So You Want to Write a FanPost

{{Reposted in Lieu of All Star Game FanPosts}}

Recently I have read concerns over the quality of FanPosts over the past year. For this, I blame myself, because it is my role here to help others understand the culture of Lookout Landing and to promote higher level thinking on a website about hitting a ball with a stick and running. I apologize.

Much like a bad manager, I wanted to complete a hit and run post on what FanPosts should be. The FanPost feature in SBNation is a fun one. It allows regular people, like you and you and everyone but me the opportunity to write for Lookout Landing, even if you're not an official writer. That means that you can log in, click "Write a FanPost," and create content. It's a lot like blogging, except you'll never be famous and no one will remember you. So it's exactly like blogging.

The problem that we've been running into is that FanPost quality has been decidedly average, if not below average. This is not an indictment on anyone that has written a FanPost recently, because:

  • Your FanPost might be good. I probably haven't read it and I don't know.
  • You weren't taught what we consider to be LL Culture.

See, on Lookout Landing, we believe in holding ourselves to a higher standard than the rest of the internet. We believe in thoughtful commenting, and we believe that you should always want to be better as a commenter and as a contributor. We also believe in holding the same standard to our FanPosts.

That means that even if you're not writing on the front page, we still want you to act as if you're writing on the front page. That means creating content that isn't derivative, boring, generic, or misinformed. That means doubting yourself - asking yourself if it's really worth posting and if others are going to appreciate it.

That's also why we ask people to comment first before they write FanPosts, because otherwise there's no way to know what the community is going to appreciate until you've interacted with us. It's also why FanPosts that are relatively well written but use batting average and RBIs for analysis are so roundly booed. Those crap statistics may fly on some other sites, but the community here isn't going to support it. It's why rants or unfunny humor posts are usually hidden, deleted, or ignored.

Now, one of the problems we run into is explaining what a good FanPost is. One user came on and wrote a poem dedicated to the Mariners. That poem was amazing. If you were to ask me whether or not I thought you should post a Mariners related poem in the FanPosts, I would tell you "hell no" and look at you disapprovingly making this face >=(. But yet a user did it and they did a great job.

That's the unfortunate part of setting these "rules." There are always exceptions. That's why there aren't any official guidelines as to what to do and what not to do. There are always ways to make something people wouldn't approve of great, and ways to make something people would approve of bad.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Posting

What I've realized is that the issue isn't in the type of content, so it's not necessarily possible to give clear guidelines. Instead, what we can do is give you questions to ask yourself about your content. Before you post anything, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can Anyone Write It?

This is the absolute most important question to ask yourself. Is your post of sufficient quality and originality that no one else could have or would have written it but you. A FanPost titled "What Do You Think of Dustin Ackley?" that reads something like "I don't know, his spring he's doing well but we all know he's given us hope before, what do you think?" - that's a bad post, because anyone could have written it. It's essentially a bad comment in FanPost form. Make it a comment then, not a FanPost. FanPosts should be something that other people will read and find interesting, and if anyone could have written your FanPost, chances are it's not interesting.

  • Where's the Originality?

Similarly, originality is important. For example, you can write a fantastic post on why Felix Hernandez is a great pitcher, but then why bother? What did you do differently than someone else? Unoriginal content, even when it's extremely well written, gets very boring and was probably covered by site authors already. You can show originality through excellent writing, interesting topics, humor, and most importantly research. Research is the number one way you'll impress us here, but of course it's also the hardest to master.

  • Will it Generate Discussion?

This goes back to how well you know our community. If you don't, you won't know the answer to this. You can write a post about why we shouldn't give up on Justin Smoak, and you'll generate some discussion probably. But at the same time, everyone is tired to talking about it, and so it's unlikely to get many comments. On the other hand, if you have a post entitled "How I Found Out Justin Smoak Marries Puffins" with an original story about finding him in a Las Vegas chapel with a puffin on one arm, you'll get people talking.
There are exceptions to this. Most people did not comment on the great poem post, and some people do not understand higher thinking research posts enough to comment on them, but you should at least ask yourself the question.

  • Would You Share It?

If you found your post on Twitter, would you retweet it? If you were told that you could win a contest with great writing, would you send it in? If you have a Facebook, are you going to post it because you're proud of it? The answer should be yes. As usual, there are always exceptions, but if you're not pleased enough with your post that you think others will want to share it themselves, it may not be worth creating.

Closing Thoughts

I want to encourage other LL users to explain what they think a FanPost should be below. This is only scratching the surface. But I want to leave you with an important closing thought. All of this sounds like a lot of rules and overthinking for something as minor as a FanPost on a baseball blog, and it is. Part of that has to do with the level of quality we want here at Lookout Landing. Most users here take this website very seriously, and would prefer it not turning into the rest of the internet.

But also, it's important to remember that commenting exists. When you posts a FanPost, you're basically saying "EVERYONE READ THIS NOW FOR THE NEXT 14 DAYS" and throwing it in people's faces. You're the one saying "this is important and I want everyone to read it." If you can't say that about your work, or you can't answer the questions above, then why did you turn it into a FanPost in the first place? Why didn't you simply turn it into a comment? By committing to creating a FanPost, you're implying that you think Lookout Landing does and should want to read it, and that you want it to be a visible part of this website. You're saying you want people on other blogs to read it too, because you think it's that good. If you can't say that with confidence, then it probably should have been a comment or not posted at all.

On the other hand, when you know you're about to create something valuable, then it would be a waste in the comments. Turn it into a FanPost and let the community see it. If it's genuinely worthy of a FanPost, then that's where it belongs, and Lookout Landing will welcome it with open arms.