Buy/sell/trade on SFF Forum - A first draft for the community

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PlayfulPhoenix

Founder of SFF.N
Original poster
SFFLAB
Chimera Industries
Moderator
Gold Supporter
Feb 22, 2015
1,049
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Update:

Buy/Sell/Trade section is now open: https://smallformfactor.net/forum/category/buy-sell-trade/

Please leave any thoughts or feedback here: https://smallformfactor.net/forum/threads/buy-sell-trade-feedback-thread.846


Hey all,

As has been mentioned in this thread, we've been discussing internally whether or not we want to provide a buy/sell/trade section on the forum given the interest expressed - and we've additionally been debating the best way to provide such a thing given the particular moderating and other challenges it tends to invite. We're at a place where we've written up rules and guidelines, and as such we want to continue talking through it in a public place so that the community can participate.

The current "draft" for the rules and guidelines is below. We are looking for feedback across all aspects, including things we many not have thought about and captured. That said, an abbreviated version highlighting the most important bits would be as follows:
  • SFF Forum would have a buy/sell/trade section that functions in much the same way newspaper classifieds or Craigslist does, with some rules that look to maintain decorum and restrict certain items from being sold or bartered. SFF Forum would have no liability whatsoever for these transactions, and total discretion for what is posted, though we will provide moderation and guidance in order to make the section as safe and friendly as possible
  • As an anti-spam measure, only forum members with supporter status would be allowed to create new threads soliciting buy/sell/trade transactions (the reasoning for which you should read below). That said, all forum members would be allowed to post on threads created by others, and reach out to complete transactions - we would only require those initiating the 'buy/looking to sell/looking to trade' transaction (i.e. the thread starter) to be a supporter, and only at the moment they create the thread.
  • SFF Forum will moderate posts, and will require all negotiation or discussion of a post to occur on the forum itself, either through posts or private conversations. This enables us to moderate as much of the exchange as possible, even while preserving privacy when things go swimmingly (see rule 9 for an explainer).
  • Finally, and not mentioned below, we'd create an additional "Community Deals" section, where members can share links and information regarding good deals on products that are available online or otherwise. We'll have rules and such for that section drafted soon.
We sincerely believe that the draft as-is represents one of the best possible implementations of a buy/sell/trade section that can plausibly and practically exist, but we also recognize that some of the restrictions and decisions are open to debate in terms of how beneficial they are. We also know that the community as a whole is going to be a bit more thoughtful about some things than the mindshare of just a few people. So to do this right, we want to have the community voice their opinion, and build on that feedback, before we finalize anything and build this feature out.

Our thanks upfront for reading, considering, and participating in the creation of this feature. We look forward to having a productive conversation about the best way to provide a marketplace to the community!

- Joshua

-----

Marketplace Section Rules:
  1. SFF Forum reserves the right to edit or delete threads and posts; block or ban users and IP addresses; and otherwise retains complete control and discretion with respect to what can be submitted and published, at all times, for all posts and threads.
  2. The public is allowed to read all threads and posts; all SFF Forum members are allowed to submit posts in response to a thread; as an anti-spam measure, only forum members who are supporters can post a thread and begin/initiate solicitations for transactions (non-supporters can purchase a one-month Bronze Supporter subscription to qualify - see below for an explainer as to why we do this).
  3. All threads must be tagged as [Selling], [Buying], [Trading] or [Trading For], and the title and descriptions for all threads must be honest and representative of the item; for [Selling] and [Buying] threads, a price must be specified; for [Trading] and [Trading For] threads, the item(s) being traded and/or desired must be specified.
  4. All threads and posts must be civil and meet the level of decorum of the site as a whole, and all posts in response to a thread must pertain to the thread itself.
  5. All posted items must be 100% legally owned by the user, and the sale or transaction of such items must be in accordance with all EULAs, contracts, or other binding agreements with the manufacturer/developer/creator.
  6. Posts can only be for buying, selling, or trading - meaning that contests, raffles, gift payments, auctions, or any other means of transaction are not allowed.
  7. The following items are blacklisted: alcohol, tobacco, coupons, weapons, pharmaceuticals, currency, securities, financial instruments, MLM products/membership, pornography, and services of any kind.
  8. Pictures and/or video may be posted, but they must be representative of the item.
  9. If two parties decide they are interested in transacting with one another, they must use SFF Forum's private messaging functionality for communication between each other to negotiate and decide upon terms (SFF Forum respects user privacy, and cannot see these exchanges unless we are invited to the conversation, or a participant reports the conversation to us - we require communication within the forum so that rule violations can be reported and appropriately dealt with).

