the amount of people who just like to make trouble. When people have to pay for something, no matter how small the fee, they tend to act a little more responsibly. Most people aren't going to pay $5 just to act like an ass and see how quickly they can get banned. When you have a lot of "troublemakers", it overworks your mods and starts to drive away the good forum members. You can ban somebody but there's *nothing* preventing them from signing back up with another IP address!

      The downside is that a fee definitely will reduce the amount of new members you get and some members will definitely feel indignent about having to pay for something they've been using for free. (And I don't blame them!)

      At the site I run, we started out free, but I always made it clear the members were beta testers and that the site would be for-pay someday as opposed to suddenly going pay without warning. About three months ago we made the transition to a for-pay site. There was some grumbling (which I totally understand) but overall the atmosphere was highly supportive. To ease the transition, we've done the following:

      * Early site members had the chance to earn free memberships if they completed all of the beta testing requirements
      * This was unintentional, but the beta testing phase stretched on about six months longer than initially planned, so everybody basically got a free six months anyway :P
      * Perks for paid members such as giveaways
      * Parts of the forums are still accessible for free
      * Free members can earn paid memberships by doing things like printing up flyers, etc.
      * Invite system allows paid members to give invites to their friends, entitling their friends to enjoy paid memberships without paying anything

      All in all, I've probably given out 2x as many free memberships as have been paid for. I'm 100% okay with that because it's made the site better and that increases the number of people who want to by memberships in the long run. It's still an experiment in progress but it's been going well...
    • While I would never, ever pay for a SA forum membership, I enjoy paying for the far more prestigious "TotalFark" membership :)

  • Only if... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by X0563511 ( 793323 ) *
    Only if it gets rid of all the trolls and FPers...

    Even if it was like $0.50 US the simple requirement of doing something might prevent people from doing it. Maybe. Probably not.
    • FP!!! (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Boo yeah!
      (and it didn't cost me anything....)
    • by Quirk ( 36086 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @05:13AM (#12417930) Homepage Journal
      IIRC first posts were first mentioned by CmdTaco in a now deleted post to the FAQ on how /. came to be. In that post he spoke of a time when geeks would aimlessly scribble First Post in the sand. The FAQ now mentions First Posts as... ""First Post" comments are one of those odd little memetic hiccups that come out of nowhere and run amok. Basically, people with altogether far too much spare time sit and reload Slashdot, hoping that they will get the "First Post" in a discussion. This is one of those things that the moderation system was designed to clean up, and for the most part, it works. "First Post" comments usually get moderated down as off-topic almost instantly." Hey times change shit happens. I still try for a First Post, when logged in, cuz it's fun.

      What I don't get is why, when the moderation system and filters available allow for you to screen for almost anything, people seem to read a -1 then rant about First Posts and trolls, but hey, that's just me.

      I'm a /. fanboy, I like /. warts and all. I see it as a the net's agora [google.ca]. Like any open gathering place you should take what you value with a grain of salt, until you've been able to substantiate it. Reading /. at +4 gives results equal to the best techno sites, but it's up to the reader to validate the information.

      I liked /. best before it was sold, but think, that to date, it was at it's best about 3 years ago when the post grad ratio was at it's highest and the best and the brightest seemed to post. But again that's just me; I don't subscribe, not because I don't want to support /., but because I get alot of value out of the ads and think they're germane.


  • Not if it's for Slashdot.
  • by fahrvergnugen ( 228539 ) <fahrvNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @12:57AM (#12416694) Homepage
    The SomethingAwful forums charge $10 to join, $10 for access to premium features, and other various small fees for things like custom smilies, titles (for yourself and others), etc. It is ruled with an iron fist, and the banhammer falls with startling regularity.

    It's also one of the best, most vibrant communities on the internet. Cash is an effective gatekeeper.

