May 11, 2006

Rules of Engagement

Rules of Engagement

We’ve been watching a conversation on the Guttersnipe that seems important for the future of the community that’s growing around Open Source. A few of our regulars have been debating what behavior is more likely to bring new voices into the Open Source comment threads. The question, to simplify terribly, is whether a large volume of comments from a small group of regulars encourages or discourages more comments from new voices.

There seems to be general agreement that we would all benefit from rules of engagement, standards we could all follow when we post our comments. Rules are just a means to an end: civil order, a successful soccer match. To arrive at a set of rules we have to define what we want out of Open Source, so today, the producers agreed on the following:

Why an Open Source Community?

Open Source invites comments on every show because we believe that you know more than we do. We’re looking for personal stories, reflections on the news, experts, links and references. We’re looking for conversations, too, that engage the reader, develop arguments, and keep extending our open community. The comment threads should work toward the same goal as the show: to give voice to the widest possible range of ideas and experience.

New voices, then, are the ultimate goal. When you arrive at Open Source for the first time you should find a conversation you want to join. We would suggest, cautiously, that a string of long posts from the same voices looks intimidating, just as, at a party, a loud group of strangers who all know each other is hard to join. That said, our regulars — Nikos, Babu, Winston Dodson, sidewalker, Peggysue, plaintext, Jon Garfunkel, Allison, nother, avecfrites — are almost always responsible for getting the conversation started in the first place.

As regulars, then — the ones we trust to keep this community alive — you should ask yourself in every thread how you can make the conversation more inviting. Mary asks us every day, as we’re booking the show, “What’s the definition of victory?” The definition of victory for the comment threads is “Did someone you’ve never heard from before leave a comment?”

To this end, we’ve developed rules of engagement. They’re not final., but we’re very fond of them, and if you want to alter them, you’ll have to do some convincing. Let us know what you think over the weekend.

To read the full text of these rules, click read the rest.

Update, May 12, 12:33 AM

Made some changes to reflect Sidewalker’s response. Also, I thought I’d link to some of the research I did, and offer a belated thanks to Cameron Barrett, who was very generous with his time and advice. (And check here for an interview Chris did with Cameron back when he was part of the Clarke campaign.)

Teresa Nielsen-Hayden, Virtual Panel Participation, Making Light, January 27, 2005

pastordan, Suggested dKos Community Norms, Daily Kos, October 4, 2004

Danah Boyd, Friendster lost steam. Is MySpace just a fad?, danah boyd

I should also point out that, as part of the rules we’ve developed, the producers — all six of us — will be playing a greater role in each comment thread. We’ll be jumping in, asking questions and providing answers. If you don’t see us, ask us where the hell we are.

Related Content

  • Great stuff. I see I’ve already busted a few of the rules. Sorry.

  • babu

    Thank you Brendan and all ROS staff. Very positive, succinct, inclusive and welcome.

  • The above link is incorrect, this should work.

  • malcom z

    Thank you so much for what you’ve done. I was getting ready to look elsewhere for what you, potentially, have here. I”ve been away for a while and was amazed at how heated and angry things had become. When I logged into guttersnipe alley I was basically ignored because I wasn’t involved in the debate. I’d just returned from Africa and had hoped to share some of what I’d experienced. I tried offering a few words of peace but didn’t receive any response. It’s just my opinion but I think that creating guttersnipe alley gave some of the regulars a false sense of power and they didn’t handle it well. I’m not naming names I’m only stating my opinion. Your laying down some rules of conduct is a wise move and should smooth things out. I intend to stick to the topic of the day threads and avoid any communal type discussions. Once again, thank you. You have something unique and useful here. It just needed a tweek or two.

  • OK, here is my shakedown on your “rules of engagement”.

    First, couldn’t you have come up with a better name? Yes, we live in times of war and it weights on all our minds (or should). But why pick such a metaphor when it tends to signify military intervention rather than marital bliss? What about “Terms of Endearment” or simply “Communication Protocol.”?

