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Meet Josh Bedwell, Our Houston Forum Host

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Hello folks,

I want to formally "introduce" you to Josh Bedwell, aka @Houston_Dining on Twitter, our Houston Forum Host. 

I hesitate to begin forums for new metropolitan regions, simply because the strength of my personal expertise lies in DC, and that is the only place where I'm comfortable creating a "true Dining Guide," with ratings and rankings, instead of just a "list by Neighborhood." Josh, however, is a native Texan, and although it will take him awhile to come back to speed, he has the mastery needed to be able to rate and rank restaurants; not just list them.

Josh is also a true lover of beer, and has played an important part in our Virtual Beer Tasting club - nothing would make me happier than if you ("you" meaning Houstonians) would join in and sing the praises of your fine, local microbrews - we just don't have enough exposure to them up here in the Mid-Atlantic, but we're hungry to hear more about them, so please feel free to inform us.

We're all also really excited to hear about your native expertise regarding Houston restaurants. Josh is good, and will very quickly become an expert, but no one person can master an entire large, metropolitan area in this day and age - just within the past few years, with the explosion of restaurant openings (I have also suffered a devastating injury), I have struggled to retain my mastery of the Washington, DC region, so I do the best I can, and rely on other peoples' informed opinions for the rest. I plan on traveling to Houston a couple times a year, and will be relying on your guidance (and yours alone) to seek out Houston restaurants. Fine Dining like Hugo's is a wonderful experience, but so is great barbecue, Vietnamese, and everything else from the bounty that's known as Houston, Texas - I cannot wait to begin exploring your great city, and it's an honor to have you on board with us.

Please write Josh personally (there's a 100% private, "PM" (Personal Message) system you can access by clicking on the "envelope" icon on the top-right of the screen). Just put "Josh" as the recipient of your letter, and it will get to him, and only he has access to it - this is a private system that administrators like me do not have any access to, so it's even safer and more private than sending email.

By the way, Josh was such an important member here in DC that, when he told me he was moving back to Houston, I decided to create this Houston forum - entirely because of him. I, personally, do not have the expertise to be recommending Houston restaurants to any natives, and will be instead relying on *you* to recommend them to *me*. That is why I cherish each-and-every member who signs up from the Houston area.

What I *can* do is give you my word that every single one of your posts here will be lovingly curated, and kept for posterity. I am making plans with attorneys to have this community be around long after I am gone, and when you write here, you are essentially writing with your great-grandchildren in mind - your work will be here for them to read, and even though a particular restaurant closes, we still keep all the posts and reviews alive and cared for. This community is, essentially, one giant "document," and other than my family and friends, is the single most important thing in my life. I will be dedicating the rest of my days so others, like you, can live better lives. With that in mind:

Here are some promises I wish to make to you:

1) Your identities will always remain *private* unless *you* choose to make them known. The only exception to this is that, if you write about a business that you're affiliated with, you need to disclose that affiliation (this does not mean you need to state your name). This can be done, either as a "signature file," or can be simply mentioned in the post itself. We ask owners, Chefs, GMs, PR reps, family, and friends (all of whom are welcome and encouraged to post here about themselves) to limit posts about affiliated businesses to "about twice a month," and to make the affiliation clear. Our readers love it when principals give us information about their own companies, but anything more than a couple times a month - over the long haul - can become "shilling," and that is discouraged. It sounds like a fine line to walk, but in practice, it hasn't been - people who have written about their own businesses have been welcomed with open arms here since the day we opened for business on Apr 15, 2005.

2) This community is a safe harbor from politics. All partisan political discussion is disallowed here, and people with all political viewpoints are welcome as our brothers and our sisters. We don't care what your politics are, and we don't even want to know. What you *can* do is to discuss issues in an intellectual or historical fashion in our History Forum or our Current Events Forum. As long as you're respectful of other peoples' opinions, your fact-supported postings are perfectly welcome about *any* topic, as long as partisan politics do not become involved. I want every single person in this community to know that you are valued and befriended, and it doesn't matter what your politics is.

3) This community is protected from religious discussion. All religions are welcome here, and postings involving religion (other than from a historical perspective in our History Forum) are discouraged - there are lots and lots of other websites where you can freely discuss this, but here, we are (or try to be) one big, happy family, where the love of cuisine brings us all together. I know from experience that religious discussion will just anger people, or at least a significant percentage of them, and I don't want anyone to ever feel offended or unwelcome.

4) No personal insults, of any type, about anybody, are allowed. This is the last of our "Big 4" guidelines. As tempting as it is to launch grenades at our politicians, for example, any posts of the form "X is a Y" simply aren't allowed, and it doesn't matter if "X" is the President, the President-elect, someone who mistreated a member of a restaurant's staff, or some arrogant person who made a fool out of themselves in an interview.  It's very easy for everyone to see that people's actions and deeds speak for themselves, and it's redundant and unnecessary to beat those dead horses here. There are times when even I am tempted to call such-and-such a name for saying something *so stupid* that it boils my blood, but I refrain from replying with a poison pen, and I ask all of you to please write me personally if you ever see me go over the line. As administrator of this website, I am subject to and bound by these four guidelines, just as everyone else is. 

