Happy 2024! What now?

Posted by Tom on Jan 01, 2024 at 5:25 PM

A year ago today we brought Hoperatives back. This is the first post I’ve written since then. That tells a story all by itself, and that’s pretty much the story I’m going to try to tell. I’ve thought a lot about what I wanted to write, but I’m having one of those days where thinking isn’t my strong suit. “A bad day to take up bomb disposal” is what I usually say on days like this. Not that I really want to know what a day good for taking up bomb disposal is like. So I’m just going to write and see where this goes. Buckle up.

We’d formally shut Hoperatives down in the summer of 2021, but it had largely been a zombie site since even before the pandemic started in 2020. The pandemic didn’t help, but I’m a little hesitent to throw too much blame on COVID. It did what it does. There were a ton of stories to write during those days about, oh I don’t know, how breweries were scrambling to handle something no one was prepared for, and I managed to not write any of them. That was a choice. Lord knows I had the time. By the time I put the site in “permanent” maintenance mode, Carla was writing (conservatively) 99.9% of everything that got posted. She told the whole story very well a year ago today, so there’s really no real reason to retell it.

In the 52 weeks we’ve been back there have been 19 posts. I wrote exactly none of them. Kudos to the writers who wrote. The problem isn’t that there were so few. The miracle is that there were any at all. I haven’t exactly done much to make writing here easy. I’ll explain.

The original Hoperatives website was a Wordpress site, just like some ridiculously high percentage of websites all around the Internet. The thing is, I don’t like Wordpress. It’s a preference thing, just like some folks don’t like IPAs or kombucha or whatever. I’d come across a content management system called Kirby and decided I’d build out the new Hoperatives off that code. Good idea. Terrible execution.

I very quickly got in over my head. I knew I could do it, but the time pressure to get the site up by 1/1/2023 meant I was cutting corners and saying “Whelp, it works. But don’t ask me why” far more than anyone should say. Writers would hit a bug in my code and my fixing it would break something else, but it usually wasn’t something that was being used right then so no biggie! Things that were supposed to be there just aren’t there. There’s no way to schedule a post to go up in the future. No commenting system or any smooth way to get feedback from readers. No real way to know if anyone is actually reading an article, in fact. Posting images is an adventure and any task that’s intuituve is entirely an accident. Sometime in late January last year I got it minimally functional and other obligations took me to other projects and Hoperatives has limped along ever since.

I think part of the reason I haven’t written anything is because sitting down and writing here also means staring my shortcomings in the face. The problem is that I don’t really have anywhere else to write, so it’s either give up writing or get this place fixed. I can’t give up writing. There’s so much to write about! But I’ve got to get some of the underlying stuff fixed, and I’m happy to say that the process is well underway. The writers will see improvements first, but other stuff is coming. Promise.

There are issues bigger than just our technical issues that have made the relaunch a bit aimless. We started with writing about beer, but even breweries have realized that beer is necessary, but not sufficient, to focus on exclusively. We made the decision to expand to beverages in general when we relaunched. A year on I’m still liking the idea. Am I likely to write about beer more than anything else? Probably, but that’s because beer means a lot to me personally, and I find it fascinating. It scratches my love of history, technology, and observing people. But that’s me. We have a group of interesting people who are passionate about any number of topics related to things you can drink. Who knows what direction that might go? That’s the fun of it.

When we started Hoperatives back in 2009 we didn’t know what we were doing, but we did know that we wanted to help people discover beer in a way they hadn’t experienced before. So much was new and unfamiliar. Now? Not so much. I think this craft beer thing is going to stick around. What do you do once you get to where you were hoping to go? The beer community is collectively trying to figure that out. Throw in the implosion of Twitter, the enshitification of most other social platforms and it makes you kind of wonder what the purpose of a site like Hoperatives actually is.

Guess what? We don’t know either, but that’s a feature, not a bug. We’ll figure it out. We’ll put out what people who want to read it will read. We’ve done a soft (if not downright squishy) relaunch and expansion of This Week in Beer as This Week in Beer and Beverages (TWIBB). The day Carla posted up the first one she came down with a non-COVID hacking cough from hell that’s finally let up after a solid month. That’s why there hasn’t been another one, but there will be.

Hang in there with us. We’re figuring it out as we go along. Just like we always have.