Turning Archive 2007

My Take On The Turning Chat Room - Long

Steve Russell
>Hello to the group,

I recently posted a message "Call for Votes... Please Let Your Voice Be Heard!" on the board about possible chat topics for the Wednesday night Turning Chat and it received several very good responses. I was unable to respond to them as posted, because I was working through a huge backlog in my studio that developed while I was vacationing in Hawaii for two weeks.

Some of the members feel that the moderating should be tighter in the chats... I have tried to be a gentle persuader and keep things on track. Most of the time, I think this has worked well, but a time or two, it has not. That is a failing on my part as the buck stops with me. I never moderated anything before the Turning Chat, but I offered to help Ellis and WC and try to learn as I went along. I'm still learning how to do this the right way and I will stumble from time to time as I try to get up to speed. I appreciate all of your understanding in this...

Here are some of the responses to my posting and my follow-ups...

TDaniel offered the following suggestion for a chat topic: How about "What ruins a turning club"? I did a demo at a club that had been around for several years and they were down to about 10 regular attendees/members. At the time we were just getting our club started and we already had many more members than that even though we are in a much smaller town. I asked one of the guys there why the club was so small and his answer was an eye-epener for me. He said they had 2 good turners in the club and the rest were basically beginners. He said the 2 had no purpose in the club other than to outdo each other each month on the show and tell table and they would not share the "how to" or technique with other members for fear that their "opponent" would learn the technique. I am sure there are other things that can ruin a club or at least take the fun out of it. Subject for a topic?

Hello Terry,

I think this could work with a little rework of the topic, for instance how about - What are the top three things your turning club is doing to increase member participation and attendance? What three things is your club doing that you feel are hurting member participation and attendance? This way the discussions would not be centered only on the negative, but would also offer positive ideas as well.

Brad Vietje offered the following comments:

Is it possible that a better technology exists for these exchanges ? I never participate in the chat sessions because I don't type well (or fast!) and find the multiple discussions on multiple levels too confusing. For me, the exchanges here on the message board take the same function -- you post a view or a photo, or a technique, and I can post a response in due time, perhaps a day or two later. Its slow, but seems very effective to me.

I am wondering if there are simple video-conferencing or other technologies that could facilitate a more immediate exchange of information than this message board, but ones that aren't restricted to keyboard exchanges (?) Since there are many that do participate and enjoy the chat nights, I may be asking for a solution to a problem that doesn't exist... but my experience here tells me that somewhere out there, someone knows a lot of stuff I don't know, and maybe there's a better way that hasn't been adequately explored.

Hello Brad,

No doubt the chat room environment is fast paced, but it offers instant communication which in and of itself, can be more rewarding in some aspects that the traditional post and reply method used on the main board. I look at the chat room as an adjunct to the main board, an extra benefit of sorts. I was lost as well in my first few chats, but it becomes second nature after a short time. I also type slowly, but I still participate and enjoy the chats.

As for finding a more interactive experience, I'm looking into that now and we have made steps in that direction as well. We now have the 15 minute SNT with photos before the main topic and I'm looking into the best way to easily get video incorporated into the chats. Some of the members want a more interactive experience, some do not. You need a good internet connection for some of these technologies, not to mention powerful software on WC to run them. At this point, I'm looking into making the experience more beneficial with our current limitations, even as I research new technologies.

Ric asked the following: I would like to see a complete copy of every chat session posted in the archives. Is it already there, or posted someplace else?

Hello Ric,

All of the chats that I have moderated have been archived and the links posted a day or two after the chat on the main board. As for adding them into the archive in a list that you can access in one place, that's a good idea. I will contact Ellis about this and seek his counsel.

Peter Hyde offered these comments: Here's a link for the last log. I read the logs but don't bother with the chat. The log makes you realize that chat is just that. There is very little information to be gleaned on the various subjects and most of the log is about OT banter.
Steve has to be commended in his efforts to encourage more interest in these weekly discussions but I personally don't think this is working as a learning experience.
Reading the archived chats on the other forums reinforces the need for some other method of communication or maybe some really strict moderating. Just my 0.2

Thanks for your comments Peter.

While every chat will contain some amount of off-topic banter, I try to keep the discussions on topic and moving in a logical progression. The nature of the chat prevents in-depth learning, but there are lots of little gems offered that make the experience worthwhile. Read a few more of the chat logs and see if you agree. I cannot comment on any of the other forum chats, as I have never read them. I'm working to make the Turning Chat a rewarding and beneficial experience for the members of WC and as such, my efforts are strictly limited to the Turning Chat. Give us another try, we're working on new ways to make the experience better for all participants.

Stuart Johnson offered these comments to the above post:

"I read the logs but don't bother with the chat."

I think this statement come close to saying I don't bother voting and I don't like the way congress works. I do agree the off topic chatter is very distracting and in my opinion rude. What would most do if a member walked into their club meeting during the show and tell and stood in the back and yelling hi to everyone. Once several had yelled hi back the member gathered up a couple cronies and stated loudly talking about an upcoming fishing trip. Of course from time to time they feel the need to call out to a friend asking if they wanted to go on the trip.

I don't belong to a club but I have the feeling most would not put up with the disruption. I also don't see much difference between the above action and the off topic banter that takes place from time to time. There is plenty of time prior to the topic start time or after the end. If there is a need to say something off topic use the private message feature.

