The Saab Network

I told y’all the other day that I had one more Saabnet post left. This is it.

Before I get started, I’d like you all to bear in mind my SOC 2005 challenge.

Oh, and the days banned from Saabnet: 9

My beef with Saabnet is centred around two separate, yet intertwined issues. Firstly, it’s my perception that the Saabnet audience is both abused and overly mothered. Second up, the really disappointing thing – I really think the Saab community is abused as a result.

It’s my concerted belief that with just a little understanding and a little give and take, the entire Saab online community can prosper. There’s no such thing as a Trollhattan Saab audience, a Saabnet audience or a Saab Central audience. I can’t make anyone come to this site and even if I could, I couldn’t stop them from going to other sites. I’d be a fool if I tried.

Yet it seems that at the moment (and most likely for quite a while now) there have been lines drawn in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans that many Saabnuts are not encouraged to cross.

Shortly after I commenced Trollhattan Saab, I advertised the fact amongst the Saab community at Saab Central, where I’d been a reader rather than a contributor. I let people know about the blog via a few threads on SC that related to topics I had written about here. I found an audience that was both enthusiastic about the medium and forgiving of my limited ability to write.

As I was also an interested TSN reader, I decided to join in on a chat and let the folks there know about the blog as well. Again, I found an interested and enthusiastic audience.

Over the coming week I’d write something and leave a note at SC and TSN about the post. All I wanted was to share my thoughts and maybe have them spark some discussion, which I was happy to have happen wherever the reader had come from.

You might ask at this point why I didn’t just post my thoughts directly at SC or TSN? We’ll get to that a little later, but for now just think self-expression.

Anyway, after about a week, I noticed that the notes I’d dropped at TSN had been deleted. Further to that, when I logged onto the chat session, I wasn’t allowed in and I was referred to the site mission page, the first major beef that I have with TSN.

Here’s a few quotes:

New users quickly find that this site is unapologetic and uncompromising when it comes to narrowing its audience to only the most mutually respectful, intelligent, and mature Saab owners – the kind of people with whom you’d want to meet and interact with……..When someone tells you they are banned from the TSN site…they are revealing a lot about themselves.

…..the focus is on the best Saab owners in the world……This is a unique forum on the internet in which smart, respectful people are having discussions with other smart, respectful people……If someone tells you they lost their priveleges here…they did something that showed they clearly did not fit that description.

My emphasis added.

I am banned from The Saab Network. Yet somehow I have managed to own two Saab 99s, a 900 and a 9000.

I am banned from The Saab Network yet I run this website dedicated to the sharing of Saab media and interaction between those that choose to participate. Sheesh! I’m dedicated to Saab!

I am banned from The Saab Network and yet I am University educated – I even have a CPA!! O boy! I’m intelligent!

I am banned from The Saab Network and yet I started the Tasmanian chapter of the Saab Car Club of Australia, was it’s inaugural chairman and retain a seat on the committee even now. Haven’t these people seen through my evil disguise yet like the clairvoyant from Cali?

I have a loving family, a good job and a bright future – so how could this be?

Well, in my humble opinion, it is the absolute height of pig-headed arrogance to presume that your site has only the best readers perusing it. The most respectful and smart people on the internet. The most mature Saab owners in the world. And IF, perchance, one of these blessed ones falls out of the good graces of the webmaster, then they clearly no longer fit that description.

Scott Paterson is a person that I generally admire and respect in the Saab Community for what he’s done in establishing TSN and his dedication to running it over a prolonged period of time. Like said earlier, I have been there and found the locals quite hospitable. My direct dealings with Scott himself have always been courteous and friendly.

But I’m not above telling anyone they’re wrong when it’s obvious and it’s in the best interests of everyone involved. And I’m not above hearing that I’m wrong myself.

The characterisation, the bastardisation of anyone banned from Saabnet as somehow less worthy, or less interested in advancing the marque than other people, is totally inappropriate and arrogant. The total exclusivity of the site is evidence of the contempt held for others and it’s a wedge in the online community. It’s a wedge that serves no purpose whatsoever.

