I have been a member of City-Data forums for almost a year as dsobotta. For the most part I have enjoyed doing posts there and answering questions.
Today I got banned from doing posts or responding due to "repeated deliberate" violations. This apparently was the offending post.
The only thing that I can tell which was cut out was a link to email me if they had more questions. Since I had seen others use the same email tool that is available, I assumed it was okay. I guess not.
Since I cannot respond on City-Data, I have chosen to respond on my own turf where I control the rules. I welcome any of the moderators to comment here.
I thought I had been very cooperative and tried hard to work within the guidelines and with the moderators.
However, being a Realtor® adds some special forum rules which I have struggled to figure out. I completely understand that my posts are not supposed to solicit customers, but the rules seem to go well beyond that and have a good deal of subjectivity.
I went to the considerable trouble to create duplicate content at a Crystal Coast site and strip out all advertising. It was a lot of work which consumed my spare time over a few days, but I was glad to do it because it was a good way to share my pictures and information about the area.
Not long ago, but prior to my banning, I got a note that all my posts were being searched for offending links to that site. After the investigation I got this note.
The only link I really find questionable is the southern outer banks link.
I know you don't list your realty company with it but you do have an about us and how to find realtors even though those don't take a reader directly to you.
In spite of it just being questionable, all those links were purged which I thought was a little extreme since I could not even find where it took people to Realtors® other than me. As a Realtor® sending people to my competitors is something you would not normally do.
However, I did not complain I just stopped updating those sites since I could not longer use them. That is why the content is not the same as my Coastal NC site.
Actually even on that site you have to go to the last page to get to any information about contacting me as a Realtor®. I did that for a reason. The reason being that the site is more about being an information source for the area than it is about being me being a Realtor®.
Never on my time on the City-Data forum did I refer someone to one of my real estate sites. I also participated in the broader NC and Virginia forums when topics came up where I thought I had some information that would be of use to people.
However, at this point, I can no longer post on City-Data because of "repeated infractions." I tried to respond to the message from the moderator so I could understand what I had done, but they also cut my storage so that the only way that I could respond would be throw away most of the positive emails that I had stored.
In the end it does not do any good to argue (or maybe even cooperate) with moderators. I will go serve my banishment and evaluate City-Data forums again in the future. I have my doubts as to whether or not I will come back.
I have actually ended up helping a number of City-Data folks but most were not as real estate clients.
I have helped people decide whether or not this area is a nice place. Many have ending up liking our area but have had some challenges that have prevented them from moving to the area, or they have found a place that they liked better. Lots of times I show someone the area, and they have to find a job. I am even helping a couple of people on their job search.
I like to meet people, and I enjoy showing our area so I am certainly glad for the people that I have met through the forum, but I would not call it a business windfall.
My newly chosen career in the real estate world is an unusual one. We actually pay to work for real estate companies, and hopefully make up the money when we sell property. That normally works pretty well. It does not work well at all in a market like today's when you are a new agent.
As a side note, if I could make enough money to live on with my pictures and writing, I would give up real estate in a heartbeat. Unfortunately everyone has a digital camera these days and most writing like I do is done for free. Real estate is one of the few places left where we old guys can work.
I know people who have been in the business for a year and have sold only one property. I have done better than that, but it is hard going months without a paycheck.
So could my efforts on City-Data be considered trolling for clients?
Well based on the results, I would say hardly.
The three clients that I am working with right now have come from the following sources.
- A walk-in to our Cannonsgate Office.
- Someone who was driving around our neighborhood looking at flyers, and I threw my body in front of their truck to answer questions.
- A call-in to our Cape Carteret Office.
None of those people have ever heard of City-Data, and one does not even have a computer.
So suspending me from City-Data probably is not going to hurt my business. Unfortunately I will not be able to post those pictures that people seem to love so much.
For that I am very sad.
Once again City-Data has put me out to pasture. According to one of the moderators I was up to my old tricks again. Apparently my sin was suggesting that someone send me a private message if they had any specific questions. When I told the person I was communicating with what had happened this was their response.
WOW, I am shocked. I am so sorry this happened.
It is not shocking if you have seen how some of the moderators stalk the people really trying to provide good information to people.
I sent a note to the moderator but as usual there is no response back. My response is this post at View from the Mountain. It is an accurate assessment of social networking. Unfortunately most online forums still value themselves far more than their real worth.