Cleaning Up the Board

The Washington Post had an interesting article last week, Cleaning Up the Board, about how Tribe.net and other sites are cleaning up sexually-oriented content on their sites in order to appease advertisers and investors.

While Tribe started as a more “open” site, last December they implemented a new, strictier Terms of Service and began policing profiles more closely (and many would say inconsistently). This prompted some of the long-time members to start their own open-source, unrestricted (well, no child porn, no stalking, etc.) site, Free-Association.net.

“Our advertisers and our investors aren’t particularly happy with the adult content there,” said Darian Patchin, spokesman for Tribe Networks Inc., which runs the Web site. “We needed to do something that enables us to be a successful business and that our investors are okay with.”

In the I-told-you-so category, when we first profiled Tribe more than two years ago, we wrote:

Tribe’s biggest challenge is in creating effective and appropriate boundaries for business networking. On the one hand, they obviously want to encourage and support business networking, as demonstrated by the substantial professional profile section.

On the other hand, while it is possible to designate profiles and tribes as mature content, many that probably should be designated as such are not. Profanity and sexuality are not at all uncommon, even in seemingly unlikely places, and “trolling” (posting deliberately irrelevant and/or inflammatory message) is far more common here than on other business-oriented networks. One member, in response to a serious business question on the Bloggers tribe, responded to the poster with, “You, sir, resemble a cream puff.”

This may be a non-issue for the predominantly young male tech-savvy Californians, but “it won’t play in Poughkeepsie,” as the saying goes.

MySpace went through a similar cleanup recently, again for the wrong reason.

I’m glad there are sites like Free-Association.net around, and I wish they didn’t feel like they needed to go outside the U.S. for hosting. Censorship is bad. On the other hand, for most people, explicit photos and pictures don’t mix well with business (unless that is their business). This shouldn’t have taken 2-3 years to figure out.