Two weeks ago, Ravelry's membership hit 500,000. There's been surprisingly little hoopla about this milestone, but it's really quite amazing. A social networking site this big that's useful, inspiring, easy on the eyes, fast, educational, and fun? With remarkably few annoying people, low-key, welcome advertising, and no goofy third-party apps? That members can use and enjoy in all sorts of different ways, for fun, business, or both? How do they do it?
random project photos from my Ravelry notebook
One knitter with a great idea, one brilliant tech guy, and no venture capital. That's how Ravelry started two and a half years ago. They dived in, listened to user comments, gradually added features when they could. They worked really, really, hard, and accepted the help of thousands of volunteers. It was just becoming easy and free to upload the user photos that make Ravelry such a great resource. Knitters were already communicating with one another in online forums and via blogs. In short, the time was ripe. The resulting community is a demonstration of the Internet at its very best.
Founders Jess and Casey told the Ravelry story in their own words in this 2008 YKnit podcast interview. Tim Bray ran a great print interview with Casey a couple of months ago. This post discusses some of the behind-the-scenes tech and engineering aspects, as well as a bit of history and some usage statistics. And here is the Ravelry forum thread where the milestone was discussed.
I've been a member since October 2007, and I think I've looked at the site every single day, if not away on a trip. (And often when I have been away on a trip.) I don't spend much time in discussion forums. What I like most is to start at my "friends activity" page or the patterns page, and just cruise around looking at new-to-me patterns and projects. The result:
I'll never knit more than a minuscule percentage of the patterns and projects I see on Ravelry. But I do a lot of knitting in my head, and I learn a lot, without ever casting on. I'll admit my pattern library is rather large too. I have a weakness for collecting PDFs from Ravelry designers. The ability for anybody to give away or sell patterns on Ravelry, combined with the encouragement and feedback made possible by the community, has led to a truly incredible explosion of design creativity.
What could be better for knitting and knitters? Congratulations, Jess and Casey, and thank you. I know it's a huge amount of work, but I hope Ravelry is as much fun for you as it is for the rest of us. May it live a long and happy life.
It's hard to believe there are still knitters who haven't joined. If you're one of them, what are you waiting for? Ravelry isn't intimidating or hard to use. You can participate as much or as little as you like (although the more you share, the better it is for the community, of course). Go create an account so you can join the fun. And don't forget to friend me: I'm ThereseS. See you there!