-

Why only supporters can post threads:

Most other forums use a member's number of posts as a filter with respect to who can post buy/sell/trade solicitations. These same forums, by their own admission, recognize that this is a poor method of filtering out 'bad' folks from 'good' folks. We don't want to use a method that's known to be bad. So instead, we require that thread starters be 'supporters' of the forum. Those who are already supporters already qualify to post threads (and thus initiate solicitations); for those who are not, this effectively requires that such users spend $2 on a one-month Bronze Supporter subscription, at the time that they post. Here's why we do this:
  1. Post counts, or account age, do not prevent spammers from polluting buy/sell/trade sections. Making posts or waiting a while costs next-to-nothing and scales nearly infinitely. Furthermore, such a policy also blocks out a substantial portion of genuine users, because of its imprecision. Requiring that thread starters be forum supporters, comparatively, places a very low cost on genuine users, but makes the cost of spamming SFF Forum prohibitively high for bad actors.
  2. $2 shouldn't be a burdensome cost for individuals looking to transact things on the forum. It's also substantially lower than fees charged by eBay or other commerce websites.
  3. To become a forum supporter, individuals must have a PayPal account, or provide PayPal with a valid credit/debit card and address, thus verifying that all solicitors have these.
  4. As a bonus, you get all the perks of being a Bronze Supporter.
To be clear, this policy is not going to be a substantial revenue-driver for SFF Forum. Furthermore, this only prevents non-supporters from creating threads that initiate buy/sell/trade transactions - all members are able to post on threads (if they want to purchase an item someone is selling, for example).

We've chosen to implement this policy because we believe it will lead to a better buy/sell/trade section, simply put. We may be rare among forums in having a cost of entry to initiate buy/sell/trade, but we're not rare at all in pointing out that all the other methods of keeping such a section healthy don't work at all. We just seem to be the only forum that's choosing to not do what we know doesn't work.

-

Transaction Guidelines:

For sellers:
  1. If you post an item and it is eventually sold, close the thread you've made.
  2. If anything about your item changes after you have created a thread for it - including price - update your thread ASAP to reflect as such.
  3. Always wait to send an item until you have received payment from the buyer.
  4. Never accept a wire or a check as payment. Accept cash in-person, or digital payments via PayPal or similar services when shipping your item, and nothing else.

For buyers:
  1. If you buy an item you were looking for, close the thread you've made (if you made one).
  2. Always use PayPal or another payment service that provides anti-fraud, transaction dispute, or other such forms of recourse.
  3. Always demand that an item being shipped is tracked, and always ask for the tracking number. Request insurance or certified mail if you desire it.

For traders:
  1. If you post an item for trade or an item you want to trade for, and you've conducted the trade, close the thread you've made.
  2. If anything about your item changes after you have created a thread for it, update your thread ASAP to reflect as such.
  3. Always demand that an item being shipped is tracked, and always ask for the tracking number. Request insurance or certified mail if you desire it.

-----
 
Last edited by a moderator:

TheInternal

Trash Compacter
May 27, 2016
53
13
looks like this thread is moving along well. The $2 is a recurring monthly fee? Or will it only be needed at time of posting the ad?
 

Aibohphobia

aka James
Gold Supporter
Feb 22, 2015
4,956
4,723
I guess, but $40 is a lot to pay just so users don't have to bump their FS/FT threads.
 

