Micro-cultural research for this forum!


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The Wolven

bug-cats or cat-bugs? That is the real question.
Supporting Member
Oct 18, 2021
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Midwest US
Heya! So I have a college class dedicated to teaching us how to observe cultures. We are to pick a social media or website and study the culture of it. I'll be using this thread to post my observations and would love to hear ideas! Any input is appreciated and important.
Yes they’re different. People probably migrated to Facebook and other or platforms because they’re easier to post on.
I haven't spent a lot of time on Facebook, but I find it less intuitive. Also, the information is not available in any organized fashion. I think it's just the narcissist's haven. Let me show you my cool stuff. Now pat me on the back.
I am now going to start adding my journals and assignments to the thread.

Journal 1:

My leading candidate for my project is The Mantidforum! My major advantage to this is the fact I have been active on it for nearly a year and have an understanding of its regulars. I know the ins, outs and general etiquette of this site. As the hobby is about breeding and raising mantises, naturally there's going be small business/breeders on the site. There's several long time and well-known breeders along with a few businesses. There's also known scammers on the site as well.

One challenge might be how the site is based around a hobby. It's incredibly difficult to find aspects of a culture in a site focused on education and the selling of mantises. I plan to address this by pulling out the old magnifying glass. Humans create their own cultures without realizing more often than not. A shared interest around a goofy looking bug doesn't disappoint in the humor and frustration department. Many lose males to cannibalism and its practically a given to laugh at it.

The forum has two ways of communicating: threads and private messages. Threads can be viewed by any member and added to as long as the thread isn't locked. Most threads are created to ask questions, advertise offers, or offer advice. Every now and then, my friend will even add an informal research thread! Threads are organized into subforums by topic.

Private messages are between two or more users and are for bartering, discussing an offer, or causal conversation. I spent several months discussing with a person who helped get me started in the hobby on how to properly raise mantises. A main component of the hobby is asking questions and learning from more experienced members. We also learn from their mistakes.

Some species of mantises are better for beginners and others require more advanced care. Some will drop dead if you look at them wrong. It's all a matter of experience and asking A LOT of questions. There's also a collective desire to own Toxodera species from Malaysia. They require very specific care and are native to Malaysia. Currently only a few people in Europe own them. 2/6 11:59
Assignment 1: Reasoning for choice of micro-culture

Describe in a short paragraph (150 word minimum) how you expect to find benefits from the highest-rated characteristics in your research:

Ironically, I find my community quite straightforward. By sharing information, struggles, and triumphs in this little forum, a certain sort of comradery is built. Similarly to how gamers may bond over a difficult game and share a general sense of humor because of it. The same goes for the forum. There are entertaining and irritating things about mantises that connect us.

Mantises are like the cat versions of bugs. They’ll swipe their little claws over their eyes while they groom, puff up at you (threat display), and swat at you. Typically the swatting is just their usual striking, but every now and then a mantis will bat at a finger with one claw just like a cat. The entertainment is endless and the fascination even more so. Especially when a person walks around the room, and the mantis’ head just follows you. If internet cat culture is anything to go by, imagine that on an isolated forum.

Describe in a short paragraph (150 word minimum) how you expect to mitigate the negative impact of some of the lower-ranked characteristics in your research:

While I am mildly concerned that my familiarity to may cause me to lose interest, it’s a bit of a silly one. Raising mantises has given me a love for the community and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Considering the idea that The Mantidforum contains a microculture has opened my eyes to its quirks. I have not done enough digging yet to really see its potential but am excited to do so. I've already started to see how humor plays out in an insect rearing community. Much of it involved cannibalism and how mantises contain the same amount of braincells as orange cats. Which is funny, because they’re actually quite intelligent for a non-eusocial insect. Mantises study their prey, time their strikes in accordance with the prey’s movement and ambush them. They are also capable of conditional learning and associations.

This doesn’t change the fact I still had a male fly straight into a ceiling fan. My familiarity is unlikely to hinder me because my enthusiasm for the hobby will help me analysis every detail of our community.

Describe in a short paragraph (150 word minimum) what draws you to this site, and/or what you hope to study there and/or anything else you wish to share about your decision:

I do hope to better understand the facets of this website and maybe mesh a little more with it’s community. I am by no means a breeder or an active seller, so hopefully discovering more about my website could open some doors for me reputation wise. Reputation is important on the site (there’s a subforum dedicated to feedback). A long-time and positive reputation puts you in the limelight as a reputable seller. I would eventually like to branch out into selling some mantis species as I enjoy helping people have access to rarer species. I also enjoy helping smaller businesses as well.

If my rambling about my interest in praying mantises wasn’t enough, here’s more! While praying mantises moreso have temperaments than personalities, which contain common trends among different species, they do have their own quirks. Budwing mantises are known for their high prey drive, being prone to acting like a clothes pin throwing a tantrum and tilting their heads in puppy-like fashions. My own budwing, Jolene, has all of the usual characteristics of the species but has a much calmer temperament than expected. She’s not nearly as aggressive as some would be. She did try to eat my dad’s finger though and I had to pry her off with a chopstick.

She is named for the Dolly Parton song and can have any man she wants. For dinner that is.
Journal 2: Timed observation of chosen website

Upon reloading the site, I received a pm for a newcomer interested in any mantises I may be selling. They had seen a new review on my feedback thread and thought I may have some different mantises to sell. I don't at the moment and am just going to direct them to people who do. I wasn't expecting to be surprised by this person asking for my help or receiving a private message. I knew I had received a notification because of the eye-catching red mail icon near my username. It stands out against the blue of the forum, and I personally find it a handy tool. 5:45

There's a thread for mundane occurrence that's quite active. We don't directly talk about mantis keeping but rather simple things in our lives. The current discussion is the opinions on heat tape and how effective it is vs. heat cables or reptile heat mats. Heat tape is cheaper, and while the ends need to be crimped, it makes for a gentle source of heat. One member is not impressed with their heat tape and other is advocating for heat tape (friend) as they've had nothing but good experiences with it. Another regular popped in and mentioned heat cables and the discussion just keeps going. 5:55

I received yet another PM from the same newcomer who wanted to know my contacts. They asked me to send them in the direction of whoever maybe have Dragon or Darth Vader mantises. I gave the information of a friend and their website. These past few minutes have been surprisingly active. While the forum is always buzzing with something, usually there's only a few posts per day. Sometimes it's just new people coming in, responses to questions, Alex (friend) running in with a new experiment, or just reactions to threads. There are buttons that allow you to like or react with an emoji to responses. I don't have much reason to follow the 45-minute observation format because of my prior knowledge of the forum. That and I may just be staring at the forum for a few minutes only for nothing to happen. The PM was a surprise although I suspect someone will answer my question about how long heat tape lasts here in a few minutes. 6:05

After absolutely nothing happened, I decided to catch up on some threads. While I will be asking the regulars questions, much of my research will be digging through old threads to analyze the interactions of users and the history of the website. It's a decade or older after all. The latest threads contained the usual: advertising of mantises, yelling over heat-mat-cable-tape, and newbies waltzing in with no clue what they're doing. A few people in a thread are fussing over an enclosure that isn't really suitable for a ghost mantis. Ghost mantises don't like it humid, and the original poster of the thread isn't using the usual 32 oz deli cup with a poly fabric lid. 6:19

I have to keep bouncing back and forth between the forum and my journal just because I would forget my train of thought or need to find something else to write about. Timed exercises don't appear to my strong point. When it's time to go back to "observing" I'm going to make a thread announcing my cultural research and get others to start scrounging around for details. In the meantime, mantis keepers are weird. A long-time business owner has been weighing maggots for the past 17 years to sell as feeder insects and we all are joking about how weird we are. Maggots are kind of slimy, wriggly, and fun to hold. Maggots, also known as spike, aren't a favorite of mantises. It's actually what they turn into. Flies! Mantises go bonkers for flying prey and since they are highly visual predators, it's even better. I shall now announce my cultural research. 6:25
Assignment 2: Intitial Observations (includes physical description of site and atmosphere)

Online Description

The site has a lovely navy-blue border and titling to introduce it’s new members. There are large ads to the left to help newcomers find deals on mantis supplies, latest posts on the right, and a several subforums as one scrolls down. The site is overall quite visually pleasing.

A new member would join by signing up for an account and confirming their email. The site has a subforum for welcoming new members, for them to introduce themselves, and ask questions. One of the main keys to succeeding in the hobby is asking questions and this becomes apparent as many of the subforums are focused on informing their audience. There’s 11, 282 member accounts on the forum and more are joining each passing day. Despite being on the small side for a forum, it’s fairly active. A few threads are responded to each day by its regulars giving updates on their businesses, answering questions, or simply chattering.

I found this site nearly a year ago when my mother tossed a mantis in a jar and went, “Here’s your new pet.” As for how, I eventually stumbled upon the forum when I was searching for help on how to keep a praying mantis. The title made the site’s purpose obvious, and I was quick to create an account. It’s custom for regulars or active members to welcome new ones when they introduce themselves in the “Introduce Yourself” subforum. I was met warmly and had my worried eased when I was directed to general tips on mantis keeping.

The subforums contain plenty of information regarding mantises but also other insects/crustaceans. Many keepers also own isopods, arachnids, and other species of insects. Naturally there will be overlap in the hobby and discussion of other critters. The photography subforum acts as a place for a member to post silly pictures of their mantises or their over-the-top extensive enclosures. The main subforums for education are all separates into necessary topics for mantis keeping. Enclosures, nymph care, feeding/food, and care sheets are all found in their own individual subforums due to the extensive number of threads and knowledge for each topic. Overall, the forum contains many options to help newcomers settle into the hobby and enjoy themselves.

General Atmosphere

When I first joined the forum almost a year ago, I was met with a surprisingly warm welcome. It’s tradition for the forum regulars to welcome new members and while there’s no pressure to do so, it’s still common for the regulars to do so. Considering there is a subforum dedicated to new members announcing themselves, it makes sense there would be people responding. People were quick to answer my questions and help me understand the need-to-knows of owning a mantis such as enclosure size, types of food needed, and mantis behavior. I never felt uncomfortable or excluded considering even experienced keepers are always learning about their pets. Newcomers are accepted with open arms because of how small the hobby is in comparison to reptile or even arachnid keeping. I made friends with long-time keepers after only a few months and got my foot in the door for my own breeding efforts.

As for future micro-cultural research, I’m confident that the curiosity and friendliness of the members will assist in any struggles I may have.
Journal 4:

So far, I have yet to properly sit down in the moment and organize my thoughts for my journal. This will be done in the future. I believe my extensive knowledge of the forum may be hindering my decision to take notes as I go.

I find that throughout the day I only spend a few minutes at a time checking the forum. I'm so used to just scrolling through posts and answering questions that I haven't taken the time to process the interactions. I have no problem checking the forum whenever I find the time as it's part of my "ritual". I have social media apps I check throughout the day and this forum is a part of that.

Some major players on the forum are people I talk to daily or weekly through other messengers like Instagram or through the Mantidforum's private messaging system. Alex is one of the most active participants on the website and often replies to questions or posts their observations. There are others such as Rebecca, but Alex is the person I am most familiar with. (Edit- Portion has been cut and will be re-added if I gain permission to do so)

As for the usual forum activity, not much has happened lately as it's mostly been breeder's advertising their mantises and the stream of replies to the mundane occurrences thread. We went from bickering about heating appliances and aching joints to relatable insect keeper stuff. Hacking up fruit flies is part of the hobby and people get used to after a point. I remember drinking my coffee once and spitting out an escapee. I've learned to stop caring.

Weather is actually an important part of the hobby. Most mantises are shipped through the mail and summer/winter is an annoying time for many of us. We have to use insulation and heat packs in the winter and cold packs in the summer. More often than not, a thread will start up with questions about winter shipping and it will be filled with grumbling. I myself complain about the quality of Uniheat vs. a Phase 22 cryopak.

My biggest takeaway as of now is how in-depth I am in my hobby. I understand how other keepers feel and talk about things that would make others cringe or give me a thousand-yard stare. I still have yet to figure out how to put these in the word of "defining a micro-culture."
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Assignment 4: Informants and Action Plan

Potential Informants

So far, I have several informants in mind: (a) agentA who is also known as Alex, (b) hibiscusmile or Rebecca, (c) Synapze, (d) PanterraPets, (e) and Mystymantis. There will likely be others, but they are not people I know well. Alex will likely be the biggest contributor due to the fact I talk to them the most. They really helped me get a foothold in the hobby and understand what the heck I was doing. Rebecca is a major business in the mantis hobby and supplies many of us with feeders. PanterraPets is a well-known breeder and has also been around for a while. We have collaborated in the past and I helped her get ahold of a very reclusive and finicky mantis species. So she counts as a contact I suppose. Mystymantis and Synapze are casual friends who I chat with every now and then and they are always willing to pitch in when I am struggling with something.

Challenges and Solutions

The biggest challenge I can think of is what hasn’t been thought of. The concept of our little forum containing it’s own little micro-culture will likely fly over many people’s heads and they won’t know what to look for. I scarcely know what to look for in such a straightforward community. We breed and raise bugs. A person wouldn’t think about a community surrounding an invertebrates having an actual culture.

As for the privacy surrounding the informants, I highly doubt they will be concerned about me using their input. Mostly because I am going to ask permission for their input. Due to being a small hobby, people know the names of larger presences like Alex and Rebecca. These people chose to give their names on a public forum and respond to them just fine. I will still ask permission to refer to them by name in future notes/articles, however. Anyone else who wishes to provide observations will be referred to by usernames and will be made aware of my assignment.

Participation Action Plan

Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10
Week 11
Week 12
Week 13
Week 14
Collaborate with Rainbow Mealworms
Publicize future experiment with Alex
Define the type of humor on the forum
Hold a poll for the most chaotic mantis
Discuss a potential collaboration with Sarah
Give an update on my current mantises
Discuss future experiment with enclosures
Research common Carolina ooth spots
Attempt to start a movement with mantis hats
Journal 5:

The intended target of the Mantidforum is simply anyone who is interested in mantises or keeping them. The goal is to educate and provide resources as well! The variety of tools available for the forum is larger than most would expect it to be. It’s much better than I expected to be too since the forum updated. The forum has a variety of options to edit text including: italics, bold, highlighting, changing text color, etc. There is also the ability to imbed links/media posts. For example, when I posted my collaboration with a small feeder insect company out in California, I linked my Instagram. The post shows up in a neat little box and allowed anyone to swipe through the pictures and view the videos almost as if they were on the social media site itself. I find it quite fascinating how the site has advanced in my time on there. There’s also the ability to add few basic reactions such as smiley faces or hearts in lieu of a reply.

The forum was previous owned by a man known as Peter Claus. He poured his heart, soul, and most importantly his pocket into keeping this site going for over a decade. A few months ago, he finally became burnt out and sold the forum to a company. The website got a nice overhaul in design and some tweaks on its trickier aspects such as image imbedding. Nowadays, I can easily link or add an image without my entire post going haywire.

The forum changing over did have its own problems though. Mainly due to the fact no one knew the forum had been sold. There was suddenly a change in the website’s format and a new account titled “Admin” asking how everyone’s mantis collection was going. The entire website was ready to throw hands until Peter came in and cleared it up. I was probably the most aggressive since I had really come to appreciate the website. The other regulars were more polite than me but there was an underlying tension. Another upside that I found for the new format was the addition of eBay advertisements. Up in the top of the forum, there is an ad that leads a person to a nice selection of mantis supplies at good prices. I love to stare at all the enclosures I don’t need after all.

