The Scoop

A blog about what's new and changing on sacbee.com

September 30, 2008
An invite to preview the new sacbee

If you've been reading about plans to redesign sacbee, we truly appreciate your interest and the feedback you have provided. Now we'd like to invite users to join us at The Bee to preview the new site prior to its launch, scheduled for Oct. 14, and tell us what you think.

User feedback sessions will be held at The Bee (on 21st and Q streets in Sacramento) on the following dates and times:

Monday, Oct. 6, noon - 1:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 7, 5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.

If you are interested and available to attend, please e-mail feedback@sacbee.com with the following information:

Your name

e-mail address

best way to reach you during the day/contact information

Your preferred session date

Tell us if you are a print subscriber or not

And your age range: 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, 65 or older

We unfortunately may not be able to accommodate all requests to attend. We will randomly select participants, and if you are selected you will be contacted on or before Friday, Oct. 3.

Thank you again for your consideration and interest in sacbee.

September 21, 2008
Discussion forums coming to sacbee.com

When the new sacbee launches in mid-October, we'll have some new tools to communicate with readers. One of those tools will be reader discussion forums powered by Pluck, a provider of social media software.

Forums provide the opportunity to have live discussions about specific topics. Those discussions can involve Bee staff with readers; experts invited by The Bee to discuss a particular issue with readers; or of course readers having discussions with other readers.

 Any one can read the discussions, but to participate you have to register. Once registered, you can respond to a forum as well as start a new discussion topic under a forum if you so choose. Each time someone responds to a topic you started or a post you made, you automatically get an alert -- and the chance to respond or just read what someone said in response to what you posted.

Registration also allows users to use other Pluck tools on the site, such as starting your own blog on sacbee.com, or commenting on stories.

To get a feel for how Pluck forum tools work, check out our sister site at the Charlotte Observer.

Among the forums we are planning include discussions on news of the day; what's happening on state politics; health and fitness issues; the Kings; and a discussion and update on the conditions and pricing specials at local golf courses. We hope you'll enjoy these new tools and offer suggestions on how best to use them.

 

September 15, 2008
Improved search coming to sacbee.com
Since we started asking users for feedback about sacbee.com, many of you have pointed out that it can be difficult to search for content on the current site.
 
As we redesign the site and look for ways to improve the search, a funny thing happened: We realized we had an answer to improved search of Bee content in our back pocket. 
 
Many of our sister papers in the McClatchy Company use a company called Planet Discover to provide local search technology. If you type in a phrase or word under our current search, you might find the most recent stories that contain the phrase or word.
 
Using Planet Discover, not only does the search bring up current stories on the site, but it also shows you older stories, classified advertising, obituaries, videos and blogs, as well as a local directory of businesses that have the phrase or word in their name. For examples of what Planet Discover does, check out the search functions on our sister papers at the Miami Herald and the Anchorage Daily News.
 
Using Planet Discover for searches will also users of sacbee to find related content on our niche sites, SacMomsClub.com, SacPaws.com and SacWineRegion.com. With the new search ability, users will be able to find all Bee related and local content in one step.
 
 So when we launch the new sacbee in mid-October, you'll also have a new, more powerful search tool to easier find the content you are looking for.
September 11, 2008
Sacbee "Pluck"ing away at a better commenting tool

From my e-mail Inbox:

"I have read the Bee online since it came on the Internet, I am seeing more and more comments which serve no purpose except to attack people, make comments which are just to belittle people, call people names."

The gentleman who e-mailed was not anonymous, but most of the people who leave comments on sacbee.com are.  And the reader is right.  Often, users take advantage of that anonymity to leave remarks that they wouldn't dare sign their names to.

With the redesign of our Web site, we will launch a new commenting system that we hope will allow us and readers do a better job of policing our message boards. The new system is not fool-proof, but it holds the promise of providing users with a better way of interacting with sacbee.com -- and each other.

The new commenting system is , one of the Web's leading purveyors of social interaction tools.  Many other newspaper companies are using Pluck's SiteLife suite of tools and we're happy to be joining them.

How will Pluck make sacbee.com better?

  • There will be a three strikes and you're out policy for inappropriate comments. If three different users flag a comment as somehow offensive, it will be removed from the site for moderator review.  Currently, one flag removes the comment.  The new system will cut down on the break out of "flagging wars" that some readers wage simply because they don't like what another person has to say.
  • Pluck will help us better track abusers by assigning demerits to users whose comments are flagged. The system will notify us if any one user racks up a number of demerits.  We can review that person's commenting history and decide whether he or she should be barred from discussions. 
  • Users will be able to message one another directly.  You will be able to send a message to a specific user if that's what you want. No need to drag everyone into a conversation that meant only for two.
  • You will be able to create "personas" to go along with your user name.  You can post your picture, or an avatar. Share with others where you live, your interests, your background. The more we know about one another, the less we are the nameless and the faceless open to attack. For an example, see Dayahka's profile page on USAToday.com.
  • You will be able to launch your own blog. Just in case commenting isn't enough to get your views across, or you just want to share more about life,  you can use your Pluck persona to blog to your heart's content. If we like what we see, we'll feature your blogs on their own page, much like they do at SFGate, which already has Pluck in use.

