Let's Make Robots! | RobotShop

Our version of the story

Hi everyone, I am Sandra Fradet, co-founder and co-owner of RobotShop.

We have read lots of different versions of the recent events on the web. Now this is the time that you have our version.

On August 31 2015, we purchased www.letsmakerobots.com (LMR) from Frits, the former owner of LMR. LMR had become too much for Frits to take care of as a spare time project. Here is his take on things: "The idea was, that since I have not been building robots for a very long time, and it was hard to turn the site into something 'bigger' and still just do it as a spare time project - I thought it was a great idea to pass LMR on, and it appeared to be the right time to have a company focused on robotics, a  company that had the muscle to implement new stuff and lift LMR - to have the key. I thought it was the best for everyone, I am not a big company, LMR was getting big and heavy, we needed a big and strong group to take over, I gave what I have, now is a good time for something new :)"

RobotShop was very excited to know more about the LMR community and did not do much for several days wanting to learn about the community and it's members and listen to their comments and needs. A few days after announcing the purchase, two LMR veterans had a heated argument in the shout box concerning another members work and not providing constructive feedback. This caused another member to create a new thread on how members should act at LMR. For a moment, we again just watched and listened to members, until it came evident that many members did not agree to the argument that happened publicly. We then entered the discussion proposing to members to be careful with feedback not to attack other members and also be careful with language since we want LMR to be family friendly and this is the impression we also received from several members of the LMR community. We did receive feedback that over the past 2 years, rough conversations were current and conversations they thought should not have been put public, were found in the shout box and forum. Other members mentioned that they would never refer this site to their niece, son or daughter because of that. Many members told us they wanted a place without vulgar language.

At this point, other members expressed themselves mentioning that this is not the way LMR was and should be. There were two sides, one wanting to clean up the language and the other smaller group wanting to continue as it was before. After LMR moderators added new rules concerning language similar to the ones found on many blogs and forums, in the middle of the afternoon, a group wanting to test RobotShop’s limits, started shouting obscenities in the shoutbox. Including very large versions of words we will not speak of and links to websites that should not be visited by people under 18. This was at the view of all LMR members entering the community. Later that day, it was decided that RobotShop, being a family friendly website with customers being young students, teachers and research institutions, unfortunately could not keep this type of obscenity at view. It was therefore decided to temporarily shut down the shout box in order for us to be able to program an On/Off functionality for our members to be able to turn the shout box on at their convenience. It was a difficult decision and we knew that some people would not approve but, we had to implement the changes quickly for the good of LMR. 

The temporary removal of the shout box unfortunately caused members to be very upset even if this was temporary. After 24 hours the shout box was back on with the needed functionality. During the time the shout box was down, RobotShop started seeing some veteran members deleting their content in a way of protestation, and writing messages indicating that they would leave and create another community. A few accounts were therefore blocked temporary as a safety measure so we could take the time to understand what was happening and all these members were contacted individually in order to ask more information. Some content was restored during the weekend in order to allow time for LMR members and RobotShop to discuss while limiting the damage done to posts and people linking to this information. During this same weekend, a few former LMR members claimed that Robotshop was stealing their content on social media and alleged that RobotShop was banning members and deleting their content for no apparent reasons. None of this is true.

All accounts of these members were opened 48 hours later and they were free to rejoin the LMR community as long as they followed the new rules concerning language. No users were ever banned from LMR. Some users continued to protest on LMR and continued to share unfounded accusations that we were taking their content in hostage, stealing their IP and destroying the community. Even with excuses and explanations, the group did not want to hear our side of the story and did not provide us with a fair chance. Some users then decided to leave the LMR community and asked that their account and content be deleted from the LMR website. LMR moderators therefore, at the demand of members, removed accounts and content, even if we knew the damages it will cause to the quality of contents (holes everywhere in the forum threads).  We are very sorry that members decided to leave LMR and at that point, it was undeniable that we needed to make things clearer for our members and protect us for the future by adding Terms and Conditions to the LMR website since there were none in place. 

The risks and liabilities to an individual who owns a website are not the same as those of an international company like RobotShop, particularly for a site that focuses on user-generated content (UGC). In order to help us ensure that the content posted on LMR respects the rights of third parties, and to better protect our LMR contributions, we need the flexibility to modify or delete content if necessary while keeping the original substance of the posts. We understand that LMR members have spent considerable time, effort and energy in creating and publishing the content that now makes up the heart and lifeblood of the LMR website. Then, in order to ensure that LMR can continue to thrive, proper "Terms and Conditions" needed to be put in place. Unfortunately, the new terms created confusion and some members continued to accuse us falsely of wanting to take ownership of their content. This caused other members to decide to leave the community and ask to remove their content. Our Terms and Conditions were quickly improved to add common language so members can better understand our intentions.  Our T&C are very similar to other popular websites like  Instructables (Autodesk) and Thingiverse (Makerbot)  and users do remain the owner of their content. It was always our intention since the beginning that the creators of the content remained the owner. 

