Blog Skool

This is the collection of threads that contain guidance about how to build community and promote civil discussion with a blog.

"...taking only one cookie..."

We're not alone here on OlyBlog in dealing with the issue of how to moderate discussion.

Calculated Risk:

I cannot make anyone stop responding to pointless or nuisance comments. You have to want to restrain yourself, because you understand that the only way to get rid of them is to fail to give them the attention they want. A "troll" is not just someone whose comments you disagree with, or even just a nasty or badly-worded comment. A troll is someone who does not, under any possible set of circumstances, care what you think about him or his comments. He merely wants attention. Negative attention will do. The more you disagree with him, the more he is able to tell himself that he is persecuted and victimized or the only voice of reason or one of the elite few who has the God's-eye view of the world or whatever his current delusion is. If he isn't merely a narcissist who thrives on feeling attacked, he's just some putz who enjoys irritating other people. Therefore, you "feed" the troll by paying any attention to him at all. It does not matter what you say in response. Any response to a troll just encourages the troll.

Besides classic trolls, we have a few resident long-winded bores who believe that the rest of us have never been exposed to some trite, shallow, bombastic rant they just heard on the radio or read in Reader's Digest or saw in a vision, and feel compelled to share with the rest of us. These people lack any possible sense of context or audience; they are incapable of noticing that the bulk of our commenting community has been exposed to the world for a while now and is not interested in any comment that starts "there is one simple answer to this the rest of you aren't getting." It does you no good to respond to this type either; they'll just re-write the same comment again, at the same length, saying the same thing, until you "get it." They are bores with no self-awareness. The cool thing about the internet is that you can just scroll down to the next comment without being "rude." So take advantage of the medium.

Absolutely none of this is to say or imply that you are not invited to debate with each other or to correct misstatements of fact. You are also still allowed to make jokes and ramble occasionally and even from time to time introduce a new topic that is relevant. Most of you are grownups who understand intuitively where the line is, and if you cross it now and again you catch yourself and go on mostly behaving yourself. A few of you are those problem children who are not capable of taking only one cookie or talking quietly in the library or waiting until it's your turn and you ruin all group experiences for everyone else. You goad the authorities into instituting draconian rules for everybody in order to prevent you from getting out of control. You are probably going to be like this for the rest of your life, since such behavior patterns that persist past puberty usually don't go away. All I can say to you is that you really will get nowhere asking me personally to validate your feelings or demands. If you worked for me, I would foist you off on another department or just fire you immediately. I learned a long time ago that I can't fix you and I can't function with you and you need me a whole hell of lot more than I need you. Of course you don't recognize yourself in this description. That'd be your big problem. I'm really just writing this to once again remind your fellows that I am not trying to inhibit anyone having a good time in the comments. I am trying to inhibit those of you with no judgment and no ability to control yourselves.

This analysis supports the conclusion that I've come to, which is that the crucial factor comes down to whether the problem commenter cares what others think, and can adjust his/her communication style.

A Social Contract

We've had some nice discussion on the blog about how to handle some of the unruly behavior of late, and one of the suggestions was to create a Social Contract that everyone would agree to. I think this is something that we must do as a community, and we should have done long ago. Towards that end, I've created a wiki page (at wetpaint.com) that we can all use to create a new Social Contract. I've started with some language from an existing Social Contract, just to get us off the ground (and because I like it). Anyone can add, delete, change and, hopefully, improve the language. So, have at it, and let's make something that works for OlyBlog.

OlyBlog Social Contract Wiki

A reminder

OlyBlog is an operation that is run by volunteers. Now, those of you who have worked in such organizations, you know that volunteers have full lives, and things get done when people have the time and energy to do them. There are a couple of important thing for folks who benefit from this volunteer labor to understand:

We've seen what the toll of not understanding these principles can take on our organization. Sarah, the most gentle soul on the entire planet, has become burned out, partly due to the rancor in the comments, but also due to abuse from users about management. It is shocking to me that someone who has invested so much for this organization should be treated so poorly.

A starting point of thoughts on online community

Because if I don't start, it won't happen.... Here's a huge batch of articles on online community:

These come from some folks who have run or are running fairly large online communities, some of which have been going for quite a long time.

The point being that I think OlyBlog as a community could stand to do some learning from these sources. (I almost jumped into the anonymity question but never did get my thoughts together.) After almost 10 years of web communities, there actually is some best practice available. :)

More to come, hopefully. I am notoriously lousy about following up on these sorts of vague big ideas, so no promises.

Accept Responsibility, Use Direct Communication

Principles of Conflict Resolution

5. Accept Responsibility

Every conflict has many sides and there is enough responsibility for everyone. Attempting to place blame only creates resentment and anger that heightens any existing conflict. In order to resolve a conflict we must accept our share of the responsibility and eliminate the concept of blame.

6. Use Direct Communication

Say what we mean and mean what we say. Avoid hiding the ball by talking around a problem. The best way to accomplish this is to use "I-Messages". With an "I-Message" we express our own wants, needs or concerns to the listener. "I-Messages" are clear and non-threatening way of telling others what we want and how we feel. A "you-message" blames or criticizes the listener. It suggests that she or he is at fault.

Am I too cynical?

I've been thinking about some of my reactions to people of late and see that I've taken a huge turn toward what I used to dislike about blogs. I've been quick to pick a fight, while criticizing others for the same behavior. I do remember a time when I was more focused on conversation and less on confrontation. I've decided that I want to return to that. I am now focusing on being present and aware of the things that I type and how they might be taken. My goal is to do this without compromising my principles, but to express my principles in a way that would make people more open to hearing about them. I see that my vitriol does nothing but solidify bad stereotypes that people hold about some of my beliefs, and that I'm doing myself, and my values, a disservice by being caustic or "mean", as I was recently accused of being. That's all, I'm just going to try to be nicer.

Another Meta-conversation: Olyblog Bullying

It appears that some of our fellow posters feel bullied when they post an unpopular opinion and that disagreement is not welcome on Olyblog. Have you been bullied? Have you bullied someone else? Can we have this conversation without catching fire? Is there anything we can do about it? Or is my strawman beating my dead horse with a red herring?

Bedtime

Olympia seems to be home to a lot of progressive parents, and for the most part I fit right in. I think I'm a fairly non-authoritarian parent, but Olympia is home to such a variety of parenting styles that I've had the chance to observe some VERY non-authoritarian parenting, which has helped to reinforce my belief that setting limits is part of parenting, and must be done. The recent discussion on Olyblog has brought an incident to mind.

A friend of mine was willing to "talk out" pretty much anything with her kid. I am willing to give my daughter a rationale for all of the rules I impose on her, but she can't always hear the rationale again, especially when it's bedtime at issue.

Kids don't like bedtime. I think a little rebellion at bedtime is pretty common. My daughter has heard an explanation of why she needs sleep, and she doesn't get to hear it again every night. When it's bedtime, it's bedtime -- it seems futile to talk about it when we're both tired. My daughter knows that it's useless to try to stall bedtime by a long discussion of its fairness and utility, so when bedtime comes, she knows she has no choice. A friend of mine, though, is willing to discuss the need for bedtime with her kid every time the kid resists. Sometimes these discussions can last an hour, and can be very intrusive for the parents, disrupting their evening plans.

I think if a kid has heard about why bedtime is necessary, and he or she still resists at 9:30 p.m., the discussion should be postponed until morning, when it is unlikely to take place, since it will no longer serve to postpone said bedtime. I don't really see delaying bedtime until the tired child agrees that it is necessary. Possibly, the child will never agree to it. I think sometimes parents just need to turn out the lights and let them fuss in the dark until they fall asleep.

A lot of the recent discussion on Olyblog reminds me of this kind of situation. I don't think we can eliminate trollish behavior if we wait for the kind of people to engage in it to agree to limits. They're not going to. They're going to kick and scream about unfairness, holding themselves up as standards for integrity, and perhaps wanting to discuss THAT, on and on and on and on.

