Four months ago we moved the WineLovers Discussion Group from its longtime home on Eric Stauffer's homebrew forum software on our servers to the Netscape/CompuServe forums. As I said at the time, there was really no alternative to this, for several reasons that we discussed in detail at the time and that, upon request, I'll be glad to cover again. In short, though, the old software, as excellent as it was, had begun failing us in security and in reliability. An invitation from CompuServe (which was coincidentally re-branding as Netscape) to take over their Wine Forum (which I had proudly served a decade earlier, before founding the first iteration of WLDG) offered what looked like the perfect opportunity to move to robust servers, partner with a strong corporate effort, shed the not-insignificant costs of hosting a very busy forum on my own servers, and retain considerable autonomy as a CompuServe/Netscape "business partner."
Frankly, in many ways, this venture has been a substantial success. We've done what CompuServe wanted, and what I wanted, by creating a credible online community that has participated actively in the system's promotions and brought in substantial traffic, including an ongoing stream of new "eyeballs" that are Netscape's goal. Management is happy and I'm happy, and it should be clearly understood that this new venture does NOT mean that I am closing the Netscape WineLovers Community. I am not, and I hope that many of you will continue to join me in participating there as well as here. More about that as we go.
But in one way that has been very disappointing and even painful to me, the new forum has failed. It has failed in that, while becoming a model of a Netscape community, it lost a lot of the soul and spirit that made the WLDG what it was for so many years. That loss took the form of way too many of our longtime forum regulars and online friends leaving, either because they felt the software was simply not acceptable to them or, in some cases, feeling that arguments over the software and the way we administered it changed the tone of the forum in a way that no longer made it a pleasant place for them to visit.
I'll take the blame for this, and I will make no effort to offload it on anybody else. Frankly, I was starting to feel it myself, and as I've often said before, I've run these forums since the start - really since joining the old CompuServe forum staff back in the middle 1980s - because it's fun and gives me a reason to be excited about turning on the computer in the morning. If that stops, then why keep operating forums?
I don't want to lose that. So, after a lot of serious thought and a fair amount of discussion with folks I trust and have come to rely on for advice, I have decided to reopen the WLDG as a separate, independent, free-standing forum. With good technical advice, we've chosen the open-source PhpBB software (and yes, it's a "board," I'm over that) to host the new forum, rather than going back to the old software, for the simple reasons that the security and database error problems are still there. (Aside, no, this forum is not currently "threaded." There are technical reasons why we are reluctant to install the PhpBB "threading mod" immediately - we're not convinced that it's ready for prime time, and feel it's better to get the community running first, then start working on enhancements. But know that it's on our list of goals.)
How will having two forums work? Frankly, we're still figuring that out. But here's my current vision, in a few quick bullet points.
* WineLovers Community on Netscape (WLC) continues. I'll operate it pretty much originally planned, as a wine, drinks, beverages and all-good-things forum within the Netscape communities, participating in their promotions and doing my best to lure in newbies from the universes available through the Netscape and CompuServe services and through WLP and my Wine Advisor E-letters. I'll live up to my contract with CompuServe and seek to exceed expectations. I'll be delighted if those of you who can stand the software will continue to join me there, at least now and then. It's a great place to bring wine education to a very large group of potential wine geeks who do not normally circulate in the much more limited populations of Wacky Internet Wine Personalities.
* For the WIWPs, we'll have the new, old and still and always WLDG, now on this software. It will be open to anyone with an interest in wine who is willing to abide by the simple rules that have always applied: Use your real name, or at least as much of it as your personal privacy zone permits; in any case, don't use a wacky "handle." Be civil. Don't spam, don't flame, don't make fun of people behind their backs. Behave as you would at a wine-tasting party in a friend's home or your own. Contribute your knowledge, your love and your passion for wine, and share it with others who feel the same, and function insofar as possible in a self-governing community of peers. In other words, continue (or, if you wish, resume) doing all the good things that made WLDG so good for so long.
* To some extent, I see a distinction emerging in which WLC/Netscape becomes the place where wine newbies come for information, wine questions and answers and an easy entry into wine appreciation. My instinct is to leave WT101 there (although I'm certainly open to discussion of having something similar here). Meanwhile, this would position the new WLDG as a bit more of a wine-geek community, with a tendency to house more advanced and serious wine-related discussions and tasting reports. But these walls are flexible, and I certainly don't see denying WLDG participation to an enthusiastic newbie, just as - I repeat myself - I deeply hope that at least those of you with a commitment to wine education will continue to participate in WLC. Bottom line, I don't see these as separate communities but as overlapping communities, and I think this is important.
* Initially, we'll do a sort of "soft opening" here. We've already begun by inviting a lot of old friends, both those who haven't been around lately and those who have, to drop in and start posting even before we've got all the wallpaper up and the pictures hung. For a while at least, we'll rebuild this place largely by word of mouth ... but it's certainly no secret, and I encourage you all to be active about spreading the word, to former WLDGers and like-minded wine geeks all around the world.
* Finally, for the record, I have decided to run no banner advertising on this forum. I've always felt that forums aren't a good place to host ads - not good for the regulars, who soon get bored and tune them out; and not good for advertisers, who don't get the value for their dollars that I can give them on our content sites. This forum will be subsidized by WineLoversPage.com, with the sincere if perhaps slightly naive business assumption that "what goes around, comes around, at least eventually." (Minor exception: Wine Advisor articles and other cross-posts from WLP may include banner advertising, Amazon.com and other affiliate links and Wine Advisor Premium Edition solicitations as an integral part of content. Naturally you are welcome to click on these.)
If you have any questions about the forum or policies, I'll be happy to take them, ideally by reply to this thread, but I'm certainly open to your queries by private message or E-mail if you prefer.
Last edited by Robin Garr
on Wed Apr 12, 2006 12:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.