Aibohphobia

aka James
Gold Supporter
Feb 22, 2015
4,956
4,723
Everyone so far seems generally accepting of the idea of limiting sellers to premium members as an anti-spam measure. Is there anyone who objects?
 

BirdofPrey

Standards Guru
Sep 3, 2015
797
493
I'm a stingy asshole, so I'd rather not have to subscribe to post a thread there, but I can't really think of any other good solutions, and the price is fair enough. I know OCN uses the rep system, and it annoys the crap out of me since rep seems damn near impossible to get outside of posting build logs.

Just to confirm, you have to be subscribed each time you post a thread there right?
Subscribing once doesn't get you verified for life?
 

Aibohphobia

aka James
Gold Supporter
Feb 22, 2015
4,956
4,723
I know OCN uses the rep system, and it annoys the crap out of me since rep seems damn near impossible to get outside of posting build logs.

Yup, when I was active on OCN I tried hard to write helpful and informative posts but it was still extremely rare to ever get rep.

Just to confirm, you have to be subscribed each time you post a thread there right?

That's the current plan but since it's just an anti-spam measure that does seem excessive. We'll think about it.
 

K888D

SFF Guru
Lazer3D
Feb 23, 2016
1,457
2,914
www.lazer3d.com
I don't mind the idea of being a subscriber to post, it sounds good to me.

As an alternative, could a system around amount of received 'likes' be used? 5 likes or something, it would be difficult to fake that before being reported for spam.

How about some kind of badge once you reach a certain level, similar to the supporter badge, an eligible traders badge, or symbol, or small watermark on your avatar. Maybe it is something that you would choose to activate in your profile.

Another idea - a credit system of some sort. i.e. it costs 1 credit to start a 'selling' thread. How those credits are obtained is the question. maybe you can earn them? Maybe you get 3 per month if your a subscriber bronze, 5 for silver, etc. Maybe you can buy credits, 3 credits for $1 or 10 credits for $2 for example.

Sorry if I'm just rambling, not really sure how the back end of this forum software works and whether anything like this would even be possible!
 

Aibohphobia

aka James
Gold Supporter
Feb 22, 2015
4,956
4,723
As an alternative, could a system around amount of received 'likes' be used? 5 likes or something, it would be difficult to fake that before being reported for spam

My concern is that we'd end up like OCN, where usage of the rep system declined over time and now it's almost impossible to build up enough rep to be eligible for the classifieds section there.

How about some kind of badge once you reach a certain level, similar to the supporter badge

That's technically feasible, we'll think about it.

Another idea - a credit system of some sort. i.e. it costs 1 credit to start a 'selling' thread.

That's not possible by default and starts getting too complicated to manage.
 

PlayfulPhoenix

Founder of SFF.N
Original poster
SFFLAB
Chimera Industries
Moderator
Gold Supporter
Feb 22, 2015
1,049
1,960
How about some kind of badge once you reach a certain level, similar to the supporter badge, an eligible traders badge, or symbol, or small watermark on your avatar. Maybe it is something that you would choose to activate in your profile.

That's technically feasible, we'll think about it.

Could you elaborate a bit as to what this would look like? What would a "level" be?
 

Aibohphobia

aka James
Gold Supporter
Feb 22, 2015
4,956
4,723
I was thinking if they're eligible to post in the FS/FT section then they'd get a "Trader" banner or something.

My concern would be more banner clutter, and it may give a false sense of security that the user is completely trustworthy compared to buyers without the banner, which wouldn't necessarily be true. The premium membership requirement would greatly reduce drive-by and automated spammers, but it's not a substitute for due diligence on the part of all parties involved.
 

PlayfulPhoenix

Founder of SFF.N
Original poster
SFFLAB
Chimera Industries
Moderator
Gold Supporter
Feb 22, 2015
1,049
1,960
I was thinking if they're eligible to post in the FS/FT section then they'd get a "Trader" banner or something.

