An Approach to Content Access

The Tragedy of the Commons follows from people collectively abusing a weakly governed space that they all equally share. In the classic formulation, people bring cows into a public green that has no formal rules or owner. The green supports up to a specific maximum number of cows before it can’t offer enough grass to fully feed every cow. But people soon realize that the incremental effect of just one more cow leads to such an imperceptible decrease in overall utility that they’ll personally benefit when they have more cows on the green than their neighbors do. Everyone else wises up, eventually. Before you know it, the green is overpopulated and everyone experiences significant loss when everyone’s cows die of starvation and disease.

The Tragedy of the Commons is a special case of what economists call a free-rider problem. It’s the situation wherein some people achieve substantial benefit while not contributing to the overall welfare of the community. In the context of online content-sharing sites, you’ll most often see free-rider problems on community forums and Telegram groups, where a very small number of people offer content while everyone else offers little-to-no content and often only engages to lodge requests, ask for content to be served up on a direct-message platter, or to “bump” someone else’s request.

FMBN Social Is Different

FMBN Social thinks differently about the free-rider problem by re-imagining the purpose and infrastructure of an online sharing community.

When you examine existing online sharing communities, you’ll notice that each type of platform admits to varying strengths and weaknesses. This pro/con assessment is foundational to the platform and strongly influences factors like community and user trust.

A forum-based system brings order and historical accessibility. They’re easily navigated through a hierarchical taxonomy ordered temporally, with generally robust search capabilities. However, forums don’t support community-building activities very well, nor do they offer robust tools to prohibit leeching or bad-faith signups. They’re also usually open to search bots, so they attract unsavory characters who, for various reasons, gravitate toward specific keywords. Forums must therefore erect a thousand different thou-shalt-not rules about who can post what, and why. Look at LPSG’s unwieldy moderation system as an excellent case in point.

A chat-based system — like Telegram or Discord — is great for real-time conversations and social engagement in the moment, but content discoverability tends to suck, and user auditing and permissions tend to be a beast when the site grows beyond just a few dozen people. And unless you self-host a chat server, which isn’t exactly in everyone’s wheelhouse, you’re subject to the whim of the platform owners whether you get deleted or not.

A torrent-based system handles the leech problem by instituting upload/download ratios for content, but there’s no meaningful opportunity to network with other torrenters apart from (in most cases) poorly implemented bolt-on forum systems. Case in point:

A social-stream system, which is what FMBN Social adopts, takes a middle ground between the rigid structures of a forum system and the fast-and-loose nature of a chat system. A social stream allows for better networking (including sub-community networking) while supporting better content discoverability. It’s like a private Facebook group on steroids.

Solving the Free Rider Problem

FMBN Social aims to be a next-generation sharing community that honors the lessons of the past while creating cutting-edge infrastructure and processes that mitigate the worst elements of free ridership.

  • Closed to External Inspection. FMBN Social does not offer non-member previews or guess access, nor is content indexed by search engines. This opaqueness to the broader Internet helps to protect members’ privacy and to limit the disruptive effects of non-members searching for specific content by keyword.
  • Limited Access. All prospective members must file a request to join, which is manually reviewed by an administrator. This process includes a vetting of credentials. An application is not a guarantee of access, and to keep systems in sync while limiting attack vectors, the application website and the FMBN social server are on different platforms with different IP addresses. We believe that this screening process — while unlikely to be perfect — will cut down on spam and bad behavior.
  • Auditing. Vetting alone isn’t enough. The administrator periodically reviews each member’s recent posting and login histories to determine whether the user’s current level of access remains appropriate. People who promise much but deliver little see diminished opportunity for ongoing membership.
  • Policies Against Favoritism. Online communities often descend into chaos and acrimony when the people with platform authority treat members with differing standards. In FMBN Social, although staff determinations are inherently subjective, the broad outlines of what leads to increased and decreased internal permissions are well known and evenly enforced. No one gets special treatment because he’s liked, or given the short straw because he’s disliked.
  • Protection Against Scraping. The thing that will kill sites like OnlyFans is that unscrupulous actors (we call them “members”) gain access once, siphon the entire archive, then vanish. At FMBN Social, we encourage members to offer content in the form of file-locker services, wherein links remain open for only a brief period of time before being closed and some other content offered in its place. At any given time, relatively little content is immediately available; however, over time, and with sustained engagement, very much content is available. This open-and-close approach makes the drive-by scraping value of FMBN Social significantly smaller than it otherwise would be. It also encourages members to return repeatedly to avoid #FOMO.
  • Protection Against Leeching. To protect against people consuming more than they give, and in addition to audits, FMBN Social channels content into groups. At present, the site supports eight official content groups, although we may add others later. By default, members gain access to any three of their choice. Access to additional groups comes from obvious merit as determined by the administrator. This approach means that “doing the minimum” in terms of uploading enough to keep site access still isn’t adequate to gain access to the entire catalog. We expect that only a small proportion of active members will see access to all NSFW content groups. This approach approximates the strength of the torrent sites that enforce mandatory upload/download ratios.
  • Trusted Traders. A closed community allows people the chance to interact to determine whether private sharing with smaller internal networks makes sense. FMBN Social, because it’s based on a stream model supported by a robust real-time private messaging framework, supports this kind of “social proofing” as well as group PMs that function equivalently to chat services.
  • Trading Escrow. Sometimes people seek to trade very valuable content but don’t really trust each other. FMBN Social offers an unofficial escrow service brokered by the site owner, wherein both parties independently upload their content then the owner verifies it and grants crosswise access. That way, low-trust trades may occur with a respected honest broker overseeing the transaction. This (purely voluntary!) opportunity obviates the problem of people offering a high-value trade then stalemating over who goes first, or someone goes first then the other doesn’t deliver.
  • Private Groups. FMBN Social supports public groups open to all members, but members may also petition the administrator for a private/closed group within the system for more intense networking or trading within the larger community.

