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Fur Affinity bans 'Spam to Win' journals, reposted promos

Your rating: None Average: 4.3 (10 votes)

Furries are pretty creative. Where conventional companies will pay advertising companies, we find new way to promote our products and selves to others. Independent artists in the fandom have to use less conventional means of promotion. Two such staples that have become popular in the fandom over the past year are "Your Character Here" auctions and "Repost a Link" schemes. However, with their increased popularity, users began to criticize abuse of these methods and expressed annoyance at their side effects.

On November 21, after a link-reposting "giveaway" promising the winner $1,111 had saturated the site, Fur Affinity staff decided that what once started as a small advertising scheme had entered the realm of the intolerable, calling the methodology "Spam to Win". They also re-addressed an issue where artists would repost YCH auction template pictures, annoying watches and browsers alike.

In this Flayrah exclusive we will focus on the new journal rules, explain their implications to average furs and furry organizations, and how these type of prize giveaways could evolve under these new regulations and maintain a level of effectiveness.

What is "Spam to Win"?

It all begins with a single post and soon can grow to thousands. A prize giveaway is announced by the runner announcing their intentions. The giveaway is open to all, there is usually just a few rules, but the main item is that the person must post in the comment section a link to another journal on their own page where they point to the original post.

As more people link to the journal, more people see the contest. In turn it could reach everyone on the entire site until it reaches someone who is not interested in participating. For those who don't watch many accounts this can result in one or two repeat notifications. For those central participants with a high watch count, the torrent of repeat notifications can be overwhelming.

Why do they do this? It's a relatively cheap way to get quick advertising for someone who has a low amount of exposure (should the prize be lucrative enough). While these type of contests started as mere art raffles where the winner would get an item from the artist, some users realized that throwing cash into the prize pool was extremely effective and gave more of a return than craft skills.

The comment section for the $1,111 dollar contest which probably brought the new rule about had so many comments that it takes over 500 full spins of the mouse wheel (full screen, 1600x900 resolution) to go from the top to the bottom — and is over 30Mb in size, including images. For each entry comment, there was a journal, until the rule change.

What is the new rule?

These new rule which will have a profound impact on business methods on the site can be found in an announcement.

"Spam to Win" - Journals and submissions which require users to repost or link to the raffle/contest in order to enter are NO LONGER PERMITTED. Too many users have been encouraging mass spamming on the site for entries into raffles or contests. It's gotten out of hand and is inconveniencing the entire community.

One can still run a giveaway, however the creation of an FA journal which links to the original post must not be a consideration for entry.

Winners and losers

Who comes out on top and who comes out on bottom may be surprising. This rule comes with benefits as well as setbacks depending on the party in question:

Winners include:

  • Users who see Fur Affinity as a social networking site rather than a business site will find their journal inboxes lighter of spam.
  • Those who watch many individuals need no longer worry about redundant advertising for a giveaway.
  • Artists who use journals to communicate important information to their customers may no longer have important announcements missed through subconscious filtering of journals as unimportant spam.
  • SoFurry, Inkbunny, Weasyl: These sites have an opportunity to gather up the forlorn losers and offer a way to include the now-forbidden giveaways in their site in a manner that will not agitate their core users. A competent technological staff could easily implement a check box in the journal creation screen that indicates the journal is concerning a giveaway or is giveaway related. With this tag they can then allow users to filter out those journals that have been marked as such. It is clear with this ruling that FA either lacks the technical staff to do this, or the creativity to come up with it. All it would take is for a rival to capitalize on that to further drain FA of business-savvy artists.

The losers are:

  • Those running giveaways which used the link-reposting echo effect that was so effective (and must devise new solutions to draw attention).
  • Up and coming artists who may not have the views, but have the cash to use to 'advertise' what they do. I fall under this category as after seeing the effect of these giveaways was about to incorporate it in my own business strategy. I'm savvy enough to come up with new ideas, others may not be, however luckily for this set of losers I am going to share some of these ideas in the last section.
  • Astro-turf Popufurs- You know, people who give away prizes for more watchers even if they have no products to sell. One could argue they might have fallen into the loser category even before this rule change-- but hey, they're still people who certainly are negatively impacted by this rule change. Sure they're people who buy their friends, but people none the less.

