A New Chapter?

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.

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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.

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14 thoughts on “A New Chapter?

  1. I really appreciate your thoughts, Pat, and I agree, it was important to clear the air. I’ll re-read tomorrow when my brain is functioning better and I’m not quite so tired. I agree that there’s nothing but positives here. It’s great to have lots of creative people coming together to try to maintain friendships across oceans. I don’t care where it happens, I just want to stay in touch more effectively.
    Thanks, Pat.

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  2. blimey, mega post pat. much appreciate the transparency.

    i can’t speak for christine, but i don’t think there’s concern about any site replacing sidepodcast. you are more than welcome to talk f1 and more, and you should. starting your own skype podcast or whatever is also cool by us.

    i am also more than happy to promote the site, link to it from sidepodcast and send people in that direction (i have in fact been doing that since i found out about it). same as i did for vivaf1.

    we are shutting down in december that’s true – in part because we’re exhausted and ready to collapse, but also because we feel we’ve finally got a hold on the site again and *can* shut down when we want. for three years every decision has been ‘by committee’, every choice a ‘democratic one’, and we just need to make changes without getting permission from 60 people first, so that’s what we’re going to do. no-one is to blame for us getting into that position, except us, but equally, we didn’t mean too and now we need to back out of it.

    there is no question, that i do not understand what the daily thread meant to you guys, because at no point since it vanished have i felt like something was missing. twitter, facebook, g+ fit my needs. i just don’t get what you’re missing.

    to that end, i was surprised by the new site but i wish the project the best of luck. i likely won’t be joining in the comments, but not because of any issue (political, personal or other), i just don’t *need* too – hope that makes sense and you don’t try and second-guess my absence, i shall of course read anything you tweet.

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  3. to answer the point about the future, i think we will now be much more wary about the things we create. in the past we were happy to try something new and drop it on a whim, but thoughts such as bassano’s recent sidepodconfession are frankly so hard to read i’m scared witless of starting something that anyone ever relies on again.

    right now i’d like to rip up the site and create a whole new one, without any of the expectations or baggage of the past. maybe it needs a new domain name or something equally drastic.

    key point though… know that sidepodcast.com won’t be whatever you want it to be, so make your new site be what you want it to be. please!

    final #protip. if you’ve written this whole post on the back of christine’s tweet, you coulda saved yourself a thousand words if you’d just asked us what the issue was rather than guessing. steven emailed us earlier to mention there was a new site (not a bad starting point that), and i replied explaining stuff from my point of view, which i’ve now repeated in the previous comment. still, i’m a fan of open letters and this is a good one all the same ;)

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  4. Interesting post, Pat. As Mr C says, if this is a direct result of my single tweet then I sincerely apologise. I shouldn’t have tweeted it in the first place, sometimes 140 characters is too many.

    My hurt feelings do not spring from any of the points you’ve raised above. I think it’s great that you’ve started a blog and you are determined to stick together. From experience, I’d say you’ve got some tricky weeks ahead, but I’m sure you guys can make it work.

    You’re free to talk about anything and everything you like, F1 or otherwise. Sidepodcast is not the last word in F1 talk, we don’t have the trademark on motorsport conversations. If people want to write columns for us they can, and if they don’t – which seems more likely – that’s fine too. You’re free to link the blog to Sidepodcast and vice versa, or go your own separate way. Whatever makes people happy.

    We’re done expecting things from people, and hope that people don’t expect things from us either. That way, everything that happens is a bonus. The future of Sidepodcast is confusing, I know. We don’t have firm plans on anything. I know that one of my favourite times of SPC was when Mr C had his playground and we were just creating new, fun things, experimenting, ripping up the rule book. Days when we’d devise a new video concept just because we had a new piece of software to play with. We want to get back to that, whether it is with blogging, audio or video. To put innovation, quality and content over just churning out the same old thing to try and keep up.

    We always wanted to be about trying new things, always evolving but somewhere we took a wrong turning and got caught up in managing instead. That’s not to say the wrong turning wasn’t brilliant in itself, but to get back on the right path, we had to make some changes. Dropping the daily, something I had worked on for years, built up, encouraged, helped, guided and organised was not easy. I know people don’t believe that it was a hard decision, I’m sure no one will care that I fought back tears when the last one expired and another one didn’t take its place. It was the right thing to do, and I have to focus on that.

