Head Honcho

I have deliberated for some time now as to whether I should even broach the subject, but what the hell, why not? I spend over a decade trying to provide an outlet for local opinion that ultimately failed.

We used to have a vibrant and active forum here that suddenly stoped dead in its tracks last September. 


Well, it was my own fault. I asked for the unthinkable.

And what was the unthinkable? I decided prior to the 2017 municipal election that this forum would only allow posts concerning any aspect of the upcoming election by members using their real name. No nicknames allowed as they are anonymous and should not be if you are commenting about local politicians or issues. It seemed to me to be one way of eliminating the vitriol that became part of too many elections in the past.

But it backfired. I pissed off people and they sent me a clear message.

What was that message? — If we have to use our real names and identify ourselves, we won't do it here. Instead we will move to Facebook.

All well and good of course, as this is a free country and you are free to post anywhere you wish.

But wait a minute.

They moved to Facebook all right, but they used their real names, the very thing I asked them to do here. Go figure. Some will call this column sour grapes, but it is a fact and still a mystery to me after a decade of alerting folks to the shenanigans of various councils with the hope of change.

Over on Facebook they are free to ramble on for paragraph after paragraph, sometimes entire essay length posts. Not that it was not allowed here, it was, but never in the volume now there and it has become tiresome.

Now one has to search all of Facebook to gather and assess the opinions of fellow residents, instead of it all from a central page like the forum.

The St. Albert Community Page, The Grandin Page, Other neighbourhood pages, the T8N Community Dispatch page, the St. Albert Coalition page, the Library Petition page, the Polywings page, St. Albert Voice, St. Albert Chat, the Community of St. Albert page (strictly moderated) and on it goes.

For people who do not participate in posting on FB, few even know about the many pages that now exist. For people who do not use, or even want to use Facebook for that matter, your opinions posted on Facebook are lost to them.

There used to be far more people who read the opinions here than ever registered as members. Why? Because it was all in one place and divided neatly into areas of interest. That was do to the constant urging of one Dean Doucette, now deceased, who wanted a central forum for all matters St. Albert without the distractions of Facebook.

I know from data gathered that far more folks read this forum than who were ever members. The opinions of the 170 or so who did post were reaching far more people every day including 1,000 or so each day who skulked in the shadows to see who had posted what. They did so because they did not have to join to read the forum, nor did they have to endure all the hoop-la and barrage of advertising they have to endure on Facebook. They could simply drop by, read what was going on and glean the information and opinions presented to form their own opinions. In fact, they themselves unwittingly became anonymous in their own way by reading as casual visitors.

Much of the forum opinion was discredited by so-called 'people who matter', as not to be taken seriously because it was the opinions of *gasp*, anonymous posters. Somehow anonymity made your opinions worthless or invalid by those in power. But they read them. And closely. And they worried about them. And they took them personally. Politicians and their supporters all the while claiming those opinions didn't matter. Odd that, don't you think?

I have to wonder if it was not the intent of 'those who matter' all along to entice former forum members to Facebook? Did they believe it would dissipate and dilute the force of the forum and be to their advantage? Maybe so.

I moderated the forum with a light hand, mostly to protect folks who posted libel, from themselves. Now Facebook contains outright libel and misinformation, some of it from the same former posters here. No one there cares what they post and the usual suspects who think they matter will pounce all over anyone whose opinions they do not agree with, free of any moderation.

Has the move improved matters? Not much other than it has spread the information posted across the platform so that unless people join certain pages, and all of them at that, they never see it. But it did one thing. It ID'd whose opinion it is.

And what about Facebook itself as a platform?

My concern with social media in general is changing and so is the opinion of many people who have abandoned social media.

After over a decade, things went up in smoke and the forum is pretty much deserted. The question now is, does it die or is there still a place for it to once again become an outlet for opinion?

Here are some things you may want to read and watch:

How Facebook invites you to live in a bubble where you're always right.https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2018/01/14/facebook-invites-you-to-live-in-a-bubble-where-youre-always-right.html

Former Facebook Exec Says Social Media Is Ripping Apart Society.https://www.theverge.com/2017/12/11/16761016/former-facebook-exec-ripping-apart-society

Video: Everybody Needs To Hear This

At any rate it is done. Former forum members now have their own forum. Make that plural. Forums. The mishmash that is Facebook now has over a dozen different places one has to search for, to read the viewpoints of the folks who post items about the issues and politicians of St. Albert.

