August’s Featured Member: Marmalade (and his person, Ben)
1Vector3 said Yesterday, 3:51 AM:
Joining our previous marvelous Featured Members ~KES, Sandy, and Bryan,
We are absolutely charm-a-laded to introduce you all to our Featured Member for August, Ben Steele, better known throughout the web as his “beloved childhood kitty,” Marmalade. (But I love the ring of his full name, Benjamin David Steele.)
This little intro can in no way do justice as any kind of portrait of Ben, so I, OM, will just share some of my personal impressions, and let the rest of the month speak for itself as we all get to know him better.
I’m sure Marmalade whispered this little metaphor in my ear, as I was searching for a single image to capture my impression of Ben. Imagine a wholesome delicious high-quality Mid-Western (USA) glass of milk. And then notice, it has a slice of lime perched on the edge !!!! Hmmm. A little extra zing there !!!
Though Ben has been in our community only since mid-March, it seems much longer because he has been very active and very contributory since then, meshing right in and helping us all feel at home with him.
The adjectives I would string together kinda sound like a Boy Scout [brave, clean, loyal, thrifty, reverent, etc.] but there are zings. For example, Ben not only likes superheroes, but anti-heroes. And his sense of humor is awesome; Marmalade as an alter-ego is a never-ending source of playful exchanges in the Community. He has that treasured quality which is appearing more and more in our community, for the upliftment of all – – silliness.
My list of adjectives would have to include: Open-minded, unfailing goodwill, helpful, considerate, straightforward, aiming to contribute and uplift, aiming to increase understanding and goodwill among all. Self-disclosing, honest, humble/modest. Balanced, peaceful, wholesome. Intelligent, intellectual, thinks about things, but doesn’t neglect feelings and action.
You’ll see that among his areas of special knowledge are online forums, Ken Wilber and Integral perspectives, the Meyers-Briggs personality typology, and movies. And I know we will discover more !!
And all that at the ripe old age of 32 !!! He calls himself a writer, reader, and learner. I say, “and a sharer of the wisdom he’s gained and always had.”
Don’t need to say more, read on, go read his interesting profile, check his awesome blogs, and enjoy this interesting delightful fellow – and ask him anything that pops into your head. If he can’t answer, Marmalade can !!! :))
Here are his answers to the first few questions in our standard list of questions we ask of all our Featured Members. More will be along in a few days.
1. Overall, on a scale of 1-10 how important is the Gaia community in your life?
A difficult question. It would be in the upper range. Depending on what I was comparing it to and how optimistic I was feeling, it could be as high as 9… maybe a 10 if I was in a really good mood. I still feel very new to Gaia and so its hard to make a rating. To tell you the truth I don’t even know how I’d rate my life in general. 🙂
What factors contribute to your scaling?
I came to Gaia for a couple of reasons. One reason was to blog. This has worked out and I have done the type of blogging I want to do, but not always as much as I’d like to do… no fault of Gaia. Another reason is that I wanted to connect with other bloggers. I didn’t have any clear standards for success in this area as I’ve never belonged to a blogging community before. Even so, I’m willing to bet that I’ve connected much easier and with much more interesting people here than I’d likely have done elsewhere.
There are other factors that are hard to calculate. My friends and family are very important to me, but they aren’t in competition with my time spent on Gaia. However, there are some factors that are competing for my time. The more time I spend on Gaia, the less time I have to read. The more time I spend on Gaia, the less time I have to spend outside such as going for walks. I often spend a lot of time on my posts and blogs and that eats up time quickly. I can easily spend hours working on a single blog post and sometimes I’ll work on a blog post over several days while researching about it … no joke. If I gave more weighting to the time factor, I might drop my score down to 8 or 7… which is still a decent rating.
All in all, it feels worth it. Writing is extremely important to me. I take my blogging seriously. If anything, I’d like to spend more time blogging and less time being generally distracted by other activity on Gaia. But I can’t blame Gaia for my easily distracted nature.
2. What do you most dislike about Gaia/wish would change?
Two things come to mind.
First, I dislike all of the inactive pods. There was a discussion about this where I made some comments (Joining Gaia and starting a group- does it work?), and I’ve seen it discussed elsewhere. It bothered me when I first joined because most of the pods that looked interesting were like ghost towns. It was a bit off-putting. And it makes the place feel a bit cluttered.
Second, I find Gaia difficult to navigate, but I’m getting better at it.
Partly, this relates to the first issue but goes beyond that. I’ve belonged to many discussion boards and many of them have better search functions than Gaia. I want to be able to do more specific searches, but so far I haven’t figured out how to do that around here. For instance, someone mentioned that if you did a search for a topic that was in the title of a pod, that pod might not come up in the top of the search. I’d like to see an advanced search function where I could choose the perameters of my search: in pods, blogs, and/or articles; by.title or post; by a specific member or not; according to a particular date or since a particular date; the number of results per page; etc.
