Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Suggestions to improve the blog

We're all ears.

44 comments:

dan dempsey said...

Open thread Tuesday as well as open thread Friday.

Greg Linden said...

Don't change a thing. Love it and appreciate it just as is.

dan dempsey said...

Suggestion:

In the links section, provide this link =>
http://www.greatlakescenter.org/

The Greater Lakes Center provides many interesting studies. Many of which challenge the "Ed Reform" baloney that the "Billionaire Boys" are attempting to force on us.

Josh Hayes said...

It's probably a limitation of the server, but is there some way to thread the responses on a topic? That is, if person A says something, and B responds, and C chimes in, and A comes back to clarify, those posts would all be linked together, rather than the mindless "order by date" format currently in place? I'm a dinosaur, I know, asking for the kind of functionality one use to have on Usenet!

But frankly, I view this blog as an information source, and it's hard to imagine how it'd be better at that than it already is. You guys do a great job, almost like you're (WV) wingedr.

Anonymous said...

There are too many acronyms here and not enough explanation of what they stand for, much less what they mean in context. I read this blog every day at least once, and I can't keep track of all of them.
-
There are too many of them, and after a while my eyes glaze over, and I cease to care.
-
Create a glossary of these terms, put it on a page of its own, and every time you use one of them -- I mean EVERY time -- make it a hyperlink to the glossary.
-
The glassary can develop organically. Over time it can be expanded to add context and institutional history to each term.
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This can be done piecemeal and doesn't have to be a grand project. But I think it would be both necessary and desirable to have it.
-
And I second Josh's call for threading in the comments section. Thanks for all the work you do. This has become one of the essential sources of information for the Seattle area.
-- Ivan Weiss

CT said...

Welcome to our acronym world - RTI, NCLB, IEP, etc. Good suggestion though, if it is feasible. I don't know aboutl linking out each and every time though.
I know the functionality of the blog is limited and appreciate it for what it is and for the information I find here. Thanks.

Slightly off topic - older article, but good one on all the testing and teacher evals. Is this what we want for WA State?

Contrarian said...

If you all do link to the Great Lakes Center, be sure to note that the leadership of the organization is biased. Their board of directors is a "who's who" of Union leaders and executive directors in the mid-west. This is not an "anti-union" observation, but something to keep in mind when considering academic and non-biased sources. Of course they counter the "Billionaire Boys" narrative: the employee unions stand to lose the most due to proposed reforms.

Link here: http://greatlakescenter.org/about.php

Floor Pie said...

I really enjoy this site. I'd love to see more about special ed issues in the district.

Maureen said...

I'd like to see a sticky post (in the side bar or on another tab/page if the format changes) where we can all link to interesting articles we have read, and another with links to useful data. Ideally posters would include a short summary with the links. Maybe if they are on a separate page there could also be categories (like testing or special ed or comic relief!).


If the whole thing is being reformatted, it might be good to have a page/tab that is a guide to Seattle Public Schools with a quick overview of the District and links to resources for families. And a tab/page with directions on how to post live links and bold/italicize etc. might be nice.

This is a great site: Thank you Charlie and Mel and all of the posters--I learn so much here!

StopTFA said...

Contrarian,

The "Great Lakes" study oft-cited by TFA critics was funded by that org but conducted by the Education and the Public Interest Center (EPIC) at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the
Education Policy Research Unit (EPRU) at Arizona State University. All EPIC/EPRU policy briefs are peer reviewed by members of the Editorial
Review Board. I don't see a union official among them. I hardly think of university types as union stooges. However, I do see UW staffers as billionaire stooges.


NEPC Editorial Board

emeraldkity said...

I really enjoy this site. I'd love to see more about special ed issues in the district.
me too.

dan dempsey said...

OK here is one about Special Ed. The 2011 MSP scores for the SPS at grades 3 thru 8 in both math and reading look pretty good. See HERE .... at least when compared with state averages. As far as meeting NCLB or any graduation requirements coming from those Administrative officials at the State and Federal level .. who knows?

someone said...

I enjoy the site, though two things have always struck me as problematic - sometimes it's an opinion site, the "bully pulpit" as it were and sometimes, it's a news/community calendar. And sometimes, it's both as at the same time. I think that's where some of the backlash comes from, the confusion over - "are you giving us district news, or your opinion of district news" - maybe a brief consistent label before each headline - NEWS or OP-ED OR CALENDAR note - and then not blur the lines within each post - just one thought.

The other, and this is the librarian in me ;o) - but I was looking at the tagging the other day, and noticed it's very inconsistent and not terribly helpful for what you were presumably trying to achieve - ie sometimes it's tagged with just the acronym and sometiems the whole official title - in an ideal world (controlled by us pesky librarian types ;o) - it should always be the same for every story about that same topic. And, sadly, I do agree the BS tag might have been excessively applied of late - not that I don't understand the feeling.

