This is a difficult post to write. You see, a few of us may have trod on a few toes whilst trying to do something we think is nothing but positive.
Perhaps you can think of this as an open letter, albeit one with an explanations here and there for people unfamiliar with what’s going on, or simply to state my own version of events for the sake of clarity.
There is plenty in the way of crossed-wires, misunderstandings and behind-the-scenes chatter at the moment and this is my attempt at clearing the air. Perhaps it will backfire and make things worse, I don’t know, but I’m certainly not going to sit here and do nothing. As I said before, I’ve been through the split and loss of one community already, if not two, and I’ll be damned if I’ll let that happen to another one.
These are my thoughts and not necessarily representative of everyone involved, and I hope readers of the IWTMR blog excuse the intrusion.
The great folks at Sidepodcast.com as we all know have brilliant F1 content on their site, from insightful blog posts to expansive yet not overly-long podcasts and audio interviews. Of course these should always be the focus of the site as an entity and everybody recognises that, even if the signal/noise ratio didn’t always reflect that.
Until September there was an additional part of the site called the Daily Post, which was dedicated to general talk amongst what had become a fairly large and knowledgeable community with many shared interests both within F1 and outside it, and including but in no way limited to other forms of racing (not by any stretch!).
In addition to the existing positive and family-friendly atmosphere across the whole site, the ethos of being a ‘happy place’ to escape the mundanity of everyday life, these specific posts served for a good three or four years as a fantastic way of building a uniquely tight-knit community, yet one which was always open to new people to join without being too ‘cliquey’. I’m not claiming Dailies were the sole reason these happened because the podcasts and other posts had a great deal to do with it and should never be underestimated, and long may they continue. What I’m saying is that Dailies were the final piece in the puzzle.
Yes there were problems with the post comments, latterly especially, they too-often devolved into weariness and complaining about day-to-day life, and even after warnings we didn’t do enough to stem that tide. That was an error on everyone’s part. Perhaps that played a part in the drop in comment levels.
But that wasn’t the only thing. I think we all (eventually..) came to realise after extensive, often heated discussions that cost-savings needed to be made not just in money in terms of server costs and suchlike but also in terms of time. Administration was a big time-sink (even on quieter days) and as someone who is just a tad bored of the admin of a 44-week-long prediction game I’m certainly not in a position to criticise that part of things too strongly… even if I did do that. (Sorry!)
It didn’t help that the number of comments and level of interest dropped substantially in 2011 so there wasn’t as much reason to maintain the workload and cost of doing so, and so those posts were withdrawn. Understandable. However this disappointed the commenting community immensely, especially those of us who regularly attend not only racing events together but actually meet up just to hang out with each other in the pub – sometimes at a fair old expense I might add (those train tickets to London from here are not cheap let me tell you). Those meetups don’t just magic into existence with a post, they have to spark from somewhere.
Obviously we needed to find a new way to communicate with each other when we wanted to talk about things other than topics specific to F1 which is now the predominant way of doing things at Sidepodcast, occasional variances aside. We had become more than ‘people who comment on an F1 site’, we were now friends, and friends don’t just talk about F1 to each other.
Logically then, we were going to want to connect via other means, and so now and then we would communicate via email to work out the best course of action. Email to this day is still the best way of sending more than a few lines of text to a big group of people so that was the sounding board.
Nothing really came of it though, just lots of ‘I really miss talking in the Daily’ talk with no real action. And yes, maybe we missed off a few people from the list that we shouldn’t have missed. And no, that list of people doesn’t include Christine and Mr C who’d made it clear they didn’t the admin hassle. No probs, we say to each other, we’ll set something up and invite everyone along after! No mess, no fuss.
But what solution would we use? Dailies ended in late September but realistically we’ve been trying alternatives since the first discussions of their removal back in July/August.
- Twitter has its uses and I am a huge fan of it, especially for getting live information, however it has downsides of being realtime only, and being bloody difficult to track back to where you last left it, which is why I for one don’t bother doing that. I just pick it up where I come in, just scrolling back half an hour or so. It’s also utterly crap for talking to more than two other people at once in a single discussion.
- Facebook is okay. We could’ve made a page there but we’d sacrifice anonymity, which wasn’t an option for many of our number, not including me. But then I don’t really want my ‘home’ friends and family seeing what I’m commenting about in their news feeds which is why I don’t really use groups/pages there.
- Others have tried Google+. They report that circles are more promising than FB groups but that commenting a together at the same time is not feasible due to limitations with the platform. I haven’t tried G+ myself because then I’d be following the same people across three social media platforms which is just crazy, so I’ll wait until I have a reason to do so.
