The Year Is 2014

Jeff Veillette (Jeffler)
August 04 2014 10:45AM

mcdavid

This isn't my usual type of post by any means, and I ultimately can't tell someone how to run their own website, but I feel like an outlet with a lot of reach and viewership should probably be called out if people are oblivious to a serious issue involving them. So today, let's talk about HFBoards and link bias.

What is HFBoards?

HFBoards is the biggest hockey message board on the internet, by a significant margin*. It has 130,000 members, over a million threads, and nearly 60 million posts, which actually makes it one of the biggest forums ever created on any topic. It's no GaiaOnline or 4Chan, but it's certainly up there.

The HF in HFBoards stands for "Hockey's Future", a prospect information site of decent notoriety. The two sites spent years as brother and sister sites on different domains, but the boards have since been moved under a subdomain of Hockey's Future.

HFBoards is owned by CraveOnline Media, LLC, a male-oriented content publishing network that owns several sites, and itself a subsidiary of EvolveMedia, LLC. They are not a small group of hockey fans at the top by any means, nor have they been for the bulk of their near fifteen year existence.

* Reddit's /r/hockey sub-section has more members, but isn't really a message board.

What is the problem?

UPDATE: One of the head admins at HF reached out to me about the issue. The staff member enforcing this rule in the Leafs section interpreted it incorrectly and was enforcing it as such. 

The policy has not changed from its previous incarnation. Readers can link to any content they please; only content creators must seek Partnership if they wish to self promote. 

I'm one of those people who searches themselves on the Internet. People call the move egomaniacal, but truthfully, I just want to see what kind of reach my content has and get feedback that I'm not usually getting. HFBoards is one of the places that I check; people occasionally talk about my articles, not to mention the fact that used to be very active on there (and still pop in every now and then).

Yesterday, I went on a search to see if anybody linked to any recent posts here on TheLeafsNation.com. By "went on a search", I mean I typed "theleafsnation" into their search box. The most recent post I found about us was in a thread titled "Under the Shannyscope", which linked to this article (which I haven't yet read and don't have an opinion on as such).

At least, it used to. The link was edited out, and a staff member, who once claimed to have been the one to discover Nikolai Kulemin and that Jeremy Williams was going to be an elite sniper, had this to say:

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tl;dr - If a site isn't MSM, or signed up to the HFBoards Partner Program, it is against the rules to post about them. 

Why is this bad?

This rule made a bit of sense in an earlier incarnation, where posters weren't allowed to link to their own websites. This stopped users from coming onto the site for the express purpose of promotion, and getting overly annoying with their links. It was to stop people like sixteen year old me from flooding them with bad content in exchange for a few extra clicks, especially if your site was a message board. Truthfully, I was guilty of this in the past, and that was one of the reasons I was once banned from the site.

The Partner Program offered what seemed like a fair compromise. It was free, and once your site was vetted by the staff, you gained the ability to promote yourself as long as you linked back to HFBoards. Of course, if you weren't a member or were but never promoted yourself, your readers were more than welcome to cite you as a means of creating discussion, and nobody batted an eyelash. This allowed quality content to get exposure to more hockey fans, and created better discussion on a venue that needed it. The entire system was win-win.

The new rule gets rid of the reader element. It doesn't matter what your affiliation with the linked website is anymore; you're simply not allowed to post it unless it's on an authorized list. This is ridiculous.

First and foremost, it creates an automatic conclusion on which sites are "quality content" which ones aren't. If you don't have the the seal of approval, you're automatically considered unreliable and invalid by a resource that, like it or not, is used by 130,000 registered readers and likely a solid million more. As well, HFBoards gears to a bit of a younger demographic that is still learning the ins and outs of the NHL; most people I know that have registered created their accounts in their teenage years, a trend which continues to this day. 

It doesn't matter if your content is on TSN.ca or superdupermegafunhockeyblog.blogspot.ca (if it doesn't exist, here's your chance to start it). Good content is good content, and bad is bad. It's undeniable that the mainstream outlet has the higher chance of getting read, but "likeliness to be read" isn't a measure of quality. If someone stumbles upon your post and likes it, and thinks others will too, it shouldn't be written off because it's not on a list.

