Park Slope Parents Fee Battle Threatens to Spiral Into All-Out Yuppie WarS

This bitter war over a fee(!) to post on the Park Slope Parents listserv is perfectly in character. Park Slope is where New York's most annoying parents sequester themselves in a twee, self-important doombubble.

A few years ago, a huge internet war broke out on that very same forum when someone had the audacity to write that they'd found a "boy's hat," clearly a vicious assault on the gender-neutral safe space that was Park Slope. You can read all the emails from that epic philosophical battle here, if you're unclear on why Park Slope Parents are one of the worst cultural subgroups this side of the Minutemen.

Caught up? Okay. On to the new issue which threatens to tear the very fabric of the Park Slope Parents online community into two gender-unequal parts: it seems that the "moderators" of the group want to charge its 13,000(!) members a $25 fee to continue posting. They work hard and they want what's coming to them, okay? They've posted an incredibly lengthy FAQ to the outraged members describing why, exactly, they deserve the cash. (Idea: write shorter FAQs, feel less overworked!). Some highlights of this battle for the soul of the proletariat:

We'd like to thank the members of Park Slope Parents for their support, patience, and tough questions during this time of transition. One of the things that Park Slope Parents has been known for is our ability to disagree without name-calling and personal attacks. Many of you have been taken aback by the news of the membership fee. Many of you are angry and would imagine from the posts that some of you feel hurt as well. For that we are sorry, since as fellow parents (and in many cases friends) our desire is to be ever-supportive of each other.

Heh!

—-How is the money going to be spent?—-

The primary use of the money we raise through membership fees will be used to pay salaries for the current Park Slope Parents staff (Susan Fox and Rachel Maurer as well as other staff whom we hope will be hired), and to pay for the website fees and for costs associated with in-person events. Here's just a sampling of what these staff do:

* Research and post information and events useful to our members
* Find, train and manage moderators on membership approvals, message
approvals, questionable posts, nanny posts, advertisements and the like.
* Research and write surveys, program the survey, send requests and
follow ups to members, clean data, crunch data (solicit and manage
volunteers to help) create toplines and presentations of surveys (e.g.,
Nanny Survey, PSP feedback surveys)
* Write, collect, and convert online survey reviews to the website
(e.g., daycare reviews, camp reviews)
* Read and field ideas about possible PSP events (e.g., seminars,
book signings, Mommy and me exercise classes, etc)
* Address concerns from members about questionable ethics related to
PSP (e.g., bartering for PSP reviews, trolling for business, bad nanny
posts, prosletizing in the park)
* Answer questions from members about potential spammers/trollers,
research the company, follow up with the business, email Constant
Contact and other direct marketing corporations about abuse and follow
up until we reach a resolution
* Field the accuracy of messages posted to the list which may be
inaccurate
* Find, hire and manage computer consultants who update PSP website
software. Research changes to software and decide if upgrades are
needed.
* Review online community software and vet emails from Yahoo! groups
competitors
* Receive and answer emails from local organizations and businesses
about posts on Park Slope Parents (e.g, Methodist Hospital, CB6,
Brooklyn Children's Museum, businesses which receive negative reviews,
etc.)
* Manage non-moderator volunteers (Who offer to compile information
for the PSP Website, offer to help organize events, etc.)
* Create new content from Yahoo groups' summaries and create
links on the website and inform group of addition
* Organize, find volunteers, set up, attend, and follow-up after PSP
events (Park Slope Parents Concerts, Harvest Festival, Spring Fling,
Celebrate Brooklyn concerts)
* Create new categories of content for recommendations section when
needed

Sounds fucking horrible. I should warn you that that's just a portion of Question #1 from this 16-question FAQ, which features its own table of contents. Let's just do one more, shall we?

—-Online communities should be free. It's the members that make it what it
is. Why are you charging for something that someone else will provide
for free?—-

Yes, the Internet is "free" in the sense that it's an open worldwide network of networks. Yahoo! groups does not charge for groups and people can start another Yahoo! Group easily. There are many other groups (Urban Baby, Moms Connect, etc.) which you can join. The underlying goal of many of these other groups, however, is to sell your eyeballs, find ways to market to you, get you to click on their ads or buy their products so they can repeat this cycle. Website stickiness and use is the goal, not community building.

We have never tried to keep people from starting another list and we encourage people through "other online groups" reminders and website page that there are many other groups in other communities to join. People who oppose the new fee are welcome to start a new group and run that list in any way that they see fit.

Park Slope Parents is full of amazingly talented, educated, wonderful people who have, over these past 6 1/2 years, contributed a wealth of experience and support to the group. We thank each and every Park Slope Parents member, past and present, for their contributions and hope that this new development will not in any way decrease the support or feelings of camaraderie you feel to other parents.

However, the work that goes into maintaining is not 'free' if the group wants to maintain an online community of this size with a high level of civility and integrity, free of spam and too much commercialization. Clearly the organizers have made the list look like it runs itself, which is both a compliment and a barrier the acceptance of this new fee. Park Slope Parents has the character it does specifically because it is both carefully maintained and informed by a sense of responsibility to the community and the other members of the list. As Park Slope Parents grew, so did the behind the-scenes work created by that growth, including (for example): anonymous post protocols, moderation of
conversations to avoid "flame wars"; mindfulness of the impact discussions can have on local businesses and individuals; soliciting and maintaining commercial posts; posting events for schools and non-profits, planning community events, and oversight of caregiver listings.

Someone likened Park Slope Parents to a town square where people can freely converge and discuss issues. But even town squares need maintenance. The cracks in the sidewalk need to be fixed, the advertising flyers people leave need to be cleaned up, and if a riot breaks out, there need to be people who manage the situation so it doesn't cause permanent damage to the community.

... Someone else likened Park Slope Parents to a town square where witches are burnt alive. The pyre has been lit, my friends. This FAQ alone certainly represents $325K worth of work, but no matter; Park Slope mommies are loading their shotguns. The end of this will not be pretty. Hipster kickballers: this is your future.
[Pic via]