Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Death of a Forum

I know a 'Forum' can't die as it's not technically alive etc. But even inanimate objects can have soul and I am afraid to say souls can be lost. That was rather deep and meaningful, I should at this point grab the wine but my liver is still recovering from my belated Birthday party last night!

So a little history here. Don't worry I won't test you later, although you may find I will ask you to write an essay (to be handed in next week!).

In May 2009 I was recovering from my epic stress fractures and looking for an alternative to my clunky shoes. In my quest I came across 'Runners World On-line' and their new forum Barefoot Running'. Even to this day I am not entirely sure why I migrated from the 'Injuries' section to 'Barefoot Running'; it must have been cosmic karma, or maybe the fact I accidentally pressed the mouse button at the wrong time.

The 'Runners World On-line Barefoot Running' forum - or RWOL BFR from now on because my keyboard will grow legs and run away (barefoot of course) if I continue to type that every other sentence - had been active for about 2-3 months. It was initially created at the behest of TJ Gerken who later went on to co-founder the 'Barefoot Runners Society' and there were a few long time barefoot runners already present and posting. They were all very kind to a Newbie like me and if it wasn't for their help I wouldn't be running barefoot or writing this blog - so if you want to blame someone for my random attacks on the interweb, you should head straight for them.

In the beginning RWOL BFR was pretty much full of crazies. Good crazies, but crazy none-the-less. Barefoot Running was seen as a little kooky and strange and the people who ran like this were the epitome of this. As such the forum was not altogether 'normal'. We all had similar humour and as such the posts on RWOL BFR were fairly eclectic. Yes, we talked about running, but generally we went on the forum to mess about. The longest thread on RWOL BFR is called 'PWI (Classic)' which has well over 1,000 posts. Now I can hear you asking, "what running topic is so important that it elicits over a 1,000 posts?" Perhaps the true nature of the forum and the people on it will become apparent when I tell you that 'PWI' stands for 'Posting Whist Intoxicated'. We had a thread called 'Why am I the thread-ender?', which for some reason would only be resurrected on a Friday. We had a threads that talked about 'Boob-wobble' and 'Junk-jangle' as a running form guide. I think you are getting the idea here.

We celebrated in our quirkiness and our status outside of the 'normal' running community and we had fun. We delighted that we had found the answer to making running fun and surprisingly it involved large amounts of alcohol and taking your shoes off. We were the geeks and nerds; we were the equivalent of the AD+D group you would find in high-school, (except cooler obviously!).

In time the 'Barefoot Running Society' was formed and people started to migrate to the new site. We also all connected on the dreaded social networking tool 'Facebook' and RWOL BFR forum faded a little. We were still present though and still having fun, but some of the initial peeps had gone off to do their own thing.

Then the worst happened and this has been the 'death-nail' for the essential character of the forum. Barefoot Running became popular: It became mainstream. Now the forum was littered with lots of Newbies who wouldn't read the stickies and kept asking the same questions. The old crowd were a little more un-easy about the things they could post about.

Don't get me wrong, there were some Newbies, that were just like us and delighted in the absurd but unfortunately a lot of the Newbies were runners. I know this sounds strange that I am blaming runners for the 'death' of a running forum, but it did. Now the Barefoot running community wasn't a random band of misfits, it was now a community of people who were using the lack of shoes as a training tool, or they thought it was cool because an actor had his photo's taken wearing VFF's, or well.. whatever. Barefoot Running was now seen in the same category as a Garmin or GU-Shots.

The forum then lost it's soul. As the BRS site has been down due to migration issues, I have wondered over to RWOL BFR to see how things are going. Most of the names I don't recognise and there was not ONE stupid thread. Honestly 'PWI (classic)' had been left so long that there were cobwebs, dust and I swear a little mouse family located inside.

I have done my best along with the help of the other 'oldies' to resurrect the old character of the forum. Bumping old threads and posting stupid new ones, but frankly it's clear to see our efforts have failed. People aren't interested. I don't think there is anyway to pull the forum back to it's old excesses of stupidity and nonsense.

