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Diary (Diaries are not moderated)

Please Comment:: A Conversation about Raising the Quality of OpEdNews

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Rob Kall     Permalink
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This started out as a conversation among senior level editors at OEN and I believe it would be good to open the conversation to all members. On this anniversary of the birth of democracy, I hope you'll take this opportunity to participate in discussing the future of this democratic forum.


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OEN is blessed to have many extraordinary writers. Some post think pieces. Some post hard researched reporting. We want to maintain a climate of quality and excellence here that supports them, their efforts and that reflects well upon them.

At the same time, we want to maintain a wide open forum for the sharing and exploration of ideas and opinions.

Yesterday I banned, after consultation with senior editorial management, a longtime member who posted a diary loaded with obscenities, with the title, "Oh f*ck" and with a subtitle that was worse. The writer acknowledged to me personally that he intentionally posted it to provoke a response.

This posting set off the conversation about where OEN is heading. Does it encourage and allow trash talk and angry, mean-spirited diatribes as diaries or comments, or does it seek to raise the level of the conversation. Our recent demographic analysis of our members shows us that 94% have some college or more. Take a look

Education Lmtd HSGrad SomeColl CollGrad AdvDeg(s) Total
Education (194)-2%
Total: 100% from 9358 members

Actually, we have over 15,200 members, but 9358 answered this demographic question. If you haven't answered YOUR demographic questions, I encourage you to log in, click on your PROFILE tab and fill in your demographic info.

My point is, we can discuss at intelligent, educated levels. We don't have to drop into childish, angry places.

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I started writing a response to the senior editorial staff, then added a few dozen more editors and our most prolific writers, and then I realized that this conversation deserves to be archived and shared by all.

I wrote last week about many of us being "Awakeners" and this discussion is all about being awake, when it comes to our intention, mission, vision, goals, and process here. I've written before about how I believe that doing things from the bottom up has led to the greatest success for OEN. I do expect some tough criticism here but also hope it will lead to getting feelings, complaints, visions, suggestions and observations out in the open-- things that have needed to be said.

So, please, use the comments to describe your thoughts on the future of OEN, on our plans to raise the quality, and your ideas on plans for changing the look and feel of the site. I expect that some of you won't like the changes. I don't even do well with changes in hair style, in my family. But change is what we need. A few weeks ago, I realized that I, myself, was not checking the news we have here, which is truly a superb compilation of what's happening, because the format is not as friendl as some other sites. This was a disconcerting realization to face and the final straw that forced me to face the facts that we have to have better ways to present our content. So I went ahead and started researching how other sites display their content-- NY Times, WaPo, Huffpo, Guardian, WS Journal, Dailykos, Raw Story, Commondreams, drudgereport. I'm still working on ideas for format and welcome and encourage your suggestions.
While I was looking at design models, I also decided that when we re-design the layout, it would be a good time to implement the content rating system many writers have asked for and which our programmer, Vidya, and I have been wanting to implement for a few years. So we're doing these two big steps this summer, as well as adding relationships, which will allow readers to identify favorite writers and commenters, so they can get notifications when they post new content.

There's a lot to discuss in this diary, but it all comes back to raising the quality of the content and the experience of using OEN.

Here's the Email I sent to a list of some editors and writers, which I've decided to share:

I am adding some editors and some of our most valued writers to this conversation that has been going on among OEN's senior and managing editors. The conversation started because of a diary posted by Rober "Pappy" Raitz that was loaded with obscene, offensive language, which, he has told me in an email, he wrote to challenge OEN. It brought a strong response and demand that it be removed and that he be banned. That has been done. This raised a larger conversation about the direction OEN is going, in terms of quality of our content and also about the presence and appearance of misogyny on its pages. I encourage those of you who I've just added to the conversation to review the previous messages below mine.

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I believe the issue we are facing is, in many ways, about anger and how it is expressed. There are some very angry members, more men, I think, who use the comments and sometimes diaries, to just dump raw anger, often in the meanest and angriest way. I don't think this is good for the site. There are also newbies-- one shot wonders-- who come in to post on articles and then leave. And then there are the weakly written articles that are accepted by our editorial team. We need to figure out how to do a better job of raising our quality and our standards-- for articles, diaries and comments. Below, I've described some details of our plans for the next month, on how to add ratings to the site. I've posted a few editor newsletters and member newsletters asking for feedback, and have hardly received any at all. I hope you'll take a look, within the context of this conversation and tell me if these plans make sense, if you'll use them, if you think they will help and what other ideas and suggestions you have.

The following started out as a reply to the existing thread of discussion.

I really appreciate you taking stands on this. Jan, I think you know that I DO listen and change policy based on your feedback, though it may seem at a glacial pace.

We've begun planning a major revision of the look and operation of the site, which will end up being more like the Huffington post, with less content on the front page, with diaries below the fold. Besides the Home page, there will be primary pages for News, Politics, Media, Activism & Causes, Life/Arts Science, Business, Technology, Press Releases, Polls, Events.

