An early history of Tarvalon.net

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Author: Jayna al'Taryn

TarValon.Net (the White Tower or just the Tower) is an Internet community based on a series of fantasy novels called The Wheel of Time (WoT) written by Robert Jordan. More specifically this web community is centered on one small area within the novels, the city of Tar Valon, and the home of the Aes Sedai. TarValon.Net is a web community committed to providing a high quality fan site in which readers of the series can build friendships and discuss the stories with like-minded individuals. In fact, the mission statement of TarValon.net clearly outlines the purpose of the community:

TarValon.Net exists to provide its members with the opportunity to adopt the ideals and philosophies of the White Tower as described in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, while supporting a real life community through gatherings, online communication and fraternity. We strive to maintain a website that appeals and educates visitors about the Wheel of Time in an original and innovative fashion. TarValon.Net not only seeks to create real life friendships and bonds between fans all over the world, but also to be seen as the trusted source for news, research, art, and theories while maintaining a high level of quality in all works produced, and achieving a high entertainment value for the public in general. (Constitution of the confederated sites of TarValon.Net, Mission Statement, tower_law.asp#statement)

TarValon.Net's outer appearance closely resembles the organization of the Tower in the series. The site is led by the founder/CEO called the Amyrlin Seat (Robert Jordan's title for the corresponding position in The Wheel of Time series). Many decisions are discussed and put before the Hall (another title borrowed from Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series) for a final vote. Finally, the over all site is broken down into Ajahs (Robert Jordan's name for the divisions of his Aes Sedai in The Wheel of Time) and Companies, that are distinct entities focused on particular ideals or tasks yet remain tightly connected to the overall Tower. However, there are some deviations from the story. While Aes Sedai in the books are guarded and protected by Warders (highly trained and specialized soldiers from The Wheel of Time) there is no explanation as to their organization in the story and was constructed on the site to resemble the structure of the Ajahs by forming the Companies.

In the eight months that I have been a member of the web community, I have witnessed the change of the Tower Constitution, the addition of the City of Tar Valon to the pre-existing White Tower, the change in servers, and an altering of the organizational structure to meet the demands of the ever-increasing membership. In a little over two years, Tarvalon.net has jumped from a few friends building a web site to well over 300 active members on an extensive message board; the First Annual Anniversary Party hosted barely a dozen members, the Second Annual Anniversary Party hosted over seventy members. With the entire redesign of the site, changing servers, and all the new changes sweeping the community, TarValon.Net has pushed communication, culture, conflict and technology issues into the foreground for all members.

Communication

Being a web community, communication is obviously vital to its success. The open, respectful, friendly communication between members is the foundation upon which TarValon.Net is built; however, it cannot solely account for the organization's success. Frequent communications from the Amyrlin Seat provides the community with a clear understanding of its purpose, expectations, direction, problems, calls for possible solutions, decisions, solution implementations, and reminders of how each of us are important in contributing to the overall success of the community. Furthermore, communications from the Hall, the Ajah heads, the Company Commanders and other long-time senior members clarify where TarValon.Net has been, the changes that have already occurred, and the overall culture of the Tower.

Culture

The culture of TarValon.Net had its beginnings when a few friends decided it would be fun to really live by the high ideals of the Tower in the book. What started as a joke has developed into one of the largest WoT-related fan sites on the Internet. The various book related divisions (the Ajahs and Companies) as well as the emerging clubs (Duckfriends, NBBSC, and Lollipop Divas) add to the overall fun and friendship of the site and help to tie people together within the community, creating a system of support and friendship for many members. Rites and rituals concerning the raising process from citizen to Aes Sedai are loosely based on the novels. Respect for differences is a major value in the Tower's culture. With such a wide-ranging, diverse population of members, from all walks of life and various countries around the world, it is essential that members respect and tolerate differences in others to avoid major conflicts.

Conflict

Conflict in such a diverse group of people is unavoidable. Additionally, with all the current changes in the community, it is impossible to satisfy the needs of everyone. While members are often approached for their ideas and concerns, the final decisions reside with the Hall and the Amyrlin Seat who keep the mission and vision of TarValon.Net in the forefront to do what is best for the overall community. Oftentimes there are considerations that other members may not understand, especially in legal and technical concerns which demand specialized knowledge.

Technology

Technology at TarValon.Net is a necessity. The recent surge in community growth propelled the Tower into acquiring new technologies to provide the best service possible. They included designing and hosting a new message board system to meet the specific needs of the community as well as looking at making TarValon.Net a non-profit organization to meet financial liabilities. The main component of technology at TarValon.Net though is not the actual hardware that maintains the site, but the dedication of skilled members who provide high quality content--in site design, legal concerns, and financial and business advice--voluntarily to better the community.

Conclusion

Through the use of communication, culture, conflict and technology, TarValon.Net has been able to establish itself as one of the leaders in the WoT fan site field. The organization is known in WoT circles for its dedication, professionalism, quality and character. The management constantly strives to find ways to improve the quality of the site while not taking away from the original vision of a place to develop friendships and provide entertainment.


References

Constitution of the confederated sites of TarValon.Net, Mission Statement, tower_law.asp#statement.

Jordan, R. (1990) The Wheel of Time series. New York: Tor.