Kent Pitman

Kent Pitman
Location
New England, USA
Title
Philosopher, Technologist, Writer
Bio
I've been using the net in various roles—technical, social, and political—for the last 30 years. I'm disappointed that most forums don't pay for good writing and I'm ever in search of forums that do. (I've not seen any Tippem money, that's for sure.) And I worry some that our posting here for free could one day put paid writers in Closed Salon out of work. See my personal home page for more about me.

MY RECENT POSTS

DECEMBER 5, 2008 11:26AM

Further Opening Salon?

Rate: 94 Flag

Dear Open Salon Editors,

I just noticed Kerry's blog post from yesterday entitled “New feature: RSS Import” and I know you're working hard on these things, but I wanted you to know this didn't make me happy.

Open Salon is structured as a kind of community. The writing here has been astonishingly good, better than many magazines. I think that is because it is a somewhat insular community, and I often think you should have named it Closed Salon, since Big Salon seems more out in the open to me, and less protected. I've never liked that.

The situations where the current sense of community breaks down already tends to be where people from the outside drift in too easily or cross-post as a way of driving traffic elsewhere instead of committing to being part of the local culture. The recent changes seem intended to create situations that will magnify that problem.

Honestly, I wish you disallowed the practice of cross-posting rather than go to extra work to promote it. I understand why you may have done it originally to help get a community started, but at this point I think it's quite inappropriate. There are a lot of good writers right now who are not getting regular visibility, and I think you underestimate the degree to which you could build that into a brand of your own. Turning yourself into a meta-RSS feed is not the answer. Anyone can do that. Many already have. It will lose all of the distinct originality of this place.

I do my writing here right now because I have personally committed to engage in the community experiment here. If that experiment fails for me, I'm done. I already have several web sites of my own; I don't lack places to post. The same is true of many of your other prominent posters. This is not just a free blog space, it's a community of people who choose to converse here because they are visible and who you will lose if you make them less visible by inviting more drek from the outside. That sends again the message that you do not value what you have here, and that you need more of something else.

You're throwing away a lot of good writers who are doing you an enormous service and betting instead that people won't figure out they can just get their own RSS feeds and do the same as what you're struggling to do just to put your name at the top. If you want that, why not just get an open source web browser and re-brand it with "Open Salon brings You The Web®" in the title bar and then distribute the browser, claiming credit for everything on the web. That accomplishes nothing.

I don't want to compete with all the Internet for attention—I can already do that by just posting to any of my several domains. I want the one thing that makes Open Salon different—a personal conversation with intelligent people who are actually committed to being here and chatting about important things. What a special thing.

But once people who are posting elsewhere can dump their stuff here as an extra offload point, I expect you to continue the already annoying trend of featuring people with offsite blogs as editor's picks because I sense that you mistakenly seek to create the cyberspace equivalent of a kind of metropolitan cachet. And that's a possible thing to do, but it is not “You make the headlines” it's “We import others’ headlines.” It gets rid of the significance of having selected this place as a place to invest time because gradually these other things will crowd out and make irrelevant the new writers that you have been seeking to foster as your own community.

I would ask that you rethink this.

I realize I don't run this place, you do. It's ultimately your call as to how to handle this site. But you should know that, at least in this one person's opinion, there's a big difference between technological achievements and social achievements, and it's sometimes the case that a cool technological achievement can have negative social consequences. That's what I predict here, and we'll see.

But even if you ignore my advice to just back right out of this now, I hope you will watch issue very closely and try to determine whether the effects that I've predicted are happening. And I hope you have a good hard discussion with yourself about what you're trying to achieve. Because there are many things this place could be and one of those things is not “all things to all people.”

It's sometimes necessary to make some hard choices and I think you're making one now, I just think you're making one that's at odds with your thus far advertised goals. I feel like you're sacrificing the community you've sought to build here for some other kind of non-committed thing you've not articulated. Maybe I'm wrong. But I hope you'll give these questions serious thought:

  • Where goals are you trying achieve?
  • What are you prepared to sacrifice to get there?
  • What are you not prepared to sacrifice to get there?
  • Are your choices so far pointing you toward your goals?

Sincerely,

Kent Pitman

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An All-Volunteer Army of Credit Card Users
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I agree with Kent ... totally & completely. Not much else to say ... and I do think it would be a sad, sad thing to have OS become a dumping ground in that way ... It's already hard enough to keep up with the wonderful writers here and I have to say that (as a busy mom) I am truly thankful to all of the writers here who take the time to send me a little note when they post something great or the others who send me a little note when they read something else that they think I might like ...
Too much "interference" will probably kill the possibility of these friendly deeds as everyone struggles to just keep up ...
I'm rambling and I'm taking a lot of vicodin ... but again ... let me say it ... Kent is right!!!
Thank you, Kent.
thanks Kent, this is a well thought out appeal.
G

I'm with Stellaa, how did you do the fancy stuff?
I completely and utterly agree.
I agree with Kent's post completely.
Kent, I hadn't thought about the situation of cross-posting until I read your post. I agree that you have an excellent point about that. Certainly the great thing here has been the "resident" quality of the members who actively post stories. I can now envision the scenario whereby more and more people from elsewhere use this as yet another outlet for their pieces, but never drop in to have a back and forth conversation with those who leave comments. As somewhat of an example of this, I point to the posts of David Sirota. I appreciate what he posts and have been following his writings since I first heard him as a guest on Al Franken's Air America show. However, I have noticed that he rarely engages in responding to the comments left on his posts. As noted in your post this is contrary to what has been the practice here for almost a year and it's what made this such a great environment for discussion.
I agree with what you've written. I do often cross post from my other blog, but just stuff that I think is good enough for OS. I can definitely see the disadvantage of having just any blogger dumping stuff here. I do worry about how big OS is getting as it is -- I have so much trouble keeping up with the writers I already enjoy, much less meeting new writers.
Amy, manually pulling individual stories from another feed is different, since it requires extra effort and that effort will create a barrier to people doing it a huge amount. Also, as you say, people sometimes want to take a topic to here for specific reasons. But here you are saying it, and you are a member of the community, so that's different. The case designanator's talking about is a better example. Rest easy.
Sigh. I'm sad to say it'll probably be what makes Salon the most money. If that is outside sourcing, then they'll do it.

But I agree that it's better because people come and find this place and don't have it handed to them on a silver platter.
Kent: I thought that the announcement had to do with the feature that was already in place that allowed us to import posts from another blog to this one. Like Amy, I've been using that for a bit already. I thought that you still had to come and post the imported items from the feed so it wasn't an automatic proposition. Forgive me if I am confused here.

But whether here or on my Wordpress blog, I blog for the dialogue, not just to put my words out there and simply read the comments. Hopefully this will not be lost as OS expands.
I am often puzzled by the lack of information given to us by the editorial powers. If they're listening, they aren't responding. A weekly or even monthly letter from the editor that would delineate the OS long-term plan seems little to ask. I wonder if a natural order and resistance will emerge when lots of non-community writers dump their content but not their proven commitment to the group. Will we foment a method of marginalizing those non-OS community posts? Or will the loyal members get burned out?
teendoc, from the announcement: “Our import feaure [...] lets you automatically cross-post from an existing blog by using your full-text RSS (or Atom) feed”
I dunno about you, undertow, but if this trend continues, I imagine the day when someone sends a post from another site saying “come on in, the water's warm” and then suddenly I'm gone, with hopefully many of my friends going too. On the other hand, if this place were run right, I'd be content to stay. A funding model that included us is one incentive; Tippem's not working for me. But especially absent funding, the things keeping me here are visibility and community. If those fall away, there'll be nothing.
We play at the pleasure of the payers of the bill to keep the joint open, so we are at their mercy.

I have been bouncing around internet message boards since 1992. I am very impressed with the quality of the writing on here. People, for the most part, can talk in complete sentences, capitalize their "I"s when they should be and otherwise give indications that they have something warmer than a room temperature IQ.