I think Olyblog should be inclusive, but I don't think we should expect to reach consensus on behavioral standards. Some people will throw a wrench in the process for as long as the process continues. Because that's what they are -- wrench throwers. I think they need to be told that it's bedtime -- end of discussion. If they want to fuss about unfairness, let them fuss -- or leave. Really, how unfair is it to subject them to behavior expectations at a site they come to voluntarily? I think it makes sense to end the discussion now, prevail upon the docents to maintain certain behavioral standards, and let anyone who doesn't like the rules go play in another playground.

Blog Wars

Some good discussions are happening out there/here in the blogosphere - blogging about blogging, about how we all communicate or don't. Read Blog Wars then War of words | Bloggers have taken off the gloves for some tasty food for thought.

Blog fights are verbal steel-cage smackdowns with a revolving door. Says Ariel Meadow Stallings, a Seattle writer who posts her random musings at Electrolicious.com: "Bloggers are an inflammatory bunch."
University of Washington communications professor Malcolm Parks calls it a "cowboy commentary" environment where individual bloggers, through their words, proclaim themselves "the Lone Ranger of truth."

Blogging Ethically

Rebecca Blood has a book out titled The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog.

The section I am most interested in, Weblog Ethics, is available online through her site. She proposes six rules for online publishers:
  1. Publish as fact only that which you believe to be true.
  2. If material exists online, link to it when you reference it.
  3. Publicly correct any misinformation.
  4. Write each entry as if it could not be changed; add to, but do not rewrite or delete, any entry.
  5. Disclose any conflict of interest.
  6. Note questionable and biased sources.
The whole article is well worth reading, Ms. Blood clarifies each of these rules.

Because I sometimes write about controversial subjects, especially concerning the world of white supremacists, I want to do so as cleanly and clearly as possible, even if I also apply some humor.

Ethics and humor. Right up my alley.

Blogging Ethics Revisited

Might be a good time to review the blogging ethics post that Sara provided back in September: 

Blogging Ethically Submitted by Sarah on Wed, 09/20/2006 - 9:05pm. Rebecca Blood has a book out titled The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog.

The section I am most interested in, Weblog Ethics, is available online through her site. She proposes six rules for online publishers:
  1. Publish as fact only that which you believe to be true.
  2. If material exists online, link to it when you reference it.
  3. Publicly correct any misinformation.
  4. Write each entry as if it could not be changed; add to, but do not rewrite or delete, any entry.
  5. Disclose any conflict of interest.
  6. Note questionable and biased sources.
The whole article is well worth reading, Ms. Blood clarifies each of these rules.

Because I sometimes write about controversial subjects, especially concerning the world of white supremacists, I want to do so as cleanly and clearly as possible, even if I also apply some humor.

Ethics and humor. Right up my alley.

Blogotype - Who are you?

Hey, I'm crazed about this idea of categorizing bloggers and blog posts. Any links to good food for thought on this subject, please share.

Some of my finds this morning include a What Blogging Archetype Are You Most Like? quiz, my own result plus link below.

You are a Rebecca Blood.
You are worldly, well-spoken, not afraid to share your opinions and are always open to new ideas.
Take the What Blogging Archetype Are You test at GAZM.org

I also like this 20 Types of Blog Posts, this one post has spawned all sorts of discussion all over the place. And you can't go wrong with the quick Wikipedia summary of Types of blogs.

I used to keep a blog that fit under the categories Race, Ethnicity, & Culture, or Civil Rights, or Social Justice. Now my only blog is here on OlyBlog, a blog within a blog, I probably fit best under the Life Blog umbrella now, as categorized by BlogHer.

In another quiz I am told:
You scored as The Philosopher. Hola, thinker! You always always have your thinking hat on. Somehow you have the special ability to pick out the oddities of life and the particular something that catches your eye. A little different from the shouter, you shout out in a deeper context. Not many may understand what you’ve typed, but to you, recording your train of thoughts is all that matters!

Comment Policy

For review.  Sarah isn't here to pick us back up.

Comment Policy

Due to the appearance of abusive comments on Olyblog, our crack team of specialists has been working 24/7 to get a fix up and running. So, here it is:

Comments can now be rated, and each user can choose what categories they would like to view. Here are the categories:

Some examples from recent comments:

The contribution of Sylvester P. Smythe is a good example of a driveby. He had no history on Olyblog, no prior relationship with the community, and yet he felt that he could enter the debate by using inflammatory and offensive language.

The comments of nsmdevildog are an example of abusive comments. They have been deleted from the site, and thus are not available to view, but even those who didn't see these comments will be able to identify them by the hate, racism, and depravity that characterizes them.

At this stage, it is not necessary to rate every comment. If you do nothing, you will still see all the comments (see below). For now, please rate comments that you feel are especially good or especially bad.

In order to filter the comments to your own preference, go to "Comment Viewing Options" at the bottom of comment threads. Presently, there are two levels to choose from: "Everything" or "Productive Only". If you would like to see all the comments regardless of rating, choose "Everything." If you would like only those categorized as "Profound," "Insightful," and "Useful," then choose "Productive Only." At some point, when whe have more comments, it may be necessary to add more preference levels.

Please let me know if anyone has suggestions or comments about this policy.

--Rick (your humble blog admin and caiman master)

Creative Approaches to Conflict

I've been giving some thought to how to address the issues of gossip and shunning. These are problems that I've seen in almost every community I've lived in, including Olympia, and wonder if anyone has constructive ideas of ways to identify and to find outlets for conflicts so that harmful approaches such as gossip and shunning are less likely to occur:

Gossip as a form of bullying.
Bystanders and Bullying.

In my coursework for a class called Communication in Conflict...it is suggested that metaphors for conflict be changed from those with militaristic theme, which is most common in our culture, to something like a dancing or gardening theme. In this way, conflict would be seen as natural, normal, and even a fun challenge to which to apply creative skills rather than a war where enemies are declared with intent to destroy.

Any ideas out there on this?

Cyberbullying

Read Virtual Hate Crimes by Sara Robinson on Orcinus:

Hate crime is a low-level form of terrorism designed to disenfranchise, stifle, and ultimately remove certain people from the public sphere by forcing them to erect imaginary boundaries of fear in their own heads. It causes people to change their behavior, shrink their horizons, and stop participating fully in their own lives. Suddenly, there are places -- the synagogue, the clinic, downtown after dark, professional conferences, the comments threads that form the living rooms of their own online homes -- that they can no longer approach with a feeling of acceptance, belonging, and safety.
I've experienced cyberbullying, as have other OlyBloggers and members of the Oly community at large. OlyBlog (thank you Rick) especially helped me during those months because I was able to continue blogging in a protected community.

Cyberbullying is designed to silence and isolate people. I found that more speech was the answer. I had to set priorities, pick and choose my battles, and figure out what worked best for me.

I encourage people to take cyberbullying seriously. Keep complete copies of any threats, tell your family and friends, let the authorities know. Connect up with other targets and share support.

Devolution

As we make the transition to 2007, and to a new form of organization for the blog, I'd like to make some comments on the current state of discourse. As a prelude, I'd just like to note that OlyBlog has, in its short life, been through some difficult times when it seemed like the atmosphere became too noxious for human existence. We held our breath and survived to breathe another day. It seems like we are in one of those hold-your-breath times again. In general, however, my experience of the blog over the past year has been one of wonder and amazement. I marvel at the creativeness of content here, and the connections that people have formed through OlyBlog. All in all, I think it has been a good thing, and I would like to see it continue.

Having said that, I need to ask for help. I am really finding it hard to read some of the opinions that some of my fellow OlyBloggers see fit to post. I have become personally burned out by the process, and have therefore decided to decentralize control of the blog. I don't think this is going to solve the problem, but it will mean that it is not my problem alone to deal with.

Here is the problem: some folks think OlyBlog is a place to say things that aren't true. When confronted with this fact, rather than support their argument, they claim bias and intolerance. I personally find this challenging. For some issues, "balance" is inappropriate. There are no balanced positions on the questions of whether HIV causes AIDS, CO2 causes global warming, or whether it is wrong to euthanize or sterilize prison populations. In some cases, science gets to decide. In others, our humanity must prevail.

So, what to do with assertions such as have been made on OlyBlog that CO2 isn't a problem, we should do away with prisoners, etc? Perhaps it is a mistake to allow people to post on non-local topics at all. Maybe if we were constrained to just talking about Olympia, we wouldn't run into these kind of inflammatory topics and everything would be good. I don't know.

