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Why Facebook can't match Ravelry, the social network for knitters.
July 7, 2011 5:14 AM   Subscribe

The best social network you've (probably) never heard of is one-five-hundredth the size of Facebook. It has no video chat feature, it doesn't let you check in to your favorite restaurant, and there are no games. The company that runs it has just four employees, one of whom is responsible for programming the entire operation. It has never taken any venture capital money and has no plans to go public. Despite these apparent shortcomings, the site's members absolutely adore it. They consider it a key part of their social lives, and they use it to forge deeper connections with strangers—and share more about themselves—than you're likely to see elsewhere online.
Why Ravelry is such a great community and social network. Prev
posted by Foci for Analysis (109 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

 
This reminds me of another website I frequent, only with yarn.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:19 AM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Right, and that other website has just four employees (sort of).
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 5:24 AM on July 7, 2011


Are we comparing Ravelry to Facebook? In what way, exactly, do you think Ravelry is like Facebook?
posted by craichead at 5:33 AM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Didn't you get the memo, every message board is now a "Social Network"
posted by delmoi at 5:35 AM on July 7, 2011 [22 favorites]


The way Ravelry took off from there is a gripping yarn.

no
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:38 AM on July 7, 2011 [27 favorites]


Ravelry is like Facebook in so far as it allows you to make friends, see feeds of their activities, etc. But Ravelry is a lot more than that, and that's not the primary way that most people interact with it. Ravelry is also like Facebook in that anyone can create and manage their own group with different focuses, though Ravelry's group function is awesome and Facebook's group function sucks ass in profound ways and gets more and more sucky every time they change it.

Ravelry is like Facebook if everyone 'liked' every item they owned, and Facebook then cross-linked them so you could find all the ways they could be used together or that other people had used those things.

I think Ravelry gets so many things right it's astounding, but my particular favorite is the way that they have mixed a linear, paginated conversation with the idea of threaded replies. I think it's a fantastic hybrid and the only really usable blend of the two I've found.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:39 AM on July 7, 2011 [12 favorites]


Also, not that he's around much, but metafilter's own caseyf is the Ravelry nerd of all trades.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:42 AM on July 7, 2011


Right, and that other website has just four employees (sort of).

And instead of being about knitting, it's dedicated to honing the fine art of snark.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:42 AM on July 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


Damn, I think I'm going to have to take up knitting just so I can join this site.
posted by kcds at 5:57 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


It appears that 'social' means that content is selected for presentation based primarily upon user relationships rather than properties like upvotes, interests groups, threads, etc. Yeah, the word social derives from symmetric friendship relationships, ala facebook, but it makes enough sense for the more widely applicable asymmetric following relationships, ala twitter.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:59 AM on July 7, 2011


kcds: "Damn, I think I'm going to have to take up knitting just so I can join this site"

No fear! The LSG (lazy, stupid and godless) subgroup talk about knitting so infrequently that such posts must be specially flagged AKC for "Actual Knitting Content".

*ahem* or so I hear
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 6:01 AM on July 7, 2011 [13 favorites]


Ravelry is so wonderful. I don't think I've even grasped how wonderful it is because I use it in a rather limited way. It was only this past January for instance that I discovered that it was an awesome resource for free patterns. You can limit your search with something like ten different criteria and it'll come up with pages of projects that are just what you want.
posted by orange swan at 6:03 AM on July 7, 2011


Why are those even apparent disadvantages?

Are we comparing Ravelry to Facebook? In what way, exactly, do you think Ravelry is like Facebook?
compare

To assess the similarities and differences between two or more things ["to compare X with Y"]. Having made the comparison of X with Y, one might have found it similar to Y or different from Y.
posted by DU at 6:05 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


So when do we get a fawning Slate profile?
posted by Happy Dave at 6:06 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


>It appears that 'social' means that content is selected for presentation based primarily upon user relationships rather than properties like upvotes, interests groups, threads, etc.

That's not how Ravelry works.

So let's say that someone gives me an obscure Icelandic yarn, and I am trying to figure out what I should knit or crochet with it. I can look up the yarn and then see photos of every garment on Ravelry that someone has knit or crocheted with that yarn. Similarly, if I want to knit or crochet a particular pattern and am not sure which yarn would be good for it, I can see every example of that pattern and determine what it looks like in different yarns. I can also see the ways that various people have modified the pattern, so I can decide how to modify it myself. I can search patterns by various criteria, like if I want to find a free pattern for a lace baby sweater with set-in sleeves, I can search for patterns with those features and then find out where I can get that pattern. Some patterns are available as downloads on Ravelry, either for free or to buy.

