The BBQ Brethren. Back to our roots.
A few weeks back, I took some time away from the forum. Actually, I was banned
, by our moderators who saw me starting to unravel. Without going into the crap that I was getting hit with from all directions, I will concentrate on here, our forum, a place that was started 7 years ago.
First off, understand this and make sure it sinks in
, this post, was NOT sparked by any one individual, any one instance or any one circumstance
, but by an ongoing and overall shift in our norm. Its collaborative observations of many, which includes myself, the moderators, and most importantly, include many of you. A shift which began many months ago, and may be as far back as early last year. This shift has been noticed by many of you, and some have taken the time to bring your concerns to me directly. Maybe it is
growing pains, maybe its jsut evolution, but it is
change. Change can either be ignored, which will cause a shift in the norm requiring new structure, or embraced, managed and controlled to maintain stability in future growth. As promised to those that have addressed this to me thru PM, we are going to move to get things back on track. We are embracing change, and controlling it. We cannot allow our backyard to turn into the typical forums, we need to get back to "The Spirit of The Brethren".
I will say up front now, that although things may seem to have calmed down since Jorge posted the thread regarding the derogatory use of Newbie, there are many additional things that need to be addressed. As a preemptive strike to those of you who like to use the the PC(political correctness) bandwagon, I suggest you jump off it and understand the difference between political correctness and common courtesy. What we are addressing here is common courtesy and socially acceptable behavior. Some may find my wording a bit harsh. It is not meant to be harsh, but matter of fact and to the point. (If you find it harsh, its probably guilt.
Whereas most will say things are now going fine in our yard, others say we're in the middle of cabin fever, or maybe it's a 7 year itch, or simply that we have grown and are experiencing growing pains. What I, and others have been noticing is a cultural shift of which I'm not supporting, nor will I, or the staff here allow it to continue or to complete. The moderating staff is burning out, some are at wits end and have taken a step back. What most of you see thru one pair of eyes, moderators have to look thru 2. Not only looking at what you post as the single post, but the effect it may have on the forum or its members.
What has been taking place are the very things that we ran away from 7 years ago, when we left(were run off by) other members of an established yahoo group. For those that have read, or know the story of "The Inception of the Brethren", you may see a common path in what is happening here. We left behind a group of folks who could not accept another group of folks that were "chatting in the chat room." They had problems with the varied personalities, the banter during the off season, and the new members who were being active and using the group for what it was designed... chat, conversation, and the free flow of information. A group of long time members there were slamming us, flaming us, belittling us. The small faction of 40 or so newer folks that were keeping that group alive were frequently jumped by the senior members who decided they didn't like, for whatever reason, the person or the post. What came out of that was the exodus of the newer members, the formation of this group, and the virtual death of that old yahoo group. All due to the lack of acceptance, tolerance and respect for one another.
This post has been drafted over several sittings, and is a somewhat randomly ordered series of issues that I'm going to address. And if anyone sees themselves in any of the issues, don't get pissy, start whining or start PMing me, but think about it instead.. and decide if we've changed, you've changed, or your just not accepting the inevitable change that comes with evolution. Go get a beer, because this is going to be long. VERY LONG.
Here's an outline of some of the stuff that needs to be addressed. Let's call it the commandments of 2010.
1 - To quote "We've gotten too big, it's not the cozy place it use to be.
Before I begin, Everyone play this, and listen to the words carefully. (No, its not mananana.) This clip was on our splash page, and it was perfect, defined who were are, and how we think...at least we used to. I take alot of pride in this group, and the unique feel it has compared to others. We didnt flame, dogpile or drag others down. The acceptance, tolerance and open minds were and must be the driving force behind us. However, in the past few months, it has changed for the worse, and we are going to change it back to how it should be.
- We have grown, accept it and embrace it and manage it. Its no longer the backyard, but a stadium.
- It's NOT ok to be a asshat.
- Let the Moderators Moderate.
- Accept the varied personalities, understand that we are all different.
- Appreciate those that ask and those that are willing to teach.
- Understand the circle of life in a forum.
- Remember when YOU were starting out.
- The Bullchit called "The Compification"
Also, Everyone please review the Rules section. We have modified and re-written some of our rules document to better fit our size, and where we are today.
Now, to address SOME of the issues.
