Let’s Make Robots Changes Hands: Kerfuffle Ensues

There’s been a bit of a shakeup at Let’s Make Robots (LMR).

LMR is possibly the most popular DIY robotics website around and was started up by a fun-loving Dane, [Frits Lyneborg]. It grew a large community around building up minimal robots that nonetheless had a lot of personality or pushed a new technical idea into the DIY robotics scene. [Frits] says that he hasn’t had time for DIY robotics for a while now, and doesn’t have the resources to run a gigantic web forum either, so he worked out a deal to let the Canadian hobbyist supply company Robot Shop take it over.

LMR has always been a little bit Wild-West, and many of the members quite opinionated, and that’s been part of its charm. So when the new corporate overlords came in, set up “Rules” (which have seemingly been downgraded to “suggestions”) and clarified the ownership of the content, some feathers were ruffled.

A few weeks later, everything looks to be settling back down again. (Edit: Or has it?!? See the comments below.) We wish LMR all the best — everyone loves robots, and LMR is a tremendous resource for the newbie interested in getting into DIY robotics on the cheap. More than a few LMR posts have been featured here at Hackaday over the years. Among our favorites are this drumming rovera clever 3D printed gripper, and this wicked bicycle-style balancer.

69 thoughts on “Let’s Make Robots Changes Hands: Kerfuffle Ensues

  1. Well, it’s not over yet. Right now all the users are locked out from the website, unable to log in until they accept the new terms of service. Those who do not accept them, granting Robot Shop a perpetual, irrevocable license to use all content anywhere (also retroactively, for stuff that already has been posted) will have their accounts and content removed. Unless they decide to not remove it, because they claim it’s up to them now. There isn’t a huge outrage on the forum right now only because all the outraged people are effectively locked out, and will be kicked out soon.

    If you have your favorite designs on LMR, it’s time to make a backup now, while they are still there, because soon that website is going to be pretty much empty.

    1. As a long time member I had “Collected”(aka liked) a lot of pages with useful info and interesting designs. Now that I can’t log in without agreeing to their crap terms that info is all but dead to me. All I can do is save the minor bit of stuff I posted and tell them to delete everything I have ever said.

    1. No kidding, right? “A few weeks later, everything looks to be settling back down again,” what the hell? It only -looks- settled because RobotShope deletes any post appearing otherwise.

  2. I had been waiting to see how things how things at LMR progressed. But, today found myself locked out of my LMR account unless I agreed to their new Terms of Service.

    I did not want to grant Robot Shop Inc. “a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, unrestricted, transferable worldwide license to reproduce, modify (to the extent permitted under Section 1.9 below), perform, and publicly display your User Content on LMR’s website or other site owned or controlled by RobotShop;”

    So, I declined the acceptance of their new Terms of Service, My LMR account has been closed, and my content removed from their website.

    1. “Non Exclusive” is what matters here. Robot Shop are simply insisting that you can’t post stuff on their board, and then when they or someone else uses it come back years later and sue for copyright or patent infringement.

      What they should have done is to use one of the many open-source licenses out there and said “you agree that anything you write or post us under the XYZ license.

      1. That’s not all they’re insisting on if that wording is correct: They also want to be able to take your content and use it in any other fashion they want, such as posting it on the site, making a book, and so forth. If you look at the content license agreements for, say, G+ or Facebook, they clearly state that you’re granting them a license that’s limited to what’s needed in order to provide the service you signed up for to you and others.

  3. Drama for the sake of Drama.
    This is the internet, and unless you host your own content, you should very well understand that any content you put online is vulnerable. It can be lost in a moment, and it can be stolen a moment later. Additionally, you are using a service that is not obligated to really do anything. They can change their terms at a whim.

    The only poor behaviour in my opinion is the locking of accounts. It would have been much better for everyone if the new terms were put in place, and users given a time to copy their content or remove their content before the changes were implemented.
    Other than that, shame on the community for acting out in a childish manner cursing when the new terms had attempted to clean up the language.
    This is not one sided event, both sides are to blame, and before you start to quote freedom of speech remember that a website is privately owned and the owner is responsible for the content.

    1. > This is the internet, and unless you host your own content, you should very well understand that any content you put online is vulnerable. It can be lost in a moment, and it can be stolen a moment later.
      The fact that it can happen doesn’t mean it’s alright. In the Real Life™ you are vulnerable too! You can be hurt, killed or maimed at any time. That doesn’t mean we tolerate people who go around hurting people (or, at least, that it’s fine to tolerate them).

    2. There were lots of LMR members who didn’t mind the new rules.

      There was a lot more to the “derfuffle” than some cursing or rules against cursing.

      It’s not a one sided event nor is it a two sided event. There were many sides to the event. There was a lot of debate between members and the new owners. There was also a lot of debate between members. The debates which took place are now gone (deleted by the new owners) so it’s hard to see what happened to those looking at the situation after the fact.

      1. “The debates which took place are now gone (deleted by the new owners)”

        hostile! glad I never put any time/effort into that site.

        do the ‘owners’ have other sites? if so, which ones? I have no desire to give any of my time to any site that behaves like that.

    3. dassheep. You are right, but hurting and maiming people is on a completely different level. This would be closer to a local club suddenly changing it’s rules, or your neighbour suddenly no longer allowing you to use his swimming pool. Sure you have your inflatable toy in the pool but it was never your pool to begin with.
      I’m not making light of the situation as a whole, just trying to remind people that what they ‘feel’ is their right or property isn’t, and has never been.
      It sucks that it’s gone, and it should have been handled a lot better by everyone.