Mixed Bag:

  • Fur Affinity- The rule change is sure to have a positive impact for a majority of users who use it as a social networking site, and does stop an exploitation. It also, probably coincidentally, might have a positive effect on its advertising revenue (as people were discovering that dollar per dollar giving away $20 was more effective than spending it on FA ads). However, the way in which the issue was handled leaves the door open to rival websites to handle the situation in a better manner for all parties instead of "picking a side", as previously discussed.
  • Sweepstakes/raffle consumers and users who enjoyed participating in these events will be less likely to see a chance to win just come to their entry box; however they also may have a greater chance to win on those they do find, because there are fewer entries.

Changes of methodology

The big question is, now that one cannot make posting an FA journal with a link as a means to entry, how can one spread the word in any efficient manner? Now if someone enters into a contest like this they will be less likely to spread the word of their own will because they don't want to hurt their chances of winning.

There are two methods I can think of that individuals can use to get people to spread the word without forcing them to as part of entry:

  1. Having multiple prizes of set amounts that will be spread out depending on the number of entries. For example: "For every 10 entries there will be a $5 giveaway." Or if you want to provide a more 'diminishing return' approach use a logarithmic function to make it so the number of entries has to go up more and more for the next prize to be given.
  2. Similar to #1 but instead of the number of winners going up, the prize itself goes goes up in value. This way you can give you contestants a choice, keep quiet and have a chance to win less, or spread the word and have a lower chance to win more.

When using the two methods above, you should have some cap in mind as they both could go on to infinity otherwise.

These two methodologies can be employed to replace the forced linking and will provide a similar effect, ironically making the new rule pretty useless in the grand scheme of things. Of course when employing them my advice is to have people tell each other via Skype, Twitter and off-FA, or even in the note system; that way these type of ideas don't get banned as well.

Conclusion

While this new rule is an unfortunate turn of events, as truly any regulation is, it'll probably have little impact on the popularity of giveaways as a way to gets one's product or name out there. What will more likely happen is that furries will use their creativity to come together and make better and more engaging contests that encourage participants to spread the word, without forcing them to. With this hindrance comes an opportunity, and it may actually make people think more of you if you can run a successful campaign without using spamming methodologies.

Comments

Your rating: None

Lol. I liked "A competent technological staff could easily..." They don't have a competent technical staff. Your suggestion there requires tag filtering, an idea they have refused to implement for years. Their idea of fixing a problem is just to change the way people do things to work within their limitations. The latest FA announcement has been about how their messaging system can't handle thousands of watchers. Instead of fixing it, their solution is to stagger messages over time to not reach the messaging limit.

In any case I really hate seeing YCH and streaming announcements in my inbox all the time. Most of them seem to be more for attention than any real purpose. But that's all easily solved with tag filtering.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (2 votes)

This is awful. Sorry. Besides the writing. I'm talking about the notion of spamming, "sweepstakes" and fans cannibalizing each other's discretionary incomes with tricks and manipulation, and anything but creativity to get attention.

What happened to good storytelling, good art, and voices with things to say? I thought fans were supposed to gather around principles apart from what makes corporations suck.

I don't care about people making or selling porn when they like it. At least that's natural and fun. But this stuff makes me think of empty echo chambers, and black holes sucking themselves into nothingness.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (2 votes)

As the fandom gets larger, you'll see more and more of these types of methods unfortunately. I know furrys, and the millenial generation in general, have a distinct allergy to any form of advertising, however if it wasn't effective, people wouldn't do it.

It is possible to be creative in art and in marketing, but since many furries are allergic to the later, well, this is what you get. Throw more money at the problem until it creates a new problem-- but enough about politics.

The difference between those who are creative and those who are not is what they can do with the limitations thrown on them. I do welcome the new rule change because if I wanted to run a sweepstakes I wouldn't have to force people to give out links, they'd want to naturally. I think that'd leave a better taste in people's mouth as well and seeing as how controversial these methods have become I'm thankful it was changed before I had just used them as everyone else did.

I wouldn't also use it to 'throw money at people' but to throw my product at people. Establishing writers can find this especially useful to get you book out there by offering x copies for y entries). Or an artists can provide an exclusive print (x copies for y entries). As a furry I'd rather see that. But money talks, so it'd be best to hybrid the two: a grand prize of cash with sub-prizes of your art.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

I'm very happy with the new rule. I've easily seen the amount of spam in my journals cut down by half since banning sweepstakes pimping. Judging by some artist's reactions on FA, they make it seem as if this rule change will somehow destroy their careers as budding artists and force them out onto the streets. There are plenty of ways to gain publicity without essentially starting a chain letter, and if sweepstakes are the only method of gaining watchers that works for a particular artist, then it might be a signal for them to modify their art style or content to appeal to a wider base.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (2 votes)

The one issue that struck me about those huge journals was performance. FA really needs comment paging - at least for their own announcements. That single page about the spam is 17Mb and 1200 requests, including images (it'd be 50Mb if not for duplicates). The HTML alone is near 700k compressed. This wouldn't be such an issue - such journals are rare - except they direct everyone to look at it, and of course this results in lots of comments, just like the ones they're talking about. It can't be good for bandwidth usage or site speed.