Thanks for all your hard work and dedicated caring - much appreciated

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate this blog - thank you Melissa and Charlie for all your work. Jane

Anonymous said...

I would ask you to keep the relaxed style. The blog has a nice, friendly neighborhood feel, like posting on the corner store bulletin board.

I feel this style helps build community and fellow-feeling sorely lacking in Seattle.

Please do not try to get all professional. I think people feel comfortable on this blog because it is not all slicked up or corporatized.

Also, please keep in mind that many people do not have wifi or broadband. So please do not add video or graphics that will make access difficult. The Times and the PI, among may other news sources, have upgraded themselves beyond the reach of many. (Perhaps this was their intent?)

And meanwhile, thanks for all you do for us!

-JC.

Steve said...

I love this blog as well. Thank you to everyone who writes and comments. I learn a lot every day.

1. I agree with the need for a guide to the acronyms and other letter combinations that make up the programs of the school district. It's very confusing for new people (or people like me, who still don't understand WSS). Perhaps a constant link on the sidebar to a Google Doc that would contain all of these?

2. I think this has been discussed, but I would suggest a name change for the blog. "Save Seattle Schools" sounds defensive and kind of negative to me, when what I think we're all interested in here is moving SPS forward for our kids. Sounds like we're trying to "save" something, instead of building something great.

3. Coupled with #2, I think we need an organized community effort to make more parents aware of this blog. We could do this through school PTAs (emails and web site), room parents, and other avenues. This is such a great resource, and we should organize and try to expose more people to it. A richer conversation will result, and the blog will become an even better way to get information out.

Again, thanks!

Charlie Mas said...

Mel is looking in the benefits of moving the blog to WordPress.

At WordPress we might be able to clean up the thread replies as Josh Hayes suggested. It might also allow sticky threads and - wouldn't this be great - uploading documents.

I like the idea of separating news from opinion. It's sometimes a challenge to do that on the fly. I write about 2000 words a day about Seattle Public Schools and I have to write it fast, usually in a single draft. Also, there is certainly some grey area between news and opinion. If I write, for example, that the Board is reactive instead of proactive, is that news or opinion? Would it only be news if I could somehow quantify it?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Steve, I did write to every single PTA president or communications person I could find last year and asked them to, at some point, mention the blog in their parent newsletter or website. (While I can understand some people not agreeing/liking the editorial views here, we have A LOT of info that parents can find nowhere else.)

I only heard back from a couple of PTAs so I can only ask that you suggest this to the PTA at your school. We would love to broaden the number of parent voices from all across the district.

Yes, and I'm still working on the WordPress move. I'm going cautiously because I want to be sure the move works out and the blog doesn't go down for any amount of time.

Regular Reader said...

Charlie,

YES. Although of course we all know that traditional news sources are not truly objective, deliberately inserting one's opinion on the board's actions (or ANYONE'S actions) makes it opinion and not news. It becomes commentary and/or editorial. That's standard journalism 101, which is why not everyone treats blogs as news. Your blog should absolutely try-HARD to separate the two. Taking the "bullshit" designation off of posts about district news would be a good start.

Reader Too said...

To disagree a bit, I love the editorializing, commentary and strong opinions here. It's refreshing. I can get bland, conventional news elsewhere (news that tends to repeat standard repeated-from-SPS-PR lines as unassailable facts). I don't know. If someone wants to create a "fair and balanced" newsfeed, let them build it from scratch. You all are definitely more in the advocacy camp (thank goodness), and offer amazing, behind-the-scenes information to parents. Who else called BS on MGJ? Who else asks tough questions about APP/Spectrum or TFA or Special Education or building safety, from the parent/student point of view? Embrace your parent advocate position, because it's what makes this blog and community unique. The powers that be already have many ways to make their side of the story known.

I agree that defining acronyms would be very useful, along with a "Read this first" breakdown of current hot issues that parents should be aware of. It took me about three months of consistent reading to figure out all the acronyms and the Big Issues in our district. I would also like to see a message board where parents could share information on specific schools, programs or larger issues, but that can open a can of worms (i.e. people complaining about teachers, being rude or troll-y, all those types of message board problems).

I love the BS tag. Sometimes you just gotta call it what it is.

Signed, Reader Too

Anonymous said...

This blog needs advertising. Just the streaming kind that Google would send to you. Not necessarily an ad rep. You should be paid, even if it's very nominally, for your heroic efforts to make this district more accountable.

The blog also needs that glossary page as readers have suggested for years now. Attach another blog, leave it open to administrate and let the community build it wiki-style. Then you will not have to take on the brunt of the work yourselves.

