Another Insider Bites The Dust

Daniel Wagner at The Backhand Shelf blog had a sort of interesting (if you’re into that kind of thing) post about the twitter account and tweeter HockeyyInsidrr, and the supposed outing he/she/it has gone though recently.

And when I say ‘if you’re into that sort of thing,’ I mean blogger battles, twitter outrage, and debates about the oxford comma. We have been though this before. If you are at all familiar with the name Eklund and the site Hockeybuzz.com, you probably already know about the outing of the anonymous hockey blogger who claimed to be an insider by Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski (then writing for the no-longer-in-existence AOL Fanhouse). The names have changed, the medium is a little different, but this is still the same thing, regardless of the legitimacy of the person or people involved. It’s hockey fans and bloggers (who, make no mistake, share the same venn diagram, but are not the same thing) being pissed off at people who may be making things up.

I don’t really care that much. I don’t hinge my existence on twitter or rumors, so I don’t pay a lot of attention to these guys. They only darken my door when someone else has payed enough attention to retweet or quote them. If you don’t pay attention to them, they don’t exist. While the internet is open to the asshats we complain about, people like Eklund and HockeyyInsidrr don’t come to us, we choose to go to them. We legitimize them by patronizing them.

I’ve seen plenty of experiments where people set up fake accounts to publish fake rumors and watch from a distance who would fall for it. It’s nothing new, and has been done in other mediums to greater and more artistic effect. War of the Worlds is a simple and classic example. And if you are going to follow Orson Wells, you had better do it better than most of these jokers are doing. We know it works, and it will always work. If you don’t believe me, know that a Buffalo radio station did a recreation of War of the Worlds in 1968, and it worked.

Something Daniel wrote at the Backhand Shelf blog stood out to me:

If something does happen, you don’t need to know about it the second it occurs and you don’t need to know about the possibility of it happening beforehand. Even if the rumours that HockeyyInsiderr posted were real rumours, it wouldn’t matter. When a trade or a signing does occur, the local beat writers will likely get wind of it first or one of the professional insiders will hear about it through an agent or a GM and it will actually be confirmed. And they won’t need a hashtag to say it.

There are two subsets of hockey fans I can think of that want the up-to-the-second information and rumors:

1) Hockey fans who want to stay ahead of the Joneses. They can have many reasons, but some of those are going to be character defects like being smug and condescending to those that aren’t in the know. That doesn’t apply to everyone, it’s just part of this group.

And…

2) Hockey Bloggers.

Yeah. Who needs to know things right away? People who have to write something timely. Everyone is on deadline, and while they don’t have deadlines in the same way the MSM does, bloggers have the deadline of relevance. If you aren’t timely in your blogging, you will be left behind. So we have alerts set on our phones, we check twitter and RSS readers all day, and yes, we occasionally bathe ourselves in the dirty water of “reports” and unknown sources. That just leads, to carry the analogy too far, death by dysentery.

There was a recent post by the NPR Ombudsman about NPR covering it’s sponsors. Could NPR be fair when it handles news about the people who supply it with funds to keep going? The question is what standard should NPR be held to. But the conclusion was that eventually, you just have to have faith. You have to have a little faith that NPR will do the right thing, because you can’t be 100% certain that they will do otherwise.

And we need to trust our resources, or leave them behind. You shouldn’t spend money on things you don’t care for, you wouldn’t buy food you don’t like the taste of, so why would you read and believe someone you know isn’t trustworthy? Why would you follow someone who can’t or won’t prove they are who they say they are? What is the value in that? What is the cost?

In a few years, we will have another medium, and another bozo acting like someone they aren’t. It’s they way of the internet. And it only matters if you let it matter.

In Response

Dirk Hoag from the excellent Predators blog, On the Forecheck, left a comment in the previous post about bloggers credentials that I wanted to address. Please keep in mind that I know Dirk, like him a lot, think he’s an excellent blogger, and have met him in person. This isn’t snarking at him, and I asked if he minded me replying to his comments here. So this is all on the up and up.

Dirk’s comments are two-fold, so I’m addressing them as such:

1) Good luck on getting accreditation for bloggers. From what I understand, it was Colorado which led the charge to restrict credentialed bloggers in various cities from having access to visiting teams.

I don’t know if this is exactly the case or not. I know that I have heard the same things, and I know I have heard from people that have talked to the Avs that they don’t seem to keen on the idea. That said, I don’t know how it has been presented to the Avalanche, and I don’t know if there has been a group effort to do so. That said, it doesn’t hurt to try, and it might lead to all of the bloggers here upping their game. Which never hurts.

2) What would media credentials do for bloggers that would truly enhance their ability to counter what you see as failings of the Denver Post? Do they really need ‘we need to work hard and take it one game at a time” quotes to do that?

This is something I’ve heard from plenty of people, and I don’t buy it. Looking at the Washington Capitals experience, they have a rich field of content that goes beyond the stock quotes. I recently discovered the work done by Media Chameleon, and I would say their audio documentaries go beyond what most of the MSM would consider worth doing.

