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General

Those f*%#&’n comments

by Bill Ferris on November 30, 2007 · 2 comments

in General

I’ve found that bloggers have a love-hate relationship with their comment sections. On one hand, we all want a lof of comments. It’s a sign of an active blog. It’s a sign of compelling content. It’s a sign that you have an engaged reader base. At the same time, when comments turn ugly it can be enough to make you want to throw your hands in the air and just shut down the whole blog. For sports bloggers, a losing streak can often bring on the worst of the worst in others as frustrations mount. And typically, the blogger is just as frustrated and is less able or willing to deal with the issue. So what to do?

I know for a long time I was reluctant to ban commentors or delete comments because I thought that it would hurt the community. But then I started to run into commentors that were hurting the community on their own. Two people came in and started belittling anyone that didn’t agree with their stances, making it a not friendly place to be. Those were the first and only 2 commentors I had to ban. One time proved to be enough. It also prompted the creation of my first commenting policy which essentially was:

1. Don’t swear. And don’t try to evade the censors when you swear either.
2. Don’t be a jerk.

Disagreement and criticism are fine, but there are ways to do it in a civilized manner. As for the swearing, it’s not that I have a problem with swearing in general. But I feel that my comment section is a reflection on my blog and on me and it’s not the kind of thing that I want on my site. It’s a sports site and there is no reason that parents should have any qualms about their kids reading it.

A guest post at Problogger nicely captures my feelings on the matter:

How you choose to moderate the comments on your site will affect who feels comfortable to participate on your site, and who will want to come back again and again.

If you let rude, obnoxious, spiteful comments persist on your blog, you are basically telling all of your commenters that it’s okay with you to behave badly on your site. This covert permission can act like a magnet, drawing in hooligans and bullies, making the reading of and participating in your comment section uncomfortable for many. I learned long ago that people will give you as much crap as you are willing to put up with. If you tolerate abusive commenters, they’ll just keep coming back.

USS Mariner probably has the strictest policy that I’ve come across. They will delete posts for a whole host of reasons that go beyond inappropriate content and will do it if they don’t deem your comment worthy. And yet they still have a very active community and the result is a ton of very intelligent discussion. Even a very strict policy can actually help to build community and that strong community lends more credibility to the blog itself.

The other downside to comment moderation is that it takes a lot of time. Spam catchers take care of stuff that is truly spam, but moderating comments can take so much time that it detracts from your regular blogging. The most absolute way is to moderate every comment. This can and will detract from the community because comments don’t appear right away, and who is always watching their blogs.

If you’re using WordPress (I can’t speak to the functionality of other blogging platforms) you can enter key words that when they appear in a post it will be sent to moderation before reaching the audience. This is also an effective way to ban people. I’ve entered IP addresses of the offending commentors into this field as well. It typically deters them for a while – at least until they get a new IP address. Hopefully by that time they will have given up posting. It doesn’t solve all the problems, but it can at least free up some comment moderation time.

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Baseblogging content

by Bill Ferris on November 19, 2007 · 2 comments

in General

I never expected a wide audience for the content on this site. It’s entirely for those who have blogs, and specifically sports blogs. But because it is kind of a side project for me, I have a hard time carving out the time to write for it. As such there isn’t much traffic here, a lack of content tends to diminish hits.

Still, there is a fair number of subscribers to the RSS feed, meaning that there are still a few of you who do see the new content when I post it.

So I’m going to call on you. Do you think a site like this has any value to you – assuming it was updated more often? Would any of you like to contribute ideas, or do you have questions that you want answered?

I look at this as a resource for the sports blogging community, and while I’m a participant, I’m far from an expert and I think the site really needs more voices. We can all learn from each other. Whether it is technology, how to find information, blogging platforms, CSS and layouts, the interplay between the MSM and blogs, or trying to make a buck, there is a lot to learn.

So if anyone would like to write here, or use this space to pose questions to a bigger group, this is your invitation to do so.

