Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
Anyone can read it without being approved or pay a fee
Any post has the potential of silencing others from expressing their opinion
If everyone can read what is posted even non-members can learn information and can take action from the ideas shared on the forum
Sometimes you don't want the "outsiders" to know what you are talking about, or is this a "Pro"?
It can be a melting pot from a wide variety of opinions
You can't speak your mind without possibly getting in trouble with some vested interest
The first popular online open forum in our business was the NAIA forum which was a very dynamic forum until a few obstreperous people continually derailed the discussions and the group voted to make it members only. This really slowed down the discussion and participation dwindled.
In the beginning of AFI all different kinds of people joined and I was pretty clueless about managing it. It was pretty interesting to watch my friends and many strangers show up and debate the questions of the day. People could post anonymously and there were (to my mind) some fists flying. People joined and resigned and rejoined. Many sent me emails wondering why I was letting such uncivilized behavior occur. At one point there was a mass defection. We changed the rules about anonymous posting, set up a vetting process to allow members into the site, and rewrote our Code of Conduct. Early on some show directors joined and they were attacked and they left, silencing their voices here.
Some of these early voices determined who was on the site and who was not and set the tone.
One thing I have learned is that every comment has the possibility of encouraging someone else to speak and someone else to be silenced. I've heard "well, if they can't interact on an Internet forum how can they expect to prosper at the fairs?" You've got to know the purpose of this site is not to toughen people up.
I don't pay attention to the statistics of the readership or the "hits" and am often surprised when I'm at a show to have someone I know say they read the site regularly and their name isn't even on the membership list. It makes me wonder who is reading the site besides the people who post and comment and what function AFI has for them. My hope is that open discussions can influence people's behavior at the shows and in running the shows.
I can edit everything on the site. I have banned people from the site who came into the forum only to attack others and who never had a constructive point to add and who were just plain mean and rude. I have removed a few that were deliberately attacking another person in a personal way, but probably not often enough.
Many comments and posts have disappeared from the site (including a very recent discussion) because when a person resigns from the site all of their content (comments, discussions, blog posts) disappears with them. I have no control over that.
I've allowed others to stay because sometimes they are very good and sometimes they are very bad and I like to believe the good they contribute outweighs the other. Mostly its a pleasure to get up in the morning to see what is going to happen here today, as there is a solid amount of useful content and I am surprised by the generosity of many of you, but let me tell you folks sometimes it keeps me up at night.
Looking for your input ... is this a fair place to post your views? Got any suggestions on making this a better place for all?