How Do You Solve A Problem Like RR? Or, I Couldn’t Think Of A Catchy Title…


So, there’s been a lot of discussion in recent weeks about issues with RR: nesting, the treatment of gurus, moderating issues, mess-ups by the editorial staff, etc. Fuel is boycotting the Graun, and this morning on Facebook amylee threatened to follow him. I promised I’d do a ‘Spill post on it this afternoon. Well, ‘this afternoon’ has become this evening and I’m in a rush to go out, so here goes…

There have been editorial issues and issues with the treatment of gurus. I’ve no real problems myself, although my notice was a little short. I don’t want to get paid for guruing, although I could use the money.

Nesting was weird at first, but I’m fairly used to it now.

Please discuss your own issues and potential solutions. As Arnie says, I’ll be back…

P.S. Aba, your post on German crime books looks great, I’ll have a read tomorrow 🙂


88 thoughts on “How Do You Solve A Problem Like RR? Or, I Couldn’t Think Of A Catchy Title…

  1. There are no problems on the guru side from what I can see, although it would be good to see a few fresh faced gurus. I would also take this opportunity to doff the cap to Marconius, without whom we would all be stumped.

    There do seem to be problems from the Guardian’s side, shall we say, a certain indifference. I offered to do a second stint myself but heard nothing back from Adam. No doubt he is a busy man, but I am not minded to start chasing people.

    I don’t think I’d be stepping out of line in listing the following hiccups.

    Indifferent or retread topics? Check.
    Failing to put a topic up on time? Check.
    Failing to nominate a guru? Check
    Failing to post a results thread? That too.

    It is amazing the difference a good topic makes – this week’s being an example. Some more of those would be great, and if combined with new Gurus we will breathe some fresh life into the old girl.

    • Fuel and RTJ are solid citizens, and I for one would be sorry if they are absent. Afterall who else is gonna nom/dond Exile songs?

    • llamalpaca – agree with you that the choice of topic has a bearing on the number of posts and attitude of the posters. The ones at the beginning of the year were a little ‘gloomy’ and that might have been a cause for some of the disquiet / disharmony.

      • There can be a certain predictable topicality to the rubric at times which also smacks of a ho hum attitude from the Guardian side.

  2. AIP: notwithstanding being a relative newcomer I have been vocal with some of my posts on the themes mentioned: guru duties, editorial lash ups plus treatment of newcomers.

    Having only known the nesting format I am unqualified to comment whether it is good, bad or evil! I sense for the guru it can be problematic.

    Firstly I really appreciate the guru undertaking their duties; it is clearly a labour of love and demands considerable dedication and willingness to give up free time and to some extent opening oneself to abuse or misunderstanding ( oh the problems of a post in haste or misinterpretation).

    Without the guru offering to undertake the role then RR could suffer the fate of the Dodo unless there is an alternative means of ‘playing the game’. I briefly discussed with someone (SaneShane or Fuel I think) the possibility of undertaking RR on the Spill but understand it hasn’t the technical ability to do this.

    We’re probably therefore left with the goodwill of RR’s to undertake the guru duty to ensure it lives on.

    I’m finding my feet within RR world and have really enjoyed discovering new music and the interaction with everyone else (mostly) and undertake to participate in guru duties in due course. Especially if it means that RR can continue.

  3. I’m pretty pissed at the Guardian – for a company that highlights the unpaid interns (in the paper, at least – I expect they abuse them in the office) and also try to champion the living wage – they have become just like the libdems – all words… get what they can in reality.

    RR is a rip off – they get advertising revenue – the writers should be recompensed somehow – it’s a game – so I’m NOT calling for them to dig in their own pocket.

    When I e-mailed the commissioning editor with the RR readers ‘as guru’ idea originally, I identified how companies (only music related) could sponsor RR in the column (thus avoiding Adblock) and the writer each week – at least – would get music orientated goodies for their effort… it wouldn’t effect the game and the G would not have to provide fees… the music company gets mentioned inside the column – win, win, win.
    I was asked to write the first column – it didn’t happen, so I couldn’t champion a way of getting recompense for our effort.

    The fact of not paying or valuing RR, means only people with time on their hands and/or NO need for ‘valuing’ their work, will be able to curate. This has already limited the people offering and will increasingly limit the diversity of writers …. making it narrower and narrower in it’s variety.
Those that have stepped in so far have been brilliant – but the speed in which the turnaround has happened is telling. And the treatment of some of those writers makes them question the worth of doing it again – it’s unacceptable …

    It has the effect of devaluing the paper and it’s morals – as well as causing friction in the small corner of a mostly pleasant game … (the odd player could be nicer to gurus giving their free time too – but that’s yet another rant …..)