Maybe we should do nothing. So far, it has been intolerable for me to just let these assertions go unchallenged. I don't have infinite amounts of time, so I can't do it alone. In truth, I don't want to do it any more. As Mike and Chad360 have pointed out, it is a big waste of time.

One of the things that is most puzzling to me about this whole situation is why anyone would persistently want to push ideas that were so unwelcome. Is there some underlying need to create controversy? Diversity is great, and I welcome the process of trying to overcome differences of opinion as a way to broaden perspective and incorporate new ideas. But when the exact same message keeps getting pushed on me again and again with no tuning or adjustment, maybe it is time for the pusher to find a different audience.

I'm looking for suggestions here, because I'm about done.

Docents

With the New Year coming, I'm thinking of ways to make OlyBlog even better. One long-standing issue with the present system, for example, is that OlyBlog editorial policy has been a bit of an enigma to some. In particular, some have had difficulty with the notion of a community blog, with no one person determining the content of the posts (apart from topic). I've also noticed that some people think of "Rick" and "OlyBlog" as the same thing, as if everything that I say is the Official OlyBlog Position (thanks to enpen for helping me understand this phenomenon).

So, with the goal of placing OlyBlog on a more transparent foundation, I'd like to suggest the following changes:

If this seems like a good plan, the first step would be to take nominations for docents. I think that there should be at least 5 positions to begin with.

Update: Nominations thus far -- Rob R., Emmett, Sarah, Norm, Jade, enpen, TFI, NWarty, Rob W., OperaGirl...

Doing it Online

This is an excellent article by Stephen Franklin: Nine steps to citizen journalism online

You can have your own point of view or opinion. But if you want people to pay attention to you, you must give them a chance to make a decision. You can present the information you think is important, and then explain your view. When people feel you are honest and credible, they will return to your place on the Internet. You can also separate your work into clear categories. This means you mark some of what you write as what you have learned and reported, and some as your opinion.

Educating Spam Filter - Not an OlyBlog Conspiracy

I know it can be confusing and even upsetting to create a post or comment here on OlyBlog and then be denied publication right away. It can even feel as if you are being censored, personally.

OlyBlog recently went through a site upgrade and our spam filter is still learning. This is an automatic process, the filter is tripped by whatever, we docents are notified and once we can get to it, we approve or not.

The filter is "dumb" and is being improved with use. Sometimes that means there is a delay. We docents do the best we can but sometimes no one gets to a spam filter issue right away.

Feel free to contact any of we docents, any time.

 

Effective OlyBlog Communication

On a recent thread there was a conversation about the use of a certain in term in reference to what another blogger had posted. I don't want this thread to turn into a finger-pointing fest, but I want to talk about how we relate with and react to one another here.

If I post something it typically means that I've put a lot of thought into it or feel very deeply about what I'm saying. I know that when I read criticisms of my opinions that carry an overtly argumentative tone, or if I feel like I'm being taken way out of context with no regard toward what I'm actually saying, or just flat our called names, it flips a switch in my brain that makes my synapses start firing in a different way. I immediately stop really looking for any meaning in what I'm reading and immediately start looking for things to attack.

I think a solution to this is for all of us to commit to not using inflammatory language with one another. If it does happen, we have to try to bring it up with the other person in a non-threatening way. If I say, "Don't talk to me like that," there is an implied consequence and it will immediately put the other person on the defensive, or perhaps on the attack. If instead we ask the other person to explain what they mean by that, it gives them the opportunity to withdraw, or clarify their point using softer language.

The issue of humor brought up as well. There was some fairly offensive, though good natured humor used on a thread recently. We have to be careful not to post offensive comments, even in joke form, because it has an effect on the comfort level of the blog for many people. Also, in my opinion, if we feel the need to use sarcasm we should make it abundantly clear that it is sarcasm and not serious. I've seen some threads get fairly heated because of misunderstandings around humor.

That's my two cents, what are yours?

For BlogWonks Only

Can the Internet help preserve journalism?

A thesis by Rachel Davis Mersey comparing the hyperlocal qualities of print newspapers vs online community news. The case study is set in Arizona.

Read it here.

For the Ladies of OlyBlog

Welcome to OlyBlog.

Please make yourself at home.

If we can get you anything please don't hesitate to ask.

If you run into any trouble we've got you covered.


From Social Contract to Bylaws

I made one more addition to the Social Contract (adding the practices that Mike reminded us of). I think it is good to go. I've added it to the registration email, so all new members will receive it as soon as they sign up. Here's the link, if you haven't had a chance to check it out yet.

Moving forward, I've started a wiki for building a set of Bylaws for OlyBlog. Roll up your sleeves and click here to get to work.

Generic post on why blogs are good

Inaugural post on a new blog.

Blogs and the people who use them have been the butt of jokes for a while now. Blogs are thought to be made by people with no lives who want to escape from reality, who just interact with the world through a computer screen. Immature, with no social skills, bloggers are thought to be a sort of freak group within the greater society. Sure, real relationships are great, are better, but let's look at that reality outside the window for a second.

While blogging is escapist to some extent the world outside the window resembles a blasted out wasteland. Olympia is somewhat better than the rest, but in most places you find strip malls, no community, people only knowing each other slightly, social alienation to a large degree. The media reinforces this. People have less opportunities to really communicate with each other than they had in the past, to share in some sort of dialogue beyond their own social circle.

There has to be some way to reconnect with each other. Communication and the exchange of ideas and thoughts is a primal need, it's something that reminds us that we're human, that cuts though the feelings of alienation and gives us some sort of mutual recognition----I recognize what you're saying, thereby I recognize your worth, you recognize what I'm saying, therefore you recognize my worth. Enter blogs.

Blogs are a decentralized way to cut through the tendency of society to shut everyone up in their own little boxes and to reestablish the sort of community and the sort of communication and mutual recognition tha real living requires.

I don't like the idea of my primary way of relating to other people coming by way of a computer screen, but if that's what needs to happen temporarily for the real life connections to be made then so be it.

It's late. Posts that'll be more sparkling will come earlier in the day.

Get yer hot CJ action here!

I just want to follow up on something that Ehver Green said in the caucus results thread. He said:

This whole thread is amazing. Isn't this what it should be about? Thanks to everyone who has posted this evening - the turnout is telling. Obama looking good.

EDIT: Olyblog was my first news source for results tonight!

I want to emphatically say YES! This is EXACTLY what it should be about. The caucus results thread was a perfect example of CJ in action. And I think we can do lots, lots more. I would love to see this kind of collective reporting about every important event in our community. We all have the stuff to do it (e.g., digital cameras, computers, video cameras, flickr accounts, etc.). Don't be a passive news consumer any more. Go out and find the answers to your questions and then share them with others. Discuss what you find, and you'll know more than any network or newspaper can tell you. As a zen master might say: "Be the news."

How do we build continued membership on OlyBlog?

My title is taken directly from Ehver Green's comment here.

The whole discussion is worth looking through (especially the conversation within the conversation), including comments by Guglielmo and Phil Owen.

What has made you feel welcome here? How can we welcome others? What advice do you have for new members?

 

How to roll your own blog - Intro

These are exciting times for OlyBlog. We've grown immensely and are a source for all sorts of amazing projects. The way I see it, nothing ever has to be everything for everyone. Expansion and evolution is a good thing.

If OlyBlog is a nest, I'm in the mood to shout out enthusiastically "Fly, chickies, fly!". I'm one of many OlyBloggers who have grown up here and who can see the benefits of redirection and expansion.

So I'm going to do a semi-rambling series of posts on this theme. How can you start your own blog? I'm going to focus on what is free and relatively easy to use.

What are you reading already online? Do you follow a favorite blogger's blog, do you read what friends write? As you do so, start paying attention to the blog platform.

Some examples from local bloggers:

Photography-Industrial Archaeology-Words
and The Canaanite's Call use Blogger

Cosmo's Condo and Read What I've Got to Say use WordPress.com

If a blogger is using a free platform the name of the platform will usually be right in the url itself. Also look over the site, most have the name of the platform used at the bottom of the page, click that link and look over the information provided.

