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Over the past few months, we've been working behind the scenes to improve the Batter's Box experience for everyone. Through a software upgrade and some intensive further development, Batter's Box v3.5 makes it both easier to make comments, and easier to see the important parts of the discussion attached to a story.



In addition to everything mentioned inside this story, we'd like to draw your attention to a couple of new features. First, the "Archives" link in the blue title bar above, something long-time readers missed when we first changed the software powering Batter's Box. This link displays the stories published on Batter's Box in a chronological format. Second, "Photo of the Day" will now be displayed as a thumbnail in the side bar in addition to its full-sized article.

Now, on to the biggest additions in Batter's Box v3.5. First, the new editor. Users who have long lamented the need to enter HTML by hand need worry no more: your prayers have been answered with our new WYSIWYG editor. Using this editor, you can easily create links to pages, make text italic or bold, quote text by indenting, and much more. We expect that there's going to be an adjustment period as everyone learns the ropes of the new editor, but we believe it is a huge step up from our previous state-of-the-art.

Second, and perhaps more important, is an invention that we believe will increase the quality of Batter's Box: Featured Comments.

Logged-in users have now seen it: "26 comments, 5 featured." What does it mean?

Well, in short, Featured Comments are the comments that everyone can see by default. In fact, if you don't log in, all you ever see are Featured Comments. The Batter's Box Roster wanted to give Bauxites the chance to read the important points of a discussion without having to read through each and every comment. If you come to the site once a day it can be daunting to try and read through 100 posts. By featuring comments Bauxites will be able to see the best and most relevant comments.

Of course, if you want to read through every comment, you can but only if you have a Batter's Box account. (If you don't you can create one very easily: just click on "New User" in the green User Functions box on the left.)

If you do have an account, you can, at any time and on any thread, view either All Comments, which is exactly as it sounds, or Featured Comments, only those comments which have been specially chosen to be visible by default. You can also change which mode you view comments in by default by logging in to your account, then clicking "Preferences" under "User Functions" in the green box on the left. We expect that many of our regular posters will want to change their default from "Featured Comments" to "All Comments."

Obviously, this implies that not all comments will be featured. That's OK! The comments you make won't always be featured. The comments we make won't always be featured - it's meant to provide Bauxites with a high-level overview of the most important points in a thread of discussion.

The Batter's Box Roster are the ones that decide whether a comment is featured or not. If you want your comment to be featured you have to make a post that makes the BB Roster want to feature it. A comment that is thoughtful, insightful, newsworthy or otherwise enhances the current discussion is likely to be featured.

By the way, featured comments are those that are displayed with a little baseball next to them. Comments are being featured all the time, so check back later if yours hasn't been chosen yet. And every comment posted before this upgrade is already featured, so no archived pages should change.

We expect there to be quite a few comments and questions about these new features. Please feel free to ask any questions in this thread; alternately, e-mail Joe Drew with any of your comments or concerns.

Announcing Batter's Box v3.5 | 131 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Joe - Monday, April 03 2006 @ 11:13 PM EDT (#144144) #
If there are still any users of Firefox 1.0.x, please upgrade to v1.5. The older version has bugs that certain parts of Batter's Box will now trigger. While we've worked hard to make these not impair your use of Batter's Box, you might run into trouble on other sites.

Upgrade to Firefox 1.5!

AWeb - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 01:08 AM EDT (#144155) #
Problem : I'm using Firefox 1.5 (have been for a while), and the left-hand menu (with "User Functions" on top) is blocking out half of the toolbar above it. I can still use the Home link, but it is obscured.

Everything else looks great so far, I like the new banner and the comment formatting options. You guys do an amazing job keeping up the site. Kudos.

Dan - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 02:43 AM EDT (#144157) #
The site looks nice. The comment toolbar is great.

I am however worried that this "featured comment" system will make the site look like a barren wasteland to visitors without accounts. You guys might want to consider making all comments the default setting, with the filtered version available to those with accounts.
Excalabur - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 03:09 AM EDT (#144160) #
It just occurred posts that respond to other posts will 'break' if one of them is featured and the other isn't.  For instance, the parent to this post, also by me, would make no sense without its parent. 

This discourages the use of threading, which I believe is a net loss to the site.  However, contrariwise, it may cause more people to login more often, and thus encourage threading.  I know that I will now have to login every time I visit to get the experience I want, whereas before I logged in only when the site hassled me to do so when I wanted to do something.

The WYSIWYG HTML editor will be useful for many, especially until they learn the HTML codes, and the PotD thumb in the sidebar is cool; yet I have one question regarding it: why does it say 'click here', but doesn't do anything when clicked?  I assume it's supposed to be a link through to the current full-size PotD?

Can baseball season start now?  I know everyone <i>else</i> got to play, can Toronto play too?


Andrew K - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 03:36 AM EDT (#144161) #

I think that the "featured comments" feature is a retrograde step. The overpowering impression is that contributions from the hoi polloi are not welcome. I have felt increasingly unwelcome, here, as time goes by; whereas I might have thought about contributing something substantial in the past, I decided to keep my thoughts to myself.

While I understand the aim of keeping the displayed discussion at the site at a high level, I think that the bad side-effects will outweigh any benefit. If there's a slow week, it will look like nobody is posting at all. If there's a slow month or three (e.g. this offseason) then the site will appear totally dead to newcomers. I think it would be a mistake to think that any site can thrive without newcomers, or that newcomers would be attracted to something which looks like a blog but has few comments apparent.

tik - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 03:54 AM EDT (#144162) #
I really am not one to say this because I am a lurker and really don't post very much. Anyway, I think the whole featured comment idea is a little strange. Does it go to just a certain group of people or is it to comments that are the most relevant to the thread? Obviously I'm not one to care but if it is the former, I don't think it's a strech to foresee people unhappy about the fact that they aren't "featured". I have read long arguments on this website about how some people have think that others are to elitist for lack of a better word and this may simply add the that perception. OTHERWISE this new posting layout is great!
Named For Hank - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 07:16 AM EDT (#144164) #
The Photo of the Day link will become active on Friday, when Photo of the Day starts up again.  I was just lazy and didn't want to make two versions of the sidebar.


We're hoping that people will log in and stay logged in, and then choose whichever option for viewing the comments that they prefer.
Named For Hank - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 07:22 AM EDT (#144165) #
Andrew, on slower days we will simply feature more comments -- it's not that "contributions from the hoi polloi are not welcome"; it's more that we spent so much time trying to keep the place organized and on topic and we felt that we were losing some interesting conversations because we were discouraging off topic posts when there wasn't always a great place to put them.

Basically, we want the casual viewer to see the very best of Batter's Box.  This requires a big time investment from us, to try to read and decide what comments to feature in a timely manner, but we think that ultimately it'll make for a better site.

We're also hoping that it will be a bit of a carrot to people to always spend time making their posts the very best they can be.
Named For Hank - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 07:26 AM EDT (#144166) #
I am however worried that this "featured comment" system will make the site look like a barren wasteland to visitors without accounts.

As long as we keep on top of things, this shouldn't happen.  And this is why I'm featuring comments at seven in the morning.

Thanks to everyone on the banner compliments.  And by the way, if you have bug reports, please tell us your operating system, browser and screen resolution.
Joe - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 07:34 AM EDT (#144168) #
AWeb, does the blue menu bar at the top break onto two lines? Alternately, what resolution are you using?
Named For Hank - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 07:40 AM EDT (#144170) #
 Anyway, I think the whole featured comment idea is a little strange. Does it go to just a certain group of people or is it to comments that are the most relevant to the thread? Obviously I'm not one to care but if it is the former, I don't think it's a strech to foresee people unhappy about the fact that they aren't "featured". I have read long arguments on this website about how some people have think that others are to elitist for lack of a better word and this may simply add the that perception.

Well, this is part of the issue.  We don't like, for example, arguments about the direction of the site to be the first thing that new visitors see, while at the same time we don't want to delete those conversations -- we welcome feedback.

But as to your question, we'll basically be picking the comments that we like best, that are the most relevant or that phrase something in the best way.  Often we'll have threads where a dozen people say basically the same thing.  We don't want to get rid of the other 11 comments, but we do want to showcase the best one.

Batter's Box is continuing to grow.  It used to be just the rare thread that topped 100 posts, and now we hit that in a single day pretty routinely in the off-season.  Sooner or later it'll become impossible for the new reader to get a handle on what's going on, so we decided to do something about it before it became a serious problem.  And it gives everyone a little more freedom in their posting.
Pistol - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 08:50 AM EDT (#144176) #

I am however worried that this "featured comment" system will make the site look like a barren wasteland to visitors without accounts. You guys might want to consider making all comments the default setting, with the filtered version available to those with accounts.

Trust us, we've talked about this for months.  We're ok with it if a thread only has a few featured comments, or even none.  We've had a fair amount of feedback from 'lurkers' essentially saying less is more.

Plus, from now to the end of the season we'll have at least two new threads every day.  It'll be tough for the site to look like a wasteland.

And if you set your preference to 'All Comments' this part of the change is really a non-event.

studes - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 09:18 AM EDT (#144179) #
Could you look to see if your RSS feed is still working properly.  With this rollout, it doesn't format properly in bloglines.
Craig B - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 10:22 AM EDT (#144186) #
First my baby leaves the nest and now he's all grown up. *Sniff* (This comment won't get featured)
Craig B - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 10:34 AM EDT (#144189) #
I'm having a problem with "plain text" vs. "HTML formatted" comments.  When I post a "plain text" comment it HTML formats.  When I post a HTML formatted comment it prints the HTML in plain text.  Am I doing something wrong?
Named For Hank - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 10:47 AM EDT (#144192) #
Craig, are you manually trying to write out the HTML instead of using the toolbar across the top of the window?
Craig B - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 11:18 AM EDT (#144200) #

OK, now I think I got it. I can use "source" if I want to type straight HTML code. I was also having a problem inserting links but I think I solved that too.

Not bad.

Pistol - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 11:38 AM EDT (#144205) #

"I was also having a problem inserting links but I think I solved that too"

I had to ask so I assume it's a common problem.  The key is to highlite the words that you want to hold the link.  Once you do that the link button in the editor 'un-grays' and you can put in the address.

Lilly likely to miss start this weekend is accomplished by highliting the 'likely to miss start' and then hitting the link button (the chain), then you can paste in the address, hit ok, and there it is.  For me this is a great time saver.

