Background: I was part of Whiskerino 07 and 09; I missed signup and shaving for 05 by one day. ((Let me assure you that I am still not over that.)) I won a King Beard in 2007 on a theme day that I did not participate in, because I am that awesome. I took a bunch of other funny and scary photos, including one that I really don’t want to explain to my family. ((I lied, because I want them to see it and freak out. That would be this one. I am the straight one in that photo, and the only reason that it wasn’t weird is because Daniel is that fucking awesome. Mackle let me post it, but he said, “Are you sure that you want that on the Internet, forever?” Yep.)) As such, I think that I have a little bit of credibility on this topic.
In 2009, Mackle (Michael Eades) said, “No more Whiskerinos after this one.” He shut down Mustache May, too, but because I look like an idiot with a mustache, I never participated, no matter how much Pip and Scrivener encouraged me to do so. I understood it: Mackle built this crazy community of creative people who, well, liked to grow beards and take photos of themselves doing so. If you’ve never gone deep-diving in the creativity sea that is Whiskerino, do so: the King Beard archive for 07 and 09 are things of beauty. It truly is a magnificent experiment in the quick-forming community of people with a shared interest in the Internet age.
But with much awesomeness comes much interest. The last two Whiskerinos came in around 350 people or so; if you know the Dunbar’s number concept, you know that’s too big. The 2009 meetup was just too much for me, so much sensory overload—for me, a raging extrovert, it was too much—that I ended up hanging out with just a few people and blowing off the later events to hang out with my friend Michael, whom I really wanted to spend time with and whose company was more important than pretty much everyone else’s. ((Sorry, Michael, you come in behind Scrivener, Drew, and jarcaines, but I got to see them for a bit, and I got to hang with you for a lot. I’d love to remember that name of the pizza place in East Nashville.)) I’m quite sure that Whiskerino being so big and unweildy is part of the reason that Mackle shut it down.
I immediately thought, “What might come of this?” That sent me on a torrent of tweets ((Which surprises no one who follows me on Twitter.)) that start with the most important one:
Whiskerino is Mackle. Mackle is Whiskerino. The site says it all: “Curating by Michael Eades.”
But it’s too big.
But it’s awesome.
But it needs new blood.
The thought that came to me is this: make it like college. You get four Whiskerino seasons to make your mark; after that, you’re an alumnus and no longer get to grow and show with the community. This will take some awesome talent from us right away, but the thing is this: we already have their great body of work to inspire us. Mackle himself pulls off some killer stuff, but he would be an alumnus this time around, as would (I’m going to miss people, don’t get mad): Ben Frank, Christopher Wood, Chad Pugh, David Bean, Jeremy Okai Davis, KC Jones, Ryan Hale, Stephen Major Chisholm. I got teary-eyed typing that list, because man, I love those guys. ((I love you, Hale, and you know that. You are such a friend.)) They’d be gone but not forgotten.
Can’t we use them, though? Give them some super-user powers. Those that love the W’rino are going to want to stay involved. We’ve had fan sites before, and I could see clamebuting going on the side. Give the alumni accounts and let them vote on King Beards, maybe with twice the power of a regular user, and have them help stir up the community. Will it be harder with them not participating? Probably. These guys are veterans, though, and I’m sure that they, with their wide experience of growing and showing, can help push the community forward.
Of course, I only took eight people from a group of 350 to form some sort of alumni coordinating and curating committee of awesome-sauce, leaving almost as many as we started with. How do we sift through that? I think that Whiskerinos should be approached one class at a time to see if they want to have another go. This gives you a final “senior year” by names like Paragone, jandrewtaylor, damnweather, rnnbrwn, Paul Armstrong, Bobby Marko, and Falfa. ((I probably missed someone.)) If they want in, they get spots; if not, they’re out. Then you’d have “juniors” like me, Pip, etc. ((Pip is totally my fave Whiskerino of all time, even more than Hale, and I love Hale.))
Here’s the thing: you must have an unbroken chain; if you participated in 2005 but haven’t since, you don’t get priority.
Once everyone has elected to come back, Mackle then sets the pool size, which I’d suggest would bring in at least 50 new users. It would be best if it were 250 total beards, but I expect that 300 would be required given the large user base. ((I’ve not done a detailed analysis to see how many users this priority slotting system would roll up because I don’t have the data. Mackle, if you have the database and are willing to give it to me, I will run through the chains for you.)) Returning Whiskerinos get their chosen nickname and spot before November 1 comes around. ((Which keeps old-timers from having to email Mackle because they weren’t at their computers in the period of noon-12:30p Central.)) Each returning beard can get a before-shave photo up with comments about what they want to achieve, etc. Returning Whiskerinos can also help Mackle come up with theme days/weeks before the game’s afoot. If we have time to collaborate before November 1st, we can make Whiskerino even more awesome.
But we still want new blood; after all, that’s why we’re letting some icons go, so that we may build new icons. Some of the craziest and best stuff in 09 happened from guys giving it their first go. That enthusiasm is infectious! and it makes the community all the better. So once the priority spots for returning Whiskerinos have been filled, and a pool size selected, it’s chum-in-the-water feeding frenzy from everyone else, including guys without an unbroken chain of growing-and-showing. ((Think of it as coming back to college after some time away; you have credits in-hand, but you’ve got to find your way in the system.))
I think that this is a workable solution, but I’m sure that Mackle will improve on it because, well, he’s Mackle. But spreading the curation load a bit may make the Whiskerino project something that he feels that he can renew, perhaps even for 2012. ((I know that this is asking A LOT of Mackle, but he’s clearly thinking about it.)) I know that it was very weird last November to not be shaving off my beard and hanging out online with a bunch of weirdos. But I love it so for reasons that I cannot explain. I just want more time with my bearded brothers. I want two more Whiskerinos for myself.
[I’ve written more about this since this post.]