[nearly original] An update on what I know from my end

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[nearly original] An update on what I know from my end

Post by justin_le » Aug 07, 2011 6:25 am

Guys, I wish there was some way to recover the dozen or so hours spent over the last 2 days writing long posts that then become obsolete by the time they are ready to send! I'm sure I'm not the only one who is in that boat. A serious whirlwind of activity that has gone down, and thanks to the core (methods et. al) who have been at work nonstop both behind the scenes and on the front lines here instigating actions and keeping the rest of us up to date. What a crazy testament this has been to the integrity of this community and its firm belief in what it stands for.

Asides from a few posts early on the open letter, I wasn't exactly planning to become involved in the negotiations. I'm not an ES mod nor have I had any role at all in the shape, running, or operation of this site. But I do have a massively vested interest in almost everything that goes down here, and by the end of this evening have now had a chance to talk extensively with most of the people involved. Asides from Luke, Methods, Greenwheels, and Fetcher, that also includes Trevor, who has been by and large very forthcoming.

Trevor as we know purchased the ES site from KnightMB several months ago, without a) having ever met him face to face, or b) having discussed or shared this info with others. The amount that he paid is protected from disclosure by an NDA as is usual for these types of sales, but you can be sure that it is a large sum of money based on the valuations you would get for an ad and membership supported forum of this size.

Whether he did this out of Naivety, sensing business opportunity, a bona fide desire to improve the forum experience for new people getting into ebikes, or some combination of those, it's very clear that he had no idea AT ALL what he was actually getting into. At the time of the public letter post he thought that most of the moderators were at least tentatively onboard (they had known about it for several weeks) and that KnightMB was at his side for sure, to ensure a smooth transaction to a monetized style of self supporting and potentially profitable website.

When the nature of the open letter posts started to get difficult KnightMB vanished from the scene. Trevor sent increasingly frantic emails pleading for support that went unanswered. It's quite probable that that is part of why Trevor appeared to be evading key sticky points early on, since he was waiting or counting on something from KnightMB. This silence didn't help at all with the overall reception and once Andy popped up then we all know how quickly things went down after that.
Last edited by justin_le on Aug 07, 2011 7:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by amberwolf » Aug 07, 2011 6:33 am

justin_le wrote: At the time of the public letter post he thought that most of the moderators were at least tentatively onboard (they had known about it for several weeks)
Just as a point of clarification, the first notification I am aware of to the mods was on Wed Jul 20, 2011 6:29 pm, by PM, then a day or so later a thread in the mod forums to begin discussing it.

As to most of the mods being onboard, I'm not sure; I'd have to re-read the thread (and I dont' know about any PM replies other than my own). For myself, I didn't even realize I had a choice until very late in the notification (it did not appear to be a discussion, really, after a certain point).

Back to your irregularly unscheduled updates....

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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by justin_le » Aug 07, 2011 6:34 am

Which brings us now to the current situation. Trevor, whether you believe he was well intentioned and duped, or greedy and got what he deserved, is out a large pile of dough. He's also been dragged through the mud, thoroughly maligned, and even threatened by the membership here. But asides from making a serious misjudgment about the core nature of this community, he has not as Methods has reiterated abused or misused his power, even when there was a lot of nastiness thrown his way. No posts deleted, no members blocked. He as also been fairly upfront with everyone from the get-go that he thought he could commercialize this website and make it better in the process. That may not have been welcome news, but he was being straight about it and not springing a surprise.

Out of curiosity I did check the @ebikes.ca internal email since Trevor indicated he had dealt with us for the converting his big dummy, and sure enough there is a 25 message long email thread from January with lots of back and forth and excitement about the build, and later both a packing error on our part and a parts return that he didn't need. Everything about the correspondence suggests that he was someone totally into his first ebike build and who had done research and wanted to nail all the details right.

Anyways, back to the current situation. Trevor knows that this purchase was a mistake and as has made clear publicly and privately that he would like to return the site, somehow get his money back, and chalk this up as some kind of life learning experience that he can leave in the past. There is nothing vindictive or mean spirited about his actions that would suggest otherwise. Problem is that the person who actually has his money and could effectively undo the transaction (KightMB) is is nowhere to be found.

I was hoping that the total amount would be within a range that I could easily front as a justifiable business expense, ensure a swift transfer of forum control to our hands, and then begin the big discussion with everyone here about how exactly we wanted to proceed with securing its ownership and existence well into the future. But as we know it is a big sum, and that makes things a little more complicated, which means it would likely take several days to figure out if there is a conclusive arrangement that can be reached that would enable a way forwards that keeps everyone's head held high. Both myself and Trevor felt quite certain that one way or another we'd be able to achieve that.

Trevor has been acting more or less as a straight shooter and in very good faith. So I'm asking as well that in light of these details, people exercise some patience for a few days and drop the tone on any personal attacks that they have against Trevor in sigs and whathot, as that does not help the situation at all.

-Justin
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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by justin_le » Aug 07, 2011 6:43 am

Hey Amberwolf and thanks for the additional details, I don't have mod forum access so am going on what I have heard, but July 20th is indeed about 2 weeks ago. Please anyone who has additional first hand details about this feel free to share or clarify, since I think it's important to this whole process to have an honest account and history of what happened.

Justin
amberwolf wrote:
justin_le wrote: At the time of the public letter post he thought that most of the moderators were at least tentatively onboard (they had known about it for several weeks)
Just as a point of clarification, the first notification I am aware of to the mods was on Wed Jul 20, 2011 6:29 pm, by PM, then a day or so later a thread in the mod forums to begin discussing it.

As to most of the mods being onboard, I'm not sure; I'd have to re-read the thread (and I dont' know about any PM replies other than my own). For myself, I didn't even realize I had a choice until very late in the notification (it did not appear to be a discussion, really, after a certain point).

Back to your irregularly unscheduled updates....
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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by Philistine » Aug 07, 2011 6:54 am

Thanks for the clear and effective update Justin, it appears we all need to take a deep breath. Thanks again for taking the time to give the update.
Last edited by Philistine on Aug 07, 2011 9:27 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by dogman dan » Aug 07, 2011 7:03 am

As always Justin, thanks for everything!

I'm certain that if you spend money on saving ES, it will be brought back to you soon.

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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by Harold in CR » Aug 07, 2011 7:13 am

Well said, Justin. Proud to be in the same forum with you, AND Amberwolf, and, of course, all the hard hitters. 8) 8)
Thanks to Justin, the forum is open source and NON-commercialized.

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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by Hyena » Aug 07, 2011 8:37 am

Thanks for the updates Justin. If we had this sort of honesty about the situation up front when things started to get bad it would have saved everyone alot of angst. Especially for Trevor, given this new information it's he who has the most to lose through all of this while Knightmb sails off with his money.

While it's very noble of you to bail us out Justin it's unfair at the same time you should have to put up so much of your own money for this. Trevor is the one left holding the bag but at the end of the day it's essentially Knightmb that you're giving your money to (given it would be absurd to pay Trevor 1c more than he paid for it) which is not right either. As I said in my first post in the other thread, it's fair enough that Trevor would expect to make money out of the forum if he's just paid a significant amount of money for it as an investment, but is it naive of him to think he could do it without upsetting some... err, most, of the membership ? Moving to a new domain is a cheap and quick solution and we could easily start fresh but I guess it becomes a bit of a moral issue now whether we leave Trevor holding the bag. Tough call...

At the same time, didn't it come out in the other thread that it's this guys business to buy up forums, fill them full of adds and bleed money from them ? If that's the case I don't really feel too bad for him. He'll still make money out of it but just now as much as he'd hoped. He could spam the shit out of it with adds as we leave and probably still make a fortune from ES's existing rank on google (which I imagine would be his fall back plan anyway)
I harbor no ill-wishes towards Trevor but I get the impression the ownership of ES is much more than just this one guy, ie his company.
Should we be concerned that his purchase of ES isn't going to put a new porsche in his driveway as planned, or does this now impose a personal hardship on his life ? I guess you could argue it doesn't matter about the scale but I know morally I'd feel better if it could be written off by a company as a small business deals that didn't pan out...
Last edited by Hyena on Aug 07, 2011 9:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by Icewrench » Aug 07, 2011 8:50 am

Not our fault that he made a bad business decision.
Time for him to write it off and go away.

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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by MadRhino » Aug 07, 2011 8:53 am

Thanks for the update.

As some pointed out earlier, web hosting is not a big deal of money, and the real value of ES is not in its domain name. If it becomes too complicated and expansive to get ES back, just move on to a new (better) domain name and let the originators of that mess deal with each other while the value of ES drops by inactivity.

There are advantages to start a new forum: The knowledge base would be better organized and technical information would be easier to find for newbs. Obsolete datas would be forgotten and a search would produce only tue, up to date infos. It seems easier to start a new structure, than cleaning ES from the old dirt.
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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by beast775 » Aug 07, 2011 8:58 am

thanks justin for the explanation :) .
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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by gensem » Aug 07, 2011 9:19 am

Justin is the sum of money so hi that our donations would not be enough?
Justin we really appreciate what you did!

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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by oatnet » Aug 07, 2011 10:05 am

gensem wrote:Justin is the sum of money so hi that our donations would not be enough?
When the numbers solidify, i hope the folks involved will open a donations thread, I bet the outpouring of love from the E:S community would be massive.

Justin, thank you so much for the peek behind the curtain, it is reassuring to have a better feel for where our community stands.

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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by Green Machine » Aug 07, 2011 12:30 pm

Knightmb should give back some if not most of the money and keep his domain name and his flourishing endless sphere server company.

I remember Knightmb saying in the mod forum that one of the things trevor paid for is that knight would now have to change the name of his corporate server company "endless sphere" to something else.

We should figure out a way to put pressure on knightmb to give back cash. He is the only one to profit from this whole mess.

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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by jonathanm » Aug 07, 2011 12:33 pm

I sincerely hope nobody is going to take Trevor's word for it on what he paid.

Also, if he paid well above what might be considered a reasonable figure, then he cannot reasonably expect to recover all his losses.

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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by nicobie » Aug 07, 2011 12:40 pm

Thanks for the info Justin.

IMO I don't think that the membership here will be able to raise more than $5k and it's now looking that maybe $20k will be needed.

I think we need to take a long look at just moving. Justin has offered his ebike.com domain and I think we could come up with a couple of grand to help with the moving costs. After that expenses could be paid using a banner ad at the top of each page stating the current progress toward a realistic goal and clearly showing a paypal address to send donations to.

As I have already said in a previous post, One of the most important rules of business is, "Don't pay for something that you can just take". Let Knight and trevor duke it out over the money. We have better things to do.

All I want is my forum back (a few improvements would be nice too) :wink:
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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by deVries » Aug 07, 2011 12:56 pm

I've not made a penny from eBikes. Nor have I sold one eBike item. I have invested in parts to build a few eBikes or more. HobbyKing & Hyperion & Cell_Man got the bulk of my money. I'm sure I'll be buying from Justin over time too. But, I do intend to offer value to this market with many ideas I have to improve eBikes, hopefully, with some products for sale someday too. (I don't think it will be enough for a living wage but maybe something interesting to do at the hobby level.) I don't see myself in competition with anyone that is importing from China, since my ideas are "home grown" & local.

