eBay Community Solutions - How Much Control Is Too Much?
eBay Community Manager Sheila Dhake has ruffled some feathers with an announcement that community staff (eBay employees) will be taking over greater control of the forums moving forward with the power to select "solutions" to posts without any input from the original author.
Starting today, the Community team will start accepting solutions for post that have a clear answer and within policy. This will apply to all boards except for the Ask a Mentor board.
Short and simple announcement so you're aware.
Community members raised several concerns including, but not limited to:
How will posts with multiple correct answers be treated to determine the "solution"?
Will the original poster have any input or be able to deselect the eBay employee chosen solution and select a different answer instead?
Is this really the best use of the time/resources of the 2 remaining eBay employees who are tasked with overseeing the entire community forum?
I'll add a couple of other questions too -
What does this mean for the status of the community in regard to eBay customer support?
eBay has stated in the past that the community is a member to member forum and not considered an "official" support channel. However, if eBay employees who engage with users in their professional capacity are now going to be officially empowered to select their own or other user's answers as "solutions", arguably that changes the playing field considerably.
eBay can't have it both ways here. Either the community is a member to member discussion forum with eBay employees as occasional referees to enforce the rules and host a weekly chat hour or they are providing official support services (including but not limited to determining "correct" answers to member questions about eBay policies and procedures) with all of the responsibility and accountability as any other official company support channel.
Will this have a chilling effect on free and open discussion in the forums?
While it may not lock the thread from further discussion, marking a topic as "solved" bumps the solution post up in visibility and also gives a very obvious visual cue that signals the conversation has naturally come to a close...no further responses needed.
Will this new power be used as a subtle way to attempt to "resolve" topics and move things along to put a premature end to discussion?
If you don't think this power has the potential to be abused...let me tell you about a time when I was personally asked by eBay staff to change a solution I had accepted on a discussion topic I had started.
I had been seeing some strange things reflected in the Promoted Listings traffic charts in Seller Hub - and so had several other sellers.
One community member who was also impacted by the issues gave a very helpful answer, which said in part:
I think that I have found the answer as to why you are seeing a dramatic drop with your Promoted Listings impressions and traffic.
As of right now at this moment in time (09-04-2020 4:35 pm pdt) eBay is no longer displaying the one or two Sponsored Listing carousels within individual listings, which have always been predominantly displayed generally right above the fold (above the listing description). Sometimes it's two Sponsored Listings carousels and other times there is just one Sponsored Listings carousel...
...It appears that eBay is either currently experiencing a glitch, testing a new display feature for buyers within individual listings, or implementing another unannounced change with regards to how Promoted Listings are displayed within individual listings.
They also provided screenshots and even more detail about what they believed could be impacting visibility of Promoted Listings at that time.
While I couldn't know for sure that was the root cause of the issue, it was very helpful and compelling information that I believed could at least explain some of what we were seeing and it was by far the best answer I had received.
As the original poster I choose to select it as the solution, in part to help boost the visibility so other sellers who were impacted would be more likely to see it.
Two weeks later, Sr Manager Seller Advocacy & Engagement Brian Burke posted a response to the thread as well stating it was not a bug, but was in fact a test that eBay had been running which he acknowledged "may impact our ad marketplace."
@valueaddedresource I wanted to respond affirmatively on this, it's not a bug.
eBay regularly conducts testing to help optimize our advertising platforms and products. While in some cases those tests may impact our ad marketplace, we recommend that you continue to monitor your campaign settings and consider our Promoted Listings best practices to help you achieve your performance objectives.
Shortly after posting that response, Brian also sent me a private message requesting that I remove the solution designation from the other post because it was "not accurate".
I made it clear that I was open to a dialogue about the subject, but was hesitant to change my accepted solution simply because an eBay employee requested it without having a further understanding of why the request was being made.
Unfortunately, the reasonable request to engage in a logical discussion on the topic went nowhere - I never received a response and since no better solution or a credible reason to disqualify the one selected had been presented, I left it as is.
What would happen in a case like this today? Would eBay staff be allowed to simply remove a user selected solution and replace it with their own without any challenge or explanation why the original solution was considered not accurate?
Obviously, the community is eBay's playground (along with their chosen platform partner Khoros) and they can set the rules but...anyone who's been paying attention to the news this week should be well aware that freedom of speech and content moderation are big topics in the tech/social media world right now.
eBay might do well to learn some lessons from the current public discourse on the subject. 😉