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Old 09-06-2021, 02:13 PM   #1
Ring Bearer
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Pipe History of this Forum

Hey! I was wondering if somebody on this website has ever tried to organise how this forum has changed over the years(decades)?
I actually saw a few posts from 2002 that had "Guest" written on them--I don't think that is allowed now...

This forum has an interesting group of people.

Also, a few members have actually been successful in their careers from being just teens/young adults here on this forum--obviously most of them have left now.
Actually, I today saw that many who were very young when they joined have turned 40!
There are many who joined as teens(also some pre-teens) that are now pretty old.

Do you guys have some sort of real world social media connection with each other--like maybe a Facebook group?
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Last edited by Ring Bearer; 09-07-2021 at 12:15 AM. Reason: Spelling
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Old 09-07-2021, 07:49 AM   #2
Mithadan
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I have frequently posted on the history of the Barrow-Downs. The trick will be finding those posts. I will see what I can do or re-write it. I will note that the history of this site is necessarily very specific to the individual member and their experiences. Someone who frequents the Movies forum will not have the same point of view as someone who posts in Books. So others should chime in here.
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Old 09-07-2021, 11:53 AM   #3
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Estelyn Telcontar has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!
There is a Facebook group - private, so if you want to join, you need to contact one of us for an invitation. It's located here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2204573651/

Quite a few of us have met in person at various Tolkien Society events and conferences as well as at self-organized moots. Others have not yet had that opportunity.
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Old 09-07-2021, 02:12 PM   #4
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There is a Facebook group - private, so if you want to join, you need to contact one of us for an invitation. It's located here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2204573651/
The group is 15 years old! I thought Facebook got popular in the late 2000s.
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Old 09-07-2021, 03:21 PM   #5
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The History of the Barrow-Downs - The Early Years, 1999-2001

As I said above, the history of this site is subjective; varying based upon point of view. To place my point of view into context, I am one of the few-remaining active administrators of these boards. By “active,” I mean that I still post here, and I do not mean to imply that others ignore this site’s operations or never peek in. By “administrator,” I mean that I keep an eye on things. I have no particular expertise (or interest) in the technical aspects of this site’s operations; if the boards go down, I reach out to others. As an administrator, I have primarily been a traffic cop, and even here these duties have been delegated to others over the years. But I do occasionally pop in and ban a spammer, soothe bruised egos, and put out fires (or flame wars as the case may be). To complete the framing of my point of view, beyond my obvious interest in Tolkien, this on-line community and its synergies fascinate me. I marvel at the way that our members, from different backgrounds, different countries, and different political/philosophical leanings, are able to interact civilly (more or less) and with respect and tolerance based upon a common intellectual interest.

It would have been very easy for me to fade away and disappear over the last several years. Indeed, I nearly did, first perhaps unintentionally but later with conscious consideration. I also considered letting “Mithadan” go and starting up anew with a different screen name and alter ego (I once wrote an essay entitled “I am not Mithadan,” discussing the concept of on-line personas). While I miss many members that have drifted off over the years, I cannot blame them. After spending a year or three indulging one’s Tolkien interests, it is not surprising that people are figuratively dragged away by their schools, their jobs and professions, and their families. For whatever reason, even if I disappeared for a day, a month, or a season, I always returned to peek in and, almost invariably, I would end up posting.

I mentioned above prior posts discussing or relating to this subject, I did a little searching (I hate the search function on this board – not user friendly or fully functional) and found several such posts. Rather than link them here, since I have decided to post a magnum opus, THE HISTORY OF THE BARROW-DOWNS, I will only point you all to a single thread that I started many years ago (and I invite you to post on it if the fit takes you) discussing my personal, pre-internet, history with Tolkien’s works. https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/II...arrowdowns.com Anyway, what follows is my version (subjective) of the History of the Barrow-Downs.

