Ideas for improving comments?

We’ve tried LOTS of different approaches to comments on My Ballard over the years.

We began with open comments, then switched to Disqus, then switched to Facebook comments (backlash!), then switched to register-only comments (crickets), then back to open comments.

We’ve always had to contend with the usual moderation challenges — here are the rules — but events in Ballard over the last few months have amplified the challenge to new heights. Many people aren’t happy with the state of affairs in our neighborhood, and duking it out in comments has become a common occurrence.

So… we’re looking for some advice. Anyone know of any WordPress plugins or new commenting platforms that encourage open conversations but at the same time reward more thoughtful responses? There’s no perfect solution, but we’d love to hear ideas on how to make it better.

Introducing Ballard’s best restaurants and a neighborhood guide

Since the redesign in November, we’ve been working to add new goodies to My Ballard. Here are a few of the recent additions:

  • We brought back the Ballard restaurants section featuring the most popular spots, ranked by your ratings. This is not mean to be a comprehensive list — there’s Google and Yelp for that — but a list of 40 or so best restaurants in the neighborhood. (This is still a work in progress, but feel free to go vote for your favorites.)
  • We’ve updated the Ballard breweries map to include nearby breweries in Fremont, Greenwood, Magnolia and Interbay.
  • There are a lot of new people moving to the neighborhood — or thinking about moving here — so we created a Ballard neighborhood guide with a list of hot spots, neighborhoods, schools, community groups and more.
  • The My Ballard Facebook Group is only a couple months old, but it’s growing like wildfire. More than 2,000 neighbors have joined so far, and many Ballard stories — like the power outage, dumpster fires, new/closing restaurants — are appearing in the group first. Unlike other community groups, we’re participating, too, helping confirm stories as we see them. If you’re a current or former Ballard neighbor, you can ask to join here.

My Ballard’s traffic has grown 2X since last fall, and we thank everyone for your support. As always, please let us know if you have any suggestions/feedback at

Our most memorable stories on My Ballard’s 10th anniversary

A decade ago, we were new to the neighborhood and inspired by the West Seattle Blog and Capitol Hill Seattle Blog. So we decided to start a blog for Ballard, called ourselves the “Geeky Swedes” and published our first post on Dec. 11, 2007.

Little did we know that Ballard was in the early stages of tremendous change. Once a quiet Scandinavian fishing neighborhood — the brunt of good-natured jokes on Almost Live — Ballard was evolving into one of Seattle’s hottest hangouts, attracting many of the city’s best restaurants, bars and shops. Then the apartment and condo complexes began to appear, fueling higher property prices and displacing some of our neighborhood’s history.

Fight to save Denny’s

Our first big neighborhood story turned out to be the fight over the Denny’s restaurant at 15th and Market. Originally called Manning’s, it was a popular neighborhood cafe sporting a unique architectural style called “Googie.” When new owners began to pursue plans to build a condo complex on the property, neighbors rallied about efforts to designate the 44-year-old building as a historic landmark — and they won. Temporarily.

While the decaying Denny’s sat surrounded by chain link fence, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Board agreed to meet again. In a stunning reversal, the board voted that the building’s new landmark status would result in unreasonable financial hardship on the owner. And therefore, the newly-designated landmark could be torn down.

On June 24th, 2008, the Denny’s was demolished.

The end of Sunset Bowl

For outsiders who couldn’t understand why a neighborhood would rally around a Denny’s, they were equally perplexed by Ballard’s affinity with Sunset Bowl, an old, dank bowling alley. But similar to Denny’s, Sunset Bowl was an old neighborhood hangout, a collection of Ballard memories accumulated over the decades.

Advocates attempted to designate the colorful building as a landmark, but failed. They also failed to convince the new owners to build a new bowling alley inside the walls of their planned apartment complex.

On January 20th, 2008 — after a final farewell from a group of former employees — Sunset Bowl was devoured by the metal jaws of change.

Edith Macefield’s last stand

It’s hard to determine exactly when “Old Ballard” and “New Ballard” became part of the neighborhood lexicon; two cultures with opposing views of growth. But we can certainly agree on the face of Old Ballard, forever etched in our neighborhood’s history: Edith Macefield.

Over a year before we launched My Ballard, developers offered Edith $1 million for her small, plain house on NW 46th. St. She had lived in the same home for over half a century, and at 84 years old, she didn’t want to move. So she stood her ground.

Our first stories showed the Ballard Blocks complex slowly rising around her, dump trucks rattling up and down the road. Then on June 17, 2008, Edith Macefield passed away. Her battle was over, but her story was just beginning.

About a year later, Disney released the movie “Up”, which appeared to be inspired by Edith’s stand. The home, fully encapsulated by Ballard Blocks, drew national news coverage and visitors from around the world. Some people who called themselves “Edith Macefield’s Army” even got tattoos of her home. Edith became an inspiration for many.