Take the St. Albert Coalition page as a prime example. It has in no way, been fostering the aims and goals of the Coalition. That is if the Coalition even has any now. You cannot tell that from the Facebook presentations purported to be Coalition fodder. From what they allow being posted under their name is suspect at best and worthless to them at worst. Instead it is mostly the ramblings of one person and 90 percent of what is posted there has nothing to do with the Coalition, the city, or even things that have any effect on the community. 

I suspect Coalition members or the executive never formally approve the vast majority of what is posted there. It has turned into a mini version of Facebook itself. And that is a shame as once again a locally founded group with good intentions, like the St. Albert Taxpayers group of old, has sharpened its own blade and neutered itself.

And that is not good for the community or the Coalition. 

What's your opinion? Should the forum persevere, or cut its losses and run?

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Shirley Allen
Don, I definitely miss this forum and the often lively discussions. When I'm expressing my view, I have no problem using my name. Although I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family on a limited basis, I have never looked at other sites on it and probably wouldn't use it at all if I didn't have family overseas. My morning routine is to get my coffee, check my emails and then read your column - it's been a great way to start my days for years. 😉

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Murray Lambert
It was very difficult to read Don's posting this morning as the pain it conveyed was palpable to say the least but I cannot disagree with anything that was said. Personally, I have almost nothing other than disdain for so much of the social networking bafflegab that passes for communication these days. This includes Facebook, Twitter and the myriad of other platforms that perpetuate existence in a virtual world seemingly devoid of genuine human contact. I readily admit, without shame, to being a relative 'dinosaur' in today's techno-laden world and that those of my kind are probably verging on extinction. Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" here we come! 

Should this forum cease to exist it will be a 'real world' tragedy. What frustrates me even further is that I realize that only a relative few will read this but I am compelled to post it anyway. [frown] 

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Don, I like Shirley Allen look forward to my morning with the forum. And I have to admit to my becoming slow.

I use Facebook where I have caught up with long lost family members that I was looking for and I am enjoying being back in that circle of the large family. I certainly don't like the format of said site but I tolerate it to get the benefit of extended family.

If the forum were to cease a large portion of my day would be meaningless. I too miss the banter that existed but I keep hoping the regulars that we're here for the years would come to their senses and return to sanity.

I was only aware of one St. Albert facebook site and have only ventured there using a Facebook link to get there. It certainly did not excite me. I found it very biased.

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Head Honcho
For the record, there are still a substantial number of people who check here every day. Here are the current stats for the past few days.

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 5.48.32 PM.png 
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K Van Hoof
I’m sorry it has come to this point. I admit I have not visited the site often in the last while, as it seemed there were hardly any postings anymore. I had no problem with using my name...I felt it compelled me to think carefully about what I wrote. Something a bit lacking in some of the anonymous posts. As far as social media, I do go on Facebook - but for me it’s a great way to keep in touch with family across Canada, and in Europe and Australia. I follow several (legitimate) news sites and rarely see the sites Don mentions above...I find the trolls too tiresome. I don’t think I could stomach Twitter, with the twit-in-chief’s constant ravings making even national mainstream news.
I hope this forum continues.
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I also look forward to my morning ritual of reading your blog and the forum while enjoying my first cup of coffee.

I don't use either Facebook or Twitter, and was not aware of the multitude of St. Albert Facebook sites.  I'm not sure I would bother to read them if I did.

I miss the banter that use to exist here. While some people were renown for engaging their fingers before thinking, the readership was certainly exposed to apposing opinions.
Definitely not something the readership at other sites are exposed to at all. 

The site statistics would indicate that there is still a lot of readership out there, (anonymous and not) hanging out in the background , unwilling, (or perhaps uncaring) to bother expressing their opinion one way or another on this topic. 

I'm still debating if this is just plain pathetic, or only the normal T8N apathy in action.