    (I think the secret to SA's success is that the fees are one-time, as opposed to subscription-based. It creates a sense of ownership and value. I bought an account, not just a subscription)
    • by zorander ( 85178 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:14AM (#12416834) Homepage Journal
      I was going to comment to say basically this. Yeah, SA attracts some 'unique' characters. You could say it's tasteless and unsavory, but it doesn't have trolls (that last), jokes/catch phrases don't get beaten into the ground (since using one that's been deemed 'old' will get you probation or a banning), and people generally don't talk in AOLspeak.

      There's a sense of cameraderie there and the forums are much more close-knit than say slashdot, where I seldom remember another poster by name. Because you stand to lose something real (your right to post or 10 dollars), you're more likely to behave, contribute, and get something out of the forum.

      All in all, I'd say that this is a good move. SA did this several years ago. When they moved to the payment system from being a free forum, users who didn't post comments lost their accounts and contributors kept them. This makes sense more in light of the 'one-time cost' model than a subscription one (a subscription for life saves you much more than $10 in the long run and is much more a liability to the owner). I know people who lost their accounts then. Years later, they don't care. Most of them payed the $10 and kept on lurking. If anyone was bitter, it didn't kill the forum.

      Now if we could only figure out how to keep these annoying as fuck highschoolers out...then we'd really have it figured out.
      • by yog ( 19073 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:48AM (#12417047) Homepage Journal
        Gee, that sounds rather awful. You have to pay a one time nonrefundable $10 fee, and they reserve the right to ban you from future participation for something as trivial as telling an "old" joke? No thanks; I'll spend my money elsewhere. I'm not quite that desperate for community.

        Actually there are plenty of specialty forums out there that are reasonably well moderated and free of idiots. Slashdot does seem to have a large number of idiots but the moderation system more or less keeps them out of the mainstream. The problem with Slashdot is that they let idiots become moderators, and then perfectly innocent comments get modded down just because the moderator disagreed with the poster. So I tend to read at -1 to make sure I don't miss a relevant comment.

        I don't think this is a good trend at all. These web sites need to have a real service to offer. If it's a user-contributed knowledge base then they are biting the hand that feeds them. When the Motley Fool forum (www.fool.com) went private, I stopped reading it. It didn't seem right to me that after contributing my comments for a couple of years, some of which received high ratings and helped stimulate a few interesting discussions, I suddenly had to pay, on top of having to wade past banner ads and such. Sure, it's a fairly high quality forum, but I already waste too much time online; why should I add yet another subscription fee to my load so I'll feel even more guilty if I don't use it every day?

        I pay for services that seem like a good cause, such as sourceforge.net and lwn.net, and for excellent content providers such as the Wall Street Journal online (wsj.com). I don't subscribe to Slashdot because, oddly enough, I like to see the ads.

        • Rather than attacking me for my membership to the site, why don't you respond to what I *said*--which is that it fosters a good, well-behaved community with good discussion.

          It's not like they ban you randomly, but if you're contributing rubbish, you'll be warned, probationed, then banned. There's a list of things that are 'bannable' it can change moderately frequently, but usually things are announced and the first few days after, if you do something bannable, then people will give you a friendly reminder
    • SomethingAwful was a good example to quote here in the context of forums. Interestingly, there are other examples along the same lines but in a slightly different area, that of 3D virtual worlds, which in many ways are like forums but in more modern clothing.

      For example, in Second Life (a 3D world in which you live, build, and interact with others, but not a MMOG) you contribute to discussion events in much the same way as you would contribute to a forum thread. In addition, you contribute content in the
    • So does metafilter (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sien ( 35268 )
      metafilter charges $5 to join and people and links get booted occasionally. Again, it works. Contrast this to the decline of Kuro5hin.
  • So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jonfelder ( 669529 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @12:57AM (#12416699)
    Operating the forums is not free, why should the magazine continue to sponsor the forums for non-subscribers?

    People are certainly welcome to start and host their own forums if they don't feel like paying. Then when the bill for the bandwidth comes in, they will be welcome to start charging as well.
    • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eln ( 21727 )
      It's a crock, that's why. The forum members drive traffic to the site, which translates into greater ad revenue. In many cases, the forums MAKE the site, so if anything the site should be paying them, not the other way around.

