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Doing the FA tango; one step forward, two steps back

Your rating: None Average: 3.9 (16 votes)

One must wonder whether it's time Dragoneer stepped down as head of Fur Affinity, as he continues to make poor leadership decisions. Earlier this year, he stirred controversy by announcing Zaush, who'd been accused of rape, as development lead for Project Phoenix. This time he has made sure there are no lingering doubts over the suitability of his appointments by choosing a fur with a history of maladministration.

StarryKitten was recently announced as the new head of the FA tech team, tasked in part with “bringing more transparency” to FA. Some noticed that StarryKitten had only joined FA about a week before the announcement was made. As it transpires, StarryKitten was an alternate account created by the infamous Zidonuke, the real head of the FA tech team.

StarryKitten: I am Zidonuke (Fur Affinity)

With the concept of irony easily going right over Dragoneer's head, it was further revealed that the tech lead with a puppet account has been a secret member of staff since 2013:

I've actually been a hidden admin on the FA staff for over a year now.

Zidonuke

There is probably good reason for keeping Zidonuke's involvement with the site secret. Four years ago, Zidonuke was responsible for not only spying on users of furry role-playing site F-list, but building back doors into the code, stealing database information and – upon being found out – promoting all users to admin level and clearing the ban list. He's also been known (using the name Doridian) to have caused problems on many non-furry services such as Garry's Mod in 2010, Terraria in 2011 and Pokemon World Online in 2011, where he, again, deleted data and hacked into private accounts and messages. Though those were in the past, he's been seen logging into hacking forums this month.

So why would someone appoint a person with a history of griefing, deleting data and building backdoors to the position of tech lead? In StarryKitten/Zidonuke's words, “Dragoneer was my next door neighbor and is my co-worker. We interact daily.” He got the position because he's buddies with Dragoneer, despite having a history that would suggest giving him any position of power would be a terrible mistake.

There's nothing new about Dragoneer promoting friends and family who are otherwise unsuitable. In 2012 he appointed a new admin, Sciggles, onto the FA staff. She was not only his fiancée at the time, creating a conflict of interest and an example of nepotism, but had been suspended from FA the year before and Dragoneer had said he would never make her an admin.

Considering all this secrecy happened after the appointment, at the same time as Zaush, of Nanuk as product and marketing lead (although his profile suggests he is no longer a member of staff) who would be “maintain[ing] transparency with the community”, one has to wonder how their other projects are going. Well, to keep to the theme, one week later, FA again mentioned it's commitment to transparency, in the same update that they admitted that they “hid and removed content that brought up [allegations about Zaush].”

DDoS fundraiser

One aspect of the site that is often spoken about is that of funding. I'm sure we all recognise that FA is a major furry site and will have higher running and hardware costs than the alternatives, but it often appears that the money is not being used appropriately. For example, FA bought two servers in 2013 and one of them is still not in active service.

In October, during the large scale furry DDoS attack, FA began seeking funds because they were “looking at migrating our hosts to a new system (we're still researching where) and are raising donations to do so.” They also generously offered to give 10% of the donations to SoFurry.

FA's GoFundMe announcement expanded the call for donations to upgrading storage hardware, cloud backup, and support ticketing. A few days later, FA revealed they had received just over US$17?000 in donations for the site. The stated reason for fundraising had changed, though:

The purpose behind this was three-fold: A) to raise money to help directly improve the site and response (afford better DDOS protection), B) improve infrastructure (improve FA’s storage servers) and C) help pay existing debts the site has incurred over time. We are currently in talks with our host to improve and expand our DDOS protection and are looking into increasing storage space.

To move forward, Fur Affinity's leaders would have us forget the past.

What debts? In a Reddit comment, Dragoneer revealed that FA had incurred a US$10?000 tax debt! While I don't believe any of the rumours that Dragoneer had anything to do with the DDoS, I do find it strange that this is the only mention of the debt. Part of it was supposedly due to the convention they run, but FA: United 7 was held in August. At least part of this bill must have been known for months, yet it remained unannounced until the drive was successful. Despite repeatedly stressing transparency, staff neglected to speak up before collecting from fans.

The latest announcement has no mention of any debts, saying that, other than the funds for SoFurry, the money is “being held aside while we look into making hardware/software investments into the site.”

Project Phoenix

Through various updates, we have been assured that, although past projects had problems, Project Phoenix will be different:

We acknowledge that there have been quite a few and we apologize for this, as none came to fruition. Many of these were simply a refresh of the user interface, which often times didn’t pan out due to complications with the site’s existing code that needed to be fixed.

It seems as though they are saying Project Phoenix should do better because it's a complete change to the code base. As I pointed out before, these projects to update FA have been going on for almost ten years now with little to show for it.

One real and positive difference between Project Phoenix and earlier attempts is that it is open source with the Github repository available here. Less encouragingly, there are only four contributors, with the top contributor having made 128 commits; the next best has made just two.

FA has succeeded in making some minor changes to their interface but failed to fulfil a promised release of a new beta interface in early October. It is now mid-November and no open beta has been announced. [OK, so there was that DDoS… - ed.]

