26 March 2007

putting the "unity" in community

First off, let me say, I LOVE Flickr. The sense of community over there is ridiculous, it is so hopping! I love the constant exchange and feedback. I love the knitalongs and craftalongs, which are super-easy to partake in as most groups are public, and it only takes a click on a button to add your uploaded photos to the group pools. And the group pools are fantastic! Such enthusiasm abounds there, and it is highly contagious. Love it!

Granted, I still think Explore is kinda funny and don't fully understand it. Here are the 8 photos I have on Explore today, down from 10 that I had yesterday (go figure):


1. chevron scarf - closeup, 2. soft trees in sunlight, 3. i love my studio in this light, 4. Matt's Socks - DONE!, 5. doll quilt - log cabin/courthouse steps variation - top, 6. flowerbox pincushion, 7. Pillow for Jane, 8. shrinky-dink pin-heads

I can't believe that anyone in their right mind would find a photo of Matt wearing the socks I knit for him "interesting," but whatever. To each their own! (coughcoughfootfreakscough)

Now, a word about blogs and blogging, because it seems to be "the" topic lately, and everybody's got something to say about it. I deleted my old blog (knottybits, for anyone who doesn't know and might be curious) because I didn't like the direction it had taken. When I first started blogging, I started with the intention of having a knitting blog. Because I have my hand in so many other things (patchwork, sewing, toy-making, art criticism), it was hard to get it to stick to any formula. Ultimately, I made sure to make it clear to anyone who asked that my blog was not strictly a knitting blog, which seemed to alienate me from the community of knit-bloggers. Oh well.... Lately, however, it was really all over the shop. One day, there would be knitting, then there would be three entries on quilting, then two entries about softies, then knitting again, then a commentary about some movie I saw. I needed to focus more. Strangely, this was about the time, after 1 1/2 years of blogging, that I started to get comments on a regular basis. It seemed that people were tuning in, but I wasn't happy with what was going on because I felt so all-over-the-place. Add to that the fact that around this time, I became keenly aware that real life friends were reading the blog and not commenting, which made me feel... I don't even know how to begin to describe it. I felt like I was being spied on, like I wasn't part of a give-and-take but was performing for someone else's voyeuristic pleasure. I have no idea why, but it hurt. I know that when you blog, you put it out there, and people who don't know you read about your life and take a peek into your world. It felt different knowing that people I knew in real life were peeking in with nothing to say. I felt like I was being silently judged. In a sense, we are all being silently judged. However, being aware of all this made the needle skip on my record.

Have you ever done a performance in front of a crowd? Anyone here ever been part of a school play or community theater? Any stand-up comics out there? Performance artists? In my limited experience doing performance, it works best to go into a zone when you perform, to lose yourself in your character and in your interactions on stage. Once you are aware of the audience, you are, for lack of a better word, fucked. Your performance becomes insincere and affected, unless your performance depends on interacting with the audience - like musicians. (Ask me about the time I saw Robbie Williams perform. He was the best showman I have ever seen, and he totally engaged with the audience.) You are performing for someone now. I mean, you know when you perform that you are performing for someone, but to be hyper-aware of it on conscious level as you do so alters the actual performance. As I was writing, I could see the faces in the crowd, and I felt like my words were hollow, like everything was an false act. It was a yucky feeling. So I deleted the blog and started a new one that deals for the most part with my softie-making venture, the softies themselves and the creative process behind them. Every now and then I veer into knitting or sewing or some other crafting, but I want that to be limited. (Wanna see all my endeavors? Check out my Flick page.) I was hesitant to post about this on here, as this is not my space to vent, but I believe that this is pertinent to all of us as bloggers. We need to every now and then examine why we choose to do this and how we go about it. I like what I am doing here, and I hope to develop significantly as a toy-maker and an artist (not to mention as a writer, as well).

As for comments, (you saw that one coming) I comment freely on blogs when I feel that I have something to share, add, or just say in general. I think that people should hear it when they do something that is beautiful, inspiring, unique, or just plain freaking cool. And I think if someone asks for help or suggestions, they should get some response as well. Sometimes, I get a little shy and keep my opinion or ideas to myself, especially if someone beat me to what I thought would be a somewhat original comment, as in the case with Jess at Fig and Plum's recent post where she asked for book suggestions. As I was reading through the comments, I thought, "I can't believe no one has recommended 'If on a winter's night a traveler....' by Italo Calvino," only to finally come across it in like the 123rd or 125th comment. (For the record, Jess' blog is one of the blogs that inspired me to start a blog in the first place.)