My concern would be more banner clutter, and it may give a false sense of security that the user is completely trustworthy compared to buyers without the banner, which wouldn't necessarily be true. The premium membership requirement would greatly reduce drive-by and automated spammers, but it's not a substitute for due diligence on the part of all parties involved.

Yes, I don't think just being able to trade is banner-worthy. And the buy/sell/trade section isn't really conducive to us providing a "verified user" sort of thing anyways - mostly since we have no feasible way of actually verifying anything :p

For a formal marketplace, I'd feel differently, but even then we already have banners for known manufacturers, so an extension of that would probably make the most sense. And such a marketplace is a future project out of the scope of this.
 

K888D

SFF Guru
Lazer3D
Feb 23, 2016
1,457
2,914
www.lazer3d.com
Could you elaborate a bit as to what this would look like? What would a "level" be?
Probably the wrong choice of words! I was basically meaning once you have become 'eligible' to trade there would be some kind of identification mark that you could switch on or off in your profile.

The whole thing is a bit of a mind field I guess!

My concern is that we'd end up like OCN, where usage of the rep system declined over time and now it's almost impossible to build up enough rep to be eligible for the classifieds section there.

Does that mean it gets harder to obtain the rep as the forum develops/builds up?

I was thinking more along the lines of just a set number of minimum likes such as 5 likes that is frozen. You said the system is to stop spammers posting dodgy listings, there is a low chance a spammer is ever going to receive a liked post, unless they register multiple accounts, but they are likely to be identified as a spammer long before they reach multiple likes.
 

PlayfulPhoenix

Founder of SFF.N
Original poster
SFFLAB
Chimera Industries
Moderator
Gold Supporter
Feb 22, 2015
1,049
1,960
Does that mean it gets harder to obtain the rep as the forum develops/builds up?

It's more that your community needs to have established a cultural norm of regularly giving likes to good content. OCN had that norm established early on, but it was lost as their audience grew and fewer people (as a proportion) ever gave out rep. Further, changes like that can become virtuous or vicious cycles pretty quickly - if you feel like people aren't recognizing good content, you're less likely to do so yourself! And so the problem compounds, and rep becomes scarce.

So it's dangerous to rely on voluntary actions like that to determine trust. I personally don't think it's a particularly great method because of that - and since we haven't really ever established a norm of "liking" on SFF Forum.

EDIT: The irony of folks liking a post I made, that discusses how few people on SFF Forum go out of their way to like posts, is not lost on me :p
 
Last edited:

PlayfulPhoenix

Founder of SFF.N
Original poster
SFFLAB
Chimera Industries
Moderator
Gold Supporter
Feb 22, 2015
1,049
1,960
Updated version, feedback please!

Buy/Sell/Trade Section Rules:
  1. SFF Forum reserves the right to edit or delete threads and posts; block or ban users and IP addresses; and otherwise retains complete control and discretion with respect to what can be submitted and published, at all times, for all posts and threads.
  2. The public is allowed to read all threads and posts; all SFF Forum members are allowed to submit posts in response to a thread; as an anti-spam measure, only forum members who are current or past supporters can post a thread and begin/initiate solicitations for transactions (non-supporters can subscribe or purchase a $2+ supporter contribution to qualify - see below for an explainer as to why we do this).
  3. All threads must be prefixed as [Selling], [Buying], or [Trading], the geographic location of items must be listed, and the title and descriptions for all threads must be honest and representative of the item; for [Selling] and [Buying] threads, a price must be specified.
  4. All threads and posts must be civil and meet the level of decorum of the site as a whole, and all posts in response to a thread must pertain to the thread itself - no thread hijacking is allowed.
  5. All posted items must be 100% legally owned by the user, and the sale or transaction of such items must be in accordance with all EULAs, contracts, or other binding agreements with the manufacturer/developer/creator.
  6. Posts can only be for buying, selling, or trading - meaning that contests, raffles, gift payments, auctions, or any other means of transaction are not allowed.
  7. The following items are blacklisted: alcohol, tobacco, coupons, weapons, pharmaceuticals, currency, securities, financial instruments, MLM products/membership, pornography, and services of any kind.
  8. Pictures and/or video may be posted, but they must be representative of the item.
  9. Users may bump a thread only if it has not been bumped or posted to in the past week.
  10. If two parties decide they are interested in transacting with one another, they must use SFF Forum's private messaging functionality for communication between each other to negotiate and decide upon terms (SFF Forum respects user privacy, and cannot see these exchanges unless we are invited to the conversation, or a participant reports the conversation to us - we require communication within the forum so that rule violations can be reported and appropriately dealt with).
Finally, if at any point you are unsure whether or not a thread or post would be in violation of our rules, feel free to ask a moderator or staff member about it beforehand, such as @Aibohphobia or @PlayfulPhoenix.


