More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

There is a great danger in writing quick posts on controversial topics. I was afraid I was stepping into that territory about twelve hours ago through my post on diversity and the blogosphere, given that I only had thirty minutes to write that post and that there is a huge amount of confusion over the definition of terms I have come to take for granted. In this post, I would like to try and clear up any confusion the original post might have generated.

In the comments, the strongest pushback to my piece came from the famous and thoughtful Kid Oakland, who wrote the following:
Of course we want diversity in the blogosphere.

We want the blogs to reflect the party and the nation...not perfectly...but as much as possible.
I have to seriously ask--why? Since when is blogging such an incredibly important public institution, ala our education system, government or business world, that the entire public needs to be represented in it? I'd like to think blogging is that important, but it just isn't. Blogging is a niche--a subset. Progressive political blogging is a subset of blogging, within a subset of new media, and also within a subset of the progressive movement.

There is a problem here, from what I can tell, is definitional. My collected writings on the blogosphere are longer than James Joyce's Ulysses (no hyperbole), and there are some terms--like netroots and blogosphere--which are very well defined in my mind but far more nebulous than I often appreciate. Consider the way Kid Oakland is uses the term blog as a synonym for "new media" (emphasis mine):
(But we both know that this flies in the face of what I see here in CA and I'm sure is true in Philadelphia...every last demographic group is clamoring to communicate using new media...the relevant fact is, however, folks just aren't all coming to dkos and MyDD.)
Yeah, I know that not everyone using "new media" is coming to Dailykos and MyDD. Thanks for the update. My point is that "new media" is not synonymous with Dailykos and MyDD. The blogosphere is a subset of "new media". The progressive political blogosphere is a subset of the progressive movement. MyDD and Dailykos are two different subsets of the progressive political blogosphere. This is a point that becomes lost as kid oakland's comment continues (emphasis mine):
For me, "Different means of engagement" means that different folks are going to use online resources and tools in different ways, but, we're all online and will be more and more in one way or another. (Texting, Mobile browsing, Ipod downloads etc. etc.)

We should not exempt any one group from the obligation to reach out and communicate and learn from what others are doing online and with new media means of communication. We should strive to make what any one of us is doing more relevant and accesible to all of our colleagues and allies.
At some point in kid oakland's comment, MyDD and Dailykos become synonymous with all "new media." That is absurd. That is unrealistic. That is a statement that comes without any perspective on how to even make a blog viable. That is even self-defeating. The progressive, political blogosphere is only viable because it serves a specific niche within "new media," not because it is representative of new media in general. MyDD is only viable because it serves a specific niche within the progressive, political blogosphere, not because it caters to the entire progressive, political blogosphere. The progressive, political blogosphere would immediately cease to have any relevancy if it just became "new media" in general, and removed its progressive, political focus. MyDD would cease to have any relevancy in the progressive blogosphere if we removed our focus on election analysis and political infrastructure, and just wrote about everything political and progressive. Our specific focus is what makes us viable and relevant. Remove that focus and that niche, and we cease to serve any function within the broader political movement / ecosystem.

When it comes to diversity, I believe that large institutions in which the general public has an enormous stake, such as "new media," and "the progressive movement" absolutely have an obligation to be representative of America (or, in the case of the latter, at least of progressives). However, each individual subset of those institutions does not need to be equally diverse. And I could not more strongly disagree with Kid Oakland's statement that this is something we would even want. If every individual subset of the larger institution were equally diverse as the institution as a whole, then all of the niches and different functions that each subset fills would be entirely erased. Delegation and division of labor is essential to maintaining the viability of any large--and extremely diverse--coalition like the progressive movement. You need people devoted to GLBT rights (civil rights groups). And you need people devoted to workplace democracy (unions). And you need people devoted to election analysis (MyDD). What you don't need is for everyone to be devoted to all of these different things simultaneously. If that were the case, then no one would be good at passing hate crime legislation, or securing a living wage for health care workers, or knowing which districts are the most effective for grassroots activists to target. Everyone would suck at all of that, and thus the progressive movement would suck at everything.

We need MyDD to look as much like America about as much as the Human Rights Campaign needs to send out three newsletters a day to its membership with updates on my latest poll analysis. That is to say, neither of those things would help either group usefully fulfill its niche within a larger institution / ecosystem known as the progressive movement. The simple fact is that MyDD is not a large public institution unto itself that is meant to represent America, and that MyDD would cease to be useful if its primary goal was to be representative of America. We serve a niche within a broader movement and a broader institution, just like SEIU does (although SEIU's niche is much larger). As such, diversity within MyDD is not a primary goal--doing a good job at my niche as a means of improving the efficacy of the progressive movement is my primary goal. I absolutely agree that there is an overall obligation for the progressive movement, and the leaders of that movement, to be diverse and representative of progressives. However, it would be absolutely self-defeating if every subset of that larger institution took it upon itself to achieve that goal internally. Further, note that I said the progressive movement as an institution / ecosystem has an obligation to representatives of progressives rather than of America. If the progressive movement were truly representative of America, then it would be chock full of Republicans and conservatives, who still make up a huge minority in this country we call America. The progressive movement specifically excludes conservatives and Republicans, and it would collapse / being utterly ineffective if it did not.

Progressive, political blogging is extremely important to the overall progressive movement for a variety of reasons. My best attempts to explain its importance can be found in the following three articles: The Emergence of the Progressive Blogosphere, The Role of the Netroots in Democratic Victories, and On Preaching to the Choir. However, as important as progressive, political blogging is, it is not the end-all, be-all, of anything except progressive political blogging. As such, striving for any of the following frankly does not seem either moral or useful to me:
  1. Making certain that individual progressive blogs, such as MyDD and Dailykos, look like America, or even like all progressives.
  2. Making certain that the progressive, political blogosphere as a whole looks like America, or even all progressives.
  3. Making certain that all progressive are blogging.
With that said, here is what I believe is important when it comes to diversity in the progressive blogosphere, and in the progressive movement:
  1. Making certain that the leaders of the progressive movement, and those people who are understood to be "experts" on the movement, are properly diverse and as representative of progressives as possible.
  2. Making certain that all groups within the progressive movement--and all American citizens--have equal access to "new media."
  3. Making certain that all groups within the progressive movement are talking with each other, learning from each other, and working with each other in a productive fashion that simultaneously serves as wide a range of progressive goals as possible.
  4. Making certain that all groups within the progressive, political blogosphere are talking with each other, learning from each other, and working with each other in a productive fashion that simultaneously serves as wide a range of progressive, political blogosphere goals as possible.
  5. Making certain that all participants within a given topic area in the progressive, political blogosphere are talking with each other, learning from each other, and working with each other in a productive fashion that allows everyone blogging on that topic area to be as effective as possible.
In my view, not a single one of the goals in the second list requires anything from the first list in order to be achieved. In fact, I believe that the second set of goals would not be achievable if we aimed to achieve the first set of goals. If, for example, MyDD and Bitch, Ph.D., were to combine our content into a single blog, then that new blog would suck (instead of, in my opinion, both blogs currently totally kicking ass). That we write on different topics and appeal to different audiences is what makes us both good.

