Episode Goodbye

Bye Episode: It’s Been a Long Road

So, some of you might already know that I’m no longer on the Episode Forums or the app. This was a sudden thing that I didn’t expect to happen at all and it was actually devastating to me. I lost access to all of my stories. They won’t let me write. I can’t speak on the forums. I can’t even read stories anymore! So I feel as though I need to clear up some misconceptions that I’ve seen floating around and tell my side of the story now that the dust has cleared and they’ve ignored my emails.

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been fighting for me for the past few days. I really appreciate that you’re keeping my memory on the forums alive and I sincerely hope that you won’t all forget about me. As much as I was blunt, opinionated and passionate, I was always willing to help everyone with their stories and I hope to continue doing so. It’s just going to happen in a different capacity now. So with all that in mind, I’ve decided to create an FAQ that will (hopefully) explain everything that happened, what I did and how I’m going to proceed from here. If you know anyone who’s confused, please send them this link to clear things up.

What Happened?

On Tuesday 11th June 2019 at 11:30 at night, I received an email from Arlene from the Episode team telling me that I broke the Community Guidelines and Episode would, therefore, be removing my account from the Episode platform. The guidelines in question? Well, she didn’t actually mention any specific guidelines. She cited the fact that I had been silenced on the forums 6 times in 8 months and flagged 100+ times as the reason for this decision. That’s the only reason I was given. I didn’t have the Feed and I don’t send fanmails. My stories are PG13 easily. I was given 24 hours to save my stories before they were deleted and removed from the forums straight away: before I could say goodbye.

Now, while that might seem fair enough to some, I just want to point out a few things. Everyone on the Episode forums has been flagged and silenced many, many times because the moderation is inconsistent. I know people who have had more silences and flags than me and still have accounts on both the forums and the app. One of my silences was due to “backseat modding”, or telling other users that their actions are against the guidelines, which isn’t in the rules. I was silenced for something that isn’t even a rule. So that’s one unfair silence removed.

I’d also like to point out that flags get given out in bulk. I got at least 30 posts flagged once on an update thread for discussing the update. Apparently, the update threads aren’t there to discuss the update, but rather to thank the Episode team for putting them out. Again, this isn’t in the rules and I had no way of knowing. So that lowers the number again.

Why Is That Bad?

Well, Episode sets out guidelines. We try to follow them. But if Episode is changing the goalposts all the time, there’s no way we can correct our behaviour. I had been on the forums for a long time and I saw how things that used to be fine got more and more policed. I saw that often, the moderators make exceptions for people. The inconsistency of how the forums are moderated lets Episode target people they don’t like. And apparently, I was one of them.

That’s when things get really messy. You see, Episode can use this inconsistency to their advantage. If they don’t like a user, they can come down harder on them than anyone else. And I know that Episode will deny this, but they gave me a much harsher punishment than anyone else ever. I remember users who said racist things and had their forum accounts deleted. They can still read stories. They can still write. The only thing is that they can’t talk to other people anymore. I defended my race against them and got silenced when they got suspended. And now, months later, I’m paying the price harder than they did.

And yes, they did this because I defended myself. I’ve been silenced for being “off topic” because people said racist things I challenged. They silenced me for “feeding the trolls”. These are all things that got me banned for life and my stories taken down. I’ve been working on those stories for over 2 years.

Now, either they’re going to start coming down on everyone really hard now, or they just don’t like me and they punished me extra hard for no reason. Either way, there’s something really wrong going on here.

How Is Episode Inconsistent?

As you may know, I run a forum of my own. Both Episode and I use the same service to make our forums: Discourse. As well as that, it’s the same thing they use over on Wattpad and WaniKani. I am a member of both of those communities. I’ve seen how other moderators handle off-topic posting – especially when its a whole string of posts. I’ve also done it myself. Mods can give warnings, and merge and split posts that seem to have swung off topic. That is the best way to go about it, to be honest. But at the moment, our mods flag (or accept flags for) post after post. They don’t care about the atmosphere this creates. They would rather spam us with 30 messages saying posts are off-topic and not explain why.

