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The Uchi-Soto of THP, Or: The Site is the Community

Something I've mentioned in conversation with others in the broader THP community is the idea of what actually constitutes, well, the community. I even slipped in a reference to this in my end-of-year post when I spoke briefly about the THP Matrix server. However, the thought struck me that the term 'external communities' may have been lost on anyone I haven't personally had dialogue with. The distinction is an important one, I feel, so I'll take the opportunity here to explain both what I mean and why I think it so important. Mind that this isn't necessarily an official position; I am simply a site janitor and a moderator in the current two external communities. That said, please do consider what I'm trying to say reasonably seriously.

The title of this post spoils things a bit, but I guess I'll start from the tail end and work my way back. The site is, as the title says, the community in my view. That is, is the focal point of the THP community and where the true community activity happens and all else should be viewed as external to the community. This then begs the question of what 'external' means in this case. Consider the Discord and the Matrix servers. They are certainly branded under 'THP' and are to be considered 'official' as far as THP goes, yet are they really part of the core community? I assert that they are decidedly not. They are merely connected to the site, not totally representative thereof. Thus, they are external to the actual community.

How can I draw such a distinction? Really, it shouldn't be any surprise to anyone who's been around long enough. When the IRC channel on Rizon was the primary external point of contact for THP, there was a similar dichotomy. Whilst there were certainly individuals there who concerned themselves with affairs on the site, they could hardly be called representative of the userbase as a whole. Anonymity makes it hard to tell at times, but there are more people browsing the site at any one time than ever have parked in the external communities. In addition, there were more than a few people in the channel who had little to nothing to do with THP at all, whether friends or acquaintances of current THP users or simply strangers who bound themselves primarily to the IRC channel. Putting aside joking — or mostly joking, anyway — references to 'the Cabal', the IRC channel was largely spoken of on the site as something outside of THP proper. To my mind, little to nothing has changed in this respect.

We may have created a completely different complex between the Discord server and Matrix server, with largely different makeups to the IRC crowd, the same general patterns apply. Out of the nearly two-hundred members between them, only a single-digit percentage can be reasonably verified as having posted on the site before, much less continuing to do so currently. Who are the rest? I have absolutely no idea. The majority hardly speak, much less make any idea of their involvement or non-involvement with THP known. Some rare contact with some of these lurkers leads me to believe many have little awareness of the site. It is a bit of mystery why some are even here in the first instance. Even so, you might protest, don't people talk about site matters at times or otherwise engage in pastimes that are at least relevant to the site? Both of those things are generally true, of course. However, relevance to the site in what you do doesn't necessarily make you part of the inner community.

Then, what the heck constitutes membership in the inner community of THP? Simple: posting on the site. Now, you might be thinking that that's a rather porous membership criterion. Indeed, it is. After all, how do we even distinguish people in this category? The reasonable answer is that we don't. THP is, after all, at its base an anonymous imageboard first and foremost, meaning its membership can't be readily enumerated. That means that the ranks of the inner community of THP is eternally in flux. Some people may only post every once in a blue moon, whilst others post with something approaching regularity. Writers of current stories will always fall into this category, of course. Any of their voters, whether one-time or regular, will naturally also be among the numbers. Even shitposters who throw garbage onto the site with little purpose count! (Spammers don't count, but that's a moderation matter.) As soon as you make any post on the site, you're part of the inner community. Similarly, when you stop, you're out. The point is involvement with activity on the site rather than anywhere else.

Here we come to the heart of the matter: the sticky question of what constitutes meaningful activity for THP. After all, THP in abstract covers a broad space. Do we count the Discord? Matrix? Any spin-off communities that have broken away from those? Steam groups? And so we could go, on and on, trying to pin everything to THP based on the vaguest connections through invididuals who profess some affiliation with it. However, I'm going to be quite hardline in saying that the answer is incredibly simple. None of the aforementioned aspects of THP's greater community — the outer communities — matter in terms of activity as far as THP itself is concerned.

The reasoning for this seems quite obvious when you think about it, but I've not seen much open discussion about it in my time. Let's first consider what THP is. THP is an imageboard dedicated to Touhou and Touhou fanfiction as its primary focuses. That means right off that dialogue around Touhou or writing about it are going to be the activities that hold the most meaning. Nonetheless, this is where people tend to get the wrong end of it. You might think that those things could be just as well done outside of the site. After all, a real-time chat is a form of communication, right? True as that may be, the thing most fail to grasp is the degree of ephemerality with anything with a real-time focus. Even when there is a record (read: logs) of things said prior, can anyone be reasonably expected to constantly go back through them? The true fact of the matter is that people's attention spans rarely allow for that. Thus, the collective memory tends to be quite short in those formats. Setting the matter of memory aside, there's also the matter of it simply being unwieldy to go more in-depth than what can be conveyed in short statements. If people start typing in giant paragraphs on Discord or Matrix, it becomes quite tiresome and the conversation either slows to a crawl whilst waiting for others to type out their thoughts, or the topic at hand gets derailed by those who have less to say. At that point, you may as well just post on the site, where it's easier to look through conversations and follow trains of discussion.

A lot has been invested in keeping the site running, updating the many pieces of its infrastructure, and generally trying to make it a place to be a community. To not post on the site is to squander that investment. That's why it's important for people to understand that the main focus of the THP community should first and foremost be the site, not any other THP-branded gathering spot. Without, the outer communities lose much of their purpose. Why would any of us stay together if not for this imageboard? There are so many other Touhou communities out there, but this is ours. We have to remember what makes us unique amongst all others and do our best to honour the purpose that it gives us as a community. So, sit around on the Discord if you want, but know that you're hardly part of the community if that's all you do. If you really want to be part of the community, get on the site. Even the most inane conversation lends life to inactive boards, and activity begets activity. If you're not that invested, fine. Just remember that those who don't have skin in the game don't have any right to complain about anything.