 

jsoh - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 11:53 AM EDT (#144207) #
First, the new editor

Err. I'm not seeing the new editor - its still the same ole TEXTAREA that I've seen before

OSX 10.4.5. Safari. About to check FF in a second.

Geoff - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 12:31 PM EDT (#144216) #
If for any reason javascript is not enabled on your browser, the new editor will not appear and you'll see good ol' textarea.

And...I've just discovered, if you try posting in FF 1.5 with javascript disabled, you will see the following error:
Please fill in the Title and Comment fields, as they are necessary for your submission of a comment.
This occurs with html formatted or plain text mode and erases whatever you've written when you attempt to preview. Not very kind to the non-javascript crowd.

Also, is there no way to choose a preference for the default post mode? 
Jacko - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 12:35 PM EDT (#144218) #
AWeb, does the blue menu bar at the top break onto two lines? Alternately, what resolution are you using?

Joe, I've I got same problem on Firefox 1.5.x on Windows XP, 1024x768.

The blue menu bar is a single line (i.e. it's not breaking).  The User Functions box is almost completely overlapping the "Home" link, and a small portion of the "Archives" link.

If you'd like a screenshot, let me know and I'll email you one.

Cheers,

jc


jsoh - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 12:43 PM EDT (#144223) #
If for any reason javascript is not enabled on your browser, the new editor will not appear and you'll see good ol' textarea.

This is certainly not the case for me - Javascript is enabled in Safari.

I've just noticed that the editor used here doesnt support Safari

Which is strange, since I could have sworn I saw an internal site at work use the same control, and that I saw it working on Safari

An unfortunate development.

Geoff - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 12:58 PM EDT (#144229) #
Which is strange, since I could have sworn I saw an internal site at work use the same control, and that I saw it working on Safari

You might have been looking at TinyMCE, which has some amount of Safari compatability.

I also find it bothersome that when I am replying to a comment that is not featured, that comment does not show up as I am writing my reply comment. The functionality I lose (that I miss) is that I can not easily copy and paste a selection to quote in my reply. And of course, I'm having that problem now. And my default is set to show all comments, so that won't help me.
Joe - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 01:10 PM EDT (#144232) #
My regular browser is Safari, so don't worry about Batter's Box not supporting it. The advanced editor doesn't, it's true, but that's out of my hands.

As for the Firefox layout bug (it's a bug in Firefox, but I'll see what I can do) and Javascript enabling issues: I'll get to it as soon as I can, but not before. :)

Geoff - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 01:11 PM EDT (#144233) #
The feature I most wanted to see was the ability to edit your post within X number of minutes/seconds.

I understand that it would become a bother if everyone was going back to edit old comments from last week, month, yesterday, etc. But the ability to edit any mistakes within a minute or two of posting would be very helpful.

I see that there is a restriction of a waiting period now between when you made your last post and when your next one is allowed. Any chance that within that time frame you could edit a post?

And I understand the counter-argument that if you need to proofread your posts, taking a moment or two with the preview button is easier than coding new functionality. Well, sometimes it's easy to hit the submit button by mistake.

Joe - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 01:17 PM EDT (#144234) #
Post editing has been on the TODO list for a long time. There, unfortunately, are a lot of more urgent issues right now. Mid-season, probably.
Mylegacy - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 02:22 PM EDT (#144244) #

The Good: I like the bar with new tools, very neat!

The Bad: there should be a spell check, if possible.

The Ugly: here's where I get in trouble.

Boy, oh boy, I do not like the "featured" thing. Sorry.

Since I first found this site over a year ago, I've come here EVERYDAY. In fact, any day I have access to the Internet, I come here FIRST, even before I check with CNN to see if anybody nuked anybody, or whom we're at war with today. I love this site...

I've been proud that the "cabal, I know there is no cabal" has worked to see that the site doesn't descend into abuse and vulgarity. I've also been impressed that the "cabal" has wanted to see posters at least partially literate. BUT, I am really uncomfortable with the "cabal" deciding that a particular thought by a member doesn't warrant the same consideration as an other thought by a peer. I really wish you would re-think this. I'm even uncomfortable that the "cabal" may/will/has already decided that some comments by members of the "cabal" should be "non-featured" by other members of the "cabal."

I'm sorry, it's just that the world spends too much time putting people into either the "goats" or the "sheep." In my world, when I get to make it, we'll all be the same thing, even it's only  fire ants.

 

BCMike - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 03:12 PM EDT (#144251) #
I agree with Mylegacy and the others who have echoed similar comments. You're basically saying to people "your comment isn't worth reading so don't bother."  Sure there <i>are</i> comments that aren't worth reading, but as a reader I'm perfectly capable of ignoring them. This featured comment thing is only going to discourage people from posting, not encourage them to make better posts.

As for new features, I'd like to see "last read pointers" implemented so that you can jump to the first new comment since your last visit. I assume comments are time stamped in the database, so it shouldn't be too difficult to implement. Just a suggestion.
Excalabur - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 03:25 PM EDT (#144255) #
If you want to type your own html code, you have to click the 'Source' button, and then type your comment in the pop-up window.  This seems a bit daft, but what do I know? 

Can we have the old option of HTML formatting done by hand on the pull down below the comment back, or is that not technically possible?

binnister - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 03:38 PM EDT (#144259) #

I agree with Mylegacy and the others who have echoed similar comments. You're basically saying to people "your comment isn't worth reading so don't bother." 

I understand the concerns behind this and other's comments, but I really don't see the problem.

Some threads get a tremendous about of off-topic crap in them....'hiding' those comments from casual visitors to the site can only be a good thing.

My question is:  Will comments that are critical of an article (whether in content or conclusion) but that are 'On Topic' be 'Featured'?  <---This is the area where I can see that the subjective opinion of one person (or a group of persons) may cause issues.

Granted, the power-that-be can just choose to delete a posted comment anytime they wish...but that sort of thing usually stirs up a firestorm. 

HollywoodHartman - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 03:50 PM EDT (#144263) #
NFH, I'm having problems setting it so that I see all comments every time. I have to set it to See All Comments every time I go to a new thread. (Also VERY cool when you resize the browser)
Joe - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 03:53 PM EDT (#144266) #
You have to use the toolbar, or use the "Source." The other very quick way to go about things is to switch to Plain Text in post mode, then type your HTML, then switch back to HTML.

I might be able to make a "Plain HTML editor" option as well, but not soon.

Geoff - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 04:01 PM EDT (#144269) #
Did you go to Preferences and set your default there or just on the menu above and below each story? The menu for settings on each story page is only a temporary alteration and only good for that page, if I'm correct.

This is handy to have if you ever run in to a case where you want to change how comments are displayed in a way that is an exception to the rule you set in preferences. 
Paul D - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 04:03 PM EDT (#144271) #
Not sure if this is the place for general comments, but here's a suggestion for the next upgrade:

Could each post in a thread have its own count number?  For example, I think this is post 51.  A 51 next to it would be helpful, particularly when I know there were about 30 comments last time I read a thread, and now there are 65.   I have no idea if this works with your software, or if I should just remember the generic post number, but if possible, I think it would be a nice addition. 

Geoff - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 04:18 PM EDT (#144278) #
There are post ID's next to each post -- yours is (#144271). Although I don't expect that this satisfies your interest.

A feature I've been hoping for is that each post would have a named anchor next to each post that would allow you to link to a particular post on the story page, rather than just to a comment -- like so. This is fairly simple and only requires putting in something like <a name="#144271" />

 I've been biting my tongue on making site suggestions and now that Joe has put in many valuable hours making enhancements, he receives umpteen other suggestions, which I know can be a pain. So let me say that the new enhancements are very good and if you'll take any help in development/coding, let me know. I'm willing to do more than point out problems and make suggestions.
Joe - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 04:41 PM EDT (#144282) #
A feature I've been hoping for is that each post would have a named anchor next to each post that would allow you to link to a particular post on the story page, rather than just to a comment -- like so. This is fairly simple and only requires putting in something like <a name="#144271" />
Your wish is my command. I'm not certain of the presentation - I've put a link, "#", after every comment - but I'm not certain if it's necessary, or even the best way of accomplishing this.
Michael - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 06:03 PM EDT (#144289) #
I like some of the new features (I like the layout, I always log in anyways, a WYSIWYG editor is probably a good idea - although good use of preview always worked for me in the past).

But the featured idea is a big problem.  I see the carrot/stick approach of defaulting to forcing log in to get your preferences is fine.  But the idea of a featured link is a bad one, IMHO.  I mean a message board filtering method is a relatively well known problem.  I'd say something where the readers as a whole did the comment ranking (a la slashdot) would go down much better than one where the featured ranking is done from on high.  But either way I'm a bigger fan of no featured.

I don't think the signal to noise ratio is off currently and I think I have a strong desire to encourage more signal.  And for me personally, while the articles have value, the largest part of the value of this site is from the discussion.  And anything that stiffles discussion is a bad thing.

Jacko - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 08:10 PM EDT (#144294) #
Boy, oh boy, I do not like the "featured" thing. Sorry.

Maintenance wise, isn't the featured comments thing a huge hassle?

How about something voter based like Slashdot?  Registered user mod comments up or down, and readers set their comment level.  It's more fine grained than feature tagging, while at the same time has almost zero admin (other than the trial and error of fine tuning the default reader level).


CaramonLS - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 11:01 PM EDT (#144305) #
I'll be honest, I'm not quite down with the "featured" comments, unless there is a way to make sure I can see all the comments all the time without having to readjust every thread I view.
Named For Hank - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 11:04 PM EDT (#144307) #
I'll be honest, I'm not quite down with the "featured" comments, unless there is a way to make sure I can see all the comments all the time without having to readjust every thread I view.

Caramon, you can set "view all comments" as your default in your user preferences.
Named For Hank - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 11:09 PM EDT (#144310) #
I don't think the signal to noise ratio is off currently and I think I have a strong desire to encourage more signal.  And for me personally, while the articles have value, the largest part of the value of this site is from the discussion.  And anything that stiffles discussion is a bad thing.

Well, like I said above, it lets us allow the conversation to range further away without being concerned that the place is becoming unreadable.  Instead of deleting posts, we highlight the best ones.

