Online Forums – signing off

My experience with online forums goes back to the early 1980s, and indeed I wrote one of the very few 8080 assembly language software programs to manage large numbers of Usenet Newsgroups – PIMP.

But the experience has always been mixed. The written word in the forums or newsgroups leaves many more able than others, depending on their ability to express themselves using the written word. And the instant nature of the technology leads to some rather interesting interactions.

One of the things we’re trying to do with EVTV is of course promote the evolution of electric vehicles as a personal indiidual effort that many can take to demonstrate or lead us to an energy policy and practice that reduces our dependence on foreign oil and the existing oil based unholy alliance between government, extremely large oil corporations, and equally large automotive manufacturers.

And we’ve been somewhat successful. Despite lower gasoline prices, there has been renewed and indeed increased interest in electric cars and doing conversions, and the chatter from the large manufacturers has changed subtly from “maybe someday” and “hybrid, hybrid, hybrid” to “me too, we’ve got plans” and “battery, battery, battery.”

The latest of course is Toyota CEO’s joy ride in a Tesla Roadster and subsequent announcement that he had “felt the winds of the future.”

For individuals converting cars to electric drive, information is at a premium. The obvious attempt to get it involves Google, and that subsequently leads to forums such as Electric Vehicle Discussion List (EVDL) and Do It Yourself Electric (DIYElectric).

Like all forums, these lists attract a set of “regulars” who simply post more than anyone else. And any information, repeated often enough,, becomes “the word” simply because everyone has read it, passed it on, and read it again.

Unfortunately, there is no check on technical accuracy.

Combine this with a certain level of anonymity, most of the “regulars” have pseudonyms and do NOT post their real names. And you have pretty much a formula for misinformation.

I call this “online engineers typing themselves smart.”

In most cases, despite screens full of text proclaiming their expertise, these are self taught diletanttes, whose education and engineering practice again comes primarily via Google, Wikipedia, DigiKey, and most of all, by typing in the forumes themselves furiously.

As an engineer and technical writer for 30 years, this all smells like opportunity. I don’t mind wading into technical confusion at all, it’s probably what I do best. Misinformation in bulk is a little harder to deal with. DISinformation is just beyond the pale.

With the rise in interest and the search for ever better components, there has been some economic opportunity. We were deeply disappointed when one of our suppliers, James Morrison of EVComponents, came under some internal strife and economic issues and made a startling move to simply disavow responsibility for some $400,000 in prepaid orders from potentially 75 customers who had paid in advance for batteries and components. Apparently Morrison has deecided to stiff these people of their products, and sell the already sold stock AGAIN at bargain basement prices to raise further money and so deal with his economic difficulties.

Like all new frontier industries, this one has attracted its own bevy of snake oil and patent medicine sales force.

The EASIEST target is Battery Management Systems or BMS. After spending $10,000-$15,000 on the most necessary component, batteries, most innovators are struggling to get maximum life from these cells. The problem is the manufaturers provide very little information, and some of that not terribly accurate.

Enter our hero, BMS designer. They throw together some ill thought through designs using inexpensive components, rush it off to Sundstone to make PCBoards, and immediately start selling them to any hapless yuck that they can find. NO testing of any kind in most cases and in the thoroughly tested cadre we are talking about thoroughly tested by running it on the designers car for two weeks. These are available at ALL prices, ranging from $12 per cell to several thousand dollars. The tout is essentially always the same:

If you don’t have a BMS, YOU’LL BE SORRY WHEN YOUR $15,000 BATTERY PACK BLOWS UP HORRIBLY. DON’T SAY WE DIDN’T WARN YOU.

I have spent some time and effort on a particular forum DIYelectric over the past year trying to sort all this out and counter the disinformation provided. The result has been a very understandable attack from those who more or less huant these forums, using them as barely concealed fronts for sales operations. If I come along and mention that their design won’t do what they claim, they go berserk. And if I offer real data information from real cell tests that indicate that the BASIC premises they are using in BMS design are fatally flawed from the beginning, they go into rage.

They are quite accustomed to simply shutting up this talk by gathering the herd, jumping on the heretic, and giving him a good thrashing. Of course, as I said, I was in a VERY rough and tumble world of online forums before many of these people were born. And as a technical writer, I sometimes feel like a child molester picking apart their wholly unsupportable technical nonsense in writing. So the gang up and abuse stunt neither awes or dissuades me. Rather, I find it entertaining and indeed can stoop as low as they want to go in the ad hominum attacks. It’s just not a problem.

