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March 5th 2011 17:24
Probably at some time or another most of us have joined an online discussion site where specific topics that tickle our fancy are batted around, sometimes in earnest. The list includes everything from politics to law to religion to fixing up cars to music. It's true what they say: Everyone has an opinion and most of us want to share it with like-minded readers. Online discussion forums and fan sites are the perfect vehicles for sharing our thoughts and impressions with others, and often just for venting. After all, it's a very human activity, that's for sure, the desire to communicate freely and openly with others in a social networking setting. Our thoughts, conveyed by words we type, can have an incandescent feeling, brighter and larger than life. Face it, taking part in a good online discussion can be very cathartic.

And, isn't that, really, what an online discussion site is meant to be?

Good, interesting, efficiently-managed sites can serve a number of salutary purposes, and by the same token, poorly managed ones can ruin the whole image of discussion forums.

As an entertainment and music blog writer, I contantly scour the web reading articles and commentary from other writers and fans who share their particular views on such subjects. I've joined several discussion sites which canvass a litany of topics for which I find interesting, among them in particular, the world of music as applied to TV Reality competitions, as most of you already know from my past "Jukebox Hero" entries. Participation on these discussion sites have been, for the most part, enormously enjoyable because of the wide variety of interesting views offered by all types of people from every corner of the world. The roundhouse discussions, and vigorous debates generated on these forums, help color the landscape of how fans and musicians alike understand and appreciate the industry. The quality of these discussion forums/fan sites run the gambit from wildly entertaining to drab and dreary and not worth the time it takes to create a membership.

Today, though, I can reveal to you what is easily the worst site on the web for musical chit-chat, and it is one with a very familiar name.

(Could we have a drumroll please?.......)

The dubious distinction goes to the "American Idol" official fan site.

This Site Is A Fright

The site ( owned by FOX Broadcasting and Fremantle Entertainment, has been in operation now for ten years, ever since the hugely-popular TV show, "American Idol" made its debut in 2002. Once administered and moderated with a healthy degree of competence and respect for meaningful, free-flowing discussion amongst its members, the site is now ruled by a narrow-minded, snooty, unqualified biddie by the name of Gracelin Cloud who also actively posts stern, hectoring comments under the alias of "Eccafama" (yes, it DOES sound like a skin disease), and who, quite frankly, has no business managing anything associated with fan's views and commentary on the "American Idol" program. "Ickyfama", as we love to call her around the blogosphere, runs the site like a Little Dictator, weilding her moderating powers with iron-fisted caprice while restricting open discussion on relevant topics in a ridiculous, overzealous manner that has its members dazed and confused and frightened to post even the most harmless comment out of fear of banishment from the site. Cloud and her inept coterie of moderating cohorts have steadily brought the quality of this once entertaining fan site downhill quicker than Charlie Sheen's sanity. For example, Cloud does not permit any members to openly criticize the singing proficiency of any Idol contestant, even if the contestant in question sings like an old alley cat out on the fence at night. And, naturally, if you know anything about "American Idol" some contestants sing about that well, but Icky won't allow one to make that observation. It is against Icky's rules to objectively critique a contestant, even if a stern rebuke of the singing performance is justified. Cloud is quick to suspend any site member who dares violate her edict and posts a comment which says, in essence, the contestant is not a good singer or flubbed a performance. Nor will Cloud tolerate any member who casts grammatical aspersions on any of the judges. Last season, Cloud was infamously quick on the suspension button when members prudently commented on the noticeable lack of interest in the show judge Simon Cowell exhbited prior to his departure or the tawdry conduct of dismissed judge, Kara DioGuardi, during the competition, and this season Cloud has warned members not to say anything negative about the judges or the contestants OR ELSE find yourself vaporized from the site.

The site moderators at Idol, and Cloud in particular, also prohibit any discussions on topics which may be relevant to the process of selecting the next "American Idol", but tend to be controversial in nature or which might stir up a spirited debate among site members. It is a big NO-NO to create threads which pose questions like "Should A Gay Contestant Be Worthy Of The Idol Crown?" or "Should Religion Be A Part Of The Decision-Making Criteria For Fan Voting?" or "Are The Voting Habits Of Idol Viewers Racist At Times?" Start spouting this kind of "seditious speech" and Grace Cloud will see that you are only a memory on the site.

The Fine Collection Of Moderators at American Idol Fan Site

Instead of these topical discourses, Cloud's idea of appropriate material for discussion are thread titles like "What contestant has the bluest eyes?" or "Who has the brightest smile?" or "What contestant would you like to take to a deserted island?". You know, really "heady" subject matter to think about and dissect.

