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The Dirt

by Power User Johnny Cash on July 20, 2011

The Dirt

I promised you that I would deliver the good and the bad – and I’ve been doing my research.

Here’s the “bad” stuff I’ve found on FanBox.

My source was users, employees and ex-employees -- including those of you that have been kind enough to share your research with me… Thanks again for your help!


So far, the dirt I found is in the following categories:


Spam and unwanted email messages 

Charges on mobile phones

Complaints from ex-employees


You can read about all of these below.

I will continue to add more to this post, so check back often for more “dirt”!

If you’re aware of more dirt, send me a message!




Doing my research, I have heard a good number of accusations regarding spam (Spam is an unwanted email message).


Good people are claiming that they are receiving unwanted messages from FanBox.


Other people -- many of which also seem to be honest and sincere people -- say that FanBox has sent messages to their contacts.


Still others claim that FanBox (illegally) hacked into their address books, to send messages to their contacts.


Obviously, these are some troubling accusations, especially because many of them appear to come from honest and good people.


Here’s what I’ve learned:


FanBox’s users send a lot of messages to each other, to their fans and friends, and to their address book contacts.


They can send those messages in many different ways, including through apps (applications) and Shout-Outs.


Shout-Outs are little apps that tens of thousands of FanBox users have made on their own to give love, “poke” a friend, or share interesting and entertaining content with others.


Many Shout-Outs and apps allow any member to give permission to Shout-Out apps to open up their Web-based address book and send a “digital or virtual good” such as a virtual “Martini”,  “Diamond Ring” or a “Horse”. This is all permission-based.


The challenge emerges when the recipient of these items does not recognize the sender.


Many Web-based mail systems (such as Hotmail, Yahoo Mail or Gmail) automatically insert (into your address book) every email address that you send an email to.


So, 3 years ago if you were looking to buy a sofa and sent an email to someone that had placed an Ad in Craigslist or the local newspaper, they would be in your address book.


Today, if you send a virtual drink to them (or everyone in your address book) it is unlikely that they will remember you, and you them.


Millions of such emails go out every day from members to their contacts.


If only 1% of those emails go to people that don’t recognize the sender, for every million emails that go out, that’s 10,000 people that do not recognize the sender (and the sender them)– some of which are naturally very upset and proceed to accuse you – and then FanBox -- of sending spam. 




Today, every major web site in the world uses similar technology that allows users to open up their Web-based address books so they can send invites, receive birthday reminders, or engage with friends over game scores and progress to some of all of their contacts.


Did you know? FanBox invented this technology (that enables a Web site to offer that functionality).


One of the things that FanBox employees are constantly reminded of, is:


 “The pioneers get the arrows”.


In other words, by being first to market with something different, because people aren’t used to it yet, the first one to do it -- the pioneer of the technology -- takes all the blame (the arrows) for the negatives associated with that technology (until everyone becomes familiar with the technology and no longer misunderstands how it works.


Misunderstandings and arrows are especially true for FanBox, due to the very real fact that FanBox has, on average, invented one new major thing every 3 months over it’s lifespan.


Again, virtually every major web site has copied this technology.


For example, the first thing you are asked to do after registering on Facebook is -- you guessed it -- invite your friends -- by pulling up your Web-based address book:


Does FanBox get more complaints than other companies?


Well, take a moment and google “Facebook spam” and you’ll see hundreds of millions of users are complaining about the same thing on Facebook.




Regardless of what others are doing or not doing, FanBox takes the privacy of its users very seriously.


Over the years, FanBox has launched over a dozen technologies and mechanisms that give users more control to modify, view and stop how they receive and send messages from others.


In fact, in every email received from FanBox, users are able to opt-out of any future communications from FanBox.  


The next time you receive an email from FanBox – any email – scroll down to the bottom to view the link(s) that give you controls over what emails you receive.


Many users enjoy receiving emails from FanBox to keep updated about friends’ activities and to receive earning statements.


If you are not receiving your FanBox emails, then you need to place the FanBox email addresses (that FanBox uses to send you emails) into your address book, so that they are never filtered into the bulk or junk folder by your email provider.




Charges on mobile phones


Although most of these complaints are very old (over 5 years ago or older) I have found a lot of people that claim that FanBox charged them -- on their mobile phone bills -- for services that had not subscribed to.


In other words, they were charged for things that they had not purchased.


In speaking with these people, certainly there are some haters that don’t come off as legitimate.