No kidding. I've heard this one the most, "we've gotten too big", " I don't know anyone", "too many new names", "to many posts".. etc.. Well, yeah, there are 14,000 of us now. Well, it's also not 2003, it's not the backyard anymore, and there are more that 40 of us. With 14,000 members, those days are long gone. We are not and never again will be the little group of guys sitting around the redwood table for 6. But answer me this. Why
don't you know anyone? Maybe you haven't done anything to get to know the new folks? You probably stopped posting months if not years ago. When was the last time you answered a dozen or 2 questions over an hour?, or even posted a welcome to a new member? Why is it
that you don't know anyone? Maybe you see new posts, from new members asking old questions and you just close the thread? If any of those are true, no one's going to get to know you, or you know them if you just sit in the corner of the yard and look around. Maybe if you were out answering and bantering, folks would know you and you will get to know them, make new friends and grow the foundation of which this group started. Camaraderie.
2 - it's NOT ok to be an asshat.
No one can deny that this winter has been a record setter for cabin fever, but in 7 years here I have never see so many folks pissing on each other's shoes. I was always very cognizant of allowing not only the free flow of information, but also the free expression of one's opinions. I hold the moderators to one very important rule. Do not moderate on content.
Whereas this rule sometimes allows a person to be a total asshat, and quintessential jerk, we always remind each other(among the mods), that there is no rule against being said asshat. If the post falls within the rules, no porn, no flames, no personal attacks, etc.. it stays. This does NOT in any way give anyone carte blanc when it comes to antagonizing, flaming, being a jerk, calling folks out or just pissing on someone shoes for any reason, especially when it's done just for sport. So, because of some folks insisting on posting lame ass antagonistic comments, we have modified the rules to state:
NO personal attacks. NO attacks of any kind. Recognizing that everyone has, and is entitled to an opinion, if your opinion comes across as antagonistic, bad karma, insulting or hurtful, keep it to yourself. Any meaningless post that is nothing more than a negative comment of any kind towards a member, or the membership, or is strictly there to antagonize, will be edited or deleted. In other words, you are NOT allowed to be a jerk just to piss people off. Moderators do not have time to be putting out flame wars.
So, as u can see, it is no longer allowed to be a jerk to your fellow brethren. We are going back to our roots, where it was stated in our welcome section NO BAD KARMA. This will be enforced by the moderators. If they catch someone pissing on someone shoes, you WILL BE MODERATED, POST REMOVED AND TAKE IT AS A WARNING
. NO MESSAGE WILL BE SENT. Keep this in mind when u read about repeated moderating of any one individual.
Also, Moderators are NOT here for sport.
Some folks think its funny to put crap up that they know is pushing the line. Pushing the edge of the envelope, or continuously posting what YOU KNOW will be moderated needs to stop. Please realize that stuff like that takes time out of our moderators and admins lives. Especially in the case of posts that have been reported by other members. When someone uses the REPORT BAD POST button, it sends urgent messages to ALL the moderators and admins. This causes a rush to the computer to address the issue. I personally have left the dinner table, or rushed home from places to run damage control, and I know our moderators have also, only to find someone screwing around and pushing buttons thinking its funny. Its NOT funny!!.
It steals cycles from our lives, wastes our time, and takes time away from our families. So many folks have commented that we are are one of the best run forums around, and that's because the moderators take this stuff seriously. We would appreciate if other recognize this next time they feel like pushing someones buttons or testing the moderators just to see what they can get away with. Wheather it be for a joke, a rant, or a dogpile, someones going to report it, and six of us are going to drop what we are doing get pulled away from our lives to run damage control. Mods are burning out, getting cranky and are becoming less tolerant, all due to a select few who insist on ignoring or stretching the rules.
The first 2 sentences of our rules document state;
Ignoring or breaking any of these rules is grounds for deleting the thread or post.
Habitually breaking the rules of the forum will be grounds for deactivating membership.
No one is immune to this, regardless of tenure
or even subscription levels. If folk continue to habitually push the envelope, we will be forced to start using the banning and strikes system. From temporary(time outs), to permanent removal. 99.999% will not be effected, but if you are reading this and are saying, oh thats B.S., then chances are you are one of the few who test those rules and the mods patience. In the end, the moderators or staff will always win.
3 - Let the Moderators Moderate.
That is ONLY
the Moderators can moderate.