Her home is still there, but as we’ll update in an upcoming story, the long-running fight to save it may be ending soon.

Black bear runs through Ballard

We’re used to raccoons and the occasional coyote, but when a bear decided to run through the neighborhood on the night of May 18, 2009, it got everyone’s attention.

With My Ballard’s Silver listening to the scanner, we set out to find the black bear, parking next to several police cars in Crown Hill. After a few minutes of walking around, I remember one of the cops telling me, “You should probably get back inside your car.”

But the bear was well ahead of us, heading north in a hurry. While we were unable to snap a photo, Silver’s scanner reports helped create a map that tracked the animal’s likely route from Discovery Park, traversing Ballard, Crown Hill and ultimately heading as far north as Everett.

Greenwood arson fires

An arsonist set 10 fires in Greenwood (map) over several months in 2009. If you lived near Greenwood, you may remember waking to overnight sirens, worrying about the possibility of another fire.

We were helping our sister blog, PhinneyWood, cover the story. We awoke to sirens in the early morning of October 23rd, and covered a massive 3-alarm blaze along 85th that destroyed several businesses. Then again on Nov. 5th, sirens called us to another fire on 85th. As I was snapping photos, I heard a new call broadcast on the firefighters’ radios around me. It was for a new fire on Greenwood Ave., just a few blocks away.

I still remember the looks on the firefighters’ faces and the unsettling feeling that an arsonist was at work right down the street. I also remember locking my keys inside my car — with the engine running — after I pulled up in front of Rosewood Guitar, flames shooting from the roof.

A man was arrested several days later, and he was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Meanwhile, PhinneyWood went on to win a national Society of Professional Journalists award for deadline reporting of the story.

Ballard helps a woman in need

This is our favorite story. It began with a post in the My Ballard forum from a woman selling some of her belongings to raise money for rent. “It really is tough being unemployed,” she wrote under the forum handle Luckerbee.

That was on Thursday night. On Friday evening, a few dozen Ballardites gathered in an impromptu meetup at Golden Gardens organized on the forum. They passed around a donation bucket for Lurkerbee which read, “Ballardites helping Ballardites.” Then on Saturday morning, they held a yard sale, ultimately raising $900.

“I will never forget it. Never in a million years did I anticipate this,” Luckerbee wrote.

The My Ballard forum thrived over the years, helping My Ballard win a national Online Journalism Award for community collaboration in 2009.

And many more

Out of the 10,454 blog posts we’ve published over the last decade, there are many more memorable stories from the neighborhood: the Syttende Mai parade, the closure of Olsen’s Scandinavian Seafood, SeafoodFest’s salmon feed and lutefisk eating contest… and many more.

While the neighborhood has changed more than we ever anticipated, the Ballard spirit lives on. We’d like to thank all of our readers and advertisers over the years for your support.

What are your most memorable neighborhood news stories?

After nearly 10 years on the web, My Ballard relaunches with new look

The 10th anniversary of My Ballard is coming next month (can you believe it?), and other than making us feel old, it made us realize the site was long overdue for a redesign.

Here’s the way the site looked back in January of 2008 with the ominous headline, “Community meeting about Denny’s tonight.”

At lot has changed since then, but My Ballard had been running on the same old WordPress template, and things began to break. So we’ve cleaned out the database, upgraded the design and (re)launched a few new features:

  • We now have a full-featured Ballard events calendar, and you can submit your own events for free. Please keep the events local, and we approve submissions daily. Many events will be featured in our weekly roundup seen by thousands of Ballard residents, both on the site and in our weekly newsletter.
  • You can now comment on stories without having to register.
  • The My Ballard forum is back! You can remain anonymous, but please adhere to the rules. Unlike comments, a quick registration is required. If you had an account long ago under your same email address, but you forgot your password, you can click the “lost password” link.
  • If you don’t mind using your real name — and you’re a Facebook fan — ask to join our new My Ballard Facebook Group, which has nearly hit 1,000 members.
  • Our Ballard traffic cameras page has been redesigned with larger images, and our Ballard crime page lists the latest Seattle Police dispatch reports.
  • Everything is mobile friendly, finally!

You may also notice that we’re publishing more stories, more often. We’re still working on a few tweaks here and there, and please feel free to let us know what you’d like to see — or what isn’t working. Thank you for your patience!

Highlights from the new Ballard forum

Since we launched the new My Ballard forum and classifieds a couple weeks ago, over 250 neighbors have registered, publishing nearly 1,000 posts. It’s a great place to share observations, get recommendations, ask about lost pets and find out about Ballard happenings first — and registration is easy. Here are a few highlights over the last couple days:

Paseo (Paseos, Paseo’s) is open!, by gracie
Lost chocolate lab near 16th and 77th, by Troy
Found a phone near 24th and 57th, by Novalis
Watch for pedestrians, by Mrs. Whatsit

We’ve also created a Ballard crime page — with the latest Seattle Police dispatches for our area — and a weekly email newsletter so you can catch up on coverage. We’ve also made it easier to posts comments — no Facebook account required, and more upgrades are on the way. Please let us know you how you’d like to improve My Ballard by emailing us at

Comments are now open to everyone

After an overwhelmingly positive response to our question, we’ve made a change so anyone can leave a comment without a Facebook account. However, that means you’ll need to register first if you haven’t already (click the link in the upper left of the site). That registration will work across comments, neighborhood groups and the forum.