. . . and while I was writing, a comment was added stating that this is already high on their list. So, good.

Your logarithmic return suggestion seems like it would discourage people from spreading the word. It is better to have a 1 in 10 chance of $10 than a 1 in 100 chance of $20. Also, I suspect anything which encourages journals will be at risk of being tamped down.

This also only applies to FA journals. People are already saying "you'll get an extra entry if I see you linking in from IB/Weasyl/SF/dA/Tumblr". The people who are using this don't care about the negative impact on any site; they are just looking for a quick route to popularity.

Your rating: None

The post itself seemed to indicate as long as it was not forcing people to make a journal for entry it'd be okay, but we'll have to see exactly what comes out in the new ToS.

That and you can always circumvent that by having the entries done via a note instead of comments, the list of contestants would then be put on a system offsite...say a Google Drive spreadsheet that is view-able by the public but only editable by the owner. With that you can easily do a stream with a random number generator and say the winner is #4563... the put in a cell =A4563 and done. The winner shows up for you automatically.

Much more efficient for the contest runner that way then using the comment sections, no matter what site.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Comment paging is one of many features and interface improvements that many FA users have requested. I could name several I've suggested, and I don't think I'm alone in any of them. We keep waiting for these promised improvements, and waiting, and waiting... I stopped holding my breath years ago. I find it particularly ironic that they are having to devote resources to performance and capacity problems that they might not be having if some of these suggested improvements had been implemented.

Your rating: None

I tell you this stuff actually never bothered me. The rule change doesn't affect me much either. I've participated in one or two of these "spam to win" contests before. After that, I just didn't ever feel the need or desire.

That's the other part of this: the contest is only successful when people still continue to see it as something unique instead of advertising. For the rest of us, it started becoming like Columbiahouse in the 90's, sending thousands of those flyers out a day advertising "25 CD's for a penny!". We all just threw the flyers out and moved on with our lives.

Part of this fandom is creativity. The "spam to win" bit was creative for a while, but got old. This just forces artists to become more creative.

Your rating: None Average: 2.3 (11 votes)

This article is inflammatory and deceitful. GreenReaper appeared in the same giveaway and spread misinformation in an attempt to turn the community against the raffle host. In addition, he has alluded that the raffle sponsor is a ner'do'well who has broken the law, even though multiple people has said he hasn't. He is now using his personal news site as an attack platform, once again proving that GreenReaper is so far removed from the best interests of the furry fandom. Let me quote:

Astro-turf Popufurs- You know, people who give away prizes for more watchers even if they have no products to sell. One could argue they might have fallen into the loser catagory (sic) even before this rule change-- but hey, they're still people who certainly are negatively impacted by this rule change. Sure they're people who buy their friends, but people none the less.

The thick vitriol inside of this remark is hilarious and highlights what I believe to be GreenReaper and FlayRah's agenda to personally attack people. This is historically been an issue within the fandom and continues. This bias is disgusting and only continues to propagate the negative stigma that the community has associated with it. Because someone does a giveaway, it does not give you the right to say that they are "still people" even if they're a "loser."

"buy their friends" is there any way to get clarification on how this operates? How do you 'buy friends'. Do people who enter a raffle come by and paint your house for you? Why even make that remark? What's the point, other than to be mean?

Someone who does something nice for the community, who has purchased a lot of art from both big name artists, small time artists, and who has done a lot at conventions to help people in need does not deserve this kind of treatment from a "trusted furry news source." This is unbecoming of everyone involved.

Sigh, the fandom will never advance as long as this petty drama mongering from people like GreenReaper perpetually continues.

Your rating: None Average: 3.9 (7 votes)

In case you missed it at the top, this article's author is Sonious, one of our regular opinion writers. As is typical for Flayrah, I did not suggest or assign the story - it was written because Sonious felt the topic was worth writing about. (We have many contributors, past and present; and of the 15 stories on the front page, I wrote precisely one.)

I do typically edit work published on Flayrah; but for opinion, I don't seek to change the tone during the editing process. After all, the point is to get the author's opinion. You are of course free to give your own opinion of the piece.