We are here to help the LMR community grow and prosper. For what other reasons would we have purchased Let’s Make Robots? In order to be able to do this, we will invest in the LMR platform and add more functionality in order to increase the quality of service offered to our members and guests. We want to help and get to know others and inspire the next generations of robot builders. In these events, we have not had the chance yet to show this to the LMR community and this is unfortunate.

We have been helping customers with their robotic projects for over 12 years now. We help people materialize their ideas and projects and these projects always remain the property of our customers. If you search RobotShop on the web, you are likely to find many positive comments on unbiased sites.

Don’t make any mistake, LMR has been hit badly by the mass deletion and this is regrettable. Could we have handled it better? Probably. We have admitted to it and nobody is perfect. But in the end, users asked to delete their content and we obliged.

We took a step back for sure, but we are confident that we will rebuild this community together, for a greater future. We now sit on a slightly smaller but solid base of core members. We have approximately 20 000 members in the whole history of LMR. 2000 members are currently active and we attract new members every day. LMR is still the biggest robot builder community on the planet and with Robotshop taking the reign, we are confident that we will bring it to the next level.  We do feel that we can continue with a family friendly website where everyone young and old can come learn and share about robotics with other members. We do feel this is what the majority of robot builders want. We want to inspire the new generations and bring more people to become more interested in technology. Our intentions are honorable and we do want the good for LMR as many other members do. We have several ideas for the future which I am sure you will like but, we also want your input. We want to create an environment where people share about their passion, robotics, which is also RobotShop's passion by the way. We see a place where people help each other and where those who help others are recognized. We see a friendly environment with constructive feedback between members and where everyone is welcome.

At LMR, We are all Robots Builders. 

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As someone who is just finding out about this, I think both sides had a lot of drama.

Yes, I think after each side posted its point it´s time to move on, and LMR

I've been so confused over the past 2 or 3 days. Just found out everything through hackaday, and here. I was on a hiatus from LMR for 3-4 months, had absolutely no idea what was going on.

Yes robotmaster,

It was fast even for people like me who connect here nearly everyday in the evening... Now things goes normal, or at least I hope so.

The problem is that we have moved on without Oddbot.

Oddbot was cut from Originator cloth. While most here desire little more than to make their own version of something that already exists, to improve upon or to personalize it, Originators are driven to do what hasn't even been thought of.

While various rovers are being built and driven around, Oddbot was making giant Chinese Lions controlled by bicycle cables. He was giving interaction and personality to hexapods while everyone else was just wanting them to move. He saw what others couldn't. And he made what others hadn't even considered.

To be an Originator, you have to bend some rules and sometimes just break them. As a group they make up 2 or 3 percent of the population. So, the vast majority thinks differently than they do and frankly do not understand them. Society and businesses are largely driven by people doing pretty much the same things and serving common desires and that is the way it should be.

Now, I believe in civil discourse and and believe obscenity has no place here. Those are good rules, but if you want to accommodate originators you have to cut them some slack, even when it isn't so easy.

More here on originator type people:

http://www.celebritytypes.com/entp.php

And yes, I am cut from the same cloth. My robot project is a quadruped that moves and sits like a cat rather than a robot. If that had already been done, I would have done something else.

Thank you Sandra.

After several days reading many things against LMR and RobotShop finally I can read another version. It may not be the whole true nor everything inside impartial. That´s not how it works. But at least we have here another point of view maybe as biased as some upseted person who  saw their site changed somehow, but other point of view at the end.

I liked LMR from nearly two years ago. From my way of free talking, free thinking and free robotics I don´t see any difference. Maybe I´m not as creative as other people, or maybe I don´t need to do other nasty things to other people to feel fine. I´m very sad for the whole situation but now that things are becoming normal, I think the foundations of LMR are stronger than ever, and with the support of RobotShop and other partners, we´ll enjoy more robotics than ever. Maybe we won´t agree on everything, but we´ll try our best to reach agreements for the sake of LMR. I hope so and I´ll keep working on that as many other do already without saying anything around. Thanks to them most.

Cheers and LMR ;-)

Thank you for your side of the story as there is always more than one side. Not much else to say but let's talk about and build robots. 

Hello,

It is true, your terms & conditions are closed to the ones of Instructables (since you used it as an example) but yet, some parts sound not clear. I asked the question here, some others did on Facebook, but we never had a clear answer : how can we be the owners of our stuff and not be able to remove our stuff if we want to ? (--> T&C 1.2.iii).

Thank you for giving your point of view. I do think your intentions are good. But things are not so easy. This community was working well for many years, with almost no rules. It was independant and free, just a community. I am not sure LMR could really be "acquired". If you take a group a free people and tell them "Tomorrow, you have to follow these rules, and accept those Terms & Conditions", you can expect things won't go smoothly.