Does MyDD need to be diverse in that we reach out to all people who are writing on the same topics on which we focus? Absolutely--we need to include a much more diverse set of progressive voices who also focus on our topic areas. Do blogs like MyDD need to do a better job of reaching out to make certain that happens? Almost certainly--and expect more on this over the next two months. Do progressive, political blogs that focus on different topics need to stay in touch with each other, learn from each other, and work with each other when overlap occurs? You bet they do--and no one has done more to make that happen than MyDD's own Matt Stoller (but we can always do more). What we don't need to do is all merge into 3,000 replicas of each other, where we blog on the same topics, and all have equally, virtually perfectly diverse writing staffs. We don't need to look like America. We would suck if we all looked like America, or if we tried to do so. We need to maintain our diversity--which comes from filling different niches and representing different cultural voices--in order to succeed. We need to build on that diversity in order to grow, by bringing cultural voices who may have been unfairly--but not intentionally--marginalized within our niches. And we need communication mechanisms to make sure that the various niches do not become ghettoized and isolated from one another (and thus more ineffective).

A different commenter, mcc, pretty much summed up what I was trying to say in the original post:
[H]is conclusion as I'm understanding it seems to be from the perspective that the progressive political blogosphere isn't so much important as a community as a tool for social change, that it is more important as a part of a wider progressive movement than it is important on its own, and that if this particular splinter of the wider progressive movement is not demographically representative of the whole thing, well, that's how the cards fell.
Yes, absolutely. That is precisely what I meant, as long as we are vigilant to make sure that we are not excluding people from within a given "splinter," and that we are working to make sure that all the various splinters within the progressive movement are communicating with each other, learning from each other, and working with each other in order to effectively achieve the broadest progressive outcomes possible. And no, I am not interested in community building for its own sake, just as I am not interested in blogging for its own sake. I am interested in helping the progressive movement. And I don't see how making sure that Dailykos or MyDD--or even the progressive political blogosphere in general--is more representative of America, or even all progressives, is a particularly important or useful means of achieving the goal. And I don't see how making all progressives blog is useful either (although in some cases, it would help). As I said in the original post, I just don't see how there is anything so inherently important about progressive, political blogging, or anything so broadly publicly institutional about progressive, political blogging, to make it so. Blogging is a niche--one of many ways we can bring about our broader goals. It is one a good means to partially achieve those goals--a means that needs to be supported by other progressives--but certainly not the only means, and certainly not the path everyone should follow. I mean, for crying out loud, it is 3:30 in the morning on a Monday, and here I am blogging. Do you think this would work for everyone? I think the answer to that question is obvious. At the same time, do you think that discussion like these are come from blogs are important? Once again, I think the answer to that question is obvious.

Tags: Blogosphere, Culture, Diversity (all tags)



A comment before bed
To take a break from my ususal style, I'd like to start the discussion with a personal story. Immediately after college, I worked was a bank teller for OnBank in Fairmount, New York (one year before OnBank was bought out by M & T Bank). The rather large branch I worked at sadly replicated a general problem in the banking industry. Of the twenty-one full and part-time employees at the branch, eighteen were women. However, the two top managers of the branch were both men. I was the only man working at the branch who wasn't running the place. When customers came to my window, to interrupt me as I studied for the GRE's or wrote poetry on the back of receipts, many of them simply assumed I was the manger and would address me as such. In reality, even though I was probably one of the suckiest bank tellers OnBank had in all 50 or so of their branches. This is actually a common problem in the banking industry as a whole, where I believe about 70% of all employees are women, but about 90% of top executives are men (that may have changed in the last ten years). The banking industry is absolutely a "niche" were the leaders of that "niche" are in so way representative of the employees of the niche. That is a serious, internal diversity problem. If there were a similar problem in the progressive political blogosphere, and the most prominent bloggers represented entirely different demographic groups than the audience, then the political blogosphere would have a serious, internal diversity problem on its hands. However, as things stand, the prominent bloggers are generally quite representative of their audience. I am a well educated white-dude, and so is the majority of my audience (which is very much a chciken and the egg scenario).

Anyway, I wanted to mention that before I went to bed. I hope this clears up what I was trying to say, and that it generates some useful discussion.
by Chris Bowers 2007-05-07 12:13AM | 0 recs
Re: A comment before bed

In high school, I worked part-time as a legal secretary.  When I took calls for my boss and people would hear a male voice on the line, they'd assume I was a lawyer and start asking legal questions, having no idea I was some 16-year old kid.  That was kind of amusing.  For female lawyers that get regularly mistaken for a secretary, it's less amusing, I'm sure.

Anyway, I'm coming to this post without having read the prior posts, but it sure sounds like you're talking about two different things.  KO's comment, at face value, seems to be talking about the need for diversity in the progressive blogosphere as a whole, while you're talking about the much narrower issue of whether MyDD needs to be more diverse.  If that's the case then you're pretty much talking past each other.

by Steve M 2007-05-07 06:58AM | 0 recs
Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

Maybe Kid Oakland is just painting with too broad a brush.  Blogs are a niche by topic and users, and it needs to stay that way.  I am no proponent of homogenization unless it is my milk. Too many on the left think "everything" needs to be representative of the whole when in reality it destroys the flavor.  An Italian/pizza shop sells pizza/Italian food.  You want Chinese?  Go next door.  Diversity doesn't have to mean all in one spot, which broaches seperate but equal.  There is more in support of seperate but equal beyond bath and locker rooms, like same sex public schools.

by dkmich 2007-05-07 01:27AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

One reason to move this statement from the Not Essential Catgory to the Essential Category:

Making certain that the progressive, political blogosphere as a whole looks like America, or even all progressives.