I think the old method of deleting posts and e-mailing the authors was far more stifling to interesting conversation.
Named For Hank - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 11:13 PM EDT (#144311) #

I've been proud that the "cabal, I know there is no cabal" has worked to see that the site doesn't descend into abuse and vulgarity. I've also been impressed that the "cabal" has wanted to see posters at least partially literate. BUT, I am really uncomfortable with the "cabal" deciding that a particular thought by a member doesn't warrant the same consideration as an other thought by a peer. I really wish you would re-think this. I'm even uncomfortable that the "cabal" may/will/has already decided that some comments by members of the "cabal" should be "non-featured" by other members of the "cabal."



Well, I can see where you're coming from, Mylegacy, but deleting poor comments wasn't encouraging people to make them better.

We're not saying that one person is better than another person (and I don't know why you'd think that) -- we're saying that this specific post is better in some way than some of the other posts.  It's not an evaluation of the person by any means.  And as for people being non-featured, you have it backwards -- comments start as non-featured and then are featured by someone reading them and liking them.

Named For Hank - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 11:17 PM EDT (#144313) #

My question is:  Will comments that are critical of an article (whether in content or conclusion) but that are 'On Topic' be 'Featured'?  <---This is the area where I can see that the subjective opinion of one person (or a group of persons) may cause issues.

Granted, the power-that-be can just choose to delete a posted comment anytime they wish...but that sort of thing usually stirs up a firestorm.

Binnister, we don't delete comments that are critical of articles.  We engage them in discussion or debate.  Why would we change now?  We delete comments that call people names, that wander way too far off topic, that are offensive.

The vast majority of deleted posts go unnoticed by the group at large.  But now we won't delete as many.  Basically, we're doing the opposite -- instead of making the less-good stuff go away, we push what we like best up to the top of the heap.

Named For Hank - Tuesday, April 04 2006 @ 11:29 PM EDT (#144320) #
How about something voter based like Slashdot?  Registered user mod comments up or down, and readers set their comment level.  It's more fine grained than feature tagging, while at the same time has almost zero admin (other than the trial and error of fine tuning the default reader level).

We thought about it and debated it for a while.  I won't get into the nuts and bolts of it, because literally we argued about it for months, but in the end we decided to go with this method.

Maintenance wise, isn't the featured comments thing a huge hassle?

Not really -- we had to read all the comments every day before anyways.
jsoh - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 12:02 AM EDT (#144334) #
I just got this:

Your last comment was 25 seconds ago. This site requires at least 45 seconds between comments. Please wait before posting again.

Anti-spam measure?

(I forgot one point in a post, and was going to add a quicky followup)

Joe - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 12:13 AM EDT (#144340) #
Your last comment was 25 seconds ago. This site requires at least 45 seconds between comments. Please wait before posting again.

Anti-spam measure?

Bingo. Also, discourages quickie one-off responses. Comment editing is the real solution to the "quickie followup" idea.
Joseph Krengel - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 02:53 AM EDT (#144360) #
Just a humble suggestion, but howabout adding "please use the SOURCE" button if you wish to enter HTML directly into your post" as one of the important Stuff items? I wouldn't presume, but it seems like the least technically labourious changes you could make. On the whole I really like what you've done, including the Featured Posts implementation. Speaking as a staff-member from a heavily moderated site, actively consider recruiting members for this function. Even if they are not an official part of the roster, they can shoulder a part of the load.
unclejim - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 04:21 AM EDT (#144362) #
Before I start just to say I love this web site and visit almost daily. I tihnk everyone who frequents here appreciates the work you guys put into this site

I have though a couple of suggestions that could help alleviate the problems members seem to have with the 'featured comments' issue.  I can see why you want to do this, but for me the process seems to be set up favouring the side of 'censorship' and Im not sure I agree with this.

1. I think it is the wrong assumption to make that members only want to see "featured comments" by default. I agree it is good for non members who visit the site to be spared the waffle that sometimes creeps into the threads... but for members I would think that on the whole they would want to see all comments rather than only featured. Maybe check with the inner circle but Id be surprised if any of them have kept this 'featued only' setting as their defaults. If you make the change that members see all comments by default then it means that those members that want to 'censor' their threads are able to but everyone else sees everything.

2. Instead of having the setup that the site management have mark entries as 'featured' bfore they are seen by everyone it might be better for this to work the other way round. That is, all posts should be considered featured unless marked as 'not featured'.

This not only gets around the problem that arises if none of the site management are able to find time to check a thread but also means users can see the comments immediately when added and a discussion can continue. If we have to wait until someone in management has time to validate each post then a lot of threads will be stuck in limbo. This also ensures users will see their own posts and any responses to that as they are entered. 

Im also wondering if the following scenario has been considered ? There are a  number of non-North american posters to this site and Im not sure if any of the management are based overseas. Given the time differences, if I post something (and I'll admit I don't post very often, but some of the other UK members do) at 10am UK time then that becomes 5am in Toronto and I guess I'd have to wait at least 4/5 hours before it is looked at by the site management for approval.

An assumption that ALL posts are valid unless otherwise marked is a more trusting and for me inclusive way to manage the threads.

Thats all, don't take this as a critisism, its just a few suggestions. that I think would be welcomed.

thanks.

Named For Hank - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 07:22 AM EDT (#144365) #
   1. I think it is the wrong assumption to make that members only want to see "featured comments" by default. I agree it is good for non members who visit the site to be spared the waffle that sometimes creeps into the threads... but for members I would think that on the whole they would want to see all comments rather than only featured. Maybe check with the inner circle but Id be surprised if any of them have kept this 'featued only' setting as their defaults. If you make the change that members see all comments by default then it means that those members that want to 'censor' their threads are able to but everyone else sees everything.

Of course we can't have ours set to Featured Only -- we have to read all the comments to feature them.

2. Instead of having the setup that the site management have mark entries as 'featured' bfore they are seen by everyone it might be better for this to work the other way round. That is, all posts should be considered featured unless marked as 'not featured'.

Well, in your scenario we are penalizing posts instead of rewarding.  Now, we say "this is a good post"; in yours we'd be saying "oh, this post sucks".

This not only gets around the problem that arises if none of the site management are able to find time to check a thread but also means users can see the comments immediately when added and a discussion can continue. If we have to wait until someone in management has time to validate each post then a lot of threads will be stuck in limbo. This also ensures users will see their own posts and any responses to that as they are entered. 

If you are participating in the conversation in real-time, chances are you're in "all comments" mode.  The posts are not in a buffer as they would be in a moderation format -- they're up on the site, just not visible to non-members and not visible to those who choose not to see them.

Im also wondering if the following scenario has been considered ? There are a  number of non-North american posters to this site and Im not sure if any of the management are based overseas. Given the time differences, if I post something (and I'll admit I don't post very often, but some of the other UK members do) at 10am UK time then that becomes 5am in Toronto and I guess I'd have to wait at least 4/5 hours before it is looked at by the site management for approval.

This assumes that no one in the UK is able to Feature posts.  But again, if folks are participating in real-time, chances are that they will be set to "all comments" mode.

An assumption that ALL posts are valid unless otherwise marked is a more trusting and for me inclusive way to manage the threads.

Why does "Featured" mean valid?  I think about a dozen times already we've said that it means that the post is very good, not that it's simply not awful.  And as I said above, we can't be inclusive anymore -- the site is becoming too hard to read.  It's this, or eliminating posts, or letting the place get out of control.  We didn't want to go the censorship route, and we don't want the place to become unreadable.  This seemed to be the best compromise.
laketrout - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 07:34 AM EDT (#144366) #
I also think the the default setting for registers members should be to see all comments and not just featured comments.  If your reasoning for showing featured coments is to not clutter the site for casual visitors then I thinks that's great.  But if someone has taken the time to register then I think that person has moved beyond just a casual visitor.  If someone has taken the time to respend to a thread they most likely would want to not only see all comments but there comment and any replies to those comments.  And for the casual (non-registered) viewer, I agree - show only featured comments.
Named For Hank - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 09:06 AM EDT (#144371) #
laketrout, it is a one time, simple step to change your default to "show all comments".  People are acting as if they have to go through repeated physical pain to change this setting!

Considering that we intend to allow things to range further in the comments than we otherwise would and only delete offensive material, we believe that it's in the best interests of allowing new users to let them ease themselves into the site at their own pace, rather than just throwing them into the pool the minute they register.  Remember, these measures are not directed at long-term Bauxites!  We don't think that many of you will stay with "Featured Only".  Why should you?  Yes, you all defaulted to it at the upgrade -- sorry, that's the way it happened.  But if you click on your preferences and check a box, you're back to exactly the way the site was before, except with a little more freedom and a nicer banner.
China fan - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 09:20 AM EDT (#144375) #

     For what it's worth, I was a "new user" and "casual visitor" just a few months ago, during all the off-season excitement, and I never found it "daunting" to see 100 or 200 posts.  I think the roster members are being too modest.  This has always been a high-quality highly-intelligent discussion group.  If we have to scroll past a few comments that are a bit lower quality, I don't think it's a problem.  I think any experienced Internet surfer is accustomed to that.  The signal-to-noise ratio here has always been quite good.   I think the community of BB posters is deserving of encouragement, and the potential bruised feelings of someone whose comment is "non-featured" could be discouraging to the community here. 

    At the same time, I admit that I wasn't aware of the problem of deleted posts and emails to violators.  Perhaps you can explain a bit more about that.  If this was a problem -- if you had to send out a lot of emails and delete a lot of posts -- can you perhaps explain the problem?  I'm a bit surprised, since I'm normally quite impressed by the intelligence of the posts here.   What are the most common violations?  Personally, as a free-speech advocate, I would hope that very few comments are actually so egregious as to warrant a deletion.

    

Named For Hank - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 10:23 AM EDT (#144381) #
For what it's worth, I was a "new user" and "casual visitor" just a few months ago, during all the off-season excitement, and I never found it "daunting" to see 100 or 200 posts.

Problem being that 100-200 posts during the off-season generally means twice or four times as much during the season itself.

 I think the roster members are being too modest.  This has always been a high-quality highly-intelligent discussion group.  If we have to scroll past a few comments that are a bit lower quality, I don't think it's a problem.

However, you're saying this having seen the cleaned-up version.  You don't see the stuff we delete.  And we're tired of doing it, especially for the stuff that's not offensive but just a lousy post.  I'll get into examples in a sec.

  I think any experienced Internet surfer is accustomed to that.  The signal-to-noise ratio here has always been quite good.   I think the community of BB posters is deserving of encouragement, and the potential bruised feelings of someone whose comment is "non-featured" could be discouraging to the community here.

