Prev Next

Entrepreneurship: Change & Growth


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Entrepreneurship: Change & Growth | A Practical Wedding

My middle school and high school yearbooks are filled with inscriptions (usually from people I only half-knew) that say, “Never change! Stay sweet forever.” I always assumed that these people only half knew me after they signed my yearbook because while I have many good qualities, I’m pretty sure sweet has never been one of them. Even at 13, or 16, or 17, I always thought this was the most depressing inscription possible. While I actually liked who I was at that point (a rare teenage blessing), the idea of never changing seemed like the saddest idea in the whole world to me. Surely we hadn’t all hit our peak at 16. Surely we had a lot of changing and improving to do (hint: as someone who married a high school friend, we sure as shit did). Surely the world had more to offer us than what we’d been offered so far. “Never change” seemed like such a banner of hopelessness.

It turns out, the funny thing about running a business, particularly a business in the public eye, is that people, lots of people, are inscribing “never change” on your virtual yearbook all of the time. It’s something I’ve noticed from my very early days of writing this blog, and it’s taken me a long time to wrap my head around it. In the early days, I thought it was the right instinct. Why change if you’re doing something good? Changing was clearly bad and moving in the wrong direction. So every time something happened that would impact the business at all—we re-launched the site (the smart post on that is here), I quit my job, I started writing a book—I’d reassure everyone that nothing was going to change, the content on APW was going to stay exactly the same. And it turns out, that was only partially true (but not because I wasn’t trying desperately hard to make sure nothing changed).

Running a business ended up teaching me a deceptively simple life lesson: Everything changes all the time. Trying to keep things the same is an exercise in futility. Whoops. But there are other useful lessons buried in there too.

After years of trying to keep the core of my business, APW’s content, more or less the same (while still always improving), and realizing that no matter what I did it always changed, I finally went to regular commenter Class of 1980, to ask why that was. She’s been running a business for several decades, and she always gives the right advice (like put a couch in your office so you can nap). She told me, “Something is wrong with businesses that don’t change. It means they’re not sensitive to changes happening around them, which is what causes change to be necessary.” And then the light bulb went on. Of course one’s business is always changing. Not only are you changing, but the world around you is changing, and your customers are changing. I’d known that, on a really logical level, but what I hadn’t realized is that this is a good thing. This is what good businesses do.

But what Class of 1980 and I talked about next is the hidden gold. We discussed the difference between a changing and growing business, and a fundamental change of mission.

This year, APW has grown faster than anything I’ve ever seen, and while it’s a nice surprise, it wasn’t exactly planned. Our readership is through the roof, and the whole staff is running around like crazy people trying to manage the extra work load, trying to cover the extra expenses, and trying to figure out what happened (see my post from earlier this year about growing a business, lessons that have continued times one thousand). The growth is a result of some smart decisions we made last year, but those decisions paying off is always a bit out of our control (you do the work, and then you just see what happens). And it turns out that dealing with a business that’s growing fast is one of the biggest challenges a company can face. Rapid business growth is wonderful, but it’s problematic. It means the nature of what you do every day changes somewhat. It means you have to adjust your business model so the growth doesn’t collapse your company. It means you personally change a bit (life changes us; it just does).

And at the end of the day, what it comes down to is the importance of knowing your mission. APW has always had a really clear mission—one that’s changed and grown with the site, but never one that’s been fuzzy. We want to change the wedding industry, talk about what really matters in our weddings, and talk about what marriage actually means. I want a place to write. We want to encourage constructive conversations. Ironically, we’ve (I’ve) always wanted to provide content that pushes readers to change, and grow, and eventually stop reading the site (we don’t throw around the term “graduates” for nothing). None of that has shifted. But it turns out the scary and brilliant thing about growth is it changes the ways you’re able to fulfill a mission. We’re able to produce How To content now instead of just linking to inspiration all over the web. We’re able to produce weeks of content around a theme, instead of just putting up posts. I’m able to write long form. (Here, around the web, and in a book. Squeek!) And that kind of change isn’t just good; it’s necessary. If you don’t change, you die.

And while change is scary as shit, it’s also one of the best things going. A lot of the things I did to get APW up and running were terrifying. Like, I don’t know, opening that first window and creating a blogspot account. Or quitting my job with plans to support my whole family doing something I’d made up. (Jury is out on which thing was scarier.) But two weeks ago, my exhausted pregnant self looked around the P&G Beauty shoot and had one of those moments of clarity.

