This Website Is an Interactive Blog

At the last Board of Directors meeting, September 23, 2010, Board members, especially the new directors, expressed an interest in learning how to more effectively use this website.  In almost all electronic on line media today the social media approach has taken hold to offer instant feedback and interaction.  During the last year, time, money, and effort was spent on transitioning this website from the old “billboard” type of publication to the modern interactive blog media that it is today.  This reminds me of the early Greek democratic forums of ancient Athens.

All this has been done to further the mission of the national Clean Cities parent organization consistent with the mission of this local chapter, the San Diego Clean Fuels Coalition.  This mission has evolved from advocating clean air to include replacing imported oil for energy and economic security, and reducing green house gases for our planet’s long term sustainability.

With every new tool comes added responsibility.  The Board is now tasked with writing rules and guidelines for the use and content of the website.  From one extreme of requiring total control and board approval of any contents (where the website reverts back to a billboard) to the other extreme of chaos where anybody creates and deletes content at their whim, undoubtedly, a middle road will be adopted.  When choosing that middle ground I urge the board to consider the members and the board management that this website serves to further the mission of the Coalition.  Quick, open, and transparent communication among board members is one of those functions rather than trying to use email blasts.

Because most of our funding comes from a Government source, U,S. Department of Energy, I’m sure it reads somewhere that we cannot endorse any private enterprise.  The Coalition’s past behavior has been to link vendors/suppliers with users to increase the use of alternative fuels. While we continue to do this, the website now provides the opportunity to share, discus, and debate experiences and issues appropriate to this mission.  We could provide comparison spreadsheets to make it easier to show results and match products to applications.  We can also compare performance to vendors’ claims. We could publish fleet results of using alternative fuel vehicles.  We can discuss, and debate issues and claims in an open public forum where credibility can be vetted.

I agree that the billboard approach needs to have scrutiny and tight control because there is no opportunity for response.  However, that is not where media is today.  This website offers the capability of a fast, flexible, and balanced discussion in an open transparent forum to accelerate the behavior and technology changes we are trying to promote.  Beyond a polite level of respect, let us not put the fear of offending anyone in our guidelines, but rather invite opposing views to be discussed with research, experience, and facts as quickly as possible with ongoing discussions. This approach ties in with the modern concept of in-bound marketing.

Fresh content, valuable information, open discussion, and credibility drive followers to the Coalition’s website to minimize the amount of promotional marketing to get the word out.  Through subscription, tweeting, and other social media the Coalition can reach 1,000’s of people quickly, like the overnight announcement of the Government’s auction of surplus CNG vehicles.

Because of confidentiality agreements, in-depth clarifications, and personal discretion, some issues need to be offline and handled through direct email, telecons, and face to face communications.  For everything else the Coalition would do much better to discuss issues in an open transparent environment that invites all sides to participate.  The Proposition 23 discussion is a good example. If the truth hurts, take responsibility, make amends, and fix it!

That’s my opinion.  As always, other views are invited.

Tom Bartley

2 thoughts on “This Website Is an Interactive Blog

  • I agree that while guidelines are necessary the content should remain open and proper topics transparent. The question is “what topics are ‘proper’? If the subject is in line with alternative fuel use, new vehicles, or fuel reducing technologies it should be allowed for posting. The danger of individual opinion being perceived as the opinion of the CFC could be remedied with either an explicit “Opinion” label or with the webpage being openly understood to contain individual opinions. As long as the opinions remain professional and debate is structured then this website would only benefit from such openness.

  • Hi John,
    As in any public or open forum, the sharing and discussion of ideas, information and opinions are the key reasons to have such forums in existence in the first place. While we may all have differing levels of comfort about opening up to public discussions, I think we all need to keep in mind the following points so that we do not have to worry about whether something is “dangerous” or “proper” or should be “structured.” For many people the points below are just common sense. But for others, they can be a new way of doing business. Either way, blogging and forum policies and netiquette are well established. We just need to put them into proper practice and manage them as appropriate. Here are a few key points:

    1. There is always a moderator or moderators involved. For the SDCFC website, I am the moderator for now. Please read more on this in the About page.
    2. Because readers contribute viewpoints in the Comment area, it is quite clear that they do not represent the CFC in any capacity. There is no need to label any comment as “Opinion.” They all are, even for most of those from the BOD.
    3. Comments that break the civility rule will be immediately removed. Those that represent misguided, incorrect, or otherwise differing viewpoints will and should be countered with appropriate arguments and correct facts and figures.

    Hope this helps.

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