508 #96: The local green economy

posted by Mike on December 11th, 2009

This week: the 508 Christmas Spectacular! The panel is Julius Jones and Mr. Brendan Melican. Theme song: “If I Had One Christmas Wish.” Words by Bruce “Snow Ghost” Russell, music by Mike Benedetti.


Audio: mp3 link, other formats, feed

Video: Downloads and other formats

508 contact info

Buddha Hut buffet Saturday; Stone Soup party Friday; Winter Mystery Band signups happening now.

The NYT is not selling the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Top suggestions for the T&G: stop running the internet poll on the front page, because you’re deceiving people who don’t realize it’s a phony poll, and you look bad to people who know what’s going on; create an RSS feed for Worcester news; make use of the <title> element so it will be easier to Google T&G articles; add features to the comment system to filter out noise.

Julius, who helps run the Regional Environmental Council’s gardening program, talks about the local green economy, or lack thereof.

Holiday gift guide:

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Nicole has posted an experimental Virtual Assignment Desk; Jeff Barnard highlights Bill Randell’s reporting on low-income housing financing.

You should wear a hat to stay warm! I’m told Lutheran Social Services has classes for recent immigrants to help them dress appropriately for the (bad) weather.

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5 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. On December 11, 2009 at 23:09 Noah R. Bombard said:

    Regarding commenting systems, probably the single most effective way to rein in antagonistic comments on stories is for writers and editors to actually participate in those discussions. It’s a way of throwing back the curtain and tends to encourage more reasoned discussions as opposed to the “yeah, well you’re stupid” kind of comments.

    Unfortunately, this is something most large metro newspaper companies either don’t do or have policies against. It’s unfortunate because it also steers news away from journalism as a conversation — instead rooting itself in this old school mentality of journalism as a static force you must either take or leave.

    When I first got into the Web side of the news biz I was very much in favor of leaving commenting systems wide open. I still think that’s the way to start. You do, after all, want to encourage a wide spread of voices. However, when a few bullies begin to overtake the pool your goal of inclusion has now been circumvented. It quickly becomes a downward spiral and a lot of very reasoned people will just not participate. At that point, you’ve got to start deleting nasty comments and blocking some users when necessary. Throw the bullies out and let everyone else back in.

    On a separate note, I’d love to support the local green economy, but I have to draw the line and buying spinach grown indoors in my neighbor’s old bathtub.

  2. On December 11, 2009 at 23:47 Nicole said:

    Noah — I was thinking about comments when I was reading Clive McFarlane’s column today. He wrote about hate crimes, and half of the comments revolve around how the only reason he writes about that subject is because he’s a minority, etc. Would having him come into that conversation help, or would it sound like he was whining, which he’s already accused of every time he writes a column?

    Similarly, there was an article on the Telegram website about the state police chief. Half the comments were supportive, and the other half felt that she was too heavy and how this is a reflection of the expanding waistlines of every member of law enforcement, firefighter, and/or EMT the commenter has ever seen.

    I think having registered commenters with identifiable user IDs (which is NOT what the Telegram has) helps.

    Actually — I’ve got an idea for a new moneymaking venture for the Telegram. People should have to pay a low fee to comment every month. (Heck, I might pay to read the ridiculous comments…)

  3. On December 12, 2009 at 09:46 Noah R. Bombard said:

    Nicole, I think it depends entirely on how that writer approaches those comments. Arguing with those commenting is never a good idea. Explaining, offering additional info or simply responding to questions, however, almost always adds to the conversation. Readers are also more likely to tone it back some when they know the writer is actually reading and may respond. By and large, we’re more civil when we’re talking to someone rather than when they’re out of the room (not always, of course).

    I agree with you, some sort of registration process is largely helpful, too. Disqus is an effective commenting program I’ve used. Those commenting only register once. Their comments go up automatically afterward, but other readers can flag inappropriate comments for an administrator to review and decide if they should be removed. Registrants must provide a valid e-mail, which administrators can see along with the registrants IP address.

  4. On December 12, 2009 at 10:41 Mike said:

    Noah: I really appreciate your thoughts on this. I’ve never had to moderate comments on a really busy site, so my guesses are just guesses. I read the comments on many busy sites, and sometimes participate, and it’s frustrating that the quality on the T&G site, presumably the busiest Worcester site, is so low.

  5. On December 13, 2009 at 16:33 SustainableMethods said:

    I just wanted to ask if you will be promoting or even covering this:

    NOFA/MASS ANNUAL WINTER CONFERENCE – Food From Farms For Families
    January 16, 2010- 9am-5:30pm
    Worcester Technical High School, Worcester, Ma
    http://www.nofamass.org/conferences/w2009/

    This event is packed full of useful information on how the average person can take control back by learning how to sustain themselves.

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