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Derek Zumsteg recently authored The Cheater’s Guide To Baseball and launched a blog to accompany it. He recently wrote a post, with pictures and video stills, that detailed how Francisco Rodriguez was using a foreign substance. The story actually gained quite a bit of steam. It was discussed on Baseball Tonight last night, and now MLB is looking into it.

That last link, take a look at the story. They never mention Zumsteg’s name. They mention the blog, but fail to mention that the blog’s author also penned a book by the same name. They don’t link to blog either despite it coming from ESPN.com News Services that gathers and produces news for the web, where there are links and stuff.

The thing is, I’ve heard this mentioned on sports talk, and other avenues and they also refer to the source as a “blog” or a “blogger” as if almost to discredit it. The man has a name. He is an author. He’s written for Baseball Prospectus in the past. Why not write it as “The issue was first raised by Derek Zumsteg, the author of The Cheater’s Guide to Baseball and a blog by the same name.” Give the man his due, and don’t try to diminish the message because of the medium he used.

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Ballbug

by Bill Ferris on April 4, 2006 · 0 comments

in General

You may remember when I wrote about striketwo, a memeorandum-ish site for baseball news. Well, now there is Ballbug which is an actual memeorandum site for baseball news.

Where striketwo tracks conversations in the blogosphere, Ballbug tracks the entire conversation for baseball’s hottest topics, including from the mainstream media.

For bloggers this should serve as a great way to find information, not to mention a great way to snag some traffic as well.

More: Introducing Ballbug, tracking baseball buzz – blog.memeorandum.com

ballbug, memeorandum, striketwo

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Cowherd Comes Clean

by Bill Ferris on March 28, 2006 · 0 comments

in General

ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd has apologized for ripping off the MZone. Deadspin has the paraphrased apology

Two things we take a lot of pride in…One we try to be different…Two is work ethic…the least we owe you is a really good day’s work. . that said, last Wednesday, at this very time… last 5 minutes of the show we presented a very funny and very smartly written fake Wonderlic test…the people who run michiganzone.blogspot created it. . they were furious with us…they deserve all the credit because it was very smart and very funny. . today, mzone gets the credit for this. . we have no problem with giving people credit…you tell us where you got it, we will give you credit…burden falls on me, its my show…last Wednesday, I didn’t do a good enough job checking. . there you go. . you can go to Google and punch up Mzone. . they are absolutely killing me and that’s fine…interesting thing about all this is…all this really got me going this weekend. . emotions flowing…I wrote a book this weekend…called “To Kill A Mockingbird”. . totally original. . talks about social issues.. .”

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Going it alone, or not

by Bill Ferris on February 28, 2006 · 0 comments

in General

I’ve been pretty sick the last few days. Between family, the real job, and recuperative sleep, blogging has gone by the wayside. It’s times like these where I seriously consider taking on a blog partner. Each of my blogs is a solo effort. While I like the total control, and not having to form any sort of compromises, when things come up it makes it tough to keep the various sites fresh.

Why solo is the way to go

  • Total Control: There are no disagreements about the direction of the site, or what is appropriate, or color schemes, or linking policy, or anything. In a solo operation it’s all up to you.
  • One blogger, one sound: If you have an established audience, they might not welcome another voice. If they’ve been coming back, they’ve been coming back because of something you’re doing right
  • The money: If you’ve decided to monetize your site, it would probably only be fair that you would share some portion of the revenue. Deciding on the amount could be tricky socially. And then there are the tax implications. Does this person become an employee or are you partners?

Why you should use the buddy system

  • More is better: More writers -> more content -> more visits -> more money! Well, it isn’t always a straight shot, but many of those elements are related. The additional writers are especially helpful when life gets in the way. At least there is someone else to keep the site fresh.
  • Baskin Robbins: Different people have different tastes, and different writers have different styles. While there maybe a core of your readers that love the way you write, there could also be a group that can’t stand it. Maybe a different writer with a different style could bring in a different audience.
  • Built in disscussion: Even if others aren’t commenting on your posts, you can always comment on each others. Or, the posts themselves can be discussions, ala Rob and Rany.