      Duanedegn, it’s too bad the community does not have a copy of the database… there would have been a large number of places that this site could have called home. Zipping the site up and sharing would have prevented the loss of so much of the content. It’s also too bad the moderators went nutz deleting things. It would have gone a long way into dispelling the he-said she-said rumour mill that is causing even more issues. I’m quite aware there was a lot more than just swearing as well.. that was just one minor example that I shared.

      With any luck, why not reach out to the original owner and ask for a copy of the site?
      It’s a grey area, the site was sold, but everyone’s content is still bound by the original terms they signed up with.

      1. I think there are a lot of people who made copies of their pages. I copied mine. I also copied some of the debate.

        I was surprised they not only deleted the pages I left in place but they also deleted every comment I ever made on the site. This leaves some pretty strange threads.

        Here are a couple:
        http://letsmakerobots.com/building-my-first-bot-quadruped
        http://letsmakerobots.com/how-calculate-ik

        I suppose you could blame the “moderators” but the only moderators the site had were the owners. I don’t think the new owners are anxious to share a copy of the site.

        I thought the new owners had an amazing talent for saying just the right thing to increase people’s anger toward them.

        For example when people complained about the shout box being shut down Mario said “Most users that have communicated in this thread are unsupportive, nonconstructive, aggressive, closed minded and impatient. It is difficult to believe that the foundation of LMR has been built on their shoulders.” Even if this statement were true (which I don’t concede) it’s hardly a way of calming people down.

        I’d be completely in favor of all the previous discussion concerning rule changes be made public so people could decide for themselves if anyone is not accurately describing what happened. There certainly was some very poor behaviour from some members but I don’t think it’s fair to say the “community acted childishly”.

      2. I don’t know about Canada, but US copyright law states/implies that as soon as content is created, it becomes property of the creator unless ownership is expressly transferred. Everyone that has a post on that site is entitled notice before being locked out of their accounts and forced to accept terms of service before being allowed to access their intellectual property.

        I don’t know the details of what happened as I haven’t visited LMR at any point in the past 6 months (that I can recall), but if I had content posted and that was suddenly gone because I don’t want to sign away my ownership of the content, I would be livid.

        1. Copyright defaults to the creator (unless stated otherwise) almost everywhere, and even if it didn’t, and if they indeed are forcing a new TOS without any prior warning, or recourse for downloading/deleting/accessing your previously created content – they are quite likely on the wrong side of the law. Deleting accounts/content if you don’t sign a newly created TOS/contract can easily be seen as blackmail if everyone is not personally notified well in advance, especially when one of the parties are trying to make money through the content.

          It’s quite clear from looking at archive.org that content was intended to owned by creators on the site – not a TOS anywhere – and the word “My” and “US” used liberally.

        2. You’re correct that in most countries, copyright of a creative work is automatically assigned to the owner on creation, unless they agree otherwise or later transfer it.

          However, that doesn’t impose a requirement on anybody to continue to host your content – they can stop serving it at any time they wish. What they’re doing is unethical, but not illegal.

  4. Here is my account of the happenings (if anyone notes inaccuracies, please let me know, I’ll correct them or remove the comment).

    On August 31 2015 the long time standing digital-hackerspace Letsmakerobots.com (LMR) was purchased by RobotShop. Frits, the owner of LMR, had been looking for someone to become the caretaker of our space for some time. He announced to the core members about a week before the purchase he felt had found the right owner. The veteran members, a core of approximately 20-50 users, largely understood. Frits is a family man, he had couple of kids since starting LMR, and it was becoming a lot for him, both financially and amount time to maintain. So, most of the community embraced the changes.

    Of course, about five days ago it all went to hell. Apparently, one of the veteran members cussed at another veteran in the Shoutbox (which is a webbased live chat window somewhat unique to LMR) the owners of RobotShop reacted pretty drastic: They closed the Shoutbox. It became a poo-storm after that. Most of the veteran members lived for the Shoutbox. They began placing posts on forums regarding being upset about being treated as children. RobotShop responded pretty harshly–stating they weren’t their to preserve anything but to make the needed changes. I would love to give you the details of the arguments between RobotShop and the veterans, but, RobotShop began deleting threads. This upset the veterans even more; our voice was being ripped from us. Shortly after, some of the more passionate members began to pull down their posts. While they did, some of the more level-headed continued to try and engage RobotShop, specifically the owner Mario Tremblay (aka, Chameleon) with rational solutions.

    This all changed the following day when the passionate members who removed their content found their accounts were blocked. This began a landslide of LMR members pulling their content to support their brothers at LMR. By my count, which isn’t perfect, they lost approximately 450 detailed robotics posts.

    A side note here, LMR has been the wild-west. You must be quick witted, intelligent, and a fast typist to survive any sort of confrontation there. But that stated, LMR has grown me as a person. It has made me realize, even though I don’t agree with someone, it doesn’t mean we cannot still be friends. In fact, through all the crap, I realize how much the LMR members mean to me. They are my brothers–brothers of more than flesh and blood, but brothers of mind. We have a shared story, even though some of us our in Kathmandu, and others Fort Worth Texas. We are robot builders. People who are largely misunderstood by the world. We see more than the microcosms we are presented; we see how the world fits together. How the mechanical is driven by electronics, and electronics by programming, and the programming by our mind. We are a brotherhood who wish to manifest our thoughts, to bring joy to ourselves, and then share that joy with others who possess ability to appreciate it.