Entrepreneurship: Change & Growth | A Practical Wedding

That little tiny blogspot blog I’d started had turned into this: fifteen women in a room, creating something useful (and pretty), and having tons of fun doing it. The confusing vastness of that was overwhelming. And my next thought was about how sometimes we try really hard to fight what we’re good at, and we just can’t win that fight. Five years ago, I quit theatre, quit entertainment, and decided I was never going to be in a room producing some sort of shoot or creative endeavor again. I got a job at an investment bank, for goodness sake—I worked hard at quitting. And then somehow, without planning it, I ended up back in a room doing what I’d always done, realizing it’s what I’d always been good at. It turns out that change can take you right back around in a circle, right to where you need to be, if you trust it.

So now, I’m spending more of my time actually looking forward to the ways APW will change in the coming months and years. I’m looking forward to what we’ll be able to dream up to do a better job of meeting our mission. I spend less time worrying about the people I might disappoint if we change. Because at the end of the day, there is no point in never changing and staying sweet. I was never that sweet to begin with, and I always looked forward to what I, and all of us, might grow into next.

Photos from my Instagram stream. Follow me at @megkeene or on twitter at @practicalwed

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

More in Recent Posts Staff Picks

[Read comment policy before commenting]

  • http://www.budgetfairytale.com Mindy

    I’ve always been scared of change and now recently I find myself chasing it down. Thanks for being a source of inspiration.

  • Marina

    I know I don’t really know you beyond your internet persona, and this may be a little creepy, but I love you, Meg. I love that you’re able to put this kind of stuff into words so beautifully, and I love the way you’ve so purposefully created the best community I’ve ever seen on the internet (and I’ve seen some good ones), and I love the way you support growth and change and sheer BRAVERY in your readership.

    And you know, we can relate this back to weddings too. Before I got married I worried about whether the wedding would change my relationship, and assumed and hoped it wouldn’t. (And I think I wasn’t alone in that.) But change is inevitable–of COURSE a wedding will change your relationship, every day does. And that’s scary as all get-out, but ultimately a good, good thing.

    • Ambi

      This is almost exactly what I was going to say! First, and I can’t say it enough, Meg, you have a true gift. And I am not talking about theatre, production, entertainment, organization, inspiration, advice, or any of that – I am talking about writing. Ms. Meg, you are a writer through and through, and you are absolutely gifted at it. I am excited to see the new and interesting paths that APW (and maybe other future projects) go down, but mostly, I am interested in you – your voice, your words, your perspective, your ability to somehow put those things down in writing in a way that connects with us so well. That is the magic ingredient here. So, honestly, just bravo, Meg. Really. I genuinely hope that you are as proud of yourself as we are all proud of you (and inspired by you)!

      Now, I also want to say that, due to my own current place in life, I read this and kept thinking about how much it also applies to relationships. Just the other day, my guy and I took the gigantic step of talking to my family about us getting married (our own little spin on the groom asking the father for the bride’s hand in marraige). I spent most of the weekend suddenly scared, overwhelmed, and unsure. I love him and definitely want to spend the rest of my life with him, but the phrase “don’t rock the boat” seemed incredibly wise at the moment. We are happier right now than we’ve ever been, so I am so afraid to change anything. I am kind of dreading hte sudden attention and focus that will be put on our relationship when we announce our formal engagement (which, for those of you keeping track, has not happened yet). I am starting to ease out of that fear and look forward to the engagement period, the wedding planning, the parties, and of course, being married. But I was taken aback by just how jolting and scary this kind of change can be, even when I have wanted it to happen for so long.

      It has helped me immensely to realize that this isn’t exactly “change” as much as “growth.” We aren’t suddenly changing our mission statement – we’re getting closer to accomplishing it. Thank you, again (and again and again, from the bottom of my heart) for all your wisdom and compassion, Meg. You really have created something wonderful here.

      • HH

        “We aren’t suddenly changing our mission statement – we’re getting closer to accomplishing it.”

        This. This exactly.

      • Ambi

        Can I add that, while I think that the love, support, praise, and pride that all of us try to express for Meg is absolutely deserved (and much more so than any of us readers really know), I also want to take a moment and say that the other people of APW – the staff, contributors, and the readers – also deserve a nice round of applause too. Can we all just take a second to say VERY WELL DONE to Meg for finding these amazing contributors and editors and staff? I know that the readers have tried to give warm welcomes and lots of feedback on everyone’s posts, but I don’t know if we’ve really done it justice. All of this new content, these deeply thoughtful discussions, and so much useful advice – y’all have really outdone yourselves. WELL DONE. APW is amazing, and we rightly praise Meg for it, but here’s a little toast to all the other incredible people who put so much love into it as well.

        • meg

          This for sure. I’m only one part of APW these days, and the staff and contributors and sponsors and readers all deserve all the praise you’ve got.

        • Maddie

          Hugs.

      • meg

        Aws. Thank you. I don’t know if I deserve that, but I’ll try to take it in and thank you.