A Dedicated Reader

Chris S. said...

Don't change too much. I learn so much here. Sometimes I know things that people who really should know them DON'T know. I won't name names but it's really mind-blowing. I suppose board members can't read this blog because of the editorializing but it's really the best and only source of SPS news and a reasonably good source of nat'l ed news. You can really rely on things Mel and Charlie say - in the rare cases where they get it wrong, they correct it ASAP.

THANK YOU!

And as for editorializing, remember that fox news has shown it to be a great business model.

dan dempsey said...

NO ADVERTISING..... the corporate model is seemingly everywhere .... please not here.

Also enjoy the editorializing said...

I am at work so cannot compose an eloquent reply - so I'll just say Reader Too +1. You said exactly what I wanted to say - thank you!

Anonymous said...

I love this blog. I also love that I can tell whether Charlie or Melissa has written the thread (before reading your name) because your voices are strong.

Thanks for being such a great service. I know that the powers-that-be know that this blog is a check on their stuff. The UW-TFA emails confirm this.

--Don't change (unless you want to)

Anonymous said...

Dan, no disrespect but I would much rather have Melissa and Charlie make a little coin and keep at this longer - ok forever - than to decide that with a ton of effort and no money coming in that they cannot continue. I assume that someday this problem will arise. Perhaps it already has in the past. I bet the district prays for that day. Maybe it is betting on that day. Who knows?

Making a little money is hardly The Corporate Model and I highly doubt Melissa and Charlie are going to be Bought by Big Business. Streaming ads from Google might give them a few hundred $$ a month at very very most. The other option is for, say you, to pay them for all the free publicity you get for your ideas. But I doubt that is appealing to you either.

A Dedicated Reader

Anonymous said...

Agree very much with Josh Hayes about reformatting the comments. I’m not tech-savvy, but other blogs have the “reply” option under each comment, then you can respond directly to that person’s point and your comment appears indented right under theirs. Phew - you know what I mean.

Weighing in on the Great Lakes Center/research link debate, I think Contrarian’s point could best be taken as: make sure you know the funders of your favored research orgs as well as of the opposition’s research orgs. Even if you think/know that your side is objective, the other side will say they’re not and you should be prepared. That might sound a little off topic, but I suggest that posters try to know the backers of any linked or cited research.

someone said...

To be clear - I'm not saying I dislike the editorializing - it's part of what makes this site. I just think there are moments when the opinion gets in the way of the very important information you provide, if that makes sense.

No, it's not always possible to separate fact from feeling, nor is it always necessary - but I do think it turns off some readers who might have valuable info to impart, but don't feel welcome by the stronger voices here (and I'm thinking commenters more than authors)

It's a wonderful site - I am always appalled by how it so clearly skewers the dysfunction that is SPS.

Anonymous said...

Ever heard of "Seattle Nice"?

You know, when people smile to your face and act like everything is okay, and then trash you behind your back?

Please don't let the accusations from the "Seattle Nice" people change what you do on this blog.

This city is way overdue for some candor. There is nothing damaging about adults being able to speak honestly.

I find it interesting that these
"suggestion/be nice" threads are coming on the heals of Melissa's Enfield/TFA/UW expose.

If more people are accusing you of not being nice lately, it's probably because they got caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

--"It wasn't nice of you to catch me in the act!"

Anonymous said...

"heals" was probably a Freudian slip

--you're healing us on the heels of the truth

Not one of them said...

Oh, right, of course-anyone who doesn't care for the way things are done, say, like editorializing news stories and calling them news or just suggesting a less hostile tone MUST be in bed with or even BE "them", the big, bad ed reform people.

And there's genuine wonder at why more people who aren't bobbleheads with the views of this blog don't post?! Really, "seattle Nice"??

SPSLeaks said...

Not to blow my own horn but I think it's "Seattle Nice" to read what public officials and others say behind our backs...

Julian

CT said...

Agreed SPS Leaks. I hope Melissa enjoys seeing the references to her and the blog in the emails as much as I do. I just like them knowing that there are people watching....

dan dempsey said...

The Board may know we are carefully watching.... but it is the voting that counts .... These folks up for reelection need to be replaced.

Anonymous said...

I agree with with the commenters who are concerned about how facts and opinions are posted. I'm not against the moderators posting their opinions. They started this blog and that's how it is run, but sometimes I'm just looking for facts. I have a busy life like everyone else, and can't always attend board meetings or watch them on TV. It would be helpful to have a short summary of what was actually said and voted on at the board meeting(or any district meeting). Like minutes taken at a PTA meeting. You can insert opinions after the facts, or put your opinions in italics. That way I know it is an opinion as I read through the information.
I think you would get a wider audience that way, but maybe that's not what you want.
-just a suggestion

Anonymous said...

