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20sb Network

July 17, 2009

Yesterday I gushed about all 20sb.net has done for me.

But a day before that, I watched part of what amounted to be an hour-long discussion go down on twitter (#20sb), and I even managed to pop in at the very end for a comment or two.

What started the discussion was one girl’s admission that she very often feels left out.

I get it.  I joined the network when it was still under 100 members.  It was really easy to feel like you belonged there, like you had a chance to really meet people and get to know them through their blogs, and it was small enough that we all kind of felt like we knew each other.

My high school class was 100 people.  I always said it was the perfect size.  Even though we weren’t all best friends forever, we all knew each other.  Big enough to find people truly worth your friendship, small enough not to feel lost in the crowd.

But 20sb has gotten MUCH bigger since then.  We just announced a milestone a few days ago: 7000 members.  And while this is incredibly exciting for a million different reasons, it poses some major obstacles to overcome– first and foremost, how to bring that sense of intimacy, of belonging back.

And it’s hard for me to understand.  I did lose my sense of belonging there for awhile but found my way back in and found a way to make the network work for me. How I did that, though,  is really difficult to articulate.  Also, being asked to help with the behind-the-scenes stuff has really helped me stay passionate about it and the people I’ve found through it.  But we can’t ask every single new member to sort through something that has become so big and is getting even bigger.  We need to make it easy.  We need to bring people in but we also really need to give them a reason to stay.

It’s been on my mind because I saw a few comments along the lines of “things just seem cliquey.” And nobody said it with any sort of bitterness, just, well, as observation.  As fact.  But it really made me wonder… I don’t feel like anybody is terribly cliquey, so am I just not paying attention to the same people or am I, in fact, guilty of furthering that perception?

I came to the conclusion that it’s probably pretty likely that I am.

I’ve been around forever.  I do feel like I know “the cool people,” and I’m incredibly lucky and thankful that I do.  But I also have to say that “the cool people” are “the cool people” because they are the most interested in building their communities.  They respond to comments, read everybody else’s blogs, are completely interested in making the network a more engaging place and making the world a more engaging place.  The people I know are not interested in excluding anyone.  If you want in, by all means, all you have to do is ask.

And to take that point even further, I know there are plenty of cool, amazing people I have not yet run across.  We’re not all going to connect with every single blogger on the network on a personal level, and as the network continues to grow, it’s likely there are some amazing people we might never cross digital paths with.  But I guarantee, you won’t have to do much looking to find a blogger you really feel like you can connect with, whose writing really speaks to you, who will also take the time to read your words and comment on your thoughts.  So what if they’re not the ones you think are in the cool kids club?  Start your own. Because that’s really not what it’s about anymore.  It’s not just about this one big community,  though that’s certainly a big part of it.  It’s about giving you the tools to build your own communities via your own blogs.

If you read even part of yesterday’s post, you know how absolutely passionate I am about this community and the difference it can make in people’s lives, directly and indirectly.  I sincerely want every member of 20sb network to be able to say they’ve gotten even a fraction of what I’ve gotten from belonging to it.  It’s incredible.  I want to share the incredible.

I want to know how you feel about this, if you have any complaints or suggestions or if you think I’m crazy for taking up a precious posting day on my blog for talking about it at all.  I know there have already been some great ideas thrown into the mix, and I know our administration team is already hard at work trying to make things better for everyone.  Still, I know most of you through 20sb and I’ve led some of you there.  How do you use the network?  How would you like to use the network? What would you like to see us improve on? I’ll be sure to pass along suggestions to the people who get stuff done.

Thank you in advance.  Really.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 17, 2009 9:47 am

    Courtney,

    I am relatively new to 20sb, but I absolutely love the concept. I haven’t really been able to dig in and figure out how everything works, but I was really surprised at how friendly people are. Within my first few days, I had several friend requests from all kinds of people. It made me feel included even though I was brand spanking new.

    I too joined 20sb because I was looking for a sense of community. I have been blogging since 2002, and like many people, my level of participation has had it’s peaks and valleys. However, over the past year, I have really jumped back in, and made an effort to post at least once a week. I love blogging because it lets me escape some of the stress of my everyday life. There is no one who follows my blog that I’ve ever met. That’s so inspiring to me! I love the way you can find people you relate to, and learn from them, grow with them, and invite them into your own world. The world of blogging is truly a special experience.

    I would like to be more involved, but don’t really know where to start. I’m sure it’s just a matter of spending some time browsing around, reading blogs and initiating contact, but that can be intimidating sometimes. :) Any suggestions?

