Seeking input

Posted by Casson in News and Announcements |
Help a brother out?

Help a brother out?

I need to ask you all for a small favor.

For the past nine months or so, I have been working on building into an informative website where people could obtain up-to-date scientific information on the sustainability of their favorite sushi items, as well as express their views on various phenomena growing out of the realms of sushi and ocean conservation.  I’ve been thrilled to watch the readership of this blog display slow but steady growth throughout that time.

Moreover, has attracted individuals that represent the leadership in a number of the fields related to this subject — marine biologists, commercial fishermen, aquaculturists, and even sushi chefs have found their way to the website.  These folks represent a wealth of information that we can all benefit from.

So... how 'bout them sardines?

So... how 'bout them sardines?

That being said, I’ve been slow to foster more discussion in the form of comments.  This is a bit of a letdown as I strongly believe that the best way to grapple with the complicated issues addressed on this website is through open discussion and debate.  Unfortunately, I feel that I have largely failed to create an environment where readers feel comfortable adding their views and engaging in conversation with me and with one another.

As such, I have decided that it would be best to open the floor up to my readership.  The multiple choice question below represents some of the ideas I’ve already had.  Please feel free to suggest more than one option.

All I ask is that you bear two points in mind:

  • I maintain my own website
  • I know virtually nothing about how to maintain my own website

With that caveat, I’d love to know your thoughts on the following questions:

1) What are the best/worst parts of this website?


2) What would encourage more reader participation and discussion on this website?

  1. Enabled anonymous postings (no need to login to post a comment)
  2. Video updates (VLOG entries)
  3. Increased focus on restaurants (provide matrix for readers to conduct and submit sustainability-based reviews)
  4. Blog articles to close with question(s) designed to kickstart discussion
  5. Other (feel free to suggest something)

Thanks so much for your input.  This website is still in its formative stages, and while I’m certainly very proud of how far it has come, I have no doubt whatsoever that there is still a tremendous need for improvement.  After all, sustainability is dynamic… and websites need to be sustainable as well.

I look forward to your comments.

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Aug 25, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Because I am a newish reader of the site, I can’t really speak to point one except that nothing stands out as “worst” and, to me, all the info I’ve read so far has been illuminating and helpful to me, so also hard to pick a best.

Before offering an answer to the second, I would just offer the perspective that I don’t feel like it’s a failing of a blog or site to be more of a helpful resource rather than a place where people interact with one another. I’m actually sometimes grateful to come to a place without a bunch of user-generated content as it’s easier to cut through clutter/noise and get the info I need.

With the more purely interaction-based sites like Twitter or Facebook, I find I go to blogs to read and learn, not necessarily to be engaged in conversation. I’m happy to do so when motivated, but I don’t ever feel like something is lacking in a site if I leave without being inspired to comment but read something really interesting.

But back to your question, I do find that if someone has a genuine question (i.e., seems organically motivated by their own content) and is looking to gather info from regular folk like me, I will usually be happy to chime in if I have something relevant to say.

Aug 25, 2009 at 7:40 pm

I am a long-time follower of this blog and have learned a lot by reading it. I use the fish “ID” section of the website occasionally and whenever I have I’ve found it quite helpful, so that may be my favorite part of the website. I don’t see a “worst” aspect to this website, but I do wish that reading comments from other followers were a bit smoother and easier. I am do wonder what others think about new blog posts.
As for question #2 I really like the idea of an increased focus on restaurants with readers submitting sustainability-oriented reviews. I am very curious about the kinds of reactions people are getting when they show up at their local sushi bar with a copy of the book or ask about the sourcing of their favorite sushi.
I also think asking a question at the end of each blog post would elicit more reader comments.
Hope to hear from others.

Aug 25, 2009 at 8:16 pm

I enjoy the blog very much & find it informative & entertaining. I do wish the recent entries were grouped more by topic than by sequence. Maybe as the blog matures, there will be sufficient numbers of entries to support an indexed section.

I always take your book with me to the grocery fish dept. as well as the sushi bar. I now ask both whether they offer a sustainable selection before I even go there. Perhaps you could provide updates on current campaigns you are waging. It would be good to know how things are progressing & the follow up required to help them succeed. Also a no-holds-barred rating of the various certification programs would be helpful. Many are now getting on the sustainability bandwagon, but it is hard to know who to trust.

