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Community mismanagement 101: TheSixtyOne alienates top users

So, music site TheSixtyOne underwent a massive redesign. Old news, right? I was thrilled, others less so.

Those disgruntled souls left plenty of comments sharing their feelings, and one of them was kind enough to set me up with a few of TheSixtyOne's top users. These are people who have been with the site for a year or two, day in, day out, and accumulated gazillions of "points". Amongst them is the top user on the site, SallySilvera, level 24 with over 130,000 rep points (that's a lot). We're talking rabid loyalty here.

They all had a lot to say. I listened. Lengthy email rants elaborated on how they've lost their friends; how the sense of community is gone; how much harder it is to communicate with artists, and so on and so forth. The point is that these loyal users had actual reasons, and a lot of pent up emotions.

I also emailed TheSixtyOne developers asking if they'd like to tell me anything. While waiting for their reply (which never came), I sat back and watched how things unfold. I wanted to give them a chance, to see how they'd manage this massive PR flop. I followed their Twitter and saw they posted a handful of replies to unhappy users. "That's nice," I thought, "they're starting to take responsibility".

Well, imagine my surprise upon...
seeing this. Don't bother clicking; it's a very short blog post, basically mocking their users. Here's the whole blurb:

"rumor #1: thesixtyone is run by venture capitalists. hilariously false. however, if you know a "venture capitalist" with great taste and an affinity for working out of a living room while munching on chex mix, please let me know. we're hiring.
rumor #2: thesixtyone hates bach people. we actually love bach, especially yo-yo ma's performance of the six unaccompanied cello suites. we do dislike spammers and bots, though.
rumor #3: james miao's 6'3 frame is the result of a chinese conspiracy to compete in olympic basketball. no comment."

So, in this non-capitalized burst of unbridled arrogance, TheSixtyOne basically let the world know, along with their most loyal users, that they simply don't give a damn.

Regardless of the design change, this is not how you manage a community; this is not how you treat your most loyal users. These guys can take a lesson or two from Seth Godin. Nice going.

[Thanks to sallysilvea, philomath, rafaelbrandao, jonlandis]

Tags: 61, community, music, musical-web, op-ed, thesixtyone