Yesterday at the Smoky Drinky Bar

Yesterday I created the Smoky Drinky Bar as a premium account on, and then wrote a blog post to announce it, and at 2 pm took up residence in the bar, and waited.

I then spent the rest of the day having my mind thoroughly and comprehensively blown.

I’d expected to have a trickle of visitors, most of whom would be the usual suspects of the video experiments of recent weeks. And the first arrival in the bar, about half an hour after I’d opened it, was one of the usual suspects: Gary K in Chicago , with whom I’d already chatted to several times.

But the second visitor, not long afterward, was a surprise: Torquaymada. He was a regular reader of my blog, but an almost-never-commenter. He said he liked Idle Theory. He didn’t stay very long. He said he was just dropping in for “a quick half”, and fairly soon left Gary and me to our conversation.

The third visitor to the Smoky Drinky Bar was a far outsider: Liza from Melbourne, Australia, who’d just come back from a night out, and had idly clicked on the link to the Smoky Drinky Bar she saw in the feed in the margin of  Velvet Glove, Iron Fist, and to her astonishment found herself inside it with Gary and me. She was a vaper, and said she was a regular VGIF reader. She’d emailed me a few weeks back to try and join in a Skype session. She called over her husband, Rory. And pretty soon he was sat next to her chatting with Gary and me, and showing us the Australian version of “Plain” Packaging. We now had four visitors – customers? – in the Smoky Drinky Bar.

Shortly after that we were joined by regular reader Kin_Free from Durham, sitting under a parasol under a brilliant blue sky. And then RdM in New Zealand (for whom the time was 2 or 3 in the morning), and Nisakiman in Greece.

Gary dropped out at some point, and so did RdM. I managed to do a screen capture, showing (in clockwise order from top left), me, Liza and Rory, Kin_free, and Nisakiman:


We’d had 6 video feeds running simultaneously at one point. But since it was past midnight in Australia, Liza and Rory fairly soon had to retire, and the numbers present gradually dwindled away until I was left back on my own like I started two or three hours earlier.

But then Brigitte in Liverpool arrived in the bar, to tell me about all the plumbing repairs she’d been doing. And the numbers began to rise again. By late evening the numbers had risen back to 4 or 5 people in the bar. At “closing time” there was (clockwise) me, John Buck, Kin_free, and Gary K, earnestly discussing F2C and UKIP and politics:


By the time I went to bed not long after midnight, there’d been some 10-12 visitors in total throughout the day, with some of them returning repeatedly. They included Junican in Bolton, and Joe L in the USA (Seattle?). All were either smoking or vaping.

It wasn’t entirely problem-free. The most successful session was the one with Liza and Rory and RdM, after Nisakiman had shifted to another computer. All six people could see and hear each other clearly. But in the afternoon and evening, Brigitte found that her audio was breaking up, and so did Barry Homan in Denmark, and GaryK was freezing up and appearing upside down for some people.

By the end of the day I was left with the impression that the premium version of worked a lot better than the free version, but only if the participants had a fairly good broadband connection, and a fairly newish computer or ipad or mobile phone. My own broadband speeds were about 10 Gbps download, 0.8 Gbps upload, in Herefordshire, England, and I never experienced any problems.

And more or less all concerned were delighted by the experience. Liza said she was going to tell all her Australian friends about GaryK had already set up an room for his family

And everyone got along amazingly well, for being people who had mostly never met each other before. “It’s like being in a pub,” John Buck declared at one point. And it was. But it was a pub in which the “customers” were actually sitting in England and the USA and Australia and New Zealand and Greece. And I felt I’d made a whole new bunch of friends.

Emily sent me an email today with a link to an article in the Boston Globe about video conferencing:

…the notion of committing to a group video chat, for no other reason than to hang out, seems a little extra. After all, the labor and stress of the average conference call seems, as the kids might say, totes inapropes when applied to an adult hangout. If there’s no agenda, what are we meeting about? Can I go back to my desk/bed?

“Most adults” may not have a reason to meet up for video chats, but smokers have much more reason than most. They have, after all, been “exiled to the outdoors” nearly everywhere, and in many cases had their social lives shattered. If smokers want to meet up and smoke and drink and chat with other smokers, using something like is for many of them the only way to do it. They have a whole bunch of good reasons to meet up, and they have a white-hot burning agenda too. I think there will soon be a whole army of Smoky Drinky Bars opening all over the world. And there’ll probably be moves by Tobacco Control to ban them: they’ll probably claim that “Virtual smoke is just as lethal as real smoke,” or something.

And as broadband speeds gradually climb (Grandad near Dublin has speeds about 10 times mine), and computers get more powerful, and service providers like provide better services, it’ll probably be possible to hold entire parties online, with hundreds of guests, smoking and drinking to their hearts’ content.

I’ll return to the Smoky Drinky Bar today – but I’m not going to spend 10 hours there like I did yesterday. I’ll pop in at 1 pm BST, and again at 5 pm BST, and then 9 pm BST.


