Special Report - Past, Present & Future
Ugly, innit? That's how this site used
to look +/- 1997. Well, there's actually
a logical explanation for the 'poisonous'
look in the late 1990's. Malt Madness
started out as an article in my Dutch
publication Weird Planet Magazine;
'the lifestyle magazine for people that
already have a lifestyle'.
Perhaps the contents of of Weird
Planet Magazine were just a tad too
venomous for mass consumption - or
at least for international consumption.
Many Dutchmen have a fairly dark and
absurdist sense of humour, but that
doesn't seem to travel very well. If you
think an advertisement about a special
'Dig Your Own Grave' discount at the
local funeral home you would have
probably loved Weird Planet Magazine.
However, you would also be one of a select few. Not everybody 'got it'....
Anyway..... In this 'special' report' I'll look at the history of MM - and my ambitious plans for the future.
If you've read Log Entry #300 you know I've collected some monthly reviews and my 'malt mileages' for the last
eight months of 2006 in that main report. This special report is one in a series of six to wrap up the Liquid Log
I've kept between 1997 and 2006. The other five special reports deal with various other topics;
300B - Hamstergeddon 2006 (Updates on the 'six malts on the matrix' mission of the malt maniacs)
300C - Festivities (A collection of hot reports about various meetings, festivals and 'super tastings')
300D - Vox Populi (This is where I share some interesting malt questions from 'our captive audience')
300E - A Beginner's Guide to Amsterdam (Yeah, I know it's a bit off-topic, but I promised to write it)
300F - The Raveling (The tying up of several unraveling 'loose ends' of my liquid log before the re-launch)
And last but not least: I hope to finish the Distillery Profiles next year. I suppose I could have started on a special
report about my virtual race towards Tullibardine as well, but I've added a special 'progress' page to the Distillery
Data section instead. Click on one of the links above if you think that topic is more interesting than the past and
future of MM. Otherwise, scroll down - or, better yet; use one of these direct links to the sub-entries instead;
This page contains the following entries;
01/05/2006 - Why Oh Why... (Why have I decided to end my Liquid Log by the end of 2006?)
11/05/2006 - A Shifting Paradigm (Suddenly the structure of MM doesn't seem to make much sense)
01/07/2006 - We're Pregnant! (We're expecting our new and improved virtual offspring in six months)
15/08/2006 - A Frozen Website (After running continuously for almost a decade, it's time for an overhaul)
May 1, 2006 - Why Oh Why...
As soon as I dropped the first hints about ending
this log I received a few desperate messages from
malt fans who seem prone to panic attacks. Come
on, guys (and gal)... Don't worry - I'll just share my
opinions and experiences in a different format
and/or structure from 2007 onwards.
As you can see on the screenshot of the MM
website as it looked around the year 2000, the
liquid log wasn't even listed as one of the 'main'
sections of the website at the time - and neither
was Malt Maniacs for that matter. Well, the site
didn't actually look just like this - the text on
most buttons is screwed up because I made this
particular screenshot after the first of many
(software and/or hardware) crashes.
And, indirectly, the danger of future crashes is one of the main reasons for this overhaul...
Why am I ending my liquid log in its current form. Let me explain...
We're now reaching the limits of the current infrastructure (if you can call it that) of MM.
In the introduction to this page I mentioned that MM/MM started out as a section of Weird Planet Magazine.
By the year 1999 the number of visitors of the pages dedicated to single malts exceeded those for WP Magazine,
so I slowly started spending more and more time on my 'purely personal whisky pages' (that were still hosted at Geocities at the time). By then I had switched to the NetObjects Fusion software to maintain the site. The
program has many disadvantages, but enough advantages to keep me from exploring alternatives until now. However, the NetObjects software was never intended to maintain 'heavy' sites of more than 250 pages and the
'export' function sucks ass. At that point in time I had no idea about the humongousness that this site would eventually reach, so I didn't consider that to be a big problem.
Well, now it's starting to become one....
Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs has now grown so huge (50+ Megabytes and counting) that it takes a loooong time
to edit pages and publish them on-line. It's about time I invested in a new PC, but until now all my attempts to
export the website properly so I can keep expanding it on another computer have failed. So, that means that
when the PC I'm working on right now dies, the current website could not be updated anymore - i.e. it would 'die'
with it. But it was high time for a fresh start anyway. Since the basis of the current site was laid in 2000, the site
has been running for almost seven years now. By web standards, the site is positively 'antique'... I'm keeping my
fingers crossed that my (t)rusty old PC will stay alive at least until the end of the year so I can restructure the
current site and 'freeze' part of it as a mega-archive of a decade of heavy dramming. That will be the title too: A Decade of Heavy Dramming - shortened in maniacal fashion to ADHD. This 'frozen' site will be integrated in a leaner and meaner MM site will be contstructed around the old pages.
And that's it for now - more about my (megola)maniacal plans in a little while.
Meanwhile, please don't hesitate to drop me a note if you have any suggestions for improvements to the site!
May 11, 2006 - A Shifting Paradigm
In my previous sub-entry I've explained
some of the technical problems I'm faced
with w.r.t. Malt Madness. The screenshot
at the right shows the site circa 2003, just
before a massive crash. At that time the
site was divided in three main sections,
including one dedicated to 'Malt Maniacs'.
In 2002 I tried to launch Malt Maniacs as
a seperate, 'democratic' platform but by the
year 2003 it was re-integrated back into the
Malt Madness site under my dictatorial control. (Left to their own devices, maniacs have a
problem maintaining discipline, it seems ;-)
So, that sort of proves that change has
always been a part of MM/MM - and that
there's no need for panic.
If unforeseen catastrophes don't stop us in our tracks MM will keep evolving at about the same pace at which society in general seems to be devolving. We'll let you know when we're about to lose contact...
Meanwhile, the new MM concept is starting to solidify in my mind.
For the first five years (1997-2001), the website was almost exclusively 'personal' - although there were already
some contributions from proto-maniacs and the general public in the 'Vox Populi' section. Then, from 2002
onwards, the 'collective' part gradually became as important as the 'personal' section, at least from the
perspective of the amount of content. So, that became the main 'conceptual' distinction between Malt Madness
and Malt Maniacs: my purely personal opinions and reflections as opposed those of the 24 malt maniacs as a
collective. That seemed to make sense to me at the time, but it recently dawned on me that our 'collective' opinion is merely the result of 24 indivial and personal opinions.
Ergo: suddenly the current site structure doesn't seem to make quite as much sense anymore...
For example, I've sinned against three of my own 'cardinal rules' when it comes to setting up a website: 1)
develop a site structure that follows the needs of the target audience, 2) make the latest information easily accessible on one or just a few pages and 3) make sure all main browsers / operating system combinations
display the site correctly.
I'm happy to report that I've figured out some pretty decent solutions to these problems - I think...
There are some things I'd like to discuss with Serge next week during our Hamstergeddon session in Alsace first,
but my next sub-entry on this page will deal with a radical new and improved structure of the Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs website. Until then, I suggest you check out Log Entry #300 for an overview of 2006 log entries dealing
with other topics.
July 1, 2006 - We're Pregnant !!!
Hurray, we're pregnant...
In fact, we have been pregnant for 3 months
now and the unholy love-child of 24 certified
malt maniacs is expected to arrive safely in
cyberspace on January 1, 2007.
If it's a boy or girl we'll call it 'Malt Maniacs'.
Actually, we had sort of a 'fake pregnancy' in
2002. At that time we were only twelve maniacs
strong, but we already had megalomaniac
dreams of the future. So, I tried to launch Malt
Maniacs as a separate site, a truly democratic
utopia where every member of the team would
make a similar contribution to our collective
efforts - like an alcoholic variety of communism.
Well, that bird-brain idea wasn't a big success...
Left to their own devices, some maniacs simply are lazy buggers...
So, after publishing our first four issues, 'Malt Maniacs' was reincorporated into Malt Madness while I assumed full
dictatorial control over the proceedings again. However, almost five years and twenty issues down the road (I've
published the first few E-pistles of Malt Maniacs #18 in June) we have reached the technical limits of the current
site. Since the current site is becoming simply too massive, it makes sense to split it into two 'physical' websites again - or actually three sites, because Serge's WhiskyFun website will be more integrated in the overall concept
as well. As I wrote in my previous entry the old distinction between the 'personal' Malt Madness section and the
'collective' Malt Maniacs section seemed logical at the time, but now I'm starting to think that our future development would be better suited with a different approach.