Further down the road, members will be able to build their own custom front pages, specifying primary page categories, directory levels, tags and locales to be included, along with info on their legislators..

Josh Mitteldorf and I have been having conversations, for a year, on developing what we've called "OpEdNews Journal" a strictly moderated page that comprises the best of the best of OEN. Best articles each day will go on that page, as judged by other writers and readers. This will take some programming, so I've been looking for some foundation support to develop it. But the ranking sy stem our programmer has begun to work on will also fit very nicely into developing this model. We'll be asking readers to rate articles on:
overall recommend * * * * *
writing/style * * * * *
New information * * * * *
importance * * * * *
Kindness * * * * *
Meanness/Civility * * * * *
Humor * * * * *
research/sources * * * * *
context/balance * * * * *
accuracy/fairness * * * * *
trust/accuracy * * * * *

I've been looking at newstrust, which bills itself as a social networking site that vets the news.
I encourage you to go to the site and click on REVIEW IT
for one of the articles on the page. That will pop up a box. Try filling it in. THis takes some time, but they've thought this through. We are ready to do something like this. Actually, before I saw it, I'd drawn up a plan for both a content rating system and new pages. Filling in a full newstrust review takes some time. I wonder if they rank articles partly on the number of reivews that are completed.

They use the following criteria:

  • Recommendation (* required)
    Is it a good story?

  • StarEventHandler.init("div#overall_qualityStars", document.ReviewForm.overall_quality, "", new Array('not good at all', 'not very good', 'average', 'good', 'very good'))
  • Trust
    Do you trust this publication?

  • StarEventHandler.init("div#trust_sourceStars", document.ReviewForm.trust_source, "", new Array('not at all', 'not much', 'somewhat', 'quite a bit', 'very much'))
  • Information
    Is this story informative?

  • StarEventHandler.init("div#original_coverageStars", document.ReviewForm.original_coverage, "", new Array('not informative at all', 'not very informative', 'somewhat informative', 'informative', 'very informative'))
  • Fairness
    Is this story fair?

  • StarEventHandler.init("div#fair_storyStars", document.ReviewForm.fair_story, "", new Array('not fair at all', 'not very fair', 'somewhat fair', 'fair', 'very fair'))
  • Sources
    Is it well sourced?

  • StarEventHandler.init("div#identified_sourcesStars", document.ReviewForm.identified_sources, "", new Array('not well at all', 'not very well', 'somewhat', 'well', 'very well'))
  • Context
    Does it show the "big picture"?

  • StarEventHandler.init("div#big_pictureStars", document.ReviewForm.big_picture, "", new Array('no context at all', 'not much context', 'some context', 'quite a bit of context', 'a lot of context'))
  • Evidence
    Does it provide factual evidence?

  • StarEventHandler.init("div#factual_evidenceStars", document.ReviewForm.factual_evidence, "", new Array('no evidence at all', 'not much evidence', 'some evidence', 'quite a bit of evidence', 'a lot of evidence'))
  • Importance
    Is this an important topic?

  • StarEventHandler.init("div#important_topicStars", document.ReviewForm.important_topic, "", new Array('not important at all', 'not very important', 'somewhat important', 'important', 'very important'))
  • Balance
    Does it present all key viewpoints?

  • StarEventHandler.init("div#important_viewpointsStars", document.ReviewForm.important_viewpoints, "", new Array('not balanced at all', 'not very balanced', 'somewhat balanced', 'balanced', 'very balanced'))
  • Style
    Is it well presented?

  • StarEventHandler.init("div#clear_storyStars", document.ReviewForm.clear_story, "", new Array('not good style at all', 'not very good style', 'average style', 'good style', 'very good style'))
  • Knowledge
    How much do you know about this topic?

  • StarEventHandler.init("div#topic_knowledgeStars", document.ReviewForm.topic_knowledge, "", new Array('I know nothing', 'I know very little', 'I know something', 'I know quite a bit', 'I know a lot'))
  • Accuracy
    Is it accurate?
I believe that putting such a system into effect will encourage to consider their postings a bit more, before they dump a load of anger or meanness. Also, we will be able to use the ratings to identify and document the most unpleasant, uncivil members, so we can deal with them.

This system will also help our editors to evaluate articles. They should probably be the first to use the rankings on new content that's been submitted, at least a short version of it.

I expect that we'll have much of the rating system in place within 2-6 weeks. I realize this is tech. But it will enable our members and our editors to more systematically bring their participation into the process of raising the quality of the content of the site.

That still leaves diaries unmoderated. We have to come up with a way to deal with the fact that since diaries are unmoderated some people are going to create diaries that are just unacceptable. Thoughts on how to dissuade people from posting these and what to do about them are invited.

Please add your comments.


Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

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