That's hard to find on the internet these days.

So, yeah, I would not be terribly thrilled to see the philistines at the gate, but if that is what the Boss Lady wants, then there isn't much we can do about it other than suffer the fools gladly or move on to another patch if Internet real estate.
Geoff, I can't speak for others, but if visibility is sacrificed and community is lost, I will just go elsewhere. My point was to not just surprise them with such an act at the last minute, but to make the situation known while there was time to affect it. As an individual, I'm unimportant. But if I'm not the only one, then it might matter to them. This entire site is about the notion that speaking to people can make a difference, so saying that the choices are "accept it" or "move on" misses the very point of language and persuasion.
My heart sank when I saw Kerry's announcement yesterday. While we've enjoyed some good writers that he's brought in from elsewhere lately, they lack that community component. They seem reluctant to engage with the rest of us. Are we beneath them simply because we weren't invited to be here? One of them even threw a hissy fit because his piece didn't make the cover (and then a little while later, it did).

I too worry that much of the great writing, etc. that is already here (and exceedingly difficult to keep up with!) will either be forced to the nether regions by the cross-posters or the writers and artists will pick up and go elsewhere.

This place is great the way it is. I do hope the editors will change their minds.
You guys remind me of the of the story about the truckload of refugees. Its full. It stops. The people on board say to the family of 4 waiting to board: there is no room. The family gets on. The truck moves on. It stops. The people on board, including the family of 4 who have just boarded, say to the man waiting: there is no more room...etc... (I may have butchered the story a bit, but you get the general message).

Perhaps there is a compromise. If Salon feels the need to bring in this new function--for the $$ or whatever--then maybe they can give you all a room of your own to play and not be bothered with the riff-raff. You can vote on new members.
k1mjaye, your analogy is flawed in several ways:

First, refugees are people giving up their place to live in order to come to another. They are not dual passport citizens in most cases. Salon is not inviting more refugees, it is inviting dual passport people who will jet in one day and out another. That's really quite different.

Second, refugees are needy in the sense of unable to take care of themselves and the state is doing them a favor, admittedly as an investment. In my case, I am not unable to take care of myself. I had a web site where I already posted my own stuff and several blogs. But I have opted not to post there because I am busy posting here in a belief I am building something. I'm doing my part on what they suggested would happen; they are not doing theirs, in my opinion.

Also, I am not claiming any kind of ownership, I am citing the fact clearly that they do not own me. I am not a child complaining I've lost a toy I did not pay for. I have contributed real value to them and I claim the right to have my voice heard, but moreover I am right now doing what any committed member of a community does and that's to say when it's going or has gone awry.
k1mjaye: My agreement with Kent's post has nothing to do with barring interesting new participants in this forum. My agreement stems from my distress when I log on in the wee hours of the morning and see 10 posts in a row from a travel agency touting their wares and other similar excessive posts from users who do not participate but who use this as another form of advertisement.

I've been here since almost the beginning. I am not one of the brilliant writers. I am an avid reader. I have made friends here and am doing my best to keep up with what they write and also keep up on the new and interesting contributors.

I definitely do not see Open Salon as a closed club.
If this were a democracy, I'd vote with Kent. I'm no novice, though I've let some of my technical skills wither. I, too, have multiple platforms on which to write, including, as needed, our local paper, which seems to welcome coherent commentary. I've stepped away from several blogs because I've found this community desirable and capable of expanding my reach. Wordpress allows you to import all of your previous writing. Blogger makes syndicating your writing easy.

Instead of seeking more outlets, I've decided to make Open Salon my primary place to write (and read). If Open Salon becomes the eighth choice for millions of bloggers, it ceases to be a community.

I hadn't lost sleep over the "alert," but after considering Kent's manifesto, I have to endorse it. I guess I'd better hold on to that Wordpress account and those specialized Blogger accounts until this thing shakes out.
Oh, sorry. Didn't realize this was y'all's little "closed community" only open to those who got on board early and are known quantities. "My ancestors came on the Mayflower, the rest of you are just immigrants infringing on what is mine."

Do you even realize how mean-spirited and condescending this post is towards any newcomers or occasional posters? Was that really your intent?
Kent, I understand your sentiment about wanting to make the voice heard to the owners of the thing. I get it. Honest.

However, the bottom line is that they have to see that the time and money invested in the enterprise provides sufficient financial return to make it worth their while. How they do that is something into which I have little insight.

So, sure, we have the right to express our thoughts as to what it is we would like to see or not see happen here, but, until we are paying the light bill, we really do not have the authority to do much.

As such, I believe my original comment still stands, in that, when they make their decision, we will have to either accept it or move on. Now, clearly we would hope they would listen to their audience being that they are all market driven and all, but they will only listen if the audience generates them the appropriate return on their investment.
I am a neophyte in the blogosphere; however, I know what a community is and find OS a home right in my home. I do wonder what this might look like...

I know the editors are proud of OS--Kerry has mentioned that he loved the intelligence and "rarified air" of discussions here. Joan posts regularly and responds with grace and wit. It's their job to keep the doors open and competition is pretty damn stiff out there. With huffington reportedly huffing chaos, it might be a good move to consolidate Salon's considerable reputation--still grounded in its difference ala Kerry's recent "shout out" announcement to us. What we need to avoid is a sense of "them" and "us" as far as the editors go.

Designator's example was perfect. I found myself (with others) on Sirotia's site defending Frank (Frank!) against a charge of anti-democracy. Most of us know that he is on his town council for god's sake--can't get more down with democracy than that. The point is--Sirota does not know him nor does he wish to. I can avoid the ambitious Sirota in the future, but how many more are we talking about? What does this look like? If I could technically keep track of favorites, it might not be so scary.
Whoa. It's not about "riff-raff" or new people or welcoming others or any of that.

It's about making sure that the site is capable of the load and about the community feel. If lots and lots of people influx at once, several things will happen. Community will suffer, although it could potentially rebound, and more in a serious vein, people could get "lost" in all the crowding in on the site. That might shake out or it might sink the site as people who came here for the quality of writing and the closeness of community bail.

I also have noticed some "invited" writers who don't pull their community weight, expecting instead to be lauded for their fabulousness. That's problematic, but somewhat another issue.

It doesn't have ANYTHING to do with the "in-crowd" thing at all. You guys are completely misunderstanding. It's great to see new people. Opening it up to the ENTIRE Internet at this rapid rate, however, might have detrimental repercussions. It needs to happen more organically, I think.
Interesting! You make a good case!
How do you keep a charming small town small when everyone else really wants to move there? That is the alternative metaphor to kimjaye's comment, and it's the same problem Asheville has in the physical world. The answer here, as with Open Salon? Let 'em come.

Progress has brought traffic filled streets, condo developments and big box stores to Asheville, and uninvited advertising and an activity feed that breaks the speed of light to OS. Yeah, I moved to a smaller town, and don't go into Asheville much anymore. The powers that be at OS will have to weigh a mass exit with being all things to all people - the equivalent of that ugly strip mall-laden 4 lane highway just outside town.
You make good points. As for the commenter complaining about how 'mean' it is - I think you are missing Kent's point, so I'll add my .02. OS is the quality place that it is b/c it is a community, not because it is The Onion or The Atlantic, both of which feature good writing but no interaction with the writers. Writers who post for the popularity but do not engage with the community to discuss, or even acknowledge, their own and others contributions, dilute the community.

