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August 31, 2011

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MyRagan was the first on-line community I actively participated. It's hard to beat a quality of many of our discussions about communication (especially from the test phase). With all my sentiments, I understand Mark's decision, if the herd moved to different, bigger pastures.
Fortunately, my MyRagan contacts haven't disappeared with MyRagan. Anyway, why am I here? Because of MyRagan.

I wonder sometimes what will happen if Zuckerberg has a bad day and decides his grand creation is too much trouble. So he literally pulls the plug and Facebook goes poof! Of course this isn't likely to happen. If Facebook dies it will die after a painful period of life support and neglect. But still, we all have so much going on there it would be a fascinating social experiment to see what would happen if it suddenly went away.

I was a member of IABC Hyperspace, or whatever we called it, on CompuServe, back in the days of text-only displays. There was much gnashing and wailing when that ended, too. But somehow the stories still get shared and we can find each other. No doubt in a few more years Facebook will be history and we'll be swapping ideas on a SubEtha quantum network through our tablets.

Each of the systems we were part of has moved us forward and kept alive the idea of sharing and connecting. We need that, and we'll always find a way to do it.

>>When MyRagan launched in the spring of 2007, it was the first—and only—social network for communicators.<<

David,

I don't know that I would agree that MyRagan was the first and only online and social community/network for communicators. It was certainly the first "open," highly interactive, easy-to-use and deployed the advanced tools of the times.

But I would counter that the ground was broken much earlier with the IABC Hyperspace and PRSA sections on CompuServe's Public Relations & Marketing Forum. Granted, relatively few, participated in the PRSIG back then and we were early adopters (I believe only 40K were active in the the whole forum which extended beyond these two communications association-oriented sections).

My mom always admonished my brothers and I that "this too shall pass" whenever we faced adversity or realized great achievements. MyRagan, like the PRSIG, Facebook, social media, .et .al indeed like everything in life is in a constant state of change and transformation. It has always been thus and always will be.

I find it helps to take the long view and keep things in perspective.

Craig

Agreed, Tim. The only point I'm making is that online communities are shimmeringly amorphous enough.

"Online communities build nothing," Kurt Vonnegut claimed.

I disagree, but I know why he said that. When it comes to communities, physical permanence is preferred and institutional memory is manifest. Connections from MyRagan.com may remain, but are stories passed along? Not often. And the conversations that took place there are not even searchable.

When we turn for the formation and maintenance of our communities to for-profit corporations (those institutional sociopaths who tell us when they fire us, but not when they hire us, that the only constant is change) ... it's a different thing than turning to associations like IABC, which are theoretically accountable to their members.

Ragan, as long as it does nothing so dastardly as to lose the goodwill of its future customers, is accountable only to its accountants.

Which is as it should be. It's just that we should resist corporations' attempts to take charge of something as important as the means by which we connect with one another.

@Craig, et al: I must hasten to say here that I am not actually bitching at Ragan for shutting MyRagan down. Personally, my passion for the site burned quick as a grass fire.

I also tired of IABC Hyperspace, though I found those discussions held my interest longer, because they tended to be a little weightier than the "pet grammar peeves" that dominated the Ragan site.

I'm only using MyRagan as a case study in support of the point in my headline.

Taking the long view is good; but it requires a decent rear-view mirror, and corporations dispense with years of community-building with lines like: "Let’s take a brief moment to remember all the fun we had—And now that we’re done with our moment, we've got some great news ...."

This too will pass. But--geez--not so fast.

My visits to MyRagan dwindled when I took a new job that didn't involve PR/communications as much, but did require me to develop other new skills, so I looked elsewherer for them. But one of the reasons I didn't stay with it regardless (I loved MyRagan) was because it was getting sort of strange. Writers were being toned down, for example, for using cuss-words which were too offensive for the prudes in the crowd. The structure was changing and it stopped being fun. That initial, off-the-charts enthusiasm was compelling. The later-days watered-down version lacked the authenticity of that young network. I'm sorry that it's gone, but I think that Ragan in some ways caused its demise.

Some of my best friends are from MyRagan...

I have attended several Ragan events and was a regular subscriber before I left to work for myself. When I returned in 2009 to Corporate America, I rejoined Ragan and signed up for MyRagan.

But to be honest, the information there was very basic and I didn't find it very useful. When my year membership expired, my visits to Ragan and myRagan also diminished.

I think it folded because its customers found better sources of information in other locations - some Ragan-backed locations, some with other companies and forums.

