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A Brief Interruption: To the Lurkers and New Members of Rocky Top Talk

In just nine days (!), Presbyterian and Wake Forest will kick off the 2010 season on, followed very shortly by Southern Miss and South Carolina on an actual TV channel (ESPN).  Our own beloved Vols kick off the season against Tennessee-Martin (woo-hoo!) just two short days later.  Again:  9 days until the college football famine is over, and 11 days until we see our first full-access scrimmage.  Just a week ago, it felt like we still had a long wait ahead of us, but now it feels like it's right on top of us.

We'll get into the seasonal anticipation as the days count down, but let me first take this time to plug the SB Nation websites and some of their features.  This is geared more to the newer members or those who lurk but haven't signed up, but a couple of the comments might be useful to even the most veteran SBNers.

1)  Sign up early, sign up often.  The SBN network is designed for individualized logins for each site.  Signing up at Rocky Top Talk doesn't automatically sign you up at A Sea of LOL Blue, for example.  It's a network feature that may seem like a small deal, but has really helped us in two ways.  First, we don't get a lot of shotgunners who just arbitrarily scatter comments across the winds (Chinese spam excepted, of course).  Second, it helps us manage the sites locally.  But the consequence is that if you want to comment on another team's site (e.g. during Oregon week), you have to sign up on that site before you can comment.  Since some sites have instituted a 'cooling-off' period on new signups, you'll want to sign up well ahead of time.  Some wait periods are as long as five days after signup before you're allowed to comment.  It's a restriction that does a great job of cutting down drive-by trash talking, but can be particularly annoying if all you want to do is offer condolences to another fanbase.  So again, sign up today for the sites you want to visit tomorrow.

2)  SBN does not mine your personal information.  When you create a new SBN profile, you'll have to enter in a minimal amount of information, such as your name and a valid email address.  Unless you use your name as your handle, and unless you make your email address 'public', those pieces of information are never available to others on the site.  They're only required so that SBN (e.g. Joel, Will, and myself) can get in touch with you if necessary.  In the past I've emailed individuals to offer apologies, to answer questions off-line, and for dispute resolutions.  But we don't solicit via your email and we don't share/sell your information.  (In fact, Rocky Top Talk could very well get shut down if we didn't respect privacy.)

3)  SBN sites are always emotionally biased towards the home team.  Most arguments in sports are subjective and based on your personal team preferences; there isn't often a 'right' or 'wrong' answer.  SBN doesn't try to pretend otherwise, and instead is designed to allow fans to revel in their biased feelings with like-minded individuals.  If you're over at Conquest Chronicles, for example, don't expect them to share the same attitude towards Lane Kiffin that Vols fans might have.  Heck, we're even managed by admitted fans of the respective teams; rather than trying to pretend we're indifferent, we lay out our feelings so that our thoughts can be seen in a proper context.

4)  That said, please don't be THAT fan.  Most sites fashion themselves to be places where fans of the respective teams can come together and simply be fans.  Fans of other teams are treated as guests.  If a rival fan comes in and stirs too much trouble, they will find themselves barred from the conversation in favor of the home fans.  (Note: this is an issue that Rocky Top Talk has rarely had to deal with; we've learned a few hard lessons over the summer and are going to be more vigilant during the season.)  Each site has their limits.

5)  We have the best commenting system on the 'net.  It's live.  It's real-time.  It automatically updates the conversation without the need to continually refresh the page.  If you have never signed up for an SBN site before, you haven't seen this.  If you're curious, just sign up to RTT for the Tennessee-Martin game, login during the game, and lurk in the comment thread.  I think you'll be amazed at how slick the system works.  (For everybody: take a note of the fine print at the very start of the comments section.  'Z' and 'R' are your case-insensitive friends.  Also, be sure the 'Auto-refresh?' radio button is checked.)

6)  You're never alone.  Stuck on a business trip watching the game in a hotel room far away from home?  No other Vols fans around?  We'll be here.  Thanks to the commenting system, you'll find it easy to interact with other fans while still being fully able to watch and enjoy the game.

7)  You're encouraged to contribute.  The FanPost feature allows you to write your own editorials.  It's a bit underutilized on Rocky Top Talk, but don't feel intimidated: if you have something to write about, write away!  (Just remember the family-friendly rules of the site.)  If you don't feel comfortable writing, you can always email one of the moderators or some of our regular commenters for some tips.  (You can find moderator emails at the bottom of any Rocky Top Talk page, and public emails can be found on the profile pages for the members, if they choose to have a public email.)  Testimonial:  I started writing on Rocky Top Talk a few years ago specifically to improve my writing.  As an engineering type, I was locked in third-person passive voice for everything, and being an author here has not only helped my creative writing, but has made my technical writing much more engaging and interesting.  I still tend to be too wordy, though.