It was a post of mine applauding “Raddr” for his outstanding safe-withdrawal-rate research that led to formation of the FIRE board at the NoFeeBoards.com site. Among financial contributors to the site, I rank second for the size of my lifetime contribution. I was the founder of the most successful board in the site’s history, the Safe Withdrawal Rate Research Group board.
So it pained me a bit to hear Sunday morning that ES, the site owner, is shutting down the shop.
The other side of the story is that the site lost its way a long time ago. ES had the world by the tail for a while there. He tapped into the powerful desire that many feel to learn more about how to win financial freedom early in life and he came within a whisker of seeing his site meet with a level of success that he couldn’t possibly have dreamed of when he first got into the site-building business. But ES made terrible and incomprehensible and unforgivable mistakes in his leadership decisions, and the site has been a site waiting to die for at least one year now and arguably for a good bit longer than that.
The Glory Days of the NoFeeBoards.com site were from December 2002 through July 2003. ES was the anti-Greaney in those days, and a large segment of our community fell in love with him for offering an alternative to the hate posting that comes to dominate all boards that extend posting privileges to Greaney defenders.
“Wanderer,” expelled from the Motley Fool board for the thought-crime of believing that there might be some circumstances in which investing in real estate makes sense, said that ES offered a friendly port in the midst of a vicious storm. He wasn’t the only one who felt that way about the guy once upon a time. All of our best posters of the day found their way to the FIRE board–Wanderer, Raddr, BenSolar, PeteyPerson, FoolMeOnce, John Walter Russell, and on and on.
Greaney regularly smeared ES and his site for offering those of us seeking the civil and reasoned discussions of early retirement that put our movement on the map back in the Glory Days of the Motley Fool board. But it didn’t matter. People loved the new kid on the block because the new kid was giving them what they wanted in a Retire Early board. So the new kid grew stronger and stronger and stronger day by day by day.
Until the heat grew too strong for ES to take it anymore. Then we saw the pattern we had earlier seen play out at the Motley Fool board play out at its successor. First, Greaney posters were given the same posting rights as those interested in discussing early retirement (in violation of the site’s posting rules, which prohibit the tactics that have been employed by Greaney defenders to drive effective on-topic posters off of all our boards). Then, the weak response to the threat raised by the Greaney defenders encouraged them to become even more abusive, and caused all of the wonderful posters who built the place either to take their leave of it or to be frightened into silence on the Greaney matter and on other topics on which Greaney indicated that he did not want to see honest posting (some even joined in on the abusive posting as a way of gaining “permission” from the Goons to continue posting). Finally, the Goons demanded that all honest, on-topic posters be removed.
From there, the death spiral just continued until things reached a point where the board often went days without generating a single on-topic post of any significance. The FIRE board was no longer an alternative to the Motley Fool board. It was a less-trafficked copycat of the Motley Fool board (ES does not have access to the Motley Fool eyeball generation engine that Greaney has used to replace lost on-topic posters with posters interested in having discussions of politics).
It was ES’s weak leadership that did the board in. The most important qualification for the job of site administrator is the courage to stand up to goon posters. If you ain’t got that one, you ain’t got a chance. ES never had a chance.
That said, I do not believe that the blame for the failure of the site can be laid entirely at his feet.
There were posts at the board yesterday by “Ben” and “Mike” expressing gratitude to ES for the things they learned by reading the board and by participating in discussions held there. Ben and Mike were two of the best posters at the SWR board, and I am of course extremely grateful for the many fine contributions they put forward there. Still, I think it is fair to say that both of them (and lots of others too) let ES down in a big way. We all would be better off with fewer expressions of thanks to site owners at times when their boards have already been destroyed and more expressions of support at times when they are showing fear of what will happen to them if they take effective action against the The Little Stinkers (a term we sometimes use in our discussions to refer to Greaney defenders).
They were numerous occasions when ES indicated that he needed some support from fellow community members to develop the courage to stand up to the stinkers. Yes, it’s his job. No, it shouldn’t be up to the posters at a board to do the site owner’s job for him. Still, the reality is that the internet discussion board is a personal communications medium. If we want to think of ourselves as a true community, we need to act like one. In true communities, people like Ben and Mike (and lots of others) develop the courage that people like ES lack and step forward to help them out a bit in their time of need.
Ben let us down. Mike let us down. Lots of people let us down.
I’m not saying that ES didn’t let us down big-time too. Far from it. But I believe that the guy really was pursuing a dream for a time there, and I know that it must hurt for him to know that he was close enough to seeing that little dream come true to taste it. I know what it’s like to pursue a vision and then to watch it begin to come to life in the real world. So I can’t help feeling bad to know what ES is going through today.
It didn’t have to end up this way. We all should be ashamed of ourselves. This is a case in which our community dropped the ball big time.
The Little Stinkers are still among us. ES and all the wonderful posters who provided us the powerful insights put forward at the FIRE board during its Glory Days are either gone or silenced. Some days you get the bear and some days the bear gets you.
The NoFeeBoards.com dream is over. Not just for ES. For all of us.
That’s why we call them The Little Stinkers. The end product of the projects to which they direct their time and energies send out a powerfully foul and offensive odor. Yucko!