Having been locked out of my beeradvocate account for nearly four weeks now (and only having received the most curt reply from Todd about the situation plus having one subsequent email totally ignored), I am coming around to the realization that I may never be back on the site ever again. That resignation leaves me with very mixed feelings indeed, and it seems fitting (and will perhaps be a little cathartic) to air some of those feelings here.
To see a little of the background that I posted earlier, see My beeradvocate.com account status.
If you read the title of this post expecting a vicious tirade against the Bros. and BA in general, then you’re going to be severely disappointed. I feel no personal grudge against Todd & Jason, how could I? I’ve never met them. Nor do I wish beeradvocate.com ‘the web site’ any ill-will. Given the amount of time that I spent there in the last 7+ years it would be somewhat churlish to do so. However, it is true that I am feeling a definite pang of sadness, which will of course, eventually pass.
OK, so how do we sum up what this has become? I suppose it would be good to start at the beginning and give some history and context to what has transpired in the last couple of weeks.
I first found beeradvocate in late 2003 when I was drinking a Chimay Blue. I was looking for information about the correct (and precise) serving temperature for the beer. I never found that data but I did come across what looked like a great little beer community online. At the time that I registered I already had well over 20 years experience of drinking high quality beer in England and had literally scores of continental trips to France, Belgium, Germany and the rest of Europe in my under my belt. I had umpteen beer reviews in hard-copy form, a decent beer library and of course an understanding and cultural background that was uncommon amongst my local brethren. At the time I’d been living in beer starved Atlanta for nearly 4 years, and I was beginning to get more than a little upset with the beer situation here; beeradvocate.com offered some kind of hope.
Over the course of the next 7 and a half years or so I contributed well over 300 photographs, over 300 place reviews, over 2600 beer reviews, probably in excess of 10000 posts, became a founding subscriber to the magazine and bought several pieces of merchandise. I always promoted BA at every opportunity, simply because I believed that BA was the best resource on the web for American based beer folk – I still think that.
In that time it is true that I had a few posts deleted, and on a couple of occasions I had beermail exchanges with Todd where he asked me to tone it down, but I was never banned, never put in time-out and never asked to leave. Given my reputation on the site, most people would be pretty surprised to hear that my time on site actually had very little drama indeed. Not once did I ever consider any of my posts to be trolling – not a single one – and up until very recently Todd literally agreed. He wrote to me telling me SPECIFICALLY that he did not consider me to be a troll. In recent times though that has clearly changed. It means one of two things; either the BA community has re-defined trolling itself (and Todd agrees), or Todd has re-defined it for himself. Both are possible. To me, Todd seems to have become increasingly tetchy about BA in general. The copious number of locked posts sit as evidence of that, and he appears to be pressurized by the gilded cage that BA may have become. I believe that at least one of the reasons for my ban is the fact that sensitive BA people have increasingly complained about my posts and he simply doesn’t have the desire, time and patience to deal with their bitching. The easiest solution by a mile is to remove me rather than to deal with the complaints. I truly believe this is the reason that dissenting opinions are simply no longer tolerated at BA. There has been a bizarre recent track-record of posts being locked and removed at the slightest sign of dissension. BA has never been a democracy, we all know that, but the degree to which control has been wielded of late is really anti-debate and anti-conversation (an example of which is the manner in which Todd & Candice have asked people NOT to reply to their beermails). A shame.
It’s also patently clear that a couple of things are generally not tolerated over there anymore;
1. A genuine, passionate difference of opinion – a colossal number of threads are being edited, locked or removed these days whenever the content starts veering away from the party line, and
2. A BA member, either by design or accident, developing a certain ‘reputation’ or ‘status’ within the community (they are just not keen on individual’s gaining notoriety for ANY reason). Posts which have themes like, ‘Which BA…..?’ tend to be give short shrift, and they definitely appear to be against the idea that an individual member develops a personality within BA. Maybe this is an ego thing for them, I don’t know.
It seems to me as though BA has lost its’ punk roots, and has somehow become diluted by a combination of political correctness and a membership which has (and exhibits) a beer knowledge that is increasingly one that is a veneer rather than a deep and committed one. Of course, this is not BA’s fault and it is a reflection of the popularity of craft beer which is now reaching the masses somewhat. By definition, this has the effect of diluting the pool. Todd & Jason clearly have a somewhat difficult tightrope to tread. BA is their livelihood and in that respect they must protect and nurture it in terms of numbers. They cannot hope to keep it as an exclusive club if they want membership, page impressions and advertising revenue to grow. I understand all of that, and I really do hesitate to say they have ‘sold out’, but it’s sort of an inevitable consequence of the way things have progressed in the beer world in general and the way that beeradvocate has become ‘accidentally’ mainstream. It’s so much ‘safer’ for them to have benign posts and users than truly confront challenging issues. There is also a weird inconsistency over locking and deleting threads that has come to pass.