There is a friends feature, which allows you to see your friends' projects, and there are groups, which allow you to see projects that members think are relevant to that particular group. And there are forums. But many people use Ravelry without ever taking advantage of those features. The pattern and yarn databases are the heart of Ravelry.
posted by craichead at 6:08 AM on July 7, 2011 [12 favorites]


Happy Dave : about two and a half years ago?
posted by suckerpunch at 6:08 AM on July 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


a linear, paginated conversation with the idea of threaded replies. I think it's a fantastic hybrid and the only really usable blend of the two I've found.

Good way of putting it -- I had a hard time explaining why I find the Ravelry forums easier to read than the Something Awful forums.

Damn, I think I'm going to have to take up knitting just so I can join this site.

Or crochet! Sure, we've only got about a third as many patterns listed, and a quarter as many completed projects as the knitters, but we're there. At least we got namechecked once in the Slate article (the weavers got left out entirely).
posted by asperity at 6:10 AM on July 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ravelry is almost a negative image of Facebook. For starters, the 'friend' stuff isn't the reason people flock there. I started when no one else I knew was on the site. And I use it every day, even though I only have four friends, whose info I never, ever check out.

Instead, Ravelry is first about reams of practical information, helpfully organized. The thing I love best about it is its pattern search engine, which might be the best I've encountered. It contains a wealth of extremely in-depth information along hundreds of tags and attributes (adult size, includes cables, uses american size 8 needles, is available for free HERE, is moderately difficult, etc. etc.). Ravelry is able to do this because it's not aiming broad, like Google, but is instead organizing information on a very specific subject.

Someone savvy could (and should!) do this for almost any practical knowledge subject and gain an extremely grateful and loyal following.
posted by erinfern at 6:11 AM on July 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


suckerpunch: "Happy Dave : about two and a half years ago?"

Ah, of course! Thanks.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:11 AM on July 7, 2011


There is a friends feature, which allows you to see your friends' projects, and there are groups, which allow you to see projects that members think are relevant to that particular group. And there are forums. But many people use Ravelry without ever taking advantage of those features. The pattern and yarn databases are the heart of Ravelry.

Amen to this. I use Ravelry for research mostly -- I have a huge stash of yarn that was given to me (a friend was moving), plus other random stuff I've gotten leftover from other projects, and what's been a big help in wading through it all is going on Ravelry and doing a pattern search for, "Okay, I've got 380 yards of yarn, that's THIS thick, and is in cotton. What can I make with that?" Filter it down even further, to "free patterns," and bingo, suddenly I've got a few pages of options for things I can make with that yarn so I can finally get it out of my closet.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:13 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Right, and that other website has just four employees (sort of).

And instead of being about knitting, it's dedicated to honing the fine art of snark.


Though it's not like we don't sometimes do crafting stuff here as well [cough].
posted by orange swan at 6:14 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ravelry just works so much better than Facebook - even for things that have nothing to do with knitting at all. The design of the discussion boards, the idea that there's an easy way to give/get feedback without typing long replies, the tremendous ease of use of both posting and moderation features, the little graphics of cocktails and beer that pop up if you talk about cocktails and beer...

The real mark of Ravelry's greatness vs Facebook, though, is how few local knitting groups have group pages on Facebook - meeting organisation, member messaging and chat, trip planning - all of it has moved to Ravelry pretty much all at once. Given the option to use something better, people use something better.
posted by Wylla at 6:15 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


The thing that I appreciated (past tense because I haven't been knitting much recently) about Ravelry was that I was able to easily choose my level of interaction with the site. That it was seamless to move between browsing it for patterns to posting my projects to posting patterns that I had designed.

For me, at least, there wasn't a distinction offered between using content made available through the site to creating content and making it available in the same way.
posted by frimble at 6:16 AM on July 7, 2011


The pattern and yarn databases are the heart of Ravelry.

Ravelry is first about reams of practical information, helpfully organized.

And before Ravelry, there was no way to access the breadth or depth of information available about these patterns or yarns. Sure, you might find an expert at your local yarn shop, but there's no way she'd have experience as that compiled on the site.

At this point, I don't understand why every local yarn shop doesn't have a Ravelry kiosk in-store.
posted by asperity at 6:17 AM on July 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


As vast as that compiled on the site.

