Nearly 13 years ago, a young Welsh rugby fan called Rhys decided to use his knowledge of the fledgling world of the internet to create a website for like-minded rugby fans all over the world. He called it Gwlad. At first the website consisted of Rhys’s scribblings about rugby and links to reports and features all over the web.
The site attracted a small, faithful band of followers, but what really launched it into the wider Welsh rugby consciousness was the addition of a Chat Room, hosted by insidetheweb.com. It was free, and very rudimentary, but it did the job. It was the first of its kind, and to many it is still the best.
The site has changed beyond recognition since then. Rhys recruited a bunch of drunkards from London Welsh RFC, and a vineyard owner from Ystradgynlais, and together they kept Gwladrugby.com going through numerous iterations.
The current site has been around for a few years now, and apart from the occasional funding crisis, it has continued to prosper and is held in high regard by the rugby fraternity. Hell, even Will Carling likes us, so we must be doing something right. The unique humour of Gwlad goes way beyond the world of rugby in its reach; some of the funniest people I’ve ever met are Gwladers.
Of course, even a virtual village has to have at least one idiot, and it would be a dull place without them. But there’s a difference between being daft and having a laugh, and just being downright rude, offensive, irritating or moronic. It’s like the difference between the slightly merry bloke standing at the bar telling jokes, and the sweary pisshead throwing pint pots around in the skittle alley. Every online forum has their fair share of these people. But for every boorish Andy Gray and Richard Keys, there’s an eloquent Eddie Butler and Brian Moore to balance things out.
The problem with success is that eventually it breeds contempt and complacency. Sure, you’ll get the odd newcomer who doesn’t quite understand the house rules and throws their weight around, but the natural order of things means they’re soon sent packing by the regulars. But there’s another kind of cyber-pest who’s far worse: the gnarled old regular who takes pleasure in winding everyone up and shoving his views into every thread he can find. I’ve been guilty of this behaviour myself. I took a break from Gwlad and came back (I hope) with a more optimistic view of the place.
Out in the real world, I’m often drawn into conversation with people on this very topic. Most are full of praise for the site, but the one issue that keeps cropping up is they are often put off by the level of angry, hostile abuse which gets dished out. For this reason many people lurk or just stay away altogether. It’s a real shame: imagine how much better the site could be if people felt they could post their views without fear of being flamed by the nasty old git in the corner.
“Use the Ignore button” is the often-heard cry at this point. The problem is, that never quite blots out everything you’re trying to ignore.
Having tried and failed to rid Gwlad of this kind of behaviour many times, you might think we’d be tempted to give the whole thing up. Quite often we are. The lights have gone off several times and we’ve not particularly felt like switching them on again. The constant nit-picking and abuse is tiring and we’ve all got real lives to be getting on with. “Gwlad is Shit” as we often observe, half-joking. But it really isn’t, and that’s why we’ve carried on this long. So we will continue to try to preserve what makes it good, and to eradicate what threatens to make it really shit.
How can you help? There’s a few ways. Firstly, if you read something you don’t like, report it. Please don’t run away. Bad behaviour will no longer be tolerated. If we think your complaint is valid, we’ll act upon it.
Secondly, if you think you can write something better, do it. Either on the forums or on the Front Page. If you fancy a go at writing for the front page, email us. We’d love your help.