To address the specifics of the Denver Post, You would diversify the tone of the reporting,which is essential to any medium. We don’t just have Law and Order as the only crime drama on TV. We don’t just have on 24 hour news station. But in Denver, we have one newspaper, with two guys. That’s it. Terry Frei was the best of the hockey writers, but he doesn’t do as much Avs writing anymore. Just to spread the coverage out would help. How was the hockey media in Nashville before bloggers were introduced to the press box? That’s where Denver is right now.

I understand the concerns, but I would rather see the chance taken that things will change for the better than not at all.

Year of Pucking Dangerously

When I look back at the first year of this blog, a few things strike me:

- I didn’t rewrite enough.  There were some bad choices, but that’s what you get when you don’t write enough for years, then try to do it publicly.

- I had a lot more fun that year than in any year following.

- I had a lot of passion for the game. And I wonder where that passion went.  It certainly isn’t there like it used to be.

But the other day, something occurred to me about the passion part: The passion for the game is still there, it’s the amount of passion that’s diminished.  And I don’t mean the passion related to the game specifically, I mean the passion for ANYTHING.

(yes, I am going to talk about myself for a minute here.  There are a lot of sentences that start with the letter I.  You can skim this part if you want)

The last few years have been a struggle.  You probably don’t care for any details, but if you want them, you can sit down with me at a bar or a game and I’ll give you the short version.  Part of the struggle has been finding the passion for things I care about.

For a while, that translated into wondering what I cared about, even though I already knew what I cared about.  It was the same things I cared about for years, I just didn’t feel like I cared enough about it.  Hockey has been  one of those things (among others).  I could still care intensely about the game when it was on, I would still love the hell out of going to the rink and practicing on my weak skills, I would still get excited when it was time to talk about hockey, and when I sat down to write about hockey, I mostly enjoyed that as well.

What I didn’t feel was a right to feel good about it.  I didn’t feel motivated to get up and do something about it.  I would make excuses not to write.  I would make excuses not to play.  I have two great people who agreed to podcast with me, and I have made excuses not to record with them or anyone because of the slightest difficulty.  They deserve full apologies.  They will get them.

This is stupid, isn’t it?  Anyone with a computer and the internet can start a hockey blog.  The successful ones do two things well: write and stay with it.  And I’ve kind of done both, but only kind of.  I put down the blog, pick it back up, put it down, and rinse and repeat.  I got very discouraged with my podcast, even though I believe in the medium and believe in the format and idea behind it.  I didn’t push though that discouragement when it struck and didn’t fight hard enough to get back on track.  I think we all have periods we doubt ourselves; it’s our reaction to it that makes us who we are.

The long and the short of it is I used to believe more in the things I made, and more in the things I liked to do, and I let other people convince me otherwise.  I’ve had a few experiences recently that have reminded me otherwise.

We are a few days into the New Year, so this post would have been more timely a few days ago.  That’s OK, I took my time to consider this, and what to do about it.  I don’t believe in New Years resolutions.  We tell ourselves we are going to do something, then it falls apart and we wind up with another excuse to be mad at ourselves.  We make a resolution to lose 40 pounds, and as soon as we skip a day of exercise, we give up.  Hard resolutions are ridiculous.  I like the idea of setting a goal, or a theme.  Or even a few of them.  So here we go.

The Year of Pucking Dangerously:

I love hockey.  It’s in the title of this blog and it’s there for a reason.  I love to watch it, I love to talk about it, and even at the low level of skill I have, I love to play it.  So this year, one of the themes is hockey.  Not just collecting jerseys, but getting more involved and invested in the sport.

Yes, that means more blogging.  Not daily, but can’t I manage maybe two posts a week?  It’s a lot more than I have been doing lately.  And as out of practice as I’ve been, I don’t expect the first posts will be any good.  Some of them may even be crappy list posts and just general and short thoughts, but they will be there.

It means more podcasting.  I blew up the podcasting schedule for The Rink after wanting to relaunch it this season.  The biggest issue has been the quality of the internet connections foisted upon me (if you didn’t know, I travel for a living and don’t often have quality internet connections, and since the podcast tends to rely on a decent Skype connection…), but even then, a few month off is way too much.  The biggest thing we can build for ourselves on the internet is a reputation and the trust of the people who read or listen to what we do.  Frankly, I blew it, but plan to earn it back.  If you were disappointed in my output, I will be trying to rectify that.  Believe me, I have been disappointed as well.

It means learning to play hockey.  I am fairly out of shape, and while dropping some pounds and gaining some wind would make a good resolution, that isn’t the real goal.  The real goal is to be able to play hockey better, to the point where I am not embarrassing myself on the ice, and can maybe play in a charity game or two.  Which means carrying a little less James around on the ice and getting in shape enough to not be exhausted at the end of the night.  It also means getting more skill and vision on the ice itself.  It’s been long lamented that armchair fans of the game don’t understand what the game looks like when you are in the middle of it, and I can tell you for a fact, it’s true.  And yes, that means you will be hearing about rec hockey here on the blog.  But hey, this has never been a strictly NHL blog, and it’s my voice here, so I get to make it what I want.