I disagree though about there not being anything useful. I might be the exception but I have come away from every chat session with some gem. The chat session can be a very useful tool but only if folks participate.

Thanks for your comments Stuart.

I also agree that I have learned something from every chat session. The shared experiences of our members are priceless to me and I'm grateful to those who offer their insight and advice in the chats.

Chris LaPine offered the following for a chat topic: Steve, I would like to see a discussion on hollow forms, what tools are used, techniques, pitfalls, etc.

Hello Chris,

Thanks for your suggestion, I have added it to my master list of topics. This is a broad subject to handle in a single chat, but some of these topics can work in a chat environment quite easily. Thanks again!

Russ Fairfield offered these comments (portions snipped from original post):

All of these recent efforts to structure the Chat Room are trying to make it into interactive Message Board that is as fast as CA glue. However, the photos require an intermediary and a 2nd browser, and a thorough and thoughtful message is lost on everybody. The person with the mostest the fastest will always dominate the conversation.

I would use caution in changing the Chat Room. I know that all of these things sound like they are wonderful and we would like to do them, but I think we are destroying the Chat Room when we try to make it into an Instant Message Board. We are better served when we stay within and use the best capabilities of each.

There are those, usually the beginners, who like what is happening to the Chat Room. They want everything they can get out of everything that is available. However, in the process of serving the beginners, you risk losing those experienced woodturners you need to survive. There is nothing wrong with this if that is what you want to do with the Chat Room. Just be aware that the group will be different.

There is another major difference between the Chat Room and the Message Board. The Chat Room takes on the personality of the Moderator, while the Message Board takes on the personality of the Group. The Message Board is the great equalizer.

I don't want anyone to be offended by this, but it is a basic fact of life. The Moderator of the Chat Room is the obvious leader of the conversation and they are there all the time and a part of every conversation. The Moderator of the Message Board usually remains in the background, and is not a part of most conversations. Most of us don't know who they are. When they do take part in the conversation, everyone is more free to post a disagreement with them because they are not right their to post an immediately response in a bigger bolder and brighter type font.

Russ, thanks for your comments.

Text only chats can be beneficial, but many of the members who have contacted me what more... I look upon our restructuring efforts as making a good thing better, not worse. As for the photos, you simply need to open another browser window to view them during the chat. If you prefer not to, you could preview them before hand, or print them out and use the prints to formulate your comments.

I do not think that anyone is trying to make the chat into an instant message board, rather make it more responsive to the needs of the group. The photos in the SNT have been a big hit with most members and have greatly enriched the discussions by allowing the members to view a picture, instead of trying to create a mental image from a few lines of text. The proposed video enhancements we are working on will allow us to explore new topics that our members want to see.

We need to be responsive to the needs of our members, or they will look elsewhere. The majority of the members who have contacted me want a better chat experience than all text. I believe we can keep the best parts of the all text chat experience and blend them into the best parts of some new technologies and end up with a more rewarding experience for all members. Yes, it will not be easy as we all have different internet connections, equipment and desires, but it can be accomplished. I believe we can have the best of both worlds, and offer the level of experience that each member wants to see in the chats.

I would not agree that the chat takes on the personality of the moderator. It may well in some chat rooms, but my participation as moderator has been quite benign. I have no desire to impose my personality on the chat room in any way. I'm there to keep things moving and on topic, but my personality carries no more weight than any other persons. In my specific case, the chat members as a whole determine the "personality" of the chat room, not the moderator.

RevDoug offered these comments: All these topics are great. I look forward to seeing all of them. To address Russ' concerns, and those of some others, we have talked about an occasional open night. Those are fun sometimes as well. I feel like we need both, the structured discussions and the open free-for-all.

I understand the problems with not typing as fast as some or having the fastest connections. But, some of the other software that is being spoken of, while available, is expensive and everyone participating would have to have the same stuff. Both the chat and the message board are important to what we do here on WC.

Thanks for your comments RevDoug.

The open night concept can be implemented, but most members seem to like the structured chats better from the emails I have received. We do offer an open session at the end of every chat, but it seems to die out quickly... I will post a message on the main board and get everyones thoughts on adding an occasional open-night to the chats. Thanks.

Don offered these ideas for topics:

#12 Finishing, techniques, lacquer vs. oil, etc. etc.

Thanks Don for your suggestions. I have added several finishing topics to my list.

JL offered these suggestions for topics:

1) Tools that work, tools that don't work. How to make certain tools work. How to sharpen certain tools.

2) Wood properties - How does certain wood turn? Does it take a crisp line? Does it fuzz? Does it gum up sandpaper? Can it be turned green? Can it be turned kiln dried? Structural strength - can you turn a thin walled bowl? Can you turn a thin spindle (or leg:))? Will it have enough strength to be weight bearing at a particular thickness?

Thanks JL. I'm working on developing several topics from your list. Thanks for contributing.

Thanks for all of the other suggestions, I sincerely appreciate all of your responses. By working together, we can make the chat room the best it can be while maintaining it's traditional interactivity. I look upon the chat room as the cherry on top of the ice cream of the main message board. Neither can replace the other, each offers its own unique communication method and each is important to the learning process.

Steve Russell
Wednesday Night Turning Chat Moderator

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