We appreciate and encourage all members to self
moderate, we also encourage experienced/tenured members to assist
new folks and guide them in our processes and culture by setting an example or affording a gentle nudge when its required. However, in the past 4 months we have lost 6 members, due to dog piling and folks playing self appointed moderators, chastising members, harsh responses, and at times flat out rude responses. ONLY
the moderators have the tools AND authority to address problems or issues. If you cannot effectively and appropriately offer guidance, dont. Instead, use the report bad post
button. It is a tool just below your avatar that everyone can and should use to report posts. This sends a broadcast message to ALL moderators. The issue is then reviewed and addressed if necessary.
We have seen it too many times one person publicly chastising a member for what is seen as inappropriate action or behavior, and a mob mentality forms and it turns into witch hunt or dogpile. So lets put away the torches and pitchforks and ONLY use the report bad post button.
4 - Accept the individual personalities.
14000 of us! The demographic spread is staggering. Each person comes with their own personality and there is no way everyone is compatible with everyone. Accept the fact that there will be clashes and deal with it. If any one person just rubs you the wrong way, USE THE IGNORE BUTTON! or just don't read their stuff. Do NOT
go on your own personal crusade to bait or torment the person. Don't throw the jabs, don't bitch to other members, and please don't drop a complaint in my PM box telling me how your quitting or leaving because you don't like someone. I hate the farking drama. What would you think of someone who comes to you at your party and says they are leaving because there is someone in the crowd of 200 that they don't like. WTF.. this isn't high school. IGNORE THAT PERSON, and enjoy the time with your friends. We are all adults, act like it.
5 - Understand the circle of life in a forum.
Yes, membership in forums have established trends and it is documented in other forums out there that are geared towards forum admins, owners, moderators etc. Forum members go thru lifecycles and here is a synopsis.
I - The new member: 2 types - New to the forum and its culture and new to the craft.
a - New member to the craft: These folks arrive and start rapid fire, asking questions, some of which have been asked 1000 times before. They are all over the forum, posting, chatting, they help where they could, the ask when they need. The term FAQ - Frequently Asked Question is not new and exists in every aspect of life, including here. They are not doing anything wrong. They are using the forum for what it is designed.
b - New member to the Culture. A lot of times folks come in here from other forums. They think they already know forum life and bring baggage from the other places they visit. In some cases, they are given some gentle nudges by established members or moderators as to our culture, while other times they may be jumped and dog piled by established members when they don't conform to the culture here.
So, in either case, we need to return to our roots, where we welcome new members and guide them thru the culture instead of kicking them in the ass and intimidating them. It was the Brethren way, and needs to be reinstated. Without the new blood coming in, things would shrivel up and die off.
Jorge recently posted about the disposal of the term "Noobie" when used in a derogatory sense. There's more to just using the term and slighting the new members. Without the new folks coming into our forum, and I am addressing the long term members here, who do YOU
think will be the backbones of our forum in a year or 2, when you're bored, tired and done answering all the same questions?
II - The second level members are the ones that have been here for a while.
They understand our culture, they are still very active. They are the ones that are in the forefront posting 20-30-40 posts a day if not more. They are first out of the gate to answer questions, they are posting photos, creating videos, creating threads just for the sake of sharing. There is still the excitement, the passion of the craft. They are the lifeblood of this forum. They are the ones who will keep us alive as the level one folks move up.
There is a hidden ugly side facing level 2 folks. The naysayers, which I will address later.
III - The level 3 folks. These folks have been here for years. They have seen it all, they have answered it all.
Although they are somewhat still active here in different ways, the passion is gone. No more photos, no videos, they don't even post those "hey look what I did" threads anymore. They let the level 2 folks answer all the questions and will chime in when they see something omitted, or feel they can offer something different. They are the elders, burn out is setting in but they are still well in the mix.
IV - Level 4. They come by to visit, send some PMs to friends, look at the forum index, see nothing interesting. Leave.
Post count changes by single digits monthly if at all. This is due to various things such as being totally burned out, or life has gotten in the way, or they found a new hobby that's in the forefront. Some found a new forum, fresh faces, fresh feel, where due to experience and smaller numbers, they again can be the big fish in the little pond. etc.
It's inevitable, no one stays at a forum forever. Some are gone with fond memories, and drop in to say hi occasionally, where others move on to other places and tell stories of how we over moderate, are to politically correct, or kiss up to everyone. It's all part of evolution and a lifecycle. We are a premiere BBQ forum with numbers and traffic second to none. We will be here today, tomorrow and next year, but we MUST retain our unique feel and charter.