 

There are other goals for this year.  I will be starting my own side business.  It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but I didn’t know what to start.  Now I do.  I might reference it every so often here, but I plan on keeping it separate from hockey.  I plan to put a little more effort into my Pod Geek site.  Again, I don’t have to post every day, but I plan to post more than I have, and with a better understanding of what my direction is.  I will cut myself a little more slack.  I tend to beat myself up a lot when I don’t follow through with my plans or ideas, and I’m going to do that a lot less.  And I’m going to start saying ‘No’ a lot more, and follow though on when I say “Yes” more.  In an effort not to disappoint, I say yes to more things than I should, then don’t execute the ones I should have said no to in the first place.  That’s going to change.

So there you have it.  Laid out for you, trying to be accountable, trying to come up with a way to actually do the things that I care about and made a habit out of pushing to the back burner.  Life is way to short not to do the things you want.  It’s time to do more than see what happens, it’s time to make it happen.

(And a big thank you to Greg from The Post Pessimist Association blog.  He listened to me complain, talked to me, and helped me get to the point where action was the only step to take.  I seriously would be wallowing in a pool of self-pity and anger if it weren’t for him right now.)

How to Start a Hockey Blog

Every few days, a new hockey blog enters the fold, with plenty of ambition and a slick design.  And every few days, another one sputters and dies.  And still, people want to write about hockey.

I get asked, and maybe you do as well, about the best way to start a hockey blog, so I thought it was time to put up a post I can point to the next time someone asks.  These are just my beliefs and experience, and other people may have a different opinion than mine.  It’s a big internet out there, and lots of ways to do it.  If you have something you want to add, the comments are open.

_______________________

The first key to starting a hockey blog is…. don’t.

No, really, don’t do it.  It’s a lot of work, and if you are doing it to make it as a sports writer or get a lot of attention, there are better ways.  And there are already tons of hockey blogs out there.  It will just lead to disappointment and resentment, and your family leaving you on the side of the road with a Gary Bettman bobble head.  You will not like it.

Plus, it’s a lot more work than you think it will be (this part is true).

………

…….

Still here?  OK, then.  Let’s do this.

__________________________

First, go to WordPress.com and get a free blog.  WordPress is some of the best blogging software out there, and they make it very easy to take your content to other systems and sites when you want to move on.  Later, if things are going well, you can get your own domain and hosting, and run your own copy of WordPress, but for now, let’s stick with the free option.  (If you don’t know what hosting is, or any of the technical internet stuff, don’t worry about it for now, as it really doesn’t matter)

It’s good to know the difference between WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress:

  • WordPress.com is a free blogging service that is hosted on the wordpress.com servers. They maintain the site.  It’s similar to Blogger in this respect, but I think it’s better and more robust.
  • WordPress.org and self-hosted WordPress is blogging software that is similar to WordPress.com, only you host it on your own site or server.  You have more control, but more responsibility as well.

Next, start writing.

But wait, don’t I have to set up a banner and build a blog roll and link my twitter account, and get a color scheme and put the roster and team record in the side bar and….

NO. That is the last thing you should do.  It’s easy to make something really pretty, spend all your time on web design, and then sit back and marvel at your creation when you should be writing.  Rather than get bogged down in all of that, just write something and put it out there.  In fact, skip the introduction and jump into it.  If you write with a unique and individual voice, who you are will come out in your posts.  Want a great example?  Read any two or three posts from Scotty Hockey.  Don’t look at his sidebar, just read a few posts.  You will immediately get a sense of who he is.

Repeat after me: It’s not the site, it’s the writing.

That is what they mean when they say “content is king.”  People won’t keep coming back to your blog, read your work, or care about what you have to say without writing something.  It’s astounding how many people this is lost on.

Now that you are writing, what should you write about?  Well, what do you believe in?  We live in a media savvy world, and your audience can tell if you are being honest with them or not.  Even if you have an unpopular opinion, or even worse, if you have a popular opinion, as long as it is genuinely yours, you should go with it.  There should be a reason you have a hockey blog, and that is what you should write about.  Otherwise, shut it down and become a really good commenter.  There is nothing wrong with that.

I can’t tell you what to write, any more than other people should be able to.  That is completely up to you.  I have my beliefs on what makes a good hockey blog, but that’s a post for another day.

__________________

But as for starting, here are a few do’s and don’ts that might help:

DO turn off twitter.  Seriously, you don’t need the distraction.  If you are spending most of your energy on twitter, you are taking away from your material for your blog.  Twitter is great, and a wonderful place to have a conversation, but it isn’t the same thing.  Shut it down for a while.

DON’T spend a dime.  I’m not kidding.  There is no reason for you to have to spend anything on your blog to start with.  Did you get a blog from WordPress.com?  Great, that’s it.  You don’t need anything else, and you don’t have to spend money.  Save that for when your blog takes off and you want more control over it.

DO own everything you do.  Embedding YouTube videos is fine, but don’t take photos you aren’t licensed for, or plagiarize (obviously) or use anything a person or company can come back and demand you take down or pay them for.  Blogs like Puck Daddy use Getty Images because they have licenses for those images.  You do not.  Yes, this is hard.  It’s harder to make your own post images than just take something from Getty Images, but as you build your reputation and skills as a blogger, it will pay off for you down the road.  I promise.

