The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

The meaning of it all.

Floydm's picture
Floydm

The meaning of it all.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about what this site is for. Part of the reason I've been thinking about this is my recent employment at Mercy Corps, but the disputes the last few days have brought to my attention that we don't all come here with the same expectations about what this site is trying to do. So let me riff a little about what I think think The Fresh Loaf is about. I'll admit up front, I'm not entirely certain either, and as the site has grown my feelings may have changed and probably will continue to do so. Still, some reflection is worthwhile, and hopefully it'll help explain why some things set me off.

The site is a little over two years old. In that time we've had people come and go, but a decent number of regulars have hung around. Many of them (as well as new members) have commented that they don't tend to post to online communities but that this one is different. People here are more helpful, more courteous, less judgmental, more humane than on most other boards.

As the site grows, I'm coming to realize that *that* is what I want to cultivate here. More than the recipes, more than the photos, more than anything else it is the kindness and the humanity that I want to see flourish. Given the choice between this become the most authoritative bread baking site online but run by a bunch of a**holes or a site full of compassionate, caring, but perhaps mediocre bakers, I will hands down choose the latter. That said, I think we have some very talented bakers here and the site content keeps getting better and better. I don't think kindness needs be thrown aside to achieve greatness.

Mercy Corps' motto, which I see and think about every day, is a quote from Gandhi: "Be The Change." In our every day interactions with one another, we can make the world a better place. I honestly think what we've been doing here is consistent with that mission. Every time a baker on one side of the world helps a baker on the other side of the world regardless of borders, race, or religion, we make the world a better place. Every time someone who has been wanting to try to bake something but has been too intimidated to finally tries it because we gave them the confidence to and it brings joy to them and their loved ones, we make the world a better place. Every time we post a tip or a hint we are focusing on our common humanity by sharing our passions with one another rather than focus on our differences and by doing so, in a small way, we are making the world a better place.

As I've mentioned, I worked with Peter Reinhart and the other Brother Juniper's bakers while in high school. I watched how they took something as simple as neighborhood cafe and used it to bring kindness, joy, inspiration, love, and caring into people's lives. They did things far nobler that anything I've done here, such as provide food for the terminally ill and employ a number of people with handicaps that made it difficult for them to find work elsewhere. Their model has inspired me to think about the mission of this site as something more than just exchanging recipes.

I'm continuing to think about how we can use this site to be an agent for positive change in the world, both on micro-level ("offer encouragement to excited new bakers") to the macro-level ("could we do a World Bread Day fundraiser for people who can't even afford to put bread on the table?"). I think we can do more with it.

All that said, I am grateful to the people on this site who come here each day and share their talents and experience. By doing so they enrich my life and the lives of many others.

Comments

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

 

 Floyd as you know I was a monk for quite a few years. I have devoted a great deal of time in service to others. Anyone who has ever spent any time in contemplation about the true meaning of compassion will understand that it as about wanting others to be free from long term suffering. Anyone who has spent any time in a religious community will also realise that there is no room for hypocrisy and hatred. Nice to one and full of hate for another. However, some of the most compassionate acts from my seniors were less than wrapped in honey. But if you'd prefer people on this site to withhold their help if they for any reason think it may not be understood in the spirit in which it was given then I'm sure everyone can respect that you are in charge. 

 

Sourdough-guy

It isn't his polite words that are a measure of the man but his actions when things aren't going his way.

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Sourdough-guy,

I don't think hatred is the issue at all. Floyd has set the baseline for the type of community he wants here. A place where people can feel comfortable sharing their enthusiasm for baking and what they've learned, without fear that they'll face criticism for having done something "wrong" or used the "wrong" terminology.

Anger is not hatred, and enforcement of the limits he's set is not hypocricy.

For those of us who have been baking a while, a vigorous debate over whether one should say poolish, biga, preferement or sponge; or use rest or autolyse may be invigorating. But for the beginners and shy enthusiasts that Floyd is targeting, that kind of thread would probably make them less likely to participate. Who wants to risk invoking the ire or mockery of someone else for using "incorrect" terms that they only halfway understand anyway?

Floyd has talked about setting up an "advanced" forum of sorts, and maybe that's the solution. But the bottomline is, I don't see anything hypocricital about vigorously defending the type of community that one wants to create.

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

 This was my point J. I think most people seem to have understood that. I merely wanted to say if those of that know these terms take the time to either use English so the beginners aren't confused or use them properly, in context so the beginners have a chance to learn them then they will feel confident that no one reading will be mocking them behind their backs. But if people here would prefer to be kept in the dark about their faux pas then I can live with that. I come from a background of wanting to go forwards so it's my instinct to want to be told when I'm wrong I understand that not everyone wants that. That's perfectly fine.  

