I started this thread mainly because I was disappointed with the manner in which the Alley was closed, and wanted to see if others agreed with me that it was not a very decorous or polite way in which to do it.
To be clear, I'm not particularly sorry to see the Alley (given what it became) eradicated, any more than I was to see Critical Analysis (given what it became) closed, because I agree with a lot of what rwood says above. Both forums had degenerated to something other than what they were years ago.
The compelling issue for me was not the fact of their demise, but simply the reason for it.
In this thread the debate has widened into looking at the reason PiP exists, the whole issue of, as you put it, "camaraderie" and "a place to enjoy poetry and friendships".
When I first started posting here almost 11 years ago I came from a background of zero knowledge about poetry, and two very bad internet forum experiences. One was a newsgroup inhabited by the most vicious gratuitous form of negative critique, and the other was a message board devoted to showcasing what you call "fluff", but passing such fluff (and there is NOTHING wrong with fluff) off as being in the league of Shakespeare or Eliot. Both places were deeply dissatisfying, and so it was with some relief I found PiP.
The opening strap line for the PiP main page worried me a little - "Poetry has magic, especially when it comes from the heart" - but I very soon found the people in the Critical Analysis forum were friendly, helpful and, above all, willing to tell me what they really thought of my writing! For the first time online I was able to enter into a meaningful debate about what makes poetry work - and to become a better writer as a result of it. The main reason I keep coming back to this site is I suppose because it was here - thanks to people like Brad, Craig, Jenni, Pete, Trevor and yes, even HootOwl, that I learned to write poetry.
It's easy to look back and see things changing though. For a short while, a couple of years maybe, the newness and enthusiasm carried people through the tensions that pretty soon arose. And, let's for once be honest, there is, and probably always will be, a tension, between those who are happy to simply write what they feel and share it, and those who want to analyse, discuss, argue, dissect and, horror upon horror, critique!
Soon Ron's vision (at least I assume it was his vision) of a circle of friends embracing all creeds, colours, social background etc was imperilled by the very thing that I think he maybe imagined would unite them - poetry.
The problems arising from the different ways in which people approached poetry and the discussion thereof should in theory have been easily transcended by the bonds of friendship that might form between say a "fluff" poet and an "analytical" poet (for want of better descriptions). But it didn't seem to work out like that.
For reasons I don't fully understand poetry (like religion) seems to bring out extremes of passion, and those passions do seem to get in the way of possible friendship; above all they get in the way of respect.
However, and it is a big "however", I believed back then when things got difficult, and still believe that the rainbow-talent nature of PiP could have been preserved. Ron had a great vision, and with the help of people who had somewhat diverging views to his own about poetry (and life!) it might have been possible perhaps to retain the heterogeneous nature of the site without compromising the "family" nature of the place.
I think in retrospect though that the balance in PiP was always wrong if it was going to continue as a place for poets with widely differing ideas about poetry - and it got steadily worse (or better, depending on your point of view).
Ron himself has openly expressed his own doubt about the value of critique. He has seemed in the past to be particularly sceptical about the desirability of what he thinks of as uniformed critique by "amateurs". I haven't been in the moderator forums for very long, and not at all in the distant past, but I know enough from discussing this with people who were, to say that Ron personal viewpoint was reflected heavily in the composition of the senior moderators and administrators.
On the blue pages the lean towards "Open" type poetry and comment was already very marked. This could have been to some extent counterbalanced by a real effort on Ron's part to strengthen the moderating team behind the scenes with people who were sympathetic to a more intellectual approach, and to show real enthusiasm himself for a more cerebral and thinking way of writing poetry, rather than a "from the heart" approach.
It occurs to me now that this was never going to happen. Ron was perhaps "persuaded", maybe against his better judgement, to try to make the blue pages more than just a "vanity" or "showcase" poetry board. Maybe Brad, for instance, pushed the idea of a CA forum hard. In which case the last 10 years have simply been a slow and somewhat painful contraction back to what he and the people "in power" surrounding him are comfortable with.
Like I said at the start of this ramble, I think it's the manner in which all this has happened that I find sad. A clean break years ago would, imv, have been better than this slow irritable descent.
Some months ago, there was a thread where, ironically enough, we had an exchange Maureen. There were things said in that thread which should have been said openly years ago. SEA's comment here:
was at least devastatingly honest, and I suspect expresses the feelings of many PiP Members.
I know that is not Ron's view, but the fact was that, allowing that disparity of underlying feeling to pervade the blue pages, allowed the disrespect for the diverse ways of approaching writing to grow to the point where the whole ethos of the site was imperilled - the goal of creating a place for safe and happy social interaction.
I made many friends here over the years, but that friendship was grounded upon the shared interest in detailed debating and writing in a friendly place. Gradually as PiP became less inclusive, and more an exclusive club for a certain type of poet, these people left. Some remain online in other forums, some presumably gave up online writing.
I think the Alley represented just the last writhe of a discontented tail end. Now PiP has become what it perhaps always should have been, maybe Ron will get some peace at last, and reflect on the fact that at least he had the guts to try.