On the heels of OCC's recent post about BTB site stats, posters and the like, I've been thinking a lot about BTB and how we can continue to enhance the poster/commenter/lurker experience here and I thought I would throw out some observations and ideas for general feedback.
First and foremost, I think BTB has an outstanding cadre of front page writers and contributors. But what sets BTB apart from other SB Nation sites is clearly the quality of its fanposters (aka Cowboys fans). What stands out is the sheer volume of posts that are so well-written (without huge flaws in grammar and sentence structure), well thought-out (organized in a way that is coherent) and present a cogent line of thinking about a worthy topic as a general rule. At the same time, what frustrates me is that, in the ensuing threads, people make fantastic comments, which garner praise for their insight from other readers but those readers FAIL TO REC THEM. One thing we seem to lag behind our SB Nation brethren in is the notion of making comments green within a thread based on rec's from other BTB'ers. This is a travesty because I can tell you, from being an avid reader of many other teams' SB Nation blogs, that the comments on our threads are as good if not better than anything fans of other teams can muster up with their limited grey matter. So, I started with an easy behavioral change here, folks...
NEW BEHAVIOR: Recommend COMMENTS in the threads when they're worthy
Next, and staying on the topic of recommendations, I wanted to bring up the discussion of when, why and how often we recommend posts or comments. This will sound like a criticism (and maybe it is) of our community, but I have too often seen some thought-provoking, well-written pieces that don't get recommended because people don't "agree" with them. By the same token, I think other blogs do a better job of making comments within the threads go green because people see value in the comment that made people think or articulated their thoughts in a way that was unique and laudable. Personally, I tend to recommend the posts and comments that spur me to challenge my own positions as well as those I am in alignment with. It may come as a shock to you but people who write posts that essentially say, "Jason Witten is the best all-around TE in the NFL" tend not to get my praise because, well, it's not something I consider novel. Frankly, posts like those leave me wondering why someone felt the need to write it. You just won't find me writing a post on the subject...especially to an audience of Cowboys fans. It would bore me just to type it up. Instead, let me propose that we modify the idea of recommending something because we completely agree with with the underlying premise and also start recommending things that force us to think, react, comment, whatever because they present an idea that you may not have considered. What would happen if the standard was to recommend posts and comments that elicit a strong reaction from you? Might the ensuing discussions be richer and more dynamic? I think so. By the same token, too often have I seen great works from posters get pushed down in favor of a single paragraph post (which BTW are likely to draw bigham's ire so beware) saying not much more than "I love the Cowboys" that got the requisite 3 recs. This phenomenon also makes posters less apt to put work into a longer, more thought-provoking piece of work. Maybe a comment like "Yay" or "I agree" was a better choice in those cases?
NEW BEHAVIOR: Recommend posts & comments that you disagree with as much as those you agree with as long as they are worthy of it
I think we'd all agree the site is about fan participation. If you lurk around, read the posts and never post a comment, then, while you may not know it, you're making the task of writing, for those who do, far less appealing. Case in point, I just recently I saw one of the most detailed statistical write-up's by footballbusker on ANYPA/APNWHATEVER and while I personally tend to toss aside overly statistical views of the game in favor of my own observations, he truly had to have put a ton of work into that piece. While it wasn't, in my opinion worthy of a rec on its own (mainly because I didn't see any real conclusions drawn), I did leave a comment (albeit a somewhat snide one) because I see that comment as a way of letting the writer know that I read it and appreciated the effort. And I truly appreciated the effort! Again, fan participation...
NEW BEHAVIOR: Comment to show you care
BTB obviously attracts bloggers from other team sites (wannabes). I think it is important to set the standard on SB Nation for courtesy and decorum when it comes to their participation on our site. I've seen bloggers like Bigblueview and JimmyK play a robust role in some of the best football discussions ever on this blog. At the same time, I've seen some behavior by BTB'ers that made me think we were no better than the BGN jamokes who banned me years ago (that's another story altogether). Just like many of you, I can be a complete a-hole when I need to be, especially if someone says something idiotic (yeah, that NEVER happens on BTB...right), but to be vitriolic just because someone has an affiliation with another team, even a rival, displays an intolerance and narrow-mindedness that BTB just has to rise above. I like to think BTB can set the high watermark for the appreciation of ALL viewpoints regardless of who or where they emanate from.
NEW BEHAVIOR: Kill them with kindness (unless they do something to deserve worse...then just kill them)
I also wanted to poke at the front page writers a bit. I try to read all of the front page stuff that gets done for the same reason I try to peruse all of the fanposts. People write so that others will read. In the same way I'd assume they appreciate comments on their articles, I think it's important for them to be participants in the fanpost section more than they have been. I don't just mean tossing out a rec here and there, but also commenting on the topic and thought process of the poster. For instance, there was a myriad of articles written post-draft and I have no idea what most of the front page guys thought of it. Did they like the haul? Did they hate it? I realize there's a need to maintain some sort of literary impartiality to certain things, but too much fence-riding waters down the value of BTB.
NEW BEHAVIOR: Let the voices of the front page writers be heard...in fanposts!
Finally, let me say that the reason I write on BTB is because of the intelligent dialogue around so many topics (sometimes we even talk about football) that tends to sprout when I write a post. I've said before that BTB is like going into a sports bar, albeit without the hot waitresses and the Fat Tire, that has nothing but Cowboys fans sitting at tables with a different topic being discussed at each table. The great part is that one can participate in ALL of these sub-topics concurrently and agree and disagree to their heart's content. I think the notion of what truly connects us as fans of the greatest team in the greatest sport is unique and it's easy to be enthusiastic about this electronically networked gathering of Cowboys fanatics. So, I thank you all again for humoring me as I continue to wax philosophical on all things Cowboys.