Sourdough-guy

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

That makes sense to me, though I doubt that beginners worry much that people mock them off-board for their terminology. And in any case, I shouldn't have dredged that up again.

In general, though, I think you're right that, here, at least, unless someone is asking for advice on how to improve, it's probably best to keep corrections to oneself.

Though I admit, there are going to be exceptions. Someone who posts excitedly about the great smelling bread they're baking with raw wild almonds should definitely be told that wild almonds are chock full of deadly poison. As might a cautionary post to folks (like me!) who think it might be a fine idea to block the vents of his gas oven to trap steam inside for a better crust. If someone had been able to save me $250 and the loss of my oven for a couple of weeks, I'd have been ecstatic. ;-)

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

SD guy - I understand what you're saying - When I first came to this site all these terms were confusing but I wanted to learn the language ...(the same thing happens in the work I do - I think most professions have jargon that seems simple to those who use it everyday). When I come across a word I don't understand, I google it and then go "ah-ha!" ...happened just recently with that word "frissage". I could tell from the context what it meant but still wanted to know what the true term meant. In my opinion - I'm here to learn - if it's done in spirit of kindess which from my perspective it always has been then - please! teach on. I admire you and all the great bakers on this site and hope to learn lots more...

 Trish in Omaha

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Your point is valid, and I certainly agree that there are good reasons that drill sergeants, sports coaches, and senior clergy adopt tougher but no less compassionate approaches with their underlings. Pushing people to achieve real excellence, it seems, often takes harsh techniques, since you are pushing them beyond what they believe they are capable of. That is noble work too.

But is that the approach we want to adopt here? I don't really think so, at least not as a general policy. I feel like the niche that this site fills is to get people started down the path to becoming great bakers, not necessarily coaching them all the way to that greatness. It really wouldn't bother me if people end up "graduating" out of this site and moving on to a community like RFS or joining the BBGA, sites and groups run by far better bakers than myself. I'll never be Mike Avery or Dan Lepard or Didier Rosada to any of the people here, but I do think I could some day be the person who first turned the next great baker on to artisan baking before they went elsewhere to seek a more serious level of training. It is the difference between being someone's first coach, which I think requires more tenderness, and someone's last coach, who is justified in using whatever technique they can to push their student to greatness.

I hope that makes sense.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Floyd, 

I have been reading and observing this thread for some time. Today I have a better idea of where you are coming from and where you might like to steer this site. Previously I have refrained from commenting on the language threads and what I consider endless babble about the unknown. I was never an English major and I didn't come here to improve my writing skills. I am here to learn to bake and make a few friends if possible. For me that means developing mutual respect through sharing experiences.

Now that I know enough to be dangerous in the kitchen, my interests are changing. It seems to me that the forum is evolving into a faster paced shorter memory community where a few posters are responsible for a larger percentage of the traffic than is proportionate. I have had concerns that some of my own busier days on the site were "to involved" and overly social in nature. The social part is interesting and part of what makes this place warm and fuzzy. However, I think some prattle on about minutia to distraction.

I have re-written this piece a number of times. If you are reading it, I finally decided to post it as a protest to just this exact kind of gibberish. I think this whole thread is not helpful to the concept of the site as I see it. I wouldn't think the new bakers who come to the site would be at all interested in this "board meeting".

I personally hope you will continue with the site, set some better standards of conduct that could be monitored by advanced moderators and develop the community aspect of the project. Without clear rules and direction, people will farfel around and make mistakes or push the envelope constantly. You should learn to delegate. You can't be the judge, jury and hangman plus programmer and still work days and have a life.

Ok, that's it from me, not another word of babble. Floyd you have my permission (not that you need it) to delete my post if it suits you!

Eric

 

Floydm's picture
Floydm

I'm sick of the navel gazing too. Let's move on and get back to baking.

I'm trying to start delegating through the rating. Rating comments down will make them fade away today. When I get a chance I want to change the thread rating to the be the same style Up or Down rating and make threads drop off the front page if they annoy people. For the time being, please rate my posts and anyone else's up or down as you think is appropriate. The more data I have in the rating table, the more the site can rely on it to make display decisions rather than my personal judgement.

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Last post about the mechanics of this site for a while, I swear...

I had an epiphany on the drive home from work today. What if I filter out comments to blog posts on the front page?

