The history of internet lockpicking forums and discussion groups is filled with some successes, a lot of failures, and a surprising amount of anger and strife. And spam.
I first discovered them as an independent locksmith while using a search engine to help find the solution to a problem I had with a lock. I was both surprised and relieved to find such handy resources already established where I could get much of the information I needed. It was more than I hoped to find and I was instantly hooked. I registered on a couple forums but never really participated much, merely lurking for the first few years whenever I needed answers.
Then I got called back to previous line of work to do some consulting and that pulled me away from locksmithing for a while. Then around five years ago I got back into locksmithing and decided to become more of an active participant on the forums. I discovered that a couple of the forums/discussion groups where I'd been a member no longer existed, and I'd long since lost my original forum login information to the ones that still did. I didn't even have access to the email accounts I'd used when i first set those up, so I started all over again and had to set up new accounts.
I quickly discovered some new forums that had popped up in the meantime and registered on those too. It didn't take me long to discover a fair amount of rivalry existed between some of the forums. It reminded me of the rivalry between high school sports teams. Some of it downright hostile. For the most part, I tried to stay out of the arguments. I just didn't get it. For me, these forums were work resources, not clubhouses.
For a few years there, there were a plethora of different lock forums popping up, almost monthly it seemed. Often started by various members of any of the bigger forums who had either been banned or felt offended and alienated by something and left voluntarily to start their own forum. Most of these never had many users and died off fairly quickly.
I won't bother to name names, there were too many of them, and I'd probably forget half anyways. I participated in all the ones I could find, but it seemed like every time I turned around, there was another one that had popped up. I was asked by a couple of these owners to help start and run their forums. I accepted one of those requests and helped start one of them, but it's gone now too. Then EZpicking got hacked and it wasn't long after that when I dropped off the map for a couple years once again.
When I got back, I saw more changes still. Lp101 had continued to grow, and Keypicking was hardly recognizable from what it had been when it first started; the teenage demographic had been replaced by a more mature crowd, including a large number of professional locksmiths. Most of the smaller forums seemed to have dropped off the map entirely.
I got more involved in the forums than I had been before, and happened to be in the right place at the right time when this forum nearly closed its doors about a year ago. Hallis had done a great job keeping things running but was ready to step down, so elbowmacaroni, myself and jruther2 agreed to split the costs of running the forum three ways so we could keep it operating. I was surprised at how high the bills were, and that HC had shouldered most of that burden himself as there were hardly ever any donations coming in.
Which brings us to today. Squelchtone is the new LP101 admin. While not everyone is a fan, I think he's making an honest effort to run the site well. At the very least, he's PRESENT to take care of matters as they come up. He's reviewing site rules and organization to see where things could be improved, or need to be clarified. He puts in a lot of hours over there, and he doesn't make a dime doing it. Things are changing, and I think for the better. But that sort of thing doesn't happen overnight. Especially not when the people involved have full time jobs and lives to lead.
Applications to the LP101 advanced forums no longer take six months or more. Squelchtone makes a list every month of all the new applicants and pushes the mods to get their votes in within a week. The voting basically entails each moderator reading over the applicants post history to make sure that he's made at least 40 useful posts (not 40 comments that just say "gee, cool"), and doesn't appear to have obvious criminal intent.
I'm a moderator over there too now, and I believe a lot of the elitism, if it was present before, is coming to an end. In the three months where I've voted on the list of new applicants to the advanced forum, if I'm not mistaken I think the only names who weren't approved were a couple of brand new members who applied despite the rule of needing 40 useful posts and 60 days on the site. They included notes as to why they felt they deserved immediate access, for whatever reason, but were denied for not having met those basic requirements. But every person that I can recall, who has met the minimum criteria, has been approved in the time since I've been there. Even a few members who have rubbed a lot of people (including mods) the wrong way, were approved. As one of the moderators put it, when the subject came up: "this is the advanced forum, not a popularity contest". And with that, every single member who had met the minimum requirements were approved.
If there was a schism between the forums before, I think that gap is slowly closing. Which frankly, is for the best. There are plenty of folks would like to see all the lockpicking sites shut down. We shouldn't be fighting amongst ourselves. No, we're not all going to get along all the time. I just hope that if deep disagreements arise, that those can be resolved in a mature fashion between adults, and not air dirty laundry in public if at all possible. Inevitably, there will also be folks who turn out to be less than honest in their dealings with other members, and we'll just need to weed those out as situations arise.
These forums used to be just professional resources to me, but now I have more of a stake in it. I've invested money in it and more time than I'd care to add up. In addition to a resource, this has become a social hangout for me too. As sad as it may seem to some, these days I get probably 3/4 of my human interaction off these two lockpicking sites and their chat rooms. I don't want to see things get torn apart. I'm pretty sure there are people I've banned who hold some animosity towards me. But I do my best to try to keep things moving along smoothly.