Hi Mervyn, great points. I’m only maybe 4 years into beekeeping, so nothing like your 68, but maybe I can still give a somewhat noob point-of-view of the experience.
I should add to this discussion, that when I joined the Beekeeping Association (and started attending meetings and spoke to other beekeepers), I was dismayed by the 1001 different opinions I was given from the beekeepers there - many of them very long term beekeepers. It dismayed me that, even in person, the experience was not unlike trawling through the thousands of articles and opinions you find all over the worldwide web when searching for information.
As a result, I was somewhat put off the club experience. I did meet a couple of beekeepers whom I liked, and their opinions made sense to me. I also met others that I was not sure I wanted anything to do with. In the end, I have somewhat navigated this beekeeping experience by myself - with books, the ghastly WWW, and the occasional presentation given at the club (there are some excellent talks from time to time, and I remain a member - bit of a no-brainer). I have yet to attend a course - when I started in the hobby, they were pretty much all booked up or I was unable to attend whenever I looked into sessions.
I guess what I’m saying is, I still consider the WWW to be an excellent resource. I do not consider it particularly better or worse than speaking with other beekeepers (as I’ve said, they still have a wide variety of opinions and experiences). I understand that there is no substitute for real world experience, and in that regard I wish that sometimes I had engaged a more experienced beekeeper to give me their take (maybe when I went through a bad flare up of chalk brood, or determining when it was time to replace a queen etc etc).
I do have a couple of experienced beekeepers around who I can ask questions (maybe more like your level of experience) - though, I hate to say, they are kind of strongly opinionated (and are of differing opinions too). I’m more drawn to somebody who might tell me what they’ve found works, while still learning themselves and sharing that. I guess maybe I just haven’t bumped into the right people (sometimes I can be a bit of a loner too). If somebody is terribly fixed in their opinions, it tells me that they might continue doing something wrong for their entire life.
On an interesting aside, my grandfather kept bees (a long time ago). He was a fruit grower, and as such, not really so much of a beekeeper. They kept them in the orchard for pollination of the apples, and I suppose they ate the honey, and used the wax (on the hot iron apparently, which made it slick for ironing clothes. Eventually they got rid of the bees, probably because there were alternatives to extracting your own honey and using wax on the iron, and eventually there would have been more hives in the district providing those pollination services. Really, he probably wasn’t such a good beekeeper by today’s standards - but then, I guess there weren’t so many diseases around. They didn’t have the WWW around either. I’m glad I do - it’s an additional resource that’s simply invaluable.