I have been learning a lot about flashlights for the last year and most of it has come from reading the discussion forums at Candlepower Forums. I’ve learned enough that I have written a couple of reviews of lights and I answer questions from newbies every now and then (I’ve also done a lot of editing of their Wiki, which was terrible). By and large the people are very helpful and incredibly knowledgeable. There is just a lot to know. And there are thousands of threads for a newbie to search through, even using Google search. It helps that the forums are strictly moderated, so flaming, bad language, etc. are simply not to be found. They have a lot of rules and zero tolerance of people who break them.
Long story short, I got suspended from the flashlight discussion board. Not long, just for a day. Here’s how it happened.
The moderators can be quite strict and, like I said, there are a lot of rules. If you go on the internet and look for answers about flashlights, you will find CPF pages in the results. So if you want an answer you will sign up and post. Lots of people do this and they wind up asking questions that have been asked many times before or ask questions in the wrong sub-forum because they haven’t looked around enough. It’s annoying. In their forum for questions, problems, and solutions, if you make a suggestion you will be shot down. If anyone agrees with that suggestion, the thread is closed. If you ask for help you will be lambasted by the administrator and told to go look up the answer in the rules and basics for using the board (which aren’t that easy to find because there are so many links and different places where all that stuff is kept). The administrator, a woman, is irritable and proud of it. It trickles down to some of the moderators (there are a lot of moderators!).
The other thing is you have this community of flashlight enthusiasts who spend a lot of money on flashlights. Crazy amounts of money. And they buy dozens of flashlights. This is their hobby and they don’t mind spending a lot. There are a lot of titanium flashlights that are even more expensive than the regular expensive ones. If you ask which of two flashlights you should buy, the answer is usually “buy both!” They insist on very high quality and praise great customer service from the dealers (almost all of which is done online because stores typically don’t carry these specialized items; some gun shops do because somehow guns and flashlights go together). They endlessly praise the most knowledgeable people on the board and steer people towards high quality expensive flashlights and accessories. If you ask for a suggestion for a $20 flashlight, they will suggest a $60 one.
They show great disdain for cheaper flashlights. Though a lot of people on the board love Maglites, there are also people who look down at them as too common. The cheap Chinese flashlights sold by direct-from-Hong-Kong dealers like KaiDomain and DealExtreme are constantly derided as garbage (but a lot of people still buy them).
One thing that bugs me is that if someone asks a question about a cheap light on a general forum where good lights are talked about, the moderators move the entire thread into another thread dedicated to reviews of cheap lights. This helps in some ways because if a newbie asks about some cheap brand of light they will just get a lot of disdain for that piece of junk and will be told to buy an expensive light, which doesn’t necessarily help. A few people have asked for a sub-forum dedicated to cheap lights so there can be separate threads instead of one giant one and, of course, been told gruffly that it won’t be done (while other people jump in with disdain for cheap flashlights; they can’t stop themselves). Posts within the cheap flashlight thread about other threads being dumped there are deleted because they are considered off-topic in a flashlight-oriented thread. Instead you have to post in the suggestions forum where you will be abused (poignant example).
So a newbie writes his first post ever in the general forum about a cheap Chinese flashlight being sold on eBay, asks people if they think it is a good deal, and provides a link. Well, you can’t post links to eBay because that is considered advertising. Even posting links to a DX light is not allowed, but is sometimes tolerated because DX carries a number of flashlights that look identical but have different LED’s or features. And different companies make clones of the same light that all look just alike except for the logos. The links are the only way to find out what someone is really talking about. You can mention the items by catalog number (I think this may be done because they don’t want Google giving the cheap lights higher page rank because there were links from an authoritative site like CPF).
Well, the moderator deletes the link and adds [eBay link deleted – DM51] where DM51 is the moderator. No explanation given. And the post has been moved too because it was asked on the general forum instead of the cheap lights thread, which isn’t even called The Cheap Lights Thread or anything that would give you a clue that’s the only place to ask that kind of question.
So it kind of bugs me this is how it works. I post a reply that says: “In other words, you are not wanted here. Please go away. Welcome to CPF.” I knew this was inflammatory, but it bugs me these guys don’t even clue people in about why the posts are being moderated. After I posted it, I realized it was kind of harsh, so I edited it to add “Maybe the moderators could provide a clue why the post was edited . . . ?” or something like that.
Well, not only was I off-topic by commenting about the edit, but now I had questioned the moderators, which is also not allowed. So less than an hour later, I visit again and I see that the contents of my post have been deleted by a (different) moderator. This isn’t really that surprising. I knew I was provoking them.
Of course, I can’t leave well enough alone, but I thought I would tone it down while still taking a poke at the moderators. When you write posts you can add different smiley icons from a list. Some are customized just for CPF and one in particular is a little animated smiley guy that holds up a sign that says “Welcome to CPF!” and he’s waving. People use it when someone posts their first message. So I edited my post again, removed the comment from the moderator saying my contents had been deleted, and replaced it with the little smiley icon. That’s all. I didn’t post any words other than quoting the original newbie’s post as edited by the moderator. Still, I thought it was kind of funny (the board administrator had posted the same smiley in the poignant example I posted earlier, which I didn’t realize until I was writing this).
About an hour later, right before going to bed, I checked CPF again to see if I had gotten a reaction (one person had responded to the deletion of my previous comment by saying they were glad the forums were well-moderated; I was hoping for some support for more polite moderators though). Instead of seeing the usual screen, I had a message saying I had been banned from CPF for failing to yield to moderation. At least they gave me a reason . . .
Anyway, the ban was really more like a suspension because it was only for a day. And that day is almost up, so I have to get going . . .