OK, we all know that the typical "American Idol" fan is pretty young and not always capable of canvassing the most erudite subject matter, but, before Cloud became the Major Domo of Moderators, the site was chock full of well-educated professional persons who all shared a profound affinity for music, who enjoyed watching "American Idol" each week, and delighted in the pleasure of good wholesome discussions on a wide range of topics, and even a vigorous, but civilized, debate or two. Yet, since Cloud officially took over as Chief Moderator in 2010, she has imposed a series of inane rules and restrictions on members which have effectively stiffled open discussion on meaningful topics, chased away some of the best and most entertaining posters, and effectively eroded the quality of the site until it is now worthy of being called "The World's Wimpiest Discussion Forum".

Another strange curiosity about Cloud's moderating skills relates to her inconsistent enforcement of a longstanding rule on the site. Standing rules forbid a member from posting links to other websites, however, Cloud routinely allows certain favored members to post such links to sites which are actually hostile toward the "American Idol" show, while she has suspended other members who have posted links to web sites and blogs which DEFEND the integrity and entertainment value of the program. A rather strange position to take for a moderator who should have the best interests of the show at heart.

There is a definite dark cloud hanging over the "American Idol" fan site, blotting out the light of reasonableness and fairness in fan posting, and that "Cloud" is named Grace.

From where I sit, this is a prime example of the danger having an unqualified Chief Moderator rule the roost. Cloud's glaring lack of management skills and indeed common sense as applied to community discussions contradicts everything a good discussion forum is meant to represent. The primary goal of a good host, the Moderator, is to ensure the "gathering place" to be fan-friendly and accommodating to the extent it is worth the constant return to socialize with other members and make posts commensurate with one's views without constant fear of admonishment, or worse yet, suspension. Cloud has turned that concept on its head with her purnurious woebegotten rules. A good discussion forum is supposed to inspire discussion and debate rather than abrogate it.

The absurdity of Moderator Cloud's management is especially unfortunate in light of the fact that this new season "American Idol" has assembled one of its strongest and most unique cast of contestants ever, which will undoubtedly generate lots of attention from fans who want the show to return to the prominence of days past when Idol was an indisputed tour-de-force on TV. With this collection of great talent and unique personalities, along with a newly-constructed panel of judges, which includes Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, most fans of the show will be gnawing at the bit to evince their opinions as the season progresses and they push for their favorite to win the competition. Don't worry, Cloud won't let that happen, though!

But, restricting free and open discussion in a public forum as Cloud has consciously chosen to do, is not only repugnant to our ordered liberties regarding free speech, it runs counterclockwise to good old fashion common sense and portrays site members as untrustworthy, irresponsible, and even uncivilized, lacking the inate capacity to represent our deepest thoughts and feelings without being intensely scrutized by someone who thinks they know best. Not only that, the repressive atmosphere Cloud has created at the Idol site may well come back to haunt "American Idol" once Simon Cowell brings his widely-awaited "The X-Factor" to America this Fall. With the needless restrictions Cloud and her co-moderators have placed on members of the Idol fan site, and the embitterment many longtime members are feeling as a result, they may well choose to abandon the Idol site permanently in favor of a more tolerant and better-run fan site at "The X-Factor", so, again, Ickyfama is actually contributing to the decline of "Idol" through her ridiculous restrictive administrative practices.

As a viable alternative to the official "American Idol" fan site, current members who are dissatisfied with Cloud's implaccable rules might want to check out another better managed and far more fan-friendly site, The Moderators there all show a healthy degree of respect for members who want to discuss and debate all aspects of "American Idol" without all the incessant bombastic warnings under penalty of banishment. The members seem to know their stuff as well.

While we do not have an official award to hand Grace Cloud for running the worst discussion site on the web, perhaps next year, if she's still around, we can design our own special presentation to give Icky. We could name it the "Milquetoast Moderator Of The Year".

And, Grace, you certainly deserve it!

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9 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by pwturner

March 5th 2011 19:14
Well, I finally found you Leg! You've been sorely missed on the AI site this season.

I totally agree with every thing you've said here. Cloud is a disGrace to all Moderators. Her iron fist rule of the AI site has chased away many of the longtime posters there. Even on show nights, the site is lucky to have a couple hundred posters. From what I understand, that number used to be in the thousands at any given time and show nights were almost impossible to log on to the AI site.

Good to "see" you and read your eloquent words of wisdom again!

