Dissent is Good
Nothing posted for a while. There’s been a couple of times I’ve been meaning to update on Ebbsfleet/MyFC but lacked the time / energy. I have no idea what’s going to happen there. There are one group who are highly concerned that the Operator (the guy who started it up) has too much control over the Society and therefore the club. The possibilities for this venture, in terms of using the skills and knowledge of thousands of members hasn’t been realised, and each time there is an “improvement” to the website, it becomes less useful. Constructive criticism is regularly ignored, and more often ridiculed with accusations of making a big deal of nothing, or picking holes to have a pop.
The site isn’t engaging and useful in a way that so many other web 2.0 projects are, mainly because the website operators just don’t talk that language. In the early days, (last August) there were so many ideas for what we could do, in terms of organising ourselves, disseminating information, conducting votes, all at a time when these kinds of ventures were common place. Many members joined with this in mind, and offered their skills and services for free.
But this was never taken up by the Operator, despite the obvious lack of technical skills – the site was in “Phase 3.1beta” for many weeks after the club was taken over, there was no place to register feature requests and track bugs, and each new “feature” that they proudly announced was inferior to what was available either commercially, by open source or just by a bit of hacking. In fact there were a number of instances where members had created their own resource (Wiki, Chatroom, Calendar, Twitter match updates) which was working fine, only to find the Operator allocating time to adding this functionality (again often inferior) to the site.
In recent months, as the technical side has become more difficult for the Operator to sustain, the site has become peppered with banner ads, adverts and betting applets, making doing the business of running the club more difficult.
This leads to a problem of engagement. Existing members, including the board, can’t easily work out what is going on from a top-level view, and communication back to the members from the club, board or operator is inconsistent and in one of several places. It’s hard to get involved in debates as the same discussions keep cropping up in different forum areas. So involvement has dropped off massively in recent months. One elected board member has already quit, not surprising given his lack of interaction with the members of the Society he was supposed to represent. A voting committee was put in place to help proposals from members be turned into functional votes, but this quickly got into trouble as it was perceived that they had too much control over what proposals were presented to the membership, allegedly under the “guidance” of the Operator.
There are still new members attracted by the concept of being involved in running a club, especially when the vote to sell John Akinde was put to the members, but I imagine it takes great dedication to wade through the site and work out what is going on.
Now this might seem like great news for the Ebbsfleet fans, who might be happy to see this mob of web geeks fail and get back control of their club. But the club is still making a regular loss, and there’s a February deadline for the renewal of membership to the Society, ultimately the financial backers of the club. If there aren’t enough renewals, then the cash could quite easily run out by September next year, so some of the “malcontents” have speculated. Often these “malcontents” are the same ones who are critical of the operator – are they out to cause trouble or genuinely concerned for the Society and the Club and not afraid to tackle the issues head on?
Either way, several of the more vocal ones earned themselves a ban (though the legality of this according to the Society Rules is on the vague side) and so formed their own website where they invited MyFC members to discuss issues without fear of censorship. This then got repackaged with a chatroom and wiki as FreeMyFC.co.uk in a couple of days, just as effective as the laboured efforts of the MyFC Operator. Quite a few of the less controversial members joined in some of the discussions, taking their questions back the the MyFC site.
So there are a number of ways this could all go:
Things carry on as they are, the renewals don’t materialise and the club goes bust sometime between now and next christmas.
The Operator starts to open up to suggestions and criticism, the site becomes more democratic and open and useful, people get engaged, the project continues as it should have.
The FreeMyFC people produce an alternative to the Operator and come to the rescue of the Society.
The FreeMyFC people start a new venture without the baggage.
I could be wrong of course, there could be plenty of people renew in February and keep the club going into the future. I’m just not sure I’ll be one of them at the moment.