    Using the RR format for ‘the London Underground’ and ‘Opening Tracks’ threads have been a kick in the teeth – if they don’t value it – leave it alone and give RR complete freedom to choose track numbers, and topics, itself – if they do value it and want to keep the RR umbrella – find a way to sponsor / compensate those that put in the effort.

    But … well … it’s the world we live in.

I had a major band asking me to ‘donate’ a tee shirt design – but then found I wasn’t the only one. I would have been in a competition to ‘give away’ my artwork… and then paid in ‘one printed for me’ – WHAT ?! I can do that myself, thanks.

    (I was chatting to an ex – G writer over the weekend – I will come back with the alternative / flip side to this view – when I get time)

    • Shane –

      I could hack the unpaid bit if we weren’t treated like we were unpaid and dispensable – way too many cockups – Llama, et al – you don’t know the half of it yet. We’ve been hashing this out on other threads piecemeal for a few weeks that you all probably haven’t caught all of the stories – so Punky did this thread for a powwow where we can all be on the same page (literally). I gotta eat here now before the toff – back later.

  4. I had to volunteer several times before getting a response. And then when I sent in my write-up, it supposedly went into Adam’s junk (I only found out when I re-emailed him on the Wednesday to double-check he’d received it – was surprised he didn’t acknowledge receipt or chase it if it hasn’t arrived). Anyway, other than those hiccups, my stint was OK. But others have been less fortunate. It does all feel a bit shoddy – and perhaps as if it’s been dumped on someone who perhaps doesn’t have the time to coordinate it properly.

    Other than that, the topics have been a bit shonk recently (the Internet?!?), but haven’t they mainly been contributors’ suggestions? In which case, we have only ourselves to blame…

  5. Most of you will have sussed that I am generally of an optimistic disposition, but I am a little concerned.

    My view is that we need to keep in mind that clearly the Graun are massively under resourced at the moment, like every other industry, everything is being run on minimal staff and breaking point.

    I’m not party to a lot of the cock ups that have been alluded to above (and I must have been quite lucky in my guru stints for everything to have just worked), so I don’t want to speak for Adam and his team, but I would be really surprised if the errors that have occurred are down to anything but human error due to overstretched staff.

    Ultimately, The Graun don’t owe us anything – they don’t owe us the space for the RR playground and the free publicity that it sometimes affords us which still enables us to snare some fresh blood (of which leaveitallbehind, exiledman, AngryIrishPunk and Wilemena, amongst others have become really great and enjoyable contributors) – but they do give it to us and we’ve taken on the curating work – what makes RR the success it is, is the people who take the time and commitment to make it work and the access to the Graun’s resources helps that keep going – we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater due to admin difficulties, and I’d worry that too much carping would kill it off.

    There are probably some practical things we could suggest to help the running of it more – perhaps if there was someway that one of us could hold and sort out a guru rota, it would spare any more last minute guru crises and make it easier to arrange swaps if needed.

    I suspect a few more tweaks here and there could iron out a lot of the problems. Am too tired to make much more sense, but in short, let’s try and be constructive about this and not moan too much (my professional life is spent trying to buoy up people on the moan, so am quite used to it!)

    • “but I would be really surprised if the errors that have occurred are down to anything but human error due to overstretched staff.”

      I wouldn’t have thought that they were intentional. However, we do write for free, it’s a lot of time and labor, and a bit of respect for that wouldn’t hurt. I don’t think we really ask much of them – just let us know when our shift is, and post the writeups within a reasonable time. Maybe they owe us nothing else, but it’s not like the G gets nothing out of it from us either.

      Shane said he wrote to the G and asked to be comissioning editor – that would have worked a treat.

    • Cheers, amylee. Might be a good topic to have missed, though I’m pretty interested to see what comes up. I’ll go and have a look now.

  6. I’d just like to say that my main problem with The G had nothing to do with RR.

    To be honest, I’d like to know what the The G wants from the mainstays of the RR community. They really do have a good community there and they also have, as saneshane points out, the potential to conduct an experiment to see if it could be beneficial financially with a tie-in. However, they have not devloped it, which just seems so short-sighted of them. Contributors to The Fiver are compensated as are Clip Joint, IIRC.

    Regarding the flipside argument. It’s pretty apparent that The G is understaffed and human error occurs all the time. Anyone reading the football MBMs and cricket OBOs would realise that. I’m sure that extends to the mods, But they shouldn’t encourage the likes of me to write in with carefully researched and on-topic material if they can’t do the job properly.

    Internet songs: A young Helsinki rapper called Noah Kin has a bitter song callled “f(r)iend:request”. ‘Social networking!? It ain’t working’.

  7. I am sorry to hear that the ‘Spillers here who are also RR regulars and occasional gurus feel this way.

    As most people know, I got pissed off with RR ages ago, so I am not going to talk about that, but I am also someone who has been a regular Guardian reader since the 1970s, but I have fallen out of love with the paper to a massive degree. It is becoming increasingly anodyne, consumerist and centrist politically.

