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 wasnâ€™t sure if it was for me or not â€“ 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)