In a word, History ("the archives"). I've noticed in Googling from stories I remember two or three years ago, that most have disappeared behind pay walls, but that often the "money quote" will be available from a blog.

Making the not unreasonable assumption that blogs NOT written by white dudes will be selecting different money quotes from the ones that you, or I (Chris) would select, that makes diversity in the blogosphere essential to maintaining an accurate historical record.

And if we can't record our past, what about our future?

There are probably many other good reasons why diversity is important, but I'd like to make one other point. Let's play the old word substiution game, removing "progressive blogosphere":

Making certain that the _____ as a whole looks like America, or even all progressives.

If the blank were filled in with, say "library usage" or "literacy rates" or "access to an audience," wouldn't we all be saying "Of course"?

by lambert 2007-05-07 02:29AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

And what if the existing leadership in the netroots found a way to get broad swaths bloggers wide, easy access to Lexis Nexis?  (Hint, hint. . . probably not too far off)?  

What if they did it because they wanted to empower a broad diversity in the blogosphere, little sites with few resources who could never have that kind of reach on their own?  

What if that were only one of a series of initiatives designed to generate resources, power and tools, not just for the highly trafficked blogs, but for the smaller, more tightly niched or local ones?

Or are current netroots leaders considered to be too myopic, indifferent or racist to think this way, nevermind actually do the work to make it possible. . . something many critics perpetually fail to do themselves?

by Pachacutec 2007-05-07 04:50AM | 0 recs
More Precisely, Blogging is Niches.

Making certain that the ___ as a whole looks like America, or even all progressives.

If the blank is filled in with, say, "subscriptions to the New Yorker magazine", or, "mountain bike usage", wouldn't we all be saying, "huh? why?"

The question of whether MyDD should look like America as a whole, or all progressives as a whole, is a red herring.

The issue is whether the progressive blogosphere taken as a whole looks like all progressives as a whole. And if it does not (and my impression is that it does not), the answer is infrastructure building to expand the diversity of the progressive blogosphere.

Given the funnelling effect from smaller to bigger blogs, if the progressive blogosphere as a whole expands into more niches among progressives, the greater representativeness of the high end of the power law distribution in the progressive blogosphere will follow.

by BruceMcF 2007-05-07 06:31AM | 0 recs
Re: More Precisely, Blogging is Niches.
"The issue is whether the progressive blogosphere taken as a whole looks like all progressives as a whole."

I'm not convinced of that, either. I think the leaders of progressive movement needs to look like progressives as a whole, and that progressive media does too. But I'm not convinced hat every aspect of the progressive media, of which the progressive political blogosphere is a subset, also needs to be representative of the movement as a whole. Does it (the progressive, political blogosphere) need to be in communication with the rest of the movement? Yes. Does it need to have access for all to participate? Yes. Does it need to be inclusive of all those who participate? Yes. But overall, the progressive, political blogosphere is still a subset, and it itself has many subsets.

This is a very rich topic, and needs a lot more discussion this week.
by Chris Bowers 2007-05-07 08:39AM | 0 recs
This is generally true and specifically ...

... false:

But I'm not convinced hat every aspect of the progressive media, of which the progressive political blogosphere is a subset, also needs to be representative of the movement as a whole.

No, not every aspect of progressive media needs to be representative of the movement as a whole.

But the progressive blogosphere has the characteristics such that it as a whole should to be representative of the progressive movement as a whole.

In other words, you are arguing a negative into a positive here ... "not every ... has to" does not directly imply .... "none has to" ... and "none has to" is the general claim that leads to, "and therefore the progressive blogosphere does not have to".

Certainly, it would be barking up the wrong tree to insist that every progressive blog aim for a particularly homogenous form of diversity. But the full range of progressive blogs should cover the full range of the progressive movement, or else some who would be attracted into some particular niches of the progressive movement and do not have access to it in local organizations on the ground will be left out.

by BruceMcF 2007-05-07 08:59AM | 0 recs
Re: This is generally true and specifically ...
"But the progressive blogosphere has the characteristics such that it as a whole should to be representative of the progressive movement as a whole."

Why? Maybe I'm dense. Can you spell this out for me?
by Chris Bowers 2007-05-07 10:08AM | 0 recs
Re: This is generally true and specifically ...

Because it is vital for the health of the progressive movement to sidestep around corporatist Big Media, and the blogosphere is what both connects and engages people inside the US media bubble with the idea that there is a wider world of ideas out there that corporatist Big Media filters out.

The progressive blogosphere serves to form communities of discourse around areas of common interest, and the strength of a progressive coalition as a whole is built the more and stronger are the overlapping communities of discourse that are created.

by BruceMcF 2007-05-07 10:34AM | 0 recs
Re: More Precisely, Blogging is Niches.

It you are happy with the mountain bike market, then yes, However, what if you wanted to expand the target market?

by misscee 2007-05-07 08:51AM | 0 recs
But I see no public purpose served by ...

... expanding that market to all groups of the population (unlike commuter bikes, where there is a substantial public benefit from whatever expansion can be achieved).

Expanding literacy serves a public purpose ... and selectively excluding (whether intentionally or as a side-effect of some other institutional features) specific groups in the community from literacy is a public harm.

by BruceMcF 2007-05-07 09:02AM | 0 recs
Re: But I see no public purpose served by ...

Yes. Is your solution the trickle up theory? Or that a homogenous market isn't necessary.

You've made some great points. I wish I had more than a couple of minutes to spend here today.

by misscee 2007-05-07 09:34AM | 0 recs
Oh, yeah, I'm a trickle up kind of economist.

Really, I'm a strong believer in trickle up economics. Of course, with the massive income gaps in the US today, it may take a decade or two for economic growth to trickle all the way up to the top 1%, but I reckon they've got a cushion to tide them over a decade or two.

by BruceMcF 2007-05-07 09:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Oh, yeah, I'm a trickle up kind of economist.

It would be unfortunate, indeed, if my economics trickled up. Sorry, I wasn't clear. Your description of funneling in cyberspace was fascinating.

Given the funnelling effect from smaller to bigger blogs, if the progressive blogosphere as a whole expands into more niches among progressives, the greater representativeness of the high end of the power law distribution in the progressive blogosphere will follow.

by misscee 2007-05-07 02:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Oh, yeah, I'm a trickle up kind of economist.