However, I also found such comments from people that sincerely appear like they have no reason to lie or make such stories up from scratch.


What would cause them to say such things, if they weren’t true?


Here’s what I found:


As you know from previous chapters, FanBox invented the technology (view patent no. 7,826,822 on the U.S. Government's web site) that allows people to pay for goods using their mobile phones.


In order to test its platform and iron out the wrinkles, along with its mobile carrier partners, it launched “mobile content channels” that users could pay for with their phones.


Users signed up for such services from the FanBox (SMS.ac) web site.


In the early days, the mentality of Web users was “as long as I don’t enter my credit card into a web site, they can’t charge me for anything”.


So when they were going through the purchase pages on the FanBox web site, a very small percentage of them (about 1%) clicked “OK” and “Subscribe” – without really believing that FanBox did, in fact, have the ability (the technology and the relationships) to charge them on their phone bills.


Thus, after receiving those charges on their phone bills (usually around $4.99 or $9.99), about 1% of users were very upset because they didn’t remember subscribing to those products.


For every 1 million users that signed up for such products around the world, 1% of people not remembering their purchase amounted to 10,000 people!


The reason that the volume of such complaints dropped to a very small number these days, is that, as time passed, people around the world started to become aware that such technology and the ability (to charge on mobile phone bills) is now a reality.


Indeed, the pioneers seem to get the arrows.


Fighting fraud:


FanBox needed to ensure that purchases made on phones are being made by the real phone owner.


Therefore, it came up with the process of sending a secret code to the mobile phone (via text message or SMS), and requires the user to enter it into the web site.


Today, authentication by phone (via secret SMS code) is standard policy for anyone charging onto mobile phones.


In fact, as the inventor and leader in the industry, it was FanBox that published the “Mobile Consumer Bill of Rights” that ended up being adopted by virtually all governments and mobile phone companies around the world.


From USA Today:


“SMS.ac (FanBox), the world's leading host to mobile phone users, has just announced the creation and implementation of a global Mobile Consumers Bill of Rights.


The purpose of the Mobile Consumers Bill of Rights is to support consumer confidence on an international basis.


SMS.ac (FanBox) should be applauded for getting out front in this effort, and its Mobile Consumers Bill of Rights should be evaluated by all companies in the mobile arena”.


Here’s the USA Today article:




And here’s FanBox’s Mobile Consumer Bill of Rights, most of which (following FanBox’s advice after it invented the technology) is now the law in most countries:


The Mobile Consumers Bill of Rights

1. Clear Description and Pricing

• Mobile consumers have the right to clear and easy-to-understand descriptions of the products and services for which they are paying.

• Mobile consumers have the right to know exact costs for all products and services prior to purchase, clearly expressed in each customer's local currency, without the confusion of moving, scrolling or otherwise difficult-to-read text.

2. Privacy, Opt-in and Opt-out

• Mobile consumers have the right to communicate, participate and transact in a safe environment, where their personal information is protected.

• All pay-for products and services must include an opt-in process for the consumer that is clear and concise.

• All pay-for products, including premium SMS (text) messages received on a consumer's phone must contain clear and easy-to-follow instructions on how to opt-out of the product and/or service, along with confirmation that their opt-out process was successful, delivered on a non-premium message.

3. Prompt Possession and Satisfaction

• Mobile consumers have the right to receive the goods and services they paid for in a timely fashion and in a manner that meets their expectations.

4. Customer Service and Technical Support

• Mobile consumers have the right to courteous customer service and technical support that are easily accessible 24-hours per day and seven days each week.

• Mobile consumers must receive replies to all inquiries within 24 hours.

• Mobile consumers must have their issues resolved quickly and respectfully.

• Customer service assistance should be available through:

Toll-free phone service, and/or real-time online chat with service personnel, as well as via email response.

5. Money-back Refund

• Mobile consumers have the right to request a money-back refund, in the event they are unhappy with the product or service provided. Money-back refund policies should be available to all mobile consumers within the initial 30 days of purchase, when customer confusion is most likely to occur.

6. Customer Confidence

Mobile consumers have the right to say, "NO."

• NO surprises. Customers only receive goods and services that they requested.

• NO hidden costs

• NO invisible opt-ins.

• NO spyware or other forms of intrusive data collection unless clearly specified by the content provider and opted-in to by the customer.

• NO spam. Mobile phone users have the right to a spam-free environment, where only authorized messages are sent to their phones.





