Thursday, December 6, 2007

Part 8: This is how we do things in the bizarro world

By the time Wednesday the 28th rolled around, things looked to have quieted down. I had a pile of work from Disney, Expat Exposed was leisurely acquiring traffic, and we were looking for light-up shoes for one of our nephews' birthday. Then one of ExEx moderators called up. He had been phoned at work by TVNZ, wanting to do a story about Expat Exposed. Yes, our 3-week-old site with 28 (?) members. How had they gotten his contact information? Why were they under the mistaken assumption that he was one of the founders? In any case, we arranged that they should call me instead. You can read about the interview and the resulting furor (which led to 2 more TV appearances) on Expat Exposed.

Besides the media interest itself, what we found utterly bizaare was that it was move2nz that had contacted TVNZ about us. Because of lawsuit threats, I had to make sure TVNZ knew what it was getting into, and in the course of the discussion, it came out that the Bells had gone to TVNZ with this non-story of our existence and handed over personal information about an ex-member, who just so happens to be Trisha's husband. Yes, the same nice lady they'd threatened to sue. Why they didn't hand over my personal e-mail instead, we can only speculate about. All I can do is speculate, in fact, about why someone would consider it a retaliation to send us thousands of visitors and increase our membership count 14-fold. I suppose if you think very short-term, it sort of makes sense. Move2nz was also featured on the first news report, and apparently presented as "good migrants" who had the last say over evil Expat Exposed. I think they got more air time as well. Was it worth all the boost they gave us to be able to deride us for a few minutes on national television? And of course, they weren't on for the subsequent 2 appearances. Whatever floats your boat, I guess. All 3 programs are available here. No, I haven't watched them and I don't intend do. Why is everyone so surprised by that? Whatever happened to privacy laws? Something about how we were rude guests criticizing the tea and crumpets we were served. Hm.
  • NZ$1700 for EOI, application and migrant levy.
  • NZ$600+ for a full physical.
  • Being fingerprinted twice, for about NZ$65.
  • References from workplace and colleges. Financial statements.
  • Cost of initial visit.
  • The moving cost and set-up.
A $13,000+ cup of tea.
From what I'm told, they started with a complete hatchet job and backpedaled to a fairer coverage with 2nd and 3rd. I declined to participate in the planned 4th coverage for reasons covered in the next installment.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Part 7: Less talking would be nice

Three full days after being threatened with imminent summons, all I've gotten are 5 e-mails that say far too much about the person who wrote them. I found myself in an unusual position of having to remind the person who was doing the threatening that he was hurting his own case.

November 11, 2007 1:04:09 PM GMT+13:00

Hello Mike,

Does your lawyer know you're writing to me again and again like this?

You know, you did actually state "I noticed recently that you contacted a member and made defamatory statements about me personally". Certainly looks as though you're admitting that you read her private messages, but I'll let people decide for themselves from your own words. Or are you saying you managed to write a search algorithm that looked through all of Trisha's private messages and heuristically determined if they are defamatory? You certainly do have a massive technical advantage over me in that case. That's a seriously valuable technology and could make you a lot of money. I recommend Draper Fisher Jurvitson.

Now that that's addressed, I'm going to do you a favor and end this stage of the communication. It's really not appropriate for a self-declared plaintiff to be writing at such length, repeatedly, to one of the intended lawsuit targets. Your lawyer can reach me at this mail address, and I'll put her/him in touch with our guy. Just let the pros hash it out.


Part 6: I just can't stop threatening you

You know, being threatened by move2nz can be pretty time-consuming. Is it too much to expect that the threats be presented in an orderly fashion? I guess so.
November 10, 2007 9:57:32 PM GMT+13:00

Hi Mike,

With such a laundry list of grievances, I wish you'd organize them a little better. I don't have the time to address them separately at the moment, so I'll just touch on the points that stand out.
  • A disclaimer unilaterally attached to an e-mail has no power to create mutual consent. It's law, not magic.
  • I've included a mention that Trisha is a member of Expat Exposed. Thanks for pointing out the omission--some people have asked me where she is, so this will let them find her more easily.
  • If you'd like, you can send me this other e-mail that you think you sent her. My impression is, she's only received that one.
  • "The defamatory statement you have printed is not the one this email was in answer to." In that case, let me know which statement you were referring originally, and I'll edit the entry.

"I have failed to find it on our forum or in any of the private messages sent through our site." Wow. So you really do read the PMs.

Anyway, I don't think we'll have any better luck communicating by e-mail than we did on the forums, so if you're ready, let's just do this through our respective lawyers (ExEx has a relationship with a local firm, conveniently enough). I'm surprised that you'd feel so insecure about your venture that you feel compelled to try and police the opinion of a single former member. You really should rest easier, you know. You and Tammy have done a good job of creating a community for like-minded people, and you should let that feed your confidence, not your fears.



