Tuesday, July 23, 2019

No Echo Chamber Wanted Here


I have seen a few people claiming that I allow too many people free rein in what they say here at SSCF. I offer these thoughts so that there is a better understanding of what it means to run an open and active blog.

Anyone who has ever moderated a blog or Facebook page knows how hard it is. Now if a blog has very few readers and almost no comments, it may be hard to understand this point.
1.  One of two important issues to consider is that I am one person.  A person who is trying to have a life of her own. 

(Of course, if some readers would actually read for content and not be reactive every waking minute of the day, then those readers would know I’m (mostly) not going to be covering SPS at this blog anymore. I'm going to be writing about higher level issues like personalized learning, charter schools and student data privacy.)

As well, I cannot be on call to moderate 24/7.  It's just not possible.  I review comments several times a day but there are times when - gasp! - hours will go by before I get to them.  Plus (and unfortunately), Google Blogspot is not supported on iPhone.  Super irritating and it means I can't immediately delete comments from my phone.

As well, I am guilty of what all of us probably do - skim, rather than read.  I occasionally miss something that I should have addressed.  (I note with amusement people who run over here for five minutes, skim a story and its comments and declare we are all terrible people.  That's just laziness.)

2) Second issue is that, from the start with co-writer, Charlie Mas, we never wanted this blog to be an echo chamber.  I know some of you believe it is but the evidence doesn't support that.  Time after time, I have allowed very harsh comments against programs and staff and board members and yes, even myself.  I am proud of some discussions where solutions were put forth and grievances were aired.

And some people who blog need more hand-holding and positive reinforcement to get thru the day. Some of us don’t. 

I believe it’s important to be authentic and listen even if I disagree. And, if I challenge someone, I do it in a calm manner (and sometimes with a little sarcasm). The number of times, when I ask someone to be less cryptic or to cite their data and then just....crickets, is amazing.

Meaning, some people just come to rant and this isn't a rant and rave blog.

Meaning, some people post in a troll-like manner, just to be unkind, unpleasant and hurtful.

And, there are a very few people who believe they are the hammer for public education and then think it their duty to slam anyone who looks like a nail.

Why don’t I challenge difficult remarks at this blog?

- I already mentioned the #1 answer - this is not an echo chamber.

- I already mentioned #2 answer - I am one person.

- It is a challenge to determine intent and meaning from some readers. I often then ask for clarification and, if it doesn't come, I generally delete.

- Because I have great readers who, when they smell BS, let someone have it. I don’t have to lead all the time.

- Because that’s how you hear about everything that is out there in the ether. It’s important to know what other people think, the good, the bad and the ugly. 
Again, it's fine to have a blog where everyone agrees with you and thinks you're great.  But that's an echo chamber, not a blog.  I hold this criticism for the Gates Foundation as well.  If they got out of the echo chamber mode, they might do some good in public education.

- Sometimes it’s just good to let something truly ugly just sit there like a dog turd on the sidewalk. Some people's venom and invective speaks for itself. 

Discussion is important for this district, this city, this state and, especially, this country.

Let’s bring passion to the table.

Let’s listen more than talk.

Let’s be specific rather vague.

Let’s ask questions if we don’t understand rather than assume the worst and issue a broadside.

Let’s always keep learning every day and find that common humanity we share.


One last thing.  District 3 candidate Michael Christophersen did just a silly, petty thing way back when.  He took the URL of this blog, tweaked it very, very slightly, and created a blog that has the same template as this one.  I did call him out at the time because, well, nothing succeeds like success and I guess he thought he could fool people.  I see that he is currently trying - by posting in comments in some local media - to push that URL so as to drive people to read his blog. 

You'd think running for school board would keep him busy except that he didn't actually file with the PDC and shows up for none of the candidate events.



Anonymous said...

What is the URL to Christophersen's blog?


Alsept Teresa said...

Thank you Melissa for having thus open forum and for trying to herd us bunch of cats.

Melissa Westbrook said...

JK, you'll have to figure that one out yourself. Of course, he doesn't use his own name there so that makes it even more silly.

Anonymous said...

Really? Who's being cryptic now?
Just tell me, why are you playing games with your readers?
I did a search and did not find a blog.


Anonymous said...

@JK, better work on your Googling skills. I did a quick search and easily found it.

I suspect maybe you didn’t really try, or perhaps you just wanted to post the URL (for your and your partner’s blog???) here?


Anonymous said...

@HF, no you are wrong. What did you use as the search words?