Here it is again -- there's not "unfeaturing" going on.  All posts start unfeatured.  Good posts get featured.

    At the same time, I admit that I wasn't aware of the problem of deleted posts and emails to violators.  Perhaps you can explain a bit more about that.  If this was a problem -- if you had to send out a lot of emails and delete a lot of posts -- can you perhaps explain the problem?  I'm a bit surprised, since I'm normally quite impressed by the intelligence of the posts here.   What are the most common violations?  Personally, as a free-speech advocate, I would hope that very few comments are actually so egregious as to warrant a deletion.


Here is a very real post that was at the centre of a lot of e-mailing:

Cristian your funny LOL!!!!1

I am not exaggerating.  That is the exact text of the post.  This user had been spoken to on a number of occassions without his posts being deleted, basically being asked to step it up a bit, to proofread what he wrote and to spend a little more time thinking out his posts.  He missed the message, over and over again.  I spent about two weeks trying to get through to him that no one thought he was stupid, that we just all wanted him to slow down and use the preview button and read over what he had written before hitting "submit".  He refused, spent a lot of time insulting us, and is now banned.

He was not a stupid guy.  He had interesting things to say, but often would take multiple posts to get out what he was trying to write -- multiple posts in a row, separated by seconds.  We thought maybe with some work we could get him to relax and become a valuable contributor.  Instead, he's banned.

Under the new system, we don't have to worry that "Cristian your funny LOL!!!!1" will be the impression that new people have of Batter's Box, of it's community, which for the most part is the smartest and most well-spoken online community that I have come across.  But posts like that, especially a lot of them in rapid succession, make Batter's Box look like your average, crappy forum.  Now, we don't have to delete them and we don't have to spend two weeks trying to reform the poster -- he'll either get the message that he's not being featured because his posts are not up to the standard that we're trying to set and try to improve, or he'll move on, or he'll continue to not bother us because he's not a "featured" part of Batter's Box.  But we won't have to ban him and we won't have to be called a barrage of nasty names.

The most common problems are personal attacks, which we will still delete (a play can be terrible or a managerial decision bad without the player or manager being 'a waste of skin' or 'an abomination who should never have been born' or 'he's so bad I hope he gets the flesh eating disease because it would be good for the team' -- criticism is healthy and great, but it can also be accomplished without being insulting).  But the problem that really inspired Featured Comments was the one I'm detailing here -- inoffensive but awful posts that give a bad impression of the Batter's Box community.
Mike Green - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 10:47 AM EDT (#144387) #

To add to NFH's comments, I have set my Preferences to "All Comments".  I personally do not mind reading all the comments made by BB readers.  OK, that's an exaggeration.  The insulting ones really bug me, but that is under 1% of comments.

The end goal here is to have a thoughtful, respectful conversation about baseball. That does not mean the occasional silliness (we remember the cuttlefish fondly, which perhaps Mike M will bestow on us again) and humour are not welcome. 

Magpie - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 10:50 AM EDT (#144389) #
While it's truly startling how unusual it is for the Roster (there is no cabal - none, I say) to be in general agreement about much of anything - the notion of "free speech" is one of those issues. It's simply not a concern most of us think is relevant. Not to the Box, and the reason for that is that none of us regards the Box as a public forum. (And in fact, the notion of the Box as a "forum" always inspires shrieks of horror and dread within the Roster - people have left grumbling that the Box is heading in that direction - and consideration is often instantly given to almost any desperate measure that might  prevent the Box from becoming a "forum.")

It doesn't say "interactive magazine" on the banner anymore - and does that banner rock or what? -  but nevertheless "magazine" much closer to our own perspective on This Thing of Ours. (Hey, am I using the royal "we?" Power. Corrupts. Cool.) Anyway, people will exercise their rights to free speech and say anything they like, and that's the way it should and must be - but we are under no obligation to publish it. It's not a public forum. Because we do generally publish almost everything that our registered readers submit to the site actually makes it more necesary for us to wave our hammer in the air and announce from time to time that we are not the moderators of a forum - we are the publishers and editors of... something else.

OK, there's me waving my hammer in the air. I personally wanted to be really difficult about this - I didn't want the option to "Feature All" to even exist - I wanted to make everybody choose it every time they opened a story, and have it apply only for that story, and only while they had it opened. And in the meantime, maybe 1 out of 5 comments would get featured. I would have been what you remember from school as a "hard marker," unlike that soft-hearted nice guy that was Named For Hank. Which makes me the resident curmudgeon, I suppose. I am becoming a Grumpy Old Man, and I had no idea how deeply satisfying that turns out to be. Just you wait, you'll see...

As a practical matter, featured comments may not make a large impression on many of our registered readers, who will simply toggle their preferences to "Show All Featured" and carry on much the same as before. What is seldom understood, however, is that the vast majority of Box readers are not registered. A vast, vast majority. So we don't think of them as "lurkers" - we think of them as our audience, our readers. And because we all think of ourselves as writers... well, we love and cherish our readers. They make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And the site that these readers - the vast majority of our readers - will be seeing is going be a little different from this week forward

So where do you fit into our master plan for World Domination, oh faithful Box registered reader and regular contributor? The site is not really built for you, is it - it's not a forum for you to vent and rant. What's the deal?

Well, we're using you. Nyah-hah-hah. (Attempts to twirl ends of mustache...) You provide intelligent baseball discussion and conversation, and we will gleefully, happily, contentedly, blissfully  - publish it. There are other reasons as well, I suppose. We have to recruit our new minions somewhere if we really plan to rule the earth. All Zombie-Like Cults require fresh meat at regular intervals. Feedback is useful and necessary and important. But mostly - we want your intelligence and your insight and your insight and your talent. We want it badly.

Give it to us! Now! I want it! Resistance is futile!
Mick Doherty - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 10:59 AM EDT (#144390) #
The curmudgeonly tone of the opinions expressed by Mr. Magpie does not necessarily reflect that of the roster, though the opinions themselves do, in fact, reflect same. Do not remove this disclaimer under penalty of law. For optimum performance and safety, please read these instructions carefully. Void where prohibited. No representation or warranty, express or implied, with respect to the completeness, accuracy, fitness for a particular purpose, or utility of these materials or any information or opinion contained herein. Actual mileage may vary. All models over 18 years of age. No animals were harmed during the production of this comment. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or events, past, present or future, is purely coincidental. This product is meant for educational purposes only. Some assembly required. Batteries not included. Package sold by weight, not volume. Contents may settle during shipment. No user-serviceable parts inside. Use only as directed. This disclaimer may not be rebroadcast without the express written consent of Major League Baseball.
Andrew K - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 11:27 AM EDT (#144393) #

I appreciate the candour and humour of Magpie's post, but I must admit that I don't understand it.

On one hand, it suggests that the Roster see the articles and not the comments as the main value of the site, and I receive this impression most strongly from a number of Roster members' posts. Comments are apparently tolerated at best. On the other, it asks for the community-at-large to contribute, presumably in the comments. I don't understand the incentive to contribute a comment when, according to Magpie's curmudgeon-style moderation, it would have only a 20% chance of most readers being able to see it.

Well, we're using you. Nyah-hah-hah. (Attempts to twirl ends of mustache...) You provide intelligent baseball discussion and conversation, and we will gleefully, happily, contentedly, blissfully  - publish it.

I honestly don't understand why this doesn't contradict the earlier part of the post. I must be missing the point. Surely the bargain does indeed cut both ways.

 

But argument aside, it boils down to not feeling welcome. Perhaps that's not the right word: not valued, perhaps. And there goes any desire to contribute substantively.

Named For Hank - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 11:33 AM EDT (#144395) #
On one hand, it suggests that the Roster see the articles and not the comments as the main value of the site, and I receive this impression most strongly from a number of Roster members' posts. Comments are apparently tolerated at best. On the other, it asks for the community-at-large to contribute, presumably in the comments. I don't understand the incentive to contribute a comment when, according to Magpie's curmudgeon-style moderation, it would have only a 20% chance of most readers being able to see it.

Well, as you can see, to date far more than 20% of comments are being featured.  Mags wanted it tighter, and as a group we decided not to go that far.

As for "Comments are apparently tolerated at best", who has said that?  Badly written comments are tolerated at best.  We love well-written comments!

But argument aside, it boils down to not feeling welcome. Perhaps that's not the right word: not valued, perhaps. And there goes any desire to contribute substantively.

I'm not trying to put words into your mouth, but that reads to me like "if you don't present every one of my posts as the very best your site has to offer, I'm not going to post".  Why would you not feel "valued"?  I'm not trying to harass you, I really do want to know your thinking on this.
Cristian - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 11:39 AM EDT (#144396) #
Aw c'mon NFH.  Sometimes I'm just so funny that it has to be acknowledged in a post unrelated to the thread topic and with no substance.  Though I can't help but think that if the poster had written "you're funny" rather than the nettish "your funny" half the roster would have been fine with the post.

I've held my opinion about the new system in check for the past two days.  Now that I've thought about it rationally, I must say I really don't mind it.  If I can make one suggestion, it would be that the little balls not appear beside featured comments.  It's pretty disheartening to log back in just to find that your post wasn't deemed valuable.  The system seems arbitrary and it looks to me that some posters' posts get featured regardless of how inane and pointless the posts are.  Yes, I do mean that roster members are able to wisecrack, add nothing and still have their comedy stylings featured.

This is fine really.  It's your site and you guys can feature whatever you want.  I also understand that with every roster member having different standards and the ability to choose which posts to feature, the system will ALWAYS feel arbitrary.  What you can do, for those of us who want to read every post, is not make it obvious what posts you guys deem valuable.  If the system is really set up for non-logged in visitors, then I don't see a problem with my suggestion.  They'll still see what you want them to see.

HEY HO
THE BALLS BESIDE FEATURED COMMENTS MUST GO

Magpie - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 11:48 AM EDT (#144398) #
it suggests that the Roster see the articles and not the comments as the main value of the site

Well, DUH! -  of course we do. We work really really hard on them. Come on, that ought to be a no-brainer. Of course I regard an article that I spent almost a month researching and writing as more valuable to the site in general, and me in particular, than a comment that was dashed off in 30 seconds or less.

The articles are why the site exists.