We’ve been effective. The sales of useless blue elephant gun BMS systems has plunged. The top balance shunt systems are virtually dead. And generally we have shifted the goal toward Battery MONITORING Systems and informational instrumentation.

But many of the regulars have at least side-business type income from these activities and some are trying to make a living at it. It’s hurt. Since the usual bullying and attempts to simply “vote” me off the island haven’t had their usual result — most people don’t want the abuse and simply quit the forums, the new tactic is to appeal to the forum operator to have me removed or edited.

This came up on EVDL some months back. Administrator David Rhoden contacted me with some very paternalistic advice on how not to stiur up controversy or anger any of his participants. I pointed out to him that I WANTED to stir up controversy and did not MIND angering his participants if it helped anyone sort through the dreck of disinformation and bullshit. But if he intended to delete messages I posted or “edit” them to a tone he felt more comfortable with, I would simply leave the list. And I did so.

Over the past year I’ve posted a lot on DIYElectric and indeed paid for advertising on thise widely used service. This week, I was attacked wholesale by a 14 year old who only identifies himself as METHODS and posts photos of his BMS systems, which are particularly inept. We actually weren’t even in a discussion. He just launched a bomb of ad hominen attacks likening me to “cake and dogshit in a blender.”

My response was quite muted, as the entire thing reallyhad no context. I simply asked if this anonymous person might be another 14 year old boy blunder forum engineer who just might have a BMS product on the table.

Incredibly, I heard from Robert Green, forum administrator, cautioning that several people had complained about my posts. I pointed out that if he cared to check he would find ALL of them were in some way involved in BMS design and sales. I quoted the message I had responded to and he seemed at the time to agree it was a very provoked attack and a measured response.

I got on the service later, and found the attack slightly reworded (edited) and my response deleted entirely.

I pointed out to him that he had apparently decided to edit the stream and essentially disable my ability to respond in a public forum. If we’re going to manage the debate by falsifying the text, what the hell are you doing? He simply explained he was trying to reduce the anger.

I asked him to delete me from the group and remove the ad and incredibly, he initially REFUSED to do so. I then asked him what he thought he was doing. DId he intend to have me “appear to be” active on the forums and condoning the site despite my leaving? Who was going to fake my posts? Was he aware of the legal implications of this?

He finally agreed to delete the account and the ad.

This attempt at editorial “control” which essentially borders on onlien identity theft and fraud. What if someone, with the access of an administrator, starts editing your posts to change their meaning? Or worse, starts posting under your login things you were not even aware you had posted? Where would this end? Online identity theft out of control….

In any event, we are going to continue publishing a video series online with the best information we can determine at the time. Its likely imperfect. But it isn’t dishonest. And having learned now twice how insidious these little relationships are between the forums and the “engineers” that are trying to sell product (most of the ads on Mr. Greens service are BMS ads with the exception of the EVCOMPONENTS ad and ours).

Basically the information on these sites is no longer to be trusted at all. They are willing participants in a scam to milk ducats from people who are interested in electric cars. It is done quite cynically, and quite by design. That is not to say everyone on these forums are part of the conspiracy. Most are simply unaware of the level or purpose of the manipulation. That it would extend to actually editing posts by subscribers, to subtly alter their meaning, by the administrators, is beyond the pale.

We’re probably going to avoid the forums in the future entirely. It takes a lot of time and effort, and I cannot correct every technical idiot theory on perpetual motion in any event. I’ll try to post here to the blog more regularly, and let the forums do what forums do, lead to a lot more heat than light.

I would urge you all to view what you read online with a skeptical eye and exercise critical thinking. The level of misinformation/noise is always horrendous. But at this point there are actually unholy alliances between the forum administrators and their friends, the BMS designers, that are quite deliberate DISinformation.

Jack Rickard

http://EVTV.me

15 thoughts on “Online Forums – signing off”

  1. Hey Jack:

    This isn’t terribly surprising.

    I actually did not know that the DIYEC administrators were editing user posts. I completely agree that for someone so controversial (and I mean that technically, not morally or critically,) it isn’t worth investing your time and contribution to the discussion if there’s no integrity to the record.

    Why doesn’t EVTV launch its own forum site? You have the technical gravity, you are well-respected by enough of those doing conversions and building systems that the traffic would come, and you can ensure the integrity of the timeline and the expression by setting your own (hands off) policy and living by it. Yes, you can remove professional off-topic spam for cheap pharmaceuticals and mail-order brides, but beyond that, letting the the content be is actually pretty simple.

