NOTE: Although I authored this, all five CougCenter authors have read this post and had input on its content. This represents the views of all of us.
First of all, thank you to all of you who participated in our thread about how to make CougCenter a better place. We've read every comment and thoughtfully considered how to proceed. You had some tremendous insight, and some of it we're going to directly apply. We could not have done that without your input.
Before we communicate some of our conclusions and expectations going forward, I first want to try and give you just a little more perspective on where we five authors are coming from. There were a number of comments in the feedback thread that were sort of, "Why do you do this? Why don't you do that?" I'm hoping it will help you understand why we're committed to making hard decisions about standards that we're committed to helping our community achieve.
Here's a little allegory for your consideration. It's a little long, but I think if you stick with it until the end, you'll find it worth your time.
A man has just bought a newly built house. It's never been lived in, so it's still got that new-house smell when he walks through the door. It's gorgeous, but of course, it's empty. It's not yet a home.
So, he sets about making it one. He spends a weekend painting the walls in each room just the right colors. He spends endless hours shopping for the perfect furniture. He purchases artwork, and puts up photographs of his most cherished memories.
He invests a lot of time and thought into all of this, for this isn't just some building - it's the place where he's going to be living, the place where he's going to spend his time when he's not at work. It's his safe haven from the rest of the world's troubles. It's his, and he wants it to feel that way from the moment he walks through the door.
Now, one of the reasons he bought this specific house is because this guy loves to throw parties. (He is a Coug, after all.) And this is a party pad: It's got a huge basement which he's augmented with a bar (taps and all), a pool table, multiple flat screens ... the works.
After about a month, he's ready for the housewarming party, centered around - what else? - a Cougar game. So he invites all his friends - and all of his friend's friends, too. The more the merrier is his motto.
The day arrives, and he's beyond excited. Everyone's going to get to see his new house! Beyond that, everyone is going to get to enjoy it - after all, who wants a house that you can't have some fun in? Nobody likes those silly houses where everything is look-but-don't-touch, and this certainly isn't that. It's a nice house, but it's clear it's meant to be used.
As the guests start to file in, the usual pleasantries are exchanged. He proudly shows them around. They seem a little tentative, because everything is so new - nobody wants to be the first person to break or stain something. He recognizes their trepidation, and assures them it's OK - as long as they're careful, everything will be fine. If something happens accidentally, no worries; sometimes that's just the cost of having a little fun together.
Then, the doorbell rings again. He opens the door.
"HOOOOOOOO BOY! I HEARD THERE WAS A PAR-TAAAAAY UP IN THIS HERE PLACE!"
The new guest, whom the host doesn't recognize, barges his way through the door, tossing his Member's Only jacket on the floor, and four of his friends follow closely after him.
"WHERE'S THE BOOZE? I HEARD THERE'D BE BOOZE! YEEEEEHAAAAAAAAAAAW!!!!!!!!!!! IS THIS YOUR BEDROOM? BOY, I'LL BET YOU AND THE LITTLE LADY HAVE A LOT OF FUN IN HERE, AMIRITE?? WAIT - IS THIS A PICTURE OF YOUR WIFE? DAAAAAAAMN, SON! THAT'S A FINE PIECE OF ..."
The new guests high five each other, hootin' and hollerin' and otherwise causing a scene. They've got muddy shoes on, and they're making a mess. A million thoughts race through the host's head. He wants to be a gracious host, but holy cow - this is ridiculous.
"I'm sorry sir - I don't know you, and you're not respecting my new house. I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
They're clearly not happy, but he shows them the door, shaking his head as he shuts it behind them. As he starts to walk away, the doorbell rings again. This time, it's one of his friends - and he has brought another guest with him.
He shows them downstairs, and offers them a beer - Alaskan Amber, on tap. His friend accepts, but the other man makes a strange face.
"Do you have anything else besides Alaskan Amber? It's a little bitter for my taste. I much prefer a milder blonde."
The host replies that no, he's sorry - Alaskan Amber is his favorite, and most of the rest of the guests prefer it, too, so that's all he has.
The man sighs. "Well, I suppose if it's all you have, it will have to do. But I don't understand why you don't cater to all of your guests a little better."
The host refrains from shaking his head. Can you believe this guy?, he thinks to himself as the two make their way to the couches in front of the TV.
Only, the complaining isn't finished.
"What game is this on the TV? The Cougs? Gosh, why would you torture yourself by watching these guys? There's a much better game on this other channel. Here, let me fix it for you ..."
He walks up to the TV, knocking over another guest's beer in the process. As the host scrambles to clean up the mess, the rest of the guests stare incredulously as he actually changes the channel.
"Um, excuse me - we were watching that! And be careful where you're walking!"
"Well, why in the world would you want to keep watching that junk? And if people wouldn't put their beers where we're all walking, maybe they wouldn't get bumped over!"