I guess my main question is: Is Trevor communicating with Justin & Methods & Mike & those with the money to buy back ES from him in good faith with full communication now... :?: :?: :?:

What is very suspect to me is I don't know for sure that you guys are getting the cooperation & full communication needed from Trevor to know what to do :?: :?: :?:

Maybe Trevor would be willing to get his money back by making a formal agreement with a newly created ES entity that would pay him back what he paid w/proof of purchase amount? Then ES could return to its own goals if there is enough donations & "dues" to eventually payoff Trevor. This doesn't have to be a lose-win deal. Maybe it could be win win IF Trevor is fully communicating & cooperating :?: :?: :?:

Otherwise, it may just be far less expensive & less hassle to start a new "open source" site as Mike or MWKeefer has volunteered to do.

Please check-out this post for more info: Mike or MWKeefer's Very Generous Offer Thanks!!! Mike! :D 8)
Last edited by deVries on Aug 08, 2011 3:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by methods » Aug 07, 2011 1:03 pm

justin_le wrote:Please anyone who has additional first hand details about this feel free to share or clarify, since I think it's important to this whole process to have an honest account and history of what happened.

Justin

Of course every mod on here has access to the full account of what was discussed in private behind the mod curtain. If it were made public a few mods might have reason to blush a little (not much...) and one might even choose to step down, or be VERY VERY EMBARRASSED by how vigorously he embraced the idea of monetizing our forum (IMHO of course). I carried myself 100% in the interest of the members in that thread (as did most of your fellow mods) so I would be totally open to sharing it with the members. Out of respect for some of the longer standing mods I will not post it publicly so long as nobody tries to re-write history :roll:

I will say this... Trevor hardly got a warm welcome in the mod forum. First there were gasps, then outbursts, then attempts to understand, then sad acceptance of a new reality (by most). Trevor was asked many probing questions and he answered nearly none of them... which is understandable... because after the first few posts of the thread knightMB hung his ass out to dry. Trevor was left in a room alone with us :shock:

The man with blood on his hands is knightMB.

I have lots more to say - but I want to go catch up on the other threads and come back.

-methods
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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by deVries » Aug 07, 2011 1:20 pm

Well, what is obvious is there is NO DEAL ANNOUNCEMENT this morning to turn over ES back to the membership...

AND, there is no openness or new posts from Trevor either... The last time Trevor logged on here was: Last visited: Sat Aug 06, 2011 7:17 pm

I think Mike Keefer should be in this loop of what to do next. (Btw, I have no personal relationship with Mike.) Why :?: Mike K. just seems to be upfront & willing to help in major helpful ways that seem untied to any financial gain whatsoever, imo. 8) :D

I trust Methods & Justin, of course, too :!: :twisted:
Subject: Open Letter to Endless Sphere Community
mwkeefer wrote:All,

There has been an outpouring of ideas and solutions both here on the board and in conversations I've had with many members over the past hours, at this time (and without the support of all key members, which I hope they would support) is to prevent not only this event but any in the future by forming a loose partnership as an LLP or perhaps a Coop in the state of Delaware, USA (common law jurisdiction for business, low taxes, etc) and then become recognized as a Not For Profit by the federal government (503C status).

I've already stated I would fund this out of pocket but many others have too offered up support, even some of the major online eBike kit vendors have made very generous offers of domains they own and were going to use (they were willing to sign the rights over to an independent third party not in their control) for nothing more than an OptIn check box for mail from them on sign up (not a huge request, not an opt out trick)....

That all said, I am falling on the 503C side because while at this time I can support (for the forseeable future) a much more robust server farm dedicated as needed to support our demands as a community, what happens if I drop dead? I have formed not for profits before, to deliver wireless high speed internet... or more accurately a charter group of free wireless internet where everyone has access and people who want, donate and take it as a full deduction (think town watch)... http://www.wifreenet.com and even today the initial and malvern locations are not only active they have grown in a viral fashion - 5 years after I walked away from the project.

I guess the point is we should and can be self supporting and uncontaminated by commercialization and data mining.... the one thing we can't fix is they can sell our email address list at will I believe, so we are all bound to be contacted by dozens of unknown third parties in the next days and weeks.... use caution and report any such activity either here or on the facebook forum.