You can run your own independent blog or you can blog within a blogging community, such as Vox, that encourages sharing and networking. I'll write more about that in my next post.

How to roll your own blog - Share

You can blog within social networks. You join existing groups and/or start your own. Some examples of such communities and local blogger examples:

LiveJournal

Vox

Xanga

For more ideas check out this list of social networking websites,

Usually you can choose how much or little you want to participate. You'll have the ability to adjust how public or private you are. Often you'll be able to choose for each post whether it is public, private, or available only to certain people.

How to roll your own blog - freedom of choice

When you roll your own blog you get to make all the choices. And you can tweak and adjust and change things as much as you wish, within the limits of that particular blog platform.

You can change the visuals. Often this is just a matter of choosing and clicking what template you want to use, no coding needed.

You can run your own link list.

You can make your own choices about who if any can leave comments.

You can run a group blog, you can run your own blog, you can even keep your blog entirely for your eyes only.

You can enhance your blog with all sorts of goodies such as google gadgets.

You can use your blog as your own personal calling card. You get to choose your focus, your themes, and your style.

If you are local and you blog, let us know, and you'll be added to the Oly Public Bloglines (Update: Oly Bloglines no longer exists).

Blog on!

Is Anonymity Holding Olyblog Back?

Over the last year at least I've been contacted by many members of the Olympia community about OlyBlog. Some of them were current members of the blog and expressed that they don't like the atmosphere, that it is stifling to real community building. Some of them were former members of OlyBlog who walked away from active roles for the same reason: they were afraid to post their opinions for fear of some of the responses they would receive. Most of them were lurkers who never post a thing. Most of those lurkers expressed that they wanted to post things and wanted share their opinions with and hear the opinions of their neighbors, but they won't until they can be sure they won't be attacked for it. This has been expressed to me by a variety of people on the spectrum from downtown business owners to state workers to local politicians.

I immediately wanted to solve this problem, so I asked of them (sometimes they offered without my asking): What is something we could do about that? What can we change that would make you feel safe contributing to OlyBlog? Hands down the number one answer has been: Anonymity.

I got to thinking about this, and I recalled the conversations we've had in the past, and I think it's time for us to seriously weigh the pros and cons of anonymity. A quick google search I did before setting out to write this pointed me to arguments on both sides. They were all compelling indeed, but the results that small local blogs have gotten from requiring people to identify themselves in order to post, seems, in my mind right now, to outweigh the arguments against it.

It's a big decision to be made, I know. I also know that people would leave who have been great contributors to the OlyBlog community. It wouldn't be an easy decision, but I feel the kind of voices we would start getting here would quickly make us a reliable and competitive source for news and opinion, where right now, in many circles around town, we're not thought of as something to be taken seriously. It seems currently we're just a step above the Olympian's comments in the eyes of many.

So let's talk about it. What say you all?

It's called OlyBlog not OnlyBlog

I guess what I like about OlyBlog and Olympia is the sense of community I derive.  I guess bickering and down right fighting is something that will be done even in the most successful of communities.  For crying out loud there are people within religions, philosophies, movements, cultures, and even political parties that can't agree on everything and often disagree on many things.   It is natural to try to make one's point.  It is even natural to be dogged about making one's point.  I'm not sure about the relentless pursuit of making a point.  A good point stands on it's own, regardless of whether someone agrees or not. 

I think that many times it is the point of making a point that becomes an issue here in OlyBlog.  Points are good, sometimes it takes a while for people to get a point.  Rarely does it do any good to beat someone over the head with a point.  I like the diversity here in OlyBlog.  I like opinions other than my own.  I know for a fact that I have learned even when I have not agreed.  I hope I've done the same for others that have not agreed with me.  No person should feel like they can not make a point on OlyBlog.  You may get dissed some, you might find disagreement, but you shouldn't feel alienated from the community.  If you are feeling alienated, we are for sure doing something wrong. 

A well structured point is like the toothpick cuisine at Costco.  Ever notice when you get a sample of something at Costco it is so tasty.  You go and buy 5 pounds of the stuff and take it home and you can’t bear to see it any more.  A good point makes you want more, be it discussion or information.  The best points rattle around in your mind and cause a bit of consternation.  You don’t agree, but you are troubled by your disagreement.  We are OlyBlog, not OnlyBlog.  All points are welcome, just don’t use them as weapons. 

Keeping the Peace

This comes via one of my very favorite web sites: lifehacker.com.

Tips for Keeping the Peace

I figure the tools of conflict resolution are always good to have in anyone's toolbox. Like any tool, not always needed for every situation but useful when appropriate. I think these are even good survival skills, knowing how to de-escalate a potentially dangerous situation is important.

The first tip Slow down the action is my kind of tip, short and to the point and oh-so-true.

 

Learning and Changing

As anyone who has reading the docent list is aware, there are a number of issues that continue to be a challenge for the blog. This is a not-necessarily-complete list:

It is clear to me that this is too much for the docents to handle alone. We need more energy and input. So, I'd like to suggest the following:

OlyGather -- An ongoing group that meets weekly to discuss news in Olympia, to suggest stories for OlyBlog (or eventually for OlyNews), to discuss issues on OlyBlog, and to be the decision-making body for OlyBlog (OlyMedia).

I think this would take one job off of the docents (decision-making and long-range planning), allowing them to focus on the day-to-day issues on the blog, helping others with content, and pursuing their own interests. I think this would also be an important adjustment because there seems to be the general perception that docents are "running things" without being sensitive to the input of other users. While I think this perception is unfounded, it is there, and this change will address that perception. I hope that we will also begin to have some of the conversation and networking that used to occur when we met at the Brotherhood on Monday nights.

Comments?

Listen Actively

#2 from Principles of Conflict Resolution

2. Listen Actively

Listening is the most important part of communication. If we do not hear what the other parties are communicating we can not resolve a conflict. Active listening means not only listening to what another person is saying with words, but also to what is said by intonation and body language. The active listening process also involves letting the speaker know that he or she has been heard. For example, "What I heard you say is......"

I continue to work on this one, I tend to interrupt people I know well, and I catch myself assuming I know what they are going to say.

I especially had to learn this as a parent.

When I pay attention and listen, I am more likely to notice when I don't understand something, then I can ask for clarification rather than make assumptions.

Feel free to join in, I'm not aiming these specifically at our discussions here on this site, I just figure that the more any of us practice clear communication, the better.

Managing Olyblog

Before I get into the meat and potatoes of my editorial, I want to start by saying a couple of things (1) I have no personal ax to grind and (2) I want what is best for the community.

I've read some of the notes on the docent mail about a comment that was made on the thread about Stormans and Plan B.  I've also tried to follow all the comments to watch the direction and emotions.  Two of my attempts to post didn't hit the page and I'll assume that was a glitch in the system.

My concern - regardless of what someone said, I'd like to see all of us avoid the 10 cent psychiatry business.  The idea of anyone suggesting that so and so needs anger management or sensitivity training on women's issues, to me, is a veiled insult that can be as damaging as the original "offensive" statement (I'll admit I did not see it, and don't know exactly what it is).

We will not always agree on everything and sometime, in the heat of the moment, things will be said that don't make everyone comfortable, but that does not put someone in charge of psycho-analysis.  We are all creatures of emotion and frankly, someone that comes off robotic, as opposed to showing some passion and emotion, scares me more.  Let's remember that this is words on paper that cannot always demonstrate voice infliction, therefore, one man's sarcasm can be another's offense.

Let's make sure that we don't lose sight that this is an opportunity for an exchange of ideas and to have some fun.  Let's not take ourselves too damned seriously.

