Seeing all the brilliant and thoughtful pictures on the advent calendar
just now reminded me
how many lovely people are on this site, how many friends i have made
through Moblog and how much effort lots of people have gone to in support of
this community. And in many ways everyone has had to do this in the face of
a kind of adversity which is the incredible slowness of the site. And yet,
despite this, people still keep posting and sharing and that is the
lifeblood of Moblog. It made me realise how ultimately people make websites
rather than technology and that, as Alfie once said to me, communities
dominate brands rather than the other way around.
I haven't posted properly in ages (hate my blackberry) and haven't really
talked to anyone on here for ages and feel a bit remiss for that. So, um,
The above photo pretty much represents what I've been up to. Running around
New York City yelling for joy. And running a website about the search engine
marketing industry - which is my bread and butter so to speak. It's weird
because it's a complete change of pace for me - whereas before I could sit
back and think about search and social media marketing strategies in
general, and implement them on a site by site basis, now i have to write
news articles and features about the industry every day. Writing every day
is hard! One of the great things about Moblog is that a picture can say a
thousand words - but these days i have to write thousands of words. Words is
difficult - you can get the grammar wrong (see previous clause :P) and you
have to articulate a position and there are million ways that it can be shot
down in flames. The backstory can be too complicated to go into or the
fundamentals can be so over simplified that you risk getting ahead of
yourself. Or worse, as i often find myself doing, what you have to say
meanders around a dozen different perspectives and feelings that acquiesce
around an idea, which is supposedly what your brain is telling you is the
essence of "what you have to say".
Whereas pictures just bypass your brain and hit your emotion centres.
However, what I have to say, in words, is that over the last 18 months,
since around july/august 2009 the day to running and management of the site
has pretty much been in the hands of the users - the moblogmods
and other users committed to
the site who, for whatever reason, just want to see Moblog succeed. It's
pretty amazing really as all these people have freely given their time and
energy to helping new users out, spam patrol, slowness alerts, community initiatives
(such as caption competition
) and also running the news section
. This has freed up the admin
team (mat, lori, alfie & me) loads - and i'm not being callous or funny when
I say this (and I hope this doesn't sound disrespectful either), to have a
And to be honest with you - I hate to say this, but I really needed a break
and was running out of ideas. And there is no question that I was doing the
least out of the four of us! My only role over the last 18 months has
basically been to facilitate and manage the mods team nudge people here and
there, whereas the rest of the admin team have really gone to extraordinary
efforts. Mat has rebooted the servers whenever it's required and
co-ordinated new development. Lori has been managing all the legal stuff and
finances expertly and found an excellent new developer. And Alfie has been
working on lots of cool ventures, but kept Moblog front of mind, and so has
been sealing agreements that guarantee the development of the site for at
least the next few years (significantly more than a couple). I tried to be
involved in some of their duties and was frankly just crap at it.
The long and the short is that without the continued efforts of moblogmods,
passionate users and Mat, Alfie and Lori we wouldn't be in the situation we
are in now - which is that the backend code has been cleaned up and updated
and we're moving to faster servers before the end of the year. Whilst
cleaned up code and faster servers might not be the end to the site slowness
problem (such is the shyness of technology) - it was the combined effort of
all these different people that made the glimmer of any real change possible
and saved a lot of people from physical and emotional burnout.
I know that a lot of mods and users who have been helping us have, at times,
been extremely frustrated with the pace of change - and who can blame them?
It's been frustrating for everybody - and it pained me when I felt like I
sort of had to muffle the cries and still expect the best from everybody.
Sometimes I felt a bit of a fraud and other times I just had to trust the
whole team to get it sorted out. It was weird frankly. Sometimes there was a
simmering anger, that was completely understandable, and ironically borne
out of a kind of love. People wanted to leave and close their accounts from
almost a sense of betrayal that they would lose the friendships and
connections that they made on the site. It was gutting, but there was
nothing we could do - except hope that they might just take a sabbatical.
Yet, in the cases of anger and frustration, the mod community mailing list
just pulled together and smoothed everything over for one another. Honestly,
if you could have been privvy to the backstory going on behind the scenes on
the mod mailing list - you would have been in awe at how each pulled the
other up and set them back on track. And some of the mods have genuinely
been engaged in tedious jobs such as spam patrol and deleting thereof, in
conditions where the servers would. Just. Not. Respond!
However, the hardest thing for most people was probably the sense of working
in isolation and not being able to shake the feeling that they might be
"fiddling whilst Rome burns" as Emperor Nero was meant to have done. At
times it probably felt like that and all anyone could do was hope for the
best and try not to make too many promises to too many people to save too
But i want to say, that the picture of the stats might paint the thousand
words unsaid from the last 18 months of pulling together. It's a screenshot
from Google Analytics - the thick blue line is this year (2010) and the thin
green line is last year (2009) - checkout the trend... it's going up. You
can see the painful summer months when the site was really in the doldrums,
but what you can also see is that in after exactly a year of collaborating
(from august 2009) the site started to level out to it's former numbers and
has now overtaken them. This may not be the former glory of the heady days
of 2005/06, but it does tell a story of how /as/ a community we can make a
difference to /this/ community - and that every effort can be greater than
the sum of it's parts.
So in some ways, the two pictures together, change the meaning of each other
- which is what this period of community collaboration has done to the
underlying technology - and i say to you that this New York YAY is to say,
guys, we bloody well did it!
You rule. Keep owning the site. Take it where it needs to go. Keep saying
what it needs to be. "The kite
rises against the wind."
There's blatantly loads more to say. If you're reading this, let's have a chat in the comments.