As I’ve noted elsewhere, I wanted to do a “final article” and this is the first part. Please note that doesn’t mean I’m done with TVCom: I’d be screwing over a lot of people if I didn’t check my queue every few days. But if TVCom, “the most complete TV site anywhere”, won’t put up new episodes, then there’s not much editing I can do.

Even if they do put up new episodes in the short term, their current tendency to wait until the last moment, and beyond!, means that things are going to stay at the same lousy level at best, and get worse at worst. That’s not a roller coaster I want to ride, thank you anyway.

That’s barring someone from TVCom treating us like human beings, i.e., telling us what’s going on. I’ve always considered the heavy-duty contributors, including myself, employees. Unpaid, sure, but part of TVcom’s weird relationship with its users is that we seem to be essential to the site expanding and growing by adding the majority of the data, but these days they’ve rarely acknowledged that or apparently even considered it beyond a token “thank you” from time to time.

So this is one person’s view of what happened. I don’t claim to have a complete picture, and I’m still apparently under NDA restrictions on some points so I can’t/won’t speak on them. I’ve tried to avoid referencing other sites and sources to fill in the blanks. I’m sure other people have experienced different things, and they’re free to chip in. If they’re still around.

One clarification: this is not a defense of TVcom. I do think there are a lot of things that TVcom has done right on the microscale. It’s still one of the easiest cast- and crew-adding sites around that I’ve found. It’s on the macroscale that they’ve screwed the pooch. And I’d like to think I’m taking an even-handed approach. I understand the corporate mentality, even if I don’t agree with it. I can hopefully see what TVCom is done and why, even if I don’t agree with the outcome.

Note also that I refer to the site as “TVCom” without a period. This avoids the system auto-inserting links.

Some information skipped over or minimized for the sake of clarity, and brevity, and other ities.

On with the motley.

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The Beginning: “Life Goes On”


Once upon a time there was TVTome. And then around 2005 CNET acquired its volunteer-contributed data from the owner, John Nestoriak. Reputedly for $5 million, although I've never seen either side go public with the exact figure. CNET eventually ported the data into their new site, TVCom. To the best of my knowledge, John has never emerged on TVCom. No doubt he’s on a beach somewhere sipping mai-tais and glad to be rid of the whole mess.

According to several people I trust, at the time there CNET didn’t wish to give the users any input into the system. Imagine what TVCom would be like if users couldn’t contribute anything! Kinda like now, except even less contributions and a decade or so earlier.

When that decision was met with outrage, CNET apparently instigated the editor system. Previous editors on TVTome with enough contributions (“Contribution Points”, or CPs) were made editors of the new pages. Some contributions were lost or never ported over, so some TVTome editors found themselves editors no more.

Also, TVCom implemented a “moderator system”. A group of dedicated users, including myself, were appointed moderators and had access to a moderator lounge and to the “flag” system. There were forums, one per show whether there was any expressed interest or not. A new show was added, so was a forum. The moderatable “crimes” were the same you find at most sites. Us moderators fine-tuned them over the years, but always with the staff of the time having the final say.

Moderators could see reports from users and decide what to do with them. We could suspend users who made repeated violations or committed violations so foul (like huge streams of profanity, and advertising spammers). However, moderators never had any banning powers. We referred onto staff, and they were the only ones who could ban anyone.

The editing process went on pretty much unchanged during this time. People who were editors had a queue that they could handle subs to “their” shows. Staff got the subs to shows and actors who had no editors, and they processed them. Someone contributed enough (80 CPs for shows, 40 for actors) and they became the editor. There was supposedly a 3-day period for editors to moderate current shows, and a 7-day period for everything else. Those rules didn’t apply to staff, and they never said that they did. Still, staff was pretty good about following the same guidelines.

The staff was fairly active on the site, both on the general forum and with the moderators in private.

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The Middle- “Users in the Middle”


And then the initial staff got laid off. Or fired. Or moved onto different jobs inside and outside of the company. Somewhere around this time, CNET merged with CBS, or got bought out, or something. The result was that CBS now had two TV-related properties, TVCom and TVGuide. Sometimes in competition with each other. In part because of this, and in part because the bloom was off the rose as far as TV database sites, and in part because of the economy. TVCom was slow to replace the departing staff, or decided they didn’t need to replace them or could "replace" them with lesser numbers. One person can do the job of two, right?

Rather than merge TVCom’s database with TVGuide’s relative popularity, CBS kept the two properties separate. Whether it was because TVCom’s pgorammers (i.e., “Development”) couldn’t untangle the TVCom coding and port the data again, because the original programmers had moved on and done their work in haste, or CBS told the new programmers not to bother, or something else, is one of those “What happened?” kind of things that have never been revealed.

