LISNews: The people (Including me)

Submitted by Blake on Tue, 03/29/2005 - 17:50

I wrote about "That Community feeling" a bit in my last exciting CIL2005 LISNews recap, allow me to expand upon my people ideas. The comments, the journals, the ability to speak openly, the "Friends and Foes", all of these features contribute to a pretty strong sense of community here @ Your LISNews. People write about each other, they write about LISNews, they bitch and complain, and of course they also praise and compliment. LISNews is slowly starting to grow into a dysfunctional, disjointed, dispersed online family of folks from across a wide spectrum of our profession.

LISNews is a community of about 4,000 people from around the world. We're not all librarians, Birdie sells neato library oriented greeting cards, Hermit just seems to like the site, Ender is a book geek, and many others just seem to have some odd attraction to what goes on here @LISNews. Not everyone is a woman, liberal, man, white, conservative, black, and so on. The group also includes odd folks, some conservatives, a few liberals, retirees, directors, cranks, and all those in between. Since LISNews is so open it lends itself very well to achieving real diversity where everyone has an equal voice. Of course, diverse view points, especially on the web, will often lead to arguments, something we get plenty of. There are days LISNews looks a bit like Deadwood, without the prostitutes and gambling.

We (probably) get close to 6,000 unique people that view at least one page on any given weekday, add to that a large unknown number of others who read the site through one of our many feeds each day, and I think you'll agree LISNews has a pretty good sized audience. I think we appeal to a wide audience (wider than most blogs) because of the people involved. Obviously we don't get anywhere near that many comments, so it's a small percentage of folks that actually actively participate in the site each day, you might say most readers are lurkers. Generally, the most active folks are the most argumentative. Others will leave a comment when they have something interesting to add, or an experience to share. Still others spend all their time moderating comments, or metamoderating the moderators, and never leave a comment. Slashcode has so many little toys to play with it seems like there's something for everyone.

The user journals have become my favorite part of the site. It's where we really get to know each other. Where else can you read work day stories, database reviews, The Catholic Worker Digest, stories about home, and cries for help, all in one place? The journals are an exciting & eclectic collection of some of the most interesting writing you'll find about and by librarians anywhere.

I mentioned diverse view points, especially on the web, will often lead to fights. The worst part of my job is when people complain about each other, or me, or the site. Playing referee to a few angry folks bent on destroying each other, is really just no fun whatsoever. There are days, very rare days, when I just want to flip it off and pick up a new hobby that doesn't involve other people & computers. We all have days like these I think, but they don't last. I really do enjoy the many roles I play here at LISNews. I can take a day, or week, off and LISNews keeps going. So, what is my role?

I'm an editor, an author, ombudsman, programmer, systems administrator, and I'm also the help desk. As an author/editor I try to run LISNews similarly to other sites I enjoy using. In other words I think like a user. I post stories spread out over time, so there's not too much to read all at once, I post things that are interesting to me, or things I think might be interesting to others. All this, of course, takes up quite a bit of my time. I try not to think about the time I put into the site, or the number of stories I post (it might just make me cry). I recently wrote about my posting style, and I've been working on how and what I post. I think what I don't do enough is add opinion, links and insight, to what I post, I don't tie things together. I'm in a fairly unique position here as I get to see literally hundreds of stories a week, and I think I can add some interesting stuff to much of what I post. As the ombudsman and help desk I'm also the guy who gets yelled at, asked to play referee, and some days I must try to keep people under some sort of control. As programmer and sys admin I write and maintain the code and the server and as founder, I have the honor of being creator of something a rather large number of people use and enjoy. It's hard some days to wear all these different hats, but after almost 5 years it's just part of my day. LISNews is still fun.

As author, I am but one of many. People like Rochelle, Birdie and Ryan all post interesting stuff quite often. I've always thought one of our greatest strengths is the number of authors we have, though we can always use a few more. Birdie writes the polls, Rochelle does a lot of editing, I post a lot of stories, we all have small roles that add up to one well run site. Being an LISNews author gives us all a rather large voice to talk with our profession, and I think we have a good group who don’t abuse the privilege and work hard with no rewards to share things they find interesting. LISNews would just be another MEblog without all the other authors. Many authors have come and gone over the years, more gone than come. If you look at the HOF page you might notice only 4 of the 10 busiest authors are still even active or with us at all. Outside of the busiest authors, there's a long list of people who were granted author powers, only to never be heard from again, and an even longer list of people who posted once or twice and moved on. Strangely it's not the LISNews dropouts I wonder about, because I can understand why someone wouldn't have the time or interest in posting, it's the one's that stick around I wonder about. Why do they do it? What drives someone to post hundreds or thousands of stories here? I have no good answer; I think perhaps we're all just a little insane. Over the years it has proven to be remarkably hard to recruit and retain and devoted authors. The few we have are outstanding and deserve a big hug should you ever see them in person.

At CIL I was asked why I keep LISNews running. I didn't really have a very good answer, my response was "Why does anyone else participate in the site?" So to attempt to answer the question I gave it some though. About the best answer I can come up with is "because it is there." I don't know why anyone chooses to participate with the site, I'm not even sure if I know why I do it. Like I said, it's fun, it's interesting, and I really do enjoy it. I still have the time it takes to keep things running, though that may change in August. For me LISNews has been a huge career booster, a great networking tool, and an amazing learning experience.

Just 2 more things left to write about and I'll have covered everything I wanted to cover @CIL2005, some of the geeky backend details, and then, finally, the future of LISNews. I should have those posted tomorrow, and Thursday if all goes well.