Apparently I've gotten used to being able to edit posts on Ravelry.
posted by asperity at 6:19 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's a great site and worthy of commentary, but the thesis here is ridiculous. To compare this site with Facebook is nonsensical. It's a knitting site. Lots of hobbies/activities have spawned their own communities. E.g., poker players have 2+2.
posted by EJXD2 at 6:21 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sure, you might find an expert at your local yarn shop, but there's no way she'd have experience as that compiled on the site.

And for some of us, a trip to the LYS is either a trip to the big-box craft store or far enough (200 km) that it starts to count as an excursion rather than popping downtown to visit the shop. Having access to that information is incredibly helpful both when you lack an easy way to talk to the knitters around you or simply when you're deciding at 03h00 to start a project.
posted by frimble at 6:23 AM on July 7, 2011


So let's say that someone gives me an obscure Icelandic yarn

Around here we call those eddas.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:24 AM on July 7, 2011 [25 favorites]


Lots of hobbies/activities have spawned their own communities.
Yeah. Ravelry is just the best-designed, most user-friendly one of them.

(Seriously: it will ruin the rest of the internet for you. It's really spectacularly well-designed.)
posted by craichead at 6:24 AM on July 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


My Warcraft guild uses Ravelry as their message board - Warcrafting on Draenor or something similar. It really attracts people from all over the place.
posted by synthetik at 6:25 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guessed halfway through the description that this was about Ravelry. I don't really post on their forums (well, once I had an important question about alpaca, but that's it) or use it to make friends, but I can hardly quantify the difference all its practical features (yarn search, project notes, etc.) have made in my knitting progress. Plus, knitting is such a solitary activity that it's nice to know I'm part of a community, with jargon, in-jokes, shared experiences, and a general sense of group support. Just yesterday I sent a skein of yarn I wasn't using to someone who needed it to finish a project.

I agree that it's a bit odd to compare it to Facebook, but I've also never seen another hobby site with anything close to the level of usability, flexibility, and community participation that Ravelry offers.
posted by in a dark glassly at 6:27 AM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I just tried to sign up, but received no signup email...I wonder if all the recent attention has slowed things down on the server...
posted by Deathalicious at 6:34 AM on July 7, 2011


It's a great site and worthy of commentary, but the thesis here is ridiculous.

Yeah, I don't get the comparison here either. Of all the things that Ravelry does right, which of those are things that Facebook could rip-off wholesale? I don't think there's any way that Facebook could use a really awesome yarn-project search engine, even if they changed it to be about something other than yarn.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:35 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've also never seen another hobby site with anything close to the level of usability, flexibility, and community participation that Ravelry offers.

I looked up 2 + 2 (poker site EJXD2 mentioned above) and they're using VBulletin. It feels like time-traveling back to 1999 or so. Definitely doesn't have any of the features that Ravelry offers for keeping tabs on what's going on with your friends, groups you belong to (both local and interest-based), and your yarn. And all in a readable, easy-on-the-eyes format with margins you don't have to muck with Greasemonkey or something to get.
posted by asperity at 6:37 AM on July 7, 2011


Slate just wanted to write an article about Ravelry and comparing it to Facebook is sure to get links.
posted by smackfu at 6:41 AM on July 7, 2011


A lot of what's on Ravelry isn't about knitting, per se - it's knitters discussing books, or childrearing, or church, or, well, whatever they discuss in the "Lazy, Stupid and Godless" group (one of the most active). Ravelry works well as a social space, not just as a hobby tool.
posted by Wylla at 6:43 AM on July 7, 2011


I guess my main question is, how many non-knitting groups attempt to use Ravelry's message board / social system instead of other choices? (Synthetik, how many of your guild members have no use for Ravelry other than your message board?) If the site's well-designed enough to where knitters use it for other means, that's one thing. If the site's well-designed enough where everyone else is breaking down the doors to use it, that's another.
posted by suckerpunch at 6:49 AM on July 7, 2011


EJXD2: “It's a great site and worthy of commentary, but the thesis here is ridiculous. To compare this site with Facebook is nonsensical. It's a knitting site. Lots of hobbies/activities have spawned their own communities. E.g., poker players have 2+2.”

It's not ridiculous. Knitting is social. That's okay. Facebook started life as a site dedicated to letting college students look up people who were in their classes; if I may say so, that's much more niche than Ravelry will ever be. Meanwhile, Ravelry seems to be doing a lot of the things Facebook tries to do better than Facebook does them. The comparison seems apt.

The need to categorize things – "this is a social network, but that isn't!" – is odd to me. It makes sense to me that people have some disdain for "social network" as a marketing term, but anything is technically social if there are humans involved. Or even if it's just animals interacting.
posted by koeselitz at 6:56 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


People, can we please stop referring to it as yarn, knitting, crocheting, stitching or sewing?