Maybe it's a credentials thing? Probably not. By my count, five writers on TheLeafsNation.com have had credentials for professional hockey games at some point. Tons of other blogs could say the same thing. OilersNation has two former NHLers on the writer's list. Not NHL media, players. Under these rules, they're not credible.

Using myself as an example - I've spent three years as a member of the American Hockey League media. I've had NHL Credentials for the last Winter Classic. If I write a Marlies story on here, it's done using the very same process as a member of a mainstream outlet; I've been in the press box or the practice facility to watch the team (more so than almost any member of the media in the past couple of years, I'd guess). I'm talking to the same players and staff that a traditional outlet has access to. If a reader likes it and spreads it around, does my domain name make it invalid?

No, as long as I convince the Nations Network staff to plaster HF's link on every single page and then ask for permission to post my stuff, all so I can go back to posting in the Leafs Lounge once a month while someone else links to my articles occasionally. Gotcha.

Another issue that may not get brought up by anybody else? Plagiarism. I can't say for certain that this has happened yet, or that it will, but if you can't link to content, or say where you got it from, at what point do users just start copying it without attribution? Whether it's a chart, a paragraph, a photoshopped picture of Sidney Crosby falling off a trampoline, or a quote, this becomes a potential inevitability.

The policy, from the perspective of creating hockey content, is archaic. The advent of social media and blogging has made the sports reporting and discussion experience very inclusive and based around crowd-creation. The blogosphere has become less about competition and more about collaboration. Everybody wants to learn - both to make their own content better, and to get a better understanding of the sport they love.

Meanwhile, HFBoards looks to close themselves off, rather than open themselves up.

Why do they do it?

This is where being owned by an Internet company kicks in. The staff themselves may not even fully realize this as they enforce it, but it's hard to see this as a quality control move. If it was about quality content, threads would be locked and posts would be removed on a case by case basis.

If I were a betting man (aka, this is my speculation), this probably is a Search Engine Optimization move. 

As I mentioned before, the only way to become a member of the partner program is have your site approved, and to provide a backlink to HFBoards, specifically a prominent one that says "forums" or "message board". This is partially a traffic thing, as most site operators will tell you, outbound sidebar links aren't exactly traffic goldmines. What it does do, however, is gives the site a boost in most search engine algorithms. A site that's full of hockey keywords with an outgoing link to a keyword will help out that link when people search hockey (keyword).

It's a smart way to keep their stranglehold on "hockey forum" and "hockey message board" searches. Or, if you choose to link to, say, the Leafs section on TheLeafsNation, "leafs forum", "leafs message board", and so on and so forth.

Not only are they likely trying to encourage more people to opt into doing this with this new rule, they're trying to keep the quality of their outgoing links up. By keeping it to mainstream media, they're making it so they're only giving link value to sites that would beat them in search engine results anyway. There's no helping of a "little guy" (who actually just wants to encourage discussion, not win at Google), because the little guy is competition.

Case in point: Youtube Videos are okay, while posts from Blogspot-based sites aren't. In both cases, the content creator isn't getting the traffic and main revenue; that heads to Google, who owns both sites. The difference? Individual profiles on blogspot have different ranking power, whereas all Youtube channels work under the same primary branch.

Oh, and there's that. The move to the hockeysfuture domain looked like a needless destruction of what HFBoards.com established over the years, but ultimately, the the goal is to boost viewership of their prospect site, which is beginning to lose its relevance of old as it becomes easier to follow prospects via the internet.

I'm sure the moderators are sick of deleting "Crosby to Leafs, according to muchlegittradetracker.wordpress.com" posts, but I'm not sure that's not what this move is about. It seems as if it's making sure the rich get richer, while the poor and middle class were merely looking to have a conversation.

The Official Response, So Far

In (much) shorter words, Steve and myself went into the thread in question and brought up a couple of our concerns. Most other members agreed with us, though one felt that the policy was a good way to keep out bad content.

Eventually, Mess returned to the thread, and left the following message:

I am going to close this thread. It was only intended to help educate the posters as to HF site rules. /Closed

Strong words. About an hour later, the entire thing was deleted, as if it never happened. 