Also, Gaia feels a bit amorphous and unwieldy. As its a large community, maybe that is just the nature of the beast. I love all that Gaia has to offer, but I’m still trying to figure out what is available. There is a steep learning curve in finding one’s way around this site. Most of the basic functions are very obvious and user friendly, but a lot of useful information is scattered all over the place. When I first joined, this site in general felt more intimdating and overwhelming than any site I’ve ever belonged to. Of course, if it didn’t also seem very interesting and full of potential, I wouldn’t have spent so much time exploring. Fortunately, there are plenty of friendly and knowledgable people around to help guide and advise the newbies. Soon after I joined, I met Nicole and OM who helped me out quite a bit.
How are you helping to change that?
I thought about starting my own pod, but I wanted to get a feel for the place before deciding. I don’t want to add another pod to the mix unless I feel it adds genuine value, and I definitely don’t want to add another inactive pod. I’m tempted to revive a pod if I found one that interested me enough. However, I probably won’t do that because I don’t want to be further distracted from my original purpose of blogging. So, there really isn’t much I can do about the inactive pods if I’m not willing to try to reactivate them… which sounds like a lot of work. This isn’t a big issue for me anyways. It only bothered me when I first joined and I was looking around at all of the pods.
The difficulty to navigate is something I can’t directly have an influence on because I can’t personally change how the search function is designed. Indirectly, though, there are things that I can do. I love to connect people with information. If someone asks me about something, I’m likely to give them a bunch of carefully chosen links (this is one of those things that I can spend hours doing). I scour the web for info and I do the same with Gaia. If I see something interesting in one place, then I’ll link it to another place. I love linking between blogs and pods. The internet (and a site like this) is only as good as the links that hold it together.
I don’t see that my goal here is to directly help change anything about Gaia, but I’d like to be helpful. If someone new to the site seems confused or asks for advice, I’ll do whatever I can to help them. I’ve thought about the whole Ambassador thing, but I don’t think I want to be one right now. I’d rather keep my helpfulness more informal. If I end up being here long enough, then maybe I’ll formalize the role I play in some manner. Until then, being a mod on the God Pod is enough for me.
3. What do you most like about Gaia?
I’m sure I could make a long list here, but let me focus on the most significant aspects that I like.
I love that its a very active and large community. I appreciate that people actually want to connect with and get to know one another. I enjoy that it feels like a vibrant community that is still growing and changing. Despite my complaint about the search function, I’m impressed by how much Gaia offers its members. There are so many ways of contributing and participating. The resonance engine is really nice, and I especially like how most people fill out profiles with quite a bit of detail. At first, I didn’t know what to think of the whole ‘friend’ thingy, but its grown on me and I see the advantages to it now. I’m not big on the Q&R, but I have met new people by commenting on the blogs I’ve found that way.
The one thing that impresses me the most is the interconnection of the different aspects of Gaia. Blogs respond to blogs which link to pods and a discussion from one pod gets carried over to another. I make a comment on a blog which someone notices and checks out my profile and from there decides to join a pod I’m active in. I don’t get much sense of isolated groups of people or cliques. The relationships between various people and pods seems mostly open and fluid.
Beyond all of this, people are generally friendly and caring around here. People go out of their way to be nice, and I see very few conflicts. Quite impressive! I can think of only one other site that has a similar feel, but even its not nearly as nice as this place.
How are you helping to maintain it?
I’m just here to be a team player. Just doing my thing, and connecting with others as the opportunity arises. I go out of my way to be active around here. I’m a mod in the God Pod, I take the time to comment on other people’s blogs, and I try to add something meaningful to the milieu. If I had more time, I would be even more active.
4. What is the ONE thing you most enjoy about Gaia?
I came for the blogging, and that is what I enjoy the best. Some of the best discussions happen in blogs and not in pods. I think of myself as a writer and blogging is how I satisfy this part of myself at the moment. The main reason I don’t blog more is because most of the time I put so much effort into any single blog. I need to learn how to do more quick blogs in between the longer ones.
5. What would you advise someone who is joining Gaia today?
There is all kinds of advice I could give about navigating the site which takes a while to get the knack for. But there is some advice even more important than that. I’d tell them to focus on what interests, excites, inspires them… and don’t get too distracted by everything else. Just focus on your own thing and any contribution you make adds to the whole. Even if you don’t actively participate much at all, don’t worry about it. At the same time, there is no need to be overly shy because this is a safe and friendly place.
In anticipation of a super month,
OM Bastet, Moderator, Gaia Networking Group