Wednesday, December 5, 2007

CapsChick over at A View From the Cheap Seats brought this to my attention (it originally comes from Interchangeable Parts) and I thought it would be a neat little thing to address. This is what us bloggers are doing during the Capitals off days, I guess. If you're looking for something more as a reader, I have this.

1. What was your motivation for starting blogging? Has that changed at all in the time you’ve been blogging?

I'd been considering starting either a baseball or hockey website for several years but always thought I'd never have the time (or the resources - trying getting Caps games in 2003 in a dorm room in Lake Forest, Illinois or Atlanta). A friend of mine recently started a D.C. Sports Blog and asked me to write for itand seeing a chance to write a little but without the obligation to maintain a site on a daily basis I agreed. Once I started writing (primarily about the Capitals) I found that I really enjoyed it and pretty soon I did want to want to update on a daily basis, with every little bit of Capitals or NHL news I found interesting. Since Wayward Sports Sons was intended to be a D.C. sports-centric blog I decided it would be best to put all the smaller notes and stories on a different blog, so as to not clutter W.S.S. up and thus Caps Blue Line was born.

Has this changed at all? Actually it has, even though it's only been a couple months. Since I get all my thoughts on the Capitals out in this blog I find that I'm talking off the ears of my friends and family who don't really follow hockey a lot less. So everybody wins!

2. What do you think your blog contributes to the hockey conversation?

Most of all I hope it contributes intelligent discourse and gets people to think about topics in hockey they hadn't thought about before or to think about them in a different way. I try to do this by providing my rationale behind my opinions. All too often the anonymity of the internet allows people to post bold, declarative statements without having to give their rationale; this is a pet peeve of mine and has directly resulted in my (brief) defense of Brian Pothier and my (lengthy) defense of George McPhee. It's not that I think either of these guys are irreplaceable, but rather than they deserve to have their strengths and weaknesses laid out and examined in a somewhat objective manner. Hopefully by providing my own view on Capitals news and by making points in non-news related posts I can get people to think about the Capitals or the NHL a little harder, in a slightly different way.

3. What do you want to get out of the blogs you read?

There's really not any one aspect that's essential in making a blog great. It can be humor (A View From the Cheap Seats), in-depth statistical analysis (The Peerless Prognosticator) or up-to-the-minute updates from around the league (Japers' Rink).

There are two things that I think are essential in making a blog worth reading. One is that it has to be updated regularly - there are so many good bloggers out there that if you wait several days to comment on a trade, a signing, or a game you're going to get left behind. The other is that blogs need to offer opinion; they need to be more columnist than beat reporter. I've seen blogs for football, baseball and hockey that just offer brief recaps of games. To me, those aren't terribly interesting since each NHL game now has at least a half dozen traditional media outlets that write up recaps and dozens of bloggers who write lengthy, in-depth recaps. I like it when bloggers show some initiative and come up with their own post/story idea rather than just waiting for news to break.

4. What determines which blogs you read and which you don’t?

In the end hockey is a sport and blogs are entertainment; thus I like to read blogs that are interesting. As I mentioned above there are a number of ways a blog can be interesting and worth the time to read, but the one thing they all have in common is that they offer something different - different strengths, different interests, different voices.

It's also important to me that the author lay their stance out, rather than just making judgments. If someone can offer a well-reasoned argument for why trading Brian Sutherby was a bad move, I'm happy to sit and read because I want to see what the point being made is. On the flip side, if someone just writes a "WHAT ARE THEY DOING?!?!?!? SUTHERBY IS AWESOME AND A 2nd ROUND IS NOT ENOUGH! MCPHEE SUCKS!!!!" post, they're adding nothing and wasting the reader's time. Part of the reason I feel so strongly about this is that I like to read opinion I disagree with because I feel it makes me develop a more informed opinion.

The other key factor is the motivation behind the blog, which has gotten to be a bit of a problem in the Capitals blogosphere with all the attention Capitals bloggers have gotten from traditional media outlets. Wanting to talk about every aspects of Caps hockey, going back and analyzing transactions years after the fact, checking on prospects and wanting to be part of a community that dissects all things Capitals - these are good reasons to start and maintain a blog; wanting to get a press pass and watch games for free, sit in the owner's box or get your face on Hockey Night in Canada are not. If you make the rounds on the blogosphere it doesn't take long to determine which are which, as it generally shows pretty clearly. It's not a moral stance, it's just that people who write because they have something to say are generally much more interesting than people who write only because they want attention.

5. How important is the issue of gaining press access to you as a blogger?

The short answer is: not at all, since I don't live in the D.C. area.

The longer answer is that at this point it isn't important because I don't think it would make that much difference in the writing I do for this blog. Maybe in a year or two, if I am in the D.C. area,
I'll consider how active my blog is and whether having press access would benefit it.

6. To what extent do you feel accountable for the content of your blog? How concerned do you think readers should be about the authority and accountability of your blog?

I think readers ought to be concerned with the accountability of the blogs they read. A blog that isn't accountable can't be trusted to be factual or relevant, and if it isn't factual or relevant it isn't worth reading (unless of course it's obviously fake and funny as hell). That said, accountability is very important to me and if it weren't I wouldn't expect anyone to read this.

7. How concerned are you about the authority and accountability of the blogs you read? Do you find it difficult to judge the authority and accountability of the blogs you read?

My opinion is that all bloggers need to be concerned about accountability. There are no gatekeepers in blogging and new blogs pop up every day. If a blogger doesn't see accountability as important then the relevance, and readers, they may have will soon move to another blog... and I will be one of them. A blog that tries to make points or voice opinions without providing evidence isn't worth the time to read when there are so many great ones out there.

I don't think it's too hard to judge the accountability of a blog. Just like the accountability of traditional media or an academic paper, it's all in the sources. If a blogger provides their source then it can be independently verified and whatever commentary the blogger has becomes much more credible; if it's a situation where there make not be concrete analytical data say, discussing the job performance of a general manager, then examples should be provided.

8. What value, if any, do you think blogging brings to the NHL?

There's no doubt blogging bring value to the NHL, much of which comes from the fact that bloggers are independent. As a blogger, you can feel free to write whatever you want, whenever you want, an opportunity not afforded most traditional media writers who have to deal both with space restrictions, topics assigned by editors and a league that is very concerned with its public image.

The blogosphere let's people know there are other fans out there, even if markets where hockey doesn't much attention. For me personally it's been great to find out that there are other people just as nutty about the Capitals as I am; who know all the Capitals top prospects and where they play, who want to discuss possible line pairings and who understand the C.B.A. The fact that there are these people out there benefits the casual fan too. Bloggers are accessible and generally quite friendly and can answer questions casual fans might have, but might not be able to ask someone in their hometown's front office or one of the local beat writers; this is more important to hockey than any other sport.

In my experience there are so many people who are not hockey fans not because they don't like it, but because they haven't been exposed to it or who aren't very familiar with it ("wait, what's 'icing the puck' mean?") and if bloggers can provide the kind of coverage people need to learn more about the sport, gain a better understand and become more active fans, then there's no doubt the blogosphere will benefit the NHL.


CapsChick said...

it's just that people who write because they have something to say are generally much more interesting than people who write only because they want attention.

Couldn't agree with you more! It's why I like blogs like this one - you're definitely adding things to the discussion and you know what you're talking about. It's amazing how so many people talk so much without really saying anything...

DMG said...

My blog feels flattered.

usually frustrated caps fan said...

dmg: dead nuts on on all counts - great thoughts. Someday I hope my blog is as good as your! LETS GO CAPS!!!

DMG said...

My blog feels even more flattered...

Interchangeable Parts said...

Hey DMG, thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions! These are really wonderful answers that are very thought-provoking. When we came up with these questions we were thinking as very humor-oriented fan bloggers, so your point that more news-inclined bloggers can pursue stories and angles that the regular media can't (or won't) is one that we hadn't really considered much, and is one of the aspects of the hockey blogosphere that makes it so valuable.

...these are good reasons to start and maintain a blog; wanting to get a press pass and watch games for free, sit in the owner's box or get your face on Hockey Night in Canada are not.

Oh, you Caps bloggers! Speaking as Devils bloggers, we're like, "What is this 'attention' of which you speak?" :D