Sunday, November 14, 2010

Two million hands at work

Unless you are a knitter or crocheter -- or a web developer -- you probably don't know exactly what Ravelry is.  Yet the site signed up its one millionth member in the wee morning hours of Saturday, November 13.

I've been on Ravelry since August 2007.  I still run into fellow knitters who've never heard of it, let alone the general public.  And I still find it difficult to explain in a sentence of two why they should be a part of it.  It's not just a social network.  It's not just a database of materials and patterns.  It's a socially-generated database that turns out to be the greatest collaboratively-updated repository of information about a specialized skillset ever produced.

When I wrote about Ravelry in my presentation to the Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Theology and Energy last February, there were a quarter of a million members.  When I updated the essay for publication this summer, there were 600,000 members.  The join rate keeps accelerating.  Of course the number of regular users is much smaller and grows more slowly; yet the daily high point of simultaneous users also keeps climbing.  Not only are there more members, but there are also more people logging onto the site regularly.

On January 12, 2008, I sent my first message to a new Raveler as part of the newly-formed Ravelry Welcome Wagon.  Almost three years later, I've sent more than 31,000 messages to people within a day or two after they join the site.  My Welcome Wagon beat is the G's, which means that I welcome everyone who chooses a username that starts with G.  That's 31,000 grandmothers, girls, grrls, glows, and geeks.

It's no exaggeration to say that Ravelry has changed my life.  It's brought me hundreds of new friends in the last four years.  It's pushed me to acquire new skills and try techniques that I would have thought utterly beyond me.  In fact, it's turned me from a person who has managed to learn the basics of knitting, into a knitter.  The living, palpable, visible example of thousands of people just like me who transformed string into art and comfort and warmth and adornment -- that's what it took to make me into a maker. 

Now I create my life rather than consuming it.  Ravelry made it possible.  One million members is quite a milestone.  But a far more impressive feat, from where I sit, is how Ravelry bridged the distance between me when I picked up the needles, and me now.

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