Advice: Tips and Tricks for Ricochet Involvement

 

New to Ricochet? Perhaps you’ve been more of a lurker than a commenter or conversation starter and would like to get more active? We’re here to help. Here are some ideas of how you can become a successful member of our community.

Introduce Yourself

Ricochet is a very friendly place with mostly friendly people. Sure, a high percentage of us are old curmudgeons yelling at the neighbor kids, “Get off my lawn!” But we’re still friendly to the new folks moving into the neighborhood, so long as they behave well and don’t have kids who run across our lawns. Why not introduce yourself?

Just tell us a little about yourself. You don’t have to give away your secret identity as Iron Man. Just tell us what interests you, what brought you to Ricochet, perhaps some demographic info, what you do for a living or for hobbies, bank account numbers, mother’s maiden name, you know, the usual stuff. Perhaps you even want to reveal some of your political opinions. What books shaped you? Who are your heroes?

It’s a good way for people to see you exist and get to know something about you. It also allows us to know which parts of the site that might interest you, such as specific groups.

Even if you have been a member for years, if you’ve been lurking, we probably don’t know you, so introduce yourself.

Commenting

Ricochet is about interaction. It’s about the conversations we have. There is a funny thing about conversations: they need more than one person participating. Often, the more the merrier. The best way to get involved is to read what others are writing and join the conversation.

Some have compared Ricochet to a group blog. It really is not one. In a group blog, people post their thoughts and essays, and if conversation happens, that’s all well and good. The blog is about the essays posted. But Ricochet is a community of conversation. The conversation starters are seldom the most important or interesting parts. There are experts in just about everything on Ricochet. Some of our conversations only go for a few comments; others go for hundreds of comments. However long they go, the richness is in the conversation, the back and forth.

Even if you’re bold and brash and not the shy type, it’s good to participate in conversations other people have started before starting your own conversations. It gives the other members of the community a chance to know you a bit, to get familiar with your style.

As with in-person conversations, you get known by how you participate. Some folks are intimidated by the level of knowledge of the members of Ricochet. Don’t worry about that. Just jump right in. If you can’t say something smart, say something funny. If you can’t say something funny, agree with someone. The main thing is to interact with the other members and be part of the conversation.

Starting Conversations

First, have you been interacting in other member’s conversations for at least a week? If not, you might want to try that. Not doing so is like moving into a new neighborhood and throwing a wild party the first night. It’s better to take some time to join the neighbors at their parties and find out what sort of parties they like before throwing your own. It’s also a matter of reciprocity. (http://ricochet.com/534717/archives/group-writing-understanding-20180714-getting-more-response-on-ricochet/) If you have been commenting on other members’ conversations, they will be more likely to come and investigate your conversation when you post one.

Second thing to do before you post your magnum opus is to get familiar with the fat footer. What is the fat footer, and why would you want to get familiar with it? I’m so glad you asked. Scroll down to the bottom of any page, and you’ll see the fat footer. At the time of this writing, it has seventeen articles categorized into three columns. Probably the most important to every Ricochet member of these articles that are linked at the bottom of the page is the Code of Conduct. It’s there for you, linked at the bottom of every single page. The next two articles for someone who happens to be getting ready to start a first conversation are in the right-hand column, which is labeled “Help.” These are How Do I Start a Conversation?, which goes into the mechanicals of the process and then How to Write a Great Post: 11 Tips, which covers ways to write a better and more engaging conversation starter.

Third thing you need to do is pick a topic. The 11 Tips article talks a little about this in Tip Number Seven. If it’s a big topic in the news, everybody has probably heard about it already. Now, you may be able to bring a new perspective or new information about how the news media is getting it all wrong. That is good. But if there are already one or two or four posts on the subject, bring your information to make those conversations better. Instead of just giving your hot take on a news story, seek out something we haven’t all seen on Drudge or Twitter or on every other conservative site on the Internet. Is there some interesting local news where you are? Great. What do you do for a living? Some of our best and most active conversations have come from someone simply writing about what they know. Like concrete. http://ricochet.com/233415/archives/everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-concrete-but-were-afraid-to-ask/ Seriously. Go read it. You’ll learn a lot. And when you choose your topic, perhaps it can come from your work. We have had at least two lawyers who have worked as child advocates give Joe Fridayed* accounts of some of the situations they have been in. Another area for topics is hobbies. You don’t even have to be the expert. You can ask for help from the experts. (http://ricochet.com/709683/working-with-wood/) Remember, it’s about the conversation, not about the part you post in the conversation. If you can be interesting, fantastic. But for the rest of us, we can ask questions and draw out those on Ricochet who are interesting.

