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Internet 12

This is what Google looked like in 1997. 25 million pages indexed! Wow!

Bullets and Beer was built as a labor of love by dedicated fans. It was also, however, a product of its time. The website set out to gather information about the Spenser books because it was simply not available elsewhere. It may be hard for millenials to imagine, but back in the day when Mike Loux started this project (1996) the web was a much smaller place. Search engines were finicky, limited,  and challenging to use. Wikipedia didn't even exist until 2001, after Mike had already passed the torch to Bob Ames. Much of the original research Mike and Bob gathered was conducted offline.

Today Google's index contains over 30 trillion pages (yes, trillion with a t) and the web contains a ridiculous quantity of information. Quotes which proved elusive in 1996 can often be found in minutes today with our vastly more sophisticated search engines and digitized searchable library of millions of books. Information about Boston area businesses and locations which used to require a Boston area phone book and a car to find can usually be dug up with a little Googling. And comprehensive information about the Spenser novels, once gathered in only a handful of fan-produced websites, can today be found in Wikipedia, Goodreads, and any number of other places.

Bullets and Beer was more than an encylopedia, however. It was a community, Mike and Bob and their many contributors sharing their love for a quirky and well-crafted body of work and eagerly hunting down the answer to obscure questions. The entries about the books contain not just details, but observations about the characters and stories, not to mention a long list of favorite lines from each book, along with essays about different characters and narrative issues (the essay on how Spenser ages is particularly insightful). It's this perspective and attention to detail which makes Bullets and Beer, in my mind, a unique resource that deserves a more permanent home online.

There are some caveats, however. Wikis are designed with a specific organizational structure, and the sprawling Bullets and Beer website was not. Mike and Bob included a lot of updates on coming events in the Boston area, news tidbits about upcoming Spenser books and Robert B. Parker related projects, and so forth. The site also included trivia, humorous essays, and letters from contributors raising unanswered questions. It's a lot of material, much of which is either obscure or no longer relevant. Also it's worth mentioning that I'm not quite sure how many pages were in the original site, so I can't tell how much remains to be done. I am constantly stumbling across links to side pages, recipes, and correspondence from B&B contributors buried in random pages. (This was of course part of the fun of B&B: it was like falling down the rabbit hole, pursuing threads in all sorts of unexpected directions, to mix my metaphors a bit.)

I have consequently made some editorial decisions in transferring Bullets and Beer to its new home, and set some necessary priorities for my own efforts. It's very time-consuming to transfer the book pages: they require extensive reformatting, links need to be checked (and often removed or replaced), images - which don't always transfer to the Internet Archive - need to be found and inserted. Consequently I'm focusing on the Spenser books, the heart of the old site, and the best developed essays. I'm trying to tighten up the organization so that it's easier to navigate. I'm leaving aside old news articles about Parker, some unanswered questions, and collections of original photos (most of these unfortunately weren't captured by the Archive and are lost to history). I'm adding a little information, mostly top-level articles about the main characters, and in some places consolidating different resources scattered across Bullets and Beer into a single page. I may, after completing the transfer of all the Spenser book pages, try to create entries for the remaining five Spenser novels not covered by Bob. I'm not going to undertake the Sunny Randall or Jesse Stone novels, however.

Finally, it should be noted that both Bob Ames and Mike Loux were scrupulous about giving credit where it was due to their many contributors. Bob even color-coded his own additions to Mike's pages. I've dispensed with the color coding - now that we're three (or four) editors in, it seems like a difficult system to maintain. But I've tried to make sure that the original B&B contributors are still credited appropriately, and that their names feature prominently on essays where appropriate. My own contributions are mostly in the realm of organization and character pages. Readers should assume that all the pages dedicated to individual Spenser books are primarily the work of Bob and Mike.

Any contributors who wish to look over the original website at the Internet Archive (http://web.archive.org/web/*/bullets-and-beer.com) for additional material to transfer are welcome to do so. My choices aren't meant to be definitive. It's my goal to restore the heart of Bullets and Beer, first and foremost a Spenser site. From there, others may pick up the torch, or perhaps not. But Wikia should endure longer than a privately-held domain, and Bullets and Beer will hopefully survive for long into the future, a testament to the hard work, dedication, and love of Spenser's world that the creators of Bullets and Beer brought to the web.

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