Moderating the Blog

I am a docent at OlyBlog, which is dedicated to hyperlocal news and discussion of topics related to life in and around Olympia, Washington. OlyBlog's mission is to promote citizen journalism and to provide a resource for sharing knowledge and discussion about Olympia (and immediately surrounding areas.) OlyBlog is awesome and fun. However, throughout much of the history of OlyBlog (over 2 and 1/2 years now) there have been users of the site who participate in a way that is disruptive and discourages participation by a broader audience. Personally it has been aggravating and frustrating to deal with some of these individuals, there are about 10 or so of them, who bring an attitude of prejudice, of combativeness, of aggression and intolerance for any ideas but their own. Some users' behavior is downright nasty, hostile, provocative, antagonistic, hostile and dishonest. (sorry, yes I realize this isn't a thesaurus.) Having rational conversations with some of the individuals who have been disruptive has been difficult - even so much as nearly impossible, at times. Recently, a crisis of sorts has developed that may require serious disciplinary efforts and actions. A group of some disruptive individuals have taken up questioning and personally attacking anyone they disagree with. An atmosphere of acrimony and discomfort has developed to make me question my own involvement and continued participation with OlyBlog. It is sad, because I like OlyBlog; I think OlyBlog is great. I am also sad because I feel somewhat powerless and frustrated with my seeming inability to argue effectively with these disruptive individuals and I question my own abilities and it's not pleasant. But in reality I think it is due more to the obtuseness and intellectual dishonesty of those disruptive individuals than to any shortcoming of my own, that the difficulty in interpersonal relations can be attributed. Maybe I sound like an egoist for saying that, or that I am scapegoating my frustration on someone else and choosing blame. These individuals do however, clearly exhibit decidedly anti-social and anti-productive tendencies and an intent to disrupt conversations to their own advantage. I am resolved to be more proactive in how I deal with offensive, abusive and hurtful behavior as it is expressed on the blog. A variety of disciplinary measures have been considered. It appears that the current experimental model will be to remove the ability of those who are considered as disruptive and antagonistic to comment until such a time they post three blog posts of a verifiably hyper-local nature. I am not completely convinced of this measure, but I am willing to give it a try. I do like the restorative aspect of this measure. My biggest concern with the "three posts remedy" is that it connects posting blog content with something that is separate (though not unrelated.) I feel it is best to keep it straightforward and simple that abusive, nasty, hostile, antagonistic (etc.) commentary is not allowed on OlyBlog. The goal is to provide a forum where everyone feels comfortable to participate. Oh to OlyBlog... cross posted: In the Course of Events [Update: Let me be clear that I support the "three (hyper-local) posts remedy" - at least on an experimental basis. If it proves effective, that would be great.]

More BlogWonk Hyperlocal Reading

I just found this:

Grassroots Journalism in Your Own Backyard : How Citizen Reporters Build Hyperlocal Communities / by Jan Lauren Boyles (2006) 

Open publication - Free publishing - More hyperlocal

New, more transparent Olyblog management (read our emails)

Since Rick anointed a group of us as docents awhile back, we've been having stimulating conversations about the management of Olyblog via email. Sometimes we have actually gotten together in person, but I'd say 90 percent of our docenting has been done over email.

And, today, you can read those emails. Below the familiar docent block on the right hand side is a feed from our email list. The current crop of emails goes back about 15 or so, the most recent ones regarding me wondering if we should put the list up for all to see.

You won't actually be able to jump into our conversation, but this does mean that you can start blogging about our conversations on your own, if they ever get interesting enough.

For me, the reason we took this step is that you should have the right to see what we're talking about. Olyblog is as much your's as it is mine (actually, its totally Rick's, but its unbelievable how cool he is sometimes).

OlyBlog Is Not The Olympian

There is your topic - discuss.

Seriously, yes it is obvious that those two entities are not twins, but some folks get confused and believe that all sites with comments enabled are the same.

Here is what I try to do when I join a new online community forum:

What do you all do when you find a new forum?

Addition 9/15 I'm off on vacation so am closing this thread down, feel free to start your own. Thanks all for lively conversation

OlyBlog as Scapegoat

Here is my theory. Our world and our lives within it are not always easy. Rough times. Shit happens. Things suck. Life ain't fair. We don't always have ways to vent and debrief and renew communally.

Attaining adulthood doesn't automatically mean that we know how to take good care of ourselves and each other. We may not know how to manage our emotions and thoughts. We may be struggling a lot with seemingly little success and much stress.

We want solutions and blaming someone or something can feel like a solution. An answer. Life ain't fair and no one or thing is perfect. So we have plenty of opportunities to blame others.

OlyBlog is a public container. Sometimes we have tempests in our teapots. Sometimes emotions sweep through our community(ies) and even usually cooler heads get steamed.

It happens.

Rick as our founder and as our public "main guy" is going to get the brunt of this when it comes Olyblog's way. We docents might get some to a lesser degree.

Truly, we aren't perfect. Olyblog isn't perfect. What Olyblog is - is all of us.

Overgrazing the commons

Economists have long justified the enclosure of the commons (handing public land to private owners) by pointing to the fact that an ungoverned group of people couldn't resist the temptation to maximize their own profit by adding one more sheep to the land, until the pasture was overgrazed and worthless to everyone. I see a similar process underway here on OlyBlog. There are some who fail to see OlyBlog as truly a common, civic space, and are persistent in asserting their right to say whatever they want. Anyone who confronts these individuals is accused of having a vendetta, of being politically biased, or of having a double standard. If fact, they are trying to protect the commons, trying to maintain it as an open resource. Trying to make it accessible to the greatest number of people.

The only way to do that is to have some code of conduct (i.e., a social contract). How many of you have helped work on the social contract? How many worked on the bylaws. Not many. That was left to the precious few who really care about making this a resource for the community. These are the tools that will insure that OlyBlog is protected from the few who would turn it into a free-for-all, no-holds-barred, knock-down, drag-out brawl. How many of you stepped up and said: "I don't care what you think, but that's not an acceptable way to communicate on the blog" when someone was out of line? Not too many. Again, that was left to a few docents who really care enough to put in the time to read every comment on every thread.

Is this a democracy? Not yet. Maybe not ever. Should it be? I'm not sure that's the best way to proceed. Despite our almost 6k readership, it seems that we have a shortage of human capital. Who's going to step up and take a positive role in shaping this blog, if they haven't already done so? As I've said in the past, if you find yourself unhappy here, start your own show. It is easy, and you won't have to change your behavior for anyone else. If you plan on sticking around, though, plan on doing some changing, because that's what it takes to be part of a community.

Play the ball, not the player

Emotions are understandably running hot over the murder of four law enforcement officers and the subsequent events.

Even so, please remember to refrain from personal attacks. It serves no useful purpose. It hurts others, it hurts you, it hurts the OlyBlog community.

This might be a good time to reacquaint ourselves with the comment policy

Re: (The silence is deafening...)

This is simply a personal post in response to Austin's comment here . Austin, I'll address this to you but I want everyone else to feel free to join in on the conversation too.

Hello Austin, we've never met. I want to give you some feedback on your comment:

No comments at all?

(The silence is deafening...)

Personally - if I had a comment to make to the original post, after reading your own, I'd feel disinclined. In fact after I read it I did feel inclined to take a break from OlyBlog altogether for awhile.

Obviously my reaction to what I read on OlyBlog is my own responsibility. I've decided to go ahead and offer feedback.

Austin, if you would like conversation about the original post, maybe this isn't the way to go ahead and invite conversation. If you want folks to feel off guard and defensive, what you wrote works just fine.

To look at the larger picture here - a lack of written comments to any particular post doesn't necessarily mean much. Doesn't mean folks aren't engaged and thinking, doesn't mean much about their opinion either way. Think of all the variables at play. Time of day, week, month, who all has comp access and power at the moment. Who personally at the moment feels like posting a comment or not.

To sum up - if you wanted a comment from some one like me, well personally I feel like running the other direction now. As for the silence that you say is deafening you - I can't do much about that. I myself don't hear that deafening silence. I just hear life and blogging as usual.

 

Setting some boundaries

For those of you who haven't been around long enough to see OlyBlog growing in fits and starts, it has been an uneven developmental curve. Many of the adjustments and innovations have been born of necessity, i.e., after long periods of not doing it right.

I think we're all more or less of the opinion now that none of us are perfect communicators (except Sarah, of course), and that there has to be some mechanism for checking the way people relate to each other. I've given some thought to the idea that we institute a cooling off period to folks who are having a hard time relating in a civil fashion. Here's what I got:

I suggest that we use a three-strikes system. But, in order to get a strike against you, at least three bloggers have to explicitly vote for it. Thus, for someone to be 86'd, there would have to be at least nine total votes on three separate occasions.