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18 Responses to Yesterday at the Smoky Drinky Bar

  1. Frank Davis says: have sent me a link to their Remote Toolbox Cheat Sheet.

  2. nisakiman says:

    I noticed that having been made a member of your bar, ‘’ automatically gave me my own permanent room, named ‘nisakiman’. Obviously it’s the free, P2P version, but no doubt could be upgraded if I felt so inclined.

    I thought it was a great success – when we had all of us on there, despite not having met (apart from you, me and Gary) we were chatting like old friends from the get-go. I really enjoyed meeting ‘Kin_Free’, as I’ve admired the perspicacity and depth of knowledge of his posts for years, and it was great to put a face to the name. Likewise, it was great to put a face to Joe L, too. I don’t know if I misheard, but I thought Lisa said her husband Richard was a doctor, just after he washed down his blood pressure pill with a large swig of red wine. Did anyone else pick that up?

    Anyway, it was a great idea, and worked well. The concept of having an ‘always open’ venue was what I’d visualised when the idea was being mooted, but Skype just wasn’t the right platform, as you couldn’t create private ‘rooms’ within it. But this is great. You can just pop in to see if anyone else is there whenever you like. Brilliant!.

    • nisakiman says:

      Forgot to say that both Gary and Steve were upside down on my screen, so I sent ‘’ an email to ask why this was happening and how it could be fixed. I think Gary said he had the same issue with one or two of the screens.

    • Frank Davis says:

      After 10 hours in the Smoky Drinky Bar yesterday, I feel I slightly ODed. My head is still spinning a bit. I may make rather token appearances today at the times listed above.

      Yes, Richard was a doctor. A neurologist.

    • Kin_Free says:

      Thanks for the kind words nisakiman (blushes) (had to look up ‘perpisacit

      • Kin_Free says:

        Oops sent before complete; ‘perspicacity’ ! I learn from people such as yourself, Frank, Junican Joe Jackson etc. All in the hope of ‘making a difference’!

  3. nisakiman says:

    Interesting. A neurologist and a smoker.

    Not surprised you’re suffering ‘virtual pub’ overload – just like being the landlord of a real pub! :)

  4. garyk30 says:

    The video chat room is a great concept and gives new depth to the idea of ‘social media’.

    As for me, I found it very pleasant to be associated with such fine folks.

    This venue goes way beyond just reading words in a blog post.

  5. Emily Wieja says:

    This is amazing, what a concept! I’m sorry I missed out yesterday. I’ll be popping in today though!

    Reading that Globe article, the same thing struck me, that we have a very specific and (what would be considered) subversive reason to use video conferencing. It seems to me that human beings will always find a way to use technology to circumvent unjust laws.

  6. junican says:

    Likewise – glad to ‘meet’ those who ‘dropped into the pub for a quick one’. It is a bit difficult to tear yourself away once you have settled into a comfy chair and lit up. I very reluctantly drank up and left not long before closing time to attend to my duties at home.
    There is just one thing to consider. I understand that, at most, only eight people can be accommodated in the tap room at a time. It might be a good idea for people to ‘take a leak’ from time to time to let others drop by.

  7. beobrigitte says:

    Emily sent me an email today with a link to an article in the Boston Globe about video conferencing:

    …the notion of committing to a group video chat, for no other reason than to hang out, seems a little extra. After all, the labor and stress of the average conference call seems, as the kids might say, totes inapropes when applied to an adult hangout. If there’s no agenda, what are we meeting about? Can I go back to my desk/bed?

    Interesting find, Emily! So, there is no reason to talk/have fun/let conversations go multiple ways to people of the younger generation(?)?
    That would explain these boring, annoyingly loud weird music playing pubs/bars nowadays.
    The only chance there you get to talk there is going out for a smoke. Going out for a smoke….. The customer is King? How come the King is exiled to the outdoors when it comes to smoking a cigarette?

    I only dropped into the online pub for a minute – that was at about 18:30 hours tonight. Just got off for letting my phone charge for a bit – gonna dive right back in. It’s been wonderful to chatting to quite a lot of people tonight!! Great pub! Not going home yet!!!! It’s the good old times back with loads of laughter!!! Thoroughly enjoying it.
    (Hoping down-under joins with their breakfast coffees!!!)

    • beobrigitte says:

      It wasn’t entirely problem-free.
      Tonight it was. Nisakiman just needed to adjust the volume setting. The only problem I encountered was my phone battery needing charging.

  8. Joe L. says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed my brief visit to Smoky Drinky yesterday, Frank! It was a pleasure to finally (virtually) meet you, Nisakiman, GaryK, Kin_Free and RdM.

    I stopped back in for another quick round earlier today and was able to meet Emily, Brigitte and a gentleman named Peter (briefly), and I also got to chat with Nisakiman for a second time in as many days.

    I wish I had more free time this weekend. While I enjoy conversing with you all here in the comments section, it was fantastic being able to discuss topics in real time, as well as to get to know one another on a more personal level.

    I look forward to speaking with you all again and also meeting others in the near future!

  9. Pingback: The Continuing Smoky Drinky Bar Saga | Frank Davis

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