I don’t think one way is right or wrong. There are examples of successful teams (Belth and Corcoran, Lederer and Smith), just like there are many successful individuals. It’s all a matter of what you feel comfortable with. Personally I’m inclined to stay solo, but weeks like this always make me wonder why.

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Building Your Blog Brand

by Bill Ferris on February 6, 2006 · 0 comments

in Blog Design,General

There are a myriad of reasons why people start blogs, and a myriad of ways to get started. Platforms like Blogger and WordPress.com make it possible for the non-technically inclined to have their own website in a matter of minutes. In addition to ease of use, services like these are also desirable because they are cheap – as in free.

So more and more people are blogging, but so many of the blogs look the same. Default templates and addresses containing blogspot abound. While there is nothing wrong with default templates, and blogspot addresses, you may find that you want to differentiate yourself and have your blog develop its own identity. Here are a couple steps to build your blog brand.
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Will Carroll has a post about the baseball blogosphere. I wont’ try to characterize the post in a single sentence because it, and the ensuing comments hit a number of issues. However one of the elements that at least got my wheels turning was in defining quality and success in a blog/blogger.

First in terms of defining success Will points out that all bloggers are looking for feedback. That feedback could be in terms of visits, comments, money, and praise. I’d also include additional opportunities as another feedback component, but I like the definition as a starting point. At this point in terms of defining success it becomes a matter of magnitude. Caroll points out that with the exception of David Pinto, nobody is making a living blogging about baseball. Also, he notes that no blogs have the followship that mainstream media has. Again, I can’t argue with the assertion. However, I’m not sure that the lack of the above means blogs aren’t succeeding. As a blogger, I’m satisified that several hundred people care enough about what I think to visit on a regular basis. I consider it a success that the voice of the Detroit Tigers lists my blog among his regular reads. I understand that I probably won’t make a career out of this, but I’m satisfied considering this is a hobby and a passion. The income is just a bonus.
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The New Topix

by Bill Ferris on December 15, 2005 · 0 comments

in General

A couple days ago Topix.net launched a new look and a whole bunch more functionality. In case you don’t know Topix, it is a news aggregator. The news is categorized into 360,000 topics that include categories for all major sports teams. The news displayed was typically from mainstream media outlets, but about a month ago they started to include blogs. Some sports bloggers may have seen some additional traffic if their posts were included in the Topix crawl.

The new Topix is still a news aggregator, but it has become much more interactive. Instead of just displaying news by category, it now allows readers to comment on stories. In addition, users are now allowed to suggest stories and a forum is included as well.

So what does this mean for sports bloggers? First, it is another potential source of traffic. Second, it is another potential source of information. You can subscribe to a feed for each topic (your team for example). Third, and most importantly, it may be a step towards another potential online community.

Technology and politics have several different sites that help promote discussion and awareness. Digg covers technology, and memeorandum covers tech and politics. Sports is a very vibrant online niche, and yet there isn’t a similar product. Sports Blogs does a terrific job as an aggregator, but it doesn’t do link analysis or measure popularity. Baseball Primer excels at aggregating relevant stories and hosting discussion, but it doesn’t aggregate the discussion across blogs.

Now I don’t think Topix will accomplish all that, but it may be another opportunity for an underserved niche.

And finally, I don’t know what this will mean for the future, but Topix is jointly owned by Knight-Ridder, Gannett and Tribune. Topix functionality may be coming to a local online newspaper near you.

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Arizona Cardinal Blogger Wanted

by Bill Ferris on December 9, 2005 · 0 comments

in General

Jesse Schupack who runs the blog Cardinals Report is looking for a partner. If you’re an Arizona Cardinals fan this is your chance to join an established blog.

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