I have been participating in this exchange with other bloggers for a long time now (two to three years - since before I had a blog, to when I had my old "not-quite-a-knitting-blog," to the present - obviously), and to be perfectly honest, it is not always an exchange. There are many bloggers who swear they respond to every comment who are simply not being honest with their public or with themselves. I can't tell you how many times I have left a comment on one of the "queen-B" sites and gotten absolutely no response. (Yet Eunny responded to my well-wishes on her new position at Interweave - in fact, she responded to every comment! She had over 800 comments and still made the time to do this. One of the millions of reasons why she is amazing!) Not everyone has the time or capacity to respond to every comment, to be perfectly fair. I can't even respond to every comment I get because unless the commenter enters their email address or has their Blogger settings a certain way, Blogger won't let me. I still comment when I have something to say, because my fingers are as uncontrollable as my mouth I guess, and because if I am impressed by someone's work, I like to share that much with them. There are many bloggers who have established their little community and like to keep it as such, rarely welcoming a newcomer. They can come off as clique-ish, I suppose, but so be it. It might be a little intimidating for people who are not a part of it (like me, for instance), but that's not to say they're (or rather, we're) excluded from commenting. They just will not get the same appreciation they are giving. That's fine, because ultimately, it is about finding that group of people who you "click" with, isn't it?

I have finally found my community - a group of other knitting and crafting bloggers who I have an open exchange with. They leave comments for me; I leave comments for them. We knitalong with each other. We craftalong with each other. We are supportive or each other. And you know what? I like this little community that I see developing, and I am damn happy to be a part of it.

I'd like to give a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who comments on here, to everyone who has bought a soto softie, to everyone who has posted photos of their softies and linked to my blog or my etsy shop, to everyone who has been to my etsy shop or my Flickr page, to everyone who has linked to me, to everyone who has responded to a comment I have left for them, to everyone who has taken the time to send a thoughtful email. Thank you to everyone who has joined the Chevron Scarf Knitalong and the Green Sock Knitalong on Flickr. Thank you to everyone who has welcomed me and included me as a part of their community. Not to get all schmaltzy on you all (I'm not planning on getting run over on my way to the post office later), but seriously, thank you for everything!

Oh, also, a few final notes:

Quantity does not always determine quality. Having a large readership doesn't always mean that a blog is good. Same goes for comments. Just love what you do - do what you love. The right people will eventually pick up on it. And it's better to have a few people who "get" you and genuinely like you than a ton of people who blindly kiss your ass because "the cool kids" are doing it.

Finally, in the words of Ashley: "Go forth and like yourselves."

14 comments:

knittingphilistine said...

Amen, sista. And FINALLY!! soapy goodness is officially on its way to a mailbox near you. Actually, to YOUR mailbox near you. You're one cool chick.

Ashley said...

Hmm, interesting thoughts re the real-life voyeurs. I don't think I feel that way generally with my friends and family--most of them aren't knitters, so they don't hae much to say in the comments; they read it just to see what's going on with me, and I'm fine with that. But recently a guy that I am kind of seeing found my blog, and it feels VERY weird to me that he has that kind of access to my life. Ultimately I figured, it was out there, so I had to be ok with it. Except...it still feels weird. And, yeah, totally fucked, because I am Aware of My Audience. (Do I look pretty enough in that picture? Is my photo impressive? Have I been sufficiently witty? Am I being too self-absorbed?)

Anyhoo. All of which to say, I feel you. And also, where exactly the fuck did Eunny find the time to respond to all of those comments, and can I go there too? Because I need time like that.

Also, I heart Flickr too.

jenn said...

Having just started my own blog, I really appreciate what you just wrote. Blogging IS clique-ish (just like highschool, thank goodness those years are long over) but it is also a great supportive community. I only know one other person "in real life" that knits, so it is definitely great to read about other peoples' projects and such. Thank you so much for sharing your projects, knitting, or otherwise, and keep up the good work!

Moe said...

Ditto.

Sometimes I'm just not in the commenting mood. Or I'm one of hundreds and I figure "why bother - commenter 2, 25, 36, and 52 just said what I had in mind."

I'm quite taken with your quilting photos (my latest voyeristic obsession. I have Debbie Schmidts book and am avoiding it due to the mass consumerism that will damage my bank account).

Ashley, I would feel the same way. Such is life when you are on the interwebs. For instance? Some of my husband's coworkers read my blog.

Eunny is amazing.

Anonymous said...

sometimes, reading, and not commenting is like listening to what you have to say.

i don't have to agree, or disagree, but by just listening, i learn.