Aha ... I don't actually view the bigger blogs as "above" the smaller blogs ... as in a power law distribution, I was envisioning them more as distributed from left to right.

And, yes, in the blogosphere, flows up to bigger blogs outweigh flows down to smaller blogs, which is one reason why there is a power law distribution in the first place.

by BruceMcF 2007-05-07 07:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Oh, yeah, I'm a trickle up kind of economist.

Dear Lord, now you have my mind envisioning non linear equations to describe the ebb and flow. I never thought of web traffic in this way, but you are right!

by misscee 2007-05-08 04:24AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

My major beef with this post is that what progressive and progressive movement means to you is probably somewhat different from what it means to me.  If you made a list of the top ten progressive principles or objectives and I only agreed with 7 or 8 out 10 of them, am I a progressive? Or only a liberal? Or only a Democrat? Or only someone with progressive tendancies?  

by mboehm 2007-05-07 03:05AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

Except, mboehm, that this is precisely the point.

It is only from the point of view for which perfect part-for-whole correspondance between blogs/progressive movement, etc. is a goal that your perfect agreement with Chris becomes important or even desirable.

It's much better for the parts of the progressive movement to be an assemblage of elective affinities, AS LONG AS anyone who wants in to the new media/blogospheric parts can find their way in. What is good about the new media is that they have a relatively low barrier to entry (hard to get a job as an anchor for MSNBC, fairly manageable to research and write a decent diary). I don't think it would be good if people could assume that Markos or even Pelosi (my rep) speaks for me, even if he, she and I are all committed to a lot of the same things. I have the means to contribute if I felt there was something important left unsaid. We need to make sure that more people are in that position.

So, yeah, I think it would probably be good if more people who weren't white men wrote and discussed things in the political blogosphere, but I agree in principle with Chris that access is more important than use.

by nvalvo 2007-05-07 03:34AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

p.s., lamberts fascinating comment about blogs as archive notwithstanding.

by nvalvo 2007-05-07 03:34AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

Please read most of the comments below- they are right on the money.  Who "makes certain" there is access?  Reality based access or theoretical access?

You will never achieve perfect agreement between a movement and bloggers/readers/commenters on one site but you sure as hell can try to form a more perfect union (I think I read that somewhere else) of progressive voices in one place.  It is not efficient for me to read 50 different progressive blog sites that represent all the niches of the progressive movement.  The bottom line is that a more inclusive niche is a bigger niche and a better niche.  Have you heard of the United States of America?

by mboehm 2007-05-07 07:22AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche
Access and communication are more important than use. Access alone would not be enough, imo.
by Chris Bowers 2007-05-07 08:40AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

I am offended.

However, at the risk of not offending others, I will refrain from expressing my thoughts on what I think about the original post and the attempt to justify it in the follow up.

by ObamaEdwards2008 2007-05-07 03:49AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

Is diversity a progressive value?

by bruh21 2007-05-07 04:43AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

I think this boils down to a single question....

what are the criteria/processes for adding new "front pagers" to an existing blog, and do those criteria/processes encourage diversity within the existing blog's niche.  

I suspect that there is a tendency within the blogosphere to add "people like me/us" (people with the same perspective) to existing blogs.   In a system like that used at DailyKos (which last time I checked, used a "democratic" process) a diarist who concentrates on race issues and/or provides an afro-centric perspective to various issues is at a disadvantage -- and I think that is a problem.    

by plukasiak 2007-05-07 04:49AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

plukasiak, you're right.

I am African American/Latina and I think there is an invisible barrier between the Progressive blogs, African Americans, Latinos and other progressive minority groups.

I would ask each of the prominent progressive bloggers to reach out to these groups and recruit the best and brightest writers out there. Also go to minority based events and forums. Visit websites like, there is a lot of nonsense on the site but there are also many people who are interested in progressive politics and folks do have plenty to say about it too.

by shanay4363 2007-05-07 07:05AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche
I'd agree with that. When looking for new front pagers on election analysis and political infrastructure analysis, diversity is something we should incorporate into our search.
by Chris Bowers 2007-05-07 08:43AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

"we should incorporate"

So why don't you then? I don't think anyone who spends as much time in the nations capitol where there is indeed access to Minorities, would have a problem incorporating.

But I guess, I'm not a White male so what do I know?

by ObamaEdwards2008 2007-05-07 01:16PM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

The long-tail phenomenon in blogging (per Wired Mag's Chris Anderson) suggests that a tiny minority of popular blogs receives the vast majority of blog traffic, whereas the vast majority of blogs out there receive a tiny minority of traffic.  

Over-educated white dudes make up many of the blog authors in the hump.  

People find new blogs through word of mouth and links from other blogs. Also, the msm has tended to highlight the most popular blogs.  In order for audiences to even FIND blogs who represent more diverse voices, the heavy-hitters need to do better at cross-promo. I think Chris is saying we'll see more of this on MyDD.

Check out Susan Herring's article, "Women and Children Last: The Discursive Construction of Weblogs" for an interesting empirical snapshot of the above. n_and_children.html

While it doesn't focus specifically on political blogs, I would say Herring's findings are relevant to this sub-genre as well.

by rbrbrbr 2007-05-07 05:29AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche
When did Anderson write that theory? I'm wondering how long people have been discussing the long tail phenemenon.
by Chris Bowers 2007-05-07 08:50AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

To answer the rhetorical question above, diversity is a progressive value.  But it also protects us from our excesses.  Having a bunch of upper-middle class white guys talking to each other and only to each other will only hold back the netroots and the blogosphere.  

Diversity helps us to avoid massive groupthink.  

by Reece 2007-05-07 05:38AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche
Excesses as well as blindspots. It's hard to write about what you don't see, given your protected vantage point.
by sb 2007-05-07 07:20AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche
Which is why I agree that we need to develop means of communication, and to make sure that individual niches are not excluding their own members.

I mention this, because I believe more is being done in this arena than is often appreciated, as Pac implies above.
by Chris Bowers 2007-05-07 08:49AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

If nobody progressive is being excluded, I think everything that needs to be done has been done. If progressives find blogs, they should be able to participate, but if they don't want to, that's fine. Not everybody is going to be interested in or equipped for the political blogosphere.

by Englishlefty 2007-05-07 05:41AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

It sounds elitist to me.