They're called FIBER ARTS!
posted by jsavimbi at 7:03 AM on July 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


I recently took a day and figured out the knitting machine my wife inherited from her grandmother... now she's looking for some projects, and this seems like a good resource. Thanks!

And no, this is really nothing like Facebook... it's narrow in focus and so can concentrate on doing a few specific things well, whereas Facebook has to try to appeal to everyone in the universe and so does only one thing well... piss me off.

However, no one I know is going to be on a knitting site, so I'll tolerate Facebook until the next big clusterfuck happens.
posted by Huck500 at 7:05 AM on July 7, 2011


I'm on a downswing when it comes to knitting right now (presently I am ALL ABOUT MY SERGER), but I still go to a few of the message boards at Ravelry.

One of my favorite parts about those boards (which is mentioned in the article) are the "educational/interesting/funny/agree/disagree/love" buttons at the bottom of each post. You can voice your opinion about a post without having to read through eleventy billion "I AGREE! YOU'RE RIGHT" posts.

Sort of like favorites here, but more specific.
posted by Lucinda at 7:10 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


"fiber arts". Heh. Damn trekkies....
posted by Leon at 7:16 AM on July 7, 2011


This sounds really cool, too bad I'm not a knitter.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:16 AM on July 7, 2011


The best social network you've (probably) never heard of

Dammit, as of this post it's disqualified. Can anyone tell me what the new best one I probably haven't heard of is?

P.S. On the merits, this would only qualify if that picture on its home page wove the name "Rosey Grier" in somewhere, a la Al Hirschfeld.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:17 AM on July 7, 2011


There isn't a good word for a well-webified database as opposed to simply a database driven website, but sounds that's the word you'd want for Ravelry, not social.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:19 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Love, love, love Ravelry and think Casey is a freaking genius . . . I'm so glad to see it get some attention, and to see it on the blue!
posted by MeiraV at 7:20 AM on July 7, 2011


dedicated to honing the fine art of snark.

In my craft or snarky art
Exercised on the weekend
When only MeTa rages
And the MeFites lie abed
With all their grars in their arms,
I labor by LCD light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common favorites
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the hipster apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift threads
Nor for the glowering nerds
With their comic books and cons
But for the MeFites, their hugs
Round the grars of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:27 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I haven't logged in for forever, but it really is unparalleled if you need knitting support. As someone who taught herself to knit and doesn't have many knitty-friends, online places like this (and OMG, YouTube) are really useful for the first time you tackle something new, like say, socks. I never really thought of it as a social network, just an online place fiber folks hang out, but now that I think about it: duh.
posted by smirkette at 7:27 AM on July 7, 2011


It makes more sense to compare Ravelry to Metafilter than to Facebook. I don't get on Facebook to make new friends online, I get on Facebook to stay in touch with people I already know.

(Actually, about 85% of my facebook activity is devoted to messaging my five siblings. If just one of them would become a programmer and invent our own totally private social network, to be capped indefinitely at 6 members, I would be set.)
posted by crackingdes at 7:29 AM on July 7, 2011


Ravelry is really phenomenally well-designed and incredibly useful, and the community is lovely. It makes most of the rest of the internet look like MySpace in comparison. If I were allowed to visit only five websites for the rest of my life, Ravelry would absolutely be on the list. (Don't worry, I'd take you guys too.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:30 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


It seems like there's a lot of stuff that's similar to knitting (beer making comes to mind) that would benefit from licensed software to make high value, ad-hoc social networks - much like vBulletin was able to sell what was (at the time) the king of web communication to any number of groups with niche interests. If you could make a CMS system that was instead a Social Network Management System, then i'd assume you'd be rolling in it.
posted by codacorolla at 7:33 AM on July 7, 2011


Sounds fascinating from a design and moderation point of view - this interview with Casey has some good comments attached (loved the idea of the Ben Affleck avatars).
posted by rory at 7:34 AM on July 7, 2011


one of whom is responsible for programming the entire operation

Do they work in purl?
posted by chavenet at 7:42 AM on July 7, 2011 [14 favorites]


Seconding the comments about how Ravelry has totally changed how I handle the R&D portions of knitting. Ravelry is, like, the best fiber/pattern/technique research tool ever. I have a giant pile of random yarns I bought a bajillion years ago and have done nothing with since -- it's so awesome to be able to look up those yarns and find projects other Ravelry users have made with the same kind of yarn, and read their comments on how the yarn knits up and holds up to laundering, et cetera, because without some of that incredibly helpful and otherwise impossible to find information, none of this damn yarn would get used by me. Now, thank god, I have some reliable ideas for how to use this giant pile of scratchy Jamieson's Shetland DK in purple. (And I do mean giant pile. Closeout sales are sexy!)

i'm hauntedleg on ravelry, fyi
posted by palomar at 7:49 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Would I need a loom to understand this?
posted by Windigo at 7:51 AM on July 7, 2011


Who the hell's never heard of Ravelry?
posted by box at 7:52 AM on July 7, 2011


Would I need a loom to understand this?