Context is important. As mentioned in my post, linked above, by the late 1990s I had entered into a new Tolkien phase, my discovery of HoME linked with rereading the primary works more than once. At this time, the internet was becoming a commonplace thing and, one day, I typed “Tolkien” into whatever search engine I was using at the time. I discovered… a wasteland. There were the usual commercial sites trying to sell books or whatever, some lonely fan pages (mostly pictures or a page or two of analysis) and a very few dry academic sites. Over the years that followed, I would occasionally repeat my search. I discovered the on-line mailing lists (difficult to navigate and impossible to search). I heard the first rumblings about plans for the movies. And I ran across my first message boards and did what everyone else does, I watched and skulked in the shadows. The first board I posted to was very small, friendly, and relatively thoughtful; its members disappeared in weeks. I found two relatively well-established boards and tried posting. One was literally hysterical over the upcoming movies (which were in casting at that time) to the exclusion of all else. The second was just becoming infected with movie mania but still had some decent discussions. I made a few posts and was roundly ignored; that board was effectively dominated by its webmaster and a few friends and I was none of the above. I kept looking.

In the spring of 2000, I came across a new message board. It was hosted on EZ-Board (later infamous for its ads and apparently ineffective security), had a hard to read black background with messages displaying in ugly green print. It had (if I recall) three forums: Books; Newcomers; and Movies. I liked that Movie posts had their own forum; to this day, I rarely enter that area. On the Books forum, there were perhaps a half-dozen threads. Most had been started by someone nicknamed Barrow-Wight, who was clearly trying to get folks to post. The board either permitted “guests” to post or allowed a user to post under a screen name without signing up. I watched for a while, then started a new thread. I was promptly, if mildly, flamed with “doesn’t this belong in the Newcomers forum…” by someone who I will not name (I know who you are and may yet have my revenge). I have not since been able to find that thread - maybe I posted as a guest. I almost voted with my feet, but decided to try once more, posting in someone else’s thread, and got better and friendlier results. Within a month, I was pretty hooked. I was researching my posts and starting threads. I made several friends, most of whom are long gone. Without realizing what was happening, I had my first experience with the transience of our membership. I interacted quite a bit with two members, Taimar and Dogtrot. One announced that he was moving somewhere where the internet was spotty and never came back. The other simply disappeared.

So, the Downs was created by Barrow-Wight. I think that it began as a splash page with links several months before the forums were added. The earliest date that I have found for anything affiliated with the site is August 1999. The splash page still exists though many of the links and add-ons no longer work. If BW sees this (he does pop in now and again though he rarely posts) I hope that he adds detail and corrects me when I am wrong. While we celebrate our “Birthday” on May 1, which appears to be the date the first thread was opened in the forums, the splash page existed before then. BW was the sole administrator for a while and did a fine job. By the fall of 2000, more forums were added, our membership had increased drastically, and the site had expanded. More content was added to the splash page, such as quizzes and essays. A chat room was added as well, and audio chats were sometimes scheduled. In 2001, we added name-generators, hang-hobbit, and other features. To be clear, “we” as used here with regard to technical matters almost never means me. I left the technical end of things to others.

Barrow-Wight asked Mr. Underhill, Sharku and I to assist him as administrators in late 2000. The need for help was prompted by two concerns. The first was the need to add content. Articles and quizzes were needed. An encyclopedia was under construction. Quite a lot was added during the first few years. BW, Underhill and Sharku in varying degrees took the lead on content. The second concern was the influx of new members both real and (correctly) anticipated. By early 2001, we exceeded 300 members. On October 8, 2001, we had 500 members (for the second time – we migrated the boards from EZ-Board to UBB in mid-2001 and everyone needed to re-register, but some did not). By the end of 2001, we had eclipsed 1000 members. The folks that joined in the pre-movies boom (and at that point, we didn’t know what “boom” meant) fell into two categories. There were a number of members like me who were fans of the books and were just learning about Tolkien on-line resources and communities. There were also a number of members who were curious about the upcoming movies who may or may not have read the books. The steady growth of our membership required oversight, from welcoming new folks to directing traffic (moving threads from one forum to another and explaining why) to outright policing, ranging from friendly advice and correction to warnings, suspensions, and bans. While all the admins took part in oversight, I believe that I kind of took the lead there and in another area, encouraging posting. So while I performed the role of enforcer (an earlier page of photos of the members had a picture of Gregory Peck brandishing a shotgun over my nickname) I better enjoyed the latter role. I started a lot of threads, asked open ended questions, and messaged new members who seemed interested in discussion. I do not recall any specific discussion on the subject, but the admins were pleased when the Downs gained the reputation of being the “serious” or “thoughtful” Tolkien board. By mid-2001, the proliferation of Tolkien message boards had begun. In December 2001, Boston.com named the Barrow-Downs as a Tolkien “mega-site.”