    Alright, racing-thought is done.

    So began this negative feedback loop. As members began to realize their brothers were being banned for disagreeing with RobotShop or pulling their content (we still aren’t sure of the exact reason, as it was never given), more members began to pull their content, leading to more bannings. A few days later we found out being banned was simply, “A temporary solution to problems on the backend”. Of course, from our perspective, it we were being banned.

    For me, I waited. I hoped the bannings were more of a temporary solution. Then, they banned several of our benevolent members. We aren’t talking about jerks, like myself, no, these guys were the voices of reason. They would help any member, any time. They were our roboticist-Ghandis. To mention two, Cevinius and Duan Degn.

    Within minutes of finding this out, I found a thread on LMR where Frits Lyneborg requested his personal posts be removed. Tremblay then threatened to make public all of Lyneborg’s emails regarding the sale of LMR. This bothered me.

    But the last kick in the balls for me was the removal of “All LMR Are Belong to Us” from our logo.

    “All LMR Are Belong to Us” has a long history with LMR. The veteran’s simply say, “ALABTU!” And it translates into, “Letsmakerobots is for the people, by the people.”

    When ALABTU was removed this Pooh Bear lost his stuffing. I began to think of the thousands of hours I had spent researching, testing, and writing the articles for LMR (a couple HaD even posted, thank you by the way). I took the removal of ALABTU from the logo, with my brothers who removed their content being banned, as RobotShop telling me they owned my content.

    No one owns my content! When I started at LMR I didn’t know the difference between LED and lead. The members of LMR taught me how to do everything I posted (well, them and grandma Google). If anyone owned my content, it was them. My brothers.

    At this point, I logged on quietly, told no one, made a copy of my posts, and then deleted them. I like to think I’m a pretty tough guy, but my eyes might have started to leak a bit. When all of my content was deleted I posted “ALABTU!!” and waited for the banning. It didn’t take too long. An hour I believe.

    While I waited, I saw Chris the Carpenter stop talking mid-statement (as you can see in the image), come to find out, he was banned before he could remove his content. As were a few others I believe (e.g., Gareth, aka Chiprobot),

    I’m not sure what else to say, but there it is. Most of the veteran members are banned. Maybe one or two of us with reason, but most of us simply because we did not want our content leveraged by an organization who saw us as a commodity.

    Duan Degn has done a much better job explaining situation on a Parallax forum thread,

    Change in Ownership of LMR:
    http://forums.parallax.com/discussion/162247/change-of-ownership-at-let-s-make-robots

    Also, Cevnius, the maker of MobBob, posted his feelings on G+,

    New Management
    https://plus.google.com/+KevinChanCevinius/posts/YB6rrsLFGnf

    Not going to lie. It was a blow to our community. But heck if we aren’t as resilient as a double-walled, solid filled ABS print! We reside in a chat-room, hiding out, weirdly paranoid of whomever comes in. They are asked cultural questions like, “What does ‘ALABTU’ mean?” and “What did OddBot and Frits yell at each other?” Sadly, if you don’t know these answers, you are probably booted. The paranoia is somewhat rational, since at one point Mario Tremblay entered our chat us ‘Gus’ to listen in on us. After most of the day, he revealed himself. It took less than few seconds for one of my good friends to state, “Mario, your princess is another castle.” and boot him. Still, it didn’t help our paranoia.

    Anyway, I ramble.

    My wife asked me what we would do; she knows what LMR means to me. I had to think about it a moment, but I replied, “Our shared thoughts, our passion, it does not reside at a web address. It resides in our brotherhood. So, we’ll be fine.”

    ps. After many (+30) of us deleted our content, the server was restored to an earlier states, while our accounts remained deactivated. It took a couple of days before we were sent emails stating our account was reactivated and we could return. There was also a request we stay with the community. I did not log back in, I simply sent an reply stating I would like all of my intellectual property removed, but I stated I would like to keep my account, since it meant a lot to me. And I would keep an eye on LMR in case I had misjudged RobotShop. It only took RobotShop an hour to respond. They stated they deleted all my content, but they went ahead and deleted my account as well, since my content was tied to my account?

    –An LMR Refugee

    1. so, in short, the were DICED!

      I used to spend time on slashdot, but that community mostly broke up, too, after slash got DICE’d.

      for a while, I was active on dpreview (photo stuff) and then amazon bought them and the site went to hell.

      time and time again, grass roots websites get bought out and lose their soul; then everyone leaves.

      yet another reason we should never have lost USENET and given in to all this web-based ‘stuff’. (we, meaning the generic internet crowd). webmasters can take their ball and go home if they want, but once content was on usenet, it stayed. sites could age-out what they wanted, but you could always find usenet content as no one really OWNED it, like they do with websites.

      “usenet? isn’t that for pulling down binaries with sickbeard?” yeah, now; but it used to be for humans to exchange ideas, in plain text. GOML

      1. Dice’d? As in the headhunters? I’m not going to touch that one, but as someone who has seen the management style of that company in action at their headquarters, let’s just say that it made Amazon look about as welcoming as Google.

