At Large : New for you
First, some web news. We've added a feature to mvtimes.com that invites visitors to the site to buy copies of photographs that appear in the newspaper, either in the print or online editions. We often get calls from readers who want that picture of the daughter who won the kids trout derby, or the son who hit the home run or pitched the no-hitter. Till now, it's been an awkward process to satisfy these requests. The new feature - you'll find a link on the opening page of the site - makes it easy, inexpensive, and quick. You order the photo, whatever size you like, even framed, and it will be mailed directly to you. There are other trinkets available too, most of them able to have your favorite image imprinted.
As we add photo inventory to the site, you'll also be able to choose favorites from galleries of images, many never published, created by a variety of Times photographers. Look for the Purchase Photos link on the main page at mvtimes.com.
There is also webcam news. The webcams are among the most frequently visited features of mvtimes.com. Readers use the webcam images as screensavers. They write to ask that we move the camera this way or that to change the view to suit their interests. They email friends on other continents to say that they'll be standing in the webcam view extending a birthday wish, so check it out.
The site now features not only views of Vineyard Haven Harbor, Five Corners, South Beach (not much happening there in the off season), and the Oak Bluffs Harbor (courtesy of the harbormaster), but we've added views of Edgartown Harbor (courtesy of Edgartown Marine), and the construction work at the new Island hospital. We've got other webcam setups in mind, so stay tuned.
Now, some old business. We've struggled to strike the right note with the Comment feature on The Times website. That's the feature that allows readers to immediately post comments on a news, feature, or opinion article they've just read. It's the work of a moment to let your voice be heard. Of course, as soon as your opinion airs, there's every chance that a contrary opinion will quickly follow. So, conversations begin and continue, as all sides have at it. It's been very popular, but it's also been horrifying at times. We began with few rules or limits, but that was a mistake. It turns out that civility and good nature are not universally embraced by an anonymous Comment posting population.
The Comment features on mvtimes.com and other newspaper webs sites exist at the wild frontier between newspapering and the Internet. It's that boundary between what we newsfolk like doing and know how to do and what makes us squirm unhappily. So, we adapt. Newspapers cannot merely face change with a grim smile, we must adapt and adapt daily.
We've built and rebuilt mvtimes.com many times over the past 10 or 15 years. We've tried something we thought would please readers, only to find they didn't give a damn. We've added a feature, then ripped it apart and rebuilt it so it would work right. One of the most often modified features on The Times website is the Comment feature. We think of it as a way to enlarge the conversation between the newspaper and its readers, and among those readers, by making it more of a flowing, day-to-day, two-way street.
Most comment posters are terrific, inquisitive, critical, thoughtful, and above all, amiable. But, some are just hateful, rude, disparaging, name-calling, nasty, and horribly, intentionally cruel. So, we've set down some rules for Comment participants, including a requirement that you read and agree to the rules, then abide by them. And, we added a feature that lets you report to us posts that you don't think meet the standard.
We want the posters to get if off their chests, but after all, it's our website, and it's a newspaper for a general and genial readership, and we don't want to wince when we read what you've written, particularly when we're allowing it on our site. This doesn't mean that we have any interest in allowing one point of view but blocking another. All points of view are, if not welcomed, then at least allowed. The issue is how they are expressed.
We don't like anonymity. It would be better if every poster, like every letter writer whose words appear among the Letters to the Editor, in print and online, included his or her name. But, that's not how the digital age works, it turns out. So, we've adapted. Comments may be posted anonymously or pseudonymously, but they must live with the diminished authority of what they write. When you put your name to what you write, it matters a great deal. When you don't, it matters less.
A few weeks ago, we added a new hurdle for Comment posters. Each and every comment is now reviewed and approved before posting. Or rejected and trashed. We've adapted to this more cumbersome protocol because of the handful of nasties who will not mind their manners. The new approach will entertain all opinions, but only when expressed in moderate terms, as described in the protocol confronting each participating poster. I have no doubt that for nearly every one of you, doing so will be no challenge. It's been your practice all along. For the outliers, let them talk viciously to one another.
And, I'm happy to report, the new system is working nicely. It's not carefree for the person - me - who must review each post before it goes up. The you've-got-mail dinger on my computer raises a fuss at all hours of the day and night, and wherever I happen to be. (This must be what they mean when they say newspaper editors have their finger on the pulse of the community - if they say that anymore.) But, as we suspected, 98 percent of the posters are goodhearted, moderate sorts who wouldn't think of writing a slash and burn post. I've trashed only a handful of aspiring posts since we've made the switch, though some I've allowed have been borderline, and someone else might have made a different decision. With time, we'll be able to refine the process. After all, we're adapting as fast as we can.