Yesterday I managed to get myself banned from the most popular ESL/TEFL forum on the internet! Was I terribly naughty? Not really. Maybe a little, but only a little. And I won’t lose any sleep over it. Dave’s ESL Cafe has for many years been the place to go for help and advice regards anything TEFL related, and also for anything about moving to, living in or travelling through pretty much any country you care to name. It’s really nothing more than a large community of people who take the time to share their knowledge and experiences, and to keep in touch with the forever evolving world of TEFL.
But the forum has long been a centre of controversy, for quite a number of reasons. The owner, Dave Sperling makes a fortune out of adverts on the site. A lot of people have been allegedly upset, on a regular basis, because he accepts adverts from companies who are well known for poor business practices/unethical business models/ripping off newbie TEFLers and even, so I’m told, out and out fraudsters.
What upsets people even more is that he has a team of moderators who clamp down hard on any sign of dissent. Want to warn a new TEFLer against going to work for a certain company who advertises on Dave’s? Your advice will be deleted, and you’ll probably be banned. Want to raise a question about Dave’s forum which could be construed in even a slightly negative way? Delete and ban. Think Dave could improve an aspect of his site’s moderation policy? Don’t post it – delete and ban!
My sin? Well. I’ll come to it. There was one particular user on the Mexico forum who posted a plethora of links over quite a period of time. He wouldn’t usually actually contribute his own thoughts or opinions. Just a grim headline, followed by a link to a story. All of them negative, all of them rather pointless, and most of them sourced from some very questionable news outlets. For example, a Conservative Christian movement in Texas. Nice. Every story was about murder, drugs, beheadings, economic doom, crime gloom. “Don’t look now, but Mexico is collapsing” being a recent one.
It has to be said there are plenty of negative things to write about regards Mexico. And the better members do cover them. But this member in particular doesn’t seem to understand how a forum works. It’s a place to share your own opinions and stories. What he did would be called spamming. At best. Trolling, at worst. What he is doing still living in Mexico City when he’s clearly so terrified of the place is unclear. He sure does need to grow up though.
I have never been a prolific poster on Dave’s. Largely because of the aggressive censorship and unethical practices that I observed or heard about. A couple of posts a month was my limit. I don’t expect to find absolute freedom of speech anywhere. It doesn’t exist. But you hope not to find the kind of fascist style censorship that is employed there.
After the latest string of one line doom threads by the contributor in question, I thought I’d play the same game. I posted three new threads. “Mexico – sunny weather expected on Tuesday” was one, with a link to a weather site. “Postcard sent from Mexico – arrives safely!” was another, linking to a picture of a postcard. “A photograph of a man in Mexico – not beheaded”, linking to a photo of a chap in Mexico, who clearly still had his head attached to his torso. That was all too much for the moderator, one would presume Mr Kalgukshi, who promptly banned me! I have to say I rather expected it, and didn’t much care.
But Dave’s Cafe is missing the point, and whilst I am sure it’ll be the top dog in the TEFL world for some time to come, it probably won’t last forever with it’s current policies in place. Their current ethos is all about getting in revenue, with the community seemingly considered an incidental annoyance to be barely tolerated. The thing is, without that community, Dave’s income will shrivel up and disappear.
I’m not the only one to be banned. One of the biggest contributors to their forums, of many years standing, was also today banned. That will be their loss, not his. And a big loss. His crime? As I understand it, he started a thread, now deleted, complaining that I had been banned. Another thread started a few hours ago simply titled ‘Goodbye Gary’ with a ‘will miss you’ type message, but not mentioning the word ban or anything else, has also been deleted.
So goodbye to Dave’s from me, and he, and many others. Some time ago a rival forum was set up to accommodate the banned, the disaffected and the unruly! I hope it takes off. It’s still a young site but growing. I will take my contributions over there full time. Where to find it? By clicking this link – Dave’s ESL Cafe. I know what you’re thinking. The link I gave has the name of the old site. Indeed it does. But it links to the rival. If enough people did this, the term Dave’s ESL Cafe will point to David’s ELT World in the first page of Google’s search engine. Yes, I also know I’m petty! But I have a few other tricks up my sleeve. Because I’m a little bit twisted too… 🙂