Ravelry - the future of social networking?

By Bryan Rasmussen
June 15, 2008 | Comments: 19

I had to subtitle this the future of social networking because everybody else is trying to predict the hot new trend, why not I. Actually that's not true, I do think this is a good indicator of future trends.

The story so far is that Ravelry is a crafting community/social network devoted to knitting, Craftzine had an interview with them some time ago. The interesting thing about them is that they recently had a fundraising drive , this might be something you could imagine a social networking site doing when they were on their last legs, but in the case of Ravelry it was initiated not by the site but a particularly enthusiastic fan - maybe one of the core 100 everyone needs?

The other interesting thing is that the drive raised $71,000. Probably lots of people who don't knit would be surprised but not me, one reason is this post some time ago on Making Light.

I figured, after reading that, that knitters must comprise a large and powerful hobby, not to mention the eminent markup people in the hobby. The other is of course that it's something that is not necessary for everyone, for example business is an all-encompassing subject that everyone needs to do in some way, and a social network that deals in business is likely to have many members that have absolutely no reason to connect with each other except that they would like to make money in some way. The members of Ravelry will connect because they actually have a shared interest with a good deal of specificity.

This goes back to such concepts as the Long tail, or the ability of people in a democratic and anonymous society to form their own cultures. The evolution of the internet so far could be argued as expansions of social software and interactions in each generation, with the FaceBooks and Myspaces the latest iteration.

A site like Ravelry shows a drop in size however with the narrowing of its focus; if the past has shown a progression in size of the groups that are connected socially by the networked software why should the future be a decrease? The first social interactions on the web were based on two things: that people had the technical skills to interact (because back then it took some degree of know how), and that people liked to communicate generally about subjects of some nerd value. Membership of the first group self-selected one to be a member of the other groups.

As the level of technical knowledge required to interact has dropped the subjects of interest have expanded and been made generic, the generic tends to not inspire people greatly however.

This is an example of the long tail in action, Facebook is the web application as mass media, now that mass media has finally been achieved on the web it's dissolution into a thousand isolated genres cannot be far behind.


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19 Comments

Ravelry used to be a great place for everyone. Since the contentious US elections last year, Ravelry has become a haven for the radical left and hell for conservatives. Apparently, Casey and Jessica Forbes banned over one-hundred conservative Ravelers en masse and without warning on March 14-15, 2009. Ravelry is their site and they may run it as they wish; however, it would behoove them to be honest about their actions. For example, they should admit that they have banned right-leaning folks for their political beliefs instead of leaking libelous rumors to the effect that those banned were abusive or had vile intentions.

To SibCats: Documentation, please?

Timeywimey, there is no documentation to this effect. The reason that people were bounced from Ravelry is that they were organizing off-site and launching attacks on the site from off-site links. They were a group of conservatives who had formed an off-site group after their forum on Ravelry was shut down because the forum moderators did nothing to control posters who repeatedly violated the site's terms of service. They happened to be conservative and have been making much hay of casting themselves as victims of a purge on those grounds, but in point of fact it was simply because they violated the terms of service of a private site.

Anders, there is plenty of documentation.

Bounced for organizing and launching attacks off-site? The biggest offenders in that camp are the LSG and RR groups, who do so to individual members and groups they deem worthy of ridicule.

The forum shut down because of the moderators? Nope.

Repeatedly violating TOS? No again. For the best concrete proof, I recommend you click to these blogs. Screenshots and all. Though the majority of the banned members happened to be conservative, it really was a poorly-thought through and immature action executed in a snit that caught a lot of people of all walks.

There's been a lot of double-talk as well as back-pedaling on the part of the owners. Speaking of which, it's their site and they can absolutely do as they imperiously please. But not without consequences: a lot of members are definitely taking heed - since the 'official' reasons given are opaque and shifting, depending upon who is asked and who is purportedly answering - that it isn't the all-inclusive, tolerant or most popular well-run place to be. Spread your half-baked disinformation elsewhere.

http://fiberhaven.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/for-posterity/

http://elliejaneknit.blogspot.com/2009/03/our-side-of-story.html

http://thekidyquat.blogspot.com/2009/03/apparently.html

http://kamax60.typepad.com/canweknitnow/2009/03/former-bunker-members-banned-from-ravelry.html

The above mentioned links appear to be personal, subjective blog entries, not IT articles with interviews of both the "banned" users and the Ravelry.com site owners.