DO attribute quotes and link to posts and articles.  There are a lot of good writers and journalists out there that are doing hard work that deserves attention, and chances are you will be talking about and quoting their work.  They are in the locker rooms and on the buses, getting quotes and filing stories, so you should link and attribute to the people who you quote.  Links also get the attention of the people you are linking to, and that helps build your audience and reputation.

DON’T look at your site meter or site stats.  I know, you want to know who is reading your blog.  But if you get obsessed with the number of readers you have, you will start to lose readers.  Sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true.  You aren’t writing for a demographic.

DON’T worry about comments.  There are a ton of hockey blogs out there, and people don’t have time to comment on every post they read.  Your encouragement and enjoyment of your blogging should come from within, not from the comments of others.  It can be discouraging to write your butt off and not get a single comment, but don’t let that stop you.  Worry about the post more than the comments.

DON’T believe the hype.  You can have a great post that is practically ignored, and one that was a throwaway joke that gets thousands of hits.  Don’t pay any attention to that.  Don’t let other people determine what your content should be.  And if others say you are doing a good job, work even harder to impress them with your next post.  If they say you are crap, ignore them and post something that you like.  It’s the internet, after all.  Everything is crap. :)

DO rewrite.  I’m astounded by how many people forget to do this.  “The best writing comes from rewriting.” – some writer who was really smart.  Spellcheck goes in here as well. Use it.  It is your friend.

DO ask people’s opinion, and then listen to them.  The first part is easy, but the second part is not.  If you really aren’t interested in other people’s opinions on your work, don’t ask.  It wastes their time and yours.

________________

OK, enough of that.  You have some guidelines, but now you have to write, and you have to keep at it.  The world doesn’t need another ten post blog that fizzles out for no reason, so it’s time to kick this thing into gear, and make it into a challenge.

I challenge you, as a brand new blogger, to write a post every day for 30 days.  No days off, no slacking, post something you feel sets the tone and voice of your site, even if it’s just a youtube video.  Post for thirty day and make a habit out of it.  Sit down at the same time every day if you have to.  Throw something you wrote away and start over if you have to.  But just start writing and keep writing.

If that sounds too hard, well, do it anyways.  Blogging should be hard.  Twitter is easy, but taking the time to write good sentences, form them into paragraphs (did I forget to mention to write in paragraphs?), and do it day after day isn’t, but that’s what makes it fun and worthwhile.

If it’s any consolation, I’ve done it before, as have other people.  It can make you fall in love with hockey blogging.

So if you’re going to do it, that’s how.  The three Ws: WordPress, Write, wRepeat (see what I did there).

Happy blogging!

Using Twitter this Hockey Season

I’ve been talking on twitter lately about some of the ways I feel people are misusing twitter when talking about hockey games, and ways to correct it.  I don’t believe there are any real Social Media Guru’s out there, just like there aren’t that many real SEO “Experts.” It’s mostly just trial and error, and eventually, you figure out what works for you and your followers.

But there are some things that don’t work, that are worth talking about. As every, most of this is my opinion, but it’s worth taking into consideration.

The Problem with Twitter -

Twitter shares some of the same problems that make email a pain.  It’s easy, fast and free.  It’s easy to type anything in to twitter, it’s so fast you can speak your mind right away, and it’s free so it costs nothing to use.  These same three qualities hinder the medium as well.  It’s easy to type anything, so people type nothing of real value.  It’s fast, so you can just keep sending and sending more and more messages, filling someone’s timeline with garbage.  And it’s free, so anyone has access to it, including spammers (and idiots).

The Reading Experience -

It’s easy to think that everyone reads your twitter feed just like you write it, but that isn’t the case.  Just like websites often are used in the way a user thinks they should be used, twitter feeds aren’t read in the context of the person who wrote the tweets, it’s in the context of the reader.  So when a player roofs a one-timer after your favorite team’s blown coverage, and you type:

“Saw that coming a mile away.”

your readers have no idea what you are talking about.  Even if they are watching the same game you are, some twitter clients don’t update very often, so the context of your tweet is lost.  For people not watching the same game you are, there was never any context in the first place.

It isn’t just about adding context to your tweets, but also having a reason for tweeting it. Having something to say to your followers is more important that saying nothing just for the sake of tweeting.  Take the time to do it right.

Stop the Play By Play -

This will be my gospel this season: Please, stop giving play by play on your twitter stream.  You can see the section above for why, but I also would say that it’s just way too much tweeting about one game.  Play by play just becomes noise in your follower’s regular twitter feed.  We know, you have opinions and thoughts, but on every play?  All the time?  Even coaches and GMs aren’t as microscopic as some of the twitter users I’ve read.  Come on, folks.

If you really want to do massive amounts of in-game tweets, get a separate account.  I have one (@tapegame) that I rarely use, but I don’t do a lot of in-game tweets.

This doesn’t mean don’t tweet from your seat at the game.  But it does mean tweet something that is interesting outside the environment of the specific game you are at, or a small moment that only you are going to understand.  If it doesn’t make sense to someone not watching the game at the same time as you, then it doesn’t need to be said.

