Sunday, July 10, 2011

Goodbye, New Winnipeg

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

So, after eleven years, the New Winnipeg community is gone.  Dead.  Bereft of life.

I joined the forum sometime between 2006-07 (under my longtime handle "conceitedjerk") to nurture my burgeoning interest in urbanism and rapid transit, and to learn.  From the first moment, I was hooked.

At the time, the majority of my online discussions took place on the Usenet, which was like living in the Wild West... no central authority, general lawlessness, and prone to breaking out in shooting matches.

New Winnipeg was different... somewhat.  Sure, there were disagreements (and heated exchanges), but unlike the Usenet, there was a central authority... the moderators.  At New Winnipeg, the shooting matches were more like civilised duels, a gentlemanly pistols at dawn: the "Walk ten paces - turn - and fire"  variety as opposed to the "Draw, pard'ner" variety of the Usenet.

As a former sysop of a BBS, I knew that the moderators had a thankless task... maintaining order while still allowing free reign of ideas, flow of discussion, and freedom of speech.  Not an easy thing to do when discussing some of the most contentious issues facing the city (or country, or world).

Some of these issues were especially contentious, such as Rapid Transit (buses vs cars vs busways vs light rail vs subway), Cycling (drivers vs good cyclists vs bad cyclists vs pedestrians), Crime, Aboriginal issues, and most contentious of all... Winnipeg's North End.

There was never a shortage of opinion (good, bad, uninformed, or just plain fucked up) on any subject, and the mods did their best to keep us playing nice.  Sometimes, however, the best isn't good enough.
A few years ago, and event occurred which I've referred to as The Schism.

A discussion got particularily heated.  Words got ugly, names were called, feelings got hurt, mods got involved... the original discussion was forgotten, accusations were levelled at the forum's proprietor and his alleged multiple personalities, words got uglier, resulting in one of the more prolific (and popular) members receiving a ban from the forum.

As a result, a number of forum members went on "strike" in support of the banned member, and ultimately wound up starting their own forum... first on Google Groups, then onto a dedicated webforum called The Winnipeg Sandbox.

The number of people who left New Winnipeg to join the Sandbox (myself included) was small... but this small minority happened to be comprised of New Winnipeg's most prolific posters.

New Winnipeg weathered the storm for the most part, switching to a new forum software (phpBB) and loosening up the rules a bit more... but it was never really the same.  People left, mods moved on or quit, and the relative torrent of posts from pre-Schism days had been reduced to a small stream at best, a trickle at worst.

Now, this downturn can't be attributed to the Schism completely... far from it.  A number of forum members (and former members) shifted their focus to their own projects... many of us had our own blogs, some of us had regular columns/op-eds in real print media, and some even started radio shows.  Many of the people in my blogroll were members of New Winnipeg at some point.

New Winnipeg limped along for a couple of years until it was finally shut down, a shadow of its former self.



I'm a bit sad to see New Winnipeg go.

I interacted with a number of people on the forum over the years, some of whom would end up being some of my closest friends... friends with whom I interact outside of the Internet!  GASP! In real life and everything!

It was through New Winnipeg that I had some of the best moments of my life:

Being an Official Witness to The World's Longest Skating Chain (started by a discussion on NW)

Sharing a pizza downtown with a prominent local politician

Getting into a scrap with a guy downtown, only to find out two days later that it was one of my fellow NW members whom I respected.  We had a good laugh over that one! (apparently I fight dirty)

Being courted by no less than four media organizations (some big, some small) to write material for them.  (amounted to little - the money they offered sucked)

Having coffee with an up-and-coming Winnipeg musician who read my posts on NW and subsequently my blog.

And best of all, attending the New Winnipeg meet-ups and putting faces (and real names) to screen names.

My favourite was the (pre-Schism) meetup at Assiniboine Park!

It's too bad I missed the last meetup at the Tavern United a month or so ago... which turned out to be the LAST meetup ever.

Anyway, that's enough sentimentality for one morning.

Thank you to Alex Reid for starting New Winnipeg, the mods (past and present) for keeping it running, and all the posters who kept it interesting and entertaining.

And thanks to Grumpy Old Man, the former NW poster who started the Sandbox as an alternative to New Winnipeg.  Hopefully now we can see a Reformation of sorts...

I'd like to invite any and all former New Winnipeg members and staff to share their favourite and/or most memorable New Winnipeg moments in the comments field below.  I moderate all the comments, so keep it civil, eh?

see also: Old Chum

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