So this is where we were during the first couple of years, until December 2001. And then the first movie came out…
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Old 09-07-2021, 04:49 PM   #6
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Thanks for that, Mith!

I too stumbled upon the Downs among a fairly large number of Tolkien-based EZ Board forums. Why I was looking for Tolkien web forums to begin with is now lost to me, as I am by nature not an outgoing person, and was in fact more than a little nervous of actually posting on a public forum.

What attracted me here were: 1. I think, the theme; the Barrow-Downs always had a distinct "feel" in the book. 2. The color scheme was striking; 3. The cerebral nature of the discussions.

Unlike Mithadan, my first post, responding to a question about the "Variags of Khand", was politely acknowledged by a long-gone member named Gwaihir the Windlord.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mithadan View Post
While I miss many members that have drifted off over the years, I cannot blame them. After spending a year or three indulging one’s Tolkien interests, it is not surprising that people are figuratively dragged away by their schools, their jobs and professions, and their families. For whatever reason, even if I disappeared for a day, a month, or a season, I always returned to peek in and, almost invariably, I would end up posting.
Indeed. I have taken "sabbaticals" over the years, not posting much or at all for a while, and since 2019 or so I have found it more and more difficult to find the time for idle web browsing I once had. I still check in here at least once a day, though.

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So this is where we were during the first couple of years, until December 2001. And then the first movie came out…
Now that was fun!

When I learned Peter Jackson (of whom I'd never heard) was making blockbuster films of LOTR, I was rather nonplussed from the start.

I have always held Tolkien's work differently in my heart, from other works of art and fiction. There are reasons for this, which are not relevant to this thread. Suffice it to say, I did not want to see LOTR "modernized" for cinema, stripped of its soul. I was highly skeptical that any of the feel of the beloved books could be captured in a high budget production.
News of casting choices and "additions" like Arwen's enhanced role made me feel vindicated. I made a point of haunting the Movies section, arguing against not merely the way the films were being made, but of their very existence. I just didn't see the need for them.

My opinion was shared by a few others, but we were quite definitely in the minority. That's almost certainly even more so now. I still like reading those threads even today.
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Old 09-07-2021, 05:55 PM   #7
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"Fun?" Define, "fun." Of course, you were not an administrator during that period.

FYI, for those interested, I plan to follow up on my History post with at least one more.
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Old 09-08-2021, 02:05 AM   #8
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"Fun?" Define, "fun." Of course, you were not an administrator during that period.

FYI, for those interested, I plan to follow up on my History post with at least one more.
I have popcorn at the ready. The ominous weight you put into that final line is just perfection.

I can push the date for the "earliest Downs" back a little further - the archived version of the News page contains clues to the site's original name, and the archived version of the original site features a guestbook comment from the webmaster:

Quote:
Comment: Welcome to the Middle-Earth Resource.

We hope you spend a lot of time roaming around checking out everything. Please feel free to leave any words of wisdom here on the Guestbook. Remember, the forum is the best place to start a discussion or to get a question answered.
Date Signed: 07/24/1999 10:09:08 AM
The other half of the design team responds on the same date, so I think the 24th July 1999 is the genuine launch date for the site.

(Avoiding links because there's real names associated with all this.)

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Old 09-08-2021, 04:42 AM   #9
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"Fun?" Define, "fun." Of course, you were not an administrator during that period.
Hm. I remember the debate being mostly respectful. Then again, that was quite a while ago.
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Old 09-08-2021, 07:05 PM   #10
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The group is 15 years old! I thought Facebook got popular in the late 2000s.
Well, we did invent the Internet. So there's that.
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Old 09-09-2021, 06:11 AM   #11
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Well, we did invent the Internet. So there's that.
When do I get my royalties?
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Old 09-09-2021, 02:05 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Mithadan View Post
As I said above, the history of this site is subjective; varying based upon point of view.