Conclusion

A minor FA interface update and (unsolicited) mutual fundraising with SoFurry are about the only positive stories to come out of FA this year. These are overshadowed by the lack of real progress on their bigger interface and overhaul projects, utter failure to live up to their stated transparency goals, and Dragoneer's widely unpopular and ill-advised staff appointments.

Comments

Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (2 votes)

It's unclear to me how much Zaush is involved with Project Phoenix at this point, actually -- as you noted, nearly all the visible work has come from Charmander, who's also a developer on Weasyl. My impression has been that Charmander is not Zaush. Is that wrong? And if it's right, where did Zaush go?

- Chipotle

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

I did have some of those same questions myself but decided he might be co-ordinating and designing the layout, colour schemes and all that rather than the actual coding. Although checking up on his page right now, he's just list as a member so perhaps he was silently dropped from the project. But then again it's almost impossible to find out who is on staff as you will find different answers depending where you look.

"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: 3.5 (4 votes)

For all we know, Charmander is Zidonuke, too. Might explain why dev slowed, he got diverted to the site - and as StarryKitten he said he'd "never work on Phoenix", which would make perfect sense since that's a different persona.

Your rating: None Average: 2.8 (13 votes)

I'll give this article a good rating while disagreeing. The cult of "let's complain about Dragoneer" is rife with bad non-sequitur reasoning. (A little here and a lot in general). With those things, you get one real complaint about a shady admin, two false whines.

I don't know the guy, but I reject what amounts to whining. Or worse (there's whole forums set up for worse, uggh.) It's like the neighborhood gardening club complaining about how they want to use your lawn.

The guy owns a vanity project. Nobody elects him to lead, he doesn't profit from data (it costs him.) But people seem to feel entitled to tell him what to do. It's not a class of consumers, it boils down to a false stakeholder claim- "we're the community". What "we"? People claim a label by choice because they merely share a hobby. It's voluntary association. I like that nobody has power to approve others' presence or speak for me. I wouldn't want it any other way. I avoid saying "we" whenever possible and I find it tacky.

"The community" uses the site but users aren't "the community". Treating it like that looks suspiciously like gatekeeper envy. Not that there's real gatekeeping, when any number of free sites offer the same thing.

He should only "step down as head of Fur Affinity" if you pay him what the site is worth, if he feels like it. "Promoting friends and family who are otherwise unsuitable... creating a conflict of interest and an example of nepotism" - suitable according to who? Nepotism applies to unpaid work? If "Dragoneer's widely unpopular and ill-advised staff appointments" run it into the ground, that's a Caveat Emptor situation of "user beware".

I'm glad "popularity" means little. Thank that for all the freedom to make porn (despite outside judgement), and a home-grown subculture of creativity that the rest of the world thinks is weird and freaky and can't be forced into a commercial mode.

But wait, I'm not just arguing - there's a solution implied. It's not whining, it's creativity and setting an example. Action for alternatives deserves more respect than complaining.

Speaking of collective interest, it reminds me of a conversation about unions. A teacher expanded my understanding. There were two factories in town - one had a union and the other didn't. One could put out cheaper goods, but the other could take the better workers with better pay - it made a good balance while if both had unions, costs would kill business. It's complicated (and I generally support them), especially with global capitalism screwing up local communities. But that sort-of analogy fits a "community" that doesn't have big business in it.

Your rating: None Average: 3.6 (7 votes)

"Thank that for all the porn people make (despite outside judgement), and a home-grown subculture of creativity that the rest of the world thinks is weird and freaky and can't be forced into a commercial mode."

So people aren't paying 20 - 100 bucks to have picture of their fursonas in YCH porn pictures? Transactions that are hindered when the site hosting them goes down?

Of course Dragoneer is under no legal obligation to maintain a structure for furries to do their business, heck he could ban ALL financial transactions for art done on the site if he wanted to. But it does suck when it does for those that rely on it the most.

And you can bet those who rely on it the most will continue to look for other options. I mean, I can think of a model that could work, but I've been so bogged down in 55+ hour work weeks that I haven't even had time to do any video game reviews on my ever expanding list.

I mean, for October I was going to do 5 night at freddys... now they already have a sequel out. And Armello is coming out on Beta this week (for which I'd have a key). I feel like life is moving at the speed of light and now with a storm shutting down my work's sister office my primary work load is going to get significantly worse...

God I wish I had time to worry about a furry site right now...

Your rating: None Average: 4.2 (5 votes)

I mostly agree. It's not as if "head of Fur Affinity" is an elected position. I suspect a lot of the kvetching -- well, beyond furrydom's marked tendency toward tall poppy syndrome -- comes from a certain level of incredulity at Dragoneer's implicit refusal to acknowledge that Fur Affinity's outsized importance to the furry community should carry a sense of responsibility that he often doesn't seem to exhibit.

I think it's pretty clear at this point that FA survives almost entirely due to the network effect -- everyone stays there because everyone is there. FA is ripe for disruption, but so far everyone who's tried has insisted on building something that hews very closely to FA's interaction model, just tweaking little bits here and there (we have better folder management, we have a submission queue system, etc.). If FA could be disrupted by what amounts to "the same thing but prettier and without the staffing issues," it would have been by now. But the first group that can present a rethought user experience that beats FA at the things FA is good at -- which I don't think any of the existing competitors do, bluntly -- has a good chance of walking away with everything. (I'd be ironic if that group turns out to be, well, FA, but I'm highly skeptical that could ever happen.)