And we want comments. And we want them to be good comments. And I want next week's winner in the seventh at Fort Erie, and I want universal love, peace, and understanding, and I want that girl I saw on the subway last night, and I really want my hair back... and I want comments. Insightful and perceptive and informative and interesting.

I want it all. What's so hard to understand?

OK, I'm probably not going to get everything I want. But what the hell... if you think small, you'll be small. Or as Earl Weaver would put it... "if you play for one run, that's all you're going to get."

Named For Hank - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 11:51 AM EDT (#144400) #
Aw c'mon NFH.  Sometimes I'm just so funny that it has to be acknowledged in a post unrelated to the thread topic and with no substance.  Though I can't help but think that if the poster had written "you're funny" rather than the nettish "your funny" half the roster would have been fine with the post.

You are 100% correct -- if it had said "Cristian, you're funny!" instead of "Cristian your funny LOL!!!1", it wouldn't have been a last-straw post.  I mean, who can look at that in preview and not see the 1 at the end?

I've held my opinion about the new system in check for the past two days.  Now that I've thought about it rationally, I must say I really don't mind it.  If I can make one suggestion, it would be that the little balls not appear beside featured comments.  It's pretty disheartening to log back in just to find that your post wasn't deemed valuable.  The system seems arbitrary and it looks to me that some posters' posts get featured regardless of how inane and pointless the posts are.  Yes, I do mean that roster members are able to wisecrack, add nothing and still have their comedy stylings featured.

I myself have featured a number of wisecracks by non-Roster members.  Part of this is about the fact that we don't want to have an always 100% serious and on-topic site, but we also want to keep it readable and not let it run wild.

(By the way, we run into this a lot -- often times, people assume that posters who have been around a long time or who post frequently or who were roster members in the past are on the roster.  They ain't.  There are actually not that many of us on the roster right now.)

I certainly understand your criticism about the little balls, though -- we'll all have to chat about that.
Andrew K - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 11:59 AM EDT (#144403) #

I appreciate that you're asking a genuine question, NFH, and will try to answer sensibly.


As for "Comments are apparently tolerated at best", who has said that? 

That's my interpretation of this bit:

the notion of the Box as a "forum" always inspires shrieks of horror and dread within the Roster - people have left grumbling that the Box is heading in that direction - and consideration is often instantly given to almost any desperate measure that might  prevent the Box from becoming a "forum." 


I'm not trying to put words into your mouth, but that reads to me like "if you don't present every one of my posts as the very best your site has to offer, I'm not going to post".  Why would you not feel "valued"? 

It's actually quite hard to answer and I wouldn't want you to think that the featured-comments thing is the only non-welcoming feature. That's been a building feeling for over a year now. And it really applies not to posting average comments, which I would probably continue to do if permitted, but potentially to offering more substantial analyses.

On reflection, I realise that I've been an active member of a number of internet communities where moderation has been employed and it has never bugged me so much as here. I think the key features here are a) that the moderation increases the divide between roster and non-roster members, making the public-at-large feel particularly second class, and b) that the default is for posts not only to be non-featured but to be completely hidden from all non-registered readers. The very existence of non-featured comments appears to be denied, unless one is registered (from a brief glance, anyway).

To return to your question, you surely see that "if you don't present every one of my posts as the very best your site has to offer" is not equivalent to "if you hide some of my posts from the vast majority of your readers". (Magpie does say that the lurkers are a vast majority). I really have no problem with rewarding and highlighting good posts -- who would? -- but this is not the same as hiding (by default and non-optionally for most readers) the others. Most "forums" work on the former principle.

Magpie - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 12:16 PM EDT (#144410) #
a number of internet communities where moderation has been employed and it has never bugged me so much as here.

This seems to be a common experience. I wouldn't know, but I have formed the impression that other places on the internet function differently. But that's their business. There are no moderators here, and moderation is not employed. (I am, in fact, an enemy of moderation in all its forms. The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom...)

We're trying to do something different. You can be part of it. If you want. But we do get to define what it is (and it's true that nothing gets the Collective Back up more than demands that we provide some sort of service, like a public utility.)
Andrew K - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 12:18 PM EDT (#144412) #

it suggests that the Roster see the articles and not the comments as the main value of the site

Well, DUH! -  of course we do. We work really really hard on them. Come on, that ought to be a no-brainer. Of course I regard an article that I spent almost a month researching and writing as more valuable to the site in general, and me in particular, than a comment that was dashed off in 30 seconds or less.

I think that this is a fallacy. I'm being really serious here and not running the articles down so please hear me out.

I love your writing, Magpie, and I fully appreciate the time you take over it. But if there are 100 comments in response to an article, and you would admit that some would be 30 second jobs but others involve a certain amount of research (some might have taken half an hour to research and whip up a table in the post, say), and bearing in mind that 100 different viewpoints from people with different skills has potentially a rounded view of whatever is being discussed, then the cumulative value in the comments can be of considerable value. It really can be worth more than the article itself.

(If I place my tongue firmly in my cheek I could say that some members of your generation, Magpie, perhaps don't understand the synergistic potentialities of the internet as a collaborative medium.)

It makes for an interesting thought-experiment. Suppose that BB (or any other blog/forum/whatever) had no comments but only the articles. Is it still valuable? I have to say that I would not come to this site at all often, maybe once a week to skim the minor league reports. Maybe to catch up on a game I missed, although there are many places to read game reports. It would have been different when Moffatt did his excellent roundups, but I understand the pressures that prevent this now. I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but my opinion is that the average (non-Magpie) articles here are not nearly of a comparable standard to, say, The Hardball Times (for analysis) or The Baseball Analysts (for narrative).

Then suppose that it only had comments but no articles. I can only speak for myself but I would still come here, and I would be keen to contribute.

I know jolly well that not all people feel the same way, but I would not be so quick to dismiss the value of comments compared with that of articles. I really don't think it's a no-brainer.

Mike Green - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 12:27 PM EDT (#144414) #

I can assure you, Andrew K, that when I write a minor league report or update or a "You Be The Manager", my primary audience is not the lurker, but the registered user.  We have registered users where the minor league teams are located who provide invaluable first-hand information through their comments (and photographs).  For "You Be the Manager", I am interested in responses to what I have written, not in having many lurkers read the piece. 

Hopefully, more of our lurkers will become registered users (it doesn't cost a cent!), and those who wish to see featured comments only could choose that, and those who wish to see all comments would choose that. 

Magpie - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 12:37 PM EDT (#144421) #
some members of your generation, Magpie, perhaps don't understand the synergistic potentialities of the internet as a collaborative medium.

Now that was just plain mean...:-)

Seriously, though, the very point you make about synergistic potentialities - that's actually one of the things that we're hoping will be achieved by featuring comments - by cutting away the wood when necessary, by highlighting writing that takes the discussion forward. I have no idea if this is a realistic hope or not...

As a practical matter, I seem to contribute two kinds of writing to the Box - the big set pieces that wander down some forgotten aspect of history and inspire very little discussion whatsoever. Lots of people read about 1920, and they're not "lurkers" - a liitle respect, please! They're my readers. I wasn't expecting a spirited discussion to follow.

But the other kind of piece I found myself writing almost always flowed out of something someone said in a comment. Granted, all too often last year it led to a Data Table explaining what the actual facts of the matter were, not that such an exercise didn't have its own rewards or interest - but quite often someone would think of something or speculate on something that... well, that led somewhere I wanted to go, which is always enough for me anyway - but seeing as how it had developed out of something being discussed on the site, I generally had company on the trip. That's the pay-off for me, anyway.
Craig B - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 12:37 PM EDT (#144422) #

I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but my opinion is that the average (non-Magpie) articles here are not nearly of a comparable standard to, say, The Hardball Times (for analysis) or The Baseball Analysts (for narrative).

As a THT writer and a reader and well-wisher of Rich and Bryan, I would disagree.  They are of at least a nearly comparable standard and depending on what the user wants, meet or exceed that standard.  With the caveat that the "average" Box article is a very different beast with a very different goal in mind. 

Unlike THT or the Analysts guys, very little of what is here is blah-blah-blah... the Batter's Box material usually has a specific purpose (a game report here, a Hall of Names there, a Minor League Update here, a Hall Watch there, or a Photo of the Week any given day).  In terms of achieving that purpose, I think that Batter's Box writers meet a high standard.  The prose ain't always as neat and pretty... we at THT, for example, have an editorial staff of several (wonderful and selfless) persons that slave over every article.  Da Box doesn't do that.  It's rawer, but its rawness doesn't prevent it from achieving a high standard.

At its best, Batter's Box is the best.  More superb work here has been published than anywhere else other than Hardball Times, and maybe Prospectus (although that's because they had several years' drop on Da Box).

Named For Hank - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 01:09 PM EDT (#144431) #
As for "Comments are apparently tolerated at best", who has said that? 

That's my interpretation of this bit:

the notion of the Box as a "forum" always inspires shrieks of horror and dread within the Roster - people have left grumbling that the Box is heading in that direction - and consideration is often instantly given to almost any desperate measure that might  prevent the Box from becoming a "forum."

What we mean when we say things like that is that a "forum" is a place where "Cristian your so funny LOL!!!!1" is not out of place.  We don't want to be that.
TA - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 01:52 PM EDT (#144438) #

I consider myself a very occasional, informed, and selective poster. I have been reading and enjoying this site for three years now and I thank all of you for the hard (unpaid) work that you have provided over the years.

I understand the rational behind your decision to institute a "featured comments" default, and if it brings some of the older posters back to the site then that is surely a good thing.

That said, I find the decision to be dissapointing. We can message the rhetoric but the decision is an elitist response to the increased traffic on the site, and discourages a casual poster from joining the discussion. I know this site is a Cabal (and of course there is no Cabal), yet I wonder if a more conventional Cabal could, and/or would, make the decision to "feature" comments. Hence I find this new development raises a contradiction about what an electronic Cabal is, and how the ideal is compromised with the intersection of this particular technology.

Again, this is your (Ca)ball and you are free to do what you want with it, but nonetheless I am truly saddened by the tone that is set with this decision.

Magpie - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 02:17 PM EDT (#144439) #
the decision is an elitist response to the increased traffic on the site

Almost. The decision is an elitist response to the increased noise on the site.

This manifests itself in collective irritation at the individual producing the noise. A cry goes up. "Why are we publishing that?" and "Posting is a privilege, not a right!" and "Ban the useless twerp." At which point, soft-hearted Aaron usually volunteers to write a letter, entreating the offender to do better.

