It's been a while since I've written an editorial like this. The last few "State of Modified Mind" addresses have been lists of updates and new features implemented on the site. This one is different, more from the heart. There is a reason for this and while it might be small I think it brings to words something that has been in the back of my mind for a while now.
I recently came across a rather old posting to the uk.people.bodyart newsgroup. It was a thread started by a now retired Round Table member urging fellow newsgroup members to send ideas in to Modified Mind for future Round Table questions. The reply thread was not exactly harsh, but it did carry a negative tone.
The reply disapproved of the closed "Round Table" format in favor of the thread discussion and speculated that Modified Mind's Reader's Response section only posted very carefully worded responses containing an opinion with which the editor (that'd be me, by the way) agreed. It was also noted that there was usually only one posted reader response per question.
The reply urged discussion on the newsgroup, which I am totally in support of -- while I never have been a big participant in the newsgroup side of the web, I became involved in the online body modification community through forums (BME's pre-IAM boards and some non-BME body modification boards as well, such as e-pierce.com and Mind & Body) and don't believe I'd have had the support or ideas to get Modified Mind up and running had I not had such places to visit where I could participate in discussions. I made some great friends on those boards, some of which I have sadly lost touch with and some of whom I don't get a chance to talk with as often as I'd like. Many of them are mentioned later in this editorial, as they have given me a ton of inspiration when it comes to Modified Mind (and life in general as well).
Modified Mind is a web based e-zine based on an older journalism form: newspapers and magazines. Anyone who has been around to see the evolution of the site from its inception will remember the creative (although, I admit whole-heartedly, extremely annoying) Flash-created main page of Modified Mind's Modified Times (the original e-zine name of Modified Mind) with its letter by letter typed out animation (with the typewriter sound effect included). My intent in this typewriter effect and in the general layout of the main page was to simulate a newspaper's front page. Therefore, while I encourage thread style discussion, the Round Table leans toward the magazine format of a closed discussion with a group of qualified people. I like to think that this group is well-balanced...there have been practitioners, newsgroup/forum administrators, leaders of organizations, people who actively participate in numerous forms of body modification, and even the mind behind BME. It presents opinions of a well-rounded and qualified group with the hope that their responses to the question will create more discussion, whether it be through a Reader Response or a discussion on an IAM forum, a bodyart newsgroup, the BodyArtForms forum, or even something not entirely body modification related, such as a health forum on a medical site or a teen forum for all topics. The closed discussion on the Round Table is just the launching point...I definitely do not believe that approximately 12 stated opinions on a subject like David Clinger or body modification legislature should be the end. It should be the beginning.
The Reader's Response on Modified Mind is one possible outlet for further discussion of Round Table topics. The newsgroup thread was right in a way, I will only post carefully worded responses, but "carefully worded" means relatively proper English that makes sense and contains an argument with some sort of support or reasoning to it. Basically, responses should be in such a form because they are technically an additional Round Table response. I wouldn't post a Round Table member's response if it only said "yes" or if it was a gibberish of fragment sentences and incoherent thoughts. If all you want to say is "I disagree" or "I agree" or speak gibberish, the Reader's Response is not the place to do it. If you want to say "I disagree because..." or "I agree because..." then it is the place to do it. I do not choose what to post based on the opinion being stated...I want disagreement with what is said on the Round Table or with the opinion of Modified Mind. Disagreement creates debate over the topic, which is the whole point of the Round Table. I do have a standard as far as grammar and format: grammar must be somewhat correct or at least require only minimal editing to create proper grammar and the response must contain an explanation of why you think as you do on the topic.
Why is it that only one response usually appears for each question? Because that's usually all that is submitted, if any -- take a look at the section and compare the responses to the index of questions asked on the Round Table recently, you'll see that it has been a while since a response has been posted. Participation on Modified Mind is still virtually non-existent outside of the Jewelry Supplier Reviews and maybe The MM Employment Line.
The Round Table questions primarily come from me, as I rarely get any contributions (those I do get, I try to use...most have come from Round Table members, however, and not the readers). I've had numerous ideas for sections and just require content...I post them to the Launchpad but never receive submissions to get them going. Most requests for participation end up following this same path. Even general feedback: the newsgroup thread seemed to desire something more influenced by the community...but the person with the criticism and desire never e-mailed Modified Mind with their thoughts on the Round Table or anything else regarding the site.