    Thanks! :)
    Rachael

  2. July 17, 2009 10:32 am

    When I signed up for 20sb, my primary motivation was to find new blogs to READ, the community aspect wasn’t even something I considered (I’m pretty introverted at heart). When I was in middle school, I was really into opendiary.com, and then in high school I switched to livejournal, which lasted straight into college, but once those websites kind of lost momentum I just made my own blog. Until I found 20sb I really thought the “personal blog” had died, all the blogs in my reader could be easily filed under “food,” “finance,” “homemaking,” “travel, ” “writing.” But I REALLY missed reading about people’s lives like I used to! And 20sb has proven to me that there are still many, many engaging, well-written, meaningful personal blogs out there!

    I have been on 20sb for maybe a month now, and I feel like, given a proper amount of time, I will build a great community of blogs to read, and bloggers who read my stuff. This might take awhile, because I tend to lurk quite a bit. I’m not too good at leaving comments unless I really feel I have something to say! Right now I have about 10 20sb blogs in my reader, and maybe two of those could really be considered friends, or at least heading that way!

    I think that if 20sb newbies like me just relax, read what engages us, comment when we have something to say, and give it time, eventually we will all find what we are looking for! But I really think it takes TIME. It’s like moving to a new city, you can’t expect to have a huge social circle right away. Also, I know some of the groups can be a little inactive, but they serve as great directories for finding people you have a lot in common with!

  3. Kendall permalink
    July 17, 2009 3:57 pm

    When I joined 20SB last year, it was (like Kristin) with the intention of finding new blogs to read. I started commenting. Then emailing and following people on Twitter. Somewhere in there I became good friends with these people who I have not yet met. Good enough that I’m meeting Lilu, Lexalemmy, Maxi, PQ, fB and a bunch of other DC area bloggers at the birthday bash in October. Or that I’m going to Calgary to spend a weekend with some Canadian bloggers at the Stampede next summer.

    It seems to be all about putting yourself out there.

  4. July 17, 2009 4:28 pm

    “It seems to be all about putting yourself out there.”

    Good call, Kendall. This is one of the primary draws of the discussion forums, where you get little glimpses of people’s personalities via how they quip. At least that’s how I’ve been picking up new reading material. :)

    But aside from the forum discussions, I don’t think people really know who connects to what. For instance, I’ve been scouring the network for musicians ever since I joined (That’s how I found you, Cari, Chelsea, etc.). Or who lives in LA or NYC. Or who happens to be Filippino. It’s not an easy task because of the network’s information architecture, a limitation of the Ning platform — but this is a game changer if all of us can figure it out.

    Oh, but don’t think I haven’t been researching on how to create such a tool.

  5. July 18, 2009 7:16 am

    For a while, I didn’t know that 20sb existed. I thought networking was hitting “next blog” on the blogger header. I found one of my great blog friends that way.

    The 20sb group makes it much easier to network with people who have like interests. Do I think that 20sb is cliquey? Somewhat. BUT this isn’t meant to be a bad thing at all.

    This isn’t like a stereotypical ‘high school clique’, where you almost have to bend over backwards or do a keg stand to be included in any conversation. All you have to do is…speak up! Put yourself out there.

    I consider 20sb to be the equivalent to my local gay community. Whether you’re straight, gay, black, white, Hispanic or Asian, those guys will accept you no matter what. It’s the people that judge them that aren’t doing the accepting!

    There are several “groups” that I belong to. I feel I can ‘fit in’ anywhere that I want to, and that’s something a lot of people didn’t have in their younger years. Meeting new people is often hard, but 20sb makes it so much easier.

    Wait, did I even answer the question? No?

    I’m going to make it a special point to reach out to as many members as I can to welcome them to the 20sb community. I love that there is a “staff welcome” message, but I fear that some people might think its auto-generated. Was I excited to get a comment right off the bat? Yes! But I was even more excited when members started reaching out too!

  6. July 19, 2009 2:47 pm

    I use 20sb when I have a working computer.

    Which I haven’t had in at least 5 months.

    But I can comment on your blog from my phone :)

    Seriously though I’m coming back. And my intentions are to be able to get back into a regular blogging routine that includes 20sb. I feel like in my absence I’ve still been able to make friends with some great people BECAUSE of 20sb that I never would have known. I think, just like with anything else, people are only going to get out of it what they put into it. If they want to “get in” then they have to make the effort.

    And that’s all I’m going to say because I’m tired of typing on my blackberry.

  7. July 21, 2009 1:53 am

    20sb was a fantastic starting point for me. I knew about it months before I actually joined. Starting a new blog seemed like the right time to join and see what would transpire. Honestly, I know I wouldn’t be where I am as a blogger today without 20sb. I found I few people that had similar interests as me, read their stuff, and basically fell in the love with them. Through those people I found some more people and they found me.

    At this point I seldomly login to it. It has been a great social networking tool for me and I would never bash it or the amazing idea behind it. I do however understand how to some it could seem cliquey. I guess you could technically say that I found my comfort zone or “clique” and that’s why I’m happy with it.

    I agree with the others. You will get from it what you put into it. If you put yourself out there and work it. You will be happy with your results.

    This is my longest comment EVER.

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