I am sure many reading this will see themselves in one of those categories or somewhere in between. Not everyone will burn out, many of us are here to stay, and those that do burnout do it at different paces. What needs to be done is recognize the evolution and accept it in a positive way, possibly taking a break and making an effort to devolve to a more favorable level. It seems that as some folks get to the later stages they become like an ornery old man who feels an entitlement for being 90 years old, and steals the football from the kids playing football in the street. Them young whipper snappers. I'd prefer to be the old guy with the wisdom that the kids respect and come to for help, instead of lighting the bag of dog crap on my porch.
6 - Appreciate those that ask, those willing to learn, and those willing to teach.
It's what we do. Our charter as defined on the Welcome page:
Originally Posted by Welcome Section
• To promote the art of low and slow thru education, friendships, and camaraderie
.• To assist our members to produce the best BBQ they ever made, and thru this food, comes our ability to educate the public, our friends, our family, to what is REAL BBQ.
• To build the best knowledge base on the internet for BBQ.
• To maintain an open mind that there is NO ONE WAY, and No perfect cooker. We live by the fact that it is the cook not the cooker, its the passion not the steel, that produces great BBQ. We support and respect all techniques and all pits.
• To encourage those that have even the slightest interest or curiosity in Competition BBQ to get out there and compete. Our new and our veteran competitors are here to help you take that walk to the podium.
• Most important, To have FUN. To enjoy our craft, to enjoy our friendships and to build on the passion that lets us go to bed smelling like smoke and wake up with soot on our pillows.
We are students, we are teachers, we are mentors. When we coined the phrase "From the Backyard to the American Royal" it had a dual meaning. It describes our membership ,which spans the backyard cooks to the seasoned competitor. It also defines the journey of our backyard enthusiast who has the ultimate goal of making it to the American Royal. Here is the place they have chosen to learn and to find the folks who will accompany them on that journey. For those of you who have been here for 5 or 6 years, remember the jubilation we all felt when one of us got our first walk in a local contest, or when it was YOU, who thru the help of fellow Brethren were the one to take that walk. However, what I have seen recently is a shift, a shift where folks have belittled or abused those that are teaching, that are sharing, that are the ones doing what we are here to do. I have seen it in public and private.. How can it be justified to find fault in anyone who is sharing their experiences or knowledge?
As a sidebar, another pet peeve of mine regarding questions being asked by members;
The response "use the search button" to a person asking a question, in my eyes is pure bullchit. With a million posts to search thru, and some of the information being 7 years old, that search can and will pull up so many answers, it's impossible to tell what may or may not apply today. I for one will give a different answer today about a cooking technique that I may have given 3 years ago. My experience, my equipment, my techniques all may have changed. The correct thing to do is offer an answer, and possibly link back to some supporting archived information. But do NOT shoot the person down for asking the question.
Another related issue; To the naysayers(as mentioned earlier), the ones who do NOT answer the question, but pisses on the shoes of those who did, or worse, belittles or rags on people who ARE willing to share, who ARE posting photos, videos, documenting their exploits in painstaking details. I have seen comments like know it all, post pumper, here we go again, same old chit, etc
....all directed at someone who answered someone's question, or posted a photo, or started a thread that was not solicited, just because they wanted to share information.
WTF? People are getting pissy because information posted has been covered before.? Geez... that's why we left the pit crew and why we formed The Brethren. So we're free to discuss whatever we wanted regarding our craft. Free to share experiences, free to learn, to teach, or to just chatter. If someone randomly shares an experience no matter how basic, or mundane, and ONE PERSON learned something from it, then we, as a group have done our job. But to belittle those teaching? YOU
have forgotten when you were still learning and some simple techniques were astounding. You have forgotten when YOU
were the one jumping out of the gate to show off and share your new techniques. Unless YOU
are willing to take on the task, you have no right to chastise someone who does.
Some are at a stage where they feel they have seen it all. Ok, hat's fine, but the entire force of new members, those that are here to learn and absorb all they can, have not
seen it all. Conversely, the entire force of members still willing to participate, to mentor, to teach are living The Brethren Charter. They are the ones keeping things alive, as are the ones who are excited to view the photos, watch the videos, learn from those more experienced. We are
here to teach. Do not belittle our teachers. Instead, remember back when u were learning, or when you were teaching. Devolve and become again the mentors you once were. Share your experiences, no matter how boring you think it is, because I guarantee, there is someone out there that will appreciate it, and thank you for it. Don't become the ornery old man stealing the football from the front lawn. Which leads to the next one.
7 - Remember when YOU were starting out.