What to do, what to do?

There is always going to be a dichotomy here - at one end of the argument is the position that "the articles are the content" of the magazine, and the discussion... they're more like letters to the editor? No one actually holds this position, by the way, so it's difficult to actually extend the metaphor...

At the other end is the position that the articles are handy launching points for discussion, and the discussion itself is the content. That way forum-ness lies, and the Box will not go there. If anyone actually holds this position, they've probably come to the wrong place.

Between these two poles we stumble along, trying to find a path we can all walk.
Pistol - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 02:25 PM EDT (#144441) #

We can message the rhetoric but the decision is an elitist response to the increased traffic on the site, and discourages a casual poster from joining the discussion.

I understand the elistist comment and to some extent agree with it.  That's just the direction that as a group the Roster chose to take.  We have to have a site that we enjoy because if we don't enjoy it the site wouldn't exist.  I can tell you we considered much more extreme measures from closing off all comments to making comments available to a select few posters.  But if we did that we'd close ourselves off to the future Robs and Magpies who do great work for the site and other quality posters that have yet to stumble upon Batter's Box so we ended up with the featured comments. 

The other point I disagree with.  I think featured comments encourages quality posters.   I'm more likely to post in a thread where there's a high percentage of great posts than one where the great posts are hit or miss, and when I do post I'll want to make sure that I'm not dropping the ball on the conversation.  When there's posts of unequal or poor quality there's less reason to want to make a top notch post, or even post at all.

Newton - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 02:36 PM EDT (#144444) #

While I'm generally indifferent about the "featured" post strategy,  it is important to recognize that the real strength of this site are the discussion threads. 

This site attracts a group of intelligent baseball fans and the discussion that takes place within these threads is often very enlightening. 

While many of the articles are excellent the vast majority of them are essentially initiating posts that are desgined to foster intelligent discussion.

I'm not sure if you have conducted any sort of analysis of the sites readership but if my own anecdotal memory serves me correctly those threads which receive the most posts are the Notes from Nowhere threads that discuss offseason rumours and player movement.   Its safe to say that few people come here to read  the "Hall of Names" articles...  not that I don't find them amusing from time to time.

Sometimes I find that there are far too many threads, many of which receive very little attention.   For example the team previews generate an average of what, 10 comments a piece.  A player by player analysis of individual Blue Jays and their career and season projections would be far more interesting and result in increased readership during the Spring.

The true articles that the site produces are quite excellent, but a fairly low percentage of the threads relate to such true articles.

King Ryan - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 02:47 PM EDT (#144449) #
I remember when I first visited Da Box.  'Twas in the 2003 season, a little under three years ago.  I read the site for many months without ever making a single commment.  Why did I not make any comments? Because I was afraid to.  Every comment was of such a high quality that I feared posting something out of line and refrained from ever saying anything.  I remember when I first decided I was going to post something...I must have spent 10 minutes looking over the post to make sure it was grammatically correct and didn't contain any blatant fallacies. 

That is what Batters Box was.  A site of such high standards that users like myself did not want to contribute for fear they wouldn't be good enough.   Really, you can measure the quality of a website by how much I post on it.  I post here all the time, now...

So, I can see why the Roster wants to get back to that.  I can see what they are trying to do.  They want their users to make sure that what they are posting brings something to the conversation.  Some may think this "featured" thing goes too far (I am undecided,) but I don't think they are trying to discourage contributors.  They are just trying to improve the contributions of those contributors.  By using this feature, maybe it will intice others to make their posts interesting and informative instead of the reactionary messageboardisms we've been getting lately.

Or something like that...

Named For Hank - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 03:42 PM EDT (#144459) #
I'm not sure if you have conducted any sort of analysis of the sites readership but if my own anecdotal memory serves me correctly those threads which receive the most posts are the Notes from Nowhere threads that discuss offseason rumours and player movement.   Its safe to say that few people come here to read  the "Hall of Names" articles...  not that I don't find them amusing from time to time.

If we were to determine how much a thread was read and appreciated by the number of comments it generated, we'd probably turn the site off and just put up a forum in its place.  It's not a good measure.
Newton - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 03:55 PM EDT (#144461) #

NFH:

I agree with you that generating a large number of posts shouldn't be the aim of the site, and that it isn't a perfect indicator of how much an article/thread is viewed/enjoyed, but it does indicate that many people do come to the site to state their opinions and to hear what others have to say about player movement, trades and rumours.  It's a tough balance no doubt between ensuring quality and enhancing readership/participation. 

Some of the analysis contained within those threads ie.  trying to quantify in runs scored/runs against terms whether the club benefitted from the Overbay trade for example, was analytically spectacular.   The articles aren't the only source of insight is all I'm saying, and you're featured comment strategy does take this element into account. 

I'd love to see articles dealing with specific transactions and specific in game strategies (ie the should Hill have bunted discussion currently taking place in another thread) that are intended to spark debate.   These debates currently tend to emerge in the threads, the threads are the true gold of the site, that's my point.  

Coming to Da Box should be like observing and occasionally contributing to a sort of baseball salon, a sandlot socratic dialogue.  This is why I check it out, and I believe it is what makes the site so unique.  Don't focus too much on the articles, focus on the debate/thread content (this is entirely consistent with your featured comment change).

Leigh - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 03:55 PM EDT (#144462) #

Newton,

While it may be true that many of the most lively threads are spawned by content-free, conversation-starting stories, it is somewhat misleading to equate 'lively' with 'best'.  Much of the writing here (very little of which emanates from my lazy ass) is top-notch stuff.  

Here is a little exercise:  go down to the 'Topics' menu on the left-hand side and click on "AL West Report".  There, you will find 12,531 of the most well-written stuff in existence about that divisions' teams in 2006 (the collective efforts of Mike D., Gitz and Lucas).  Or, you can go to other sites and endure insufferable pop-ups for the benefit of inferior content.  Or, you can go to Baseball Prospectus, get out your credit card and plop down $39.95 USD for the benefit of Joe Sheehan's AL West preview.*

That was more for the benefit of Andrew K. than you, Newton, but it was partially in response to your comment that the true value of the site comes from the conversation.  The conversation is good, but there is value to be found in simply reading.  All that said (or written, as it were), we want to inspire and participate in great baseball conversation, which is precisely the rationale for the new 'featured comments' feature.   By hiding the bad stuff, you can (or will bother to) see the good stuff and hopefully contribute to it.

*THT not included here because, well, THT is fantastic.

jjdynomite - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 05:19 PM EDT (#144472) #

It would be interesting to see what % of registered users switched from "Featured Comments Only" to "All Comments" upon first encountering battersbox.ca v3.5, and, of that percentage, how long it took them to do so.  For me, it took about 5 seconds.  It seems that most other registered respondents in this thread (who are not of the Roster and as such had this option) took about the same amount of time to make the switch.  *That* should tell the Roster something, that most committed Bauxites find value in reading ALL comments and don't want to see anything filtered except what they choose to mentally filter themselves.

---

Now that I see "All Comments", I see which ones are Featured, or "Baseballed", or not.  As such, I agree 100% with Cristian's earlier post (which happened to be "Baseballed").  Here is one paragraph (with hyperlinks removed):

Cristian - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 11:39 AM EDT (#144396)
I've held my opinion about the new system in check for the past two days.  Now that I've thought about it rationally, I must say I really don't mind it.  If I can make one suggestion, it would be that the little balls not appear beside featured comments.  It's pretty disheartening to log back in just to find that your post wasn't deemed valuable.  The system seems arbitrary and it looks to me that some posters' posts get featured regardless of how inane and pointless the posts are.  Yes, I do mean that roster members are able to wisecrack, add nothing and still have their comedy stylings featured.


To expand on this, let's take a look at today's "Jays 6, Twins 3" thread.  The following comment by me was not "Baseballed":

jjdynomite - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 12:39 PM EDT (#144423)
True, tie goes to the runner is rec/little league only, my bad.  I never played in the majors.  The following Rules refer to both the Hill out and the Adams safe: http://mlb.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/mlb/official_info/official_rules/runner_7.jsp.

And what's an opening day game without some controversy.  I love how on Gleeman's site they are dissing Brinkman for giving Doc such a large strike zone.  George Brett's nemesis strikes again.  JJ


The above post served to:
a. Clarify a mistaken comment I made in a previous post, re: tie goes to the runner, along with a link to the MLB rules that I researched to find out and posted the direct link for others to read.
b. Comment regarding comments posted on Aaron Gleeman's site, which I spent time perusing and thought humorous to mention.

While one can argue whether or not this is a "Baseball"-worthy post, the following got "Baseballs":

Named for Hank - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 01:17 PM EDT (#14433)
Was it Bengie Molina who blamed the Angels' loss in the bottom of the ninth via a botched rundown at Rogers Centre in '04 on the crowd noise?  He must think it's always loud here -- by next week he'll be wondering if everyone in Toronto was decimated by a plague.

(which was incorrect, as it was Jeff Davanon, not Molina; amusingly enough, VBF corrected NFH but VBF's comment did not get a Baseball).  And how about this one: 

Craig B - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 03:36 PM EDT (#144458)
"Look and listen".  Pistol is right now that I think about it; you don't go by sound alone but you have to use the sound.  I don't have the same level of umpire training that he does!  (Next year, I tell myself...)

The above were two pithy comments by longtime posters, one being a Rosterite and the other a retired Rosterite who writes for The Hardball Times.  Now, the Roster can do what they want to proritize their own Batter's Box experience.  I am not paying you guys anything, and I am grateful to have a board like this.

But I'm just not sure why I should be penalized in both my eyes and the eyes of other readers because I happened to move back to Toronto last year at which time I discovered the board (and lurked for a while before posting), while Roster members and alumni get the benefit of the doubt.  I proofread my comments and think before posting and it is disheartening to see that it doesn't seem to matter.  I am pretty sure if *I* had posted what NFH and Craig B posted it would not get a Baseball assigned.

IMHO the only way that this would work equitably is if some reader-enabling system was implemented that allows for post-specific approval ratings (i.e. Amazon). This would flag for end-users which posts are most worth reading, not some Roster-dictated Featured ("Baseballed") vs. Non-Featured indicator.  Maybe something to think about for v4.0.  Until then, keep up the good work.

greenfrog - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 07:17 PM EDT (#144480) #
For what it's worth, count me among the dissenters (Dave, Mylegacy, BCMike, Andrew K, Michael, Jacko, Uncle Jim, laketrout, TA, jjdynamite).

