Jedi Online History - what went wrong and right

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Jax created the topic: Jedi Online History - what went wrong and right

I'm reposting this post by one of my original teachers, Chris-tien Jinn, because there are a lot of newer people who don't know anything about the years in which the leaders of this site (and some members) started.  You can read the original here: http://jeditemple39003.yuku.com/sreply/9264/t/Who-is-stopping-by-.html  Feel free to ask questions or discuss this in any way.  :-)
Wrong ... and right
(first lines removed due as they pertained to a previous question and not the topic at hand)
Yes, most Jedi places are closed or nearly so.  I try to check on friends occasionally - mostly through Facebook, ironically.  Some have simply drifted away out of contact but not out of mind.  

Marc and I traded emails when he was in Minneapolis, but we never got together.  Glad to hear that he is doing well.  

What went wrong??  Both here specifically and in general .... well, the short answer is that the factors that contributed to it going RIGHT weakened or disappeared.  

Seriously, I've been thinking about this question as I research virtual and "real" groups as part of exploring informal learning.  I've been studying some virtual worlds and participating in others, and I begin to see some commonalities in how they grow, mature and often fade away.  Once I get the dissertation done, I might tackle the issue seriously and write up a paper based on publicly available data like what is here and at other Jedi sites.

So what contributed to success and what happened?

1) Novelty.  We often put a lot of effort into what is new and interesting - disproportionally so.  For 3 to 5 years, the whole of the Jedi online movement was novel and new and organizers thought nothing of pouring 20 to 40 or more hours per week into creating sites and groups.  New sites sprang up, and people were attracted to them in great numbers - contributing stories and materials, discussing a wide range of topics, and adapting wisdom literature from both Star Wars and major philosophies and religions.

We also tend to forgive defects in what is new to us.  A sort of honeymoon period existed in the early years, and we often managed to overlook -- or at least respectfully discuss --  different points of view and differing needs, wants, missions, and visions.  

As time went by, the honeymoon period soured.  Many organizers began to burn out or had life changes that affected their ability to keep putting in the vast amount of time required to run an online community.  Many organizers were in school - high school, college or grad school.  When they graduated and changed life situations, they often did not return to the Jedi.  Some experienced trauma outside the Jedi that changed their point of view - and if they returned, they were disturbingly different.

As sites matured, some differences could not be overlooked any more.  There were irreconcilable differences between people who wanted to RP all the time and those who would eventually become Jedi Realists.  And Jediism became a sub-culture that clashed with people who wanted to view Jedi as a philosophy or simply entertainment.  Those three major "movements" within the online Jedi couldn't be reconciled, and trying to keep them together at any one site was simply too confusing for everyone ... especially casual visitors and applicants.  

Plus, many debates eventually just got old.  Like teaching philosophy - how often can any mature Jedi applaud the same expression of wisdom from a padawan??  It is a necessity of teaching, and one I've learned from teaching IRL myself.  But a lot of forum readers jumped all over learners for not being original in their thoughts ... but you MUST let people come to the "OMG - how wonderful" moments in their own growth of wisdom without expressing a jaded viewpoint.  

2) Strong founders and cohesive leadership.  Most of the early sites were founded by small groups of friends - or at least people who had very similar interests and prior connections.  Some were founded by particularly strong-willed, charismatic leaders who had a vision.  But that bright core of attractive leadership allowed many early sites to grow and flourish.  Early, successful sites developed an essential core of "insiders" who shared a vision of how the site would work and what "Jedi" meant to them -- and where sites flourished, I think you'll find those people worked well together in a friendly fashion.  This attracted people who wanted to belong and be part of the same thing.  

The problem with this is two-fold.  First - the founders burn out and need to spread their responsibilities to others.  Sounds easy, but when you start to mess with the relationships in that bright, attractive core group, it changes and is vulnerable to losing its focus and shared vision.  Any time you add a member to a group ... or take one away ... the group changes and its properties change.  This affects the whole community and will change it ... either for good or ill.  It's a classic catch-22.  If they don't start spreading out responsibility, they'll burn out and quit. If they spread responsibility, the new people WILL affect how the site is run and can cause problems.  I remember when we started appointing ambassadors to other sites and felt that we'd INCREASED the workload rather than decreased it - because the ambassadors did not represent our views well and caused misunderstandings with other sites.

Second - if you start sharing responsibility with some people but not others, you get challenged to defend your decisions.  This can - and did - cause divisions and tensions, especially among people who thought they deserved a leadership position and wanted to be part of the core of the group.  In our case here, this lead to a fundamental change in governmental structure -- elections rather than appointed Council memberships.  While the idea was in keeping with the outside world's democracies, it had nothing to do with Star Wars or how an online community runs well.