    Its obvious love affair with all things Apple is a case in point. Everything it publishes about Apple products is like advertising.

    I gave up on The Observer a fair while ago now, and I suspect that I will stop buying The Graun too at some point. The only decent left part is the Review on Saturdays, anyway, and that makes me wonder if I’d be better off subscribing to a literary magazine instead?

    In any case, I usually end up just using the website for news etc.The standard of journalism in the paper is pretty crap these days, it is almost as though they have dumbed it down to the level of what people expect from a website; light on analysis and insight and pretty much just basic news.

    Sad times for real journalism, I think.

    • I am inclined to agree with you Carole. It is overrun by media monkeys at the beck and call of the PR fraternity and I rarely buy the printed edition now.

    • In my family we get the Saturday edition every week, and weekday editions/the Observer when there’s some special supplement or something we want. Still the best print newspaper there is. We also get the Irish Times, as being the best-quality newspaper that runs Irish news stories, and it’s way worse than the Graun in terms of journalistic standards and writing quality.

    • As an American, i agree with you too. They went whole hog on the American part of the paper, to the detriment of both US and UK journalism. I rarely bother with the US part anymore.

  8. My guru story is that a couple of months after first volunteering and hearing nothing, I emailed Adam for a second time. He replied the next day, asking me could I do the following week – unless, of course, I could do that week because they didn’t have a guru lined up (that was the week Webby had to step into the breach). After that, everything went smoothly, I got my piece in just before the deadline and it went up fine, with no editorial issues. Seems that I got lucky.

  9. My theory on the Grauniad as a whole is that the problem isn’t so much that they don’t know what they’re doing but that there are some radically different views about what they should be doing – and being good liberals, they’re committed to a plurality of views, lots of discussion and debate etc., where other newspapers are run according to a clear party line from the editor and/or the owner. You can see this in the political discussions; the decision to support the LibDems at the last election was taken for carefully considered and sincere reasons, but many readers experienced it as a betrayal of the paper’s values (I didn’t, even though I disagreed, but I’ve become increasingly pissed off with their continuing efforts to argue that it was the right decision), and the fact that they keep employing people like the idiot Jenkins to provide a diversity of opinions.

    When it comes to the internet stuff, there’s clearly a split between those committed to a traditional newspaper with a bit of a new media presence if you insist, and those with a vision of a digital future; trouble is, this results in them trying to do everything all at once, doing none of it as well as it could be, and losing money hand over fist. Hence, cock-up rather than conspiracy; they don’t have the resources to devote to an area of the website that largely looks after itself, regularly bringing in a decent number of views but not so many or so prestigious that we are in any position to make demands. Mostly, then, I take the attitude that it’s better to have some sort of RR rather than none, and to put up with the irritating aspects in the cause of the greater good (“the greater good…”).

    Because there are indeed many irritating aspects. I too was given less than a week’s notice of Guru duties, and only after two emails – it can’t be that difficult to keep a record of who’s expressed an interest, and to draw up a rota more than three days in advance. The themes can be variable, but that’s always been the case since the really broad topics were used up in the early years of RR. On the whole, I agree with the Llama – both that too much carping might result in our playground being taken away, and also that there’s a lot we could do to make things run more smoothly – which would actually make things easier for us – but it seems they’re unlikely to ask…

    • “the decision to support the LibDems at the last election was taken for carefully considered and sincere reasons”

      I paid a lot of attention to CiF during that election. They held out until the very last minute possible to come out in support of the LibDems, and after many, many threads and hundreds of comments calling them out to support them. They finally did, and they’re never going to hear the end of that now. People seem to forget so soon, but there seemed to be an almost universal disgust with Labour at the time, and also the (sadly proved wrong) notion that Cameron wasn’t really so bad.

      • I personally think the disgust with Labour wasn’t nearly as prevalent as it appeared in the media and especially the blogosphere; but I can see how the decision to support the LibDems made sense for many at the time, and even how it might be considered unfair to criticise that decision retrospectively in the light of how things have turned out – in nothing else, I don’t believe that the media, let alone the Grauniad, has such influence on how people vote that they can be blamed for the election result, let along subsequent events. Equally, it’s all very well feeling betrayed by the only leftish newspaper in the UK – but it’s still the only leftish paper in the UK, and boycotting it isn’t going to help. I don’t feel the same sense of betrayal, despite the fact that I disagreed with its stance, as I did when the Observer (which I still boycott as a result) came out in favour of the invasion of Iraq…

      • I believe at the time of the election, there was still some hope / expectation that the LibDems were going to form a coalition with Labour and not the Tories.

        There is a big difference in degree between supporting LibDems, and being in favor of the Iraq War.

