Desperate Need for Local Blog Infrastructure

I'm at a conference of progressive organizers, people on the ground in various states working for change.  It's an interesting crowd, real nuts and bolts people working on ballot initiatives, homelessness, progressive statewide change, and people in municipal elected office looking for support and ideas.  There have been great discussions about race, sacred cows in the Democratic Party, donor structures, strategy, and leadership development.  

One thing that's become clear is that there is a desperate need for local blogs right now.  In five years, the power centers in a lot of states will revolve around alliances between local bloggers and progressive organizers and community organizers.

If you're looking to grow a new blog, it's important to recognize that there's a lot of power on the local level.  Politics there is fascinating and important, and ultimately, that's where Federal power derives.  

Equally important, if you have a local blog, it's incredibly important to develop relationships with the progressive political structure in your area.  Only the synthesis can really create political power for progressives.  This happens through Drinking Liberally chapters in some areas, in other areas there's a disconnect, and in still other areas progressives are taking control of the party and the alliances with the blogs emerge naturally.

I'd like to ask a question to local bloggers - what kind of infrastructure would be helpful to improve your work?  And what kind of infrastructure would be helpful for forging connections with the progressive political establishment in your area?  What are the obstacles?

And for local progressive organizers/candidates/etc, do you find it easy to have a conversation with local blogs?  If so, what kind of organizational structures would help facilitate that?

Update: Leftyblogs is terrific resource for a blog directory.

Tags: Blogosphere (all tags)

Comments

27 Comments

Re: Desperate Need for Local Blog Infrastructure

Create a directory of blogs in different states; a resource that can be shared by the national blogging community.

by AaronE 2006-07-18 07:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Desperate Need for Local Blog Infrastructure

Leftyblogs, my friend.

by Matt Stoller 2006-07-18 07:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Desperate Need for Local Blog Infrastructure

I need development help...

I have been trying for 2 years to get something going for local politico's.  I have a vision of a progressive/liberal database for Northern/Central Michigan, but I have no help with development of the infrastructure.  

I tried contacting Civicspace, they did not respond.  Money is tight in these supposed "red" areas, so I understand.  No money, little chance of real success, this isn't the best return on any investment.

The reason we have little chance of success is the state legislature is totally dominated by Republicans, hence all the political boundaries are gerrymandered...so changing the state legislature from red to blue is the goal.

Also, check out www.michiganliberal.com...a great site for locals.  

by chanupi 2006-07-18 07:30AM | 0 recs
Check out Soapblox

A lot of local blogs, like BlueJersey, use Soapblox.  It kind of has the same feel to scoop which is what DailyKos and MyDD use.  It's very easy to use, and they'll help you out and charge $15 a month to host the site for you.  Go here for more info.

by Fran for Dean 2006-07-18 07:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Desperate Need for Local Blog Infrastructure

What help do you need exactly with Civicspace? If you're just looking for help getting it set up and a place to host it please contact me. I'm the owner of a hosting company that provides a number of candidates and campaigns here in Wisconsin with sites, many of which use Civicspace and I'm sure we could help you out.

Dan

by DanielCody 2006-07-18 08:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Desperate Need for Local Blog Infrastructure

Great...I will...I just need help setting it up...I want to see what it can do, but I'm not a programmer...

by chanupi 2006-07-18 02:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Desperate Need for Local Blog Infrastructure

chanupi, if that doesn't work out let me know.  My bro runs CivicSpace and can point you in the right direction.

by juls 2006-07-18 03:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Desperate Need for Local Blog Infrastructure

What's the name of the conference and who's there?

This is the next step in ensuring progressives stay on top in the area of technology over Repubs.

by David M13 2006-07-18 07:30AM | 0 recs
a few pots i have cooking are..

Hey Matt,

Thanks for posting about this.  MyDD in general has been very forward-looking on the need for local blogsprawl, as I've seen it called.

A while ago I posted something on my own blog and on MyDD about the kinds of things we need to do to facilitate local blogsprawl: see http://www.plantingliberally.org/node/22 and http://www.plantingliberally.org/node/31

Lately I've realized that the suggestion I had (writing up a handbook for local bloggers) was perhaps too ambitious.  So instead what I've been doing is running "Blogger's Night at Drinking Liberally" via my local Boston Drinking Liberally chapter.  The idea is to bring real live bloggers, would-be bloggers, blog readers, blogophobes, and anyone else who cares to join together, and let the conversation and interaction organically generate new enthusiasm for starting blogs or, failing that, at least participating more in existing blogs.  This is a slower approach perhaps, but a lot easier for me personally.