    2. Lad-
      I can fill in an important preface to the “member” cursing in the shout box.

      I forget the thread but Zero Hour was probably the moment that comments by CTC and myself were removed and one of OddBot’s remained, but had a very important word to the community and to the comment (a completely FCC-allowed reference to a part of the male anatomy) removed from his post, leaving the sentence hanging in a very strange way.

      Jinx had already downloaded and pulled, and I decided to as well. As soon as I had everything wiped (a 3 hour process) I repeated OddBot’s offensive word in the shout box in 18em type, which is something I had done regularly before the crackdown to much praise and no complaints. That elicited what I think was Chris the Carpenter’s last shout, and the text was shortly changed to “Happy” by the admins. I never blamed them for it, and I really just did it to test the limits and say good-bye.

      I know what Oddbot and Chris used to shout at each other. (It wasn’t ALABTU.)

    3. Your post > article * 10. I’m sure you shared a lot of cool stuff on LMR I might otherwise have stumbled upon and really appreciated. Hope you guys all find a better place to hang out, and continue to share. :)

    4. Just a couple corrections.
      “Apparently, one of the veteran members cussed at another veteran in the Shoutbox”
      I’m not so sure anyone was cussing at anyone in particular I had the impression as I watched the shouts with swear words go by, they were cussing because they were told not to, as a way of rebellion. From what I saw, I didn’t think it lasted very long but it’s possible I missed some.
      I also think the following isn’t correct.
      ” I found a thread on LMR where Frits Lyneborg requested his personal posts be removed. Tremblay then threatened to make public all of Lyneborg’s emails regarding the sale of LMR. This bothered me.”
      The thread from Frits (which was quickly removed) appeared after Tremblay made a couple of posts in reaction to people’s complaints about the shout box being closed.

      In the first reply from Temblay, after people had complained about the shout box being closed, Temblay said things many of us found insulting. He also gave reasons why Frits sold LMR. In reply to someone not believing the given reasons Tremblay said “Do you want me to put public copy of our emails?”.

      It was only after these replies from Temblay that Frits replied.

      I believe Frits and Temblay have both cooled down and I think they both regret what happened.

      I have a copy of much of the thread started by Temblay titled “Shout box – Temporary shut down” where much of this communication took place. I’m certainly no Ghandi but I don’t think rehashing what was said in this thread will do much good.

      I think there’s enough information for people wondering “what the heck happened at LMR” to now figure it out.

      I certainly don’t think I know best about how much information should be shared but my present thinking is this mess has already been messy enough without going over all the debates in detail. (Though I may have said otherwise before cooling down myself.)

      1. Thank you, Mr. DD. Sadly, I’m not sure how; can we edit HaD comments? Anyway, let it stand I accept DD’s corrections in entirety.

        Hope you’re well, sir. And your as Ghandish as roboticist get, sir. :)

    5. Whereabouts have most of the LMR refugees moved on to? I appreciated the assistance I recieved on LMR, and always found it one of the friendlier sites. It seems a shame that it’s gone this way, and I hope something good can rise from the ashes.

    1. ^^ This. From what I’ve read it seems as though the new owners are to blame for wrecking the value of their investment by not understanding that the community was responsible for the interpreted value of the site and any attempt to forcibly redefine the environment that allowed that community to thrive would be like removing the air from the atmosphere in an attempt to clean up air pollution.

      The site may have been owned and operated by a sole entity and the content was the result of individual contributions but for the new owners to do this would be akin to a psuedo-Open Source project taking all the commits and becoming a closed-source, For-Profit commercial entity.

  5. While I don’t agree with how things were handled, I am all for changing the way communication on the web takes place. ie. Enforcing civil dialogue.

    I’m quite fed up with the personal attacks, livid responses and general thuggish behavious many people seem to feel is perfectly fine while making comments etc.
    I was not surprised when many news sites shut down their comment sections the last couple of months.
    In particular my local big news site did it because of extreme racist and personal attacks.

    People seem to have forgotten to be “nice” to each other.
    Swearing and being a bro or whatever is perfectly ok in your own back yard, but it has no place on a public forum. Be a grown up and behave.

    The intellectual property argument is moot I think, posting online = giving away the content, it’s in the open space. Same as having a patent issued, everyone can see it. It’s not yours any more.

    1. You are sadly living in a strange place in this world. There was a Spanish? Portuguese? company that nearly wholesale ripped BoB to sell as their own. The member that actually made BoB real contacted them to explain they had seemed to appropriate his work. He was compensated in some way. In the US what you create is yours. It can’t be ripped wholesale and not attribute the original creator.
      As for the being “nice”, the shout box was not a forum. It wasn’t archived by the site. You couldn’t reliably search it. Some newbs in the forums could get a ribbing from time to time. If level-headed members thought the onslaught was over the top they would chime in. My comments are moot though, RS deleting posts as they have may well have obliterated any ability to follow the thread.

    2. (not a member of LMR but been through the same with some other online communities. Still semi-participating in similar forums)

      I can appreciate both sides of this. I totally understand response of the LMR community to the inept and ham-handed steps regarding the new signup commitments and the brute-force altering of history. It seems RS has lost any goodwill and positive associations which should have come out of this acquisition.

      But I also think that it’s reasonable to want to raise the level of discourse a bit. I sure wouldn’t want the hassle of maintaining and policing this Shoutbox, which has more to do with egos and argument for sport than with robotics. Further, as a company, I absolutely would not want the liability, or to have people associate such a hotspot with my company.

