UrbanMSP/streets.mn merger

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Nick
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streets.mn Merger

Postby Nick » April 1st, 2013, 9:45 pm

Hey oh,

I'm meeting with David Levinson/other unspecified streets.mn people on Wednesday to talk about future collaboration between them and UrbanMSP. Does anyone have any smart business thoughts about that? Shawn and I talked about it a little bit and I'm still not 100 percent sure what I think.

On one hand, I constantly make the argument that there are 1,000 little fiefdoms of thought/effort around the city that are dispersed because everyone wants to be king of their own molehill, and nothing ever really gets done. I was initially a little hesitant about the MUPA group for that reason. Just like in college, I feel like people pick up affiliations so they can put it on their resume or talk about being involved with whatever group, but really, there's just a pizza party once a year and that's about it. That's not a dig at all at streets.mn, because they obviously put out a legitimate, regular product. I just see everyone trying to do their own thing in isolation when really we could all be on the same page and actually doing things. I mean at least for me, UrbanMSP isn't a means to an end, I already work for the city and I'm not trying to have the most popular blog ever that the mayor sees and consequently makes me president of the Planning Commission. So in that department, I could see why merging with them would be a good idea.

On the other hand, while our goals are obviously basically the same, I feel like the functionality/purpose of the sites are way different. A forum is a forum, people go there for conversation and things like that. People go to blogs or a blog aggregator of sorts like streets.mn to read periodically, not check several times a day. So if you merge the two, I'm not sure how that would pan out in practice. How much permeability would there be between the two sections? Twincitizen had the idea that streets.mn blog posts could redirect their comment sections to threads on the forum, instead of deadending in their comment sections like they usually do.

So, yeah, does anyone have any thoughts about this? David suggested a range of integrations which we'll talk about in person on Wednesday. It sounds cheesy, but I want to do the right thing for the cause, so to speak.

Nick

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Re: streets.mn Meeting

Postby PhilmerPhil » April 1st, 2013, 11:09 pm

Before UrbanMSP, when Minnescraper was on life support, I had always thought it would be a natural fit for Streets.MN to have something to do Minne's reincarnation. Having a unified platform for urban discussion just makes sense. It'll be interesting to hear about the integration possibilities. Twincitizen's idea is a good base that still allows for both sites to be completely separate, and I could see why a full on Streets.MN takeover--after all the great work you've put into UrbanMSP--would be hard to swallow, and probably taking it too far. I'm curious as to what kinds of ideas David has that would be some sort of a hybrid of the two.

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Re: streets.mn Meeting

Postby twincitizen » April 2nd, 2013, 9:57 am

I'll stick with what I said earlier, having urbanMSP serve as the discussion platform for Streets.MN articles would be a great start. Technologically, I'm not sure how that all works out. If it's just a link to an urbanMSP thread at the bottom of their stories, that probably not ideal, because the conversation itself wouldn't be visible on the Streets.MN story. It will be asking enough of people just to register for another website (ugh), as Streets.MN currently doesn't require any login or password to comment, just an email address.

Many Streets.MN stories have generated spirited discussion with over 50+ comments. Can phpBB be integrated into whatever web page format they use for Streets? I'm not saying the entire thread needs to be attached to the bottom of the Streets.MN story, but there needs to be more of a visual draw-in than a simple link to get people talking.
Last edited by twincitizen on April 2nd, 2013, 10:21 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: streets.mn Meeting

Postby MNdible » April 2nd, 2013, 9:59 am

Please don't.

I appreciate what Streets.MN does, but please don't.

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Re: streets.mn Meeting

Postby mattaudio » April 2nd, 2013, 10:04 am

People are currently free to comment/discuss on both sites. I'd prefer informal linking... especially since this already goes on today. I'm interested to hear what types of integration others would like to see, but I'm disinclined to wreck a good thing.

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Re: streets.mn Meeting

Postby seanrichardryan » April 2nd, 2013, 11:21 am

Since my earlier post disappeared...

I prefer them separate. There is some cross-over between members and subjects and that's fine, but keep the autonomy of UrbanMSP. That is unless, they're offering a pile of cash.
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Re: streets.mn Meeting

Postby Nick » April 2nd, 2013, 4:16 pm

Here's this:

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp- ... reenshots/

I'm not sure how exactly it'd work, but Shawn sent it to me.

I guess what I'm getting at here is that, for me, personally, I would want to know that I'm saying no to a merger for reasons other than "I want to have my own thing so I can say I have my own thing". And I'll emphasize that I realize the forum obviously isn't "mine" because it's built from the contributions of other people--but my name is on it and I think I do most of the upkeep-type stuff.

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Re: streets.mn Meeting

Postby MNdible » April 2nd, 2013, 8:54 pm

So, to try to expand a bit more on my initial gut reaction...

