Apple Fires Discussion Forum Staff – Forums Degrade


Apple Computer has decided to do away with its discussion support team, a group of forum hosts that have monitored and moderated its user discussion boards, a new report has confirmed.

Source: AppleInsider | Report confirms dismantling of Apple forum staff

Thanks to Sandy for forwarding this to me.  The original source was an article in the Mac Observer.  I’ve always found Apple’s relationship with it’s community to be on shaky ground.  They clearly don’t seem to like people blogging about their stuff. They really don’t seem to encourage their own employees to engage the community. And I know from talking to a member of this dismantled team that Apple would often keep them in the dark about things so that they would be less likely to leak information to the community.

So now they’ve decided that it was time to cut out the one olive branch they had to their customers. But was it really much of an olive branch anyway when part of their job involved censoring posts…

Hosts have occasionally eliminated entire threads of complaints Apple had not yet acknowledged. While it has never been clear if the intent was to specifically squelch complaints, such deletions have sparked occasional charges of censorship or cover-ups from customers, the Mac press, and occasionally even the mainstream press.

This is a very thin line for a company to balance on. It’s why one of our goals with the MSDN forums is a community that’s by and for our developer customers.  I don’t want MS to be the people deciding what’s appropriate and not appropriate to talk about.  I’d rather leave that to the smart group of community folks that have been nominated as moderators. 

I’ve even fielded complaints from MS folks about customers that have deleted their posts.  Then, when I read the posts that were deleted, had to tell the MS folks that the moderators were justified according to the guidelines they helped create. 

Now, however, it seems like Apple must be losing all control and they don’t seem to have empowered the community to self police…

“The forums have declined to such a state that they are certainly a disgrace to the Apple Corporation,” added member Old Toad. “I don’t know if any of the upper echelon from Apple ever visit, but they should. They would get a rude awaking.”

The thread in which these comments were posted is filled with dozens of such comments from the highest ranked volunteer posters intended for Apple representatives to see. They cite numerous examples of insults and other rude behavior, as well as discussions about pirating Windows, music, and other software (at least one user has offered pirated software directly to other users).

I’d suggest that if you are Apple that you won’t be able to continue to have your cake (maintain strict control) and eat it (continue to enjoy undying love from a faithful following) if you ignore some of your most valuable customer resources. 

Now, if anyone from the former Apple forum support team would like a job that does not involve censorship where you can freely exchange ideas and work with customers… feel free to contact me directly. 

Comments (12)

  1. Yikes…this wasn’t an article I expected to see coming:

    http://www.appleinsider.com/article.php?id=1923

  2. msnsearch says:

    This bums me out mostly because with Guy Kawasaki, Apple became the gold standard for customer evangelism and community outreach.

    Speaking from my Gotdotnet experience, you have to hear the griping to get the gold…and even the crabbiest members of the public can be your best advocates if you listen.

    –Betsy Aoki

  3. Jim Glass says:

    Ya got to wonder if it’s a people thang or a strategy shift. It can be only (horrors) about the bottom line…

  4. Norman Diamond says:

    > So now they’ve decided that it was time to cut out the

    > one olive branch they had to their customers. But was it

    > really much of an olive branch anyway when part of their

    > job involved censoring posts…

    Nikon did the same thing near the end of a previous millennium.  I don’t know if they fired their censors but they did censor posts and cut their olive branch.  I’m sure glad it was easy to stop buying Nikon stuff, and I haven’t even looked to see if Nikon ever relearned what good customer relations used to be like.

    > I’ve even fielded complaints from MS folks about

    > customers that have deleted their posts.  Then, when I

    > read the posts that were deleted, had to tell the MS

    > folks that the moderators were justified according to the

    > guidelines they helped create.

    Wow, that is astounding.  It is refreshing to see honest unbiased activity.  Though in general[*] I’d prefer to see posts remain uncensored but labelled as "highly inaccurate" and/or "does not solve problem" and/or "apparently didn’t even read the problem" or whatever.

    [* Spams being the biggest exception.]

  5. Where has Apple been since the second invasion of Iraq???   Recently, Apple decided to jettison its forum…

  6. MSDNArchive says:

    The post in question from MSFT was essentially SPAM. :-)

  7. Andreas Johansson says:

    I don’t think it is about censoring, it is about keeping the site and forums on topic.

    Moderators are not working for MSFT but the community and it is really what is done. Moderating is done to help other developers, not to promote MSFT.

    It definatly adds to the value of beeing a developer using microsoft products.

    The MSDN forums just rocks and the partipaction seen by MSFT employees working  on the actual products are raising the value to these forums I never imagined.

  8. Norman Diamond says:

    Friday, August 04, 2006 4:49 PM by jledgard

    > The post in question from MSFT was essentially SPAM. :-)

    Oooooh.  Yet one more feature that the maker of VMS++ inherited from the maker of WNT–  ^_^

  9. Chose not to disclose says:

    It is tough to manage a community forum that gets several thousand posts a day.  For the most part, if you kept it clean and asked for help, Apple Moderators left your post (unless the thread got out of hand), but if you only complained, it probably disappeared.   Afterall, they are peer-to-peer technical support forums, where people look for and offer assistance, not comiseration.

    Apple has lost a significant amount of information direct from their customers.  By laying off the team that analyzed the posts and fed the data to the appropriate teams, issues were resolved and fixes were released much quicker than could be identified via phone data.  Not so anymore.

  10. MSDNArchive says:

    It’s a good point to realize that they are now snubbing thier nose at feedback from that community now as well.