So Long, "District 299 Reader"

So Long, "District 299 Reader"

Starting sometime soon in the new year — probably Friday or Monday – I’m going to switch this site’s comments over to the Facebook format that most other sites on ChicagoNow (and other places) are using. Switching over means a lot of good things might happen — like more comments from parents and students who live on Facebook and use their FB identities all the time — plus just one obvious downside which is and end to the generic anonymous “District299 Reader” identity that some of you have used (and abused) for years.

That means that, barring some compelling new information or some sort of unimaginable surge of comments from old school folks like yellowdart, anniesullivan, juliewoesteheoff & mike klonsky (yes, it’s true!) & cermakRd who used comment here all the time, the site is going to go through a big change, comment-wise.

For the vast majority of you who read the site but don’t comment, it won’t really make much of a difference.  If you really want to, you can create a fake Facebook profile.

Why the change?  Just a couple of years ago, the site was known for its lively comments. In all, there have been nearly 25,000 comments on this site, which doesn’t include the original version I started as a standalone site or the comments you might have made or read over at Catalyst during the year or so I was cross-posting there.

But comments here aren’t what they used to be, in terms of candor or quantity, and so it’s hard to justify the old system. Many sites are getting rid of comments entirely, since social media (Facebook, Twitter) has become so popular and many folks prefer to comment using social media.

Changes in commenting here have happened before.  Remember back in 2009, when we switched — then switched back — because the new system was awful? Moving to Facebook has come up several times in the past, most recently two years ago with this post.

More information to come.  Feel free to let us know what you think – in comments or on Twitter (@district299).


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  • As I noted when you first proposed this because some flamer was after me, apparently most of your commenters don't have to courage even to associate their e-mail addresses with their comments for disclosure only to the moderator. So, maybe your only Facebook friends will be RodEstavan and rbusch .

    I told Jill C. about 3 year ago that I was not giving Zuckerberg any personal information for him to data mine. Still won't.

    However with the number of bloggers leaving Chicago Now for their own sites (like about half the Cubs ones, and Jill, as examples), and the rest thinking Facebook is the answer, my prediction for 2015 is that there won't be much left of Chicago Now, just like there isn't anything left of The Game or the Chicago Sun-Times. Maybe that is to where the Internet is going, but that certainly is dumbing down.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jagk,- So this means you are going to post under your real name, right? Jagk Jagkson. You're courageous, right? The email you use- is your real personal email, right?

    Of course you won't, because you like the protection anonymity (and face it, "jagk" is a half step from "district299reader" and a mile away from your real name) affords just like the rest of us district299readers. Sir, I you are no Rod Estvan or Bob Busch.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Dear Flamer:

    Does this mean you are going to open a Facebook account under your name? I think that was the point Russo was trying to make with the change. Why don't you read his main post? Of course you can't. You proved you can't spell.

  • In reply to jack:

    Russo has a lot of nerve commenting on the candor and quality of comments- they are only a reflection of his biased and sensational blogging. The more provocative and slanted he gets, the nastier the comments. Russo needs to keep his legacy in mind. Aspiring to be the Rush Limbaugh of the school deform movement won't look good in the future.

    As for me (and many others), I won't be using my own name. There would be repurrcussions even if I toned it down.

    Will you still remain anony-Jagk? You do realize there is little to no difference between "district299reader" and "jagk", don't you? You could be anybody- an Emanuel flunky, a charter peon, a "district299reader", "Donn", or even Russo himself. Nobody knows.

  • Soooooooooo, you're under the impression that all Facebook profiles are legit??? You silly goose. Now, comments will be seen by more people as the posts can be shared.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    The point of the linked article in the Columbia Journalism Review seemed not so much that the profiles were real, but that if FlamingRetiredTeacher were restricted to that ID, apparently he or she would use more discretion, because comments associated with that profile could be searched, and, as you indicate, shared.

    Of course, Facebook can then use that profile to send it ads for Flamin' Hot Cheetos.

    There was a similar debate with Robert Feder when he worked over his former employer, the Sun-Times over killing its comment boards. At that time, I challenged him to whether the comment boards had any purpose, and his only response is that newspapers should have them, which wasn't a response. Since then, the real Tribune went from Facebook to some other system, and, sure enough, the people with mental problems that used to populate Tribune comment boards quickly returned. Still, they have distinctive screen names, not district299reader.

  • you still can use district299reader for a few more days, and yes it's true you can create a fake FB account even if you already have a real one and that will work.

    basically, all you need is a different email from the one you already use for your real FB account. detailed instructions here

    for most folks, however, it won't make much of a difference.


  • With one exception I have not written anything I am ashamed of
    putting on Facebook.

  • In reply to rbusch:

    Do tell...

  • It is a great idea like others.
    In order to invent it you must have a brain tumor what happened occasionally....:)

  • This is not good for the system as a whole. Many employees will not report abuse except anonymously on this site due to fear of retribution. There are many single parent employees who cannot jeopardize their job by reporting illegal/unethical activities. Many employees like their principal and school so will not report on CO shenanignas or SPED abuse form the region or CO. The non-tenured are definitely afraid to speak out as are principals. Many things were changed/brought to light for the better due to issues commented on this blog. CPS needs more watchdogs not less......

  • So, if I create a Facebook account using the name Brooklyn Byrd Beardo will my comments appear?

    I know your readership is way down, the comments section has been basically you and you alone for a long while. Will you try to be more of a journalist and less of a sleazy blogger in 2015? If you resolve to be less biased against teachers (doubtful) I'll promise to cease pointing out how out-of-touch you are.

    By the way, how much does edu-blogging pay? Is it a flat rate or based on hits? It must pay pretty good, Prospect Heights is probably more expensive than your ancestral home of Boystown, but it is certainly much more costly than 90% of Chicago.

    Seriously though, you should move back to Chiraq and do some real reporting. You could be the next Johnathan Kozol or Alex Kotlowitz if you'd actually interact with the city you write about.

  • Happy New Year everybody,this blogging think has been fun.

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