Community Voices: Please Pardon This Interruption

I apologize for this breach in protocol. Each of us has a scheduled day to post and mine has already passed for the month, but I wanted to jump in quick before the next scheduled entry and ask a question.

What do you want from 1) an AML blogger in general, and 2) me as an individual AML blogger?

I admit freely to having between litte and no clue as to what I’m doing here, but I am flattered that they asked. I’d really like to do a good job at this, but I’m not quite sure how to do that.

Are you interested in personal vignettes and observations? Is cultural exploration in general okay, or should we keep it focused specifically to literature? Would you like to see more reviews of authors, works, and publishing venues? Discussions of literary theory? Explorations of social issues or historical analysis? News of a particular genre or marketing category?

I know the general guidelines are fairly broad and the goal is to keep it Mormon and steer clear of doctrine and politics, with few other limitations. But my question is more about what you want than what is permitted.

Because the fact is that I have always been a better responsive writer than an innovative one. I react to something I’ve seen or read, or what someone else has said. I attempt to represent an opposing view when I think it’s not being considered. I attempt to answer a question (or at least explore it) that I’ve seen in other conversations.

I suppose I’m asking for suggestions, because the general thinness of response here suggests that in general we’re not effectively engaging a readership–or at least not engaging a conversation. If the intent is not to engage conversation but primarily to provide interesting reading material, I’m fine with that. But I’d still like some ideas on the kinds of things you’d like to read about so I can more effectively meet expectations.

Basically, I’m trying to figure out what success looks like. Your input is appreciated.

I now return you to your regular programming.

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53 Responses to Community Voices: Please Pardon This Interruption

  1. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    Good point, Scott.

    It seems that there isn’t much conversation unless there is disagreement, and we’ve had bloggers here who have actually been pounced on for what they’ve said. What we WANT is somewhere in the middle, I guess.

    Maybe we should try to come up with some topics or suggestions for our bloggers. We’re looking for papers for our upcoming annual meeting with the theme of "liberating form" and maybe that could be a topic–how can rules and regulations be liberating, especially in creative works, and does the tension between them make creative works more interesting or less?

  2. Scott Parkin says:

    I’m not overly concerned one way or the other, and I am more than capable of writing about something or other once a month until the end of time.

    I’m just big on effective and/or useful writing as well. If this is a creative outlet, then cool–I’ll create. If it’s an informative venue, then I need to seek useful information and structure posts accordingly. If it’s an innovation forum I may not be your best blogger, but I’m happy to try.

    But if these posts are intended to spur discussion, then I think we all need to do some work. We seem to have had precious little of conversation recently; I was just curious if that was according to plan.

  3. Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

    I’ll chime in. I’d like to see the genres well-represented by writers in each area. Some academic voices would be fine, but pls, not a lot of a lot of that. I’m not sure why so many of the voices posting here have disappeared. I miss the variety. And Scott, you always post insightful things. Keep doing that.

  4. Wm Morris says:

    1. You guys write posts that are too long. I love the posts, and try to comment when I have the time and interest. But longs posts tend to not generate much activity. In addition, lack of comments isn’t usually a measure of the quality of the post. The better said something is, the less it tends to invite discussion.

    2. The AML blog launched just as blogs became a mature medium and much of the energy, especially conversational energy had moved on.

    3. Those most engaged with the AML blog are not very active on other blogs, for the most part. A blog usually doesn’t gain major traffic and comments unless it is part of an ecosystem and actively engages that ecosystem. Unfortunately, the ecosystem that the AML has the most in common with — the bloggernacle — has matured and settled in to certain patterns of activity.

    4. Mormon culture is not the hot topic among LDS bloggers and even, for example, Segullah — the culture posts often don’t generate the number of comments that some of the more general issue ones do.

    5. Just like with the rest of the media world politics, sex, scandal and celebrity drive traffic and comments. It’s a sad fact. But I see it in AMV’s traffic and comments, and I see it on other blogs. The same was true, though, of the AML-List — controversy creates conversation.