I have not spotted any current trends on the forum, but perhaps a problem that many are not aware of. We have the option to support the forum financially. Few people do so, however. This was brought to my attention when I posted about my collaboration with Rainbow Mealworms. They are a feeder insect company outside of the forum and are still learning about the hobby. Rebecca, who owns a small business known as TheMantisPlace, reacted with concern to the company being mentioned so often. She brought up a good point about supporting members/businesses already within the hobby and how few support the forum financially. Rebecca is currently the only person I know of who solely relies on her mantis business to support herself, but many breeders within the hobby use their additional income made by their sales to pay bills. An exceptionally important part of the mantis hobby is selling/trading mantises or ooths. I failed to recognize that the business portion of the forum is a major part in keeping its small community going. This website’s micro-cultural is more than just education.
Assignment 5: Initial Engagement Methods

Initial Methods

My methodology for observing my forum has been simply jumping on and engaging. I am doing what I have always done with my community. I never looked very closely at my forum through the lens of a micro-culture and feared my familiarity with the community could potentially hinder my understanding of it. So far that has not nearly been as much of an obstacle as I thought it would be.

I do feel like most members are not fully aware or engaged in my research despite me announcing it. I created a thread announcing my plans to study the micro-cultural of the forum, but this eventually became buried under new threads. I plan to start uploading my journal entries on the thread to keep it relevant and other members engaged. Hopefully this will spark some questions in regards to how our forum operates and the strange, little niche our community has dug out in the hobby. Despite the flow of newcomers, it does feel like many of the forum’s regulars are composed of those who have been in the hobby for at least five years or more. They are from an older period before keepers started flying to other platforms for the hobby.

I usually just skim the latest threads to keep up with activity a few times a day. Despite how little time I spend on the forum, I am one of the regulars and am quite active. I have been for the past year or so. I do my best to engage in discussions and keep threads going. The mundane occurrences thread is one of my favorites and is a nice place to build morale.

My actions as of lately to really engage feel like they have been a flop though. Not much interest was shown in my micro-cultural research announcement nor in my collaboration with Rainbow Mealworms. I feel like there’s something I’m missing. It could just be that the member’s main interests are solely in breeding/trading and answering questions. This is the entire point of the forum after all. I hope my future plans to re-create an experiment of Alex’s will turn more heads. Maybe this will spark some interest in the more scientific background of the hobby. The hobby could use more research in relation to the health of mantises. Little is still known about diseases of mantises, how to treat them, and even the possibility of treatment. Re-creating the gutload experiment will provide valuable backing Alex’s tentative data. Creating a thread to update people on the experiment, show some pictures of the equipment/setup, and outlining my future article could stir up some excitement. I would love to see our little forum come alive and for others in the hobby to see it’s value.

My latest realization in relation to our forum’s culture is the importance of the business portion. As I’ve come to observe our forum more and more, my perception of its purpose has been reconstructed. I sort of brushed off some aspects because of how many threads are started because newcomers have questions. Now I am coming to build a clearer picture of our community’s intention and plan to adjust my methods accordingly.
Alright, I'm currently up to date on this thread with my observations of our website. @hibiscusmile Sorry for including you if it bothers you, but you did help me make an important realization in how I was going about with my observations. This is not going in a research paper or anything and is just being read by my professor who is highly amused by my antics.
For the record, I think the fact that the site has fewer posts and less activity than it used to, due to diffusion of activity to other places like Facebook, is actually very interesting, and makes it a good subject for your papers. It’s worth pointing out, and could almost be the subject of an undergraduate thesis in its own right (the decline of independent specialist forums and communities due to the migration of active participants and potential participants to groups hosted on “mega websites” like Facebook, and the cultural and financial implications therin).
...............the decline of independent specialist forums and communities due to the migration of active participants and potential participants to groups hosted on “mega websites” like Facebook, and the cultural and financial implications therein......................
...............or why vanity beats self-fullfilment every time.

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