Friday, July 10, 2009

Hood Canal Bridge Blog signing off

Just the other day, I was reading through the Hood Canal Bridge Blog comments posted during 20-cycle tests that eventually led up to the June 3 reopening and – before I knew it – I found my heart racing and an all-too-familiar itch to post an update.

It’s been more than a month since we reopened the bridge and I was quite honestly surprised at my reaction. I was also very encouraged.

The HCB blog was pretty unique because it truly seemed remind people something that many tend to forget – the government is comprised of people just like you. (Gasp!) No, it’s true, really. It allowed us to do away with some of the stodgy overtones and just chat. While this is the nature of blogs, I felt there was a real connection that went beyond cyberspace and the keyboard – for me at least.

More than once, I’d get an update at a meeting or on the phone and say something like, “I’ve got to get this to my people.” “My people” being those who were relying on the blog for the latest project information, and chiming in with questions and comments.

In total, more than 31,000 people – which, according to the 2000 US Census, is roughly the combined populations of Port Angeles and Port Townsend – visited the blog, and posted about 700 comments.

The HCB Blog had a pulse all its own, a true sense of community and real interaction that kept things lively, informative and even entertaining.

When people got upset, others would step in and do something that is pretty much unheard of – defend a state agency. I’d always try to take such negative comments in stride, but admittedly enjoyed seeing the community “police” itself as it were.

Truth be told, I’ve got a pretty thick skin – and a thick skull to match, if you ask my wife – which is the result of more than a decade working at community newspapers. The thick skull is something I was born with, if you ask my mother.

People who have followed the blog likely won’t have to ask either of them.

Our blog has served its purpose and run its course – an obstacle course at times – and is closing up shop on July 17.

And so, as I write my final post here, I’d just like to express my sincerest thanks to all who visited, followed and shared their thoughts on the HCB Blog. I am proud to have been a part of such a grand community, humbled by your praise and honored to have been able to lend a hand.

“Bikini” Joe Irwin
WSDOT Communications

You can still have your questions answered and comments addressed by e-mailing me at irwinj@wsdot.wa.gov or calling 253-305-6412.