Open Discussion: Is There a Need For a Private Milenomics Forum?


Ever since Milenomics moved to its new home here at there’s been a peculiar little tab along the top of the page, “Coming Soon–Private Forum!”  I’ve spoken personally with a few of you about the idea for this forum, and today I’m looking for discussion about the feasibility of the idea.  I’ve been interested in a private forum for a few reasons, but mostly because there are areas of earning and using miles that I’m not comfortable discussing in public online for fear of loopholes being closed.

Would a Forum Be Beneficial?

I’m unsure if a private forum is even something readers would be interested in.  Between Twitter DM’s, Facebook messages, and emails I’ve been communicating in private with some of you without trouble.

I originally envisioned a forum as a place where we can be stronger together. I still think a forum can work, and increase both our mileage balances and our greater understanding of the big picture. I have two main reservations: first, that the information in the forum will leak out, or be used by other bloggers. And second, that the forum will only work if there are enough people interested who will actively use it. I’m not sure there will be, so I’m looking to gauge the interest with today’s post.

To sign the interest list please enter your email address below:

Thanks for the interest! I’ve closed the sign ups for now.

The forum is the first of the big changes I’ve envisioned this coming year on Milenomics. Based on these signups I’ll decide whether there is enough interest in a private forum, and we’ll either move forward or scrap the idea and move onto other ideas.

Please also include a comment below if you’d like to weigh in on the idea. Love it, hate it, either way if you have an idea about it I’d love to hear from you.

About the author

- Written by Sam Simon. All ideas are my own, but I encourage you to see my point of view and I promise I'll try to do the same. Connect with me on Twitter @Milenomics.


  1. Yes. Although I don’t know how you would/could prevent forum info from leaking out; I suppose that’s always the issue.

  2. I would be interested in “local aspects” (where to do MS, particularly good redemption values from here) so if there are fellow PDXs who want to exchange info, this could be a good place to do it.

    1. Blue: you must have read my mind. I think so much of what works is restricted by geography. Connecting neighbors in a small forum who can share ideas is a great way to help each other benefit from what works in their town, instead of what works in *my* town. I don’t like to write on Milenomics about things I don’t personally get to verify as working/not working, so the forum would allow more discussion outside of my geographic location.

  3. I just signed up because I’ve been following you for around a month now, but I’ve read and saved a lot of earlier material. I think this sort of forum would be useful as a repository of information that, as you correctly envision, is best kept private. I’m not a blogger, just a deal-seeker and interested in squeezing value out of every hard earned penny I earn, so I wouldn’t want to disclose anything since the elimination of loopholes/deals would greatly affect me. I would hope everyone who signed up for the private forum would also be personally invested in not having the deals die.

  4. I think it would be a great idea if enough people participated and were judicious with who they shared info with.

  5. It could work. It all depends on the participation and if they limit sharing of what they learn from the forum on blogs.

    On side note, I am not sure if sign up (show of interest) worked for me since I didn’t get any notification.

    1. MidTier: The sharing limitation seems to be the hardest to police, but I have ideas.

      I didn’t put a notification on the form. Not to worry, I got your submission.

  6. I think a private forum that makes us all more comfortable sharing would be a good idea. Not sure how you would police info leaking out; maybe by screening the people you allow in?

  7. I like the idea of a private forum to share ideas with less worry about killing deals. Kim’s idea of some type of screening before allowing access makes sense but of course its more work for you!

  8. I’m not sure what kind of platform you are talking about. Would it be similar to the old listservs – now like yahoo or google groups etc. I have been running groups since 1995 and the only ones that succeeded in any privacy were those that did not “show” in a search. The groups I have now are set so that new members posts are monitored and only go to the list after approval.

    There is no way I know of to control the sharing of info and there is no way to screen for that. Even you best friend might share a good Idea with “one or two people” who then….

    Even if you do something like verify home addresses by sending a postcard with a code, you can’t be sure . I personally would not share anything on the Internet I wanted private. Privacy has long gone. So I guess I am saying that I believe it is unrealistic to think you can have a private forum where things will not be shared outside of it.

    1. Janis: Wow, again in sync with my thought process. I was thinking of mailing postcards. Also great points about the information aspect. I’m in agreement–first of all the likelihood that the forum would produce something never before thought of is small–so we’re instead talking about sharing information which is already out there *somewhere.*

      As for format, I’d be buying a forum hosting package, so it would function something like how flyertalk, or other online forums work. The data would not be sent via email, but would stay in the forum.

  9. “stay in the forum” – I’m not sure if by this you mean it is not “sent” anywhere but stays within the forum process. Anything can be copied either by simple copy but also by viewing source or taking a screen shot so for me the question is whether a forum would be useful. Thinking it can be private to me is an impossibility.

    There are “private forums” where groups of people with common interest and an established level of trust interact but even those have no guarantees that what is said there will stay there.

    1. Janis: I didn’t mean to say the information couldn’t leave the forum–just that it wouldn’t be emailed to the members of the forum like a listserv. At the end of the day the forum would be like a conference–where ideas are shared freely between travel enthusiasts. We’d need forum rules, and one of those would be that I’d ask that the information not be made public. In calling it private I mean to say that the forum would be password protected and not accessible by non members.

