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Robin Garr

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Why are we here? What's this all about? (Long, ruminative)

by Robin Garr » Wed Mar 22, 2006 1:39 am

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.
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Bill Spencer

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Giving it a try

by Bill Spencer » Wed Mar 22, 2006 2:15 pm

%^)

"Arrived" yesterday by invitation ... have had a couple "back-and-forths" with a couple of long time WLDG members about this new "board" ... want to also be honest with you, Robin ... while a lot of things about this new "board" are different from the Netscape "board", I'm still stuck on the threading issue as to how much I'll be around and how much I will end up participating ... I did NOT vote with my feet on the Netscape "board" ... when you moved from MySpeakersCorner.com to Netscape, the board, IMHO, turned from FUN to WORK and from EASY to HARD ... to me, the ability to follow and participate in any discussion falls hard on the "boards" ability to thread the discussion so that you can see HOW the discussion is going and WHO is participating in the discussion WITHOUT having to scroll through the WHOLE time/dated discussion and reply in a different "window" to each part of the discussion you want to participate in ... wordy but hope you understand what I'm trying to say ...

I look forward to saying hello to old friends and having FUN again talking about wine and food !

Clink !

%^)
"If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went !" - Anonymous

Napa is for auto parts, Paso is for wine !

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Lemon Recipes - http://www.associatedcitrus.com/recipes.html
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Robin Garr

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by Robin Garr » Wed Mar 22, 2006 3:01 pm

Bill, glad you're here!

I hear you on threading, and remember, for many, many years we boasted that WLDG was threaded and that the other sites that lacked threading were all lame. :)

But the bottom line is that the old forum software wore out, and it just wasn't safe for us to use it any more. The CompuServe software is different enough that a lot of people couldn't stand it - hence, this alternative forum. I wish it could have threading now, and we really will add the thread mod in the future once Randy is convinced that it's secure and stable. But I do hope you'll give it a try. Your lemony point of view adds significantly to our food (and wine) discussions, and given that we're doing this to meet a lot of the software complaints way more than halfway, I hope you (and others) will come back at least partway to meet us.
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by John Tomasso » Wed Mar 22, 2006 3:53 pm

Bill, I will add that I have used this software quite a bit elsewhere, and through the proper use of quoting, it is very easy to follow the flow of the thread. It just takes a little getting used to.

I hope you stick around. It's good to see old friends.
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by califusa » Wed Mar 22, 2006 6:55 pm

Smart decision, Robin.

Best of luck here in the new digs. 8)
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François Audouze

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by François Audouze » Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:33 pm

I have read this general message.
I would be happy to know better which are your intentions as I would like to see how it fits to my own intentions.
So, if you allow me, I will give some ideas about my intentions.
Having managed big companies, collecting wines was a way to abstract me from the daily pressure.
And I have had the chance to open a great number of great wines covering more than 200 years.
And, while collecting old wines, I have never sold any wine, as it would be as if I betray my wines if I sell them.
So, being in front of an important amount of great wines, I decided to create dinners in order that my wines are drunk.
I will make tomorrow the 68th dinner within the official form that I have created, which will represent roughly 680 bottles (average of age around 50), as during a dinner, 10 people drink 10 wines.
Even if it is significant, it is a water drop compared to the problem I have to let my wines be drunk. And I never stop buying as it is the disease of every collector, whatever the product is.
To be known, I have built a web-site, and I went on the forum Bordeaux wine enthusiasts. Very rapidly, the pleasure to tell my stories was above the will to find people for my dinners. And I made friends with several contributors.
For the last 6 years, I have written a bulletin on every adventure with wines, and I am now at the issue #173. As it has four pages, it makes a great data base. So, I made a blog, which has already more than 700 subjects, which cover all the wines drunk in the last 6 years. If you type 1919 or 1828, you will find wines that I have drunk.

As I have met many people having old wines, who do not know what to do with them, I have created the "academy for ancient wines", where people share their wines. So, the dinners are dedicated to my wines, the academy to the wines of other people.
Even if I ask for money to cover the costs, I do that as a hobby, with no will to earn money. I want that my wines are drunk.