Now, you’ve been commenting, you’ve read the 11 Tips, you have a good topic. It’s time to write up your conversation starter and start the conversation. But as you are writing it, consider a couple more thoughts:

  1. Your title and first sentence are the most important parts. They are your invitation to the reader to come read. They are like the front door of your house. If they are inviting, the reader will continue on.

  2. Generally in the Ricochet software, the first two paragraphs are seen before someone clicks through to see your whole post. If you haven’t caught your audience in the first two paragraphs, they will never see the third.

Hopefully, you have a few questions, preferably open-ended, that your fellow members can respond to, too, as suggested in the 11 Tips.

Conversation Timing

One thing to factor into starting a conversation is figuring out when to start it. There can be multiple factors involved in the timing, but one of the largest is simply the conversation starter’s availability, both to be on Ricochet to post it, but also to be able to tend the conversation and the incoming comments.

Thus, write it; format it; publish it.

But once you do all of that, you’re only starting out.

Tending Conversations

Each conversation and each individual is going to have a bit of a different style for tending conversations. On the one hand, one does not want to seem to be waiting to pounce, replying to any comment within seconds. On the other hand, one should not abandon the conversation, either. There is probably a happy medium in between where the conversation starter helps keep the conversation going, or maybe even turns it in a new direction if the original post and questions are getting little response. Perhaps check back every quarter or half hour?

Being available to check in on the conversation is important. For instance, imagine someone who cannot access a site like Ricochet from work. Should such a person start his conversation right before work and then abandon it for eight or ten hours until he can get back to Ricochet? This certainly does happen. Perhaps for certain sorts of conversations, it can work. But usually, if the conversation starter actually wants a conversation, he should be around to at least read the comments and see if any intervention or addition to the conversation is necessary.

If the conversation starter is a true bleg, asking for helpful information on some subject, then it would be good to at least check in every half hour, or so. That gives an opportunity to give more information if clarifying questions are asked.

The main thing is that posting the conversation starter and then going away for a week might not be the best strategy for helping to tend and maintain a conversation.

Groups

Besides the various conversation and podcast feeds, Ricochet has groups. Many of these groups cover special interests, such as cooking, poetry, the Latin language, science fiction, or getting paid to write. Some have more general purposes. The two established by the powers that be of Ricochet are Bug Reports and Updates. If there is a technical problem that a member encounters on Ricochet, it can be reported in the Big Reports Group. When the software that we run on is updated, the changes will be published in the Updates Group.

There are also groups associated with member activities. Here are three: Ricochet Meetup, Divine Help, Group Writing. The activities behind them will be discussed in the next section.

Member Activities

The members of Ricochet are not idle, nor do they limit their interactions to the Internet or to the subject of politics. There are many features of the Ricochet Community that have been started by the members with little or no input from the management. Most are self-organizing.

Ricochet Meetup—One feature of Ricochet is that we like to get together in person where and when we can. Sometimes the gatherings are for a special event or sideshow to such an event. There have been Ricochet meet-ups associated with car shows and science fiction conferences and other large events. Sometimes, it is a matter of one member traveling to an area where there are other members to meet. There was a complex set of meet-ups involved with the travels of one of our European members who was traveling through America on a visit. There are smaller meet-ups where one member happens to be in another member’s town and the two meet-up. There are monthly or regular meet-ups in some cities.

One can announce one’s intentions to travel in the Ricochet Meetup group, or start a conversation about one’s travels on the Member Feed and then link to the conversation in the group.

Most meet-ups might involve getting together for dinner or another meal or for drinks. Some might have more activities planned. There have been some meet-ups where travel was necessary for everyone, and they lasted three or four days, including recording podcasts or radio scripts.

