I would have loved to have posted this as a comment in Bronco Mike's front page post, but apparently I talked too much. Again. Rather than scrap it (or heaven forbid, edit it), y'all get a shiny new fanpost out of me!
I wrote this initially in response to several comments that I felt painted John Bena in an unflattering light, or which, at the very least seemed to trivialize his contribution to what MHR is and even was during the "Dropoff", the period of time during which he was transitioning away from MHR.
However it became a much longer comment that described a very general arc that MHR has followed to become what it is today, and it included a little insight why, IMO, we expect what we expect from it...which comes back to crediting John again, in some ways.
On Selective Memory....
I love this community, so no one should take this commentary in the wrong light, but I see some inaccurate perspectives about who what and when in this thread. I'm only commenting to set the record straight... And as long as I am commenting, I suppose I could give my thoughts on the community at present...and maybe a bit of insight into how it got here.
John has 4188 posts on the SBNation 2.0 and 3.0 platforms. Before that he had around 2000 posts on the original platform (any of y'all remember writing 'diaries' instead of fanposts?) That is almost 6000 articles since the site began in late 2006. For comparison, my boy Tim, who has at various times been a posting machine, and who has often had horsetracks duties which guarantees a post-a-day, isn't quite to 1000 posts, and he has been here from pretty much the beginning. When the Kaptain was pretty much soloing the site during the transition year he was a machine as well, and would have reached 2000 posts at some point during the year before moving on to BP. The usually warmly regarded Doc, TJ and Ted were hovering in the 100-200 post range, but that was during the well-managed 2.0 rollout, when MHR grew tenfold every year, so they were prominent in the minds of the many, many members who joined during that time.
I'm not calling anyone out, just pointing out that John was MHR, for a very long time in blog years. We all noticed when he stepped back, but only because we had come to expect the 3 or 4 posts a day he put out. Even early on during Kirk's tenure John posted more than anyone, including the Kaptain, but like I said, that was business as usual. The community doesn't notice the consistency, only the absence of consistency. The dropoff for John was actually fairly rapid and coincided with the 3.0 rollout which he was embroiled in long before any of us had any inkling that it was on the horizon. For the memories of the "old days" that the site was hopping at the time, we had a major problem with consistently getting new content on the front page at that time. Doc, TJ and Ted are very talented, among the most talented writers to have gotten exposure here, but they were far from prolific. One article per writer a WEEK was pushing it, and with the quality, research and time that went into it, that was to be expected. But we consistently FAILED to meet the needs of the members during that time. Few remember that part. And for good reason.
As talented as those guys were, what was really driving the exponential growth and popularity of the site centered around external events: the firing of Shanny, the Cutler Fiasco, the worst record in franchise history, the signing of Tim Tebow. Around this was the, unpopular at the time but very successful, SBNation 2.0 rollout which empowered members in the ways we have come to take for granted, with recs, fanposts, nested commenting, evolved flagging and moderating, and the first and best incarnation of the editor program that the staff uses (it has become more effective over the years in terms of SEO and general web success, but less effective IMO at helping with the task of actually writing and posting.)
These external events gave great exposure for staff at the time, and have given the lasting impression that staff make the site great, but it was the huge immigration of lost and wayward Broncos fans seeking refuge from the vitriol of the forums and message boards during a time of tremendous flux, perhaps the GREATEST flux experienced in Broncos history, that actually propelled this site into the stratosphere. The 2.0 rollout was empowering this immigration in ways that really expanded the horizons and expectations of the typical web-browsing sports-fan at the same time, and therein lay the power of MHR's growth and retention: you didn't just show up and vent some frustration and then disappear. Without your even noticing it, you came to MHR and you became somebody! You were remembered, you could be singled out of a crowd of comments, someone could subscribe exclusively to your content, your handle or your pic or your sigline could become famous, and the conversation was fluid and effective. I've said it before, I'll say it again: MHR is about the micro-stars, and the constellations they form when they are together. The staff is like the blazing sun at the heart of the solarsystem, everpresent, sustaining, lifegiving. But our fascination is reserved for the pinpoints of light in the dark ether, mote-like, and so much like ourselves that we are moved to reach out to them.
Posts and articles, the good the bad and the ugly, all together drive the commenting of the members, which in turn drives the popularity of the blog. Empowering the members once they are here is what has traditionally driven the staying power of the blog.
In short, staff makes the site go, members make the site great. This was always understood by John, it was faithfully upheld by the Kaptain, and I have no doubt that Kyle understands this as well. SBnation tends to understand this, they also tend to things above and beyond the concerns of the blog membership here (advertising, monetization and investment streams, etc.) and blog leadership is always balancing the needs of the membership with the directives and influence of the SBNation overseers, who, IMO, are pressing down too hard with their own content ideas and blog homogenization, at least compared to what I had grown accustomed too. I think they are killing talent in the womb, but that is a subject for another time....back to MHR...
The quality of staff content is a non-issue IMO. This format has allowances for poorly written or conceived articles, because if it gets the members talking, it still satisfies the criteria of making the blog great. When a staffer writes a great article, I think that is the bees knees for that particular staffer. It will earn them recognition and praise, recs, personal confidence and perhaps most importantly opportunities: opportunities which can often pull them away from making great articles for MHR.
Having said that, staff content should be judged on its timeliness, relevance, consistency and ability to spark a conversation. By that light, the current staff is doing a bang-up job, and have been since they hit the ground running on day one. I'm proud to be a Broncos fan on a great Broncos blog, and the current staff and leadership have done nothing to diminish that. They have my vote, and in some alternate reality where there weren't children being born, cabin's being built and businesses being started, I would still be on staff helping to make it go, and fighting the SBNation 'Man'...
To the staff: keep doing what you do and ENJOY YOURSELVES! Troll like a boss if you have to (I'm looking at Tim and BM here....) but keep yourselves fresh and keep your projects fun. Tell SBNation to shove it every once in a while. Above all remember your micro-stars. Foster them and challenge them and recall that you used to be a micro-star too. Be humble; its not your job to think for anybody. But have confidence in your words; no one should get the privilege of thinking for you. And if you really want to take MHR to the next level? It has been primed for years, John worked hard to keep the soil cultivated and ready for it, maybe this is the staff that can make it happen... Look what Bronco Planet is accomplishing by embracing Bronco alumni... we are here to connect to something bigger than just ourselves, and particularly the Broncos: Plug us in. Get insider access (and ignore the putzs that try to tell you it has no value) and open the doors we thought were between us and the Broncos. Maybe that is contacts or confidants in the organization, or maybe it is some kind of sponsored presence at training camp, but push for recognition. It will require professionalism to be balanced with your commitments to the membership, perspective to remain true to yourselves, and it will require you to consistently put out your best work, and I doubt you will find much of a reward in the process itself. But it could be fun, and when the passengers of the MHR Mothership think it is going somewhere special, they have a history of hanging on tight. They might even get out and push if need be....
To the micro-stars: keep shining and ENJOY YOURSELVES! Don't worry about what others want to see, write the thing they didn't know they wanted, and above all don't worry if you only start off as a flicker on the far edge of some high-powered lens....my first contribution to MHR was a tasteless and inappropriate joke that almost got me pre-emptively banned, creating an MHR career crater I have been repairing ever since. There is a lesson about being yourself in there somewhere, but I digress.
You don't have to go supernova on this site to make an impact. Sometimes a little illumination is all you have.
Sometimes that is all we need.