My Vision of the Blogosphere: Those Uncorrupted By Powerlessness

Over the last two or three days, I have noticed a welcome trend here on MyDD: a significant increase in the number of quality diaries on the site. While I welcome diaries form electoral campaigns and from Democratic / progressive leadership organizations, I would like to take some time to highlight the contributions of individuals who, entirely through personal initiative, have posted diaries on MyDD that work to further the progressive movement. These diaries are not mere complaints, are not simply re-hashing age-old arguments, are not simply posting links to breaking news stories, are not polls, and are not trying incite a flame war. Instead, these are individual diarists who have taken it upon themselves to engage in original reporting, activism, research, and strategic thinking about elections, infrastructure, activism and messaging. The effort they put into their high-quality work is a regular reminder to me of why the progressive blogosphere is an important and powerful development for the progressive movement:This is the sort of thing I want to see more of--a lot more of. All too often, comment threads on the blogosphere in general and MyDD in particular are easily dominated and corrupted by the most anti-social elements of the blogosphere. They are dominated by trolls, by people who use way too much bold face and ALL CAPS, by those most willing to repeat the tedious and lazy complaints about the DLC, by those who are most willing to engage in the age-old arguments about third party candidates, by those most willing to use vulgarity, by ratings abuse wars, and by those who would rather just complain than actually do anything about the current predicament we face as progressive in America. They are, in short, dominated by those who have been corrupted by their feeling of powerless.

Both the exceptional diaries and the types of anti-social behavior I listed above are, like almost everything in the independent blogosphere, born out of a feeling of powerlessness. Whether you are talking to Kos or a blogger with only ten readers a day, one thing I am sure you will hear is that a feeling of powerlessness was one of the main driving forces for them in starting their blogs. We created this new institution, the progressive blogosphere and netroots, to cope and combat that feeling of powerlessness in the face of a rising conservative tide. Now, this sense of powerlessness has resulted in a sprawling, powerful and populist institution that is a major force in American politics. However, for all of the great things the progressive blogosphere has built and accomplished, as Billmon notes, this feeling of powerless can also corrupt:The problem is that Lord Acton's maxim is equally true in reverse: If power corrupts, so does powerlessness. It can lead to fatalism, apathy and irresponsibility - or to paranoia, rage and a willingness to believe every loopy conspiracy theory that comes down the pike. When you participate in the progressive political blogosphere, I think you face a choice. On the one hand, you can be corrupted by your feeling of powerlessness, and engage in the sort of anti-social behavior that dominates many comment threads here and elsewhere in the progressive blogosphere. On the other hand, you can be spurred on by this feeling of powerlessness, leave the anti-social and corrupted tendencies of powerlessness behind you, and instead serve as a positive force working to rectify the conditions that originally led to your sense of powerlessness.

As a site, MyDD focuses on elections, political infrastructure, strategy, and activism. My vision for the site is a community of front-pagers, diarists, commenters, and readers who strive to make positive, progressive and in-depth contributions in those areas. I wish I knew what needed to be done in order to change the tone of the community so that we are closer to this ideal than our many anti-social comment threads would indicate. I am going to start by trying to highlight those members who are making contributions that clearly strive toward this ideal. Work to make a positive contribution, and you will be rewarded with recognition and influence. Remain anti-social, and you will remain obscure and powerless.

Tags: Blogosphere, community, Culture, diaries, netroots (all tags)



Amen to that!

As one of those so kindly namechecked above, modesty suggested I ought to hang back.

However, given that the rush of comments I expected has somehow failed to materialize...

I think this is exactly right: vigorous but civilized reality-based political discussion may get heated; but there's no call for the personal vituperation that blights the comments of certain lefty sites.

Nor, I'd say, is any sort of cult of the leader desirable - to be found on one or two sites where doubting the omniscience of the main men - or women - brings an instant torrent of abuse.

Fortunately, so far as I'm aware, none of our leaders here aspire to being cults...

by skeptic06 2006-04-19 02:38PM | 0 recs
Re: My Vision of the Blogosphere: Those Uncorrupte

I also appreciate the shout-out, especially being the top link!

I was worried that cross-posting off our blog was not so good, and here we got singled out.

Thanks, Chris.

by nathan 2006-04-19 03:44PM | 0 recs
A Good Example From Today

I like your listing of criteria. Can I add one other, and give an example I think is really good?

I think diary writers should encourage readers to get away from the keyboard from time to time and interact with other people in the non-computer world.

My nomination for a very good posting today on that was
"YOU MAGGOTS MAKE ME SICK!" by wmtriallawyer on DKos ( 143526/621). It encouraged people to sign up for the nationwide DNC precinct walking on April 29. Of the people voting in the poll with the diary, 58% said they had already signed up or would do so.

I also liked the humor in the posting.

by BB10 2006-04-19 05:08PM | 0 recs

Remain anti-social, and you will remain obscure and powerless.