    Second, couldn’t you have done this more bottom-upish? Why not come to the community and ask us if we want such rules and what they should be. You can say “they are not final” but the you also say ” we’re very fond of them, and if you want to alter them, you’ll have to do some convincing.” This seems to limit possibility from the beginning. And why the fondness for rules?

    Third, (I wonder if I have reached my 200 word limit yet.) when I started to read what the chief wrote I thought OK, that needed to be said and, yeah, I agree. That was right up to: “The definition of victory for the comment threads is “Did someone you’ve never heard from before leave a comment?â€? After that came the “rules”, which felt imposing and distrustful. This may speak more to my rebellious nature, but I can’t help wondering if they were necessary. I also can’t help feeling in part responsible for what has transpired. I regret that. Still, wasn’t (isn’t) there a better way than heading down this slippery slope?

  • mulp

    “terms of endearment”?

  • Brendan

    Yes, perhaps terms of endearment.

    Sidewalker, we’ve been asked several times to weigh in on various discussions: limiting length and frequency of posts, how to avoid mudslinging. I did as much research as I could, talked to other community admins, drafted what seems like a fair compromise and am opening it for discussion. But we do need rules; families, nations and sports teams all give up a measure of freedom in return for an expectation of order and productivity, and online communities are no different.

    You shouldn’t find these rules distrustful; they’re honestly meant to be hopeful. We’re happy with where the community is, and genuinely flattered that you’d spend your time here. It seems only fair — given that we’re going to have to continue to jump in and settle disputes, regardless — to let people know what our expectations are, so you can evaluate us on how we apply the rules, too.

    We’re not leaving the Garden of Eden here. No one has sinned to bring this about, and neither you nor anyone else needs to feel responsible. Rules are a natural part of the growth of any community; it’s just where we happen to be now.

  • Brendan

    Changed some text and added an update to the post.

  • elphaba

    Thank you. I think civilized debate, without comments on personality is key to understanding complex issues. I would like to see this forum a place where I can find a variety of opinions, not just those to the left. I just wish I could listen to Open Source regularly. Oh well.

  • Brendan– thanks. I think I took a lot of heat for floating the idea of voluntary word limits. Your post above came in at around 200– it’s tough without a word counter.

    One quick comment: I’m a bit wary of “we’ll remove the text of the offending comment and replace it with text of our choosing.”

    That may be a proper legal term, but it sounds like it could enable cruel and unusual punishment (and now I recall why it’s so eerie, because the President in his last speech before the war had warned of military action at a “time of our choosing.” Wow. a lot of subtle war references).

    As per the cruel and unusual part, a year ago I had been an avid reader of the Corante Many2Many blog, and on a post about Meetups, someone signed in as “scott heifermann”– a misspelling of the Meetup founder’s name, and most certainly a prankster. I pointed this out to the editors, and eventually one of them “disemvoweled” the post— literally, removed the vowels. A year later, it serves as a fair warning to anyone who happens to wander over to that thread, but I remember at the time some of the editors expressing over email a bit of sadistic glee over what course of action to take.

    So I would replace the “text of our choosing” with “an explanation for redactment.”

  • h wally

    Brendan, wise choice. I don’t see it as overly restrictive. I appreciate ROS and I’d like to see it continue. I’d also like to suggest we close down Guttersnipe Alley and replace it with something more inviting like open forum. It was created from an insult and ended up looking like a reinactment of lord of the flies. As with all new ideas you’ll be met with some resistance but don’t give in. I support you 100 percent in what you’re trying to do. I have my dictionary at hand.

  • Brent Taylor

    As a relative newcomer to the community – but not the show, I might add – I’d like to add my thanks to Brendan et al for the initiative. Sounds reasonable, responsible, moderate, and open minded to me.