Right now there isn't really a difference between a blog post and a forum post. With this change a forum post would become a solicitation for feedback, a blog post becomes somewhat more private. I'd be much more forgiving about off-topic, snarky, or super high-end discussions if they are happening off on the side in someone's blog than if they are happening in the middle of the forums and sucking all the air out of the room.

Rhis thread was a perfect example of something that I wanted to post about and by putting it in my blog I was trying to make it more of an aside than a central discussion. That didn't work since as soon as one person commented on it it jumped to the top of everyone's page. That wouldn't happen any more. You'd have to go hunting to find my philosophical ramblings, which may interest a few folks but certainly doesn't interest everyone. Blog posts and discussions would be much easier to ignore.

BTW, I don't think I've ever mentioned that the blogs have RSS feeds too. My blog lives at:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/blog/floydm

The feed to it is at:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/blog/floydm/feed

So if there is someone you find interesting and you want to subscribe to just their blog and not bother with the rest of us, you can.

I'm going to make that change tonight, unless folks think this is a bad idea. I'll update the FAQ to explain the difference too, and I'll (finally) add a FAQ answer about posting pictures.

mse1152's picture
mse1152

Floyd,

This makes sense.  People can get into more esoterica in a blog, and if responses to it don't show up on the main page, you can choose how much detail you want to pursue when you come to the site.  I think it naturally separates bakers who are pursuing specific changes in a bread they may bake a dozen times before they like it from those who are just learning or trying a new recipe for the first time.  Both/all groups have something to contribute, of course.

I appreciate the time and care you have put into this site.  I'm one of those who has not participated in any other online baking group before coming here.  The members here are my Dough Homies.   ;)

BTW, I just finished baking your recipe for Irish Soda Bread, and expect it will be better than James Beard's recipe I posted about in the out-takes thread. 

Sue

Floydm's picture
Floydm

I hope your Irish Soda Bread came out better than mine did!

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

to continue to thank you for sharing your vision and acting on it.  As I noted to you previously in a private email my municiple website forum which I started had to close down when things got out of control.

My past experience and training in a Buddhist community suggests that when one evaluates whether or not to say or do something, it is necessary for one to examine one's   motive   .  There is action in the doing as well as not doing or saying something. 

Having been part of a Zen Buddhist community for years, I am well aware of instances when "compassionate acts from my seniors were less than wrapped in in honey."  However joining a religious community and signing on to their ground rules is possibly different from this community.

Peace,

countryboy

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Having been part of a Zen Buddhist community for years, I am well aware of instances when "compassionate acts from my seniors were less than wrapped in in honey." However joining a religious community and signing on to their ground rules is possibly different from this community.

My thoughts exactly.

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

BINGO! (and I also don't even think I'm the object of this subject. I'm replying as a generalist and a member of maybe "the group" as a beginner.)

Again from the newbie perspective...I WANT to know the proper way to "be the baker". I am eager to learn "bake speak". I think we all do. I want constructive criticism and help.

But I don't want sarcasm. Or thinly veiled humor at my expense, when I'm the butt of the joke. No one likes being the object of the joke.

A successful mom knows she must correct her children. She knows she must provide the rules of life for her babies. And some of the most successful mom's I've seen do this consistently, firmly, and without sarcasm or shades of inflection that bring negative feelings out from her kids. It's the way the successful mom ends up with an adult who has a healthy sense of self esteem.

On a board, you have no knowledge of whether the person asking the question had a successful mom or not, or whether they have a healthy self-esteem or not. In soceity it's the same thing. That's why I think people can be funny without being sarcastic. And that people can be crack wizards at wordplay without having to make someone or something the object of the humor.

So here's my permission to give me guidance and education. Just do it in a straightforward manner as you would want someone to do for you.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

One of the things that I most appreciate about The Fresh Loaf community is the way that the posters generally manage a refreshing degree of courtesy, even in the most lively exchanges.  Coupled with a frequently expressed and genuine desire to learn or to help, it makes for a very pleasant environment. 

I have been baking bread for 30 years now (mostly straight yeasted sandwich types).  If a resource like The Fresh Loaf had been available when I was getting started, it would have given me a lot more confidence, both in what I was doing and in attempting new things.  The contact with other bakers, whether first-timers or seasoned professionals, is a wonderful thing.  I am constantly picking up new ideas on material and equipment and techniques.  And I am constantly encouraged to learn that my disasters aren't unqualified failures, but opportunities to learn what went wrong and how to do better in the future.

So, count me among those who enjoy being treated with courtesy and respect.  And, I hope, among those who do the same for their fellow bakers.