    I’m not offended at not being included in your email conversations or anything like that, there are no toes trodden on here. You know I love to see people blogging, and I think it could be something fab. It was just quite a few smaller things, probably not intentional, that stacked up to make me think “I know I’m the big bad that stole the dailies away but I have feelings too.”

    There’s nothing to be gained from raking over all the details though, what’s done is done. Mr C and I haven’t always handled everything perfectly, and I KNOW it is impossible to please everyone. So, good luck to you. I was genuine in my follow up tweet when I said I really hope the blog is everything you all want it to be.

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  5. I’ve been a little bit offline of the SPC community recently, and although I knew (and noticed) the fact that the Daily Posts were shutted down, I didn’t know there was a plan to create a new alternative way such as a blog.

    I think it’s a great idea. It can work and be successful. The Daily was (although comments number was decreasing), so why can’t it be too?

    I wasn’t included in the mailing list, but I know I didn’t use to spend the same amount of time as some of you on the Daily. And you know yourselfs personally too :) So the new blog is like a surprise, but a good one for me.

    I didn’t know there was a little “argument” via twitter… But if you’ve already apologised, then that’s all ;)

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  6. Thanks for the replies.

    If you are tired you should definitely have a break, especially with the amount of content you two (okay maybe just Christine ;) ) put out there each week. Nobody is against you having time off.

    I like the idea of refocussing the site to be developmental, as it was before if not more so. New stuff is cool! And if you come up with something nice but which needs time-consuming maintenence meaning you can’t/won’t do it, maybe someone else could take it over at your request, either at SPC or the other place or somewhere else entirely.

    It all happened a bit quickly and I wish an email had been sent sooner. I didn’t think it was my place to do it but maybe that was the wrong assumption.

    This post does come partly as a response to the tweets (and also those with Alex). I suppose I could’ve asked in an email. I wasn’t ever going to on Twitter because no way could I have fit this stuff in there and it wouldn’t have come across properly any shorter. But I also thought there would be some others who might get the wrong idea or think we were underminding you. On the whole it is best to state everything up front so nobody is second guessing anything, and that includes me, us, whomever, whatever.

    If people want to write columns for us they can, and if they don’t – which seems more likely – that’s fine too.

    I don’t think that’s more likely. I think we’ve been waiting for an official launch before volunteering ourselves, since (unless my memory fails which it very well might) it has only been mentioned in connection with the posts about the Dailies which were obviously focussed on the latter. I think we’ve lacked guidance on what the vision for columns is and would appreciate hearing more about how it would work, the sorts of things that might appear, the timescales, etc. I think it is something definitely worth revisiting in January after the break, if you are still keen, including working out how they are structured because maybe a person per day won’t work as you’ll be back in Daily-style adminland. Or maybe that’s for you to figure out over the next month or so and let us know how you want it to work.

    Thanks for being so open, it was obviously a bigger wrench than maybe it appeared at the time, and maybe we were so self-centred we didn’t notice.. We know we haven’t done everything perfectly either, such is the way of these things I suppose. On the new blog I’m not sure which specific things are/were the problem, I think I have suspicions but I’m not going to go into it here.

    Time to move on. Let’s do some cool things.

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  7. Christine,

    Please don’t feel that anyone thinks you are the nasty person who killed the dailies. It simply isn’t the case. In all the e-mails we have exchanged there have been dozens of comments understanding your position and not one criticism of anything you have done.

    The reason you were not included in the e-mails was simply that no-one wanted it too look like we were trying to persuade you to re-instate the daily post or moaning about its demise and that you wanted a break from all of that. I absolutely promise you that there is not one word in a single e-mail that is in any way negative about you, Mr C or sidepodcast. Indeed people have gone to great efforts to stress how much they want to stay involved with sidepodcast even at the expense of the new site.

    So please don’t feel bad about anything you have done and please don’t feel that anyone wanted to hurt your feelings. Exactly the opposite is true.

    I look forward to a long, happy and innovative future for sidepodcast.

