An Open Letter About Online Groups
Recently, there have been some kerfluffles and things brought to light and fingers pointed and a whole mess of stuff going on regarding the Proud Pagan Podcasters. My name was brought up. I have maintained, since I parted ways with the PPP, silence as to why and how it came about. That silence will not be broken today, as - despite what many of you think of me - I really have very little interest in pagan-on-pagan, podcaster-on-podcaster, or person-on-person mudslinging. [Insert snide jokes and sarcastic giggling here.]
That being said…
Some very good questions have come out of the past 24 hours. Questions that, until times like this, typically do not get raised. The little questions that people keep to themselves so as not to upset one person or another, despite the validity or need for an answer. Not that anyone cares, and not that anyone asked, but I would like to post this open letter in which I outline a few things I think any group could or should do to benefit the online pagan community. It is not directed at anyone in the PPP, nor is it directed at any person or group in particular. Rather, I address this to the greater (internet) pagan community.
Dear Online Pagan Community,
What I have found since being a part of this community is a treasure trove of the most glorious people on the planet. I have made friends that have changed my life, and made many more acquaintances via the various Internet mediums of social networks, blogs, etc. If there is one thing that most pagans seem to agree on, though, it is that they do not like to group. The phrase “herding cats” is echoed time and again on message boards, podcasts, blogs, and the like anytime someone talks about starting up a new coven or coffee shop meet-up. We, for whatever reason, do not like groups.
Therefore, I raise my pitchfork and wave my torch with pride at anyone who has ever tried to organize a pagan event, organization, charity, meet-up, message board, book club, business, or group of any kind. Whether I know you or not, whether I agree with you or not, you have done something that very few have dared to do, and even fewer have pulled off. Kudos. Being a part of the online pagan community, however, is a bit of a different story. See, there is a speed to the Internet. An amount of information as large as Niagara Falls descending on something smaller than a thimble every second. We are drowned in it. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of pagan blogs and message boards and all the aforementioned resources out there. Every now and then, there is a blog or podcast that rises out of the cacophony of blogs and podcasts and makes a teeny tiny, miniscule name for itself. This is difficult to do, and it is a pretty thankless task. It is both monetarily and personally frustrating, sometimes, as this is not a paid gig, but content is still expected to be high quality and posted with regularity. To those that do this, I also salute you.
As to pagan groups, and the (recently raised) big question of ‘What can an online pagan podcasting group offer that would make it a vital, usable resource?’ I have a few suggestions:
- Keep a list, and don’t let everyone on it. This is pretty easy, but keep a list of all current pagan podcasts out there. Monitor this list closely, and have preset standards for when someone’s inclusion of said list will be revoked. Also, have standards for what is required to get on the list in the first place and for returning to the list after you have been removed. Not every Thorsson Bloodduck and Selena Thistleweed that put out a single podcast using the voice recorder app on their iPhone should be included. Have a number, 3 or 5 or 10 (or whatever) shows that must be put out within a certain timeframe. This shows not only consistency, but that this podcaster intends to stay. We’ve all seen the bright, shiny new podcast come out with 1 or 2 shows, and then disappear forever. (Only to have their show remain listed on iTunes for years afterwards.) If someone hasn’t done a show in several months, take that podcast off the list. Stay on top of this! Check the feeds of the members on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. If someone has been removed, make them start over with 3, 5, 10 shows in a certain amount of time to show that they’re back and here to stay. A list like this would be a valuable resource.
- Hold classes once every few months for newbie podkin. New podcasts come out all the time. Most of us, in our first show, apologize for not knowing anything about microphones or recording software or…really anything. Hold a class hosted by a veteran podcaster (this can be rotated between several folks) where the “students” are live with the “teacher” and can ask questions. Many times we post generic how-to’s, but these don’t answer all the questions, or they don’t answer them in the way best understood by everyone. This can be hosted for free on a service like Skype. This will lead to better quality podcasts that can be enjoyed by all.
- Get members some deals. Most organizations have perks for its members. Many times these perks come in the way of discounts or freebies given by companies that want additional advertising. A few types of discounts podcasters might like: equipment, software, books, movies, swag (t-shirts, pens, buttons, etc.), coffee shop coupons (for meet-ups), and a whole host of other things. No, I’m not saying you need to call Best Buy and ask for discounts, but there are hundreds of small electronics businesses that are run online that are looking for free publicity. Contact them. Ask for a 15% discount for your members in exchange for mention on our collective podcasts. This will help get podcasters better microphones, recording software, items to review on their show, and thank you gifts for the fans. Make some calls. Someone will respond.
- Transcribe and Index shows. This would be time and labor intensive, and would probably require a fee of some kind that could be paid to the transcriber. But, something that I have learned is that many disabled individuals would love to “listen” to our podcasts, but there are no transcripts, and not everyone is both a blogger and podcaster. Transcriptions also make for much easier indexes, and much more helpful ones. Instead of fast-forwarding to a spot on a show, one could simply pull up the appropriate information and read it in text form. I’m sure many podcasters would not mind paying yearly dues if it were going to something worthy such as this.
- If you charge dues, break them down. Since I brought up the topic of dues, I would just like to note that if you plan on charging dues, you need to break down - dollar for dollar - what the money will be used for. Everyone should vote on it, add to or take away from the fiduciary agenda, and then come up with a plan for said cash. This should be kept by an elected treasurer in a third-party account, so as not to cause any question as to what will happen with this money.
- Organize events or assist already existing events. Create gatherings, events, etc. with the podcasting community. Introduce the listeners and podcasters to one another. Organize food drives, clothing drives, etc. If an event like the one you want to plan already exists, partner with that event to help it grow and be even more successful. Be a tool of the pagan community, but never think that you are in charge of the pagan community. This helps to bridge the gap between the online world and the physical, and helps our community go from people talking about doing something, to actually doing it.
- Create and assign tasks. Something that I learned from working in the service industry is that nobody minds showing up to the party, but few folks are going to volunteer to help set up. (To mix some metaphors.) However, if you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner, in order to keep from cooking everything yourself, what do you do? You assign the mashed potatoes to Uncle Sal, the broccoli and cheese casserole to Aunt Mildred, the drinks to Cousin Dave, and the list goes on. To help get things done, you cannot idly sit by and play the quiet leader. This will eventually lead to frustration and resentment. Also, realize that the time may come when the task that needs to be assigned, or reassigned rather, is that of the leader. Remember, pagans do not like groups, and they are especially mistrusting of group leaders that want to “remain in power”. Willingly pass the torch when the time comes with grace and dignity, knowing that you helped where you could. But, to assign tasks, you should also be doing the last point: organizing something. Come up with ideas, and then put them into place! This will help get all of the above things done, and you’ll come up with new things, and, yes, those will get done, too.
I would love to see an online pagan community come together in fellowship, camaraderie, and helping one another flourish. Should you have a group like that, or want to make one, these are just some tips I have for you. They’re not perfect, and they are by no means complete, but they are a start, and I humbly offer them to you. Please take nothing that I’ve said as anything personal, and know that it comes from a place of love and hope for our community.
Love and Lyte,