Also, related to my thoughts about writing up a handbook for local bloggers, you may be interested to note that IdealWare, together with CompuMentor and TechSoup, has produced a report comparing various blog software platforms: www.idealware.org/blogging_software/

The report appears to be free, with donation requested.

by Shai Sachs 2006-07-18 07:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Desperate Need for Local Blog Infrastructure

Infastructure and a way to communicate with each other in a timely manner. Below is  a real life example. Maybe a regional steering committee of progressive bloggers/grass rooters???

I work with DFA ( in PA) and other grass roots groups. We are putting together an Out of Iraq town hall this Saturday in Bethleham,Philadelphia and Warrington. We could could some help with local blogs with publicity: but any attempt to contact them( via emails on the blogs) has been fruitless.As of course we have no money for blog ads.

http://www.pafordemocracy.com  about our event

by cybermome1207 2006-07-18 08:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Desperate Need for Local Blog Infrastructure

Matt, I can tell you what we are doing here in California.  First of all we have a listserv the guys who run Calitics set up.  The SF Kossacks also have one that coordinates their activities.  

One of the best pieces of infrastructure are the state Act Blue pages.  Hopefully, it will go live here in Cali soon.  No matter how much we complain about how politicians treat us as an ATM, we are pretty good at it.

I think all states need a portal blog website.  The NW Portal is fantastic and the state soapblox network are also great.  The more event sharing that goes on the better.  Meeting in the real world is invaluable.

Lefty blogs is great and a large number of bloggers here in Cali have the feed on their sites.  Traffic gets shared around within the network regularly.

As an organizer myself I have had a fantastic relationship with the local blogs.  Being new to the area it took some work but the key was the personal outreach.  I went around leaving comments on any post that referenced our campaign.  I emailed bloggers and offered myself as a resource if they had any questions and encouraged their participation on our site.

One of the best suggestions I can give organizers is to create an email list to send out your press releases and action items.  Provide a place on your site where bloggers can sign up to receive information from the campaign.

by juls 2006-07-18 08:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Desperate Need for Local Blog Infrastructure

What are the obstacles?

Something that's less obvious -- frankly speaking, most of the good info I hear I can't blab about on the internet.

I think this is the reason that so many blogs turn out to either recycle newspaper headlines or to shill for a particular campaign. In the latter case, the 'talking points' usually remain within the boundaries of a campaign's public face.

Access to candidates is not that difficult, IMO, but they are unlikely to discuss anything in a blog interview that they would not otherwise reveal in public.

On a more general note, 'progressive infrastructure' is not a monolithic entity (at least in my state) on which everybody agrees. There's plenty of infighting/competition and what this means to a local blogger is having to take sides if forced to take a public position. What is the upside to this?

by dblhelix 2006-07-18 08:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Desperate Need for Local Blog Infrastructure

I set up http://www.DemocracyForNewMexico.com/ as part of our DFA group, but have expanded it over the years to be a progressive/Dem/grassroots information clearinghouse. I report on both national and local politics, plus feature local political events and info from other groups in New Mexico. We also do many opinion pieces on this blog.

I think the key to increasing readership is definitely in networking with other political groups, individuals and bloggers in the community. Of course our monthly DFA-DFNM Meetup is a good tool for this, and we open our meetings to announcements or presentations from other groups, as well as candidates and other speakers.

I think our blog was very helpful in passage of a paper ballot bill in the NM Legislature, as well as getting people to attend the hearings. We've done this on other issues as well, like living wage, ethics reform, etc., and with progressive campaigns for Albuquerque mayor and other races. We're doing alot about the Madrid vs. Wilson race in CD1 right now.

I think one of the main barriers for local bloggers is finding adequate time to spend on creating content. Luckily I have the time to give to our blog, but I know it's a problem for many.

by barbwire 2006-07-18 09:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Desperate Need for Local Blog Infrastructure

For a completely different take on local blogging, see this:

http://www.silent-edge.org/wp/?p=339  

by NYCO 2006-07-18 09:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Desperate Need for Local Blog Infrastructure

I ran across this post while listening with half an ear to a conference call I was on from my work which had to do with curriculuum being created to help community groups engage with elections. From that context I have an observation:

There are zillions of little underfunded organizing efforts out there which have a role to play in creating progressive electoral majorities. Most of them still barely know there are blogs -- they talk with people, use the phone, email, hold meetings, develop petitioning strategies, harass legislators, and do voter registration with precisely the constituencies the habitues of this site need to see activated.

They aren't better or worse than we bloggers (though most are a lot more hands-on), they are just living in a different arena. If we make any progressive toward taking back this country, these very different arenas will meet. When that happens, I have a plea: Remember you are meeting potential friends, not competition. Take the time to learn how the other folks work. They are not incompetent, just different.