      This could have been handled better.

      1. “which has more to do with egos and argument for sport than with robotics”

        The shoutbox (SB) was only visible to members of LMR. I find it very strange you’d be so quick to categorize the shoutbox this way if you hadn’t seen it.
        I suppose the comment about the SB having to do with egos could be justified since people would compliment others on their robots. If I had recently updated a robot page with a new video, I was often greeted with “cool robot” or something similar when I stopped by the SB to say “hi.” I suppose this affected my ego. I doubt this is what you had in mind with the “egos” comment.
        I don’t recall being involved in any SB arguments but they did occur. I think it’s very safe to say SB arguments were not the norm and I think your characterization of arguments occurring “for sport,” very inaccurate. Arguments, when they occurred were caused from people disagreeing with each other.
        Usually people were just saying hello to friends who like to build robots. I generally found the SB very friendly.

  6. The most mind-blowing part of this post for me is that I’ve thought the founder’s name was “Fritsly Neborg” for years, since all I knew was that his email address was “fritslyneborg@xxxx.xxx” (he sends you an email when you register on LMR) and didn’t know anything else about him. I figured it was just a goofy handle for the internet. By the time I find out what his real name is it’s too late and he doesn’t run the site any more.

    1. At least he is a good guy and you will be able to find him in the web again in the future. If you don’t know where, run down one of the refugees from LMR and we will gladly tell you where to find him.

  7. I searched my posts and they are still alive, even though the conversations are totally deleted. Which is kind of sad, because i used to give more info as i was asked as a reply. Some even make me lok mad as often i edited main post saying “as many have asked …” , and now the conversation is null.

  8. After reading a few posts, here’s what I’ve seen happening:

    RS: “We don’t want a shitstorm”
    Some user: “I’ll be damned!”
    Some user:
    RS:
    Other users: “WTF!?”
    Other users:
    RS:
    RS:
    RS:
    Users: “Bah!”
    Users:

    IMHO the users leaving after this debacle isn’t worth trying to keep, at some point in the future they’ll just find another excuse for creating a mess (and leave), and you’ll be the one having to clean it up.

    1. Bah, no edit button and some parts go “hidden”. The dialoge should have been:

      RS: “We don’t want a shitstorm”
      Some user: “I’ll be damned!”
      Some user: -make shitstorm-
      RS: -removes shit-
      Other users: “WTF!?”
      Other users: -creates even more shit-
      RS: -blocks user logins-
      RS: -removes shit-
      RS: -update user policy-
      Users: “Bah!”
      Users: -leaves-

    2. Actually, By the sounds of it, at least some of the users lost were, in general, friendly, and have helped me out in the past on my own projects. I was aware that there’d been a bit of a shake-up with things, but I hadn’t realised that it had all got this sour.

      1. How about this: both users and the (new) owner are responsible by acting as small children?
        It’s one thing wanting to make an anarchist paradise* more suitable to a larger segment of people and then banning those that thinks the rules doesn’t apply to them – it’s another thing to go completely berserk and fuck everything up real bad.

        (*from posts here and elsewhere, haven’t looked at that site myself)

  9. “IMHO the users leaving after this debacle isn’t worth trying to keep, at some point in the future they’ll just find another excuse for creating a mess (and leave), and you’ll be the one having to clean it up.”

    All I can say is if you were not apart of the former LMR community you cannot understand what has been lost, and if you think those that have left were not worth keeping, you never spent more than a moment there.

  10. Hrm. I’m really not sure how to feel about this. A handful of LMRians might remember my name. I, too, know what OddBot and Chris and Frits used to shout, I was there when it began.

    I will not (ever) get into details why, but let’s just say that I’m re-glad I left LMR, and especially Mr. Tremblay, in my rearview some years ago.

  11. Hi everyone, I am Sandra Fradet, co-founder and co-owner of RobotShop inc, the World’s Leading Robot Store For Personal and Professional Robot Technology.

    We have read lots of different versions of the story on the web. Now this is the time that you have our version.

    On August 31 2015, we purchased http://www.letsmakerobots.com (LMR) from Frits, the former owner of LMR. LMR had become too much for Frits to take care of as a spare time project. Here is his take on things: “The idea was, that since I have not been building robots for a very long time, and it was hard to turn the site into something ‘bigger’ and still just do it as a spare time project – I thought it was a great idea to pass LMR on, and it appeared to be the right time to have a company focused on robotics, a company that had the muscle to implement new stuff and lift LMR – to have the key. I thought it was the best for everyone, I am not a big company, LMR was getting big and heavy, we needed a big and strong group to take over, I gave what I have, now is a good time for something new :)”

    RobotShop was very excited to know more about the LMR community and did not do much for several days wanting to learn about the community and it’s members and listen to their comments and needs. A few days after announcing the purchase, two LMR veterans had a heated argument in the shout box concerning another members work and not providing constructive feedback. This caused another member to create a new thread on how members should act at LMR. For a moment, we again just watched and listened to members, until it came evident that many members did not agree to the argument that happened publicly. We then entered the discussion proposing to members to be careful with feedback not to attack other members and also be careful with language since we want LMR to be family friendly and this is the impression we also received from several members of the LMR community. We did receive feedback that over the past 2 years, rough conversations were current and conversations they thought should not have been put public, were found in the shout box and forum. Other members mentioned that they would never refer this site to their niece, son or daughter because of that. Many members told us they wanted a place without vulgar language.

