Weirdness happens in the most strange places, and the Fon forums are an endless source of fun. Their moderator, known as moderfon, throws his wrath around like a dragon, censoring posts that are not convenient to Fon’s image. Those who complain or even link to external stories that deal with topics such as replacing the Fonera’s firmware, or problems and bugs such as the overheating routers, are ruthlessly censored, and the posters threatened with being banned.
I have moderated public forums for almost 10 years now, and there is a very delicate balance between keeping things on topic, abusive users, and the community. You simply cannot have a forum about a topic, and then arbitrarily decide when and how its members can or cannot talk about the topic. If the topic of Fon’s forums is Fon, then users should be allowed to say anything related to Fon, be it good, bad or even how to hack the routers. People should be allowed to complain about a company on the company’s own forum, else, it is basically a propaganda tool, or something one must have for public image. “Sure, we like our community, we have a blog and a forum!”. Keeping a company forum on topic does not mean keeping it on the topic the company would like to see, but making sure there is no spam, users don’t become abusive, flame wars are tamed, and people get a feeling that they are contributing to something. Censoring uncomfortable topics is not the way to go.
In this particular case, a UK ISP known as Fondoo.net, who define themselves as “the UK’s first FON Friendly ISP.”, has had its name censored from Fon’s forums. Any mention of the word ‘fondoo’ will be shown on posts as *xxxx*, as can be seen on this thread (scroll down a bit to the first post by euronerd). Seems like a very fast way to lose friends, and shows how to not build a community. As this thread will probably be censored (there was a thread about censorship that itself got censored!), I took a screenshot of the relevant bit:
Update: I found a link to this Wikipedia entry (I tend not to link to Wikipedia as a general rule, but I’ve reviewed this article and it seems just fine), which is a great introduction and explanation of what it means to moderate a forum (wink wink, moderfon). Thanks to Kyros for posting the link on AustinTX’s blog, it will come in handy more than once methinks!