As per the request of one of the DanceNet readers, here are copies of the past ramblings of the DanceNet Webmaster.
Right. I'm not allowed to have it that easy. Of course, after typing in the editorial below, I came up with something more important. However, after having stayed up until 4 am Monday morning working on it, I find that I'm not ready to publish it so you get stuck with what I had ready.
A couple of weeks ago at some dance, one friend (hereafter referred to as "Bugsy") recommended to another friend (hereafter to be referred to as "Daffy") that he ("Daffy") ask a particular woman to dance. Being a reasonable kind of person and always interested in dancing with different people, "Daffy" went over to the young lady in question and asked her to dance. After failing to deter Daffy with various excuses, she finally said no. That's not too bad so far, but she then turned and went to dance with someone else. While "Daffy" wasn't bothered by getting turned down (being made of sterner stuff than I), he was disappointed that the young lady clearly demonstrated that she wanted absolutely nothing to do with him in such a public way.
The young lady was part of a contingent of dancers hosted by a certain dance teacher and, in some ways, reflected poorly on her teacher. At least this was the point of view of friend "Bugsy".
I had several thoughts about this incident.
That's my opinion, but then, that's worth about as much as you're willing to pay for it.
I had a discussion, through email, with Norberto Alvarez, secretary of the Tango Society of Boston, a while ago about how some members of the Tango Society felt that the Society's board was treating them poorly for speaking out against the policies of the Tango Society. He had brushed them off as whining from a bunch of "kindergarten" kids.
With that in mind, it was with great amusement that I found out that the Tango Society of Boston had removed from its website the links pointing to this website, particularly to my Tango page. One link was intended as a source of information on the Tango teachers in Boston while the other link was highlighting this website as a wealth of information for all kinds of dancing in the Greater Boston area, including Tango.
One has to wonder why this action was taken. The listing of the local Tango teachers is still on this website and is unavailable on the Tango Society's website. This entire website continues to be one of the most popular sources of dance information in all of Boston, New England, and around the country. How will the Tango Sociey members learn more about the local teachers? Was this a "mature" reaction?
Over the past few weeks my tango page has been a repository for letters that have been critical of the Tango Society's policies. The Tango Society has been criticized in the past for not being particularly tolerant of criticism, that it's not particularly welcome of other opinions that oppose those in charge. It certainly would be following a pattern of squelching dissenting opinions since they would not want their members to go to that page where they'd get a chance to see that not everything is wonderful with the Tango Society. Imagine if the mayor of Boston took the same sort of action against the Boston Globe?
A couple of weeks ago at the end of teaching the Wednesday Tango Break class, local teacher, Hsueh-tze Lee, tried to announce upcoming workshops of two guest teachers visiting Boston that weekend. She was interrupted by the Society's president, Shahrukh Merchant, who stepped in front of her and did not allow her to continue the announcement, even though she had no "commercial interest" in either workshop since the teachers were brought in by two other organizations. This is censorship. Community/commercial announcements have been allowed at other tango venues, particularly those that are for-profit. (FYI: Rialto lost money every week for about a year, but they were "for-profit"). If there was a change in policy concerning workshop announcements, this should have been publicly announced to all beforehand, not suddenly implemented; by surprising the teacher and the audience with this impromptu action, Shahrukh appeared to censor the instructor in public. Note that those workshops are/were on the Tango Society's March calendar so there was no reason to stop those announcements before telling everyone about the new policy.
The Tango Society, in a silly way, highlights the difference between themselves and me. Both entities have a publicly stated goal of building the community by supporting all dancers, professional and amateur. As an independent, I don't have to answer to anyone; yet, this website serves all dancers, not just the ones I like. I include listings for all applicable dance businesses, not just the ones I support. This website was created for the dancers, not for the venues. Regardless of whether or not I like a particular venue, I will include venues that are relevant to the theme of this website which is "partner dancing". I even include listings for one dance teacher who has physically assaulted me and I include listings for someone I consider a very bad human being. Why? Because I feel that the public is smart enough to decide with their feet if they want to support any dance venue. I don't censor or ban those venues I don't like. The Tango Society is raising a wall in the community to hide a valuable dance resource from their members. Regardless of my personal opinion of the Tango Society's current board of directors, I still list *their* activities if they choose to tell me about them.