    That said, I know that ROS has had an ear to the community since its inception, but ultimately, it’s ROS’s sandbox, sand, pail, and shovel. Do what you think is best to keep things moving productively, Brendan. I think the show’s producers have shown more than a modicum and respect and dignity to its online community, and I have no reason to distrust your motives about what you’re trying to accomplish. Think of it as a constitutional monarchy, with an enlightened despot at the helm. Most of the time, she/he keeps the governing to a minimum, but when needed, can go in and make arbitrary decisions in our collective interest.

  • ward cleaver

    Three cheers for the ROS staff. Can’t wait to play in the new sandbox. I only ask one more, teeny tiny rule: NO CATS, That said, I too sign on and pledge my total support. I believe the new ROS community will be a place I’ll be proud to bring June and the Beaver. I notice Wally is already here. Thanks guys.

  • Nikos

    This is probably my last post, but not from ill-will or a grudge or anything at all negative. On the contrary. I’ve learned something important over the past day and a half. “malcom z’s� post above finished disabusing my manifold misunderstandings.

    Although I stand by my argument that no one can be ‘crowded out’ of an effectively infinite chunk of cyber space, I’ve come to understand that this is an instance where perception trumps reality. And because I’ve been perceived as an obstructionist space-hog and as someone ‘taking advantage’ of the site, it will serve everyone’s best interests that I bow out. Here’s why:

    The ROS web-site has several practical functions, not least of which is its service as the radio show’s interactive public relations arm. If that arm is marred by perceived ‘dead weight’ and/or by very real infighting, then its public relations role is, to say the least, compromised.

    Before I am a blogger, I am a supporter of ROS.

    I am a Radio Open Source enthusiast.

    Radio Open Source deserves the widest possible national distribution.

    As an enthusiast, it is my fondest hope that ROS grow into a nation-wide public radio hit.

    I want in no way to obstruct the prospects for that possibility.

    I accept and respect the ‘Rules’ changes designed to minimize one’s ‘footprint’ in this web-site.

    I accept that the logic of my counter-argument fails because in any public relations operation, perception trumps everything else.

    I am a Radio Open Source enthusiast.

    The needs of Radio Open Source trump the desires and/or habits of any single blogger or group of bloggers.

    Now, the unfortunate side-effect of this rules change is the apparent destruction of a ‘virtual’ social network (but that’s not a good enough reason to redact the new rules). That, however, doesn’t mean the social networking this site heretofore enabled need vanish forever.

    Perhaps it ought simply move to a private, unofficial site. This prospect actually has the chance of helping the hard-pressed ROS staff, and I’ll explain why shortly.

    A couple of us ‘old guard’ have been privately kicking around the idea of an ‘off-site’ blog: an ‘after hours Speakeasy’ where old conversations can be picked up again, where new ones can begin, and where ‘on-site’ conversations stymied by the new 200-word limit can ‘offshore’ to.

    This Speakeasy would not be officially associated with ROS, yet would, in its mission, be meant to support ROS.

    An “enthusiasts’ club�, if you will.

    And though it would support freedom of speech, it would not be a site designed for griping about ROS-the-show or ROS-the-new-web-log. (You can gripe if you like, but don’t expect it to be received as much more than blowing off steam. And then: knock it off!)

    This new, unofficial blog would support the expansive conversational style the new 200-word limit is designed to curtail on this site.

    Although ‘private’, this site would be a ‘co-op’ and not exclusionary: as long as you’re not a troll (whose relevant meaning I didn’t know until earlier today!), you’ll probably get in. Admittance, like that to any self-respecting speakeasy, would involve getting past the doorman. A live doorman – a ‘bouncer’ – who, because this prospective site ain’t public radio but a private domain, will happily chuck you right back out the door again for misbehavior. Brendan’s kindly forbearance will, by comparison, look like the indulgent benefice it has truly been for the past year. This willingness to host otherwise ‘exiled’ conversations is the chance to help the ROS staff I mentioned above. If a conversation is getting heated or even just lengthy, it can migrate off-site: to the Listeners’ Speakeasy.

