Sunday, December 4, 2011

Who owns it?

Fet has an interesting idea... anyone can come along and start a group, about pretty much anything they like. Unless of course it is something not pleasing to the banks and their corporate image... then it will get closed down pretty darn quick. Like many places Fet needs an income and to facilitate that it needs to be able to take credit card payments. Fet is not going to offend those credit providers or stand up to them and say no. Those little issues aside though, you are free to do what you want.

Now what motivates people to start a group is varied and interesting, but in many cases they are started because someone got butt hurt somewhere else and stomped off to start their own group. It is interesting over time though, how most of them rewrite their history to have much more noble beginnings than they actually had. But even a cynical person such as one small slave can see the appeal of we wanted to provide a safe place (from persecution, censorship, (insert cause de jour here) over we got pissy and left the last place. And to be honest one does find the rewrites far more entertaining too...

Most of the groups on Fet fail after about three to six months... people have no idea how much work actually goes into starting up a group and keeping it going. Oh it is fine in the beginning; everyone is very excited and rebellious. Ideas flow, creative juices are cranked up... there is a real feeling of camaraderie and everyone is in it together. Then the real work begins because as John Cleese allegedly said about Fawlty Towers, there are only 12 good ideas and boards are no different. Once you have done them, you then have to find creative ways to look at them again and again.

Then life gets in the way for the leaders of the group... it always does. And that is where it starts to get very interesting because how it ends up depends on who got busy. If mods get busy it happens. In many cases the people appointed to mod status are good group members. They contribute to discussions and actively take a roll in the group. Even if they aren't contributing, they are often floating around keeping an eye out for trouble.

See this is where most people go wrong when they appoint mods, they don't think to take into account if they actually start discussions. Being good friends and getting along is ultimately not as important as waking up and going oh thank god someone else started a discussion. Trust one small slave on that OK? But one digresses... back to this.

Where it gets to be trouble is when a group owner goes missing and/ or can't be contacted. See without their impetus because so many groups are cults of personality, the group starts to die. It goes quiet and people wander off to do other things. In some cases though people cluster together to bemoan the loss of the group and the camaraderie that they found there. And this is where it starts to get very interesting...

In situations like this someone will step into the power vacuum and become a focal point. They will become a surrogate group owner and people will follow them quite happily because they are just grateful someone is doing the work. They get to hang out with the people they like, they log on and there is a topic to discuss and everything is bright in their world again...
Right up until the actual owner comes toddling back...
Because then the shit always hits the fan.

It always hits because the group has usually veered away from the original owners vision... there is no way to avoid that... cult of personality remember? And the original owner then has to try and drag it back to their way... and then reality really bites. They left for a reason in the first place... and it is usually because they were bored, busy or tapped out. In some ways they have emotionally moved on and in some ways the group has done the same thing. It has become imprinted with the new owners flavour or essence if you will.

Which usually leaves the original owner with three options... quit gracefully and hand it over, try and wrest it back  or blow it up. Now the first one seems to be sensible... you don't want to do the work anymore be gracious. Yeah, strangely that isn't what usually happens. There are a lot of hours involved in a group and it usually makes people very personally invested in it. People start thinking of it as theirs... regardless of who else might have been contributing alongside them and in their absence, and despite the fact that they may have publically vowed it is everyone's place.

Some will blow it up, close the group down and ask for it to be removed. The trouble is that while that is easy enough for a small group, it is much harder in a larger group. On Fet you have to remove all the members first and if you have pages of them it is long, slow work... not to mention some will rejoin just to be a pain. Strangely enough this process is often done in stealth... right before the owner themselves disappears.

Other owners will try and wrest it back. They may vow to do better and be more present, the mods may say they will do more and for a while they will flutter around. Unfortunately the reason it was dying is still there, somewhere between disinterest and the inability to rise to the challenge. And after you have done your "thank you, you're dismissed speech" to the temporary owner, and they have pissed off to start their own group, you are left in your dying group. Often surrounded by people who don't think you did the right thing by the people who have been doing the work in your absence.

See the trouble with cult of personality is that you can't just bugger off or turn your back on a group and hope it will fend for itself... because sometime it will. And the strange thing is, although it might have been yours in the beginning, dynamic groups take on a life of their own after a while. They are a bit like children; they change and evolve because otherwise they become stunted and die. You end up as a steward for a group once it gets past a certain size... all you can do is shepherd it into the next phase and make yourself look good by handing it off graciously when it finds a new partner.