It's the old saw about hanging together or hanging separately.

by janinsanfran 2006-07-18 09:53AM | 0 recs
Community

the single best resource would be a scoop-style site (LocalBlue?) where bloggers could start diaries and have the frontpage driven solely by the recommended diaries list.

by azizhp 2006-07-18 10:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Desperate Need for Local Blog Infrastructure

I think my state is ready and ripe for local blogging. We have a couple of blogs but not enough people post on them to keep things interesting. If more people participated locally and helped to feed more content they might be able to attract more attention and build a bigger base of people.

by abc 2006-07-18 10:39AM | 0 recs
Maryland my Maryland

My impression is that there are not that many Maryland-specific political bloggers, that progressives outnumber conservatives as one would expect in a blue state.  My blog Crablaw's Maryland Weekly is a member of a liberal coalition of contributors to a liberal central blog called Free State Politics.  Crablaw is also the designated "Alan Colmes" of the mostly conservative but civil Maryland Bloggers' Alliance managed by the local conservative blog Pillage Idiot.  While Crablaw leans left, it is not doctrinaire, and is fairly moderate/libertarian when it comes to many economic issues.  But I don't view either conservative or liberal blogs as "competition", because cooperation is actually efficient and productive for all involved IMHO.

What could we use for better blogging?  Frankly, Free State Project could use some design advice.  I have been chatting with a founding blogger of FSP about redesiging the site aesthetically to attract and keep more readers.  I am a lawyer by trade, and my sense of design is little better than those of the tacky lawyer ads that make you wince on TV.

Another thing might be some low-level technical on setting up things like javascript linking maps or the like, gimmicks but ones that matter.  

Whether a structure affiliation by local blogs with major national blogs would help or be irrelevant (as opposed to less formal friendly relations as is customary now), I could not say.

by Bruce Godfrey 2006-07-18 10:41AM | 0 recs
DESPERATELY NEED LOCAL BLOG INFRASTRUCTURE

WE NEED OUR OWN PIPES, DAMMIT! EVERY NEIGHBOR NEEDS A CHEAP BROAD-BAND "TV REMOTE STYLE" LASER LINK WITH EVERY OTHER NEIGHBOR. EVERYWHERE. WITH BLACK-TUBE STEALTH SHIELDING AT THE TRANSMITTER ENDS SO THE SS CAN'T FIND THE BEAMS. WE NEED TO PUT OUR POLITICAL DIFFERENCES ASIDE HERE. WE NEED AN UNDERNET FREE SPEECH REVOLUTION. WE NEED BACKUP UNITS FOR WHEN THE PIGS BREAK IN AND SMASH OUR UNDERNET TRANSCEIVERS WITH HATCHETS. WE NEED TO DO THIS RIGHT NOW !!!

RIGHT NOW !!!

by blues 2006-07-18 10:48AM | 0 recs
How local is too small?

I've been running Santa Barbara Progressives for about a year now, trying to focus on city and county politics. A while ago I gave up trying to get a fiesty active community going around it like I've seen at other blogs. So, it's still just me posting to it. I link to myself now and then advertising a new story on some local email lists. Often there just isn't enough local activity to post even daily, or weekly. Often there isn't enough me to research and post on things weekly.

In part I'm just whining. Blogging is hard. Getting readership is hard. Why won't anyone pay attention to me. Wah.

But I'll keep it up and post now and then and maybe someday people will notice and the site will be "discovered".

by bolson 2006-07-18 10:52AM | 0 recs
Reports of the MA blogosphere

In addition to my earlier comment, let me add some reports of what the larger lefty blogosphere has been doing in Massachusetts lately:

* First, Blue Mass Group is the blog of record for Massachusetts.  It has a Boston-centric bias, but is gradually expanding to cover other areas of the state.

* Lynne from Left in Lowell is the de facto den mother of the MA Blogosphere.  Together with Mariposa of Beyond 495, she organized a convention for bloggers last November ("BlogLeft") in Worcester.  Big success.

* Michael of Berkshires for Progressive Change started a Yahoo email list for MA bloggers called BayStateProgressiveBloggers.

* Lynne also organized a Lt. Gov. forum in May, in the run-up to the convention.  Another big success.

* Generally, the blogosphere has been where its at for following the Lt. Gov. race.  Very few media outlets cover the race in much detail, but the blogosphere has hosted some very spirited conversation.

* After the caucuses in January, Blue Mass Group became the de facto resource center for delegates to the state Democratic Party convention.

* Deval Patrick's campaign asked the BMG community to advise it on a rather minute matter of campaign policy (how to identify "average citizens" in its video testimonials).

* There was a conference in Amherst for, iirc, "The Media Giraffe" project, that a few bloggers attended.  It caused a bit of a splash with a proposal for some kind of MA-focused Huffington Post, but many are skeptical.

