16 April 2012

Forum Accusations Threaten an Innocent Expat in Russia

We live comfortable and interesting lives in Russia, but at times I have problems related to my being an expatriate.

I get most of my books on the Internet...

I rarely go to Mayakovsky Library or the English bookshops.  The trip to the Fontanka embankment takes an hour by bus, metro, and foot, which makes it too tiring for my  limitations.

Instead, I rely on BookMooch as a sociable way to get free books, only requiring a walk to the post office and some inexpensive postage.  It’s pleasant to  send and receive books worldwide with BookMooch. 

A new vulnerability...

Enrollment errors, anti- fraud measures, misinterpretations... can cut essential Internet connections.  An expat can rely heavily on his ability to get items through the Internet.  With what happened recently with BookMooch, I feel some of my emotional well being was put in question.

My website sign-on mistakes were interpreted as shifty behavior... 

In 2009 I tried to enroll with this forum...

image   image

Forums were a new experience for me.  I had  trouble signing on and navigating the site. 

I sent two emails to the administrator but never  was allowed to become a member. Now I see they have shifted the Way to Russia Lounge to Facebook, so at last I can participate.

I enroll in BookMooch a few months later...

BookMooch enrollment instructions were  clearer.  Here too, if someone confuses the enrollment system by re-enrolling with different email addresses, he may be blackballed from joining just because there is a possibility the applicant is a trading finagler and it often seems there is no appeal available for the innocent. 


Logo artwork courtesy of BookMooch.com http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Trading sites share information about their members to sort out those who may work the system improperly. 

Internet websites aren’t able to be very flexible...

Owner John Buckman is public spirited, a giving entrepreneur.  Naturally he needs to protect this innovative and worthwhile site from schemers.  BookMooch therefore is wary, strict, and firm about indications of suspected transgression. 

It’s difficult to give everyone with a problem a fair hearing when there are around 75,000 members, and 2000 books traded each day.  As with daily life, website membership can be precarious.

Unexpected problem on the BookMooch forums

Recently I started participating on Mooch forums.   Last year a good friend on BookMooch, who had helped me secure many books, had her account frozen as a result of forum comments that were complained about (flagged).  I knew then that any problem with the forums could be serious.

I wrote Technical Support, asking why my posts on various topics had disappeared.  An administrator answered I had received ‘multiple flags by multiple members’.   They had suppressed my posts without telling me. 

The email said to not post to forums for 90 days and then I could request the ban be lifted.  Unfortunately I redid a post just before I received this letter... and then tried but couldn’t remove it.

A frozen account...

I got a second letter stating I had posted after I was told not to and my account was Vacationed (frozen)  for 90 days.

It’s mystifying how this all came about.  Perhaps some members objected to my praise of European members...their quality inventories and polite emails... which could have been taken as an implied criticism of American Moochers.

I believe strong statements are not something to be feared or crushed.  Even if I had posted provocative opinions (which I hadn’t) I don’t think that’s any reason to stop me posting.  Give and take on a forum is healthy and part of the free marketplace of ideas.

BookMooch needs clearly identified volunteer moderators.

These forums need moderators who can respond to inappropriate comments or resulting complaint flags without endangering anyone’s status or membership.

When applicants and members are turned away or frozen without fair consideration, it can only hurt the morale and growth of an organization.

As the forums exist now, I  was unwise to post on  them.  I won’t go there anymore.

A fair response...

So I was very upset.  Besides sending and receiving books with BookMooch, it is also a good site to find out about interesting books and correspond with intelligent people.  I felt I was losing an essential, worthwhile, and entertaining hobby.

Fortunately, once I wrote the administration that my repost was a glitch, my prohibition was lifted later that day.  I received reasonable and fair treatment!  I don’t want to jeopardize my membership by encountering  conflict, and have resolved to be especially careful in my dealings on the site.

Here in Russia, if you want, you can say pretty much anything on or off the Internet with little or no squelching or repercussions.  So it’s strange for me to have experienced problems on these two sites.  Have you had a similar situation in your Internet life?


It was pleasing to get so many comments on the last post.  I’ll be answering each one.  It’s a great incentive to keep writing!


  1. Good luck with Book Mooch. I took a look at their site. One problem I think is the very high cost of posting books from Spain to anywhere. So don't think I will get involved with this one.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hi Rob,

    I'm now wary of joining any group that can summarily take away membership without due process... a sort of star chamber. I will seek more information about their methods and volunteer to help the administration set things straight.

    You can Book Mooch swap books just within Spain, if you wish.


Comments, Questions, Ideas