Greeting Hot tub enthusiasts. If you’ve explored my site enough to find this post, you know by now that my goal is to help people find simple, effective and low-cost maintenance information for hot tubs. You also know that I don’t position this site as an authority. Instead, I post articles to reveal my experimental results. I’m in it to learn as well as to inform: for me to write down my thoughts and present them in a coherant manner requires a certain amount of intellectual rigor that keeps me focused on the right thing.
So why am I writing now about public forums? Because I want you to be aware of how they work. Well, at least one of them. First of all we have to remember that in a free market society, there are both good apples and bad apples and you sometimes gave to follow the money and/or the power to figure it out.
Here’s the deal: Forums put the interests of their creators first. Who pays for the hosting and for the staff to maintain the forum? Who benefits from harvesting all of your information and for gathering like-minded people on the same platform rich in advertizing opportunities? I discovered this quite by accident but it suddently became clear: There’s a reason why forums exist, and the free exchange of ideas isn’t necessarily one of them.
I was an active member of the pool and spa forum for over a decade, when suddenly my information sharing rubbed up against the power structure. One day, I found that my posts were no longer a springboard for curious thought, but a threat to the moderator. So if you don’t see me on this particular forum here’s why:
I once posted about my experimental interest in kicking the tires of a new spa maintenance product in the market. The name of the product isn’t important, but I have reviewed it on this site. What I didn’t realize, at the time, was that the moderator doesn’t respect this particular product, to which I say hurray for opinions and diversity! My forum post described how I was going to test the product’s ability extend the length of time that a hot tub could be left un-attended. Unfortunately, in the short space and time quickly summarizing my experiment, I didn’t mention the importance of shocking the spa when the sanitizer had decayed down to near zero. To be sure, I should have. However, Instead of engaging in a helpful conversation that adding a shock step was the only thing missing from an otherwise interesting experiment, I was labeled as a disseminator of misinformation. Several of my posts in that particular thread did not see the light of day, and the profound amount of information control made me look like the guy spewing bad advice and made the moderator look like he just saved the world from an idiot. From that point forward, the moderator set out a mission to discredit and smear nearly everything I posted. He even started searching for previous posts of mine to find something he could argue with. I will offer just three examples, and the let this subject (and the forum) go because, frankly, I don’t have time to deal with information control and smearing other people for sport.
- I posted a comment to the effect that when shocking a bromine spa, one cannot expect to have a “bromine-free” shock as you can with a chlorine spa. This is a very simple truth: If you are operating a chlorine spa, and you want to mix things up a bit and treat the spa with a non-chlorine product, you can use a non-chlorine shock, such as “MPS”. Non-chlorine simply means that you are using a different chemical besides chlorine to kill bad guys. Thats a common thing to do, by the way; whether or not you choose to do it is not the point — the point is that you can add a non-chlorine oxidizing product to a chlorine spa without increasing chlorine levels themselves. Instead, when operating a bromine spa, any oxidizing product that you add will produce bromine as a result (the actual chemistry is beyond the scope of this article). It’s good to shock a bromine spa with MPS from time to time, by the way, simply because the conversion to bromine isn’t instantaneous and so the MPS behaves like MPS for a short period of time. But the point is that MPS still produces bromine , and you end up with high bromine levels.
What happened next is both amusing and sad. Instead of being helpful, the moderator went on a fishing expedition to find that post and re-insert himself as the authority, in no uncertain terms he announced that the point was moot because the goal of shocking is to raise sanitizer levels! At first I gave him the benefit of the doubt that , as long-time chlorine spa user he wouldn’t necessarily have the bromine experience to recognize the point, but no: Authority must be maintained, you see. It just took me too long to recognize that!
- I once made the point that the regular motions (“maintaining”) of adding sanitizer to a bromine spa was “exactly” like that of a chlorine spa — this comment was offered in the context of adding chlorine manually on a regular basis. And for a bromine spa this is absolutely true! Once you have a sodium bromide “bank” in the water, you can add chlorine to the spa just as if it were a chlorine spa – but you will be making bromine instead. Boy was that ever an open invitation for more berating and less conversation! Instead of engaging in an thoughtful conversation with some follow-up questions about what I wrote, and the context around it, the moderator asserted his authority again, pontificating about how the byproducts of sanitization were different in a bromine spa (which is true but a red herring). Again, information control is very heavy on this forum (at least in the water chemistry section), so the full context just isn’t there, should you attempt to go looking for it. I can tell you that some posts of mine do not see the light of day. Had the moderator attempted to be helpful, he would have pointed out that even though adding chlorine to a bromine spa is the same motion as adding chlorine to a chlorine spa, bromine users have (x, y and z) to deal with, and they are successful in various ways.
- The last straw occurred during the discussion of a particular “one step” brominating granules product, which contains 15% sodium bromide and 85% “dichlor” (“spa chlorine”). I pointed out that on the first dose of this project, the conversion to bromine isn’t 100% because of insufficient sodium bromide in the product (the well-understood mechanism at work is that ordinary dichlor will oxidize available bromide into bromine sanitizer). As bromine users know (this is a high level general explanation), the sanitizer gets “used up” by killing bad guys but returns to the water as sodium bromide — ready for the next does of chlorine to activate it again (produce bromine sanitizer). This means the water continues to accumulate sodium bromide over time. If there was sufficient sodium bromide in the product to produce 100% bromine on the first teaspoon, then the 2nd dose would already be too much, contributing to useless Total Dissolved Solids. Many years ago, I reached to one particular manufacturer (BioGuard) who confirmed that, indeed, on the first dose of this product, you will not have a 100% bromine spa simply because not enough bromide salts are present. Thats just common knowledge, among bromine spa experts who have used the product.
With a fresh opportunity to argue, the moderator quickly injected his opinion that fully 100% of the 85% dichlor in the one step product results in bromine, whereupon my next post simply said that in my experience the conversion isn’t complete on the first teaspoon. I just had to give up when he proceeded to feign interest in how I measure this, while proceeding to describe the well-known fact that none of the test methods available today are capable of distinguishing between chlorine and bromine. That part is true, of course, but what the moderator didn’t realize is that people use bromine for a particular reason, and one of those reasons is that real human beings can tell the difference between chlorine and bromine. You don’t need a test kit to know this.
There’s no way I’m going to engage with this kind of superiority complex because its no longer about sharing its now about arguing. I didn’t even respond. Since then, I haven’t even logged into the forum because I know that all of my posts are flagged and only see the light of day when there is something to argue with.
So what have I learned?
I’ve learned not to reveal my experiences in a forum where the financial and/or power structures don’t allow for it. The water chemistry section in the pool and spa forum is little more than people asking questions and the moderator dishing out answers and squelching others’ opinions — all under the guise of protecting the pubic from dis-information. It’s just not worth my time.
By the way: If you want to offer a helpful suggestion here– or even ask for clarity regarding one of my posts, please do so! I’m constantly in learning mode, so there is no point in time where I will assert authority over a comment. Truth is what has authority, not individuals.
I will absolutely NOT operate in the mode where I think I have all the answers, and that is exactly why I have stopped participating in that particular forum. I think I’ll spend more time performing my own experiments and sharing results here. Here are some principles that guide me
- If something is true – its true, not matter who said it.
- authority isn’t the answer. good faith conversations are
- sure, if you spam me I won’t allow your comment to appear, but if you offer a good faith comment I’ll approve it and engage thoughtfully
- Please respect the fact that this is a hobby of mine and that I have a day job. I do my best to help (thats why I’m here) but sometimes I just don’t have the bandwidth to respond very quickly
- Life is too short to argue over who is the smartest. Truth is truth