Monday, February 26, 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum …

… I didn't go. And haven't been back. And haven't really missed it.

Hello, my name is Byron and I've avoided online model railroad forums for over three weeks.

Oh, it started innocently enough. A brief pop-in on a Sunday evening to see if there were any folks needing help on the LD SIG list. A quick check on the eternal "the hobby is dying, it hit me on the head!" discussions over at MR. A short read of the "never operated but I've got all the answers" thread on the OpSIG forum. But then the visits came more often.

Finally, there I was, tired and cranky on Groundhog Day reading the same inane comments by the same handful of self-appointed experts. And becoming more frustrated by the minute. And then I remembered the Bill Murray movie featuring the same date -- you know, the one where he repeats the same day over and over? I suddenly realized that it was describing my personal on-line forum experience.

Turns out there's only so much pompous posturing, ceaseless self-promotion, and arrogant arguing that I can take. Let's face it, if someone is posting thousands (or tens of thousands!) of times each year on various forums, maybe their hobby is really on-line forums, not model railroading. They're enjoying their hobby, apparently -- but it wasn't helping me enjoy mine.

Of course, it's not just model railroad forums. On-line forums and lists in many hobbies and vocations are filled with the same pointless debates, tired bon mots, and displays of self-importance. In fact, it almost seems that it’s the same people, just with different IDs and different themes.

One of the reasons I got in the habit of visiting on-line forums was that I didn't have better ways to spend small chunks of time. Five minutes here, fifteen there. No time to start a big project, obviously. But with a little advance planning, there is a lot that can be done. With reference materials for my design jobs organized in plastic boxes on new shelving in the office, I can grab one and sketch out a new staging design in CAD while waiting for a conference call to begin. With a couple of extra files in a tray with some track components, I can quickly sit down and prep some turnouts for the layout. The planning and organizing is taking time, but being able to spend those "found" minutes doing something productive instead of raising my blood pressure reading drivel has been great. (But never fear, I have time for writing drivel ... so there will be more blog entries.)

There are probably many of you who get much benefit from time spent in on-line forums. But for me it just became wasted repetitious time spent away from family, fun, client projects, and my own layout. Perhaps one day I can return and use on-line forums in moderation, with enough good humor to just chuckle at the goofballs. But I'm not yet that far along in my recovery. One day at a time.

Currently listening to: Casualties of Retail by Enter the Haggis, a Celtic-Roots-Metal- … well, actually I don't know what you'd call it, but it's sure fun. Bagpipes and power chords -- cool!