- Chipotle

Your rating: None Average: 4 (3 votes)

I think there's one thing more fundamental than others, that doesn't allow alternatives to ad-hoc organizations that are mostly vanity projects served by loose commitment at best. It's barriers to real business organization.

Stigma is a barrier- a bad and good thing. Then there's simply size of "The Furry economy". There aren't enough furry fans in the world. Tens of thousands won't sustain a consumer base for profit-making activity that caters to them, larger than cottage-industry. I'll bet there are no more than small dozens of "furry businesses" (beyond freelancing) that even support part-time income - dealers, fursuit makers, web services and such.

(Not that there's anything wrong with hobby- it is FANdom!)

What ARE the biggest "furry businesses"? Anthrocon (a nonprofit) has mid-six figure budget. Bad Dragon and popular porn sites may do some mid-six figure revenue (correct me if you know more than a very casual guesstimate). Maybe there are some gaming communities (not exactly capital-f Furry) of a few thousand members. The handful of publishers must do runs of hundreds, maybe a thousand only on print books - I doubt it affords the owners themselves a living, let alone authors.

Not even millions in revenue means you support a handful of employees, smaller than the neighborhood auto shop. Say tens of thousands of fans spend average of $100 a year on a furry hobby (con-going fursuiters likely at the top end) - some number like that helps show the size of a "furry economy".

But people want a facebook-like experience from a professionally run site, requiring maintenance by full-time labor... not going to happen without paying for it. You will get hobby service.

I agree - FA is ripe for disruption by "the first group that can present a rethought user experience that beats FA at the things FA is good at".

I don't think FA has a lot to worry about, because there isn't money in it. Some fandoms swell when Hollywood comes knocking - not here, and that's good.

The bright side is that fans are good at accomplishing amazing things without money, for passion. Furries are some of the most passionate fans there are, that's why they're loveable. Is making a better site a sexy enough kind of project to bring them together? It seems like a lot of thankless technical drudge to me. I'd just as soon see a great furry feature film first. But keep watching the topic. :)

Your rating: None Average: 4 (3 votes)

Well, making a better site has been a sexy enough project to bring people together on multiple occasions, right? I don't think anyone expects that they'll make a living running a furry archive site -- figuring out a way to just make one pay for itself is already a tall order, I suspect.

I think it's the UX design that's really the big hurdle. Doing something really different UX-wise is going to be highly polarizing: lose any "features," even if they don't fit at all with the site vision you have, and there will be a large minority who will scream bloody murder. But I think that's also the only way forward. FA was not just a better VCL -- it was a completely different interaction model.

Tumblr is actually my go-to example for this sort of thing, as weird as it sounds. Tumblr is basically a blogging platform and compared to a lot of traditional ones it's pretty limited, but it has two killer features: social features and really low friction when it comes to posting not only text but media. I think one could make a good case that it's basically destroyed LiveJournal (and a whole class of similar "journaling" sites), but I think it's also making inroads against art sites without really even trying. My suspicion is that if someone really wanted to build a "next generation" FA, they could do a lot worse than to seriously think about what Tumblr gets right.

(And, yes, this is something I've certainly thought about, but it's not something I have the time to try and seriously kick off. I have an already existing quixotic project to revive before considering any new ones...)

- Chipotle

Your rating: None Average: 2.7 (3 votes)

I've seen that argument before. But Tumblr is a very different kind of site to a shared art gallery. You can certainly do stuff and get followers on both kinds of site, but it's awkward if your goal is to present an ordered collection of art to a wide audience as opposed to a stream of artistic output to your friends.

ArtSpots tried to be both at once and ended up not doing either well. It could be done, but not overnight.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (2 votes)

Of course it's a different kind of site -- but generally that's what's most successful at disrupting old technologies. It's not that they're one-for-one replacements, but they turn out to be better at the jobs you're hiring them for, to use Shirky-speak.

Obviously, if the job you're hiring FA for is to be a gallery site, Tumblr is worse than FA. (I don't actually think FA is particularly good at it, either, but it's better than Tumblr.) But I think for a lot of people FA's job is to show them new stuff from artists they follow as well as discovering new stuff by seeing what those artists (and perhaps other followers of those artists) like, and for that job Tumblr kicks ass seven ways to Sunday. I can't believe that there's not a lesson that can be applied here.

- Chipotle

Your rating: None Average: 4 (6 votes)

You're totally right about it not being an elected position and I don't disagree that he has the right to run the site how he wants. However, I don't think that's a good justification for running it badly. As FA is the biggest furry site and some people do depend on it for their income, perhaps it, and by extension he, should be held to a higher standard. Even if we don't hold him to a higher standard I think that the way FA is run, particularly when there is so much blatant hypocrisy, is of interest.

I could give a better answer later in the day but this is just a quick response before I head off.

"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: 3.4 (5 votes)

Depending on commissions at FurAffinity doesn't entitle users to demand services any more than buskers putting hats out at a mall food court can. (I hear malls aren't doing very well, but they at least sustain a business with paying tenants - FA doesn't beyond minor ad sales.) If an art student of mine had this problem, I would shake my head and advise trying a back up career.

