Elvis Lives Again (why I submitted to 9rules)

So I promised a full review of my decision to submit Bright Meadow to 9rules, and I will do my best.

RSS subscribers, or avid readers of the blog, might have already noticed a Mini-Meadow post saying that I have bitten the bullet and submitted Bright Meadow for the latest round of 9rules submissions.

I did say when I heard that they were accepting admissions again that I wasn’t sure if it was for me or not – my reservations are a matter of record and, whilst it will probably bork any chance I have of acceptance, I stand by them. I am still not totally convinced that Bright Meadow needs to be in a network, if it would benefit from being in one, or even if 9rules is the right network for me.

So what made me submit if I still have reservations?

Time, first of all, for a little history. Soon after I started using the blog format back in April 2005 I noticed sites with this little leaf symbol proclaiming themselves as proud members of something called “9rules”. I can’t say I really paid much more attention than that at the time, other than noting in passing that as a rule these sites were a cut above the rest. As the blogging bug bit (around the time I was starting to avoid the Thesis actually), I was spending more and more time surfing for interesting blogs. Time and again, I would find myself passing through 9rules blogs, and I started to trust the logo. If I was in doubt about a site, and I saw the leaves, I would give it the benefit of the doubt. I must admit I was rarely let down.

I found myself wanting to join this little group of people. I wanted more traffic for the blog (readers, preciousssss readersss!) and all the hype about 9rules told me it was the place to be. Anyone who wanted to be someone was (it seemed) a member of 9rules. That it was a select group appealed to me at the same time it repelled me. More on that later.

Finally, a round opened up in November 2005, and I submitted Bright Meadow. This was back in the Blogger days, so I knew my chances were real slim, but at the same time I just wasn’t in the position to move away from a free, hosted service. Domain name registration and hosting might be inexpensive these days, but it’s still a non-trivial cost for someone whose budget was end-of-four-years-of-study small. As I subscribe to the philosophy “I’m gonna make a fool of myself regardless of what I do, so I might as well go for things I want – I can hardly make things worse”, and submission was just filling in a four-field form, I could see no reason NOT to submit. Seeing as how I’ve just resubmitted the blog, you would be safe to assume I didn’t get into 9rules that time around.

It would be silly to say this alone prompted me to change how I look at Bright Meadow, but it certainly gave me reason to stop and think what I really wanted from this blog/website. It is a little mind boggling to think about it, but that November was the first time I had really sat down and tried to define what I was doing in a single paragraph. The act of submitting made me evaluate what I was doing – what was I proud of? What did I enjoy doing the most? What was a waste of mine, and my readers, time? Where did I want Bright Meadow to be in a year, two years, time?

All these were questions that, coincidentally, I was trying to answer for my own life. New Years 2006 marked a big turning point for me on a lot of fronts, both personally, professionally, and blogging-ly.

Rejection of any kind makes you rock back on your heels. Yes, I had the petty knee-jerk reaction of pulling all 9rules sites from my RSS reader. I’m not proud of it, and most were restored when I had regained my equanimity and realised I how silly it was to have a temper tantrum over a website. Once I had recovered enough to laugh at myself, I realised how stupid it was to ask for admittance to a group that prides itself on its content when I couldn’t even define my own content. It’s an age old maxim that you need to love yourself before others can love you, but in this case it holds true. I had an ambivalent attitude to my blog at that point – I liked it, but I wasn’t sure why I was doing it, and I knew it wasn’t what I wanted it to be – and clearly this showed. Seeing as how 9rules don’t tell failed sites why they failed, I going on guess work and gut instinct here, but my gastro-intestinal tract tells me I needed to get my shit together. Badly.

In the space of that month and a half after submitting the first time, I shifted domains, moved to wordpress, and paid more attention to what I was writing about. Out went (the majority) of the daily “here’s what I did today” posts. Hello to posts that used day-to-day occurrences merely as jumping off points. Hola! posts that talked about what interested me (social computing), looking at them in a way I felt was under represented on the blogs I had come into contact with: non-specialist enthusiast. I’m more tech-literate than most of the ‘average’ computer users out there, thanks to the benefit of education and inclination, but I still couldn’t code my way out of a paper bag. I just like taking what other people have written, and playing with it some, seeing how I can apply it to my ordinary life. And I like sharing what I have learnt with other people. I like connecting, I like learning new things, and blogging is becoming a brilliant way of doing these things.

Something has finally clicked with regards my blogging – I feel I have finally found a tone I am comfortable using, I am talking about things I want to talk about, and I am starting to collect a diverse range of readers and commenters. I feel, and it is possible I am just talking out of my hat here and it’s not how people perceive things at all, but I feel that I am starting to develop a voice. I would like to think my words stick around in peoples brains and make them think. If nothing else, my scatter-shot approach to punctuation must make me memorable!