The Round Table's 2005 Goldminds should be coming out next weekend, but only a handful of people submitted nominations (despite a record-setting day during the nomination period when 10000+ visitors passed through the site while BME was down) and only a few Round Table members will probably select winners (some members haven't responded to a question in over a year...I'm not trying to badmouth them, I'm just frustrated by the lack of participation by some and the lack of any new volunteers to replace those who might not be participating and have not asked to retire). There will be winners, just like in the past, and while I feel that some of these nominees are very deserving of the award they are nominated for I don't think the nominees truly reflect the entire community's opinions. How can they when they come from only a handful of people in that community? The Round Table members are only the committee that decides on the award winners, but the nominees they choose from are selected by the readers and should be those receiving the most nominations. Instead the nominees are those receiving any nominations and some categories might even go inactive this year. I plan on offering some sort of small prize drawing next year to hopefully increase participation in the nominating process, but I wonder if that will even be enough.
Let me just stop right here and say that I am not the most positive person in the world, very far from it...and I have considered shutting down this whole thing -- and by whole thing I mean the entire site, not just the awards -- in the past when I get in a particularly depressed mood. In these moods I feel like I'm spinning my wheels and getting nowhere...the people featured are amazing and I feel that I've done as good of a job as I can presenting them, same with the Round Table and everything else on the site, but I feel that nobody is interested in what I'm putting out there. I know that's not necessarily the case: BME has been so supportive and I've heard so many good things from the likes of BodyArtForms, One Tribe, Organic, Another Hole, Needled.com and a number of readers. I'm not just whining because I'm in a mood and I'm not trying to be pathetic (although I'm sure I'm probably succeeding at that anyway). I'm just stating how I feel about Modified Mind sometimes.
So why not just shut it down? There are a number of answers to that question: my extreme interest and passion for body modification and learning the stories and opinions of the people involved in this community, my interest in journalism and web design that makes this e-zine a perfect project for me, and my desire to provide. Provide what? Interesting body modification articles to read, a source to utilize for information on other people's experiences with a jewelry company so people can make an informed decision about what company to take their business to, a starting point for a visibly modified person seeking employment, a spark to ignite a discussion on a newsgroup or in a forum or through Reader's Response submissions, a list of television programming dealing with body modification, so on and so on... Every time I start thinking about shutting down shop, I remind myself of how important Modified Mind is to me and how much I really enjoy putting it together. I also think about that one person who might be benefiting from the Jewelry Supplier Reviews or might be enjoying the National Geographic show they might not otherwise have known about or might really be thinking about what somebody had to say in the last Round Table discussion. I will keep going, no matter what, but I would like Modified Mind to be something for and by the body modification community and not just a fan site with minimal influence from outside sources. I'd like that one person to help me shape this site.
I am extremely pleased that the Jewelry Supplier Reviews section has grown into something significant, and I would definitely like to thank the readers who have contributed to make it so, but I do not want Modified Mind to turn solely into a body jewelry reference source. I am hoping that the reviews and some jewelry related features I am working on will help Modified Mind grow and maybe also branch out to sections that were here long before the reviews, making them into something larger. But that something larger has to come from all the readers out there: help the Round Table out by submitting questions you'd like to see discussed or by volunteering to be a member of the Round Table (and actively participating if you become a Round Table member), suggest ideas for new sections or features, submit content for sections listed in the Launchpad, volunteer to join the staff (I'm always willing to add somebody who'd like to regularly write articles for the site...ones who will follow through after they volunteer), and submit nominations for the awards. Readers, please make this into your site!
I do not seek to insult anyone through the words of this editorial. I cannot express enough my thanks to those readers who have contributed to the various sections of the site and those who have been subjects of Profiles, Warehouses or Galleries. The Round Table members also have my eternal gratitude for the contributions they have made to Modified Mind -- I've said it before and I'll say it again: without people like Greg Morgan, Jason Sand, Frances Bignall, Dustin Sharrow, p7tms and Shannon Larratt, Modified Mind would never have become what it is today....and without the newer contributors such as Bryan Walker, Helen Lewis, Andy Smith, Sara Mitchell and all of the other current and retired Round Table members, it would not be what it is now. But it could become so much more with the help of those out there reading this. Your help, that's all I ask.
Modified Mind Editor/Creator