One of the 'occupational hazzards' of working as a marketeer is that you tend to focus on different target
audiences and their needs. From that perspective, maybe the distinction between my own 'purely personal'
opinions on one end and the purely personal opinions of the other maniacs on the other hand isn't the most
important one - especially considering that a lot of my own writings end up on MManiacs anyway. So, I thought long and hard about a new structure.
I've put on my marketeer's hat for a while and came to the conclusion that the explosive growth of both the
single malt market and the internet over the last decade warrants a closer look at our 'audience'. When I started
the site in 1996 that audience simply consisted of 'on-line malt lovers'. Single malts were still a relatively obscure
phenomenon and not that many people were on-line anyway, so the audience was relatively small. These days,
the audience is much larger (over 1,000 visitors a day on MM alone) and there's a clear distinction between (A)
beginners who are just starting to experience single malts and want to learn more about the basics on one end and (B) the real freaks who were 'bitten by the bug' on the other.
Looking at Malt Madness / Malt Maniacs / WhiskyFun from that perspective, Serge and I came to the conclusion that a division of the website(s) along the following lines would make much more sense;
Malt Madness would focus mostly on (relative) beginners, providing all the 'basic' information about single malt
whisky. Needless to say, the Beginner's Guide would be part of Malt Madness, but I guess the Distillery Data
section should be included there as well. The site will be a 'reference guide' for all malty matters, so the Malt Map
of Scotland belongs in the section as well, I imagine. Furthermore, I'd like to include my Hit List, Shit List and Bang-For-Your-Buck List as well.
Malt Maniacs would be more like a 'magazine' next to the 'library' or 'reference guide' Malt Madness.
Due to technical reasons the first 19 issues of Malt Maniacs will 'physically' be part of the new Malt Madness site,
but from Malt Maniacs #20 on we'll have a brand new site structure, geared more towards the 'freaks' that are
interested in the finer points of the history and production process of single malt whisky, antique bottlings, statistics, discussions, etc.
WhiskyFun will be more closely integrated with Malt Madness and Malt Maniacs next year.
Apart from the usual wit & wisdom already found on WF there will be more 'maniacal' stuff as well. Best of all,
unlike MMadness and MManiacs, WF will be updated every day to accomodate the most fanatical part of our audience.
And that's it for now... More details about our plans in the next entry on this page.
August 15, 2006 - A Frozen Website
Well... I have some bad news...
I've recovered quite nicely from 'the
incident' in July over the last few
weeks, but it has seriously messed
up my plans for the dignified polishing
up of this old version of the site before
I started on two brand new websites in
2007. I can't sit behind a computer
screen for too long for the next few
months, so I'll drastically need to reduce
the time spent on the refurbishment.
One of my time saving measures will be
a rationalised layout for all these old
'archive' pages, which will quite probably
screw up the design & navigation of the
site. Too bad, but if I want to publish the
new versions of the sites before the late
autumn of 2007 I'll have to cut some
Another one of those 'corners' is log entry #300.
This will be the last entry on this page about the past, present and future of MM.
So, let's pick up the trail of screenshots where we left off.
Here's one from the last day of 2003. By that time the first attempt at a seperate Malt Maniacs website had been
integrated into the Malt Madness pages again, but as you can see they had already taken over a considerable portion of the front page. I guess in that respect the maniacs are not unlike the black fungus you find at some
distilleries - only greener ;-)
There was still loads of my personal stuff on the site, but in an attempt to balance everything out I had collected
it in five sections in the 'personal' segment. The Malt Maniacs segment - also divided into five sections - had
grown like crazy since the start in 2002 and by this time our eighteenth issue had just been published.
Next stop: January 2005
In an ill-advised attempt to stay in
tune with the times I decided to
upgrade my Liquid Log to an all
new Liquid Blog. That was basically
just like my liquid log, but at least
it had more nice pictures in it.
Unfortunately, the upgrade of my
log was also 'the beginning of the
end' of MM 1.0. The full website
(HTML pages & images) had grown
to +/- 20 megabytes by 2005 but
now, just 2 years later, the entire
site is +/- 75 Mb - and counting.
My crappy old WYSIWYG web editor
is starting to act funny with the
overload of data and as I write this
I realise that nobody may ever read
it - the software may just give up
on me within days...
If you read this, all must have went well.
But as I said before, you're looking at a 'neutered' version of the old website.