I've been around since the very early days, and let me clarify something for those who think this gives you some sort of 'in' or otherwise leg up - most of my early posts have less than 5 thumbs up or comments! The beta people did not get some sort of built in advantage to building an audience - the quality of your writing and comments will do that, and the speed at which that happens is directly proportional to the amount of effort you put in to being an appreciative and curious audience for other posters in the community.
I agree with just about all that you wrote, Kent, except that I think bringing in outside writers should be pursued to one specific end: the further diversification of our OS community. With some bloggers, I cannot tell if they were invited or not. One example is Norman Kelley, who happens to be one of my favorite writers on this site. I suspect that he is a blogger who was invited by the editors. Even if Kelley was brought in, his contributions are worthwhile.
To clarify, my message is as much about making sure new writers who just signed up yesterday but are "all in" here at OS are protected as making sure the so-called in-crowd is protected. My exact point is not to say “what about we who occasionally make the front page” but rather “geez, if you need extra voices, why not feature some of the people already writing who don't make the front cover—many of the undiscovered are already here or moving in every day?”
Kent,

Well, technically, the refugee story is about refugees moving from place to place so to me it does have the ring of relevancy. But I respect your opinion, and I believe the powers-that-be should hear you for the reasons you state. I just ultimately don't understand why it has to be an either/or. Seriously. If good urban planning can solve most problems of urban sprawl, then why can't it be done here?

?

Clearly a conversation should occur...but maybe I think this because I have the flu.
As I read it, there's nothing exclusionary about Kent's suggestion/complaint, nothing that tries to close the door on new OSticates. The more the merrier. The site should grow and the technology must grow with it.

As a former editor, I'm very familiar with repurposed content. What Kent sees as a coming blight is the difference between a water fountain and a fire hose. If, to post on Open Salon, all I have to do is do a one-time setup to have a home here, I can may Facebook my home, or MySpace, or Blogger, or Typepad, or various news Web sites, or Wordpress. Or a full blown Web site, or two, or three.

Type once, publish on dozens of sites just isn't what I want from OS. I'm here and I want to stay. I rarely cross-post. In fact, I direct readers from my other sites to come here now. I have no fear of OS growing from 12,000 members to 120,000 members so long as the technological tools are inserted to make it functional. But I want those 120,000 to be OSticates who consider Open Salon their place, not just one of several places where their work can be read.

The new feature can be useful for someone who has built an audience over the years at another place and is transitioning to OS. But it can also make OS a dump for a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with dialogue.
I can't even read the David Sirota posts, because they're like ads for himself. Really, is that necessary? I know I vanished for a long time, but I'm with you, Kent. I thought it was a pretty fair assessment of the situation.
I'm with you 100% on this. Last night I was working on a post and I noticed in the feed what looked like to me a version of spam blogging. There were something like 4 posts from some sort of vacation company that seemed little more than sales pitches to me. I can't find them now, so I'm guessing they got deleted, but I thought it was weird. I expect with the RSS gadget we'll probably see more of that.
I hope you brought photos, Chris...

I share Kent's concern about this new OS feature. Not that new people will come into the OS community (that's fine with me and a lot of others), but that the new functionality will allow people to crosspost content without coming into the OS community. And, if taken too far, that violates the spirit of the current site. "Open Salon is a social content site", writes Kerry, as the answer to the question, "What is Open Salon?"

I also think this concern should be relevant to OS management for reasons other than those that have been mentioned so far. If a lot of people start cross-posting from other sites (and like Julie and aaron, I hate the thinly disguised spam that makes it on to the feed, and I wish the Editors' were less reluctant to ban those posters) then Open Salon becomes more of a content aggregator than a social content site--and I might as well go directly to the external posters' main blogs as stay on OS.

Just a few thoughts.
Thanks Kent, as always, for the thoughtful post. You've raised good concerns, ones we're definitely aware of.

The goal has always been to make Open the biggest and best content network it can be. We're convinced growth shouldn't hinder communities (there seem to be many different ones here already) from thriving. Among our challenges moving forward is that we offer better ways for readers to, as O'Stephanie put it, "keep track of favorites," and find the content and people they most want to read, while also giving members the widest opportunity to be read. Our long-planned navigation changes -- delayed a bit, as we better insulate the site from spammers -- will make that much easier. Up until now, we've forced you to navigate the site through pretty basic means -- the cover, the popularity boxes, the Most Recent directory -- which we thought would suffice at the beginning. But I know I already struggle to "keep up," as 1_Irritated_Mother says, and better navigation will hopefully mean you won't have to, at least not in the same way.

We never had in mind a network so small that anyone, except for the editors, would try to keep up with everything by following the Most Recent feed every day. The goal moving forward is to allow people to find the content they want much more easily, keep in touch with the people they value here, while also not limiting the amount of content coming to the site. We are open -- it's not just the name, but the governing ethos of the place. Rather than try to fight it, we really feel we need to embrace it. We'll continue to watch for abuses, though, and keep looking for more ways to let the best content bubble up to the top.

I'd also add that we're happy with members choosing whatever level of engagement they want. Just posting (or cross-posting) is fine. If you only want to comment and not post, more power to you. Maybe you'll join and just rate? Or donate money to Mortimer Hayden Smyth's foundation? Go for it. If Open can't be everything to everyone, I think it can be a lot of different things to many, without hurting anyone else's experience.
I've read Kent's post twice now, and just finished reading all the comments.
At first, I didn't think much about the announcement - I'm here, I've been here for months, and I am very happy with the quality of writing and discourse that occurs here.
I don't see Kent's post as being exclusionary or elitist in any way - this is a community, not just another free blog site like Blogger and Wordpress.
To keep it simple, I concur with what Sandra said. As usual, I thought she said it better than I could. Oh, and I agree with Kent's assessment; making OS a dumping ground isn't going to improve the quality of writing here nor the interactions that occur.
Anyone else here feel like Chalrton Heston has just come down from the mountaintop in rays of light?
I believe that a sense of coummunity is a human need; one that OS fills in a unique way. It is the *interaction* between what is written, the readers and the comments that they make that makes OS the wonderful place it is.

Kent addressed these issues beautifully as do many commenters on this thread. Like Sandra, I am an early beta person. We didn't orginally have the tools to "thumbify" or rate a person's writing so perhaps there was a little less, hmmm...competiton, if you will.

We have grown as a community and I don't sense that anyone wants to exclude because the beauty of OS is it's inclusion. But, that aside, I'll repeat Stellaa's question: how did you do the fancy stuff???
Kent- I thouroughly enjoy the writing at OS. As a matter of fact, if they asked for a subscription fee, I would sign up.

Maybe the powers that be at OS would like to add more outstanding writers to the lot. Maybe they would like to include writers with diverse politcal views, or maybe they would like to see more poets post here. Maybe they are believers in lean manufacturing which requires people to strive for continuous improvement.

Whatever their logic, we should give the grown ups at OS a pat on the back for making the intelligent decisions they have made thus far. If the impending changes don't make the OS product better, then I'm sure someone like you (with all of your internet smarts) can tell them how to reverse the changes.
Here, Here Kent.

OpenSalon is that community you speak of and it's creative members are here with a common bond - Politics! And how politics effects our lives. Let's hope your request prevails.
My first response to the announcement that RSS feeds would be enabled was "uh oh."

Not because there would be new writers here. New writers should always be welcome here. There is already a huge amount of content flowing through this place, more than any one person can keep up with.

It's exactly the point that OS is allowing itself to become home to less original content, meaning content that arrives here from folks who have spent maybe all of 10 minutes on the site, who see it as another marketing tool for their blog, which already appears in a dozen other places.

Kerry has an excellent point that not everyone's OS experience needs to be identical. Some come to write, some come to read, some come to socialize. And the RSS feed feature, so long as spammers are weeded out, isn't in and of itself a bad thing.

But I do raise the question of whether opening the floodgates, in effect making it too easy to appear in this community without actually coming to the site and participating (however one chooses to) doesn't end up cheapening the value of the product to advertisers and other revenue generating activities. After all, a blog posted by an RSS bot is not an "eyeball." It drives up numbers but not necessarily quality.

OS has become something rather interesting -- a community of writers and readers and social beings who all have a level of commitment to the property itself. The fact that one must commit content to this place without the ease of RSS is one of the things that enabled this dynamic to happen. And that dynamic has some value in an Internet where content is cheap, fast, and of poor quality. It's a risk to give that up. A big risk, because this is not a genie that goes back in the bottle.

