Ask LF on Life Support

DSC00584I received an email a couple of weeks ago from a reader of Ask Little Falls indicating that he didn’t see a lot of activity on this site. In fact, he noted that there are hardly any comments and I seem to be answering my own questions. He wondered why I haven’t advertised the blog in order to get more readers and commenters.

Points taken.

What might not be apparent is that I wrote a press release that I sent out to area media within a 30-mile radius of Little Falls and the result was that one media source – KLTF Radio – used the release, which resulted in a large temporary spike in readers. As for conventional advertising, it costs a lot of money, more than I have to spend on getting the word out, and there’s no guarantee people would see an ad and respond.

So, I’ve done what I can via social media, but there are a few other factors that are preventing people from taking part. I’ve had locals tell me directly that they can’t leave comments because it is against their employers’ policies. I’ve also heard that business owners won’t get embroiled in community discussions because it will negatively impact their businesses. Such is the nature of small-town life. A chat with a friend who has lived in other small communities said that it is no different elsewhere. Little Falls is not large enough to get lost in anonymity. What you say gets around and has political and social implications.

Another factor in this blog’s languishing on life support is that blogging has changed considerably since I started in 2006. Blogs as a form of conversation have been overtaken by other social media venues, ones that don’t require long posts to take part. Blogs are no longer the sole domain of individuals seeking to get their thoughts out. They have been co-opted by larger media organizations and professional writers as a way to share news and information in a format that seeks as many hits as possible and success in search engine optimization.

When I began Ask Little Falls, my intent was to pose neutral questions to the city’s residents and former residents in order to generate ideas without leading the conversation in a specific direction. Whether by design or accident, too much of this leading occurs in community idea generation meetings. This is why I never immediately answered the questions I posed, waiting until a week had passed with no comments before I chimed in. Perhaps the concept of staying neutral was a mistake and more context would give people something to bounce off of in writing comments.

Ask Little Falls was always meant to be a short-term project, just one year in length. Based on the email I received and my observations of what’s happening with the site, perhaps it’s time to pull the plug and have it end as a very short-term project.

What do you think? Is there value in Ask Little Falls as a blog, or might there be a better forum for this type of discussion?

 

5 thoughts on “Ask LF on Life Support

  1. Hi Mary, I was excited when you took on this project to get some positive discussion going for Little Falls. I fall into the category of people associating me with the chamber and not a private citizen. I wish more people would share their thoughts. I may need to develop on alter ego to post under. Deb​

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  2. As someone who also have been vocal in their community, yes there can be blowback. Face it, were it not for the fact that most media outlets allow anonymous commenting — bless the wonderful folks at Minn Post for being the exception! — there would be precious few thoughts shared. It’s not that folks don’t have thoughts and opinions, it’s just that they won’t share them publicly in the vast majority of cases for a variety of reasons, some of which you shared. And yes, LF is not the only community where this happens. Heck, you might even say it is part of that damned Midwestern politeness gene we all seem to have 🙂

    You can also look at it this way, if what you write gets people to think about something they previously had not, then you are doing your job despite the dearth of comments. Getting people to think is *never* bad. Better that than being mindless drones.

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  3. Deb & Mike – You’ve renewed my faith in Ask Little Falls. Interestingly enough, while I don’t always get many comments here, people will respond on my Facebook feed. It’s more of a closed circle there. And I do see from my blog stats that I’m getting at least a few readers every day. That speaks to your comment, Mike, about giving people something to think about, even if they aren’t commenting.

    Given that it can be difficult to post opinions related to a small community, I’m totally cool with people leaving comments under an assumed name or alter ego. What’s important is to get ideas flowing. Hopefully, that will lead to people carrying some of these ideas into the real world and implementing them.

    I think in moving forward, I’ll try to provide a little more context for the questions I ask, either with my observations or with a current news article that can serve to seed the conversation.

    Onward!

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  4. Hi, Mary,
    I do read your blog and did post a comment on one was it yesterday? I think there is value in asking the questions. Of course I am an outsider who “needs” to be accepted by the community, so I don’t want to ruffle feathers unnecessarily too quickly. At the same time, my business depends on the health of the community and on the viability of Little Falls as a tourist destination. I am hoping that this venue can somehow be expanded and that it will lead to not only virtual discussions but also face to face opportunities to be part of the growth process. Perhaps, since you have taken the initiative with the blog, you might also be a catalyst to gather community members who might be involved in deeper discussions.

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  5. Hi, Christian – Your comment popped up when I had this one scheduled to publish, and it was heartening to see. The comment you left above actually gives me an idea for a future question. That’s one of the great things about blog comments. I’m never at a shortage for subject matter when people provide comments.

    I have to give some thought about how to bring people together “in real life” to have deeper discussions. I’ve been a part of community planning sessions held by the school district, Initiative Foundation, and city over the years. While useful ideas have come out of these sessions, the community seems to get hung up on moving from idea to reality.

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

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