Building a Better Brief or All I Want For Christmas is my Two Front Teeth
Season’s Greetings! Can you believe it’s the holiday season already? And in a year already brimming with rapid-fire changes we’ve been uniquely busy at the Brief this season. No, we haven’t been making toys … exactly. But consider the heated discussion that followed our October meeting at which we discussed enhancing the Brief’s online presence. Two basic proposals were under consideration at the time:
1) Should we enhance the online presence of the Brief?
2) Should we allow readers to comment on (and even rate) articles?
The first responses to these proposals were tentative, somewhat panicky, and went like this:
Note: Posts and responses have been edited for clarity, length, and to protect the writer’s identity. Responses reproduced below are composites and not the work of a single author.
Move forward with a dedicated website? Yes. Allow a comment feature on selected articles? No. I do not perceive the value to authors or readers in allowing public comments. I am not sure they would be responsive or responsible. What if I made a mistake and someone relied on it and let everyone know? Or worse, took action against me based on their reliance?
No perceived value? Come on. I responded to these sentiments by pointing out that:
• if an author knows they are subject to review they will be more careful about what they write
• there is a unique benefit to the dynamic of people talking to one another
• it would be hard to credibly rely on an article or hold the writer accountable for an opinion
• such fears will only stifle our collective ability to think critically about the issues of the day
To be fair however, we also received brave feedback such as this from members of the Board:
Often the DCBA is its own world of lawyers, judges and courthouse politicians. The World Wide Web takes us out of our collective comfort zones and changes the way we think and do business. While it is not clear what will come of these changes or where they will lead, we need to begin sometime and [the Editor and Associate Editor] have done a lot of work to get us here.
In the end Associate Editor Ted Donner was the voice of moderation, pointing out that:
• not all pieces would be open to comment (we could seek author consent first, for example)
• comments are just "letters to the editor" and we already take those (so why be afraid?), and
• all comments would still be filtered ("moderated") by the Editor (the buck stops here).
Of course there was much, much, much more discussion among members of the Board, and my sincere thanks goes out to everyone who participated. You chose to make yourselves heard, and that is always the right choice. And with your help we hope to unveil a shiny new website in the near future, complete with:
• blog-style features (including comments on selected pieces)
• full-color gallery of past issues
• searchable article archive, and more
But even after such a rousing discussion, there is one thing missing. I need to hear from you. So here is my wish for this holiday season: I am asking readers to contact me in confidence at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you think of our proposals. In particular:
• should we institute a comment or feedback and rating system?
• would you use such a system if it were in place?
• would the existence of such a system encourage you to read articles online?
• would such a system encourage you to interact with the author?
• would such a system encourage or discourage you from contributing as an author?
• could you make frank comments using such a system?
Yes, I know it’s the holidays and you don’t want to take the time to answer these questions. That’s alright. I’ll still be here when you’re ready. And at least you know I’ll listen to your comments. In the meantime, happy holidays everyone!
Mazyar M. Hedayat, Head Grinch