Aug 26, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Hmmm, those are some good questions. First off, I don’t think I have a “worst” part of the site. My only suggestion for change might be a resources section. Of course people can order your book, but maybe a tab w/resources for more reading on sustainable seafood in general? There are a lot of us who can’t eat out for sushi often, but love buying a variety of seafood to make sushi or other dishes at home.

As far as generating conversation, it has felt to me more like the goal of the site is to provide information rather than generate discussion. I’ve appreciated it for that purpose. I wouldn’t recommend anonymous comments because typically the only people who post anonymously are trolls (people trying to get you angry or hurt you behind a veil of anonymity). You said “(no need to login to post a comment)”. I can’t remember, did you used to have to sign up and login to comment? If that’s the case, that was a good move, I never bother commenting on blogs that require me to “join”.

Probably the best way to generate discussion (if that’s your goal), is to ask open ended questions, whether you choose to do that at the end of blog posts, videos or podcasts (if you decided to use other media). Of course, once you ask the question, you can ask it on twitter with a link asking people to join the discussion. Good luck!

Aug 26, 2009 at 12:54 pm

This is not uncommon. Here are a few suggestions;

1.) Ask readers to comment like you did here
2.) Check to help spark feedback via polls
3.) Syndicate your links on other sites – we started this with adding recommendations, next we’ll invite other blogs to share links.

Aug 26, 2009 at 3:40 pm

There are always many more “lurkers” than “commenters” out there. If you want an unpaid part-time job, you could set up a discussion forum. I choose not to. Trying to cut down on the number of those things! Commenters do increase over time and the tone of the articles has a lot to do with it, I think. Also, just asking helps.

I really enjoy reading your posts because they are informative and entertaining. You don’t pull punches and you don’t over simplify. That said, there are a number of readers who want simple, short posts. You might experiment with mixing up the longer in-depth posts with short quick posts. I’m not sure I have any answers as I’m still figuring it out and it’s probably been three years.

Finally, I think there are two separate issues: one is driving traffic the other is building community. I’ve tried many things to do the former with middling success and no standout silver bullets. The latter, is just a slow, cumulative process where readers begin to trust you, your voice, etc.

I would vote for keeping things pretty close to as they are. I definitely don’t want you to dumb it down. Thanks and Rock On.


Jeff Dunsavage
Aug 26, 2009 at 7:05 pm

I learn more from this site about current marine conservation issues and controversies than I do from more general marine conservation sites. I don’t come here as a matter of course, but rather when I see interesting tweets from you or others pointing me here. I tend not to comment because, quite honestly, I am still not well enough versed in the issues (as a result, I take more than I give – I hope that will change soon). Crazy thing is, I’m not even a sushi fan! Keep up the good work – you’re on the cutting edge and many of us are still playing catch-up. The thing I’ve found in my own social media experiments is that it takes hundreds of regular vistors/members to generate conversation among a relative few. We’re all lurkers and voyeurs, and many are not confident enough in their knowledge or their competency at self-expression to actively engage. I’m a big fan – please don’t get discouraged!

Braddock Spear
Aug 27, 2009 at 8:23 am

I’m a new reader of your website (and owner of your book), and so far I think it’s informative and much needed. The more information about sustainability and the health of our oceans, the better.

To stimulate more commenting, I suggest writing more provocative pieces. Take a very clear position on a topic and state it right up front. Grab people’s attention by either pissing them off or preaching their gospel. I think ending a post with a question will also help.

That being said, it’s clear you have two different objectives with this website: to be informative and to stimulate discussion. These aren’t necessarily consistent with each other (informative content usually doesn’t generate comment). Is there a way to reconcile your different objectives? Or is it better to focus on one over the other?

Good luck! I look forward to future posts.

Kitt Hirasaki
Aug 28, 2009 at 12:41 am

I like the idea of having a focus on individual restaurants, and gathering information about where they source their food.

I also think a cool extension of your site would be to create an iPhone application (of course, you can also browse to your site from an iPhone) that has your encyclopedia as well as a version of your “sushi menu,” I think that’s a great little app.



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