      What other thoughts do you have as to the feasibility of it? I’m still weighing the options and not sure if we should proceed.

  10. I’d be interested but like others say, it would be very difficult to restrict access to information. The only effective way would be to build in some type of consequence/incentive structure and have a way of tracking it (no easy feat). Some type of monetary deposit to join (which you lose if you break the no sharing pledge) might work. I have no idea how difficult something like that would be to enforce.

  11. One thing I was wondering: if you were to create a forum, then what level of secrecy would you want? Would you just mean no sharing deals publicly on blogs and Flyertalk, or also no sharing deals verbally with friends and immediate family?

    Such a private forum would be nice, but I personally would want to be included.

  12. It would be nice to have an area where “taboo” subjects can be discussed without cyphertext. Things like fuel dumps – I’ve been semi-active in the FF / MR / Points / Travel blogs for almost two years, and I *think* I understand the concept, but ask and the answer is usually, “Go wade through a few hundred posts on FlyerTalk and you’ll figure it out.” I value my time more than that.

    I suppose for that to work, though, you’d have to figure out how to keep the airlines’ spies out…

  13. You should strongly consider making a private forum. Yes, things will get out, but your loyal followers will get info first – hopefully before the rest of the internet makes it public.

    Example – I have been a member of SlickDeals since 2002 – It has gotten so overrun and away from it’s original intent/followers that it’s original value of finding true Slickdeals has long since “jumped the shark”.

    In the points game, I think US Mint Coins was an indication of things to come – MS is barely holding on and I feel it will not be long before those opportunities dry up.

    So, I’m in favor of privatizing key deals!! Then again, the bloggers have a vested interest in paid affiliated links!

  14. This is a great idea, but it would be very difficult if not impossible to implement restriction of the information presented. If you are OK with just distributing information to a limited pool of interested “Points People” that agree on the honor system not to redistribute in any form, then go for it. I think you should give it a try. If it doesn’t work you can always shut it down later.

  15. I would definitely be interested in a private forum. There needs to be a place where stuff is discussed openly. I have been following your blog for a few months now and I appreciate your style and value of time, which is something that differentiates you from the rest of the FF blogs. We need something more that flyertalk and a different approach to this subject. The issue will be how would you know if any of the people that sign up are not wolves if sheeps clothing (airlines employees pretending to be someone else to close up the opportunities). Maybe the requirement is all interested father together in a common central place (pick a city) and have a pow wow pledge commitment meeting where we all get to know each other and get comfortable in sharing knowledge. I wanted to compete the form above that gauges interest but I didn’t quite understood the scale (was 1 or 4 the “definitely interested option”?)

  16. I agree with the posters above – great idea but very hard to police the insistence that info stay within the Forum, Saverocity tried something that sounds very similar and it did not take more than a few hours (may even minutes) before angry mega-MSers figured out how to get into the PW protected post and read the riot act to Matt and those of us who thought it a good idea. In the end, Matt took it down. Your post seems to be flying under the radar so far but I’m not sure how long that will last.

  17. I am in favor of such a forum. The buy in concept is entertaining, but the punishment mechanism must be complex. We all put in 5k-10k points, and should an idea shared breaks on MMS frontpage (or some other blogging behemoth) then the points all go to charity. Granted this doesn’t prevent others from discovering the ideas, but at the very least keeps our mouths shut…and the deal lasts longer.

  18. Great idea to share ideas privately, Count me in.
    But what is really kept private anymore?
    That’s also my main concern, as it is with the others
    Although a hot tip could quickly be used by the members before a leak.
    That would be the real benefit.

  19. Milenomics, I have personal experience with this sort of thing, and it works well. Follow me @masonatkinson on twitter so we can discuss.

  20. Sounds great. If you come up with a “punishment” system, fine. But probably a system where you actually verify who the people really are would go a long way. And as long as everything is password protected and not accessible to search engines. Sounds like you’ve thought these issues through quite a bit already. I’d definitely be keen to be part of it.
    I love the idea of being able to talk to someone who is geographically close. There must be MSers out there near me because of how quickly the ice cream runs out when the drug store gets a shipment in. But I’ve never met any of them, online or in person. The funny thing is, if a deal was REALLY good, you’d be hesitant to even share it with a few people. But there’s a lot of scope there for something that’s sustainable with a handful of people working it, but not the entire internet.

  21. As @bluecat, I’m especially interested in local information, in my case, SEA (although I will be in PDX in a couple of weeks). I have a few people I keep somewhat in touch with, but a central focus would be a great boost

  22. I think you do this better than most, and find most of what you post to be quite valuable.

    What kills a place like flyertalk is the non-stop posting of the same questions over and over again. The same information shared here would likely be there too, just buried under 3000 stupid questions. Honestly, for this to work as you intend it sounds like, most questions would need to be banned.

