March 30th, 2008

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What it's all about

Chris Clarke (of Creek Running North), has a recently published piece (which you can see here).

It's about a lot of things, but there was a passage in the middle which I wanted to share, in particular.

That sums up a lot of why I write, of why I do photography, certainly of why I noodle at music.

If you don't do it for you; whatever it is, you can't ever be able to do it for others. That bleeds over to whatever else you do.

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(p.s. while you're over there, you should look at the rest of his photos, most are far more; visually, entertaining than this one).

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One of the things I wish Lj did better is building community. It's not that I dilike what Lj is, the ability to have, essentially, a news feed of people I like to read, and not have to open dozens of windows, hack my own code, etc. is wonderful.

It's very good at fostering relationships, but they tend to be either didactic, or a set of overlapping groups. There are some 400 people who read this. There are, at any given time, about a dozen who comment. No, there are more than that, but it's rare for more than a dozen to chime in on something, and the conversations are (as a rule) short exchanges, without a whole lot of side-chatter elaboration.

On Lj, one; generally, speaks to the author, and that's about it.

There is something to be said for that (and I think the threading functions are a part of that).

There are other blogs I like, which have a different dynamic, one which has some sense of inclusion: Orcinus, Pandagon, Slackitivist.

Boing-Boing is starting to build that. There's been a lot of tension about it; because part of the reason is the tragedy of the commons. Usenet has become a swamp. A vast bastion of Libertarianism. A place where a lot of people are offended that they can't do anything they want.

Boing-Boing suffered from that. They used to have comments, but the trolls came, and stank up the joint. So they hired tnh to practice her moderation-fu. I've been watching her style for a long time, because her blog, Making Light, has a wonderful community. It has community because it has rules (I have rules, because I watched Usenet go from fun, to toxic sludge, and I watched some of the folks I liked to spend time with move to Making Light, and keep the parts I liked, and I took the ideas I saw implemented there, and tailored them to my sense of order).

The proof of the pudding is how the hot-button topics get handled. Anyplace can be swell to hang out when no one is stepping on your corns. It's when oxen are being gored the community comes into play.

Making Light is the best, online example I can find (I think the folks here have done all right, but there have only been a few tests of the concept). Is it perfect? No. As with any other such place, being new can be hard (esp. if one is used to other fora; or comes in with a far outlying minority position). It keeps to its nature, even though the people change (in the course of the six, maybe seven years I've been something of a regular, a lot of active members have come and gone).

But (and this is the meat of the matter), there have been some real furballs, the sort which I've seen destroy other places, maintain a fair amount of civlility. They can be prickly, brash, blunt, even rude. As a rule, they aren't offensive.

The best example I can give is one on Ron Paul, which ended up drifting to abortion: how it went.

What I saw (and for reasons hard to explain, I went and re-read it all again today, because I was thinking about community, and how it works) was everyone (even when pisssed off) who was taking part being (as a rule) civil. I saw people reminding them that civil matters. The members take it upon themselves to keep the place the sort of place they want it to be.

It spills over, I've seen the ML regulars in other venue (some are known to comment here). They can be prickly, brash, even rude. As a rule they aren't offensive.

It's not a bad way to be seen.

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