Uh, well, there *are* weavers on Ravelry, but in general, no, it's not a weaving-focused community. Though, I suppose, if you had a loom, you might know that, so you would understand it.

What you want are two sharp sticks. Or two sharp sticks joined together by string. Or 4-6 sticks that are sharp on both ends. Or a little hook. Really, there are a lot of options.

And, I suppose, technically, you could use a loom, but not the kind you're likely thinking of.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:55 AM on July 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


I had never heard of Ravelry. Never knitted a thing in my life and do not have a Facebook account. I did once do some needle point about 40 years ago when Rosie Grier made it ok for tough guys or young boys thinking they were tough guys.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:57 AM on July 7, 2011


Well look, there are two aspects to Ravelry:

(1) The database, which is by necessity user-moderated and user-driven,
(2) The social network. Yes, there are friends. Yes, I can track what patterns my friends are queing, working on, or favoriting. I can also see if they've made recent blog posts. There also extensive forums, and at this point many forums are loosely related to knitting at best. How is this anything but a social network?
posted by muddgirl at 7:57 AM on July 7, 2011


"I'm on a great social network. You probably haven't heard of it." Seems like it should be on one of those hipster dog image macros.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:08 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hate social media, I have hated every freaking social media site (when will Facebook just die already?!) I've tried. But I love Ravelry. People actually WRITE THINGS there. And it's USEFUL. And it's not all about "friending," though you can if you'd like. It's the best research tool ever for yarn-related activities. I am probably on it all the dang time.

RAVELRY FOREVER, BABY!
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:11 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ravelry: Social Knit-Working

I can't believe no one's said it yet.
posted by kakarott999 at 8:14 AM on July 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Surprisingly (or not), knitting in general and Ravelry in particular have also spawned some vicious vicious wanks. The FW wiki has more.
posted by kmz at 8:17 AM on July 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Here's my single favorite Ravelry trick:

Want to see how that pattern looks on a regular person, instead of a model? Click through to projects. Then change the limiter to 'finished'.

Which is cool, right, because now you have a bunch of photos, most of which are real people wearing that pattern.

Except, I'm not just a regular person. I'm a fat regular person.

So, I change the 'Projects from all users' box to 'Ample Knitters' or 'Curvalicious Sisterhood' (you have to first join those groups for this to work), and now, suddenly, I'm looking at pictures of fat chicks wearing the sweater.

As a fat chick, I can not even begin to describe how much easier that makes it for me to find out if patterns will actually work for my body type.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:19 AM on July 7, 2011 [22 favorites]


LSG hoars represent! LSG has scooped Mefi on some posts/memes lately, and has some of the finest purveyors of snark on the Intarwebs.

One of Rav's greatest features are the voting buttons in the discussion groups (Educational, Interesting, Funny, Agree, Disagree, Love). Cuts WAY down on the 'me too' noise in the threads.

Plus there is a Mefi appreciation group on Ravelry.
posted by xena at 8:25 AM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am very interested in this but I do not knit and I do not want to join this social network. I do want to move on from facebook and meet new people online who have similar interests.

Can anyone recommend other small, personal, fun social networks that are focused on a particular topic?
posted by rebent at 8:25 AM on July 7, 2011


One of the spin-off Ravelries that I desperately desire, jacquilynne, is a site that just has pictures of people wearing random purchased clothes. Then if I want to buy a skirt from Old Navy, I can find it on Not-Ravelry and see what it looks like modeled by people with my body type.
posted by craichead at 8:26 AM on July 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


One of the surprising side effects of Ravelry, for me at least, is finding out how my friends lives are changing based on their knitting habits. I started to suspect more than one friend was trying to get pregnant based on the prolific amount of baby-related projects they'd added to their to do list. Another friend is apparently planning a knit-heavy wedding (veil, garter, well I could go on) even before she got engaged. So I guess to that end, yes, it's "social."