This is too weird , just post the URL for god's sake!


Melissa Westbrook said...

JK, I will not help Christophersen, sorry. HF is right; you could find it.

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Anonymous said...

I think I was right actually.

Thank you MW for all you write and do on this blog and in the community. You are a great resource.


Anonymous said...

Me thinks there is way more to this story than MW is telling. She say's she doesn't want to help Christopherson, but knows that by saying that and not posting the URL it will spark people's curiosity and will cause people to search for the blog and go there.

In reality most voters in Seattle don't give a flying pig about who gets on the school board. I highly doubt they read this blog or any blog. So whatever game is being played here is really just for a very few people's suffering.


Marissa said...

Good post!

Anonymous said...

Posting a link to the copycat blog only brings it credibility. Of course she's not going to post a link to it.

Thank you for this blog and its open forum. I as a parent of a SPS student, appreciate it.


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Anonymous said...

@MW really?, don't you have bigger fish to fry? The blog that shall not be mentioned looks nothing like yours and doesn't have the same name or content. So the URls are similar, so what. There is some fascinating information posted on there, perhaps you should read it?

Did you really threaten him? The blogger wrote that you did and it looks that way to me. WOW! What else have you done? There must be more to this than just a URL! and to be fair you do have a reputation for borderline slander and have been accused of commenting as another person on your blog post. I also don't think I'm the first person to say this.

BTW - I've been posting as 2cents for a couple of years now. I don't attack you or others. I think many of my comments are positive towards you and your work. So search your blog before accusing me of being the owner of the blog that won't be mentioned.


Melissa Westbrook said...

2Cents, I see that Christophersen changed the template but when he started, it was the exact same one I used and, of course, it was started here first.

He picked that URL to drive readers (accidentally) to his blog, that's what. C'mon, anyone can see that. There is nothing more to this for me. I brought it up because, as I stated, I've seen an uptick in him commenting elsewhere and putting in that URL. Most people in Seattle, glancing quickly, would think it this blog. It is not.

I don't know where this meme of me commenting not as myself; never did that, don't need to.

I don't even know what the last paragraph means. It sounds like you are outing yourself; if so, be clear.

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Anonymous said...

@ 2cents, maybe you should just let it go and focus on your campaign?

Wayback evidence or not, those of us who have followed this blog for years clearly remember when the copycat blog was exposed—and it was either an obvious attempt to fool readers into thinking it was her blog, or a lazy and unprofessional attempt to create an independent blog by copying a successful existing one. Either way, lame.

Guess what? Talking about it here probably isn’t the good PR you hope. I googled it, found, and promptly left. Didn’t care to read it, based on the past. Also thought it looked deceptive in this new iteration, too (e.g., the article on candidates only lists the married couple, as if they were the only two running in that district).

One last note—often a “commentators” language and misspellings give them away when we’ve seen the same nonsense before.

HF (who is not Melissa)

Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity, why do you choose to keep this blog on Blogger using a blogspot.com address rather than purchasing a URL and mitigrating the blog over to a self hosted platform like Wordpress or the like? Comments would be much easier to moderate because of the wide array of plug ins available - including, but not limited to, features that allow for multiple moderators, threaded discussions, flagging or blocking the IP addresses of trolls, iPhone compatibility, and disallowing Anonymous comments. You would own the content of your blog as opposed to being at the mercy of Google. You could get a customized template so copycats are less of an issue.

I get that not everyone has the technical knowledge to do this but you don't need to; for a couple hundred bucks and an evening of your time, it's super easy to have someone do it for you and give you a quick tutorial about managing your new platform on a day to day basis. All previous posts and comments would remain intact and anyone typing in your old blogspot URL would be automatically forwarded to your new one. Website rebrands are super common and you seem to have a loyal audience that would stick with you regardless.

I get what you are saying about comment moderation being challenging and don't mean to discount that. I'm respectfully curious as to why you have not yet (to my knowledge) tried to implement a few of these basic fixes. They wouldn't solve every problem, but they'd go a long way to making your life easier and encouraging a robust comment section.

Fellow Blogger

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, I can see this got out of hand.

The post was an explanation; no apologies needed.

Fellow Blogger, I struggled with trying to move the blog but Charlie wasn't up for doing that, I didn't want to do it on my own, worried about changing URL, etc. Now, that I'm changing the focus of the blog, I will probably do that because some people just don't know how to behave.

If you are so worried about my influence, then get out there and rather than attack me, go support the candidate of your choice. That's how it's done.