        BUT MOSTLY: AMBI! You’re getting engagedddddddddddd!!!!!! EEEEEE!!!!!

        • Ambi

          I know, right?! I am trying to contain my excitement for the actual proposal and engagment, but honestly, this was THE step. In the course of our many years together, I don’t think my guy has ever had a single conversation with either of my parents about our relationship, so for him to gather the entire family (yes, we included my siblings) and ask them all for their blessing for us to get married is something I really couldn’t have wrapped my head around just a few months ago. But now, post-relationship counseling, things seem to really be happening, finally. I can’t even attempt to put into words right now all of the crazy emotions I’m feeling about this – some expected, many not at all expected. But I do know that having this outlet here at APW to talk about these things and having all of your support has been so wonderful.

      • Class of 1980

        Ambi, I understand the fear. I really do.

        But, even if you stayed together and didn’t have a wedding, your life would still eventually change.

        You may move. You will get older. You will take on more responsibilities. Your health may change. You will change jobs. You will change your minds. And the world itself will change.

      • Jamie

        First of all, I second the kudos to Meg. This site is a daily read for me.

        Secondly,
        “I spent most of the weekend suddenly scared, overwhelmed, and unsure. I love him and definitely want to spend the rest of my life with him, but the phrase “don’t rock the boat” seemed incredibly wise at the moment.”

        This. When my fiance surprised me with a ring in December, I felt all of what you described, and add shock to the list as well (I have a history of bad relationships). I spent a few weeks getting yelled at by my mom and various other people (mostly women) for “not reacting properly” because I wasn’t gushing every second of every day. Thank you for putting this feeling into words better than I ever could!

    • meg

      This TOTALLY relates to weddings. When people say “I don’t want our wedding to change anything, because what we have is so good,” I always think a mix of “But EVERYTHING changes everything, so how could a wedding not?” and “You can have something good, and then amazingly a door can open on something better, so don’t knock that change till you’ve tried it.”

      Just, exactly. We’re always changing which is scary as shit. But I guess not changing would be scarier.

  • Lynn

    I try to remember these things, particularly the part about change being good…but most importantly I try to listen to exactly what it is my life is leading me to–who I am, what I’m good at, where my heart resides. I get confused about it occasionally because I get fed up, but somehow it keeps coming back. I’m in a crappy, crappy job right now (although it pays the bills better than anything else I could find so I can’t complain), but last week I actually got to do the thing I love and at which I am so very good.

    And my heart was overjoyed.

    So I think I’ve got to figure out a way to get back to that on a regular basis. Somehow.

    • meg

      Yes to listening. Exactly to this.

  • carrie

    All of what you wrote is one of the reasons I love APW. I’ve been reading for a short time comparatively, about 2 years, and the changes I’ve seen are amazing. They add to the site and the community. Every single thing has inspired me to change things in my life, or at least talk about them.

    The very best thing I’ve done in my life is nurture my relationship with my husband. It feels weird to say that, like I’m saying I wasn’t enough on my own. Of course I was, I’m just better with him. My relationship is the best part of my day, everyday. APW has given me a place to continue to nurture that and of course, nurture myself. And a place that encourages me to change in the best ways. I’m grateful for it everyday, and a fierce supporter of this place.

  • Class of 1980

    Here I am finally showing up in the middle of the day, only to see my name splashed across the page! Ha! I have a few things to add.

    There is change dictated by outside conditions – things going on in the world that affect your business. It could be laws, innovation, competition, the culture, or vendors. The market just changes.

    There is change dictated by your customers. If you listen, customers tell you what they want from you. Usually, it involves ways to serve them better, whether more conveniently or with more services. I bet a lot of changes to APW have been customer-driven.

    Conditions affecting my business have shifted every two or three years. They involved new laws and gov’t programs (unfortunately negative for us), suppliers, innovation, and competition. If my business had not changed several times, we would literally be out of business right now.

    Our customers have caused us to constantly evaluate how to be more customer-friendly and to have more choices in the products and services we offer. Having responsive and innovative suppliers who in turn listen to my needs and make changes accordingly, has been key.

    LESSON: Respond to changes or die.

    • meg

      And it turns out, for me, finding a way to listen to and serve your customers better (that’s you guys!) has been such a joy. We think “Oh! We should do this!” and then we do, and it’s way better than expected.

  • Laura

    Word *up*, Meg. And I’d like to go out on a limb and say APW has gone *much* farther than changing just the wedding industry. This site is the best spot – online or otherwise – that I’ve found to inform, inspire, and provoke my thinking on womanhood, relationships, adulthood, and life journeys in general. I think you may have just gone so far as to have changed the internets, and possibly society, in general. Rock. On.