When the time came round and 9rules announced that they were opening the dread-portals once more, I realised that I was no longer so sure I wanted to become a member. I was a bit more aware of the downsides to being in a network. I’d seen the upheaval that happens when you don’t fit – Liz visited a fair few ponds before she settled down at b5. On top of that, 9rules themselves were very reticent to describe the benefits and/or drawbacks to being a member of their group. Yes, you can be guaranteed all your neighbour sites are top-notch. Yes, you are gonna get a helluva bump to your traffic. Yes, there’s this great community of people that you are welcomed into when you join. But an outsider has to ask herself “where is the catch?” Am I gonna be signing over my first born?

(I don’t seriously think that Scrivs and co are into black market babies, but… Where’s the frelling catch! Everything has a downside. Something you suck up because the benefits are so great. I’m just waiting for the other penny to drop).

On top of that, I have an innate distrust of elite groups and cliques. Closed circles of people remind me far too much of the “in crowd” at school. The in crowd weren’t very nice to me. It’s taken me many years to be comfortable with the fact I am not mainstream, but echoes come back to me, and I still see them round that one bench in the courtyard at lunch, talking and giggling together, imperiously ignoring everyone else as beneath contempt. Even worse, I remember their gaze on me and the feeling “are they laughing at me?”

This, again, isn’t to say that the 9rules community is like this. I am sure they aren’t – the few 9rulers I have had the privilege to cross paths with were certainly all lovely welcoming people – but it is a genuine concern of mine all the same.

On top of this, I have spent much time researching groups and how to get people interacting, and am a firm believer in inclusivity as opposed to exclusivity. Break down the barriers, not build more. We will probably always have an A-List, as it seems to be hardwired into the human psyche that we revere and put on pedestals certain members of our society, and this A-List invariably seems to depend on who you know, but that doesn’t mean I have to like the A-List. 9rules sites, while not necessarily the ultimate A-List in the blogging community, are definitely the A-List as far as a certain sub-group are concerned. In my mind I liken it to the modern music scene – there are the celebrity pop artists you might like (and deride loudly to your friends, but you know all the lyrics) who are the ultimate A-Listers, and there are the cool indy artists who you respect as well as like. You listen to their music because it challenges you at the same time as giving enjoyment. In my mind, that’s what a 9rules site deserves – my respect. I go there not just because it’s fun, but because it will force me to think about something. Still, there’s an aloofness I can’t help but notice. They’ve got a well deserved reputation for greatness, and…

I find myself torn.

I want to be a part of this elite group I respect, because to become a member would say my peers also respected my work. Who wouldn’t want such recognition? I am deeply proud of all that I’ve accomplished here at Bright Meadow and if I could reach more people by joining 9rules, then I see no reason why I shouldn’t try to join.

At the same time, my own distrust of the “cool gang” is rearing it’s ugly head. Why do I need to join a group? Surely I can do just as well on my own? Any network runs the risk of becoming insular and inward looking, and excluding people is anathema to me. And there’s my own particular brand of contrary minded stubbornness. I never got picked for the teams at school, I was never in the cool group, so why should I want to join one now? I never pretended my reasons would make much sense, but they are my reasons.

As I said, I am torn. I still am. So why did I submit?

Once again, it was a case of nothing ventured, nothing gained. I’d always be wondering “what if?” and few things are sadder in this life than regrets. I love that some posts have 40 and more comments on them. I am proud of my Blog Minions, and even more honoured that people want to become Blog Minions. I actually enjoy going back and reading through my archives now – they are my words, I worked hard on them, and it shows. I want to share Bright Meadow with the world, and if 9rules could help me do that, who am I to look down my nose at them?

You’ve got to admit, being picked out from the 699 other sites that also submitted would be one hell of an ego boost.

This entire post is, of course, going to stand testament to how much time I spend thinking about blogging. And is probably frelling over whatever slim chance I had in the first place, but I stand by all I’ve said.

I would just love to be proven wrong 😉

(And if you can work out the link between the title and the post, you’ll get yourself a cookie. Hint – it’s a song lyric)

8 thoughts on “Elvis Lives Again (why I submitted to 9rules)

  1. Hey Cas, thanks for posting this great entry about what 9rules and the entire submission process means to you as a blogger and a person. As somebody who runs 9rules, it’s often tough to take a step outside and look in to see what others think of us, but this type of entry really helps us out.

    “On top of that, I have an innate distrust of elite groups and cliques. Closed circles of people remind me far too much of the “in crowd” at school. The in crowd weren’t very nice to me.”