3) A strong base in a very interesting, influential fictional genre.  Face it.  Lucas and company are very good story tellers and made good use of Jungian archetypes that captured the imagination of many, many people.  As the second trilogy played out, the interest in the stories was the basis for interest in derivative organizations such as this one.  Once the story was complete -- with the destruction of the Temple in the movies -- a lot of emotional energy faded from the online community.  It was over.  Lucas has been pretty clear that he is not doing the final trilogy - and the clone wars TV cartoon show does not seem to grab the attention of young adults.  I tried watching it, but I twitched with questions and apparent inconsistencies (like Anakin's apprentice, Jedi armor, etc.)  

Now, any fan-fiction type organization runs afoul of many EU stories and other parts of the franchise.  If you are going to have a Jedi site, you need to specify the era and cope with inevitable conflicts in interpretation.  I'm still part of a Second Life Jedi RP group set at about 200 ABY ... and we struggle to keep people's characters and stories fitting in post-Legacy comics canon.  It is frustrating, and many casual (or even serious) players just give up and leave over interpretations that are too loose or to fanatical.


4) Comfort with different interpretations of what it meant to be a Jedi site.  Early on, people tolerated differing opinions on how to run their sites, different missions/visions, different approaches to "training", and different activities.  Sure, many new sites were created by disaffected former members of early sites.  The Temple of the Jedi was a spin off of the Jedi Academy and the Force Academy (Olorin and Arie respectively) - and those two sites couldn't have cared less about the "split" off.  Members moved back and forth and brought ideas from one to the other to try out.  

Eventually, however, we developed sites and people who formed a near-Inquisition.  These self-appointed unification leaders were very heavy-handed in their attempts to get all Jedi to affiliate with one site.  The standardization movement was probably the single most damaging effect on the online Jedi community.   I know we never recovered from the attempted merger.  

Very heavy bureaucracies and long, involved tests for rank were proposed by a very small cadre of people who had set themselves up to be the sole arbitrators of what it meant to be a Jedi -- and the only result was to strip rank and leadership from the heads of competing organizations.  

In part, standardization and large, highly regulated communities are probably doomed to fail online.  There is too much overhead in the complex regulations and structures that were proposed between 2003 and 2005.  Smallish organizations flourished with no more than 5 to 7 leaders total.  Often fewer.  But they might end up with 200 to 700 active members.  There's some theory behind this sort of loose structure as a successful organizing strategy, and I think it works pretty well online ... better than the highly organized alternatives we experimented with at times.

Which leads me to ...

5)  Trust.  At the beginning, we didn't question many things in our eagerness to share with each other in the excitement of creation and organization around our very favorite archetypes and stories.  We took for granted that what people chose to share with us about their identities and activities was true.  True enough for our purposes.  In general, it doesn't matter really if someone is 16 or 40, although over time, a careful observer WOULD notice if someone was too far off in their self-representation - but we generally over looked it  until there was a serious problem.

A few things burst that bubble.  We had a member pretend to commit RL suicide.  In the resulting fallout, trust was lost.  Many people began to question self-disclosure and doubt other members.  This really was a problem in a Jedi Realist site.  We expected people to log their workouts, report on their experiences with meditation and practicing a Jedi lifestyle.  What if members were lying about what they wrote??  What if they wrote about experiences and personal growth and tried to sound wise and good, but it was all a sham??  Hard questions.

Actually, whenever teaching in an area of change, logging honestly is a problem.  Heck in ANY situation where you are relying on self-reported data (which is a heck of a lot of situations!), you trust and realize that there will be SOME fudging of results in order to look good.  It happens, but in the long run, if people are not reporting honestly, then they are only fooling themselves.  But for some people, this tension was too much, and they lashed out at the community - especially if (as in item #2) they did not attain a rank or position that they thought they deserved.  

And then, also, we had leaders who would adopt "Darth" personas without clearing this move with other leaders.  This lead to hurt feelings, legitimate questions of entrapment of padawans (who "failed" their "test" of resistance to anger etc.), and collapse of the leadership circle.  If you can't trust your leaders to uphold the group's behavior standards, then the group will fail.  

Looking back on what we were, I have to admit that I am profoundly sad.  The golden days were inspirational, and I think I was more truly "me" during that period than I have been since, although I still try to live my life as a Jedi Knight.

I have been involved with the Second Life New Order of the Jedi, and I see similar patterns of growth, decay, and (usually) regrowth.  But we are again in a slump there too, and I wonder if it is worth putting in the effort in online roleplay and groups when I should be spending time on my dissertation.  

