Bye-bye 9rules / by Dan Lockton

Around ten months ago, this site was accepted into 9rules, a diverse network of blogs which, at the time, had this aim:

9rules is a community of the best weblogs in the world on a variety of topics. We started 9rules to give passionate writers more exposure and to help readers find great blogs on their favorite subjects. It’s difficult to find sites worth returning to, so 9rules brings together the very best of the independent web all under one roof.

It was a great honour to be accepted, given the quality of the other blogs involved and the number that applied during the 24 hour 'submission window'. I remember sitting in a coffee shop on Lothian Road in Edinburgh having taken my laptop away on holiday purely to do the 9rules submission at the right time: some 'recognition' on this level meant a lot to me, and it still does.

And the site's got a lot of new readers through 9rules: the start of every new post appeared, within a couple of hours, in both the 'Design' and 'Technology' feeds on the 9rules site, and a lot of people clicked through to read the full things, and then (often) stayed to read other posts. Equally, I found some truly amazing new blogs and interesting voices through perusing other members' feeds: there is a wealth of passionate talent and opinion out there, and 9rules' members never failed to impress. To a large extent I was a passive consumer of what 9rules brought me; I didn't get involved with the 'my.9r' social networking feature of the site, nor write any 'Notes' (if I'm going to write something intelligent, I'll write it on the blog, was my reasoning, but I certainly read a number of interesting discussions in the Notes section, and enjoyed doing so).

Bye bye 9rulesHowever, 9rules is changing its membership policy (compare the current 'About' page) and yesterday I received an email from 9rules' Tyme White indicating that, effectively, any members who don't participate in the community aspects of the site are no longer welcome:

Members spoke out about their displeasure concerning members that they never interact with and never hear from, yet all member entries carry the same weight on 9rules, which is not fair. After talking it out in Clubhouse, we made participating either in the private member area or my.9rules a requirement, part of the membership agreement... If you feel you are contributing by your entries being shown, 9rules is no longer a good fit for you, decline the agreement (or do not respond), remove the leaf from your site and we will remove your site from displaying on 9rules. If you agree but don't have the time to interact or don't feel you should (or don't want to), the participation will become a chore, something you didn't want to do in the first place. It just won't work in the long-term so it would be best to decline now...

Let me be clear – participation in either the new member area or my.9rules is required for all members, requested by members.

I understand what she's saying, and I'm not going to argue - but it's a shame: forced participation would certainly "become a chore" and I'm not going to agree to commit to anything along those lines (I wonder how the level of participation will be measured or assessed?), so this site will be leaving 9rules, sadly, in due course.

Taking a broader view, in internet terms, 9rules' move - to more of a 'walled garden', turned in on itself - seems very much at odds with the increased openness which has driven the dramatic growth of, say, Facebook. Perhaps 9rules wants 'quality' rather than 'quantity', but defining 'quality' as 'frequency of participation' seems to be rather arbitrarily quantitative, if that makes sense. I'm not sure there's actually any correlation between time spent on interactive banter within a closed community, and creating worthwhile blog content that people want to read: it would seem that time spent on one precludes spending time on the other.

I hope some of the readers who originally found this site through 9rules will continue to read it (the RSS/Atom feed links are in the sidebar on the right), and I thank 9rules for the extra exposure it gave this site during my time as a member.