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Username: davehouck

Post Number: 9208
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2010 - 8:39 am:   Edit Post

As was announced here a few weeks ago, Susan, Mica and I decided to institute some changes to our board. We felt this necessary as a result of what seemed to be an overriding feeling among the three of us, and among many, perhaps most, of our members, that the general tone here had become more confrontational and somewhat unsettling.

Back in December I started falling behind in my moderating duties; I was focused on other things and wasnít making time for the board. These ďother thingsĒ are not unimportant, and my guess is that going forward less of my time will be available to do moderating stuff here. However, thatís not the whole story.

In the past I have posted numerous times about how this place was a refuge for me, and of course many of you have posted similar comments. However, over this past winter I realized that our Alembic club no longer felt like a refuge for me. The atmosphere here, as many of you had acknowledged to me and to Mica and Susan, had changed.

In my view, the Alembic Club is an integral and important part of Alembic the business. There are lots of page hits here by non-members who are looking to learn about Alembic basses and guitars and preamps. If a visitorís first impression of Alembic is in a Factory to Customer thread where they get to see a beautiful custom order being built, then thatís helpful to Alembic the business. If a visitorís first impression of Alembic is in a Factory to Customer thread where our members are trashing each other, then thatís not necessarily helpful to Alembic the business.

This past winter there were two threads that delved into the issue of the time it takes for a custom order to be completed. Now I feel that it is completely understandable for this to be a concern when youíve invested a not inconsiderable amount of money or perhaps sold other instruments to finance the project. But itís a small shop and extraordinary events can impact a small shop. That said, even in the best of times, the process can still take time. And Mica and Susan know that stuff happens in your lives too. Mica discussed with me how she feels miscommunication on both sides in conversations between her and expectant owners can result in frustration for everyone. She and Susan are now discussing a significant change in how they report on the progress of custom orders that will hopefully alleviate some of the miscommunication about where instruments are in the build process.

It is, in my view, certainly understandable that one might wish to inform others that a particular company takes what that person concludes to be an inordinate amount of time to complete a custom build. But none of us ever fully knows what others may be going through at any particular point in time. Itís a small shop. Itís a small family run business. Itís a small family run business that focuses on high quality craftsmanship and extreme attention to detail. Part of placing a custom order with such a shop is hoping the place doesnít get hit by swine flu and that Northern California doesnít suffer a significant earthquake. So, while your wish to help others by informing them of what you perceive to be inordinate delays might seem to be reasonable, I would respectfully request that some consideration be given to the fact that none of us fully knows what others are experiencing, that none of us ever knows the full story, and that perhaps the front page (Alembic Basses & Guitars) of our clubís web site, so generously provided by our hosts at Alembic, is perhaps not the best place for expressing such perceptions.

They really are good people at heart, (as well as being the best instrument makers in the world). Mica really does try to be everything and to do everything for everybody. When you call on the phone or when you stop by the shop, they will spend as much time with you as they can. Itís who they are. They love people, and they love spending time with you, and they love building amazingly wonderful instruments for you. At Alembic, a small number of people have to handle a large and widely variable set of tasks. The same people who are scouting out the best woods and designing the artwork for inlays, are the same people that are doing the accounting, maintaining the website, and writing the advertising, are the same people that are taking the time to patiently explain to the platers why they are rejecting all of the pieces theyíve been waiting weeks for, are the same people that are hosting the dealers and the Alembic club members on their visits, are the same people that are repairing the server when it goes down, are the same people that are sitting by family members in the hospital. Itís a small shop, doing extraordinarily highly skilled precision craftsmanship.

Again, itís understandable that one can become frustrated that it can take a long time for an instrument to be completed. But it can be helpful just to remember to breathe.

Which gets me back to the overall topic of the change in atmosphere around here, and to the real point of this post. Over the past year or so, a number of long time members have been posting less or have stopped posting all together; and Susan and Mica and I have been told by many that itís because itís just not as fun anymore. The sense of camaraderie has diminished. Boorish behavior has disappointed many who have found other activities to focus on. Now obviously this isnít true of every thread. But many have expressed to me and to Mica and Susan how they have perceived that the board has changed.

So we had a long talk.

And we think that perhaps a few changes might be helpful.

As mentioned above, how Alembic reports to its customers on the progress of custom builds will change. There will be an effort to communicate more effectively on the progress of the build.

We decided to add additional moderators; and once we decided on that, we quickly mentioned three names, and agreed on all three. In retrospect, we could probably have mentioned dozens more, as we have so many dedicated and knowledgeable members; but we stopped at three. And fortunately, all three, Adriaan, Art, and Keith, decided to take on the challenge. Theyíve already been forced to sit through a number of meetings, and have put in many hours of preparation.

We want to suggest some guidelines on the issue of thread hijacking. Generally, thread hijacking as has been practiced by the members of our group has been a rather enjoyable aspect of our communications with each other. These diversions have led to some quite interesting places and are a part of our culture. There are, however, a few places where we think hijacking should be discouraged. We will mark these sections accordingly, and we hope that you will find our choices reasonable. These sections are Troubleshooting, Serial Number Requests, Wood Bank, For Sale, Wanted, Factory to Customer, Showcase, and Dreaming For Now. Additionally, the Introductions sections shouldnít stray from conversation with the new member who starts the thread.