Let's take today's "exchange" between Tschida and Rob as an example. I suggested that Tschida needed a time out. Rob Richards, Rob Whitlock and Guglielmo agreed. Rob W.'s vote would not count, because he was a party to the conflict. However, there were three other bloggers who voted for time out, so that would have counted as a strike. Three such occurrences and Tschida would be placed "on extended leave." I suggest that we give amnesty at the beginning of every year (Jan. 1 -- a sort of bloggers Jubilee). We can have a special page where we keep track of the score.

This seems to me like a system that is fair and robust. It is fair because it gives individuals lots of feed back about their behavior before any consequences. It is robust because it depends on the participation of a number of different bloggers. I hope this will answer the concerns of those who think that docents are just waiting to boot all the people who disagree with their views.

Additions, adjustments, amendments?

Sharing the blogosphere

The past few days have been very interesting on the blog, and while we've seen the beauty of what a public, citizen-driven medium can do (e.g., host an apparently much needed discussion of OFS affairs and operations), we've also seen the underside of blogging behavior. Sometimes bloggin' ain't pretty, and that was certainly on display over the past week.

Partly, this is due to the fact that blogging is an odd thing for human's to do. We're built to have certain kinds of relationships, mostly the tangible kind, not the virtual kind. Most people need a lot of help to find their humanity in blogland, and some just don't really ever get there. It has been my dream to write up a detailed guide about how to communicate effectively on the blog (mostly so I can use it to remind myself). I'm going to ask for help from the community to do this -- probably in the form of a wiki -- so that we have a code by which we can live here. We've gotten along OK with the ambiguous, loosely-defined set of principles that we have now, but it is time to have something more explicit to point to, especially when newcomers challenge our process.

It seems that there are two specific casualties of this week, Merwyn and Larry. This is unfortunate because they both were able to participate in positive ways, and I think they both have a sense of how an online community can be a wonderful thing. Perhaps, if we had a more explicit process, they would have found a way to stay in the community. They are both welcome back, as long as they can share and share alike.

I say "share and share alike" because participation in this community is sharing. It is not just a bunch of free agents bumping into each other. We're building something new here, a new kind of community, and just like any kind of community, there are some constraits. We don't hurt each other (intentionally), and if someone does behave hurtfully, they take responsibility for it (thanks for that Norm). We try to listen first, then add our $.02. We try to stay focused on the ideas, and not on the individuals. We try to speak about those things that we really care about, and not make arguments just for the sake of arguing. Finally, we try to learn from each other. I hope that we can make these principles more concrete in the coming weeks.

Sportblogging

I'm trying to get a handle on this phenomenon that is presently kicking my ass here on OlyBlog, and generally making the environment less hospitable. I think it has something to do with an affliction called "sportblogging" (I just made that up, I think, so don't go looking for a wiki). My definition of sportblogging is someone who is commenting not for the purpose of building community or edification, but for the thrill of the conflict. (Sportblogging is related to another pathology called Blogorrhea, or incessant blogging to no particular purpose.)

For reasons expressed very eloquently by enpen, I seem to be the target of a lot of sportblogging. I think this is at least part of why I'm struggling right now. So, I want to name this affliction, and draw people's attention to the signs and symptoms. When someone says, "I'm not a person who believes in X, but...", then that blogger may be infected. This means that the blogger isn't really invested in the ideas, but is just using them as a bludgeon to beat some other poor blogger over the head with. Another sure symptom is language like the following: "Some people think..." Well, if people do think that, they can sign up for an account and represent their own views here. Sportblogging usurps these views and uses them in ways that are not honest or authentic.

How do you know if you have an undiagnosed case of sportblogging? Well, if you feel that little jolt of electricity zing through you as you hit the submit button, you had better check yourself into the clinic, because it is likely that you're sportblogging.

Sportblogging appears to be highly contagious. Please beware and always wash your hands after handling the blog.

The Mission of Blogs

I buried this entry as a comment in another thread, but since OlyBlog's purpose and mission have been discussed and debated in other places, I have been asked to elevate this to Code Orange:

I just returned from the ALA Conference in DC. One of the presentations was by Jason Zengerle of The New Republic who gave his take on the place of blogs in journalism. His main message was that "blogs are political tools, not information tools." He gave his side of the Daily Kos controversy. In an attempt to find a progressive third party account of this episode, I looked here . Worth reading for those who regard blogging as an activist tool regardless of left/right leanings.

The Role of the Docents

On at least two occasions in the past few months, I have asked the docents to step in quickly when I experienced what I considered to be gratuitous personal attacks here on Olyblog and nothing happened on both occasions.  In the absence of prompt docent moderation, I bbelieve conflict will escalate.

I do wish that when any of us ask for the docents to step in and ask another poster to refrain from personal attacks that prompt action by the docents would follow.

Absent quick action to squelch the baiting and taunting, the gratuitous personal attacks, this site will continue to be a hostile environment on a regular basis.

I think one problem is that the docents are reluctant to step in and ask/tell a conservative poster to back off. It would lead to all the complaining about the politics of exclusion, but this really has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with civility and the possibility that this site could host discussions that do not allow gratuitous taunting and baiting.

For that to happen, any of need to be able to call for the docents to stop the matter quickly before it escalates.

I call on the docents to take responsibility and to step in quickly when anyone here asks for their intervention.

I am not even sure if the facts matter much. If any of us posts something that is of personal interest to us and another person jumps into the thread with a clear purpose of attacking or demeaning the author of the blog item, it should be possible to ask the docents to intervene and tell the aggressor to stop.

The Sociologist In Me

Richard Slimeball Nixon Lies AgainOne has to wonder about this OlyBlog behavior pattern I have seen among some of our more conservative members who have left the discussion group after making very strong statements about how horrible, unfair, and hypocrital we are. I've lost count on how many times this has happened, but it has always been with those speaking from the reactionary, rather than the visionary view. They say they are through and we won't have them to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last blog entry ...

And then they come back.

Why?

Is there a term for this kind of blog behavior? Blog Quitter? Blog Nixon? Blog Boomerang? What? Are they really coming back because they enjoy the attention? Enjoy stirring the pot? Enjoy watching the rest of us take the bait? A secret desire to break out of their conceptual prison? An self-righteous ego boost? What is the deal here?

My suggestion is this. When someone storms out of OlyBlog in a huff, they should be required to take an anger management course and show proof of said education before being allowed back in. Only a friendly suggestion. If Nixon had taken one between 1962-1968 perhaps history would've been different.

Love and kisses, stevenl

PS, will_is_ok, you're out past your bedtime. Come back please.

The first rule of OlyBlog:

Don't talk about religion or politics.

Is this a rule we want to adopt? It seems like it may limit some of our conversations, yet it may help us be more solution based, which I think is, at least it's mine, our over-arching goal. Could we draft a rule that limits religious or political discussions to the hyperlocal realm? Is it possible to still have these discussions but limit them to fact not feeling? I'm not sure what the answer is, I do think that more involved moderators would help.

The topic of my blog entry is:

STAY ON TOPIC.

The whole McMansion thing in the Thank you Meta thread is horrible. I think anyone who contributed to that trainwreck should really think about what they are trying to accomplish.

That topic was to thank Meta, period. It's not a place to recycle the tired left vs. right rut many of you like to argue.

I read that tonight and thought about how I would react if I were Meta.

"Oh how nice, a thank you thread... WTF... You jerks."

 

I've found myself not even wanting to log into this board and rather just observe anonymously. The only reason I do is to see what posts have had activity since last viewing.

Do you hear what I'm saying here Docents? This place kind of sucks. Be at our service! You need to do something. 

Is this site some sort of e-social experiment, to gauge what happens when people are joined without direction, structure or consequence?

My first posts here where only made after weeks of observing chaos from the sidelines and finally feeling like something had to be said.

Just a day or two ago, someone else registered just to make similar complaints to mine, and it seems like they were written off. Is anyone listening up there?

AT THE VERY LEAST YOU NEED TO KEEP DISCUSSIONS ON TOPIC. 