Moderators were let go with a token “thank you but your services are no longer required”. We, and the users, were told that staff would take over and that soon the site would go to a better user-conversation system. One of the reasons given was that moderator level had dropped. Which was odd, since a) staff had slowly reduced their interaction with moderators, and b) the moderator forum went public due to a bug that was never fixed. Hard to report people for banning when the reports were public knowledge.

The 3-day deadline for processing subs on current shows was changed to 7 days. This was “nicer” to editors, and made less work for staff. But it also meant TVCom was less competitive. Why contribute to a current show and wait 6.9 days for the editor to check your subs?

“Communities” were created and forums were removed. Editors could no longer communicate directly with their communities. Staff had a few token communication forums, but didn’t make much use of them. Communities were never “defined” as far as what was okay and what wasn’t to post on them. You could supposedly follow other people and see when they posted.

Communities had their upsides and their downsides. The editing tools were slightly better. The communities were a little more visible. A lot of it sounded good in theory. But… the followup notifications never really materialized: you could see when someone you followed made a new thread, but you couldn’t see when they posted on an existing thread unless it was one you created. Sometimes notifications came up, sometimes they didn't, sometimes they came and went and came again. Notifications didn't appear on the moderator page for some reason. And communities were dependent on staff creating them. If staff didn’t think they should be created or get around to it, they weren’t created. And no criteria was given for how a community would be considered for creation.

In fact, a lot of criteria was removed at this point. It may have made things easier for the reduced staff, because they didn’t have to worry about following pesky guidelines and being consistent with themselves and their predecessors. Or deal with users who didn’t follow the guidelines. It also left users floating in limbo. There’s always a fine line between too many guidelines and not enough. But the pendulum had clearly swung toward the latter.

Staff writers produced original articles for TVCom and were at least somewhat involved in the communities. The communities primarily promoted the original articles, so the writers had a stake in involving themselves.

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The End – “When Things Were Rotten”


Staff levels dropped even further. This and the flawed changes during the middle stage caused less revenue, which meant that TVCom undertook further “cost-saving measures”. The site got generic advertising and more of it, as “real” advertisers figured that TVCom was no longer a decent advertising investment.

Staff writers were “fired”, and transferred over to TVGuide if they weren’t already there. And then their articles there were ported over to TVCom. This saved money, yes, but didn’t give a lot of people reason to come to TVCom for the articles. Which were a strong basis for the communities. Which meant communities got less traffic. Which meant that revenue went down, which meant that TVCom undertook more cost-saving measures. Rinse and repeat.

To further save money, TVcom cut some kind of deal with a still-unidentified “Source”. The Source would provide data on new episodes, the data would be imported automatically, and editors would no longer be able to edit episode #s, titles, or add new episodes. Only staff could make changes. And the process was flawed, so there were a lot of changes and fixing of omissions that they had to do. It also meant any unpaid employee was working for the Source without any direct input, or even knowledge of what was considered valid to contradict the Source.

Also, the info from the Source was often screwed up. We got, and still get, bogus episodes that have an airdate decades after the show was cancelled. Sometimes they were removed, and then would pop up again.

Staff boiled down to one public figure, Jessicakroeber (JK). She was also the point person for fixing the errors caused by the episode-import system How much a part she played in all this has never been revealed. In her online resumes, JK takes a lot of the credit but none of the blame. Not surprisingly: who is going to take blame on their resumes? Given all this, it’s not clear what she implemented and what she was told to implement.

There was also some Development people. Their anonymity was always one of the sticking points of the site. Yes, it makes sense that they not take time out to answer dozen/hundreds/thousands of user queries because their identities were public. However, apparently no user had the means to contact them. This meant if there was a problem or the site went down, you either had to hope they noticed the problem, or try to relay the problem through JK if the site was up so you could do so. Going through a middleman to describe sometimes complicated technical issues was… problematic.

CPs levels were dropped from 80/40 to 70 /30, respectively. Staff also pretty much “rubber-stamped” submissions, using a mass-approval tool (judging from the timestamps) to process subs. This means that subs weren’t checked for accuracy and duplication, and anyone could submit practically anything and get it approved. When there were occasional rejections, they were often weird and/or inconsistent. This no doubt made time for JK to deal with the other problems like the importing system. But while she treated the symptoms, the diseases were never cured. It also meant a drop in site quality, which led to less visitors, which meant lowered revenues, and on and on.

The accelerated process also meant people became editors faster. Which meant less work for JK since then there would be more editors to process many of the subs.

Late in this period, JK stated that CPs levels were dropped entirely. Unless an editor was MIA or incompetent, they could never be replaced. This was a good idea in theory: it’s how TVTome used to operate. However, it requires an involved staff, and the remaining one-person staff was too busy with other stuff to be involved.