But of course, my evening's work was not yet done. A scant hour later, I get another e-mail from them:
November 11, 2007 10:58:20 AM GMT+13:00


Thank you for your email but you failed to answer my request. Please remove the comments posted on your site. It is enough that you are clearly aware that the statements you have published are incorrect and refuse to remove them. It is not my responsibility to correct poorly researched ramblings. I also fail to see any reason why the situation with Trisha is anything at all to do with you.

To clear up one point you misunderstood. Not being technically aware you assumed I had read through several thousand private messages. This is not the case. The messages are stored in a database and a keywork search was carried out. I see no point in explaining the technicalities of such an action to you but no private messages were actually read in this operation by a human as none matched the search for criteria.

Personally (a I mentioned in my reply to you) I do not understand why you are attacking me, my wife and my organisation in this way. Perhaps you can explain why you are devoting your personal site to attacking me and setting up an new one principally to attack an established organisation actively working to help people as a free service.

Hm? Earth to you. I believe it is correct, and have evidence to back it up. You really don't get why I would step in when I see someone being bullied? Oh Mike. Oo, cheeky! ...and if you'd gotten a hit, you would have read the PM at that point. Besides, snooping is snooping. If you Google something instead of running around shouting for what you need, did you not still search? Step away from the paranoia. I don't need to install, mod and template an entire forum to do that. Oh please. It's an ad-driven business venture you've chosen to start up, not an aid agency.

Part 5: Lies! All lies!

On November 10th, the move2nz admins discovered that I had made a post about them on this, my personal site, along with the threatening letter (now split into Parts 1 and 2 of this series). They did not take it well.
November 10, 2007 3:42:35 PM GMT+13:00


You have again made incorrect and untrue statements about move2nz based on poor information.

For example a query was posted on the site stating that negative posts about sponsors had been edited or removed. When asked to send through details the person never again contacted on the matter - it is much easier to make a sweeping accusation than to provide facts.

In actual fact members are free to make factual comments from personal experience about sponsors on the site and a sponsorship from a major New Zealand company was ended largely as a result of the move2nz team receiving negative feedback from members publicly posted on the forum. We took action to end the sponsorship rather than remove the postings as you are suggesting.

Your comment about admins threatening law suits against people for wanting to hang out is poorly informed and incorrect. I note that the person you are referring to has now distanced her group from your website as the link to her site that was appearing on every page of yours is now gone.

Your comment about reading private messages again is not only poorly informed and incorrect, but written in order to damage the reputation of the site.

You have also tried to damage the reputation of the site by printing a small part of the story of Trisha, one of the founding members of your site. A couple of points here:

- This email was sent under a legal disclaimer which you have breached.

- You have failed to point out your own connection with this person.

- You have attempted to give a misleading impression of this sad situation with the intention of making me look bad - another email sent at the same time to the other email address Trisha was using specifically explained exactly why the action was taking place but you used this one instead.

- You have failed to give a full account of this person's activity on our site thereby creating a misleading impression. For example this member broke several site rules including logging in under a different name intentionally to mislead site administrators:

"I am hiding on the site at the moment as Tamdan - Mike has blocked most of my other attempts to join, but I was more clever this time and set up a UK yahoo address."

and intentionally misleading other members by using a false account name to agree with her actual persona. Naturally she was blocked.

- move2nz reserves the right to block people from the site to protect it's members and in this case the blocking was justified as the person logged on specifically to contact other members using our private message system to denigrate the site.

- The defamatory statement you have printed is not the one this email was in answer to - you have again been poorly informed or mislead. The text you have printed is new to me and I have failed to find it on our forum or in any of the private messages sent through our site. I do not know where you got it from.

At the bottom line, what has any of this situation got to do with you anyway? What is your purpose in attacking me and my site in this manner? I think anyone reading this should consider the source before making any conclusions based on the false information you have published.

This was immediately followed by an e-mail:

You have published statements about move2nz on the website I have posted comment on these to be added in reply should you refuse to take these down but wish you to take all mention of move2nz off your site as the statements are misleading, poorly informed and untrue. Additional legal action will ensue if you fail to remove these comments immediately.