    Now, having said all this, I don’t know the first thing about setting up a blog.

    I don’t know if it’s affordable.

    I don’t know if I’ll have the time to do it without lots of co-conspirators.

    I don’t know if my archaic computer can handle the software.

    Hell, I don’t know if anyone will be interested.

    But if you are, say so here.

    Then I’ll beg Brendan to facilitate an email exchange, because: this new site must be troll-proof. For reasons obvious in this very thread. I’ll beg Brendan to vouch that you’re not our local troll masquerading as a respectable blogger.

    We’ll need a lot of wisdom and assistance. I, for one, am a techie-idiot. I’m as naïve about web-sites and blog-sites as I am about the realities and perceived realities of blogging. (I’ve only ever blogged here – and I’m quite sure it shows!)

    Lastly, let me thank all of you for tolerating my past eight months as a co-blogger. The value of what I learned here is priceless.

    I’ve read most everyone, and have often appreciated the many contributions without comment. This wasn’t dismissive, but simply quietly appreciative. I’m afraid to mention anyone for fear of leaving someone out (and my memory is lousy), but here’s hasty stab at it: plaintext, ephelba, mulp!, Lisa Williams, rundfunk, Ben, Jon, ebanning, bigfoot, Ga Jennings, Radiothomas, larry, Diemos, justinfun, jiminfantino, Yark!, T Heller, lkq, webcoyote, ChuckMeister, darcy!, Rillion…oh, the list is damn near endless. Forgive my many, many omissions, please.

    It was (for the most part) a blast, everyone.

    A unique combination of enlightenment and fun.

    Support the radio show!

    Good Bye and Good Luck!

    (889 words! 😉 Good thing this is my last, eh?)

  • Nikos, by all means: all power to you. This is what I was hoping to promote with the multiple thread model. For a single show, there’s ought to be both a self-controlled thread for questions & pointers, and free threads for free-form discussion.

    But there’s nothing to say that the free-form can’t exist on another website. Absolutely.

    Let me just take a few words to provide some related precedents: C-SPAN had an online forum for years. They used WebCrossing forum software, which was clunky to use and became vastly more popular among viewers than the staff. C-SPAN finally had enough of it, and summarily shut it down in fall 2004. The the nascent “spanner” community took off and set up their own forum, website, titled Spanner Backup.

    I encountered this as an occasional C-SPAN viewer, who wanted to ask a single question about their call-in shows. And the “spanners” community provided me a little guidance, but ultimately they were such a bitter group (their site is now called the “C-Span sucks community”) that there was never any constructive conversation with the network.

    As for your endeavor, this is a good development. It should help widen the avenues of interacting with the community.

  • Potter

    Thanks Jon and Nikos, Sidewalker…. everyone.

    I don’t want to run a website. I agree Jon that “For a single show, there’s ought to be both a self-controlled thread for questions & pointers, and free threads for free-form discussion.

    Moving elsewhere and getting bitter sounds unappealing. Moving elsewhere in a “by- invitation-only” may or may not work. It can be done. It might be done. It might become sterile/stale after a while too. To use the garden analogy, the soil would get depleted.

    I wish that this garden could accommodate all flowers, fertilize all flowers. So my first preference to going off and starting another site would be having a place here where people can go off and have a conversation that anyone else would be welcomed to but that at the same time did not intimidate or give the feeling that it was crowding out anyone else. That allows others to have their say/comment on a main show thread. The former need has not been provided for here in the new rules, though the latter has been satisfied.

    Those such as yourself Jon, who are interested in the structure of blogs and web communities and study different forms are familiar with this need apparently. ROS especially seems to generate a lot of thought and inspiration for discussion. At the same time the goal on top is to have a wide community with many voices. The rules above, I fear will generate a community a mile wide and an inch deep.