Personally speaking, I resent being referred to in such a manner. I am a dedicated Saabnut, have been for a long time. I’m a thoroughly decent guy. When someone writes…..

“When you come across someone who claims to be banned from this website, please understand that the only way to lose access priveleges is to do something very seriously wrong here”

…..and then refers to threats of violence and racism, lobbing me in with the lunatic fringe in the process, I get bloody-well offended. I’m one of the many banned from Saabnet and you’re publishing that load of tripe!!

The fact of the matter is that Saabnet can no longer claim to be a moderated forum. It is a policed forum, and if you don’t toe the company line then I’m afraid it’s curtains for you, sonny Jim.

And the beauty of the system is that the regulars there need never know. It’s the Saab community’s very own Truman Show. Blemishes are erased and the show goes on in an uninterrupted blue and grey hum.

Now, there are certain things that I understand.

First up, Saabnet wants to ‘protect’ their advertisers. It’s a very old-world and pretty selfish mentality, but I get it. I personally think that there’s so much more to be gained by sharing opinions, points of view and therefore, traffic. Saab is a worldwide brand and why anyone would make their site so one-sidedly geocentric and then work hand over fist to protect it can only be explained by one thing: money.

The second thing I understand is this: No-one, and I mean no-one, should have to put up with threats, whether they be for real or a bluff, in exchange for providing a forum like TSN, Trollhattan, or SC. I’d ban people who threaten me, too.

Third, and another area where Scott and I agree, is the misunderstanding many people have about free speech. Free Speech is the concept where I can express myself on my site and you can express yourself on your site. Remember when I mentioned earlier that yes, I could have just chosen to spark discussion directly on TSN or SC, but chose to do so through my own site? Well, this is why.

As the creator of my own site, I am not beholden to advertisers or anyone else’s editorial. I have my views and whilst they’re generally not very controversial, if I want them to be then they can be. My site, my thoughts.

Early in the piece, when I sought a loosely-based strategic partnership of sorts with TSN, I was told it was possible on the condition that I tidy up some code and then ensure that I don’t link to other forums (the TSN site mission paraphrased: I do not allow links to sites with classifieds or English-based BB’s – “There are no exceptions”). In other words, TSN’s rules would have to become my rules. I’d have to toss aside the forum that had supported me (Saab Central) and position myself in the good graces of the Webmaster, and obviously I’d have to make sure I stayed there.

Again, arrogant protectionism in the extreme.

I like Trollhattan Saab. I’m proud of the way it’s turning out. The fact that it’s reaching a new audience and riding the blog wave. I’m pleased that I’ve been able to provide a service to readers that meets their needs for some Saab news and meets my dual needs: writing and a Saab fix of my own. I’m pleased with the diverse crowd that’s dropped by here. I’m glad to say i’ve been able to treat them with respect as they have with me, and it’s taken no effort thus far on either side of the fence.

I actually also like TSN. I think the people there are a valuable resource and I look forward to meeting a few of them, maybe at SOC 2006 (although apparently us banned people aren’t the type that’d go to a SOC). I think TSN could be a heck of a lot better, and the Saab community could be a lot better for it, but that’s not up to me – it’s up to the people that peruse it and the people that run it.

I’ve said my piece and I won’t be saying anymore on the subject (not too soon anyway). I hope we can all work this out, because Sixten Sason and the cars he designed deserve better than what they’re getting.

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7 Comments

  1. Swade,

    Very well put. I’m sure you’re speaking up for others also, most of whom don’t have a good avenue to vent through. It’s sad really. I like Saabnet, but wouldn’t have known of the repressiveness were it not for your weblog. I guess it’s a case “see no evil, hear no evil…”.

    Trollhattansaab is the best place to keep up to date on SAAB happenings, period. Keep up the good work, and thanks.

    Ted

  2. Swade,

    You know how I feel about TSN. The bottom line is that it’s his site, and he can run it how he wants. It’s up to visitors to decide if they want to visit. The problem, however, is more divisive, as you’ve pointed out.