I do not think the $1,111 raffle poster is a ne'er-do-well, cad, bounder, or the like. I do think what he did was against the law in his state, though prosecution is unlikely given that the consideration (naming animals, watching, posting links) had no set monetary value.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

Which reminds me. If anyone who ends up being the lucky winner of one of these things, especially if the prize amount is that high (though you're supposed to on any amount), you need to claim it on your income tax. Don't say you weren't warned.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

Shut up, Xydexx.

Your rating: None

Actually, no (unless you were being ironic). Writing style is wrong, and he doesn't live in the right place.

Now, it does sound quite a lot like a young man I ran into at MFF . . .

Your rating: None

Eh, I was giving it about 50/50. The sarcastic write-in name instead of just anon is one of Xydexx's trademark for Flayrah comment; the other being criticizing of Flayrah in general and you and particular, which this guy also covers.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

That was sort of an opinion I slid in there, I did think about redacting it for a bit thinking that it seemed a bit out of place for the article. However, there are a few cases that I can think of where people were using the system to do more then just give away out of the kindness of their hearts. Typically they required you to WATCH them as well as post a reverb journal.

Of course, you can still do that if you wish, my hope is that one plans on providing something of worth to those watchers other then a chance to win a prize, cause as soon as the number is pulled you'll just lose them all again unless you give someone a reason to stick around.

I did not participate in any of these kind of sweepstakes in the past, and feel no ill will towards the idea of such things. In fact as a writer on the cusp of releasing a furry novel by early next year I was thinking of using the methods myself. This article was the result of the wall this rule change put before me and decided to share these thoughts on it.

The purpose of my raffle, however, would be to promote the book, by giving away free digital copies, the details I'm still fleshing out.

Long rambling short. Nothing against these advertising methods, as long as long as the deal isn't entirely self centered. One could argue that getting my book out is just as self centered as gaining watchers, but my hope would be that people enjoy the item they may not otherwise have heard about, given I'm not a Kyell Gold.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

Here's the thing though, calling someone a loser and telling them that they're buying friends is a large gap between providing the bouquet of knowledge that is "if you don't provide worth for your account, you will lose a lot of the watchers." One of these things is not like the other. Backhanded malicious comments degrading people is one thing, sage advice and opinion is another.

The issue at hand here is that this article takes a potshot at a segment of the furry population, something that you'll often see GreenReaper show up in the comments to lambast the author. It's not cool, nor is it respectable to write that people are losers who buy friends and that we should all come together and consider them people, too.

Remember folks, labeling a statement as opinion does not make it politically correct or give you a free reign to be mean and spiteful. You are still being mean and spiteful and you are still bullying.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

I would really hope that those who are using these methods for the purpose of only boosting their watch numbers are few and far between, perhaps it was a bit mean spirited, sure. I'm actually surprised it wasn't questioned in editing. Other things were I assure you, an entire segment was cut which went over more background about contests and stuff. Basically legalese, but GreenReaper rightly pointed out the law is a grey area which I'm probably not qualified to talk about even though I did some research into it.

Sometimes throwing a little personality into an article makes it more interesting to read. Though if something is out of place it can be distracting. I'm not surprised that this bit came up. If one is doing a contest and putting art into to promote their work that's one thing. People go to FA for the art and giving it out is a great promotional tool, especially for the new comers. However, if one's contest is just throwing cash at people instead of a skill, why sell yourself short? You're just losing money for the feeling of having more watchers. Not the greatest of investment strategies, but I guess one should tolerate people, even when they're doing it wrong. I guess it was a snarky way of saying "Think bigger than yourself."

But while we're on the topic of political correctness, I'd like to share a video where a pundit discusses the very philosophy that I've tried to adhere by through a new concept called "Emotional Correctness".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCJTV5KaJJc&feature=share&list=FLA6ZY5cWTD-BhUGCh...

The jibe was not out of hate and spite for those that use those methods, it was more a "take a step back and look at how ridiculous it is to try and gain watchers via monetary bribery". It may have come off as a bit blunt, and could have been better worded in the context of the article. But not doing everything optimally IS what makes people, people.

I'm sorry you were offended by that one section and hope you got more out of the article than negative emotion. We're furries, we've dealt with worse pot-shots. And quite frankly, if you consider that line bullying, then I'm thankfully you grew up not knowing what real bullying looks like.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

Actually, he wasn't at MFF. I don't even think he knows you from Adam's housecat. But it does show class that you left the comment up.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

I seriously have no idea what's going on, but something tells me the anon comment is more than just about a line in an article...

