Over the years I have enjoyed TechTalk at varying levels of participation. When busy, whole weeks would go by without me doing much more than glancing at the topics, and then deleting it. Other times, I would fully engage in reading them, and on rare occasions, responding to specific areas where I felt I had a good knowledge base to do so. I have always felt that TT was a good product, and it wasn't by accident, but by considered and careful efforts of Ryan and the previous moderators.
At the 2010 National Homebrewers Conference, we shared the direction that the AHA was considering with regards to TechTalk and the Forum. Two or three members expressed their displeasure, and we had essentially had one-on-one conversation while 100+ people listened and occassionally chimed in. In the end, the members concerned about this direction were split. A few said that they would try the forum; at least one was still upset and expressed his displeasure. Several members indicated that they were very happy with the new website's look, feel and utility, and concurred that TT's time had come.
In retrospect, there should have been more communications early on that this was being considered. The AHA GC and AHA staff have been discussing this for many months, and not every member of the AHA GC has been in favor. But, if memory serves me correctly, 13 of us (me included) were in favor of taking advantage of the Forum's features, while 2 suggested we try to maintain both.
We delayed any actions with regards to TT while Drew, Denny and Fred investigated features that could enhance the forum, an effort that continues today. Addressing mobile application readability is one such effort, enhanced RSS features is another. During our call last night the response to TT was the primary discussion item, and it had also generated several dozen emails amoung the AHA GC and staff during the last week.
Gary has taken the discussions seriously, and while he hasn't said as much, I suspect he is taken several of the comments very personally. To be accused of being elitist or anything other than impassioned about what he does for homebrewing has to cut him to the quick. To my knowledge, there isn't another soul that I have meet that so embodies what it means to support and build a vibrant, thriving homebrewing culture. In my mind, Gary is the best thing that has happened to the American homebrewing scene and to the AHA.
In the years I have been on the GC, Gary and I have spoken one on one probably a hundred times to bounce things off of each other, provide feedback I have received from my local homebrewing community on any number of topics, to identify, prioritize and establish agenda items for the GC to consider, discuss and vote on. He has been accessable, engaged and always has had homebreers interests as his number one priority. To those who have suggested that he has acted in a vacuum, without consideration of the members wants, I can just say that this has not been so.
With the virtual doubling of membership during the last five years, the AHA still remains essentially 3.5 people: Gary, Janis, Kate and half of Jill, with assistance from other BA staffers. Their workload has been increased significantly. The AHA is far more than just Zymurgy and TechTalk. It includes an increasing amount of time and effort in legislative affairs, protecting homebrewers rights, attempting to get shipping legalized and legalizing homebrewing where it is still technically illegal. Competitions, Big Brew, Mead Day, Teach a Friend to brew, these events contribute to community building and developing awareness. Setting up and communicating AHA rallies, developing and chasing down leads for participants in the Pub Discount program, soliciting authors for topics and articles, creating and soliciting content to make the website better, etc.
Gary and the GC members have heard the concerns voiced by the recent posts and private emails by several members. In yesterday's TechTalk he suggested that any member who could build a better mouse trap to contact him. Last night Drew volunteered to take this charge and will respond on TT today to solicit those volunteers who wish to make this a reality to contact him.
Drew will lay out the necessary parameters, and those who wish to step up and help can contact him directly. I can assure anyone who feels that their voice isn't being heard that this is not the case. The opportunity for those who feel that they can help improve the AHA with their knowledge and experience is here and now, and I hope this enables those members who currently feel disenfranchised the opportunity to step up and help show us how this can be done.