CPUG, and The Risk of Single-Admin Communities

CPUG, a Check Point user forum, is near death. The owner has been forced to get rid of it, but rather doing a graceful handover, it has been shut down pending a possible sale. This is a great shame, and it highlights the risks of contributing to a forum controlled by a single person.

CPUG.org started out as an independent Check Point forum in around 2005. It was seeded with Phoneboy’s original FW–1 FAQs, and quickly became the premier independent source of Check Point information. If you had a Check Point problem, chances were you could get a quick answer there.

I used to do a lot of Check Point work, and so I knew a fair bit about it. I had the time, knowledge, and the desire to help the community, so I got involved with CPUG, and became a top contributor. I put a huge amount of effort into it over the years, and hopefully I helped solve a few people’s problems. I have moved away from contributing recently, for various reasons.

At its best, the forum was a fantastic resource, where many of the smartest people were working to help solve the trickiest issues. It became a huge repository of threads, solving challenges faced by real engineers in the field.

Check Point is a difficult company to work with, and the products don’t always work as advertised. This could spill over into animosity on the forums, with sniping, name-calling and ugly negativity.

Good or bad, it was a trove of Check Point knowledge, and something that should not be lost to the community. That’s why it makes me sad to see this:

CPUG founder and administrator Barry J. Stiefel is moving on to other opportunities in the Internet security field and will be no longer be running CPUG or the CPUG discussion board. This site is temporarily shut down while we consider several offers to take over the operation of the board.

The site was always maintained by Barry Stiefel, who is now working for Palo Alto. They don’t want him to run a Check Point forum, and have demanded he get rid of it. That is understandable, but it has been handled poorly. I know of several people who would have happily stepped forward to continue running the site. Instead it has been shut down, pending a possible sale. It appears that Barry is trying to sell the hard work that thousands of people freely gave over the last 10 years.

If you thought you still owned your content on the site, you’re wrong: you gave it away, and now other people are trying to benefit from it.

Aside: CPshared - not a viable alternative

CPshared.com was set up in 2011 as an alternative to CPUG. The intention was to get away from the negativity, and to have a better relationship with Check Point, whilst still being independent. The forum drew many experienced Check Point engineers, but it never saw high volumes of traffic. The site has been suffering because the owner is not fully involved. It needs an enthusiastic group to take it over, but the owner won’t hand over control. So that forum will die too - again, so much effort wasted.

Cui bono

We all know the dictum of “If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product.” Contributing to a forum is a significant investment in time. Before diving in, think carefully about why you’re doing it, who benefits, and what happens if the forum owner decides to close up shop, or wants to sell your work. I’m not saying you should never contribute to any forum, but you need to know what you’re getting into. Be particularly careful with forums that a single person controls.

This is the main reason that most of my time and energy goes into writing for my own site these days. I can write whatever I like, there’s no-one to disagree with, and no-one else is trying to make money off my time and effort. I may contribute to other forums in future, but I won’t be contributing to forums where one person controls everything.

I hope that a small group can take over CPUG, with no-one having full control. Too much effort went into it to just throw it all away now.