    6. I’ve said this before but the blogging platform used hurts the AML blog. Not badly, but it doesn’t help.

    7. Authors may get pounced upon, but that’s the way blogs work. And I actually think it’s good to stir things up from time to time — we could use a little more vigorous debate. If one is serious about blog, then one can’t see it as a personal platform from which to bloviate (even though that constitutes much of what I do). Rather it is an invitation to expose your thinking to the public. One, of course, can close the blog to comments. But that’s generally not a practice that is going to help in the sort of community formation and maintenance that I would assume the AML is trying to create.

    To be sure, sometimes things get way overheated on blogs, but it’s generally been pretty productive and civil here at the AML blog (just as it is at AMV) and the vigorous forces authors and commenters alike to refine their ideas and figure out better ways to state their positions. In addition, oftentimes authors post and then disappear instead of actively engaging with and shepherding the conversation. This tends to dampen the enthusiasm of commenters, especially the more serious ones. No one wants to hang out with a shrinking violet.

    8. The most important things are to be consistent, be responsive and have a point of view. The genre of posts are generally less important and for the AML it probably makes sense to provide a range.

    Finally, let me say that I very much missed Scott Parkin’s voice for a couple of years and am very glad he was invited to be part of this venue. Or to address him more directly: I really like what you’ve posted so far, Scott, even if I don’t always take the time to so.

  5. Moriah Jovan says:

    Ed’s funny. More Ed.

  6. Melinda W. says:

    I’m most likely to comment on person vignettes and observations, and on reviews of authors, works and publishing venues. About half the time, I can’t get the comment to post because of the captcha anyway. I wrote a comment to your previous post, but after six tries to post it, I gave up.

    The longer the post is, the less likely I am to comment. A short post feels like an invitation to a discussion. A long post feels like a lecture (a good, interesting lecture like my favorite college class, but still a lecture).

  7. Th. says:


    Even today I had to reload the page before I could get the site to accept a comment. That’s no good.

    And I agree that I’m more likely to engage seriously with a long post.

    And I don’t think this blog needs to worry too much about people bleeding over arguments. Being small keeps the trolls away so we can engage and argue without injury. More or less.

  8. Scott Parkin says:

    As I say, I just want to do what I can to be a more effective participant in the forum. Since I can’t seem to figure it out on my own, I chose to ask.

    I agree on Ed, and will happily donate my slot to him to allow for a second post. Honestly, following the funny and entertaining guy is a bit of a downer.

    On getting past Captcha…it seems to be a session timeout. What works for me is to write my post, enter the Captcha, fail to successfully save my comment, copy the contents of my post (just in case), refresh the browser window, then enter the new Captcha and save immediately (remember, you have to click "Save comment" twice–once to accept the Captcha, and a second time to actually post the comment).

    On long versus short, I’ll work on that. Sadly, brevity is not my talent.


  9. Moriah Jovan says:

    [blockquote][b]On getting past Captcha…it seems to be a session timeout. What works for me is to write my post, enter the Captcha, fail to successfully save my comment, copy the contents of my post (just in case), refresh the browser window, then enter the new Captcha and save immediately (remember, you have to click "Save comment" twice–once to accept the Captcha, and a second time to actually post the comment).[/b][/blockquote]

    Which is six to seve steps more than any of us are used to, and the spammers still don’t seem to be having as many problems. They must be more determined than I…

  10. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    In hopes of helping with the captcha:

    I just now typed the captcha characters into the box.

    Then I clicked with my mouse in the comment box. As soon as I got the verticle line indicating that I could start writing in the comment box, the letters OK appeared next to the captcha box. That tells me that my comment will be accepted and posted, and I can go ahead.

    Then I started typing this comment.

