Many members who frequent eBay’s message boards use a “posting ID” – that is, an ID that never buys or sells, but only posts on the boards – to do so. Reasons for this are many and various, but typically boil down to a desire to stop arguments on message boards spilling over into real trading life. And of course, as these IDs have never or almost never traded, their feedback scores are usually close to zero.
In an announcement today, however, eBay Canada have said that they will limit the ability of members with feedback scores of 9 or lower to post on community boards. Limits will be 10 posts within the discussion boards and 10 posts within the chat boards during a 24-hour period. Posting to the Answer Centre will not be limited.
eBay Canada state that the change is “to preserve the health and vibrancy of eBay’s online communities”, and that feedback is “important factor in sustaining positive communities”. Reading this, one might be forgiven for thinking there’s a huge troll problem on eBay’s boards: but there isn’t, certainly no more than anywhere else on the internet. Boards are fairly strictly moderated in any case, and often, it’s those with zero feedback who are the most committed and helpful members.
One might say that people can easily buy ten items on their posting IDs and so qualify to post: that’s not the point. People shouldn’t be forced to spend their own hard-earned cash for the privilege of helping others on eBay community boards: after all, UK Community Member of the Year **Peaseblossom** has only five feebacks! New members seeking help face being cut off from threads half way through solving their problems, or not being able to stop and chat afterwards. This is a real blow to the community, and although it was also implemented on eBay.com some years ago, I truly hope this change does not come to the UK.
eBay Canada’s move seems to be part of a general move by eBay away from “chatty” boards and towards “answer centres” with a narrow focus on problem solving. Earlier this week, eBay’s community board moderators Liveworld announced a “next generation Customer Support Community solution” which will roll out on eBay France and eBay Italy initially. This too is very much in the “Yahoo Answers” style, and has similar features such as rating of answers as useful or not.
Though it might be a useful system in getting an answer to the most frequently asked questions, I think this new style is going to undermine one of the most important features of the eBay community boards, and that *is* the sense of community. Because eBay boards have always been very chatty – even the ones that are supposed to be about trading issues – members have an incentive to hang out there, and so when someone needs help, there is someone there to answer them, often within seconds. That doesn’t happen in an Answer Centre. If they’re going to tell newbies and established posters alike that they can’t be trusted to behave themselves, eBay will strike a blow against one of their most important assets.