In a week or so, I will be able to utter the five most dreaded words in the English language: "Hey, check out my blog."
My new gig will be just a minor cog in the freshly redesigned and revamped Flyer website, memphisflyer.com, which features more content, more features, and more interactivity between us and, well, you.
There is a new pop-culture blog (Sing All Kinds), a theater blog (Intermission Impossible), a news blog, and a politics-centric page helmed by Jackson Baker. Mary Cashiola's "In the Bluff" has now been moved to the Flyer site, as has Chris Herrington's "Beyond the Arc" Grizzlies blog. More editors and staffers are expected to join the fun in coming weeks.
That's the "us" part. The "you" part is also new and different. You can create your own page on the site, from which you can review restaurants, sign up for events, leave comments (and see in one spot every comment you ever made, which is scary), and even make online "friendships." The idea is to create a Facebook-type community built around a common interest in the Flyer — and Memphis at large.
One of the irritating aspects of most websites is the plethora of "anonymous" comments that follow most posted content. If everyone with an ax to grind calls themselves "anonymous," you can't be sure who's saying what or even who to respond to. You can't post as "anonymous" on the Flyer site; you have to create a name for yourself, which in turn creates a page where all your comments are aggregated. Your name, of course, can be your actual identity or a nom de Web of your choosing, but the idea is to encourage civility and responsibility. Comments are monitored and no excessive profanity, racist remarks, or personal attacks are tolerated.
The new site has been up for a week now, and the results have been gratifying, to say the least. Traffic is up. The debates are brisk and usually civilized, if sometimes heated. I know that the conservative commentor "thought thinker" and I will never agree on much, but by checking his profile I can see that we both like Boscos and Automatic Slim's. Common ground is common ground, even if it's just a seat at the same bar.
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