Is this the future of online RC forums?
Low Quality Forums
Successful online discussion forum websites all seem to use the same playbook. It is the number of posts that counts. The more posts you create, the more respect you get from the forum website administrators.
Problem is, I have found no correlation between number of posts by a forum member and their expertise on any subject. Or maturity, for that matter. A high number of posts is usually just a sign of a fragile ego and lots of free time.
As the years have gone by, I spend less and less time in the big online forums. Out of 100 forum posts that I read, only maybe one was truly worth my time. The ratio seems to get worse every year.
Forums usually start out with noble plans. They just want to create a place where their community can interact. But with popularity come high web server hosting fees. Properly moderating a forum is very time consuming, too.
The solution is invariably to get forum commercial supporters or advertisers. Now the ideals of the forum become seriously compromised. The forum vendors become sacred cows. Anybody that bad mouths a forum advertiser is at risk of immediate banning from the forum. Whether they have a valid complaint against the vendor or not is irrelevant.
Am I being harsh? I really wish I were. But when an entire new forum springs up just to rant about the other RC forums, you know the problems are very real. If you do not believe me, take a look at the RC Truth forum (link below). This is a lot more than just a couple of malcontents.
For my part, I can honestly claim to have the only forum that I know of that does not list the number of forum posts for each member. I think that count is completely irrelevant to deciding how much credibility to give to each poster.
The RC Scale Builder forum was started by Mike Chilson in 2002. Their about page says that the goal of the forum was to allow everyone to enjoy the website. They wanted to create a nurturing community. They only want forum members that are serious about scale RC model airplanes.
So far so good, but what does this really mean? I am sure every forum website can and does make similar claims. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Registered User Only Access
One big difference is that the forum posts are not visible unless you are registered on the website and logged in. You can see the thread titles but cannot drill down to read any of them. Their reasoning is simple: they only want those folks that are truly interested in scale RC model airplanes.
This is huge. Most forum websites would consider this suicide. You see, casual visitors are the lifeblood of any website. Most folks are very reluctant to register for access to a website. I should know. Maybe 1 in a 100 of the visitors to this website actually sign up for my free newsletter.
By hiding the actual contents, I would imagine that vast numbers of potential members get turned off and leave, never to return.
But there is another huge drawback to hiding the text of the posts. You are now effectively invisible to search engines such as Google and Bing. This huge potential source of new members is effectively cut off.
No Special Protected Vendors
The about page says that it is a non-commercial website. I think what they really meant to say is that it is a not-for-profit website. Everybody running the website is an unpaid volunteer.
What does this really mean? One consequence is that bad mouthing ANY vendor is not allowed. There are no sacred cows here. Every vendor gets equal protection. It is an interesting solution to a difficult problem.
Registered users can read most posts and create up to five new posts themselves. They cannot upload images. This is basically what I would call a lurker type of membership.
Most of the web server hosting costs are paid by site supporters. These members have unlimited post and image upload privileges. It also costs $20/year to be a site supporter.
Having to pay to get any kind of meaningful posting access has a very important consequence. If you say something stupid and manage to get banned from the website, your money will not be refunded. That is a huge deterrent.
Is It Working?
They are getting about a million page views a month. They have about 2,000 site supporters, for an annual income of about $40,000 from that source.
Browsing through some of the threads, there were no signs of negativity to be found. I saw more “me too” posts than I would prefer, but there are much worse sins.
When I accessed the website in the evening it was a bit slow. I hope this is not a common occurrence. It ran much faster in the middle of the day.
I would call RC Scale Builder a success. It really does seem to be a high quality, nurturing community. $20/year seems like a small price to pay.
About Real Reviews
I buy every product I test. Nobody can make me sugarcoat my words. I pull no punches and say it as it really is.
If you would like to buy the product even after I point out its flaws, please do so by clicking on the product link in my review. If you do, the vendor may send me a small commission. Your price will be the same either way.