    • Ambi

      Yes, exactly! And I was absolutely addicted to APW long before I had any reason to really care about wedding planning – I just loved it for the community and the thought-provoking content. Now that I am (eek!) getting closer to wedding planning, ya’ll aren’t going to be able to ever get rid of me. :)
      Seriously though, in the past few days I browsed some other wedding websites and magazines and . . . how can I put this? You know that feeling of being in an uncomfortable social setting and just really really wanting to get back home and put on your PJs and maybe have a nice glass of wine with your best friend? That’s how I was feeling about APW.

      • Jashshea

        I said something similar last week – I feel so much more “normal” here than I do at other wedding/female-targeted sites. The issues people bring up are often something I’ve a) struggled with and resolved or b) not quite made peace with and it’s so refreshing to hear how similar-minded people have done so.

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      I can’t lie – that’s why I hope there is eventually a more full time Reclaiming Wife / Practical Baby type stuff. Because there’s no where else that I know of that has these kinds of discussions and conversations.

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

        YES!
        Reclaiming wife more full-time would be awesome :)
        I have not yet found another community that really talks about all those things in nearly the same frank and open way that APW does.

      • One More Sara

        I think A Practical Parent would be a more appropriate term for child-rearing posts. (I imagine it as an ongoing series, much like Reclaiming Wife.) We wouldn’t get posts every week, but hopefully there will be enough content that it’ll earn it’s own tab. Pretty please?

      • MDBethann

        Exactly! Which is why, even though I am a wedding graduate now, I don’t feel the need to leave the site.

        Part of why I found the site useful was reading the posts from those who’d gone before me and learning from what they had to say. And none of us should ever be “marriage graduates” because I think we all need to keep learning and growing in our marriages/relationships every day and we can all use a forum like this at some point in our relationships.

        And finally, I wouldn’t stop reading this because even though my wedding is now a part of my history, it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy oohing and ahhing over everyone else’s weddings!!

      • meg

        I do want more Reclaiming Wife stuff (though there tends to be a balance, the last week or so has been more weddings, because it’s summer, but the few weeks before that were very low on weddings, so we’re trying to balance).

        But. no on Practical Baby, sadly. Every time I’ve stuck a toe in those waters of late, it’s either ended with me being personally attacked (pleasant) or people taking sides in the comments on different “types” or parenting. Both of those things make me feel very very unhappy, and I won’t want my work life to make me feel very very unhappy, you know?

        • Class of 1980

          Choices about raising children are more emotional than choices about weddings. The consequences are so much greater and the subject is even more personal.

          Plus, although there has NEVER been a consensus on how to raise them, I think there is more divide on various issues at this time.

          Too often, it ends up feeling like a judgment of how much you love your child. NOTHING is more hurtful than that.

          I don’t actually believe that someone who would do it differently than me loves their child less. But people feel so threatened by others not valuing what they themselves feel is vitally important … and emotions run amok.

          It’s a minefield. ;)

        • Laura

          But you have to admit, babies really do need to work on being more practical. Such idealists, those babies.

          • meg

            No shit. Like, get a JOB baby. Not everyone gets to sleep and eat all day.

          • Class of 1980

            OMG. Funny! And true!

        • Anon for Today

          Along the line of reclaiming wife I’d love to see a new post on miscarriage.

          I know there are a few back in the archives (FANTASTIC posts, actually) but it would be …. good? (question mark there because it’s obviously not a situation anyone wants to be in) to be able to have that conversation again here.

          • meg

            We will keep our eyes out for a post like that arriving in our inboxes. Since, obviously, that’s one that can’t be written on demand. Noted!

    • Jessica

      I like to think that APW is about self-actualization through (or in the context of) relationships. To me, it feels like it’s about growing up and becoming more and more true to ourselves, and about both the impact that can have on our relationships (especially but not limited to with our life partners) and how those relationships (and the rituals around them) can help us to become ourselves more fully.

    • http://thecelebrationgirl.com Marcela

      Indeed, I got married 2 years before Meg and started reading in 2010, when my children were already 2 years old, following Lisa, from Privilege, who was doing a guest post. This site is much more than a wedding site!

  • JenMcC

    I so appreciate this post because change is something I have… trouble with. I court it from afar, when it’s still at a safe distance, and then when I get up close to it I freak. the. fuck. out. So it is so, so good to read such a thoughtful, true piece about the benefits of change – how it leads to growth, and how it takes us to where we need to be. I love how all this change has brought you back around to doing something you used to do but in new ways. It’s really inspiring, and it’s also a really good way to think about why change is worth embracing. You might think the fact that it’s gonna happen anyway would be reason enough to embrace it, but no. However, really understanding how meaningful change can be, how much it can grow and open – that makes it feel pretty worthwhile.