- And as welcome as Jackie and Mav and the gang at VivaF1 have made us feel, it just doesn’t sit well with me to walk into another F1 community en masse and then start talking about anything and everything except F1.
It struck us that we should stick to what is familiar. It may not have the superb extra coding from Mr C, but a WordPress.com site is somewhat familiar to most of us, and especially so for those of us who already have blogs. And we don’t have the funds to contribute towards a WordPress.org site for what is just a concept.
So the logical extension of all of this is fairly simple:
Let’s put our arts and science links and educational updates and football talk and generic inane non-racing chatter on our own WordPress blog.
A blog where we can talk drivel if we want to and not be limited to 140 characters or by what name we can choose. The very point of thing is that it doesn’t have a topic – however, I move that we ban F1 discussion from the site immediately and always.
When it was raised initially (just three days ago) I was sceptical. What would we use it for? Would anyone other than us few from the emails turn up, and if they did, would they stay more than a week or two? I only played along to see where it ended up, and to offer WordPress assistance because obviously I’ve used it almost daily for a couple of years now.
We still don’t really know the answers to these questions. There is no coherent plan. We really are genuinely making this up as we go along. Maybe we’ll change the name, the design, and what is linked and not linked. Maybe it won’t work. Maybe it’ll become as dead as the Daily comments were in August/September or worse.
Or.. maybe that won’t matter. Maybe it doesn’t need to be daily and we do it ad hoc. Everything is on the table. Maybe the 6 week break from Dailies will have refreshed our brains, especially going into the offseason and especially since I’ve now seen talk on Twitter from Mr C of a complete blog shutdown at Sidepodcast for the month of December. We’re gonna need somewhere else to go.
So after what we perceive to be all this good stuff it came as a real surprise to us all that Christine in particular was feeling a little hurt by this. We’re very sorry about that. It all seemed perfectly logical and very positive to us. The explanation in the initial post seemed fair enough and not negative in the slightest. Are we wrong? I can see why the name might be an issue but it is only a name and names can be changed.
After all, we were always told to get blogs, now we’ve had people combine as a group to set one up (by the way it wasn’t me who initiated it!), and what’s more we cut the whining about the lack of Daily-style content and actually did something constructive about it. Clean slate, who knows where it will end up. Is it because of the idea to have columns? This new site won’t mean we can’t do columns, whenever it is they’ll be launched.
Obviously you will have some concerns. Here are some proposed ground rules for this new site. I may have just made up some of them without consulting the others. I also suspect they will agree with them.
- It will not replace Sidepodcast. It only replaces the Daily posts. And then only tenuously. That’s all.
- F1 talk is banned. We have Sidepodcast for that. If there are live threads for non-F1 – and we don’t yet know if there will be but it is probably reasonable to assume there will – we will always check if they’ll be covered at SPC first before making any such plans.
- Family-friendly rules still apply.
- ‘Happy Place’ still applies.
And some things we hope will come to pass:
We would like to retain the ties to Sidepodcast. We would be nothing without you. And.. you us. However if you are sufficiently upset that you want us to cut the connection to the brand and remove the name and/or links from the blog over there, we will of course respect that wish.
We would like you to join in at least as readers, preferably as commenters and perhaps as post writers if you are willing. Entirely your choice. The freedom of a post with none of the admin! That’s a true happy place.. am I right? Or we can make you an editor if you really miss moderating comments..
Quite honestly I don’t see anything but positives here.
- You get the stripped down Sidepodcast you were after and we all get the benefit of a more-focussed F1/racing site.
- We get a place to chew the fat with random banter without worrying about Facebook changing their rules again and again or Google arbitrarily shutting down G+ with no warning like they did with Wave and Buzz. A chill-out zone away from the noise of F1 politicking.
As I say.. maybe in a year it will have failed or maybe another better social network is invented which solves all our concerns. In the meantime, what do we lose by trying? If it fails it is only our fault and ours alone.
Or maybe it’ll just be a little hangout for 8 or 10 of us trying to relive the old days. Well if it is, do you know what? That’s fine by me.
Of course, we hope it’ll be a bit better than that.
We all hope Sidepodcast continues as strongly as ever. I have to say I have my doubts but those are only caused by the statements coming from the two owners over the last 6 or 8 months, which have caused me to be concerned that it might get shut down within days of the comment being made, right the way back to July. In turn I think those are directly connected to the 2012 broadcast deal, the boring championship ‘battle’ this year, some dire races lately and an overly-long season. We’re all weary.
With a new season and recharged batteries there is no reason why SPC can’t be stronger than ever in 2012.
Despite having posting rights at the new blog I deliberately put this here as this post represents my thoughts alone, not any “position” or “stand” the group behind that site might incorrectly be perceived as making.