    So that should be only a few steps:

    1–type the captcha letters in the captcha box

    2–click in the comment box and wait for the OK next to the captcha box

    3–write the comment, and preview, if desired

    4–check the "notify me when new comments are added" box, if desired

    5–click the "save comment" button

    I really hope this helps. The key is in making sure you do steps one and two first.

  11. Moriah Jovan says:

    *sigh* The point is that it should work without all that thought and effort, not to have to read a primer on how to make it work.

  12. Ed Snow says:

    Thanks Moriah.

    Scott, like you I have no idea what I’m doing here, but neither did I have any idea what I was doing at BCC when I blogged there. I do like reading your posts. I tend to like personal reflections that have literary aspects (whether creative or reflective) more so than Mo-Lit shop talk (but this is a good forum for that and it should continue for that).

    I pretty much have 3 themes that seem to draw my attention: (i) 1970s Mormon cultural reflections, using the New Era magazine born in that period as a focal point, (ii) humor with some kind of Mormon nexus and (iii) anything else that comes to me.

    I’d love for a blog to become an LDS Algonquin Round Table, but that’s probably not going to happen.

  13. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:


    The first two actions are the only thing that makes this blog’s captcha format different from any other commenting arrangement. And it really isn’t that hard.

    Granted, other blog formats (blogspot) have you type in the captcha afterwards. When I go to comment on those blogs, lately, I can’t even see the captcha characters, so I have to save my comments (just in case) and hit the "save comment" button before the captcha characters will show up. Once I can see them, then I enter them, and then hit the "save comment" button again.

    Surely no one can claim that THAT weblog set-up is easier?

  14. Moriah Jovan says:

    Re: Blogspot

    [b]Surely no one can claim that THAT weblog set-up is easier?[/b]

    Yes. It is.

    But more than that, you could install WordPress, activate the default spam plugin and not have any capcha at all. But then, it’s been suggested before, [b][i]people have offered to do it gratis[/i][/b], and you continue to insist on using an inadequate (and unpopular–for good reason) blogging platform with a capcha that’s friendlier to spammers than it is to legitimate commenters, and then it’s the commenters’ fault because they give up in frustration.

    The question keeps being asked: What AML do to get more traffic, more commenters, more interest? Suggestions keep coming.

    And they keep being ignored.

  15. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    Sorry. This is the weblog platform our webmaster has put up for us.

    He’s a volunteer, too, and has a full-time job as a programmer (which means much more than 40 hours per week) as well as a family to spend time with.

    We’re lucky to have what little time he can spare us at all.

  16. Katya says:

    If the AML was willing to move the blog to a better platform, you [i]might[/i] get more participation, which [i]might[/i] lead to more volunteers, including volunteers with web / tech experience, and then you wouldn’t have to subsist on the crumbs from your current webmaster’s table.

    However, as long as the AML is unwilling to (1) do new things or (2) do what you’re currently doing in a better way, you will not get new volunteers or participants because such potential recruits will migrate to projects that are more open and innovative.

  17. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    You know, this really isn’t the topic of Scott’s blog post. As I understand it, he asked about content.

    That said, I really don’t understand what is so difficult about typing captcha characters into a box before commenting.

  18. Kathleen: Thanks for those guidelines. I have to say that there have been many times that I’ve had to try repeatedly before I succeeded in posting a comment to the AML blog — a problem I’ve not had with most other blogs. I never had any idea what I was doing right or wrong. I can easily imagine that someone less persistent than myself would have given up. So yes, I think that technical barriers have probably represented problems for the blog.

    And now, responding on a content basis to Scott:

    It seems to me that the niche you fill has to do with thinking about reading, writing, and experience as they interrelate to each other, informed by personal experience. It’s a combination I very much like. It’s also hard to engage with, though I’ve tried to do so from time to time.

    As it happens, this topic is particularly relevant for me right now, since it appears that I’m going to be taking over for Darlene Young as the AML blog coordinator. I like what’s been here so far, but I agree that we seem to be stumbling in creating a community identity for the blog.

    In the meantime, I can only say that I really like what Scott’s been doing.

