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Unread 01-28-2018, 02:11 PM   #1
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What made CGR work?

I think about the internet a lot. It's kind of my job. Even if it weren't my job, I'd probably be doing it anyway, because I'm an Internet Person™, and CGR is largely to blame for that.

Sometime in the last year, I noticed a pretty substantial change in the way people are thinking and feeling about the internet. In short, it seems like almost everyone I talk to has been feeling a bit soured on the whole idea of social media lately. It's bumming us out, it's making us dislike people we knew in high school, it never seems to show us what we actually want to see, it's making us feel uncomfortable about sharing things we would have shared a few years ago. There's probably a lot of factors at play here: weird interactions of your different social groups, the overall strain in public discourse right now (especially in the United States), algorithms designed to keep you on the site as long as possible rather than designed to show you interesting and useful things, and much more. We've got news feeds designed with the same principles as slot machines, automated YouTube channels traumatizing children, and Russian bots spreading misinformation. Something feels kinda broken.

As I've been thinking about what's wrong with the internet lately, I've been returning to my internet roots a bit and realizing one place that didn't seem to fall into these problems: right here.

That's not to say CGR hasn't had its share of problems (it has), that everything good about CGR is scalable to larger groups (probably not), or that we're even in the midst of a heyday right now (we aren't). But this site has been around since 2001, which was a very different time for the internet. Many of us have been here for over a decade. Some have stuck around for over half our lives. Some people met their spouses here. Some just met long-time friends. I don't hear about that happening elsewhere online these days.

So that brings me to this question: What made CGR work?
How is it that we managed to build this sense of actual community around here? What's the missing ingredient that the rest of the social internet is lacking?

I have some ideas on what it might be, but I wanted to get some other people's perspectives first. I'm going to pose this question in the Facebook group too (perhaps ironically), but I think I'll see if I can make them all come here to talk about it.


Last edited by mtlmouth; 01-28-2018 at 02:22 PM.
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Unread 01-28-2018, 02:28 PM   #2
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Great thread with some great questions.

This August will make fifteen years since I joined CGR. It's funny looking back because my wife is the one who told me about CGR. I don't have a clue how she found it but she was looking up the Newsboys and stumbled into a thread here. She showed me and well...the rest is history.

CGR wasn't the first online community I had belonged to (AOL and Prodigy message boards and chat came first) but it was the first one that struck me as really being different. I think part of it was due to the fact that most of the people I interacted with in the beginning were professing Christians. It was a bit odd being so much older than the majority of the people posting (I was thirty-three when I joined) but my life was going through an odd transition at the time. I had plenty of time to kill and CGR allowed me to do so. There were a lot of really interesting people active at that time (there still are) and I slowly got to know some of them and eventually became good friends with a few of them. That never happened in any of the other places I had been involved with.

It's honestly a bit weird. Since joining CGR I have joined several other places that are similar but none of them felt like this one. Sometimes I still wonder how I got here and why I'm still plugging away. At this point I feel like I have invested a huge chunk of my life to the community and I want to hold on to it for as long as possible.

I will add one more thing and this may sound weird to some. I honestly believe God had something to do with it. I truly believe He blessed this place. I don't know how else to put it.

Last edited by Leboman; 01-29-2018 at 05:51 AM.
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Unread 01-28-2018, 02:32 PM   #3
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i think the primary thing is actual discourse. like, yes, we have ways to share funny pics and videos, but it isn’t up in your face like social media, where you don’t get to decide whether or not you want to see/view something. we also have things fairly well catalogued and organized so that you can fairly easily track conversations in which you are/want to be a participant, and we don’t have algorithms bumping up inane threads just for the heck of it.

even with CPF and all its craziness, CGR was built for discussion and community, and hasn't been overrun by paid advertisers choking out all substance. (okay so we have the spam thing but i’d say we’re on top of it.)

lest i sound too preachy, we also have one thing going for us that social media at large does not: we are a community of Christ-followers. we have talked about ourselves as a parachurch org, and i think that is fitting. we have had a community of members over the years who put Christ in the center, so being silly (usually) doesn’t become offensive or tasteless or cross lines, but when it does a discussion is had and correction is given. we have had non-believing participants who respected our community guidelines and adhered to our standards for participation.

CGR isn’t a chaotic, reckless free for all, the way social media has mostly become. that isn’t to say we are perfect, but when we have disagreements, or when harsh words are exchanged, because we are only human after all, we seek reconciliation with one another. we don’t apologize for or seek forgiveness for our diverse positions, but we do seek forgiveness when those beliefs and positions are communicated in a less-than-godly manner.

i’m sure i’ll think of other things but those are the biggest ones that jump out at me.
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Unread 01-28-2018, 03:34 PM   #4
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Yes. Generally it is a pretty edifying Community. And it’s a lot cooler than other similar places. My only background to this sort of thing was being on mIRC which was very interesting. I got introduced to this by a friend, then as I was looking through my tab sheets I discovered I had been here before and had borrowed some tab sheets from early 2001.

Yeah it was pumping earlier in the day, but having a couple of people take interest in me amongst the thousands of others helped me stay.

I think it works, because for those of us who have stayed, it is a safe place, where your opinions do matter, where we can glean from each other but also have fun at others expense. And people who come out of left field and nail you are subject to cool moderators. And God. Definitely Holy Spirit works here.

Yeah,
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Unread 01-28-2018, 03:50 PM   #5
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I've wondered a lot about this myself. In general, I miss forums. Social media has advantages, but it's vapor. I like a place where you can have meaningful conversations, and then find them years later.

