Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Local Knowledge

I just got off the phone with Mike Wojcio, who is busily working on the history of the club for our site. It sounds like he is writing a book, complete with games and interesting chess positions from the past. This is precisely the sort of material we need for the club site -- a nostalgic tour for those who remember (chessplayers are always nostalgic) and something to help new members feel a sense of belonging, since they can use the history to gain access to local knowledge. I asked Mike if he'd be willing to keep a blog for our site, but he was non-commital. I think he'd have a lot to offer. After all, he can tell the local stories that might do more to spark interest and a sense of connection to the club than any analysis or link I could offer.

These thoughts are also inspired by reading a posting by David Glickman at his Boylston Chess Club Weblog titled "A Remarkably Successful Failure," in which he thinks about slowing down in his blogging since it has not had a large impact on his local community of players -- even as it has been remarkably successful at organizing the larger chessblogs community. DG's posting gave me pause (long enough to leave a comment), since he had obviously failed at exactly the goal I've set out to accomplish.

It made me ask some questions: Can a chess blog really have much of a local impact? Can it really help to center a local community of chessplayers? Does a local community even need a website since they have a weekly meeting with face-to-face contact? Is there a way to avoid DG's "failure"?

Maybe it has more to do with the specific content than the limitations of the web itself. One of the other commenters on the blog wrote:

"Frankly, I think that what the blog needs is a little LESS posting. I always checked the blog to see what was happening in Beantown while I am away, and mostly I got links to silly little references to chess on the internet. While those are sometimes fun, the sheer volume of it made it hard for me to keep paying attention to it. That said, what I would really like to see on the blog are more people posting about their recent chess experiences. I don't need links to bad chess cartoons, or silly references to chess in movies (only occasionally!) What I want are the stories. Why doesn't someone write about their experience at the recent Harvard Open? Or their new chess book find? Jason 05.13.05 - 9:29 pm"

That got me thinking that maybe the BCC weblog "failed" to foster a local community while it succeeded at fostering a net community precisely because it usually pointed away from Boston and toward that other constituency.

Jason's desire for local "stories" reminded me of the recent discussion at ChessBase over how to promote chess generally. According to Jamie Duif Calvin, the "dark secret" to promoting chess is telling stories about chessplayers with which people can identify. And if you want local success you need local stories.

I think I'll try my hand at that from time to time here. And I hope I can recruit more naturally gifted story-tellers to write those things down -- like MW is doing for us now.

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