Why Are We Here? What This Network Is, and What It Could Be.

Almost two year ago, I started the cone6pots network, as I started getting back into pottery in a serious way. I could have been satisfied with joining the clayart listserve with its constant interchange of text emails, but working in information technology and having had the experience of running a highly interactive classified ads website gave me the opinion that the clayart listserve technology is hopelessly early 1990s, despite its active membership.

I looked around at the social networking websites with their capabilities for rich media content, and knew that was where a ceramics and pottery network could communicate in a variety of ways beyond just text. Myspace and Facebook both could have served, but they both were conceived to serve individuals best, and their implementations of networking for groups was not so well developed. Then I found the ning network and it was clear right away that the ning software had been built from the ground up to support interest groups or “networks” of people as the primary entity, rather than individuals.

Instead of trying to serve all ceramic artists, I decided to create the network to serve people who are working with clay in ways that are similar to how I work. It was obvious that mid-fire electric potters were way underserved on the Internet, despite the fact that we probably outnumber high fire potters who do gas and wood firing. Not everyone can put in a gas kiln to support their pottery work, which may only be a hobby. That simple fact has resulted in many people over the years turning to electric kilns to be able to continue working with clay, even though they may have gotten their training in gas reduction firing.

Most of our members probably aren't even aware of it, but this network could become the best online ceramics network on earth. You each have all the tools you need, right here on cone6pots to create an extensive and powerful web presence where you can introduce yourself to the world, showcase your work, and meet and exchange ideas with people who are experiencing the same issues in pottery making that you are dealing with. There are methods available to connect your member page to an online arts marketing operation like etsy.com, as well as simply linking to galleries that may be carrying your work.

In order for this network to achieve world domination, two things have to happen.
  1. You need to develop your own member page, telling us who you are, what you're working on, show us pictures of your work, and other work that excites you, especially if you are just starting out. Tell us how you made the pieces that your proud of, and how you overcame technical problems that held you back.
  2. Then we must start interacting like invested members of an organization that we want to succeed. That mainly means that we start communicating with each other. The comment, "I love that pot!" may get you a, "Thank you.", but it won't start a meaningful conversation. A better approach is to say exactly what you like about a pot, and even ask if the person who made it will share the techniques that are stopping you from making something similar. In case you haven't noticed, we have some incredibly talented potters among us. They may be holding back, because we are not acting as if we notice their presence, or their talent, and we are not making any attempt at starting an interaction. In a nutshell -- there is no community until we start talking to each other.

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Good point George, and I am guilty as charged. That will probably change somewhat with graduation coming up next month, but then again - I may become busier. Hard to tell at this point. I don't interact as much as I could with the outstanding potters here on this site, or as much as I should - as I could learn A LOT! I am still in the beginning stages of this lifestyle of pottery making. Hopefully I can get more into the site as I try and pass on the passion of making this kind of art to the next generation.
I hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving, may you have much to be thankful for!
Take Care,
Robert
Thank you, Robert. Robert Young is one of the handful of people on the network who actually do interact, and he is part of the solution. The fact that he responded to this topic, rather than one of the 45 or so members who we've never heard anything from is illustrative of the central problem of this network.
Imagine yourself as a first time visitor to cone6pots. On the main page there are some things to look over. After you've done that, you would want to find out about the members to decide if it is a group you want to belong to. So you would start clicking on the member icons. . . BIG DISAPPOINTMENT!!!
Of the sixteen member "Avatars" showing on the main page
  1. Only 1 posted photos of his work.
  2. Just 4 had posted comments of any type on the network
  3. Five had links to their own websites or sites they participate in
  4. Most had no profile at all beyond their answers to the questionaire to join the network - no reason at all to be interested in them.
The visitor's impression is that this network is like, Deadsville, man.
That doesn't seem to be happening yet, but we say give it time.
This net does offer the unique opportunity for members to exchange ideas one-on-one, as compared to more tightly controlled forums that somehow manage to drift away from the subject we're most interested in--what are "good" pots, and how can we make them.
We think the cone6pots net could become one of the eminent meeting places for potters, once it gathers a critical mass of the right contributors--people with something to say and others with good questions.
As we've noted, we have a little background in other arts, but we are so new to potting that even our questions may not qualify.
In brief: We are waiting for leaders, but we hope they behave--like good teachers--as peers.
Thanks, and happy T-Day... joan and jess
I am new to this site, and really appreciate it... its potential to connect us, simply through our common interest/obsession with clay, is really exciting. It offers so many possibilities...

When a site is small, like this, though, it seems we each hold some responsibility in keeping it alive and growing. I am guessing that most people lead very full busy lives..time is always a factor...for whatever reason each of us are unable to participate more fully, I think we could possibly improve things and bring some life to the site, by doing a few simple things...first, visiting it regularly would help... to see whats new, to read any updates or new discussions, to explore the site and discover its capabilities..and then, til it takes off on its own, perhaps there could be specific topics posted for discussion...and then give people some time to share their thoughts...this could be in addition to an open discussion where members could opt to discuss any ideas on any topic of interest or concern..

