"...to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction..."

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Pure Chat - Part IV

Anatomy of a Message Board

Scared Monkeys (SM) has been around for awhile, but it was primarily an outlet for a couple of ultra-conservative political activist before it became a victim’s advocate with the headline making Terri Schiavo case. Across the top of their blog is written, “A Weblog by two guys who went to school together, and have been discussing politics and life for years. Now we are ready to share it with the world.” That quote aptly defines what the blog is all about and introduces the two founders.

My first acquaintance with the blog was through CTV, because more and more links were being provided during CTV discussions about Natalee Holloway. For some reason, Scared Monkeys and Dan Riehl’s Riehl World View were getting insider information out of Aruba and links to both sites had found their way to CTV. At the time, I do not believe either blog had a message board per se, but the comment sections were overflowing with discussions about Natalee Holloway. Both blogs were extremely fast paced during those first several months of the investigation and the tidbits of information pouring in were provocative to say the least.

During those first few months of the Natalee Holloway investigation, SM had 100’s if not 1,000’s of regular posters and an impressive number of viewers. As recently as April of last year the site had over 420,000 hits in one day after a mention on a Dutch television program. Those numbers pale in comparison to the daily hits the site was receiving through the summer of 2005. The comments section of the blog was bursting at the seams, so the logical next step was taken and the forum was created.

While still an active member at CTV, I would scan over the content of SM and several other blogs, only to take the material back to CTV for discussion. More and more I was becoming disgruntled with the antics at CTV, so I slowly began to post at SM before the big crash. It was exhilarating! Breaking away from the message board for an hour, would mean that fifty pages were going to fly by and it was going to take the better part of an afternoon to get caught up on what was said. In my opinion, it was the place to be to discuss the Natalee Holloway case. One of the founders of the blog had personal knowledge of Aruba and even the regular posters living in Aruba initially seemed to be helpful. At that time everyone thought that the Holloway case could and would be solved.

The cross-section of active members at that time portrayed an interesting microcosm of the Internet world and brought together individuals from all walks of life and political persuasions. It was an extremely interesting insight into the thinking of Arubans, the Dutch and a few American expatriates living in Aruba.

With diversity comes controversy and that was certainly true during those early days of the SM message board. Heated exchanges became routine and the true objective of the discussions became blurred. Eventually, the general consensus between much of the membership was that misinformation was being spread about by a few very vocal people in Aruba. The tension on the board became so tight it felt like an over-wound spring that was just before breaking and flying in all directions.

Then Scared Monkeys.net crashed! For several weeks it was not known if the message board would ever be brought back, but Front Page vigils persisted and eventually the forum re-opened. The climate of the board did change afterward and the moderation became stricter.

Presently, there is still a small group of loyal members that post regularly and many others that constantly check for news or updates about the Natalee Holloway case. The majority of the regulars are what might be considered “normal, everyday” sort of people. Their politics are as varied as their geographical locations, but they all have one thing in common. They do genuinely care about the victims of senseless crime and they reach out to those survivors left behind.

As message boards go, this was probably my favorite until the news dried up and the discussions started to drift. Actually, I even enjoyed the off-topic banter for the most part. The problem was that “off-topic” had different meanings to different people and a few decided what was to be considered off-topic based upon their own interests, or lack of interest.

Scared Monkeys is what it is and has never pretended to be anything else. People either like it, or they don’t. As with all of these blogs and message boards SM has a few short-comings, but I will not dwell on those. The general theme of Scared Monkeys is clear and it would not be appropriate to cast a shadow across the whole forum, because of a very small percentage of its membership.


ViVi said...

Hey - these are great. I am not as familiar with SM as some of the others but I do remember early in the case it was big stuff, and same with RiehlWorldView. That's how I stumbled into the NH message board world. Are you gonna be critique-ing RWV? That I'd love to see since I guess it would be my "home" board.

Anyway, good work and interesting read.

btw - we linked you again and gave a preview of your article. Hope you dont mind.

