Imitation isn't the sincerest form of flattery. It's merely the cheapest. YACF, acf's doppelgänger, was piracy. Rogerzilla et al should have started from scratch, as I did. I tinkered for years with the template - and it's not only board order I'm referring to, nor the obvious aping of the name. 1 While I have no right to tell anybody which websites they shouldn't visit, I am disappointed with those who helped perpetuate the crime, even while I understand the bonds of friendship and the psychology of crowds attracting crowds, not to mention the pleasure of a good gawp.

I built the coalition of users who now frequent that place, including the strong group of audaxers 2 who found fertile ground to grow their numbers. I hoarded quality contributors like treasure, did my best to help us all get along, and agonised over decisions about who I felt had to be shown the door when that wasn't possible. The ease with which so many lost faith in me 3 and transferred it to someone without scruple 4 was a shock. Equally surprising to the forum at large, no doubt, was my reaction. 5 I don't expect everybody reading this to agree with my decisions; but nobody knows what went on the way I do. 6

I should, of course, get over it. 7 Although I've made fun of the phrase "it's just a forum", I know, it is. It's also a hell of a lot of sweat down the drain. It continues to gall me that so many people made the choice they did. I want to tell all of them "How could you?"

acf is for anybody who can operate both their head and their heart to appreciate it, and has a functioning ethical system. If you followed the crowd to YACF, and stayed, chances are that's not you. If you're helping that forum to grow, I'd prefer that you leave my forum. 8 (Not that I'll be checking for compliance, as I don't cross the road.) I may not have a right to tell you where to post, but I can state a preference for the sort of member I want: one who agrees that theft is wrong.

If this strikes anybody as unreasonable, think about how you'd feel if you'd poured heart and soul into a project to then be treated so shabbily 9 by so many to whom you'd devoted so much of your time. The line between fellow traveller and accomplice blurs.

Somebody has written that acf was not sustainable: people are just not that nice, and will always eventually revert to mean. There was ample evidence of that. Hope springs eternal. 10

1 - The name is both incredibly generic and unique at the same time. As used for a British forum, about cycling, by former members of acf, it's appalling netiquette if not copyright infringement, as well as a monument to lack of creativity. Even details like the Librarian were xeroxed.

For those who don't get it, "copyright infringement" is a sad joke. Part of the ethos of acf was the trust I placed in people to act decently.

How would you like it if your bicycle was stolen?

As for board order (note that acf has been reconfigured after the theft), I had the dubious pleasure of reading how I had used a standard setup. My experience of cycling forums has been that they are understandably very heavy on cycling, with perhaps a couple of boards thrown in for off-topic chat. What I did differently - and with some difficulty, moving countless threads until people got the idea - was to have many areas to talk about many other things.

2 - This is not an I invented the internet moment. My contribution to that particular section was nil. My point here is that a wide variety of users were attracted to the environment I created and nurtured. Much of my work was behind the scenes. It only looked easy.

3 - Anyone who felt betrayed at the way I left the forum should multiply that a hundredfold to get an idea of the battering it took to move me to that decision.

4 - The version of my domain was snapped up with some crowing and used as a redirect. How's that for scruples? Even the font in the banner was copied. Later they had a facelift in part to stop me from 'whinging'.

Their defense could be that I showed every indication of having abandoned acf; they must have thought they had salvage rights. Many people said that they felt acf had been 'theirs' all along. This is the total "a forum is its members" view - assumedly its current members.

5 - I deleted accounts. Some who forfeited theirs had acted atrociously; others merely very badly. And yes, a few were innocent. I thought it better to be realistic about certain strong relationships to avoid a full measure of grief in the aftermath. I also excised the stubborn clique which only ever considered acf a convenient watering hole.

6 - For example, some people deleted their accounts, re-registered under different names, and posted in ways that undermined the forum.

7 - Like those of us who watched Bush get appointed rather than elected in 2000 should just get over it, if I may be permitted an outsized analogy.

8 - If you have a standing order consider yourself exempt. I'm no fool. Also, I can appreciate a good heart even if it's had an empathy bypass. All I ask is that you think a bit more about what you're contributing to. Some ideas are worth a little sacrifice.

9 - Having your account deleted without notice isn't the nicest way to be treated, either. In my defense, the personal touch would've led to nightmarish correspondence. I had to save myself.

10 - Though this battle is over. I lost. People have voted with their feet, and acf will struggle to once again reach critical mass to encourage much participation.

Even if YACF were to have a total revamp - and I doubt those who run it have enough respect for my arguments or my sweat equity to go that far - the damage has already been done.

11 - Antisamitics, here's a bonus footnote just for you (with thanks to Wikipedia): Bile is a bitter yellow or green alkaline fluid secreted by hepatocytes from the liver of most vertebrates. In many species, bile is stored in the gallbladder between meals and upon eating is discharged into the duodenum where it aids the process of digestion of lipids. Have a nice day.

summer 2008