At first, it was a great place to talk about model railroad layout design and operations. There were many knowledgeable practitioners on the list. Some of these were authors in the commercial press, some were real-life railroaders, many were less-known but thoughtful and eloquent modelers. Most contributed meaningful ideas and respectful points to the discussion. The forum was not widely known, so it was a layout design and ops discussion on the Internet rather than just another Internet forum nominally about model railroading.
Over time that changed, partly owing to its growing popularity. It started to take on all the familiar unpleasant aspects of an Internet forum, equal parts boorishness and banality. The snipers came first … boosting their own petty egos by taking shots at better-known modelers and hobby institutions. They pontificated and postured and
Next came the bullies and the blowhards. They raged and ridiculed, posting incessantly about trivial typos and perceived slights. The empty-headed self-proclaimed experts came next, churning out scores of wildly impractical suggestions that drowned out the thoughtful and experienced ideas by sheer number of posts -- never mind the fact that these savants had no actual experience with anything they were recommending. Finally the size of the audience attracted the peddlers and shills, hawking their products at every opportunity. Although there are still short-lived bursts of thoughtful discussion, sadly this forum sometimes seems only to be
... and the persistent
… on the reader's shoulder by the peddlers with their wares.
When I worked at an Internet company, people talked about how the Internet was just like real life, but with the volume turned up to eleven and running at septuple-speed. If that's true, perhaps this once-thoughtful discussion has simply been undone by the egos and ill tempers that eventually destroy discourse in other arenas. Still, it's a shame.