I can understand the frustration you are expressing George...but I am not sure if expecting everyone to increase their involvement here is realistic..we can try to invest more time into it, but this is a common issue everywhere..there are always people who jump in fully, participate and get involved, there are others who sit back and observe from afar..and then theres a whole bunch somewhere in between..
If its of value to some, but not all, then its still worth being here...it will grow for those who want to be involved..and eventually it would catch on, and pull others in...

I have a limitation of time..but in small ways can increase my participation..if everyone just adds some small amount of involvement..it potentially could bring new energy and life and growth to the site...I think its great that you opened the discussion..

Hope everyone had a great day...Randi
Hello George,

I have signed up as a member of this group just recently. While I would have loved to have spent a great deal of time posting over the past week or so, this is the holiday season and, therefore, a very busy one for me as a professional potter (and wife and mother-of-two). Although I have requested a 36-hour day, I'm not likely to get one anytime soon. Give it time; sometimes lurking is all an artist has time for. I'll be posting once I have some time to breathe.

Liz
Thank you, Mike, for forcing me to clarify my thinking. First of all my "world domination" phrase was an apparently failed attempt at humor. It was intended to show that I do have some ambition for this network, and am not intimidated by what I see on competing networks.
My goal is to have every member understand that the network will get better and better as more people take it upon themselves to contribute thoughtful, useful content. It bothers me not at all that visitors come and avail themselves of our content, and even that some join the network and reveal nothing about themselves. What really bothers me is when they show up as dead-end links on our home page. Your comment got me to figure this out, and has led me to a solution. The Home (or Main) page was set by default to display icons (or avatars) for the last 16 members who have joined the network. Looking through the administrator settings for that feature, I found that I can reset it to show featured members, and that is what I have just done. I then went through the member personal pages and selected the most active members who have: made comments, started blogs, added more than a couple of pictures, and/or personalized their profile page. This array of member links will create a much better impression on visitors to our network.
Hi,

I agree with you regarding if you want the network to grow then people need to participate. I apparently signe dup once before nd the did nothing with it. I have an issue with being scolded. I am a bit too old and accoplished in my life for that.

I signed up but I never heard from anyone regarding the site, I think the administrator could reach out to those who don't participate. I might have taken a second, third or even a fourth look. One of my FB friends recommended the site and lo and behold I am a member. I am going to browse it now and then decide if I want to go forward.

Roz
Facebook page: Roz Potz
I think time will tell.. This is pretty new, and with umpteen bazillion social networking opportunities out there and only 24 hours in a day, I can only post in so many places. I will probably be more active when I'm not as busy selling my stuff..it is holiday biz time!! (hooray)
I promise I'll play more after Jan 1..
Happy happy to y'all.
I, too have been wondering why there's not much activity on the site. It's been a rough 2 years in every respect, though--not just here. Collateral damage is that galleries have closed everywhere, and many artists are taking day jobs or bailing on their art. Then there is the generally held notion that mid-fire electric potters are the bastard children of the ceramic world. See the discussion I started. I'd love your comments.

For more on this, check out my Blog entry," It's Not Funny, It's Art":

http://www.clayhalo.com/Clayhalo.com/Clayzilla_Blog/Entries/2009/10...
The lack of activity is not unique to this network. I see it on other ning clay networks, and on facebook groups with far higher numbers of members. The only place I know of that is constantly abuzz is the clayart listserve where I get 50-100 emails a day. It is so overwhelming that I have to periodically wipe out a thousand or so emails that I don't even have time to scan. It has existed so long that it's like a big village with all sorts of people -- some of whom you wish would shut up. I toy with the idea of unsubscribing and just using the archives where I can search by subject.

This network is just a year and a half old. In the beginning of September we had a whopping 12 members. Against that history we are actually doing pretty well. Thank you, Teri, for participating.

I think it is because we have to learn how to be an Internet based community, which is quite different than the face to face communities we are familiar with. There is an inertia of not knowing how to get started, and a shyness about putting one's thoughts in print for all to see and possibly to criticize. None of us want to appear foolish, and deep down at some level we all are.
Yes, I am familiar with the Clayart ListServe. It is AWESOME, but a lot of people use it as a forum to rant. This is particularly evident in the winter months, January and February, after the Holiday Sales are over and potters have less to do...

Thanks for all you do, Geo. Hang in there--Cone6pots is a very young site.

XOT
Hi,

I signed up here fairly recently, and though I would certainly love to be able to participate more fully, I simply don't have alot of time available right now to produce work, let alone network. I'm in the process of moving my studio from its previous location into our basement, and with two very young children to wrangle, everything takes so much longer!

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