Notes From Bloggers & Community Conference

Posted on 28 April 2007. Filed under: Resources, Tips |

Saturday, the Simpson Center sponsored an inter-disciplinary symposium on community and blogging. Notes from the conference (real-time – not true quotes, almost all is paraphrased even if it uses personal pronouns).

Session 1: Blogging As A Public Service

Don Smith
Seattle PI, Interactivity Editor

Venture capital investment and layoffs – stuff from reporter (John Cook) notebook moved to the web. Listed companies getting venture investment. In doing layoffs, John started including this list online. Almost immediately, we realized that our readers knew more about who was being laid off more than we did. [Reporting requirements – more than 60 employees – public record.] People started e-mailing this stuff to us and we started this dialog with readers. By 2005, John started blogging and the state economist started using this in his figures.

Today, John uses his blog like a combo filing cabinet and story generator.

Todd Bishop does a lot of that, too. Comments – feedback on stories and the blog. Regina Hackett does the same thing. Our readers have figured out that they know more than we do on some things. This interaction with reporters allow them to tell us.

Nearly every story we write in the paper generates reaction. SoundOff. We actually have to take it “off” if we don’t want it. Gay rights stories “go south” on us real fast, for example.

Forums are more free-form. Between forums and soundOffs (18K posts/mo), 1.3 million page views (32-35million pv/site).

Began adding reader blogs about a year ago – more than 60 blogs. They get into geographic communities as well as community of interest, for example, comic books. Combined with staff blogs, a million page view/month and fastest growing part of the site.

“Is it journalism?” Yeah, some of them are. We have readers who are following the same sort of “high ideals” that reporters do. We are asking our reader bloggers to uphold journalistic standards. But we don’t edit. They definitely add to journalism.

Opening up the community – that’s something the old letters to the editor never really did.

Erica Barnett
Senior News Writer for The Stranger (SLOG)

Relatively new – two years old two days ago. Very first day, two post (link to biz week story and permafrost to the Arctic). Self-referential. That’s pretty much how SLOG was the first few months of its existence. We weren’t used the the immediacy of it and not being edited.

Only 21 posts the first week – yesterday we probably had 30-35 posts. The first posts were personal – today is much more newsy, much more breaking, more like the paper itself. We didn’t have comments at first. We started providing categories to give our readers a way to access topics that they are interested in.

I think the beauty of SLOG is the way that it bombards you with information. I like that you have to “slog through” a story on the port to get to Paris Hilton.

We took all of our music posts and put them in their own section. Everything else is still on the same website.

SLOG has become a huge blog in terms of readership & quantity of information. Collective work of a community of writers (walks thru five consecutive posts to demonstrate breadth of topics).

How blogging has changed the job of news reporter: First, the dialog with readers has really changed. Now we have instant feedback loop. We have people who comment within 15 minutes of a post going live. I’ve heard of commenters doing comment meet-ups — the anonymity of the name goes away – they do become a community. We don’t moderate our comments at all. No requirement for readers to register. Gawker is the same way. The bigger the blog the bigger the comment community and the nastier the people feel that they have the right to be.

It’s really sped up the pace of reporting. The debate between me and my editor used to be “should we put this in the paper this week?” Now it’s “should we put it on SLOG and risk someone will steal it”? Now I am a daily reporter – a significant change. The good side, when we write about breaking news, the blog becomes a work in progress. in that sense, the paper becomes a final draft of the blog. We can compete with the dailies in a way we could not before. And we can put up 20 stories instead of the two we put in the paper.

We are producing two different products: the blog and the paper. I think this will even out as papers move online.


Kathy’s question about work & compensation:
Erica: increase in work 10-15 hrs/week with no change in $.
Don: reporters who “get” the blogging community probably don’t include all hours as OT. For example, Todd posts while on vacation.
Barbara (?Tacoma) – TNT NFL blogger is 24×7 – she said she would not do that.

SLOG 500,000 unique users a month about two months ago.

Long discussion about anonymous v registered users (comments, forums, SoundOff).
SLOG blocked entire Evergreen CC Libraries to deal with one commenter.
The PI blocked one Boeing office (Chicago?) because of one commenter.

How much data do reporters get to see?

Erica: reported posts get edited on my side for fact-checking.
Do readers expect “rough draft” – I don’t mean “rough draft” that’s wrong, just incomplete. The goal is for SLOG to be as accurate as the paper.
Don: it’s not any different from watching TV or listening to radio – the first few reports may not be the final story. Example from yesterday – Paul Allen buying soccer team.
We used to say newspapers are a rough draft of history. How do we say to people “this is a little rougher than the story you’ll see in print.” Now we tell changes at the top of the story.

Have you been sued over the blog? Not yet.

Don: reporters “internet only”? Yes – Monica Guzman is our mojo but her blog became so popular that we have put some of her work in print. Two reporters devoted to the online staff. As of yesterday, you’ll see much more “online first” stuff. We’re not publishing first in the newspaper or not.

Sesssion 2: Bringing Bloggers Together

Dylan Wilbanks
Seattle Metroblogging

Blogging since 2005 – personally since 2000. Metblogs started in 2003 in LA ( They thought the idea could extend outward; Seattle addedin 2004. Gothamist group started about the same time.

54 cities, 5 continents, 700+ bloggers

Pakistan and India are a couple of our strongest blogs – as well as an English blog in Germany and one in France

unpaid – though there are goal-based rewards

Seattle now has 15 writers (8-10). Median is about 28. About half live in CapHill/Eastlake/Madison Park. Seattle-centric – global memes only discussed if there is a Seattle connection.

Write about what we love. No well-defined roles.

What does our community look like? We don’t know. Technorati gives us a view – not a perfect view. Here is who links to us.

How do we know if we have a community? People are willing to take the time to say how much they hate us. We are considered an enemy of SLOG.

You own your own words – The Well.
But … with group blogs, is that still true?
Ownership issues?
Mean Kids (Kathy Sierra)

Blogs != Forums

Group blogs mean that the group must interact with each other
– Meet ups
– Tastings
– Online story meetings
– Commenting on each others posts

How does a group blog build an online community?
– Good ideas
– Good writing
– Good readers
– Good feedback
– Ends with good connections

Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon … (get quote)

Honni Van Rijswick & Matthew James Vechinski
Creating Community Through Blogging

Goal 1: discussion of technologies – catalyst – etc.

Goal 2: more hyperlocal than Facebook, for example, and to bring together faculty, staff and students in a different manner.

Goal 3: expanded audience. one user name but you can co-author blogs. community categories. we’re asking for a change in culture and practice. it’s a different mind-set than e-mail. more active participation than e-mail.

Goal 4: critical practice. blogs are usually regarded as inferior texts (overly personal and not analytical).

Goal 5: cross community collaboration. how to stimulate inter-disciplinary communication.

Goal 6: identities and publics. detailed profiles – interface with photos, hobbies, academic and entertainment interests.

Problems with university values/structure/mindset, eg, human subjects (this was not a sociological study, but that was hard to communicate).

RSS is more active (right now) process than sub’ing to e-mail list. Cultural change.

Don: RSS is helpful – we link to community newspapers. We’re looking at other areas where RSS feeds can be used on our site.

Derek Young – “feed tacoma” invite only (15 or 18 blogs) — now you’re seeing a larger community and links to each other. [KEG -> this would be good for ] All custom written. 🙂

Derek – forum and comments have two different communities. people in the forum are very different from those on the blog.

Dylan – the conversation is coffee house to coffee house (links to posts – Kathy Sierra example) and not just one coffee house discussion (blog as a geographical entity).


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