Access to Content in FMBN Social

The first incarnation of FMBN — the Discord server inaugurated by Cap — created tiers of members: Fitness Lover, Platinum, Diamond, MVP. When the Discord server was removed (by Discord itself), many of the “survivors” migrated to a private Rocket.Chat instance hosted by JSL. In Rocket.Chat, we persisted a member/gold/diamond distinction, because those tiers roughly associated to groups of private chatrooms, which was the only model we had for managing access to content.

In FMBN Social, the third iteration of this wacky collection of miscreants, we’re eliminating a user-tier structure in favor of a content-group structure. As such, there’s no such thing as “gold” or “diamond” anymore, and there likely never will be again. The community, like the servers themselves, start from scratch, with processes in sync with the underlying infrastructure.

FMBN Social supports four types of groups:

  • Public groups: The group FMBN Central is core to everyone; it’s the main hub of the site. Optionally, FMBN Family offers exclusively safe-for-work content and discussions. Members may self-select Family with no additional approvals required.
  • Content groups: The site presently offers eight official content groups—
    • Athletes, Bodybuilders & Fitness Models
    • Celebrities, Models & Influencers
    • Hetero Sex & Bi Orgies
    • Kink, Trans & Horsehung
    • Ordinary, Amateur & Unknown Fellows
    • Pornstars and Camwhores
    • Softcore Gay & Erotic Massage
    • Twinks, Hipsters & Tiny Cocks
  • Private groups: Members may petition the admin to create a private, unlisted group. To ensure compliance with site policies, the admin must be part of these groups. For example, the site administrator opens “Betty’s Bar and Grille” which features his own premium content offerings.
  • Ad-hoc conversations: Any member may create one-on-one or group chats within site site, outside the eyes of the admin.

To gain or maintain access to any content groups or gain access to additional content groups, members must:

  1. Keep basic site access—
    • DO: Follow site rules, and post something non-trivial (e.g., more than “me too” stuff) at least once every three days, on average, between audits. This “non-trivial” commitment can be honored with something as simple as a text conversation with someone in FMBN Central; it need not be a massive content drop.
    • DO NOT: Violate site rules, or vanish for extended periods of time without a friendly heads-up to site staff.
  2. Keep access to three content groups—
    • DO: Post meaningful content in each group at least once every three days, between audits, or oversee a private group that brings value to a subset of the community, or be a social hero.
    • DO NOT: Stop posting meaningful content.
  3. Add and retain access to a fourth content group—
    • DO: Post meaningful content daily in each group, or support site infrastructure through the recommended Patreon tier, or earn admin recognition for community service.
    • DO NOT: Stop posting content, or discontinue a Patreon pledge, or routinely post superfluous material (e.g., one- or two-word comments instead of Likes) or routinely post material that must be removed by moderators, or be insufficiently chill.
  4. Add and retain access to a fifth+ content group—
    • DO: Offer much luscious content and go above-and-beyond in service to the community.
    • DO NOT: Overdraw your goodwill with staff.
  5. Gain ownership of a private group—
    • DO: Petition the admin and be an established user with a good reputation.
    • DO NOT: Allow the group to disregard site rules or to incur an average of 1.0 or fewer posts per day over a 7-day window (in which case, the group will be removed).

Some definitions are in order.

Meaningful content represents file-locker sharing of photos or videos. The content should not be recently scraped from the top-of-charts list on a torrent site or LPSG or a Telegram room (we see what you did there; we have little tolerance for “porn photocopiers” regardless of the direction the content flows). It should also not be stuff immediately available by a Google or Bing search. For example, scraping two or three PornHub or MyVidster videos isn’t helpful. FMBN Social, by design, does not self-host content. All content is governed by individual members through their personal network of file lockers.

Insufficiently chill means acting in a manner that, while well within the rules, nevertheless annoys others. Stuff like one- or two-word comments instead of using the Like button, or a clear obsession with content acquisition, or lodging requests more often than adding content, or engaging in pseudo-moderation, or derailing ongoing conversations, or frequently posting unlabeled content—none of this behavior is banned, but it tends to engender social friction that works against the extension of additional privileges on the site. In general, the more time/attention a user commands among staff, the less likely it is that additional privileges will be granted, regardless of the member’s posting frequency.

Social hero means that people with less-robust collections nevertheless bring ongoing value to the community by being active and engaged in conversations and in sharing stuff like funny memes, interesting news pieces or answering other members’ questions.

This approach is new. It’s an experiment. Will you join us?

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