You may notice that you don’t get as many followers to your new in-game account.  Rather than take that as a blow to your ego, think about it like free Google Analytics.  It’s tells you exactly how many people are interested in what.  Would you rather get the tweets people want to the right people, or annoy and minimize your voice to the rest of your followers?
I’m the Mayor of Not Giving a Damn -

I have hated foursquare for as long as it’s been invading my twitter timeline.  It’s nothing but noise for people who aren’t playing the same game you are.  And it is nothing more than a game, like a scavenger hunt of a massive multiplayer version of tag.

We don’t care what TV show you are watching.  We don’t care that you are shopping at Wal-Mart.  We aren’t interested that you used DeliSquare to check-in at Frank’s Meat Market while buying the special sausage of the day, and now you earned the Salami Commander badge.  Sure, it’s fun for you, but please, untie these silly games from your twitter feed.  We get it, you like fresh meat.  That doesn’t mean you have to share it all the time.

I will point out that I tend to take pictures of the beers I drink in various places around the country.  You could make the argument that I am doing exactly what I am complaining about.  The difference is, I wind up having conversations with the people who follow me about the beer I (and they) drink.  That’s social.  Talking with people is social.  “I’m watching Dr. Who with 1,258 other people” is not social.  You aren’t watching the show with them.  You are home alone, with your scarf and signed photo of Tom Baker.  We all know it.  We don’t need to be reminded all the time.

Lowering the Noise -

I don’t follow that many people.  Right now, I’m following under 100 twitter accounts.  Two of those may be dogs.  No, really, dogs.  The reason I follow that few accounts is because I read almost every tweet in my feed.  Rather than live the lie that I follow hundreds or thousands of twitter feeds, I keep my main feed shortened to things that I will find interesting all the time, and put other accounts in to lists.

This actually works well, as I can live in my main twitter timeline, but when I want something that I may be more interested in at specific times, I can go to my lists.  I have lots of lists, and will probably make more soon.  I have a list for the Avs fans, professional hockey writers, public radio people, NPR specific accounts, and will probably add a few for other interests I have.  I know that it isn’t all that social, but what it really does is keep the expectation of how much of your twitter feed I read.  If I follow you, I read every tweet, and keep that number manageable so I can read them all.  If I don’t follow you, I may still be reading your tweets, but not every one all the time.

I also tend to unfollow fairly quickly when a twitter feed becomes a negative experience.  I’ve unfollowed friends, bloggers I respect, people I like, and plenty of media people.  If I still find them interesting, they go into a list.  But if they are bringing my twitter experience down, off they go.  It isn’t mean.  There are plenty of people whom I like, but don’t care for their twitter streams.  That’s just how it works.  If I were to do anything else, I’d be lying to the people I follow, and I’m not interested in doing that.

Twitter Fights -

I hate them.  I’ve been in a few, and didn’t care for it at all.  Every so often, I still get roped into them (it’s hard to see a twitter fight until you are 2/3 of the way through it).  These days, I tend to end the fights quickly and walk away from them.  I’ve found that some people don’t like that.  To them I say, whatever.

It’s hard to get the intended tone across in 140 character chunks, much less a point about something we feel passionately about.  That’s fairly obvious, but it’s also hard to get across that we have heard the other person, or really understood what they are saying.  Worse, we may not have really heard what they are saying at all.  Twitter fights aren’t for rational discussion.

If someone wants to drop out of a twitter fight, let them.  If you want to drop out of a twitter fight, and the other person doesn’t want to leave you be, block them.  You can always unblock them later.

On Blocking -

I don’t like to do it, but when it’s time, it’s time.  I tend to take the two-blocks-you’re-out tactic.  If I need to block someone, I will do it when necessary.  If I wonder if they have said anything interesting, after a while, I will unblock them.  If I block them a second time, that’s it, I’m done with them.  I don’t unblock that often.  If someone has pissed you off or messed with you twice, they aren’t likely to change, so there is no reason to go back.

Blocking someone is the only tool we have.  There isn’t another way to get someone to either leave us alone, or at least take them out of our perception.  You get to choose who you hang out with in the physical world, and you should get to do so online.  Facebook at least allows for a mutual relationship.  You and I can’t be Facebook friends without both of us agreeing.  Twitter is different.

Set a personal policy, and stick to it.  Don’t tell someone you are going to unfollow or block them.  That is meaningless.  It’s like the bad guy saying something stupid to his victim before killing them.  It doesn’t change the outcome, the guy is still dead.  It’s nothing more than bad dialogue.  Do the deed, and move on with your life.

For more reading about blocking, I always recommend this post from Derek Powazek on pushing the magic button.

We Are ALL in This Together -

Social media is not about just us.  It’s about everyone who participates.  I don’t get to write all the rules, and neither do you.  Individuals who participate write the rules for what works for them.  It’s like improv comedy.  There is no wrong way to do it, but there are ways that work.