    Maybe its a lot of work, but maybe it isn’t, and this community will surely assist you. There are people out there who would monitor and administer parts of the site to a written policy, escalating to you only as necessary. I am one of those people, and I would do more than that should you just ask. I’m so supportive of what you are doing, and it is of such value to me, my projects, and the community, that I’m actually looking for a way to pick up the rope somewhere and pull with you.

    I’m equally certain there are others that would be equally happy, at a minimum, to move their EV forum traffic to a place that they know will be “just the record, forever;” and particularly because you and your team administer it and are available for comment though it.

    Its time to open the EVTV forums.

    TomA

  2. Hear, Hear!! sick of arguing with people about EV stuff when they don’t even bother to watch your shows, to many people who “Think” they know it all.

    Everyone I know that is interested about EV’s either watches EVTV or I’m not prepared to know them anymore, all your information is free, extremely valuable and 99% correct!

    I hope your immortal and don’t get sick of doing these shows, a 10th Year anniversary of EVTV would be good!!

    Simon

  3. Hi Jack,

    When I saw the title to this post I thought you were kidding. After reading the post I planned on posting a comment about starting your own forum but I see that TomA has already done that. While I haven’t always agreed with your conclusions using your data I’ve appreciated that you have posted your data so I can still come to my own conclusion. I also haven’t cared for your sometimes personal attack style of combating the “my mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts” mentality because the real world data you give does this on its own merits. I can, however, understand the frustration you feel when the information posted is done to promote sales of products, not for the true help of the DIYer.

    I’m going to miss your posts on DIYelectriccar and am saddened by hearing that your posts, and maybe others, have been edited by the admin. Either let the whole post through or don’t. It isn’t a news article, after all. Space isn’t an issue.

    BTW, I was getting ready to post some data on my Gizmo LFP pack after putting over 1300 miles on it. Maybe you can start up a forum as TomA suggested and I’ll post it there. I don’t want “edited” comments to muck up the analysis of what I’m seeing.

    David Nelson
    http://www.evalbum.com/1328

  4. Jack,

    Sorry to hear your not going to be on the DIY but I an not surprised. I have been through that very situation you mentioned. I got moderated and my posts were no where near as problematic as the others. After reading your post here It was an exact repeat of what I went through. I have been getting hot and heavy there and I may just do it again out of spite. I will continue to watch your show and learn from your experience. I am glad I can learn from someone. I even posted that one of the problems at DIY is like it is over at EVDL. There is no learning anymore. Mostly just BS chatter and I want to learn and teach those who want to convert to electric. I want to learn all I can. Keep up the work and I will be watching and learning. Being able to post on the blog is nice. Thanks for that too.

  5. I see only one ad on DIY that is specifically for a BMS, so I’m not sure your conspiracy theory holds up. I’m a big supporter of what you do, but you yourself are often guilty of unwarranted, inaccurate, personal attacks that serve no purpose. You may convince yourself that you are some sort of EV Robin Hood but you need to be more accurate with your arrows. You attacked some people for selling a BMS when they never did and still don’t. I’m sorry to see you go from DIY and fought to keep you there, but you did bring this upon yourself. If you do start a forum I’ll be signing up to see how you run it.

    JRP3

  6. Well said Jack,

    Just a note to EVTV-ers, please consider tipping in for the upload cost. If you do watch EVTV as claimed, then you would be aware of the opportunity Jack has offered to us all.

    EVTV is not free.

    MrJodie

  7. JRP:

    As usual, you have part of it right. There’s one ad, and 3275 posts, they prefer FREE advertising for their little BMS products. I find it astounding as you HAVe read the attacks on me, and you find my replies to much in the way of personal attacks? I’ve simply resisted their usual strategy of ganging up on any naysayers and attacking THEM.

    It didn’t work out for them this time. So they went to the administrator. The individual I referred to as a 14 year old wannabee engineer poseur with a BMS, as it turns out, does sell a BMS and posted pictures of it. It wasn’t even part of an ongoing conversation, he just quoted an old message and went after me for a free “postad”

    From your comments, I think you’ve found a home their JRP. I doubt you would be happy on any forum I would have anything to do with.

    I’ve seen this at its extremis on Endless Sphere, but DIYElectric is simlpy a more elegant version of the same thing. These are not open forums, they are subtle spam machines for the amateur engineers. On DIY I saw Dmitri go from concept (ill conceived) to product delivery in 38 days. These are kids with Eagle prograns looking for a fast buck preying on newbies to the EV community. I resent it. I have fought it. And you all DID find a way to make me go away.

    I do NOT maintain a presence where Nazi administrators proclaim who can say what. I certainly don’t do that where they “edit” posts altering their meaning without the permission of the poster.