It is unfortunate that the Tango Society chooses to keep information from their members this way. The "evil commercial tango venues" are much more inclusive about the community. Both this website and the TangoCalendar include listings for everyone, including those we disagree with (and no one pays us a membership fee). All the "professional teachers" are in competition with each other, yet they are extremely supportive of each other's business and send students to each other's workshops. *THEY* believe in including everyone into the Tango community and while they compete, they don't work against each other.
One dance professional cautioned me against raising too much of a fuss because, human nature being what it is, the Tango Society's board of directors won't want it to appear that they're caving in to others, that they won't let anyone "force" them to do anything. Now *that* is childish. If America followed that rule, we'd still have slavery and women still wouldn't be able to vote. A free society operates through the free exchange of ideas and opinions and not all of them will be favorable. It is through those opposing opinions where the people in charge are forced to look at alternative ideas. I hope that I've achieved that with this independent forum.
This website remains an open and free source of information to all dancers. One reader noted:
"Benson's page is the ONLY place that lists ALL teachers and ALL classes and ALL workshops and ALL milongas. And he has been doing it for longer than anyone."My weekly newsletter was started in 1991 and my website was started in 1996, before the Tango Society was formed. A large number of dance venues, both commercial and non-profit, have greatly benefited by having their information posted freely on this website. Many more dancers (dance customers) have benefited by being made aware of all the choices available to them. I don't hide information from anyone. If you don't see information here, that means no one bothered to tell me about it.
I would understand their actions if the Tango Society were a private dance studio trying to protect their turf, but they're not. They're suppose to be a community-based, member-run, open and public club. They're suppose to build the community and share information freely for the benefit of their membership, especially the members who pay their fees toward those goals. The censoring of unfavorable opinions is only suppose to happen in tolitarian countries and dictatorships, not in an open and free society.
By removing links to this website, information is being deliberately withheld from dancers. Who actually gets hurt? Not me. I'm not in this for money so there's no income considerations. I have commercial *AND* non-profit organizations covering the costs of providing the information free to you, my readers (I don't get paid). This past week I had 5272 different visitors to this website (each week averaging about 100,000 hits) so I'm not lacking in readers. This website is a valuable resource to a lot of dancers (around the country) and there are plenty of Tango dancers who visit this website every week. The ones who are hurt are the new visitors to the Tango Society's website who might not know about this website. I hope that some of you out there will speak to the Tango Society's board about this act of censorship. Censorship in a free society only succeeds when the people let them get away with it.
It is gratifying to see that the Tango Society has taken some action on the status of board member Eduardo Donati who apparently was not eligible to be a Regular member for the last 2+ years (even though they denied that at the February 6 annual meeting). However, I do think that the current statute of limitations is too long and unfair to those who may have taught one class or performed in one event for a minimal amount of money. (Of course, I think the whole idea of having "separate but equal" memberships is unfair, but I've already talked myself blue about it). I think that Eduardo is a pretty good guy and has done nothing morally wrong that should prevent him from being a board member. He is a valuable resource who does good things for the tango community and has demonstrated that having accepted money for teaching a tango class doesn't mean that he'll look out for his personal financial best interest. I hope the Tango Society also looks at the status of the other two board members whose status was questioned at the February 6th meeting. I hope that the board realizes that current rules are way too strict and just prevents some people from contributing to the Society.
Oh, one last thing: on its website, the Tango Society suggests attending its Wednesday Tango Break to get ideas on where one can take lessons. I'll add to that. I suggest going to *OTHER* milongas and practicas, too, not just to whatever the Society produces. The teachers out there are very supportive of each others' dances and you'll see a wider variety of dance teachers at other venues.
I get offers from various dance businesses offering to link to this website if I would only link back to them. This annoys me.
