Dear Open Salon Editors,
I just noticed Kerry's blog post from yesterday entitled “New feature: RSS Import” and I know you're working hard on these things, but I wanted you to know this didn't make me happy.
Open Salon is structured as a kind of community. The writing here has been astonishingly good, better than many magazines. I think that is because it is a somewhat insular community, and I often think you should have named it Closed Salon, since Big Salon seems more out in the open to me, and less protected. I've never liked that.
The situations where the current sense of community breaks down already tends to be where people from the outside drift in too easily or cross-post as a way of driving traffic elsewhere instead of committing to being part of the local culture. The recent changes seem intended to create situations that will magnify that problem.
Honestly, I wish you disallowed the practice of cross-posting rather than go to extra work to promote it. I understand why you may have done it originally to help get a community started, but at this point I think it's quite inappropriate. There are a lot of good writers right now who are not getting regular visibility, and I think you underestimate the degree to which you could build that into a brand of your own. Turning yourself into a meta-RSS feed is not the answer. Anyone can do that. Many already have. It will lose all of the distinct originality of this place.
I do my writing here right now because I have personally committed to engage in the community experiment here. If that experiment fails for me, I'm done. I already have several web sites of my own; I don't lack places to post. The same is true of many of your other prominent posters. This is not just a free blog space, it's a community of people who choose to converse here because they are visible and who you will lose if you make them less visible by inviting more drek from the outside. That sends again the message that you do not value what you have here, and that you need more of something else.
You're throwing away a lot of good writers who are doing you an enormous service and betting instead that people won't figure out they can just get their own RSS feeds and do the same as what you're struggling to do just to put your name at the top. If you want that, why not just get an open source web browser and re-brand it with "Open Salon brings You The Web®" in the title bar and then distribute the browser, claiming credit for everything on the web. That accomplishes nothing.
I don't want to compete with all the Internet for attention—I can already do that by just posting to any of my several domains. I want the one thing that makes Open Salon different—a personal conversation with intelligent people who are actually committed to being here and chatting about important things. What a special thing.
But once people who are posting elsewhere can dump their stuff here as an extra offload point, I expect you to continue the already annoying trend of featuring people with offsite blogs as editor's picks because I sense that you mistakenly seek to create the cyberspace equivalent of a kind of metropolitan cachet. And that's a possible thing to do, but it is not “You make the headlines” it's “We import others’ headlines.” It gets rid of the significance of having selected this place as a place to invest time because gradually these other things will crowd out and make irrelevant the new writers that you have been seeking to foster as your own community.
I would ask that you rethink this.
I realize I don't run this place, you do. It's ultimately your call as to how to handle this site. But you should know that, at least in this one person's opinion, there's a big difference between technological achievements and social achievements, and it's sometimes the case that a cool technological achievement can have negative social consequences. That's what I predict here, and we'll see.
But even if you ignore my advice to just back right out of this now, I hope you will watch issue very closely and try to determine whether the effects that I've predicted are happening. And I hope you have a good hard discussion with yourself about what you're trying to achieve. Because there are many things this place could be and one of those things is not “all things to all people.”
It's sometimes necessary to make some hard choices and I think you're making one now, I just think you're making one that's at odds with your thus far advertised goals. I feel like you're sacrificing the community you've sought to build here for some other kind of non-committed thing you've not articulated. Maybe I'm wrong. But I hope you'll give these questions serious thought:
- Where goals are you trying achieve?
- What are you prepared to sacrifice to get there?
- What are you not prepared to sacrifice to get there?
- Are your choices so far pointing you toward your goals?
If you got value from this post, please "rate" it.
I'd written a post already today:
“An All-Volunteer Army of Credit Card Users”
This post will eclipse it on the feed.
Please consider visiting it as well if you have the time.