  • JenMcC

    Oh also, I wanted to add that I think AWP has done and is doing an amazing job of changing the wedding industry and the way people think about weddings. It certainly has for me. I started reading it before I got engaged, and now that I am engaged there is nothing, I mean nothing, that I don’t think about in terms of what it really means for my fiance and me, if it truly matters to us and reflects what we’re building together and within our community of family and friends.

    I feel so fortunate that I get to approach my wedding this way – thoughtfully, honestly, and truly as myself – rather than getting swept up in the WIC insanity of Buy All The Things and Do It Perfectly. I think I would have been much more frustrated and confused by this whole process (as it is, I’m still not a big fan of wedding planning) without the wisdom and guidance of the many wonderful people here at AWP. You all rock.

  • kt in kc

    This post was so inspiring, and so incredibly comforting – thank you, Meg!! It heralds a message about change that’s applicable to all parts of life, from growing up and careers, weddings and marriage to everything out beyond that.

    My fiance and I are going through a lot of struggles right now – some wedding-related, others finance/education/career/health-related. (Yeah…all those issues are one giant web of challenges for us right now.) We’re struggling to get through everything and find solutions, but your post has made me realize that “struggling” and “solutions” aren’t the answers. Like you said, we have these challenges in life now because things AROUND us are changing. Struggling to find solutions is really us struggling to maintain the status quo. What we need to do is to change and grow ourselves; we need to accept and adapt to the new world and circumstances around us, to find the new opportunities and gifts in it, rather than be afraid and try to resist.

    Your writing has given me inspiration and hope, Meg – thank you :-)

  • kyley

    And this is why APW remains my favorite place on the internet, despite the fact that I’ve never been planning a wedding in the 4+ years I’ve been reading this site.

    Five years ago, I quit theatre, quit entertainment, and decided I was never going to be in a room producing some sort of shoot or creative endeavor again. I got a job at an investment bank, for goodness sake—I worked hard at quitting. And then somehow, without planning it, I ended up back in a room doing what I’d always done, realizing it’s what I’d always been good at. It turns out that change can take you right back around in a circle, right to where you need to be, if you trust it.

    My life is currently changing in a similar way to what you describe here (trading in creative, grad school life for a professional wardrobe and business cards). I’m excited about the change, but terrified about leaving something I love so dearly. This post made me cry, actually, because it’s so full of what I hope for the future. I want to welcome the changes coming our way, but I also want to preserve the things I hold dear such as scholarship, an intellectual community, and teaching. And I think your post made me cry because it made me realize maybe change does not mean abandoning these things after all.

  • Jashshea

    This is one of those “lots to think about” posts. I find it fairly easy to deal with professional change (I’m in tech at a large company, so things are always changing and that doesn’t reflect on me as much as it would at a smaller company), but I often experience…pre-nostalgia? anxiety? when the changes are more personal.

  • Aimee

    This post is challenging for me to fully digest as a longtime reader of APW. I have seen the site change and grow in ways that feel really positive and optimistic; I want to honor and affirm that. But something has been distancing me from connecting as a reader to the site for the past while. Despite your (Meg’s? APW as a company?) stated mission of desiring to encourage constructive conversation, I’ve seen thoughtful if dissenting threads shut down and/or written off by admin posts (blue/pink)– this is frustrating for me because I remember some great, multi-hundreds-of comments posts with respectful debate, and it’s become more apparent that there’s not always room for that at A Practical Wedding anymore. Can someone on-staff speak to the rationale behind this shift?

    • Ambi

      I’m obviously not on staff, so I’ll let them speak for themselves, but I have also noticed what you are talking about, and I have gone back and forth on it for quite a while. What first brought me out as a commentor and not just a lurker was wanting to speak up when I was disapointed that a line of commentary was shut down. BUT, in the past year or so, I have really felt empowered to open up about very deep, difficult topics that, honestly, I don’t even feel comfortable talking about with my very best friends. Somehow, between the anonymity of the internet and the positive supportive atmosphere that has purposefully be cultivated here, I finally felt free to talk about this stuff.

      I think it was probably necessary, at some point, for APW to make a choice about where they stand on completely free and open conversation versus the desire to promote a tolerant and accepting environment. I, personally, am happy with where they have come down on that issue, and I think that their skill in moderating those types of discussions has really increased as well. It is all a growing process, and I think we all are learning how to have as much of both of those worlds as we can. But in the end, if you have to err on one side, I am fine with it being on the side of civility and respect – there are so many other places on the internet where anyone can express any view they have, in any tone or language, without any regard for other people’s boundaries or feelings. It is rather refreshing to have a little corner of our own in which we know someone is going to keep things civil. And, in my experience, especially recently, APW has allowed serious disagreement and debate, as long as it is done respectfully.

