Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A follow up to my letter to Steve Wieck

I didn't get a direct reply but I got a letter to publishers today from OBS on the issue along with the proposed policy which I will share with you.

Looks like they are dealing with the concerns I had about automatic reporting. I like the idea of a white list where a product that flagged, been reviewed and found NOT offensive is not subject to repeated reviews. This means that the publishers that generate controversy will not get repeatably bothered about the same product over and over again. Once a publisher successfully dealt with the process it over for that product.

Also since we are dealing a handful of reviewers in what is a small company, I hope that they will do the common sense thing if a publisher entire list is targeted and they finding that it works goes on the white list.. By the umpteenth occurrence the publisher's line should be given a brief review and then everything should be white-listed as obviously that publisher being targeted.   Only new products subject to the normal process afterwards.

Of course nothing is going to change the fact that the whole thing is a highly subjective judgment. And the only way to ease concern about that is to establish a track record. So we will just have to wait and see on that. Which in my opinion would be the case regardless of how liberal or restrictive of a policy they adopted.

In the end it as much people as it is policy. The policy is what gives structure but the people involved is what defines it. In the hand of one group even the most liberal policy can be a vehicle for tyranny of a narrow view while in the hands of another used to create something that supports free expression.

What is the process for flagging offensive titles? 
Step 1: Customer reports a product.
Step 2: A human being at OneBookShelf does a cursory review to determine if the title should be temporarily suspended from sale or not. Either way the product is put in queue for review.
Step 3: A more thorough review of the product in completed. If deemed not offensive the product is whitelisted. If deemed potentially offensive then...
Step 4: We have expanded internal review and discussion with publisher possibly resulting in publisher retraction of the title or banning of the title.

Will a title be turned off automatically if it is flagged?
No, just because a title is flagged as offensive, it will not be automatically turned off. This process will send alerts to our staff for quick review. If our staff sees a product that is problematic, they will temporarily suspend it for further review.

Who will review the offensive titles list? 
Steve Wieck, C.E.O., who has the final say on titles marked as offensive.
Scott Holden, Marketing and Development
Matt McElroy, Director of Publishing and Marketing
Meredith Gerber, RPG Publisher Relations
Other OneBookShelf staff as deemed helpful for particular products.

I am concerned that a group that may not like myself, my company, or my product will report the title as offensive over and over until it gets pulled. How will this affect the process?
We understand that there are groups within the industry that may not be in favor of the other, but we will only be looking at the content of the product itself. Our only focus is what the content of the title is not what the author’s personal ideology is on their blog or what the artist’s criminal record is, or what other products the publisher has created or anything else outside of the product itself.

Will you be contacting the publisher before, during, or after a review? 
You will receive an email from us when your product is reported as offensive. The email will let you know if we have temporarily suspended the product or not while we review it. After we review the product you will get an email from us letting you know the product was whitelisted (and re-activated if it was suspended) or letting you know we would like to chat on the phone with you because there is potentially a problem with the product.

Will you be giving scrutiny to certain topics? 
We're going to give extra scrutiny to rape, real world racial violence, torture, sexism, homophobia, and crimes against children.

What is white list?
The White List refers to titles on site that have gone through the review process and determined not to offensive.

What can I do to be on the white list?
Nothing. Only titles that are reported as offensive and reviewed as not offensive are white listed. It is not a privileged status to desire for your products.

Are products grandfathered in?
With our library of thousands of products, we will not be able to go through every single title to make sure it is approved by our staff. We will, however, treat old products just like new ones when they’re marked as offensive.

How will you conduct this process with old titles? 
If a product is flagged as offensive, we will be going through the same process.

What if I don’t like another publisher’s title? 
Just as we expected publishers not to review one another's’ titles on site, we expect publishers not to flag another publisher’s title offensive on site. Customer accounts associated to publisher accounts will not be able to report titles as offensive. If you see something on site that you feel is genuinely offensive then you can email publisher service and let us know.

When will this be enforced?
We need to code the system for flagging titles. We expect it to be done by the end of October or sooner.

Should I be concerned about the new policy and how it will affect my marketplace?
At this time, we have not yet banned an RPG title.


Unknown said...

I found it interesting that another publisher can not flag a product. I mean, they could if they really wanted to by creating a completely new account...but an account tied to a publisher can not flag.

I also like that a flagged product is not automatically taken down.

Side Note: I wonder how long it will be before someone purposefully puts up an offensive product just to push buttons and see how far they can push the system.

Unknown said...

Sexism? My goodness. Too bad some of the old RPG's aren't grandfathered in. There may be little left if this is ever enforced. Goodbye chainmail bikini. We hardly knew yee.

Unknown said...

In an earlier letter they mentioned that they are actually rather lenient. I suspect the old RPGs would be fine. I do think it will be interesting to see what they do ban so we can see their baseline.

Unknown said...

What happens to a purchaser of a 'banned' product? Will they still be able to download said item from their account once the product has been banned? Or perhaps will they be offered a refund/in store credit! Part of the reason to having an account is to be able to access a product of a hard drive etc crashes, if I cannot be assured of getting my product, who is to blame/foots the bill? Will verified purchasers be told to 'download' prior to final banning, as per Marvel Heroic etc?

Pulp Herb said...

That last answer bothers me a bit because it seems to be a dodge. They have banned at least one product, a card game. An answer that artfully avoids that topic sets off my "less than transparent" alarm. This is doubly true given that banning had the appearance of influence by a publisher routinely in their top sales list.

If they had said, "we have banned one title< Gamer Gate the Card Game due to concerns about real life violence" even though I though the reason was bs I would have more faith in their judgments not being affected by non-content issues.