Episode never used to be like that. They used to give warnings and split topics. But they became more militant with their moderation over time without warning us. The cherry on top? Well, they expected us to know how to change without releasing a post to clarify. And many people on the Episode forums have asked them to run down what’s an offence and what isn’t. But they didn’t even have the courtesy to add “backseat modding” to the rules before they started punishing people for it. What do we expect?

And this isn’t just me. It’s many, many people. Some users found that they could get away with more as time passed. Others noticed that they could barely say anything. The moderators don’t even take the time to explain things to us. And, of course, there’s the fact that they are deleting my account for punishments I already accepted and did the time for. No good platform should punish someone twice.

Was It a Bot That Banned You?

No. I got a personal email from Arlene telling me all of this. She didn’t reply to my emails after. She also said that they tried to work with me to correct my behaviour and I didn’t change. That is not true at all. The closest we came to interacting about “my behaviour” is when I sent messages asking what I did wrong. Of course, it was always a different reason I was silenced, so I could never win, really.

But I can’t prove any of this to you. Why? Well, they added a shady bit at the end of the email: they won’t let me distribute, quote or screenshot the email to show anyone. I’m going to stick to their rules even if they (typically) struggle to do so. But no one can stop me from paraphrasing what was said and summing it up for you. I didn’t sign a nondisclosure agreement. They can’t make me sign one either. So I’ll tell you what happened. I just won’t show you. Hopefully, you’ll believe me.

Are You Deleting Your Episode Help?

No. All of the help I’ve written on Episode will stay up on my website. I still want to help people as much as I can. The only thing is that I won’t be writing anything else for Episode. No more praising it. No more reviews. Spotlight Sunday will be for Wattpad from now on. I don’t want to give Episode a minute more of my time after I post this.

I know that a lot of people are asking if I’m going to try to get a new account or appeal for my account to get handed back to me. It’s a bit of a struggle, really. While I’d love to appeal, you need to have the support code to submit a ticket to Episode. And guess what I don’t have? They disconnected my whole app from the Episode server, so I can’t even open it to get the code to submit a ticket. It’s quite cheeky of them, if you ask me. And I won’t be making a new account. It’s against Episode’s rules and I’m really not sure if I want to be supporting a company like this any more. I’ve closed my eyes to a lot of their faults and lies over they years, but I’m really done now.

This also means that my collaboration story with SenchaStories, The Bad Games, is off the table. The rules state that she cannot allow me to use her account and she doesn’t feel ready to write on her own. So Episode didn’t just hurt me. They hurt my friends and all of the people who come to me for advice on the forums.

What About Episode Reviews and Spotlight Sunday?

I’m going to be shutting down my review requests and leaving a link to this post as soon as I feel up to it. Right now, this is all pretty raw for me and I feel like I’ve done enough by making this post. It’s draining to even think about the two years of my heart that I put into everything I did for this community. I didn’t qualify for writer’s payments. My website doesn’t even make the money to cover itself right now. I didn’t do this for the money. I did it because I want to help people.

With regards to my Ko-fi commissions, I already finished up all of the advice I had to give to people and removed all of the Episode-related commissions. I’m not sure if my resident artist, ChaoticDeluge, is going to want to keep doing people’s covers for money. I’ll let him deal with his own post if he wants to write his own version of events.

As for Spotlight Sunday, I’ll be moving it over to Wattpad as soon as I get a good idea of the underappreciated stories on that platform. You’re welcome to follow me over there. My username is the same on there. And I’ll be writing The Queen of Freaks the way I want to. No more choices. No more customisation. I can make sure everyone sees the mixed race Evanna that I do.

Did Any Good Come of This?

Partly. You might remember the big fiasco about Episode owning stories. Well, it no longer applies to me. Thank God. You see, thanks to Article 11 of the Terms of Service, Episode has had to give up their royalty-free license to use and change my story how they please and without my permission. So in some ways, this is a blessing to me. I now own The Queen of Freaks properly again and I can seek legal action if they make anything like any of my stories. And thanks to Wattpad, I have proof that I’ve reserved the rights for my stories.

“Upon your termination of your Account, Episode Interactive shall no longer have the right to use or commercialize Your Content via any media that it had not used or commercialized Your Content at the time of such termination.”

Episode Interactive Terms of Service Article 11. These are the TOS as of 13th June 2019.

As well as that, I no longer feel bad about criticising Episode or asking for support. I had over 200,000 reads on The Queen of Freaks. I didn’t qualify for Writer’s Payments. That means that I gave them 2 years of time and over 200,000 reads worth of ad revenue for free. That’s not to mention the gems and passes I spent, the time I spent on other stories and the free advertisement I gave them through my website. I mean, I even made posts on why you should write for Episode! I’m not going to help Episode anymore. I can promote my forums without any hassle. And you know I’m not going to feel bad for it.

Are You Still Going to Help Us?

Of course! While I won’t give out any Episode-specific advice now, I’m not going to abandon you the way Episode abandoned me. Most of my content is already quite generic. You can apply it to all kinds of writing! If you want to try your hand at Wattpad or Tapas or Chapters, I’ve got your back. All of advice on how to make good characters and plan out your plots and do diversity right? Well, I’m going to keep adding to them. They’ll keep helping you with your Episode stories, if you let them.

All this means is I’m going to focus on making my target audience for my website much bigger. I’ve already spoken about offering English Language and Literature advice. There will be more quizzes, exercises and blog posts for all kinds of stroy writing. We can also spend our time explaining books, film and TV in place of all of that Episode posting. Maybe I can make a proper business of this now. I’m still here for you on my own forums if you have any questions. I just won’t be able to look at your stories on the app or give you reads.

I do ask, though, that you give me at least a week or two to recover before you send me stuff about Episode. It’s super raw right now and it makes me really upset. I’m not going to ignore Episode talk forever, but it would be nice if you gave me the time I need to process all of this and move on. I wrote for Episode during a really dark time in my life when I was quite depressed, so losing the original Queen of Freaks feels like losing a friend.

How Can We Support You?

I would really appreciate it if you didn’t leave me out! The Episode community was an important part of my life. If you can, pop over to the ShanniiWrites Forums and say hi from time to time. We have a dark theme! And more features than the Episode forum. In fact, I’ll match any of the Discourse plugins that they have on there.

If you see anyone struggling with a writing question that you know I answered, I’d love it if you linked me! Send a link to my website or a thread I made. Bump my threads if you can. I’d be so happy if we could keep my memory alive. I don’t want to be forgotten. Just make sure that you keep your own account safe first. I advise not posting links to the ShanniiWrites Forums on the Episode Forums. That will get your post flagged and I don’t want that for you. Don’t get yourself banned because of me!

If you’re looking for other ways to support me, I do have a Ko-fi to help keep this website up and running. Now that I can no longer rely on my name on the Episode forums to drive traffic here, every little would help. If you like my advice and you can spare a little cash, you can send me a tea (I changed it because I don’t drink coffee) if you want. It would be much appreciated!

Of course, it is always a massive help if you turn your adblock off when you’re looking at my site. Whitelist us if you can! It would be amazing!

I Have More Questions

To be honest, you now know everything I do about this situation. However, if you do want to talk to me about all of this, there will be a dedicated discussion for this post on my forums. You’ll also be able to DM me there. I’d be happy to answer any question I can! I think it’s fishy that they blocked me from the whole platform for something I did on the forums. That’s never happened before and it makes no sense to me. I’d love to discuss theories (my leading one is because my forums are doing so well. But that’s not an offence that they can actually ban me for, so they made a different reason.).

You’re always welcome on my forum and I’ll always be happy to speak to you and see you around. Thank you so much for reading this. If I don’t get to speak to you again, it’s been wonderful meeting you.

Shannii.

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