    • Ambi

      By the way, AIMEE, thanks for bringing this up – it is one of those things that may be difficult to address, but it really is a big part of our APW experience, so I do think it merits a mention.

      Also, I’d just like to say that, if everyone who had a dissenting opinion expressed it as thoughtfully and respectfully as you have here, there wouldn’t be any need for moderators. :)

      I come down on the other side of the issue from where you seem to stand, but in the end it really isn’t a democracy, and I mean that in a good way – I love APW because it has a very specific viewpoint and voice. So, I guess what I mean is, I hear ya, and I think you’re right to mention it, and I’m sure several other readers will have thoughts on it too, but ultimately it is kind of up to Meg and the staff to determine what kind of site they want to run. And I, for one, have been pretty happy with their choices so far.

    • meg

      Interestingly, Amee, you’ve hit on one aspect of APW that hasn’t changed at all ever, though I totally understand if the perception of it has changed. I’ve always run a really tightly moderated site, from day one (blogspot days). Interestingly, this does not mean it’s a heavily moderated site, since we remove very few comments. But I (and now we) have always been very clear what is ok in the comment space, and what isn’t. I’ve always felt very strongly that I didn’t want to spend my time (and later my money) to host a site where a sort of viper pit of comments existed, like they do in most places on the internet (I literally have stopped even going into the comment well on most sites, because what lives there is so ugly). So I’ve always moderated to create:

      – A safe respectful environment.
      – A focused conversation (AKA, if we run a post on what happens to a marriage after having a kid, and someone calls the writer a bad feminist, and wants to shift the conversation to what a good or bad feminist is, we’ll shut down that thread, even though it is a thread we would encourage, respectfully, on a on-topic post, and might even follow UP with an on-topic post to allow that conversation to continue.)
      – A conversation where the writer is *never* under attack (because if writers knew they would be open to attack here, very few people would share as openly as they do, frankly, including me).

      That said, we love and encourage dissent on an issue. Don’t agree with an idea in a post (note: an idea, not a person) tell everyone why in a constructive way. You might not convince the staff or writer to change their mind, but it’s fun to try!

      Here is the shift you’ve seen, though. Even though our policys have stayed the same since 2008, I’ve gone from moderating 300 people, to 50,000 people (just a year ago), to 250,000 people (now). Working to get a wider group of people to play nice can be a bit more challenging (and off topic threads can spin off very quickly into very hateful places, and the staff has learned how and when we need to cut that off at the pass). Beyond that, moderating is now more obvious, with more moderaters, and their comments marked in different colors. So you may notice more of what’s always been happening.

      In short, APW does not have good, awesome, constructive and dissenting comments and debate by luck. It’s due to a concerted and unchanged commenting policy, and an effort to get everyone to stick to one set of rules. Is it perfect? Nope! But it’s the best we can do, right now, in an imperfect world.

      • RJ

        Meg – a QUARTER OF A MILLION READERS!!!!! Wow!!! Big congrats on that. (And thank you!)

      • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com Danielle

        APW FASCINATES me because it really is one of the best places on the web (that I’m aware of) for interesting, thoughtful, compassionate conversation in the comments.

        I recently read an article in the NYT magazine about the founder of Tumblr, who chose not to allow comments on their platform because it so frequently devolves into a “viper pit,” as Meg said: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/magazine/can-tumblrs-david-karp-embrace-ads-without-selling-out.html?pagewanted=all

      • Gia

        It’s helpful to see this explanation and I appreciate your openness. Would you be willing to address why APW deleted posts asking to better understand the thinking around one of your recent changes? There were several comments questioning the P&G sponsorship following your announcement of it that were no longer there a few hours later. The posts I saw were relevant and respectful, and they did not attack the author or the site, but asked some calm and thoughtful questions about whether the sponsorship is consistent with your stated goals. Given how respectful they were, I actually saw those questions as indications that the readers care about your site deeply. Because P&G conducts animal testing, as someone who believes animal testing is morally wrong, I’m struggling with whether to continue reading the site given the P&G affiliation because you still have a lot of content that I do find valuable. Much of what I’ve read here has helped me through the wedding planning crazies, and helped me focus on what really matters. But I worry that by continuing to come to the site, I’m tacitly supporting animal testing (and inclusion of toxic ingredients in cosmetics) by coming to a site that’s profiting from helping to sell P&G products…. It would be too much to ask that you please everyone. And change *is* inevitable and can lead to growth, but certain types of change aren’t so good. I really hope you’ll continue discussing this recent change within APW and continue reflecting on what you want to become and whether accepting funding from companies like P&G is consistent with that! (And I think it would be great if you’d be willing to engage your readers in an open and respectful dialogue on that topic too!)