.................................................. .................................................. .................................................. .....................

In December 2001, Boston.com named the Barrow-Downs as a Tolkien “mega-site.”
So this is where we were during the first couple of years, until December 2001. And then the first movie came out…

Thank you for this!


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I made a point of haunting the Movies section, arguing against not merely the way the films were being made, but of their very existence. I just didn't see the need for them.

My opinion was shared by a few others, but we were quite definitely in the minority. That's almost certainly even more so now. I still like reading those threads even today.
You would have to agree that the references to LOTR and quotes from Tolkien wouldn't have been as common as they are in today's world.
LOTR is pretty popular in the Silicon Valley for example.
Btw, the colour scheme has remained unchanged for 21+ years!?

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so I think the 24th July 1999 is the genuine launch date for the site.
Well, that's older than my zygote.
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Old 09-09-2021, 05:16 PM   #13
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You would have to agree that the references to LOTR and quotes from Tolkien wouldn't have been as common as they are in today's world.
LOTR is pretty popular in the Silicon Valley for example.
I could really do without the old memes around "You shall not pass" (misquoted from the book) and "they're taking the hobbits to Isengard".

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Btw, the colour scheme has remained unchanged for 21+ years!?
Yep. One of the enduring charms.
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Old 09-10-2021, 06:33 AM   #14
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I could really do without the old memes around "You shall not pass" (misquoted from the book) and "they're taking the hobbits to Isengard".
Would you say Gondor needs no memes?

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Old 09-10-2021, 03:14 PM   #15
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Hm. I remember the debate being mostly respectful. Then again, that was quite a while ago.
Late 90s, the Great Balrog Wings Flame War was still going. Although the nastiest battlefield was rec.arts.books.tolkien (anyone even remember Usenet?)
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Old 09-10-2021, 07:47 PM   #16
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Would you say Gondor needs no memes?
Not if you can't simply walk into Mordor.
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Old 09-11-2021, 05:31 AM   #17
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Pipe

I see Mithadan mentioned the old EZ Board Barrow Downs Forum. I did join in those days with my EZ Board 'global' account and posted a few times in existing threads. I'm thinking July/August 2000 or thereabouts. Can't remember what the threads were about, and I would drop in and be gone for periods of time (which describes my whole history with Barrow Downs over the last twenty years). Having been an old 'book' guy from the 70's, I only rekindled my Middle Earth flame when I heard some rumor in 1999 that there was a movie being made. The first place on the webz I found was The One Ring dot com and I became a regular there from the first of 2000 until I started looking elsewhere. That was when I found Barrow Downs, Entmoot, and Minas Tirith.

My pattern was to 'go rangering' around between the boards and see what interesting discussions were happening. I will admit that I was one who got lost when Barrow Downs moved from EZ Board, as I returned to look for them and they could not be found on the EZ globe. I did rediscover the 'new Barrow Downs' and re-registered in 2002. One of the big draws of this place over most of the others is the name does not even get a mention in the PJ movies, so the general membership tended to be (from my perspective) more book-orientated. Always loved the comfortable 'dark' theme that has remained unchanged through the years too.

I have made one good friend from being here. Natalia, who went by the name of Lush here. I have been in semi-regular contact through the years since meeting in some discussion thread here. I've followed her journalism career and watched her son grow from an infant to a solid young man. I have been enjoyng her 'geolocation' puzzles she posts on her newsletter.

I remember getting some Barrow Downs coffee mugs and a T-shirt way back when. The coffee mugs ar elong gone, one dying on the kitchen floor not long after getting them, and the other I lost track of in a divorce. I still have the T-shirt, and because I always ordered them in XL, it still fits! In the time I've been here, I have gone from a working professional raising kids to a comfortbly retired old grandfather coot whose grandchildren are graduating high school and are in college. I still have less than a thousand posts, but I'll be here until the end.... of either me or the board, whichever comes first.

Last edited by Snowdog; 09-11-2021 at 05:38 AM.
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Old 09-18-2021, 04:10 PM   #18
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Well, well, well! Are we now at the stage where we cart out our old bones, figuratively speaking, to tell these youngsters what it was really like back in the olden days? Somebody give Ken Burns a call!