Weigh in on this please people, do we want to truly become an uncorruptable community? If so then it's time to become soverign in nature.

The pluses you may not have thought of:
1.) No more outtages
2.) No more lost data and postings
3.) Not one server but perhaps 4 seperate clusters of redundant web and database servers all working as 1 virtual server - down time, slow access, overload what is that?
4.) No more confusion of the purpose of said site / forums, not for profit is not for profit
5.) Depending on the funding success (above and beyond my own personal contributions), we could have quite a fund available to:
a.) procure and test new tech kits, motors, controllers and truly rate them in a scientific manor and by multiple peers (ie: peer review of peer review) so the
information you get is 100% reliable at the time of writing
b.) Sponsor technical challenges with prizes - it's worked for Darpa for years, right guys?
c.) Setup funds to assist those who have become injured or worse with their medical expenses OR depending on size, negotiate additional health insurance discount
rates and other benefits for our members.
d.) Sponsor races, events, prizes for competition and such all around the country and world
e.) Custom bits and pieces needed (adapters, one offs, etc) which are specific to the type of thread could make out much better with group buys as a Not For Profit
association.
f.) We could subsidize the popularization of alternative forms of transportation and even sponsor rental stations and charging stations where the membership sees fit,
imagine that :)
g.) Sponsors and places like race tracks and such are much more apt to offer better rates to Not For Profit companies and lets face it, what race track owner wouldn't
pay to see bicycles churning the track at 50mph without rider effort.... or 1/4 mile drag times (Steveo, DocBass), even better they can donate their space as a
write off contribution and race events can be fund raisers too.

Unlike most non profits we would have volunteer our time and expertise (at least in the first year or two), not collect pay and thus 100% of donation money would go to the above (I would estimate about 8-10% will be the cost of overhead like bandwidth, etc... leaving 90% for the bonus features).

As so many have said, it's us the membership who make any forum what it is and I for one consider many of you (even though we have never met) to be friends, I take pleasure helping newer members through their technical issues (no matter how mondane or repetitive) and in general I enjoy the community we have here.... but we don't have to be here to be the same community.

I would like to add that I don't really fault KnightKMB or whomever actually owns / runs this operation - it seemed Endless-Sphere was really an offshoot of a consulting company (similar to mine) and times are tough plus, forums aren't the easiest thing to maintain which means membership will need to step up if we do somthing new to handle policing posts, administrative tasks, etc...

Oh yea, let's not forget about having our own IRC server and channel (or even channel on undernet.org), somthing we have needed for years now imho... suddenly that would be possible.

So there you have it people, again, please weigh in on this as I'm certainly not doing anything on behalf of a community who doesn't agree :) It is just such a shame to see what we (note I say We) have built here and all comments are welcome, in relative terms I am a new comer here... perhaps 2 years maybe less, so sound off :)

Regards,
Mike Keefer
mwkeefer@gmail.com
267-303-7050

PS: Please stop begging for the keys to the house back, we don't need the house - we can do better :) Haven't you seen the real estate market and there is no shortage of brilliance and talent here on ES amongst it's membership base. I think we all just need to hash out a name (in private) via a group chat or somthing... facebook would allow this and NO I'm not suggesting we do our new bit on FaceBook just think of them as switzerland right now, they are neutral and the board owners aren't able to track our private group chats there...

May I suggest a time we schedule maybe late tonight (EST) or whenever we can arrange it, my email is above and I have calender so you can send prospective times or we could just create a Group Chat event and we could post it up? This needs to be a group decision.
Reiterating, the last time Trevor logged on here was: Last visited: Sat Aug 06, 2011 7:17 pm
Last edited by deVries on Aug 07, 2011 1:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by methods » Aug 07, 2011 1:27 pm

Everyone should be in here right now.....

