"Therian Community: Status Quo and Development" (November 30, 2007; edited March 23, 2008)
I have many times come across talk and implications about there being "good old days" (so to speak) in the therian community, and as time goes on and my observations of the community and its people (past and present) continue, I come to think there never was a time of "golden days" for the community and probably much if any of its boards. The majority of those thoughts about how good it was back in [insert years ago] seem to be colored by a high bias based on when the particular people entered the community and before they became jaded with it for whatever reasons, rather than by taking note of the consistency through time of problems and issues that occur/have occurred in it. Over time, if anything, I've read and seen evidence that the therian community (in general) has grown more understanding, open, and diverse in what is acceptable as 'therianthropy', and personally I think the Awereness Forums has grown less harsh than my first year there (granted, it's been rather quiet most of that time, so with its new activity it may just revert back to 'grilling-station ground zero' again). And thankfully I haven't seen new terms being thrown out and debated over in the past year or so, but it's bound to eventually happen (some boards of course still do the usual debating over whatever-the-hell therian term from time to time). Point being that I think notable improvements have been made over the almost 15 years that therianthropy (with or without the term) has had a 'community' online, but that many things have also remained very much the same, some horribly so, and of course every now and then it's in our nature I suppose (I do it too) to act like these things aren't the same they've been but are significantly worse suddenly and thus need particular [negative] attention currently (at whatever time it ends up being).
Yes, newbies are still being newbies--that's normality, and though there are a few people who come into the therian community (completely new to the terminology, though not necessarily the concept) who don't act like "typical newbies" they are the vast minority. However, if none of the level-headed, mature, and 'older' (even by a year or more) members of that particular board or of the therian community correct those new people (in a decently appropriate, not too gentle but not too harsh way) then it's logical to assume those people are likely to not really end up corrected for awhile, if ever, and will continue spreading even more or worse of their own ignorance, their immaturity, misunderstandings and misinformation, and other problems (like general stupidity). But many of those people equipped for that correcting have understandably become too jaded to do it--most don't want that responsibility because it is annoying and difficult, and highly repetitive, but the new people aren't 'equipped' to do it well themselves. Most are, as I said, typical newbies and they tend to be inefficient at finding good information on their own, they often have difficulty at not getting overwhelmed and confused about therianthropy, it's terms, and concepts, and they tend to have notable difficulty with understanding these things about therianthropy and others' therianthropy well without having some people there to help them simplify it and lay it out for them in a way easier for them to handle and comprehend. That’s nothing personally against new people, just generalizations of common occurrences and tendencies among them.
Technically, that's part of the reason why I wish Shifters.org (and a more completed form of it) was still around and intact, among some other 'newbie sites' I used to often point new people to if it looked like they were having any trouble in understanding something about some therianthropy basics or terminology, but most of those sites have gone down so I can't link to them anymore. I've instead had to opt with linking to multiple sites, spread out, to provide the information that some singular sites used to have. While the Werelist was still down, there wasn’t even that practical Therianthropy 101 information there to point people toward (which was set up the most practical way with essays, links to other sites, a discussion board, a wiki, and Therian 101 stuff all together on one site, and fairly easy to find the stuff if most people actually tried to find it). And the Awereness Forums/Therianthropy.org doesn't have anything practical set up for that information, though maybe a sticky with links in it (or actually text covering that information maybe) would be useful, but I don't know if that would happen and if it would really limit the amount of people not knowing where to find that info (considering people who don't read sticky threads). Though at least Werelist is back now and slowly building up those resources again, and better/more complete than previously, as well as a Therianthropy 101 project that’s underway called Project Shift (but both of those will take months to develop and make the information public).
The new people, generally, want to talk almost only about either basic Therian 101 stuff and ask a mass of questions that could be easily answered if the people read (or were pointed toward where they could read) that information somewhere, or they talk a lot about immature things, or act like they are really sharing their therianthropic experiences when they're just conversing about the most superficial of therian experiences they probably have (if some of those people even have ones deeper than that). While the older members barely bother talking at all on boards because we're sick of repeating ourselves for every other newbie who walks onto a board and asks the same questions, and/or we find forums too limiting in sharing our experiences with each other, among some other issues many “older” members have (and by older I don't mean "greymuzzles", more like people who have been in the therian community for a year or more at least, it really depends on the individual, though most need to stick around for a few years or so to get that mentality).