    • Maddie

      Meg covered most of it in her reply, but I’d also like to add a few of my own observations, as I’ve transitioned from a reader to an advertiser to Editor.

      The first is that while the moderation is pretty consistent across the board, through experience the staff has learned to see trouble ahead in ways that probably aren’t quite as apparent as a reader. Frequently the comments that are going to take the discussion in a hurtful direction share similar characteristics, so we will step in and stop the thread from from derailing before it gets too much speed. I can see how this might be viewed as a more aggressive comment moderation, but we’ve learned from experience that not taking preemptive action can lead to some really hurtful threads (and with the increase in readership, things spin out of control much faster than they ever did before, which in turn makes our response that much faster too).

      And then the second thing I wanted to note is that we still totally have those great multi-hudreds-of-comments posts, we just have them on a much larger scale now. But, just off the top of my head, I’m thinking of my post about weight and body image (and that discussion was AMAZING) and Meg’s post about marriage as mini-socialism (which inspired great debate) to name a few. So we’re definitely still having those discussions! It’s just that the people engaging in those discussions are different than they were a year or two ago.

      • meg

        And, I’ll add to Maddie here that I’ve seen the quality, depth, and respectfulness of the discussions increase hugely over the years, and hugely over just the last year. Last year, body images posts had really painful comments, where a lot of readers and commenters got hurt. This year, we had the same conversation in a super constructive way (without a single comment moderated).

        On the whole, we actually have had to moderate FAR fewer comments in the last year than we ever had, with the quality of discussion and debate rocketing to new and really stunning highs. But, we have had a slightly higher incidence of specific threads moving to a really bad space (you often won’t see the bad space they moved to when we shut them down, because the usual procedure is that we remove a handful of really ugly comments, and THEN shut it down). So that might look like more agressive moderating, when A) Moderating policy is the same, and B) There is actually far less moderating needed than even a year ago.

        So that’s behind the curtain.

        • Class of 1980

          You have less hurtful comments because you have consistently educated your posters up front .

          That’s another thing I should have mentioned about my business. The more I educate customers up front about what to expect, the less problems I have down the road.

          • meg

            This, by the way is brillant. The staff has been thinking a lot about this very idea of late, but I think you articulated it more sharply than we have.

          • Class of 1980

            I’m sending you a consultation bill right now. ;)

          • Ambi

            Hmmm . . . am I crazy to draw another correlation to relationships, weddings, and wedding planning? Counseling taught me and my guy how to communicate better in a way that is related (I think) to educating your customers and managing expectations. It is hard to describe, but I see similarities . . .

            I know it will matter when it comes to wedding planning, that’s for sure! So, way to go APW – not only have ya’ll been running your site in a smart way by educating readers up front, you have been subtly modeling for all of us how it can be done – and that is a great tool for us to take back to our own lives.

            That sounds very abstract, but what I mean is, when Meg prefaces a post about body image by saying that she expects us to all be respectful and kind and supportive and honor the spirit of this site and that she won’t hesitate to step in if things go down the wrong path, that is pretty much a script that we can use when communicating with family, vendors, etc. about our wedding. I am totally bracing myself for wedding planning drama right now, so I LOVE the idea of having this kind of tool to use right from the start. “Mom, I love you, and I know you want me to be happy, so I expect that you’ll respect and honor my wedding choices, even if they aren’t exactly what you would have chosen and that we will be able to get through wedding planning without too much conflict or tears.” Maybe something as simple as saying this up front will help prevent some of the craziness . . . one can only hope. :)

          • meg

            And that, Ambi, is interesting. And something I’m learning to do in my own life too. It’s funny, you’re basically comparing pro-active comment moderating as setting boundaries (where re-active comment moderating feels punitive, and is something I try to avoid at all costs, though I never can entirely). Which also means that if you’re setting boundaries, you have to be willing to act on it if people overstep them, but you’re far less likely to have to.

            All really good smart life stuff. Hum.

          • Laura

            Ambi – Very interesting.

            I don’t totally hate the idea of explicitly setting up expectations for interpersonal interactions, especially during something so potentially fraught as wedding planning. It probably would work in many situations.

            But… I don’t know. There is a difference between setting “expectations” about discussions on a huge comment board or deliverables from a company and setting them with your friends and family. When dealing person-to-person, that type of communication could be taken as manipulative.

            Granted, this (dissenting but hopefully respectful) comment is coming from someone who really doesn’t like to be told how to think, feel, or act.