 

 

Thoughts on Communication

I am by no means a communication expert. I sometimes get lost in discussions and I don't always listen as well as I'd like to. But, I do try.

I'm looking over Principles of Conflict Resolution, what the Navy and others use. The 9 points may look simple but there actually is a lot in them to chew over. I'm going to work on one at a time, and I encourage anyone who wishes to join in however they like.

1.Think Before Reacting

The tendency in a conflict situation is to react immediately. After all, if we do not react we may lose our opportunity. In order to resolve conflict successfully it is important to think before we react--consider the options, weigh the possibilities. The same reaction is not appropriate for every conflict.

Online, it can be so easy and tempting to respond in the heat of the moment. All the needed tools are laid out and our keyboards are on fire. What if we instead take our time, take a few deep breaths, look at something else, maybe even step away slowly from our computers?

Uncovered Olyblog beats (submit your own or volunteer for one)

Because there won't be a city council meeting until next Tuesday, I'm not doing my typically typical "whats going on at City Hall this week" summary. Instead I'm going to drop a list here of beats I know that are out there to be covered by Olybloggers, but are currently uncovered.

I do Olympia city hall and the local college soccer scene, Sarah does the local blog scene, and here are some others for you to consider. I've tried to make these as straight forward as possible. Meaning there are online sources to regularly check and summarize. But, you can be as imaginative as you want.

Crime in Olympia
Take a look at recent reports by the OPD and tell us what you think. The source is the daily summaries by OPD. I imagine this could be done at most weekly.

Watch (and edit maybe) the Oly city council meetings
Much more boring to me than reading the city council packets is actually watching the city council meetings. Though, they post movie files here for your enjoyment. And, if you're very tech savy, you can find out how to download the massive files and do some video editing and uploading for our enjoyment.

City of Tumwater Council
Similar to what I do with "This week in Olympia City Council," just for Tumwater. Ideally, you'd live in Tumwater and have some knowledge of local events and players. Tumwater posts its city council material here and you could do this weekly.

General government board meetings
The Thurston Regional Planning Council often posts the agendas and meeting packets of various county wide and specialty government groups, like the Capitol Lake Adaptive Management Plan group. You could regularly check TRPC's meeting webpage and tell us what is coming up and if anything sounds interesting.

Olympia School District
Same as the city of Olympia beat, just the board agendas and packets are here. I wish I could add Tumwater and NT to this list, but they don't post their packets online.

Anything else out there?

Want To Be a Reporter?

Riffing off of chad360's comments here at the Olympia columnist thread, I want to remind folks that if you've ever wanted to be a reporter, Olyblog is your chance.

Here are some examples of what I'm talking about.

I try to every week write about what's in the city of Olympia packet. Nothing fancy, not too in depth, but its there mostly every week.

Sarah covers the local blog community.

Enpen photographs and documents Olympia art in the wild.

This is a list of "beats" that could be covered by folks fairly easily via the internet. Rob Richards has taken this reporter thing seriously, actually talking to people on the phone (what is that about)?

This list is just to get you thinking, maybe you can write about a local sports team, or cover your local neighborhood association (I'm looking at you epersona).

Crime in Olympia
Take a look at recent reports by the OPD and tell us what you think. The source is the daily summaries by OPD. I imagine this could be done at most weekly.

Watch (and edit maybe) the Oly city council meetings
Much more boring to me than reading the city council packets is actually watching the city council meetings. Though, they post movie files here for your enjoyment. And, if you're very tech savy, you can find out how to download the massive files and do some video editing and uploading for our enjoyment.

City of Tumwater Council
Similar to what I do with "This week in Olympia City Council," just for Tumwater. Ideally, you'd live in Tumwater and have some knowledge of local events and players. Tumwater posts its city council material here and you could do this weekly.

General government board meetings
The Thurston Regional Planning Council often posts the agendas and meeting packets of various county wide and specialty government groups, like the Capitol Lake Adaptive Management Plan group. You could regularly check TRPC's meeting webpage and tell us what is coming up and if anything sounds interesting.

Olympia School District
Same as the city of Olympia beat, just the board agendas and packets are here. I wish I could add Tumwater and NT to this list, but they don't post their packets online.

This isn't by any means a complete list. But, I hope to expand on these in the next few weeks with a few more details. 

We are Fortunate

We are fortunate here in the Olympia area because there is plenty of room for all sorts of media. No single blog or site or paper has to be everything for everyone.

Especially cool is the fact that most places allow and even encourage public participation. Don't like what you see on OlyBlog? Or do you feel that a particular theme isn't covered enough? I encourage you to work up a post and publish. This is true of many other places such as Works in Progress.

I appreciate reader participation options also - such as the ability to recommend or report abuse on The Olympian comment threads.

Rolling your own blog is always an option.

I've found myself recently dispirited and discouraged by negative comments about OlyBlog. So I figure it will help to write out my own view point.

I believe there really is room for us all. Opinions and preferences are fine, encouraged even. I do suspect that I'm not the only reader participant who finds value in OlyBlog, who appreciates stevenl's and Thad Curtz's work for instance - and who is also able to appreciate sites like Everyday Olympia. And who is eager to see what next is created.

Really. Truly. Trust me. There is room for us all. 

Welcome!


I've been with OlyBlog now for a little over two years and plenty of folks have more time here than I. I very much appreciate the community spirit we build and maintain together. And when I want to know what is up in Oly, what the buzz is about.......I come here first.

We regularly take on new members and often don't get a chance to properly welcome them. So I'm initiating a conversation about Olyblog being welcoming and inviting. What do you all appreciate about OlyBlog?

Plus I really just want to say to all of us, new and returning and been-here-all-along........Welcome.
***
Blog Skool

What is OlyBlog?

EhverGreen and Phan and Rick all made me think hard about this. Ehvergreen said, "I think what you are seeing is a more balanced Olyblog as a broader range of Olympians find out about it. It's not a bad thing from my point of view."

I couldn't disagree more. OlyBlog is not a broad range of Olympians in any way shape or form. I just shut down a thread because the words jigaboo and ho were being carelessly thrown around with no regard to the weight that they carry. Is that an indicator of any kind of diversity? What was the percentage of white males involved in that conversation I wonder?

I'm really kind of ashamed of OlyBlog right now. I don't know if I want to continue to be a part of something where I if call someone out for using racist or sexist language, or ask them to stop calling other people names, I get called a censor, or a control-freak.

This is really frustrating because OlyBlog has such potential. That potential is wasted, in my opinion, if it remains a sounding board for opinions that intimidate people and keep them away.

We all, as members of this community share a blame in this. Some are guilty of blatantly disregarding the feelings of others, some of ignoring that behavior, but we all are a part of where OlyBlog has gone.

Nothing is going to change until things are changed. I think the docents need to take control of the site and simply start booting people after one warning. I can't be a part of all of the anger here anymore. We all know that foul language, racism, sexism, ad hominem attacks, and the hijacking of conversations is just not OK, so why do we slip up sometimes? I believe that a few people on this site drag conversations down, and they should simply be removed. Let them scream censorship until their throats bleed, it doesn't make it so.

Do we want diversity? Do you want to honor this community by providing it a safe place for social networking and the dissemination of information? Or do you want to play host to a few myopic viewpoints delivered with vitriol and anger that people in the community scoff at?

If the former, then we have to clean up shop. If the latter, congratulations, mission accomplished.

What the hell is wrong with people?

WARNING: DISTURBING STORY

Did anyone read this ? What gets a person that far? I'm not sure why I ever read the news anymore.

Where The Boys Are

I was talking to a friend last night about why we don't post on Olyblog anymore. I'm sure people have noticed that very few women participate in this site. She and I had similar reasons. But I would like to hear other ideas and other reasons. Of course, lots of women have just faded away, and won't respond. But it would be interesting to hear from women who may be lurking, or who may participate very seldom. Why is this such a male dominated site?

Why don't city council members blog? Maybe they don't like surprises

At the Olyblog Coffee this morning, someone suggested that one of the reasons city council members may not blog (here or otherwise) is because of the "No Surprise" rule:

Commit to the “No Surprise” rule.  If Councilmembers plan to bring up new information about issues on the table or new issues at Council meetings, they should provide their fellow Councilmembers and the City Manager no less than 48 hours notice. Information should be as inclusive as possible and address such issues as: Why are you bringing this issue forward? What outcome do you hope to accomplish?

