For close to five years I have been a member of an online community of writers called for no compelling reason cowbird.com, which grew to encompass 14,000+ writers who put out almost 90,000 stories, all tagged and organized, most with images, some with audio. Members could love and comment on stories and privately message one another. It was a happening place for authors and visual artists
Yesterday, Cowbird turned to stone. The writers and the stories will remain, but authors and readers can no longer interact and no new stories can be posted. Instead of being a living “library of human experience” it’s become the library’s archives.
The founder of Cowbird, Jonathan Harris, ran it as a nonprofit company. It hosted no ads and was free to all, but many writers chose to pay a yearly fee to become “Cowbird Citizens.” Jonathan pulled the plug because he felt people are interacting online more than is healthy for them and wanted to encourage his users to get out into the real world more often. But it was also true that interest in the site was waning, both among its users and for Jonathan himself. See for yourself in his farewell story, embedded below.
For me, it seemed the right thing to do at the right time. But many core Cowbird citizens didn’t want to drift away from one another and so are in the process of setting up new shops at several other venues, notably mewe.com (invitational) and medium.com (open). Although I’m involved in that, closing the barn door gave me the impetus I needed to open this site after hemming and hawing about it for half a year.
My mixed emotions tell me Jonathan hasn’t taken anything away I couldn’t let go of. And so, after posting 362 stories at Cowbird (a few of which are showing up over here), I’m ready to move on. Thanks, Jonathan, for all the fish.