* In my humble corner of the universe (Cambridge) I've been trying on and off to dialog with Harvard bloggers.  There's an interesting resource for supporting Harvard blogs called Campus Tap: http://www.campustap.com/  A fine resource as it goes, but damn do they need working RSS feeds.

Generally speaking, I think it'd be a good idea to gather some kind of monthly or maybe quarterly "report" from each state or region's blogosphere, so that we can all share our ideas and easily find one another's bits of infrastructure, like the BayStateProgressiveBloggers email list.  Think of it as a lower-bandwidth, higher-quality snapshot of the local blogosphere than LeftyBlogs.

by Shai Sachs 2006-07-18 11:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Reports of the MA blogosphere

update: CampusTap does have working RSS feeds!  huzzah!

by Shai Sachs 2006-07-18 12:32PM | 0 recs
Success Stories for local blogs?

I just started a local blog for our small island community in the San Juans (Washington State).  The County Public Works Department is trying to ram a massive, state-of-the-art ferry down our throats.  The rate hikes will doom affordable living on the island and basically gentrify it over the course of the next couple decades.  

I need to get people jazzed on the netroots.  What would help tremendously is a SUCCESS story along similar lines -- of a small community (<3,000 or fewer people, plus cost-conscious citizens in the county of ~80,000) organizing to gather their diffuse energies and start putting pressure on the county.  So I can say, look-- it happened here.  

Ideally I could even talk strategy with the guys who run the blog.

if anyone has anything that could help, I'd be very grateful.

thanks--
Dan Phillips
Lummi Island, WA

http://lummiferry.blogspot.com/

by shams 2006-07-18 12:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Desperate Need for Local Blog Infrastructure

The larger issue for me was content creation, whether for a local blog or alternative print media. The right is very well funded through stink tanks.

As everyone reading this knows, it takes time and effort to create quality blog posts, and while it's a nice idea that things will grow naturally from the ground up, there has to be some amount of resources devoted to fostering progressive media.

While party activists can certainly be valuable bloggers, they can also be really, really boring if they simply put out campaign stuff. It's going to have to be accomplished independent of, although at times in conjunction with, the party.

I stopped doing my local blog because, although there were times when traffic went through the roof due to a big story, on average it got about 50 hits a day, and that was if I posted every single day. It was clear that it was being read by basically the right 50 people, ie activists and such, but still, I couldn't justify the amount of time I was putting into it. Alone.

I ultimately came to the conclusion that it would be beter if such efforts were combined with more conventional media, but that takes real cash and actual employees.

If people have more ability to withstand the rigors of blogging than I did, I salute them. People still tell me they are disappointed I'm not doing it any more, but I found I am not cut out to do it on a permanent basis. Six months seems to be about my maximum. A long-winded way of saying lone individuals face some challenges trying to blog at the local level. To the extent people can work together so that one person isn't carrying the blog, do it.

Hmmm...maybe I'll make some calls....

by jondevore 2006-07-18 01:31PM | 0 recs
Hoosier bloggers abound

...at least around Indy they do. I've been making connections with local politicans, local progressive PACs, local bloggers, as well as the whole Drinking Liberally thing. My efforts have been paying off lately, with a direct link from the myDD left column (w00t!) to mentions on dailyKos and a few other places, my readership has been increasing. I'm really struggling with what I consider the most important reason my site exists - to disseminate liberal ideas as counter-points to the Conservative status quo. Finding anyone willing to sit down and write a piece on some great liberal idea is difficult. I'm trying to do this myself, but as the Prez says... it's hard work.

I and few of my fellow hoosier bloggers have also started designing websites for local candidates on the cheap in an effort to raise the quality and quantity of information about local Democratic candidates. Its going very well; we have 4 active clients and are hearing from more campaigns on an almost daily basis.

Hopefully, all of this work will eventually mesh into a strong infrastructure of bloggers, candidates, and activists in Indiana.  

by hoosierplew 2006-07-18 02:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Desperate Need for Local Blog Infrastructure

Florida has a really good program started to do exactly what everyone is talking about here.  First, there is a community blog called FLA Politics (http://www.flapolitics.com/) that has a nearly identical set up to Kos/MyDD.  The I recently started a group called the Florida Progressive Coalition (http://flaprogressives.org), which I've posted about here).  This group is new and hasn't even officially launched yet, and we've already collected 35 members (including some non-bloggers) and landed an interview with the top candidate for the state's chief financial officer in this year's election.  The FPC has a group blog that invites non-bloggers to join in and blog, it has a wiki that gathers information on Florida elections, issues and activism and it has a program of outreach to get as many groups and activists in Florida working together as possible.  We may not have much impact on the 2006 election, but by 2008, we'll be a major player in Florida elections.

by T Rex 2006-07-18 05:09PM | 0 recs
by maakawa 2006-07-21 12:20AM | 0 recs

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