I'm not under any illusion that we as the writers on OS own this place in any way, or that anything in particular is "owed" to us. But I do beleive that Kerry and Joan and the others do care what we think. But it's also got to make money or it can't stay around. Salon is not a not-for-profit, and even if it was, non-profit is a tax status, not a business model. So I'm curious to see how this plays out, whether this is just a bid to up the numbers to show advertisers there is traffic here.

Personally I wonder whether this choice doesn't forego an opportunity to create something that is more unique, and potentially more valuable than the CW of Internet marketing would indicate.
Stellaa and sierrasong, I'll post an explanation of the "fancy stuff" in a separate blog over the weekend when I have a bit more time.
thoughtful post and interesting discussion.

I had a moment of misgiving when I saw the announcement as well.

I guess I land somewhere in the middle. I don't believe that opening the door necessarily will mean a deluge of crap. It may bring in some new stuff & dilute the quality, but I still think that writers/bloggers will want a reason to post here. I also believe that writers who simply post and don't engage are more likely to be "lost" than the more active community members.

I definitely look forward to better navigation tools. I would also like to see more and better ways for "the community" to rate & rank posts - not just binary, but some sort of qualitative values as well - that would help bring quality content to the top and let the drek settle under the radar.

Finally, this is a worthy discussion and I would like to second undertow's suggestion of a regular "Letter from the Editor" to the community providing more detail about mid- and long-range plans and how we as community members fit into the picture.
Kent so interesting that you bring this up...

When I first joined OS a couple of months ago I was one of those people, I added the links to my other blogs to drive traffic but it wasn't long before I came to the realization that I was watering down the community experience I was having on OS so I removed them.

It seem sufficient to note a personal publication or blog in the profile for those who may want to explore your work further but using OS as a means to promote does pollute the environment.

There is a feeling prevailing theory out there thats says..when the smart people start leaving a web community it's the beginning of the end. I think REDDIT is a result of this thinking.

Great post...skeptical it will be heard.
Absolutely right. We (we?) don't need the kind of crap here that I see virtually everywhere else: arguing about Britney Spears' children and whether Brad cheated on whatserface. Somehow - by some miracle - (and maybe there's some editing and selectivity I'm not aware of) - Open Salon is a pleasure to participate in and to read. The posters are smart, sincere, funny and literate. Please Salon - don't open it up to all the cretins out there!
I am concerned, as well, as or SAINT says, "...that the new functionality will allow people to crosspost content without coming into the OS community."

I understand the $ motive in opening the floodgates, but wish that the navigation tools could have come first, to at the least allow the current community to find one another, floating amidst the detritus.
I only got here in id October. I post to no other sites. I love this place. I don't have a huge readership, but I cherish those who do read me and comment, and, more importantly, I am extremely grateful for those individuals whose posts I get to read and interact with---the writing, the thought process is superb. I regret all the ones that get by me---so many, moving so fast.

It goes without saying, the bigger we get, the harder it is going to be to read our current favorites and to garner readership for our own pieces.

I hope that the editors get the new navigational tools working soon. If they work, then a big part of the concerns regarding expansion will be addressed. It won't take us long to learn the non-participants (posters only) from the community members, and we will make our reading choices accordingly. We will, in effect, vote with our clicks.
Maybe the editors could include an "edit comments" tool along with those new navigational buttons.

Mid-October.
I am new here. My voice should carry a proportional less weight.

Ken Pitman is one of the better writers I have ever had the privilege of reading. I value his experience and perceptions greatly. (Don't let any of this smoke get blown to your head, Ken. Truth though.)

I HAVE been made very aware of the 'community' that Ken speaks of. It IS what drew me to here. I am NOT linked.

I do see tremendous and accellerating value in this community approach. Our discussions often have and are verging on resolutions and suggestions,,, think tank stuff.

And it should be.

Please watch that this essence (stink) is not lost.

Dean
Thanks, Kent, for hosting this discourse.

Thank you, Kerry, for acknowledging my plea for tools to find my friends...I misplace them constantly! Quite understand that security comes before tools.

I am for new folks here like Odette and many other commentors and am reminded of a couple posters who showed up from the "outside" rather wild and wooly but adjusted themselves to the community. Harry Knapp reports a change in his response to the OS environment.
I see a great deal of comments about personal value here and wonder:
Perhaps our community is strong enough to sustain an environment that will exert an influence on new bloggers. We value OS, perhaps other will.
I don't think anyone is saying new OSers are not welcome.

BUT, if pulling in content from other blogs via RSS is opened up, here's what is going to happen.

Every Internet Marketer with "how to make money on the Internet" blogs will import their content to get more eyeballs. Sure, they'll scroll off the main page fast enough. No problem. They'll post more.

Every black hat SEO seeking linkback from a PR5 site will import their content, too, as well as the content of the sites they charge for SEO services.

And if it's not nipped in the bud then... that's when the Internet Marketing Gurus will start including "posting on OS" as one of their success tips in their podcasts and youtube videos and free reports. Easy linkback, folks. You don't even gotta log in. Just set up an account and import your feeds and get instant linkback. Easy as pie.

Want more? Next step after that, they'll be using keyword scrapers to fuel their RSS feeds and get keyword laden posts on the main page. Doesn't matter how fast they are removed. Scrapers and bots can work faster than any human, any day.

I have only been here 6 weeks. What I like about this community is that those folks aren't here. I like that most people here know the difference between loose and lose, or there and their. I like that when members link to something, it's usually worth a click instead of being a sales pitch for the latest hot "jv" out there.

I suspect that's all about to change.

On the flip side, it will only serve to make the real people more real. We'll all start ignoring the side bars and visit the writers we know we enjoy reading. I will appreciate those who comment even more because they will be the minority.

Not my site. Not my call. Just my opinion. :)
(and thanks for reading it)
another idea ... one that would help me (a busy, on&offer who often never, ever sees wonderful things until days or weeks later) ... is there or could there be a way to tag things to save them for later??? This would help me ... for instance when the piece is long and I've got all of 4 minutes ... I see it and I mean to come back ... but then I come back and get distracted by the new stuff and forget what I came back for until my next 4 minutes are up and it's pretty much lost forever then ...
so ~ can that be done???
I don't think I've ever commented on a meta post before, because I'm usually happy to leave this to the experts and spend my time buried in Google Reader. I actually met yesterday's announcement with a smile, for a number of reasons, most of them selfish. The major reason of these has to do with getting non-OS bloggers and readers to come over and interact on content; right now, a comfortable, established blogger on another site, doesn't have a lot of incentive to create an OS account just to comment on or reply to posts, because the give-and-take of blog conversation often depends on being able to link back (and trackback) to your own work. So even when there is work here -- like Michael Hebert's posts on Katrina from way back in August, for instance -- that really should rate discussion among the blog-intelligentsia outside of OS, it becomes very hard for that to happen. But I also understand that for OS to open up to anyone being able to comment at random would probably quickly shatter a lot of the good parts of the community (not that it's so hard right now to register). And I understand that the majority of posters on OS aren't concerned much about extending discussion beyond the community here, which, by and large, I can understand.

So I saw the import idea as one designed to allow whoever wanted to, myself included, to continue the community we have here -- participating by posting as always, responding to comments, reading reading reading -- while also branching out in a way that would allow a fix for some of these ills. Almost like an export option, and very close to what AmyFuji is talking about. I'll claim this completely as my own selfish interest: I often write about the work of bloggers off the OS site, and I wish that it was easier for them to respond. Having a Blogger mirror of what I say here would make that more possible through OpenID (though probably not more likely).

But your post has offered me a much different perspective on this, and I agree whole-heartedly with your main argument: that the community will or should dissolve if posts by non-participating outsiders begin to dominate the discussions. I read this and suddenly had a Huffington Post vision of OS in the future, and as I find that site nearly impossible to read or comprehend most days, I really started to worry.