I appreciate this site a lot. For me, two things have completely transformed baseball fandom in recent years: the diversity (and quality) of commentary that is now accessible online, and the ability of fans to participate in a larger discussion via baseball websites. Instead of being passive consumers of (often mediocre) sports coverage, fans have a chance to listen and be heard.

For me, the wonder of the internet is that when people start communicating freely, new possibilities open up--both for the participant and the larger community. You no longer have to rely on your local reporter. You don't have to accept the conventional baseball wisdom that, for years, was simply recycled on TV or the radio. You can actually question received wisdom, and do it in an environment that not only tolerates, but positively encourages it.

I think the problem is that "featured posts" (at least as presently constituted) puts a chill on this freedom. First, it's disconcerting to think that a small, self-selected group is screening every thread to determine which posts are featured (and flagging them with a gold star, er, baseball) and which aren't. If nothing else, it brings a kind of self-consciousness to the process of posting and following the discussion. (I also can't figure out who would want to monitor these threads to evaluate posts for feature-worthiness.)

Second, I think readers are fully capable of assessing the merits of BB postings for themselves. In my experience, BB posters are, on the whole, a pretty intelligent and informed lot. I don't think they need to be told which posts should be "featured" and which ones shouldn't.

Third, I value the discussion as much as the articles. Unlike the featured articles, the discussion seems to be where readers/outsiders get to have their say without interference (as long as they're not being offensive, rude, excessively annoying, or incoherent--but that's really a separate issue).

As a friend recently said to me, there's a difference between administration and governance. I'm all for good governance. I don't want to live under a protectorate.

That's my basic argument. A few other points:

- Jjdynamite's post nicely captures the risk of perceived bias. Posters might well wonder whether "insiders" are more likely to get featured. My point is, you shouldn't even have to wonder

- If you're going to stick with the "featured posts", I think all the members should be allowed to select which posts should be featured

-If you aren't willing to do this, I would vote for dropping the baseball icon used to flag the featured posts. If the "featured"  appellation isn't such a big deal, why set them apart with a seal of approval?

Finally--these are obviously just some suggestions, albeit strongly-felt ones. I think the marketplace will determine where all this goes in the long run. Obviously, the people who run this site have every right to create their own rules--misguided or not. And, in the long run, nothing prevents members from migrating elsewhere (or setting up their own sites, as others have done recently). Me? The jury is still out.

Michael - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 08:52 PM EDT (#144482) #
It makes for an interesting thought-experiment. Suppose that BB (or any other blog/forum/whatever) had no comments but only the articles. Is it still valuable?

I think that's where the biggest mismatch between readers/commenters and Interactive Magazine authors.  IMHO I would nearly never come here if there were only the original articles with no discussion.  I do read some content that way (baseball prospectus), and IMO that content is of sufficiently high quality that I read it even without comments (but it would be even better if they had a commenting way.  But they, like BB, don't believe in it).  If there were no comments here I'd only come here if something at a site like baseballthinkfactory (complete with a comment mechanism) referrenced one of the articles. [And I think BTF versus BP provides a good contrast for the hypothetical question.  In my opinion BP articles on the whole are much better than BTF articles.  However, if I could only use one site for ever I'd use BTF over BP without a moments thought.  The commenting at BTF is way more important.  Smart people rely on intelligent free content from their users rather than having to produce all the content on their own].

Conversely, if there were only the comments and never the original articles I'd probably come here only slightly less often.  The site clearly wouldn't be as good as it is now, but it would be a lot closer and still be of value.

And I don't think I'm alone in my opinion of the relative importance of articles versus comments amongst people who are strictly readers/commenters.

Fundamentally I wouldn't make the claim that there is a free speech "right" to comment or that the owners of this site "need" to allow comments or allow non-featured comments to be viewed or whatever, but if the owners and authors of original content care about their readers then it is in their self interest to respect their wishes.  I mean if the writers of original articles just care about the writing of the articles they don't need to publish them to the web - they could just keep them in an offline journal.  The very fact that these articles are being published at all suggests that the authors are interested in getting their articles read.  And so much as that is their interest then they need to respect their readers.

Also, as a technical aside post-upgrade copy-paste isn't working right for me in the comments.  I'm using Firefox 1.5.0.1 and I wanted to use the mouse to copy/paste the previous comments that I was quoting and I got a security violation message telling me to use ctrl-V rather then selection paste in the mouse left-click paste way.  I'm not sure if the FCKeditor chrome is attempting some unkosher interception of UI commands or what but I don't remember that being a problem pre-upgrade.  This is a problem for people who like to tab browse and then copy-paste from one tab to the other.  ctrl-C/ctrl-V don't cross tab boundaries for me but mouse left click copy/paste does.  So, for instance, if I want to have another quote that I'm responding to from a different message still in this thread I can't do this.  I'm not sure if that is intentional (and given that there is the timeout to prevent/delay back-to-back posting I'm guessing it isn't) but I'd say it is suboptimal.

Another techincal note.  When I'm typing at the end of the message (sometimes in italics sometimes in regular text) and I hit the single quote key ['] it sometimes behaves crazily poping up find or occasionally highlighting a link (like I had tabbed through links on a page).  If I go back into the text and put the quote in in the middle of a sentence I have no problem.  It also doesn't happen 100% of the time (it happened on the apostrophe in that's at the start of this message and again in the aposphe in isn't in the italics text below).

Since paste is not working for me pretend there is a quote here from unclejim about timezone issues and defaulting to featured or a quote from NFH about why this isn't needed.

I agree that timezones are an issue.  I know I'm on the west coast and sometimes read/post from work in prime east coast times [like right now posting from work], but often read/post at midnight or later on the West coast time when few people are up.  I don't like the fact that it then takes a long time to "feature" these posts.  Also the fact that posts get "featured" after the fact could be annoying as it leads to inconsistency.  If we expect that >50% of the posts will be features (which if NFH's description is true is the case.  And based on usage to date this seems like it is true) then it would make more sense to start posts as featured and deprioritize them to not-feature status only when needed.

And if the true reason for the featured/not-featured is posts like the "Christian your funny LOL!!!!1" then the act of defeaturing those posts is a kinder, gentler way than deleting them.  Deleting posts in general is problematic as it can lead to a loss in signal as well as a loss in noise.

I don't know if anyone here reads the 2+2 poker boards (also an organization that is a publishing organization that has discussion boards), but there was a large contraversy when Paul Phillips, a well known dot-com millionare and semi-professional poker player, left never to come back after one of his posts was deleted.  His post was deemed offensive by one of the moderators and the insight of someone who plays a lot of televised poker was lost.  The de-featuring is definitely an improvement over deletion.  But I think a default of featuring posts is useful.

Hopefully the debate/controversy over featuring will go away when everyone who registers and posts ends up setting their default to show all featured posts.  I'd second the comment of Christian that I want a setting that will not only show me the non-featured posts but will make it so I can't even tell the difference between featured posts and non-featured posts.  Then I never have to worry about featuring (because I don't really care much if people who read but never post can read my comments or not - what I care about is people who do comment can read and reply to my comments).

Named For Hank - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 09:44 PM EDT (#144486) #
Conversely, if there were only the comments and never the original articles I'd probably come here only slightly less often.  The site clearly wouldn't be as good as it is now, but it would be a lot closer and still be of value.

And I don't think I'm alone in my opinion of the relative importance of articles versus comments amongst people who are strictly readers/commenters.


While you are not alone, you are not in the majority by any measure -- we recently had issues with the domain registration, causing battersbox.ca to be unavailable.  We sent out a message to all registered users telling them where they could find our site at a temporary address.  While the number of comments did not decrease in a meaningful way, the number of hits and the number of individual visits went down something like 90%.

In other words, only about 10% of our readership logs in and comments.
Named For Hank - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 09:52 PM EDT (#144487) #
I think the problem is that "featured posts" (at least as presently constituted) puts a chill on this freedom. First, it's disconcerting to think that a small, self-selected group is screening every thread to determine which posts are featured (and flagging them with a gold star, er, baseball) and which aren't. If nothing else, it brings a kind of self-consciousness to the process of posting and following the discussion. (I also can't figure out who would want to monitor these threads to evaluate posts for feature-worthiness.)

The same ones of us who spend lots of time deleting posts and trying to reform readers.  I've said it more than once above and I'm tired of repeating myself, so I guess I'll just ask you to scroll back to see why we're doing this.

Second, I think readers are fully capable of assessing the merits of BB postings for themselves. In my experience, BB posters are, on the whole, a pretty intelligent and informed lot. I don't think they need to be told which posts should be "featured" and which ones shouldn't.

Then they can easily click on the preference to view all comments all the time.

Third, I value the discussion as much as the articles. Unlike the featured articles, the discussion seems to be where readers/outsiders get to have their say without interference (as long as they're not being offensive, rude, excessively annoying, or incoherent--but that's really a separate issue).

No, it's exactly the issue we're addressing.

I feel like I'm repeating myself and that no one is reading my previous reponses, and I'm tired and grumpy, so I'll bow out of the thread now.
Michael - Wednesday, April 05 2006 @ 09:59 PM EDT (#144488) #
Conversely, if there were only the comments and never the original articles I'd probably come here only slightly less often.  The site clearly wouldn't be as good as it is now, but it would be a lot closer and still be of value.

And I don't think I'm alone in my opinion of the relative importance of articles versus comments amongst people who are strictly readers/commenters.


While you are not alone, you are not in the majority by any measure -- we recently had issues with the domain registration, causing battersbox.ca to be unavailable.  We sent out a message to all registered users telling them where they could find our site at a temporary address.  While the number of comments did not decrease in a meaningful way, the number of hits and the number of individual visits went down something like 90%.

In other words, only about 10% of our readership logs in and comments.