    The level of comical misinformation on these forums is not really funny. Many people new to this technology are horribly mislead by the information avaiable on these. Part of what the Internet is I suppose.

    I think you’ll be happier just where you are.

    Jack Rickard

  8. I simply thought, and still do, that your message comes across stronger when backed up with facts and reason, not personal attacks and accusations of criminal behavior. If someone does that to you responding in kind is not necessarily the best way to get your message out. You know I agree with most of your positions but I don’t automatically think someone who disagrees with me is a criminal. As you yourself say we are on the frontier of a new technology, lots of people are going to try a number of different ways to do things. Some will work and some wont, some may be dangerous. That does not mean their motives are sinister in nature. Dimitri’s non-shunting version of his BMS is inexpensive and probably harmless if you want cell level signaling to shut off a charger. I can see where that might be useful as I’m having issues when charging with my PFC30 from different line voltages. The shutoff voltage that is set at 120VAC ends up being about 2 volts lower when charging from 240VAC and I have to keep adjusting the trim pot or end up undercharged at 240VAC or overcharged at 120VAC. His new SOC gauge looks to have good features and is cheaper than the Xantrex/TBS. I’ll be getting one soon to test. I welcome innovative and industrious people willing to do the work to improve the options for DIY EVs.
    As to your forums, I plan on joining. If you wish you can deny me or kick me out. However, I’d think you might want at least one voice that may not walk in lock step with you and won’t be afraid to disagree at times. If you simply want a cheer leading section then you’re correct in stating that I won’t be happy there.

    JRP3

  9. Jack,

    I participate a bit at DIYEC, Ecomodder, and EVTech.
    I am one of the folks who do not express themselves so well in writing.
    I find a lot of good info in your postings even when I don’t agree. I’ll come by here more often to see what is up on the blog since you won’t be posting at DIYEC any more. I too agree that a new forum here would be good, You had an open editorial in BBS mag, and I always felt that was the best part of the magazine. I am a fan of the videos and look forward to them. I do hope that you will pull in some video from other folks after you have completed the Speedster part Duh.

    Keep it up, you are certainly well expressed!

    Mark Weisheimer (yes, it’s my real name….)

  10. Mr. Rickard,

    I would certainly welcome another EV forum. I never miss any of your shows, even though we are on opposite sides of the EV spectrum. I will always be a fan of “turning junk into electric junk”. Ironically, I’m not a big fan of DIYelectric because it seems everyone there is big into “dropping 20 grand into a conversion or don’t bother doing it”. Luckily, I never would get involved in any LiPO discussions as any conversion I would do would be of the lead/acid kind, but I see where you’re coming from with all the negativity surrounding it. Actually, the “cheap” person in me LOVES the idea of saving money by not monitoring each cell.
    In any case, in today’s Friday Show (May 28th), you’ ve mentioned the Curtis PB-6 and its deficiencies, a big one being lack of longevity. I am rather surprised that more people in the EV community don’t use the stock throttle position sensor for their vehicle. Most are 0-5K Ohms, they already come attached to the accelerator, and are certainly built for longevity!
    Anyway, I’d like to thank you for the great service you do for the EV community, and would encourage you to expand with your own forum. Just don’t be mad at those of us who want to talk about cheap alternatives.

    Paul-Pascal Van de Poel
    The $500 electric “junk”
    http://www.evalbum.com/2958

  11. Hi Jack,
    I appreciate both your passion and your candor. It seems selfish of me to ask you to spend more of your time, energy and money on yet another activity that will, no doubt, result in no small amount of grief for you. Nevertheless, I vote for you to start your own forum, too. You could call it “The Lightning Rod Forum”, for obvious reasons.

    There’s nothing wrong with challenging and spirited debate. Your style is bold, assertive, and vigorous. Personally, I like it. The forums tend to get so lame when no one pushes the comfort zone. Anyone who challenges my thought process forces me to sharpen it. To joust on the tilting field of ideas; I consider this true respect. Some people just don’t get it.

    Illegitimi non carborundum

    Alex J Smith

  12. Well I’m HERE reading YOUR posts because I respect that you back up your claims with data. I enjoy your banter with those guys hocking their electronic snake oil remedies. YOU have talked me out of the notion that I HAD TO HAVE A BMS to use lithium batteries.

    Though I do want to monitor them I don’t want to CONTROL them, only want to charge and discharge appropriately and bottom balance.

    That said I think you should continue to do so and not let them get under your skin. Your input is invaluable and much needed there!

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