I read a lot about problems on LMR concerning bad language/ behaviours etc. Honestly, I have never been offended by anything like that in years on LMR. I don't understand why you are so focused on that. I understand you want it "family friendly", but the situation was far from what you think it was (imho).

I also agree to say that LMR needed financial support to fix bugs, add new functionnalities etc. RS is certainly able of providing all that. I just don't know if "buying" LMR was the best way to go to support it.

Anyway, I am still waiting information about 1.2.iii to decide what I will do with my content. I feel sad about the way things went, like everybody (including RS). I hope it will go from the best from now, but you have to understand the point of view of many members towards the changes you made (and the simple fact your are a company while LMR was "free" before).

GGallant already offered you an answer under your previous nickname BeforeSigningterms1. Unfortunately, the comment has been deleted in the process of deleting your previous invalid account.

GGallant: “You used the RobotShop system because you perceived that it provided value to you. Now its their turn to decide if it provides value to them. If you paid for the service you might have a reason to question this policy. As for ownership, if you post to LMR and 10,000 members download the article, are you going to require that they all remove their copies? Don't confuse publishing with ownership”

Now, if a writer gives a license to an editor to publish his book? Is it fair for him at some point to ask the publisher to destroy all the books? 

We are going to invest in this platform to give you a better service. This service is free and offers you a nice place to show your creations to the world. It is your content and you are the owner, you simply give us a license (a permission) to publish it on LMR. Period.

If everyone asks to delete their content, the website will be at risk along with our investment. Our employees must pay their houses, put food on their table and send their kids to school. We have to protect our investment in such a way that we do not put the company and its employees at risk.

But, even more important than that, is the negative impact created on the community and robot builders. We recently received an email from a teacher who was referring to a blog post on LMR for his class. This blog post is now gone and the teacher has to change the way he will teach his lessons. This is the type of consequences we want to avoid.

It is possible you do not fully understand the scope of what we are trying to accomplish here. We believe that robotics can help us build a better world and people out there need to be able to trust us and confidently link to the content found on LMR. Think of it as the wikipedia of robotics, but even better, a place where you not only find information, help and share, but a place where you find friends.

Now, as we say in the T&C, :iii. Should you request from RobotShop that your User Content be removed from LMR's website, the said request will be carefully analyzed and considered by RobotShop but the latter reserves its discretion as to whether or not comply with your request.

That means that if the reasons are honorable and the content will not affect  the quality of the web site significantly, then we will oblige to your request. However, if the content asked to be removed is a review that we have sponsored in exchange of a free product; what should we do? Or, if 30 people overreact or do not agree with a direction that we take in agreement with the majority of LMR members and decide to ask to massively delete their content, should we oblige? We have seen that this is a real possibility. It happened before and it can happen again.

Each time content is deleted, LMR suffers in its ranking, and loses quality in its content. This is not good for all of us, owners, employees, members and guests.

So now, I will be honest with you. If you come here with the idea of deleting your content at some point, this site is probably not for you. The vision is bigger than the simple and basic terms that you can find on every respectable forums out there and I hope that all members onboard understand that.

I hope it clarifies this question once and for all.

For the rest of your comments, we already provided our opinion and many members already gave theirs and we we would like to turn the page and look forward. I can appreciate your comment about the decision to buy this site but, I think it is a little too late to argue on this aspect.

Hopefully we’ll see you soon with a real account.

Hello,

Thank you for taking the time to answer. I didn't see GGallant last reply.

I think there is a bit of a misunderstanding.

"If you come here with the idea of deleting your content at some point, this site is probably not for you."
--> Of course not. Actually, I have never thought of deleting any of my content before reading the 1.2.iii part of the terms ;)

My point was never to remove all the copies of a content either.

The misunderstanding comes from the way you/I see the LMR platform. Let's put aside the community/people aspect. How I see it : LMR is a technical platform which provides a space for each member to share her/his ideas, projects etc. Like a blog plaform allows members to create a blog and write articles. On a blog, members can delete any articles they wrote if they want, for any reason (outdated, mistaken, useless...).

I felt like LMR was working the same way : we are free to arrange our "contents garden" the way we want (by adding, updating, deleting). It is a pity we have a constraint about deletion. It is important to feel free in our "space" (according with the rules, of course).

I was talking about removing a content only from that home-space only, not from everywhere.

I understand your argument about sponsored reviews. But you could apply a specific condition for specific content like this, instead of making it generic (and we know members will rarely delete content without a good reason, you should trust them). Of course you can also keep a copy of a review in case of deletion (or directly link the copy).

All that discussion is more about form than substance. The guarantees you need are not incompatible with a full control over our workspaces (including removing rights, since you can keep as many copies as you want).

I will give a break to this fake-temporary-account (sorry again) and hope to to be back soon with my real account.