Furbuy goes offline, fandom organization issues, and a need for constructive criticism.

by Patch O'Furr

Flayrah covers a tech problem with a longstanding fandom auction site: FurBuy down for ‘months’ after spat with security researcher.

Furbuy says they’ll be back with a completely new site. The old one relied on software mostly written in 1999, offering a service that drew some complaints for security problems or less-than-modern functionality, complicated by some conflict with a site owner about expected handling of complaints.

Furbuy also offered a valuable free service, accommodating fandom high points like record auction prices for creators without taking a cut like nonfandom markets. (It earned some donations, but not as much as it cost to run). With a hobby/not-for-profit project, accommodating demands might not always be fast or easy or welcome to the providers. Still, security issues can’t be dismissed and complaints can come with feelings about less-than-professional standards.

Sound familiar? Like every complaint ever about management of Furaffinity, the biggest fandom art site.

I think it’s a structural thing. It comes with the benefit of a decentralized fandom, where most commerce is self-owned and fan-to-fan without middlemen, with DIY-ness for love as much as money. Making a living that way is rare, and rarely enriching, and it makes limited resources to do better. Professional service is a must in many ways but “pro-fan” can be an oxymoron. It’s a furry paradox.

Fan entitlement and thoughtless reactions.

That paradox complicates ways to solve problems, and can set up difficulty with fan entitlement. Because of an “independent and decentralized nature” that gives fans direct access to each other, there’s higher entitlement among furries than other fandoms found in surveys by Furscience.

Convention staffers and organizers have tipped me to a rising feeling of fans being less reasonable, and veteran staff feeling less happy about volunteering their effort. One told me this week:

There’s been a heck of an uptick in out and out vitriol aimed at con staff. I mean, we screw up and it’s right that people can (politely) point that out. And we try to fix it where we can and improve where we can’t. The issue is that what used to be polite but firm, factual points, has turned into death threats. I mean prior to this, I didn’t believe it. This year’s really been something else.

We had one the other day, the guy tweeted the callout at the exact second he sent the email. The only reason we got out of him was “Because if I didn’t call you out you’d have covered it up”. This was literally our first ever staffing issue.

The thing I’m wondering is, how to steer that discourse back onto constructive and “PM us.”

This is NOT saying it’s the case with Furbuy’s issues or anyone involved. (Flayrah covered that topic — this is a new one.)

It’s saying to think before doing a callout. I’m often asked to help solve problems, and it starts in private before writing public stories (an exposé is an extreme situation.) You never see many stories that pass through here, from tips about hidden problems in corporate documents of cons, to police informant situations.

Be the solution, don’t just complain.

There’s a place for public awareness, but frivolous callouts lack thought or goals. It’s been seen more and more by this site, with long-term goals being undermined by half-baked knee-jerk reactions, to everyone’s loss. There are many reasons to work directly instead of raise more complaints, but security, collateral damage, and other concerns are thrown under the bus by frivolous clout chasing.

I told the quoted con staffer:

It sucks that there can be actual coverup issues. It can be a multi-sided trust issue. Cons are so fan-based that organizers may not be professional enough to handle certain issues, while fans are on hair trigger. But more basically, social media corps set up a medium that’s polarizing and they profit no matter what the traffic is about. It serves inhuman corporate performance goals.

There’s also bullshit discontent sown by agitators, like Altfurry did with Califur and other cons. They attract the sort who send death threats, don’t care about fandom or people and just want attention and power. It works if people act complicit or give them inches so they can take miles.

When I do “public awareness” stories I try to include the bigger picture like legislation, gaps in laws, how things are funded, or the idea of more unified organization or group action. When I’ve pointed out abusers or alt-right entryism, I talk about blocklist solutions, exposing methods of organizing like gangs, or organized misinforming. Others just pick out targets to dogpile reactively.

It has to be hard to steer things to constructive, but just complaining doesn’t help like volunteering to be a solution.

The staffer replied:

I wonder if the coverups, the RMFC stuff has made people think “all cons are alike, all out for themselves”. Some maybe, but not the ones I’ve ever volunteered for.

If you want a feelgood story about how cons can do well on volunteering, take a look at how well organized BLFC’s volunteer introduction is – – I was surprised. Never seen anything so well put together.

Standards and expertise and fandom.

Those concerns are why my Tweet about Furbuy tried to be neutral. But more basically, there was the issue of qualification to tackle the subject at all.

I could write about a feeling of who was more or less wrong about Furbuy but not understand how. I wouldn’t. I’m a fan/hobbyist/volunteer with a site that doesn’t take in more than it costs, and expecting help isn’t like hiring a professional with specialty in tech. My role would be to offer editing or another pair of eyes to pull a story together or host “public access” guest posting, but the story needed someone specialized to not just complain or send tips, but volunteer.

There’s also the benefit of multiple overlapping sites doing furry news. At Flayrah, Greenreaper was qualified with tech to write the Furbuy story.

Limited resources can limit quality, but cooperation means it doesn’t have to. The fandom-structural issue came up in a group chat, where one member told me:

People are concerned about the mainstreaming and commercialization of “Furry” but I mean, furry is an enormous fandom. There are furries in every industry, there are furries in law, law enforcement, industry, IT, travel, retail, owning restaurants, whatever.

It’s full of that potential. More of that discussion is coming soon in another article.

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