A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get to see Lorena, some Haldecraft groupies, and a whole lot of other crafting friends at the Florida Fiber in. It is great to connect with people with similar interests. However, the reality is that we can’t all just travel from craft show to craft show, a la Endless Summer. Luckily, there are many ways to get in touch with crafting communities online.
Most of my examples will relate to fiber arts, because that is my passion, but with the exception of Ravelry, the information here can apply to interests from gardening, baking, motorcycle maintenance or Star Wars fan fiction.
Speaking the Language
Let’s start with something that is not really a community, but is a useful tool when navigating uncharted territory on the internet. Even if you’ve been online since AOL disks, and had a Geocities website back in the day, you may still run across some lingo you don’t know from time to time. The site http://www.gaarde.org/acronyms/ is a good starting place. Some sites have unique terminology, but in these places, the Help section can be a good resource. Otherwise, just ask the nearest 14 year old, they’ll probably know. SMH.
This is a pretty popular site, it’s kind of a thing. There is a Haldecraft page with shop updates as well as other interesting content, such as pictures of Daleks holding knitting. What you might not know is that for Pages, which may represent a business or group of individuals with a common interest, only a small percentage of followers see each post in their news feed, that list of posts that automatically show up. The moderators of a page can pay to “boost” or “promote” posts. This article has a more in depth explanation. The best things that you can do to ensure that you see the content you want to see is to go directly to the page itself to see all of the content which is posted, or to “like”, “share” or comment on their posts when they do come in your news feed. Liking is also a way for the people who run these pages to know how many people they are reaching, and what is interesting to their readers.
In a nutshell, Instagram is a photo sharing website, intended for use on mobile devices. You can upload pictures and easily add some nice filters. You can “follow” someone and see whenever they post something, and be “followed”. Also, like most other social networks out there, there are hashtags, which allow users to group related content. To use a hashtag, enter a particular phrase, beginning with a pound sign (#) in the description or comments of a photo. There is a very cool feature of the Haldecraft shop that ties into this. If you look at the some of the product pages on the shop, for example the yarn club page, there is a section at the bottom that reads “Tag your photos with #HCyarnclub”. If you post a photo to Instagram with that particular hashtag, it will show up in the shop for others to see. And here is a link to the Haldecraft instagram page.
Over the last year, I’ve seen an increase in the amount which the fiber arts community is relying on this site, particularly podcast knit-a-longs, which brings me to…
Podcasts are my absolute favorite way to engage in the online community. If you have a computer, tablet, or phone, you can listen to podcasts. These are essentially online radio or t.v. shows, which can be created by anyone, from a regular person to a celebrity. If you have the ability to access the internet (and I’m guessing that if you’re reading this, you do), you can get them. No matter what your interest is, there is most likely a podcast for it, just Google the topic and “podcast”. The great thing is, if you listen to one podcast, they will likely recommend others. Podcasters are incredibly community oriented, between other podcasts, websites, more traditional publications such as books, and their audience. Most have an online forum in which listeners provide feedback. Some incorporate content directly from their audience into the show. No matter what walk of life you are in, there is likely a time during which you could listen to these; they are great for multi-tasking. If you drive, wash dishes, garden, work at a desk and are allowed headphones, fold laundry…. The amount of content available is staggering. I listen on my hour long commute and while working full time, and I have not even come close to running out of shows to listen to. I could really write a whole post on podcasts, so I’m going to. Look for a follow up post with more information.
If you are interested in the Fiber Arts of knitting, spinning, crochet or weaving, this is your home on the internet. Like Google, Facebook, and Instagram all rolled into one. You can find patterns, and share your work with the world, but the ability to connect with people through forums is what really makes this platform stand out. People there are generally awesome. This can’t be said for most of the internet. I recently left a group on another social network because people were being unnecessarily inflammatory, and realized “This would never happen on Ravelry”. The number one rule of the forums is “Don’t be a Jerk”. Go to the Haldecraft group there is for some lively discussions. ::One of us, One of us!:: If you need to get started with Ravelry, check out the Getting Started Guide.
What big things have I missed? What would you like me to talk more about? What are some of your favorite ways to connect online? Join in the conversation, because after all, we are part of a larger online community.