Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The night time entries really are (even more so than any other post) a conversation among members. But the e-mails keep coming in from visitors. If you're looking for naming, walk on,

Members knew this would be happening, Gina and Krista polled on it after it became a topic in countless e-mails. We're happy to help out anyone. And I don't go all over the web so I won't know if this site is linked or not. It doesn't matter to me personally (some members passionately disagree).

But as noted before, we're a community that was built peer-to-peer. Someone really likes something and they share it with a friend or family member.

The community doesn't belong to me. I may be facilitator (and Ava would step in there if I stepped down) but it's not mine. When I'm asked to promote a general product in an e-mail, that goes right in the trash bin. By the same token, I won't do endorsements because that's not fair to members who are smart enough to make up their own minds and who are not all Democrats. We have Green Party members (and we're glad to have them) and we have members who are liberal but do not claim any party i.d. If you're of the left, you're welcome here. I'm not going to spend an election attempting to push the community behind a candidate.

A poll just ended on NPR. Whether we do or do not do anything will depend on the results of that from Gina and Krista. Members make the community. Gina and Krista would never sell their circulation list and I wouldn't give out a member's e-mail address. (Or when once asked by someone not a member of this community for a phone number, a phone number.) (And don't be surprised if that becomes an issue at another site. I did inform the member, who has their own site, of the request and they were offended by it. Thus far they haven't noted it but it's brewing and it may be noted at some point in the future.)

So membership voted. And they felt this way because there are some who won't give anything back. They feel that some take from the community but don't recognize it. That's especially true in the case of what happened to Rebecca.

She was there for people who wanted links and promised links but never linked. She didn't just give them links, she gave them support. Because she linked to them and members mentioned them, they were added. Not by me. I wasn't over the links to blogs by then. That was by the committee and I told the committee that I had been removed (by a committee) from that process. (Which is as it should be. I don't go web hopping so I really shouldn't have any input on the permalinks to blogs.)

But we are a feminist site. And do we delink from women?

When I weighed in on Sheryl Crow (ugh) that was part of demonstrating that it is okay to say, "You know that person may be a woman but we don't have to bite our tongues." And we don't. If someone's telling Rebecca "we're in this together, as women!" and yet it turns out that she's in it for herself, she's not practicing feminism and we have no reason to be compelled to support her.

I could care less (and many members get angry when I say that) if this site is linked to or not. The e-mail volume is so huge that it's beyond anything I can handle. Even with Jess and Ava helping, we're still overwhelmed. (I do read every e-mail from a member. I may fall a day or two behind, but I do read all e-mails from members. I spend hours each night before posting the final thing here reading those e-mails.)

But, as many have pointed out to me, others aren't so lucky. That's probably the result of the fact that we put up entries several times during the day and the fact that we've been around now for almost a year. And it's also due to the fact that this isn't "mine." This is the members.
I respect that. I still haven't been able to write about water rights which is a huge issue with me.
I haven't pulled an Okrent and done a "What I wanted to write about . . ." Rebecca will tell you that she runs a blog. That's a difference between what goes on there and what goes on here.

There's no ombudsman for her site. Beth is our's (thanks to West for giving her the title we should have long ago). To make sure that she has free reign, her writing is now carried in the gina & krista round-robin. She has a forum independent of anything I could touch so she never need worry that I might say, "You know what, I don't want that addressed."

If a member feels an issue is being completely shoved aside by me, they can take it up with Beth and get a ruling from her.

So it's not "my" site. (Which is why my attitude of "I could care less" is my attitude and not the members.)

But Rebecca is an old friend. And when I hear that she's been her ignored or anyone else who's started a site, I do feel differently than if I hear that this site was ignored. (Visitors, Rebecca runs Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude. It's late and I'm not doing any links in this post -- except for the final paragraph.)

So if the decision had been mine, the sites pulled yesterday would have been pulled without a poll and without any input from the committee. I don't put up with that crap. I don't put with little girls whining for attention and then stabbing Rebecca in the back, for instance. I've read some of those e-mails last month. "Oh I wish I could be strong like you." Maybe the wish should be to have a little integrity?

I don't have time for that.

Seth just started up Seth in the City. Seth asked for any input about links. I told him, if someone's willing to trade with you, do so. I'm not personally in favor of trading. But I've seen Betty ignored and ignored and I'm sick of it. Betty came to all of us (Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, Elaine -- I think Rebecca was on vacation during this, Mike and Cedric) to say that there was a site that had linked to her and would anyone have a problem with her linking to them? She wasn't sure about their politics. We were all in agreement that in that case, who gives a damn. She's so unlinked outside of this community (Ron of Why Are We Back In Iraq does link to her) that if someone's found her writing and wants to note it, she should link to them.

I didn't have to worry about that. I was thinking, when I started The Common Ills, that maybe in a year we'd have fifty people reading it. The second day, the first real day of posting, e-mails came in. (Including from Jim and Dona. They are long term members of this community.) Then the thing had a snow ball effect. Our European members started getting on board in December and were re-posting entries at various sites in Europe. I have no idea how that happened. (I have a very good friend from England but she denies getting the word out.) So there was never any time to think, "How do I get links?" Or even what are the rules?

There are no rules. Some people hector to get away from Blogger. The template is apparently too much for their little eyes. To that, let's point out that most newspapers are broadsheets and that's pretty standard. (Though it may change.) More importantly, Blogger is free and for a do it yourself community (which is what we are), that is important. I've considered (many times) switching from Blogger because of all the problems. But besides being easy to use, it also encourages others to share by starting their own sites.