To be honest, there's talk sometimes of these 'older members' or just members who have become jaded with the annoyance and status quo of the therian community who wish for a board where they can come together and get rid of those annoying people, things, and topics, thinking that if they just make yet another board with different people as/allowed as members and different people moderating/administrating then all will be fine and the board will be the success they had been hoping for. Yet I've seen the reality of that, and it comes in the form of people not talking for the most part, though there might be some initial discussion for a few days or weeks when the board is started, with little fluctuations toward more discussion once or twice every few months or less often, but the board is mainly silent and gathering cobwebs. Why? Because regardless of where the board is, who owns and mods it, and who are its members, I think that the vast majority of (if not all) the time these people can't bring themselves to discuss or share the deeper aspects of therianthropy on a board except for few topics. We tend to be better at adding to things like the Animal Quills LiveJournal community, with making whatever type of writings on therianthropy (with some limitations on unfavored subjects that tend to dominate normal therian boards) when we feel like it, from whoever is a member. Even though that group still doesn't get much added to it within a given frame of months, yet there’s percentage-wise a much higher level of quality material there than what’s often found on usual therianthropy boards.
More serious, thought-provoking discussions are usually going to be and remain the minority in number, but I suppose it's typical of us, as people, to get annoyed when it's something we want but aren't getting in every or most topic (or even half of them sometimes) because the given board is maintaining activity in less important, more superficial or simplistic discussions (or just silliness). As I said, when such people are given the opportunity to create at will with near free reign these better, deeper discussions, whenever they want and however often they want, among others who are looking for those types of 'deeper discussion', they are rather silent, at least when the more superficial things are filtered out of that board. Like it, hate it, whatever, a level of influx of new people (even with their often repetitive questions and drama) help keep a board active and alive, and when they are silenced, not allowed in, or "only deep discussions" (or such concepts) are allowed then activity gets majorly hindered and people get annoyed that the place is being too silent and inactive, and this leads to people leaving the place, checking back less and less often until they eventually may not check back at all. Maybe I'm apt to just settle with having enough activity to hold and create various more thought-provoking, deeper, or in general better quality discussions even if I have to also settle for some more pointless, repetitive, and superficial topics as well (which I can choose to ignore them when I see them). I'm not looking for perfection because I'm not going to find it anyway, but I'd like to keep around boards that can be decently or well balanced like that (including Werelist, and I believe Awereness Forums can handle it as well) and not just be an excessive amount of stupid or redundant questions, silliness, or fluffiness, but also not be "so serious" or "so deep" that almost all activity is suffocated and people thus rarely bother posting.
I don't think Awereness Forums will ever live down its reputation as elitist, newbie-grilling, bitchy "serious therian" central because of all the years it's put into that, even with different members and an admin that's nearly hands off on talking to people on the board at this point, and I believe it always has the potential to fall full force back into how it was, the bad ways it's been known for. Werelist has been a wonderful resource, and the most open and welcoming, informative, yet still fairly serious place for therians to read, post, discuss, and meet each other (though of course it had its notable flaws as well), and I believe with its new version, that it will live on like that. I’ve continued to view Werelist as the best (non-personal) site for therianthropy and that it has for years served as a “hub”/centralized site for therianthropy information (on site and linked), discussion, and community.
In some ways this goes back to my point early in this writing—that the therian community in many ways has remained the same, yet in many other ways has greatly developed, and in order to sustain it and develop it further in good directions, it will take participation from the community’s members. This, however, does not mean I’m expecting responsibility to be laid on any particular, let alone all, ‘older’ or more mature or knowledgeable members, but instead that I hope those who feel ‘equipped’ to help out the therian community currently will volunteer themselves in some small or major way to assisting in its development and continuance (or increase) of it as a decent community. It’s as though there are ‘generations’ of such contributors who will last for a year or a few years, adding their contributions in whatever form, and then they draw back from the community for a long time, if not permanently. When a ‘generation’ of them draws back, hopefully a new one will come in place to fill that niche, and maybe we’re soon reaching that point again. I hope more will realize that this isn’t so much about prime or ‘golden’ years in the online therianthropy community, because it’s more important that there be, whomever chooses to volunteer for it, members who step up and make it a worthwhile community to continue thriving, while understanding that it isn’t going to be perfect, and thus bad, superficial, immature, and repetitive things and discussions will last, yet good can still be made for new, semi-new, and other members of the community.
So maybe people can call me crazy for it, because I’m trying to be one of those contributors, little by little, though I don’t really care about such opinions because I honestly want to do that contributing. I’ve assisted some in reviving the Werelist so it isn’t dependent solely on one person to have it maintained and available, and I’ve chosen to take up moderating there in order to further help out. As well as my website here serving whatever minor or other use it can for therians and that I’m participating in getting Project Shift developed. I cannot change a lot that I’d like to see changed or improved in the therian community, though I can certainly take time to willingly offer my help to it.