I love that Streets is out there, and I enjoy reading a lot of what's on the site. But. I feel like the site tends towards the echo chamber, group think, circle jerk instincts of the internet. It's very professional, but it's a fairly singular voice that is busy amplifying itself.

"Let's shut down Hennepin Avenue."

"Yes, I don't see any problem with that."

"Think of what it will do for the urbanity of Minneapolis!"

"Great, so we're agreed!"

This forum, for all of its messiness, is a much more fluid and diverse set of voices. You don't have to show your urbanist credentials at the door.

My 2 cents, take it for what it's worth. I appreciate all of the work you've put into the site, Nick.

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Re: streets.mn Meeting

Postby Andrew_F » April 2nd, 2013, 10:42 pm

I agree with MNdible.

Part of the idea of a forum-- well, most of the idea, really, is that we're all equal here, and that makes it fundamentally different from a blog or anything else. Anything anyone says here is given equal standing, regardless of who we are. Any special standing given to anyone is based on personal options formed on other things they've said right here, not on who they know or their station elsewhere in life. I joined Minnescraper when I was 14 years old, and I really valued having an equal soapbox with others who were interested in the same things I was and being taken seriously. And I think that really encouraged me to continue to develop my interests.

While I don't believe streets.mn to be a particularly discriminatory or controlling organization, we just can't have the same level of equality and openness when we are attached to something that isn't so.

Truth be told, Nick, I was a little put off by you advertising the meeting for MUPA as an announcement across all the boards, even though I will probably agree with 90%+ of the ideas that come out of it and would probably have been there if I were living in Minnesota right now. It's well within your right to do, as the owner and operator, but it seems to go against the basic idea behind the forum to promote something so political in an unequal way, regardless of what percentage of the active members might support it. Perhaps I'm alone in this thinking, and that's okay, but I've always seen the forum itself (not the members) as being 100% non-political, and I see turning it into a promotion device as a bit abusive.

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Re: streets.mn Meeting

Postby Nick » April 3rd, 2013, 7:54 am

Well with regards to MUPA, I definitely see your point. But I really feel that it's a legitimate opportunity to actually do stuff! Instead of people sitting around being snarky about how things aren't they way they want them to be, we can maybe make some legitimate changes in the way the city works. Super idealistic (naïve?) I know, but maybe? It seems like such a natural progression of our group, even if it's partially organized by other people.

Which ties back into the streets.mn question...what's the goal here long term? Do we value snark and sass over action? Maybe that's simplifying it a ton. I decided to be against a full merger, but it's still all bouncing around in my head.

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Re: streets.mn Meeting

Postby mulad » April 4th, 2013, 11:20 am

David Levinson, Bill Lindeke, Nathaniel Hood, and I (Mike Hicks) met with Nick yesterday evening. We've agreed to add a link to the UrbanMSP forums on the navigation bar of Streets.mn, and it sounds like Nick or Shawn will take a complementary action here (I thought there was already a link to the shortlived UrbanMSP blog on the navbar here, but I guess it went away in some revision of the theme). We'll have some joint events, like some of the "BURP" gatherings in the past, and Nick said he'd like to organize a trivia event at some point.

I do want to address the concern that some folks have raised about Streets.mn being an "echo chamber" -- we are self-conscious about that and have had some lengthy discussions on the topic at our board meetings. I've seen some folks compare our site to places like Streetsblog, which gets pretty explicit about advocating a particular point of view, to the point of even singling out individual politicians to demonize. When the concept of Streetsblog was brought up in our early discussions about the site, some of our members expressed a lot of discomfort at the idea -- if Streets.mn were to become a Minnesota version of Streetsblog, they did not want to participate. As a result, we don't have a site policy pushing in a particular direction. The site's mission is pretty broad: "to expand and enhance the conversation about transportation and land use through research and informed commentary."

The site is a collaboration between local bloggers. David Levinson had contacted several of us back in summer 2011 with the idea of creating something like Greater Greater Washington (which he followed quite a bit since he's originally from the D.C. area). We retain our individual points of view, and there has been a modest amount of back-and-forth on some topics -- we don't all agree on whether the self-driving car is a good idea, and the old streetcar vs. bus debate created a lot of comments recently. Some of our writers have a pretty strong libertarian bent, while other folks have different backgrounds. I know we have some actual certified transportation planners in the group of writers, while I and a couple others don't really have official backgrounds in the industry. Some writers come out of a bicycle advocacy background.

We could probably make use of some of the expertise here, which is probably slanted a bit more toward architects and other folks who work on buildings rather than transportation. Despite the "Streets.mn" name, the site isn't just intended to be about how to get from point A to point B, but also have some discussion on how to build good housing, office space, etc., as well as community spaces like park land and the small-scale bits of a streetscape that make it a place to be in rather than simply move through.