    • I’ve been loyal to the Guardian for years and continue to be so (as much as it often irritates me) – possibly more now than ever as it shares some of my cognitive dissonance RE the current political climate in the UK.
      Like the Graun, I was a loyal Labour supporter all my life, but just could not bring myself to hold my nose and vote for them in 2010, opting for the LD option instead, my thinking running almost parallel to the Guardians editorial policy on the matter.

      Of course, I’ve regretted that every day since, and I do wish The Graun would have the courage of their convictions and come out and admit that they were conned too. but I guess there is a commercial sensitivity to consider…

  10. Oh Dear . . .Where to begin . . .

    First I think that the Guardian is the best of all the English Language newspaper sites. Of course it is frustrating and irritating and at times drives you crazy, but it is free and has a great selection of articles. I think that rather than critiquing the Guardian we should think how we can support it.

    Secondly, the Guardian gives us an international playground that anyone can come across and read. I know many of my friends pop by and read the nominations even if they do not comment. We have an international presence thanks to the Guardian and they let us promote The Spill.

    OK, things are not the same now as before. We have the nesting issue and without a full time Guru we have have to make it ourselves. BUt actually have we missed something here? Surely this is almost unique – an international community, self sufficient and hosted by an international newspaper. Surely that is something that is worthy of an article about in the main newspaper ? ? ? Gosh they really need some marketing help ! ! ! There are articles about communities every week and they are missing one of their own ! ! !

    Now of course Adam and the team are not perfect, after all they are human and so will make mistakes, but I really believe they are on our side and we should support them as much as we can.

    Personally I have been absent a lot lately, and this is because of other things that are happening in my life and it takes me quite some time to write a post, so I can not spontaneously just write a recommendation. But even though I miss a week or two from posting I read it every day.

    Personally I do not want to be paid as a guru. I am not a journalist and have no ambition to be one. I enjoy the opportunity that being a guru gives me to return something to the community that has welcomed and supported me so generously.

    Also I think the guest guru concept has given us some really fantastic articles in the results day. Before I used to scan the article just to see the list, now I read it and enjoy it for the personal insights we have now and each article has been really great. Also I think the lists have been more interesting. No one ever said the list needs to be the “Best” 12 tracks – it is the 12 tracks the guest guru likes most and the lists and articles supporting the lists have been wonderful.

    I do not think things are so bad. Of course they can be better, we choose the topics, we make the nominations and we make the lists. The power to improve lies with us. Lets all work hard to make RR more enjoyable for more people through our nominations. I would also say, lets try to imagine how our comments might read like to a new person, do they encourage some one to post or do they discourage? I know I have been one of the worst at mounting epic on line sulks and I really regret that now. But lets be positive and I am sure we will be OK.

    Six months ago it looked like we would not exist as RR . . .now I think we are fine, each week about 1,200 comments, before 1,000 was a high number. We are actually maybe more popular than ever ! ! !

    I do not want to say everything is perfect, and there are not things that we can improve. I just want to say, that I think it is not so bad and that suggestions to improve can maybe take into account how lucky we are.

    • Thanks Sakura, it’s nice to get some positivity on here! Maybe if we all got together and came up with a list of ways to improve RR, worked out the viability and so on, and contacted the Graun saying we’d be willing to help implement these and it might increase the blog’s traffic, it might work…

    • Spot on Sakura! There is a lot to be positive about so instead of throwing the whole thing away, let’s work constructively on the issues together and make it work!

  11. I dumped my somewhat pessimistic thoughts on this topic on a shanethread recently. I can’t see a reason to change my opinion, or to think that our opinions have the slightest bearing on what happens to RR or the Graun itself.

  12. I still identify with The Guardian and worry about its losses, and I agree with Abahachi that it’s cock-up rather than conspiracy that causes the difficulties. Even the changes to the comment platform, I expect they thought it was just a routine thing to do, with unintended consequences for quality, which they’ve not managed to understand because none of the decison makers are actually commenters.

    I sympathise with Carole, as I remember the great Jill Tweedie on the women’s page and The Guardian as a very distinctive voice of the left. But for some reason I don’t mind if the paper has drifted a little, as long as it’s a good read, and we still get Julie Bindel and other good people.

    Adam’s organisational skills are a bit vexing, I’ve heard him plead “poor Inbox management”, and I’m sure he’s got a lot on his plate – I think we just have to swallow our pride and if he doesn’t respond, to keep e-mailing.

    I tend to think RR is in reasonably good health, but I agree it would be good if we weren’t on our second-times-around quite so soon. The lack of pay is OK for me occasionally, but limits how often I can do it (hoorayI hear you cry) and limits the number of us who can do it.

    My suggestions / support for others’ suggestions are:
    – find an individual who can offer to organise the guru rota and be Adam’s contact point.