"I'm sorry you feel that way, but you know - this is a party for us. You're certainly welcome to hang out, but if the game you want to watch isn't on, you don't have to stay here."
He sighs again. "Nah, I kind of like this place. I think I'll stick around. By the way, what are you playing over there on the pool table? ... Eight ball? C'mon guys. Everyone knows any pool player worth his salt plays nine ball. Do I have to teach you everything?"
His complaining seems to have emboldened some of the other guests, who were polite at first.
"I can't believe you don't have a gluten-free option for food. Don't you know that 1 in 133 people have Celiac Disease?"
"What's up with your furniture, man? I'm getting a back ache over here."
"Those TVs are nice, but if you were buying new ones, you really should have gone with a couple of Sony's. I've done all the research and ..."
On and on it goes. Little of it is blatantly rude, but it just wears on the host. He keeps watching the clock, waiting for the game to get over so he can just send everyone home. A day that started out with so much promise just isn't fun anymore - he tried his best to create this amazing room, to make this an awesome party, and although most of the guests are appreciative of the effort, it's hard not to get hung up on all the people complaining.
If it's so awful, he thinks to himself, why do they stay? There's a perfectly good bar down the street with 52 beers on tap and every game they could ever want to watch on 24 flat screens. It just doesn't make sense to him, and he feels like his generosity is taken for granted. And that's not even remotely fun.
And if it's not fun for him, what's the point of going through all the effort of having everyone over to his house?
I'm sure by now most of you have made the obvious connections. Grady, Craig, Brian and I all have put more hours than most of you can possibly imagine into making the "house" that is CougCenter into what it is today. (And Kyle is going to be a big part of that going forward.) It wasn't much when we started, just a hollow shell devoid of content, personality or community. But through a lot of hard work and dedication -- for pennies on the hour -- we have made it into one of the best sites around with regards to WSU athletics.
And the thing I think most readers fail to understand is this: Just like the owner of the house didn't buy his house for his friends, we didn't create CougCenter only for you. We acknowledge that a website isn't much of a website without its readers, and we're thankful for all of you.
But it's not just about you.
It's also about us.
We created CougCenter in large measure for us, the authors. It's the joy that we find in writing about the teams that we love. I started blogging because, as a former journalist, I missed writing. And that's why, six years and four websites later, I still do it today. I still get a kick out of being published, even after more than 1,600(!) posts at CougCenter. Like the owner of the house in the story, CougCenter is the place we authors come each day to relax, kick back and get away from the other stressors of our day.
And, like the owner of the house, we love having our friends over ... but mostly just because it brings us great enjoyment to host the party. However, if we're having a party at our house, the only way for us to really enjoy it is if it's on our terms.
We understand you all have ideas for how to make the house better, and we have listened to them. But you need to know -- and accept -- that ultimately it's our decision with regards to how we want to have the party. And it's your responsibility -- as someone who has chosen, of his or her free will, to participate at CougCenter -- to abide by the guidelines we've decided on.
This is going to require quite the paradigm shift for many readers. You've become accustomed to having your whims catered to in an effort to get you to part with your hard-earned dollars. But here's the thing: We're not interested in your dollars. We don't depend on your subscription fees or page views for our livelihood. There simply is no substantial money in this for us, we don't feel the need to bend to external pressure as some other sites might.
At the risk of sounding harsh, if you don't like the house rules, there are other options for places to party. We simply MUST do what's comfortable for us -- even above what seems ideal to any or all of you -- because attempting to cater to each and every one of you puts us in a no-win situation and drains the fun out of it for us.
This is why comments from many of you about what's "right" and what's "wrong" in terms of dictating the parameters of conversation are just missing the mark. It's not about some sort of moral standard. Maybe that's selfish. Maybe that's anti-American. We don't know, and to be honest, we don't really care.
If you remember that the site is mostly for us and you're our guests, it makes perfect sense, because when it's not on our terms, it will cease to be fun for us. And when it ceases to be fun for the person hosting the parties, they usually stop having the parties. And none of us wants that.
That's not a threat. CougCenter's not going anywhere. But whenever I see someone step away from writing on a blog ... let's just say I understand what might be going through their mind. If this ever truly ceases to be fun, I'll be the first to walk away.
This is why we're so danged protective of our house. None of us wants it to get to the point where it's not fun anymore. It's not like we're close to that point now, but we all want to make darn sure we don't get anywhere near it.
In a couple of days, we'll be back with Part 2, detailing how all can work together to make this community spectacular. And when you read that, try and keep this post in the back of your mind.
Note: We've closed the comments for this thread, because it's not intended to spark discussion. We mostly just want you to think about it. If you simply MUST post your thoughts on it, you can do that back at the feedback thread.