We switched to Facebook a couple years ago after an onslaught of spam and a steady deterioration of civility. However, we’ve installed a new forum with great spam protection, and the conversation there has been more civil than ever. We also believe that enabling anyone to participate is important. But we will enforce our comment rules, and we won’t have any patience for trolls.

Meanwhile, if you’re a big fan of Facebook commenting, you can certainly comment on our posts on our very popular Facebook page. If you have any questions or concerns, please drop us a note at

Improving My Ballard comments with Facebook

Since My Ballard began in December 2007, we’ve worked hard at keeping the site open, inclusive and community friendly. Through your comments, forum posts, emails, Facebook posts and tweets, you’ve truly made My Ballard part of the community — the site has even won two awards for it, including a national journalism award for community collaboration.

But recently, we’ve received several well-written emails from longtime readers who say the comments have become such as frustration, they’ve stopped visiting the site. “I realize clicking comments is optional, but the conversations I get in with friends always focuses on the negativity of the comments,” writes one. “Overall it gives people a bad taste about MyBallard.”

We’ve noticed it, too. So after careful consideration, we’ve decided to make a change. Beginning immediately, we’ve changed the comments platform to Facebook. You can still leave comments, but you’re required to post under your Facebook name, which is your real name. In effect, this ends anonymous commenting on My Ballard stories. The forum is not affected by the change.

We’ve watched as several national news sites and blogs have switched to Facebook comments, and we’ve spoken with Facebook ourselves about the impact of such a change. Most sites have seen a decrease in overall comments but an increase in quality. After all, it’s easier to leave negative comments under a cloud of anonymity. Similarly, there’s a downside — you’re less likely to leave a comment with a news tip if it’s attributed to your real name.

That’s why we’re leaving the forum as an open discussion area, and you can always email us with an anonymous tip ( But for story comments, we’re giving Facebook a try. Please feel free to let us know your thoughts in comments or over on the forum. And thanks for your support.

Introducing deals from North Seattle neighborhoods

There are a lot of coupon and deals sites popping up in Seattle, but they’re mostly run by out-of-town businesses and focused on the entire metro area. After hearing some ideas from local businesses, we’re happy to introduce North Seattle Guide, a new site powered by our network of neighborhood blogs that offers deals right here at home, from the Space Needle to Northgate Mall.

North Seattle Guide features printable and shareable discounts that don’t cost you a penny. They originate from our neighborhood sponsors, who can post deals for no additional charge (see details). This is a big departure from many other sites, which keep a big cut of the revenue and sent it to their corporate offices in Chicago, San Francisco or New York.

Our hope is these deals will help encourage everyone to shop here in North Seattle, especially as we near the holiday season. Visit, or get deals via Facebook (below), Twitter or email.

We only have a few deals to start, but please be patient — more are coming soon. And thank you for shopping local!

Improvements to My Ballard’s comment system

A couple weeks ago, we asked folks in the forum for feedback on My Ballard’s comment system. Many of you asked that we allow users to help moderate comments, as well as link comment profiles with forum profiles. We agree, so we’re beginning to work on connecting the profiles. In the meantime, we’ve switched back to Disqus, a comment system that has some great moderation features, including the ability for you to flag inappropriate posts (just “mouse over” a comment and click the “flag” link that appears.)

Disqus also allows us to better moderate a small handful of users who are posting under multiple names at high frequency — often to inflame a conversation or impersonate someone else — which has become an increasing problem with our standard WordPress comments. Thanks for your understanding as we try to keep the peace, and as always, please let us know what you think.

New features on My Ballard

We added a few new features here on My Ballard over the weekend, which you can visit via the navigation at the top of the page:

Events: We’ve added a new, enhanced events calendar that allows you to submit events directly, instead of sending us an email. (Please only submit Ballard community events — we will not approve events that are strictly commercial). You can also set up events alerts, forward events to friends, add events to your personal calendar and all kinds of good stuff.

Cameras: The Seattle Department of Transportation recently rolled out a bunch of new traffic cameras in Ballard and surrounding neighborhoods, and we’ve added them to our traffic cameras page.

Data: Powered by, the data page updates you on Ballard 911 dispatches, restaurant inspections, liquor licenses and building permits, to name a few. (Disclosure: Cory works for which owns

Newsletter: We recently launched a weekly newsletter with information about community events here in Ballard and in nearby North Seattle neighborhoods. We will soon highlight deals, as well.