I will always remember my first Ragan workshop and the information I learned there - I still use it to this day.

That's true, Eileen. MyRagan facilitated some real and lasting connections, and made communicators who felt isolated, feel less so. That permanent benefit ought to be acknowledged.

Thanks, David. I was wondering if you'd get to the photographer! I wasn't bewildered so much as a little surprised and a little dismayed. Now that I'm back in the saddle, I was looking forward to fuller participation.

Here's my two cents, in long bullet points:

- facebook, twitter, google+, and even linkedin are not substitutes for a site that brings together people from a highly varied but more or less single discipline (well, you know what I mean). linkedin is okay for general networking, but the groups are horrible and hard to keep up with, and most overwhelmed my mailbox or feed with narrow or irrelevant information. I think it's disingenuous to point to these as "competitors." I go to facebook for friends, to linkedin for people I worked with, and google+ to see if it's ever going to take off. Twitter is a cacophony of characters in which any gems are buried in manure

- personally, I don't need all the latest bells and whistles. I need words, the occasional photo, and communication. I don't need a fancy-pants platform for that. Anyone notice that the more fancy pants MySpace got, the more people left it? Every time facebook clutters its interface, the whining begins. And ever notice how craigslist continues on despite the lack of bells and whistles? Must be useful to someone

- the communication about myragan being gone (with no real explanation) is flippant and disrespectful to its thousands of members, and nothing named is nearly as useful, nor is it worth my time

- mostly, I feel it's a slap in the face to those who contributed blogs, photos, and other content via message boards and groups; hype something, then decide it's not worth enough to you but don't think about all the people who have contributed or who rely on those contributions. At least facebook lets you download your own content in a ZIP file so you will always have it. My few blog posts - gone. My message board questions and answers - gone. Multiply that by people who were actually active contributors. Etc.

Bottom line: I can't trust an organization that promotes something that takes on a life, then flushes it with regard only for its own needs.

Thanks for the response, Diane; good points, all.

I hadn't considered all those MyRagan blogs that were wiped out. Maybe there's some way to retrieve them.

But mainly: Ragan's crime here is not unique to Ragan; it's typical of corporations, and so expected from them that people chide one another for being disappointed when it happens.

Agree, David. I just wanted to bring up that when you "sell" me (me being your audience generally) on something (whether or not money is involved), and I invest something in it (time, expertise), pulling the plug also wipes out my trust. Ragan's not the first, nor the last.

On the other hand, people do flit from one thing to the next. This is not always a Good Thing.

By the way, Jim's site doesn't link to a blog, so I guess he did that only on Ragan. Sigh. All this came up because I wanted to share his photos and tips with a friend who's interested in photography. He wrote such thoughtful posts about subject, framing, lighting, mood, effect, etc.


It's nice to hear that so many of you appreciated the site. Let me add my thoughts.

We kept MyRagan.com alive for a year longer than we should have. Activity had dramatically fallen off, and the crickets were beginning to take over. We tried to keep it alive by pushing great content to the What's Hot page and stoking conversations whenever we could. But our customers voted with their absence.

Why didn't I write a story explaining the reasons for our decision? David is partly right: It's never fun to announce that the party is over.

But there was another reason as well: Our four major web sites had incorporated social networking and profiling into every page. And we had launched new communities on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter that were easier to use and connected to mobile devices.

By the time we had closed MyRagan.com, it already felt like old news. Here's proof: Even David Murray, its founding editor, hadn't bothered to check in for months and didn't even know it had been shuttered (though we sent an email to every member announcing the decision).

Let me address a few other points:

* Joan is right that we tightened our standards a bit by warning members to avoid gratuitous cussing and offensive language. But those problems were rare on MyRagan.com. They were more of a problem on Ragan.com, our daily news site. And Joan, I still think that was the right decision.


* David's post is the first instance of anyone even mentioning the MyRagan.com closing. The first and only! That speaks volumes of how much it is missed. I haven't received a single email, phone call or tweet since the day we shut it down. Would that it were otherwise!

* We never had a 'financial model' at MyRagan.com. It didn't earn a nickel and we never thought it would. We launched the site because it was cool. The whole world was waking up to the possibilities of online communities, and we wanted to be the first to create one for communicators.

Social networks will continue to come and go. MyRagan.com was perfect for its time. But it fell too deeply into the shadows of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

But I love that a few of you lament its passing, and I'm now sorry I didn't say more when we closed it.

Again, thanks to everyone for commenting and to David for writing this post.

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