Today, James Mirtle wrote a piece on the special report Hockey Night in Canada ran about hockey blogging. One particular comment in the conversation that followed the post really got us thinking — beingbobbyorr wrote, “The whole idea of ‘live blogging / blogging in real-time’ is a gimmick that does not serve the blogosphere’s higher purpose of subjective, passionate opinion pieces. The fan-blogger should pay attention to the game, absorb it, go home and think about it in a big-picture kind of way, and then write their essay.” Whoa, whoa, whoa, there! We didn’t know there was a higher purpose we were supposed to be working toward. That’s something that probably should have come with the “So You Started A Hockey Blog” handbook. Well, after getting over our initial “who is he to dictate what the purpose of hockey blogging is?” apoplexy, we decided the time has finally come to get serious for a moment and explore what the hell it is we’re doing here (not that we didn’t mean each and every one of those 95 Theses). In the manner of fancy-pantsy, responsible journalisty types, we came up with a questionnaire to explore our reasons and meanings as bloggers, and our answers, composed individually, are below. (This is a topic that is endlessly fascinating to us, so if you want to answer this questionnaire yourself, Gentle Reader, whether you blog or whether you just have opinions on blogging, please do! If you’d like to answer and be featured as a kick-ass questionnaire answerer in this space, email us your response at interchangeablepartsblog[at]gmail[dot]com, and we’ll post what you’ve said in its entirety.)
UPDATE: We’ve received a bunch of responses to this questionnaire; links follow this post.
1. What was your motivation for starting blogging? Has that changed at all in the time you’ve been blogging?
Schnookie: Pookie wanted to start a blog and didn’t want to start it alone. And I like to listen to myself talk, I really, really like the act of writing (most specifically about hockey), and there was not a very potent Devils presence in the hockey blogosphere. After a little pep-talking from Pookie, I agreed that it would be fun to write about the Devils. That was it — a really simple motivation, based on the fact that I’d put exactly zero thinking into what the hockey blogosphere is doing. In the six months since we started, my motivation has changed dramatically. IPB turned into a forum of sorts (something I never expected) and I’ve been excited to tailor the way I write about the Devils and the NHL at large to start conversation. I want my blog to be about participation and community, and I want the experience for the people who read my blog to be one where they can find common ground between fans of all teams. Yes, it’s a Devils blog, but it’s one that has attracted fans from all corners of the league, and I love that.
Speaking specifically, my motivation when I write posts is for them to be funny above all else. IPB is a platform for me to share my experiences as a fan, whether it’s what I’m saying and thinking during games, or what I’m doing when I’m on a road trip, or my thoughts about the big hockey news of the day. I love to laugh, I love hockey and I love to write. That’s what motivates me.
Pookie: My motivation to start blogging was born out of having no outlet for my fandom other than talking to Schnookie. During the years that I had season tickets to the Devils there were always people to talk to at games or on the way to and from Manhattan and the Meadowlands. But as soon as I had to give up going to 41+ games a year, the circle of people to talk to shrank dramatically, particularly since I was operating in a distinctly 1.0 social scene — all my social activity was built on geographic foundations; my friends were my friends because we went to grad school together, not because we had much in common. As soon as it became clear that they had zero interest at all in hearing about hockey, I had to face that it was just going to be me and Schnookie sitting on a park bench in our old age rehashing the same hockey commentary over and over. Starting a blog seemed the perfect solution to finding a new outlet for that hockey commentary. At no point did I think anyone would actually read it. Readership was never a motivating factor at all, nor was joining in a broader conversation. (Before we started IPB I had very little experience with the established blogosphere other than reading Kukla and On the Forecheck; I had left one comment on Kukla but when I realized that not only was the NHL not going to promise, on the strength of my argument, to never mess with RailCam again, but that no one else had responded to me at all, I never left another.) I just figured we both wanted to have more of an opportunity to write more often — ever since writing a fantasy-fantasy hockey season to fill the dull days of the lockout, we’d both been itching to be more creative than our jobs were letting us be.
My motivation has most definitely changed in the time that I’ve been blogging. Thanks to the community that’s grown in the comment threads on IPB, I’ve realized that I’m finding a 2.0 social scene, where my interactions can be based on common interests regardless of where the various parties are geographically. Physically, we’re all on benches in different parks, but metaphysically, we’re all on one giant bench, having a grand old time rehashing the same old hockey commentary but with 10 people, or 20 people, or 50 people, or maybe someday, an infinite number of passionate, intelligent, witty and funny hockey-minded people. And that’s what motivates me now.
2. What do you think your blog contributes to the hockey conversation?
Schnookie: Truth and beauty.
Just kidding! IPB contributes me to the hockey conversation. I’m never going to break some big story, nor am I ever going to introduce some new and dazzling form of statbit analysis. But I am a serious fan who has been ardently devoted to NHL hockey for over a decade. I’m smart (ish), reasonably well-spoken, and I spend almost every minute of every day thinking about hockey; when I publish something on my blog, I’m contributing the opinion of a fan to the public record. Ever since the NHL’s ratings have ebbed from their high-water mark in 1994, the league and hockey media have spent all their time wringing their hands about what to do to fix the NHL’s popularity problems. For the last 13 years the powers that be in the NHL have tinkered with the product, and they keep justifying changes by explaining they’re what “the fans” want to see. Well, in all that time, no one’s ever asked me what I want to see — and that’s what my blog contributes. It’s the voice of a fan, out there for anyone who wants to hear it.