    “Real” Saab enthusiasts are going to find any and every possible avenue to get and share information. To that end, they’re going to be part of more than one online community. To set up walls between one site may keep some people at your site, but it keeps a greater amount of people from getting TO your site. But hey… it’s his site. Perhaps he wants it that way. He seems to do his best to keep people from coming back to his site (ie, it’d be nice to know when someone responds to my post without having to pay $$$ for the privilege).

    FWIW, I’ve often posted the same question on both TSN and SC, and every time I’ve gotten a better response from SC. A post that might get no responses on TSN will get several from SC. No doubt that TSN is the “oldest” Saab site out there, but it’s clearly not the best. The best thing about the ‘net is that people have the option.

    The other thing is that if he’s so protective about linking to/from his site, his Google PR will drop and he won’t gain any new members; they’ll all find somewhere else to go.

    -jim

  3. I have not met Scott personally but I have very good idea about his point of views.

    You can put them roughly in two:

    1. He has totally different view about Internet, he has so to speak lost the touch to reality somewhere early 90’s.

    2. Financial idea about fan site that uses copyrighted Saab press material to generate money. And somewhere between 1. and 2. is this funny idea that people can be forced to watch ad’s in his site. You can stop people coming to your site, but you cant control what data they desire to download.

    I even remember him talking about making TSN a pay site. But sadly when very few registered I guess he had put it in a hold.

    But there is more about Scott than can only be explained that he REALLY IS somewhat nut and twisted, you cant negotiate with him because there will never be mutual understanding on any key matter. I’m sure there’s even a cycle, people get angry because he has lost the ball, they aim it to him and that makes Scott more angry and it goes on and on.

    Personally if I would have to read hundreds of whine mails a day that would confuse me in the longer run. It would create this very strong “world is wrong and I’m right” feeling.

    Btw. its useless to talk about bans, they mean nothing, if the site is open to somebody its open to everybody who know something about IP’s.

    And I must mention his 9-2X, that is surprisingly SO good car, just because Saab core users didnt like it. In his world, Saab can never go wrong and you can never blame Saab for anything. So he had to buy it…

    Scott was a pioneer but is he making now more good or bad with is userbase power? Thats a tough question.

  4. I agree that hiding behind rhetoric like “they are revealing something about themselves” and implying that abuse is the only way that entries are censored and people are banned from TSN is certainly less than forthcoming given that most ‘offenses’ are driven by a compulsive need for isolation and protectionism. The policeman who arrests the trespasser is welcome; the policeman who arrests someone that might trespass is either paranoid or tyranical.

    And we all know that tyranies never last. In the lightning flash of the technology age, the end comes quickly for most digital content providers. Doubly so for those who cannot embrace the inherent openness that is the internet.

  5. Thanks all for your input. I got by for several months without saying anything, but the dam wall had to burst sometime.

    The thing that sticks out to me the most, (highlighted by your comment, Ted) is the Truman Show reference. Nothing is ever wrong over there and regulars would never know about the poor treatment of others unless they venture outside the ‘4 walls’ of the site.

  6. Hey Swade…we can argue and discuss this all night, but here’s a stab of support from a completely new angle.

    Throwing all the politics out…I’m part of the admin team for an online forum. (Not cars, another subject). If you were doing something so terrible, so horrid, so awful, and for them to let it go on for so long and then to just ban out out of the blue is bad. They should have warned you/asked you to change your ways at the very very least.

    I actually don’t spend much time at TSN…I’m a Saab Central guy, although I do have to admit I found your site through Autoblog. How many people are on the administration staff for TSN? The site I admin for has a large, diverse membership and so we also have a large, diverse staff of administrators and moderators. This works much better than a form monarchy.

  7. Ryan, I’m not sure how many admin types there are, but various people have sysop and admin designations next to their names in chat. Scott has veto over all I believe. The first time I was restricted I chatted to one of these sysop types and they referred me straight to Scott, so I think they handle all the minor stuff and he does the heavy lifting.

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