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Wed Aug 19 2009 23:58:27

eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

By: Ina Steiner

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The new eBay team put into place last year after long-time CEO Meg Whitman retired has been slashing payroll and eliminating programs. Its latest target is the 10-year old Voices of the Community program, commonly referred to as "Voices."

eBay is ejecting the oldest members from the program, whose participants give eBay monthly input into programs during their development and pre-launch. There are 47 groups in Voices comprised of about 130 active members. Over 30 are being ejected from the program. Voices members are not paid, and some of them worked within the program for a decade to help eBay grow the site.

A source familiar with the decision to retire Voices founding members said eBay wants to focus on big sellers and buyers now as the site moves in that direction.

eBay has been giving perks to large retailers to entice them to the site, and it has moved away from investments in community by canceling its annual user conference and laying off its discussion board moderators, where both buyers and sellers gather to talk about everything from collecting and fashion to buying and selling tips.

In research for an article we published about the Voices program in 2004, some sellers explained that they stayed in Voices so they know what's coming down the road, and prefer to be in the loop on future developments.

In a 2003 eBay Chatter newsletter article, the Community Development Voices Coordinator at the time said of the program's creation, "CEO Meg Whitman decided that eBay should hear what members had to say face-to-face."

Update 8/20/09: Please see the update to the Newsflash story - I spoke with Garnor Morantes, Senior Manager of Seller Development for eBay Marketplaces, about the changes to the Voices program.

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Readers Comments

eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: Martin

Fri Aug 21 09:09:06 2009

Gosh I need a tractor to push all the BULL$&*@ in these comments..

First of all the guy up above claiming Voices get a stock stipend should be glad that we dont as if it was framed id break it on his head! LOL

There is no stock from Ebay for Voices members.

Second, many of you have so many things backwards. Many if not most Ebay employees are on OUR SIDE and do their best to make sure we are heard.

Someone commented on "Garnor" quieting down negative comments. Perhaps you should consider perhaps he wants to make sure Voices stays around in light of upper management as he knows the value of this program as deeply as anyone. It is my opinion that anyone close to voices is doing whatever they can to make sure this program stays around.

There is also a difference between Negative comments and constructive ones. There has never been a time when constructive criticism, aired in a polite way has been rejected by anyone in Voices.

Voices members are not ebay cheerleaders. Sometimes we are happy, sometimes we are not. Some ideas people like, some they dont.

People like me often write huge diatribes disagreeing with the current state of things at Ebay and the more we can be heard the better.

I have never met an eBay employee I didnt like. Many of them feel the same way as much of the community there are upper management decisions none of us are privy to that make people tow the line.

Personally, I am working on a plan to turn around this whole ship and plan to do my best to do so. With connections in the media, in and outside of Ebay, it is time to stand up for what was created here many years ago.

Another false statement is that the earlier Voices groups retired were "just small sellers". There was an amazing cross section of people in those groups who will be sorely missed. And Ebay has made it clear they would still like to hear from them.

Some of the best discussion people ever have are amoung people that disagree strongly and some of the best friends I have made on Ebay are those that disagree with me often.

No other major company has a program like Voices in place to keep them on track and there is no doubt in my mind that at some point this company will be moving in the right direction.

Maybe it will take a mangement change, or some more bad results to force change but it will come and then things will fly as they use to.

There is way too much untapped potential here to be ruined by one man or a small team of managers.

TO the guy that posted this..

"I have a personal list of eBay execs who I have the utmost respect for...the believed in the small community the level playing field and all the things which eBay was...but unfortunately, they lost the battle.  "

Contact me, maybe we can work on this BusinessWeek article together!

The battle isnt over, though many have given up. Half of the insiders are like the FRench Resistance, and there are millions of users on our side.

In a constructive and decent way we can put pressure on the top to consider why it is failing.

Please check out my comments on the Wall Street Journal article recently called  
You Don't Need Skype to See There's Lots of Action in eBay -

Hang in there, and stop picking on stupid stuff, make a difference somehow.


eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: DarcusTori Jewelry

Fri Aug 21 10:02:20 2009

Little voices don't have the money to sue large corps like eBay, but now that they're attracting big corps, well guess what?  

eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: Ebay Paid My Bills

Fri Aug 21 10:16:14 2009

Ebay still works!

Just not as well as it used to.

eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: doing fine

Fri Aug 21 10:26:08 2009

@ ebay pays my bills

Gotta agree with you. I'm not having a problem making money on Ebay.

I don't like some of the things that they do but if you worked in the real world there would be things you didn't like about your employer.