If this is a problem, you could sooner complain about payment processors being bad to artists for arbitrary moral reasons, and not allowing enough options for them to set up independent operations.

Ironically, it's porn artists relationship with payment processors (or just mainstream business) that help cause FA's limits, that hold it back from sustaining business and being able to offer a more solid platform for the artists. Dragoneer could just as soon castigate porn artists for ruining the party for everyone else... but no, he likes them and makes FA more or less a haven for them. Who owes who?

Your rating: None Average: 4 (3 votes)

On the other hand, people just gave FA over $17 000. Perhaps that entitles them to a little something? This also isn't the first time people have donated to FA.

"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: 3 (4 votes)

I agree. But if you donate to a business (despite it not making real profit) that's not the same as charity. Morally, they should expect something. Realistically it's no better than giving money to a friend, hoping for the best but not expecting it back. Kickstarter built a model of crowd funding on that.

No organization is ideal- collab and volunteer projects and hippie collectives are full of trade offs. People work with "who you know" if they can't buy "the best". Big business is all about efficiency but sucks for culture. Group volunteerism craps out whatever it can get done, the way people want (who wants to scrub toilets or take out the trash?) It calls for low expectations, but keep high aspirations. With the right chemistry fans can make magic.

Your rating: None Average: 3.3 (3 votes)

The issue here is not a nebulous "plans change" kind of thing, but someone saying that they needed money to purchase specific goods and services, taking said money, and the very next day turning around and saying that a chunk of it would be used to pay down a large, previously-unannounced tax debt.

Your rating: None Average: 2.5 (4 votes)

The GoFundMe drive linked above was NOT specific - it didn't break down a budget of costs for equipment. It simply offers "levels" to general supporters.

It sounds as likely an error of omission as anything else, I'd say dig deeper if you want to suggest there's scandal in it. If you find $10,000 in mansion upgrades it's a scandal. He doesn't live in style.

Tax is weird. I've been running a business for 10 years and have a hard time understanding quarterly obligations with help of a CPA. They called me in trouble this year for an honest mistake and ended up paying me for answering.

How in touch is Dragoneer with his CPA? Who keeps a running tally of debts vs. write offs... yearly estimates are common... and $10k is minor with average operating costs for a small business.

If the IRS is actively knocking, that also can be a bind of pressure but difficulty to break it down. Asking for help with operating costs is easy, debts less so. A drive may honestly plan to spend on what it asks for, (but oh, it will also quietly pay this other cost which isn't optional or extravagant.) Yeah that's not cool but the whole topic is depressing (see what I'm saying... doesn't raise support.) ACTUAL con artists don't work with schemes that make them look bad, they use smokescreens. BTW I HATE con artists.

It sounds like a buyer beware lesson - ask him to prove spending if you will donate. Ask for a specific budget. And don't accept failure again.

Your rating: None Average: 4.3 (6 votes)

If you read carefully, you'll find two key uses for the funds raised:
* "upgrade our file storage servers to allow larger file sizes" (stated in various ways)
* "introduce off-site cloud backups"
Other development-related goals are mentioned, but they don't relate to funds raised.

If "we raise enough money", they would also:
* "invest in a better ticket tracking system"
* "help bring on more admins" (not sure how money helps here, but it was linked)

These are the things donors would expect the campaign money to be spent on. Not mentioning the debt means that either it wasn't considered during drafting (possible, but bear in mind this campaign had been planned for a while), or it was and they decided not to talk about it because it might look bad/discourage donations.

I understand that operating costs are harder to raise than capital costs (hence the "invest" wording on what would likely be an operational expense), and debt even moreso, but other indebted furry organizations have raised money.

If FA decides, under sound technical advice, not to spend its money on the things they asked donors to support, that's fair enough; but it means they need to think far more carefully about what they're fundraising next time.

Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (2 votes)

Yeah, I take back the not specific comment, and people should require seeing a budget before donating to a fundraiser.

Your rating: None Average: 3.9 (7 votes)

"I'm glad "popularity" means little."

...What? You think popularity means LITTLE on FA? Do you actually USE the site from time to time? Popularity is EVERYTHING where some users and their consumers are concerned. FA is a roiling cesspool of popularity based snobbery and holier-than-thou schmoozing. These people, and especially those who're in charge of the site, know how to play the game almost as well as the world's best greasy politicians. They court the right (i.e. most popular) users, suck-up in the right circles, ass-kiss just enough to get a firm base of supporters and indulgently let those they're manipulating to bask in the reflected glory to convince them they're getting something back. Hah, popularity means little on Furaffinity? FA is the high-school popularity contest from hell and with porn and money involved.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (3 votes)

Popularity is relative. It only matters to those who have it and exploit it, or those that don't have it and wish they could exploit it.

Your rating: None Average: 3.5 (2 votes)

Sonious got it, popularity is relative. Do you announce to your family and employers that you are a furry? How many do? How about enjoying furry porn on FA. Is it a popular thing to do? If it ignores taste and makes a haven for porn, that brings a certain freedom...

The reference from the OP: "Dragoneer's widely unpopular and ill-advised staff appointments." - What qualifies popularity to rule management of a privately owned thing?