I'm looking forward to the new MMOG, which will at least remove some of the problems of managing game-like conflict with opposing forces and will regulate one's ethical stance based on definable actions.  But I suspect that online RP has little effect on RL personal growth.  It is too far between RL identity and the projected, game identity.  In some studies, RP does seem to have a positive effect on developing a positive, prosocial RL self.  But the gap between reality and RP needs to be fairly small, and the RP character must be someone that could exist in mundane reality.



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Magdelene Nashira replied the topic: Re: Jedi Online History - what went wrong and right

This has given me a lot to think about and I'm glad you posted it.  I've been doing a lot of thinking about similar things anyway, but she brings up a lot of points that I didn't even think of.  Kind of starts me to pondering where it goes from here.

"Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are." - Kurt Cobain
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Jax replied the topic: Re: Jedi Online History - what went wrong and right

We're still moving forward, as we have for all these years.  The community is much smaller than in the past, so there's less interaction.  The challenge is to make sure that the people who are around are engaged and using their time effectively.  That's always been a challenge and to me is an important one.  There aren't many who make long, thought-provoking posts anymore.  Of course, length isn't important, but there was something to be said for the more in depth posts that people used to post because there wasn't much in the way of training material. Hopefully that will change going forward. 

The way we are addressing this is to start a group project where everyone is allowed to brainstorm and decide what they think a Jedi could learn about.  Next we'll look at what references, links, courses can be developed for helping a person learn things that are included on the list.  And we can eventually decide what are some appropriate training standards.  We may not get to the point of standards for a long time, and that's ok.  I think the importance is to figure out just how deep we can go on this path and get some perspective before the standards will be beneficial.  But having a list that people can refer to when they're stuck with training can be beneficial from the beginning. 

We're also trying to build community by having chats more often.  It stimulates different discussions and brings up different issues than may come up in a forum discussion. 

In February we're starting another run of the astral projection study group.  By having a group of people train on the same thing together it builds community and support in a topic that takes a lot of dedication to stick with.  That support makes it easier to continue and gain the skill. 

But I think, in the end, 2011 will be a year of really figuring out where to best focus our energy to move forward as a community.  We have an idea of how to do that for now, but after that? We'll just see. In the end, it's going to be up to the individual Jedi to step up and contribute.  "Be the change you want to see in the world" is very appropriate in this path as well.  A few people can't create a nice, orderly Jedi path for others to walk easily.  We're still blazing a trail in the wilderness.  We can either blaze the trail and allow other people to clean it up, or we can blaze and clean at the same time which is going to be a lot slower.  The more people that help, the faster the path progresses for the benefit of everyone. 
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replied the topic: Re: Jedi Online History - what went wrong and right

As some of you know - I was inspired here at the old Jedi Academy days when I took a class from "Merrit" (I think her name?) about Jedi history.  I forget the name of it.  It as in January 2007.

I then began researching the old sites, seeing (as much as I could) what happened and how the tone changed over the years towards what being a Jedi meant.

It seemed to go in fads, also, as technology changed, popular movies and games came and went.  It changed after the wars began in 2003 and many faced going to war.  It changed as people aged an grew from student lives to adult lives.

At first people seemed to discuss for themselves.  There were not so many "factions" of Jedi - but rather different sites and groups who came together and split apart.  It then came to where the idea of Jedi became fractured into many different kinds of Jedi - and self-identifying and fitting into those factions.

Rather than speaking as individuals - people began speaking as this or that "Jedi".  It took the humanity out of much of it and seemed to make it a bit play-acting and impersonal over-all. 

Rather than writing role-playing fiction together - it was as if the people on the Jedi Forums tried to take a persona created online as if it were also in their daily lives.  There were "warriors" who were training to almost be vigilante on their local streets.  Others trained as healers, spies, diplomats, teachers, and in this it almost seems as if the person became imprisoned by their "Jedi label".

Rather than speaking as people who daily live their Jedi Path - and try to move forward sharing learning and experience people tried to be something no one can be:  A Jedi In The Star Wars Galaxy.  There are yet many people who are very vague about their real lives to fill that image they created for themselves - and in this - it's simply a lot of falsehood.

Also - the definition and mission statement of the Jedi had to account for these labels rather than real people living lives - so the Jedi Community could be a giant RPG - although that has lessened over the last couple of years. 

I see few people speaking of their honest challenges in training journals - I see almost no training journals anywhere - but for a couple here and in a couple other places.  I see people talk about what supports the "Jedi" they claim to be online - but not the real challenges that face each of us - and how we find our way through our Paths to understanding, healing, and our own betterment.

This is my personal view of course.

But it's difficult to maintain relationships and efforts that are not founded on reality - but have to maintain a portrayal.