In MHO, like most of things in this life, 95 percent of the population is perfectly fine with contributing their 5 percent.

Two thumbs up. Keep it going Don. I'm here for as long as I have an opinion.

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I wonder if a more prominent exposure on mybirdie on a daily basis may help. Perhaps give a synopsis or a quote from one thread that you feel may be of interest to many. To be honest, I have almost forgotten about this forum until it popped up on my Forum Digest email, even though I read mybirdie religiously on a daily basis.

Just a thought. I concur with some of your observations re: Facebook.
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It is the heavy handed censorship of comments on this site that has made it irrelevant.  In my opinion.
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Murray Lambert
In response to this last post by 'Alberta Shank' I contend,with a certain amount of 'tongue in cheek' that; "everyone is entitled to their opinion, even when they are wrong!" It appears that this person, whomever he or she might be, prefers the almost totally unbridled environs of Facebook and the like which is of course their prerogative. I guess it all comes down to "different strokes for different folks."   
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Murray Lambert
Just who is this Murray Lambert guy who seems to be monopolizing this site? Would others please chime in, I'm growing rather weary of it! [confused]
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I'm here and, like HH, I too am wondering what the heck happened to this once vibrant site.  I can understand that, during the summer and fall when there are vacations and beautiful weather to be enjoyed, we'd all rather spend our time doing other things than sit online.

However folks - IT'S WINTER!

Yes, it's winter out in our neck of the woods.  Looking out the window is enough to make a grown man and his cat cry out in fear. 
And those three dog nights we used to hear about?  Well, they've now become FOUR!

If the "dog nights" thing doesn't grab you, how about city snowplows?  What about all those empty buses STILL running around town?  Property taxes?  Consider the council member who wants to turn $TAB into a farm? What is council doing right?  Personal taxes?  With the fodder we have to work with, we should all be suffering from lock jaw/tendonitis & carpal tunnel  all within the month

SO, instead of staring and dreaming about your summer toys in the garage (damned car), consider checking in on My Birdie and letting us all know you're alive.

So.  Yeah.  Let the witty banter and partying begin!
I wish I could get that car to SHUT UP!

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Murray Lambert wrote:
In response to this last post by 'Alberta Shank' I contend,with a certain amount of 'tongue in cheek' that; "everyone is entitled to their opinion, even when they are wrong!" It appears that this person, whomever he or she might be, prefers the almost totally unbridled environs of Facebook and the like which is of course their prerogative. I guess it all comes down to "different strokes for different folks."   

"The chief danger to freedom of thought and speech at this moment is not the direct interference of … any official body. If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion"

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I used to come into this forum alot prior to the election. After the election, I kind of took a break, and stopped following most of the Facebook pages too.  While I did not mind using my real name in FB, I did like some anonymity here.  It is funny that my nickname became the center of a great deal of detective work on other FB pages!  LOL  Like it really mattered who I was!  But, for the exact reason why I wanted to not use my real name, as soon as they found out who I was, my opinions were dismissed as biased due to my relationship to Cam. So I no longer was able to post much without people "on the other side" attacking me because of this. So after the farce of the election (I still believe the numbers were fixed as no scrutineers were ever allowed to verify numbers to confirm the vote totals), I took a break from it all.

That being said, I am glad, many months later that the forum is still here.  😉
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Head Honcho
Welcome back Kellex. You were missed. Perhaps we should all leave Facebook and hold discussions here where I share no personal data with anyone. There may be some comfort in that after the Facebook fiasco.
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Murray Lambert
The comments of kellex98 and head Honcho certainly mirror my own sentiments and opinions regarding Facebook which I can sum up by stating that I have little or no regard for FP as a platform for disseminating rational thought and debate. It's founder deserves all of the negative scrutiny that has come his way for allowing his creation to operate with little or no controls. His and/or FP's demise would cause me no anguish what so ever.

On the flip side of things, I am hopeful that the St. Alberts' Place Discussion Forum will soon see a resurgence of interest manifested by a marked increase in contributions on pertinent topics from rational individuals.
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I think you should revert back to the old days when it was live chat on the main page.   Just make people confirm their identity - as long as moderators know who they are - there should be no problems.  
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