The purpose of this website is to provide my readers with current and valid information on dance venues they might want to attend or support, whether it be in Boston or elsewhere in New England or around the country. If I find a link that is relevant (dance-related) and I think that my readers might find it interesting, I'll add that link to this website.
Sometimes I find a dance website that has a links page. I might add their URL to my website, but only if their website is relevant to swing/partner dancing. Only then do I ask for a link to my website. Sometimes those other websites aren't interested in linking back to my website because they don't want their readers to find *other* dance venues or they just don't care. Sometimes they just forget to add a link after I've asked. However I will still link to them because my readers might find that website useful or interesting.
It's funny when some of these other webmasters offer a reciprocal link to this website if I would only link to theirs and I would then tell them that I've been linked to them for years already.
If I see a link to *this* website from another website that is probably not going to be of interest to my readers, I won't bother linking to it. If I link to a dance-related website and they *won't* link back to me, then I get disappointed; however, their link remains on this website until such time that I find that the URL is no longer useful or valid.
So, my advice to other dance webmasters is, link to this website because it's a good source of information for your readers. It also saves you a lot of work because you won't have to link to a lot of other sites *and* maintain those links.
Furthermore, make your links *useful*. Add a description to your links so your readers will know what to expect from that URL instead of wasting their time searching for the right website. A list of URL's without any descriptions is completely useless and is worth the same as other lists of dance websites. Give your readers a reason for looking at *your* list.
Could Don Wang and James McClurkin please contact me? I don't seem to have your current email addresses.
I've been appalled at the number of dance venues, specifically bands and dance studios, who've opted for the cheap (meaning, "free") websites for advertising their *profit-making* businesses.
The first and important issue for these dance entrepreneurs is the image that they're trying to make. A reader has to be thinking, "How successful can this business be if they can't afford a clean webpage?" I'm not talking about $5000 with the eye-catching Flash-animated website; I'm referring to the free websites that some businesses use that also impose some unknown and probably unwanted side effects for the readers.
Many of those free websites come with a banner ad (or two or more) that usually promote a business THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE DANCE BUSINESS. These ads are a *distraction* from the information they're trying to convey. The owner of the website may or may not have any control over the kinds of business that will show up in those pop-up banners (I assume they have *some* control since I haven't seen a porn ad in those banners on a dance website yet). I've noticed that some websites "impose" pop-up advertisements that typically show up in front of the main browser window and block my reading. Just going to a different page on the same brings the pop-up ad back again. I've seen some Geocities.com websites with a pop-up ad *AND* an in-line ad in the browser! All of this interferes with finding out information about the dance business and leaves a sour taste in the reader's mouth.
What bothers me even more are those websites that set "cookies" on the readers' websites. While most of these are probably benign and are intended to help your surfing pleasure, some of are used for information gathering (and I think I just read about a security hole with cookies in Internet Explorer recently). The websites already have the ability to find out your ISP information; for example, I find out what computers are accessing this website every week. One of my dance friends know when a someone gets referred to her website from this website; that means they know what page you were looking at before jumping to theirs so don't be looking at porn websites before going to regular websites. :-)
(Note that HaveToDance.com has no banner ads, no pop-up ads, and NO cookies.)
What these dance businesses should do:
Check your Internet provider, the one with whom you have an email account. Most likely they already offer their subscribers with free (limited) personal webpages with *no* ads; Naturally this doesn't necessarily apply to those Internet providers who give away free email accounts. You don't have to have a really cool URL for your website, but you should have a "clean" website with no "pop-ups" or banner ads unless those ads promote your own business. Imagine accidentally having a pop-up ad for *another* dance business? :-) Don't allow distractions from the business that you're trying to promote (i.e., your own!).
Turn off "cookies" or at least have it warn you about them to see if your website "inflicts" cookies on the readers without your knowledge. If so, find another provider. I typically deny all cookies while browsing unless the website won't work without setting a cookie. If you're paying for a website, there's no reason someone else should be setting cookies on your readers' websites and profitting from *your* website.