I think you've made fine points. I'm not terrible reassured by Kerry's comment, though I continue to think that he and the other editors have, at heart, the best interests of the whole place. But some of that interest lies in getting people like David Sirota, who has a known name, to be a contributor here. Which perhaps doesn't bode well for the rest of us.
Wow, Kent, this is a great post. Your diplomatic opener to Kerry’s encouraging responses and everything in between and after show why OS is such a fascinating and worthwhile, well, experiment. I’m new to OS, too, and I think it’s wonderful. Is there anything else out there like it – with a developing, intelligent, funny interactive community? It’s definitely dialoguing with the writers that create that community, but will that dialogue stop as it grows – or just split it up into various communities as Kerry hopes? Like lpsrocks, I think I’m somewhere in the middle; I can see both sides, and I wonder what it will end up becoming. So if additional features such as ‘Letters from/to the Editor’ would allow us to revisit this subject whenever necessary, then I’ll 3rd that motion. Thanks again, Kent.
Interesting stuff... No one will recognize me, for I have been posting here only a few days; and few have read my posts; although there has been some encouragement, and enthusiasm. It was painless to register and contribute, and I am excited and honored to lurk among you. I've had earlier incarnations on other sites, including hotwired, where I had the distinction of creating what became the longest thread in their history. This was before blogging. But that was then, and this is now.

So this is commentary from a new guy, and I happen to agree with Kent about the possibility of what an RSS import feature from anywhere in the cosmos might produce here. Even though I am not yet really an accepted and cherished member of your community, I see the value in what is happening here; and the substance of content posted by so many talented individuals is what makes OS so valuable, as well as comparatively unique.

I am glad it's open, which allowed me to join you. Closing it would be a mistake, because there are a great many intellects who have, for reasons of their own, never posted here. They are busy elsewhere. To exclude them would be unfortunate. OTOH, you can't inject the population of google into this forum and expect it to function as it does now. Too big is too bad.

Doubtless OS has changed some since it's inception. But from my fresh perspective, it's sweet. Thus far, I have posted primarily on political subjects, because we seem to be deluged with choices now that will have overwhelming consequences, and Congress is about as clueless as ever. I enjoy the diversity of people here, the differences of opinion; and the prospects for discussion that can be created from our posts. I agree that author participation is a key to the fundamentals of dialog.

Thank you for being here. Thank you for reading. Thank you for contributing. OS is special, and it's up to the denizens of this site to make the effort to keep it that way. It sounds as though the administrators agree. This is grass roots in the soil.
To the "organizers" of Open Salon (to whom I've already written one or two personal letters):

I'm in complete agreement with this gentleman, Mr Pitman. He uses the word "community;" I use Hillary Clinton's word "village." It comes to the same thing.

Open Salon, so I've discovered after blogging and prowling around in my fashion here now for several weeks (I joined in early October, as I recall) is indeed a community. Why, I would go so far even as to call it a neighborhood with the occasional block party, as when we had that business about the ten most sexiest women alive today. Didn't that ever garner a lot of attention, eh, Pitman?

Now, Mr Pitman calls himself a philosopher; and so do I. But the distinction between the two of us is that he may very well be a "professional philosopher," which means that he has earned a Ph.D. and teaches at a university somewhere, probably in the Eastern part of the United States. As for me, well, I would have to classify myself as an "amatueur (sp?) philosopher" who can't even spell correctly all the time.

I remember once I left Mr Pitman a message in some brief comment on someone else's blog; it may have been Mary's, but I don't recall for sure. Anyway, I said to him, something to the effect of, "If this webspace were suddenly transformed into the scene of a cocktail party of the sort described by John Cheever in one of his stories, I would no doubt want to talk to you first before doing so with anyone else." And I sincerely meant that since I'm, at heart, a shy and cautious individual. You know, the Leo type (born August 11th, '52).

You administrators of this website already have allowed outgoing connections. Why not just leave it at that? With these, any member at Open Salon, recent or otherwise, can "explore" outwardly. . . . We don't need a lot of riff-raff cluttering up this really good village bulliten with a bunch of dreck.

Don Stacy
First, thank you Kent for writing what many of us thought about.

Bigger is not always better, nor does it always mean more money in the long run. Quality matters. (See the car industry. Not all that different from any other business model.)

Right now this is a village yes, compared to other larger, meaner, sprawling, chaotic communities on the Web. But it is a village that works.

It may be too late for us to have a say, considering the message we recieved from Kerry. But please count me in as one who like OS growth as is. And one who appreciates this unique moment when it all seems to be working.

I know it's about the bottom line. But if the powers that be have not read Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point," may I suggest it as a cautionary read?
Fight the good fight, Kent. I miss OS a lot -- it has been a quality experience for all that have come in to participate in the community. It is a pretty small number that write and comment with regularity. It is annoying to write to the more "well-known" writers with a specific question that is never answered. Not everyone is interested in the community/social aspect of OS, however. I hope this sorts itself out to everyone's satisfaction.
I like to be here because there are a handful of people who notice when I put up a post and comment when the spirit moves them. I believe there are more who read the post but don't comment or rate. Up to now, the community has been small enough so that I could look back through "most recent" and read what took my fancy. That's the village thing, the experience that is dependent on being pretty small. In the village model, frequent posters largely know each other, can refer to each other in comments by nicknames or real names as opposed to screen names. It seems clear that's not going to last.

What's ahead? We need communities small enough so that we recognize each other's voices and interests, but those communities need not be the whole of Open Salon.

The "friend list" thing, if improved, could do some of that. The problem with it now is that we don't have easy access to friends' most recent posts, nor can we see easily when a friend has posted something. That needs to be improved before Open Salon gets too big.

Being big will have some advantages. I've written some posts about my experience of Africa. Only a few people were interested. In a bigger community, there will be more people who want to know about that aspect of my writing. At the same time, I don't want to lose the element of serendipity. I want to be attracted by a bit of sparkle in a headline and end up reading a funny piece about the joys and trials of being a suburban housewife.

Perhaps a Facebook model would serve us: we can read the posts of friends of friends. But that also depends on better access to friend lists. The whole functionality of the machine needs to be turned toward creating communities within OS, which it isn't now.

We who are here already have an advantage over those who will come later, when the whole thing is much bigger. We already know some people. I expect to continue associations I've begun here, with Caveat Canem Croceum, Rob St-Amant, Karen Novak, Mary T. Kelly and others. I already have a range of writing to read that I like, without having to classify myself in advance (I'm an "Africa," "education" and "socialism" writer...). We're already old-timers, I guess, and it's fair to ask that Kerry should try to see that the interests of old-timers are protected, the community experience extended into the future of OS, even while he thinks about the way new members will be received.

As far as I can tell, being "Editor's Choice" hasn't brought me even one extra reader. This feature isn't working. Being on the front page does get you attention, of course.
Kent,
I just checked and this post is your most rated and 4th most read post.
Shows the measure of interest in this subject.
Thank you, again, for posting on this!
Still didn't make Editor's Pick though.

Sirota could post a grocery list and it would be given EP. Politics as usual.
I started on OS in September as a result of needing to express views on the election. I haven't cross-posted yet from my nature blog but made a new post once using content from that blog (my wren video). I do have a RSS feed on my nature blog so those those nature lovers might find their way to OS.

I don't know enough about this to have an opinion but I am glad you are discussing the issue. I would hate for OS to become a dumping ground. Rated.
I am new to this community and am a bit lost understanding changes that have taken place. I must say it means the world to me to read comments from others who read my work. It's exactly why I came here. It would be a shame to lose that interaction. Very glad so many people are passionate about the community, as evidenced by the reaction to your post. Thanks, Kent, for a very thoughtful argument.
Kent and all:

I joined OS on October 21. This is the first time I have blogged. I don't know much about any of the other online blogging groups or any of the technology that somehow ties the internet together.

