RIP IBS - comments

Leo A. Martin
Sun, 28 Apr 2013 13:05:27 PDT
Natural selection seems to have resulted in hard-working and garden-cultivating
behaviors prevalent in the human population, each at a frequency of less than 1, and the
intersection of these two behaviors at an even lower frequency than either alone. So,
there will probably always be at least some people who like to garden and want to do it
better, but not that many.

Bulbs tend to be rounded or rounded-cylindrical and thus cute, like babies, Japanese
comic-book characters, kittens and some of the more fun adult body parts. So at least
some gardeners will probably always be drawn to bulbs.

Many people have the experience of discovering novelties that catch their attention and
turn their behavior in a different direction. (I mean hobbies and interests rather than
mating behavior.) Our task is to present our hobby to these people.


Population dynamics may be studied in organisms in the field or plant societies (the
same situation, really.) Smaller populations with many very-long-term members are not
necessarily at risk of extinction so long as occasional recruitment occurs. The
recruitment may be sporadic rather than at a constant low rate. Examples include saguaro
(Carnegiea gigantea) population near Tucson and the fan palm (Washingtonia filifera)
population in the Kofa mountains in western Arizona. All individuals were older, and no
recruitment in either population was observed for decades after their discoveries; both
populations were of concern for extinction at some time. But plentiful rains for some
years led to recruitment of viable members, and now both populations are considered

Populations surviving in environments that don't change much wind up well-adapted to
their environment. Characteristics not necessary for a low-change environment may remain
in the population unused or they may drop from the population as members leave over
time. A risk to smaller, lower-turnover populations is that conditions may change and
unused characteristics that might help deal with the change might be gone from the

Populations with small numbers of long-term members yet very high turnover of newer
members may be at risk of losing their core characteristics and going off in a new

Populations with no long-term members but rapid turnover of new members are unstable and
tend not to last very long.

Perhaps the population most likely to survive change would have some long-term members
among a substantial number of members with different times in the group, and a
moderately high rate of new members joining with their new ideas. My impression is that
the more successful online groups have such population structures.


It seems to me the most important work for hobbyist organizations wishing to attract
more members is to make themselves known as widely as possible, both online and in the
wet world. The Internet has made this easier and harder: Easier to find topics of
interest, but so many possibilities that it is very distracting.

Shows, displays and other events attract members if they are well-sited, well-advertised
and well-attended. Most of coastal California has an ideal winter-bulb climate and a
huge population, so public events there would probably attract more new members than in
someplace like Fargo, North Dakota. Confirmed bulb twitchers do not always live near
others, so the Internet is a necessity. But, maintaining either an online or physical
presence is an enormous amount of work!

And, one must keep in mind what is the product. Specialty plant society members want
something different than do general garden society members or subscribers to celebrity
Twitter feeds.

An Internet strategy that consists of "let's get a Facebook page" is probably not going
to work for a specialty society. The one Tim Harvey mentioned has a Facebook page; most
of the members are aware of it but only a tiny fraction ever visits. Why don't they?
Facebook is for social interaction and chatting. Members of plant societies want
information on plants and the social interaction is less important. On Facebook,
families and social groups can exchange photos and ramble at length about many different
topics. It's hard to pick out something of interest among all the extraneous and
non-threaded postings. Visitors have to scroll past political rants and gossip to find
material of interest. Facebook is not intended for sharing complex information the way
our Wiki is. Facebook is an online replica of the experience of sitting in the living
room and chatting with friends: it's an enjoyable waste of time. Our Wiki is an online
replica of going to a library. People seeking one of these experiences will probably not
want the other at that moment. I come to the PBS for bulb information, not for
discussions of political views, cats, vinyl record collections, or barbeque recipes. I
can ignore all those things everywhere else on the Internet, but I can't get bulb
information anywhere else than here.

Fortunately for the PBS, we are highly visible on the Web, due to the immense work of
members like Mary Sue and Dell.

Right now there seems to be nobody available for putting together and promoting heavily
physical events in California open to the public, but if that could be done we would
probably attract a lot of new members. California newspaper garden sections have more
and more articles devoted to plants native to similar climates and bulbs fit right in.
Many of you living in that state are wonderful writers who could contribute local
gardening articles to the San Diego Tribune, Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times,
Sacramento Bee or San Francisco Chronicle.


Volunteer overwork is a problem with all volunteer groups. Clubs that meet in person
have a tendency to view new members as draft animals, especially if they're young -
around 50 or so - or as interlopers, regarded warily. More successful societies are
friendly and welcoming without pressuring newcomers to do anything beyond showing up and
listening. A lot of newer members who feel welcome will later volunteer. So the most
important thing is to make them feel welcome once here. I think we do this pretty well
even if I do make them read too much.

Leo Martin
Phoenix Arizona USA

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