When a build that is featured in the Factory to Customer section is completed, that thread will be closed and the instrumentís owner will be invited to start a Showcase thread featuring the newly completed instrument.

Posting pictures of other instruments in someone elseís Showcase thread or Factory to Customer thread will be discouraged. If a picture of a different instrument could be helpful in a discussion about the build in a Factory to Customer thread, then a link to the picture might be the way to go.

As mentioned above, I ďannouncedĒ that there would be rule changes a few weeks ago. Right after I made my post, in which I stated ďincivility and disruptive behavior will not be toleratedĒ, I found myself editing out the text of two posts made by one of our members. The response from club members to my post, and perhaps to the confrontation that followed that post, seem to indicate strong support for such a rule. Thus, we will try to respond more directly to boorish, disruptive, or narcissistic behavior, and to hurtful and thoughtless comments.

Weíve never banned anyone. It does seem that, human beings being human beings, there may be times that individuals may choose to act in ways that are overly disruptive to our community. Neither Susan, nor Mica, nor I want to ban anyone. But it does now seem to us that, given the dynamics of large groups of people of disparate backgrounds, congregating in the wilds of the world wide web, there may be times when it may be necessary to at the very least have a serious off board discussion when the need arises. We do of course have limited means with which to intercede in disagreements. We canít physically sit down with someone over coffee, as much as we would love to do anything we can to help.

I tend to think that we all have what I feel are ingrained habitual patterns of behavior that are difficult to overcome and that can at times find expression despite whatever our better natures may see in times of more clarity, ingrained patterns of reactivity that we have developed as we have sought to survive from early childhood through to this present moment. And, in my view, there have been examples of such behaviors here recently that have at times been overly disruptive for the group as a whole, and to a degree that we are simply not equipped to accommodate. It is my hope that all of us can learn to recognize those behaviors and reactive patterns within us that tend to cause us and others harm; and learn to work to lessen the power those patterns have on us, opening our hearts to the goodness, to the compassion for our fellow human beings, that dwells within each of us.

As mentioned above, a few weeks ago there was a confrontation wherein I deleted the text of two posts made by one of our members. As a result, it appears that the member has decided to leave the group. Personally, his departure is disappointing for me, as it seemed to me that he really loved being a part of our community. And as difficult a prospect as it may be, I do want all of our members to be happy here and to feel welcomed. It can be difficult to know what the best course of action is, it can be difficult to know how people will react, and it can be difficult to know how events will play out.

But here we are.

Several members have mentioned to me recently that they perceive a new change in the overall feel of our board, that things are now lighter, friendlier, etc. And Iíve noticed that change as well. And I have a good feeling about our way forward with the help weíll be getting from Adriaan, Art and Keith.

Once again, I want to thank you all for making this community the place that it is.
Advanced Member
Username: gregduboc

Post Number: 388
Registered: 11-2008
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2010 - 9:01 am:   Edit Post

Thank you, Dave.

Senior Member
Username: edwin

Post Number: 562
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2010 - 10:05 am:   Edit Post

Thanks, Dave! I know how hard these things can be, being a moderator for The Bottom Line. TBL went through a lot of similar changes, although we don't represent anyone's specific business interests. I think you and the Alembic crew are making the right move here and I welcome the new moderators. It's tough job and being able to spread the responsibility a little makes it much easier.

Thanks for all the effort and thoughtfulness you and the Wickershams, et al, have put into this! The Alembic community has been a wonderful group of people for a long time, since well before this forum, and it's been great to be able to have this "physical" location to hang out.

Here's to moving forward!

Senior Member
Username: mike1762

Post Number: 501
Registered: 1-2008
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2010 - 10:33 am:   Edit Post

Thanks! Things are already considerably calmer...
Senior Member
Username: jacko

Post Number: 2589
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2010 - 12:32 am:   Edit Post

Thanks Dave, and good luck Art, Adriaan and Keith. I sincerely hope you don't have much to do.

Advanced Member
Username: grateful

Post Number: 322
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2010 - 12:49 am:   Edit Post

Thanks Dave; it's a good idea to "spread the load" a bit. I'll try and be good!
Username: jon_jackson

Post Number: 37
Registered: 12-2008
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2010 - 4:13 am:   Edit Post

I believe that all the changes mentioned in the past few days are very beneficial and will help quite a bit. Thanks Dave, Art, Adriaan and Keith for your commitment to the community.
Advanced Member
Username: dwmark

Post Number: 261
Registered: 1-2005
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2010 - 7:59 am:   Edit Post

Thanks to all involved. And, all of you, if you need any help from me, let me know.

We are a diverse group, in a complex way--we all have a very strong common bond (these instruments and music), but come at it from different perspectives and, mostly, from different backgrounds. One of the things I like most (probably could say "cherish") is that I've made some close connections with folks whom, outside of this place, I wouldn't have thought to seek out and reach out to.