Mith's expansive post -- and the sight of some old hands like Snowdog (howdy!) -- have left me feeling wistful. I can't help thinking about what a random stroke of fate it was that we all came together on this site at that time. It seems the internet was this utopian playground back then (popups and viruses notwithstanding), a place where all knowledge might eventually repose (along with Mr. T haikus), and where people with similar interests might form communities without borders, so to speak.

I share Mith's fascination with the dynamics of this site over the years. The Downs has always been, for me, the best of what the internet could be. Yet I too feel a pang when I think of the many friendships that have melted away across the years, like tears in the rain (to paraphrase another old favorite). But look at me getting sentimental, if not downright maudlin. That's life, I reckon. It's hard to hold on to the people and the times that we love for very long.

Annnnyway... I'll await Mith's sequel. I can find nothing to contradict in his account so far, though of course I have my own origin story. I joined after the old EZ-Board forums had been going for a few months and found my internet home immediately. No other online community has been as fulfilling or as enjoyable.

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Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
Hm. I remember the debate being mostly respectful. Then again, that was quite a while ago.
I'll let Mithadan tell his version, but from my point of view it was more a question of whether our little community would simply be washed away by the deluge of Orli fans and frivolous discussion topics and posts. Our book-only "Barrow-downs" theme probably saved us from being totally capsized. The addition of... well, back up a second. Here I will reverse myself and find one thing to contradict in Mith's account -- I'm pretty sure the three categories at the time of the Great Making were, in fact, "Books", "Movies", and this very sub-forum, "The Barrow-Downs", a place to discuss burning community questions such as, "How did you find the Barrow-Downs?" The addition of "Novices and Newcomers" was a measure meant to stabilize things post movie release. If I recall correctly. Which I very well might not.

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Btw, the colour scheme has remained unchanged for 21+ years!?
Traditionnnnnn... Tradition! The colors!
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Old 09-19-2021, 08:51 AM   #19
Mithadan
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Hello Mr. Underhill, it's been a while. In fact, I think it has been years since two administrators posted within days of each other, let alone in the same sub-forum!

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I'm pretty sure the three categories at the time of the Great Making were, in fact, "Books", "Movies", and this very sub-forum, "The Barrow-Downs", a place to discuss burning community questions such as, "How did you find the Barrow-Downs?" The addition of "Novices and Newcomers" was a measure meant to stabilize things post movie release.
You may be correct here. I recall that the Newcomers forum was intended to be a place where folks could introduce themselves, ask questions, and make themselves comfortable. Admins, and later the Moderators, kept an eye on the Newcomers forum for a few reasons. One was to welcome people, which was possible only when we had a meager flow of new members joining. During the Movies period (post upcoming) this quickly became impossible. We recognized that acknowledging the first post or two of a newcomer was important. A second reason was to keep an eye open for people with potential. If a newcomer made a particularly thoughtful or well-reasoned post, they might receive a personal PM welcoming them and encouraging them to post again. This practice also faded away under the crush of incoming members (unlikely as this might seem during these quieter times).
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Old 09-19-2021, 03:10 PM   #20
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It's fascinating to read your account of the beginnings, Mithadan! I wasn't here for the start, but joined in January 2002 after reading about the Barrow-Downs in a magazine after the release of the first movie. I was desperately seeking for someone with whom to share my thoughts on the movies and the book, and lurked for a few days before registering and jumping in to post. I remember taking my time to think up a cool user name!

I actually discovered the main site first, with its various features - the Elvish name generator was very popular back then! Then I found the link to the forum, which sealed my fate and made me a Downer for life. Later I also participated in the chat room, which was where a lot of personal friendships formed, some of them leading to real life meetings and friendships.

I don't remember when I joined the team as a moderator - maybe a year later? Of course that involved a good deal of monitoring for behaviour that was not consistent with our policies, such as chatspeak in forum posts, off-topic posting, flame wars, or language that was not family friendly. We always prided ourselves on being a place where young persons were safe and even learned something in the process - like spelling, grammar, etc.! It was a joy to see second-language members improving their English and being accepted into an international fellowship of Tolkien fans.

Oh, and remember the birthday parties we celebrated back then?! There was so much going on that you couldn't keep track of all the posts! We did virtual partying way before Corona made social distancing necessary.

