HR Administration

The Last Word: Comments … We Get Comments

By Rick Bell

Dec. 3, 2014

It’s been said that letters to the editor are the lifeblood of a newspaper.

With much of the general-interest print media teetering on life support, even a transfusion of missives on an epic scale may not be enough to save that corner of the fourth estate. But believe me, writers and editors at publications large and small still remain deeply thankful for a reader who is willing to spend the time and effort jotting down and submitting a comment. Good or bad — and I’ve gotten my share of bad (one reader mailed in a page with my column, writing in black Sharpie, “Go to hell Bell, and take the Dixie Chicks With You!!!”; I treasure it to this day) — we appreciate your thoughts and insights.

Within the next week or so, many of the comments you have posted on Workforce stories online over the past 20-plus years will disappear as part of our transition from one commenting platform to another. We are saving some comments by manually cutting and pasting them into the new provider, but we can’t do it for all. You have commented on thousands of Workforce stories, and it is impossible from a manpower standpoint to port all of them over.

We also are closing the book on the Workforce Discussion Forums. For the past five years I have monitored the forums; for the first three or so years, the nine discussion channels were vibrant, healthy idea-and-advice exchanges.

Best I can tell, the forums were launched in the late 1990s. There are literally tens of thousands of posts. The Legal Forum alone has 7,294 discussion topics with 29,954 posts that date back to at least 1999; the General Forum has more than 23,000 posts.

For years we had the power users: nork4, howard7, rrupert, Dr. Dave Arnold, HRStu, jaybo, sportscarguy99 — HR practitioners you could count on to jump in and comment on everything from time-sheet submissions to dress-code trends to the potential liabilities of using an exercise ball as a chair. It was a fun, collegial, thoughtful and occasionally snarky community of Workforce readers who passionately cared about their profession and their HR brethren. Howard7 would even email me when the forums got spammed.

But like a boomtown gone bust, a lonely tumbleweed and the occasional spammer are about the only things blowing through the forums these days. We’ve had a couple of new online platforms in the past several years, which has dented the number of visitors. And, people’s habits change. I also chalk it up to that massive new highway on the outskirts – the LinkedIn Discussion Turnpike. That’s where all the traffic has gone; admittedly, we’ve jumped on that road ourselves.

Nork4 delivered this sobering message in a forum post earlier this year: “These forums are dead.” A bitter pill to swallow, but yeah, nork, they are.

We invite you to drop in on our LinkedIn page here and respond to questions our editors post (like this one!); we will feature top responses to our Reader Reaction questions posed by editor Ladan Nikravan in print issues each month. While we fondly recall the loss of our previous platform, we have new opportunities to interact with one another.

I encourage you to keep those cards and letters coming — OK, post those comments online about stories, blogs and videos. And hit us up on social media early and often. I just need to remind myself to flip off the lights and not let the tumbleweed hit me on the way out of the forums.

Rick Bell is Workforce’s editorial director.

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