So if anyone here has been itching to write something more long-form than what really fits into a forum post, you're welcome to contact me or anyone else at Streets.mn and we can look at getting an account set up. We just want folks who can write fairly well and string together logical arguments (if there's really an argument at all in the post). Unique historical tidbits are also welcome (like stuff from Nokohaha or the Stuff About Minneapolis tumblr). I'm sure there are other types of content that I'm not even thinking about. We just want to avoid stuff that inflames folks for no reason or wanders over the line into libelous/slanderous territory. In theory, if someone were to make an argument car-dependent suburban/exurban lifestyle, that would be fine as long as it flows properly and doesn't label city-dwellers as pinko commies or whatever.

But clearly UrbanMSP has a good dedicated user base. We at Streets.mn wouldn't want to hurt that at all. Hopefully the sites can help fuel each other, and maybe there will be good ways to do greater integration. Some technical challenges would need to be sorted out -- we'll have to weigh the pros and cons of attempting a single sign-on between the two places, for instance. Sounds like Nick is amenable to trying some stuff. Brendon Slotterback does most of our website work, and we haven't talked to him too much about potential website integration yet. I know a lot about computer software myself, though I've always been a bit too lazy to play around with phpBB or Wordpress in depth.

Well I've rambled on enough for the moment. Maybe Nick has some comments from the meeting...

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Re: streets.mn Meeting

Postby Nick » April 4th, 2013, 7:59 pm

Yeah so we met yesterday, I had the State Fair burger. We talked about a lot of stuff, I mainly said the things that I'd said above in the first post. No super serious absorption. I guess I'm mainly concerned with appearances...no one is obligated to stay on the forum, and by changing too much stuff I feel like we run the risk of making people flee. I don't know what they would flee to, but still. Remember spectre000? The guy who used to do like all the St. Paul stuff? He left at some point a while ago. I sent him a message and he said he got really tired of a lot of the attitudes, etc, on the forum. Can't say I blame him some days, especially when you're the one St. Paul guy, ha.

So we're going to do a bit of collaboration. Like Mike said, group events and such. I was thinking I might scrap the UrbanMSP Flickr I started a couple weeks ago and just post my photo updates on theirs so I don't have to keep track of another damn login somewhere.

Either way, I think both groups understand that the functionalities (not a word, Firefox?) and purpose of a forum and blog are different. But since there's already so much overlap, it makes sense to work together a bit.

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Re: streets.mn Meeting

Postby Nick » January 17th, 2014, 4:36 pm

We're going to talk about the streets.mn stuff at the happy hour next week, I hope most of you guys can make it.

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UrbanMSP/streets.mn merger

Postby mplsjaromir » October 29th, 2014, 7:33 am

So its now "Streets mnforum" now?

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Re: Updates and Changes

Postby twincitizen » October 29th, 2014, 7:47 am

Well, technically "streets.mn forum", but yeah. I'm sure Nick will chime in soon.

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Re: streets.mn Meeting

Postby Nick » October 29th, 2014, 8:16 am

darn

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Re: streets.mn Meeting

Postby twincitizen » October 29th, 2014, 12:28 pm

Changing the logo/brand seems non-controversial. It makes sense to have a singular brand identity. The UrbanMSP facebook page is going dark soon.

Has a decision been made about the twitter account? Change it to streets.mn forum? I kinda like having it, as does PhilmerPhil, I'm sure, since none of us have access to the streets.mn twitter account.

I'm still against a technological "merger"/migration, as we never really did figure out a smooth way to make that happen.

The logo looks great BTW, so kudos to whoever did that.

Pip

Re: Updates and Changes

Postby Pip » October 29th, 2014, 12:40 pm

Is the UrbanMSP name going away completely? I like the UrbanMSP name. A lot of people know what UrbanMSP is but I'm not sure they'd know if I said "streets.mn forum".

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Re: streets.mn Meeting

Postby Nick » October 29th, 2014, 4:53 pm

I couldn't quite figure out how to make that light blue portion up top shorter, so I made the area with the logo bigger. I can take another crack at it.

But yeah I switched the logo. The Facebook has been dead since I deleted mine last year but Shawn deactivated it and it should go away in two weeks. We can keep the Twitter (I also like obnoxiously Tweeting some anonymous-ish stuff) for now and change the name. We couldn't quite figure out the technical aspect of integrating the forums and the site so that's on hold indefinitely until we get a pile of grant money, which seems like a real possibility next year.

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Re: Updates and Changes

Postby Nick » October 29th, 2014, 5:11 pm

It will eventually go away as part of merging the two sites. There was kind of an ongoing issue with overlap between streets.mn posts and comment sections overlapping with largely the same people. We explored lots of technical stuff, but at the moment there's not really a great/easy way to combine WordPress and phpBB. If we get a pile of grant money next year (a hope) then that's something that will probably happen. In the meantime I changed the logo and will work on doing little things like that over the next couple weeks.


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