    At this point, other members expressed themselves mentioning that this is not the way LMR was and should be. There were two sides, one wanting to clean up the language and the other smaller group wanting to continue as it was before. After LMR moderators added new rules concerning language similar to the ones found on many blogs and forums, in the middle of the afternoon, a group wanting to test RobotShop’s limits, started shouting obscenities in the shoutbox. Including very large versions of words we will not speak of and links to websites that should not be visited by people under 18. This was at the view of all LMR members entering the community. Later that day, it was decided that RobotShop, being a family friendly website with customers being young students, teachers and research institutions, unfortunately could not keep this type of obscenity at view. It was therefore decided to temporarily shut down the shout box in order for us to be able to program an On/Off functionality for our members to be able to turn the shout box on at their convenience. It was a difficult decision and we knew that some people would not approve but, we had to implement the changes quickly for the good of LMR.

    The temporary removal of the shout box unfortunately caused members to be very upset even if this was temporary. After 24 hours the shout box was back on with the needed functionality. During the time the shout box was down, RobotShop started seeing some veteran members deleting their content in a way of protestation, and writing messages indicating that they would leave and create another community. A few accounts were therefore blocked temporary as a safety measure so we could take the time to understand what was happening and all these members were contacted individually in order to ask more information. Some content was restored during the weekend in order to allow time for LMR members and RobotShop to discuss while limiting the damage done to posts and people linking to this information. During this same weekend, a few former LMR members claimed that Robotshop was stealing their content on social media and alleged that RobotShop was banning members and deleting their content for no apparent reasons. None of this is true.

    All accounts of these members were opened 48 hours later and they were free to rejoin the LMR community as long as they followed the new rules concerning language. No users were ever banned from LMR. Some users continued to protest on LMR and continued to share unfounded accusations that we were taking their content in hostage, stealing their IP and destroying the community. Even with excuses and explanations, the group did not want to hear our side of the story and did not provide us with a fair chance. Some users then decided to leave the LMR community and asked that their account and content be deleted from the LMR website. LMR moderators therefore, at the demand of members, removed accounts and content, even if we knew the damages it will cause to the quality of contents (holes everywhere in the forum threads). We are very sorry that members decided to leave LMR and at that point, it was undeniable that we needed to make things clearer for our members and protect us for the future by adding Terms and Conditions to the LMR website since there were none in place.

    The risks and liabilities to an individual who owns a website are not the same as those of an international company like RobotShop, particularly for a site that focuses on user-generated content (UGC). In order to help us ensure that the content posted on LMR respects the rights of third parties, and to better protect our LMR contributions, we need the flexibility to modify or delete content if necessary while keeping the original substance of the posts. We understand that LMR members have spent considerable time, effort and energy in creating and publishing the content that now makes up the heart and lifeblood of the LMR website. Then, in order to ensure that LMR can continue to thrive, proper “Terms and Conditions” needed to be put in place. Unfortunately, the new terms created confusion and some members continued to accuse us falsely of wanting to take ownership of their content. This caused other members to decide to leave the community and ask to remove their content. Our Terms and Conditions were quickly improved to add common language so members can better understand our intentions. Our T&C are very similar to other popular websites like Instructables (Autodesk) and Thingiverse (Makerbot) and users do remain the owner of their content. It was always our intention since the beginning that the creators of the content remained the owner.

    We are here to help the LMR community grow and prosper. For what other reasons would we have purchased Let’s Make Robots? In order to be able to do this, we will invest in the LMR platform and add more functionality in order to increase the quality of service offered to our members and guests. We want to help and get to know others and inspire the next generations of robot builders. In these events, we have not had the chance yet to show this to the LMR community and this is unfortunate.

    We have been helping customers with their robotic projects for over 12 years now. We help people materialize their ideas and projects and these projects always remain the property of our customers. If you search RobotShop on the web, you are likely to find many positive comments on unbiased sites.

    Don’t make any mistake, LMR has been hit badly by the mass deletion and this is regrettable. Could we have handled it better? Probably. We have admitted to it and nobody is perfect. But in the end, users asked to delete their content and we obliged.

    We took a step back for sure, but we are confident that we will rebuild this community together, for a greater future. We now sit on a slightly smaller but solid base of core members. We have approximately 20 000 members in the whole history of LMR. 2000 members are currently active and we attract new members every day. LMR is still the biggest robot builder community on the planet and with Robotshop taking the reign, we are confident that we will bring it to the next level. We do feel that we can continue with a family friendly website where everyone young and old can come learn and share about robotics with other members. We do feel this is what the majority of robot builders want. We want to inspire the new generations and bring more people to become more interested in technology. Our intentions are honorable and we do want the good for LMR as many other members do. We have several ideas for the future which I am sure you will like but, we also want your input. We want to create an environment where people share about their passion, robotics, which is also RobotShop’s passion by the way. We see a place where people help each other and where those who help others are recognized. We see a friendly environment with constructive feedback between members and where everyone is welcome.

    Come visit us, give us a chance and judge yourself after: http://www.letsmakerobots.com

    At LMR, We are all Robots Builders.

    1. “Could we have handled it better? Probably. We have admitted to it and nobody is perfect.”

      Probably? Not only could have it been handled better but it’s hard to imagine how it could have been handled worse.

