09/30/11 1154 W - + 9 - 6 Blogs, Comments, Motives, More

Been quiet on the blog since that run on comments on a couple fires, some weeks ago. Maybe that's a good thing. Here's a secret about being a blogger, or at least being Mike Legeros blogging about local firefighting: it causes him occasional heartburn. That's because he knows those people. Talks to them. Hangs with them. Works with them.

Thus for the many years that this blog's been publishing, Blog 100's been operating an echo chamber of sorts. Will this post give that person heartburn? Was that comment too toxic, if see through these people's eyes. Is that thread making that department look better or worse, and does it vary by rank or position? Etcetera, etcetera. Then you hear people's reactions to postings and comments and threads off-line, and the effect is magnified.1 A person could nuts! (Too late, right?)

Open Browser, Scream at Screen

Quarterbacking remains one of the most problematic pieces of this Great Blog Experiment. And that's what this thing really is, a long-term learning lab on multiple fronts. Moderating discussions here, curating news content there. On some days, providing a platform for public information. On other days, serving as a citizen journalist. Being local (or loco!) some weeks, being bad and nationwide on others.But back to quarterbacking...

Would we have tamer and more respectful conversations on this blog, if a Facebook-style method were used? If comments were exclusively limited to those who were both (a.) registered and (b.) reveal their true selves? That subject has been discussed here before, and a number of users have stated their preference for same. More on that in a moment.

When Ambulances Burn

Yesterday over on Statter911, a pair of videos of a burning (and exploding!) ambulance were posted. The clips couldn't be more different: close view as shot by the Fire Chief, distant view as shot by a colorfully commentating citizen. Reader comments in the first story caught my attention, as they were discussing quarterbacking.

One of the readers-- not identified by a real name, but perhaps known through his screen name-- defends his comments and his style of commenting. He defends his actions, that, hey, that video came right from the chief's video camera, it's pretty cut 'n' dry footage, the chief himself posted the thing on a public forum, and it's fair on a public forum to make comments.3 Interesting postings from Dave, and worth reading. Plus the footage is great. Have a discussion at the station about that one. Fully-involved ambulance, how do you attack the thing?

How About Facebook?

But back this meta-discussion. Earlier this year, Facebook launched a new commenting system for blogs and third-party sites. Here's an interesting TechCrunch article about that, including pro's and con's. Looks like the popular WordPress platform is the ticket to blogging + Facebook comments. This blog uses the Pivot platform, but that could be changed. Imagine waking up and finding Facebook as your comment interface here. As we've long discussed and blogged about (here and here and here, for starters), there'd be pro's and con's of no longer having the availability of anonymous screen names.

Then there's this perspective, from Joe Brockmeier on ReadWrite Enterprise and titled Stop Feeding Facebook. Pretty good posting about social media and particularly "frictionless sharing." Meaning, "the act of passively notifying social media of all manner of activity." Enable Facebook as your commenting technology on a blog, for example, and your blog comments are going to get shared on your Facebook wall.

"Game of Telephone"

Brockmeier's editorial makes a number of great points, from "social media as a game of telephone" to this great quote about Facebook and privacy: "Sometimes you want to control your audience, but Facebook's privacy controls are so complex it's never quite clear who can and can't see your messages. You're not assured that someone will or won't see a message, at all."

Then there's this great quote, which applies to fire blogs and quarterbacking: "All too few of the commentators take the time to actually read the article or post in question. This becomes abundantly clear when you see howls of outrage in response to features on The Onion because the reader had no idea they were responding to a satirical article."

Be honest, how many of us are actually reading the entirely of a posting and all comments? Or are you skimmed, or jumping ahead to comments, or really jumping ahead to just the latest comments? And don't get me started on the ease of instant replies. Forget count to ten before sending. How about wait until morning!4

Thank You and Good Morning

Those are today's or at least this morning's thoughts on this blog, on its comments, on strategies for commenting, and implications of those strategies. We'll see if still makes sense in a few hours, after reading it again. Thanks as always for reading. Apologies as always for those who tire of reading about making sausage. Maybe we'll get college credits out of this, some day. Might make for a heck of a master's thesis! That is, if Yours Truly ever (a.) tries for an advanced degree and (b.) studies something other than the obvious choice of history.

End Notes

1Maintaining or enhancing personal relationships is just one of my internal checks and balances on this blog. What's my compass look like? How do I determine what's better versus worse for posting? Goes something like this: Add value. Be positive. Show responders in a positive light. Be truthful, be fact-full. Transfer knowledge. Provide interesting, entertaining, unusual, or humorous reading. Maintain or enhance personal relationships. Be myself. They're not necessarily in order, and they're quite likely contradicted at times, depending upon the posting or the tone of reader comments.

2Time-challenge is another aspect of the "experiment." Morning postings are almost always written before work. Many originate as ideas that form first thing, right out of bed. (There are treatments for that, Mike.) It thus becomes a challenge-- and a fun one, to freely admit-- to see if a reasonably well-written or at least well-formed posting can be created in that short space of time. Usually about an hour, on weekdays. Then it's on to the office.

3How often are incident-based postings initiated by a chief or command staff member? Here, it happens very rarely. And that's probably the case on other fire blogs. In contrast, it's often the norm on a site like firenews.net. But that's a news-reporting site, not a Some Guy's Blog site.

4We can test that theory, and see just how far people read. Check out this classic graphic titled "So you're mad about something on the internet..." from Gizmodo. Be warned, it contains adult language, notable the four-letter word that begins with "D" and means "less than helpful person."

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