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Joe Hasher & Joe Organizer

A few years ago, when I was webmastering the Half-Mind Catalog, I experimented with a classifieds section where hashers could sell or trade stuff. Very few hashers ever used it, and when I passed the HMC on to new webmasters, it disappeared. This week someone started another hash classifieds site. Since the new site’s almost identical to the one I put up earlier, I posted a comment on it to hash-l, and that in turn prompted an old friend (and former HMC co-editor) to engage me in an email conversation about hash information websites and the hashers who publish, and use, them.

This is all very philosophical and is going to make for a boring read, so you may want to just skip this entry and go look at old Ask Dr. Down-Down columns instead. But if you’re into high hash webmaster wonkery, read on.

My friend started off with this:

[ . . . ] I’ve just seen too many volunteer projects come and go.

[ . . . ] I’m certainly opposed to the proliferation of resources that distribute H3 information over a wider base, making it more difficult for Joe Hasher to gain a comprehensive overview and making it impossible for Joe Organizer to make a comprehensive update. Altho it seems pretty good, I never look at your H3 calendar because it’s not on my search path with the five other standard sites. Or any of the dozens of calendar sites out there either. Life is just too short to constantly scan the ever-changing number of sites. And so I miss in participating in some things.

Just because something can be done, doesn’t mean it should. Analysis of practical use should precede any public offering.

Guilty as charged. I attempt to distribute H3 information over a wide base, and I’m not alone . . . there are ten or twelve other H3 webmasters doing similar things. But suppose I decide to offer a new service of some kind . . . am I supposed to get permission first? If someone else is already doing something similar, should I just stifle myself? What if I think the other guy isn’t doing such a hot job, that I can do it better? What if I have an idea for something that hasn’t been tried before, like my idea for hash classifieds five or six years ago?

With these questions in mind, I responded:

Analysis of practical use? Exactly how would you go about that? Float your idea on hash-l and hashspace? Submit it to the central hash committee?

My guess is you’d get less than ten responses total from the combined membership of hash-l & hashspace (unless of course your idea is for all harriettes to show their tits, in which case you’d generate quite a bit of discussion, all of it pro). And of course there is no central committee.

We’re all on our own, individual islands floating in a sea of anarchy. I think it’s awesome that a dozen or so hashers take the time & trouble to provide calendars, contacts, and other useful information on the web.

As for me, I have the time & inclination to provide the information I put up on my weblog, and many hashers seem to use it. What more could I ask for?

His response to that:

Generally a poll would be inappropriate as a base of any sort of analysis. The detailed process of a few representative individuals with characteristic requirements should be sufficient. Admittedly I probably only have used a significant sampling of one for analysis. However a few random inquiries has reflected some basic tendencies I’ve found.

The effort by the individuals is indeed laudable. Does it contribute to an optimally usable solution? Or is it primarily for self-satisfaction? If y’all want to play on the Internet, fine. However I’d say not a small percentage of hashers simply want the information and not to thrill at the number and variety of vehicles to deliver random parts of it.

I use this stuff daily. I did 30 away weekends last year. Again, all I suggested was a vehicle where all the diverging information submitted could be compiled for one-stop shopping. About 3% of my online time is spent surfing. Perhaps I’m atypical, but I’d rather be hashing. Or hacking.

Okay, I think he’s proposing setting up a program to find, compile, and list hash events on one comprehensive hash calendar site, and maybe do something similar with worldwide hash contact listings. But is he proposing to do that himself or is he asking me to do it — or is he hoping that someone else will? My friend has killer IT skills and when he was co-editing the HMC with me that was the area where he made some very valuable contributions, so I think maybe he’s proposing to do it himself.

But I’ll be honest here and say he hurt my feelings just a little with that crack about playing around on the internet. And I’m afraid I let my feelings show in my response:

[ . . . ] all true. But where do you start?