First on usage.  Saying its open to all users and being open to all users are two different things. As an example, fair housing laws were passed in most of this country in the 1970s.  After that technically people of color can live anywhere they want.  But in reality, in order to buy a house in any neighborhood there are a number of obstacles to overcome.  They have to earn enough money (but they are disproportionately poor); they have to have credit; they have to be approved for a loan and they may face bias, redlining and racism in lending; they have to find a seller who will sell to them; they have to find a real estate agent who will show them all available houses; some have to consider if a cross will be burned on thier front yard; and they have to decide if they want to be the only person of color on the block or have their child be one of the only children of color at the school.

Second on election analysis: This is definitely why I love reading MYDD.  I love election analysis.  But in all honesty this site doesn't do a very good or thorough job of examining the motivations or trends of the working poor or people of color vote.  There are many untold stories about voter suppression, disenfranchised felons as well as the fiscal side of the story like how poor communities have less voting machines, older voting machines, less training for election judges and are therefore less able to deal with problems when they arise on election day; and  always, always longer lines.  And most appropriate for this election, how the black vote is taken for granted by the democratic party and what the consequences are.  There are lots of interesting stories to be told about how the black vote is thinking about Obama, how poor blacks view him vs. well off blacks, will they help him win, what might we see from the minority votes in the early primary states and caucuses and will it make a difference for any candidate, etc.

More on election analysis: I know that unions are valued around here but the working class voice is most often channeled by non-union folk.

Third on diversity and blogging: Progressive election analysis requires diversity.  Leadership in the progressive movement requires diversity.  If we want to empower people to take back their government we need to look at problems from the people's point of view--including voting.  That will only happen if we talk and listen to one another.  Class inspires and divides political organizers but when you add race and class together there becomes a stark separation--a huge gulf between between reality and policy.  The progressive movement aims to fix that.

It is only by being intentional and working to close that gulf can we change things.  

by aiko 2007-05-07 05:42AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

You have written a couple of very thoughtful comments. I'd like to put it another way. Who does one listen to? For example, I don't know about other women, but I have a real hard time swallowing advice from men, when they are talking about women's issues.

However, if the goal is simple election analysis, then any conscientious statistician can crunch the numbers.

by misscee 2007-05-07 08:39AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche
First, I think we have written about many of th topics you discuss. Second, I agree that more diversity is needed in our future discussions--we need to look for more diverse writers on the topic on which we focus. Third, thanks for the comment--I think you really nailed it.
by Chris Bowers 2007-05-07 08:53AM | 0 recs
One Problem

The only problem that I find with this analysis is that, unfortunately, its racist. Since racism has a long and blighted history -- which intertwines very small acts of exclusion, stereotyping, fear of change, and defensiveness about white identity with very large acts of suffering, violence and oppression -- this is really unfortunate.

As I understand it, Philadelphia is still a segregated city (like so many metropolitan centers in the U.S.). It's not an abstract issue about
"niche". The city is in no small degree constituted by a cruel history of racism that still permeates all aspects of life. If you're a left-wing, political blogger working out of Philadelphia, you should aspire to share this new media with black people -- particularly young black people -- who are all too often cut off from economic, political, cultural, and media opportunities. If this aspiration can't be met it should still exist as a horizon, even if it disturbs or complicates our sense of complacency, success or whatever.

Most desegregation today works through "niches" -- not this city, but this store, this apartment complex, this organization. Not this university, but this department, this program, this class. That serves a niche doesn't mean that we should be complacent that it is disproportionately white. It's obviously an important and new niche. It represents a certain kind of political power. It needs to be as diverse as possible.

by alw 2007-05-07 05:43AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

You say that we (the blogosphere) do not need to be more representative of the public because we are a niche group. I don't disagree with the second part at all we are, currently, a niche group.

However, it seems to me that as a group we are trying to be more important and more relevant all off the time. If that is true than we should also be striving to be more than a niche group and part of that would mean becoming more diverse and more representative of the public.

by JDF 2007-05-07 05:54AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche
That is undeniable. If the blogosphere was more diverse and less nichey, it would be stronger. That is something we should strive toward.

At the same time, I don't want to force people to blog for whom other tools would be more immediately effective. I guess what I mean is--we do need to reach out, but blogs are not necessarily the best means to reach everyone. We need to be mindful of that, too.
by Chris Bowers 2007-05-07 08:57AM | 0 recs
"forcing people to blog"?
Who has suggested that? Did I miss something? we do need to reach out, but blogs are not necessarily the best means to reach everyone. I thought your point, restated several times, was that you DON'T need to reach out. There is no need for this and similar blogs to be representative of America. Etc.
by hrh 2007-05-08 09:16AM | 0 recs
How, exactly?

On his main thrust, Chris is absolutely right.

When we get down to here -

Does MyDD need to be diverse in that we reach out to all people who are writing on the same topics on which we focus? Absolutely--we need to include a much more diverse set of progressive voices who also focus on our topic areas.

- I'm not so sure.

What, practically, does this reaching out entail? All community blogs are pickup games (except for the owners): you show up, you play.

Apart from being general publicity hounds and getting namechecks for their blogs all over, what else are blog owners supposed to do to reach out?

I'd bet there are thousands of political process geeks who'd fit right in here and bring loads to the table but haven't heard of MyDD. (Or perhaps they came once, and Stoller snarked at them...)

That's something of a problem, I'd say.

The fact that those geeks are probably mostly white boys - not so much.

by skeptic06 2007-05-07 05:55AM | 0 recs
Re: How, exactly?
But they won't all be white boys. that is something we need to be mindful of too.
by Chris Bowers 2007-05-07 08:58AM | 0 recs
Re: How, exactly?

Absolutely: let's be as open as we reasonably can be to all those - whoever they are - who are interested in what we do, and want to share their expertise and experience in those areas.

by skeptic06 2007-05-07 09:41AM | 0 recs
Let's Get Real

This is all very sophisticated, but it's still a defense of de facto segregation at bottom.  And it's still self-evidently wrong.

The very fact that people can't see this is itself evidence of what's wrong with the situation.

Anyone unclear on the concept should take a look back at the Progressive Era.  There is little doubt that the Progressives did some important and positive things.  But they were overwhelmingly native-born WASPs, and their neglect of--even hostility towards--Jewish and Catholic immigrants and African Americans and their concerns is a big reason why the Progressive Era accomplished so little compared to the New Deal and the 1960s/Great Society eras.