      This has happened on several sites I know of. The sites run their forums for free for several years, and then when they have a large enough user base that's addicted to the site because of the friends they've made there, they slam the users with fees. The heavy posters feel compel
      • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jonfelder ( 669529 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:21AM (#12416891)
        What if ad revenue doesn't pay for the site? Several years ago ad revenue may have been enough to pay for the site. Ad rates have dropped a lot since then and clickthrough rates are steadily decreasing as adblocking technology becomes more widespread. Also, as the forums become more popular the amount of resources required to maintain them grows. Finally, I imagine that several years ago a higher percentage of forum users subscribed to the magazine.

        Why shouldn't they charge? Just because people made the forums great, doesn't mean the people who host the forums should lose money. $20/yr isn't so much to pay if you've made lots of friends there. Perhaps if they think the forum are so great, they should subscribe to the magazine and attempt to ensure the forums can be sustained.

        I think it's a crock that people pay nothing for a service and then feel they have been cheated because they used it for free and now have to pay.

        Oh, and their "payment" for contributing to the forums and making them great was the enjoyment they got from reading and posting.
  • going down hill (Score:3, Informative)

    by downwise ( 880931 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @12:58AM (#12416703)
    Atomic magazine has been going down hill in my eyes for a while now, this is just going to dig its grave even more.
  • Don't like it? Don't pay.
  • by btempleton ( 149110 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:00AM (#12416715) Homepage
    Commercial online communities have a long history of this. People didn't really resent on Compuserve, The Source, Prodigy, GEnie and AOL that they paid to participate in the communities they were building. They just asked if they got value to match their money. Of course there were also lots of free BBSs at the time and paying BBSs, and there were arpanet mailing lists even earlier, and USENET groups which were "free" but you had to be part of a select club to get at them at the start.

    Of course, if offered something good for free, people like it and will switch to it. But paying communities thrive today in both MMORPGS and things like Second Life (which does let you own the stuff you build in order to attract people who do have this concern.)

    But this is nothing new, it's a competitive battle that will continue for a long time to come, with free and paid and people choosing.
  • Hurry it up /. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Xuranova ( 160813 )
    Please start charging to post as soon as you can. Then just maybe people will actually read other people's posts before posting the exact same thing over and over.
  • So what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:00AM (#12416721)
    As someone who operates a large site with fiercly loyal members, I can vouch that even fiercly loyal and frequent members are not always (or even often) willing to contribute financially for that service.

    There is nothing wrong with looking to make a profit (or at least break even) on your work and the services you offer. If people really care, they can pay for the service. If they don't, they won't and you'll have to reverse your policy and find another way to survive (or just stop providing the service). The control is in the hands of the members. If they find it isn't worth paying for, they won't participate and the policy will be obliterated. If there are enough that make it profitable, it will remain.

    It's called capitalism. Supply and demand. Not everything has to be free. Christ, I wish I could get paid for the thousands of hours I've put into my service. That'd be wonderful. There's nothing wrong with trying.

    That said, I just don't see how this is a big deal?
  • IQ Test (Score:3, Funny)

    by CyBlue ( 701644 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:01AM (#12416726)
    I would prefer to see an IQ test to make a comment.
  • by Cryptnotic ( 154382 ) * on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:02AM (#12416737)
    ...it keeps the riff-raff out.

    • by ccady ( 569355 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:20AM (#12416884) Journal
      Yeah, but the $20 cover charge is payment for the fantasy that you're going to get laid. Ain't nobody got laid on Slashdot. (Screwed over, yes. Laid, no.)
    • Like a $20 cover charge at a bar...it keeps the riff-raff out.

      No, it doesn't. You assume that the "riff raff" is either poor or too tight to spend a little money for the privelege of harrassing their target forum. You also assume the same for bars and nightclubs.

      In both cases that assumption is incorrect.

      There are plenty of well-to-do jerks and "riff-raff", and plenty of excellent people of modest or little means, so while you may be creating a little club based on the exclusivity of daddy's wealth, y
  • On one hand I understand the need for membership fees to certain commercial sites. Places like IGN and Gamespot rely on subscriptions to keep their services running. And to a lesser extent, Something Awful requiring a one time fee to be apart of the community. It can be argued that since the forums are for a magazine, the magazine subscription is your access to "premium" content.

