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Community Service

By Matt Yette
April 10, 2003

I've contemplated writing this article for some time now. I guess I wasn't sure of exactly what I wanted to say. On one hand, I wanted to display a calm, rational point of view on this entire matter, and on the other hand, I feel like I'm completely justified in my desire to bitch a fit. It's a tricky thing aiming an opinion piece at a large group of people; a lot of readers take the words that are read personally. What I have to say might piss some people off, and others might be quite happy with my outburst. Either way, I can't sit here and continue to witness some of the things that are taking place.

When we started antsmarching.org, we wanted to be the best website for DMB out there. I don't think there's anything wrong with aspiring to be the best at anything you do, especially something that you've worked so hard at. We haven't built this site for glory, credit, recognition, or anything peripheral that might come from it. We built it for fun, and we built it for the fans. Nothing else. It has come to my attention that a handful of people seem to be unhappy with our efforts to bring as much as possible to the DMB fanbase. I figured now would be the time to frontload the disclaimer bullshit, so I would hope that the readers of this article realize that my frustrations aren't aimed at the thousands of legitimate fans who truly know what a sense of community is, or the users who realize that we're doing all that we can to make this place as fun and as useful as possible for them. My frustrations are more targeted at a select few; those who tend to view antsmarching.org as an entity which owes them something. Those who think that because anything provided on this site is obtained for free, that they can have free reign to do what they please, and say what they please not only on the discussion boards, but also to the staff of this site. We're no strangers to criticism; in fact, we encourage it. It only makes us better. Some people like to bitch about our "inflated" registration numbers. These same people seem to see a website as a discussion board only. In addition to posting access on our forums, registration grants you the right to download shows, play our setlist game, enter in your personal tour stats, set up show lists, access our FTP servers, and offer/request B&Ps. Without registration, which stores all of this information for each person, these features wouldn't be possible. Our discussion board remains one of the most active areas of the site, but it isn't what antsmarching.org is all about. It's only part of it. Just because people don't post doesn't mean they aren't an active part of the community. There are hundreds of members who have offered up B&Ps in our system that haven't made one post.

Like any organization, we have set up a list of rules which we expect to be followed in order to be a part of our community. The rules have been largely borrowed from a fellow DMB site, nancies.org, who we feel has a very good grip on what it takes to run a large online community. The rules we have set in place are by no means excessive, and tend to run parallel with the laws of common sense, moreso than the ever popular "Nazi Regime" title which forum administrators tend to be likened to. What people tend to forget is that we don't get paid to do this. The only reason each and every one of us partake in running this site is for the love of DMB, the love of the music, and the love of the community. If it wasn't fun, if it wasn't worth the work anymore, we'd simply stop. Our wallets would most definitely thank us, that's for sure. The advertisements that we run pay for roughly 5% of each month's bill. The rest is out of pocket, and that bill runs into the hundreds, every month, and keeps getting bigger. One of the rules that some people simply can't get a grip on is the restriction that we've set upon spam posting. I know that I get dozen's of spam messages in my email inbox per day, and I assume that that holds true for most of you as well. One place where I certainly don't want to see it is my own site. Like I have posted in the FAQ thread dedicated to the topic, we don't mind an occasional, "Hey, come check out a site I've been working on" post. What we do have a problem with is the constant and blatant attempts to draw users to a website. I don't care if the spam is about Bit Torrent, another DMB site, or a site devoted to the discussion of plaid socks. The best type of advertisement is word of mouth, and spamming people via messageboards, email, or AIM isn't going to make a lot of people happy. Many people have emailed me asking why we don't allow Bit Torrent threads on our boards. Again, this is a prime example of people misinterpreting our policy on spam. Post all the Bit Torrent links that you like, in fact, we encourage people to try different methods of obtaining live DMB or D&T shows. The more people using a different method for downloading, the less stressed the SHN server is. However, when you post on a messageboard with "links" to Bit Torrent files, but then upon further investigation, find out that registration is required in order to obtain those files, that is spam. No question. And spam is against the rules.

A few people have also expressed their distaste with our HTTP SHN Server, either by complaining about not being able to log in, or that a piece of software that Shawn and myself wrote is a piece of junk, or even questioning the legality of the bandwidth we consume by serving up these shows. Numerous threads have been made regarding the load on the SHN server, and I have even taken the time to write up a thread explaining the current situation with the server to help the masses better understand the load the server is under at this time. What some people don't realize is there are literally hundreds of people constantly downloading off of the server at any given time. It obviously works for many people, and patience is key. By complaining about it, rather than checking out the dozens of existing threads on the topic, you're only going to piss us off. Here we bust ass to try and get these shows from the tapers to the masses as quickly as possible, and we catch enormous amounts of shit for it. It's ludicrous. As far as the people who feel it their right to know where exactly the bandwidth is coming from; it's none of your fucking business. What exactly gives you the right to ask such a thing? All you need to know that a very generous fan approached us with the offer that he had some servers and the bandwidth available to donate to us for our own personal use. A lot of options were laid out on the table. Originally, it was to be a FTP Siteop only server, for them to use for their personal trades. Instead we chose to make it available to the public, to better spread the music. The servers and the bandwidth they use are as legal as can be, and that's all you need to know. Questioning that only inflates the sense of greed that has already been rearing its ugly head. We've considered shutting the server off for a day. A week. Indefinitely. But in the end, we don't want to deprive the hundreds of users who are actually appreciative of what we try to provide them. We don't ask for thanks, we don't ask for praise. All that we expect is common courtesy, and the realization that what we do is for the fans, and we try our damnedest to make what we offer the best it can be. When we are criticized and our motives questioned, that is what makes us furious, to the point where we contemplate pulling the plug on it all.

In closing, I want to thank the thousands of fans who realize what a great thing it is to be a fan of this band. There are more resources online for Dave Matthews Band than any other act on the planet. Hundreds of you have written into me and the other staff members thanking us for everything we do, and for that we are truly thankful. It's sad that a few people can piss on everyone's parade to such an extent. It's our love for the band, and the fans, that keeps us doing what we do. For the thousands that are gracious and kind, I want to personally thank you on behalf all everyone here. We're all here for the same reason: love of the Dave Matthews Band. As far as anyone else is concerned: don't let the bastards get you down.

The views and comments expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of antsmarching.org.


   


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