About a Blog

OK ladies, I need your always bold and brilliant input.

So as many of you know, I started a new job recently. I write for a newspaper, but my new company is in the process of launching three new parenting websites (lots of newness going on, eh?). They got wind of my work on MotherTalkers and have asked me to participate in a brainstorming session tomorrow.

Here’s where you come in: please tell me what you like and don’t like to see in parenting blogs/websites. Why do you visit them? What is it about MT that works? What doesn’t work? What would you like to see more of? Less of? What keeps you coming back? Are there features in other blogs/websites that you like? Features that you’ve dreamed up but have yet to see anywhere?

FYI, the websites we’ll be launching will be very local/regional in scope, similar to this site and this one.

I just hope to help make it as good as it can be, something that moms will be drawn to and participate in.

Thanks in advance for your feedback!

40 thoughts on “About a Blog

  1. Some Don’ts and Do’s

    Don’t tell me about things I need to buy.  I’m sure this will be a goal of the blogs, but it would be nice if it weren’t an overwhelming part of the content.

    Don’t start debates on topics that you know are polarizing and lead all too easily to disrespectful behavior.  The anonymous world of blog commenting makes it way too easy for people to speak in an ugly and hurtful manner to total strangers and this does NOT elevate the conversation.

    Do be sure to include fathers, especially fathers who are actively engaged in parenting their kids either on a full time or part time basis.

    Do remember that we are men and women as well as fathers and mothers.  We have wide-ranging interests that are often informed by our role as parents but not always obviously about parenting.

    • great feedback…

      I wonder, though…I think we have posted on very controversial topics and generally manage to keep things respectful. Circumcision, breastfeeding, religion, spanking…these are things we are all over the map on and they have been some of our best, most lively threads. Or am I high? :-)

      • Not typical

        MotherTalkers is so atypical.  When I read the comments on my local paper’s website (and even on the Washington Post’s), I’m appalled at people’s manners.

        I don’t know what it is, perhaps the fact that this blog is run principally by women who are friends and know each other in real life.

        I’m not saying you can never post an entry on these topics, but it is certainly something to be aware of.

      • Dealing with controversial topics

        I have been involved with various forums online since 1993-1994 in regards to adoption — a topic that is filled with controversial topics. I created and maintained an award-winning and one of the most respected adoption websites from 1994-2001 by including birthfamilies, adoptive parents, adopted persons, professionals. We had stories, poetry, art, and articles that sometimes were controversial because they showed the darkside of adoption.

        From time to time tempers will flare and sometimes you will get trolls, who just post immflamatory comments for the heck of it. We are mothers — some of us went through childbirth and all of us have been thrown up on — we are of tougher stock, aren’t we?

        There is nothing wrong with anger, sadness, passion, but we also need to have compassion. We also have to be aware that free speech is not for popular views — as those never need protection. It is the views that are unpopular, distasteful, uncomfortable that are the greatest need for protection. In return for that protection, they need to be able to have their views challenged.

        I found that having trusted members of the forums who are mature and diplomatic having some powers of a moderator can come in an cool tempers and remind people that there are real people behind the keyboards. One of the things I have noticed is that the calmer, well-reasoned, and careful prose tends to be neglected by readers for the more flame-filled prose. A lot of times, the members of the forum are complicit in what the tone is on the forum.

        You can also present topics in a way that set the tone to welcome all points of view in a polite manner. For example: instead of saying “Circumcision or Mutilation?” you can ask, “What went into your decision to circumcize or not?” Part of the problem with our modern discourse is that issues are always framed in way that polarizes and creates antagonist tendancies because that is how our media thinks captures our attention. We need to reward people who put their ideas out there in a respectful manner.

        The entire website needs to be designed in a manner that is inclusive of all mothers from all walks of life — through text and pictures. You can create a place that states their values of respect, compassion, and values free thinking. Your website can set the tone.

  2. Cincy Moms

    just launched…I’ve been on a few times but it’s not like here where I check in and comment multiple times a day. I think MT is a more cohesive and homogenous group so it lends itself to thought provoking yet respectful discussions. When we get someone here who is being awful, the moderators are quick to restore order. It’s nice and leads to a comfortable environment.

    Open Thread is helpful and I’m glad it was recently added here.

    Just my two cents. Good luck in the meeting tomorrow.

  3. I think one thing that

    makes MT work is that people can ask for information / input / advice and not be lectured like ignorant children.  There seems to be an assumption that the person asking the question is thoughtful, informed, and genuinely curious, rather than clueless, and that leads to respectful and interesting comments.  