Complaints by ex-Employees


Overall, FanBox has been a company that has not been afraid to try new things and invent stuff – much of which either doesn’t work well at first – or even ever. 


One of the stories you’ll hear a lot around FanBox is the story of Thomas Edison – inventor of the light bulb (and many other things):


Edison famously tried (and failed) to make light – as he experimented with over 10,000 filaments over the years -- when he was trying to invent the light bulb.


As he went through his trials and failures, many people – even and especially within the scientific community -- criticized and even laughed at him.


About halfway through his trials, one scientific journalist asked him: “Why do you insist on keeping up this expensive and disastrous “grandiose” experiment when it is absolutely clear -- to everyone -- that you have failed over 5,000 times already?”


To that, Edison replied: “I have not failed 5,000 times. I have successfully identified 5,000 solutions that will not work, and am therefore 5,000 steps closer to the right answer”.


Edison’s “grandiose” vision and belief was that mankind could do better than lighting its homes, classrooms and roads using fire.


If it were not for Edison’s ability to keep his faith and focus – despite the negativity, envy, criticism and even poverty that he lived with every day – today we might all still be lighting our homes and streets with candles and kerosene.




FanBox has been one massive attempt to "invent many light bulbs".

We discussed in the chapter "FanBox Inventions" that FanBox has needed to invent new technologies in order to accomplish its mission.

But perhaps even more difficult than that:

FanBox has had to operate with no investment capital (money) over the entire span of its existence.

Remember that FanBox has accepted no investment capital to enable it to drive profits back to Knowledge Workers.

It did not want to promise profits to investors -- at least not until the business model was proven -- so it could ensure its mission would ultimately not be sidetracked because of divergent interests.




In the face of criticism and difficulty that resulted out of its many trials and tribulations, many times FanBox has had to take a serious look at whether or not to continue.


FanBox could have easily given up – by either comfortably shutting its doors down --  and calling it a “good try” and accepting an "A for effort" – or accepting millions of dollars in venture financing from the many investors that have come knocking.


Many times, all company employees got together and voted on which way to go.


Each time -- especially when investors came knocking -- the majority voted as follows:


They chose to not accept investor capital – not until the entire model was proven and the risk of outside interference was eliminated.


They voted to continue to try new things despite the risks and criticism that would inevitably be waiting for them -- learning from their mistakes and responding to any and all sincere criticism with heartfelt apologies.


FanBox has a very strong corporate culture.


In strong cultured companies – some people fit and some don’t.


The company is proud of its strong culture and believes its culture is one of the reasons that many have felt that working at FanBox is similar to receiving an MBA (Masters Degree in Business) degree on steroids.


In other words, FanBox is very proud of the growth that most of its employees have experienced.

It is very proud of the many successes enjoyed by its employees and ex-employees -- who often move on to accomplish incredible things after their time at FanBox.


As we’ll learn in the next chapter -- when we discuss the company's culture -- the belief that runs deep through the veins of the culture and processes is the idea that anyone can accomplish anything, given the right attitude and opportunity.


You can feel that same belief as a member of the FanBox web site:


These people truly believe in you and, as a result, have high expectations for you.


This belief is what fuels them to do what they do.


 Most leave FanBox stretched, challenged and thankful about the growth they “scored” from their time at FanBox. 


A few people that worked at FanBox, found that it was not for them.

That’s okay.
Working at FanBox is definitely not for everyone.

Before every single employee is hired at FanBox, he or she has the opportunity to meet with the CEO of FanBox.

The CEO actually spends at least one full hour with them -- explaining the entire mission and history of FanBox.

This practice has been in place since the very first day the company started -- when the very first employee started in the condo apartment.

And the practice still continues today.


It does not matter what the position is that the person is interviewing for -- low level or high level -- the CEO always takes the time to do this.

The CEO's objective is to ensure that anyone that's considering joining the company is aware of:

what it's trying to accomplish and why;

the company's culture and what it's really like to work at FanBox;

the company's financial situation;

and just about everything else the employee wants to know.



OK, at this point, I need to interject to say this:

I have never even heard of a company -- anywhere in the world -- whose CEO would spend that sort of time with employees -- in fact every single potential (prospective) employee -- people that have not even completed the interview process yet.

And I have not heard of a company that would have the motivation and determination to continue that process for years -- through the good times and the bad -- no matter how busy their CEO is with everything else that he needs to do.