... and corrupt further, becoming even more anti-social :)

Honestly, I think MyDD has higher quality commenting, on average, than dailykos.  It may be a function of size: the most prominent blogs draw the people who want the attention more than the other aspects of a blog community (like informed comments to learn from).

Unfortunately, there's a flip side: Diaries here get far fewer comments, often none, so in absolute terms, dailykos still yields more good comments.  Even if they're a lower percentage.

I very often post my posts both here and there.  I usually get lots of comments there, hardly any here.  This was even the case for my epic post about Amir Peretz and the earthquake in Israeli politics, which was frontpaged on MyDD and got 17 comments... and got 41 comments on dailykos despite not even getting on the recommended list.

That's not strictly a function of number of readers - I don't know what it is, but some blog communities are more actively participatory.  For example, I blog on Blue Mass Group a lot.  I'm pretty sure it has a smaller readership than MyDD, yet almost every time I post there, I get a good number of comments, and more than half of them are great - insightful, informative, well-written or well-argued.  (True, I tend to get frontpaged there most of the time, but not always)

What is it that encourages a blog's readership to participate more?  Which blogs have better comment quality and why?  I wonder about these things but I really don't know what the right questions to ask are, to drill further.

by cos 2006-04-19 06:01PM | 0 recs
Re: irony

I think that it may have something to do with the perceived readership/membership of the site.  I think that some people belive that on MyDD there's a higher propensity of "political/party activists" posting here; consequently, some of us belive that our "uninformed" take/commentary may be deemed less valuable or amateurish.  Of course, am clearly engaging in a bit of projecting; however, I do see a higher percentage of posts dealing with the mechanics of politics here then elsewhere, which is why I have the impression that there's a good number of "party activists" (or at least very close observers of the mechanics of politics) posting here at MyDD.  

by bedobe 2006-04-19 06:56PM | 0 recs

Indeed, I almost didn't post that one about Israel here, because I thought it didn't fit what this blog usually covers.  I had no such thoughts about dailykos.  It turns out that thought was misguided, so I'm glad I bypassed it.

Certainly if you have information to share (as opposed to just an opinion), I'm sure the comments will be welcomed.  But even if you comment with just an opinion, if you think about it, you can do it in a way that invites other people to share information.

by cos 2006-04-20 09:24AM | 0 recs
Re: My Vision of the Blogosphere: Those Uncorrupte

I took it personally, being a new blogger who was promoting a candidate (I'm not with the campaign, by the way). But I get your point. And I realize you didn't create your site to promote campaign literature.

I want you to know that because of sites like yours I now don't feel powerless. Because of blogs (particularly my new home blog BlueNC), I feel wonderfully empowered.

Yes, I am angry that the media in NC-11 historically has done a criminal job of reporting on our representative. And I let them have it (usually even more than the money-motivated individual who has been elected to Congress).

But that I can spread the word about the corruption is important to me and to our district. Without outside pressure on our newspapers I don't know how we could possibly unseat such a powerful incumbent who has had the local press as his PR agents for 16 long years.

I worked in 2004 for a wonderful candidate who lost by 10 points. There were hardly any blogs talking about the race. Even with a wonderful letter-to-the-editor campaign, the papers covered him like he never lied and that there was nothing worth printing about our candidate.

This year's candidate is more well-known so perhaps he'll win. But, I'm not leaving it up to chance. I'm using every tool I have to let everyone in the world know exactly what we're dealing with here. Maybe this time we'll have a change. And the country will be better off for it.

So, maybe I won't get recommended or front-paged. But I'm glad you're here. And I'm glad I'm angry enough to do something. If Heath Shuler wins NC-11, maybe it wont' change the world. But it'll just be one less vote against war. And that's the best I can do for now.

by Drama Queen 2006-04-19 11:08PM | 0 recs
Re: My Vision of the Blogosphere: Those Uncorrupte

thanks for the shout out!  it's always nice to get acknowledged, and i think you deserve proper credit for inspiring quite a lot of this energy in the first place, with your often foresightful posts on the blogosphere, the liberal movement, etc.

one thing that i think would really help grease the wheels would be if there was a way users on this site could directly contact one another, via some kind of email form or something like that.  i know that raises all kinds of concerns, for one the cost of implementation and for two the possibility of spam, but it could prove really useful in the long haul.

by Shai Sachs 2006-04-20 06:00AM | 0 recs
Re: My Vision of the Blogosphere

I think the discussion (and diary) volume will increase as election day grows closer. Only confirmed political junkies feel there is something to be gained by speculating on distant elections.

For example, the issues of 2008 can't really be on many average people's minds right now.

I realize this is a political blog, but, personally, I'd like to see more discussions on policy. This is something that can be fruitfully developed during off years. Coming up with policy ideas, or debating existing ones, and then looking for candidates who will support or promote them would move discussions away from the personality-driven, horse race type of discussions that dominate the regular media.

by rdf 2006-04-20 06:09AM | 0 recs


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