I earlier tried some RSS feeds to Google Reader and found that they got in the way of sorting the chaff from the wheat, so I dropped them. Ditto when I was asked to be the moderator of the largest section of the largest motorcycle site on the web. After two months the asinine comments in my forums drove me insane and I quit.

So I came here not having a clue what to expect. I wrote about what I thought both important and interesting. At first few read my stuff and even now it is not read by a large volume of people. I don't care.

When somebody comments on my posts I reply to every commenter. Always. When a commenter seemed interesting I read his or her blog, and the beginning of my friends list happens. I ask every person I have on my friends list if he or she would like to be on my list and vice versa. So far all have said yes, but it is a mutual thing.

In short order we were all reading each others posts, letting each other know when we post something because it is otherwise impossible to keep up with the feed, and commenting and supporting each other.

And then my private messaage inbox started filling up as we got to know each other better. And so it grows as we talk both through posts; and through PMs about things we love, fear, worry about that we hesitate to shout out to the world.

I pray for a lot of people here. I am a retired pastor. Praying is something I do well. I pray for them when I know they are hurting and when they are not. I pray because I care.

Do you notice how none of of this rambling comment says anything about the content of any of these writers? That is because, while I came here thinking only about content, and I still seek out (and always find) quality content, what I found has turned out to be far more important to me, something that I thought impossible to find on the internet, a community.

Call it what you want: community, village, neighborhood, or, what I increasingly see OS as, an extended family. If that sounds corny, too bad. Because that is what OS is becoming in my life, an extended family of friends.

ANYTHING that inhibits the growth of that is anathema to me.

Kent: Thank you. Truly. I saw Kerry's RSS post and didn't give it a second thought. Now I understand some of the possible consequences of this action. They do not sound like they fit my definition of what OS is now or what it can be in the future.

If newcomers could not join I would not be here. But I don't hear very many people saying that we should close the "club" or start vetting newcomers. New blood is necessary for any organization to thrive and grow. Just throwing crap at the wall through RSS feeds into OS and seeing what sticks is not community.

Thank you for your informative post. And thanks to all the members who have by their comments here proven my point. We are a family and we care to protect that unique truth.

Monte
As a complete newcomer to OS, I read this post (and the smart, interesting comments that followed) with great interest. Just this morning, I was trying to piece together how I came upon this delightful community (or "village" if you prefer) and thought it would make a good topic for a blog later today. As OS is capable of doing (like no other site I know), I logged on and discovered (as I do each day) another decisive voice, a different viewpoint and a different opinion.
After reading Kent's well crafted and insightful letter and the responses that followed, it gives me further inspiration and additional insight to OS that I didn't have even a few hours ago.
I don't know much or as much about the history of how things "were" or "used to be" at OS to make any informed or valid arguments for or against its current format or direction. I feel more like a lumbering, (overly) enthusiastic puppy with too-long arms and legs romping through what I consider to be the equivalent of a writer's heaven, complete with Konga toys and Milkbone treats at every turn. The quality (and sheer volume) of writing is astounding. The surprising and delightful trails that take me from one blog to another almost offset the disappointment or frustration of trying to sniff my way back to where I had started before deciding to "mark" every page I visited. Almost.
When I saw the notice that you could import your blog, I thought it was a great idea. But plagiarizing myself from a community that is so different than OS just doesn't feel right. So I have opted to cut and paste sections from one or two "other blogs" and elaborate (with a sharper red pen and more discerning eye) certain pieces I feel the audience at OS might appreciate, mindful of the quality that the readers (and writers) demand and deserve. In short, I feel honored to be a part of OS (if it was open fire hydrant, I'd be even happier).
How large this community grows and how often people read my work, post comments or send private e-mails is not up to me. I feel that my responsibility is to be true to myself as a writer, post diligently, comment on other blogs or respond to comments on mine in a timely manner, and hope I can find a little corner to call my own where people are more than welcome to visit or, if they like, sit and stay.
As an artist and a writer, the hardest thing about creating words or images is to have someone walk by your work without responding at all. Love it or hate it, agree or disagree, laugh or cry. We all want some validation that we exist. Looking for it in the form of "editor's pick" (and as proud as it can make you feel) is not nearly as rewarding as finding out you've hit a nerve, touched a soul or reached through the screen and made someone feel something, anything.
If I have to beg for recognition, I must need better training. If I get rewarded with a pat on the head or a rub on my belly (comment, rating, "editor's pick") I'll do everything possible as your lap(top) dog to please you yet again. If I find myself feeling chained to or abandoned by my "pack" at OS (or anywhere else, for that matter), you guessed it.
You'll see Spot run.
For now, I'm very happy to have been adopted and I'm just getting used to the surroundings (this house is awfully busy, isn't it?).
If it stays this way and allows me to occasionally drink from the toilet and doesn't put up invisible fences, I'll remain loyal and occasionally even sleep by your side.
Tail wag (and rated) from me for allowing me to not only find, but also to bark up your tree!
I agree with Kent that Open Salon has to have a unique raison d'etre. Something about the user experience of the site, for both authors and readers, has to be special; otherwise it's just as easy to post on the other blogs we probably already have.

When I first heard about OS from a friend who works at Salon, I said, "Oh, like Huffington Post?" She replied: Well, maybe someday. It's not a bad model to shoot for, though for the moment -- except for the dubious David Sirota -- most of the posts lack a journalistic perspective and are much more personal.

Among other things that OS needs is a defining moment. For Wonkette, for example, this was the "Washingtonienne" scandal, which happened along in that blog's first month and made it a must-read for anybody in the Washington politics industry. The trouble is, you can't manufacture such a moment. You just have to be there for it and enable it. It will be interesting to find out whether OS can expand far enough to reach the authors who will, in that moment, define the site.
I agree with Amy F. The ambient quality of this site is such that I would only tend to cross-post the items I thought had the most relevance. A wbolesale cross-feed would be too indiscriminate, but the fact that cross-posting was not *dis*couraged had a lot to do with my lingering past the first enjoyable surf-through.

Like most of us who try to commit full-time to the writing life in this era, I must always walk the difficult balance beam between writing for love (and kinship) and writing with the hope of income. Speaking just for me, I do not currently have the luxury of spending time in any venue only because it is simpatico and stimulating, but the fact that it is both those things at the same time that I can cross-promote a bit is a good happy medium to me.

This same open door attitude that keeps me coming back also increases the odds I will write more posts that are meant for OS alone, and having it grow in OS-only content is probably a benefit for people who run it. That sounds like a decent win-win to me ;->
This is the only place I post as well. It is an amazing community of brilliant minds... which makes it special and unique... unlike any other site. I would hate to see that disintegrate.
What is unique and appealing about OS is the quality and the community.

Quantity dumping of posts could destroy both. I sincerely hope that the powers that be rethink the potential impact of this feature.
whew! just read the post and all the comments.

I wanted to weigh in as a newbie (I think I've been posting here only about 6 weeks) who has felt very welcomed by both the editors and the "regulars"/oldsters. I've posted in and been involved in online forums for well over a decade, and yes, this place is special -- for the quality of the writing foremost, and secondly for the interaction on it.

If I understand the coming changes, it does sound worrisome to throw open the floodgates in that way - which does sound different than the open door that I walked in through not that long ago, and that others continue to every day. And FWIW, I don't hear anyone objecting to that open door or suggesting that no more writers should be let in.

I was surprised to find how engaged the community is here, and it's what has pleased and satisfied me the most - not seeing my name in print but having people read and comment thoughtfully on my posts is what really feels good and keeps me coming back here. After just a few short weeks, I'm a pig for comments now! If indeed there is a large influx of people who don't engage in that way, it does seem something essential and different here will be lost.

But I do wonder if that will happen, or if it does, how much it will matter? Surely most folks here will continue to read the people that they enjoy reading, which may also be largely people that they can engage in a two-way dialogue with. "Drive-by posters" can be ignored, after all (as they often are in all online forums).