Pookie: I think my blog contributes the idea that the conversation is key. My blogging education was based entirely on professional research I did for my job as a public librarian. Librarians are a remarkably tech savvy lot, and blogging has been a big part of the profession for quite some time. In leading up to starting IPB I did a ton of reading and attended a handful of conferences and training sessions about how blogs can be used to promote library services and reach new audiences. One of the common choruses was “enable comments and make sure you respond to them in a timely and meaningful manner”. To me, this made perfect sense. So when our first Gentle Reader left a comment about something we wrote about Canadian pizza commercials, my reaction was, “Quick, quick, we have to respond!” So we did. And the Gentle Reader (the one and only Hockeygirl) responded back. And soon we weren’t just writing about watching hockey on a Canadian satellite feed, we were talking with someone in Canada who had knowledge to share about the ins and outs of Canadian pizza (just as we suspected, Panago? Disgusting.).
It wasn’t until months and months and some 50,000 comments later that I realized that when those speakers and journals wrote about it being imperative to respond to comments, they meant it simply in an “if you’re the library director, and some taxpayer leaves a comment asking you why the new branch construction has been delayed, make sure you respond so that people don’t start thinking funding your library is a bad idea”. They didn’t mean, “If someone leaves a comment saying they don’t like Panago, you’d better make sure they know you care”. I’m so very glad I misunderstood, though, because who doesn’t like having their contribution to a conversation acknowledged? And why, when blogging makes it so easy, shouldn’t conversation be encouraged, particularly when the topic at hand is something as communal as hockey fandom? This aspect of hockey blogging is overlooked far too often in discussions about what hockey blogging can accomplish; I am proud that here at IPB we make conversation amongst fans a priority.
3. What do you want to get out of the blogs you read?
Schnookie: Aside from Kukla’s Korner (everyone’s favorite media aggregator), I pretty much look for tone when I’m reading blogs. The blogs I read are all well-written, and most often funny. I look for whimsy, sarcasm, wit and silliness in the hockey commentary I read, as well as vibrant comment threads. I like a blog that has a lively give-and-take between the blogger and readers. I will read about teams I don’t otherwise care about as long as the blog is smart, thought-provoking, well-written and makes me laugh.
Pookie: I want, first and foremost, to be engaged by good writing, and, preferably, by funny writing. I can’t stand the Islanders or the Kings, but to me no day is complete without stops to SportSquee and Battle of California. I don’t care if Margee and RudyKelly are writing about teams, games or players I don’t like or don’t know; the fact is, they consistently make me laugh so hard my sides hurt. Somewhere along the way during my 12 or so years as a fan, I ceased to care about stats and serious editorializing. For the most part, I got my fill of that by watching 5 hours of Center Ice a night, why did I need to spend my time reading about it in the newspaper? I’d much rather read how my fellow fans think and feel about their teams than read about which coaches have tweaked which d-men on the point, or which players are likely to be sent down, or which are rumored to be thinking about being rumored to be returning to Sweden sometime in the next five to ten years.
4. What determines which blogs you read and which you don’t?
Schnookie: Quality of writing. I’ll read just about anything if it’s well-written, but if a blog is shoddily-written or boring, I’m not going to bother.
Pookie: I will read blogs that are well-written, and won’t read ones that aren’t. Quality of writing is 100% the determining factor for me. And, for the most part, I’m drawn to writing that is humorous, sarcastic and self-deprecating. I will also be more inclined to read a blog that has lively, respectful and engaging readers who are encouraged to participate.
5. How important is the issue of gaining press access to you as a blogger?
Schnookie: Considering my reason for blogging is that I’m a fan, a press pass offers very little value to me. I wouldn’t say no if someone offered me the chance to experience a game from either the press box or with a modified credential, but I would never in a million years use it to write some sort of journalistic report. I’d just end up writing about my day with media credentials from a fan’s perspective — I think that would be fun, but probably totally beside the point of getting a press pass.
Pookie: Not. At. All. Contrary to how this debate is being framed by the MSM, by Ted Leonsis, and by many established bloggers, it is not the primary goal of all bloggers to become “legitimate” and to gain the same rights, access and glory that the traditional hockey writers get. While I would certainly welcome getting the opportunity to see some aspects of how a hockey team operates (if the travel secretary for the Devils is reading this, how about an IPB exclusive?), I have no delusions about what I have to offer as a hockey writer that would make me think giving me access to the dressing room wouldn’t be a waste of a lot of people’s time.
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?
Schnookie: I feel tremendously accountable for every word written on my blog. Of course, it’s a small-picture, opinions-and-yuks blog, so if anyone’s coming to IPB and taking the silly or satirical content at face value, then I guess that’s a problem. But I hold myself to a high standard for everything I write, and don’t ever hit “publish” unless I know I’m being the best fan blogger I can possibly be.
Pookie: I blog anonymously which would suggest to some that I’m trying to find a way out of being accountable (in truth, I just don’t want my boss to see how much time I spend blogging), but the fact remains at the end of the day, I answer to myself. I have enough pride that I won’t accept knowing I published something that wasn’t the best product I thought it could be (except that one time we totally phoned it in and then discovered that Fan House linked to us; that’ll learn us!). No, I’m not answering to an editor. I’m answering to my own sense of honor. I think readers should definitely consider authority and accountability when reading blogs, but I also believe strongly in the wisdom of crowds. If someone makes a habit of routinely reporting unfounded rumors, readers will figure out that there’s no substance to the reports and they will either demand truthful reporting, or they’ll move on to other blogs.
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?
Schnookie: I am almost never concerned about the authority and accountability of the blogs I read, because I find this is something that’s phenomenally easy to judge. Once you spend a little time acquainting yourself with the hockey blogosphere, it becomes abundantly clear which blogs are the biggies, which ones have reliable authority, which ones are well-respected, and which ones are spouting lies, damned lies. I take a hugely analytical approach to how I consume information on the internet, though, so maybe this is a thornier issue for other people. I don’t know, really, but for me the authority of a blogger is a lot easier to ascertain than it is to figure out how legit the reports written by some members of the MSM are.
Pookie: For the most part I read blogs that don’t report facts often enough that I’m overly concerned about authority and accountability, but when I do turn to the blogosphere for news, I use the tried and true patterns of the blogosphere to determine who to trust. By following links from trusted sources and by exploring blogrolls, I’ve been able to, without much effort, piece together a lengthy collection of reliable sites. By reading the sites and passively fact-checking them (if Mirtle says Pat Kane is good, and then two weeks later I see he’s leading rookies in scoring, that’s usually enough for me) I’m able to confirm my suspicions about who’s usually right and who’s usually wrong. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, I’m not finding any traditionally authoritative sources (i.e. newspapers) writing enough about hockey to fully satisfy my information needs. At a certain point, I’m forced to turn to “alternative” media and at some point I have to just let go and let blog.
8. What value, if any, do you think blogging brings to the NHL?
Schnookie: First and foremost, blogging gives the fan a voice. This, to me, is far and away the greatest power of the blogosphere, and presents the most significant change to the status quo of the hockey world. As more and more fans are turning to the blogosphere for opinions, analysis, conversation and news, bloggers are gaining more and more of an ability to influence how their fellow fans are seeing the hockey world. Because of the two-way, conversational nature of the medium, bloggers and their readers are able to directly exchange ideas any time, any place. In the debate going on right now about the “legitimacy” of blogging, there is a lot of focus on the threat bloggers pose to the established media, but that seems to me to be missing the bigger picture. The real revolution happening thanks to blogging is the enfranchisement of the fan. Fans have traditionally been just the saps who open their wallets at the bottom of the professional sports food chain, but blogging gives us a chance now to make ourselves heard, and to find the other fans with whom we agree. The value blogging brings to the NHL is the ability look at what the customer is really thinking; considering the NHL is in the business of providing entertainment, that should be worth quite a bit.
Pookie: Blogging can bring the voice of the fans to the NHL. Whether the players and traditional media like it or not, we’re the reason the league exists at all. The NHL can only make a better, more appealing product if they take a listen to us every now and then. To me, this should be invaluable. Elliotte Friedman spoke in the HNIC clip about how he turns to blogs to make sure he isn’t missing anything. The NHL should consider doing the same. The levels of dissatisfaction among fans over the unbalanced schedule, the new uniforms, the television landscape, the shoot-out, and the way players are marketed (among many other issues) suggests that the NHL is most definitely missing something. The NHL is missing the fans, but we’re here, and now we have a way to make our voices heard.
UPDATE: We asked our fellow bloggers to complete this questionnaire. We’ve gotten the following wonderful responses:
1. Katebits of The Willful Caboose
2. Amy of Shots Off The Crossbar
3. Heather of Top Shelf
4. Nadine of Flyers Femme
5. CapsChick of A Veiw From The Cheapseats
6. Patty of Penalty Killing
7. Gambler of Desperation Hockey
8. Pensblog Staff at Pensblog
9. Hockeygirl of double d(ion)
10. DMG of Caps Blue Line
11. Cat of Untypical Girls
12. Tracy of True Coyote Love
13. Margee of SportSquee
14. Mags of Mags’s Live Journal
15. Finny of Girl With a Puck
16. Z4Dfense of Coyotes Hip Check
17. Kevin of BfloBlog
18. HabsFan29 of Four Habs Fans
19. Earl of Battle of California
20. Sherry of Scarlett Ice
21. Forechecker of On the Forecheck
22. John Fischer at In Lou We Trust
23. Steve Lepore of Eye On The Media (at Kukla’s Korner) and Battle of NY
24. Josh of 2 Man Advantage
25. Mike P of Mike’s Blawg