    All but one of the posts above Nikos’ post were cheering. Those who welcome it for the most part it seems to me do not or do not have the time or inclination to get into these discussions which are perceived as exclusive and indulgent even bullying when in fact they are not meant to be. Still, as NIkos says, perception is reality.

    Again, bear in mind that unlike Kos for instance, this is not response to one poster, one idea, but many ideas that the show might have only touched, ideas that could be expanded in different directions for further discussion. Yet now there is no place for that here.

    Anyone who writes knows how long it takes to write something perfectly and concise. I too here have gone over the 200 word limit.

    Thanks everyone.

  • If you go back and read the comment threads for the shows over the past year, and I have many of them, you find some wonderful inspiration and great thoughtfulness that you just don’t find in likewise media forums. It was the combination of the host, the ROS staff and the approach that gave rise to this expression. Many comments were under yet many over the magical 200 word limit. It makes for great reading.

    I again ask, isn’t there a better way? Jon Garfunkel suggests a free-form discussion area for each thread is possible. Why not go this route and open up participation to all types rather than force vital voices to emigrate?

    Sorry, but I just can’t get this S & G tune out of my head.

    Slip sliding away, slip sliding away

    You know the nearer your destination, the more you slip sliding away

  • I’ll put in another vote for the two-proonged approach. Complimentary, not mutually exclusive. It seems to me that people can participate in both. Nay, Nikos? This is how communities operate. Some people talk on the phone, some meet in person, some write letters, some email. Some like one on one interactions, others like small “salon” gatherings, others like big parties. People move in and out of which form of communication they use at any given time.

    I would suggest a forum rather than a blog. On a forum different people can create topics. You can assign moderators to differrent threads and threads can easily be split when it seems more manageable to do so. Also, you don’t have to do things by invitation. You can set up a system of approving a registration. But you can also use something called “Karma” (since Jon G’s Viewpoints system isn’t available yet!) to have people let you know if they are not appreciating a post. When users build up bad Karma you decide whether to do something about that.

    As for cost, there are a lot of free services out there. Especially blog services, but also for forums. I don’t pay anything for the forum attached to my IRL community.

  • peggysue

    The best post I ever read on this blog was nother’s interview on the prison thread. I’m sure that was more than 200 words but to me it represented the best of what this blog can be.

    I’d hate to lose gems like that.

  • Jon

    The history of rules/terms for the ROS blogosphere seems to have gone through the following stages: 1) occasional admonitions and rare closing down with respect to threads associated with individual shows; 2) creation of Guttersnipe Alley; 3) the new engagement/endearment approach. My own sense is that change is needed, and for the most part I like the approach outlined by Brendan. Here’s one variation on the theme, though, that I’d raise for consideration. Perhaps for each show there could be three points of blogger entry: 1) Suggestions for show production. This thread would close upon live airtime for the show. 2) Reactions (questions, comments) to show content addressed to those participating in the actual show. This thread would open upon live airtime for the show. To the extent that show guests, Chris, or the producers were able to respond to some of these posts, this would enrich the post-show continuing discussion. 3) Discussion Forum for the show. The first two threads would be strictly monitored along the lines described above, including the 200 word limit. The third thread would be more loosely managed, but would explicitly ban personal attacks and other egregious behavior. There might be a confidential hotline to help enforce this, by which concerned bloggers could send a private alert to the ROS staff to have a look at the potentially unacceptable posting. If ROS agreed, then this post could be dealt with accordingly; this would significantly lessen the otherwise large burden on ROS staff to police the blog. I think that an arrangement along lines such as these would retain the best of ROS, be optimally hospitable to entry by new participants, and might also alleviate the perceived need to create a new, unaffiliated website.

  • peggysue, I agree about nother’s post. I think Jon has suggested something that is worth considering. Even if parts 1 & 2 were consolidated and the blog has a sister forum for broader discussion. This would allow the nother type input to still enrich us while the show threads could remain more crisp for interacting with the show.

    I do think that other than the length limit, all the others rules would still apply.