As, to achieve that, I need to be known, I entered recently in the Mark Squires forum, where I was warmly welcomed.
And the question arose to me : should I create my own forum as I have a database which allows me to create discussions on many subjects (remember that I am not an expert, but that I have drunk more rare wines than many experts). But to manage a forum is an enormous job.

For the moment I prefer to talk, with very unusual stories to tell, like the last of my dinners, with a Yquem 1861 that I owned, for which Pierre Lurton allowed me to open it by a dinner that I hosted in Yquem's castle.

I live a curious adventure, not knowing exactly where I go, but knowing that I go.
So, I would be happy to know what the founders of this forum think that they want to achieve. Because it could help me for my own intentions.

I like to tell stories. I made a book, I maintain an active blog, but I do not know really what could be an efficient communication.
For which purpose : that old wines that I have are drunk with wine lovers, in the ultimate form of gastronomy.

So, if it is possible, could you explain your own motivation.
Old wines are younger than what is generally considered
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by Sue Courtney » Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:36 pm

Well I am glad I heard about this. Gee it's quick!
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Robin Garr

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by Robin Garr » Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:38 pm

Sue Courtney wrote:Well I am glad I heard about this. Gee it's quick!


Glad you did too, Sue! Now go tell Neil! :)
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by Sue Courtney » Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:46 pm

Did you forget to send my inviation in the mail? Anyway we gate crashed and Neil's here too now.
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by Robin Garr » Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:52 pm

Sue Courtney wrote:Did you forget to send my inviation in the mail?


I hope no one's feelings are hurt ... actually, as I said in another post, RR and I set up this forum on a lark, playing around with WLP's new fast servers just to see if it would run. We left it there for a few weeks, then for no particularly good reason decided to show it to about four other buddies. They showed it to four more, each of them showed it to four more, and suddenly we were doing "viral marketing" without even planning to.

I hadn't really decided how or if we would even use the forum, but I have enough sense to recognize popular demand when I see it. We're still in "soft opening" status, and at the rate we're going, I may just leave it like that for a week or several before formalizing the operation. Feel free to tell others, though, particularly the old NZ and Oz contingent who've fallen away of late.

Anyway we gate crashed and Neil's here too now.


And we're glad you both did!

Forum Chat will definitely stay on the Netscape forum, by the way, should you be around at 0230 GMT, about 3 1/2 hours from now.
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by Neil Courtney » Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:57 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
Sue Courtney wrote:Well I am glad I heard about this. Gee it's quick!


Glad you did too, Sue! Now go tell Neil! :)


Wasn't too hard Robin. Even if we are sitting with our backs to each other. Hope it all goes well here. And we have SMILLIES here!! :D 8) :!:
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by Neil Courtney » Wed Mar 22, 2006 8:01 pm

And besides that, we here in the nether regions of the Pacific can now choose to be on correct NZ Summer Time (even though this ended on Saturday night). It will work next year.
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by JeanF » Wed Mar 22, 2006 8:34 pm

Glad to be able to read again wldg - after nearly three months of inability of access from my pc to the netscape stuff, it is just great!

Best of luck Robin!
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Robin Garr

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by Robin Garr » Wed Mar 22, 2006 8:44 pm

The Fish wrote:Glad to be able to read again wldg - after nearly three months of inability of access from my pc to the netscape stuff, it is just great!

Best of luck Robin!


Thanks, J! Remind me again who you are, though? I don't recognize your fishy demeanor! :lol:

Oh, wait! Now I know! It's great to see you, old friend! Do you have a need to be "undercover"? On our own ground, we're going to try to get away from the "screen names" and back to real names as much as feasible, although of course as always we'll be flexible.
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Hi, y'all!

by Paul Winalski » Wed Mar 22, 2006 10:38 pm

Well, I'm here. (Now--that's no cause for the rest of you to run away!) :D

I've used this software, or a variant of it, elsewhere, and it seems to work out OK. All set to give it a whirl.

-Paul W.

P.S. - I love the Mouton-Rothschild-type slogan.
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by Jay Miller » Wed Mar 22, 2006 11:10 pm

Well, this is certainly an improvement.
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by Robin Garr » Thu Mar 23, 2006 12:15 am

Jay Miller wrote:Well, this is certainly an improvement.


