So the big disclaimer on this post is that I have never set foot into the Bonanzle forums myself expect once to find out why my site was being spammed but that is a story for another time.*

*In fact, the long sordid history of Bonanzle and I is a story for another time that I will only write up when I feel like being stoned to death by internet flamers.

That said, a little while ago, Peter posted an long and detailed post on my original Bonanzle review that I wanted to highlight. Let’s take a look at Peter’s review seperately because I think it represents a very different perspective than I can give you as I am not active in the community. What is also interesting (if you click through to his comment history as other blogs) is what a huge Bonanzle fan he was even a few months before his post with us.

Here is what Peter wrote:

Ok, so here is the suggested fresh critique:

I have sold on Bonanzle since September 2008.

For the longest time I was one of the passionate supporters of Bonanzle. Not anymore. I just closed my store there.

Although I have to credit them for their superb technical skills, which resulted in a truly usable starters marketplace for old stuff, they lack the following two essentials to continue and will therefore eventually fail

Missing with the Bonanzle team are:

1) A reality based solid long term vision on their business
2) Communication skills

Bonanzle’s advertised vision is totally limited to a slogan, not to a well thought through business model. They advertise that their vision is to be a place where one can find ‘all but the ordinary’.

First of all their slogan statement is simply not true. There are tons of items for sale there which are ‘ordinary’, in fact the majority of items is.

There is nothing wrong with items for sale being ordinary, but please do not create a false image, neither towards buyers nor towards sellers. It comes over as a childish ‘I wanted things to be a certain way, so they are that way’ in other words, ‘reality is optional’.

Secondly, just mentioning what ‘products’ you desire to sell on your marketplace (aka ‘out of the ordinary), is not really a product of a lot of deep thought. It does not tell anyone what differentiates you truly from other places (plenty who sell that kind of stuff) and therefore does not offer a truly unique selling proposition, a selling point that is unique only to Bonanzle and that is also hard to copy by the competition, so hard to catch up with.

Bonanzle also pretends that their site is ‘simple’, which means ‘simple in use, in navigation’, suggesting that one can list there much quicker and buy there much quicker than elsewhere. The opposite is true. The place is still hard to navigate and has many non-intuitive functions that slow buyers down. Listing there is also only easy if one has very little ‘listing content’ to put up. If one has lots of text, a template and/or lots of images, listing becomes problematic, time-consuming, sometimes even impossible (example: true templates are really a ‘no no’ there for lack of full html tags suppot). And, the interface is becoming more complex every day, which is obviously the result of functional additions. There is nothing wrong with ‘not being simple’ but instead ‘offering lots of functionality’, just don’t pretend you are something you are not.

Also Bonanzle purports to be a fun place to be. Originally that was certainly the intent of the owners as well as the early adopting sellers, and quite a lot of humorous activities and messages reflected that. However, the owners have turned this ‘we want to be a fun place’ into a Pollyannish mania, where they will not tolerate any disagreement on their site, regardless if it is a civil discussion or not. Every posting and thread on their site has to be ‘100% hunky dory cheery positive etc’.

To enforce this unrealistic ‘smile’ mania (one sees it with some signs in B+M stores telling staff to ‘smile’) the owners of Bonanzle have developed a battery of tools to censor anything that they feel is not ‘cheery’, so any disagreement. Messages get frequently garbled by their own staff (one was especially hired for this recently) or they get relegated to a drama section o they get deleted outright.

Imagine, censorship on what is advertised as a mix of social networking and e-commerce. That is like saying that human communication must always be positive. In the real world out there this wishful thinking does not work, neither will it in the virtual world on Bonanzle.

Initially I underestimated the ‘censoring’ by Bonanzle staff a bit an thought that they were merely taking out intentionally disruptive people, but, now that I have followed this for a while, I believe that the Bonanzle owners are simply censoring dogmatically, trying to eradicate discord (even if between reasonable people) on their site altogether. Note that I also had my own run ins a few times recently with the Bonanzle censoring machine on what were perfectly factual postings (maybe with some passion, but important subjects deserve passion).

One of the main reasons why most Ebay sellers who left for Bonanzle joined the new site, was because it purported to e friendlier than Ebay, less censoring. The truth is that Bonanzle is actually MORE censoring, dogmatically so. The friendly atmosphere on Bonanzle is not truly friendly, since sellers there get frustrated by the Bonanzle censoring machine. In fact, Bonanzle”s own censoring machine is what is destroying the initial friendliness.

Bonanzle has made the same mistake as Ebay, by fostering an adversarial atmosphere between its members (with its censoring mania) and that has resulted in all kinds of ‘tribes’ there, a Balkanization, the result of many members using the reporting system of Bonanzle to censor those they disagree with and viceversa.

Most likely the Bonanzle owners thought that some kind of regulating was necessary, in order to prevent anarchy. In it self that is a realistic idea, but that regulating should have been based on ‘justice’, which means only restricting those who actually cause damage, those who violate the rights to life and property of others. Civilized dsagreements betwene humans are not automatically ‘damaging’. They have a place in the society and actually benefit all. Eliminating disagreement is like destroying the staging ground of innovation, of growth. All that remain then is mediocrity, the lowest common denominator, and shrinkage

Although I formally and morally agree that Bonanzle has the right to censor whatever it wants on their site, since it is their property, I do not believe it is realistic to do so. It is actually quite irrational, as it is not in Bonanzle’s self-interest to create an adversarial atmosphere on its site. It is more of interest to them to offer any debating, discussing, disagreeing members a forum, a social networking area, The only thing they needed to do is channel it so such public discussions do not affect ‘selling’ negatively. In general that works best if one gives sellers a separate forum to talk freely (even where to disagree), separate from buyers, just like in the real b+m world. Despite requests for this from many sellers, no such attempt was made.

Instead Bonanzle continues to unrealistically try to mix sellers and buyers. Sellers are basically expected to have buyers listen in on their business related conversations with fellow sellers on the site’s forums. Ever seen such a thing in the real world? A very uncomfortable set up, again caused by the Bonanzle owners’ attempt to make reality ‘optional’ instead of ‘what it is’.

This Bonanzle censoring machine is the logical end result of the lack of fundamental principled vision at Bonanzle as well as their insufficient communication skills (quite common among geeky programmers).

If the Bonanzle owners would one day want to fix their mistaken path, I am counseling them to first come up with a realistic view of people and the world around them, of how people trade and communicate best, There is plenty of experiential information out there on that, thousands of years of it.

They’ll discover that only a fact-based laissez-faire vision will work, where people are offered the greatest freedom to trade with and communicate with each other, just like good old America was most successful when it was the freest, and like a startup Ebay (inadvertedlY) used to be way at the beginning. One cannot force a mind, not a buyer’s mind nor a seller’s mind. Not even Bonanzle can do that. A carrot (=win/win) and stick (=force) approach will not work with sellers nor buyers in the long run. Only a carrot will achieve long range success.

Sorry, Bonanzle, but reality is not optional.

When it comes to censorship, I know eBay was a pain in the butt about that in the forums but I was never active in the eBay forums either. I have never been a big user of any site’s forums so, to me, forum issues aren’t a deal breaker but I would love to know what you think, especially if you are an active forum member.

Are their forums any worse than any other site? Even if their forums were horrible, would it change how you view the site as a whole?