Divine Help—Divine Help is a prayer group. Members post their needs for prayer, and the Ricochet prayer warriors go to work. There is a Ricochet group, but also a conversation which is usually active for three to six months. Mostly, people post prayer needs for themselves, their families, and friends in the ongoing conversation, and the group is used to help people find the current conversation by posting a link to it when it is started.

Group Writing—The Group Writing Project was started by a member several years ago. It is an organized effort to make it easier for members to start conversations. The premise is that the coördinator chooses a topic for the month and puts out a schedule. The topics and schedules usually come out between about the 15th and 20th of the previous month. Members then can sign up to start a conversation on a chosen day of the month where the conversation is at least peripherally related to the topic. The topics chosen tend to be broad to allow for any member to be able to relate to and write about the topic. For instance, at the time this is being written, it is February of 2020, and the current theme is “Advice.” Did I mention this is a Group Writing-related conversation? All members are welcomed and encouraged to sign up for dates in the Group Writing Project.

As with Divine Help, there are the conversations started each month to track the dates, but these are linked within the Group Writing Group to be found easily at any time.

Quote of the Day—Very similar to the Group Writing Project, the Quote of the Day is a member created, member coördinated, and member written series of conversations started each day. Rather than a monthly theme, the member who has signed up for the day chooses a quotation and starts a conversation based on the quotation. It can be the easiest way to start a conversation, since someone else has already done the main part of the work by saying or writing something interesting. Of course, the member can embellish the quotation with their own thoughts or direction.

Several Internet sites with quotations are linked to in the monthly sign-up sheets for the Quote of the Day.

90-Day Challenge—While not currently active, the 90-Day Challenge has in the past been a support group for achieving goals for Ricochet members. Anyone interested in reviving the activity, feel free to comment below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why don’t my conversations get any comments?

A. There could be several reasons for this. Your conversation starter could be perfect, so perfect that nobody can find a way to disagree or anything rich enough in praise to say. That’s probably not it, though.

How is your title? Is it something to catch the eye? I am not speaking of click-bait, here, but is it interesting? Or is it something like, “My Summer Vacation?” Now, “My Summer Vacation in Hell” would be more interesting. Is there a way to make the title more interesting? The first step is to get someone scrolling down the feed to stop, and one does that with the title.

Look at it on the Member Feed. Are the paragraphs that show eye-catching? The second step is to be interesting enough to get someone to click on the “More” button.

Is it, shall we say, rather long to read? Perhaps it is a bit much to be digested in one sitting. Perhaps it is merely indigestible. As you read in the 11 Tips, this isn’t supposed to be your doctoral thesis. If it is long and very thorough, have you left room for discussion?

Does it have large chunks that are walls of text with long paragraphs?

Any of these things in the text itself could turn people off or away from reading your conversation starter or from commenting on it. But there might also be other reasons people avoid commenting more to do with your behavior.

Have you been participating in conversations other people start? Or do you stick to your own conversations? If the latter, try the former and get out more. Get people comfortable with you.

When people do contribute to your conversations, how do you treat them? Have you given people reason to avoid you and the conversations you start?


Q. I wrote twenty paragraphs and they all show up on the Member Feed. What did I do wrong?

A. You probably cut and pasted from a word processing program that does things a bit differently from what Ricochet expects. The problem is that there are different characters a computer recognizes to deliver line returns or paragraph breaks. There are a couple of ways to fix it.

First is to edit your conversation starter and go to the end of the first two paragraphs and hit your Enter key and then the delete key to bring the next paragraph up. This should insert the right kind of paragraph break.

A second way is to edit your conversation starter and insert a Read More tag. Go to the end of your second paragraph, and use the Shift+Alt+t combination to insert the tag. (This key combination works on a Windows machine. On a Mac, it’s a different key combination.) This should make it so only those first two paragraphs show on the feed.


Q. How do you know those key combinations?

A. Go into the “Leave a Reply” comment box and try Shift+Alt+h. That should bring up a list of all the keyboard shortcuts.


Q. How do I do __________? (As more questions are asked, I’ll put the answers here.)

A.

Q. Where do I find __________ again? (As more questions are asked, I’ll put the answers here.)

A.

Additions

Do you have any questions or things that you think should be added to a general Getting Started Guide for new members on Ricochet?


Footnote

* Joe Fridayed: “The names have been changed to protect the innocent…”

 

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