    But on the other hand, it's also a quick and dirty way to make a cheap buck. I doubt that forums are draining the resources of t
  • I mean, SomethingAwful charges to post last time I checked, and with ad rates not as high as they once were, it should not be too shocking that a forum would need some sort of payment.

    Now, $20 for that particular forum seems a bit steep, but I suppose if you really like it, it is less than $2 a month, hardly a major outrage imo.
  • Straight Dope MB (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SeanDuggan ( 732224 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:03AM (#12416745) Homepage Journal
    The Straight Dope Message Board [straightdope.com] has gone to a subscriber-only setup. I no longer post there. This is a particularly interesting move given that Cyril still states in the Ask a Question [straightdope.com] submittal form that one should start by posting to the MB. I'm definitely not commenting on the columns [straightdope.com] anymore even if there are errors. (Which I sometimes wonder was why they implemented subscriptions...)
    • Cecil, not Cyril (Score:3, Interesting)

      by emarkp ( 67813 )
      And yes, the quality of the boards went sharply downhill when "pay to post" was enacted (though, to be fair, that was also due to the partisan screeching about Iraq and the 2004 election). There was quite the debate about it, especially since the administrators don't seem to care about improving the quality of the forums or avoiding attrition. The biggest argument against it was that if you make the people who generate the content pay, you're shooting yourself in the foot.

      There were even comments by adm

  • Micropayments? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gehrehmee ( 16338 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:04AM (#12416754) Homepage
    Sounds like a job for micropayments. I wouldn't neccesarilly want to pay a yearly subscription fee. But for the odd occasion I feel like I have something to say, I'd put in my 5<insert-unicode-cent-character-that-slashdot-does n't-seem-to-like-here> to have other people listen. Especially if such a system weeded out mass spammers and trolls.
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:06AM (#12416767)
    Right now, one of the "big ideas" in the scientific journal biz is "pay to publish" - since restricting electronic distribution is an obviously stupid thing, the industry is scrambling to think of something.

    A lot of people there seem to think it makes sense for the author of the paper being published to pay for the publication costs himself - the argument is that the fees can just be folded into the researcher's grant proposal and so won't have much of a negative effect.

    I personally think that idea is very stupid, and I hope that as the Aussies have rebeled so does the scientific community. The people who benefit from the work should be the ones to pay for it in some fashion or another.

    For example the aussies ought to look at a peer-reviewed system where comment posters get discounted to free access while lurkers have to pay "full" price (note the peer-review to insure bogus posts don't flood the system just for free access, peer-reviewing would also qualify for discountage).

    For the journals, I think the "lurkers" ought to pay too - the university libraries and corporations that currently pay for subscriptions should continue to pay, in advance. As long as enough groups pay in advance to fund the journal's operations, the results would be free to all. If not enough groups are willing to buy subscriptions, then the journal should either close down and give all the money back, or operate on a smaller budget with a smaller number of articles published.
  • by horsebutt ( 714262 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:07AM (#12416771)
    What the article submitter forgot to mention is that If you buy the magazine you get access free for 1 month.

    So you have 5 groups
    1) Subscribers - They have paid money and get access for the length of their subscription
    2) Mag Buyers - They get access every month they buy the mag. All they have to do is enter that months code. They have paid money for the mag and get a free months access with it. This is reusable for every month.
    3) You are a God or Mod or SuperHero or Hero - You are at the top anyway so you get access free
    4) You dont buy the mag - so there is a $20 year charge for something that is based around a magazine and is a commercial entity. Heck slashdots subsribtion cost money. You need to stay afloat
    5) You dont buy the mag and dont want to pay so you just lurk
    • It will be interesting to see if this model actually works.

      The subscription (IMHO) is a different to things like the SA forums, this monthly access isn't there to cover the costs of hosting. Atomic PC is run by a large company (AJB Publishing, which is a part of Haymarket Media) and the way I see it the printed magazine is their core business.