And the tools that Kerry said are coming -- to in effect subscribe to the blogs here that we most enjoy reading or otherwise be better alerted to activity in them -- are very appealing. I find myself wishing for something like them often, rather than the very limited "Friend-and-Four" feature (as I call it) of seeing only the last 4 posts of all your friends on your own blog page.

But once there is something that allows people to more easily narrow in on who they read, I also see a danger of breaking up into sub-salons of people we already "know" and not taking the time (or having the time!) to read new voices. I can see myself already starting to do that, whereas at first I spent more time dipping into the Activity Feed to read someone's new post, and was especially happy to do so if they were a newbie, to encourage them. But as I get to "know" more people here, it's hard enough to just keep up with them, much less seek out the unknown.

I still try to look at some random recent posts each time I come here and comment on them or at least rate them, but I find myself wondering how many people do that sort of thing.
Silkstone, I think a lot of us try to read random new posts when we can. But the other technique is to look for new faces in comments and click through to read their posts, which encourages people not only to post but to comment.

I think you're right about the subSalons, and I think that's part of the OS designers' stated plan, which I think can be interesting. It does run some risk, as I think you suggested, that people will stop running into one another... I think that risk is severe and sad. That is a risk that I don't know how to fix without closing OpenSalon to new comers, though, because the present system doesn't scale otherwise. (In private conversations with some people here, I've alluded to a similar problem that comes in large technical conferences, forcing people into multi-track events because you just can't get everyone into a single room.) There are various finite quantities that are bottlenecks—the number of hours in the day, the speed of people reading, etc. while there are other things that will (if Salon is lucky) grow without bound, like the number of readers, etc. So push comes to shove and something has to give. The subSalons are the easiest way to accommodate that, even if the detailed mechanisms are not yet worked out.
Kent, thanks for replying.

I also do the "click on names of people who comment" and then read their blog or at least latest post. I do this not just when people comment on one of own my posts, but often when I see unfamiliar names in the comments of other posts (that is, if I read the comments section - I don't always have time.)

I also like to see who is in the "Friend and Four" column of someone's blog that I just read and click on a post or two to read. (I figure a Friend of theirs can be a Friend of mine - meaning if I like their writing, I'm curious to know whose writing they like.)

You can keep doing this, leaping from link to link, and basically wander aimlessly within OS, discovering people you hadn't read before, or at least posts that you otherwise would have missed if you only either look at the front page or stuck to your known circle. (My perception is that to some degree those are overlapping groups. The Most Read and Highest Rated lists seem to feature a lot of the same names from day to day, and often they aren't the Cover picks, so it's not directed by the editors, which suggests people are frequenting the same blogs for the most part.)

Because I'm still relatively new, I find this kind of random exploring important. When I find someone who is new to OS or just has an "unloved" post that hasn't gotten any ratings and/or comments, it gives me a thrill to comment, as I know it will really mean something to that person -- that in fact a single thoughtful comment may mean a lot more than the 20th or 40th comment will mean to the writer of a highly read post, especially if that person is someone who typically gets their stuff read by others around here.

anyway, not to go on, but I think little stuff like this is what makes a community thrive, as much as the technical issues you raised here. I think human interaction will always trump both technical abilities and constraints. People have the power to shape OS by their actions, no matter what TPTB put in on the technical side.
A lot of people here know that I have been concerned about issues such as this since OS first opened up. Inevitably there are one or two people who take this as trying to keep it an exclusive club, but happily I think there are enough people here now who realize that is not what is going on.

A number of people expressed my own feelings about OS: I love the community of writers and artists. Sometimes my biggest complaint is simply the difficulty of finding all the wonderful content being posted and allowing people to auto-feed their blogs onto OS will make it even harder.

I'm afraid I don't share Kerry's optimism about unfettered growth on OS. I already find the experience much less manageable--and enjoyable--than it was even a month ago. I'm also weary of hearing about how there are things planned or underway to make it all much easier and nicer. While there have been improvements (yay to not getting randomly logged out!) they don't address the more significant complaints aired both in Kent's post and in comments here, as well as in numerous other posts on related topics.

I sincerely hope that we don't lose the best aspects of Open Salon, but I am not particularly hopeful. It may well be ultimately successful by some measure, but if it continues along this path, it will not hold much interest for me anymore. Losing one person is no big deal, but I think OS stands to lose a lot more in the long run. It will be too bad if it ends up becoming something like Blogger with a few extra tools.
Like a few others who have commented, I have been here since the very, very early days when OS was still beta. There have been changes I thought were great, and others not so much. But every time there is a particular change that threatens to "ruin" OS, it ends up not being the case. [Maybe it's just that some people don't want to compete with the likes of a Davdid Sirota, I dunno.] I agree with Kerry that OS can be different things to different people. But for now, I say "the more, the merrier."

Now if we can just do something about those pesky trolls....
If OS wants to be a community and still open the floodgates. then please address the issue of comment tracking and notification! WE need to be able to respond to a comment directly and receive a notification when someone responds to a comment we have left.

This also would help with the problem that a post is obsolete if it is more than 24 hours old. Good writing shouldn't become worthless just because the clock has ticked past another day.......

And I'd love to know if an editor has even SEEN my post. Perhaps an automated feature that would track an editor's visits and place a check mark next to the post title on the private "manage posts" page.

Thanks for fixing the logout problem, that was a biggie too.
What artsfish said. I really am puzzled about the lack of "tools" to manage the rapid growth. It would go a long way toward keeping the experience pleasant. It isn't as if tracking comments and sending notifications is a new idea.
Thank you Kent. I really like this place and have been an active member since September. The quality of the writing here is incredible. I have laughed and cried at posts here. I especially like the creative short stories. I do believe your sounding the alarm on potential problems is helpful. Here is my experience from last night.
I finished a post that I was proud of and published it late at night. I was hoping that it would stay on until the morning and get some exposure. I went to check about an hour later and some guy, an insurance agent, had put on at least eight posts, back to back to back taking up two full pages. This knocked my post into oblivion and even though I got an editor's pick, I only received one comment. I posted a political diary a couple of weeks ago and got two comments. I thought it was a more worthy article than that and posted it on DK where it was on the recommended list for over 30 hours and received nearly 400 comments and 851 recommendations. That was kind of neat but I don't like that place. They are a mob. OS is a friendly community place. I guess my best option is to use this place to read and comment on others and find somewhere else to post my stuff. If an insurance agent can put up 8, hell it may have been 10, posts what chance to we all have? I guess all good things come to an end. One rule should be put in place immediately, one post per day. I appreciate your writing .
Kent.. Thought provoking post such as this one is what I like best about OS.
Kent, this was one finely worded piece.
Wholeheartedly agreed. The only thing I "Re-Post" here is something I did originally for here and got lost in the feed. And, ONLY if I feel it very important.

I agree, I don't like the upload function from other blogs.
It's all about originality. That's about all I got going for me. ;-)

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I agree Kent. I too blog in several other places and OS is my #1 because it is first and foremost a community of writers. If that's lost the real writers will leave
I have only been here a few days, and I can tell you that I would saddened if OS became an engine content aggregation, as opposed to the community it is. It's wonderful to be surrounded by so many great minds as I am honing my skills as a writer. Conversely, the posts here add rich context to my life, as they are usually well written and meaningful. While I understand the need to monetize and to work across platforms, I think some caution should be exercised before OS willing allows itself to become just a cog in the machinery of the blogocracy as opposed to being a separate ecosystem.
As usual, I'm not entirely in either camp on this one. At first I thought that the option is a good one for a writer that is trying to build and solidify their particular brand and profile across multiple channels of the web, and allows Salon to piggyback on great content that they might not necessarily get access to because the writer does not have the time, means or inclination to generate tailored content to this particular community.