    Of course, its up to ROS to figure out how much they want to manage. The forum could be “community” owned with a mission of operating in conjuction with and support of the Radio program and blog.

  • babu

    Really good discussion above.

    I just read all of Brendan’s references and came away more informed of the territory. Here are my current observations:

    1. ROS seems to be avoiding a Forum format. It’s not the ROS mission to spend hard-earned grant money hosting social, personal or off-subject conversations or complex formats. I respect that. ROS is a tiny band with their hands full. They created Guttersnipe Alley as a one size fits all roll-over thread to keep the Subject threads clean. It means more work off-subject for them AND it’s been over-utilized, stretched to suit. But it’s simply off-ROS mission. I intend to go elsewhere for other purposes from now on.

    2. Per T. Neilsen-Hayden and the dKOS Norms, there is an expectable level of obstruction which comes with the blog tide. She instructs:

    “If you judge that a post is offensive, upsetting, or just plain unpleasant, it’s important to get rid of it,…. Do it as quickly as possible. There’s no more useless advice than to tell people to just ignore such things. ”

    “Another important rule: You can let one jeering, unpleasant jerk hang around… but the minute you get two or more of them …. they both have to go, and all their recent messages with them….Kill them quickly and have no regrets.”

    Brendan: remove more offending posts; people will quickly intuit what’s acceptable. (My grandmother, Mollie the Caterer, a serious cook, used to leave the meat off the dinner plates of her sons-in-law when she was peeved with them. Not a word was ever exchanged.)

    3. I interpret that the word limit is a rule of thumb. If a cogent, highly informative unique post — like nother’s prison interview — needs more room, it will be welcome.

  • babu

    Correction: in my point 1, above I meant to say a ‘nested Forum’ format.

  • Given the above comments, I must point out how when the behavioral code is considered, the technical code is often readily brought to bear. (As technical codes control behavior– the central dogma of Larry Lessig’s Code is Law book).

    That said, if the discussion continues along the lines of technical code, we’ll get away from the necessary exercise of discussing the behavioral code.

    My point above about the two-pronged/multi-channel approach was not meant to re-open a discussion here about the technical implementation. I was merely suggesting that if we believed in it in principle (that one way of keeping threads on topic is by having multiple, parallel threads), Nikos’s idea of starting his own blog to shadow the show would meet that need.

    Furthermore, if we support multiple/parallel, I would have to put the onus on the producers who start the thread to point out other good parallel threads. Foremost amongst them would be other threads on Open Source– and in this case, the last thread on possible technical re-design, which goes way back to January 6th, seems to me a good place to continue the technical discussion.

  • Raymond

    Nikos wrote:

    This is probably my last post …

    Glad to see that word!

    No, not “last,” but “probably.”

    I’m glad you left the door open. I think you are wrong, Nikos, both to take a word limit personally, and to think that a word limit addresses a situation that is only “perception,” and not “reality.”

    But you won’t know if you leave.

    Here’s my challange: stick around with the rules for at least 20% of the time you have previously participated. If you still think the situation is only “perception,” and not “reality,” then, by all means, go your own way.

    But if not, then everyone is better off. In my opinion, anyway.

  • Jon G – What I see reflected in the technology discussion is the desire for two behavior sets.

    ROS has stated that this blog is to be for a dinner-style conversation. One where each person speaks only one or two thoughts at a time, making room for others. If someone goes on at length, others would cut her off to keep more people involved. Social formalities are in place to make is safe for newer dinner partners.

    We’re hearing from several people who desire that type of conversation here. Simultaneously, there are people who want a different type of salon dialogue. Where a topic is intensely pursued. Each person allowed to expound in detail. The participants gain an intimate trust , allowing some relaxation of formalities. The dialogue doesn’t necessarily end after one sitting. It is re-engaged over time when new ideas have been pondered. New topics are generated spontaneously.

