Just Hanging and Chatting

Yesterday during the monthly on-line chat with the Diamondbacks, the fans in attendance seemed to be just a tad bit fired up and not necessarily in a good way. New Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall was very good and attempted to diffuse the chatters by providing as much detail as he could in answering their questions. It’s always interesting to hang out during these chats just to get a read on the pulse of the fan base. It is also interesting to see what kinds of questions are asked. What I have found is that a lot of the fans who attend these sessions do not completely understand the definitions of duties between the baseball side and the business side of the team. There are countless questions that discuss on-field player personnel both at the major league and minor league levels. These types of questions fall under the jurisdiction of player development and are managed by the General Manager and scouting departments. The club president is typically responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the team including things such as fan comfort, loyalty, promotions, etc. So asking the team president about player moves would be akin to calling the plumber to ask him why your electrical outlets suddenly stopped working. While the plumber may be working side-by-side with the electrician and may have overheard there was a wiring problem, it is not usually within his job duties to troubleshoot electrical problems.

I will give Mr. Hall credit, he never shunned a question. He did his best to provide whatever information he could divulge while still trying to educate the fans as to the division of duties. That didn’t stop the player questions though. I’m guessing this is the type of education that takes more than a few on-line chats to get through to people. The online chat that Major League Baseball uses is kind of interesting. From a geeky technical side it is a Java applet running on their server that accumulates questions that are entered from a user’s pc and forwards the questions to a moderator. On the other end Mr. Hall seems to be provided with a list of questions from which he can choose which one to answer at a given time. There is a lot of latency (delay) from the time a question is asked until it is answered which at times is frustrating since you are not completely sure whether your browser has hung or if it is just taking time to formulate an answer. Users are allowed to enter questions beginning 15 minutes prior to the start of the chat all the way until the chat ends but there is no telling whether your question will be selected for answering. I always try to attend the chat getting there 30 minutes early just to make sure the technology is all working appropriately. I guess it is like going to the ballpark early to watch batting practice but in this case it is usually just staring at a java applet box with a prompt to please enter your question. Like game day, I like to come prepared so I usually have between 9 and 18 questions listed to ask. It has become sort of a game to see which subjects the team is willing to broach and which ones they would prefer not to answer. Based on the previous 3 chats I have begun to trend the types of questions that are candidates for always getting an answer. They like to talk about fan experience and the color changes. They don’t like to talk about ticket renewal and discussions of upcoming events seem to be taboo until official press releases are sent out. Overall it has been kind of an interesting communications mechanism. I’m not sure how many of the other teams use this but I can definitely see where this could become a valuable tool for connecting with the fan base.

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