    – If Marco agrees, put the guru rota on a spreadsheet on a Marconium page – sacrifice the element of surprise for the reassurance that the rota is taken care of, and which will be a back-up in case our organiser has an emergency or is unwell.

    – Get Adam to agree we can set our own topics – we ask Adam if we want to be given a topic, and he has the right to check the choice of topic, but basically we take that off him.

    – we ask The Guardian for an “Open Journalist” charter – a policy that confirms our reasonable rights eg. to have our articles posted at the right time, to a consistent reward / lack of reward compared to other reader-journalists.

    Thanks for the thread AIP, when there’s something set up for people to moan, it often ends up more constructive than the usual everyday moaning !

    • Just to say that I think a lot of these suggestions are spot on; as a collective we do pretty well already in scheduling things on the Spill, and we’d just need to make sure that new people would find it easy to volunteer (probably easier than it is at the moment, since we’re more likely not to lose their emails…). Could even have a webpage bringing together some of the previous posts about being a guru, as guidance for those who are new to it.

      As for topics, again, a database of ones that haven’t been done yet from which we could choose – and we could be more consistent in gathering suggestions, and maybe getting feedback from others as to whether they’re good ideas or not, or even an online poll to suggest which topics would be most popular.

      • I agree with the points above but I must point out that The Marconium does already have links to all the Spill posts by guest gurus on how they went about their task.
        I know because I searched for it and copied all the posts into one document in the hope that it would help me when it’s my turn.

  13. RE Pay, I’ve never really considered that I should be paid for the guru-ing – yes, it takes a lot of time, but over time, I get so much out of RR that a few weekends given over to guruing seems a relatively small price to pay (but realistically 3/4 times a year is the most I’m likely to do). And my contributions are never likely to win a Pulitzer (though I would say that they are better than some of the stuff that the “pros” occasionally put out)…

  14. Our articles are brilliant, and they can be better than the professionals because they don’t have as much time as we do when we’ve set the weekend / days off aside. I don’t suppose the journalists get much time to do blog posts.

    I don’t feel strongly about payment, it’s not about principles for me – it’s the practicality of whether we have enough people wh can do it often enough and sustain it. I think we probably do, but it would be nice if we weren’t already well into everyone’s second guru stint !

  15. Thanks for bringing this up punky, it’s good to have a decent discussion from time to time about the health of the RR blog.
    Like most people here I’ve seen a few changes and thrown the odd strop from time to time. I miss the people that I had come to think of as friends and companions that have – for whatever reason – left during the time that I have been involved. I have, of course, at the same time welcomed having new arrivals because they (almost – except for the Trolls) always bring something else to the table and keep the blog vitalised.
    I think that many of us have had rants at the way the Graun have treated the blog. Some of the professional journalist gurus have treated the job with almost contempt and thought of the blog and the playlist as their own. The tekkies have not helped with their tinkering of the format and layout. Bloggers on the sports pages have also had major issues with “nesting”.
    I think there are two things that the Graun could do to inject some life into the RR community.
    Firstly they could promote the feature more by giving it space on the first page of the site. It seems to me that after the initial opening on Thursday night in the culture section it disappears too quickly to allow anyone ‘browsing’ to think they might take an interest. (I know I found the site by accident, and I’m sure others did also). Most news items last only for a couple of days – this is a weekly blog and should be promoted for longer.
    Secondly, and this might be controversial, I think it would benefit from a name change. One that would express more strongly that it is about peoples feelings and opinions about music. I have no problem with there not being a payment for being the guru. Letting bloggers be gurus has shown what enthusiasm there is for RR among those who post and has often provided a better write up than the so called professionals. But I do think that it is important to keep the blog alive and to look for other ways to promote, develope and expand the blog to keep it an important part of web based reading.

  16. I don’t feel I can really comment on the guruing as I have ruled myself out for the forseeable future, not least due to the amount of time taken up by wyngate jnr. I have noticed like others that we seem to have gurus coming round again very quickly which I don’t think bodes particularly well, but I can’t blame anyone for not stepping up when I know it’s not realistic for me to do so.

    I can’t understand the issue about the topics – hence my friendly disagreement with Chinny yesterday. Most of the obvious, broad topics have long been used up – if there are any left over they need to be rationed! Several of the topics so far this year have been good for me – eg army, end of the world – others disagree, that’s the way it is. The only alternative is to revisit old topics from the early days which is fine by me due to not having been around, but others disagree.

  17. Here’s a bucket of icy water for your faces:
    Unless we get some new volunteer gurus and/or some RRers who are prepared to do a third stint, there are probably no more than 8 topics before it all folds. RR dies around Easter time. The Guardian doesn’t have the resources to prevent that.