    Second point, I am able to run a couple of the lesser known deals hard. They are there on flyertalk if you look long enough, but because a blog never ran them, they work amazing. To that end, some of what would be posted in the forum would be very beneficial to your blog readers. How would the decision be made of what was posted in the forum is fair game for your blog? All forum participants would need to be able to trust each other, and you.

    1. Paul: you bring up a good point–What I post on Milenomics (the blog) and what gets posted in the forum would really need to be different, otherwise I’m doing what I’ve asked everyone else not to do (publishing secrets). Up to this point Milenomics (the blog) hasn’t been about publishing standard techniques to Manufacture Spending, so I don’t think that will change. There’s plenty of other stuff out there to write about. But that is a central concern of mine that I am worried a bit about as well. It might be enough of a negative to stop the idea of the forum from happening, and I appreciate hearing it from someone else.

  23. Recently I tried to figure out mms locally and when traveling been hit & miss depending on my travel spot. I believe if we can find good local locations to cut the time & expense of mms would help out everyone.

    So to throw out good ideas with out mass exposure can be great to work with or fine tune.

  24. I think at the very least a private board would allow people to post without fear of getting some 18 year old (I always imagine youth is the problem) into debt. Someone who jumps first and asks questions later or is not detail oriented.

    I just got a PM from someone who bought 30k in VR and now wants to know how to liquidate them. I’m pretty new to the travel and point method. I stuck to earning cash and working money makers or earning free diapers when my kids were little, same game different goals, nice how CVS has been there for me at every stage of my ms life. Still I get PM asking all sorts of basic questions and honestly, they scare me. The last thing I want is to have anyone get into debt.

  25. Me again.

    I love your format, the stuff you post about is what I found missing from the general blogosphere. Common sense, how to plan, and how to think in terms of real value rather than crazy inflated redemption values that never apply to my travel style.

    I use a demand estimate and track everything in a spreadsheet.

    1. Haley,

      Thanks! That’s exactly what I’m trying to do with the blog. Feedback like yours lets me know I’m not crazy 😉

  26. No, you certainly are not crazy. I value your blog quite highly. In fact, I discovered it at a rather busy time in my life and when things quieted a bit I went back and read every post, in chronological order. Even now I refer back to selected posts as I need to info for a current points or awards project. Keep ’em coming!

  27. Forum is a terrible idea. Good info gets leaked too easily if you don’t have personal relationship/trust. I’ve joined a few other “private” boards but info is constantly leaking. As such, keep the good stuff to myself and trusted friends.

  28. I can understand worries about the dissemination of information that is otherwise most useful when it is off most people’s radar screens. I’m very private about sharing such information, but I will confess that I am a noob at this stuff and unlikely to discover many deals for others to take advantage of. So, regrettably, I think I’m a bit of the kind of person that makes people leery of forums…those who are still learning about possible angles but not generating a lot of new angles for others. I’m not sure how to remedy that other than continuing to grow in sophistication, but thought I should own up to my meager stature in this discipline.

  29. There are already several such sites, as I’ll occasionally see a bit of traffic from one of them on my blog, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for several more.

    I’ll occasionally find something that looks promising, except I’m afraid to blog about it lest it blow up and get killed. Other bloggers are no doubt in the same situation. If anything, it’s getting harder to avoid overexposing deals–I was a little annoyed with the spoonfeeding going on with January’s Best Buy promotion, I think that was the first time I saw that for a Best Buy deal.

  30. Would be interested in all aspects that have been discussed so far. I have far more PMs on Flyertalk than actual posts but would be more interactive if I had less fear about inadvertently bringing attention to something that should be below the radar. How to “screen” people will probably prove challenging hoping that the people that sign up are doing so for legitimate reasons

  31. Love the idea but like others I’m not sure there’s a way to keep secrets in this day and age. I’ve chatted with you on fb, but it’s very labor intensive to conduct multiple parallel conversations.

  32. I agree with Laura, but unlike Laura I didn’t save much of the previous material. It would be great to refer back to older material.

  33. You should do it and probably personally Skype with interested members or find some sort of way to know that you’re only letting committed people not a blogger with a fake name, iI would like to have people that will also share not only take from the forum. I’ve had some ideas work for me in the past in the Denver area but when I go to Tx the MS game changes and having a forum like that would really be helpful for those of us that travel and don’t know the cities secrets. Great idea you should go for it!

  34. If enough people bring interesting ideas/unpublished information to the table, and there is a way (or code) of keeping it within the walls, it would be beneficial. That being said, it’s very hard to control the flow of information. I would give it a shot though.

  35. I missed your sign-up while taking my kids to Orlando on an amex daily getaway deal from last year. I am beginner-mid level point chaser and would love to be included.

  36. yes- a private forum is a great way to make information available but at least slow down the inevitable spread that ultimately leads to shutting deals down. The question that always arises is- who is allowed access to the private forum and how that should be determined. I like the approach that Matt (Saverocity) uses for member access to the level 2 forum. That said, your site offers some of the best and most valuable information out there, so either way you go- your devoted readers can’t lose!

      1. You are right Sam. I was just curious.
        The best place to find this “private” info is by digging it up in miles long FT thread or Reddit thread(s)

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