The Barrow-Downs encouraged me to read those Tolkien books I had not previously come across, to attend international Tolkien conferences, and to join a Tolkien Society in the country I live in (Germany). As a result, I lectured on several topics at various moots and even published essays and contributions to secondary literature.

I can definitely say that not only Tolkien has influenced the course of my life, but also that the Downs has been instrumental in making that happen. Though I have rarely posted in recent years, I still look in to see what's happening as often as possible. The personal friendships have largely moved over to Facebook (which reminds us of birthdays almost as faithfully as Galadriel55 does on the forum!).
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Old 09-21-2021, 02:23 PM   #21
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The History of the Barrow-Downs, Part 2 - The Movie Years

And then the first movie came out…

Throughout 2001, the administrators were expecting an uptick in both membership and the number of posts when Fellowship of the Ring came out. We had worked to add content and encourage thoughtful posts as well as civility and an atmosphere of collegiality. Personal attacks and scornful posts were discouraged, usually by PMs at first, followed by brief suspensions if the conduct continued. We had a solid core of posters who were truly interested in analyzing the books and discussing their ideas and theories. Again, these bulletin boards provided for many the first chance to do so.

I would guess that the average age of our members as of, say, November 1, 2001, was likely in the mid-twenties. Many were older and appreciated the Downs for the same reasons that I did. Around that time, we noticed some changes developing in the Tolkien internet realm. A number of new boards were beginning to pop up as setup of message boards became cheaper and easier. Some hosting services were offering essentially free setup if you didn’t mind the pop-ups and ads. These boards were, of course, not limited to Tolkien; they were a precursor to social media. So, competition was developing. Whether it was a conscious decision or just the way that we developed, we became the “smart” Tolkien board early on and took pride in this.

The movie previews in mid-2001 started driving curiosity. Our membership was growing relatively quickly and the need for policing similarly increased. We tried hard to be nice and friendly. But there certainly was an increase in less thoughtful posts. We started seeing very generalized questions along the lines of “what is the Lord of the Rings about?” If someone is perversely interested, I am sure that somewhere out there, there is the first question about “the blond elf” if anyone wants to look for it. But this was nothing we couldn’t handle…

FoTR came out on December 19, 2001 (it premiered in England about a week earlier). The forums changed nearly overnight. There was an incredible flood of new members. My prior post mentions a “landmark” where we reached 500 members in October 2001. I would guess that by March 2002 we had well over 5000 members. The average age of our members quickly went down to below 18 (maybe well below). The nature of the posts changed as well. I stumbled across a thread from late December 2001 where the poster proclaimed that he/she had just bought the books and the Hobbit comic book and asked were they too hard for a 14-year-old to read? This post was in all caps. What we came to term as “chat speak” became common (“do u luv habbits”). Members registered with “unusual” nicknames (see “i*love*orli”). Orlando Bloom became a major topic, though others had their personal favorites. We began experiencing trolls where previously they had been almost completely absent.

Directing traffic became a serious avocation at that time. Messaging rude or recalcitrant posters became frequent. Moving threads from forum to forum (Books to Movies or to Newcomers for example) or closing them outright became common. We no longer had the time to welcome new members as they first posted. It was not unusual to have ten or more “I’m new here” posts per day. Still, we tried to identify and encourage the more serious members while doing our best to keep up with the flood.

A new dynamic emerged. Older (both in age and in length of membership) members began to dislike or be openly critical of “newbies.” Some took it upon themselves to try to act as forum security. We discouraged this whenever we came across it. The “newbies” pushed back. Some purposefully caused trouble until they were suspended or banned. Others proclaimed that it was a free world and they had as much right to post whatever they wanted as anyone else. We tried hard to be tolerant. We tried to rein in the old-timers and (at least tried) to correct the new members. The chatroom became a nightmare. It was a free-for-all. We recruited people to try to moderate them and, actually, created a “secret” chatroom for the administrators and a few older members to quietly meet in. Even the private room was abandoned in a matter of months. I cannot exaggerate how challenging this period was.