    To engineer a resurrection, I think we need to think of a different, less time-consuming, result of collecting ‘songs about…’, so that more people will take the job on. Although the administration of topic- and guru-selection is crap – and could be easily improved by implementing the sensible suggestions made above – it’s the playlist selection process that has to be changed and reduced in importance. Apart from the time that guruing takes up, there’s also the risk of censure and ridicule that every guru exposes themselves to if they don’t please all the people all of the time.
    Taking up bluepeter’s idea of a name change, more people might find attractive the idea of creating (from the nomination blog) a ‘My Favourite Songs About….’ list, without the pressure of having to justify their choices in a column against some notional standard. That would, hopefully, allow more folk to express their enthusiasm, whether for the sublime or the ridiculous.

    • This will be my last stint for a long, long time – i get very busy next month and that will last for most likely the rest of the year. But i have to say this –

      “the risk of censure and ridicule that every guru exposes themselves to if they don’t please all the people all of the time.”

      doesn’t bother me in the least.

    • We’ve had 18 individual guest gurus since we kicked off the DIY approach 6 months ago. So assuming no attrition that works out around 3 stints per year for each volunteer guru – even with my schedule that doesn’t feel too arduous but I do think we could do with some additional volunteers to keep it ticking over and ensure it stays interesting, which again comes down to how much the Graun want to do to make it more noticeable for the casual readers.

      Not sure I totally follow the idea above in terms of structure – are you proposing a more “clip joint” type structure? Must say, I’ve never felt an obligation to try and please anyone but myself when I’ve done it, and it seems to have worked ok.

      What makes it time consuming is that I think we all want to do our best to produce the best thing we can – key lesson for me has been that there is no way on Earth the pros could have listened to and considered everything – so maybe we just need to be more realistic about what any one guru can realistically plough through in the week (and – gasp – that may mean everyone being less inclined to break out the shoehorn the moment inspiration runs dry….)

      • But I think we’re already getting attrition, BB, hence my Easter calculation.

        I’m not sure exactly what format I’m suggesting but we need a way to get more people doing the picking. I get the impression that it’s perceived to be too big/high-pressured a task for many to take on.

      • “I get the impression that it’s perceived to be too big/high-pressured a task for many to take on.”

        It sort of is, really. Can’t really hold it against anyone who doesn’t have the time. I’m single with no kids and still it takes up an awful lot of time – can’t really get much else done for the week.

      • This might be slightly naive but is there a colaborative way of compiling the A list? Perhaps we could use the donds system to narrow down the number of songs the Guru listens to.

        if the ‘rules’ are re written so that RR’s dond the songs they like and the top 25 or so are made in to a short list and the Guru selects the 10 or 12 songs they feel hit the mark for the topic.

        We could always include a special Guru choice just in case there are the occasional gem out there that hasn’t been the beneficiary of numerous donds.

        This would seem a much less onerous task for Gurus and therefore may ensure more RR’s step forward.

        I appreciate this might change the dynamic but if this is combined with the Guru also having more of a choice in topic selection it could mean the continuation rather than demise of RR.

        Only a thought!

      • liab: I have wondered about something like that but I’m not sure that there’s such a beast as a dond system!

        Maybe it’s as simple as making the narrative optional: it’s not even promised in the nomination blogheader. “Pick 12 tunes you like/think are on-topic and put as much effort into doing so as you want.” If they want a nice story too, pay a journalist to do it.

      • The problem with relying on donds – leaving aside the fact that various people hate the word – is that it can only result in a safer, more conventional and middle-of-the-road playlist: most of us don’t have time to listen to very many new things (one of the great things about being guru, I thought, was that I had to make time to do it), and so we’ll support stuff we already know. It’s not just that this will be the kiss of death for anything jazz-related, even if nilpferd and lonniej dond everything I suggest and vice versa, let alone any of the more obscure stuff I like; if I’d been guru on this basis, I’d have missed out on most of the amazing stuff I discovered because one person made a really good case for it.

        I would also say that, with all due respect to those who’ve actually done it, anyone who spends most of a week on being guru is spending way too much time on it. Okay, I applied the rule that I wouldn’t bother with any song that wasn’t properly nominated and justified, which cut down the list a bit, but I also found that if a song didn’t then grab me pretty quickly, listening to lots more of it didn’t make much difference. I think it is important to emphasise once again that the playlist will always be one person’s personal choice, with no obligation to anyone else.

      • I think using the donds would leave out a lot of the quirky, challenging and less-well-known tracks that the individual gurus put into their playlists.

        I always do a bit of donding but I’m always amazed at what I missed.

        I have very recently volunteered as you will know from the double-booking mix up.
        Quite relieved in a way not to have to take it on but I have asked to stay on the list of volunteers.Having accepted semi-voluntary early retirement I will have time on my hands if not much cash.

        Come to think of it, that’s the answer. I’ll do it every week for, lets say, five grand a year. Can’t say fairer than that. Nominations for Etta James, Mary Coughlan or Joan Armatrading will be waived through………….