      Is this the only magazine that will be charging for access to their supporting forums? Is this to try and convince users to buy the magazine or is it to try and

  • by Buran ( 150348 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:09AM (#12416796)
    Airliners.net does this also. I'm an aviation enthusiast and I like to contribute to sites like it and to railphotos.net (I'm also a train enthusiast) and people get ads to look at my pictures. Yet airliners.net wants to charge me to post to their forums (I got as far as "reserving" a username before it refused to let me get the account without paying).

    If they use my material, which I grant them permission to use (and they credit me, they don't transfer copyright to themselves) and they get ad revenue from putting ads on the pages showing my photos, why should I have to pay? I've already essentially paid by helping them get more ad views/clicks.

    I let the "reservation" time out because I didn't agree with their policy.
  • by Chuq ( 8564 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:10AM (#12416806) Homepage Journal
    I'm usually a fan of publicising rights restrictions on the net and so on, but this article is a fucking abuse of the "YRO" tag.

    The restrictions affect two of their about twenty forums - those two being a "general chat" forum and a "buy/sell" forum. All the others, general PC chat, hardware, linux, programming etc. will still be free for all. And being a computer magazine, these are what the forums are about - anything else is a bonus.

    It's the same as Aussie broadband site, Whirlpool [whirlpool.net.au], only allows access to its "off-topic" forums (TV, sports, news, music, etc) to long standing members. The site is about broadband, and anyone can access those forums, but off-topic forums are a priviledge.

  • No (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pHatidic ( 163975 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:11AM (#12416809)
    This isn't at all irrational. What is irrational is getting your news from a newspaper which is supported by corporations instead of readers. How farking stupid do you have to be to believe what you read in papers like the NY Times and all the rest that work on this model?

    I hardly see how paying for news in irrational, unless you LIKE having a corrupt society where the papers and government are run by those with the most money. If people think it is ridiculous to pay less than five dollars a month for news, then truly there is no hope left for society. Remember, just because you don't have to pay for it doesn't mean it's free.

  • by lheal ( 86013 ) <(lheal1999) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:13AM (#12416823) Journal

    * Shrug *

    Hindsight's 20/20, of course, but it seems obvious to me that you introduce fees in a formerly free setting by charging for new, premium services. To use Slashdot metaphors:

    • Subscription: $20/yr
    • Mod points: $10
    • Karma - Neutral to Excellent: $50
    • Modproof your GNAA troll: $500.
  • View Askew boards (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JayBees ( 124568 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:25AM (#12416907)
    I don't know about the Atomic boards specifically, but in general, charging money for forum access keeps out the riff raff (read: trolls, spammers, etc.), and this is a good thing.

    Slashdot's discussions do okay because of the moderation system, despite its flaws. But ever read an unmoderated discussion on say...Ain't It Cool News? Read their Talk Backs for 10 seconds and you'll wish you still had a CRT monitor so that you could punch through it and end your painful existence.

    By charging for access, you keep out the riff raff.

    The ViewAskew.com boards (View Askew is Kevin Smith's production company), among others, has been doing something similar for a while now. To register on the View Askew boards you need to pay 2 bucks. It's a low fee, and it all goes to a rape/incest survivor charity, because, after all, Smith isn't trying to make a profit from this registration...the money is really just a gate keeping mechanism. $2 is low enough to not be prohibitive for legitimate users, but high enough to keep out the idiots.
  • by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:25AM (#12416909)
    Will I one day have to pay a membership fee to access other popular forums?

    You forget that most of the code to Slashdot is free software. If that ever happened on Slashdot, it will take about ten minutes for a new site called Slashpoint or something to pop up.

    In the free software community, garbage like this will simply not be tolerated. Behold what happened to XFree86 when they thought they were too smart.

  • by BTWR ( 540147 ) <americangibor3&yahoo,com> on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:28AM (#12416930) Homepage Journal
    Sure, they have a few free forums, but 95% of them, and the only ones I use (the Gamecube boards) are $20/year (equal to most annual magazine subscriptions).

