November 9, 2011

What We Don't Know

The ACBLG provisional logo
with the Franklin glurge.
I've been public about my disdain for Facebook and my preference to Twitter. Twitter is like a river of information. I can grab bits and pieces of news, gossip and distraction that eddy into my purview. I can cast out opinion like flat rocks skipping briefly only to be subsumed by the ceaseless deluge. I can converse, but the interaction is self-limiting.

Facebook seems to be somewhat of a swamp. Lethargic. Of the past.

I've tolerated Facebook recently because of the conversation in the Arizona Craft Beer Lovers Group (ACBLG)- a few hundred or so beer appreciators, homebrewers, beer bar owners, pro brewers and distributors. I was skeptical that this group would be of value to me and I still reserve the right to remove myself from the group (or be removed, one imagines). So far I'm learning things that I did not expect to learn.

Despite the concentration of knowledgeable beer people, I'm struck as to how much this group doesn't know about the business of beer (that has nothing to do with beer), distribution, packaging, the slim margins that the industry faces, the legal landscape, barriers to entry and basic customer service. I'm learning what this beer community doesn't know about each other. I'm finding out that they have expectations that go unmet. There's talk of favoritism, blind localism, "you owe us", "the beer needs to be". Some of the most appreciated figures in the valley feel under-appreciated or misconstrued or come off as quarrelsome. The voice of a few sometimes seems to be the roar of many, when in fact it's just one person's opinion and a "like "thumbs up. It either passed a weakly rebutted challenge or everyone else just gave up.

I include myself in the group that has much to learn on all of these topics. I have made missteps. I have put on the "know-it-all" hat.

I have strong opinions and I have a history of working forums like this for information well before (Remember BBS?) there was an internet. I'm going to share things that I know and my vehemence on some things is somewhat of a challenge to others because I want the best answers to come out. I like to be right, but I also like to be helpful.

The biggest frustration of the whole thing is, frankly, we all don't know how to get along with one another in a social media environment.  Some of the more awkward moments develop because a good number of people don't know that there are a number of industry people lurking in the group. Say something that probably should be handled in private and suddenly in swoop the distributors, or the publicans or the brewer or the beer clubs. The flatness of hierarchy in the "expertism" meant initially that your opinion stood on its merits and encouraged some candor. These days it can be downright cringe-worthy to click on a thread. I wonder how long some of the industry people will keep tuning into discussions that have such a low ratio of signal to noise. It must be frustrating since their time was tight well before this group came around.

One presumes that beer's shared amid our conversations in a friendly pub environment would smooth out the rough edges. There is some talk of meeting in real life. That day could not come soon enough for some.

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