Ebay is no different. As long as Ebay makes money (which it is doing) and the stockholders are happy they will be around for a long time.

Hey if you don't like your job then quit and find another one and quit your whinning and complaining as it gets old real quick.

eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: joe

Fri Aug 21 10:27:35 2009

Never trust a company that wants you to work without compensation...

They are as bad as those non compensated workers that try to impose their opinions and desires on others.

eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: J

Fri Aug 21 11:06:00 2009

''Hey if you don't like your job then quit and find another one and quit your whinning and complaining as it gets old real quick.''

Hear that everyone? We're whinners!

But seriously if I just laid down like a good little drone as some think I should I wouldn't be able to look myself in the mirror.

I'm going to continue to fight for what is and isn't right and what eBay and donuthole are doing is not right.

eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: On Lies and Secrets

Fri Aug 21 12:13:11 2009

The removal of the oldest "Voices of the Community" is a telling strategy and a common one for those who want to attempt to rewrite the past.  The oldest members have the oldest organizational memory and have had a critical role in shaping the organizational culture.  It appears that the ebay corporation wants to kill off the elders and pretend that the past was never as it was - to pretend that the ebay corporation wasn't built through the sustained effort of regular, honest, hard working people.  Didn't Donahoe once state something to the effect of wanting to let go of a "successful past" in moving towards [IMO inglorious] future?

Why does ebay senior management fight so hard to make the ebay corporation mediocre? I guess that is something I will never understand.

Donahoe was Whitman's pick.  He has her fingerprints *all* over him. Expect more of the same should she ever take an elected office.

eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: SteveO

Fri Aug 21 13:03:57 2009

I'm not sure if the current management of the program is the problem or the symptom but either way, eBay really no longer cares what users think.  

They just run things past Voices to find a way to best sell what they've already decided to do.  That's why the program has lost it's relevance- even the staff hates what they are being made to do.  In the old-days they liked the give and take, now it is dreaded.

While I'm no fan of corporate boot-lickers, whether paid or volunteer,  I think this may accidentally turn out well.

The tired old opinions of the bored middle aged ladies that make up most of Voices, feigining their adoration for the bureaucrat while laughing at him behind his back, are as irrelevant and outdated as that Bidpay money order I have.

The unintended upside of this is that since eBay will start culling the herd, people will no longer need to kiss up while walking on egg shells hoping to be so inoffensive they can stay on forever.

eBay no longer wants to hear what they think. They just want yes or no answers to their marketing questions to best sell their done-deal policies.

The program long ago lost it's relevancy.  This is a merciful decision for all involved.

eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: Burn

Fri Aug 21 13:48:26 2009

Ebay is moving very fast to having the IRS demand info from them as they seem to more than middle men now but active participants in selling!

eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: ebaysux

Fri Aug 21 14:15:16 2009

To those Voices members here, both ex and current, who don't like the comments and thoughts of some others: blame it on your fellow Voices members who shot off their mouths for years about the perks they got and, in many cases, lorded it over others that they could and did get people booted off the boards among other things.

Maybe not ALL Voices got the perks but some sure seemed to have them. When the PTB allowed them to control the message boards, as long as they talked the eBay party line, they caused resentment of ALL Voices members.

Y'all wanted to be the eBay elite and help make the rules but not many actually listened to what other members thought... just like eBay itself. Y'all thought YOU knew better than the rest of us in the trenches.

Marty, sadly, you must be living in Dreamland. Haven't you gotten it yet? eBay does not care what you think.

eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: What Me Worry

Fri Aug 21 14:34:11 2009


Steve0 what you wrote above would be true if Morantes had any power; unfortunately, he is another lemming who follows orders so that comment is really not relevant.

Ebay's projects produce alot of "toxic feedback" now and ebay uses the focus group (Voices) to guage how to effectively present to the general community with the least fallout they can get away with...

This differs from when Brian Burke first founded the program.  Then they were small enough to roll out projects in a 24-hour period and Voices members actually had a larger roll in effecting the program content.

Now the current administration makes decisions based on metrics.  Many of the button pushers at ebay have never sold on the site or dealt with the grassroots users of the site.  They have little first hand experience when implementing a project.

They rely on groups like Voices and their employee-counterparts; the 500 club (those ebay employees with 500 or more feedback who meet regularly) to give them a pulse on the marketplace.

They rolled out alot of stuff the past two a time when the economy wasn't in great shape already...this formula proved painful to the market.