No reason to say too much here.
when you photographed everything?
when you were cooking those briskets, took the pictures, sliced it, and came in and posted all about the past 16 hours of your life?
when the first place you read in the morning, and the last place you read at night, was this forum, just to see what your friends were doing, or if they responded to your posts yet?
when one of the Brethren was staying up all night to cook a brisket, and you were here typing away keeping him company
when one of us was having trouble with a run away pit and stalled butts and we were here for hours walking him thru it in real time.
when a dozen of us stayed up all night while KCquer was at a contest freaked out and we walked him off the ledge.
when Jeff_in_KC was doing the American Royal as his first contest, and we walked that path with him.
I remember the phone calls, the emails... The camaraderie that did and still makes us unique. That's what "The Brethren" is all about. Friendships, respect, and that accepted fact that there is no one way.
Every one of us is here to share our unique individualized knowledge and make this the best BBQ knowledge base on the planet, and with that comes some of the best friendships you can make in a lifetime. It's time to get back on track folks. Go back and read our early threads, and see the formation of "The Brethren Spirit", and next time you feel so inclined to pop off because u misread a thread, or took it the wrong way, ask yourself if you really think people are here to piss on your shoes..
8 - And Finally, The Compification.
Not so much a problem, but something I'd like to get off my chest. Another sore spot for me is what's been tagged as The Compification
of the Forum. Or the Us v. them attitude between a small group of members.
The Backyarders v. The Competition cooks. Obviously, that term is something coined by some backyard enthusiasts who don't like the Competition chatter.. Well, too bad. Its ironic that the ones who claim it breeds the us v. them attitudes, are the ones breeding it
. We have been called a Competition BBQ site by some whereas others claim we cater to the backyarders. Yet to a few here, its been said that the competitors are taking over. Oh, get over it and look at the facts.
The stats speak for themselves.
- Qtalk, our backyard and general cooking section contains, as of this writing, 505,000 posts and 31,500 threads.
- The Competition forum contains 107,000 posts and 5,300 threads.
- Qtalk has nearly 50% of the overall activity of ALL FORUMS COMBINED.
- Qtalk is 400% more active than Competition.
Add to that that EVERY competition cook cooks backyard also, and the weight of the chatter swings solidly into the Backyard. So, basically, "The Compification" is a fallacy.
The difference is that the competitive cooks ALSO cook backyard, whereas many backyard folks do not cook competitively. Because of this, you see the competition cooks also posting in Qtalk, and yes, sometimes the answers cross over. As a competitive cook myself, sometimes competition techniques make their way into everyday cooking. This is not to say the answers don’t apply, but where as some folks would prefer Qtalk be sanitized of any comp techniques, its just not feasible or realistic when nearly all competitive folks cook backyard most of the time. It’s the nature of the beast, there's nothing that can be done. It is what it is, accept it.
So there we have it... many issues, that over the past several months have come to a head and NEEDED to be addressed. Maybe you can call this the state of the brethren, but i would prefer to see it as reinforcing our long standing direction. Hopefully this is all we will need to realize where things were headed, and fro both membership and staff to acknowledge the issues and be aware. Spring is here and I am sure we will find new outlets for winters frustrations, but these are now out on the table and we will be moving on them.
Sorry for the dissertations, but something needs to be done to restore our culture before it gets out of hand and we become nothing but just another BBQ forum. These issues were a collection of things that needed addressing, and much of this is based on member feedback, not only our staffs observations. Our approach at the start of this realignment will be passive. I leave it up to you folks to do the lions share to get us back on course. Self moderating, self policing, and for the established members to guide our new folks with a gentle nudge instead of a swinging ax. The support staff will be taking some new approaches too, and hopefully our Sr members will be here to assist. If we cannot do this passively, we will follow up with more aggressive action and moderators will use all tools at their disposal, which will include placement into full moderation, and temporary and/or permanent deactivation of accounts.
We will be putting in new moderators with new blood to keep pace and enforce our rules. The moderators WILL be taking a more active and somewhat more aggressive approach in keeping things on track. No longer will the jabs and antagonistic remarks slide. We will no longer allow posts and comments that are strictly there to antagonize to remain, nor we we allow repeat offenders who insist on pushing buttons and pissing on shoes to continue their trends.
So, its up to you folks. We get back on track, resurrect the Spirit of The Brethren, Our senior folks that have fallen out need to engage, our existing bloodlines continue what your doing; teaching, mentoring, sharing your experience, and our new guys, prepare for the obsession that has become a large part of many of our lives.