Talk to one another.  Communication, both formal and informal, is essential to an effective working relationship.

Work issues, not people.  Councilmembers are expected to work on issues without personalizing them.

Vote and move on.  Once an issue has been voted upon, Councilmembers should accept the vote and continue on with the important work that must be done, though this should not restrict debate on similar or related issues that come up for a future vote. If we are working together, we will achieve the best outcomes.

Work to build Council credibility.  Council is most effective when it works as a whole. Individual Councilmembers should work to promote the credibility and positive image of the full Council.

Media.  Agree to not use the media for personal gain or to make other councilmembers look bad.

Staff Analysis Requests.  Agree that requests to the City staff for legal analysis will be brought to the full City Council for consideration.

This of course doesn't seem to ban any sort of blogging on the part of a city council member, but it would seem to stifle any sort of free wheeling public discourse, which would include blogging?

The "No Surprise" rule seems to be intended to create good, open dialog between the city council members, but not between the city council and the public. Which, in my mind tears down the "Council's credibility" (ironically one of the goals of the rule).

This stifling effect of the "No Surprise" rule was born out in the discussion around the ability of city council members to post information on their sections of the city's website. Before doing so (according to a rule up before the council this week), the city council member has to bring the information before the council.

Am I off here? I'd especially like to here from the two city council members that have accounts on this site.

Your Spam Report

A quick fast count of how many people have been briefly affected by our hard working Akismet spam filter (and eventually been liberated by our hard working docents) recently:

I understand folks get occasionally frustrated. The spam filter is needed for the orderly running of OlyBlog. I and others have written about this many times before and I'd like to repost an excellent contribution Merwyn made:

I think I've mentioned this

Submitted by Merwyn Haskett on Sat, 11/24/2007 - 5:54pm. I think I've mentioned this before. If, and I mean if because I don't believe for a minute it would happen, the docents were going to be in the habit of playing Access Games with those they perceive to be "troublemakers", then I would have been hit, and I would have been hit hard many, many times. It hasn't happened yet.

Many times I wonder why I even bother tattooing brickwall imprints in my forehead but when all is said and done I have to admit that OlyBlog has always allowed me to say my piece, even if it was just long enough for the gang to jump on me. True, there've been times where I'm right and everyone else was just so unbelievably wrong that it wasn't even funny, but that hardly counts as censorship.

There are a lot of bugs in this website's program. The people keeping it running aren't necessarily computer gurus, and even if they were they have jobs and family and other good things which are high priority. Please, maybe in some areas they need to cut us some slack, but when it comes to their integrity in giving us a chance to be heard I'm allowing them all the slack they need.

Please give me a second grace. Please give me a second face. I've fallen far down, the first time around, now I just sit on the ground in your way.
Nick Drake

 

Merwyn, thank you.

olyblog, and cops

Here is just a snippet of some of the stray comments I have found in the blog by doing a search for "police", "cop" and "pig".

 

On the streets the police are viewed as being the enemy, and many homeless people fear that an officer would beat them, steal their belongings, and leave them for dead at the first opportunity. This is not true of the majority of the police officers, but I have been in this town long enough to know that there actually are some bad cops out there who for some reason seem to get off on bullying
homeless people.

I don't think any answer to any of those questions would lead me to say: "Oh, well that cop did the right thing." The boy was 11 years old, if a fully trained police
officer is unable to restrain an 11 year old, then she shouldn't be a police officer. 

After he was tazed the first time, why was he not put in restraints? Why weren't he
and the girl put on opposite sides of the school? SO many mistakes made by the school and the police officer. I smell big fat lawsuit against the school.

And then someone got ticketed and the mass stopped. Two cruisers and and a pig SUV pulled up to intimidate us. While they were doing this, some wonderful human being snuck up to one of the parked cruisers and proceeded to slash two of the tires.

We saw the driver of the car start running towards the person and yelled warnings, but the hissing of air out of the tires or the excitement of the person's undertaking prevented their hearing it. The pig tackled him and put him in a chokehold. The mass immediately crowded around what was happening and the police pulled out their batons. The person who slashed the tires was smiling the whole time. We all started clapping in unison for a few moments until they drove the person away.

I drew a ninja jump-kicking a uniformed pig.

The "protest police", actually the die-hard liberals, heeded the pig's advice and
moved the parade the other way.

What the [I really just want to say "f*ck" here, but I'm gonna try to be chill &
civil, not like the WSP pig w/ the sticky was making ANY effort at all

The police are correctly described as being nosey, gruff, intolerant, accusatory,
inflexible, wrong, and self righteous.

If we're concerned about assault and battery, why do we tolerate armed, racist
police officers who repeatedly get into physical fights with their arrests at
a far higher rate than their peers?

The police have proven themselves less than hesitant to unleash pepper spray
on people before.

The jail cell was dead quiet as they told us this. We all sat in awed horror.
One person could be heard whispering, "Those fucking pigs."

Law enforcement is the will of the rich and powerful being executed.

There are bad cops in Olympia. There are cops that beat people up and taze
them. There are cops who threaten to run people out of town.

Being well aware of the OPD's long history of abuse of its power and weapons
, I decided to remain where I was on the sidewalk, and serve as a witness
to the incident

...it sounds like another patented "Olympia Police steriod induced rage incident."

Cops can, (and often do) arrest people without valid reasons for "payback",
because they feel insulted or disrepected.  Often, this is done in a very
aggressive, pushy and belligerent manner.

It doesn't MATTER if the COPS are offended, it's their job to ignore these things,
and they are trained to deal with stressful situations, because THAT IS THEIR JOB!!!

Guns are dangerous, especially in the hands of men that have been fed a steady
diet of power, privelege, and self-righteousness. (in referrence to police)

...that maybe they should be a little afraid if they continue the misuse of power
that has become the OPD's legacy. 

During our arrests, Cindy* and I were manhandled by officer Mayberry* of the Olympia Police Department, resulting in injury.

Instead of simply removing her hands, two police officers proceeded to use cruel and unusual tactics to remove her.

I was thinking Phil was making some really good points but now some cop is coming on and telling me who to listen to and that doesn't make me want to be obedient.

But Olycop telling me something here is exactly the same as a real-life uniformed
criminal telling me something out on the streets. (ie cop = uniformed criminal)

So now police have only 11 months to chase all the homeless out of town, instead
of being able to do this at their leisure?

He is for anti-vagrancy laws which are unconstitutional, but he's against anti-gun
laws which are also unconstitutional. Typical cop...

I do hold it against them. I would NEVER work at a job that exploited others. EVER. (job = police officer)

The sticker declares that the area is a Community Watch Area and Police Not Welcome.

I don't like cops, I'll be honest about that, I don't trust them.

They trample people's rights..... (they = police)

I dislike most cops too.

and my personal favorite:

There was an undercover cop in a red Caterpillar sweatshirt. (If you want us to
know you're a cop, wear that. )

The last one was of course false, and a huge assumption. Many of you already know that it was in fact, myself, who was wearing that sweatshirt, and I don't work for law enforcement in any capacity. It's interesting though that I can be around the mall, the hospital, walmart, lacey or tumwater, but stepping into downtown Oly I get some bad looks, and during certain events I get asked my badge number.

Obviously this doesn't account for the blog as a whole. I don't want to use a blanket statement on the subject. I didn't add all of the comments, some were positive (very few) and some were first-hand accounts that sounded very legitimate, or some form of proof was given.

Does Olyblog carry some bias toward law enforcement?

Is Olyblog very tolerant of anti-law enforcement views? Or possibly anti-establishment?

thoughts on Letting It Go

In the middle of a hotly contested thread somebody calls you a jerk. Here are two possible responses:

Nice way to uphold the Social Contract. You're a typical entitled Liberal/Republican who believes the rules don't apply to them. To me you're the real jerk.

vs.

That was inappropriate, I didn't call you any names. (And then return to the topic of discussion)

Something tells me the second response works best.