Fur Affinity forum staff abandon their posts, future of forum uncertain
Fur Affinity is suffering from another round of staff resignations. This time the damage mostly occurred in the forums after one of the art site's disgruntled moderators, Renashe, left and leaked conversations and information which revealed a tool which moderators could use to search for their names in comment sections on the website, among other items.
Following the suspension of Renashe, Kalmor, a moderator on the Fur Affinity Forum followed suit. They wrote a resignation journal which was promptly removed by staff. Afterwords Kalmor posted about the incident on the forums and linked to his twitter at which time he was permanently suspended from the forums and main site for violating the 'privacy' or Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). An agreement that most of the Forum staff never signed in the first place, according to Kalmor.
Following Kalmor's suspension three other staffers left in rapid succession, bringing the staff page down from 10 to 6. The remaining six, according to sources, are mostly not involved it the operations of moderation of the forums. It is certainly a far cry from the site leader page in April this year.
Update 3 (Sep 5) - A poll has been posted with new name proposals.
Update 5 (Sep 22) - IMVU has allegedly issued a cease-and-desist order against Phoenix Forums, which was taken offline for several days.
Fur Affinity v Fur Affinity Forums: Reining in a loose end
While they share a name, these two entities started off as two fiercely independent bodies at Fur Affinity's conception. Thereby, the staff running the forums were brought into the fold via different means than those that worked the main art site. This changed around 2013 as former head forum staff were let go or left for various reason. Kalmor states:
Arshes Nei was the forum admin when most of us were hired. They were removed at the end of 2013 for being too blunt (borderline insulting) to users. As a result, Dragoneer tried to reign[sic] in the forum staff. We had to answer to him and Chase now. The staff on both the main site and the forums became more unified. We talked to Neer and Chase more often and used the same staff Skype channels as the art site staff did.
After Kalmor's resignation and ban from the main art site, all of those that purely worked the forums left. While on the surface it appeared that the mass exodus of forum staff was purely in reaction to their canned comrade, there was also another reason that seemed to have surfaced. Iskar Jarak, the last of the four to resign, put up a tweet indicating that the main site administrators started to ask forum staff for identification in order to maintain their position. This was probably in reaction to Kalmor's behavior causing alarm within the administration so they wanted to get the forum staff to adhere and sign onto the same NDA clause as the main site staff, and needed proof of identity for this.
A forum's future uncertain
Without a proper staff the future of the Fur Affinity forums is now uncertain. Currently there is a sense of anarchy as users realize no one is watching over their behaviors. The ability to register new accounts on the forums have been disabled temporarily until the situation improves. One question may be on many user's mind, and that is will Fur Affinity be able to bring in their own staff to help oversee the forums, or will they eliminate the forums all together and keep the main site?
According to Kalmor there has been talks of the forum being terminated by site staff even before this incident, "Sciggles once suggest to just kill the forums all together, which quite rightly [angered] a lot of the forum staff."
However, Dragoneer has stated they have no intention of ending the forums:
@Tantroo_McNally No intentions of killing it. We'll need to change some things though.
— Dragoneer (@Dragoneer) August 19, 2015
What changes would be incorporated is uncertain.
While it is possible that Fur Affinity could acquire the forums completely, they would need to provide their own staff and bring on additional hires. However, a larger issue is that forum's back end was never signed off to IMVU and the vBulletin license may not even be owned by them. According to an ex-forum staffer, the forum is hosted by a Fur Affinity ex-systems administrator, who is independent of the current art site staff. If that is the case, this third person would be a major key holder on the future of the forums.
Should this ex-system administrator decide, a third possibility is that the Fur Affinity Forum declares independence from Fur Affinity entirely and changes names, becoming instead a general furry forum. This would require some rework so that the forums don't utilize assets currently shared with the main site. It would also require the person who owned the forum's back end to put a lot more time in rebuilding the community. If this were to happen then Fur Affinity would have to either setup their own hosting and back end for a new set of forums, or just go on without one.
However, at this time it is purely speculation to delve into the possible futures for the Fur Affinity forums. The hard but important question that arises is what has happened to the forums a sign of things to come for Fur Affinity itself? And if so, what, if anything, can be done to prevent it?