@Just a suggestion...
Have you been reading much? Melissa and Charlie often do just that (put their comments/editorializing in italic when reporting news and other info).

I for one am delighted to see something that gives the backstory or freeze-frames the spin. Too many news sources are so caught up in "unbiased" journalism that they report everything as fact.

I also like the "bullshit" tag.

I sometimes wish there was a "like" button when I really agree with a poster's comment (or the thumbs up/down). I hate wasting feed space to say " Good call, HANDLE..." But, since we're not as formal as something like FaceBook, this might not be practical, or even possible.

SolvayGirl (BTW...still having issues posting with my google name.)

Anonymous said...

@SolvayGirl,
I read this blog a couple times a week, and once in a while I do see opinions put in italics.
I read not for the editorials, but to obtain information about changes the district and schools are making that impact my family. I know this blog is not just about facts and I'm not saying it should be, but I think it would reach out to more people if there were more of a separtion between fact and opinion.
Sometimes I think the opinions don't have enough fact to back them up and make them credible. For example, when Melissa posts 'breaking news', I would like to see where her sources of information are coming from. I am left to wonder if it's just speculation or if she interpreted what she viewed in a way different from how others would.
I'm not a fan of the 'bullshit' tag. I think it gives makes the post sound unprofessional and brash.

-Just a suggestion

ArchStanton said...

Better threading of comments - YES

Glossary of acronyms/terms - YES

A Wiki for the blog/SPS - interesting idea, I wonder how that would play out...

Separating news from opinion - Err on the side of opinion. I don't have the context or know the history of the inner workings of SPS to always know what a news item means. I appreciate getting the opinion of Charlie and Mel and I can usually tell when they are offering opinion. People with counter arguments can be relied on to chime in. I can get dry press releases elsewhere.

Ads - Don't feel strongly, as long as they don't dominate. If a little $ helps keep them going, I don't have a problem.

Screen names/tags - Please require people to pick a name. I don't care if the use a fake email or false info. I get tired of the numerous Anonymous posts that read like they are written by the same person, but have a different sig. If you want to write under a different persona/name create an alt, but please give yourself a login.

--- I'm wondering what Mel and CHarlie's long term plans are. IIRC their kids are getting older and will be out of SPS before long. Will they continue with the same tenacity? Is someone being groomed to take the reins? If someone else will be running things in a year or two, I'd suggest letting them deal with big site changes.

Flopsy 2000 said...

I think you can have images on blogspot- see:
http://www.blogdoctor.me/2007/02/upload-files-to-blogger.html

Or for proof:
http://indydemocrat.blogspot.com/

I would not move to wordpress until you are sure blogspot doesn't suit your needs- everyone knows your address and moving content is ick.

Shannon said...

I find the blog very useful. I enjoy the tone and welcome the strong opinions as well as the reporting. I don't have any trouble separating the two.

The only thing I would like is a button / link to contact the Blog owner to mention a new topic or something. I often see off-topic comments in a thread and I think it should be easier to contact someone. I am sure there is a way to do it but I've tried twice in my rushed way and failed.

Charlie Mas said...

Shannon,

Click on my name to see my profile.

My email is there.

Anonymous said...

I would love it if there were a way that I could personally block having to scroll through certain frequent posters whom I find do not share useful comments. Not that they'd be blocked for every reader, but that at my own discretion there would be a method for making all comments from XYZ poster condense unless I clicked on them to individually review them. Those posters, just like anyone, have every right to post all they want, but I'd like a mute button.

Thanks,

Remote Control Please

Anonymous said...

I have read the blog a couple times a week for the last few years but I have never commented. I just don't like that jumping into the fray feeling.

I would like to see a few more regular writers/reporter/editorials voices. I love Mel and Charlie's reporting. However, I think both the blog and tone would be stronger with more regular reporting voices.

Several of the regular commentators either seem to have blogs of their own or some other strong reporting in some way. I think it would be helpful if there were for example a regular reporter on

Special Ed - maybe someone from Special Ed PTSA
Alt Schools - maybe someone from the ASC

I also love the occasional comments we get from Rainier Beach and Aki so maybe some regional reporters.

This is not to take away from Mel and Charlie but more voices just create a stronger community.

Also maybe some of the folks that seem to jump on so many threads might be more moderate in their insertions if they got an occasionally byline.

- more voices please

joanna said...

I'm with the "don't change too much." So far so good. I welcome being able to read sort of an all around what is going on take on things. Sometimes I would like to see a little more representation from all the areas. However, no one can be forced to take part. I know a number of people who like to read it and do not post.