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  8. “The reason you were not included in the e-mails was simply that no-one wanted it too look like we were trying to persuade you to re-instate the daily post or moaning about its demise…”
    Might I suggest that choosing the name “I Miss The Comments” misses that otherwise commendable aim.

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  9. I just wanted to say I’m not expecting to be home most of this evening so if anything gets stuck in moderation I’ll probably sort it out tomorrow.

    Might I suggest that choosing the name “I Miss The Comments” misses that otherwise commendable aim.

    I wasn’t involved with that decision and the choice surprised me, hence why I was at pains to say above it can be changed.
    I disagree with Steven in as much as it is clear we’re moaning at their demise, but to me that’s moaning at the reasons they had to go and not at the people who found themselves having to make that difficult choice. Maybe other people feel differently, I don’t know.

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  10. Might I suggest that choosing the name “I Miss The Comments” misses that otherwise commendable aim.

    There has been a great deal of discussion about the name and it is not over yet. The name for now is not finalised and may change.

    Some of us wanted a name that showed a clear break from sidepodcast to show that this site was not connected to it and was a separate entity while some of us wanted to have a connection or nod to sidepodcast because without sidepodcast the community would not exist. Soon a permanent name will be decided and that will be that.

    However, there is a big difference between the site name and involving Christine and Mr C in all of the e-mails that were bouncing round the world. Now the site exists so having the current name indicates why it exists and it is not exactly news to the SPC management that many of us miss what we had there.

    Involving them in the e-mails would have been unfair. For them to have to read all the options and see why each was dropped would make it look like we were trying to influence them to change their decision. We are not. We all understand why the decision was made and accept it. And we all – every single one of us – look forward to being involved with sidepodcast for a very long time. No-one views this new site as an alternative to sidepodcast or as a destination away from sidepodcast. It is simply somewhere that we can share many of the things that used to appear in the daily posts there.

    All of us will continue to post on topic stuff at sidepodcast and I am sure all of us will write posts or columns there in future.

    Absolutely nothing that has been done in arriving at our current situation has been done to be critical of Christine and Mr C and nothing has been done with the intention of upsetting them in any way.

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  11. We do miss the comments, even if we all understand why they needed to go.
    The conversation about dailies and commenting started on SPC, then on G+ 6 weeks after the dailies ended. It continued on email as not everyone is on G+.
    We made a new place to comment.
    We still love SPC.
    We are a bunch of friends who want to stay in touch.

    The End.

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  12. I certainly echo Steven’s point above. One of the hardest things when things change is not to feel emotion when you know the transition is for very good reasons. Yes, people miss the way things were but situations change and creative projects evolve otherwise they can become stale, for the creators or those consuming the output.

    to answer the point about the future, i think we will now be much more wary about the things we create. in the past we were happy to try something new and drop it on a whim, but thoughts such as bassano’s recent sidepodconfession are frankly so hard to read i’m scared witless of starting something that anyone ever relies on again.

    I hope you both continue to experiment and try new things and do it because it’s fulfilling. When I wrote the SidepodConfession, it was intended as a lament, a fond farewell if you like. I am so grateful for the bonds of friendships that have been formed because I decide to look on a website during Free Practice of the first Grand Prix at Valencia – because I was invited to, during a podcast by 2 people I had never met. That would probably never have happened if you decided not to experiment with something new.

    With the uncertainty of Sky’s coverage on the whole experience next year, I just wanted to put my thanks and farewell to the old ways ‘down on paper’ and then look at making positive changes to keep the friendships that had formed in what we call the SPC Community.

    If circumstances allow it, I’ll be in the live comments next season, during every session I can catch [through whatever means necessary] and look forward to reading the snippets of info that other people’s feeds are giving them or that I just plain missed.

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  13. “The reason you were not included in the e-mails was simply that no-one wanted it too look like we were trying to persuade you to re-instate the daily post or moaning about its demise…”
    Might I suggest that choosing the name “I Miss The Comments” misses that otherwise commendable aim.

    Saying that something will be missed does not imply that it must return, nor is it a grumble that it is no longer present. Just a statement of fact, by definition: to notice the loss or absence.

    The title of the blog, while evocative of SPC, is not purely related to conversations in the Daily Thread. I miss commenting with my friends, I will do so here on topics as varied and unconnected as can be. It is the desire to communicate

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