This week's pick:

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Ol' New Member Shuffle...

... Oh how we've come to hate that title. It's the subject line for an email chain that's spun its way around all our inboxes for the last two weeks.

(quick author's note--- If you're not terribly interested in taking an exhaustive, point-by-point look into the miasma of what it takes this little collective to make any kind of decision, you may want to scroll down to the pretty pictures (Jar Jar's down there!). Seriously, this is just going to be one long-ass exercise in needless, polite transparency.)

Over the last year, beginning literally hours after Comictwart's creation, we've each been approached numerous times by peers and followers, friends and strangers inquiring about joining this group. I'd like to assure everyone who's done so that every request has been taken seriously. Every one has led to a series of emails humming and hawing about what it would mean to let in new people. Not just those people specifically, but what it would mean to all the people we didn't let in. Ultimately it was decided best that we just wouldn't let anyone in.

Comictwart was a kind of special and magical thing that willed its way into existence just from a bunch of guys who happened to be on Twitter at the right time on the right day. In the first 24 hours we went from eight guys to sixteen. Had we not capped it there, within the next 12 hours we'd have been thirty... and then what would have been the point? Sixteen was a good manageable number and keeping the walls up made sense. So a few months ago we finally put it all to rest: no new members. Just us. That's all.

Two weeks ago one of the guys (I honestly don't remember who) wrote that now infamous subject line above. It was the week we were reminded of our anniversary. And for some reason, maybe because no one had really thought we'd make it this long, or that we seemed to have lost two of the original members, or that the stauncher voices (my own included) had mellowed, it felt different now. The idea of some new blood sounded more palatable. So we talked about it. We opened up every single old argument, pro and con, and, exhaustively, hashed it all out.

Over the course of those two weeks (and over 200 emails!) we came up with criteria for any nomination into the group. Those included, among other things, that the nominee be expressly interested in joining, have the confidence of the nominator that they'd participate at least as much as any of us, and, of course, that they were on Twitter. We also hammered out a process that felt fair. We agreed first and foremost that any choice had to be unanimous. Anyone who came in had to do so with an invite from all of us. If at the end of everything there was no unanimous choice, then we'd leave things be. We'd done okay so far.

The list we cobbled together was voted on anonymously (so no one had to feel bad about saying no for whatever reason) through a polling program Ron found online. The top 5 were then subject to a second round of voting. It was very, very close, but in the end there was just the one name left that met our one main requirement of unanimity. But you'll be meeting them soon enough.

(For what I hope are obvious reasons, we're not going to tell you who was on that list. It wouldn't be fair to, or comfortable for, us or any of the people on it. Suffice it to say it was long and comprehensive and full of men and women we all deeply admire and respect.)

As you may have guessed it was a long couple of weeks. You'd get to the point where every time you heard your email ping with another 2/6/13 emails and another 2/6/13 opinions, you'd groan. Audibly. When all was said and done, we decided that this wasn't something we wanted to take on again anytime soon. As much as we'd learned from the process, mostly we'd learned it was a pain in the ass, but this once it felt like the right time to do it. Through the process we were fortunate enough to welcome Steve and Patrick back into the fold. It gave us the chance to reexamine how we felt about this odd little blog and why we've all pursued it so passionately over the last year.

I personally missed the opportunity during our anniversary week to say how much I appreciate this group, and how honoured I am to be a part of it. It kicks your ass week-in/week-out, but it's always worth it and we're all the richer for it. As much as we may occasionally squabble behind the scenes, I'd go to bat for any of these guys. And if that sounds like we've been to war and adopted a kind of band of brothers mentality...?

... seriously, there were a lot of fucking emails.

tom fowler
January 28, 2011
(possibly drunk...)


Jay said...

I enjoyed this post. It's neat to hear how Thwart came together and operates!

Shane White said...

It's my skin color isn't it?


tomfowler said...

shane, it's more it's texture.

Mike Hawthorne said...

I wrote the subject line, Tom.



Just Some Guy said...

You should come up with a procedure for rewriting the procedure for extending membership. The subject line can be "The Ol'New Member Shuffle Dance".

Paul Conrad said...

Thanks gents, I accept!

Unknown said...

Your efforts are appreciated. Limiting the fresh blood is a responsible approach. You have an elite consortium and it's obvious to see how many artists would want to be included.

Anonymous said...

You guys squabble?

Unknown said...

I'll assume my invitation got lost in the internets...;)

keep up the good work guys!