Is anybody out there?

By On

Here’s a confession. I hate writing columns for this blog. They take time away from other things I’d rather be doing, and they certainly don’t engender any new friendships. In fact, quite the opposite.

I can’t explain why anyone else writes for this or any other local blog. In some way, I believe we’re all hoping we can inform others about what we see happening in our community and perhaps motivate a few to make a difference.

I have found that writing these columns without any feedback is a disappointing waste of time. Most likely I won’t continue; however, before I decide for sure, I’d just like to know if there is anybody out there who feels they benefit from the columns we write. I am told by the creator of this blog that hundreds of people read this blog each day and thousands each month.

Would it matter to you if we just quit writing? Are you getting anything out of these columns? If you agree or disagree with what you read, is there a reason you don’t add your voice to the mix by providing your own comment?

Thanks. I look forward to hearing from you.

About Larry Horowitz

Posting Citizen Journalist • Member since Jan 16, 2008

Comments by Readers

Dick Conoboy

Aug 15, 2008

Larry,

I just passed the one year anniversary of blogging with my Twilight Zoning in Bellingham.  I have not counted the number of comments made to my blog entries, however, it probably averages about 1 per blog entry - a little less than 1%. If you are going to have a blog that requires you register before commenting (like mine), you are going to limit the number of responses.  Even the Herald, which also requires registration, has a certain core group who comment and, as you are well aware, most of it is junk. NWCitizen does not do junk.

The writers in John’s blog are serious, prone to using logic and facts.  This should make people think but many either do not have the critical thinking skills or they are too lazy to use them.  It takes time and effort to reason through a problem. 

I look more to the information provided by my site meter.  I have had 10,000 hits since my blog started.  These hits are on a blog whose topic is very narrow.  I can also see where the hits are coming from (the link that brought them there) and the search terms used to come upon my blog.  I can not see who they are but I can get an idea of their interests.

I read all of the posts on NWCitizen but only comment from time to time.  It may take me 30 minutes or more to compose a comment.  Most will not take the time to do that and content themselves with calling you an idiot or telling you to move back to where you came from.  NWCitizen and other blogs in Bellingham serve a purpose in providing information that is not available elsewhere, especially our dearly beloved Herald.

Feeling your pain…the Zonemaven.

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John Palmer

Aug 15, 2008

Larry,

  I think we are out here.  I work with 4 or 5 people who like this blog and use it as one of there sources of local news.  I am the only one registered to comment, but a rarely do.  We do however discuss what is written here. 

  We treat the writer’s here as the ‘experts’ in what is happening in Bellingham and the Whatcom County area.  My wife read the Bellingham Herald everyday and I consistently find that the local information on this site is not available in our local paper.

  I do not know how to find the information presented on this site even if I felt I had time to do the research into local issues.  Without a site like this I would be uninformed on local issues that effect me.

  So please keep writing, all of you.  I think we are out here and you are making us better citizens.

John L Palmer

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Wendy Harris

Aug 15, 2008

I suspect that the problem is not that people are disinterested in information posted on the blog, but that they feel powerless to affect any real change, and thus, do nothing. 

Many issues the City faces involve gray areas of law, and developers and big business have lawyers on the payroll who are either threatening to sue, or are suing.  Local residents and activist groups do not have the same resources to litigate, making it extremely difficult to impact local planning decisions.  I think Bellingham?s dirty little secret is that many important issues are decided in Court based on lawsuits filed by those with money.

If anyone has other thoughts or explanations about why local activists are often ineffective, I would love to hear them, since I am feeling pretty fed-up myself.

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g.h. kirsch

Aug 15, 2008

Wendy is entirely right. Speech might be free, but if you want to be heard in court, you gotta pay.

In the legal arms race the people are Georgia and the development machine is Russia.

Our Squalicum organization is constantly up against the costs of its legal representation, while our opponents, when supported by our own government, is funded by taxpayers.

And unlike our opponents, all we might get out of winning is the opportunity to fight again.

I share Wendy’s frustration.  I’d hoped that the arrival of a statewide advocacy group in Whatcom county would bring a change.

Until an organization financially capable of taking it to ‘em appears, it will be left to people like Wendy, and organizations like Squalicum, to shoulder a very disproportionate burden.

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Rick Anderson

Aug 16, 2008

Larry,
I have to believe that there are many of us following NW Citizen that find it very informative but lack the experience and expertise on most of the issues to provide meaningful input.  That doesn’t mean what you and others write has gone for naught.  Quite frankly many of the posts are so loaded with information and ideas that it can be quite overwhelming and a real challenge to digest.  Please rest assured that your (and the many other) posts are appreciated, informative and not always agreed with.  Please don’t give up. Thanks!

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John Servais

Aug 16, 2008

Larry - as the “creator” of this website, it was a surprise and a chuckle to read your very personal post. At times since starting this in 1995, I’ve also had feelings that this entire process is a waste of time and only did my social life harm.  That feeling is called ‘frustration’ and it is a very human feeling. 

I’ve two supportive things to tell you.  One is I know the local elected officials and government administrators check this site often.  They have told me - and their staffs have told me.  They want to avoid being blindsided by an issue and they also want to learn about other issues. 

Second, I can tell you the statistics for yesterday, Thursday, August 14.  247 people visited the site.  For the month, the highest day is 275 people on Mon, Aug 11 and the lowest is 174 on Sat, Aug 2.  Modest numbers, but honest numbers.  I think these people are concerned about our community and want to know more about issues.

I sure hope you continue writing.  You put a lot of research into your articles and the information is important to our community.  What we can do is our best.  We cannot expect miracles.

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L.S. King

Aug 16, 2008

Larry,

I think this publication and the articles that appear here are vitally important. I hope that you and the other writers will continue to write.

It is extremely helpful to be able to look at this site and get some good analysis on topics the local paper either ignores, or covers in very short articles that do little to help one understand an issue.

Since I have registered to be able to comment, I have commented several times, but I have read every article, and if I have no questions, or if I am in agreement, I do not always comment.

I think requiring registration to comment cuts down on the amount of comments. Some that are lost would be constructive comments Others lost would include some of the “trolls” on other boards, notably some who regularly post on the Herald site, attacking the views of others but usually offering very little substance in their own comments.

Besides local politics and growth issues, I read some other blogs on topics and techniques related to mixed media artwork. One very big name in that world kept asking readers to comment on his articles but continued to get very few comments.

Only when he started doing random giveaways of prizes to those who posted did he start to get comments. The comments went from zero to a few per article, up to hundreds per article.

Many people who then posted wrote that they had been reading and enjoying the blog, but never felt they had anything worthwhile to say. I had often read the writer’s blog and enjoyed it, and I had never written a comment there.

The topics discussed here are very hot topics, a lot more controversial than the topics on the blog I just mentioned.

I think some people are afraid of harassment if they post comments. Others may feel that a comment such as “well written, I really agree with your analysis” is not worth posting.

Some may comment only if they feel they have something “new” to say, or if they disagree enough that they find themselves willing to register in order to make their feelings known.

I can truthfully say that the information here has inspired me to continue working on trying to impact local issues, even when at times it seems like the deck is stacked against the “little guy”.

I also have found that sites such as these are the only places I can get in depth analysis of local issues. I often then talk about these issues with other people who do not read these sites, and often they are surprised to find out what has been going on.

Some other readers of this site must also discuss these topics with non-readers of the site, and so that helps to get more people informed, and hopefully wanting to get involved in local issues.

I hope you will keep writing. For each person who actually signs up to comment, I think there are many others who read these articles and the more people who do read this information, the better.

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Laura DeWitt

Aug 16, 2008

Larry,

Please know that my husband and I check this site often and read all of the articles.  I registered on the site yesterday for one reason - to let you know that what you do is important and appreciated.  Thank you for all you do.

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Jill Brown

Aug 17, 2008

Larry,

I am new to posting on the site.  I just got my login because I saw what you posted on Friday, and because of the article that I read in the Cascadia rating the local blogs. 
When I read posts here I feel that I am getting good valid information.  Not the stuff that is posted on the Herald’s site by people skulking about using fake names.  I spend my day chasing around an active 4 year old so my time is golden.  I check this site daily. 
Just wanted to say thanks.

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Larry Horowitz

Aug 18, 2008

Test comment.

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Larry Horowitz

Aug 18, 2008

Dear Dick, John P., Wendy, Greg, Rick, John S., Laura K., Laura D., Jill, David and John L.,

A heartfelt thank you for taking time to add your comments, for your general encouragement, and for adding clarity to this topic.

I hope each of you - as well as those who have not commented - will continue to engage in a community?wide conversation about the important issues that affect our quality of life.  We will need to link together if we hope to preserve what we have been fortunate enough to inherit. 

Best regards,
Larry

Note: This message has been posted on my Aug 15 and Aug 16 columns - ?Is anybody out there? and ?Jimmy Buffett, philosopher?.

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Larry Horowitz

Aug 18, 2008

I?d like to encourage the other contributors, as you continue to write columns for NWCitizen, to consider what action we might take together as a community to achieve our common goals.  I suggest that we brainstorm as a team to identify and prioritize what we hope to accomplish, thereby increasing our effectiveness and reducing our frustration.

And, I?d like to encourage those who read these columns to help develop a common and balanced platform so that we remain focused and enhance our influence on the decision-making process.

Again, thanks to all who have posted here and who have emailed me directly.  Let?s continue to work together so that we may pass on the unique quality of life we are so fortunate to enjoy.

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Michael Lilliquist

Aug 19, 2008

I suspect that while many people read, few comment.  If I have nothing of substance to add, why should I add “chatter”?  Also, I come and go, not a regular.  I suspect the same is true for many others.

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