I'm still not sure what the magic sauce was on here. There were other forums around, but somehow this took off. I think maybe it was two things:

1 -- I optimized the crap out of the site to rank well in Google, and we got piles of traffic. As a result, some percentage of them hopped in the forums and got things started. So many forums COULD be great, but can never get enough traction early on to become useful.

2 -- We got lucky, and the right people became active early on. People that were active, honest, and quickly took ownership of "our" site. As a result, when spammers inevitably arrived, we had a force waiting for them. Getting those people certainly wan't anything I intentionally did.

Oddly, enough, as was mentioned in the first post, I found this thread via Facebook...
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Unread 01-28-2018, 04:31 PM   #6
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Unread 01-28-2018, 04:53 PM   #7
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I was 18 when I joined in Feb. of 2001
I came for the chords and stayed for the community. My young adult years from 19-25 were formed here. I made friendships that I know I'll carry with me and while I don't visit that much anymore, I always feel welcome and like I have a place here and that I had a hand in forming what CGR became.
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Unread 01-28-2018, 05:59 PM   #8
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Guys, that was Mickey's first post since 2009.

Great to hear everyone's thoughts. Keep them coming.
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Unread 01-28-2018, 07:33 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtlmouth View Post
Guys, that was Mickey's first post since 2009.

Great to hear everyone's thoughts. Keep them coming.
Wow, since 2009? I thought I had posted a few other times in there. I guess not.

Good job pulling me back in!
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Unread 01-28-2018, 09:37 PM   #10
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I'm inclined to think it was a serendipitous combination of most of the things that have been mentioned. Obviously, we were never the only Christ-centered community on the internet, and lots of them are--best intentions aside, either dead or toxic. Getting a lot of traction early on also makes sense (although I didn't know about that until just now).

Looking back, I think what made it work for me, what keeps it working for me--what keeps me coming back every week to lurk and every month to post, is that it was a genuine community. To that end, I'm inclined to blame a combination of providence and good policing. The right people at the right times make a huge difference, but I think a moderation strategy that doesn't sweat the small stuff, and doesn't tolerate the big stuff is huge, too.

Back when CGR was young, the internet was a lot scarier in some ways. Certainly, her fourteen-year-old son making friends with strangers unnerved my mom, who checked into things and concluded that CGR was a safe place, and ultimately, that comes back to the people and the intention.
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Unread 01-29-2018, 08:47 AM   #11
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I joined in its first year of existence under my old username, became active sometime in its second.

In no particular order:

-The site had a couple of themes that make people generally receptive to community, and they both revolve around common interests: Christ and music. Even though Christians can be fractious folks at times, we generally recognize our own and extend a little grace when necessary. Musicians are likewise willing to overlook a lot of sins to talk shop.

-This wasn't the true early days of the Internet (those are technically speaking decades before), but they were the early days of widely available Internet, when -- let's be honest -- folks using it had a certain personality that might have been inclined to getting along with other people connected through a computer. Back then, it felt like you were part of something when you were part of a specific 'Net community. Now, everybody is part of Facebook, so there's no reason to play nice.

-I'm still an active moderator of another forum that has been around nearly as long, and nearly has as much a sense of community as I remember CGR having. But if you look at a post there from 2004, a post from 2009 (about the time I joined), a post from 2014 and a post from 2018, you'll notice that the general tenor of discourse has shifted somewhat along with the rest of the Internet. It's tempered because we have shared interests (it's around religion) and long-term membership, so we have a sense of friendship, but the in-jokes are less frequent and the misunderstandings more common.

-I think the big thing was, in short, CGR was a closed environment that, even inside its borders, maintained smaller digital biomes. Social media 3.0 (?) is wide open, whereas here we kept things personal (I think I knew the first name of every active poster on the site at one point) AND compartmentalized. I loved theology, hated apologetics, so 85 percent of my log-ins, I didn't bother looking in there. Same with politics, etc. With Facebook (I'm losing touch with the times, so it's what I still use), you manage to see everything, including things you would never talk about in meatspace. At the same time, it allows -- and thanks to algorithms, encourages -- you to re-enforce your own prejudices, etc.

So, to circle back around to the why: it was the times, it was the people, it was the format, and it was the long-standing ban on discussing the "m" word.
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Unread 01-29-2018, 02:47 PM   #12
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This site had the right mix of people. Like... I don't know what else to say. It could not have been this way without the protectors, who were willing to work at keeping it PG. It couldn't have worked without those who posted a billion times a day. People who were willing to host people from the other side of the country in their cabin the woods. People who were willing to fly across the country just to hang out with some people they talked to online. Like... I don't know how it happened, but we ended up with such a great group of people overall that things just kind of had to fall into place.
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Unread 01-29-2018, 08:37 PM   #13
still not a stale muffin.
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that’s true. the cabin was a major part of it for me. and, y’know, CGR NYE and other similar things. (thanks m family!)

and as you said, art, meeting other members. i’ll always be grateful for the hospitality i felt during my brief stint in austin!
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Unread 01-30-2018, 03:06 AM   #14
and you were wondering??
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A safe place, plain a simple.

I know that phrase has been politicised to a degree, but this was a section of the internet where I didnt feel wary of others.

I was able to make a fool of myself as a teen and get away with it. No lasting repercussions in the same way that social media would effect me now.

But, the other side of that is that my foolishness was kept in check by others. I was guided.

I feel like I dont have anything terribly new to say that others haven't.


Recently ive been quiet on here. But, in my hard moments this is the place that I come back to because people care, and I can stay "anonymous" in a way that I cant on social media.

When others reveal their pain on social media it can come off as "vaguebooking" or stepping outside of accepted norms. Here, there isn't the same stigma.

I known this plsce doesnt have the same level of influence. But, it is still here to play that role for people.
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Unread 01-30-2018, 08:04 AM   #15
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It was the eggroll.

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