    I get SO much pre-info from those pages that it is SO worth it for me. I wonder if perhaps the nominal fee keeps the trolls at bay (sorta, we get a few "Gamecube is TEH GHEI!!! XBOX RULES!!11!!" losers), and there are few people w/multiple ids ($40/year is pushing it). But I guess if it used to be free and now isn't, i can understand their frustration...

  • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:28AM (#12416931) Journal
    I personally would never pay to make a comment on a board. If you don't like what the magazine is doing it's time to move on.

    There is an advantage to restricting posting on certain boards, because you can cut out idiots and trolls if you do this carefully. There is no advantage to restricting commenting based on who has more money. It's called trying to make a quick buck. People forget that commercial magazines are about making money and not about giving people a warm fuzzy feeling.

    In the end this will likely damage the quality of the magazine, because sensible people without a large disposable income are not going to waste money making comments somewhere for a price, when you could make them elsewhere for free and enjoy other areas of the hobby.

    Still they're free to run their business how they like. Vote with your feet. It's the Aussie way!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:46AM (#12417039)
    no, i dont have a slashdot login...
    no, i dont particularly want to be identified by those members of the forum being discussed that actually know me (though i'm sure a few will guess... meh)

    i happen to be one of the "high-ranking" forum members mentioned, and though i get a free ride, i'm rather annoyed at the fact that a lot of my 'lower ranked' friends will now be charged to keep in touch with their mates, as there are a number of members of the community who either dont buy the mag, or live elsewhere in the world where the mag isnt sold...

    at the same time i can see where Haymarket are coming from...

    i did have something useful and constructive to post here, but all i'm really feeling is ambivalence, and cant make up my mind whether to support this idea fully, or be outraged...

    oh, and i just thought you'd like to know that there's a small group of atomicans that are quite chuffed that the community made the front page of /., whether it be for good or bad reasons (hey, i thought they were amusing!)...
  • Not That Bad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by akheron01 ( 637033 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:54AM (#12417080) Homepage
    Try looking at this from the company's point of view. When they initially created the forum it was meant to be used by their subscribers and the cost of running it could be handled by the money made on subscriptions. Ok, so now they start getting an increasing number of non-subscriber uses which increases server load and requires more money but since they don't have a subscription that money isn't provided.
    Ok, from here the obvious thing to do would be to make the forum subscriber only, but they decided to be relatively benevolent and say that everyone can still use it as long as they pay their dues.
    Sure, the users may have developed the community by being part of it, but that doesn't necesarily entitle them to a free lunch, I have a friend in the rotary club, he regularly receives awards for his amazing work in benefiting the community, but he doesn't expect people to pay his living expenses! Furthermore, the article says that high ranking forum members will get in for free, so those who did truly benefit the community still get to be in it for free.
    I know it sucks to get something for free and then have to pay for it, but the way I see, it's kind of like puking, it sucks when it's happening, but sometimes the system simply needs to do something unpleasant to continue running and not become inoperational.
  • Access fees. (Score:3, Informative)

    by The_Hawk79 ( 865524 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @01:57AM (#12417103)
    Yesterday it was announced that access to the most popular sections of the forum will soon attract a $20/year fee unless you are a magazine subscriber or a high-ranking forum member.

    You can also access these areas if you buy the Magazine at the newsagents, although then you do have to update the access code monthly.
    Note the two parts of the forums that have been blocked are only general chat and trademart, all the tech related articles are still available free to everyone, so the comments that people have made to help the community at large are still freely available, it is only the general rubish that has been restricted. And trademart, but again that could be considered a premium service! Who complains about having to pay to use the trading post or similar??

    The comment has been made that the loyal supporters of the mag are upset about this. Why? If they support it, then they are buying it and therefore will have access to all areas! Is it really such a problem for people to support what it is they use??

    I'll say it again, the only part you miss out on if you don't buy the mag or pay is the general chat (The Green Room) and the Trademart. General chat is really just a forum based chat room. If thats all you use and now can't because you don't support the Atomic Magazine, what have you really lost? A chat room.