    I understand where you’re coming from (I wasn’t part of the in crowd either!) but I assure you that we do not classify the Network as being elitist or cliquey in any way. To be honest, I’d rather have somebody who gets 50 pageviews a day but writes totally amazing content join 9rules than any venture capitalist, technologist, or politician who writes mediocre content 🙂

    Best,
    Mike

  2. Wow. Now suddenly staying up till near two am writing doesn’t seem so bad. The people at work think I am stir crazy, staying up just to write for a blog, but they thought I was odd anyway, so that doesn’t matter.

    At the same time, I do keep forgetting that real people actually read blogs and comment. Still comes as a surprise to me every time someone says something, let alone when one of the subjects of a post sticks their head above the parapet, suits up, and joins in the fun.

    Welcome to Bright Meadow Mike, you’re a good sport, and writing the post was my pleasure. Always willing to help, that’s me. (And breathing one helluva huge sigh of relief that you don’t appear all upset).

    Reading through the post in the cold light of day, I think I might have came across a bit harsher than intended in my effort to prove that I wasn’t making mountains out of molehills. Many folks I talked to just couldn’t see where the problem lay – most of the time when I don’t think on things too deeply, I don’t see a problem either.

    Then I get thinking. It’s a bad habit of mine – I really should stop doing it. It’s the thinking that leads me to sit down and still be writing in the early hours when I have to be up at the crack of dawn for work.

    It isn’t exactly that I think 9rules is elitist and cliquey, though I do see that danger as inherent in any system which cherry-picks “the best”. My reticence has more to do with my own response to groups which limit/select their members than anything else. I want to belong, yet I am covering my back and preparing for that rejection. At the same time as wanting to belong, I still ask myself if I even need to belong?

    I guess these are questions I’m gonna be asking myself for many years to come. Well, at least I’m not gonna run out of things to blog about any time soon 😀

    As I said, welcome, and may you darken our doorstep many more times in the future.
    Cas 🙂

  3. And dear lord you wouldn’t think it had taken me most of the afternoon to write that comment, would you? Repeat after me:
    Cas thinks things through too much.
    Cas needs to stop being so neurotic.
    Cas needs to go dancing again and leave the computer alone for an evening
    “.

    Ooooh, and I just noticed I invented a word in the middle of my midnight ramble – “blogging-ly”. As pertaining to blogging. Strange the words your fingers type without the intervention of your very tired brain.

    (I’m feeling silly tonight. I apologise. I really should extend my “no blogging/commenting while tipsy” rule to cover no blogging and commenting whilst totally exhausted. I tend to ramble when I’m tired. You might have noticed).

  4. As someone who has only been reading a short while, and doesn’t really *understand* the rules of blogging yet, I’m not sure I’m qualified to comment on any of the above. I certainly don’t think you obsess too much – but then I’m a bit more “internet-ey” than your average girl as well.

    I wish you luck!

    Oh… and for the cookie – it’s a this will happen when pigs might fly kinda vibe?

  5. UPDATE:
    I knew there was a post written somewhere recently that put voice to some of mine (and some other) concerns regarding 9rules in a sensible and well written way. It was just hidden in the “articles I want to read again when my brain is working” bookmarks folder.

    Here it is, Christian Montoya on why there shouldn’t be just 9rules….
    I recommend you read it, and the comments as well, and if you’re feeling like you really want to stretch your brain, there’s an old article of Clay Shirky’s that makes good reading 🙂

  6. Hey Cas, all the best. Your content is defintely excellent and with a good layout and domain, you have a good chance of getting in.

    But isn’t BrightMeadow more like your own compilation of thoughts and feelings. If that is the case, then is a network needed? Just my own thougths..

    ~ CC

  7. Thank you CC. You just made my morning (very easy to do – say something nice to me and I get the warm fuzzies for the rest of the day 😀 )

    As for whether a network is needed? That’s a question I have been giving a lot of thought to, and I mean a LOT of thought. It’s also a question I don’t think can be fully answered till I’ve tried it. You see one lot of benefits/reasons to join looking at a network from the outside, but no matter how clearly defined the real benefits of membership are (and 9rules is infuriatingly vague on the topic, teasing us with just “join us, you know you want to”) until you’ve experienced them for yourself, it is impossible to tell how they apply to your own unique situation.

    Some things in this life I know without trying I won’t like – I know, for example, that diving with sharks is not something I will ever be doing on holiday.
    Other things, however, you need to try before you can make up your mind either way – I would never had said I would enjoy learning to fly, but it is one of the most joyous experiences I have ever had. By the same token, I thought I would enjoy scuba-diving, but it actually isn’t for me.

    Very few things in this life are forever. If I *do* get in, and I find out it’s not for me (or 9rules discovers I’m not for them), I am sure there are ways and ways to get out again. My gut feeling is that it would be a good thing, and I would always be kicking myself if I didn’t try.

    Ah well, either way, we’ll know in about two and a half weeks. Or less.

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