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

We rarely delete comments, as the goal is to provide an area for open and frank discussion. Our user-based comment moderation and karma system helps to remove truly unproductive discussions (and commenters) from view.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

This rule change wasn't about users being pissed off. It was about people doing this breaking the system. As GR notes above, 700K compressed * lots of furs trying to win money, all on FA's already very broken infrastructure could not have been good for them.

Any solution that has the potential to replicate the problem will likely be met with a similar ban.

Your rating: None

I am just a little saddened by this change. Surprised, not at all, but just a little saddened.

Let me clarify. When the spam to wins started I thought it was the most annoying process possible. But then I discovered ones started popping up advertising things that I've been looking for that I've not been able to find. Starting to follow them I found artists I would have never have found normally and are now at the top of my watches because of these journals. Never won anything, yet still feel the winner for the artists I have found when the advertisements at top and bottom are usually just filled with the same repeated stuff I've not been interested. Yes there are interesting things in those ads, but I notice some that I don't have interest in is repeated a -LOT- more than other ads (dear lord, I can actually remember the name of that comic).

Flipside, I knew this reached ridiculous levels when I looked up and saw people were offering money in the raffles. That's where I thought things were going to start breaking. When it's artists doing such it's a way to get attention to their work but when it became money it was just buying popularity, which I thought was just silly. I can't blame FA for dealing with a situation like that which becomes an annoyance to its user base.

All in all, I hope something like this pops back up again for the artists, but there's no going to stop those buying popularity from abusing the system, so we get to watch the constant evolution as to what's next.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

I find that spam giveaway raffle only gets you watches with no money.
-Shouta, The Haibane

Your rating: None

You know I didn't think about it that way-- kind of a good point.

Though, on the same token, even rich wall street cats have lottery pools. If it's to give out a product that someone can buy if they don't win, some might just do that.

Doing giveaways is certainly not someone like a Blotch or a Kyell would need to do. It's works better for those who are willing to take a loss. It's ironically just as much a gamble for the person running it as the ones participating. You could give away 10 copies of your book and still no one will buy it, which means you had to pay for your own book 10 times, and if they're physical copies, probably even shipping.

So as a breakfast commercial would say: Giveaways should be part of a balanced marketing plan.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Here's an excellent example of why there are laws about this kind of thing: A user offers "a completely free PS4" (including Canadian shipping) on familiar terms. Reposts and +watches ensue. Then, all of a sudden, the raffle is cancelled! Why?

I am no longer having an extra PS4 now because of my mother decide to take it back after found out about the raffle that I was host for it.

How did it happened? Well… I told her what I was going to do with an extra PS4 after she asked about it. So she didn't too happy about it, and she want it back, then she can give to my little brother for his gift, since she is now know that I already own a PS4.

I can do nothing about it but listen and give it back to her because it's her own money that she brought with it.

Most comments to this are very understanding. But not all.

Personally I feel that since he does have a PS4 of his own, he should fulfil his contract and give it away.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

While I do believe people should keep their word, and will pay the consequences if they don't, is it fair to those who run legitimate giveaways to be punished for those that do not? Should FA ban all uploading since some people abuse it by uploading cub or YCH things multiple times?

If I were that mother, I'd probably tell my kid "you ever give away a gift I give to you in a raffle, I'll be sure to cut the middle man next year and donate them to toys for tots instead."

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Real laws punish responsible people to prevent reckless or criminal elements from doing damage all the time.

What might make these safer is if the item or money to be given away were transferred to a third party who held it in trust. Then, people participating would be secure in the knowledge that the person running the competition could not renege on their promises.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Also if the said third party were to run all sorts of contests in the fandom it may be easier for them to get the word out for those interest in such things than just doing one oneself to all the various websites. If they wanted to they might even be able to monetize it by charging the prize provider a fee for the service, if the idea caught on (given if that would be legal).

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

The entire problem though as I've stated before is that it becomes monotonous. Personally, I got into the habit of just deleting journals that where just links to other journals for the sake of free stuff.

Its like you touched on earlier: it was creative - at one point. Then everyone started doing it. Remember when alternative finally broke big? It was creative for about 18 months. Than everyone started doing it and all of a sudden its no longer creative, its just the crap that's on the radio.

Advertising is the same way. There could be alternatives that didn't cause as big of a problem as the "link my journal and get a trillion dollars" stuff.

Just my two pennies.

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About the author

Sonious (Tantroo McNally)read storiescontact (login required)

a Kangaroo from Syracroose, NY, interested in video games, current events, politics, philosophy and writing

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