All it takes is one person with the right idea and all of this can change!
There are many ways to solve this problem

* Find a way to get the money
* Find a way to convince Trevor to eat his investment
* Find a way for Trevor to own ES but have absolutely no control what so ever - not the hardware or software
* Move the forum and start over on a new server
* Hypnotize Trevor and have him donate ES to the people
* Take up a collection

Those are the worn out ideas... how about something out of the box?

-methods
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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by bigmoose » Aug 07, 2011 1:29 pm

Ok since you asked GEN Methods, I have alluded to some of this with some folks privately via PM and emails.

The ol' guy thinks this mess between Trevor and knightmb will end up in court if the sum is "large." We cannot deconvolute it without a bigger pile of cash. I have seen this before. knightmb took the cash and then took a powder when the sh_t hit the fan. That is the pattern of a (you fill the blank). He has no incentive to renegotiate unless there was the infamous guarantee that I satirically alluded to last night.

We could raise the capital to buy out Trevor, but then WE would have to "monetize" our own site to pay it back. Doesn't that make you puke.

This thing is deadlocked.

Ask Trevor what he wants to legally sell us a copy of the phpBB data base as it stood a couple of days ago, or today for that matter. Get a price on it, pay him. Let him know that we will load that copy as a read only accessible archive on our new site in 3 months (since I personally hate how the current board is organized).

We will stay around, with no hard feelings or attacks against him or his monetization activity for ES. We will give our mods authority to erase any posts that violate this rule.

We will immediately start our new site, and let the traffic go where it wants to go. If his product is better, then he will retain traffic. We will inform all on Lukes email list of the new site address, and will answer PM's with the address, but we will not publicly post the new address nor try to recruit members.

Let's move forward. This cat won't bounce.
Last edited by bigmoose on Aug 07, 2011 1:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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methods
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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by methods » Aug 07, 2011 1:33 pm

(EDIT: NOT RESPONSE TO ABOVE, POSTED AT SAME TIME)

Please folks - be clear on this

Trevor NEVER abused his powers. He never deleted a thread. He never locked a topic. He never shut down the forum. He never made an overt threat. He never made a subtle threat.

The only things Trevor ever did was list the "positive" things he wanted to do for the community.
Trevor is no threat to us while we work this out.

He is not the sugar daddy we are looking for..... for the obvious reason that our members will not stand for their work being profited from. For some members they dont want to see Ads. For some members they want to keep ti "grass roots". For many reasons, even though he has good intentions for us, he is just not the guy.

But please... lets not start with any BS about how this is a delay tactic and he is like an evil genius plotting to lock all the threads and suck our creative juices.
Everything is cool while we sort this out
Trevor does not even know how to run the admin panel - Fechter is in charge of that.

Ideas are welcome.

-methods
"One test is worth a thousand opinions"

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methods
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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by methods » Aug 07, 2011 1:35 pm

bigmoose wrote: Ask Trevor what he wants to legally sell us a copy of the phpBB data base as it stood a couple of days ago, or today for that matter. Get a price on it, pay him. Let him know that we will load that copy as a read only accessible archive on our new site in 3 months (since I personally hate how the current board is organized).
We already have several copies of the database. We dont have to pay anyone for that.

Bigmoose has a valid point there... the easiest thing may be to move on.


-methods
"One test is worth a thousand opinions"

deVries
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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by deVries » Aug 07, 2011 1:36 pm

How much does Trevor want? What is the amount?

Who is communicating with Trevor today! :?: :?: :?:

What does Fechter know today :?: :?: :?:

The natives are getting restless... :twisted:

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methods
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Re: An update on what I know from my end

Post by methods » Aug 07, 2011 1:37 pm

deVries wrote:How much does Trevor want? What is the amount?

Who is communicating with Trevor today! :?: :?: :?:
The amount can not be disclosed for legal reasons (see original post). It would be safe to assume it is tens of thousands. Unfortunately Trevor bought out the domain Endless-Sphere which appeared to have much more value than our little forum.

-methods
"One test is worth a thousand opinions"

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