I fail to understand why you are continuing to attack myself, my wife and my organisation with these defamatory statements. Perhaps you could explain.

move2nz - helping migrants become kiwis

I have an e-mail from Person 1 saying a criticism of Kiwibank was censored. I also have an e-mail from Person 2 stated s/he wasn't going to discuss it on the site because the admins would just become unpleasant. Have you noticed that you call a lot of people liars? Let's have those facts. Tell your members which company it was, so they can avoid it. If you mean CuteOverload, it was only on the FP. If you mean Welly Rocks, that was FP only too. BTW, Wellington dwellers, I highly recommend Welly Rocks. Nice people. By snooping on people's PMs, you've damaged your own reputation. Don't pin it on me. Finally, some organization. See Part 6 for responses. Not according to your own TOS. And do you really want to SUE everyone who sets up more than one account? Yes, yes, block away. The bone of contention here is, are you being reasonable by threatening to sue over this? First good question you've asked. Put down the paranoia and ask yourself: Why do I find myself separating people into friends and foes? Why did I threaten harm to people who I've sat down to eat with? And most of all: Is it me?

Part 4: Is there an echo in here?

November 9, 2007 4:15:39 PM GMT+13:00

Hi Agness,

Thank you for your reply which saves time. As stated in my reply to your post, I have removed the link and mention of your site from move2nz because of your refusal to remove defamatory statements about move2nz and its administrators from your site. Please do not post any further links or mention of your web address. All mention of your site on move2nz will be removed immediately. Should you post a link or mention of your site again on any part of move2nz your account will be closed. Thanks for the English lesson but you are incorrect. I shall gather legal advice and either I or my solicitor will be in touch in due course.

Kind regards, Mike move2nz - helping migrants become kiwis

My turn:
November 9, 2007 5:22:47 PM GMT+13:00

Hello Mike,

You and Tammy, on the other hand, are welcome to mention move2nz on Expat Exposed. I've noticed that you've taken advantage of the profile to link to move2nz. The privacy of your private messages will also be respected.

Hope to hear from your legal counsel soon,


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Part 3: A boy called Sue

In early November, I went back to move2nz and announced that as per Tammy's angry suggestions, we the critical expats had put together our own site. I admit fully to being sarcastic about it. I don't take well to having my friends threatened, particularly when, as the admins well know, they are having a very hard time in New Zealand. The result was the following e-mail.
November 8, 2007 6:15:30 PM GMT+13:00
I noticed your posting on move2nz under the name 'Wintersmith' and reviewed your site.

Statements have been posted in the public areas of your site which are defamatory and untrue:

"What happened between you and move2nz?
We the founding members and bloggers all met on the move2nz forum. We banded together because each of us increasingly found ourselves under attack by the administrators and other members for discussing the negative aspects of life here, despite the fact that we contributed other kinds of posts and took care to observe the rules as well as be sensitive to others' feelings.

"We also felt that the admins were verbally abusive and overly controlling, ejecting members for organizing their own meetups, threatening legal action without merit and seemingly taking the view that they owned the very idea of Web-based networking for expats in New Zealand. Most of us founding members are Web/IT professionals, and this type of attitude was particularly dismaying to us."

"I'm a move2nz member... Am I welcome here?"

"move2nz. A smaller-scale site with Christchurch focus."

Comments and inferences have also been made about the move2nz site and it's administrators in other areas of your site. I regret that you and your associates feel it necessary to attack move2nz is this way.

Please immediately remove any and all mention of and inference to the move2nz website, it's administrators, agents, associates and moderators. If you have not complied with this request by 12pm Monday 12th November NZT I shall seek legal advice on taking matters futher.

Mike move2nz - helping migrants become kiwis

In a quirky move, they then immediately proceeded to register with Expat Exposed, which happens to be an open board readable to non-members. Having approved their membership, I replied as follows:
November 8, 2007 9:23:36 PM GMT+13:00
Hi Mike and Tammy,
First of all, welcome to Expat Exposed. Mike, I've approved you for the Christchurch usergroup, as requested. As for the other request, there's no need for you to wait until Monday the 12th--please go ahead and consult your lawyer today.

Best regards,

Agness Kaku

P.S. I think you mean "mentions and references". "Inference" is something you would have to come up with from the former.
"Then start your own website...its simple and I will even have a link directing people to it!" "Maybe you lot should start your own website or maybe Mike and I will walk away from move2nz, let it get full of advertsing and go the same way as the other forums." "Per Tammy's suggestion, I've thrown together a community site that focuses on the downsides of migrating to New Zealand. Thank you to Tammy and Mike for inviting us to link off of move2nz, and hope to see some of you at Expat Exposed!" "Tell you what, come to South Africa and see how you get treated, you'll get used to that treatment."
"s**t happens, get over it ! You have been allowed to emigrate to NZ, you probably have a job, a house, a car... Advanced Democratic countries like NZ are not racist ."
"Is this site such an eyesore on the Internet? Is the idea of people trying to help others for nothing upsetting you? Or do you have another reason to try and damage this site?"
"this destructive pillock... If I had a vote, mine would be to remove his posts and his profile." etc., etc.
Well, I could easily switch it out to "bullying" or "paranoiac". "A long standing member that was very active here and organised many of the move2nz meetups, decided to set up her own "BRAND" using our members and effectivily cutting move2nz out of the Wellington Network. Mike and I...have worked so hard over the last 2.5 year....and I don't think its fair that someone should come along and take the credit... today this ex member has used current move2nz members to post about her meetup on the move2nz website."
So... they cut out move2nz by posting on the move2nz site? And that "brand" consists of a Blogger page detailing the gatherings.
Hm, do they really want to try and prove they're bigger than British Expat, EmigrateNZ or Expat Focus? If you're going to bluff, you should at least give yourself fully to dramatics. "At exactly one past midnight, November the 12th..." would be a good place to start.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Part 2: Not-so-private messages

