EDIT: There is now an FFR-specific forum located here.
This is an overview of what went down in the secret world of FFR over the past 2 years. Not going to go into all of the specifics, but hopefully it will make people understand what happened and why the site is the way it is now. This is all from my perspective, and may not be 100% accurate… so if Synth or Jason want to let me know of something wrong in what I’m saying, please do.
FFR started to come into its own in the middle of 2006, with a few things all happening: Jason came on board and I graduated college. Jason started to improve the chats and create the profile system, which jumped our Alexa ranking from all the added pageviews. I was spending even more time on the site and took over management of the game/community. Things were good through the end of 2006 and into 2007; tons of new songs, a new crowd was coming to the site for the social networking, and we were starting to get noticed for potential business deals. In May 2007, I moved to LA and put Synth to an ultimatum… start paying me, since I’m already working on the site full-time or I’m going to have to find a real job, leaving little time for the site. He agreed to put me on salary starting in August 2007. It was also right around this time that the widgets were created, a suggestion from one of those potential business deal people. And for about 8 months, widgets were making us rock stars.
In January 2008, the core FFR team moved out to LA to work on a project in associated with Vagrant Records, known to all of you as the MFA. This was one of the best times in my life… since I wasn’t doing any coding work on the MFA, I would go over almost daily and hang out with Synth, playing Rock Band or Wii. We partied with bands and got all sorts of hook-ups to concerts. Was fantastic to spend all that quality time with all of these people who I had known for years, yet either never met or met only once or twice. The problems started when everyone left LA.
Now let me preface with this… Since 2006, Synth has mentioned to me at least 10-15 different potential business deals. From multiple different high CPM ad networks wanting to supply us with ads to the MFA to going to Japan and creating our own skinned SM for some conference. This is the part that blows my mind: out of all of these deals, some of which were in the works for a year, the ONLY one that ever materialized was the MFA. Not one other deal was sealed. I also was only ever included in about 2-3 of them, and those only on the outskirts… despite having a very shiny business degree from a highly respected university. You’d think that that (plus, y’know, the fact that I was on payroll and #3 in the company) would have been reason to include me. Oh yeah… we were also in and out of talk with Konami for over a year.
Ok… now, even with all of these deals falling through, we were still top7000 Alexa and pulling in huge traffic. So our ad revenue was keeping us ok (from what I know… I’ve never known specifics about FFRs financials) plus money from Vagrant for the MFA. The fatal flaw, to me, was that after we finished the MFA and the guys left LA, Synth kept them on payroll. Now, I like BemaniRuler, Plaguefox, Summerschool, Maldon, and Xelius… but the fact remains, they were doing little work for the company after the MFA was finished, yet were still expecting their salary. Granted, Isak and Xelius were being paid before this, part time, for php and flash work… but not full time. All Synth had to do was tell them, “Guys, the project is over. So I can’t keep you on payroll anymore.” Which is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. But, instead, Synth just stopped talking to any of them. I doubt Synth has talked to any of those 5 guys more than 3-4 times in the past 18+ months. Naturally, they were all very upset at this and came to me, since I actually would talk to them and could actually get ahold of Synth. And they did come to me, often, for a few months. But what could I do? I passed the info along to Synth and I listen to their issues… but I was powerless to help. Eventually, they realized the lost cause and stopped trying to get to Synth through me. Even Jason started to get the silent treatment and was forced to come to me. I really feel for those guys, especially since it eventually happened to me too.
At some point after this, Synth was unable to pay me. I was not happy, but I also didn’t want to start looking for a new job. I had some savings, so I tapped into that for a few months, and eventually he started to pay me again. And I made it very clear that I did expect to be re-paid at some point for those lost wages. Also that if he stopped paying me again and started to ignore me like he did to others, I’d leave.
In early 2008, many users really started to get excited over the idea of a new t-shirt design. So I held a contest to create a design… which turned into the OMW shirt. Now, Synth couldn’t (didn’t want to?) pay for these, so he kept putting it off. After a while, I just really wanted to make the community happy, so I offered to front the money for the shirts, under the understanding that I’d be paid back off of the initial wave of shirt sales. Deep down, I knew this was a bad idea, but I had to get those shirts made. Needless to say, I’ve never seen a penny off of those shirts.
Some time in late 2007 or early 2008, Synth got a job, as a network admin for a hosting company. He still kept me on payroll to oversee the site. It was at this point that he became completely inactive around the site. After a year or so of this, I strongly suggested we look to sell the site, because he either didn’t want to, or couldn’t, maintain the site in the manner which it needed. As expected, this produced nothing of value. I wanted to reach back out to Konami, since they were itching to buy us in early 2007… but Synth claims they never responded. I have my doubts he contacted him. In early 2009, I was in San Fran for a conference, and met some people who might have been interested in buying the site, funding us, or putting us in contact with other people who would. They wanted a big meeting, and I needed Synth for this, since a) I don’t own FFR or even have any equity stake whatsoever and b) I don’t know the numbers about the site’s traffic that were needed. Synth never got back to me with anything of value for the meeting. We were looking at the potential for 6-figures of funding, and he couldn’t be bothered to even return my phone calls about it.
I don’t have the exact numbers, but I don’t think Synth has reached out to me a single time in the past year. Every single conversation we’ve had (not many, and most very brief) has been initiated by me. Kind of an odd dichotomy between a boss and employee, right? I haven’t talked to him a single time since July. Nor have I been paid since the end of July, and every payment to me this year has either been late, been paid after multiple reminders to pay me, or both. After my walkthrough business became profitable, I stopped bothering to remind Synth to pay me… so he did. Which led to the events in this thread where I finally left the site in September.
One other tidbit that you guys all likely didn’t know… Jason was never paid for any of the work he did on FFR. Some of his bills were paid by the company (internet, cable, phone I think), but that’s it. Jason didn’t stop handling t-shirt orders or subscription activations until Synth cancelled the credit card that was being billed for Jason’s stuff. To me, that’s perfectly reasonable: Stop paying a few of my bills and I stop doing the work on the site that I was doing.
I’m sure I missed stuff out of all of this… so feel free to post questions or comments, and I’ll either update this post with more stuff or respond in the comments. But I hope that now you guys can all see where I came from and why I needed to leave the site. All told, Synth owes me over $10,000.
edit: Oh yeah, I forgot. You guys all know about not getting your t-shirts and subbies activated… but it took Spook months to see any money from his album sales, and the other 2 albums were only ever sent 1 payment. Money is definitely owed to all 3 of those guys as well. Not much, since the albums never sold well… but it’s the principle.
edit2: Synth, if you somehow do actually read this… I’d love to talk to you. Despite the business failings, you’re a great guy to talk to. And, y’know, I’d like to hear your side of things.