    I’m working the logic backwards here. You suggest we talk about desired behaviors first. I glean from the talk about technology. No one is saying that either type of exchange is bad. Simply that some desire one form, the other or both. And ROS has stated what they want here.

    Does this feel true gang?

  • babu

    Jon G,

    Not a techie, I visited your fine site, Civilities, read your review of ROS and grazed broadly in your materials to try to get some depth. Very Helpful. Thanks.

    Allison, your summary is spot on.

    That said, I for one, am against a technological upgrade to create single-subject off-shoot threads. That characterizes what I’d call the ‘think tank’ or need-to-know type website where participants are highly informed or highly motivated in a specific way.

    For instance, I go to a photography site where I can listen to the best guys in the country talk about histogram clipping and color gamut. But they are closeted in back room threads and hard to find. When I log on to these sites I am greeted by a blizzard of incomprehensible choices. Not ROS at all.

    As Allison alluded, ROS is arraying itself as a ‘front porch’ site, where you’re welcome and encouraged to drop by, sit for a while, chime in or just listen to a great host who leads the conversation, one topic at a time. The big family dinner analogy is apt and form-giving. You’re so on target to point out how important the code of behavior is to this intention set. How do you think it should be displayed and enforced without turning dinner into a morality play?

    That said, there IS a somewhat dillettante-ish aspect to the ROS format. Four new conversations a week, etc. But it has more than fulfilled my activist desire to put my ear to the public ground to feel a broader pulse than I usually encounter. For this it has delivered beautifully.

  • babu, you say that you don’t want the “think tank” type discussion, or you don’t want this site to be technically upgraded to accomodate that.

    You don’t think that there is a way to make room for both the ‘front porch’ interactions and the ‘back room’ interactions in a way that makes sure there is a wall with a door in between?

  • malcom z

    I would side with hwally’s suggestion to rename guttersnipe alley “open forum.” I’m sure both words, and their definitions, would be familiar to all who would enter here and it would be immediately apparent what its purpose was. If we are to encourage new contributors we need to make it easy for them to navigate here. I see a lot of discussions about new and sweeping formats, I don’t see the neccessity. The show works as it is. lf self regulation had worked a new code of conduct wouldn’t have been necessary. For now let the show stand as it is, adjustments can be made as necessary. Today’s a new day with a new topic, let’s see how it goes.

  • Nice work, Brendan. You already know I’m behind you, the little Canadian cabal waving the supportive flags. Online communities aren’t easy. This one is bound to morph and change over time. And unlike others, I fully support you establishing rules from the top down. this is YOUR site, and we are happy participants. Good fences make good neighbours and all that jazz.

    Nikos said:

    I don’t know the first thing about setting up a blog.

    Head over to Really. It’s that easy.

    I don’t know if it’s affordable.

    It’s free.

    I don’t know if I’ll have the time to do it without lots of co-conspirators.

    It will take you no more time than it takes you to write out a comment here.

    I don’t know if my archaic computer can handle the software.

    Blogging software resides on servers, not on your computer. If your computer allows you to post comments here, you can keep a blog.

    Hell, I don’t know if anyone will be interested.

    Who cares? Don’t blog for other people. Blog for yourself. The best blogs are kept for people who say what they want to say, not what other people want to hear.

  • babu


    I’m sure someone could build a site with all the right doors and windows. It’s just that that’s exactly what I prefer not to happen to this one. I’d like to see MORE experts commenting in the open threads, not less. Just my preference.

  • babu,

    I don’t see how having this blog and then a forum for more open conversation would undermine your desire to see more people post here.

    Of course, first, it would be nice if the guests on the show were encouraged to participate here at all.

  • babu


    Agree completely. One or two house-keeping forums alongside the subject threads. And I’ve suggested elsewhere that guests be strongly encouraged to post, at least once….