PMcCool

pjkobulnicky's picture
pjkobulnicky

I'm relatively new to the site but I like it and don't find it to be very controversial. I think that one always has to understand the pulurality and diversity that exists in any community. As much as we would like everyone to be committed to "the way", folks are folks. The best way to deal with behavior that goes over the edge is to ignore it.

 I come to the site because I think that one of the best ways to learn, at any stage of learning, is to try and fail. Then, once you have digested your failure (no pun intended) you can start to consider when and how you went wrong. It is here that we often turn to others to help us see things we can't see ourselves.

I'll tell you all an interesting reverse generational story.  My son is an artisinal baker who has baked for, among others, Didier Rosada. Those of you who have kids know that parents are usually the last persons that kids will come to for help. Well ... I know that if I have a baking problem and want to get some assistance without the accompanying sigh of exasperation, I come here and not to my son.

So ... I don't think the site has to be only to get novices started or only to talk about the  refined details of advanced baking. It seems to be great at getting people started and helping them move along with as much kind support as can be given. And, as people move upward in their skill, they do want to know the right words and when to use them. We're not as fragile as all that.

Hey ... let's go bake. 

 

Paul Kobulnicky

Baking in Ohio

graz's picture
graz

All I have to say on this subject is "Do onto others, as you would have done to you".

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

I quite agree, there's been too many judgemental, personal attacks, and some pretty bad insults if you ask me. Should it matter who it's from or who it's aimed at? I don't  think so. Someone said that the meaning of the word is in the mind of the reader. Yes that is true and it is only that. Read something twice on different days and you'll see something different.  However, insults, that I won't repeat, are hard to see as anything other than personal attacks. That should make everyone uncomfortable no matter who it's coming from or aimed at. Group dynamics usually means a ganging together and taking sides which usually means personal attacks seem justified. I don't see how. We aren't animals. But there is a huge difference between personal attacks and questioning the validity of what someone has said. This would be a very dull place if we all had to agree with each other.

Floyd, I had a quick look through the FAQ, there are one or two judgmental statements there. You need to be careful you don't set the tone  that none of us wants. Take care you don't give hatred permission by your own words.

Sourdough-guy

tattooedtonka's picture
tattooedtonka

Floyd, you have seen me compliment you on a job well done for this web site before.  And I still feel the same.  But I am still evolving and alot is due to this site.  In a relatively short period of time, I have gone from buying all breads, to not only making all breads for my house but making pretzels, bagels, and so on. 

I am one of the folks who not only comes here to get recipes, and recipe help, but to read and post about the mundane.  As a new bread baker, I am the ONLY bread baker in my house.  My wife has no interest, kids no interest, so if you want to chat with folks about bread this is where I hang out.  There are alot of "dead" times in bread baking, I have a poolish on the counter that has been there for about 2 hours and still needs about another 2 before I can work with it.  So thats 4 hours of hanging out.  During my past "hanging outs" I have chatted with ehanner about cheese, I have read and posted with sourdough guy about his lovely sunflower seed bread.  Heck I have had some chats with a bunch of folks, and I appreciate them all. 

I will easily admit that I am not always the best with words, and if something I say is misinterpreted I am the first to apologize.  I am here to learn, enjoy the company, and hang out with some interesting folks. 

As browndog5 has stated before she likes "wordplay", and I am cool with that.  I love having a good time, as long as its not at someones expense.  No one here has stepped right up to insult me straight on, so I dont have any issues.  If I did I would question it, then most likely ignore it as uncalled for.  No need to get my panties in a bunch.  I love this place, and hope to be able to contribute for years to come.  

Keep on truckin brother, I got your back.

Tattooed Tonka

sourdough-guy's picture
sourdough-guy

 Hi Floyd I just read the updated FAQ great job. Thank you for your time. 

 

Sourdough-guy

tigressbakes's picture
tigressbakes

I am one of the newbies on the site and I spend a lot of time on the internet because of the nature of my business. I have been on a lot of 'message boards' for one thing or another and this site by far has a MUCH more welcoming and consistantly courteous vibe.

So going back to your post on the start of this thread, I think for the most part, that you have/are creating exactly the kind of environment that you have stated you want to on this site, and it is commendable. When I read your post I was very excited about your vision for 'World Bread Day'. What a great idea. I think that anytime people can join together to help their fellow humans and they don't, it is a lost opportunity. I would most definitely be interested in working on something like this with you.

I, like many of you stated here, have spent time in a contemplative environment. I lived at an ashram for a time, and have been a practicing yogini for over 10 years. My first spiritual teacher had a saying: Don't confuse the finger pointing to the moon for the moon.

I seem to find relevance with that statement and a lot of instances in life, the topic of this thread is no exception.