This process has got to be yet another unprecedented "invention" of FanBox).



One important message the CEO tries to communicate is that:


The company has a big vision;

There are big hurdles in its way;

This company is not for anyone who does not want to be challenged way beyond anything they have likely experienced before.





Even with this "full disclosure" from the CEO, a few good people that worked at FanBox still appear to not have enjoyed their time there.

In fact, a couple people actually seem bitter -- so much so that they would spend their time posting comments like:


FanBox is bad.


Their entire management team is on drugs.


“They” made me work so hard.


“They” didn’t pay me what I was worth.


Everyone at FanBox is mean.


Someone made me feel bad because:

I didn’t exercise to keep my mind clear

I’m not motivated

I’m not good at my skill

I’m taking too long to learn the job

I’m not fast at what I do

I’m can’t be on-time to meetings


And so on and so forth.


As I heard or read each of these statements -- and spoke to these good people -- the deeper I looked into it -- the more pessimistic I grew that I was actually going to uncover any real "dirt".


I even had one nice young man attempt to convince me -- with so much passion -- that FanBox is evil because one of its employees has a bad driving record: Too many speeding tickets.


The bottom line: Strong cultures bring out strong emotions.


When people are truly believed in and provided opportunities with high levels of responsibility -- higher than their current level of experience -- and hence they are challenged and pushed to grow -- they build character and most of that is good.



I am not saying the founders, management team and others couldn’t have done some things better.

In fact, they readily say that they have made "tons of mistakes":

Making mistakes is an important part of working at FanBox. 

One of the things you will quickly notice when you meet a FanBox employee is that they have no problem whatsoever with saying "I made a mistake". 

They say "If you're not making mistakes often, then you're probably not trying to accomplish anything".

All in all – it appears that the vast majority of employees and ex-employees have enjoyed the growth experience they received at FanBox.

Most of them are quick to remind me that the culture is extremely strong and therefore some people will fit at FanBox and some will not.


(In the next chapter, we will explore the FanBox culture that some people have called “a cult”).




Having interviewed over 100 employees and ex-employees of FanBox, it has become obvious to me that something really incredible is going on within the FanBox office walls:


Every single one of them speaks to the career growth they experienced while at FanBox.


Most of the ones that are no longer there, have taken the skills they learned while at FanBox and have achieved positions of high responsibility at other companies.


Many have already started their own companies – and many are planning on doing so soon.


Along with career growth, they also speak to immense personal growth a result of their time at FanBox.


Almost all speak of the relationships they formed there – many mentioning that most of their current closest friends were people they met at FanBox.


Many even met their spouses there and many now are happily married with children.




As the FanBox web site community users, you and I have all made the point -- at one moment or another -- that FanBox is a place where our lives have and are being changed.


We all talk about how it has reawakened our hope, our belief in ourselves, our willingness to dream, to try new things, to spread our wings and take chances.


It appears that the same thing that we are feeling and experiencing – whatever it is (An idea? A feeling? Energy? Hope? Karma?) is exactly what FanBox employees have always felt.


That “thing” appears to be what gave them the motivation, passion and hope… to focus for 18 hours at a time… and to hang on and persevere.


It’s what made them do what they did -- and continue to do – many of them for years – so that they could bring that same “thing” -- whatever it is -- to the rest of us.




I will continue to search and research “the dirt”.

So far, each time I find "dirt" and get the opportunity to research it -- the more motivated and optimistic about the future I actually end up becoming. 

In other words, after researching the "dirt", I'm now more convinced than ever that 
together we -- the combined community of FanBox users and employees -- must double our commitment to accomplishing the mission -- because of the implications that will have on the world.

So, what is the single most important thing that YOU can do to help ensure the success of the FanBox mission?

Achieve your own success on the FanBox platform.


I’ll keep adding to this chapter as I find more “dirt” and look into it. Please send me anything you find.




Next, we’ll take a look at the culture and what it’s like to work – as an employee -- at FanBox.


Johnny Cash

Thanks Dave, April, Alex, David and Gloria! :)

84 months ago
! Vivianفيفيان

Great post...Thank you! Nice to read the two side of the story.

84 months ago
кαтнεяιηε  ηℓcιтιzεη

so much to learn here... thanks JC

84 months ago
Ophie L

Great and very informative post re part of fanbox history..

83 months ago
Krishna Singh

When there is a will there is a way. You have the will JC.
Most comprehenssive write on the history of FanBox.

82 months ago