Today I received an interesting phone call from ADVFN.

If you don’t already know, ADVFN bought off me a couple of years ago. They’ve done an OK job of taking the site to over 135,000 users, but they haven’t really developed it further, and there has been a few “disagreements” with users over changes in the site over the last couple of years.

A year ago, I started another photo sharing site, Fotonomy. This is aimed more at people with a serious interest in amateur phtoography. Fotothing is more of a photo blog / photo diary. I don’t run Fotonomy as a business – it’s a small, friendly place, and I use it to develop my programming skills as much as anything. (I checked my contract with ADVFN to make sure this was OK before starting another site.)

Last week, out of the blue, Fotothing started serving Google ads to paying (Pro) members. Many of these members had specifically paid not to see ads, as it was listed as the one of the main benefits.Now, I still love Fotothing and have a lot of friends there. People who really helped out during the initial development. So when I read the discussions on the ads in their forums, I posted my own opinion. People who have paid not to see ads should not see ads. Period.


But I also posted saying people should not leave Fotothing.Anyway. Back to the phone call…”Hi Dom. Long time no see. How are you? I was just calling to give you a final warning.”

Yup, they’re threatening me. Threatening legal action. I have been told in no uncertain terms never to mention Fotonomy on Fotothing again. And to not say anything bad about them in general either.Apparently I’m stealing their users. Yes, my site with 460 users is stealing people from their site with 135,000 users and I’m a threat.

Yes, there are some Fotothing users who have joined Fotonomy, but as far as I’m aware none of them has actually left Fotothing – or wants to. They’re very different sites. And I have never initiated any conversation on the Fotothing forums about Fotonomy. I’m certainly not advertising it.

But for me, the really interesting part of the phone call was the person who called me. He’s a really nice guy and was nice about the whole thing. But as far as I know, he’s not directly involved in the day to day running of Fotothing. I can only assume he was asked to call me because we were friends. If that’s the case, then it’s as unfair on him as it is on me.

Now if senior management (you know who you are) had called me and just asked me politely if I could be a little less outspoken in the forums, I probably would have agreed – and even offered assistance if they needed it. But getting an old friend to do the dirty work (which is how it appears to me – I could be wrong), is a little underhanded.

Of course, this isn’t about me at all. It’s about Fotothing and the users that make the site what it is. What ADVFN don’t seem to realise is that I’m incredibly proud of what I – and they – have achieved with it. And the way to deal with pissed off customers is not to send threats, but to listen to them and address their concerns.

Will I be sued? Will I have my Fotothing account pulled for posting this on my own blog? Who knows. But I will continue to stand up for users. Because without users, nobody in the web development business would have a job.

21 thoughts on “Fotothing

  1. Hi Dom,

    I think it’s scandalous the way that Fotothing is behaving towards the members. As a free member I have no rights nor do I expect any, I am though in full support of the Pro members there and have made no secret of it in the forums…..I’m now waiting for the Fotothing police to escort me off the site. 🙂

    What they don’t seem to understand as they go about trampling on the members is that they are going the right way about it to persuade me… and others like me, that it’s a very bad idea to give them our money for Pro status.
    I am about to move countries and had decided to become a Pro member after the move, I’ve now changed my mind…..they have removed one of the privileges and of course could remove others at any time without notice in the same way.
    Its one thing to piss me off as a free member, but quite another thing if I was paying for the privilege!
    I find their actions totally unnecessary; with a little thought put into it they could have increased their revenue without upsetting the members in this way.

    Fotothing is a creation you can be very proud of Dom, there is a true community spirit that is sadly lacking on many sites…..
    I only hope that that it can survive this fiasco and still maintain some semblance of the place you created and nurtured.

    Meg. (megmet)

  2. Oh Dom… I’m so sorry to hear this news…. I love both sites but you are right.. they are both very different… and I enjoy those differences.

    I have no intentions of leaving either site but I have let those who are really wanting to leave FT know about Fotonomy just purely out of selfish reasons…. I like THEM and don’t want to miss out on the friendships I’ve built with those people…

    I have been going thru a very very rough time personally these last two weeks and the friendships I’ve built in FT have been incredible… these people are SO supportive of me… even going so far as to pass along their personal phone numbers so that if I needed to talk I could…

    That to me is a HUGE TESTIMENT to the kind of place FT is… how could I leave a place like that? I CAN NOT

    If there is anything at all I can do just let me know.. you know where to find me 😉

    and if it would help at all I will remove my links to the Fotonomy site that are on my gallery…. you just let me know…

    Hang in there sweety. You’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve read your posts and they are always upstanding and supportive of FT.

    They are just blinded by greed at the moment…..

    xxoo, Lisa

  3. This would be hikarious, if it wasn’t so infuriating.
    Not only is Fotothing currently being run by incompetent jerks, they now also try to stifle “free speech”. As one member put it succinctly in the FT forum, they now act like the famous East German Stasi.
    They still fail to comprehend that the best way to run a business is to give your customers what they want!!!
    Do that, and your customers will open their wallets.
    One of the most successful retail chains, has a slogan:
    “No ifs, and or buts, satisfaction guaranteed”.
    Fotothing’s attitude is: “you are all idiots who do not have any brains, just give us your money and shut up. And if you don’t, we’ll kick your out, or threaten you with legal action”
    Soon Fotothing will need to ask another question:
    “where did all our paying support go??…what happened?”
    We all know the answer.
    It would be too bad though.
    Dom your creation was fabulous and was growing wonderfully, attracting many new people. Even now, the community spirit at FT is terrific. It all started with you, and is something you can be forever proud of.
    If it goes the way of the dod bird, it is due to incompetence that took over from you.


