Years ago I registered as a member of yet another website. I am sure we all have a littered 'net trail of sites visited, joined, and allowed to wither on the vine. For lack of interest, lack of 'stickiness', lack of value ...short or long term.
Epinions dot com was such a site for me. I am sure I was probably looking online for info about a book or book reviews when I first found it. I registered and then apparently moved on. Nine or ten months later I 'rediscovered' the site and somehow this time it pulled me in.
Epinions is a site for "unbiased reviews by real people". Reviews of products we all use everyday in our lives: computers, cameras, baby gear, outdoor equipment, books, movies, music, garden equipment . . .the list goes on and on.
What I have learned over the years is that the people of Epinions truly are 'real'. Through the process of sharing my thoughts about products in reviews and about other topics in essays I have learned that many members share my passion for the power of the written word and their ability to shape those words and their thoughts into a 'helpful' review. A review that serves the shopping customer while also meeting their need to reach out, to be heard, to communicate with others.
The passion of members on the site is real and tangible. Some lust for markers of recognition, some strive for popularity, some seek 'trust', some lust after the rising tally of numbers. Some immerse themselves in their own 'work', quietly pursuing their 'vision' of Epinions. While others actively engage, challenge, try to provoke their fellow members into action for this cause or that cause.
The diversity of approaches to the site is amazing. Finding one's own niche can be very stressful or very enriching and rewarding. We all make our own journey and we all look back with mixed emotions about the path we have traveled, the good we have accomplished, the bad we have committed, and those we have helped and those we have hurt along the way.
Perhaps it is a good metaphor for the 'real world' of our daily lives. Or perhaps it is a snow globe shaken by some unknown being, I and others being nothing more than ". . .an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato." To quote Ebenezer Scrooge.
This weekend I am traveling (with my wife) to Chicago for a formal activity sponsored by the site management, a 'Meet-n-greet' where the powers that be and site members have a chance to interact about the workings of the site, goals to meet, changes needing to be implemented, and just where the heck we (as a site and as individual members) are going over the short- and long-term future.
But beyond that is the chance to finally meet many users, fellow members ...flesh and blood people that I know only through exchanges on the site, through e-mails, through silly user-pics on the site.
To be honest, it is kind of scary. Will the 'flesh and blood' ...tom... meet the expectations of those who have interacted, positively and negatively, with me over the years..?? Will I find this user or that user as 'trustable' in real-life as I do on the site..?? Will they meet my expectations..?? And just how in the hell can I or they even have 'expectations'..??
Anyway, a chance to get away for a day or two with the wifie, perhaps our only road-trip of the summer ( before gas prices put us in the poor house...), a chance to meet a bunch of wonderful people . . ..
I am sure I will share some thoughts later about my experiences there. I am looking forward to the next couple of day..!!
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