        • AMBI

          Laura, I agree and that’s why it was so hard to articulate what I was talking about. In my relationship it comes into play in terms of just having more open communication – not really setting expectations so much as preferences, fears, etc. For example, I was taught to be more open and up front about what I needed as far as marraige, commitment, and timelines for engagement. One of his recurring issues has to do with how I spend money, so he was taught to approach me proactively and with a positive attitude before holiday season gets under way, for example, so we can agree on a spending approach we’re both comfortable with.

          Regarding wedding planning, though, I think a fairly literal interpretation could be useful. Of course it all depends on your personality and situation, but for me setting up some preferences, requests, and yes, expectations that are communicated clearly from the beginning could help me stand my ground later, which isn’t something I’m always good at.

          • KSandoval

            Just have to chime in a bit late on this one: this was the main approach my parents took with me and my siblings growing up. They ALWAYS told us what they expected of us before heading into a store/party/restaurant. We knew what they wanted from us and we followed those expectations because it was all laid out for us. We didn’t need to question it.
            Hope I am getting that correlation right, AMBI. Thought it was just another extension of relationships, communication, and life.

          • Laura

            KS, this sounds like a great parenting technique. I think those “expectations” in your case are like the “rules” my folks always laid out for me, and which kids, I have heard, typically require.

            And I think we are all in agreement that it’s best to lay out boundaries proactively, rather than dealing with problems once things have exploded.

            But I guess we may just have to agree to disagree on whether it’s OK to parametrize your expectations with your family and friend peers and elders in the same way you might in a business relationship or to a child. My take on proactive boundary setting in this situation would be more like, “The things that are really important to me about the wedding are x, y, and z,” instead of, “I expect things/you to be like x, y, and z.” My gut really says that being straight forward, without being demanding, about what your needs are, is more respectful and productive.

  • KC

    I get the “don’t change” thing too, though – sometimes it means “I don’t know how to define what makes you *you*, but please keep that part!” or it can mean “this is so good, it doesn’t seem likely to change for the better”. It’s like when you’ve found a conditioner or something that really works with your hair, that you’re not allergic to, that smells nice, etc. … and then, next shopping trip, you see “all-new formula!” on it. But creative stuff can’t successfully stay the same in the way that recipes or formulas theoretically could (witness the many books and movies that really shouldn’t have had that many sequels), and communities are even more unruly and non-static.

    Also, stay sweet is pretty weird all around. I… would not find that flattering. Stay awesome, stay yourself, keep growing, instead. :-)

    • Ambi

      Love your comment! I feel this way about ordering in restaurants – I find a favorite dish and I order it every time. If it is ever changed or removed from the menu, it is devastating. But your conditioner comparison is great too – there are certain things we come to rely upon, and we like having that stability. But then again, I guess all of us readers have to remember that Meg and APW need room for a lot more personal and professional growth than, say, hair conditioner does. :)

      And yeah, stay sweet is weird (although we said that in high school, too). Man, how awesome would it be if there was some sort of teen equivilent for APW – practical relationship and life advice for teenagers?

      • meg

        There is, sort of. Rookie Mag, which is a whole other thing, but fucking brillant, and something I would have ADORED as a teen.

        • http://www.myhonestanswer.com/ my honest answer

          I misread that as ‘Rookie Meg’ and thought you had started a site of practical advice for teenagers! I was so disappointed when I realized my mistake… I would have read it!

          • meg

            Ha. If only I had unlimited time. I loved being a teenager (oddly), I love teenage girls, I would totally adore doing that. But what I was saying is, Rookie Mag is AMAZING.

        • Hana

          I’d never heard of Rookie Mag, but I just went and read some stuff on their website — it’s GREAT! :-) thanks for letting us know!

  • fat loss factor

    Very well said:) Running a business can make you wiser! I am sure there,re lots of trials & errors, but that’s the beauty of entrepreneurship.

  • Emma Branch

    Right now I have four tabs open in my browser: one is my pinterest page on ‘wedding decor’, another says ‘doily chandelier how-to’, then there’s ‘gold doilies- google search’ and the last is of course ‘Entreneurship: Change & Growth’, which might as well say, “close those other tabs. stop obsessing. get real.” You APW lady-loves have been immeasurably helpful as I fumble my way through planning a wedding I more than anything want to feel (even if my obsessive, detail-orineted actions would indicate otherwise.) So, thank you, brave woman warriors for reminding us daily to reconnect with the present. To be aware. And to do our best with what we are given. Thank you.

  • Hannah

    I have to say – as others have said – I love you ladies in the way you love your favorite author…as much as it is possible to know someone you have never met or had a conversation with. My heart is full of thankfulness for this community. Thank you Meg for starting this amazing thing.

  • Pingback: A Pause()