  19. Katya says:

    [b]You know, this really isn’t the topic of Scott’s blog post. As I understand it, he asked about content.[/b]

    This is true, but, as William pointed out, content and technical issues both fall under the general umbrella of being a better blogger. Plus, improving the content does no good if there are technical limitations to participation. (It’s like publishing a book with the pages glued together and then wondering why no one is reviewing it.)

    [b]That said, I really don’t understand what is so difficult about typing captcha characters into a box before commenting.[/b]

    Good web design naturally guides users in accomplishing basic tasks without requiring them to consult a help guide or set of instructions. At least four people on this thread have stated that they have had trouble getting the comments box to work in the past. These users are not technical newbies (speaking for myself, I have a master’s degree in information science), which means that there is something greatly lacking in the web design of this forum.

    Now that you have posted instructions, we four will probably have more success in commenting. (Probably. I could swear it still wasn’t working at one point yesterday, but then I decided not to comment at that time, so I can’t be sure.) However, future readers may have the same problem, and how are they to know that the need to consult the 10th comment on the 101st blog post in order to find a (possible) solution? Most of them will leave and won’t come back.

  20. Angela H. says:

    I know dealing with technical problems isn’t the main topic of the blog post, but it is important to understand why some people aren’t commenting. For me, it became increasingly frustrating to try and comment after the captcha was added, so my commenting died down.

    First, I had NO IDEA I was supposed to type the captcha in first, then hit save comment. I kept trying to do it after and would get stuck in this endless loop of frustration. I assumed we were supposed to do it afterward because that’s the way I’ve done it on every single other blog platform I’ve encountered. We do need a captcha system in order to reduce spam, but this one is way too confusing, since it runs counter to what people are used to on other blogs and websites.

    And second, I realize that Kathleen and Jacob both volunteer a lot of time and put a lot of effort into our web presence. It is truly appreciated. But sometimes things don’t work as they ought to and need to be fixed. I also feel a little bit like I was ignored early on when this blog was being rolled out and I was worried that the platform would be cumbersome and hamper both those who post on the blog and those who try to comment. I didn’t understand then–nor do I understand now–why we couldn’t use the more popular and user-friendly WordPress.

    If someone is willing to volunteer their time to switch this platform to WordPress, I think we ought to do it. I’m not blog-savvy enough to do it myself. But commenting has become a particular problem, and that’s not good for a blog.

    And Scott? I always–ALWAYS–read your posts. Every word. I don’t always comment though. I’ll try to do that more.

  21. Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

    I miss your comments, Angela. But I also miss your posts. Has life settled enough for you to return?

    And ftr, I was dense like many others it seems and typed my comment then went back to the captcha. But it does work easily to type the captcha, then click in the comment box and pause a second for the ok to show up. Its just that if we don’t know that, yes, it can be frustrating. Kind of like being a Texas Rangers fan. (Bad night)

  22. Angela H. says:

    If we’re not able to change platforms, then I’d recommend we at least post captcha instructions clearly at the top of the blog somewhere. New commenters might see it and a certain amount of frustration could be alleviated.

    Sorry about those Rangers, Lisa.

  23. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    Angela, how would it be if we put the captcha instructions down by the captcha–maybe they could go right after the words "Add comment" or even closer to the captcha.

    I’ll see what can be done.

  24. Kathleen, I think that would really help. Thanks.

  25. Kathleen,

    Trying to apply the guidelines you gave above, I find that once I’ve posted a comment in response to a particular post, then I have to open a new tab or window in order to post another comment as part of the same thread. Specifically, the "OK" never comes up as long as I’m still in the old window.

  26. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    This is the first part of a test.

  27. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    This is the second part of the test.

  28. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    This is the third part of the test.

  29. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    This is the third part of the test.

    Okay, in the first test, I got the OK and posted.

    In the second part of the test, I refreshed and did the captcha, got the OK, and posted.

