Member Rara Avis
What about a workshop forum for free verse writers where writers would have to offer feedback at least three times before getting it for a piece of their own work, and where there would be a limit of say five poems a week permitted for discussion. Only one by a single writer.
I think we're mixing some apples and oranges here, Bob. If you're talking about a teacher-led workshop like the Poetry Workshop, then we already have that structure in place. We just need to find a suitable teacher and coordinate it with Mike and Nan.
If you're talking about another critiquing forum, with a lot of new rules, I again don't see that happening any time soon.
I don't want to get into a long discussion at this point, but let me quickly address just the few new "rules" you've already mentioned, Bob. I don't want to necessarily discourage rules so much as I want to encourage a little deeper thought about new rules.
I've been involved in on-line communities for a very long time. Even before this community, I was a moderator and admin at JimWorld.com, probably the first web developer community ever built. I worked with Jim Wilson for several years before his death in 2003. Most of the people who opened the doors to pipTalk with me I met in other on-line communities. Even today, I moderate and admin at two other very successful web developer forums. I'm sure I haven't seen everything tried in my twelve or so years of doing this, but I suspect I've seen more than most. Here's a few of the things I think I've learned.
You can't force people to participate. Both of the web dev communities where I am involved have forums set aside for web site reviews. People build a web site and others review it. They're a different kind of crit, but they're still crits. One of those web dev communities has set a rule: before asking for a review, a member has to have 25 posts. The result, in my opinion, has been a marked increase in the signal-to-noise ratio, a dramatic rise in "me too" posts. When you try to mandate quantity, quality inevitably takes a hit.
Similarly, you can't realistically limit participation. Not without an awful lot of planning and constant work. If you really want only five poems a week permitted for discussion, you're going to have to come up with an equitable and fair way to select those five poems, and then you're going to have to find someone to spend however much time it takes every week to make the selections. My experience is that will last less than six months. When I did it at the main site, I managed to make it work for almost two years, but I'm probably more stubborn than most. And even for those two years, it didn't work well.
And even though it doesn't currently pertain, here's probably the number one thing I've learned about on-line communities:
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him read the rules. Ever.
For those who really want to make up rules, here's the philosophy you'll have to entertain if you want any chance of seeing them implemented.
Never make a rule you can't (or won't) enforce. That just encourages people to break rules.
Never make a rule where an incentive will work better. You want someone to do something? Make it easy. Make a fun.
Focus on the sort of polish that people would need to have for publication.
Actually, we've already done that, Bob.
I can't even remember what we called it (anyone?), but we long ago had a forum run by Ruth Kephart, better know in these parts as hoot_owl_rn, a very respected and well published poet. Ruth is still around and likely has a better memory than I do. The focus of the forum was helping people get published.
There's also a small section at the main site dedicated to publishing, though it hasn't been updated in years.
I'm not adverse to exploring this avenue again, Bob, but it's not easy to come up with a sustainable plan. And I'll admit I perhaps find it less than exciting because I know that "good" poetry and "publishable" poetry are two very different critters. I worry that when we encourage someone to write for money or fame, we risk setting them on the wrong path. Still, I'm amenable to discussion.