Well that doesn't really tell you the whole story. Because:
  1. Not everyone who is registered realized the site was down, so you didn't get all the comments you would have gotten. I.e., I didn't see the email until after the site was back up but I did try to go to the site while it was down (repeatedly). Maybe it is telling that I visit BP, BTF, Y!sports, BB, and 2+2 all more than I visit my gmail account that gets emails from sites I've registered from.
  2. Do the people who never write comments come to the site:
    • a) to read the articles
    • b) to read the articles+discussion
    • c) to read just the discussion
    I'd say b is the most popular. But if I think about threads I never write a comment in, for me, c is more important than a. I.e., the discussion is more valuable than the articles - in general - even for people not contributing to the discussion.
Technical aside issue: If I enter the text in plain text and hit preview the comment text doesn't stay as I wrote it (which would be useful as then I can correct HTML or display issues in my written content) but instead switches to HTML formatted even in the comment text box.  This is suboptimal because it means if there was a bug that I caught when I previewed it I get the bug propogated and then hidden in the comment text box.
Geoff - Thursday, April 06 2006 @ 12:44 AM EDT (#144498) #
Obtuse is probably too insulting, but the exchange NFH offers above illustrates the difficulty in debating this issue with those concerned.
Unlike the featured articles, the discussion seems to be where readers/outsiders get to have their say without interference (as long as they're not being offensive, rude, excessively annoying, or incoherent--but that's really a separate issue).

No, it's exactly the issue we're addressing.

If you can't define the issues, you can't debate them.

On the one side, there is a concern that free speech will most certainly be violated, that people will be marginalised, and the elite are abusing their power. On the other side, there are explanations that it is only a system to filter the rude, the offensive, the imbecilic. Although sometimes they go off that message.

I don't expect the Roster wants to stonewall every thought and remark that doesn't quite meet approval. Why would they do that now? They could have always done it, but look at all the comments that remain. Suddenly they need to legitimise discarding the less-than-worthy? I don't think the standards of expectation really change here. See here to be assured that there will not be a long delay in getting comments approved. If there is any source of concern, it might be that.

In my view, I'd like to turn off the baseballs and the notes on how many comments are approved. What do I care what's approved? I changed my setting to view all comments permanently, so really there is nothing about the site that changes for me. Maybe others can't see the comment I wrote until it's been approved, but what of it? Regular readers like myself can still read the site as it's always been. I expect there are enough admin to approve any sensible comment within a day. I expect it's not difficult to set comments to approve.

Yet there is another side to the issue NFH does also suggest that the system will be more selective. But again I say, so what if it is? I don't understand whether the direction will be to approve only a small handful of comments -- only ones relevant to the story, up to a point, or if it will be every comment that isn't offensive or baseless. Whichever, just change the setting in your preferences and all will be like it was.

I see this as not a system to help average readers improve the readability of the site for themselves, but as a system to attract more people into the community. I'd like to know whether the featured comments will be really limited just to draw people in, or very broad to exclude only the very marginal. And then I'd like to see the baseballs and the messages about featured comments disappear. Because really, if it doesn't help me, and it doesn't affect other readers and commenters who read the site, I don't want the distraction.

It would be nice to have a ranking system la /. to improve the readability of the site, but that's another can of worms. Then many folks here would really get up in arms, once posters start getting different levels and fighting about the scoring. This is hardly a relevant filter. Perhaps it should have been turned off by default, but then who would complain that they shouldn't have to turn it on to see what the elite were filtering? Maybe I'm wrong, but this shouldn't affect registered users, except those who really do try to use this as a system to improve the readability of the site. And if that's you, let me know if it actually works.

Geoff - Thursday, April 06 2006 @ 12:48 AM EDT (#144499) #
correction: the statement in the second-to-last paragraph should read " if it doesn't help me, and it doesn't affect other readers and commenters who are registered users of the site, I don't want the distraction.
robertdudek - Thursday, April 06 2006 @ 12:59 AM EDT (#144500) #
Andrew K wrote:

It makes for an interesting thought-experiment. Suppose that BB (or any other blog/forum/whatever) had no comments but only the articles. Is it still valuable? I have to say that I would not come to this site at all often, maybe once a week to skim the minor league reports.

............

It need not be a thought experiment. The Hardball Times features regular contenet with no reader commentary featured and is one of the highest traffic "non-commerical" baseball sites around. I consider Batter's Box and The Hardball Times both to be among the dozen best baseball websites in existence, in terms of quality of content (if not #1 and #2, but that may be my bias showing).




robertdudek - Thursday, April 06 2006 @ 01:17 AM EDT (#144501) #
I remember when I first visited Da Box.  'Twas in the 2003 season, a little under three years ago.  I read the site for many months without ever making a single commment.  Why did I not make any comments? Because I was afraid to.  Every comment was of such a high quality that I feared posting something out of line and refrained from ever saying anything.  I remember when I first decided I was going to post something...I must have spent 10 minutes looking over the post to make sure it was grammatically correct and didn't contain any blatant fallacies.


This paragraph brought a nostalgic tear to my eye. The Box of 2003 was a beautiful thing, like the Big Red Machine or Roberto Clemente's throwing arm. Consigned to history, but fondly remembered by those whom it touched.

And now a new site will rise from the ashes of the old one. It will not be like the old Box, but it will be a beautiful thing.

robertdudek - Thursday, April 06 2006 @ 01:28 AM EDT (#144502) #
One last comment from me on this topic,

For those of you who feel offended by the changeover (to featured comments) and who yearn for a more wide-open egalitarian place to discuss baseball, my humble suggestion is that you get together and create such a place for yourselves. Put in the work. Build a home of your own. Then you might get an inkling of what it has been like for the people who built this place we call Da Box.



MulRedux - Thursday, April 06 2006 @ 06:18 AM EDT (#144506) #

I sure wouldn't want to go through all this trouble just to make the comments section slightly less noisy and I would also question how many people are going to choose to read just read the featured comments (anyone)? I almost never post outside of the fantasy threads and very rarely logged in but enjoy reading all of the comments and if it means that I have to stay logged in from now into the future to make that happen, then so be it.

As a previous poster mentioned, I believe *I* am most qualified to determine what I feel is 'noise' and what is a quality post so I'll choose to read all of them. If a member of the roster wants to go through all the threads to clean them up, I don't object in the least: I just wonder for whom they're being cleaned.

Named For Hank - Thursday, April 06 2006 @ 07:11 AM EDT (#144507) #
MulRedux -- as I said before, this is at least partially to avoid the pain of e-mailing, e-mailing, e-mailing and deleting and then banning when the person doesn't take it well.  It's a useless, stupid cycle that we've been through so many times, and I'm tired of it because it always ends with me being called an asshole, though I've bent over backwards to be nice throughout the process.

If you think you've been reading every post on Batter's Box up until now, you're really, really wrong.  Perhaps that is the fundamental disconnect here -- there was never a "before I could always see all the posts".  Well, maybe four years ago.  But not recently and not by a longshot.  My detailed explanation for China fan above is a real and very frequent occurence.
MulRedux - Thursday, April 06 2006 @ 07:41 AM EDT (#144508) #

NFH, my eyes would probably ignore that post even if it were still here, but I definately appreciate that it's not. I was referring more to baseball related posts and relevant discussion that isn't necessarily judged as "featured" by those who control such things. I should also make clear I'm not arguing against this idea at all; you've left plenty of 'outs' for people who would rather not utilize the feature option.  I think at the end of the day I would just rather see attention paid by roster members to the content of the articles as opposed to the content of the threads, because as a visitor of this site I get more out of the articles (and pictures) than I do the discussion.

That being said this is still a great community of people here and I read most of the threads religiously. I also enjoy participating in the game chat, especially since out here in the west there aren't a plethora of baseball fans that like to sit around, watch a game and BS.

Named For Hank - Thursday, April 06 2006 @ 08:50 AM EDT (#144509) #
 I think at the end of the day I would just rather see attention paid by roster members to the content of the articles as opposed to the content of the threads, because as a visitor of this site I get more out of the articles (and pictures) than I do the discussion.

And that's a big part of why we're doing this.  This system is work intensive, but not so much as the old system.  In that single example above I could have prepped and posted probably three more photos of the week had I not been constantly e-mailing that one user.
Craig B - Thursday, April 06 2006 @ 08:51 AM EDT (#144510) #

For those of you who feel offended by the changeover (to featured comments) and who yearn for a more wide-open egalitarian place to discuss baseball, my humble suggestion is that you get together and create such a place for yourselves. Put in the work. Build a home of your own. Then you might get an inkling of what it has been like for the people who built this place we call Da Box.

I can't endorse this comment strongly enough.  DO IT!  I really encourage anyone, whether they like Batter's Box, hate Batter's Box, like the Old Box better, like the new Box more... whatever.  Maybe I'm restless by nature, but the wonderful thing about the internet is that it allows you to get your hands dirty and build a home for whatever you want, without any capital required other than your own sweat.

Creating Batter's Box and building was one of the most fun things I have done these last few years.

This isn't a brush-off, and it's definitely not a joke.  Go forth (all of you) and build something great, and tell us about it.  I'll make sure to show up and talk and I'm always available for advice.  Just as working on Baseball Primer inspired me in some of the ways that Da Box was built, I'm taking those ideas I gained here and putting them to work at Tyblog (especially on Tyblog version 2, coming soon), in my work for The Hardball Times, and on my new freaky-deaky site which is coming soon (hint: www.baseballchurch.com).

If you want something but no one out there provides it, the only solution is to build it yourself.  And don't forget - e-mail me (cb4@cashette.com works well) and ask for help, or tell me about it.

Craig B - Thursday, April 06 2006 @ 08:53 AM EDT (#144511) #
I don't mean that I created or built this place myself, by the way.  It was a team effort and I played a small part.
Joe - Thursday, April 06 2006 @ 09:55 AM EDT (#144514) #
Okay, everyone, thanks for your feedback. We understand your viewpoint, and discussions are ongoing within the Roster to fine-tune the presentation of Featured Comments.

I'd appreciate it if, for now, you could restrict further comments in this thread to technical problems and questions, and further feature suggestions.

Thanks!

Spicol - Thursday, April 06 2006 @ 09:57 AM EDT (#144517) #

I've written letters to Sports Illustrated, Macleans and National Geographic a number of times. I've yet to actually see one of them published in the magazine the following month and I'm fine with that. I liken the featured comments to that "Mailbag" section you see in the magazines I mentioned, only we're fortunate enough to have *many* more comments shown and to have the ability to respond to those comments as well, hopefully on route to a well organized and quality discussion. Hopefully others can see that distinction as well and are encouraged by it to write in with salient questions and points. And, as others have said, if you want to see every comment, every reader can have that ability; this is a rather small issue.

Keep doing what you're doing, guys. Great job.

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