If popular management is unimportant to Dragoneer and FA runs aground, it's not an important thing in life. Be careful of investing too much attention in a sealed-in clique, and make time to leave the house sometimes. :)

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

I wasn't suggesting decisions should just be what makes people happy. I think making decisions purely on whether they are popular or not is one of the problems with politics these days. Sometimes actions are needed that are unpopular. The point of bringing it up here is the disconnect with the way Dragoneer is running FA and what the furs using FA want. It's possible he could make good but unpopular decisions and that would be fine, but I don't think he has the results to back up his decisions. Making unpopular decisions that work out well it good, making unpopular decisions that don't lead anywhere is bad.

"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: 2 (8 votes)

For a Flayrah story I was expecting something much more objective about current issues with FA, but this seems intended as a one-sided snarky opinion about Dragoneer's already notorious idiocy. Maybe articles like this should be preceded with a clear indicator that the article is one person's opinion and does not reflect the opinions or Flayrah's staff or the NPOV guidelines by which they typically abide.

Your rating: None Average: 3.1 (7 votes)

"Rakuen Growlithe" as the author with "FA" in the title was enough for me to know what I was getting into.

Your rating: None Average: 4.2 (5 votes)

We publish what is submitted, roughly speaking - which is what people have the time and inclination to write. You're welcome to provide your own perspective, or attempt a neutral one; in the comments, or a story of your own.

The story is tagged as opinion. I appreciate this is not as easy to see in advance if you are coming from, say, Twitter, and not the front page; though Sonious has a good point, too. Perhaps highlighting the sections at the top to which a story belongs would help? I'd prefer this to prefacing every opinion article title with "Opinion:", which is wasteful of space.

Edit: There we go. Hopefully not too distracting! Will have to see how it goes.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (4 votes)

Honestly I've become somewhat disillusioned with the "objectivity" idea in media. It seems to have lent itself to a number of bad decisions where opposing sides are always treated as though they are equals when one is a crank minority, e.g. creationism and evolution or reports on climate change. At times that sort of reporting makes sense and I do think it has a place but for some things it just doesn't work. So yes, this has a lot of opinion thrown in as well but I like to think that I'm writing to young adults and up and that they are able to distinguish between what is fact and what is opinion.

More important to me is that the content is accurate. If there's a bias to the story that's fine but that bias better be based around some sort of truth. If I have misinterpreted a post incorrectly or if one of the sources is mistaken then that is something I am concerned about.

"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: 3.5 (6 votes)

As I've been doing my "History of Furry Fandom" panels over the last couple of years, one of the things I've pointed out is that our fandom has reached a rather awkward stage of growth in terms of hosting art sites. We've got a large enough online userbase, that hosting a major furry art site now costs a good chunk of money to run. Equipment, network use... And where does the money to keep it running come from? The admins, mostly, whatever their day jobs are.

Except when you get home, there's no break from work, no vacation. You have this behemoth of a web site to maintain, moderate and administrate. So you add more people to help admin the thing, and soon they've got no spare time either. And for what? Constant drama. Idiotic fights between teens with emotional issues. Some people just delighting in trolling. Sockpuppet accounts. People stealing or tracing other people's artwork. People not tagging their images properly. Images that push or break the boundaries of acceptable content. Different admins moderating to different personal standards, and then being faced with users who delight in catching them with any hint of discrepancy, broken promises, double-standards or favoritism. And never getting paid for the trouble. You post a tweet, and a constant circle of vultures dive-bomb it, looking for something to use against you.

Over time, what do you think happens? You get overworked, annoyed admins who, after a certain point, don't give a shit. Most of this Dragoneer-bashing is simply arguing over what he does or doesn't give a shit about. Thing is, it's his site; if you're not paying for it or running it, you get what you pay for. I've seen other websites and message forums with smaller userbases run far more tyranically. Can we hold him to a higher standard? Absolutely. Does he have to conform to our standards? Nope.

Is there a solution? Yeah, either volunteer to help moderate the constant derp, or figure out a way to get the site professionally re-coded without exacerbating the current situation. (Ha.) Or - leave Dragoneer and his crew alone. Let them do whatever they're doing, with as little stress as possible. Will the site become better? Who knows. But the more you annoy them - even if you're completely morally justified in your complaints - the less likely the site will improve, or if it does, the longer and longer it will take. Don't chase away and burn out people who are trying to do something, even if they're not specialists at fixing the particular problem.

Ok, now for my personal anti-FA gripe! It's quite modest. Recently in the Browse drop-down menus, under "Type" they added "My Little Pony / Brony". Speaking as a librarian, this was the wrong place to add the category. Sure, the MLP universe has a couple of other species, but over 90% of the art is horse-based. And for years now, people who search for horse art have been unable to separate out the MLP stuff. In addition, you can only choose one thing under Type at a time - e.g., you can't combine, say, "Type - Doodles" with "Type - My Little Pony / Brony". It would be much better to scrap that Type, and instead put it under "Species" - You've got "Horse" there already; made a second entry right afterwards called "Horse-MLP" or something. Now the non-MLP horse furs can more easily find art they like; the MLP fans can more easily combine MLP with any of the weird Type categories... Problems solved! Search filtering becomes 20% cooler.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

Exactly.