Whenever you do something online that you want to put in front of other people, be it blogging, podcasting, selling art, tweeting or anything else, you have to take your readers and active participants into some consideration.  That doesn’t mean pandering, but it does mean you acknowledge that they are there, and they have wants and needs that may not be completely in line with yours.

Is this a list of rules? Sure, we could call it that.  I could just be old man Tapeleg, yelling at you to get off his lawn.  What do I know?  I know what works for me, and I don’t think I’m alone.

The comments are open.  Add anything you want.  Tell me I’m wrong (without being a jerk about it), or whatever you think about this stuff.  We need to have the conversation, to make it better for everyone.

Hockey Podcast Poll

The hockey podcasting season is getting underway, and the field, just like the field of hockey blogging, podcasts are seeing some changes, like the end of Puck Daddy Radio, or the start of Smashville 24/7.  But podcasting, much like pimpin’, ain’t easy.  It’s hard to get good feedback about your show, since there isn’t an easy way to quickly comment on a podcast from an mp3 player, or your car.

Over at The Rink Podcast (making its return this season), I put up a poll for people who listen to hockey podcasts.  Ten questions designed to give hockey podcasters a better understanding of how their audience listens to their shows, and what they like and don’t like about the podcasts they listen to.

The poll is anonymous, and I plan on sharing a the data with any hockey podcaster who wants it.  Taking the poll will only help to improve hockey podcasting as a whole.

You can find the post with the poll at The Rink Podcast, or just go directly to the poll after the jump.  Thanks for helping.

(As I mentioned, the Rink Podcast returns this season after a way too long break.  I have a few guests lined up from hockey blogs around the NHL, and hopefully one co-host, but I’m still looking for another co-host to come on every third week or so to discuss the NHL, as well as other guests.  If you’re interested, hit me up in the comments, or send me a message here.)

 

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Five Years

Warning: today’s post is narcissistic, so if you don’t want to read me writing about this site, it’s best if you just skip this one.

Today is the fifth birthday of Jerseys and Hockey Love.  Even though I started a month earlier with a simple youtube video as a placeholder, my first blog entry was actually June 20th.  And boy, was it crap.  Also, starting a hockey blog at the beginning of the offseason was not the smartest thing I have ever done, but hey, what did I know.

More importantly for me, this blog changed my life.  If it weren’t for starting this site, I wouldn’t have met so many cool people, several of which are now real friends.  Prior to learning about hockey blogs, I spent a little time searching out information and checking hockey scores and stats on NHL.com or HockeyDB.com, but my use of the internet for hockey was fairly limited. Starting this site opened up a whole other world of online use for me.  I had no idea that so many people were writing about hockey, and those numbers exploded a year or two later.

I started this site to talk hockey with people.  I only had one person around to talk hockey with, and I needed another outlet.  It turns out a blog isn’t a great place for conversation.  It’s a great place to get your ideas and thoughts across, but the format is limiting in it’s ability to interact with people.

After a solid year of blogging here, I went back out on the road (I travel a lot for work), and let myself stop writing with any regularity, sometimes for months at a time.  I would wonder if it was just time to end this blog and move on.  I still think about it from time to time.  But then I find that I have something to say, and start writing again, and I’m happy I have this place.

 

I don’t know if I’ve learned much after five years of having this site, but I do have a few beliefs that I try to live by, and I think I mostly follow them.

- If you have something you want to say, don’t let anyone keep you from saying it.  Haters are going to hate.  And there are plenty of drive-by jerks who will leave an idiotic comment just to be a jerk.  Those people don’t matter.  If there is something you believe in, post it.  If you are worried about backlash, shut off your comments.  One of the great things about the internet is that if you don’t want to have a certain part of it in your life, you don’t have to.  You don’t have to read every blog; if one pisses you off, don’t read it.  If someone is a jerk to you, block them.  But don’t let it minimize your voice.  This is the one thing beyond anything else that hurt my posting – worrying about what other people would think and hate on.  Life’s too short, eh?

- If you don’t have something to say, don’t post it.  Volume drives traffic.  I understand that. This is the internet, and the old adage “content is king” still holds.  But as Merlin Mann said, “yeah, but voice is queen.”  And the thing people forget is, the more you post without using that voice, the more you dilute that voice, and the less powerful it becomes.  Look at people who get stuck on a topic that pisses them off on twitter.  They will tweet twenty times in a row about some injustice, and all you can think is, “give it a rest.”  That hurts their voice as much as not posting for a while.  Use your voice when you post, even if it’s a short post.  If you aren’t, why bother?

- Don’t worry about traffic.  If you can keep from looking at your stats, beyond seeing who links to you, then do it.  When I first got a sitemeter, I stared at that thing way too much.  It was new and shiny, and I wanted to see if anyone was reading my schlock.  But it shouldn’t have mattered if I got ten or a hundred more hits on any given day.  I didn’t get better at writing by watching my stats, I got better by writing.   Which leads to….

- Keep writing, even if you don’t post.  Why did you start a hockey blog?  Is it because you wanted to write about hockey, or because you just wanted attention?  If it was because you want to write, the best way to get better at writing is to keep writing.  It’s the number one way to get better at writing (the number two way is reading).  There is no better motivation than keeping your fingers moving, and watching something surprising and unexpected come out.  Some of the best posts come from that place, where you didn’t know what was going to happen, but it just happened (example: here and here).

