Bye-bye 9rules

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.


  1. I think your assessment of the situation is entirely reasonable. This change is unsettling.

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  3. As a recently-ex member I understand your feelings on this. I’m one who found your blog through 9Rules, too, btw. Don’t know what they’re about, but clearly the blogs are not/no longer the focus.

    Continued success with yours.

  4. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Maybe it will become a good case study about the dos & don’ts of running & developing online communities?

  5. 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.

    Considering you never interacted with the closed community (the member’s only forum) before the change in terms of agreement, I want to know what experience you have to figure that one precludes the other.

    This “shake out” seems* to be seen as negative mostly* by people who didn’t participate much anyway.

    *I am hedging a bit since I don’t know the whole list of who is not accepting the new agreement.

  6. Dan

    @Matthew: All I said was that time spent on one activity (i.e. forums) is time not available to spend on actually blogging. My time is a rivalrous resource – that’s all I meant.

    As you say, not having taken the plunge to get involved with the members-only forum, I don’t have any experience to base my supposition on, but I do know that time spent on my blog will potentially reach a wider and more diverse audience than time spent on members-only forums.

    I don’t doubt that participating fully in the forums is great if you enjoy it, and I’m sure forum discussions and that kind of community-building have led to some great outcomes and ideas for blogging, etc, but, personally, it’s not what attracted me to try to join 9rules in the first place. What attracted me was the content of the blogs involved, and the opportunity to discover high-quality writing, and in the process (hopefully) have some other people discover my writing; 9rules fulfilled those desires very well.

  7. I get that definitely. I probably do way too much; trying to fit too much in. Time spent on one thing is time taken from another.

    But any good writing takes a lot of time reading and researching. While the forum could be a time sink sometimes, it also allowed the opportunity to pose lazyweb queries related to things I needed and almost all the time I got what I was looking for. But I couldn’t have benefited from it if I didn’t invest in the first place.

    And for the record, my intention isn’t to argue the point; just to understand better.

  8. Christian, for the record: I left 9rules two months back. It had nothing to do with participation requirements. I just didn’t feel a connection with most of the things people talk about in that “community”. I’m an old guy and the blogging part was what mattered most to me.

  9. Brian: Oh, ok. I just assumed that it was related. Either way, if you don’t feel its a good fit it’s not a good fit.

  10. Required participation? Perhaps the worst social networking idea I’ve ever heard of. What are they thinking!!?
    Good move Dan.

  11. Disclaimer: I’m not a huge fan of social networking sites, and I am not involved in the 9rules situation at all. But the situation as described seems a little unfair: the people who interact with each other a lot decide that interacting with them a lot should be the new criterion for membership in the group. Nice!

    I really enjoy this blog. And now you’ve performed a public service by letting me know that I needn’t bother looking into the content at 9rules. Thanks!

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  14. Sean

    I found it very interesting how the article about your leaving 9rules, that is to say, what actions by 9rules prompted this, fits in rather well with the concept of architectures of control, aside from simply mentioning to your readers that you would no longer be blogging there.

    More generally, I would just like to say that I am quite enjoying your blog (I have just come across it via a link you posted on TechRepublic), and that I find your work to be intelligent, well written, and edifying.

    I am sorry to hear that you had to leave 9rules, or 10rules, as the case may be. It sounded like quite an interesting site from what you mentioned. Unfortunately, it is all to often that going to the christmas party is actually a requisite at some places of employment, and that is one metaphor that came to mind in the course of reading your article.

    Thank you, for all your thoughtful articles. I hope to continue visiting your blog in the future, time permitting.

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