Tuesday, February 28, 2006

An Open Apology to Fun Publications

One of the more difficult lessons of life to learn is how to be careful with one's words. This is especially true in a forum such as an internet blog. Words that may have been written with one intention often take on a life of their own, and before you know it, damage has been done that cannot be easily fixed.

Several months ago, I posted an "Open Letter" to Fun Publications, the group that runs the official Transformers Collectors Club and its corresponding convention, BotCon. I sent this letter to Brian Savage, the owner of FP, and he allowed me to paraphrase (but not quote directly) his responses. It has always been my hope that I have done so accurately, as while there are some real issues that I have had with how the club has been run, I wish to be constructive in how I go about seeking change.

I fear that I have not been so constructive with my recent "re-use" of these posts in a thread on the 2005 Boards. Yesterday, in the middle of a long-running thread that started out by announcing the new club "freebie," the discussion turned to the general frustration at having what appears to be a substantial amount of the money paid for membership in the club going toward the printing of Master Collector, which many (if not most) club members have found to be generally useless. Because someone had mentioned a suggestion to FP to offer a membership option without MC (about post #145), I decided that it was appropriate to re-post links to my blog entries making this very suggestion, and the response I had gotten to that idea at the time (post #150).

I did not anticipate (but should have) the discussion that would follow, where old complaints of FP failing to listen to its members started up anew, accompanied this time by accusations of an "FP conspiracy" that shipping rates were inflated to allow FP to skim money from club members (an accusation I've never made). When the forum moderator saw that the already-too-long thread was just repeating old arguments, he locked the thread from further discussion. Between the time that I had posted my blog links and come back to read the responses the following morning, the thread had grown with three more pages of this kind of thing, and I had no chance to clarify my intentions before the thread was locked.

While I still believe that there are some legitimate constructive complaints in my original posts, simply posting those two links without additional comment gave the impression that I have not seen some of the positive developments that have happened in the club since November. The club forums are up and running now. While they do not get the traffic that I would wish to see on them, they have provided a much closer link between club members and some of the leadership (if not with Brian Savage himself, who is only able to post every few weeks). While issues remain, I have a much stronger sense that club members are being heard, and I have higher hopes now than I did in November that positive changes can be made.

I find myself in an often awkward position when it comes to the club. I have felt free to voice my concerns, both publicly and directly to the club leadership. I expect that this has made me something of a gadfly, though I have felt generally welcome on the forums, and do not feel "brushed off" now as I often did a few months ago. I have also made serious attempts to defend the club when I feel that complaints on online forums have been unreasonable. (For example, see this post from earlier in the same thread, and this one from the Allspark.) I have also been actively involved in a thread on the club forums (not linked directly, since it requires a member password) seeking out ways to bring "game show" events along the lines of Jeopardy! and Family Feud to BotCon (whether or not I can attend myself), and have high hopes that my contributions can be helpful towards improving the convention.

For my part in fostering the continuing attitude of mistrust and anger at the Transformers Collectors' Club in general, and Fun Publications and Brian Savage in particular, I express my sincere apologies. It is my hope that we can continue to constructively discuss the ways in which the club can become all that it has the potential to be.

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