TWD is closing this weekend for reorganization
TheWatchDesk.com (TWD) is a legacy Washington DC based message board created and run by local firefighters.
In a 2009 article, It is a Labor thing … :
Two-hatting is a polarizing and emotional issue. Phantom, a DCFD employee and PG volunteer, describes the start of TheWatchDesk:
The concept that underlies the operations of TWD had their start in late 2000 when International Association of Firefighter’s Local 1619 attacked members of surrounding locals for volunteering in Prince George’s County Volunteer Fire Stations.
… This board quickly became controversial and moved into private ownership with better software, it was then that Phantom registered the name “TheWatchDesk.com” and with the help of Zorro established the site.
Part of the reorganization is the removal of Phantom from TWD. Last night, Dave Statter covered the ominous announcement (HERE).
Varsity, bare-knuckled discussions
TWD was created in the epicenter of fire department digital presence. Dave Iannone and Chris Hebert started the Metro DC Fire/Rescue Wire in the late
1990s 1980's, along with one of the first fire department websites: Hyattsville VFD
A 2007 article, Digital vs. Reality: The False Facade of Websites, describes the PG digital community:
The original Hyattsville site was one of the most sophisticated for its day. Besides getting Iannone and Herbert an opportunity to create Firehouse.com, it was the start of the explosion of fire company websites, blogs, myspace and social networks.
Thirty of the thirty-seven volunteer companies in Prince George’s County run a web site, as well as the Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, Fire Commission, IAFF Local 1619 and the county fire/rescue department.
What distinguished TWD was the blunt, in-your-face, posts. A lot of posters were blowing off steam, calling out others and demonstrating the same behavior you would see in a large urban firehouse kitchen.
Many were appalled. I loved it.
Few voices, many listeners on message boards
I looked at firehouse.com participation (October 2007) when one poster was approaching 8600 posts. Wendt would eventually break 10,000 posts and then walk away from all discussion boards:
You need to register in order to post on the firehouse.com forums. As of
last week(October 10, 2007) there were 163,375 registered users.
The top ten percent of the posters represent 8575 to 664 cumulative posts. There is an exponential drop off from the top six posters.
I was surprised to learn that 85% of the registered members of Firehouse.com forums have never posted a message.
- No posts 138,604 members 84.8% of membership
- One post 8,825 members 5.4% of membership
- Two posts 3,378 members 2.3% of membership
- Three posts 2,115 members 1.3% of membership
- Four posts 1,382 members 0.8% of membership
- Five posts 999 members 0.6% of membership
This progression continues, with the top 10% of the posters responsible for 295,305 posts. That represents 39% of all of the posts made on the forum.
As TWD started up I was running the community college fire science program and meeting with many chiefs. Was surprised how many commented on what they saw on TWD.
In a slightly exasperated post, regs1 described his reality as a board administrator:
I give you the opportunity to take it completely over, you too can have the great income that you know we make, you can run it anyway you wish, you can deal with the various request that come from other departments in other states.
You can deal with the legal requests, calls from reporters, and yes even decide about what gets posted and what does not. You will get to know the supreme court decision of larry flint vs Jerry Falwell and how it effect the twd operation.
You can find ways to pay the hosting company for hosting the site, and bandwidth.
In an earlier version of the announcement, regs1 referred to actions taken by federal agencies over similar free speech issues. The unique city/state that is the District of Columbia follows federal government rules, regulations and legal precedents.
Is it time to move on?
Message boards have been strangled by the top ten percent of the posters. The issues are stale, newcombers are harassed away, the same "controversies" seem to be in an endless loop, and the power posters act entitled.
Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, blogs and personal websites have exploded. Not aware of any organization using message boards a source of revenue or even to collect eyeballs or emails.
Thanks to the dedicated crew that established and ran TheWatchDesk. They have done righteous work under challenging conditions.
Mike "FossilMedic" Ward