Out of all the video contest/spec assignment-type sites on the web, Poptent.net has managed to set themselves apart from the crowd by establishing an elaborate and well designed online community where members can easily interact and communicate with each other. I always describe Poptent as being the Facebook of video contest sites. Every member has a profile page where they can post information about themselves and they also have a “wall” where other members can see what they’ve been up to and leave comments. There’s a messaging system in place so members can talk to each other and there’s a pretty active forum where users can talk about filmmaking or even other contests. But what really brings people together on Poptent are the site’s “social” functions. Everyone can see everyone else’s videos and members can “like” or comment on each other’s submissions. And if you think someone is doing especially good work, you can even “follow” them to keep track of their on-site activities.
All of these opportunities for interaction yield a fun, social experience for the user. Even if your submission isn’t purchased by the brand, it’s still kind of nice when a bunch of people “like” your work and leave supportive comments.
However….there is simply is no such thing as a “drama free” online community. That’s just the reality of the Internet. And Poptent is no exception to that rule. After all, filmmakers tend to be a pretty passionate bunch. And when you stir the pot by tossing money and competition into the mix, things can get pretty gruesome. Most Poptent users are pretty cool people who understand that if they cause trouble they’ll be wrecking their on-site reputation. But Poptent now boasts more than 36,000 members. Statistically speaking, there are inevitably going to be some major league jerks in that bunch. And a few random jerks can have a significant impact on the tranquility of an online community.
The number of random jerks who are gleefully and intentionally trying to wreck the Poptent experience for the rest of the people who use the site is still pretty small. But a few motivated and angry people can do a lot of damage. Because Poptent doesn’t have any blocking software, there is no way for one member to block unwanted and harassing messages, comments or wall posts from another. And because the staff doesn’t really moderate the forum, trolls are free to pick fights and high-jack otherwise bland discussions.
But the number one way members abuse the site is by creating fake accounts. Some desperate filmmakers create multiple fake accounts to “like” and compliment their own work. I guess they do it because they think the brand managers will see how “popular” their video is and want to purchase it. If a video has a ton of “likes” that came from accounts that were all created on the same day and have generic profile photos, you can bet they were all created by one person. These fake accounts are so easy to spot I’ve always wondered why Poptent allowed people to create and use them. I’ve even seen cases where Poptent actually awarded “Most Popular” medals to submissions that were clearly only “popular” because the creator “liked” their own video a bunch of times.
While that type of behavior is kind of harmless, other members create fake accounts for more nefarious reasons. If someone is too much of a coward to say something under their real name, they create a fake “person” to do their talking for them. For example, earlier this year Trident ran a commercial assignment on Poptent and one filmmaker who co-produced a submission created a fake account to bash his competition. Motivated by pure greed, this person posed as an impartial observer and left scathing reviews on all of the best videos in the assignment. He listed every “flaw” he could find and explained why it would be a bad idea for Trident to purchase those particular spots. That was pretty low, but he didn’t stop there. This person just couldn’t resit the urge to use his fake account to lavish praise on his own entry. The flaw that he found in his own work was that it was too slick and too professional. And guess what? That person’s despicable tactics may have actually worked. His video was purchased for $7,500! Did the Trident judges see those “impartial” comments? Probably, yes. Did he make the sale because of what he did? There’s no way to know. Either way, it’s really unfortunate that Poptent allowed a member to pull such an under-handed scam.
But Poptent is finally, thankfully putting their foot down. Though the website’s Terms of Service have always said they could suspend the account of someone who was causing problems, the site was lacking a hard, enforceable set of rules regarding on-site behavior. So a few weeks ago, Poptent debuted their new “Creator Code of Conduct.” The Code outlines what is expected of members and explains what type of behavior is forbidden. Most importantly, it defines what will happen to a member that breaks the code:
“Anyone who repeatedly ignores the principles of this code will be subject to permanent removal from the Poptent community.”
I think that kind of statement is awesome and long overdue. Here are a few of the most important points of the new code:
Be Positive: Positive feedback is highly encouraged. Please be conscientious in your comments. Don’t spam, troll, taunt, flame, belittle, bully, attack, sabotage, embarrass, threaten, harass, intimidate, demean, or insult other creators or their work. Not in town halls; not in media comments; not in public or private messages or emails. Not on Poptent. Keep outside beefs out of Poptent. This is a professional community and there is no need for friction or animosity.
Be Honest: Be yourself. The creation or utilization of false accounts, either to bolster one’s likes, karma, or general community standing or used to negatively affect another creator’s profile or media will not be condoned.
Be Constructive: Keep all criticism or feedback constructive and respectful. If you wouldn’t say it at the family dinner table, don’t say it here. Remember, some people want feedback while others may not.
All I can say to that is “Hell yes, it’s about damn time.” Being a filmmaker that works on spec is hard enough as it is. There is simply mo reasons that the people who use Poptent should be forced to put up with liars, bullies and trolls. The company has a moral obligation to provide an artistically “safe” place where filmmakers can feel free to express themselves and share their work in a “hater-free” environment. So I’m very happy to see that Poptent finally stepped up and created measures that protect their members from the few bad apples that are our there. If you want to read the entire Code of Conduct for yourself, follow this link. You really should take a look at it. It’s short, well-written and even has some pretty colors in it: http://www.poptent.net/code-of-conduct