The end of an era slipped quietly away yesterday. MSN Groups, Microsoft’s early attempt at what is now called social networking, was sent to the great bit bucket in the sky. I feel sad, in a nostalgic sort of way, in its passing. Its functionality could only be termed as ghastly: it had a rich text editor but no search capability (!), no private messaging (unless both parties happened to have a Hotmail account), no message quoting–none of the functions taken for granted in the popular forum software (such as phpBB or vBulletin) or journaling/blogging services (Livejournal, WordPress, Blogger, etc.) commonly found today. But up until just a few years ago, the “MSN Wetshavers” group was the only hangout for anyone wanting to learn more about shaving. I still remember posting my first message (titled “Excited Newbie!”) in 2004, after returning from the wedding anniversary trip my wife and I took, where I discovered traditional shaving. I was received, as many “newbies” were (not that there were a lot of them), with what I’ll call wry amusement: the welcome-to-the-club-we-remember-how-we-felt-too attitude that often binds together small fraternal groups, the anachronistic, and the misunderstood.
We were a band of brothers, trying to help each other as best we could. We posted product finds in a time when there was precious little available in the US (Arran’s Aromatics shave cream at TJ Maxx for $4! A Trumper’s-quality product for one-sixth the price). We shared technique and advice. We cheered the efforts of those able to “spread the word” (Corey Greenburg’s appearance on the Weekend Today show was a major milestone). It was on Wetshavers where someone posted a message suggesting that somebody needed to do a video about wet shaving as sort of a “visual FAQ.” I picked up the virtual guantlet that was thrown down and created the beginning of what is now a series of videos that have over 1.5 million views. There were disagreements but everything was remarkably civil: there were very few “flame wars.” And even the disagreements that did occur had positive outcomes in their own way.