How to hold live discussions with readers
We have always looked for ways to engage you in our coverage of cricket and some of you might have noticed or indeed taken part in the live discussions we have been conducting on the site in the last few weeks. It is still a work-in-progress and we have been experimenting with different forms to find out what works best.
One of the biggest challenges during live online discussions is dealing with the huge amounts of feedback and messages. It is impossible to keep everyone happy. When we tried this first during an India-New Zealand one-day match in a closed environment - we told only a few friends - Jamie Alter, who moderated it, looked dazed after a few minutes. It was a free-for-all format and soon the discussion went completely out of shape.
After a couple of matches, we tried it live just after a match and Sriram Veera tried heroically to take in as many comments as possible, but still ended up with huge number of dissatisfied readers. We read every comment before publishing and the eye and mind can only process so much. Clearly, that was not the way to go.
Next, Avinash Subramaniam moderated a discussion with the readers in which I took part. But soon, it was clear that neither him, and nor me (mostly me) could cope with the volume of questions. A few readers pointed out, quite rightly, that my typing speed was well below par. It is. Shamefully, I have never gone past using two fingers.
Today, we settled for something much more manageable. We restricted the discussion to an in-house group. Akhila Ranganna moderated a closed post-match discussion in which S Rajesh, our stats editor, Jamie Alter, who was writing the match reports, and me took part. We took questions from readers, but through mail, and not through the live chat engine. In the end, we managed to take in only a few questions, but the discussion had the sense of narrative. Lots of users ended up asking similar questions, so apologies who might have felt ignored. Here's a link to the page. See it for yourself and let us know what you think.
PS: Check this ad out. It's from Aircel, an Indian mobile phone company, who we partner for cricket content. Watch out for the Cricinfo bubble. The ad is in Hindi though and we can't provide subtitles.
Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo