Ravelry and the Barter System

Update on Ravelry

Hello Knitting Friends,

It’s been quite the ride lately in the Knitting and Crafting world.  But, that’s 2020.  (Remember when we thought the biggest Stories of the year would be impeachment, Australian Wild Fires, and Murder Hornets? Ahhh simpler times) 

My latest video is up and yes it’s about Ravelry again. I promise I’m not become a Ravelry commentary channel.  But, there were things that needed to be said about Ravelry’s latest blog post regarding NuRav. (Accessible google doc)  One thing that’s tough about doing commentary video is a lot of times things I said get lost in the edit. Or things I should ‘ve said never got said. So, couple of things I wish I had in the video but did not.
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1. One of the biggest problems with Ravelry’s blog post is that it’s not meant to speak to people experiencing migraines, vertigo, eye strain and seizure from the website. It’s meant to address people who do not have problems and assure us it’s not a big deal.

But, there’s a certain power in that. Those of us who do not experience problems with NuRav, but still care about accessibility can make a difference simply by calling in Ravelry to do better, and uplifting people adversely affected.

2. NuRav is a giant Beta Test.

Intentionally or unintentionally Ravelry is subjecting 9 million users to a massive Beta Test of their new look – not even their new infrastructure, just the new skin. Yes, Ravelry had a beta test before launching NuRav across the site. But, in my view that Beta Test is continuing.

And to be clear, I’m not claiming the Ravelry team is viewing this “Phase 1” of the roll out as a massive Beta Test. I’m saying that’s how it is functioning.

Volunteerism and Community as a Business Model

I didn’t notice the last paragraph of Ravelry’s blog post because I stopped at the Victory lap. but, this one sentence “Our little team at Ravelry is looking forward to the next phase of our site and community”  Le sigh, there’s a lot to unpack in one sentence but I’m going to focus on one thing  “Community”
Upfront I’m not an expert in all of this. I’m a person with a lot of opinions. But, the last couple of days as I’ve learned more about how Ravelry got started, how it operates and users personal investment in Ravelry.

Part of the reason there’s such strong feelings about how the Ravelry team is handling accessibility problems with NuRav is Ravelry has done a very good job over the years at building a community. Ravelry has never looked like nor felt like a business. Rather, it felt like the business was a side hustle to support the community.

On twitter I’ve read accounts of the first Ravellers donating server space, donating time to build the pattern database, and beta testing the site. All of this was done in the name of Volunteerism. Volunteer your time and energy to make something great. And going into the Ravelry Offsite Blog, I found this post: The Ravelry Army. They thank users not just for monetary donations, but donating time to edit the database.

Ravelry is NOT a small team. It’s a 9 million member user base + small staff team. And most people have been good with that relationship because they believe in the mission, and the community, and the pattern database. And that’s volunteerism.

And that volunteerism is a great way to build brand loyalty. People put personal time into the site and thus personally invest in Ravelry. It’s not just a website or a platform. It’s a family. It’s community.

But, here’s the thing: Ravelry is and always has been a business. It’s business model is based on a barter system: 9 million users get free access to a pattern library, notebook, other people’s project, and community in exchange for their clicks on ads, buying independent designer pattern, and voluntarily building the pattern database and moderating forums. Knitting groups get free access to forums for their groups in exchange for bringing in more users. Independent designers, meanwhile, pay through their sales and ad buys to get access to those 9 million “volunteers”

This barter system is why Ravelry has gotten away with being such a small “team”.

To be clear: I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Because Ravelry relies on users to do a good chunk of work for them, and they keep their overhead low, independent designers are also able to keep their overhead lower. It’s well known that Ravelry is one of the least expensive places to sell patterns.

This relationship has over the years been mutualOy beneficial to everyone. But, what happens when the barter system breaks down? Because I believe that is what is happening right now with NuRav.

A lot of users are feeling betrayed right now because Ravelry is not holding up part of their end of the bargain: inclusivity.

Ravelry has its defenders. People are invested in the community they helped build. And I get that. But, part of the Ravelry team building the community were from the disabled community. Some of the community have vestibular disorders and are being harmed by the way Ravelry is handling this re-design. They have held up their end of the bargain. It’s time Ravelry lived up to their end.

Oh and everyone needs to remember Ravelry is a business. It’s okay to believe in the mission of that business, but it’s still a business.

Links to Resources and Information about Ravelry and NuRav:

WIP Insanity https://wipinsanity.blogspot.com/2020/06/problem-and-resulting-changes-here.html

CRAFT GOSSIP: https://knitting.craftgossip.com/ravelrys-new-look-knocked-for-accessibility-issues/2020/06/27/

RAVERLY BRAIN IMPLOSION: HOW TO DESTROY YOUR BRAND IN 7 DAYS: https://wakeupnmakestuff.com/ravelry-brain-implosion-or-how-to-kill-your-brand-in-7-days/

CATH SEEKER BLOG: https://cathseeker.blogspot.com

Epilepsy Foundation Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/EpilepsyFoundationofAmerica/photos/a.101501138876

INFORMATION REGARDING WEB ACCESSABILITY: https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/Accessibility/Seizure_disorders


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