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Re: [arts-poetry-humanities] How to improve my website to make it a great community place?

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  • Brandon Van Every
    ... accomplish with money, that otherwise can t be accomplished? I have been perplexed by the popularity question as well. One thing I decided about myself
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 2, 2012
      On Tue, Oct 2, 2012 at 9:46 PM, vanethian <manuelmarino@...> wrote:

      I want to improve my blog/community and make it really good, but I need the suggestions from the best webmasters and artists worldwide. So, here's the reason for this question. Please share it with your friends and contacts.

      Random thought: Kickstart something?  Is there anything that one can accomplish with money, that otherwise can't be accomplished?

      I have been perplexed by the popularity question as well.  One thing I decided about myself personally, is I don't get out enough on the broader internet in general.  That is, I don't tend to "surf" or gobble up large chunks of internet culture.  I did Usenet newsgroups heavily back in the day, so I know what kind of a deleterious time waster such habits can become.  I think in recent years I've gone too far the other way though.  I'm insufficiently aware of, and not making contacts with, other communities that have potential recruits for ManuelMarino or my own gamedesign-l.  So today I've been trying to do something about that... but the internet is so big, it takes lots of time to search around for things.  Quality doesn't just leap out everywhere.

      One thing I've noticed over the years is I end up in a lot of "exceedingly male" pursuits, whether it's martial arts or technology.  There's a style of aggressive debate that I somewhat enjoy, that many women simply won't participate in.  Also women get harassed on the internet just for being women, in various places.  Certainly not a problem on MM but I've found evidence of it in other places I've looked.  So it can be a challenge to find and participate in a gender balanced audience.  I think the Arts offer a greater possibility of such balance, but I was shocked to learn the other week that the Museum of Modern Art in NYC has only 8% women in its collection.  That's astounding!  I thought only the sciences and engineering had such gross biases of participation, but it seems that other human endeavors have similar skewings.

      Those "aggressive debates" can turn really ugly in technical communities, and I've been run out of more than a few of them.  It's why gamedesign-l has firm moderation rules in place.  It keeps it from becoming a cesspool or monkey stomping ground.  Not a problem on MM, to date, but something that does happen when forums eventually grow.  At the extreme end, consider Slashdot.  By the sheer volume of blather, it "actively kills brain cells," as one friend put it.  A forum can't just get bigger, it needs to grow and be tended in the right way, like a garden.  You and I fantasize about beautiful Art gardens, but I think we can find some really ugly Dystopian Hell Gardens that are nevertheless "Art" oriented, if we look around some.  I don't think it takes much to prevent bad things from happening.  I just think that a lot of other internet venues amount to no more than squabbling, so that makes it difficult to do recruitment from them.

      I've long observed that internet communities with the most "stickiness" have some cultural activity that their members are engaged in.  The community is trying to "do" something.  That doesn't always work out, particularly if the goals are nebulous, or certain personalities get in the way.  Also if nobody makes any money on the activity, people get pulled away to other life concerns, like holding down jobs or spending time with friends and family.  Money focuses people.  On the other hand money can easily alienate people, as core actors turn into profit conscious businesspeople who don't want to share everything about how they're getting ahead.  So I'm not saying MM needs to be more of a business roundtable, LOL.  :-)  Business types generally keep their plans close to their breasts.  It's really not the way of a grassroots or "intentional" community.  Or at least, it's better to try to keep those impulses out of communities, but humans will be humans.  I learned recently in the Cherokee National Forest that Rainbows do have squabbles about "green energy" aka money.  People who control "The Bank" start to feel entitled.

      I don't feel like I understand internet Art communities in general, well enough to know what might be a problem for MM specifically.  I know the lifecycle of techie communities much better.  In the real physical world, I've tried to start local Art groups for things like drawing at coffee houses or painting plein air.   I've done a real life face-to-face Fremont Arts Council art community in Seattle, and that was a bit of a disaster.  People's social chemistry is always a factor with artists.  Unlike programmers, which tend towards a loosely cooperative monoculture, artists have all kinds of different bents and temperaments.  For instance, I'm the kind of painter that won't wear special clothing, you'll never know I'm an artist just to look at me, on most days.  Then you've got the graphic designer types that dress like a fashion ninja.  You've got artists who want to work on formal abstractions, you've got political protesters, you've got Pagan calendar worshipers.  Sometimes I'd manage to get a decent sized drawing group together, but I could tell that the different kinds of people just didn't like each other, or me, enough to want to keep it going.

      I feel like all I can do is learn by looking at other internet Art communities. Big factors I think are "what's out there already," as in how does MM stand in relation to that.  "Where do people surf" is another big factor.  I think in terms of "Great Rivers" of traffic.  The modern day Great River is Facebook.  Back in the day it was Usenet.  I didn't have to try very hard to get people to come to gamedesign-l.  I just advertized on the Great River of Usenet, and people came because I offered something Usenet didn't.  A somewhat kinder, gentler mailing list that had some rules in place to keep people from tearing each other's throats out.  Moderated Usenet newsgroups did exist, but it was notoriously difficult to get one established without a community kicking, screaming, and splitting about it.  I pretty much offered a third party solution to a *very* well known problem.

      Does MM solve any other communities' very well known problems?

      Brandon Van Every

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