Ya think? :oops:
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Bob Parsons Alberta

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by Bob Parsons Alberta » Thu Mar 23, 2006 1:25 am

Is there a way here to respond to a specific message? Like "all" or "george" or whoever? Plus is there a way of getting rid of those "emoticons" to the left here?[quote][/quote]
Code: Select all
 Hopefully someone can explain this quote, code stuff? Remember we are not all computer/confuser literate!!!!
I guess all will be explained in time eh. I am still wondering how we are going to set up WT 101?

Thanks very much from a cold, snowy, windy Alberta. I did have a nice glass of Madeira to warm me up!
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Made it!

by Paul B. » Thu Mar 23, 2006 1:31 am

Had to try it out for the first time! Of course, creating the custom avatar took a while ... ;)
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Bob Parsons Alberta

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by Bob Parsons Alberta » Thu Mar 23, 2006 1:43 am

Ooops sorry, looks like a practice post from me. Lol.
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Robin Garr

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by Robin Garr » Thu Mar 23, 2006 1:55 am

Bob Parsons Alberta. wrote:Is there a way here to respond to a specific message? Like "all" or "george" or whoever? Plus is there a way of getting rid of those "emoticons" to the left here?

Hopefully someone can explain this quote, code stuff? Remember we are not all computer/confuser literate!!!!
I guess all will be explained in time eh. I am still wondering how we are going to set up WT 101?

Thanks very much from a cold, snowy, windy Alberta. I did have a nice glass of Madeira to warm me up!


Bob, I'll try to give you a quick take on some of that. The short answer, though, is that we jumped into this without much planning. It just kind of happened, a few of us thought we'd try it, and it worked so well that we decided to pass the word. We're really still learning as we go, though, all of us together.

There's no way (and no real need) to point a message to a specific person. Using the "quote" button to start your reply will put the message to which you're replying into a box so it's easy to see what you're replying to. Most of the other buttons on the message display page are similar to the formatting buttons on the Netscape forum - you can click them to get text effects. To make a word bold, for example, just use your mouse to highlight the word you want in bold. Then click the [B] button once, and it inserts the necessary information.

The emoticons on the left are fun - click one to insert it into your post at the cursor position. If you don't want to use emoticons, just ignore 'em. They're no way as intrusive as all the ads on Netscape! :)

I'm sort of inclined to leave WT101 on the Netscape forum, since it's intended to be welcoming to newbies, and at the moment I envision the NS digs being a little more of a wine-education forum and this one perhaps a bit more advanced. But that could change, is certainly open to discussion, and I would certainly consider some kind of a Wine Boot Camp or whatever we want to call it as a feature on this forum, too.

Enjoy your Madeira, Bob!
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by Steve Guattery » Thu Mar 23, 2006 2:03 am

I'm glad to see that there's an alternative to the Netscape site. I had a terrible time with the software, which was painfully slow on all the machines I use. It also didn't always work correctly, even on the Netscape browser I run at home.

A question: is there any way to specify the width of the text display? It seems to be fixed, and is bigger that the width of the browser windows I prefer on one of the machines I use. I end up with scroll bars unless I expand the windows to take up more of the screen than I like. Thanks.
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Robin Garr

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by Robin Garr » Thu Mar 23, 2006 2:30 am

A question: is there any way to specify the width of the text display? It seems to be fixed, and is bigger that the width of the browser windows I prefer on one of the machines I use. I end up with scroll bars unless I expand the windows to take up more of the screen than I like.


Steve, I don't think there's a direct way to do it, but here's a possible workaround: Go to Profile, and somewhere near the bottom of the page, either right above or right below the avatars, there's a choice item for Styles. This lets you choose from a variety of "skins" that we've made available, and some of them may have a more narrow forum display. One for sure, called PhpBBlite (I think) is a very, very spartan setup that I'm certain would fit.

Glad you're here, by the way ... one thing about this BB setup, it seems to be very quick and easy to load and use.
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Bob Parsons Alberta

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by Bob Parsons Alberta » Thu Mar 23, 2006 3:25 am

Ok, I have been fiddling around here and now I cannot find the reply button. Hope this works! I am answering your post Robin where you explain some stuff. Have does one print off here? LOL eh.
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