Even the Jedi of Star Wars were flawed, made major errors, struggled against personal issues, but moved forward and realized they gained and in gaining for themselves were better within the Force for all.

I say it was the loss of true interaction that broke the Jedi Community.
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replied the topic: Re: Jedi Online History - what went wrong and right

I just read this and I think it's time to let the history be. Let's create a new Golden Age, we can do it.

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David (Phoenix) replied the topic: Re: Jedi Online History - what went wrong and right

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

I think you have the right mindset, but just remember the above quote.  As  Jedi, we have a responsibility to understand the past. 

"...who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. " ~ Theodore Roosevelt
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Adana replied the topic: Re: Jedi Online History - what went wrong and right

Learning from the past is important in order not to repeat mistakes. And while the past  should not be forgotten we should never dwell on it.

I have seen many sites come and go due to the points that were listed and it was sad to see this. Aceeptance, tolerance, respect, and the ability to listen to one another are so important. Something I have experienced here at the Academy.

Quid quid agis, prudenter agas et respice finem.
Everything you do, do wisely, and consider the end (outcome).
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Otherone replied the topic: Re: Jedi Online History - what went wrong and right

Recently i have been joining new jedi schools and forums to find that new members join all the time in all the different forums.  I know this is pretty impossible but it seems that if all the communities could find a way to join members and forums that the following would be very large in number.  I think one problem is that the population of people trying to learn this info seem to be very spread out.  Each forum seems to have about 5 members that are always on trying to share and teach new information, and the rest kind of lay dormant.  It seems that if people could come together at one site there would be a great number of people to share information with and talk with.  Another problem may be that some of these teaching have been around for a long time so when people are looking for new information they get a lot of the same old information they may know already.  Also everyone seems to have a different way of learning about the force that works for them so searching forums and talking to people can only do so much for a person.  If the impossible was possible all the communities could join together and i feel that the community would be very strong and not seeming to fade in and out of popularity, however until that seems more possible i guess searching and finding the way will be joining tons of sites and gaining as much collective knowledge as possible.

May the force be with you always :meditate
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Connor replied the topic: Re: Jedi Online History - what went wrong and right

We've all wanted this for a long time. There used to be something like it. Back when JEDI.org was around, there was already a split, but it was a smaller one. MOST people were at JEDI.org. It was a fabulous system. Now, I don't know what the problems were, but I'm sure Jax knows what happened there.

To be honest, I would want something like that back, and I think when Jedi goes offline to the Real World, there will be a shift from all these websites to one larger one. It has to do with the fact that if someone took command outside of the Internet, we would draw those deepest engrained in its paths to one spot. Of course, a website would be created and most others would melt away because the public would only know what was on TV. It's a win for the Jedi Unity pushers. I, personally, would like to see that happen.

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Jax replied the topic: Re: Jedi Online History - what went wrong and right

We've been around a long time in various forms.  The real question, from my perspective is, why do people form new sites rather than joining the sites already in existence?  If sites that have been around for years aren't splitting, they aren't part of the problem unless they're pushing people away.  In the end, I don't think we can stop people from creating new sites that fill their niche.  We can simply try not to push people away and encourage them to gravitate to groups that have existed for years and show the ability to not implode at a moments notice. ;-)

The reason the academy split from the JEDI.Org was to save it.  The Academy had always been separate from the main discussion area.  When Relan, who owned the sites, started to step away then the leadership of the community discussion board started overstepping their authority and interfering with the Academy without knowing much about it.  It caused conflicts and threatened a system that was working very well at that point.  There were questions about what would happen to the websites once Relan was completely gone.  My memory is pretty fuzzy after all these years, but the decision was made to split.  A few people stayed with the JEDI.org and a few went to form the Jedi Realist Academy.  That's where I went since (as a student) I was training more with the people who formed the JRA.  After that went downhill due to lack of time by the leadership I returned to the JEDI.org.  In time there were concerns because we didn't have enough control over the physical website so updates couldn't be made easily.  I believe there were concerns that we needed to move the Academy so the website wouldn't just disappear one day.  Anyone else involved can fill in the details that I've forgotten, but that's where the Institute was born (though not named as such until a year or two after that move).  It was really the only option to save the Academy.  There wasn't a split except in the website address since there wasn't anything else tying the two aspects together.  That may not make much sense still, but it wasn't a situation of 'we can't get along, let's leave and form our own order' which is what happens in many situations.  In the end it seems like new sites are formed for two reasons: a person isn't getting enough power and influence so they create their own where they are in charge, or they just don't look for other sites and thus reinvent the wheel.  How much of this can we control in the end?

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