I am unsure of the timing, but something else developed either in mid-2001 or early 2002. A well-known member opened a thread named something like “Let’s have our party here.” Set in a lounge, this was similar to some of our birthday parties, but, generally, toned down. Everyone posted “in character.” Many established members and even some of the administrators popped in. It ran for a month or two. Even though I think I know who started this thread, for the life of me I cannot find it. This was a precursor to the RPGs.

Whether inspired by the “party” thread (or the subsequent Birthday Party thread) or not, RPGs began emerging, spontaneously erupting in various forums. This led to a meeting of the powers that be. Some administrators were completely against RPGs. Others were more tolerant, so long as they were vaguely “on topic” and were monitored. Barrow-Wight set up a new forum for “freestyle” RPGs. Anyone could open a thread and pretty much anyone could join in. We warned that this was an experiment. Dozens of RPGs were started. Trouble soon followed. People complained that they were being shut out or ignored. Others complained that members were interfering with the “plots” or causing trouble. Games were started and abandoned or meandered on for months with no end in sight. Others had little or nothing to do with Tolkien at all. Our first official moderators were appointed to try to maintain order and civility. Ultimately, matters devolved to the point where the administrators decided to step in. The decision was close, and the choices were to prohibit RPGs entirely or to control them. We created a private sub-barrow and invited the best gamers, those who wrote well and had organizational skills, and we talked things out. There were a few ground rules. No more freestyle games, all games on topic, there had to be a plot and an identifiable point where the game would end. We created a tiered system for beginner, intermediate and experienced gamers. Moderators were appointed (this soon spread to all of the forums), there was an “application” process and only the mods could open new RPG threads. Existing games were distributed among the tiers. Some members did not like this and left. Others stuck it out and enjoyed themselves (generally). We even conducted tutorials. This lasted for a while.

A few final tales before I close this chapter. We sometimes received messages from parents of young members. Some noticed their kids posting on the Downs and asked if the forum was appropriate. Some complained about controversial topics. Here’s a story I have never told anyone. There was a thread opened called “gay subtext” that questioned whether the relationships between some of the characters implied, directly or indirectly, homosexuality. The first posts were cogent and pretty well thought out. I noticed this thread early, let the other administrators know about it, and tried to stay out. Some of our more conservative members took great offense. Their responses ranged from “of course not” to “how dare you!” Others tried to discuss the issue and defended posters’ rights to discuss a topic in an amicable manner. When well-established members started tossing insults at each other, I stepped in as a peacemaker, first discussing free speech, our pride in the thoughtful nature of our boards, and our policies against insults and flaming. The I added my own view on the matter, that Tolkien was writing about camaraderie and loyalty, not sexuality. I concluded with a warning to play nicely that went unheeded. I closed the thread for a day and reopened it. The fighting resumed. I decided to do some snooping and checked into the identities of a few troublemakers that seemed to be posting only to that thread. I found them all, using the same screennames, posting on another message board, and laughing about how they had riled up the “nerds.” Banned. The thread continued without them and was ultimately locked. What does this have to do with parents? Someone joined just for the purpose on making a single post and never posted again. The post? It was in the gay subtext thread and read “Try the delete button, Mith.” I communicated with this person and found one of their kids had been following along on this thread. We had a pleasant conversation about the importance of free speech, and how we watched over things. We never communicated again.

There are other stories that I could relate, but this post has gotten over-long. By the time the third movie had come out, our membership was north of 20,000, we had received any number of accolades, and things had calmed down a bit. Most, though not all, of our older members had weathered the storm. There has always been a rate of attrition, as I commented in my post above, so I do not know how many people left on their own for whatever reason or left due to the chaos. And it was chaos, at least at times.

I will conclude later with another shorter post about the post-movies period.
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Old 10-10-2021, 08:44 PM   #22
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That was quite enjoyable to read.
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Old 10-10-2021, 10:34 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Mithadan View Post
November 1, 2021
Umm...



(EDIT: I am nothing if not helpful...and also unable to rep most of the people in this thread.)
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Old 10-12-2021, 04:21 PM   #24
Mithadan
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Consider me corrected... and edited the post,
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Old 10-12-2021, 06:30 PM   #25
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Aw, for a minute there I thought I was still in my mid-twenties.
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