It's not just morally wrong.  It's politically stupid squared.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-05-07 06:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Let's Get Real

And at the top, too, because the two obviously feed off each other.

by CT student 2007-05-07 06:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Let's Get Real

If MyDD a case of de facto segregation, so is Yankee Stadium on game day.

It's a bunch of folks with a highly specific interest who come together to engage in that interest.

And - be it said - unlike Yankee Stadium, getting into MyDD is cheap...

Who, exactly, within the interest group (political process geekdom) served by MyDD is being segregated out? And how is this being done?

by skeptic06 2007-05-07 06:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Let's Get Real

Except that nobody's being shut out.

Some people don't have access, and the progressive blogosphere already supports allowing them to have access. Some people don't have time, and by working on labour issues the progressive blogosphere may ameliorate that. Some people may not have sufficient education or political knowledge to feel confident communicating here, but aside from supporting candidates and legislation that help education, I don't see how you deal with that. And some people just plain aren't interested, and that's not a problem that can be solved.

The progressive blogosphere should welcome anybody coming here. But I just don't think there are the resources for outreach and with blogs like MyDD which tend to have a high proportion of highly educated individuals, that many of the denizens would be white is unsurprising. That they're male is perhaps slightly more surprising, although I'm not sure why this is. Possibly due to the innate sensibilities and history of the internet, possibly due to the occasionally confrontational nature of blogging.

by Englishlefty 2007-05-07 06:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Let's Get Real

It strikes me that several people along this thread,and I dont have time to say specifically who don't "get" media. They want to think of Mydd or D Kos as being some little blogs that do not affect the media universe that are blogs. This is, of course, patently false. A small newspaper in Poukeepsie will not have the impact of a front page article in the New York Times over average. The NY Times coverage will have a greater impact on what everyone else is covering. That's the nature of media. To pretend otherwise is dangerous because it denies the basic goal of media- to disseminate, even here, to the widest audience possible. In other words, not all media is equal. Not all of it produces the same venue for exploration of ideas. The danger here is not that there aren't maybe some places out there with black, latino or gay voices- it's that the major sites with the most traffic may not have them and based on Chris's statements can rationalize why this isn't a factor. I doubt seriously anyone would argue that the impact of CBS is the same as a small AM radio outlet- yet people are acting as if on blogs all are equal. That the early settlers who blew up are the same as some one new entering the space. It's simply not true. I imagine Daily Kos's numbers of unique visitors per month versus say a site dedicated to race issues would bring home the point.

by bruh21 2007-05-07 07:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Let's Get Real
How is this a defense of segregation? I really don't see that. I made it quite clear--or at least I thought I did--that individual blog topic areas need to look for diverse voices on those topic areas. What I don't think should happen is that MyDD should start discussing new topic areas in order to achieve diversity.

We do need "segregation" of topic areas in order to thrive--it is called developing a niche. What we don't need to segregation within a given topic area.
by Chris Bowers 2007-05-07 09:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Let's Get Real

So how are you developing diverse voices for your topic area of election analysis and progressive infrastructure? The glaring lack of investment by progressives in political infrastructure for the Latino community, for instance, could be a cause MyDD could take up. If you yourself aren't an expert on that, this is where the outreach piece comes in.

All of this starts with having this conversation, and so I appreciate that you're bringing it up. And the fact that you brought it up in a fairly provocative way is helping the community have a deeper discussion about it, which is good. But it's a long long process.

by Jenifer Fernandez Ancona 2007-05-07 10:51AM | 0 recs
It's about perspective

The reason we should look like the broader left demographically is that it means we can think like the broader left.

I'm not arguing MyDD should start to work on gender theory instead of election analysis.

But I remember a post on how the netroots seem to be friendlier to male candidates than female ones because of the whole Fighting Dems thing. I can't imagine that having more female voices going into that would yield a different result, either substantively or rhetorically.

Similarly, when I go register poor urban blacks to vote, I'm hearing different things about politics than when I go to a working-class white suburb. Having some diversity along race and class lines will give us different election analysis.

We have a presidential race with the two front-runners being a white woman and a black man, with a hispanic man in the running too. Is there any difference between how white, well-educated men view this race than some other demographic group? I have to imagine so.

Moreover, to say that election analysis is a "niche" and so it's OK that it is filled by a completely homogeneous group is a very dangerous statement. Chris says that MyDD needs diversity like the HRC needs to put out three newletters on polls - our non-diversity is part of a specialization of labor for him. That implies that white men are better at election analysis for some reason. I'm a white male college student, but I've got to be offended by that comparison.

by CT student 2007-05-07 06:15AM | 0 recs

That implies that white men are better at election analysis for some reason. I'm a white male college student, but I've got to be offended by that comparison.

You hit the nail here:

There is no a priori reason why any race or gender should be better at election analysis.

Thus, you couldn't tell just from reading a piece the race or gender of the person who wrote it.

Like we wouldn't have known you were a white guy unless you'd told us.

That's the glory of the medium, surely? (Or one of them.)

So what in Sam Hill is the method by which any group is being segregated from MyDD?

by skeptic06 2007-05-07 06:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Exactly!

Thus, you couldn't tell just from reading a piece the race or gender of the person who wrote it.

Like we wouldn't have known you were a white guy unless you'd told us.
Wasn't there a front page MyDD post about diversity a month or two ago that said the exact opposite? That there is research to indicate that even in the faceless written world of blogs, there tend to be sufficient cues that people are drawn to writers who are similar to themselves?

I'm in the middle of some things, so I can't look it up now. But if my memory is correct and that research turns out to be the case, the front page structure in particular is something that could be creating an unintentional segregation.

by Dave Thomer 2007-05-07 06:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Exactly!

I'd certainly be interested to see any research on this.

by skeptic06 2007-05-07 09:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Exactly!

It is the same method by which women are segregated from political office or blacks are segregated from certain neighborhoods or queers are segregated from a high school prom. We have laws forbidding de jure segregation in these cases but there are strong cultural norms that say "you belong here" or "you don't belong here.

by CT student 2007-05-07 07:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Exactly!

The cases you mention are all ones where what is at issue is people's identity and physical presence, located in the real world.

In a blog, everything is by default anonymous, exists in cyberspace, with no physical contact involved.

Now, I can certainly see there being a million ways a blog could very easily repel 'unwanted' visitors.