  4. First, I would like to congratulate you once more on the absolutely fabulous site you started in Fotothing. It has helped initiate a wonderful life-changing experience for me.

    I guess I shouldn’t be suprised that you would be contacted by FT. Their method of delivery of a message to you, like the ones delivered to their users are are in my opinion questionable, inappropriate, and disproportionate at best.

    I would like to offer my support – don’t know how I can be of value but I am certainly aware of the professionalism that you have demonstrated since the sale.

    I hope and pray that your life isn’t negatively impacted by short-sighted morons lashing out in frustration with their own impotence.

    My best wishes to a real winner!

  5. Fotothing let`s you see the world of other peoples lives places and pictures.I was frustrated like most people.I too will not leave fotothing.I do think the communication skills of fotothing management have much to be desired.It`s short blunt and to the point.Well the only development I can see is when fotothing members protested and they will now lift Google ads. Is that why we paid them anyway to be ad free? 🙂

    As you can see above a link to my own webpage.At my time on fotothing I learned basic Html which shows you how much people have moved on and progressed due to the development of your site.

    Your little programming itch and hobbie has made others want to learn too 🙂

  6. Fotothing’s threat to sue you has little traction…..big talk backed with little law. If you are a member of Fotothing writing on a public forum and not soliciting people directly to leave Fotothing, they’d have a hard time finding a cause of action. Call your lawyer and tell ADVFN to kiss your ass.

  7. If they’re claiming you libelled them on their own boards, I’d be interested to see what case law they are applying. As current precedent states that the publisher is liable for any libellous content (Godfrey vs Demon Internet, Gina Ford vs Mumsnet) wouldn’t they have to sue themselves?

  8. Thanks for your support everyone.

    I’m glad to see Fotothing have now implemented an option to switch off ads for people who have already paid for that.

    It’s a bit of a shame you have to jump through hoops somewhat to get to the option (it’s at the bottom of the ‘my settings’ page and ads aren’t disabled by default) – and the fact it doesn’t apply new new Pro members means there’s now very little incentive to pay.

    The whole situation is a bit sad if you ask me.

  9. well I’ve been checking the “my settings” page all day and nothing so far has changed… and I’ve been paying for it almost a year now and I’m paid up for a whole year to come! interesting…. I guess I was a bit too vocal in my support ROFLMAO!

  10. Hi, Dom. I like your photo website as well as Fotothing, but I too haven’t seen anything that allows me to stop the ads.

    I’m sorry they are threatening you, but as long as there isn’t anything in your messages that are blatantly untrue, I’m not sure there is much they can sue you for.

    You fight the good fight, Dom, I joined in with a photo of my own:

    It’s getting a bit odd there.

  11. Yeah, it is down, but there was no warning or any explanation. You would think that they would have a backup server to simply inform users of whatever problem there is. Not knowing is frustrating.

  12. Unfortunately due to the restraints that have been put on the chap whos now maintaining FT alot of the fixes are not being fixed.. the promises fail to appear and the same few idiots scream and shout in the forums driving out, there has been talk of closing the forums for a while to stop the “pack” mentality.
    I was in talks with their staff a while ago about improvements to the site and maybe going in a similar direction to redbubble with a few funkier tweaks, its been a while since i have developed a web site but these talks were nearly a year ago now and nothing has happened.
    FT could be a profitable site for both those wishing to sell and for advfn they are obviously all developers and not business people lol

  13. Hi Dom,

    It would appear that there are signs that FT is going going gone…

    Sad really as it was a good site. I was just about to start contacting all my friends directly and it went off line today.


    Ralph (Biggles)

  14. Hi, Dom,

    I googled fotothing to see whom I could contact to find out why I haven’t been able to access the site (for a couple of days now); in the process, I discovered this post of yours.

    I will check out fotonomy.

    Best regards!

  15. hello dom and hello fotothingers,
    i am in the same situation.. i googled for fotothing and i found this post of urs.. so fotothing is closing or they are solving mantainence problems… it would be really really sad…
    anyhways just joined fotomony…

  16. Hi Dom, Looked at your site a few months ago, but really didn’t have the time to uphold two sites , but now a perfect oportunity for new members……fotothing going down and no explanation…pity, have a lot of friends on the site. But have now joined fotonomy and find quite a lot of friends already on your site…
    Will still keep trying fotothing and if nothing happens……will spread the word of fotonomy…….regards Joan..

  17. I joined fotothing over a year ago. I love taking photo;s being able to post them and meeting new people who have the same hobby. The thing that bothers me about the site is they tell us not to post nude photos. I have to admit some nude photos are art but then some are just gross and not at all pretty to view. I cannot understand why they allow some of the photographs of nudity on the site its not art its trashy porn and i do believe some posted are doing it for shock not because they are avid photographers. I have seen racial slur I have seen photos that shouldnt be there and it seems to me nobody is looking after taking care of that part of the site. When i complained to one person that they had trash garbage posted they told me to lighten up. Its not a matter of lightning up its a matter of leaving trash like that in your own personal home and not displaying it on fotothing. I am the first to admit I love nudity if its done properly but what i saw was simply disgusting. There is far too much of that thing going on, on that site.

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