It's great that the hosts (including our Moderators) are spending the time and energy to let us be who we are as much as we can be, while ensuring that we don't crash this thing. And, I'm glad to see the support they are getting from The Community.

Senior Member
Username: paulman

Post Number: 424
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2010 - 9:02 am:   Edit Post

For Dave -

For Keith -

For Art -

For Adriaan -

Senior Member
Username: funkyjazzjunky

Post Number: 558
Registered: 5-2007
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2010 - 10:50 am:   Edit Post

Now that we have 4 Moderators, shouldn't we give long time Moderator Dave a title to distinguish him from the plain old (new) Moderators?

Grand Poobah
Moderator in Chief
Super Alembican

(Message edited by FunkyJazzJunky on April 02, 2010)
Senior Member
Username: hydrargyrum

Post Number: 777
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2010 - 10:55 am:   Edit Post

I expected the rulings to be much more harsh. Frankly, I'm glad to see that Dave won't have to be the only target for hard feelings related to moderation any longer. He's shown through with remarkable restraint in every instance of impropriety that I can recall, and proven to me more than once that he's got a lot more patience than I do. However, I for one welcome our new additional Moderating Overloads (in the style of Kent Brockman, for you Simpsons fans out there in TV land). My thanks to Alembic for hosting the best guitar site on the net, as always.
Senior Member
Username: bracheen

Post Number: 1542
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2010 - 1:14 pm:   Edit Post

Thanks Dave, I've been reluctant to participate lately. Looks like things may be back on track. I've never left but just haven't been posting much. These new guidelines, rules, or whatever they are called sound good to me.

As for Dave's title, to me he'll always be Moder Dave.

Senior Member
Username: richbass939

Post Number: 1085
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2010 - 9:00 pm:   Edit Post

Thank you 1) to all the folks at Alembic for all you do, 2) to Adriaan, Art, and Keith for stepping up to help out, 3) and to Dave for all you have done and mostly for who you are.
Senior Member
Username: dannobasso

Post Number: 1233
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Saturday, April 03, 2010 - 3:58 am:   Edit Post

Now that all this careful deliberation, thought, effort, and good will have been expedited on our collective behalf, it is my most sincere wish that all of us here express ourselves as we know we should.

Thanks to the new team for stepping forward and may your duties be joyous and stress free.
Username: alemberic

Post Number: 94
Registered: 6-2006
Posted on Monday, April 05, 2010 - 12:55 pm:   Edit Post

I also applaud the changes announced for our forum. I agree that more than a few "regulars" have disappeared from it (to the forum's detriment). I also agree the reason for their disappearance is most likely due to the lack of civility, forum "etiquette", and respect for others displayed by a very small but vocal and totally morale- crushing handful of posters.

However, I would take it further and say that another reason for the absence of the regulars-- as well as others who don't want to expose themselves to the antics of the "handful"-- is a perception that nothing seems to stop these antics, so why hang around.

There have been people in this forum--just as in the larger sphere of everyday life--who just don't respond to polite, gentle requests or even to stronger hints that their behavior is neither welcomed nor condoned. I have seen Moder Dave, as well as Mica, extend their hands in an attempt to embrace such people in total respect and unbelievably understanding tolerance, only to pull their hands back covered with the spit of these same people. These folks have chosen to ignore very charitable, well thought-out posting guidelines, the attempts of Dave to guide them, and eventually the sometimes not so subtle comments of other forum community members expressing their own opinions about the behavior--all to no effect, which results in the whole forum being in an uproar. At that point, in my humble opinion, it is time to act--and act firmly-- for the benefit and best interests of the entire forum, instead of catering to the self-interest and inflated egos of the few troublemakers.

I'm very hopeful about the "change in the atmosphere"-- the addition of more moderators, updated posting guidelines, and the apparent resolve of the Wickershams and Dave that this forum belongs to those who are here out of love/respect for and interest in all things Alembic, as well as for other forum members. Accordingly, I don't believe this forum is some kind of totally unstructured "cyber cafe", where the only rule is that there are no rules, and anything under the sun is open for discussion. I believe this forum, and access to it, is a privilege (not a right) which the Wickershams have graciously extended to all who come here. If someone does not want to respect this privilege then that is their choice. By the same token, the Wickershams and forum community can choose not to put up with this choice--and, more importantly, quickly and effectively do something about it.

Senior Member
Username: briant

Post Number: 411
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - 9:10 am:   Edit Post

It has been my experience that even the best of interwebz forums eventually degrade to the lowest common denominator. From what Iíve observed watching some of my favorites die painful slow deaths is that the idiots eventually take over the asylum. The regulars and otherwise intelligent people stop posting because they a.) have the good sense to not get involved with the idiocy and/or b.) realize that there is nothing they can do to ďfixĒ the idiocy.

I like to think that things are going to be more interesting around here again now that a certain someone has gone away (hopefully for good) and these ďchangesĒ have taken. But Iím not holding my breath. I do appreciate the effort to instigate change though.

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