Threatening to sue someone is an act of emotional violence. I talked to people who were threatened with lawsuit by move2nz owners, and I was struck by both the level of distress the memory still caused them, and the lack of skepticism with which they regarded the threat. As an American, I forget what dreadful power the threat of a lawsuit still holds for many people. I took someone to court for the first time when I was 20 (I won), and while it gave me enormous appreciation for the time, the expense and the tedium involved, it also demolished any superstitious awe I may have still had for the process. The service of a lawyer is an established fact in American life, and even here, the company I co-own with another expat (Expat Exposed) is all squared away with a local law firm and a ribbon on top.

The interesting thing is, the owners of move2nz aren't American. They're British, and have also had their own traumatic brush with a disreputable company threatening a meritless lawsuit. Whether that incident gave them ideas, I don't know. But as Brits, they would presumably have full appreciation of the distress they were causing the fellow Brits and continental Europeans they threatened in turn.

Here's a sample of a threat they sent to someone ("Trisha", now a member of Expat Exposed), just for logging back in and sending an e-mail after she had left move2nz:

Hi Tricia,

I have monitored your use of the site under the name 'Tamdan' since August despite your confirmations that you would not access the site.

While you were not causing additional michief I tolerated the access however I noticed recently that you contacted a member and made defamatory statements about me personally. Your comments were I believe malicious and defamatory and I shall be taking legal advice to see whether I should begin a legal action against you. My solicitor will be in contact in due course.

Your account has been closed and any further activity on the site is strictly forbidden.

Please note:
Any attempt to access the site will be met by legal action against you.
Any further defamatory statements against myself or move2nz will be met by the strongest legal action I can bring.
I am saddened that after all the assistance we attempted to give you and the friendship we thought we had built you have decided to personally attack me. Shame on you.



And what is this defamatory statement? Drumrolls please:

"Mike and Tammy were not happy as they thought we were all being too negative and in the end we either were asked to leave or chose to leave ourselves to avoid further tension."

So... In order to even have a shot at claiming libel, they have to prove they were actually HAPPY with us.

As the lolcats say, 'I'm in UR private messages, violating UR trust'

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What Is Wrong with Move2NZ? Part 1: Why I don't like 'em

There's a site called, which we used when researching the migration to NZ. At one point, I remember reading a very personal and hostile remark by one of the 2 site owners/admins, and thinking, wow, she must be having a really bad day. I then discovered that any day was a bad day if someone said there were things New Zealand scored low on. Or when they criticized a sponsor. Or tried to meet offline without move2nz sanction. Or tried to call the admins on any of these bizarro behaviors.

You get the idea.

It wasn't long before I ticked them off, of course. There's absolutely no use trying to get some people to see reason. What can you do with someone who doesn't understand that traffic is gold, and I (and other public enemies) was generating plenty of those with our posts? So in partnership with another expat, I set up a community, Expat Exposed, devoted to the downside of NZ. Someone has to do it, and anyone who doesn't agree or want to know can just avoid the site. See how that works? All bow before the segmentation power of the Internet. Intriguingly enough, numerous people sent me an e-mail to the effect of, I like what you're doing, I stopped posting on move2nz after being shouted down, or I was kicked out for just setting up my own NZ blog, then branded an idea thief. After talking to several people, I was amazed to find out that the admins had actually threatened people with lawsuits simply for wanting to hang out together online and offline, outside of move2nz. As if that weren't nutty enough, they were apparently in the habit of reading the private messages of members they took a dislike to.

To be honest, I grew increasingly aghast that none of these people had bothered to go on the record with their story. By choosing to simply drop out of view, they not only failed to provide a check for this kind of behavior, but they also left the door open for new arrivals to walk into the same kind of unpleasantness and distress. This doesn't sit right with me. So, here are some move2nz-related correspondences and observations for public perusal. You can decide for yourself whether these are the kind of people you want to get close to or not. "this blows me away..... and I hope this not going to turn into a whinging pom thread... I must also commment that there are people in the world that are not happy unless they are complaining..."