March 27, 2009

How to hold live discussions with readers

Sambit Bal

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

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Posted by Wood on (October 7, 2011, 11:30 GMT)

Apparently this is what the estemeed Willis was talkin' 'bout.

Posted by StaniArmy on (March 27, 2009, 12:11 GMT)

Don't worry about typing with two fingers. I sometimes use two fingers to do my talking too.

Posted by Brendan Layton on (March 27, 2009, 11:41 GMT)

I liked the format and thought it worked well. It got some good discussion going between yourself, Rajesh and Jamie. I for one would like to see more of it if possible. Cheers.

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Sambit Bal
Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.

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