Today marks the end of an era as the SlingCommunity shutters its doors. I assume this isn’t entirely voluntary on their part, given Sling Media’s recently launched Slingbox tech support-oriented forum. In fact, years of SlingCommunity content (215,000 posts) will vanish later today when their URL will begin redirecting all traffic to answers.slingbox.com.
As a very early Slingbox owner and, later, as a Sling Media employee, I have a pretty good handle on Sling’s forum arc.
The Slingbox was a hot topic of discussion on AVS Forum at launch in 2005. It’s where I got to know founder and CEO Blake Krikorian. And convinced him the office workers of the world needed a Windows 2000 client. And they turned one around in 48 hours. As the conversation grew, Sling approached the owners of AVS about cordoning off a dedicated Sling area. But they wouldn’t play ball. In fact, I got the sense they didn’t appreciate the company’s public contributions for whatever reason. So Sling took their cash elsewhere and partnered with Capable Networks, who launched the SlingCommunity.
For many years, it was a vibrant community of Sling customers and Sling employees, managed and nurtured by the appropriately named folks of Capable. Sling Media was a “social media” pioneer before that term even existed. Yet, as the company and customer base grew, along with the sort of organizational changes you’d expect from an $380 million acquisition, employee interaction tapered off. During my tenure at Sling, stewardship of the forum fell under both the Marketing and Support departments. And the two groups didn’t always see eye to eye on purpose or execution. As members of Sling’s ninja marketing team moved on and weren’t replaced, it appears the support unit acted on their plans to create a dedicated support forum, tied to Sling Accounts and device registration, as proposed back in 2008.
Given my history with the forum and appreciation of open, online communication, I’m disappointed Sling Media couldn’t come up with a more holistic solution that includes customer-to-customer and employee-to-customer dialog beyond tech support. On the other hand, without regular employee contributions, the Sling Community had begun to devolve into a massive bitch session — with frequent topics of conversation dedicated to Sling’s (or is it EchoStar’s?) $30 telephone support fee, non-timely mobile client updates, and SlingStream performance degradation with each successive firmware release.
I’m sad to see Sling Community go (and hope Capable was compensated), although I’m not at all surprised. What does surprise me is each day that passes in which EchoStar allows Sling Media to exist as an independent entity. Because the era of roll-your-own placeshifting is (was?) merely a transition on the path to TV Everywhere.