Those are the only four "rules" we have, and other than that, nothing is off-limits, except for these two, small things:

a) If you write something completely off-topic - especially if it's a one-line attempt at humor - that post will be subject to deletion unless it makes The Laugh Committee laugh. The Laugh Committee consists of a party of one: me, and I alone take full responsibility for the removal of any post. One-line, humorous responses are absolutely encouraged (and certainly, one-line, "thank you" responses are encouraged if someone writes something of great quality), but the one-line humor must be clever and funny, even though it took only five seconds to do. This is something I have taken very seriously for over twelve years now, and I moderate this community with an extremely light touch. I genuinely care about people and the work they do here - that includes you - and I hope it shows up in the way I treat all of our members with such a high degree of equal respect. 

b ) Oh, one other thing: If you see me doing something wrong as moderator, please tell me via PM (Private Message) sent to DonRocks - putting a moderation complaint in the middle of a restaurant thread interrupts the flow of conversation, disturbs members of our community, and such things are *always* deleted, with a polite note to the member encouraging them to discuss things with me privately. I am *always* here to discuss things with you, and will answer your PMs 100% of the time - you have my word on this. (In the interest of full disclosure, I've received over 50,000 PMs over the years, and there are some very old ones that I haven't read yet (there were a couple times when I had surgery, and never did catch up with those older PMs) - if you write me, and I don't respond within 48 hours, please write me again: You're not bothering me). Also, please note that Josh is your Forum Host; not me, and all of these things I just wrote apply to him. I really shouldn't be speaking for him, since the Houston Forum is "his baby," but this is the way I've always done things, and it has almost always worked out very well - maybe Josh can chime in too.

Please keep in mind that (with the occasional exception of fixing an obvious typo) - listen up, because this is important - I can not, and do not edit anyone's writing here. The post either remains 100% intact, or in very, very rare cases, it is deleted, and in that case, the author will get a polite letter from me (which will include a copy of the post) explaining which of the things above were violated, and the author will always have another chance to re-submit their post. Also, please know that "deleted posts" aren't actually "deleted"; they're simply moved to an "invisible forum" that nobody can see. So even if it's a year later, we can *always* get them back. I've made mistakes before as an administrator (goodness knows, I'm not perfect), and in twelve years, it has almost never happened when a member and I don't end up seeing eye-to-eye after we've discussed something. If a member feels strongly about an issue, they can generally talk me into restoring their post. I moderate with an extremely light touch, allowing people lots of leeway, and in return, our members have reacted by producing the best, most interesting writing of any culinary website I've ever come across. Our members are the fabric that makes this website what it is, and without them (that means you), we are nothing.

There's also a window where you can edit your own posts - let's face it, we've *all* had a bit too much to drink one night, and have written something we wish we hadn't: That's why there's a window for you to edit your posts here - long enough for you to get a good night's sleep, wake up, say "Oh, shit," and frantically run to the keyboard. If you waited too long, don't worry - just write me or Josh: We'll take care of you. :) This type of personal touch flows easily into the next paragraph:

I ask all of you to consider me your friend, even if we never meet each other. I give you my word that I will lovingly curate your work here for future generations, and for posterity. It is *always* in the forefront of my mind that your descendants will be reading what you write here, and what other restaurant websites treat as "unimportant commodity fragments," we treat as "precious family heirlooms," and we are grateful to you for taking the time to share your thoughts with our community. We are well-aware that you can post on Yelp, or any of a number of other forums; I hope you'll take into consideration how important you are, as individuals, to us, and we will work, constantly, to earn, and to re-earn, your trust. Many of our members have been with us for over ten years, and they know that brand new members are just as important as the older ones - everyone here is treated and respected equally, as our personal friends.

Josh Bedwell has these same values, and it's for this reason - not to mention the fact that he's one heck of a nice guy and a super-smart person - that I created the Houston forum, and have the honor of him as our Forum Host. A lot of this writing was about "me and my guidelines," but it's also about Josh and what you can expect from him.

To show you what a great person Josh Bedwell is, I "knew" him for years before he moved back to Houston, and it was only *after* he was moving that I found out what he does in "real life." Josh is a Pediatric Otolaryngologist, i.e., an "ENT Doctor for children" - a doctor who spends his life treating masses and cancers of the head and neck, and who surgically clears the airways of children who aren't able to breathe. That is some pretty specialized stuff, even within this specialized field, and you should easily be able to see that Josh is a pretty special person. I never even knew this, and it only made my already-formidable opinion of him that much more formidable. He'll probably ask me to delete this paragraph because he is an extremely modest man, but I'm not going to do it - he deserves recognition for the work he does saving children's lives. My brother is a pediatrician in Jacksonville, FL, so I know just what type of dedication is involved in working with sick children and their families. You don't know Josh yet, but I do, and I want to extend a public "thank you" to Josh for everything he has done in helping to save these sick children, who would otherwise no longer be with us. That this giant of a man has eagerly chosen to host our Houston Forum is one of the highest honors I have ever received.

Thank you for reading this exceptionally long introduction, and please consider following @Houston_Dining on Twitter.

Kind Regards,
Don Rockwell

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Wow. Thanks, Don. I am so excited about the prospect of a Houston forum as vibrant and filled with members as insightful, knowledgeable, and funny as I experienced in DC. We're a pretty unknown quantity here in Houston, so this will be a long term project, but one I aim to make successful. 

Houston is lucky to have some strong voices online already, including (among others) Alison Cook, Greg Morago, & JC Reid at the Chronicle, James Brock at Paper City, Phaedra Cook and her new venture at Houston Food Finder, Katherine Shilcutt at Houstonia, and Eric Sandler at Culture Map. As we set out here, I'm looking to all of these fine folks for expertise and hope they join to engage with others in the Houston food community. 

Lets do this thing!

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