7cb905bdffc4d09e93770ff4a1889462
I bring news about the Toronto Marlies, opinions about the Toronto Maple Leafs, and a bunch of ridiculous thoughts about everything else.
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#1 SkinnyFish
August 04 2014, 10:58AM
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If this means that those HFBoard morons can't slobber their stupidity upon the good names of hockey on the internet, then I say that's a good thing.

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#3 Jaram
August 04 2014, 11:32AM
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"once thought Jeremy Williams was an elite sniper " umm pretty sure Dangle said that in one of his old videos too.

Is it that difficult to go get accredited? Really?

has TLN ever interviewed a player or exec or anything ever? Steve interviewed a friend of the dude who was punched out in Boston ok I'm sure HF wouldnt mind that being posted in this context because it's unique content.

hard to blame them for wanting to filter out elongated opinion pieces basically.

People do not come here for news people come here for opinion therefore the articles on this website 9 times out of 10 are not newsworthy.

honestly sorry to say it some of your stuff is cool but it is not what I want to be flooding hfboards. Real features with interviews and inside perspectives are meant to be front and centre on a big-named hockey page like HF..

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#4 Benjamin
August 04 2014, 02:00PM
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@Jaram

While I understand this perspective the reality is in hockey there's stats and there's opinion, if its a player interview than its just the player's opinion. And to be perfectly frank I can't remember the last time I found an interview of a hockey player 'newsworthy', they're a pretty vanilla bunch (in my opinion).

Meanwhile I find many of the opinions posted on sites like here, Mapleleafshotstove and PPP much more thought provoking and conducive to conversation than anything that MSM sources like the Sun or Star has coming out.

Arbitrarily officiating content on a forum out of concern for an archaic corporate agenda just seems pretty backwards in the social media world we live in.

Edit: glad to hear the last part isn't the case.

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#5 CMpuck
August 04 2014, 04:44PM
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Lol, I received a temporary ban for once suggesting that Kesler would only fetch a late 1st round pick and a couple of filler players and not giving up the opinion.

Mods are just losers that can't stomach text that doesn't validate their egos that were broken in the 'brick and mortar' world. HFboards has plenty of embarrassing moderation.

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#6 liamo
August 04 2014, 05:33PM
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Jeff your fighting a losing battle bud the admins are usually douche bags and only got the job because they always seem to be online. Its hard to have a serious debate on there because it just turns into name calling and mud slinging.

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#7 Jaram
August 04 2014, 05:43PM
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Jaram wrote:

"once thought Jeremy Williams was an elite sniper " umm pretty sure Dangle said that in one of his old videos too.

Is it that difficult to go get accredited? Really?

has TLN ever interviewed a player or exec or anything ever? Steve interviewed a friend of the dude who was punched out in Boston ok I'm sure HF wouldnt mind that being posted in this context because it's unique content.

hard to blame them for wanting to filter out elongated opinion pieces basically.

People do not come here for news people come here for opinion therefore the articles on this website 9 times out of 10 are not newsworthy.

honestly sorry to say it some of your stuff is cool but it is not what I want to be flooding hfboards. Real features with interviews and inside perspectives are meant to be front and centre on a big-named hockey page like HF..

Not my comment!! Cut the nonsense out.

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#8 jaskin
August 04 2014, 05:45PM
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Jaram wrote:

"once thought Jeremy Williams was an elite sniper " umm pretty sure Dangle said that in one of his old videos too.

Is it that difficult to go get accredited? Really?

has TLN ever interviewed a player or exec or anything ever? Steve interviewed a friend of the dude who was punched out in Boston ok I'm sure HF wouldnt mind that being posted in this context because it's unique content.

hard to blame them for wanting to filter out elongated opinion pieces basically.

People do not come here for news people come here for opinion therefore the articles on this website 9 times out of 10 are not newsworthy.

honestly sorry to say it some of your stuff is cool but it is not what I want to be flooding hfboards. Real features with interviews and inside perspectives are meant to be front and centre on a big-named hockey page like HF..

Benjamin, stick to golf.

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#9 liamo
August 04 2014, 05:55PM
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Why are we visitng Hockey FUTURES when everyone knows the Leafs don't have any.

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#10 Steve
August 04 2014, 06:02PM
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liamo wrote:

Why are we visitng Hockey FUTURES when everyone knows the Leafs don't have any.

