Monday, May 26, 2008

What are we doing this for???

Later tonight I will have 1 Evangeline (Ravlink for pattern)arm-warmer done, and another started, but before I take pics and show you, I want to have a little moment to think about what I'm doing here.

On Sat we had a bonus snb meetup to try out a new cafe. While there were only six of us, it was still really enjoyable to sit and chat and goss and knit. At one point, following on from blackie's confession that she only joined Ravelry because we all kept on about it and she wanted to see what she was missing out on, I asked what people got from blogging, using Ravelry, and the internet generally as far as knitting is concerned. Two of blog regularly, two irregularly, and two don't blog. All of us are now on Ravelry, but we use it differently. Some only like it for the databases of patterns and yarns, and links to finished projects with comments about style, fit, finishing, pattern errors and so on. Some like to dip in to the Tassie Knitter's forum or display pictures of their projects. Some are really committed Ravelers, enthusiastic members of a number of forums, frequently updating their projects, stash and queues and checking their Ravmail umpteen times a day.
So why so much difference in how we use these online tools? The six who were there on Saturday might just span fifteen years in the age-range, all of us are (purportedly) adults, with homes, jobs, some have children, some have pets, (I have both), we all have internet access at home and cameras for digital pics and we all enjoy knitting, and often other crafts as well. We all find pleasure in each other's company once a month (and increasingly twice), we email or Ravmail in between times when we have questions or comments.
I am interested in the whys and wherefores from both a personal and professional perspective. Personally, I started reading blogs at a point when I was going on maternity leave for the third time, the end was in sight for my Masters degree, and I was increasingly turning to knitting as a creative outlet at a time when I had neither the time nor the energy to tackle longer term sewing or cross-stitching projects, let alone go outside and garden. I had no knitting friends, but I was enjoying the craft, so I went looking for books, magazines, and then the online community.
Then we had child number three and moved to Tasmania, and I knew no-one and had a non-sleeping baby and an active three-yr-old and a degree to finish and I just needed some relief, a connection to other adults who shared similar interests, and blogging gave me that. Following that, blogging led to bloggy friends like 2paw which led to meeting Penni and the Hobart SnB gals, and I now have a number of different folks to talk to about knitting and other stuff too.
So now that I know some real people, why do I keep blogging? I like the opportunity it gives me to think about what I have done, am doing and plan to do next. I like the sense of discussion when I pose a problem or ask a question and comments come back from readers. I like being able to show off to an appreciative audience (ie you) when I do something I am proud of - while the MOMD is excellent and increasingly clever at using words like 'swatch' and 'cable' correctly (he admired my 'pretty' and 'shiny' and 'smooth' harmony needles yesterday) he is not a knitter and cannot fully admire or commiserate. I enjoy the opportunity to play with words and combine them with the interactivity offered by the internet. Blogging connects me to an online community of bloggers and blog-readers, like a virtual snb where we can make a mug of our favourite beverage, grab the munchy of our choice, curl up in our daggiest houseclothes, and catch up with friends who might otherwise be hard to see, what with work and family and schedules and commitments and the general hassle of being presentable enough to take over part of a cafe for a couple of hours without upsetting the owners :)
And how is Ravelry different? As a different tool (or toolkit, perhaps, considering the number of different functions) it serves a variety of different purposes. Yes you can display your projects, with yarn and pattern and comments and progress - it is a little more organised than blogging about them, but also there is less room for the discussion aspects that I enjoy so much - triumphs and tragedies, inspirations and hesitations are lost in the data-driven matrix. The groups and forums (fora, if we are being persnicketty) are a way to meet and keep in touch with groups of knitters (and crocheters and whatnot) who share interests or characteristics with you, to have conversations on particular topics that are easy to follow and participate in. The pattern and yarn databases, and the opportunity to queue faves is wonderful, if somewhat unrealistic (and yes I am thinking about my own knitting fantasies here). Ravelry provides me with several different ways to enhance my knitting life, both technically and socially, but it doesn't replace either my personal multimedia gallery or my real-life knitty friends. I will never be devoted or unscheduled enough to photograph every skein, update every project, or follow every thread. Knitting is a creative, personally satisfying hobby which brushes over onto other areas of my life, but it does not rule my life (I have kids for that).

This really is a total ramblefest, but if you've come this far, let me sum up:
* online communities need to have a defined purpose, a shared sense of place, and provide some kind of benefit to members. They also need to respond to and evolve along with the needs of the community.
* a blog is kind of a personal representation of one's preferred online community - my blog, my rules, my content, my style, my time.
* a person's needs determine the kind of communities they will seek out, online or face-to-face, and so they will only participate in communities that satisfy those needs, and only to the extent necessary to make them happy.

And with that, it is time to put the kettle on, grab some chocky reward bikkies (for spending more than three hours in domestic martyrdom on this, the first weekday of my holidays), put Battlestar Galactica on the screen, and finish my first Evangeline.