      • congrats, Severin, so you went for it. Good for you! If i worked real jobs and got offered taht option, i would have grabbed it in a heartbeat.

        You’re relatively young, you can start a whole new career.

    • Responding to your William Hague-esque Eight Weeks To Save RR rallying cry

      I’ve been having a think about this. I agree that if we want people to step up then it has to be a less overwhelming task for potential gurus.
      I don’t agree that donds should be factor for several reasons
      1) RR is not one of those “greatest songs” lists where you know that Bohemian Rhapsody (or an on topic equivalent) will come out on top. It’s a much quirkier thing than that with plenty of room for oddities to creep into the final list simply because someone raves about, the guru listens and thinks they’ve got a point. If it was a donding system then we would probably have list after list dominated by, say , Beatles, Dylan, Radiohead, Clash, Bob Marley, etc ie the established greats. Doesn’t sound much different to something you’d find in Q magazine to me.
      2) It would possibly turn us into what some people already think we are, a bunch of cliques all scratching each others backs like former Soviet republics in the eurovision
      3) Who really wants to go through page after page counting “donds”.

      My suggestion would be something like this. The emphasis should be on the justification by the nominator. There should not be an expectation that the guru listens to everything, but maybe to use the justifications as the basis to whittle down the options. Abahachi admitted to doing this and that’s fair enough. Then when it comes to the write up the guru can of course choose to produce a well written piece tying the theme together as the guest gurus have , but alternatively they could if they chose or need to, simply quote the nominators justification. The justifications don’t need to be elaborate essays of course, none of this should be something that is going to make RR intimidating for outsiders.
      I think I would be happy enough to do a guru stint every so often as long as I wasn’t expected to listen to everything (it should be expected of course that the guru is willing to listen to things that they wouldn’t normally listen to), and as long as I wasn’t expected to do a piece of journalism for no money.

      • Wyngate –

        I do listen to everything. But if i’m not liking what i’m hearing, i don’t really feel obligated to listen all the way through. (Although this week i pretty much am). One of the big reasons i’m on RR / Spill is to hear new music. But if you’re a guru short short on time, a half-minute to a minute per tune ought to do it.

      • I would go further – the guru has discretion about how they do their listening and make their choices. They may well favour songs with justifications, but as Shane has said before, this could favour good writers over people who struggle to find time, or find words !

        I’d rather have a wide range of gurus, some of whom might take a few shortcuts, than a narrower range of people who dedicate days and days to it.

      • True, DP, true.

        Chris decided what to listen to by looking at the lyrics first. I’m the gestalt one who has a hard time with words and goes for the music first. I think it’s incredibly fair to refuse to listen to songs without links or justifications too.

      • If you don’t leave a link, box it or spotify it then i am inclined to agree that it shouldn’t be considered. if the nominator can’t be arsed to provide it why should the Guru search it out. I know i put noms up without links but i do come back later and provide them and try to box or spotify them too.

      • Personally, I don’t really consider myself fit for guruship, but if more people is needed, or else… I guess that I should give it a try.

  18. Yes, I think the benign dictatorship of the guru is one of the key components that has contributed to RR’s success down the years – Democracy is not the answer in this case!

  19. Clearly donds isn’t the right way. It was only a thought!

    For me the raison d’etre of RR is the discovery of new music and with the mix of posters i’m not sure that it would ever be dominated by the Beatles et al but do appreciate that it is a risk and wouldn’t want RR to lose it’s quirks and foibles. That’s what makes it so enjoyable.

    The interaction between RR’s is also key and the risk of “you scratch my back” is a concern and i think there is some evidence of noms by certain bands being supported by others. E.g. I’m fairly certain that if there is a Gaslight Anthem nom from AIP then I’m a dead cert to dond it. (AIP apologies I got in first with National Anthem this week.)

    On occasion Exiledman and I also seem to have similar music tastes and therefore it is inevitable that we are likely to nom music each other likes (not always) and dond each other’s choices.

    There are probably several other certainties within the RR community as to who is likely to nom what and who is likely to dond it.

    Cliques! Possibly; the accusation was made some weeks ago within RR and is unlikely to go away. However I think the rotation of Guru’s means that if there are, different cliques will get represented each week!! Don’t want to rake that up again but as in any social circle people will gravitate towards people of similar interests.

    Apologies; I’m rambling here.

    What i was leading to was I like the idea of Wyngate’s where greater emphasis is placed on the justification. I am as guilty as the next poster of putting forward a song title and a few lyrics and possibly a link and leaving at that. There have been times when I feel so passionately about a song that I’ll post an extensive explanation as to why I feel it is appropriate but sometimes it so blindingly obvious it doesn’t need paragraphs to justify it. There is clearly an art to being succinct and I’m not doing a very good job of it at the moment!