According to another discussion on Topix:
http://www.topix.com/forum/hobbies/TPH84QAQV6B8SSKFF
There were ToS violations that prompted the site owner to forbid certain IP addresses (a common, industry-wide forum admin practice), which would result in not only a 403 message to the dozen or so violators AND their sock puppet accounts, but to many non-involved users who shared the same IPs.

The site owners have apparently allowed the non-involved users to access their accounts after contacting the site's legal department.

My experience with other private online BBSs has been that the Ravelry.com (still in beta) site owners have acted in a a far more even-handed, tolerant, and forgiving manner than other forum admins I've witnessed in action.

"The above mentioned links appear to be personal, subjective blog entries, not IT articles with interviews of both the "banned" users and the Ravelry.com site owners."

Your link to that idiotic Topix forum is far from being an "IT article". You got anything better than that? I know you don't.

From all of those links, it seems like the side that has any sort of documentation at all is the side saying that they were not banned for any sort of violation of site rules or Terms of Service.

Are there any links to any forums whatsoever that show proof of attacks or disruption these banned users caused?

It looks like a lot of unsubstantiated claims of offense with no screen shots or even examples of proof.

I'm inclined to believe that the site owners kicked these people off for no reason other than to silence the complaints against them by their political enemies.

Allison
"Are there any links to any forums whatsoever that show proof of attacks or disruption these banned users caused?"

No the owner or should I say his attorney "Craig" has refused to provide any of the banned users with proof. Many have asked to see the evidence of the false claims but so far nothing has materialized.

Topix is not an IT journalism site; it's a discussion site, and as such allows more than a 1-sided conversation that one might find on a personal blog where dissenting views can be moderated and deleted at the blog owner's discretion.

Demonstrably, Rasmussen's original point about "the Long tail, or the ability of people in a democratic and anonymous society to form their own cultures" applies in the case of the balkanization of larger groups into smaller ones (QED ultimately resulting in the banning of a sliver faction for ToS violations).

Anthropologically, sites with BBSs must have similar, boilerplate Terms of Service (or evolve that direction) because human nature devolves an open forum into factions, flamewars, meta wank, Godwin's Law, Snacky's Law, ad hominem attacks, OT derailments, sock puppets, and the like.

Regarding "proof of attacks", however, the Ravelry site owners are silent in public because they are not only protecting their legal rights, but the privacy rights of the very violators of their ToS.

I reiterate that I've witnessed other private BBSs get entirely locked down during a flamewar, and never open again. Users who desire truly unfettered, unmoderated discussion should join an alt group on the Usenet.

Ravelry is a wonderful site and one of the best resources for knitters that has yet been built. Need a pattern there is a search that will find you what you need, want to find out more about yarn, there is a search for that, want to find other knitters in your area it is a snap on this site. Most of the 150k users are happy with just the knitting content.

That being said just as in any group there is always the 1% who will never be happy and will try to create problems. Those people were removed from the site. It isn't something that any site owner wants to do but it happens.

Interesting fact about those who were removed was they were busy at different points making lists and talking about people to boycott because they were to liberal for their tastes. Even the owner was thought to be to liberal for their tastes but since it was free this never stopped those who were removed from demanding more and more changes to the site to fit what they wanted. Funny they never wanted to boycott what they could get for free.

Enough with the blanket assumptions and accusations.
Not everyone who was banned from the site was a troublemaker. Those in charge at Ravelry screwed up when they cast out their large net in order to catch all the supposed troublemakers. And I think they realize that now. I got mad and demanded they remove my stuff from the site. Why? I'm not about to let myself be abused by "just a web site". I'm sure I wasn't the only one do to that either. I was an infrequent user at best. I never "wrote lists" I never snarked on the founders or any other supposedly horrid thing. I kept to myself and went by the rule of "live and let live." Yet I was banned. Am I crying. Heck no. If they didn't want to lose any "serious users" of their site they should have planned their banning a bit better. I'm laughing over the fact that defenders of the site claim they are "so over this" and how the banned people are running all over the Internet "whining" From what I've seen it's actually the opposite. Most of the people are calmly stating the reasons why they aren't active anymore or saying that different statements are coming out of TPTP at different times and people aren't getting the whole truth because it keeps changing. But that's good for the gossip mills, right? That's what is going to keep this thing running far longer than anything. Well, that and the fact that people who are "so over it" but love to keep rehashing it or secretly following it.