    • plus

      if a post isn’t the group’s cup of tea, members resist the urge to post just to SAY something- I’ve had a few diaries with very few posts and that’s much better than having a diary with posts that say things like “i don’t get why you think this is a problem, but whatever…”

  4. Seeing you are aiming for a local/regional feel

    articles on things to do with babies/kids in the community and highlights on some community events for families. When I was home with a newborn I would have LOVED to know where to meet other parents in the area:cafes/parks/storytimes etc. I searched everywhere online for local info on this but sadly didn’t find much.

    What I like about MTers is that all of the posts are thought provoking/interesting/entertaining. Its great to see articles on things other than just the typical “parenting” mumbo jumbo you see on other blogs. Its cool to read about current events and other issues from the point of view of a parent.

    • that’s a great suggestion

      I heartily agree with you on this, Jen! Definitely, focusing on local events/clubs/groups is a great idea. Plus, making sure that a mass e-mail goes out to these local groups at the first instance when the Register launches the blog, to make sure that the participants know where to go to get publicity!

      I would also say make sure to include information for all types of families – one of our MTs who’s an adoptive parent noted that when she first moved to a particular area, none of the community information she received was relevant to adoptive parents services, for example. Adoptive parents, LGBT families, single families, SAH or WAH dads as well, etc., etc.

  5. MT is so specific

    Progressive mothers- there is definitely a focus, whereas if you’re on babycenter.com, the field is widened and the discussion often gets polarized to extremes.

    Also, there are a lot of troll-patrollers and posters who are not afraid to simply ignore a controversial poster.

    The only other sites I’ve posted on are moderated, have very clear rules about not addressing other posters, simply addressing the topic. Televisionwithoutpity.com will kiick you but OUT for addressing another poster in any way- they watch for sarcasm. Knowing you can get your post erased or get your profile shut down is also a motivator to play nice.

      • their FAQ section

        is really good. From their “manners and respect section” :

        Forums – Good Manners and Respect

           1 What’s the gist?
           2 Why can’t I start my posts with the word “um,” be a snotty jerk, or present my views as God’s TV gospel?
           3 What’s the difference between a personal attack and taking it personally?
           4 Why can’t we talk about the boards on the boards?

        The answer to #2 is:

        Don’t start your posts with “um” or “uh” or words like that because nine times out of ten, those words precede a snotty correction directed at another poster. It’s rude and dismissive and it drives the staff nuts, so please, don’t do it. The same goes for “sorry, but…” and “excuse me, but…” and, really, any other snitty post-starter.

        If you can’t talk to other people as if they’re intelligent, you can’t post. Don’t talk down to your fellow posters, don’t lecture them, and don’t state your opinion as fact. And please don’t think we’re going to argue technicalities of whether you said “uh” or “um” at the beginning of the post; we can tell when you’re being snide and snotty about other people’s opinions.

        If you’re having a problem keeping your temper under control, get it under control, or post somewhere else. It’s supposed to be fun. It’s not combat. It’s not necessary for it to become personal.

        If you want to point out an error, that’s fine, but please find a way to do it that isn’t the written equivalent of an eye-roll.

  6. Good suggestions

    I really like the variety of topics discussed here.  There are standard mommy topics, like BF, discipline, etc., but there are also lots of more thought-provoking issues, like the current discussion about raising children with religion.  Even though the moms tend to be more progressive, there is a huge variety of perspectives on every issue.  I also agree with everyone’s comments about how everyone is respectful and congenial.

    It may seem trivial or even judgmental, but I like that everyone tends to spell and use grammar correctly (aside from the occasional typos).  I can’t stand reading blogs where I have to decipher the postings due to sloppy writing.  It weakens the thought the contributor is trying get across.

    • Not trivial at all!

      I’m with you…well, I’m a writing teacher, so that’s not surprising!  But I’ve dropped interest in blogs as well when people could not bother to spell or use correct grammar.  I don’t mind so much if things aren’t capitalized, because it makes typing speedier, but if I get the feeling the writer really doesn’t know the difference among “their,” “there,” and “they’re,” I get more than a bit annoyed.  It definitely distracts me from what they’re trying to say.

  7. oh yeah

    and it’s great that your employer’s asked for your participation. Looks like you’ve already made your mark at the paper, after only a few short weeks! Not that I’m surprised, mind you, talented lady that you are!