Those features are just some examples of what Pluck has to offer. As I said, the system is in use on other newspaper Web sites like the ones noted above. Check them out and let us know what you think.

 

 

September 7, 2008
We want your input

We're building a Web site that will allow users to easier navigate our site and find content of interest to them. As mentioned in an earlier post, we'll have more interactive tools for readers to share content and interact with Bee reporters and other readers in the region. But I think what will make the new sacbee much better is a new attitude we're developing in the newsroom.

The new attitude involves a willingness to actively seek out and listen to reader input and feedback to improve how we serve our readers, both online and in the paper. Part of this attitude change is driven by the Internet itself -- a recognition that readers have more choices than ever for news and information, and that the Internet offers editors the chance to get input even before we've made some of our decisions.

Editors have always sought to serve their readers, but the feedback editors got was often limited to readers reacting in letters or phone calls to decisions already made. Every couple years, a newspaper might conduct a poll of readers in its market to gauge what they were reading and how well they liked a particular section or columnist. But again, readers were asked to react to decisions editors had already made. No one ever asked readers to suggest a section they would like to read or a type of column they would like to read.

In the coming days, we'll be asking every fifth user who comes to sacbee if they would give us some feedback in an online poll. There will be several questions asking readers to click a box that best represents how they feel about the site or tell us why they came to sacbee. There will also be some questions that will allow readers to make suggestions about how we can better serve them online -- not just react to what we are doing.

After we launch the new sacbee, we will continue to ask users for feedback, partly to gauge if readers think the new sacbee is indeed an improvement. But also to keep improving how we serve our readers online.

Along those lines, as we are forced to make decisions on whether to retire some comics and add new ones, either because the comic creator is retiring or wants a hefty increase in what they charge us, we'll be asking readers to help us make decisions on which comics should run in The Bee. We'll use a new reader forum tool we'll have with the new site to preview some of the new comics and ask readers which of the new potential comics they like best. We may have readers rate all our current comics, and then look at those comics that received the fewest positive votes to compare against the new possible comics. The goal here is that readers will help choose which comics we publish and which we decide to no longer publish.

We're also hoping to let readers know in advance when one of our beat reporters or columnists plans to sit down with a newsmaker, and we'll ask you for any questions you would like to see addressed. That will no only allow readers to help shape the news, but to make our public officials more accountable to the communities they serve.

September 5, 2008
Is the World Wide Web big enough for football fans?

Can't Raiders and 49ers fans just get along?

That's what I want to know.

On Thursday, I showed Bee Sports Editor Bill Bradley plans for the football section in the upcoming redesign of our Web site.  The page would twin coverage of our "local" professional teams, the Raiders and 49ers.  Bill would get everything he's been asking for - live scores, schedules, rosters, leader boards, standings, videos and prominent real estate for our popular Raiders and 49ers blogs.

Was he a happy man? No.

He looked at me like I'd just invited Planned Parenthood to Bristol Palin's wedding.  "You can't have Raiders and 49ers on the same page!" he hollered.

I did my best Gary Coleman impersonation: "What you talkin' about, Willis?"

"Raiders and 49ers fans hate each other," he said. "They don't want to see anything about the other team."

Now, admittedly, I'm not that much into football. When I go to a game, it's to eat bad food and drink beer.  But I do love tennis.  If I'm reading about my favorite player, Rafael Nadal, do I cringe at the mere mention of his upstart rival, Novak Djokovic?  No, I want to read about him, too.  It helps me size up Rafa's upcoming competition.

I'd think football fans would want to read about both their favorite teams and the teams they love to hate.

In any case, sports editor Bradley is taking his case to our boss, Managing Editor Tom Negrete, for a ruling on the best approach to football coverage on the new site.

Like a good tennis player, I'll abide by the ruling from the chair. 

 

 



About The Scoop

The Scoop is a blog where the managers of sacbee.com talk about new initiatives and our plans for sacbee.com. You can reach us by at the e-mail addresses below or you can comment on our postings.

Tom Negrete is managing editor of The Bee and oversees the daily work of journalists who produce news content for the newspaper and sacbee.com. Negrete, who has been at The Bee since 1994, has served as assistant managing editor for business and sports, sports editor and assistant city editor. E-mail him at tnegrete@sacbee.com or reach him at (916) 321-1171.

Seán McMahon is The Bee's Director of Digital Media, overseeing the interactive efforts of the company. His e-mail is smcmahon@sacbee.com.

Linda Gonzales is digital team leader for Sacbee.com and has been an editor at The Bee since 1995. You can email her at lgonzales@sacbee.com.

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