What I can't see is that what MyDD is actually doing right now is repelling anyone, except by dealing with complex subjects that the vast majority of people of all races, genders and education levels are simply not sufficiently interested in for them to expend the effort needed to get up to speed on them.

by skeptic06 2007-05-07 09:24AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

   The issue of diversity in the blogosphere revolves around two things;

1) The diversity of the bloggers themselves, that is to say if they are wealthy, secular, straight, white and liberal males, or anybody else.

2) What issues does the progressive blogosphere deem important. Is ending the war in Iraq the top priority, with all else subordinate to it? Or are other items also on the agenda, indeed have to be, like GLBT rights, Women's equality, much stronger support for Animal Welfare, the Environment, etc.?

I think this is a tricky issue to tackle, to say the least. As we are talking about the progressive blogosphere with regards to the movement as a whole, I think the issue may be resolved by the following. Is the progressive blogosphere a niche onto itself, like African American Churches, or Union Halls, in which case it is crucial for the specific demographic mobilized there to be the demographic being targeted for activism and action, in which case it doesn't matter what the composition is, as it is simply coordinating to obtain its objectives, how ever broad or narrow. In this case think of the Sierra Club and NARAL. I am sure that there is quite some difference between the two groups, demographics wise. But they are still somewhat apart of the movement, and put their resources to work on those issues which they deem important with the movement.

The other view to be taken would be that the progressive blogosphere is not only a large mobilized section of the movement, but is growing large enough to have institutional power. The Democratic Party is an example of institutional power in the movement. Are there diversity issues? Most certainly yes, because it is in the party where the various parts of the movement coaless, and because of the size of the party, diversity is necessary regardless of personal feelings, since this is the manner by which channeling of the various parts of the movement may take place. If the progressive blogosphere does gain institutional power within the movement, then it does need greater diversity in audience and bloggers, or then the issues being focused on will switch to the blogosphere, and turf wars, policy fights, and other friction points of disunity will most certainly occur, as the paradigm of the Democratic Party shifts with it.

Where is the progressive blogosphere now? I would say it is part nitch, part institution. It is clear why the blogosphere is nitch, but let me elaborate on how it has institutional power. Are there other parts of the movement which have power? Yes, from MoveOn, to SEIU and AFL-CIO, to  the Environmental groups, etc. They all have some clout with the Democratic Party.

However, by dint of their demographic audiences, these groups are less focused on the meta level, on the broad application of issues and tactics for the movement. Whereas NARAL and Sierra Club go after their specific issues, the progressive blogosphere looks at all the issues, candidates, the interaction with the media, money, etc. Because of this, some of the progressive blogosphere is taking over the role of advisor and consultant to the Democratic Party, something which other groups are defintely not doing. This will raise the leverage of the blogosphere within the movement and the Democratic Party. How many bloggers are advising Democratic candidates? How does this compare to those from MoveOn, traditional interest groups, etc. They mgiht provide money and muscle, but the insight, and ultimately the vision, is increasingly dominated by the progressive blogosphere.

As such, I do think there will be a time when the stark differences between those in the progressive blogosphere, and those in the movement, could become a problem. The best thing to do in any event is to keep track of these developments.

by liberal2012 2007-05-07 06:27AM | 0 recs
Self-fulfilling cycles...

I'm hesitant to wade into this debate, yet it's too important of a topic not to. I apologize for the length of this comment, please stick with me.

The big reason I'm hesitant: I don't like the framing. As other commenters have pointed out, justifications for being a "niche" are the same justifications used to perpetuate overt de facto discrimination. As just a few examples, elite single-sex colleges, segregated dance halls, and all-white country clubs have been (or still are) justified as serving a "niche".

To me, the most important point is one that came through in comments in the first post (and in k/o's post). The visible face of your organization (e.g., in this case, who you recruit and promote as front-pagers) needs to look like your target audience.

This is a self-fulfilling cycle: your audience will look like your site's voice. Diversify the voice, diversity the audience. [Here, Chris is blurring a point about the topics of conversation (MyDD as a niche site on polling, etc.) with diversity in perspectives (a full range of gender, education/occupational backgrounds, income, race, cultural heritage, etc.).]

Because of long-standing inequities of access, inertia, accidents of history, and outright prejudice and injustices the path from here to there requires special attention to diversity. It requires outreach to under-represented populations, not justification of the status quo.

Diversity in blogging is important for all the same reasons that it is important for schools to have teachers as diverse as their pupils, universities to have professors as diverse as their students, and corporations to have employees AND managers as diverse as their customers.

Valuing diversity is a core progressive value. If we don't figure out how to solve this challenging issue as we build progressive netroots institutions, how can we ever hope to change society?

by WVaBlue 2007-05-07 07:03AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

I'm not commenting directly on Chris' argument, as I'm not sure I follow it in all its particulars, but I keep coming back to some things from my own activist and organizing experience, and I'd like feedback once I'm done sharing them, if possible.

First, it's a no brainer that site like MyDD or my own home, Firedoglake, can continue to search for talented writers whose voices and activist agendas fit our core site niches, or otherwise educate our audiences about different prespectives.  

We try to do this all the time at FDL, and one of the reasons I write there less frequently now than I used to is because I'm allocating more of my time to this kind of back end organizational development for the FDL operation, etc.  I see MyDD has actively searched for diversity of voices that fit their niche in electoral politics as well, and has put such people on the front page.

At FDL, relative to MyDD, we are a kind of more diversified activist-cum-media hub, an activist site that does progressive messaging and advocacy, occasionally committing journalism.  Contrast that with one of our complimentary twins, TPM, which is more primarily a journalism identified organization that has nevertheless committed activism, such as during the social security fight.

Now, the question becomes, what should FDL be doing more of to promote more empowerment of progressives of color?

There are a few things, but for one thing, when we look for new content providers whose style and interests tend to fit with those our site has developed and propelled, we also actively look for  people of color who do our kind snarky but biting activism.  We have a niche in propelling strong women's voices, and that provides an important part of our brand, what our readers like, so we want to sustain that as a central part of our branding, even though we have a number of men  writing.  

We look for ideology in our writers, and writers who really get our style of progressive activism, because we use that to cheer and inspire our readers to elect real progressives.  That's what our Blue America candidate list is all about, and the Roots Project.  So far, I'm the only latino among our core of writers, and other than some guest appearances by our very good friend Steve Gilliard (currently recovering), we have not had steady African American generated content on the site.  That has not stopped us from writing all the time about race, or about having the fight for racial justice race undergird everything else we do.