Your rating: None Average: 3.8 (5 votes)

I don't buy the whole "it's free, so you get what you pay for" angle. If you're going to make the effort to do something then I think you should at least make the effort to do it properly. I know that it takes time and effort to run a site and the stress that comes when something goes really wrong; I've been moderating and administrating a furry forum for about six years now. But you know what you're getting into and I think you should have the decency to do what you set out to do and to do it properly.

You make it sound like helping out is a viable option. I applied to be a moderator on the FA forums a few years back. At the time I had wide involvement in the furry fandom, writing stories, drawing pictures and writing Flayrah articles. I was also owner of a small furry forum (Later shut down due to lack of activity) and I had a probably three years experience as moderator on another furry forum. I doubt other applicants were better suited but unless you're in Dragoneer's circle of friends you have no chance of getting in.

"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~

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Judging by this article, perhaps there was reason not to count your application as neutral? Not saying opinions are bad, but I don't think this rebuts Dronon.

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Heh, maybe. I think at the time I was mostly complaining on their forums. I did want to help the site and I certainly think I would've been a good choice based on my background. Dragoneer doesn't want someone to help the site though, he wants people to do what he wants. I was just an example. I've heard that many times people have offered to help with the site coding but been rejected and we wind up with the community suffering while FA projects invariably end in failure.

"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: 3.5 (2 votes)

There has to be a principle that describes how volunteer leadership accrues to incompetent people with the most free time on their hands. Who are often unoccupied because competent people are busy being in demand elsewhere. Like newspaper editorial letters get dominated by cranky crazy people (the old school equivalent of Youtube comments) or school boards get taken over by whacko creationists because nobody else is running for the positions.

Sometimes someone finds their place of leadership that way, and it's OK to just leave them alone as long as they don't break anything too badly. Other times you give them enough rope to hang themselves.

Not saying this describes Dragoneer (I don't know him) but it happens :)

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Relevant reading: Peter Principle - Dunning-Kruger effect - Founder's syndrome (often a problem in furry) - inverse correlation of organizational efficiency to size (why not to just hire more staff) - Parkinson's law of triviality.

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As far as decisions though, this new tech lead is not the worst one he's ever made. I think it's quite bold, if not a little dangerous. I mean this person has at least proven they have technical skills. They may have used them in not so good ways which makes me weary. But the fact is, FA as it is right now is dangerous if you're concerned about privacy and security.

So as far as data security goes, to me nothing has changed. What has changed though is that they may have someone at the helm that, if they don't be evil, could actually improve things for the better. It's not like my criticism of Zauch's hiring where I noted he had no completed projects that required advanced technical skills.

Yes, this individual has shown they can wear the black hat. But if he's wearing a black hat and he is good friends with Dragoneer, and Dragoneer constantly reminds this new guy that anything he does bad makes HIM look bad so don't do it no matter what. Then, and only then might this actually work.

If not, and history does repeat itself... or if Dragoneer and the Kitten have a falling out, lord help FA.

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If he has changed then he probably would have the skills to help FA. But that's taking quite a gamble when on a site as big as FA and in a fandom as IT focussed as the furry fandom there must plenty of good coders without a shady past.

"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~

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I suspect part of the problem is that FA needs to find good coders who are willing to work under FA's management conditions. Even allowing for all of Patch's very valid points about volunteer projects, that's asking a fair amount.

- Chipotle

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Fur Affinity has announced the departure of StarryKitten (though who knows quite what that means - after all, he's supposedly been staff for a year without notice):

Change of Staff: StarryKitten has stepped down from the staff and left the development team. His access been removed from our systems.

I'm torn over this issue. FA could use all the good technical support that it can get, and I'm sure if he was employed at Amazon he'd have picked a few things up. But man, how can you trust him after all that? Especially in a position where he might have access to code and data?

Maybe if developers were separated from the site - but on a furry site you know high-level devs will have access to live systems and data; there simply aren't enough people to do otherwise (there's a good chance they're your best sysadmins, too).

As for transparency, I don't think "utter failure" is entirely fair. The Trello board, for example - now hidden or wiped - provided more visibility into development processes than available on most furry sites. Perhaps too much, as it was ultimately used as ammunition against staff. Fur Affinity has so many detractors that anything negative (say, leaving a database machine unused) is pounced on, even when they appear to be actively resolving that situation; so a certain reticence is understandable. Why say anything when it's used to stab you in the back?

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Quick notice:
That announcement has since disappeared again. Who knows WHAT is going on at this point.

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I didn't see that announcement but I did notice that both Starrykitten and Zidonuke's profiles are hidden. Maybe Dragoneer change his mind, maybe he's just covering things up. I suppose we can only wait and see.

"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 (1 vote)

On a furry site you know high-level devs will have access to live systems and data; there simply aren't enough people to do otherwise.

Hmm. I don't know how many SoFurry devs have access to live systems, but I can assure you that not all of them do. They're expected to test on local installations, and only ops staff have the ability to push code live after it goes through a review process. I'd actually argue most developers should not have direct access to the system running in production, not as much for fear of nefarious activity as for fear of pushing broken code.