      RobotShop (RS) managed not only to anger those members who were against the rule changes but also angered many (I think it’s safe to say most) actively contributing members of LMR who were in favor of the rule changes.

      There are a variety of reasons so many Let’s Make Robots (LMR) members were angry enough at the new owners to leave a site they had previously greatly valued. I was initially angered at the closing of the shout box but not so angry as to delete my content in protest. It wasn’t until Mario Tremblay replied to our complaints that I deleted the content I has spent so much time adding to the site. I don’t think I was the only one who found these replies intensely insulting.

      I think another source of anger many LMR felt toward RS was the frequent deletion of posts debating rule changes. I don’t think I was the only one who felt like RS was trying to hide indications people were not happy with how the website was being run.

      While at times whole threads would disappear there were other times when individual posts would be deleted. After I was allowed back onto LMR, I had a post deleted which was accompanied with an email.

      The email began:
      “We would like to inform you that we removed one of your posts that indicated that Mario behaved poorly.”

      I believe the phrase that got me in trouble was:
      “I will agree some behaved badly (IMO few behaved as poorly as Mario),”

      While many were okay with limiting words which could be used on the site, I don’t think there were as many willing to accept limiting people’s ability to criticize the new owners. What had initially been billed as a “wholesome family friendly” site was beginning to appear more like a “totalitarian North Korea” type of site.

      I don’t know what would have happened if only those, who were upset about the new language rules, had left LMR. Would they have joined together to create a new site? I’m not sure. As it turned out not only was a site without language rules formed (http://www.robotrebels.org) but a site which has rules against inappropriate language for children (http://coolkidsrobots.com).

      This later group was in favor of family friendly language rules. I know these people well enough to know it wasn’t some former LMR member’s social media post which convinced them to abandon a site they had spent many hours building up. There were many of us very willing to continue with the new language rules in place. It required active effort by the new owners to turn these people away.

      I for one wanted to like RobotShop. While I wouldn’t have wanted to force the rule changes on members of LMR, I fully expected RobotShop to institute these language rules. I felt bad for my friends who didn’t want restrictions on the words they could use but at the same time I looked forward to a time when my nieces and nephews could visit LMR without needing to worry about the language they may encounter.

      I know my own reasons for leaving a site I had both supported financially with donations and supported with many hours of adding content. My reasons for leaving were the way the new owners had treated me and my friends combined with the feeling the site had fallen under the control of totalitarian despots.

    2. I think both this recent post from RobotShop and posts on LMR suggest members have insisted their posts be deleted. I imagine this is likely the case but not all the posts deleted were done at the request of former members.

      My last communication to RobotShop about LMR was “You’re welcome to close my account at LMR.”

      I don’t understand how this could be interpreted as “delete everything I ever wrote.” I had not requested they delete my posts.

      The last communication I received from RobotShop about LMR was a CC from Mario Tremblay:
      “parfait. delete ses petit post fatigant ici et la, surtout dans mon thread”

      This gave me the impression only a few of my posts would be deleted, not all of them. (It also gave me the impression he was glad to see me go and wanted me to know.)

      I can understand if my posts were deleted as some sort of “collateral damage” but I don’t think it’s fair to blame all the deletions on the former members of LMR.

    3. You mention many times that various actions were taken “temporarily”, “for safety” or “to add functionality”. Could you elaborate on that a little, because myself, being a computer programmer by trade and having some experience with web applications, can’t see how you have to disable a shoutbox in order to write more code for it, or how blocking selected users increases the safety of the website or other members in any way. Also, I’d like to point out how all your “temporary” solutions only turned to be “temporary” *after* there was an outrage about them, and were never actually communicated in advance — quite a coincidence.

      1. We disabled the shoutbox for security and programmed the new functionality On/off button not available in Dupral, so at least members not wanting to see the shoutbox were able to do so. Because of the nature of the comments and links posted, we had to put a stop to it. One important point is that there were no terms at that time, which could in certain circumstances have incurred our liability with regards to other members.

    1. Francisco,

      I don’t think you had a chance to read my reply to one of your posts in Mario’s “We are very sorry to the turn of events” post. I would likely use different wording were I to compose this again but I left the post in its original form to show what sort of posts weren’t allowed. The quoted lines are from your post to which I was replying.

      [Heading: I really wish you’d stop referring to my friends as immature.
      There were some who disagreed with the new rules. To many the freedom of not having to watch what words they used was important. While I disagree with the actions of some of these members I disagree with the actions the new owners took much more. I can’t think of any former LMR member who I’d classify as immature.

      “If they behaved badly and they don’t care about anything”. I will agree some behaved badly (IMO few behaved as poorly as Mario), but I don’t think any of them “don’t care about anything.”

      This is coming across much harsher than I feel towards you Francisco and I’m sure I admire many more things you do and say than these few faults I mention now but I’m just not in the mood to try to list them.

      I feel like my friends and I have been mistreated lately and it’s really hard to let the feelings of anger go when I see, what I consider, unfair characterizations of the people who left LMR.]

      This post was quickly deleted and I received an email which gave me the strong impression I wasn’t welcome at LMR.

      I know I’m not the only one who wonders about your financial relationship with RobotShop. Are you in a financial relationship with RobotShop? If you are in a financial relationship with RobotShop when did this begin?

