One of the best days of my life, though I didn’t fully appreciate it until months later, was when this website was accepted into the 9rules Network. What was exciting to me then was that I had found an online oasis of people who believed in creating original quality content. What was even more remarkable was the member agreement, which basically said (paraphrasing wildly): You keep doing what you’re doing, we’ll do what we’re doing, and with luck something good will happen for everyone involved. If it doesn’t work out, no hard feelings. It was an agreement that was written by someone who knew how to negotiate the win-win scenario, by speaking plainly and putting intentions as simply as possible. And, it was the first time anything I had done personally was recognized for what it was: my attempt to create something original that spoke for me. Being accepted as part of the Network was an affirmation of my new creative direction.
In the two years since that day, the 9rules mission has changed…or more accurately, it has been clarified. In the beginning, the network was based around the loose idea that if you collect quality content all in one place, you create something special. No one knew exactly what that special something would be, which was readily admitted by the 9rules founders. This didn’t prevent armchair analysts from trying to guess what the “end game” might be:
- Was 9rules a portal designed to grow fat with advertising revenue without compensation to member sites?
- Was 9rules a move to brand “quality content” on the Internet and shut out the independent, thus co-opting the blogosphere toward its own ends?
- Was 9rules an exclusive, elitist club with unknown plans for Internet domination brewing behind the friendly logo?
The answer? Not on purpose :-) It depends on your perspective:
- If you’re a zero-sum game type of thinker, the type of person who understands success to be achieved only at the expense of someone else, then the answer is yes. That’s because ANYONE who is successful in your field of endeavor is perceived as a threat. The pie of success that you are sharing must be split into thinner slices for all participants. Or, it means you have to work harder to maintain your share.
If you’re a win-win strategy type of thinker, then you see the existence of a network like 9rules as expanding the pie of content goodness. There’s nothing stopping YOU from continuing to create the best content that you can. Everyone benefits, because more good content creates more opportunities for connections, and it raises everyone’s game.
p>Off the Internet, where grabbing eyeballs costs real dollars, the zero-sum thinking is much more applicable. There is a limited pool of “attention” available, and the real estate where the eyeballs are looking will command premium advertising dollars. It’s very expensive. However, on the Internet, content creators have the advantage of search engines. Good writing coupled with a bit of search engine optimization will allow people to find your content. I’m not quite sure to what extent the pie can keep growing, and your level of optimism is probably dependent on your content development end-game; if it’s defined in terms of revenue per click, then you’re probably not too keen on the existence of a site like 9rules. On the other hand, if you’re after reputation and personal satisfaction, there’s nothing stopping you from continuing to plug away at developing your site.
The history of 9rules, in my mind, is comprised of three stages. The first stage focused on quality content, gathering websites that represented the best writing on the web, because that’s what a lot of us appreciate the most. However, 9rules came to be seen as a “label of quality” that drove traffic and reputation. The second stage, codenamed “Ali”, launched the community aspect of the site, introducing Notes where anyone could comment and discuss what people were interested in. Content served as the anchor that kept people coming, and Notes gave everyone a voice. The third stage, which is marked by yesterday’s launch of “Ali 2”, is about connections. It turns out that quality content and community really aren’t the point after all; what we are all after is making a quality connection with other people. The new member agreement stipulates that 9rules members participate in some way; in other words, you’ve got to want to talk to other members. You can’t have a community without participation. By emphasizing content and community, what 9rules has created is a vibrant space where you can meet conscientious, passionate people with something to say about topics you are interested in. And it’s the connections I’ve made, both incidental and personal, that have really helped me clarify my own vision and direction.
Congratulations, 9rules, on the launch of Ali 2! I’m optimistic that the world will be made a better place, one person at a time, through the many new connections we will all make.