- Chipotle

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That's why I said "high-level". He was named tech lead, after all. :-) Inkbunny has a similar setup.

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This is a really weird bit of conversation from Dragoneer's Twitter account. https://twitter.com/bitterbaph/status/535422393125052416

NEER.EXE ?@Dragoneer 2 hours ago
@bitterbaph I have no reason to lie. I'm dealing with enough shit as it is. Zido mispoke. He was NEVER an admin. Period.

NEER.EXE ?@Dragoneer 2 hours ago
@bitterbaph He had admin access SOLELY to review the admin backend, test fixes and code. That's it. No more.

Dibs ?@dibleton 2 hours ago
@Dragoneer @bitterbaph Wait that's confusing. He wasnt an admin with access (until the other day), yet had some admin access to review?

NEER.EXE ?@Dragoneer 2 hours ago
@dibleton @bitterbaph No. We worked with him to discuss changes, fixes and to help review items for code (working with us directly).

That's looking really unclear. Seems like Zidonuke wasn't an admin, contra to what he said, but he did have admin access, which is I think what people were really concerned about.

I also find this amusing. In same conversation but why the Trello is no longer up.

NEER.EXE ?@Dragoneer 2 hours ago
@bitterbaph Jake was in minimal use, yes. I'm not happy about that. And Trello was run by Zido, so... we're looking at getting it back

"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: 3.2 (6 votes)

that seems to be about par for the course for glorious leader-bean. you could point-blank ask him the same damn question 50 times and you'd get 50 different, rambling, deflecting, slightly peeved sounding answers. that's how he rolls; dancing as fast as he can to make sure everyone understands that he's so PUT-UPON day in day out and that he's the victim once all is said and done.

so it begs two possibilities; he's so stupid he has absolutely NO idea what the hell he's doing/what's going on/where he is. which wouldn't surprise me save that there are photographs of him and normally when something is that dense light bends around it. orrrr... he's crazy/dumb like a fox and the sweet, affable, aw-shucks who me? routine is about as real as the fucks he gives about anyone who uses his website but who isn't in his pocket/pants.

you can certainly SEE the darker, manipulative angry side of him when he feels too put upon on things like twitter and he lashes out before hastily and hamhandedly apologizing or whitewashing it over. for the decade or so since his hostile take-over of FA he's guarded his fiefdom like his balls and anyone that asks too many questions or proves to be a liability to his sterling facade gets thrown under the bus ASAFP to absolve him of any wrong-doing. with exceptions; his waifu and the popufur artists he likes to pal around with. THAT shit just gets buried like hoffa.

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Now that I think about it...

It seemed kind of odd for this individual to step down so quickly after being established. If they really had the intention of doing the job they wanted to, I think a little thing like controversy wouldn't stop someone with that amount of determination in them. No matter how many people complained at them for doing so...

People who wanted him gone are crying victory, I fear it may not be so clear cut.

Only Dragoneer can know for sure. If the fact is that he was actually let go then things may be okay. If, however, this person came on, was given access, and then suddenly resigned?

If this is what indeed happened then I fear it may already be too late. This individual may not have been looking to save FA, but to destroy it, and they may have already planted what they needed to and then left. They may have had absolutely no intention of being the tech lead.

So to Dragoneer, if this individual left on their own terms (especially if they seemed content/not angry or upset at all while doing so) you'll need to act quickly. Cut your loses and seek the help of someone with technical know how even if you don't get along with them. If this resignee left a ticking time bomb in your code, there's far more at stake here than one's pride.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (2 votes)

You can't patch up something rotten to the core. Regardless of who is faulty for what, FA is in a state now when the only way to fix it would be to completely replace the whole leadership with a new team that has no controversy, still cares, and where everyone have clear-cut rights, powers and responsibilities, powers and responsibilities are divided up and people are oversighted, corrected, advised and helped by each other.

Right now, what happens is Frankenstein's work. It simply can't turn out any good because the building blocks are outright broken and there is no stable foundation to build on either.

Nothing will get really better until the current leadership is completely replaced with capable and dedicated personnel.

Your rating: None Average: 2.3 (4 votes)

If wishes were dollars, FA would have the best team money could buy. Instead you have volunteerism, it defaults to the "step up and bring it" principle. It's like living in a dirty house... "why won't someone scrub the toilet?" ... you're someone...

If the roof is caving in, people just might need to move. The current leadership can't be replaced because it's his house unless he wants to sell it.

People keep trying to make some sort of class interest, consumer rights type thing. The closest thing is buskers and squatters... there's such thing as squatter rights, but it's very relative. Having a place to put furry drawings isn't a housing crisis.

Your rating: None Average: 3.8 (4 votes)

The people needing the site just increases the urgency. It's not that you have to do things better for them but that's a decent thing to do. It's about if you're going to do something then do it properly, it doesn't matter if it's free or not. If someone's not going to put any effort into it then they probably shouldn't bother. I don't accept when people say something like, "Oh I don't have to spell check because I'm doing it for free." Nonsense! If you're going to go through the effort of actually writing then do it properly. It's the same if you run a site.

