So you wanna join the boards, huh?
If you ask me (and by reading this, I’ll assume you did), the only thing better than enjoying a hobby is sharing that enjoyment with other like-minded enthusiasts. However, if your hobby is cigars, the increasing amount of public anti-smoking laws are making this more difficult to do. The days of not having to look far for cigar-friendly establishments are sadly coming to an end.
So, much like it did for lovers of free music, socially-isolating role playing games, and pornography, the Internet has provided a solution. That solution comes in the form of online cigar message boards / blogs. Through the blogs, lovers of the leaf can communicate with one another, trade cigars, provide reviews, and engage in some good-natured e-camaraderie. Great, right? Well…mostly. The great shroud of anonymity provided by a computer allows some people — who otherwise would conduct themselves with at least a modicum of civility –to act like complete douchebags.
It would be easier for everyone if the registration process for every blog contained the question “Are you a douchebag?”. However, since I’m guessing that the honesty percentage of the answers would be in the range of 0.00003% (note: all figures approximate), this is a less-than-practical solution. The easiest way is just to educate all of the “newbies” on the proper ways to conduct one’s self in the online cigar community. Let’s start with a few basic principles.
Think of each blog as a country club.
I know what you’re thinking. Relax, I don’t mean the pretentious, stuffed shirt, Judge Smails type of country club. Bushwood notwithstanding, just keep in mind that each board is comprised of an established community of members with established rules and expectations of behavior. If you want to be accepted into their community, you must learn and conform to the way they operate. The difference between country clubs and cigar blogs is that anyone can join. You don’t have to know somebody to get you in (in the case of most boards). However, as quickly as you can join, you can just as quickly be banned. Remember, you a joining an established community. If you don’t like their rules and regulations, you aren’t required to stay there. You will find that most blogs are very inviting to new members. However, if you come in attempting to stir the pot, you will be tossed…right into the lumberyard.
A newbie is a newbie is a newbie.
Many newcomers (hereafter referred to as “newbies”…just get used to it) to cigar message blogs are also new to the cigar hobby itself. This is not an accident, it’s a great way to expand your education of the hobby. However, some newcomers to the blogs are experienced cigar smokers with a wealth of knowledge on the subject. Therein lies the potential for trouble. Some of the more experienced smokers take offense at being referred to as a “newbie”. My advice to those people is this: get over it. Harsh, I know. While you’re not new to cigars, you are new to the blogs. To fully participate and benefit from all of the resources of the community, you have to build a reputation which can only be done over time. If you haven’t built that reputation, people don’t know you. You have to earn their respect and trust. Until you do that, regardless of experience, you are a newbie.
Read more, type less
The best way to get a feel for a particular blog is to spend more time reading than posting. You’ll find that each blog is a bit different. Some are edgy and subversive, some are more laid back. Take the time to read several of them to see which one is the best fit for you. Also, use your blog’s search function. If you have a question, there’s a good chance it’s been asked before. Some people are okay with answering the same question two or three times, but nobody wants to be the broken record. Taking the initiative to find your own answers will garner respect from some of the more seasoned members of the blog.
Well, that’s it…ok, no that’s not it. But, at least it’s a start. Over the coming weeks, we’ll discuss proper protocols for posting, trades, passes, etc… For now, go out and find a few blogs, read some posts, and decide which one (or ones) you want to join. Don’t be surprised if you see the same people at multiple blogs. Go make some friends, but if you see “Eshaw99” out there, steer clear. That guy’s a douche. – Eric
by Eric Shaw
Continue reading Part Two here…