Comment by Bob Rosen

March 5th 2011 20:10
Leg, Leg, Leg, you old dog!
Great piece and spot on! I'm still laughing. But, you're absolutely right about that site. It is a joke and run by morons. That's why I got out of there 2 years ago. Hope you'll be adding some more articles about Idol. Looks like a strong season coming up.

Bobby R

Comment by Anonymous

March 5th 2011 21:33
You've got that right LE. I got permo banned because I posted something from Billy James FB account re his brother, Casey James. It was, however, OK for somebody to openly harass me and post personal information about me in one of the season's folders. She was banned for a couple of days, and then she continued to stalk me when she got reinstated.

Plus it was OK for a number of the Grannies to come into individual folders using different names, even though it was proven that they were somebody else by the URL's of their photos. GC knew this, yet she allowed it to happen over and over again.

Comment by dirtydeeds

March 5th 2011 21:57
You can always count on me to get the word out about your blogs, Leg! Shoot me an Email, anytime, love hearing from you.

I have been banned more times than I can count, often for things that I don't even know what I've done wrong. Some people are report happy and even though the mods claim they read every post, they do not, they just take a posters word for it. Unless of course it's one of their favorite posters, they would never ban them and there is no proof that my interpretation of the baiting, was actually intended. I could go on and on about that site, but you've already said it so well.

idk why I've bothered there for so long, but I will never escape from the craziness. Glutton for punishment, I suppose.

Leg, you are one missed Eagle over there, that's for sure. But you'r just too much bird for one Cloud to handle.

Comment by WormsAreFunny

March 6th 2011 23:33

As always, you are spot on. Years ago, the boards were a blast. Now? Great posters - long gone. Interesting "debates" - not allowed. Funny threads - big no-no. Sarcasm - absolutely not. Going off topic - don’t EVEN think about it. The fun has been sucked out of the boards. Very sad…

I have been banned many, MANY times. I am an adult. A parent. A business owner. A church-goer. A law-abiding citizen. Why do I beg and grovel to be reinstated as if my very life depended on it? If I ever go to psycho-therapy, I will ask that very question.

Well, I am glad I found you on the world wide web. Regardless if I see you on the AI boards, you will always be one of my favorite posters.

Comment by Bulldog Hartley (DJ)

March 7th 2011 01:09
Damn good stuff, Mr. LegEagle. That bunch at American Idol is wigged out! I'm an Idol fan so one day I go and sign up and it's like a kindergarden there. Those mods won't even let you TRY to have a discussion. The site stinks and I hate to say it but I hope an XFactor fan site takes away all the Idol members. They need to FIRE that Grace Cloud.

Comment by Anonymous

March 8th 2011 17:34
You are a really good writer, Davido, and I agree with what you said about that Idol site 100%. One thing you may have overlooked or forgotten to mention is the fact that those moderators OR somebody on that site gives out members personal information to marketing companies. Also, some of the members personal information has been released secretly to Facebook, which is just a government front to spy on citizens. You have presented a very interesting story, sir, but, there is more going on there than you may realize.

Anyway, good job!

Comment by Sunscrit

January 22nd 2012 00:05
Davido, where is the Idol Forum this season? You didn't run off Moderator Cloud with your commentary did you? Too bad.

I'm already enjoying this season's American idol telecasts but there's no Chat Board. I wonder why? Any thoughts on the subject?

We all will be waiting and watching for your Idol write ups. Looks like a good season is on the way.

Comment by CracklinRosie

April 16th 2012 19:50
Leg!!! So it's you!!!! My hat is off to you ONE MILLION AND ONE TIMES for writing this article!! I see you are among the legions of intelligent, articulate adult posters who were permanently banned from the Idolboards like 12-year-old trolls. I joined this distinguished group of exiles in the summer of 2010, just because I defended myself against a growing number of bullies who were ganging up on me on the forums just because I refused to recognize a Simonless Idol. Grace called my behavior "disruptive", which added to the insult. It took every ounce of restraint not to respond to her icicle-laden e-mail in which she handed down my sentence. I wanted to tell her to F off, but I preferred to show her that I have more class than that.

After this much-needed expose', I hereby forgive you for calling The X Factor "inferior" to Idol. Sadly, XF does not have a forum, just a lame tweet-style Chatter board, where it is not only impossible to engage in the kind of lively conversation we used to enjoy on the pre-Grace Idolboards, you also have to log in using Facebook, so you can not post anonymously. I am going to try and push for a real forum board for Season 2, and hope like hell that Grace will not come anywhere near it.

Again, big, BIG thanks to you for getting the word and the warning out there, in your own special hilariously funny way (I'll bet Grace really does look like that).

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