I killed Tremonter tonight. It was a good experiment, and taught me a lot about the neighborhood. Through it, I met a bunch of wonderful neighborhood people and another bunch of wonderful Cleveland people. Through it, I became part of the Cleveland Foundation’s Neighborhood Connections Grant Committee, and was sent to some neighborhood leadership training in Nashville. Through that, in conjunction with some other folks from Cleveland, I helped put together a Cleveland Youth Summit at City Hall. Because of Tremonter, I was threatened with a lawsuit, threatened with physical violence, told I was racist, and told I was a corporate shill. Good times.
For the first year or so, the site just consisted of me posting things I found online that had to do with my neighborhood, businesses, local weblogs, local artists, art galleries, events. Eventually the readership was high enough that strangers started coming up to me and telling me how great the site was.
Then I opened the site up for anyone to post, which is probably why I now have gray hairs. At first it was still shiny, happy people holding hands, but then folks started showing up and forcing their agendas all over the place, in your face. Names were called, feelings hurt, and new rules had to be put in place. About the time I raised money for two more years of hosting by putting ads from local businesses on the site [something like $30 for a year of advertising], I started getting emails from people who were trying to figure out why they were being attacked by complete [to them] anonymous strangers on my site. At first I tried to explain, but more and more often I had to read emails that were from people who were telling me that they could no longer visit Tremonter because the tone was now so antagonistic.
The compliments about the site became less frequent, and then stopped altogether. Users threw my rules back in my face and were shocked when they were punished for it. Folks started registering multiple accounts under anonymous names and posting positive things again. For a bit, this gave me hope, new, positive blood, until I found out that it was actually the case and had to put my foot down.
For the last year, the site has been nothing but an enduring headache. The only emails I get now are from people who have complaints about the people using the site, or complaints about the site from people who are using it. I no longer derive any personal benefit from Tremonter. It has been that way for awhile, I’ve kept Tremonter open for longer than I should have, out of a sense of responsibility for what had become an important news and gossip source for the neighborhood.
I considered burning the current incarnation of Tremonter and resetting it as a picked-author neighborhood ‘zine, and even bounced the idea off of a few trusted folks. Then I tried to figure out just how long it would take me to get all of that set up. Then I received a few more emails from people who were very polite, and not condescending in the least, but were once again hurt by being attacked by strangers on the Internet. I let this happen, time and time again, in my house. I can no longer apply any sort of moral relativity to the situation. I never liked the movie Old Yeller, but if your dog goes rabid, you put it down yourself.
I have a whole host of other projects that I’d like to work on, the most important being Abraham. With the weight of Tremonter off my back, maybe I can actually get the chance to work on one or two more.