That means that you won't be able to navigate through this ADHD section as comfortably as before.
That shouldn't be too much of a problem, because I plan to 'recontruct' large parts of what I've published in the
'personal' segment of MM during the past decade in a leaner and meaner format, making it easier to find specific information. First candidate for reconstruction is the Beginner's Guide...
Ah, yes... Here's a screenshot.
It's the old version of the Beginner's
Guide that you can find in the ADHD
section of the site. It should serve
you well during the time it will take
me to rebuild and expand the all
new Beginner's Guide. In due time
you will be able to find that on the
new Malt Madness site. (Indeed,
I can now confirm that the new
guide is now finished...)
When I write this I don't have a
clue when that will be done, partly
because I'll have to focus on the
Malt Maniacs Awards 2006 for the
next few months. We're expected
to publish the results in December.
Which brings me to another topic...
After the incident in July I haven't had a single dram.
For a while I feared that I would most miss my secret goal for 2006; breaking the '2000 malts barrier'.
Now it turns out I may break it after all.
If all the 'pledged' bottles for the Malt Maniacs Awards arrive in Alsace on time, we may have around 200
bottlings for sampling this year! Not all may 'count' for my Track Record (they have to be single malts that are
NEW to me, so single grains, Irish whiskeys, etc. do not count), but I'm expecting to taste a load of other malts at
the 'filling party' in Alsace in September (9 maniacs should join!) and the dramming in Amsterdam afterwards with Davin and Krishna.
I'm guessing that 200 malts including the awards entries isn't too optimistic an estimate.
And that won't most likely be all... I have some more tasting sessions planned for September and October and
there will be a festival or two as well. That's good for 50 more malts at least, I'm sure. So, even if I taste nothing
at home I'll probably taste some 250 new malts between the end of September and the beginning of December 'through natural causes'....
Will that be enough for the 'Death Race 2000'?
Well, let's check the last Track Record...
That had me at +/- 1625 malts by mid-July.
As you can read in the Hamstergeddon report
I resumed the dramming in August so I could
at least make a preliminary 'wrap up' of the
old version of the web site with a nice round
number of 1650 malts on the track record.
That should be on the update of 15/08/06.
With some luck that won't be the very last
update of this old 'archive' website; it will be
a 'safety net' just in case the old site or my
PC crashes before I wrapped everything up
decently. I hope to be able to include reports
about the last bit of my 'Death Race 2000' run
somewhere on these pages - probably in the
two last 'old style' issues of Malt Maniacs;
Malt Maniacs #18 and Malt Maniacs #19 .
With some luck, I'll finish 2006 on a high note...
That would be nice, because I'm afraid there's another project I won't be able to finish this year.
For years I've been working on the distillery profiles, but until the beginning of this year it was a very slow
process. I picked up the pace by the end of 2005, but it wasn't too long ago that I published the profiles on Edradour and Fettercairn.
Now that I'm halfway through the 'G' distilleries I'm noticing that all these extra pages and the links back and
forth are now seriously slowing down the tool I use for this site. I'll forget about all the 'H' distilleries and those
further down the alphabet for now and try to wrap up the remaining pages as soon as possible - the likelihood of
the entire site crashing seems more likely every day. If there's time, I may try to complete the 'old' distillery data
section, but only AFTER I've successfully launched the new Malt Madness website in December.
It's a shame, really....
For years I fooled myself into thinking that,
once the distillery profiles were finished, this
Malt Madness website would finally be 'complete'.
Of course, I was fooling myself with that notion.
A website like this will never be really 'finished'
because we'll probably never find 'the best malt'.
Still, I think that a site section with detailed
distillery profiles needs to be part of an ambitious
site like this. When it comes to these old pages I
may have bitten off a bit more than I can chew,
but I'm quite sure that I'll start work on a brand
new 'Distillery Data' section in the near future.
Probably not right away though; my 'To Do List'
is so long that I'm starting to trip over it...
However, one last thing before I proceed with the next entry...
In this screenshot you'll notice the deviously clever 'tabs' structure of the navigation.
I'm burning up inside with desire to start from scratch with an all new design, but since it took me almost a
decade to arrive at the current state I'll probably go for 'evolution' than 'revolution'...
But before I can get to work on the new site I have to 'wrap up' this one.
And that's it for this sub-entry. The next entry (300B) deals with my 'Hamstergeddon' progress...