Finally someone--maybe JK, maybe her superiors with JK passing on the word--determined that they were dropping the whole in-site system of contacting her and TVCom in general and going with off-site email. Then JK left, and as of this writing no one has taken her place doing what she did. Someone occasionally moderates the general submissions, but it’s backward (newer submissions first), and no one responds to the emails. There’s a large backlog of submissions and emails.

Since JK left, the addition of new shows has been inconsistent and sometimes takes place weeks after the show premiere. When it happens at all. The auto-import system as of this writing has broken down to the point that almost no new episodes are being added.

Spammers, which were a problem since forums were around, proliferated for a while. Presumably JK dealt with the flagged messages. But there’s a backlog of reported spam that has never been dealt with. Fortunately, spammers seemed to have learned that it’s not worth it to waste their time on TVCom since it’s a “dying” site. Still, spam shows up regularly.

TVCom is supposedly part of CBSInteractive, according to the latter’s website. The email leads to a Google group that doesn’t allow you to send emails. When I tried to call, the LA office referred me to the NY office. The NY office had no idea what CBSInteractive was. After calling back the LA office and diving through a few levels of bureaucracy, the CBSInteractive receptionist said she didn’t know who handled TVCom and forward me to the Associate Business Manager. She said she didn’t know anything about TVcom, offered to contact someone and have them call me back, and wanted to know my business. Given her rather vague response, I don’t give her any details. As of a month later, no one has contacted me. So apparently CBSInteractive doesn’t have much interest in TVCom, even though it’s one of their brands.

And that’s where we’re at today. In Part 2, I ‘ll look more at the things that went wrong.
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Apr 25, 2018
Thanks for the interesting read. I too have been around since TVTome days (though never edited anything, just submitted corrections.)

I guess I'll stop sending corrections to the support@tvcom address, since they've been robo-acknowledged, but nothing I've sent has been responded to by a human or acted on since late January as far as I can tell.

I'll continue to drop in on the site from time to time to see if anything's changed, though from what you write it doesn't seem very likely to happen.
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Apr 24, 2018
That's what I mean, and will expound upon in future, about the staff not treating us users like human beings. An apology is probably too much for them, but nobody can be bothered to show up and explain what happened, or at least acknowledge it. Isn't that basic courtesy?

"Your new episodes like Ash vs. Evil Dead weren't in the system for over 24 hours. Too bad. Bwah hah hah!"

And yet, CBS probably wonders why user visits have dropped off. Hmm, that's a puzzler...
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Apr 25, 2018
I'm surprised they don't at least update their own CBS shows, I expected them to maybe let other shows slip but even CBS shows like Instinct don't have episodes and other CBS & Viacom shows are rife with errors.
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Apr 25, 2018
If I might wax philosophical...?

Broadly speaking, like most things, there's two sides to equality There's "Let's free the slaves" and there's "Let's make everyone slave." CBS has trended toward the latter with TVCom. CBS is equal to all of the other networks on TVCom, but it's a least-common-denominator kind of equality.
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Apr 25, 2018
Well, that's a good in a way. It indicates lack of bias/favoritism/whatever. In fact, I think that's part of why they do it.

I figure it's more that CBS doesn't think TVCom is a viable property. Why bother promoting on a sinking ship? Never mind that they're the ones who are sinking it.

If a site loses visitors, you can improve it or downsize it. I think at least initially, they tried to improve it. Communities and auto-episode adding were "improvements", at least in the short term. But CBS downsizing it is the bottom line, and they embraced the bottom line I'm sure it looks good on paper, if you look at it with a Trump-like view. As long as you ignore the cost to people, it's great!
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Apr 26, 2018
oh I agree. I'd actually find it annoying if they only kept up CBS shows, I'd rather the neglect be equally distributed. I was just suprised that they didn't even make the minimum effort to promote/update their own stuff. I thought they'd at least do some minimal self-serving stuff. Yes, I'm sure it's all about lines on someone's ledger and they don't consider it worth the effort, don't see any ROI (return on investment) for them to make money, so they don't care. And there's probably some self-fulfiling aspect to it..., they do things that short-terms seem like they'll save money and then lose users. Then they probably turn around and blame the drop off in users on the reasons why they shouldn't invest in the site!
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Apr 24, 2018
And at least some relatively high-profile shows have updated with new episodes. So on the site plods. It took a day or two after airing for some of the episodes to appear. Next time it'll be a little later, and a little later after that...
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Apr 24, 2018
Excellently written. As one of the "originals" from the Tome days, and one who has the same knowledge, it was sad to re-read this history of what started out as a small television (and eventually film) fan site that was ripped away from us and how it has rotted over the years to what is basically carrion about to be finished off and gone for good. I look forward to the next "tomes".
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Apr 24, 2018
wow, thanks for attempting to ferret out someone to talk to and making repeated attempts to actually try to track someone down who cares about the site. Too bad you weren't able to find anyone that cared, but I apprecaite the effort that took!
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