Barry, perhaps this should be a PM, but I like things out in the open if possible.
When I (and I know Ramona does the same...can't speak for anyone else) read the site, I generally go to 'new posts', and I don't pay much attention to what particular sub forum I'm reading or contributing to (I do try to keep anything going into the commercial forum relevent to commercial beekeeping/beeekeepers).
It seems that the sponsered vendors are generally using their sub-forums to advertise...and when they are, even if I don't know what sub-forum I'm on, I know it is an advertisment....and it's clearly not a regular beesource discussion.
Today (you know the thread), an open question was asked by one of the vendors in their own forum about why not use a particular treatment (the equipment to apply this treatment is what they 'vend').
I answered as I would anywhere...concerns about safety (which are real), pointing to MSDS for the substance, pointing out well known negative effects of the treatment, concerns about customers being mislead about the legality.....
Obviously, the vendor didn't want this on his subforum and deleted these posts which were made in good faith and designed to contribute to the discussion of the question posed.
The problem is that these sponsored subforums appear to be on equal footing with the freely shared info from the rest of the BS community..but obviously they are different.
I wouldn't for a second want to host a discussion of our book (on BS or on my own website) where I could simply delete criticism I didn't like...and certainly the discussions of our book here on BS haven't been without criticism. The people that would be problematic enough to have to moderate (from my perspective) have mostly already been banned by you on the site...it would be for real reasons.
I don't know what to suggest, but for those that use the site like I do (with the 'new posts') I think the sponsored forums are problematic because they have a whole different set of standards from the rest of the site.
Perhaps they should only be for advertising and not for discussion? Perhaps they should come up separately when viewing new posts? Perhaps they should have some kind of visible warning?
In any case, thought I would mention it...I don't think advertisements should look like forum posts to the user.
“Siri, tell Amazon to drone me a beer.” -Homer Simpson