Rock your tonsil rock

I’ve been interested in what makes a vibrant online community lately. How to begin one? How to sustain one? How not to let it spiral out of control? Ascent Stage is not in any sense a community. Traffic is too low, posts too infrequent.

But recently an old post came back to life and has me wondering. In June 2005 I wrote about a disgusting biological phenomenon known as tonsiloliths. I wrote it after one of my co-workers plucked one from her mouth. Being a fan of all things disgusting I had to write about it. Turns out lots of people suffer from these nasties. My post was not a first-hand account of a sufferer or a source of any medical advice. In fact, I was pretty crude about the whole thing. But, it attracted relieved commenters early on who were simply glad to find others like them.

Recently the post has reached a bit of a tipping point. Comments are way up; most are relatively long, breathless expressions of gratitude to be part of a small group of people helping each other. I read along as a third-party, an accidental self-help guru.

Over a quarter of all site traffic (27.45%) to Ascent Stage goes to this post alone.


(Rounding out the other big slices of the pie in order are How to create a LEGO mosaic, everything else, and the home page.)

So what’s the lesson for online communities here? Well, probably that there’s a lot of luck in fomenting one. The web is the perfect medium for yoking together micro-communities. You’d think that all you have to do is write about a topic that’s not been covered elsewhere (especially if it is medical in nature) and you’ll probably have a little tribe on your hands. But really, it can be just dumb luck.

Kinda warms the heart, though.