The 30 Voices members that got the axe yesterday was just the "leftovers" from the first 20 groups when you consider that initially, each group had 6-10 members in them...that's 120-200 initial members in 1 through 20.

When people are asked to join the focus group, they sign on for a 2-year committment.  Those let go yesterday came into the program from May 1999 through September 2003.  This period is considered the "golden age" of ebay.

The only material compensation for Voices members was/is a quarterly gift or gift certificate (usually $25) for their participation and an occasional dinner at ebay Live.

They also have access to a distribution list that reaches 800 ebay employees and the community input team members which includes the other Voices members.  They also have access to eWath which is a private email access to technical support for reporting glitches.

They also have access to advance knowledge of future projects but can't reveal this under non-disclosure.

Apart from these perks, they get nothing else.

These are difficult times...the decision to eject the first groups is a mistake...these people have invaluable experience which can still be applied to build a viable platform.

If other platforms were as successful we wouldn't be spending this much time on ebay...which we are.

I think this mistake coupled with the discontinuation of Community Development only serves to add floors to that already tall ivory tower that the execs sit in pushing buttons.

One side-note...John Donahoe has  plans to start sitting in on Jim Griffith's radio show once a month to try to get a pulse on the hobby users.

He can also get a better pulse by taking non-censored questions at his town halls.

I valued my time in the Voices program and gained many contacts that I ordinarily would not have had access's too bad that ebay doesn't require it's employees to spend some time using the product it sells.

Signed...retired Voices member

eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: Dyna

Fri Aug 21 15:12:07 2009

So Marty your idea of constructive is  ''if it was framed id break it on his head! LOL''

This is the same brand of humor and ''constructive criticism'' you would spew to users asking for help selling when the bottom was falling out for ''the little guy.''

When they put you up in the hotel and sat you through the lengthy brainwashing/training seminar to become a ''Voice of the Community'' did they also feed you top shelf cuisine & liquor after the long drawn out sessions?  Or; were you fed ''brown bag lunches'' along with the drivel they wanted you to believe?

We (who have been on the boards for several years) know that you paid close attention to the seminar on ''spoon feeding the new seller into total acceptance of eBay's policies until they're hooked.''

We also know that you were awake in the ''how to play passive aggressive to drive home the eBay way.''

eBay has sterilized the boards, sterilized seller feedback and tried (albeit in vain) to sterilize id's from questioning and/or commenting on the true problems with the site.

Your tome almost makes me feel sad for you Marty.  
Sad to think someone with such a driving force would still sit and lick the hand of an abusive master.

eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: SteveO

Fri Aug 21 15:17:56 2009

Marty = Ned Flanders

eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: dyna

Fri Aug 21 15:31:38 2009

LOL @ SteveO

eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: Homer Jay Simpson

Fri Aug 21 15:45:03 2009

Has anyone seen Bart?

Lisa just told me that he sold himself on Ebay again!

And I have to pay the bill. DUH!

eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: ebaystillsux

Fri Aug 21 15:55:40 2009

@ What Me Worry

So I guess you were finally "forced" to take PayPal, eh? I suppose refusing to use PayPal would be one principle worth giving up for that near 100% sell through. I can't really blame you but it's sad what things have come to.

As for me... Paypal can shove it. The $25 that disappeared from my account as if it never existed was enough for me. LOL.

eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: Voices member

Fri Aug 21 16:23:08 2009


Are you kidding me? Perks?  What perks?  If anything we are held to a higher standard than regular members to be perfect in buying and selling - to what's right.

The eBay staff has been nothing but respectful and professional to us AND any member they encounter.


eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: Voices member

Fri Aug 21 16:27:25 2009


Attacking Marty behind your computer where no-one can see you?  Real classy.

Dyna, your cut from the same fabric as SteveO.  You have no idea what happens at the meetings, none.  

What a bunch of dingbats that think we tell eBay/PayPal what they want to hear.  

eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: ebay=penny stock

Fri Aug 21 16:30:06 2009

@voices member

First let me are held to a higher standard....HaHAha.......You idiots don't have the common sense you were born with. Your idea of being the perfect higher standard member is to be the biggest do nothing brown noser. You clowns are part of the problem with ebay.

To many yes men and not enough good leaders.

Higher Standards..........give me a break.


eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members   eBay Silences Founding 'Voices' Members

by: to all the voices

Fri Aug 21 16:33:36 2009

@to all the voices.

Why are you defending yourselves if you are so concerned.

I remember someone else defend himself ''I never had sex with that woman'' Only the guilty have to defend themselves.

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