Edited by spindrift - 9/10/16 at 1:58pm
There is interesting history here. To the extent it has entered this discussion, I think ESA is perhaps viewed through rose colored glasses. Not all attendees were fully enamored of it - those folks just did not say much in public. After hearing from several of those people, I chose not to attend - despite my initial interest. In light of history I'm happy with my choice. Obviously there were folks who felt they got great value. That's good. I’m just pointing out that sometimes the legend can outstrip the reality.
Furthermore, if you are concerned about any form of "cool kids" phenomenon - ESA spawned more of that than anything else I have seen. A few attendees from the first one or two were given a level of latitude in posting here that quite honestly allowed some abusive and disgusting behavior. Not only should there have been more moderation - but earlier banning and, in hindsight, possible law enforcement involvement. I suspect that kind of stuff would not last a day, or even an hour, under current management.
At the same time there were some great people who hung around and helped the place evolve through that. I've met many members IRL. I’ve probably skied with over a hundred folks from here. I have quite enjoyed the company of most. I consider a number to be long term friends at this point. And a few I know less well are just a treat to bump into every few years.
For my .02, the site has very much evolved for the better since a decade+ ago. Not perfectly - but we don't get "perfect" in the real world. Lots of people helped that along. I think the current team is doing a really good job of balancing lots of conflicting goals and perspectives.
As for P&HT, I find it useful. I think of it as a pre-screen for real life. And now and again it does offer some interesting debate perspectives.