- Get better.  There isn’t a single writer out there who just started writing and the great American novel just flowed out of them.  Online, the great overnight success story usually took a few years to get there.  If you really want to blog well, the best thing you can do is get better.  If you work at getting better, it’s going to really make you care more about what you write.  Getting better is also one of the more exciting things about writing.  When you write something you didn’t expect, and it turns out well, that’s an amazing feeling.

- Go have fun.  It’s good to take what you do seriously, but this is hockey blogging, not the end of the world.  If you shut down tomorrow, life would go on, not only for you but for the internet.  If I shut down Jerseys and Hockey Love, people might miss it a little, but there are plenty of blogs out there to pick up the slack.  If you want to make writing about hockey your career, you should be taking it seriously.  But even then, having fun with it is the best way to keep it fresh, interesting, and fun for the readers as well.  It also keeps the drama factor low, and as I’ve seen elsewhere, the people who are doing this well aren’t into the drama.

 

Anyways, after five years of doing this, I can’t say that I have learned and completely lived my lessons, but that’s what I believe.  Also what’s in the manifesto, which was written in one night of being pissed off at some forum, and wanting something I could stand by.  Do you have anything like that?  Should you?

So happy blog birthday to this site. It really did change my life for the better.

Thank you, Alanah and Jes, for having such awesome blogs that I wanted to start one myself.  I can’t thank those guys enough.

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Bonus content: I haven’t had any bonus content for a bit, but this showed up in my RSS reader today, and it just fits perfectly.  Hugh MacLeod, people.  If you make things online, you should read him.

Stanley Cup Dead Blog Challenge

My blog is about to turn 5 years old soon, next month in fact.  And frankly, it’s never been at a lower point, content and update-wise.  It’s sad, because I like my blog, and I like blogging about hockey, but I’ve fallen out of the habit of posting, and don’t write as much as I should.  I’ve groused a little publicly about not having, and needing to start, a daily writing habit, and I can’t think of a better time to do it than the Stanley Cup Finals.

And since misery loves company, I’m going to turn it into a challenge.

If you have a blog that’s been languishing, and you really, REALLY want to start it again, the time is now.  It’s time to get these blogs back in shape, and put some content out there.  It’s time to get back into the habit of blogging, just in time for the off-season (good timing, eh? You can’t control when the itch hits you).

I challenge you, dear reader/ blogger, to blog every day.  Write one post, short, long, crazy, on or off topic, put up a photo, or whatever, though June 15th, or what would be game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.  It doesn’t have to be epic writing, it doesn’t have to be perfect.  It doesn’t have to be about the Stanley Cup Finals, even.  All it has to be is there.  Starting with game 1 on June 1st, post one blog post per day.  Or, take it further, and post one blog post a day until free agency day on July 1st, which is what I’m going to be doing.  That’s just over 30 posts, which seems daunting when you haven’t been keeping up your blog like you feel you should.  But really, when you are in the zone, when you are doing it every day, it isn’t that much.

Because here’s the thing.  If you get in the habit of writing, you don’t have to worry about inspiration, or motivation, or creativity, because all of that comes from doing.  The more you write, the more you will want to write.  And the more time you will set aside to write, no matter how busy you perceive you are.

If you want, tweet your posts with the hashtag #SCFblog.  That hashtag doesn’t seem to be taken, and it will let other people doing the challenge find your work, and you to find theirs.  And we could all use a little more support.  And if you feel like helping them out, leave a comment on their blog.  You know how comments on your work make you feel, so spread the good stuff around.  Post a link to this post on your site, if you want, and invite others along for the ride.  The more the merrier.

What do you get if you complete the challenge?  Well, you get more writing than you had before, and that’s awesome.  But hey, how about something else.  Tell you what, with every post I put on my site for the challenge, I will link to some blogging, writing, or inspiring post, blog, video, or something to help you on your challenge.  Some will be short, some will be longer, but you will have a few more resources at your disposal when it’s all over.

So what do you say?  Are you with me?  If even one or two people take up the challenge, then we will have more writing than we had before.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Twyla Tharp, a very accomplished choreographer you may have heard of, from her book, The Creative Habit (via Merlin Mann’s site, 43 Folders):

After so many years, I’ve learned that being creative is a full-time job with its own daily patterns. That’s why writers, for example, like to establish routines for themselves. The most productive ones get started early in the morning, when the world is quiet, the phones aren’t ringing, and their minds are rested, alert, and not yet polluted by other people’s words. They might set a goal for themselves — write fifteen hundred words, or stay at their desk until noon — but the real secret is that they do this every day. In other words, they are disciplined. Over time, as the daily routines become second nature, discipline morphs into habit.

So, see you on June 1st.  Let’s do this.

Twitter, Dater, and the Block of Love

So my good buddy and Avs Hockey Podcast partner Jay found a special treat today: he was blocked by Denver Post reporter / blogger Adrian Dater. For Avs fans, Dater is two things, necessary and polarizing.

