After last summer's new look debacle on Ravelry and the ensuing (and ongoing!) accessibility issues, I started looking for an alternative place to organize my test knits. Prior to that I'd run them solely in my Ravelry group but since that option was no longer suitable for everyone, it was high time for another solution.
The first one I tried was Fiberly. Although touted as a free website where designers and pattern testers can connect, it was merely a place for posting testing calls and very little beyond that. Along with my first testing call on Fiberly (which was Spice Road, by the way), I sent in a long list of grievances and feature suggestions. None of them was implemented in the six months' time I gave the site.
More importantly though, Fiberly suffered from reliability and security issues. In the six months I used it — and I ran multiple tests, including Golden Assam and The Comeback Cardigan — the site was down for days on end for technical reasons. At least once the site code was injected with malware. I won't even link to Fiberly's website because, as of this writing, it has again been down for several weeks with no communication from the owner.
The second test knitting site I signed up for was Yarnpond. I'd interviewed Yarnpond founder and developer Tineke for my blog a couple of years back so I knew what the site was about. Yarnpond is impressively feature-rich and comes with everything you'd need whilst running a test knit, including milestones and a test-specific chat room. But my first (and only) experience of hosting a test knit on Yarnpond wasn't very encouraging: only one person signed up for the test (Muscardin, if you're curious) along with two lookie-loos who said they could test the sweater but not stick to the deadline. Umm, no thanks.
Nevertheless, while Yarnpond didn't work for my purposes, it's the only one of its kind. With nearly 10K registered users and over 700 designers, it is the place to be if you want to venture into test knitting in a serious fashion. None of the alternative social media sites for knitters have anything even remotely similar.
When none of the existing solutions worked out, I decided to start my private group on Mighty Networks. Mighty Networks is a platform that makes it easy to add an online community to any website. Think of it like a Facebook group, except not being subject to ZuckerCorp's will and whim.
On Mighty Networks there is no tracking or advertising. Each network your sign up to is separate: the content you share in one network isn't visible to members in another network. The biggest, most prominent Mighty Networks in knitting are designer Louise Tilbrook's Everyday Knitter and yarn dyer Countess Ablaze's Countess Ablaze Yarn Underground.
What does this mean for test knitting then? A few things:
Future test knits will be run in my Mighty Networks community in addition to my Ravelry group. You can sign up in either one of those venues.
The best way to get notified of new test knits as they come is to join my mailing list and tick the box "Test knitting" when you sign up. New testing calls will be emailed to my subscribers with links to both Mighty Networks and Ravelry so you can choose the site that works best for you.
When you participate in a test knit, you're no longer required to create a Ravelry project page. You do, however, need to post about the test knit somewhere, be it on your blog, in a public Instagram post, LoveCrafts project, Ribblr journal entry, you name it.
Test knits are usually for a limited number of participants and come with strict timelines and requirements. I'm also going to be doing beta knits (or beta tests) in the Mighty Networks community. I wrote about beta knitting briefly in conjunction with the Linnaea Socks.
The term 'beta test' comes from the software development cycle, during which a new piece of software goes through several stages before it's ready to be released to the public. A beta test generally begins when the software is complete in features but likely to contain some bugs; beta testers are there to iron those out.
My beta knits are open to anyone interested. You can think of beta knitting as no- or low-commitment test knitting. You can participate in the beta test by knitting the pattern if you want but you're not obligated to finish in the given time frame nor to follow the testing requirements. If you do, however, you can get little perks for your hard work, such as a copy of the pattern you helped test knit or a coupon code to my pattern store.
In the future, I hope to evolve the Mighty Networks community beyond test knits and beta tests into something more with knitalongs and other events. Speaking of which: a new beta knit is coming really soon! This time it'll be an accessory featuring brioche (I know, shocker!). All information will come available next Thursday, July 1. Now's a good time to join the Mighty Networks community so you can hit the ground running when the testing call drops.
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