Anonymous said...

what a nice, fair, impartial type of post. Of course you know I am a big fan of yours already. JMHO


EasyWriter said...

RWV would be better addressed by those of you directly involved with the blog. I never participated in any of the discussions and only followed links to things that interested me. The thing that first got my attention was when a post was made, or a copy of an email was posted from someone calling himself Joran. At that time we were all still thinking the culprit was a 19-year-old drug dealer. In this email he said that he was just 17 and wanted to say more but his father would not let him. A few days later we all learned that Joran was indeed 17.

By pure happenstance, I was reading the RWV blog the night of the first peculiar meltdown that became a turning point for it, but my knowledge beyond that is very limited.

- Mike -

Anonymous said...

Mike- While I agree with you 99% of the time, this is the 1 percent that I dont. It really is the 1 percent that MAKES A DIFFERENCE. I think that SM is the pioneer of this industry. Red and Tom have raised VICTIMS RIGHTS to a new level, and for that I am forever thankful. YES SM does have their members, but there is nothing wrong with that. I dont always agree with the members, but I do LOVE them. They are really great people. I know because I know their hearts.

Beth and Dave are in the front of their quest and I will always respect that... that's where its at....
Lords knows I and Red are ideologically soul mates, and I will always consider him a friend and a VICTIMS ADVOCATE.

We dont always agree but we care about the same things and that is what is important...

EasyWriter said...

Rob – I have to be completely honest with you and say I do not exactly understand your comment.

- Mike -

Anonymous said...

Red-Mrs. Red-Jacq-Patti-Carpe-Richard-Maya-Moons-Kat Gram - AllenK - Dennisintn -Dayhiker- Robots - And so many more... hey, they no political agenda.. all they want is the truth and the hammmer away day after day...All Im saying is They Make A Difference and they deserved to be recognized.
Talking about that blogs is important, but the over all make of SM is truly dynamic...especially Klaasend.

Mike keep up the good work you are doing....

apodixis said...

The information you provided on the magnitude of SM's crash was interesting.

Are you also going to do a commentary on BFN ?

If so perhaps someone can explain why that board closed itself a few months ago to viewing by internet readers who are not registered.

EasyWriter said...

Many fine people post at SM and I do not deny that fact.

What needs to be understood is that I was giving a very superficial historical sketch of the blog, which does have origins in the very conservative political world. That foundation still exists, but a metamorphous began to take place during the arduous news coverage of the Terri Schivao case.

That’s not to say that SM was blind to the plight of other victims, but that case was more of a pivotal point in their blogging history.

EasyWriter said...

apodixis – This series will conclude with my perceptions of Blogs for Natalee (BFN) and I am quiet certain those perceptions will not be well received by members of that message board.

Of all the forums I have participated in, BFN is the most confusing. In less than ten minutes a person can determine the philosophical persuasion of the forums mentioned thus far. That is not true with BFN. My very opinionated look at this board is forthcoming, but it needs to be toned down at this time.

It is very difficult to give an honest interpretation of these various message boards without resorting to name-calling and the like. But, yes I will be giving my biased opinions of BFN.

As to why they changed their format, the answer to that question is not within my grasp.

tuesday said...

I'm just glad to know I'm not the only one who's hooked on these damned messageboards! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Mike, I don't know why I missed this installment after reading about the other message boards. Thanks for these interesting snapshots of these blogs. I started posting at RWV, and when it became clear to me that Dan was a raving lunatic, I found SM and haven't left once in the near 2 years I've been posting there...

Looking forward to seeing what you write next!!

Lalas said...

Good work as usual! Miss you on SM.

Anonymous said...

I am working my way backwards...lol...but you certainly called it right in regards to your upcoming BFN post!! lol
WOW!!! that was some good reading!!

Anonymous said...

awesome blog, do you have twitter or facebook? i will bookmark this page thanks. lina holzbauer