I know how I came to start but it occurs to me I don’t know how most people did. I’d like to hear your stories. I’ll start with mine:
I started out in a chatroom: Beliefs Judaism on AOL. Chat was OK but it had a couple of disadvantages, and those disadvantages keep me out of chat here. One is that you can be on for a couple of hours with nothing happening, so it just kills time. Another is that when fights break out there is no record of who said what, and I’ve learned that it’s a better idea when people are accountable for what they say.
One event happened in that chatroom that really influenced my actions here on Our Salon. The room had a hard limit of 28 people, after which an overflow room would open. People often parked in the main room so as to keep access to the conversation even when they were off line. When overflow opened, if it was 29 people you were alone in the room with no one to talk to. Once the number dropped to 28, if no one was active in the overflow room it simply disappeared, so you couldn’t arrange to meet anyone there. Somehow I found a room, a more obscure room, called Jewish 50+ (I was I think younger at the time), and I somehow discovered that its limit was way over 28, so it would make sense to move everyone there. The trouble was that a few people would go over, then go back to the main room because their friends didn’t move, so this room was never viable, even though there was consensus that we’d like the higher limit so we could get rid of this overflow crap.
One day it dawned on me how to arrange a move: Arrange for everyone to move on the same day in the near future, a day that would be easy to remember, then get people to commit to staying only in that room for a limited amount of time, say a couple of days, so that they’d get used to talking to each other in the new room. After that it could seek its own level. I got people to agree, planned the move for a Friday, I was gone for the weekend, and when I returned Beliefs Judaism had one name in it. Everyone had moved and, for the most part, they stayed moved. A few years later I would use the same strategem here in an effort I organized to move people from Open Salon during its technical difficulties to Our Salon. I worked with others, using a post to build a consensus (it’s still up on this site) and changing the post itself as we agreed to stuff. Lezlie was heavily involved in this effort. When we did it, Lorianne reported that when she measured activity on a day the week before the move, then again the same day of the week after the move, activity on this site had roughly doubled.
The chatroom move stuck. It had a major advantage that later turned into a major disadvantage. The advantage was that the new room was much harder to find, which meant that we weren’t pestered by all these people trying to convert us to Christianity, nor all these adolescents I started to call Juvenile Ersatz Aryans who acted like Nazis to shock us. Somehow, none of them could spell “heil.” The advantage turned into a disadvantage as a room full of older Jews had the same arguments over and over, so peoples’ positions calcified. There was no new blood. I eventually got sick of it.
By the way, Jewish chat is where I adopted the name Koshersalaami. (It started out as a second name I used when I wanted to drop into chat to see what was going on but not get sucked into long conversations because people knew who I was, but my other are was too gender ambiguous so I switched full time to KS.)
In the meantime, a friend of mine from those chat rooms, Jonathan Wolfman, had gone to Open Salon and, in order to establish himself, he needed commenters. I decided to move over and comment on his posts. This was in 2010. He posted about every day and the new format was great. You could type whole paragraphs. You had time to think. Topics were established by the posts. People eventually started asking me where my posts were, but I hadn’t come to Open Salon to post. I wasn’t sure I could.
One of my more conservative friends from chat sent me an email and I replied to her with a detailed rebuttal. Then I showed it to Jon and said “this might be a post.” So he gave me a pseudonym and published it on his blog as an anonymous friend’s work. I don’t remember what name he gave me. People reacted favorably to it so I figured out I could do this.
Because I did not come to blogging as an aspiring writer, just as a guy looking for interesting conversation, I didn’t care about recognition nearly as much as a lot of my peers did. Editors’ Picks, otherwise known as getting a cover, were very sought after. I got a few over the years. Eventually, as Open Salon management changed and deteriorated, Editors’ Picks became more rare and a whole lot more capricious. A fellow blogger was bitching about that one day and I mentioned to her that it had gotten to the point where I valued what I called the TSBAC (pronounced Tizback) more. A TSBAC was a comment from a peer saying “This Should Be A Cover.”
The blogger in question heard that and said “Why don’t we institutionalize the TSBAC?” So we got to work. We called our version Readers’ Picks. Because we were designing it we could do things that Editors’ Picks didn’t do, including recognizing photographic posts and recognizing particularly good comments. We came up with a series of rules involving how to nominate, that seconding was needed, what wasn’t eligible (guest posts), and the physical aspects of how to set it up, which involved a permanent blog that we (and whomever we recruited to help) could edit, plus a graphic that people could post on their own blogs when they won a Readers’ Pick. I handled the writing, she handled the tech (I didn’t know how to do that stuff), and we had it up and running in two or three days. It worked for a while, eventually being run mainly by Lezlie (who I recruited). It became irrelevant as Open Salon deteriorated physically.
Those of you who know me but are unfamiliar with this story might be surprised to learn that the blogger in question with whom I founded Readers’ Picks was Safe Bet’s Amy.