…yeasty, beery-colored memories….
…of the way we were.
In looking for an email from a particular organization, I came across this 2012 response I wrote to an old HBD contributor, reader, and friend writing an article on beer and social media. (I’m leaving off the name as I did not ask permission to post their query – I actually do respect all y’all’s privacy.) To wit:
Writer: Once upon a time, HBD was the most advanced form of “social media” out there… I am writing a feature on Beer Networking for the <Identifying Info Redacted> and was curious whether you miss “the good old days” when everything took place via e-mail. How do you feel things have improved (or got worse?) My deadline is in about a week, thanks in advance.
Me: In terms of the modern-day internet, the HBD is a museum piece. Email was long ago supplanted by other web media methods. Relative to that change, there is a vast quantity of information available to brewers today with an immediacy of access with which a daily mailing list could never compete. On the bad side, little care is required due to both the wealth and the immediacy of these information sites, and the same questions are asked over and over, from site to site, and even within the same topic on a single site. The “signal to noise” ratio – a metric in which the HBD had always been top-notch – is pretty dismal in most of these new forums. Questions asked on a modern internet discussion site will usually garner tens to hundreds of answers, some very valuable, some absolute draff – and the person asking the question is left to sort it out from among the competing voices. Here, too, some sites are better than others in terms of that S/N ratio. And, unfortunately or otherwise, many of the better S/N sites are run, either openly or surreptitiously, by folks having a financial interest in what answers the poster eventually sees.
Do I miss the old days? Sometimes. It was neat to see something you had your hands so deeply into thrive. It was great to have an active role in promoting and influencing the craft as well. On the other hand, as quirky as the internet was back in the HBD’s prime time, the frequent service outages used to drive my blood pressure through the roof while, usually in a panic, I worked with its various ISPs to restore the service. Then came the onslaught of SPAM, and the moderation task became more than one person in one time zone could contain. The technologies developed and employed to combat this SPAM also, in some cases, throttled legitimate traffic. It was around this time that we began to see the traffic to the HBD dwindling, and the traffic to web-based resources begin to surge. The rest is, as they say, history…
Frankly, I miss the community that the HBD represented, but I cannot say that I find myself jealous of the continued evolution of brewing on the internet. The HBD list still exists; the server is still running, and the content generated over its ~26 year run is preserved in the archives. Occasionally, a conversation will break out on the email list and it will be alive again for a brief moment – it is much like watching the dying embers of an abandoned campfire; the remnant of a community that stayed awhile, but had to move on. Some day, those embers will grow cold and the HBD will blink out of existence – but the vast collection of information that made the HBD what it was will, I hope, be preserved.
How apt it was.
OK, enough pining for halcyon days of old. I am still working to get the Recipator back up. I know it has been a long, long time in the making, but this is volunteer work, and my personal and professional lives have been taking precedence. But, as GOT fans are used to hearing: winter is coming. And I am back in the US and at home after quite the long time.
I have a “test bed” set up on a local server running the same OS as our VPS (but without the VPS Management software and the restrictions on root access) upon which I intend to rebuild Recipator to find out where it is going awry with the VPS security model – unfortunately or otherwise, their logs are fairly useless.
In the meantime, I am investigating other modes of throwing the recipe-sharing community a bone to chew on whilst they await the freeing of their recipes from this overlong, unfairly imposed imprisonment.
And, as always, if anyone knows where Mark Riley got off to, he could probably set this ship aright in minutes, relative to my futzing around with the code. After all, writing C is not like riding a bike, and the last time I actually wrote a functioning C program was back in University, more than a few decades ago – not to mention that it’s always more fun trying to decipher someone else’s coding style…