And it's not an issue with volunteerism, it's an issue with leadership. Plenty of people have volunteered to help or, in the past, have helped but they get rejected or pushed out by poor leadership. Remember when FA "merged" with Furocity? They got a whole new team of admins that had been working together. What happened? Five staff members resigned together citing terrible leadership. https://www.flayrah.com/3720/five-fur-affinity-staff-resign-some-citing-leadersh...

"At all times I have tried to honestly improve your user experience but with the weak, unprofessional, childish original staff this proved to be to great a challenge."

"The original site owner has known about this gross misconduct, but no action has been taken and nothing has improved. We found evidence in trouble tickets, chat logs, and notes that some of the FA admins were intentionally leaking private information, ignoring site policy, and trying to sabotage the administrative process."

Don't blame people for not volunteering. That's not where the problem lies.

"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~

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There isn't urgency to play with a hobby in one place, as if people can't live without it.

Art is a job, in that people shouldn't give it away if they invest the time to learn it. But these artists aren't a laborer class, the platform makes no contract or commitment to keep them, especially not when the owner loses money to make it possible.

He loses money BECAUSE artists putting porn on there under his tolerance helped hold it back from a workable business model, for reasons beyond this small corner of society. His tolerance helps relax those reasons.

If the website owner wants to run the place into the ground, or not run it "properly" (according to you), or shut it down tomorrow, it doesn't matter if you don't like it or what you think is right. It's not yours and it's not supported enough by paying users to be a real business.

Nobody is blaming not enough volunteering. The point is that's the ONLY organization that suits, because it isn't a real business. It's a hobby, it's structurally unable to support more, and not just because of the guy running it.

In those situations, he has to work with friends. If he doesn't get along with just anyone, especially not people with entitlement about what they call proper, like whole other websites devoted to whining... oh well. He can live and learn, you can bail while it floats or jump ship to the abundance of other options.

Before expecting one obviously not that solid guy to commit his life to fixing one leaky structure for you - Form a mutual trade or creator's guild, and promote standards for handling commissions, then apply that to a better model that can sustain itself.

Your rating: None Average: 3.3 (6 votes)

It's not even at the level of 'volunteerism' when people who wish to help are turned away because of paranoia from the people in leadership. I think the word you're looking for is Oligarchy.

I mean sure, a regular user can try and 'clean the toiler' as you put it, but they'd probably be told by the administration that it's 'not their toilet to clean'.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

Well there's a long and fairly encouraging update on FA now.
https://www.furaffinity.net/journal/6311970

Of course it remains to be seen whether they will stick by it.
Causes for concern are that it seems to reveal little communication within the staff, more server purchases, and no explanation of how FA will pay for taxes.

"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 (2 votes)

There has been concern about the donation drive and taxes that Fur Affinity owes. Fur Affinity currently owes approximately $10,000 to government agencies for taxes on advertisements and
Fur Affinity United. These taxes were not correctly appraised. I have discussed this with Dragoneer, and to prevent this error in the future, he has asked his certified public accountant to calculate taxes on a quarterly level, resulting in higher accuracy when estimating taxes and saving more money to cover any unforeseen issues.

This is common especially when people aren't experienced at running a business and aren't doing quarterly payments, which sounds like a sign of a really insignificant business. That stuff is estimated anyways. If something irregular (like a once a year event) throws it off you can end up with a nasty unexpected bill. ("not correctly appraised" because how do you guess how many people will come to an event before it happens or if they costs change.)

Dragoneer originally stated that it would be ideal to use part of the donations to alleviate this burden; however, I have dissented against this since supporters were not told originally when donating and would constitute a breach of trust. As a result, none of the donations will be applied to any owed taxes and will be only used to support the website. And whenever any of this donation money is used to support the site, it will be publicly announced.

OK then. They will be paying a bunch of penalties on back taxes to support a principle. Fair but stupid, everyone's donations are now worth less, because they have to make a burnt offering to the IRS out of whatever else comes in later.

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As of Dec 23rd 2014, Phoenix is not in github anymore.

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Well, the FA account is still on GitHub, so it's possible that it's just been made private. But that's still interesting.

(edit) Well, while citing Vivisector as if it were a trusted source may be a bit dubious, "charmander" is quoted in an IRC log:

02:17:40 < charmander> Someone joined and decided D would be a better language for the project
02:18:07 < charmander> I am serious, but that’s only the beginning of a wonderful story
02:19:07 < charmander> Haskell and C++ were also attempted
02:20:05 < charmander> It is some kind of big experiment to find a half-decent setup so other people don’t have to do this, maybe

While the last line tries to put a bit of a positive spin on it, that's pretty banana crazypants.

- Chipotle

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

Let's all start from scratch again! :D

Some years in the future...
Dragoneer: And we're proud to announce FA's new interface; Phoenix 37!
Random furry: Why 37? This is the first new interface in almost 20 years.
Dragoneer: Yes but this is the 37th attempt to launch it and it succeeded! Yay Phoenix 37!

"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~

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About the author

Rakuen Growlitheread storiescontact (login required)

a student and Growlithe from South Africa/Austria, interested in science, anime and power metal

I'm a fur from South Africa, now living in Austria, who got into the fandom through my interest in pokemon and writing fanfiction. Outside of furry, I have spend a lot of my time in gaming (particularly Dota 2) and science.