    As a subscriber this doesn't impact me. I can't understand the reasoning of people who don't buy the magazine and refuse to pay a fee. If you don't support the place, why are you here to begin with?
  • by Kethryvis ( 96137 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @02:04AM (#12417139)
    I think the issue more is that these people feel like they built this community into something that *can* make money, and now they're basically being told "hey thanks for all your hard work in creating something we can make money off of, now please pay to keep up that hard work."

    I see both sides of the story. I get that it takes large amounts of capital to run sites like this (I used to work for userfriendly. don't hurt me), and I totally understand that they need to recoop some money somewhere. But I also see the community's side of the story, feeling betrayed that they built a community and now they have to pay to stay in it.

    It'll be interesting to see how this develops... I want to study online communities when I go to graduate school, I think this may give me another angle to look at.
  • by 2TecTom ( 311314 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @04:29AM (#12417782) Homepage Journal
    hmm, that sounds just just like this /. story just the other day

    Meetup.com Ends Free Meetups
    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/04/13/035925 3&from=rss [slashdot.org]

    Of course, it seems that not only lemmings stampede towards their own demise. Apparently suits do so to.

    You do remember, dontcha?
  • by leathered ( 780018 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @04:42AM (#12417833)
    Usenet doesn't cost anything last time I checked. The sense of community in many groups is just as good as a closed forum. Sure, you get more than your fair share of trolls and off-topic posts but that's why most newsreaders were blessed with a killfile.

    Spam levels on Usenet also seems to have peaked now, while the problem seems to be getting worse in subscription forums.
  • by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @05:20AM (#12417951)
    'Will I one day have to pay a membership fee to access other popular forums?' you ask, and the answer is:

    'No, but you may have to switch to another forum'.
  • by beforewisdom ( 729725 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @07:52AM (#12418552)
    I think that once money changes hands that formal terms of service...with concomitant legalities, will follow.

    If someone implements a subscription system on their forum they had better be ready for professional and mature management.

    They risk losing customers otherwise and possibly even risk legal headaches from people who are not content to simply cancel their subscription and move on.

    There will be less room for the inconsistent and sophomoric forum management often seen on the web.

    When people pay, they expect more.

    The original poster mentioned that the forum members in the article were angry because they felt that they contributed to building the community for which they are now being told to pay for.

    Healthy on line communities often happen by accident.

    It takes a different set of skills to throw a successful party then it does to set up an internet forum.

    There is no shortage of empty web boards, abandoned email lists, unused Usenet groups and forgotten IRC channels.

    A person looking to implement a subscription based forum should be sure of his/her social skills and ability to intentionally create ( or at least maintain ) a successful social environment.

    S/he may have to start one (over) from scratch if people chose to leave ( or not come ),

    If a forum owner has these skills then s/he has something to offer in exchange for charging a fee where other forums owners with the same I.T. skills do not.

    Any technically skilled person can set up a web board, an email list or an IRC channel. However very few people who can do these things also know how to create a successful social environment.

    If someone wants to charge a fee for a forum s/he should be aware that if s/he only has I.T. skills then she will have a huge number of competitors...and a huge number of free competitors to deal with.
  • by theManInTheYellowHat ( 451261 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @09:21AM (#12419194)
    I had a group on meetup.com and last month they anounced monthly charges for the group organizer. I promptly droped my membership and said goodbuy to the group (it was not working out anyway).

    But seriously a monthly fee for recieving what many other (most other) sites provide for free, is a great way to shutdown an active site. I think that making plees to the users to make a donation or offer new services at a premium price, is way better than charging for what was once free. Just bad business.
  • by autopr0n ( 534291 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2005 @09:50AM (#12419478) Homepage Journal
    The SA forums have required payment for years now, and Metafilter now requires a fee for new signups (this is better then their old policy of not allowing new signups at all!) I'm not an SA forum goon, but I hear it's great over there, and Mefi rocks. Charging people keeps the rifraf of multi-accounted trolls away. IMO, why the hell not?

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears