“I am not very tech savvy. I don’t know much about blogging or managing a website, nor do I understand social media” – these were the thoughts in my head on the day a bunch of people were eagerly giving suggestions on all these aspects, with the conversation being steered by Vijay Mohan Raj (IFS) aka VMR. As people walked out of this meeting at the Jungle Lodges’ office in Bangalore, I was still very uncertain about what was being envisaged. Words like blog, website, crowd-sourcing, Twitter, Facebook etc. were doing their rounds in my head. I didn’t know who would be managing the website that was being talked about. I did not know what my role in this whole thing would be. There had also been discussions on what could be featured on the site. The only thing that was agreed upon with any certainty was the title for the effort – JLR Explore.

It was at this juncture that there was a call for volunteers. Two ladies – you know their names by now – agreed to be on board, believing in the idea of JLR Explore and hopeful about how it would shape up. The meeting was followed by a brief lull and then a flurry of activity – a battery of meetings to understand who would be designing the site, what its structure would be, what the best format would be, and so on.

Before I even realised, I was sucked in, while still not knowing what my role was in the larger scheme of things. The website took shape, a few stories were put up, and we thought that we were ready to inaugurate – so we did. We had no clue about who would continue to give us content – stories and images – for the site. It was to be crowd-sourced, but where was the crowd?? A couple of stories trickled in, with the volunteers (now the editors) putting together a story or two and a couple of stories picked up from my blog. I suddenly realised that sustaining this was going to be a difficult task, and I didn’t want to have anything to do with this effort that was so alien to me in every respect.

As fate would have it, the person whose brainchild this idea was got transferred (normal for most government servants) – VMR moved on, leaving JLR Explore on my shoulders to manage. Thanks to unflinching support from the two ladies, Radha and Raji, who volunteered on day one, with inputs from VMR from time to time, we have survived long enough to celebrate our seventh anniversary!

Today, if you ask me how we are doing and how the experience has been, I will still say that I have not understood the technology – I don’t know much about managing a website and I still don’t understand much of social media. But crowd-sourcing, I think I have somewhat got the hang of. Thanks to everyone (over 200 authors) who has contributed to JLR Explore; many, whenever we asked.  A big thank you goes out to all of them from the team!

That said, I want to thank the team that currently manages the site efficiently, addressing and setting right issues that crop up from time to time. Also, thanks are due to one gentleman, Anil, who during the initial days offered help with the architecture and hosting of the site; discussions with him gave a sense of direction at that stage. Thanks to the volunteers-turned-editors, Radha and Raji, who have been at it constantly, suggesting story ideas, curating stories, and editing stories and images. And to VMR, for being there whenever we need help. Needless to say, the management of Jungle Lodges and Resorts has extended all possible support to keep JLR Explore going. And to all you loyalists out there who have followed the growth of the website and contributed to it, a huge thank you!

All this has gone a long way in sculpting the website into what it has turned out to be. As I write this note, there are over 450 stories published under 10 categories. Besides these, information about books and events pertaining to nature are shared from time to time.

For me, personally, the fact that the site touches people from various walks of life is satisfying. For some, JLR Explore is a place to get updates. For others, it a one-stop portal for learning about Karnataka’s natural history. For some, it is even a source of information on possible places to travel to and explore. I sincerely hope that all this will lead to creating awareness and curiosity about the natural world, and that people will spare their valuable time, effort and resources in saving it for posterity.