    In the third part of the test, I had the old OK, and just tried typing in the comment box, and it posted, as you see above.

    This time, I’m trying a third post on the same OK, and have added to what I posted in the third test. If it works, you’ll see the words "This is the third part of the test." at the beginning of this comment.

  30. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    Still on the same OK, by the way:

    I cut out what I had posted before–because it was still showing in the comment box, and I am posting this now.

    For me, at least, I have been able to post three separate comments on the same OK. The OK doesn’t have to come up again, nor do you need a new captcha.

    You can post comment after comment on the same captcha and the same OK, as long as you don’t leave the webpage.

    Anyone else want to try it?

  31. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    By the way, thanks for the feedback.

  32. Interesting.

    Which browser are we all using? I’m using Firefox, version 3.6.12.

    I’m going to give a try for Kathleen’s test.

  33. Actually still on the first part of the test, because I messed up my trial.

  34. Right. This is what happened to me:

    After posting the previous, I still had the Captcha and the OK. I refreshed. My captcha was replaced by a different code, and the OK went away. I entered the new code and clicked in the text box. The OK did not come back. I opened a new tab and was able to proceed from there.

    I’m going to now try waiting a half-hour or so after posting this message without refreshing this page to see if the OK and captcha are still valid.

  35. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    I’m using Internet Explorer. Sorry it didn’t occur to me that the browser could make a difference. Will have to test with others, I guess.

    The OK didn’t happen after you refreshed? Drat!

  36. Okay. It’s been about a half hour. The OK is still on this page, and I haven’t refreshed. We’ll see if this posts…

  37. Okay, this is weird. That one posted, there’s a new Captcha (and the space is blank where I would need to enter it), but I still have an OK. I wonder if this will post if I click Save Comment without entering the new Captcha?

    Answer: No. So now I’m entering the new Captcha text. (There’s still the original OK there.) Click Save Comment…

  38. …and that worked. And now I still have the old Captcha, and an OK, but the space for entering the Captcha is blank. Click Save Comment…

    Nothing. Enter the Captcha text again…

  39. So the key on my computer seems to be NOT to refresh. Fascinating.

  40. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    Yup, going to have to test this with Firefox.

    Not now though. My week-old grandson is sucking on my left index, and I’m having to type one-handed. I’ll try it later when I have use of both hands.

  41. Scott Parkin says:

    I saw that huge post total in the sidebar and thought, "Wow! Look at all the great conversa–"

    Never mind.

    I’ve noticed that Firefox’s refresh button seems to be only partially effective. If I’ve left the window open for a long time (mine’s been open for about three days; I have 14 tabs open across two windows on two monitors), then I have to actually navigate away from the page and navigate back (no Back or Forward buttons) to get the Captcha to function correctly.

    Firefox 3.6.6; I need to update.

  42. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    Testing with Google Chrome.

  43. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    Using the same OK to post again.

  44. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    Refreshed and typed in the same captcha again. Got the OK, and am posting another comment.

  45. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    So I’d say Google Chrome works with the same OK, and refreshes fine.

  46. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    Now I’m testing with Mozilla Firefox.

  47. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    Posting another comment with the same OK.

  48. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    Could not get an OK after a refresh, even when I typed in the new captcha, and even when I refreshed and refreshed and refreshed.

    Used the back button to go away from the page, and then went back in to this page.

    Typed in the new captcha and got an OK, and I’m posting with this new OK.

  49. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    So the back button works (used it to leave the page, and the forward button to come back to the same captcha and the same OK).

  50. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    The first time I used the back button above, I went back to the page that had the link I used to get here. I used that link again, and that’s how I got a new captcha and typed it in to get a new OK.

  51. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    So no need to open a new tab with Firefox. Just use the back button. At least that’s what worked for me. And I have version 3.6

  52. Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury says:

    Checked again. Can’t use the back button and then forward button and post a comment with the old captcha and OK. Had to use the link on the previous page to get back here, and get a new captcha.


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