The Were Community - The other side of the Coin
Those of you out there who do know me might or might not be able to wind back your clocks to when I appeared on the Were scene around about the middle of September 1998. Like many others before me, it was the once-thriving community of AHWw that I happened to stumble across first.
Obviously, like all good folk, I sat in the shadows for a bit, watching the posts go by and watching other people talking to each other before plucking up the courage to join in. During that time, I think various thoughts must have gone through my mind, but the only one that I really remember is thinking how closed a community this was - where certainly a small number of Weres went round with a "stiff upper-lip" and newcomers were made to feel exactly that. Of course, not everyone was like that - virtual marshmallows and CG campfires aside, there did seem to be some genuinely nice folk out there, but like all things in life, one's memory seems only to carry through the bad thoughts in the long term.
Indeed, my most shocking experience was just how bad a reception I did get when I started posting. From one or two out of the very few people who "welcomed" me (for want of better words), it was almost like they were saying "Hey! Get out of here, stupid, and leave us alone!" Of course, that's fine if you've just entered through the wrong door to the MI5 building, but makes no sense whatsoever for someone emerging into such a community as AHWw, who is likely to have quite a lot on their mind, and who might actually benefit the group.
It was a couple of months after that before I actively started getting myself involved with the Were community - I poked my muzzle into Weremail - the European mailing list for Weres - round about mid-October, and that seemed fun by and by, and then I suddenly found myself in the middle of nowhere, meeting up with a load of strange people, taking some dodgy photos, adding some even dodgier captions, and then bearing all to the worldwide community by means of a tacky Microsoft FrontPage generated Website. No comment.
Seriously though, meeting up in real life seems to have changed my attitude to the community altogether - to that of a much friendlier, welcoming group of people, always happy to lend a paw or a wing to anybody who needs it.
Of course, sad as it may seem, I perhaps now realise that this utopia revolves around one fact - that even still, the community over here at least is fairly "closed door." Little pockets of people almost playing Chinese Whispers with one another to arrange meets and Howls and, in some cases, one side not telling the other what's going on. Indeed, the only reason I seemed to end up at any large meet in the first place was because of an off-the-cuff comment passed on to me over IRC by someone who was already "in" with the right group. Had that not have occurred, I might still be in the position I was in this time last year.
Having said that, I don't mean that the community is entirely closed door. No, it just requires a bit of rooting around on the part of the newcomer to find a nice into the group where he or she can make themselves known and heard like I have done, and I'm sure like many others before me have done. Of course, with AHWw all but dead, that job is much harder, and almost certainly the onus is placed firmly on the newcomer's head.
So should we be ashamed of this? Should we be doing more to root out new folk and making them feel at home, so that there aren't people lurking out of site of our virtual world looking in thinking, "My, what a lot of snobs"? Or am I, who perhaps is still not fully integrated into the community as a whole, looking at things and missing the wood for the trees? Am I disillusioned about the whole community and not realising what goes on around me? Well, that is perhaps for you to decide based on your own thoughts.
But perhaps whatever is the situation, things could be improved. Certainly over here, how can a community be so-called "integrated" when the right paw doesn't let the left paw know what it's doing and two meets end up being organised at the same time? Each one of these seemed shrouded in secrecy, where only a small pocket of the whole community got any information passed on to them, depending on who was friends with who. Of course, people can, and will, overhear each other, and this is probably the way into the community for some. Indeed, and I should perhaps feel bad about myself for doing so, I am guilty as well of being somewhat secretive as far as meet invitations go, and mine was probably the perfect example of how to cause a real community split doubles with the "closed door" sin at the same time.
Well, what can be done? Public forums are great for getting new people involved, and for letting everyone know what's happening, but they are their own death-trap from being public in the first place. Anyone who's looked at AHWw will know what I mean. So in the end, unwanted entries to the group (spammers and trolls etc.) would drive it to form the secret little pockets that exist now. And if you then decide to restrict access to your little forum to try and prevent that from happening, you then possibly put genuine newcomers at a disadvantage if they cannot find the place. Though you could perhaps take the view that the determined newcomer would eventually make it. Needless to say that after a given amount of time, you find yourself back in our situation wherever you start from, or so I think.
However, all the negative things aside for a moment, there is a great amount of experience and pleasure to be gained be meeting people - whether you have a dodgy photo of you wearing a tail put up on my site afterwards or not. And I do pity those who are unable to get together outside the virtual world, for it is something that can really bond a community together.
So there you have it, my views on two sides of A4, not that you can probably determine that from your machines as you sit reading this. Well, let me leave you with this: if you thought I filled up double that amount as you snored away quietly, then think back x years to when you were in the same position as I was in when I joined the community this time last year. Think of all the things you would have liked to have improved about the group, and getting that "community spirit" so that it's not a "battle of the two halves," and now go away and act on it.
I should remind you that you can email me with any thoughts or ideas you have about the community as a whole, or just to throw a virtual rotten tomato in my face - the choice is yours. In both cases, simply click on the link at the bottom of this page.
All text and images Copyright © 1999
by "Lone Wolf" unless otherwise stated