You may have heard by now that the current owners of the RPG Bloggers’ Network have decided to step down and hand over the reins to someone new.  Last week there was a firestorm of inappropriate malice that resulted in people saying things that should not have been said, and now the RPGBN needs a new direction.  The mailing list is quite frantic with emails and input – I woke up this morning to find over 150 new messages awaiting my attention.  My iPod’s mail app crashed trying to load them all.

Various factions support different approaches to how the network should proceed, so I’ve decided to think through my own opinions out loud where they may be adequately ignored by the general public.

I think that the deepest conflict stems from the two different reasons why bloggers have joined the RPGBN.  I think that everyone contributing to the RPGBN enjoys gaming and honestly wants the best for the network.  But some joined for fellowship and to be a part of a community, to share what they create with like-minded individuals and promote gaming blogs in general.  Others joined because blogging is a source of income or a “serious” pursuit and the network is a way to promote their content.

These approaches to the RPGBN are not mutually exclusive, nor is one superior.  Each is an equally valid reason to join the RPGBN (and to blog, for that matter), but in trying to cater to both going forward will make it difficult to make ANYONE happy.  I think the RPGBN worked well up until now and managed to satisfy almost everyone, and so I am sad to see it change course.  Nonetheless, the times they are a’changing.

I joined the RPGBN because I enjoy blogging about my hobbies and enjoy sharing my creations with others.  I don’t care about making money from blogging (you’ll see no ads from me) and I really couldn’t care less about making grand changes to the community.  To me, the highest purpose of any organization like the RPGBN is to provide fellowship and contacts for its members so that they can enjoy blogging as much as possible and just create great stuff.  It should also provide a convenient portal for enthusiasts to find great content to read.  Dave, Phil, Graham, and Danny managed to accomplish just that, and I salute them for it.

Going forward, I’d like to see the RPGBN remain a casual space in which bloggers passionate about gaming can share (and promote) their content.  Ads or paid publisher subscriptions could support the site’s expenses, or it could become a 501(c)(3) and be able to accept donations.  Where I don’t want to see it go is a business model designed to make money for investors or owners.  I blog for fun and pleasure, and involving business just complicates things.

Caution: I want to avoid a flame war, but from this point I will voice some criticisms of some plans offered on the RPGBN mailing list.  These are in no way intended to be personal criticisms or attacks, and I hope they will not be taken as such.

My chief criticism is of Berin Kinsman’s proposal.  While I do not object to having enforcers or a republic (that’s actually the best model I’ve heard yet), what I do object to are statements made by Mr. Kinsman about the “wannabees” and occasional bloggers.  I present his remarks here in full:

My .02:

As a friend of mine noted, any priviledge will be interpreted as a
God-given right within about five minutes. I can read “this isn’t worth
the crap we have to take” between the lines.So I think there are some
serious philisophical changes that need to be made to make this viable
going forward.

I’d propose that whoever takes over has to be a complete hardass about
it. Set clear guidelines for admission. Charge an annual fee to join, to
cover costs of operation and even some compensation for the folks
moderating it. That’ll kill off a bunch of casual wannabees and
infrequent posters. The board gets to make the rules, because it ain’t a
democracy and they’re the ones investing time and money to do it, even
if members pay dues. Set clear feed guidelines — if you’re not set up
right, you’re suspended. If a bunch of non-RPG stuff comes through the
feed that the board has to filter manually, you get suspended. Do this
stuff too often, you get banned… and you don’t get your dues back.
Period. If the board has time, they’ll tell you why. If they don’t,
well, read the guidelines and figure out where you dropped the ball. the
responsibility is on you to make sure you’re configured correctly and in
compliance with the rules. Takes away the pain of running the network,
and puts the onus of good citizenship back on the members.

I have neither the technical expertise nor the money to take over the
network, but I’ll gladly throw my hat into the ring to be the
above-named hardass and policy enforcer.
Because i believe in the network, but I’m goddamned tired of listening
to people bitch and whine about these four guys who volunteered their
time and money to make something awesome, and I don’t want the next
batch of board members to get stuck with the same shit.

My response:

Casual wannabes?  What are we (or should I say you), a bunch of elitist bloggers looking down upon the have-nots?  I’m being semi-facetious, but what do you mean by that?  A holier-than-thou attitude is exactly what would drive me away from joining such a network.  I guess that’s what you’re going for.  I am curious to know if I’m interpreting your statements correctly.

And his response again:

No offense to people who post once a month, but other than fellowship
(which is important) what are you looking to get out of the network?
Traffic? Not with infrequent and irregular posts. Seriously, should
those people get the same level of attention as the bloggers who work at
this every day, and take all kinds of steps to build readership and
develop a following? My opinion is no. That’s not elitist. That’s
resource allocation. With finite time and money to put into maintaining
and operating the network, some people are going to be more equal than
others. The same goes for blogs that are dedicated exclusively (or
nearly so) to creating RPG content, vs blogs that might put out an
RPG-related post once in a while.I’m not discouraging the casual
bloggers, or the “wannabees” who are finding their way, because being
part of the network is definitely an asset, but if you’re not
demonstrating that you’re serious about RPG blogging you’re going to
fall pretty far down the list of priorities.

In short, I dislike the application of the terms/phrases “wannabees” and “serious about RPG blogging.”  It is an instant value judgment that Mr. Kinsman is entirely entitled to pass, and I’m just as entitled to disagree.  But it is, in a word, pompous.  I don’t really know what demonstrates a serious commitment to blogging (Do I count, with approximately one post per week?  Or is it the content that matters most?), but I don’t really care.  Should he take the reins of the RPGBN, Mr. Kinsman may judge blogs however he damn well pleases and I wish him the best.  I think it’s a perfectly viable option that will probably accomplish what it sets out to do.

But I hope to be a part of a different organization with different ethos and different purpose.  A few members of the RPGBN have talked about trying to make a 501(c)(3) run by an elected board.  I think it’s a better alternative to a business, though it need not be at odds with what I perceive as Mr. Kinsman’s vision for the RPGBN aside from the profit aspect.  I can see plenty of ways to promote certain content or highlight the efforts of especially well-done blogs.  In fact, I think that the way I’d run the RPGBN is quite similar to that of Mr. Kinsman (and we agree that fellowship is an important part of the network), we just have different approaches to blogging and that suits me just fine.

In general, I have a pretty idealistic and starry-eyed vision for the RPGBN.  I’ll be the first to admit it.  See, I’m admitting it!  But don’t mistake idealism for a lack of pragmatism or flight of fancy.  Compromises will have to be made, and it is more than likely that members of the RPGBN will end up going their separate ways when the time to establish a new order arrives.  I only hope that everyone is able to find a group that suits their needs and works the way they need it to.  Interested in what I have to say?  Let me know.

Best of luck to you all!

Whispers to all the members of the mailing list, “And check your damn spelling!  It’s embarrassing!”