Marisa said...

Right on about the clique-ishness. It doesn't bother me so much because never in life have I even been part of the "in-crowd" but I definitely see it.

I didn't know there was a green sock along flickr!

maritza said...

Well, yeah, it can be clique-ish, but I don't think my point was to focus on any clique-ishness so much as how we fit in where we fit in, and we are a part of the community that we help make. In other words, it's not about competing for comments or site visits per day or subscribers or all of that crap but about making real connections with people. So let's appreciate the people we do connect with and blog because we love it, because we have something to say and hope that maybe other people can relate, be inspired by, or learn from what we have to share.

And anonymous, point taken. I totally understand what you are saying. You are entitled to just take in what I have to share. I am not demanding that you comment, nor am I seeking your validation. I just think it's a little creepy to have real life friends watching me through my blog but refusing to communicate with me through the medium. It's great you're getting something out of it, but there's no exchange, no reciprocity. Perhaps I'd like to hear what you have to say, and if you feel uncomfortable saying something through the comments, well, you have my email address.

By the way, this post was motivated by both my recent personal experiences with the blogging medium and by a post that some knit-blogger made where she questioned what was the point of blogging if no one comments on what you have to say, which was supposedly not a pointed question on her part. But I can't help but think that asking that is like asking if a tree falls in the forest, but there's no one there to hear it, did it really fall. While I appreciate her point that part of the fun of blogging is the community it creates and the interaction between bloggers (god, I hate that word now), I also felt that it was all too easy to misconstrue her original remark as if she were dismissing any person who blogs but doesn't get a tidal wave of comments like she and her gaggle of friends do. It's bad enough that most bloggers need the validation of comments. Comments can be so tricky in the first place. Anyway, that was my two cents on the matter, which I felt was way too wordy to leave in her comments section so I blogged about it myself. It is also something that has been on my mind a good deal since before I deleted the old blog and started this one.

dizzyjadey said...

Been reading your blog & very sad of the demise of Knotty Bits..however I love your softies, patiently waiting for May the Stumpy Bunny. Your discourse on any topic is always engaging and sometimes confronting, from a blogger's perspective. I, too, feel that I need comments to be validated, but am trying my best to get over it. Thanks for opening up this topic! Hey, this is the 1st time I commented on either of your blogs.

jojo* said...

Right on. I hear ya. I very rarely tell anyone I know in real life about my blog, because it does feel rather creepy to me to think that I'm broadcasting personal stuff to them. People who don't have blogs don't know what it's like to wish for feedback, so often don't feel the need to comment, I guess.

Sometimes I think I have no business blogging. I sometimes find myself cringing when I post, because when comments come in, and I can't respond to them fast enough then I feel all guilty. Or when I want to post something, but haven't had gotten around to replying to comments from the last ost, I feel like I have no business posting again. There are times when I feel like turning the comments off so that I can have guilt-free blogging. But I would never do that, because I'd hate to lose my community.

So anyway, I hear you. Carry on.

kris said...

mwah!

Trenchant Maiden said...

in the forum world, they (those who read silently and do not participate in the discussions) are called lurkers.....sounds curiously like berzerkers...but whatever....
so, I'm adding my "comm" (stands for comment) to your "unity" and POOF.......
We have COMMUNITY!!!!!!!!!

YAY!
thanks for putting this topic up for discussion, or at least reflection (though it seems a rather lively discussion round these parts)
and one more thing, you're right, anonymous does sound creepily like me....another doppelganger? not sure I can take it!

maritza said...

trenchant m. - I totally thought it was you!

P.S. - Better a doppelgänger than a doppeldängler.

mj said...

I struggle with that- I mostly read craft blogs and would love to just focus on that but I feel like most of my friends/family that read my blog are interested in all of my life, so I'm hesitant to scrap it all and start one just about crafts. And being on xanga means I don't get many comments anyway. Thanks for your perspective!

patricia said...

Thanks for putting those comments out there. I stopped blogging a year ago, partly because I felt I was spending too much time taking photos when I wanted to be just doing, and partly because I was angry and frustrated that the people I supposedly was doing it for (long-distance relatives) were reading and never commenting. It did feel like I was being spied on, or maybe like I was always picking up the tab for dinner. It was nice to make a record of that year, but I resented having to carry on that coversation by myself.

Your work is beautiful. This is the first time I've seen your blog, and I'm glad it's not just about stuffed animals. Not that they're not lovely, but I hope you know what I mean. Reading that someone else has given up a blog for reasons similar to mine, but not given up blogging all together (and under their own name too), is interesting.

Take care.