But as mentioned above, the R&D angle of it is freaking genius. I can't tell you how many absurd random patterns I've added to my to-do list just by keywording things to see if they've been knit before. Totoro themed mittens? Yes. Mittens just like the Canadian Winter Olympics team wore? Yes. MST3K sweaters? Oh yeah. A chart to knit the Dark Mark from HP? Done and done.
posted by librarianamy at 8:35 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I much prefer bunspace.com to any of these other social networks (it's a myspace for rabbits, seriously). ;)
Although i guess a bunbook, or facebun would be fun too, seeing as rabbits are just more fun to be around than people. ;)
posted by usagizero at 8:54 AM on July 7, 2011


Ravelry is fantastic. But as pointed out above, the most valuable thing about it is the enormous amount of informational content that lives there, all of it aggregated and filtered by its users. The users aren't the point, the information is. Of course there's a social networking aspect. But the crowdsourcing of information, adding and refining based on ever-deeper pools of data, is the awesome thing. To me, Ravelry is more like Wikipedia than like Facebook.

It's been interesting to watch Ravelry pretty much from the beginning (early 2007) to now. It's obviously gotten much more useful as its user base grows. But I think that one of the many things Jess and Casey have done so, so well was getting it up and over the initial no-content dead space. Curating invitations and targeting designers/prominent knitters who would be sure to get all their stuff up right away made sure that there would already be some stuff to look at and use once more people started signing up. And then of course the new users added their stuff, and so on. They've exploded in growth, and have a million ways in which to grow their business in the future, while larger operations with more resources in the same market don't have that kind of robustness because the suits failed to understand how to make a new brand organically, authentically interesting and worth using.

The Ravelry guys are pretty darn sharp.
posted by peachfuzz at 8:55 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't really use Ravelry as a social networking thing, although I occasionally look to see what local hang-out-and-crochet (or knit, but I don't knit) meetups are happening. But it is full of awesome for finding patterns, looking at yarn, seeing what things look like when finished etc. I check in there occasionally, but my group participation is generally sort of low compared to most online places where I spend a lot of time.

There's a MetaStitcher Ravelry group for mefites.

I wouldn't really compare Ravelry to 2+2. The interactions around making things and patterns and whatnot feel very very different from, say, posting hand histories. 2+2 is certainly good for getting poker-related news (and gossip), but the general S/N ratio problem, overabundance of trolling assholes, and general boyzone bullshit put me off 2+2 for the most part.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:56 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I do the same thing as jacquilynne when I'm looking up patterns, though I don't go so far as filtering projects by group. It's immensely helpful to see a finished project modeled by several people. There are patterns that look amazing in the official photo, but sad and ill-fitting when made in real life, as well as patterns that seem uninspiring at first glance but turn out really well for most people.

There's also the option to rate a person's project notes as helpful, and to view only projects that have been marked helpful. Sometimes you'll find a useful alternate explanation of a complicated pattern, sometimes you'll find a description of the knitter's modifications, sometimes you'll find that someone's mashed up two different patterns and the end result is gorgeous.

(also, hooray for the LSG representation on Mefi!)
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:57 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, LSG is already taking over Google+, why not Metafilter?
posted by jacquilynne at 8:59 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love getting to look at other people's versions of a project I'm working on. It's especially gratifying when I like my version the best.;-)
posted by orange swan at 9:05 AM on July 7, 2011


Slate just wanted to write an article about Ravelry and comparing it to Facebook is sure to get links.

Yes, kind of how like every single YA novel or movie, or anything ever to do with vampires, must be compared to Twilight, even if the only similarity is that both are written/spoken in English.

posted by elizardbits at 9:22 AM on July 7, 2011


Ravelry is a social network in the sense that the content is user generated.

I friend people on Rav more or less to see their projects in my feed-reader each morning and get inspired. (Which is twitter-like, I suppose, and Facebook like.) And, as a bit of a yarn-miser, I love seeing how non-recommended (usually less expensive yarns) work for a pattern so I can substitute better. Also, I met a lot of cool, local knitters on Rav and we meet up for beer knitting in a pub every second week (which is Meetup.com-like, I suppose). And the rest is database, but user-generated content with Rav providing the infrastructure (as mentioned above, wikipedia-like). So it has features of many other sites all wrapped up together.
posted by Kurichina at 9:30 AM on July 7, 2011


Besides Fetlife (aka 'facebook for perverts'), I'm not sure what niche-interest 'social network' type web sites are out there. I think there will be more niche group sites, but I'm not sure you're going to see more than one for a given type of community - I think the ecology of these things ends up with one monolithic site, since people don't generally want to track the same information/activities on multiple sites. Maybe if you can get cross-pollination with automatic repostings, maybe (eg people's twitter feeds going to facebook), but I don't know.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:32 AM on July 7, 2011


er, what *other* niche-interest 'social network' type websites, that is.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:33 AM on July 7, 2011


Yeah, the strange thing about Ravelry is not that it's an amazingly awesome repository of knowledge about knitting and is hugely responsible for my own development as a knitter, but that there's this whole other part of the site where it's just people talking to each other about stuff that doesn't relate to knitting at all. Most of the forums are too active for me to keep up with, but if you want to connect with people on just about any topic, you can do that there.

I mean, how do you explain to your disability representative that you were referred to them by some people on a knitting website?
posted by threeturtles at 9:39 AM on July 7, 2011


I'm not at all involved with it, but I get the impression that LibraryThing is basically a niche social networking site for book people.

Boardgame Geek is a lot like Ravelry in that it's more data-driven than social networking driven, but it's definitely the social site for tabletop game nerds.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:39 AM on July 7, 2011


Kid Charlemagne: "This reminds me of another website I frequent, only with yarn."

I have to imagine that this happens at MeFi HQ all the time.
posted by schmod at 10:15 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, how exciting! I've just joined the MeFi group on Ravelry. Didn't even know it existed.

Maybe now I will do something with my crochet hooks other than Poking The Dog and occasionally adding to the Hideous SC Scrap Blanket.
posted by cmyk at 11:27 AM on July 7, 2011


So it's like Steepster but for yarn, not tea? I love Steepster.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 11:50 AM on July 7, 2011


Besides Fetlife (aka 'facebook for perverts'), I'm not sure what niche-interest 'social network' type web sites are out there.

Me either, but I'd love to know about them.
posted by box at 12:04 PM on July 7, 2011


Hmm. None of these are ideal comparisons, but: iam.bmezine? Untappd? Velospace?
posted by box at 12:18 PM on July 7, 2011


Is an image chat site for people who are in to Net art with some (limited) social aspect. NSFW, btw.
posted by codacorolla at 12:30 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Dump.fm is", that is to say...
posted by codacorolla at 12:31 PM on July 7, 2011


Maybe now I will do something with my crochet hooks other than Poking The Dog and occasionally adding to the Hideous SC Scrap Blanket.

As an avid knitter and indifferent crocheter, I mostly use my crochet hooks to clean out the bathtub drain.
posted by orange swan at 12:44 PM on July 7, 2011


Aw, shucks, I feel so warm and fuzzy when I find my social networks colliding! Metafilter and Ravelry are my cozy, mismatched socks of digital love.
posted by Diagonalize at 12:53 PM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ravelry serves as an easy way to refute the idea that certain forms of online activity are merely consumption and not creative.
posted by holgate at 1:16 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am not yet a knitter (maybe someday...), but I wanted to blatantly pimp my awesome sister-in-law-to-be's projects.

She's marrying my brother in September, and she knit their chuppah. ONE MILLION STITCHES.

Also, she knows I am into genealogy and DIY genetic stuff, so she knit me a DNA double helix scarf.

She is awesome.
posted by Asparagirl at 1:32 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Should have known that MeFi would start right off knit picking.
posted by dhartung at 1:37 PM on July 7, 2011


Metafilter: It has no video chat feature, it doesn't let you check in to your favorite restaurant, and there are no games. The company that runs it has just four employees, one of whom is responsible for programming the entire operation. It has never taken any venture capital money and has no plans to go public. Despite these apparent shortcomings, the site's members absolutely adore it. They consider it a key part of their social lives, and they use it to forge deeper connections with strangers—and share more about themselves—than you're likely to see elsewhere online.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:58 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just remembered my other favorite thing about Ravelry (yeah, so, this is like my third favorite thing about Ravelry I've posted in this thread, so what?):

The advertising, being entirely focused on the subject at hand, and largely created by people who also use Ravelry? Is awesome.

I click on Rav-ads all the damned time. I sometimes flip pages and think 'No wait? What was that last advertisement, it was cool?' and go back to it. (Ravelry has a feature for just such a moment, by the way, so you can scroll back through the ads you've seen recently.)

