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Saturday, August 29, 2009

After The Thrill is Gone

I've been writing about PERS issues since mid-2001. This started out as a private email list to my colleagues at PSU, in which the messages would be forwarded to others at UO, OSU etc. Eventually, my work evolved into a pre-blog, web-based diary. That led to the current blog, which has been running pretty continuously since late 2003. Along the way I've made thousands of friends inside of PERS, in the Legislature, in the legal community, in all aspects of public employment, and even some of journalists with whom I compete for news reporting. All of this has been richly rewarding. I've even had people offer to pay me for looking at their personal PERS situations. I've always refused to take money for my observations or advice because I've always believe that money compromises objectivity. I still believe that.

Along the way, I've actively participated in one newsgroup (OPDG), started another one as a competitor (POD), and helped to organize the incredibly valuable PERS Document Library, which contains virtually all relevant documents pertaining to PERS, the litigation, the legislation, the policy papers.

If I have one fault (I'm sure I have many) it is my abject refusal to engage with people who continually try to hijack the primary raison d'etre for all my endeavors - PERS and closely related retirement issues. I loathe political arguments. I am unapologetically left of center and have no use for the politics of the political right wing. This doesn't mean I don't have friends who come from both sides of the political aisle. We've managed to co-exist as friends so long as we agree not to discuss the one topic (along with religion) that is guaranteed to explode friendships and destroy any semblance of order - politics.

This leads me to the primary point of this entry, which isn't what some are worried about. No, my participation in this blog and my participation in POD and PERS Document Library will continue UNABATED. These are things I value and feel I continue to have information to share, sources to access, and opinions. But politics is not my metier. For the past several years, as PERS news appears to have diminished (an illusion, really), one of the groups (OPDG) where I participated actively has been hijacked by its owner and one or two other members and given over almost totally to noisome, tiresome, hostile, and irrelevant political chatter. In some ways the newsgroup reads like an online version of certain radio and television shows, which I won't dignify by naming here. I've tried to maintain my membership in the group to help out the occasional brave soul who dares post a PERS-related question. Moreover, I've periodically popped in over there to tweak the owner, in particular, to try to get off the political bandwagon and return the group to its roots. Unfortunately, my style can be abrasive, especially when the owner and two or three of his henchmen are guaranteed to jump all over anyone who disagrees with him/them for any reason. Political opponents have either shut up and merely lurk in the background, or they have been banned from the group. Apparently, the owner can dish it out, but he can't take any form of disagreement, whether it be respectful or hostile. In the end, it became a fool's errand to bother to post anything there. Finally, and to no one's surprise, least of all mine, the owner finally banned me from his group. As of today, I am no longer a member of OPDG. I have been banned.

One of the reasons POD was formed was to offset all the deficiencies of OPDG. POD has no membership requirement to read our posts. If you like to have RSS or Atom syndication, our group can be accessed by any newsreader, such as Google Reader. Membership is required to post, but unlike OPDG, you don't have to join just to read our information. A second major difference between POD is that the content is limited to PERS information, questions and answers, and closely related topics (e.g. Social Security, post-retirement health care). Any politically motivated post will be deleted by any of our three moderators. We rarely have to enforce this policy because most members quickly understand that we really mean it when we say we don't want politics to interfere with the group. So far, while we don't get the volume of posts that our ?competitor? gets, we get triple or quadruple the volume of relevant posts. We really are a PERS-related group.

So, if you are looking for up-to-date PERS discussion with interested public employees who share the desire for a NO POLITICS ZONE, please give us a visit. Take a look at the last month's worth of topics. If you belong to the ?other? group, compare the content. Do you see a difference? If so, and you like what you see at POD, please consider joining and participating.

I'm pretty sure that the thrill has gone out of the other group. Its large membership is a result of inertia. Most people don't even bother to read the posts, but don't bother to unjoin either. If you are interested in participating in a group with more than 1100 members and two active posters whose posts only marginally (at the outer 0.0001% of the margin) relate to anything relevant to PERS (I may be exaggerating; maybe it is only 0.000001%) then OPDG is the place to be. If you also want a case-study of what happens if you let politics hijack a group, OPDG is textbook. If you are truly interested in PERS-related news brought to you by members, many of whom actually attend PERS Board meetings, and can actually answer questions without going to the PERS website to look up PERS' sketchy information, please stop by and give us your eyes for a few minutes. I think you'll be quite pleasantly surprised by what you see.


MollyNCharlie said...

While it is sad to see the slow decline into dementia of an old friend (OPDG) I am just grateful to have your blog and the PERS Oregon Discussion (POD) group. OPDG was my first contact, my first break out of isolation when it became clear to me that PERS was going to seriously reduce my monthly benefit some years after I retired and I will always be grateful for that. Having watched the painful implosion of OPDG, and having been banished by them myself; I am even more grateful for POD and your insistence that we keep it a politics free zone. Thanks Marc!


TruthSeeker said...

There is definitely life after OPDG. I am also a "banished one" and I must say the owner/moderator gave me a full ration of sh-- before he banned me...very rude people indeed. Thanks for this new vehicle, Marc, both of them.

greengardendogs said...

I too remember when OPDG was the place to go for PERS information. How sad to see it disintegrate as it has. I haven't gone there for months, but hadn't officially left the group either, until I did just now. Thank heavens for POD and this blog. Thanks, Marc!