My letter to the IMDb’s Col Needham: Save the message boards!

(Note to readers: here is the petition asking to save the IMDb message boards – please sign!) Dear Mr. Needham, I know your decision appears to have been made, but I must address some core errors of reasoning, as well as actual factual errors, inherent in your FAQ about the decision to destroy the IMDb boards. This decision is ill-advised and, in my opinion, in need of immediate reversal. You say in your FAQ that “boards are always temporary in nature” but this is not universally true. Countless times I have found an answer to a technical question on a board discussion which was many years old but still had valuable information – which is why it came up prominently in a Google search. And unlike a technical discussion group, I would venture to say that the IMDb boards are something more. Thanks to the good-faith contributions of countless movie fans over the years, they are now a deep repository of information and analysis, and are of tremendous value to passionate moviegoers worldwide.  I can’t count how many times I’ve come to the boards with an interpretive or factual question about a film, and been delighted to find that someone there had indeed answered it – maybe years ago, but the insight was no less valuable or welcome.  Some sort of archiving must surely be done, even if new contributions are no longer possible. This would still be less than ideal, but is far superior to simply destroying such a massive information resource that has been contributed to for so many years. You further state that “Board discussions … are an unmoderated mix of fact, fiction and off-topic banter which is designed to be stored only temporarily, is scattered across a number of different threads and is only really available on our desktop site.” They are indeed moderated at a basic level, as the number of posts deleted by administrators clearly shows. And they’re hardly available “only on the desktop site”. These days I access the boards primarily through your iOS app – and I was glad when they became available there.  Further, I would argue that calling the boards a “mix of fact, fiction and off-topic banter” both maligns the very nature of the boards, and misrepresents the content found therein. Sure, there is a level of ill-informed commentary. But overall, I have always found the IMDb boards to have a far better signal-to-noise ratio than many others. For me, and I’m sure many others, the occasional bit of easily-skipped trollery is a small price to pay for the lively, opinionated and frequently very well-informed and articulately expressed opinions to be found there. You suggest that if there is content users wish to preserve, they copy/archive it locally, or submit it to one of IMDb’s content sections.  But the nature of the discussions on the boards is such that there is simply no other place where most of the insights contained in them could be placed. That was kind of the point. And it was the reason I would almost always check out the boards for any film, especially an older one, after viewing it – as they would be more likely to have a good amount of informative comments and commentary awaiting me. Finally, your suggestion that IMDb’s social media accounts could serve to somehow replace the boards is, to put it generously, misguided in the extreme. I hardly need point out to you that the endless, unorganized, difficult-to-search stream of comments on Facebook and Twitter are in no way a subsititute for the boards, which provide a simple and clear way to find comments about a particular film. In light of all the above, your claims that you wish to “enhance the customer experience” and provide one that is “positive [and] useful” ring hollow.  I’m sure you’re aware of a petition, currently nearing 10,000 signatures, asking that you save the boards: I have of course signed this, and I hope you will consider this as you reconsider your decision.  A final thought: it’s been suggested that this is a purely financial/business decision, due to less ad revenue being provided by the board audience. If so, then I must say that it is a classic “penny wise, pound foolish” act. The ill will you will generate among your most passionate – and socially connected – audience, the “influencers” for whom the IMDb truly represented and supported their love of movies, are likely to turn away from the entire site. I have even heard talk of a boycott of IMDb’s corporate parent, This is a path I would feel obliged to consider if your decision proceeded unchanged.  I still recall many years ago, when it was “Cardiff’s Movie Database”, a heartfelt effort by movie lovers to catalogue information about their favourite films. While the site quickly evolved into a successful commercial effort, the people-powered, grassroots origins of the endeavour always seemed to remain somehow evident.  With this decision, the community heart of the IMDb will have been torn out. If that happens, I won’t be back.  I hope you’ll do the right thing. Sincerely, Adam Abrams

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