      1. Hi duanedegn,

        I always enjoyed your posts about robots in LMR as many others. It´s sad we have to communicate in these circumstances as the main thing we wanted is enjoying about robotics with friends. Things could be done better? Much better, for sure from both sides. I won´t argue any more about the whole thing, as most of us talked about that already. Most of the involved people had admitted their errors, and some tried to kind of restore things, but I think it´s too late, isn’t it? (I’m thinking aloud, maybe alone).

        Anyway, former members of LMR are already doing their robotics in other platforms and probably they don´t even think about returning to LMR, also LMR keep going, and it probably will continue. Personally I would like to be all together but it seems impossible.

        For the record, and even I don´t have to explain my personal situation regarding anything, also with RobotShop, I can tell you (or to anyone as I do it here) there is not any financial nor contractual elationship between RobotShop and myself. If I keep collaborating IN LMR is for the same reason I started once with Frits, Andrew and many other LMRians, it´s because I like LMR and its essence: robotics site for robotics lovers. I know nobody is perfect and I believe we can create a better LMR with time and effort, we all did it already in the past. I keep doing for the sake of it, just that.

        If you (or anyone) yet don´t believe my words, they can check I´m also a Brand Ambassador of Hootsuite (it´s also voluntary=not paid) just for the sake of learning and doing things about social media with other social media frikies, so far so good I met many interesting people, learnt a lot, and overcome already some challenges, nothing is perfect but collaborating can be better. You can check it here to know more about the Ambassadors program (page 25): http://es.slideshare.net/hootsuite/hootsuite-ambassador-yearbook
        BTW: it´s also for a standard business.

        I wish you the best, and if any time you want to talk with me you know where you can find me.

        All the best,
        Francisco

  12. And hence the issue Robots Shop. Its your version, as the actual posts and conversations were completely removed from your site, (but saved wholesale elsewhere), and your new TOS would basically give you the rights to all IP shared on the site and is nothing short of an attempt of piracy, and disregards the spirit of the community you have butchered. At this point my advice would be to shut up, lick your wounds, and be sorrowful of the fact you have, over a very short time, completely devalued the platform you purchased. Seems to me you have lost %90 of your content and most of your active users. And I’m pretty sure trying to re-up those posts again would pretty much guarantee your complete destruction on the internet. Users could have handled the change better yes, but you guys had a pretty good financial reason to learn about your community and feed and care for it properly. None of this is new, most online communities rarely survive a changing of management. One would think the purchaser of an old established community site would do the research on how not to make these mistakes. Not doing so is sheer idiocy and shows you to not be very savvy about doing business online. I rather doubt you will find a lot of success after this seeking investment opportunities.

    TL:dr RobotShop makes a poor choice regarding business, then screws up over and over again.

    1. Some (former) members of Let’s Make Robots continue to post comments on various forums regarding LRM’s new T&C. We welcome constructive comments and are open to our members’ legitimate concerns. However, some posts are clearly wrong and made in either bad faith or willful blindness. More particularly, that are allegations that RobotShop attempts to commit piracy by seeking to acquire the rights to all IP shared on its LRM site. That’s more than grossly exaggerated and clearly constitutes a misinformed and misleading allegation. LRM’s license provision in its T&C is the following (we underline):

      By submitting User Content, including User Content submitted prior to having accepted these Terms and Conditions, you grant RobotShop a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive (which means you may continue using it and authorize others to use it), transferable worldwide license to modify (to the extent permitted under Section 1.9 below and without altering the original substance of the User Content) and publicly display your User Content on LMR’s website or other site offering the Services that is owned or controlled by RobotShop and make any reproduction, reformatting or copy that is required by RobotShop to publicly display your User Content on LMR’s website, including making back-up copies;

      This provision is very limited and only aims at giving RobotShop the appropriate authorizations to post its members’ materials. No more, no less. Piracy? IP theft? Come on, be serious! Not many T&C are so limited with what the host site can actually do with member material.

      We sense that there is some frustration with some (former) members and there is nothing we can do about that: change always upsets some people and we accept that. However, we cannot accept gratuitous comments and false allegations; that is where we draw the line.

      1. Read your own language there, im sure you have. The TOS language attempts to give you the owner the right to do whatever you want wiht users content while not compensating the creator for its use. A little far reaching. And restoring posts of users who wanted content removed from your site prior to accepting your crap TOS is piracy and pretty much theft. The fact you later complied and removed the content does not absolve you of committing theft, and implies you would be willing to do so as long as you though you could get away with it. You Mr. Tremblay are personally responsible for devaluing what you have purchased by not understanding what you owned. You own a web address and some code, not the users or their content. By treating your content creators like numbers who needed to comply wiht your wishes instead of people you killed a community and no amount of damage control can fix that. Yes the users could have handled things better but you, I repeat had a driving financial reason to do a good job and you have failed. And no, no one is lying here, while you practiced revisionist history wiht the site you own, others have posted what went down wholesale, including the bits that make them look bad. The internet never forgets Mr. Tremblay, and I for one think you have made a mistake by disturbing its vasty deeps, and precocious inhabitants.

  13. Such a shame what happened to LMR! A lesson in how to destroy a community. I wanted to continue posting stuff there as I had only just relatively recently found the site, but the decision to get rid of the ‘all our lmr are belong to us’ was just a step too far. What a bizarre decision. I’m glad I found the refugees at the robotrebels site and coolkidsrobots, but I really think the two sites should merge.

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