Of course I fully understand that BA doesn’t need *me* per se, but it does need people *like* me if it is continue to have a credibility amongst hardcore beer folk. That’s being eroded daily.
Going back to the great purge of 2007, far too many of the experienced and opinionated have been either kicked out or driven away. I suppose that one can speculate all day about why otherwise well-respected, knowledgeable individuals have left, and indeed circumstances may indeed vary from one situation to the next, but one constant in those situations seems to have been Candice. I have never met the woman so I wouldn’t dream of commenting about her personally, but in all my dealings with her (and the large amount of anecdotal evidence that I have heard over the years) she has been nothing but mean spirited, rude and extraordinarily unpleasant. Her acidic tirades have been personal (without having met me), and increasingly bizarre, including her tweeting on April 23rd 2011 that she “****ing hates me’ – strange since she doesn’t know me, but typical of her maniacal outbursts.
Perhaps it’s not just her, since she claimed later that day in a subsequent tweet that ‘we hate him’, presumably referring to Todd and herself or perhaps the collectively BA hierarchy! Anyway, she was right about one thing in her tweet above, i.e. that her calling for a boycott of the Royal Wedding was ‘shit’ – an extraordinary post that was full of odd insecurities about the establishment. More bizarre stuff.
Oddly, she followed up with the tweet below in response to another tweet asking why she didn’t just ban me. It’s odd because since between the time of her posting it and me being banned, no other controversy occurred other than me reply to a beermail of hers (apparently she dislikes receiving replies) where she had instructed me that I ‘was done’ in the thread and I said in a playful way (including emoticon) that I thought she has posted the Wedding thread just for me!
Maybe Candice is a really nice person, I don’t know, but the way she has presented herself to me has not suggested anything other than quite the opposite. Most (if not all) of her communications are ones that come spitting venom and without grace, humor or spirit of conciliation. The spelling shambles that usually accompany them might have come from a ferocious, hasty battering of the keyboard rather than pure ignorance, but either way they undermine her position. Like others have experienced in the past, once she gets her talons into you there is no stopping her vicious attacks. I DO have one thing to thank her for though; before her wacky Royal Wedding tirade I had no intention of watching the event – I am a respectful subject, but by no means a ‘royalist’ – but as a direct result of her BA post I made a point to watch, was delighted that I did, enjoyed it immensely and was even more proud than usual to be British. Magnificent stuff that could not be replicated anywhere else in the world! I owe her for provoking me into that, I glad that so many millions agreed with me and not her.
Over the course of time no doubt news of this this post will get back to Todd and Jason and perhaps they will read it. Maybe they won’t. I guess that if they do they will disagree with much of what I have said, and it will probably result in my permanent expulsion and deletion from BA, but I’m prepared for that but hope that if they decide to remove my presence completely that they take the high road and also delete all of the beers, places and photographs that I contributed as well.
For me, I can only sleep well at night if I have been true to myself on my own terms. Either way I wish them no malice, but I’d encourage them to reign in Candice whose outbursts have become a real issue for the site. Her role in there being a significant number of experienced and committed users now no longer on BA is a pivotal and central one.
I’d like to publicly thank the somewhat enigmatic Jason (I secretly suspect he has a sense of humor and agrees with me more than he can publicly do so), and Todd for their hard work with BA and tremendous commitment and support for the beer community. The site gave me countless hours of entertainment and I even made a few acquaintances along the way. I owe the Bros. a debt of gratitude for that, it’s just a shame that they didn’t feel the same way about my very significant contributions over the years (at the time of writing I had achieved the pretty rare and revered, ‘Grand Pooh-Bah” status, which as BA itself defines, is “a measurement of what a user puts into BeerAdvocate”).
Anyway, there it is, it was fun while it lasted and I’m glad that I had the relationship with BA that I did – I wouldn’t change a thing from my point of view. Given the choice I’d still like to be able to go back since it’s a great place to record my reviews and it’s so much easier to research when being logged in and I still regard BA as a great resource, but I would most likely never post in the forums again since posting would have to be on my own terms and the unpleasantness associated with a Candice offensive is simply not worth it. In addition there’s just no way I would be happy censoring myself over the definition of session ale, beer culture in the south, limited release beer and a host of other subjects. On the old BA, such censorship would have been scoffed at as being totally unnecessary and derided with a resounding “hell yeah!”.
I hope for the Bros. sake that BA rediscovers its punk-based irreverence, and control of moderation is wrestled back into the land of the sane. If the truth be told, my overwhelming emotion right now is one of sadness as it seems such a shame that what once was such a great thing should have ended this way. If that last sentence sounds like one that one might be applying to a real-life relationship then I feel it is fitting. My love affair with BA came to end in a bitter way, and largely because of another woman.