  8. I like the POOP

    SFChronicle has a parent blog called the Poop. I like some aspects of it–that the bloggers are men and women, that they talk a lot about regional fun things for parents to do, and that they have actually been instrumental in getting people together. The bloggers approached a local theater and they do matinees of favorite films (one of the bloggers is a film critic) for the whole family–like the Muppet Movie. It tries to be funny and lively.

    • children’s matinees

      They did that at a local cinema when we were living in London – Thursday mid-mornings. It was great. Cheap matinee prices, free tea and cookies. OK, it was more than a little bit manic with kids in the aisles, but I could take Jess and breastfeed and see a movie in peace. Very nice.

    • Off Topic…

      We just watched the Muppet Movie over the weekend. Avery got a kick out of it (though, there were way more guns than I remember), and it was a trip for me to watch a movie with my 3yo that came out when I was 3.

      • MuppetTreasure Island

        Avoid this one!  I am so shocked it was rated G. Totally inappropriate.

        I was like 11 or 12 when The Muppet Movie came out.  I remember vividly that I saw it on Christmas Day while the whole rest of my family watched Apocalypse Now in the theatre next to it!

        • Muppet Movie

          My 11 year old birthday celebration was a limo ride to Grumman’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles w/6 of my friends. What a hoot!

  9. What I like

    about MotherTalkers probably cannot be easily replicated. Two things, mainly:

    1. smart moms
    1. respectful disagreement without the need to cut people down or insinuate that you are nuts or a bad mom if you don’t believe as I do
  10. Can’t be all things to all people

    I’m echoing others’ thoughts, but what I like about MT is that the basic foundation or underlying focus is liberal moms.  After agreeing that we all come from that viewpoint, we can go on to the variety of opinions & experiences about everything else.  Too many blogs/web sites try to be all things, like “We’re for parents, so all parents will like this.”  Being a parent is not my only personality trait or life experience.  I think having a focus, even if it seems like it might be limiting, actually helps create an interesting site that allows itself to be built into a strong community of commited participants.  I lose interest in a site if I feel like there’s just too much happening that doesn’t appeal to or affect me.  It can be a delicate balance, I know!

  11. Late

    Kind of late to this, but I think no blinkies and a moderator that has the power to just delete any post that stinks and lock threads once they get crazy.

    Locally, I think just open “parent message boards” are good, where the topics aren’t too limited.

    Good luck!

      • well…..

        There is one blog I hang on that has them, but they are used really well to illustrate discussions and such, and there are none of those goofy angels and things.

        But most of the time, I agree.

        • Photos

          I think they can get so out of control.  

          What do you think of those big photo montages that some people have at the end of all their posts on some blogs, like their signature?

          Sometimes I think they’re cute.  But sometimes they are too much overload.

  12. Some other thoughts

    It is always essential to know the audience that you want to serve. I would go to numerous adoption conferences, join various organizations and discussion groups, read numerous news articles and books on the topics make sure that I knew all the issues the target audience was interested in.

    Wouldn’t it be great for every mother in this country to have a local mother’s group with kids close to her kids age to lean on and watch each other kids grow up? I know as a mother it was especially important in the first 3 years for me to know I wasn’t the only one going crazy with lack of sleep.

    As my readership grew and my website got attention I used my website as a vehicle for political issues of the target audience were concerned about. I wanted to change laws and societal attitudes that impacted birthparents, adoptive parents, and adopted persons. I would love a website that fought for the rights and dignity of all mothers and families and link to political organizations like http://www.momsrising.org/

    The keys to success are:

    1. Doing the research and see what is being done already. Either you provide a website no one is doing or serve an underserved audience, or you take a look at what everyone else is doing and create a better product. You would be surprised how many companies just do whatever other sites are doing and hope to just hype it better, or have no idea who they are serving or what they want to be.
    1. People want to log on and see themselves and their stories and experiences respected. They come to fight the feeling of isolation and be apart of something bigger than themselves.
    1. Quality information and links to resources and support groups including reviews of those links and resources.
    1. Usability: You must make navigation easy and watch how long it takes to get information and share information. The more text information you have, the more graphics get in the way of getting that information.
    1. Pick advertisers that are socially responsible and ecologically minded, as parents we are concerned for our children’s future so we need to have advertisers who share our values.
    1. Graphics should represent all different kinds of families — all colors, ages, and economic status.

    Hope this helps.

  13. a few things

    1. diversity
    1. open-mindedness
    1. lack of judgment

    those are the most important things i can think of for us parents on websites, in books, in general communication.

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