I got a nasty email recently from someone whose blog I didn't add to the Artful Quilters blog ring. This blogger posted a new entry about once every 2 weeks, and I declined the blog because it wasn't updated frequently enough for the ring's rules. The blogger ended with some comment like, "So, do you think you're Queen of the Internet?"
It actually made me laugh. I sent a civil reply (such restraint!) but I've been grinning to myself each time I've performed some blog ring task lately. I don't get to be Queen of ANYthing in real life, so heck, I might as well claim the Queen of the Artful Quilters Blog Ring and be proud of it!
When I started the Artful Quilters blog ring, my goal was to connect blogging art quilters, and to provide an easy way for folks interested in art quilty blogs to find them. With a ring, if you find one, you've found a bunch. And we all know how fun cruising blog rings can be.
What I didn't know was what managing the ring would be like over time. Really, it's fun and pretty darned easy. The hard part? All sorts of people apply to join the ring. And I have to figure out whether to put them on or not. Saying "yes" is easy. But saying "no" isn't.
I thought'd I'd take a bit of space here to explain how I approach the issue. And, by the way, this isn't intended as a message to get people to change their blogging habits. It's just an explanation of how I view the ring and what blogs are included, because I get inquiries about this.
When a blogger applies, I go and look at the blog. (Duh.) If a blog doesn't have more than 5 entries, I leave it on the "queue" and return to it some time later. I can't tell the direction of a new blog until there are at least 5 entries.
I read current and past entries. I look to see whether the blog is PRIMARILY about art quilting. I don't care about talent or skill level, to tell you the truth. I look for enthusiasm, mainly, and the sense that interest in contemporary or innovative or artful quilting techniques are what the blogger is exploring in his/her creative life.
When the ring was about 6 months old -- we had maybe 50 members then -- I polled all the members and asked for input about what they wanted the ring to be. Universally, the view was that the ring should be narrowly focused on art quilting. So, that perspective guides me as well.
I also look to see that the blog is updated at least once or twice a week. Some people don't want to update their blogs this frequently, and that's of course their choice ... but the regular updating is required in this ring. In my view, the ring is a lot more useful and interesting to use if it links you to new and fresh entries. I know that when I visit a blog and there isn't a new entry over a period of several visits, I'm less inclined to return. I want people to use the ring, and regular updating makes using the ring link more effective. I state the "regular updating" rule in the ring's rules, right up front in the application process, so I figure people know what they're getting into.
What do I decline? I do not include general websites, sales sites, or general art display sites. This is a blog ring, and I consider only online journals as appropriate for the ring.
I also get many applications from folks who are blogging about traditional quilting. Sometimes it feels like an awkward judgment call as to whether the focus is traditional or contemporary/innovative. I wholeheartedly believe that traditional quilts are artful, so my decision not to include them in the ring isn't any value judgment about their artistic merit. But because the focus of this ring is for blogs about contemporary, innovative, art quilting, the ring isn't for those blogs. And there are other rings for general quilting blogs and websites.
I get applications from bloggers who post primarily about knitting, or beading, or handbag making, or other crafts. They're fun to read, but they're not on topic here. There are art quilt blogs that have a lot of embellisment, dyeing, and other fiber-related info as well. And those get joined to the ring. Sometimes it's a judgment call.
Almost all of the ring members post a lot about non-quilting things: family, friends, events, pets, other creative activites...and of course, the occasional political rants. That's how we get to know each other (and those are some of the most interesting entries!). But when I get applications from blogs which are primarily family activities blogs with occasional quilt-related entries, I tend to decline them. Yes, we all go through phases where quilting gets less time in our lives than we'd like. Still, if a blogger approaches the ring, I'm looking to see that the blog is PRIMARILY related to art quilting.
I will admit that management of the ring is pretty low on my list of priorities. So blogs do sit on the queue for a while, especially when I'm on the fence about them. I keep watching to see whether they drift more toward art quilt related content or not, and then decide.
Also, from time to time I have some of the long-time ring members look at applicant blogs. It's useful to me to get a sense of how other art quilting bloggers view the ring and its focus.
Keeping an online journal is a strange mix of personal purpose and public communication. Your blog is for you and about you, so it should be what you want. And if a blog isn't right for this ring, that doesn't say ANYthing about the quality of the blog or the talent of the blogger. Rings aren't popularity or talent tests, or elite groups...They're just a convenient way of finding blogs with similarities.
I'm taking off my crown now, and I'm going to do some quilting.