On August 24th 2013 the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum, of which I am an active member, existed precisely 5 years! This also means that I have been a pipe smoker for 3 years. I registered myself on the forum August 24th 2010 and started smoking pipe around that date. But the forum itself started earlier, in 2008. I have to thank Shaun for writing down the history of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum. I only translated it:
Who in early 2009 searched on the internet for “pijp roken” (pipe smoking) did not find much, A website of a pipe smokers guild with some practical tips on lighting and burning a pipe. Luckily there also was a fantastic website from Jan Kusters from the Dutch town of Sittard with its extensive and excellent “Pijpenboek van Janneman” (Pipebook from Janneman). Which later pretty much became the standard for every beginning (and more advanced) pipe smoker who spoke the Dutch language.
But… There had to be more??? Therefore on February 3rd 2009 a beginning pipe smoker frantically was searching for more tips, tricks and information about pipes and tobaccos on the internet. Result after result was clicked, page after page was carefully watched. Unfortunately, not at all complementary. Until suddenly in the depths of the Internet on page 10 of the Google searching results a pipe smokers forum popped up! Victory! The end of a long search, what a blessing it would be to receive a warm welcome by fellow smokers. But alas… The disappointment was great: the forum exactly had one member and a message. It was the smallest of all the forums at forum2go.nl, the initial host. After the first disappointment the beginning pipe smoker directly registered as second member under the forum name “Victor Baarn” and through a personal message contacted that first member, the admin: Pim123. Pim123 founded the forum on August 24 2008 as a learning experiment in how to create a forum. Since Pim123 at that time just was learning how to smoke pipe the forum became a pipe smoking forum by accident.
Victor Baarn asked Pim123 whether he might attempt to make the forum bigger. Pim123 gave Victor Baarn the permission to promote the forum and conveniently made him moderator. The weeks after that the search on internet continued and Victor Baarn collected every e-mail address that even remotely had something to do with pipe smoking. A little over a week several dozen e-mail addresses were collected and on February 13th 2009 an invitation e-mail was send throughout the country and abroad (Belgium).
And low and behold, the days after several new members applied, the first one (of course) being Janneman. But it did not go very fast.. Pim123 and Victor Baarn were busy opening new topics, the one after the other, in order to create conversations for the members. At first the forum looked more like a public dialogue between Victor Baarn and Pim123. So it was difficult in the beginning and in the first weeks it was to became clear if the forum would be viable. But luckily, despite the calm, there were some folks who kept on posting. Active members in the first days besides Pim123 and Victor Baarn mainly were Janneman, Antonius, dr. Watson, Joey Peters, Rob, Superpelic, Don Carlos, Bas and Vier Heeren Baai. A club of a few men who nicely chatted away with each other. Without their contributions the forum would not have been viable at that time. What definitely contributed was Janneman’s Pipebook for which he granted Pim124 permission to place it on the forum.
There was one certainty: that regularly, weekly a new member applied. Slowly but surely the number of members expanded. The more the merrier: more discussions and terminology. Google picked this up and pushed the forum upwards in the search results, thus creating new members. Another trick to promote the forum was that Victor placed links to sites about pipe smoking that scored high in the Google ranks. This resulted in more points in the search machine and… More new members. On Saturday September the 18th 2010 the first forum-meeting took place in Leerdam with an attendance of 11 members. After a few months the forum stood on page 1 of the search results. After that it went fast.
So fast that on November 7th 2010 Pim 123 announced that he had started the forum as an experiment and, now the forum had 200 members, would like to hand it over into more fanatical hands. Thus, on November 9th 2010 the fanatical DrFretboard became the new admin. And once again things moved fast. This time with regards to the technical progress of the forum. DrFretboard lifted the forum onto a higher technical level and introduced many improvements in the forum structure. Because of the busy traffic several moderators were introduced. The pipe smokers forum really grew up. The strict vision of DrFretboard about the forum led to a lot of discussions after a while. Dissatisfied smokers were found to be huge troublemakers. So on April 29th 2011 DrFretboard voluntary stepped down as admin with the question who was willing to take it over from him. After some discussions Nekker and Massis became the new admins on May 7th 2011.
From the beginning Nekker and Massis had a common target. First the human contacts, second to create the largest encyclopaedia about pipe smoking (in Dutch) that exists on internet. With that also the realization grew that the reigns had to be slacken. A more relaxed vibe sprouted and things started to fall into place. From this grew a hard core of people who not only got along with each other online but also in real life. Many initiatives proved this like mini-meetings, the Leerdam meeting etc. Then there was the big milestone in the forum history. Massis, who also takes care of the technical side of the forum, made the upgrade from the amateurish Forum2go to a professional forum. From then on everything kept on going forwards to (hopefully) never be stopped.
So in 2010 I was searching for info about pipe smoking and of course stumbled upon the forum which included Janneman’s Pipe Smoking Book. Eventually I registered and bought my first pipe and tobacco, which is described in my post Humble Beginnings Part 3. I am not a social kind of person. I have a mild form of autism, I stutter sometimes and being an only child is not really good for your communication skills. But the laid back vibe on the forum worked wonders with me, everyone was accepted the way he was and I became more open. Also the amount of metalheads was reassuring (and surprised me!), good folks!
I did not go to the first forum meeting in Leerdam, I only was a member for a short time. For the second one I initially said I could not come, but after some thinking I decided to go after all. Best decision ever. I stood before the old train station building in Leerdam where the meeting was organised and I was thinking like: “Arno, you really must be out of your mind.. You are in a town you have never been before and you are about to walk into a building where a meeting for pipe smokers is organized. And you know no one! Except for some forum posts of course.” Still I went inside and I had a blast! Very friendly people and I came to the conclusion that I could have a conversation with everyone because we all had one thing in common: pipe smoking.
And gradually real life friendships developed like with Ed (St Patrick). At the beginning of 2012 I left my car keys inside the car at Ellen‘s place in Olst while the spare keys were in my apartment in Oss where I still lived at that time. Nobody was willing or had the time to drive me so I could get the spare keys so in the end I desperately called Ed, who I then only just knew. “Oooh, well, then we are going to get the keys Sunday morning in Oss. During the ride we can smoke a pipe, relaaax.” I was flabbergasted.. And this kind of stuff characterizes the forum. The kindness, the generosity etc. etc. Of course there were some “hiccups” like the affair with DrFretboard. Also sometimes there are some differences of opinions but it is always solved in a civilized manner.
Because of the forum I crawled out of my shell and I became more social. Also the forum gave me a lot of creative impulses. After I won the “make a new banner competition”, organised by Pim123, I also made artwork for wallpapers, shirts, caps, more banners, business cards, mouse-pads, ashtrays, poker-fiches, dice, (forum)pipes and for some wonderful stone tampers made by Martin. Besides this I got motivated by the forum to combine some of my “old loves”, history and writing which resulted in this blog. Also I am still busy organizing the forum tobaccos.
So… Let’s go for another 5 years! And then 5 more and 5 more and 5 more……
Here are some pictures of meetings and mini-meetings from the years that I am a member: