In the spring of 2008, I signed up to participate in a new “blogging challenge” organized by Dewey, the blogger behind The Hidden Side of a Leaf. In just over a year of blogging, Dewey had already emerged as a leader within the book-blogging community, and that community was her focus:
“My main focus in blogging is community. I want to share my love for books with other bloggers, hear what they think of what they’re reading, and have lots of bookish fun. My non-review blog activities...are all meant to build community.”
Dewey had already launched the monthly Bookworms Carnival and the semi-annual 24-Hour Readathon when she started up the activity she called Weekly Geeks. The challenge would involve a weekly "assignment" - a question, a task, a theme to write about - to be completed and posted on the Geeks' individual blogs and linked up at the main assignment post. Visiting other Geeks' posts for that week was part of the assignment as well, which is where Dewey's community-building focus kicked in. Bloggers could participate every week or only when the assignment appealed to them - it was intended to be casual, and new participants were always welcome.
The meme was becoming well-established - participants looked forward to the new "assignment" postings on Saturdays and added new blogs to their feed readers as they "met" through the link-up - when Dewey’s community was stunned by an announcement posted at her blog on Tuesday, November 25, 2008. Her husband told her readers that Dewey had died a few days earlier. Our shock and sense of loss drew us together, and many of us wanted to see her community-building activities live on. In early 2009, I became part of the team that set up a dedicated blog to continue Weekly Geeks.
Since then, I’ve been a behind-the-scenes organizer, a sometime participant in the assignments, and a periodic poster of the link round-ups that concluded each assignment on the WG blog. But coming up with engaging, creative assignments nearly every week for over two years isn't easy, and gradually, we became discouraged to see that our assignments drew fewer and fewer responses. Earlier this summer, the team made the difficult decision to bring this blogging challenge to a close.
I tend to think that most memes have a life cycle, and after nearly three and a half years all told, Weekly Geeks has reached the end of a pretty long - and mostly good - run. I even wonder whether Dewey herself might have ended it earlier. The book-blogging community has been through a lot of changes since she left us; it’s both exploded in size and fragmented into ever-more-specialized niches. While annual events like the upcoming Book Blogger Appreciation Week and Armchair BEA do bring large numbers of us together to share and celebrate what we do, there are times when it’s very difficult to see us as one single “book-blogger community” any more.
And there are times I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, in and of itself. The whole community may be too much for one individual blogger to navigate, but within that whole, most of us manage to find our tribes, and we may make community in multiple places. I suspect that if Dewey were still with us, she’d be doing the same - and leading the way.
Many, many book blogs have come along since late 2008, and while some are already gone, a lot have stuck around...and they’ve never known a book-blogging community that included Dewey. Her blog archives have been taken down, so there’s no way they can get to know her now, either; and with the departure of Weekly Geeks, the original Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon is her last remaining contribution to us (mark your calendars now for October 22!).
Dewey and I started blogging at around the same time (early 2007); there weren't nearly as many of us then, but she quickly moved to the front of the pack while I was still figuring out how things worked. She was one of my great influences as both a reader and a blogger. I’m glad Dewey was part of my book-blogging community, and that I’ve had the chance play a small part in keeping her community spirit going.
Portions of this entry were previously posted at The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness.
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