Why only supporters (past or present) can post threads:

Most other forums use a member's number of posts as a filter with respect to who can post buy/sell/trade solicitations. These same forums, by their own admission, recognize that this is a poor method of filtering out 'bad' folks from 'good' folks. We don't want to use a method that's known to be bad. So instead, we require that thread starters be 'supporters' of the forum, past or present. Those who are already supporters, or who have supported us in the past, already qualify to post threads (and thus initiate solicitations); for those who are not, this effectively requires that such users spend $2 on a one-month Bronze Supporter donation, at the time that they post. Here's why we do this:
  1. Post counts, or account age, do not prevent spammers from polluting buy/sell/trade sections. Making posts or waiting a while costs next-to-nothing and scales nearly infinitely. Furthermore, such a policy also blocks out a substantial portion of genuine users, because of its imprecision. Requiring that thread starters be forum supporters, comparatively, places a very low cost on genuine users, but makes the cost of spamming SFF Forum prohibitively high for bad actors.
  2. $2 shouldn't be a burdensome cost for individuals looking to transact things on the forum. It's also substantially lower than fees charged by eBay or other commerce websites.
  3. To become a forum supporter, individuals must have a PayPal account, or provide PayPal with a valid credit/debit card and address, thus verifying that all solicitors have these.
  4. As a bonus, you get all the perks of being a Bronze Supporter!
To be clear, this policy is not going to be a substantial revenue-driver for SFF Forum. Furthermore, this only prevents non-supporters from creating threads that initiate buy/sell/trade transactions - all members are able to post on threads (if they want to purchase an item someone is selling, for example).

We've chosen to implement this policy because we believe it will lead to a better buy/sell/trade section, simply put. We may be rare among forums in having a cost of entry to initiate buy/sell/trade, but we're not rare at all in pointing out that all the other methods of keeping such a section healthy don't work at all. We just seem to be the only forum that's choosing to not do what we know doesn't work.


Transaction Guidelines:

For sellers:
  1. If you post an item and it is eventually no longer available for sale, close the thread you've made.
  2. If anything about your item changes after you have created a thread for it - including price - update your thread ASAP to reflect as such.
  3. Always wait to send an item until you have received payment from the buyer.
  4. Never accept a wire or a check as payment. Accept cash in-person, or digital payments via PayPal or similar services when shipping your item, and nothing else.

For buyers:
  1. If you buy an item you were looking for, close the thread you've made (if you made one).
  2. Always use PayPal or another payment service that provides anti-fraud, transaction dispute, or other such forms of recourse.
  3. Always demand that an item being shipped is tracked, and always ask for the tracking number. Request insurance or certified mail if you desire it.

For traders:
  1. If you post an item for trade or an item you want to trade for, and you've conducted the trade, close the thread you've made.
  2. If anything about your item changes after you have created a thread for it, update your thread ASAP to reflect as such.
  3. Always demand that an item being shipped is tracked, and always ask for the tracking number. Request insurance or certified mail if you desire it.
 
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