Yes, this is somewhat mercenary, and entirely in the vein of the business of making a sustaining career as a writer, and building a site that generates more notice and thereby revenue for Salon proper.

I ocassionally cross post, but usually when I feel that the content fits what I try to do in this venue. I signed up for feed at first, but decided to delete because I felt it would actually dilute what I do in other spheres, because for me, I work in different places both as a sustaining strategy, but also for the craft opportunity to work out the different facets of my writing and thinking. I consider both the business and the level of artistic quality.

Salon appeals to me because the caliber of writers, yes, but also because of the editor eyeballs and opportunity to bring more eyeballs to my writing that might otherwise miss it in the vast sea of "content" because of the platform they have meticulously built over the last decade.

That being said, I do believe that the special nature of this place is the focus on a true community of writers who are not only talented in their own right, but engaged by what others are saying as well. For a variety of reasons, my main energy is not engaged here, although I very much enjoy the time I am able to devote here, and the thoughtful and valuable feedback I get. Because I am not a devoted insider, I have appropriate expectations for what my overall readership will be here because of my choice, as well as the fact that I do believe there has been a tendency towards an insular "cool kids" who are clearly in the tank for each other, out of true admiration and respect, and consequently drive each others numbers up in the rankings pretty routinely. Personally, while I understand this tendency, which I don't feel is maliciously or conscientiously intended, and why it exists, my personal opinion is that it doesn't serve any of the writers well in the end. This is just an observation from someone who is somewhat apart, but aware of the "regs", and to some degree, their history with one another. Like Caveat Canem, I have spent a fair amount of time in the "morgue" .

In conclusion, I think that ultimately the quality of the content will determine who gains a following here. Those who don't participate in the community element, will ultimately go away because their goal of traffic generation will not bear out because they will simply not get the views they want or need. The process of natural selection already on display here will handle the culling of dead weight, even though you may have to endure the occasional automatron.

My proverbial two cents on the issue, and thanks for bringing it up. It's a very valuable discussion to have.
Whew! Thanks for the heads up on something that is quite over my head. I am also a newcomer to OS, and have found a great escape from another site, where the quality of writing is only a tad better than the alt.usenet level of discourse.

At my basic level: I have become used to the easy pickings at the hope page, the "Open Salon Topics" page, and at certain individual's blogs. It would be awful if the clearly identified new offerings were confounded with too much input from who knows where.

I would appreciate, however, if you could point me in the direction of some explanations of rss feeds and meta feeds!
Hi. I am very late to this discussion, but please allow me to add my two cents.

First, I am one of those people who tend not to leave feedback when someone comments on a piece. It's not that I don't want to be friendly. My background is in journalism and that experience sort of trains you to stay on the sidelines. That may be one reason why some choose not to befriend readers.

Also, there are shy people for whom posting here might take all the nerve they can muster, and asking them to comment might be too much.

As far as the RSS goes, I am no tech whiz, but adding it seems to promise to do the exact opposite of your fears. It also enables your fine writing to be shared around the web. And while I wholeheartedly concur that the level of engagement and intelligence here is high, I don't think that adding RSS feeders will decrease the quality of writing or thought. OS is a self-selecting audience, and I think only those who truly fit here are going to knock on its doors.

Thanks for letting me express my opinion.
Excellent advice to OS. They should definitely follow through.And they should tell newbies that, as Stella says, authors should add comments in reply to people who comment on their posts.
Wow, how did I miss this the first time around? Boy, am I glad it's made the top ten b/c it so deserves to be seen. You ask some great questions about the general goals for salon. I often find myself wondering what they're up to. Sometimes I feel like we're all pawns or something. Keep up the great work, Kent.
"If OS wants to be a community and still open the floodgates. then please address the issue of comment tracking and notification! WE need to be able to respond to a comment directly and receive a notification when someone responds to a comment we have left."

What artsfish said.
Being able to track comments and replies can keep the community element, even in the face of so much activity. As it is, I keep losing the posts on which I have made comments--my blog page only shows the five most recent, and I make far more comments at a sitting!
I have a few suggestions/questions. Since this is a community, with some very vocal and enthusiastic members, could OS hire some of these people to actually moderate? Or, at first, to help define what community members would like to see?
It's a really awkward place to navigate - or else I am a big dummy. Keep in mind that the latter is very often true. A really informative FAQ and tools to navigation would be Oh So Helpful.
And for now, while things are being debated and fleshed out, weekly updates from the editors responding to certain threads of comments would allow everyone to see how the dialogue is moving around, so newcomers won't be too confused, and oldtimers also can be less confused, and so everyone will feel like they are being heard. Not herd.

I'd love to be pointed to a list of changes the powers that be are suggesting - sorting by topic? By group?
Also agree that one post a day would be a good idea. Not that many people here aren't deserving of ten posts a day, and I hate losing that free to be feeling, but it would stop some of the spam. Not that I've ever seen any, yet.
I feel very strongly in a loving way to OS - so many people are NICE. That's a big change in my internet community experience. I came on ready to fight...and I just didn't have to! The writing is generally magnificent. I'm glad to be here, and hope you and others who care so much are given a real, acknowledged voice in articulating the months to come.
Kent,
I was not surprised at all to see this post hit the well-rated list. I am glad to see it revived.
Having thought about the possiblity of being "overrun" and the character of OS being changed irrevocably by that, I have come to the conclusion that OS is strong enough to maintain its character. I have watched as new posters come in "ready to fight" and find the unique environment here and relax into the OS they find. It is many interconnecting neighborhoods which form the OS culture, and I see them acting in concert to keep OS the best on the web.
Totally off topic, but my real name is now appearing and my settings have my screen name as aim.
????? I just reset - let's see what happens!
o'steph, I'm not optimistic, frankly. But we'll wait and see. I'll be glad if you're right and I'm wrong. But if I had to make a money bet, it would definitely be on the idea that this place will fall to ruin by a lack of focus and an unfettered desire for more people at the expense of quality... a lack of understanding what value really is.

This is a good quality political site capable of becoming great, and I don't think it has the will to do it. It could be really moving real political opinion but its direction of motion is toward being a chatty place that merely tolerates occasional political speech, rather than being led by it. If you look at the open calls, you'll note the trend is for things that are more like People magazine and less like news. I think the editors don't have the confidence in what they could be, and I think they are selling themselves short by this emphasis on outside content rather than trying to really feature what they have here. It's as if they are not identifying their real goal, not providing feedback to people here about whether it's being achieved, not allowing us to do anything other than feel around in the dark, and then punishing us for not achieving useful goals that have never been articulated. A high density of good posts is what's needed, and inevitably as you get larger groups that density will go down. To say it needs more writers is a slap in the face to the writers already working for notice and already providing fine quality stuff to read. It's readers they should be seeking, not writers.

To seek more writers especially by just piping in what's available elsewhere is like trying to make your town have a distinguished set of restaurants by bringing in a Cheesecake Factory, an Olive Garden, an Outback, etc. All fine places to eat, but places that once they are everywhere are also not worth going out of your way for. When there was only one here or there, it was unique; now it's just "what's expected" and is no reason to visit a particular town.

Once you can read every journalist also here, it won't be reason to come here because some other site can totally easily match the same feature. The only way to get something that is uniquely here, and for which this is the go-to site, is to have a unique content source be here. To cater to the people who've chosen to write for here. Once writing for anywhere is writing for here, why should one write for here or care. I'd rather find a place that cares about me, not just a place that'll say where I can plug in my hose ...
You didn't bother to say anything about my suggestions or comments.
(and my real name will probably appear.)
I think you're kind of falling in love with your own voice.
One of the ONLY annoying things of OS is the cacophony of agreeing that leads to the agreeer agreeing.
Kent has been wonderful and responded to me personally, so I retract my last snarky comment. Please accept my apology, Kent.
AAnd anyone else who might have been offended.)
I agree Kent.

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Definitely got value from this post. Rated!