    Clearly the better the justification the more likely the Guru will explore the song but as amylee says: if it doesn’t grab you in the first few seconds it’s unlikely to three minutes later.

    We need to rely on the Guru volunteering and it is obviously a considerable task whether you listen to 30 seconds of a track or more so anything we can do to make the role easier should be considered.

  20. So… Maybe a post-deadline post on RR to float the ideas about us taking on the rota and guru-control of the topics, and encouraging more people to guru with some licence to make lighter work of it ? I don’t mind doing it, or AIP, or whoever would like to ?

    • Yes, I think that’s the right approach. So we (you/AIP/whoever) can provide some factual basis for my ‘William Hague-esque Eight Weeks To Save RR rallying cry’ (Libya? The Tory Party?), I’ve emailed Adam B to ask how many gurus are currently lined up. I said nothing of this discussion. Mum’s the word, Daddy.

  21. Thanks for the comments on my comments!

    Daddypig – Yes, my suggestion might have seemed a bit over-prescriptive, of course it should be down to guru discretion. I was trying to describe circumstances that would be amenable to me (and so perhaps several other people who’ve held back) having a go. I’m glad that (so far) people seem to be willing to indulge “short cuts” if it means we can keep RR going. I’ll join in the post-deadline discussion to debate it further.

    Leaveitallbehind – Certainly worth airing the dond idea, it prompted discussion. My response was the response of someone who gets fairly meagre donds but still finds his way onto the A List every so often !
    I agree about nominations without links – I often suggest something then can’t find a link, but I certainly don’t expect a guru to spend valuable time searching.

  22. if anyone here is on arsebook and doesn’t know, there’s an RR group on there – easy enough to find, just search Readers Recommend under groups. I think Toffee may be the acceptor there (dunno if he’s the only one).

  23. Late to this discussion, but a few penceworth from me:

    – I was very sceptical of unpaid guest gurus, but it’s actually rekindled my enthusiasm for RR – I look forward to the results page much more each week, and I think some, in fact most, of the columns have been outstandingly written.

    – I enjoyed my stint greatly. As someone who writes for a living, I actually found it quite refreshing to do something unpaid (although that’s a peculiarity of my own circumstances, I realise, and I don’t much approve of the principle). I did, though, have to give Adam a lot of prompting – he had me down for the wrong week, didn’t give me a word count or deadline, didn’t acknowledge receipt. I’d say that’s all down to business, but we’re all busy – I finished writing the thing at 1am – and a simple “Thanks, nice piece” would have been appreciated.

    – I’d do it again, although I probably had a fairly easy time of it – a fun topic to write, but without an insane number of nominations to listen to.

    – The choice of topics hasn’t always been great – I’ve put forward a lot of suggestions that either Adam is saving for some future time when we’ve had songs about every animal genus, or he’s just forgotten about. Wanted to have “Songs About Love Songs” for my Valentine’s week stint. Some well-publicised master list of possible topics, perhaps with room for discussion about why or why not they’d be good ones, would be helpful.

    – Nobody should feel obligated to play if they don’t want to – but we miss you when you’re not around.

    – The Guardian, for all its many, many faults, is the best newspaper and website we have by a country mile.

    • “and a simple “Thanks, nice piece” would have been appreciated. “

      I actually did get one of those for my Anger week column. It was appreciated.

    • I wouldn’t have minded an “it’s arrived safely”, let alone a “thank you”. I got an acknowledgement only after I’d e-mailed again and said I was worried it had gone astray and would have to contact the Culture desk if I didn’t hear back. That’s part of my rationale for having an Open Journalism “charter” or similar, to set some basic routine standards for how we’re treated and communicated with. Deadline, word count, format, rules….

  24. I’m one of the people with time on their hands to do this in, but I wouldn’t want to do it too often. In fact, without CifFix, I wasn’t sure I’d ever want to do it again, I would hate it to be on donds and I liked being “forced” to listen for a least a few seconds to anything with a link attached. Without that, I would never have picked J-pop, flamenco or Suzanne Vega. I tried very hard not to look at who was making the nominations and a couple of them surprised me when I saw the Marconium afterwards.

  25. Chris may be right that the end of RR is nigh – all the more reason to enjoy it while we can.

    Completely agree that we should wrestle control of the topic back to the host, where it belongs.

    The idea of a liaison volunteer to handle the rota is a good one – would also give us a handle on if & when the end of days is approaching. Any reason that the identity of upcoming guest hosts couldn’t remain unrevealed? I like surprises.

  26. Anyone else seen this?

    Please be aware that there may be short periods of downtime throughout the day on Thursday 28 February and Friday 1 March due to maintenance work on the commenting system. Thank you for your understanding.

    Prepare for lots of frustration on RR this week.

    (Not to mention the complete mess they’ve just made of links to comments in your own profile. I was tipped off on this by a comment on another blog.)

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