  • Vijtable

    I love the Speakeasy idea for those long discussions which move off-topic (Morality and Evolution, Race). I’m new but I certainly have offended the 200-word limit. My apologies to everyone; some self-imposed limit is good. There are times, on occassion, when it is useful to have the longer post that pushes a discussion forward. I think Nikos, jazzman, allison, and Potter (among several others) prove that. So, I don’t think we should fret about what we have done and cannot change.

    My proposal: A couple years ago, I had a site idea which, for two reasons, died: 1) I needed a job and 2) the idea needed serious refinement. ROS’s forums actually resemble the idea I had, hence my addiction to it. In any case, the domain I wanted to buy for my now-dead site idea goes on sale this October. I’m thinking of buying it anyway, as its name would be perfect for the speakeasy… I’m not sure how I’d do it (I’ve wanted my own site, too), but I’m thinking… It’s always possible to set up a Blogger site on the domain. Yay! I’ve got 200 words on the dot.

  • ewayland

    I am not sure if this is the right place to leave this comment, but I’m going to because it kind-of relates to this whole idea of getting more people to post. I just got the e-mail announcing this new technology you are using to record audio comments for possible broadcast on the air. A great idea, but I have wondered for a while why you don’t use more traditional methods to get more comments from listeners. Why not, like cartalk, take comments on a listener line in advance then line up the callers you think would be the most interesting — or make the most interesting show? Or why do you have a “blogger-in-chief” summarizing what a bunch of people have said online when you could just pick out a couple of the more interesting posts and get the guests to respond to them? That is what Talk Of The Nation does (or did, it’s been a while since I listened). I think most of us out here would prefer to have the chance to get our comments presented on air, in our words, and under our (real or assumed) names. Most never would, of course, but the possibility that they might would be a strong incentive to participate.

  • “The comment threads should work toward the same goal as the show: to give voice to the widest possible range of ideas and experience.”

    I don’t think that this is actaully true. You’ve created a “monoculture” of ideas without much variety. The subject matter is generally left leaning, the guest almost as much so and the VAST majority of commentators are refugees from the MoveOn.Org / DailyKos/ Democracy Now sites.

    I will give just one example – the latest “show” on Gloabal Warming. Just look at the featured material presented at the begginning of the show presented by the producer of that show. From that lack of desenting material there it is obvious that there would not be any serious attempt at discussing this topic. Then, look at the comments psoted on that show and see the results.

    This was NOT a serious show.

    There are not mopre comments because there is a small community who like what the hear on the show and mostly just talk to each other.

    I think that it was HELARIOUS that someone in this discussion was uncomfoartable with the terms “Rules of Engagement”. Eventhough that is a term used by the military it means litteally what it means yet because it carries with it the connotation of conflict it makes some people “uncomfortable”.

    Lack of conflict is comfortable – and boring.

    This small community lives in bubble, good luck making them comfortable while trying to discuss anything of any real value.

  • babu

    wd: “You’ve created a monoculture of ideas without much variety.”

    What do you actually mean by this? I ask because I’ve been thinking about what would contribute to more dialogue on a deeper level among proponents who don’t usually get a chance to or bother to talk to each other.

    Is it not enough warm-up time? Circulation? Format?

  • Firstly, it content. Take Robbin’s up coming show on Kennedy’s article regarding the last Pres election and Ohio.

    No one with any credibility thinks that there was any irregularotiues. Even Kerry, the loser, remember him, conceded wothout contesting it.

    There is no reason for anyone other than some poor, loser, with out a life, to listen to / repsond to that show.

    If you want to “bottom feed” on ideas like that, go hang out on the DailyKos or other worthless sites like that.

  • birdbrain

    Vijtable: you might want to try this:

    Where you’ll find a smattering of your old penpals beginning to strike up old conversations. And tangents off ROS topics.

    To join this new Speakeasy, go to the Group Maps link – – and then give yourself a bit of time to learn how to navigate and operate within the Speakeasy’s ‘walls’.

    We hope to see you there.

    This invite applies to others too.

    Especially nother, whose lengthy reports would be more than welcome.