I know that this has to happen. Everything in life has to evolve and grow-up. We can't wish the things we cherish to never change. People move on and new people come to take their place. Honestly I understand this and I accept it. I suppose I just find it a little sad that the forum I have been with for so long has actually grown up when I am so determined to stay 6.


  1. I noticed the same thing. Sad really but inevitable. Not sure where to go now but thankful for blogs and facebook :)

  2. i waved good bye long ago when after a couple days i'd come back to find hordes of new folks that i didn't know. they don't care bout me, and i don't care about them. though i wished them well, the family vibe was gone and will never come back. but i credit those 6 beautiful months from the time of it's inception (about 3 weeks before i first sought info on the whole barefoot running thing)through the fall of 09, as life altering. not just my running, but my thoughts on virtually everything. miss it, but i hope that it helps more people find out how to run painlessly for years to come.

  3. I gave up when RWOL forum software changed and I had to re-log in every time I went there. After a while it wasn't worth even showing up because I didn't know anyone. Of course I haven't been running at all lately due to extreme injury/weather/laziness, so I haven't been needing to talk about running much either.

    Bwahaha! The captcha for this post is "ABSENT"

  4. As I posted (on RWOL of all places), decisions are made by those that show up. We all left for BRS and, when none of us commented on posts anymore, the vacuum was filled by a bunch of noobs.

    I like some of the new people, don't get me wrong. But ain't what it used to be. And I don't have the nostalgia for the old site because I came on a little later than most. So I guess I'm not as sorry to see it go.

    But it will be what it needs to be for a whole new generation of barefooters...a place to come and share and learn. Then they too will leave, and the cycle will continue.

  5. A movement has taken on momentum. A healthy movement nonetheless. You bemoan a forum because it is no longer exclusive to immature babblers and now people ask practical questions? Wow, just fucking wow. Your article is another sign of the apocalypse. Reminds me of the old "dude skateboarding is going mainstream!" dirges. Excuse my while I tape my eyes shut to try to forget that I read this article.

  6. Charlz,

    Okay, I take your point and I can I can see how post would come across like that. So I fully accept your criticism and I am sorry if I offended you.

    I am always glad that Barefoot running has taken off as it has. It's good that people realise there are alternatives to shoes. We are and always were prepared to answer questions and provide support. All we asked in return was that people used their intelligence and looked at the wealth of information we had proverbially "stickied" to their foreheads and appreciate that not everyone thought running was the "beginning and end" of existence. Not a unreasonable request I don't think.

    I think my feeling here was that people miss the point of why we run. A lot of people quantify running, by numbers, speed, calories and having the latest gadgets. Surely this wrong? We should run because it is fun; our bodies and souls and minds are inspired by this primal momentum.

    When RWOL BFR started, this joy of running was SO apparent. We gloried in this. We weren't concerned about if it would make us quicker or "cooler". We didn't believe that barefoot running 'had' to done, because "well everyone else is doing it, so I must too". We revelled in the fact that running was fun and that the forum was centred around people and NOT the "modern-day" quantifiable but soul-less results it produced.

    I was just lamenting that as BFR grows in popularity, this 'soul' of running is being lost again, in what I felt was it's last bastion - this kooky, nerdy, no-one pays attention to us forum.

    Yes, I am an old "dude" moaning about the state of our changing world. Railing against the machine. Wishing I was 6 again as I have bills to pay and chores to do. Frankly, show me one adult over the age of 30 who doesn't feel the same way every so often. Are you the only exception to this strange melancholy called 'age'? If so I congratulate you - bottle what you have and you will make a million.

    Please feel free to ignore the article and tape your eyes shut, (do you need me to provide the tape? I have a 6 year old, so I have tape by the box full). Doesn't bother me in the slightest, because like my running I write this blog to please my-self and no-one else. Just as it should be.

    This blog is my opinion and last time I looked we were ALL able to have one of those without offensive remarks.