Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A week in the life of Post Talk

Followers of this column (thanks, sweetie) know that from time to time I provide an update on Post Talk, the Post Register’s ugly online stepchild where readers make comments on the issues of the day.

More correctly, they mostly make comments about each other. Despite our attempts to either enforce a civility standard or cajole participants into playing nice, it hasn’t worked. Lately, Corey Taule and I -- Post Talk’s sole monitors -- have more or less thrown in the towel and stopped trying to require good behavior.

We’d like to try a new tack -- let’s see, we thought, if we can broaden the participation in Post Talk in the hopes that it creates a more diverse and thoughtful debate.

One morning last week I decided to draw some statistical data from a week in the life of Post Talk to get an idea of where we are today so we have a better idea of what we’d like PT to look like. Here are some of my findings:

--Thirty different people posted at least once on PT.

--There were 306 posts in seven days, for an average of 44 per day.

--One person (PT regulars will know of whom I write) accounted for 26 percent of all posts. Another (also known to other participants) accounted for another 17 percent, and a third accounted for 10 percent. So, three posters made more than half the posts. A relative handful accounts for 90 percent of the total.

We require that Post Talk participants identify themselves by name and place of residence, and this has dramatically reduced the number of people willing to participate. We’re not going to change that -- being willing to stand behind what you say is a fundamental part of participatory democracy.

The quality and diversity of the posts are simply not very good. The same people tend to say the same things over and over again in one way or another, and nearly every thread eventually devolves into name-calling. I could look at most posts with the author’s name redacted and guess with very high accuracy who wrote it.

My point is that we’d like to see more people participate to get a wider set of views on the message board. I understand the reluctance -- it takes time, and you open yourself up to all sorts of nasty responses from people who aren’t interested in having a civil discussion.

However, our traffic counters tell us that Post Talk is populated mostly by “lurkers” -- people who want to watch train wreck but don’t want to be inside the train when it happens. That’s completely understandable.

We ask -- participate anyway.

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