By Michael Rand
We’re getting a little choked up here. Jon?
The earliest RandBall post remaining online is one titled “Fierce Competition,” from December 8 of last year, in which Mr. Rand pleads, “The
only thing I ask is that you consider the 57 million blogs being tracked as of October 2006 (by technorati), and you make a conscious decision to try to look at this one each and every day. Is that so hard?” However, on December 11, the blog was officially kicked off with a post titled “Welcome to RandBall.” Among other asides (“If you are here for the fresh blueberry pie, I regret to inform you we just ran out.”), the course for the last year was set: “If you are here to comment, I welcome you with
open arms. I firmly believe commenters are the cornerstone of this project.”
So either RandBall’s official birthday was last Saturday, or it’s tomorrow. I’ve no doubt that the man himself will have a piece to say about the one-year anniversary of the launch. But since this is this week’s Commenter of the Week post, I’m here to celebrate on behalf of the commenters. And I think I speak for the group when I say: I’m surprised that the first year was this much fun.
You see, while bloggers in the Proprietor role almost always pay lip service to the hoi polloi that form the readership, it’s rare for these types of outlets to be anything more than a one-way conduit. After all, newspapers are one-way, so it’s hardly surprising that blogs started by newspapers should be more or less completely one-way as well. And, for the most part, the great sports blogs of the age are organized this way — one man or one group speaks, while the rest of us listen, then discuss among ourselves.
But RandBall did something that is virtually unique among those from the mainstream media: he disregarded the one-way street in favor of a two-way conversation. By my count, 18 of us have written at least one post for RandBall, and just as many have developed into all-star commenters, ones that — sorry, sir, but it’s true — are just as entertaining to read as Mr. Rand. [Proprietor note: No argument here.]
Think about how surprising that is; of all of the other journalists from the mainstream media, how many have been willing to step out of the spotlight even for a moment? History will record that RandBall was among the first to come down off the pedestal formed by the newspaper masthead, and to engage the readers directly — not just by answering a mailbag, or by highlighting a few comments here and there, but by actually creating a community among the commenters.
Students of the transformation of the newspaper business, take note. Put another way: RandBall is the difference between a call-in show on talk radio, and a discussion in the bar with a group of your friends. So, to Mr. Rand: we, the past and future commenters of RandBall, salute you. You’ve made this space required daily reading — yes, out of the tens of millions of blogs out there — and we congratulate you on a year of faithful service. Thanks for the entertainment; here’s to all the Wha’ Happeneds past, and here’s to many more. Happy birthday!