The necessity of Dater is due mainly to a lack of a second newspaper in Denver (the Rocky Mountain News went out of business a few years back, and nothing has picked up the slack), and the Colorado Avalanche’s lack of a blogger policy, other than ignoring that independent media even exists. For better or for worse, Adrian Dater is the only voice of the Avalanche in the mainstream media. He’s the only one asking questions, and the only one around. You may want to bring up Terry Frei, but Frei isn’t the primary source of news for Avalanche fans. Dater is the guy who is the voice of the MSM Avalanche news.

The polarizing side of Dater comes from his personality, and how it injects itself into his work. Everyone has a bias, and no matter how hard they may try to keep it out of their work. Dater brings a lot of personality to his work, and sometimes that personality is negative and confrontational. His job has changed since he started blogging, and he stopped being a pure beat writer (who are supposed to, by popular opinion, leave their opinions out of their reporting).

So you see the problem when Dater gets his notebook in a bunch and starts blocking people on twitter, a medium he and the Denver Post use to break news on. Blocking people on twitter is essentially denying the news in a medium that the source has chosen to utilize. Or choosing who gets easy access to that news, and who doesn’t.

I have an unrefined block policy. It was based on this article by Derek Powazek. If you use twitter (and who doesn’t) or other social media, it’s a good read, and worth considering. While Derek has a one strike policy, I am much closer to two strikes. If someone is a dink, I will brush it off. If they do it again, I don’t want to waste my time with it, so I block them. I have blocked people I generally like and appreciate due to the interactions we have had on twitter. It’s unfortunate, but twitter doesn’t give me a better tool. If I had my choice, I would be able to remove the ability to receive @ replies from someone, but allow them to read my tweets. If they remove me, that’s up to them. After that, then block would be a secondary choice.

I can understand part of where Dater is coming from. I don’t want to deal with the slew of crap I get at times on twitter, as that isn’t my personality. I don’t lash out the way some people like doing. I have better things to do in my life than deal with that. And so does Dater. He has a job to do, and he needs to do it, not have to defend every single thing he says to each individual that takes exception (even if he baits and deserves some of it). Unfortunately, Dater’s position and the way he uses his twitter account as a news outlet brushes up against the way he also uses that account to interact with his readership. Adrian Dater has a few issues and poor behavior on twitter. When you block someone, calling them names is pointless and rude, for instance. A style guide would be helpful for him, like this one.

But there is a certain contract that is entered into when you sign on with social media. The street is now a two way street, and you are no longer a broadcast outlet, with a readership that no longer has a voice or access. You open yourself up to interaction. If you choose to interact, you can’t expect that everyone will use social media in the same way you do. How does that contract change when the news media signs up for an interactive medium?

Social media and the news is still being sorted out. Twitter is an imperfect medium that has the major benefit of it’s immediacy and it’s interactivity. Most news organizations take a careful look at their social media usage, and generate a policy around it, including an ethics policy. Whether those policies are enforced or not may vary. Hopefully, Dater has considered his twitter policy, and is consistent in the way he uses it. Hopefully you have as well. Think about it.

Labor Day and the Work of Hockey Bloggers

I’ve been on a nostalgia kick lately for the hockey blogosphere of old. This isn’t to say that the current version is bad, but there are things I miss about the way things were, before blog networks and twitter (blog killer).

I was pruning my links in my blogroll, taking out some of the dead links and adding a few others, and clicked over to James Mirtle’s Big Blog Listing from several years ago. It was a list of blogs, big and small that Mirtle had compiled to point out other hockey blogs all over the blogosphere. Other attempts were made, including this gigantic list of links from the old Japer’s Rink site, but most of these lists went away pretty quickly. Even my own attempt to help promote new hockey blogs and podcasts didn’t gain much traction, and over half of the blogs listed have faded away, less than a year into their life.

What’s striking about these lists is how many blogs are no longer around. I’d say about a third of the blogs on Mirtle’s list are still in existence, with some of those moving on to join SB Nation and other blog networks. Hockey blogging is sometimes it’s own reward, but sometimes, that reward isn’t enough. And sometimes, life just gets in the way.

If I were to shut down Jerseys and Hockey Love, something I think about from time to time (let’s be honest, I don’t have the time to dedicate to this blog that I would like), after a brief period of time, no one would miss it. Not in the way many of us still pine for Jes Golbez’s Hockey Rants, or sidearm delivery.There are many solid hockey blogs out there to take up any slack I show on a regular basis.

The point is, it’s labor day today, and there are many hockey bloggers and podcasters out there that do this for free. They enhance our hockey lives by caring and devoting time to their craft. Most of them will never get paid for their work, and many will give up at some point when life gets in the way.

Take a minute to thank them for their work. Do something that takes a little effort on your part to tell them you appreciate what they do. Something a little more personal than a blanket follow friday mention, or a link. Sometimes, all it takes to make someone feel appreciated and to stay with it is to post a comment, or a tweet.

Hockey blogging and podcasting, much like pimpin’, ain’t easy.

That’s all. Enjoy your labor day.

Tomorrow, thirty twitter-sized team previews in one post. Oh yes, it will be done.