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300 Characters

No Blazersedge site feature creates more controversy than the infamous 300-character minimum rule for diaries.  Reactions range from humorous circumvention to righteous indignation ("As if I'm not considering what I'm saying just because it's short!") to subdued resignation...all appropriate in their own way.

I understand why the restriction was built into the system in the first place.  (And keep in mind this was not my decision.  I only write for Blazersedge, I don't technically own it.)  Diaries are maybe the single most important and well-used feature of the site.  Display space for them is limited as is the patience of most readers for clicking through dozens upon dozens of them.  If they become a forum for one-off comments they'll proliferate so quickly that they'll be pushed off the page before they're seen.  Also frankly we expect the conversation level here to be somewhat higher than your average message board which usually entails more thought and more words.  For your average site this makes a ton of sense.

I also understand, though, that Blazersedge isn't your average site.

The formatting here is different than a lot of blogs.  With most blogs out there the blogger does a short-format, link-heavy post which the readers then respond to at length.  I intentionally don't follow that format.  It's already done, and probably done better, at Oregonlive.  Why would I want to duplicate something that Eric and then Casey have perfected over the years?  I'm happy they do that and I'm glad we all have a place to go to get our news.  I don't think Blazersedge should aspire to being "O-Live Lite".  In fact when I find something beyond just the ordinary Portland Trib or Jason Quick stuff that's common access, I will almost always e-mail it to Casey instead of posting it here.  And you know what?  Taking this approach puts me right in the same boat as all of you, which I'm guessing is part of the appeal of the site and its conversation.  I'm not the news reporter bringing you the latest flashes, I'm the fan just like you reacting to all the news alongside you.  That's a much different feel.  And when you think about the quality and history of Portland fan-ship, it's quite an honor and privilege in its own right.

This format has given rise to a curious phenomenon, which delights me greatly.  Because I don't have to be the first and loudest news-bringer to our little community, many of you have stepped in to fill that role at various times.  And the venue you've chosen to do that in is the diary column.   When something interesting happens one of the very first places to look is the Blazersedge diaries.  Where I have left corners unpainted here you have happily colored them yourselves.  Where I have left certain rooms empty you have moved right in.  The people who make this a full-service site, and one of the best ones out there, are YOU.  And seeing how this has developed, I wouldn't step in and take over that role on the main page for any amount of money.  This house is better for us having built it together.

An inevitable by-product of this phenomenon has been shorter diary entries.  And this is where the rub comes in.  They're not shorter because they're less thought out or important.  They're shorter because they're fulfilling a different function than the original diary creators envisioned.  The fact that some of the shortest diaries generate the longest responses shows that this isn't a bad thing, nor contrary to the spirit of the feature.  In fact in some ways I think it's a better and purer use of the diaries...people saying, "I don't have time to write an essay on the team every day but I found this interesting and I wanted to share it with all you guys and see what you think."

Yet here, in the midst of this wonderful process that seems to be working so well, we bump up against that pesky 300-character minimum clause that won't even let you post a diary unless the character count qualifies.

I have talked to the Powers That Be about this situation.  I've explained what's going on and the public reaction (and everything I've shared here).  But as far as I can tell, they're not budging on the limit and they're not going to.  That means at least for now we have to live with it.  Most of us have spouses or significant others who are great in every way but have one annoying habit that drives us crazy.  This is Blazersedge's.

While the extra, added stuff (like the snide complaints or repetitions of "300") at the end of diaries has been amusing so far, soon it's going to get old.  Besides for somebody just new reading or posting it probably distracts from the bigger message of the entries, and we don't want that.

So I figure it's up to us to come up with a creative way to live with this.  The best and easiest way is simply saying if you have two or three sentences about what you like about the link or idea you're posting, that will probably fulfill the requirement right there.  I do love the link entries but even I don't like clicking on a diary and seeing just the link.  That's kind of like someone coming into your house, tossing a newspaper on the floor, and leaving.

But for those who can't manage to fill the minimum that way, here's my proposed solution.  Each week I'm going to post a simple, short question on the main page.  It may be Blazer-related but probably not.  It'll be formatted like this: Diary Fill Question:  What's the best kind of doughnut in the universe?  If you're short characters, copy that question into the end of your diary, fill in your answer, and you're set.  This is not only a classy, creative, and understandable way to work with the system, it'll let us know a little bit more about each other too.  Who knows?  You may find dozens of apple fritter fans are typing right alongside you.

In fact that's a good enough one to start with, so here you go...the very first Blazersedge Diary-Filling Question...

Diary Fill Question:  What's the best kind of doughnut in the universe?

Happy posting to all!  And keep those diaries coming!

--Dave (