So I’ve been on Ravelry for a couple weeks now. It’s in beta and by invitation only. I found out about them a few months ago when people started linking to stuff on this site and it showed up in my logs. Eventually I got off my ass and signed up for an invitation.

Being an experienced software professional I know what beta means: if we let too many people in, our product will fall over. It’s pretty much an all-purpose excuse for when something doesn’t work. I could get into a long thing about that (why the hell is gmail still “beta”?) but that’s for another blog. They are doing a pretty good job, and certainly have the hot ticket in town as far as yarn people go.

The site, for anybody living under a rock, is social networking for fiber. The interface is very much targeted to knitting and crochet, those being the only two choices of project types in your online project notebook right now. But there are lots of spinners and a good number of people interested in other things.

And anybody who has any sort of online presence seems to be there. People I haven’t talked to in years have found me already, as have new folks looking for fiber friends. I’ve had a lot more site visitors lately coming from links to my stuff and people looking at my profile.

The UI is clearly a work in progress (there is a skeleton iPhone version!) but it’s good enough to be functional. Some of my complaints have been odd toolbar behavior in MobileSafari (not to mention crashing it regularly) and the fascination with Flickr (can’t use self-hosted images in project notes.)

Really, the last thing I needed was another social networking site to suck up time, but Ravelry has interesting forums on pretty much any fiber topic you can think of (nalbinding!) and some you hadn’t (I’m doing Mac online tech support?) I’ve been meaning to ask Abby how she feels about having a fan club. She’s already got a popular blog and online yarn and fiber store. I occasionally post on various online forums, both for my own entertainment and to get interest in the site, and this is the biggest fiber thing I’ve seen come along yet.

The project notebook section is promising, allowing people to share work in progress and things you are contemplating as well as finished items. The Stash section does allow for handspun yarn although I’m still trying to figure out how to link yarns and patterns together into projects. I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve got my own special yarn (and not one of the thousands of commercial ones listed) but the UI still seems kinda clunky.

I’ve experimented with the project notebook some, but I still have my own site to post things on so I’m less inclined to put everything I do on theirs. That it will pick up my RSS feed and link to my blog posts in my profile is very cool. I’ve been thinking it may be useful as an RSS reader alone.

Overall, I’ve been spending way too much time trolling the forums and looking at pictures of what people have posted. It looks like a good online community, for people with and without personal blogs and sites. That is one thing about posting online, there isn’t much integration with my own site to get people interested in coming over here to visit other than the occasional link. But with my blog displayed in my Ravelry profile people can easily see what I’m up to without having to pick it out of twelve different messages on as many sites.

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