Almost wet my pants on That one..LMAO

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#11 Steve Dangle
August 04 2014, 06:54PM
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Jaram wrote:

"once thought Jeremy Williams was an elite sniper " umm pretty sure Dangle said that in one of his old videos too.

Is it that difficult to go get accredited? Really?

has TLN ever interviewed a player or exec or anything ever? Steve interviewed a friend of the dude who was punched out in Boston ok I'm sure HF wouldnt mind that being posted in this context because it's unique content.

hard to blame them for wanting to filter out elongated opinion pieces basically.

People do not come here for news people come here for opinion therefore the articles on this website 9 times out of 10 are not newsworthy.

honestly sorry to say it some of your stuff is cool but it is not what I want to be flooding hfboards. Real features with interviews and inside perspectives are meant to be front and centre on a big-named hockey page like HF..

Darryl Sittler and Bobby Baun. Ever heard of them? If not, feel free to read my interviews with them on this site. Thanks and take care :)

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#12 CMpuck
August 04 2014, 08:27PM
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Jaram wrote:

"once thought Jeremy Williams was an elite sniper " umm pretty sure Dangle said that in one of his old videos too.

Is it that difficult to go get accredited? Really?

has TLN ever interviewed a player or exec or anything ever? Steve interviewed a friend of the dude who was punched out in Boston ok I'm sure HF wouldnt mind that being posted in this context because it's unique content.

hard to blame them for wanting to filter out elongated opinion pieces basically.

People do not come here for news people come here for opinion therefore the articles on this website 9 times out of 10 are not newsworthy.

honestly sorry to say it some of your stuff is cool but it is not what I want to be flooding hfboards. Real features with interviews and inside perspectives are meant to be front and centre on a big-named hockey page like HF..

HF has interviews? The site is literally a bunch of random fantasy trades made up by people who simultaneously ridicule Eklund for having a trade rumor site.

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#13 Raydz
August 04 2014, 09:33PM
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This article convinced me to... stop following Steve's videos and this website. Well not just this article but a few tweets and videos as well.

Feels like it was written by an entitled teenager that's unhappy he has to play by real world rules.

Don't like that HFBoards doesn't allow linking to your website? Apply to their program. Writing such an article certainly won't fix that... all it does is ensure this website won't be linked on HFBoards for a long time and makes you look very petty.

Honestly their partner program is logical for such a big website and already I find way too many people link to their website instead of posting their thoughts directly there. I personally never click a link to another website unless it's tsn or something.

And HF moderation is awful we all know (super severe on certain things, very biased often times, and very lenient on some posters that should get perma bans within a few days that somehow have 10,000 posts instead). But that's true of most big sites, hockey related or not.

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#14 Skill2Envy
August 05 2014, 12:18AM
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@Raydz

You just proved Jeffler's point. Content should encourage discussion/debate, learning, and/or alternative view points.

This article has certainly made you share your opinion, much like Jeffler did with this article.

Much like HFBoards (and anywhere else on the internet) if you don't like something, move along, or at least give some sort of discussion to why it irks you without berating the person you respond to.

As far as entitled, yes, Jeffler IS entitled to his opinion. And posters on a forum should be entitled to share links they feel are worthy without childish moderators burning every post that doesn't stroke them how THEY feel it should. (Huh, sounds like entitlement on HF's part).

I personally do not engage in HFBoards because I find it doesn't do well in what they probably think they do (or at least what I want), bringing quality content to the users. A change in their policy would do that.

And lastly, probably the most important connection Jeffler brought up without actually saying it - if HFBoards was more like reddit they would do better. They would be the "The front page of Hockey".... read what you like, and simply move along from the garbage if the MOD has not already deleted it.

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#15 jim
August 05 2014, 02:23PM
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@Jeff Veillette (Jeffler)

Hi my name is Jim and Steve edited my comment because I said something homophobic.

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#16 jim
August 06 2014, 09:30PM
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jim wrote:

Hi my name is Jim and Steve edited my comment because I said something homophobic.

BTW,I am performing at Roscoe's Saddlescores Gay sports bar. You can watch hockey with the (tee) Boyz while placing a bet.

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