You people (SibCats) who are accusing Ravelry of banning people as a policitcal move are COMPLETELY INSANE! Ravelry is a site for KNITTING, not stalking, harrasing and expressing your political views one way or the other. I don't think the owners really care whats your thoughts are in regards to politics, they care that the site is a happy site and the members are speaking in a fair and appropriate manner. Seriously do something with you life besides blogging about things that you clearly don't know.

If people aren't mature enough to participate in the site as it was meant to be used then they don't belong there - plain and simple.

"Hope" and "Amused" you're idiots - stop being bitter and get over it.

CPF, I never said I was bitter. Read the comment carefully. I'm laughing at folks like you.

Seriously do something with *your* life besides trying to stir up the pot and let this die down like I'm sure the Ravelry owners would like it to. You are the idiot. YOU are the kind of person I'm talking about. Don't comment about things YOU apparently don't understand.

From a practical standpoint, I am sure you can imagine that to provide "proof" and lay out a legal argument to each offending person (about 100 people) would be an incredible undertaking and would cost Ravelry time, energy and money (to pay their employees who respond to emails, and their lawyer). They have already spent an enormous about of time trying to mediate the many problematic situations that have arisen as a result of those who have now been banned- they have to cut their losses at some point. They really don't owe anyone anything; it is a free and private site that members have the privilege of using if they simply respect others and follow the ToS. It's really not difficult. And even if they did put all the time necessary to present a clear and methodical case to show how and why the decision to ban the 100 offenders was made- you know that those banned would rebut and argue and argue and argue indefinitely- there seem to be some very combative people involved. At some point ravelry seems to have become exhausted in trying to reason with people and had to stop the offenders from eating up any more of their time.

It's very possibly that some innocent people got caught up in the ban by accident, and Ravelry is correcting those accounts on an individual basis. But most of the people banned were not innocent.

The irony is that the founders, Jess and Casey, are not very political people at all. They are so busy with the technical and administrative efforts involved in running a site with over 300k users- do you really think they have the time and energy to target people with certain beliefs/views? Not everything is a big conspiracy...

Beth, there are not 300K users, there are 300K registrations. Savvy internet users know that you don't use "registrations" as proof of site numbers. The site allows people to have multiple accounts, even encourages it for designers who want to keep their "politics" separate from their business. Now, why would a site think this was necessary?

As to your comment that they don't have time to prove the claims of improper behavior. If they don't have time to collect the data, then how did they know the individuals banned, had violated the ToS? Without this proof, just what was their criteria for the people they banned? Since you are saying they don't have time to collect that data, they must not have had it in the first place, ergo the banning was not based on violation of ToS, but some other reason. Thus, your argument fails.

I agree with Amused, the continual screaming from the un-banned members is what is keeping this alive. So, continue screaming, you make the argument for the banned members.

Just been a victim over at Ravelry as well. I cleared all my personal and identifying informatin. I posted an explanation of my post to someone who was offended by what I said because we're from two different countries and thus, two different cultures. She was fine with my explanation and we parted on good terms - however - four other people WENT TO TOWN on me and attacked me continually and I decided to defend myself and tell them I really didn't care about what they were saying or how they were saying it and that the person who I initially responded to accepted my explanation, so go away now. So, the mods found it pertinent to ban me from posting for 24 hours and let the attackers continue to attack me.

I decided to quit Ravelry. I will not be purchasing patterns, yarn or tools from ANY designer or store that advertises on Ravelry.

Good for you Liz for standing up for yourself. The mob mentality over there is incredible. More and more people are having their eyes opened to the dark underbelly over there. It seems that even some of more famous people in the knitting community are no longer safe over there. But as long as you keep stroking the ego of the site owners you will be more equal than others.

funny(1,000)

The mob mentality on ravelry exists. Just try saying anything about feminism, Obama or socialism....you will be mobbed by angry liberals. No one is allowed to have a different opinion, apparently.

Casey doesn't have time? Well, then he should hire someone:)

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