Fletchasketches…


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Another incarnation

Welcome to this, the fourth incarnation of my blog. Having begun on Vox, I have since moved to Typepad, Posterous, and now that they are closing their doors, here I am at WordPress.

It seems I have quite a talent for picking blogging platforms that become extinct, although somehow I doubt I’ll bring the kiss of death to WordPress.

I do like the WordPress functionality and moving the blog over from Posterous has been a relatively painless procedure. There were a number of youtube videos that didn’t carry over, and some slightly odd behaviour where words in quoted text were concatenated, but it was all pretty easy to fix.

What startles me more is that I began blogging in January 2007, making this blog six years old. Having become a sporadic blogger I hope to keep posting here as much as I did when I first began.

Given that I am my main reader and that at its height I think this blog had approximately 12 readers, I don’t fool myself that I have legions of readers eagerly awaiting each post. What I have found is that it’s a really helpful place to post links and resources that I still use today. It’s also interesting to me to see how my thoughts on communities and collaboration have changed over the years, and to know that I’m as interested in them now as I was then.

Platforms may change, vendors may disappear, but my geeky interest in knowledge, people, and how we work together, is still going strong!


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Getting to know you…

I recently moved to San Francisco from England, and can’t wait to get to know the city a bit better. 

My knowledge so far is split between getting to know the basics around the neighbourhood, and the more ‘touristy’ sites that I’ve been to during my visits over the last couple of years. 

I’m a great believer in getting to know a city by walking around it, so I couldn’t believe my luck when I found out about San Francisco City Guides

Locals who love the city offer free, guided walks around different neighbourhoods, explaining the history and lore of the area along the way. I’m currently mulling over where to start – will it be the Golden Gate Bridge, the Main Library tour, or the local Cow Hollow tour?

 

 


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When communities bite… how should comments be moderated?

The Guardian newspaper has plenty of experience in managing user comments, as much (but not all) of their online content allows reader comments. The decision about whether to allow comments is left to each section editor, and sometimes the tenor of the comments varies wildly depending on the news section and the kind of community that has grown up around it. 

On Sunday, The Observer published a piece by the reader’s editor on moderating online comments, and the discussion that this generated below the line is one of the most thoughtful, useful, and generally civil debates that I’ve seen online for a while. Contributions from journalists writing for the Guardian and Observer brought an interesting slant to the discussion. 

Views ranged from those urging an end to anonymity, those urging a comment limit, and those arguing that the value gained from comments really doesn’t outweigh the downsides. 

The whole thing is worth a read but there are some really thought-provoking comments.

hrwaldram

22 October 2012 12:39PM

Staff

I see very little point in adding comments to news stories, and little to personal topics (such as Jay writing about the death of his mother) to do so is to invite trouble. In turn that leads to a reasonable suspicion about building traffic for revenue …. a better bet is to be more judicious in the comments and allocate better moderation.

This is an interesting policy which the New York Times revealed recently it employs – each day choosing roughly 17 articles to open to comments (working with their communities team). You can read how the Guardian opens comments here.

 

 

JorisLuyendijk

22 October 2012 3:42PM

Staff
Guardianpick

Leaving our frustrations and bruised feelings as writers behind, the real question ‘going forward’ is: what do we want our comment thread to do? Do we want it to be like a bar, the more the merrier? Or do we want it to be almost ike a seminar, wielding new editorial insights? In the latter case, the quantity may be lower but the quality so high as to merit a follow-up article.
Over at the bankingblog, several experiments I have done with reader engagement suggest strongly that there is a world to be won by bringing in readers, provided you make up your mind in advance what you want out of a comment thread. Whenbringing in a psychologist to talk about why everyone is so angry at the banks, it’s engaged outsiders you want – the more the merrier. If it’s a female insurance brokeralleging wide-spread harassment in her niche, you want other women working in finance.
It seems that fifteen years into having comments, it’s time to stop discussing if we want them, and start thinking what kind we want.

 

PeterWalker

22 October 2012 3:45PM

Staff
Guardianpick

I’m with Shiv (see above). I find comments generally helpful. However much research I might have done on a particular subject there will always be someone (or lots of people) out there who are real experts, and that’s useful. I also have a sense that comments can help to keep journalists honest and diligent: fudge an argument or get a fact wrong and you’ll be told pretty quickly.

All this comes with the caveat that I’m a news reporter, and as such I’m not exposing myself as personally as, say, a critic or a columnist. I’m also not a big name. Thus comments tend to be about the story, not me. That said, I was accused once of being in the pay of the CIA, which pleased me enormously.

My only foray into more viewpoint-type subjects tends to be on the Bike Blog, which seems to be less feral than many threads, partly because it has a pool of regular-ish readers which gives something of a community feel.

 

joannageary

22 October 2012 4:02PM

Staff

Hi Joris,

I couldn’t agree with that more. Especially the last sentence which is the question I am asking and thinking about constantly!

I think this is why the “quality vs quantity” debate in the news industry is so important at the moment.

I think many news organisations prioritise quantity of comments on their sites because it is such an easy thing to measure (and to boast about). It also means you don’t need to worry about any significant community management and can write inflammatory content that angers and provokes readers in to commenting without worrying about the consequences.

But if you really care about community and believe that comments can be a way for more intelligent, interested voices to be heard… well, then you have to do the hard work to implement great community management practice and technology that can help to encourage and highlight that. I also think that the organisation that does the hard work and cracks this really ends up with something very special and unique in the current landscape.

 

 And finally, VivGroskop is working on a plan…

 

VivGroskop

24 October 2012 12:34PM

Contributor

Ooh. What an interesting and enjoyable thread. Although also, as ever, excellent proof of the value of both editors and sub-editors. A lot of typos. And a lot of words generally.🙂

These things would be helpful:

(a) A system whereby readers could rate comments in such a way that the most interesting/funny/pertinent/popular comments rise to the top of the thread. Some threads are becoming crazy long. Life is short. That’s why we need editors.

(b) A system whereby the context, theme and/or genre of articles are better signposted. Many pieces are still commissioned with the print edition in mind. And rightly so because they will appear in the print edition. But they appear out of context online (G2 Shortcuts, Observer Profile, for example). This is confusing for readers and can be the source of vitriol. Often mine.

(c) A system (I like systems) whereby you are rewarded for concise, economically worded comment. I have not worked out what the reward would be yet. But it will be CRAZY GENEROUS.