Google runs news and blog searches on hashing for me and sends weekly summaries. Sometimes I’ll find something blogworthy there. If you could set up something like that to glean event announcements, that would be cool, but I doubt you’d get very many because that’s not how most hashers announce events. Where would you search for event announcements?

I get mine by email from event organizers, once in a while from something posted to hash-l, but mostly from surfing Hashspace or our colleagues’ calendar sites. You could probably hack out a way to automatically search for and compile event announcements from those sites, but I think you’ll find you still have to step in and do a lot of editing. One, just to put everything into a comprehensible & consistent format. Two, to weed out all the shit. My idea of a calendar . . . is one that lists destination events like interhashes and nash hashes, multi-day weekend events traveling hashers might want to incorporate into trips they’re already taking, and sometimes one-day events (inaugural hashes or well-known events like Rumson’s Freezing Cold Run). I don’t know how you’d tweak your search parameters to extract those sorts of events while ignoring others. But if you can figure that out, I want in on it!

Self-satisfaction? That’s my motive. . . . Certainly we’re not getting anything else from our efforts; if there weren’t some self-satisfaction in it we’d all be gone tomorrow. If you want to call it “playing around on the internet,” fine, though I have to wonder why you seem to go out of your way to belittle what I and others are doing. Is there someone out there doing it better?

Of course, that isn’t much of an answer to what he was saying; it was frankly more of a whinge.

It would be great if there were one hashing information site you could go to for accurate, up-to-date contact and event listings. But who is going to do it, and how?

There are two “world” hash contact sites, here and here. Both contain information that is years, even decades out of date, and neither site is regularly updated or corrected. For the first few years I edited and published the HMC, I tried to list worldwide hash contacts too, but soon realized there was no way one hasher could stay abreast of such a large amount of information.

Instead, I helped organize an alliance of hash webmasters to compile and list hash contacts by nation and region. Today, you can find good contact information on the national & regional sites, and that’s where most hashers go to get their information when they’re planning to travel. No, these sites aren’t perfect . . . some webmasters update frequently and regularly while others are less committed . . . but returning to the two more or less dead sites mentioned above seems like a huge step backwards to me.

Now it could be what my my friend is proposing is that someone figure out a way to regularly extract all the information from the national & regional sites and put that information all on one site. That would be great for Joe Hasher, but you’d still have to have all those national & regional webmasters to keep the data up to date, so it wouldn’t do a damn thing for Joe Organizer.

How about hash calendars? Currently there are three world calendars: mine, Hazukashii’s, and Stray Dog’s (whose site seems to be infected with malware right now, so beware). There are some national & regional calendars as well: Europe and the UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc. There’s also Hashspace, where individual hashers list events when they feel like it, but there’s no editor there to look for events the members fail to list, and besides, you have to be a member of Hashspace even to see what is there.

So why are there three world hash event calendars? I do mine because I have good contacts and actually enjoy searching out events from many sources to list on it. I also do it because as a retired guy I can put in the time and effort to make it good. I’m certain Hazukashii takes a lot of pride in his calendar. We do it because we want to, and because we can. We do it because, if you will, we like playing around on the internet.

I suppose we could pitch in on one calendar. Issues like who would host it, etc, could be ironed out, and Joe Hasher would probably love it. But you’d still have more than one Joe Organizer, just as you would still have a dozen Joe Organizers contributing to a single worldwide hash contact site. Unless my friend is proposing that all but one of us voluntarily retire . . . that’s what our colleague Stray Dog has long proposed, but have you looked at the quality and depth of information on his site lately? Well, enough about him.

Okay, here’s an idea: my calendar’s part of my blog and my blog has an RSS feed. Anyone with an RSS reader can extract the information I post here. Does RSS work with static web sites? If so, could we talk the individual editors into setting up RSS feeds for their sites? Then all we have to do is find someone willing to read all the RSS feeds, compile and edit all the information, and post it all on one site. Problem solved.

Now we just have to find someone willing to do it.

- Flying Booger

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