I gather Ravelry isn't making kabillions of dollars -- basically just covering the salaries of the staff and the server costs -- but it's not for lack of me clicking on ads, let me tell you.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:09 PM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


One of the reasons why I posted this is because I find this type of social software incredibly interesting and I'm always on the look for great use cases. I find the experiences that jacquilynne and other Ravelry users have shared to be very useful for someone like me. I've also created an Ravelry account just to try it out and it is indeed very, very well-designed.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:16 PM on July 7, 2011


In what way, exactly, do you think Ravelry is like Facebook?

They had a security breach?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 2:41 PM on July 7, 2011


I can't say enough about how great Ravelry is. It is SO well-designed. I am glad to see that people are starting to look to it as a model.

One thing I love about Ravelry is that they constantly introduce small, subtle changes or new features that make the site even more useful. I've never seen a change on Ravelry that made me think, "Oh God, why the hell did you do that? I liked it better the old way."
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:03 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Raveler since 2007.
posted by which_chick at 5:08 PM on July 7, 2011


I think Ravelry is probably more comparable to something like Flickr than it is to Facebook. Flickr, too, exists for a specific purpose (upload your photos to the web) but has a social component that a lot of people really dig.

The real question is, would people use Ravelry without the social stuff? Sure, and many do. (I hate the forums, personally.) But would they use it without the knitting stuff? I really don't think so.

The same is true of Flickr. People would use Flickr if it didn't have the social stuff, but they wouldn't use it if it didn't do the photo thing.

By that measure, I think it's both inaccurate and unfair to call Ravelry a social networking site. Nevertheless, that's inevitably how it's described in the media.

I know several people who have thought "Why do I care about a social networking site for knitters?" When I explain the extent of the vastly useful database, they get excited and sign up.
posted by ErikaB at 6:36 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


A lot of people only use Facebook for the games. I think it's perfectly fine to call both Flickr and Ravelry forms of social networking, even if some people don't use those features.
posted by muddgirl at 6:49 PM on July 7, 2011


I also like how on your birthday, they put a little birthday cake on your avatar.

And certain words in a post will generate little pictures, like "cake" and "Frankenstein"
posted by Lucinda at 6:50 PM on July 7, 2011


Is there any kind of similar website out there for quilters? My sister makes fantastic quilts, but it seems like her online hobby world is limited to blogs and Flickr pools.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:04 PM on July 7, 2011


Speaking of looking for similar sites, when I started sewing I desperately wanted Ravelry for sewing, and all I could find is My Sewing Circle, which is a well-intentional Ravelry clone, but without an active user base it's not very helpful.
posted by threeturtles at 9:49 PM on July 7, 2011


Is there any kind of similar website out there for quilters?

Try Seamed Up. I am not a member, nor have I taken a look, but I have seen it mentioned.
posted by naturesgreatestmiracle at 1:30 AM on July 8, 2011


I also love ravelry very much, for all the reasons people talk about (research, Pattern finding, inspiration etc) and I like being a member of a group dedicated to the wonder of the colour teal. Forgive me if someone's mentioned it above - didn't see it - but there is also a Mefi group on Ravelry.

What I'd really like is something that does for cookery books and recipes and groups of people that like similar food what Ravelry does for knitting books and patterns and groups. I'm not very keen on any of the cookery communities I'be stumbled across, but a way to share experience with a particular recipe, what you served it with, what wine you drank with it etc would be great. Also you should be able to tell something what cookbooks you have and what ingredients you have and it could suggest recipes: I know there's a lot of this about for online recipes but not for information I already own. I really like the way Ravelry makes a bridge between paper copies of instructions with people's experience of using them without breaching the IP of the pattern writers and I think you could do something similar with food.
posted by calico at 2:42 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Asparagirl: Not that I know of. I think it's something that could be really successful, though.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:57 AM on July 8, 2011


Calico, you might be interested in Eat Your Books, which does exactly what you're looking for -- indexes the books you already own so you can search them. It also has social aspects to it, though I don't use it myself, so I don't know how developed they are.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:39 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ravelry is also the only website I know of that posts obituaries of users who have passed on (they probably do this on other websites that are for niche interests, but I am unaware of them; just saying this anecdotally). They post them on "This Week In Ravelry", which is a semi-frequent news post about things going on around the site. To me, it shows that the four wonderful people who work at Rav realize that their users are real people and acknowledge when one (or a few) of their users have passed on.

I have met many women of varying ages (and men!) who use Ravelry and I personally love being a part of a group of people who love the fiber arts.

Ravelry is awesome if you're into the fiber arts.

I'm smithsknits on Rav, btw.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 6:42 AM on July 8, 2011


jacquilynne - thank you! I'll give it a go.
posted by calico at 12:14 PM on July 8, 2011


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