Membership of Ill Bethisad

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About Ill Bethisad
Beware of the Dragon!

About Ill Bethisad
More about Ill Bethisad
How It All Works
What IB Is and What IB Ain't
Membership of Ill Bethisad
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Basic principles

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How to become a member

IB is open to anyone who cares to contribute to it. Back in 2001, Andrew put it like this: "One rule of Ill Bethisad seems to be that if you can flesh out a part of it with a history, a geography and a language then it is yours to play with." In other words: when a potential Member shows up, all he needs to do is to give a description of what his plans are, so that we can decide if it fits or if we can make it fit.

In the early days, when Ill Bethisad was still known as the Brithenig Project, membership was by invitation of Andrew Smith, creator of Brithenig. Later, it became a matter of putting up a request, followed by acclamation by the group. For a brief period, membership was based on self-proclamation. Nowadays, it is confered more or less for merit.

There is always space for new members and new ideas. Of course, with IB growing bigger and more detailed, the number of blank, unclaimed territories becomes smaller and smaller; if you want a fully independent nation in Europe without being constricted by shiploads of pre-existing facts, then you may as well forget it. On the other hand, there is always the possibility of adopting for example a province, a city, a person, a trade union, etc. It does of course mean that you have to work within the framework of what is known about the state in question; but this should not stop you from working out the details for this particular area.

If you are interested in participating in Ill Bethisad, first make sure that you are reasonably familiar with the project. Obviously, no one can be expected to have read all 3,596 articles in this wiki and know the finest details about everything. But it is important that you know at least the basics – what IB is about, which countries there are, what kind of role they play in the world, why we are having zeppelins all over the place, and so on. Our homepage is a good starting point. You should also be familiar to our design principles (or "underlying philosophies", or "rules" if you like). Without knowing those, it is unlikely that you will be able to function within the group.

Once you know the basics of Ill Bethisad, you will probably know more or less in what way you would like to contribute to the project. Your choice should be guided by your own personal interests and inspiration, rather than by the very desire to become a member. Keep in mind that most IB members have some sort of personal affiliation with the region or field they take care of – either because they live there or at least have a strong professional or personal interest in it. They usually know the language, too. Once you know what you'd like to do, start thinking about a concrete proposal.

At this point, you will have to share you ideas with us. You cannot use this wiki for that, because edits can only be made by members. Instead, subscribe to the Conculture group (our main discussion forum), introduce yourself, and submit your ideas there. You are of course free to ask any questions. After you have told us about your plans, the group will review them, see if they fit within the fabric of IB, and if not, see what can be done to make them fit, make suggestions for improvement, etc. At last, your proposal will be accepted or rejected. Once your idea has been accepted, you are free to elaborate your ideas and develop them further; you will also be given a login name that will enable you to use this wiki.

As it was mentioned before, it would be helpful if you are familiar with the rest of IB before you start working on your own proposal. It would also help if the starting point of your alternate history could be explained from one of our current points of divergence.

What members are supposed to do

Nothing, basically. There is no minimum amount of output that needs to be delivered in order to be recognised as an IB member. Some people have merely been asking questions from time to time, or written a short description of something, and they are by no means worse than members with a higher output.

What is important, on the other hand, is that all members respect the general design principles of the project. In short, these principles (let's avoid the word "rule", because rules are inflexible by definition and usually accompanied by means of enforcing them) can be summarised as follows:

  • First of all, there is the Quod Scripsi Scripsi principle, usually abbreviated as "QSS". It means that once a fact has been written down and nobody objected to it, it becomes "established", or "canon". An established fact is to be respected as unalterable; any alteration must be discussed and generally accepted before a violation of QSS can be allowed.
  • The second principle deals with the relationship between *here* and *there*. In short: everything is assumed to be more or less the same as *here*, unless it is explicitly stated differently. And even then, the overall history and culture of *there* is often roughly similar, or at least parallel, to that of *here*.
  • The third principle is known as the "Cycle of Proposals": instead of issuing fiats, we submit our ideas to the group in the form of a proposal, which then can be reviewed and discussed, modified, and ultimately accepted or rejected.

If you play nicely by the rules, nobody will take offense. Do however take into account the following things.

Respect each other's property. The software running this wiki makes it technically possible for anyone to edit anything, and it may look strikingly similar to open-source projects such as Wikipedia. It should, however, be remembered that many places are owned, or semi-owned, by a caretaker who carries primary responsibility for them. You may of course ask questions, make suggestions or even launch proposals for those places, but keep in mind that it's up to the original caretaker to decide what he wants to do with it.

Also, avoid providing unclaimed countries or other places with all kinds of provisional or temporary data. First, because it leaves less and less space for potential new Members to explore. Secondly, because we end up with a huge number of buggy, semi-owned countries that weren't researched properly and that nobody really cares for. And at last, because as time progresses it becomes harder and harder to establish what is QSS and what is not. Obviously, no country exists in a vacuum, and we sometimes need to make assumptions about one country while fleshing out another. But as a rule, try to leave unclaimed territories as blank as possible, until someone from inside or outside the project really wants to work on them. In the meantime, we just assume that the given place is roughly the same as *here* and leave it at that.

It is inevitable that the more people work on IB, the more it is bound to become different from our world. The question remains however how different we ultimately want it to become. In general, our constructed language and cultures work best when they are embedded into something that is still similar to our world. Therefore, avoid introducing differences just for the sake of difference itself. Especially where unclaimed territories are involved, let us please stay as close to the world *here* as possible.

What members can do

Anything that fits within the framework of Ill Bethisad. Traditionally, our main focus has been on history and language, but there is no reason to leave it to that. Any detail of this model world is open for exploration! A few possibilities to consider:

  • work out the history of your country/region in as much detail as you like;
  • give an accurate description of its political system(s) (parliament, government, political parties) present and past;
  • describe cities, provinces, other places;
  • provide all kinds of interesting details about culture, mentality, society, arts, technology, economy, companies, etc.;
  • create images: flags, maps, portraits, logos, stamps, banknotes, anything really that would give your audience a visual impression of the couleur locale;
  • create other art forms in IB context: short movies, music, anything you like;
  • write news items (every now and then newspaper articles, fragments from radio or TV keep coming in);
  • delve into the differences between languages *here* and *there*;
  • create a website for whatever you are working on, and add it to our webring;
  • work out details about world-encompassing issues together with the other members;
  • if you are a native speaker of English, here is a list of articles written by non-native speakers who would like to see their text improved;
  • go through the List of Proposals every once in a while and comment whereever you can. If a proposal is yours, make sure that it doesn't stay a proposal for longer than a few months at most;
  • contribute to articles that explicitly invite you to; also, don't forget about our Collaboration of the Fortnight;
  • participate in the general discussion on Conculture, in Lla Dafern, and elsewhere.

In other words, nothing should stop you from freely expressing any creative ideas you have. As long as it fits within the framework of IB. Obviously, IB wouldn't allow things like aliens, but there are lots of works of fiction created within the world of IB that do feature them. We don't pre-establish facts about the future, but in IB, just like *here*, predictions about the future can be made.

The List

Ill Bethisad has been a going concern since November 1997 (when it was known as the Brithenig Project) and has accrued about 70 Members. Of course, not everyone who started with us is still around – people's interests wax and wane, while others have only stopped by for a quick cup o tea before moving on. The List is the roll of all the Members of Lla Societad dill Bethisad. It describes who's who and who is in charge of what. Older Members tend to be those who had staked out a physical territory and/or a conlang. Many, especially newer Members find themselves in charge of concepts more than specific locations. The project is no longer just a list of countries. We're starting to see what they're up to and what they're thinking and believing in as well. A very Good Thing indeed!

Not everybody on The List is currently an active member. We distinguish the following categories of members:

  • Active Members - people who have been members for at least a few months and who currently are regular contributors to the project, at least by popping in every once in a while;
  • Candidate Members - people likely to hang around as positive contributors the project, who expressed an interest in participating and whose first drafts are being discussed; they will automatically become regular Members after a while;
  • Inactive Members - people who may still maintain an IB related conlang or conculture page but who haven't participated in day to day discussion for more than a year now;
  • Retired Members - former Members who have more or less permanently withdrawn from the project;
  • Banned Members - luckily, this has happened only once;
  • Occasional Contributors - people who offered a single idea or helped with a couple of areas and then withdraw from activity; also people who pop in occasionally
  • Honorary Members - a status granded for certain special circumstances, like the anti-spam warriors on the old wiki;

A Candidate Member is someone who has expressed an interest in membership and submitted a few ideas, which are currently under discussion. Every Member starts his carreer as a Candidate Member. After a while, it gradually becomes clear whether someone is going to be a regular Member or not. This is a matter of tacit agreement; there is no vote or discussion involved. If that is the case, he will automatically be listed as an Active Member. If not, he will added to the list of Occasional Contributors.

Once you are an Active Member, you can stick around as long as you wish. It means you are the primary caretaker of whatever country, province, person or ideology you are responsible for. But membership is rarely for life. People can lose interest at some point, or their personal circumstances may change in such way that the won't be able to participate in Ill Bethisad any longer. In most cases, their contributions will gradually become scarcer and scarcer, until the disappear from the scene altogether. A Member, who hasn't given the slightest lifesign in a year or so, is listed as "inactive". However, we keep hoping for their return and will welcome them back with open arms. In the meantime, we do our best to keep their seats warm and still consider them caretakers, which means that their work cannot be amended without their consent.

That state of affairs cannot last forever either. If you have been an Inactive Member for, say, two years, we have to conclude that a comeback is highly unlikely. Unless you make it clear that you intend to resume activity on short notice, your membership expires, and you will be considered a Retired Member. This means that your work is still protected by QSS and your contributions are still honoured, but you are no longer the primary caretaker of anything; if you "owned" a country, it is considered unowned and up for grabs. Retired Members can also be Members who have explicitly left the project, for whatever reasons.

Issues of ownership

In the early days, Membership consisted merely of crafting some ideas about a place and then presenting them to the group for discussion and approval or emmendation. Over the years however, creating such a piece became regarded as a claim, which in turn caused Membership to coincide with the current notion of ownership. It should be noted, however, that we are primarily caretakers, not owners, and that nobody has an exclusive right on any corner of the IB universe.

One disadvantage of Membership being pretty much synonymous to owning one or more countries, is one-dimensionality. Owning a country is not the only way of being a Member. There is also the possibility of being an "At Large" Member (a Member who belongs to the project without owning a specific territory). Other ways diversify Membership are: multiple layers (one person in charge of a region, a second one in charge of the state it's part of, a third one of the entire continent); co-ownership (which can give some interesting results); ownership of something non-territorial (like FOIB, the Factbook, but also: weights & measures, religion, pop culture, a person, etc.). The author of a conlang is more or less automatically in charge of the history that causes its existence, but it is still possible that someone else takes care of the political aspect. In short: there are many ways of participating in the project, and claiming a country is only one of many different possibilities.

One thing that has become clear over the years is that Membership is rarely for life. Real life or other interests can interfere and may cause somebody to leave and never come back. Often such a departure is preceded by a long period of inactivity. Of course, we hope that an inactive Member returns and do whatever we can to protect his property in the meantime. But on the other hand, we cannot reasonably expect that our territories be held for us indefinitely. With IB constantly growing, and the army of inactive or retired Members growing with it, we shouldn't whine if we leave for a year or two or three only to come back and find out that our once beloved territory has been auctioned off to a new caretaker.

We can be reasonably expected to protect the property of an inactive Member for a period of about a year. After that, it must become possible for someone else to work with it. The preferred solution in such cases is that the newly interested party contact the original caretaker and sort things out from there. After that, several things can happen. Either the previously worked out history can pass smoothly to a new caretaker; or the old caretaker makes clear that he does not tolerate anybody else on his territory, and that he is going to play a more active role soon; or the two come to some sort of cooperation. In any case, the work done previously is never to be discarded, as it is protected by QSS.

Should an IB member express the desire to leave the project and take his creations with him, we encounter a serious problem: facts are built on other facts, and the whole construction is protected by QSS. Removing established facts from it would jeopardise the consistency of the whole. The general consensus is that all IB stuff (except the conlangs and some other materials restricted to people's personal websites) belongs primarily to the group as a whole. Therefore, withdrawing one's work is not something that can be allowed automatically. Instead, it should be handled on a basis of consensus.

A (Personal) Word For Newcomers

Hello prospective member of Oure Merrye Bande!

Ill Bethisad had been going for about a decade when I joined the project, more as a simple matter of volunteering to design some military insignia. That was it. And I got sucked into this utterly fascinating pasttime, thought experiment, creative exercise, etc. For the record, I'm glad I did.

But coming in as late as I did there were some challenges I faced, which will seem familiar to anyone else joining IB this late in the game. Large numbers of decisions have already been made and cannot be undone. No matter what I may think of the idea, there was no Great Depression and Islam is not as prevelant there as it is here while the internet is barely a gleam on the horizon as of 2005. If I--or anyone--wanted to design a country from scratch there are problems. Most of the countries are already created in some form. Even Antarctica has some!

My advice is this: Look for holes and see if you can find something interesting to fill them with. For example, without the Great Depression there could be no "New Deal" which created the social democracy in the United States and which we pretty much have to assume exists in some form in the NAL. So those social programs must have been introduced another way. My solution was an American leader, Gwilliam Lyon MacDowell, who oversaw the first beginnings of that process in the NAL. He was in between the surrogates of Woodrow Wilson and FDR.

Another area to look into is countries about which very little is known. Nearly nothing was known about Oltenia for example, save that it was part of the Romanian Federation and had thrown off Snorist rule somewhat early. I created my own princely dynasty there, with a unique royal sigil (lions and eagles are kinda overdone, don't you think?). Nor am I done with it.

Look around. Find something that piques your interest. What is the "national sport" of the NAL? I for one haven't a clue. How about the most notorious crimes in IB's history? Very little has been settled about the dozen-plus states that make up the Holy Roman Empire. How might genres (the Western, the Romance novel, etc.) have developed differetly there as opposed to here?

There's a lot of possibilities. Don't be discouraged because there's so much already done. Really, that can be a help rather than a hindrance.

Best of luck!
Zahir
11:40, 3 December 2005 (PST)

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