So we won't be leaving Blogger at present. (I offer no promises if entries continue to get lost or other problems continue. Ideally, we'll stay with Blogger.)

I didn't know the rules and I broke them. I still do. That's fine. We're not a blog.

When we started we had comments. That's supposed to be very effective, I find out now, to getting attention for your site. Members hated it. They hated the "centrists" and their inane comments. They demanded that the comments be shut down and they were (it took me a bit to figure out how). The thing is, that didn't hurt us. We continued building.

Cedric writes these amazing entries about the elderly gentlemen from his church who reside in the nursing home. There are times when I read those, when even an asshole like myself will get choked up. There's no "rule" that says write about that. But he's very moving when he writes about that and he reaches people.

There are people who expect that every post will be perfect grammer and perfect spelling. Members got over that a long time ago. Whether I'm at the keyboard or dictating, I'm not concerned with it. Typos will always occur (I'm dyslexic and have noted that many times over here). "You could use spell check!" Have they tried? Does Blogger even offer it anymore? (Yeah, there it is.)

Typos will happen. It happens in the Times. Get over it. Using spell check, when it worked, added twenty to thirty minutes to the time prior to posting. I don't have that kind of time. This isn't something I do for money (there are no ads here) and it's not something I do to make a name for myself.

This is something I do on my end because I believe in it. Members are members because they believe in it. Be authentic and you'll reach people. (The community hates phonies and gate keepers.) After almost a year of doing this, I'm not sure I could advise anyone on how they should start a site. That's because I don't think there are rules. Here's one rule. Choose an interesting name. The Common Ills was picked by me because of passage by Judith N. Shklar.
I had been encouraged to get a site and I had said no. The election was over and, like many people, I was asking myself what didn't I do that I could have done. That's when this started.
And there was no thought put into it ahead of time. Like most things, I just rushed right in and I'm being asked for a name and look over and see the Shklar book.

But The Common Ills is too common. Use something unique so that you'll register high in searches from the start. If you're a Nick Lachey fan (and judging from e-mails on Ava and my TV reviews, they do exist) don't call your site "Nick Lachey." Call it "Nick Lachey's Boxers" or something else. "Nick Lachey's Briefs" would probably work better.

That's about the only rule I know to pass on. Every other one can be broken. "Write short entries." Short entries didn't get members.

We don't have "readers." We have members. People feel ownership with regards to this community. (Which is why it's not my community. It belongs to members as much as it does to me.)

A lot of the rules that "concerned" bloggers will pass on to me (as in, "You're doing it wrong") are rules set up when the "traffic" was from one group or type of people. We're not monolythic. We are multi-racial, we have as many female members as we do male members, we don't have one sexuality or one religion or one nation, we're not all from the same educational background or the same economic background. Maybe that's the wave of the future? I don't know.

But the "rules" don't need to be followed and we're proof of that. Now maybe they get you linked in the blog reports (or maybe that's the clusterf**k) but we'd never, for instance, see members leaving en mass the way same sites have lost readers. That's because I'm not in charge here. This isn't a blog. Members are in charge and determine what we cover and what we discuss. There are many "response" entries that I honestly do not want to write but members ask for them (demand them) and they go up here. We'll never get to the point where I'm insulting a portion of the members because the members wouldn't let me get away with that if I wanted to. It would be nipped in the bud.

So if you have a tiny little bit of education and think it's so much more than you have (which leads to gate keeper mentality) and you want "readers" who are going to follow you around, follow the damn rules. You may get "hits." You may get "traffic." I don't think you'll get what we get from this community.

Which includes me. There are topics I know nothing about and membership is the driving force behind educating me. We all learn from each other.

And members take this community very seriously. So when they feel someone is using the community and not giving back, they don't care for that person.

So the poll results were no surprise to me and the committee (made up of members) decision was no surprise to me. It's not about what I want. (And in the case of a friend, they were warned ahead of time. They could have given something back, a shout out, and I could say, "Okay, everybody ____ mentioned Cedric." And because it was Cedric, members would have backed off.)

When this was the only site in the community, I could say, "We won't do this" or "that" with regards to links. But as e-mails have made very clear, it's not just about this site anymore. We've got members starting sites and if they are going to be shut out, the community doesn't want to support or acknowledge people who shut the community out.

So that's how we arrived at what we arrived at. Visitors expecting a naming of names will be disappointed. Members already know the names. Members are the ones who raised the names.

They notice, for instance, if they e-mail or post to someone's site that they were mentioned at ___ and The Common Ills and the person responds with "It was so great to be mentioned by ____" that the person is sending out a message. And I hear about it. (And on my end, I laugh about it.) P.J. and other journalists coming forward in the round-robin has helped somewhat. His theory that little fish think they're big fish really helped quell a rebellion on one guy in particular. (Who posted a comment similar to the one quoted in this paragraph.) Hopefully, this is all we'll need to do but if the issue comes up again and membership dictates that it be addressed, it will be addressed.

Now for the link. Tracey is interviewed by Mike. He had huge posting problems but he got the entry up so please read it. This is Ruth's granddaughter and I was fortunate enough to meet her in DC. She's all the wonderful things Ruth always says she is. So be sure to check out her interview.

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