Isn't the Internet neat. Get a book from Barnes & Noble, political insight from the Drudge Report, free e-mail address from Hotmail, and romance from AOL. But, if you want to talk with another professional without being SPAMMED by some marketer or recruiter, you can now use professional forums managed by Tecumseh Group.
Tecumseh Group, Inc. is a small group of hard working folks from the Midwest United States with an entirely different vision of the Internet. Through their Tek-Tips (http://www.tek-tips.com
) forums for computer professionals and the Eng-Tips (http://www.eng-tips.com
) forums for engineering professionals they allow professionals to meet and discuss topics that are relevant to their work free of commercialism, pornography, recruiters and profanity. All sites are ad banner, mail list and private forum sales supported. Other professional communities will be launched in the future for groups such as doctors, dentists, educators, and manufacturing professionals. Their approach is very disciplined, methodical and conservative. A few of the other web communities to be launched are listed at http://www.tipmaster.com
Who are these guys? What's their angle? I asked their CEO Dave Murphy those exact questions. And, I've got to tell you he is dead serious about putting people together on the Internet where folks can talk without being sold something. Dave and his team have been busting their hump the last two years developing a killer application that stops sales people and recruiters dead in their tracks! They've made every single forum "member policed" so if you see a commercial post, you can actually DO something about it.
Tecumseh Group forums "humanize" the Internet. This allows normal folks to talk on issues relevant to their work, and take the typically "content shallow" Internet to new depths. No artificial intelligence here, just people helping people. They've taken everything good about the news groups list servers and stripped away the SPAM and negativity. This is actually the golden opportunity for companies to engage their markets in constructive dialogue. Yes, they bring people together to talk about products, and also have a rating system for members to gauge their satisfaction. That's what Consumer Reports and JD Powers have been doing for years in the retail market!
Their sites are filled with many routines and site policies, which make all of this possible. Here are a few of the highlights:The Forums are Independent
Independence is an often used and sorely misused term. These guys don't sell anything. They aren't political. Like Dave says, "If you want to know where companies are going, follow the money. We've put ourselves in a position of not having to sell anything to our members. You won't ever see us selling anything. This is why members are comfortable to participate on our sites."
Tecumseh Group sites allow marketers many opportunities to inform and communicate with it's members. Companies can add their link to the site for free, promote the forums through their Partner Program, purchase ad banners and buttons for general site rotation, be sole sponsors of particular forums with their ad banners, or use the unique Message Forwarding Service allowing them to send e-mails directly to the members.No Cookies Allowed
Dave's group has programmed the sites to not use session cookies. Member's sessions are managed with a user's handle (to keep e-mail addresses private) and a password. In certain respects, cookies would have been an easier programming solution to managing sessions. But, they didn't even want the appearance of a lack of independence. And, because no one really knows what is in a cookie they thought best to stay away from the whole issue. Most websites today want to dissect your interests like a biology frog and sell off the parts to marketers. Not so at Tecumseh Group.Power to the People
Instead of the typical desk pounding and mouse throwing about SPAM, here is a site that puts the power of control into the member's hands. All of their forums are member policed with their Red Flag utility. If you see a post that is either commercial, recruiting, pornographic, illegal or anything otherwise reasonably deemed offensive you can mark it for management to review. Because of all the up front warnings to recruiters and sales people, there really aren't problems. (Dave did confide in me about a recruiter who flamed him for deleting their post which was Red Flagged by a member. It's about time some of those piranhas learned their manners!)They Don't Try to be the Experts
How can 3 guys stay on top of close to 2000 forums? They don't. New forum topics are suggested all the time by members. Yes, they review the forums for reasonableness as they are added. The point is they don't nose in and act like the all-powerful company that knows all. They are there to manage the forums and make sure members can easily find each other. They are more like a library, and members are the books. Like Dave says, "knowledge is a lot more like sunshine than oil. No one company can pump it through a pipe at a profit."Members Rate the Products They Use
A very interesting side note to the forums is its forum rating mechanism. Members have the opportunity to voice their satisfaction with the products they use. This ratings information will only get more and more interesting as the sites grow. Vendors are recused from the ratings system, but all members can review the results. Dave also has the capability to catch and correct unusual fluctuations in data. So, any vendor thinking they can overrun the forums and skew data ought to think twice. You have to be a member to rate, and also have declared yourself NOT a vendor. Tecumseh Group has zero tolerance for cheaters on their site. You've got to remember, these guys are from the Midwest….Easy to Navigate
The sites are easy to navigate. Once you get a handle on the way the forums are structured, choosing and meeting other members in them is easy. There is also a neat "Notify Me" option on each thread which allows you to post and not be wondering if anyone has answered your question. When there is activity in the thread you are sent a note. There is also an option to view just the threads you have marked to make your visit even more productive.A Non-Threatening Place to do Business
Tecumseh Group sites are a great place for any site looking to reach out and communicate with its market. Every forum offers a "Link Library" for sites to place their link into the forums. They also offer a dynamo Partner Program for sites wanting to offer professionally managed populated technical forums. Member usage statistics are provided as well as a "return link" home to the Partner from the forums. Obviously, companies can also advertise or use the opt-in/out mail list if they wish.
Tecumseh Group forums provide a fresh new way for people to meet. They provide a high value to professionals that want to meet and talk about specific topics. Psychologically profiled as two thinkers and a leader, these three guys at Tecumseh Group have no where to go but up. Dave and his team are on the cutting edge -- putting people together with people. With 20-30 more web communities they'd like to launch, I wonder if they're thinking of going public…...