For example, when we write about, and move opinion and activists to fight against, the war, we are fighting for racial justice.  People of color are America's IED fodder, and people of color abroad are the targets of our M-16's and torture cells.

When we write about the USA/DOJ scandal, we are writing about racial justice.  The voter suppression racket of the GOP is a racial justice and empowerment issue.

When we write about workers and unions and economics, we are writing about racial justice, because when wealthy elites hijack our government and public subsidies and tax breaks to their own ends, fomenting more and more poverty, this occurs on the backs of people of color most of all.

I could go on and on, but you (I hope) get the point.  This is aside from all the posts we do highlighting racism in establishment media or on the right wing, a beat the TRex in particular covers for us pretty regularly.

So, it's a no brainer that we can continue to look for opportunities to find writers of color whose style and ideology fits our brand.  I've found a couple of good prospects just in the past week, at least as guest writers to bring into the rotation.  

With that, and through linking, we can keep looking for ways to promote such writers as they crop up.  By linking, we can send traffic to people whose focus is not always like our but who have their own approach and style that compliments our political philosophy, or which we feel adds to the community conversation.  For example, we've been working on some changes to our blogroll and have yet to make them, though we also do a lot of linking through our posts.

I have had a number of conversations with people offline who want to understand how better to build their own audiences online, and I've often thought it might be a good idea to write a post that made some recommendations, things we've learned about how to succeed in this medium, available to all.  I have hesitated to do it for a couple of reasons.

First, I don't want to be misunderstood that I'm talking down to people or trying to tell them to do things our way.  I would see it as a set of best practices and lessons learned from my/our experience and observations, but I can anticipate, based on past conflicts, that not all would interpret it that way.  

Second, I never wanted it to be interpreted as another in the round of the argument where people in established blogs are perceived simply to be saying derisively to others, "stop whining and build your own  popular blog."

What do you think:  should I write up a kind of lessons learned and best practices post on what I see as success factors for developing an audience?

While the barriers to entry to starting a blog are very low, the barriers are quite high to building a highly trafficked one, and most of them have much more to do with the amount of work and other things it takes to find and exploit a popular niche that draws in people of its own magnetic force, and less to do with just asking for links.  It's like building a business:  attracting customers is a lot harder than many people think.  Most new business startups don't succeed.

On another note, beyond doing all that I've already described, I've been looking for opportunities to meet or talk, even offline, with people who have constituencies, particularly constituencies of color, who would like to learn how best to exploit and generate progressive power through this medium.  The hypothetical blog post I mention could help, but only those people in those communities would be able to translate what I might have to offer to their own communities.  For example, some may have the added challenge of getting many of their base audience to make online blog reading part of their lives - a harder thing to do when online access is so inequitably distributed in our country.  I would like very much to see more highly trafficked, vibrant communities emerge.

Anyway, I guess my specific questions are these:

1.  should I create the kind of blog post I've described above, and if I do, will critics who emphasize diversity accept it in the spirit intended?

2.  do you think there would be any interest in the kind of personal, offline outreach to help deliver and adapt the kind of knowledge I might have to impart to other communities or constituencies, without people assuming that some light skinned gay latino born in the US is talking down to people or trying to tell them what to do?  If so, will you send me people who might be interested?  My email is public at

Sorry for the long comment.  Thanks for your indulgence.

by Pachacutec 2007-05-07 07:05AM | 0 recs
What Is MyDD's Niche?

Chris keeps making this point that MyDD's niche is election analysis. But I don't see how MyDD sticks to that niche. Jonathan talks to and about a lot of candidates, but he also has put up posts talking about the Justice Department scandal and other issue material. Matt has spent a lot of energy on issues like net neutrality, free trade, the way issue groups organize and react to Supreme Court nominations, and working with unions. Jerome tends to pop in with net/tech specific stuff or posts about campaign finance. Even Chris talks a lot about building a movement and wanting to be one of those people out in the vanguard creating a dramatic social change. it sure sounds like the niche that MyDD wants, let alone the niche Chris wants for the entire progressive blogosphere, is to be A Movement or at least a significant force in organizing A Movement. And that sounds like a big enough niche that the diversity of voices brought to the table matters.

by Dave Thomer 2007-05-07 07:05AM | 0 recs
Chris forgets his history and himself--what gives?
I disagree with Chris on first principles as others here do: valuing and seeking diversity is inalienable from the definition of progressive at this point in history. It's not my purpose here to defend that, so I won't go into it here.
I also disagree with his notion of what MYDD is: Chris's attempt to assert a specific subject focus (election analysis) is arbitrary and defines away some of the site's most important accomplishments--such as the Google bomb project and MYDD's leadership role in scuttling the Fox News/Nevada debate.
The notion that MYDD is a tight little central committee of insiders twiddling away in the background doing analysis is ludicrous. You have alot more effect in the political world than that.
by johnalive 2007-05-07 12:02PM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

Well, I'm glad to see that you are moderating your language, at least a little, to reflect reality. Recognizing yourselves (The White Progressive Movement, as Stoller calls it) as a very small subset of an overall online, engaged and extremely diverse blogosphere is progress of a sort.

That you are still declaring yourselves "leaders of the blogosphere" is troublesome, but as long as the people you are declaring it to (both on blogs and in the media and politicians, etc) realize what that particular "blogosphere" consists of - mostly white, mostly male, mostly upper income - then there is less chance of anyone getting the impression that they are getting the full story and analysis of any particular political or cultural event.

How effective or sustaining all this is or will be in the long run, though, I am not sure. I've mentioned before that I didn't know how you could have a long term, effective "progressive movement" that was mainly peopled by the "comfortable". I'm still not clear on that, but there are signs that others have decided that maybe that is not the movement they want to join, particularly.

Already I've noticed political and activist blogs of color (although not all) flat out rejecting the "progressive" or "liberal" labels (and sites)- for a variety of reasons, but in part because they have become so synonymous with 'white progressive' sites and interests that do not reflect them or their interests or, as in the case of some of the larger "liberal" sites, are actively hostile to them.

I am not a political party operative/activist, and have no desire to be one, but I am interested in as wide a variety of views on any given subject as I have time and access to get... In addition to reading political, feminist and cultural blogs and other sites written by Black people, I also read and participate, somewhat - a natural lurker, me - on blogs run by, and focused on issues important to, Latin@s, Asians, Muslims of various ethnicity, non US persons, as well as white progressive and white feminist, etc blogs.

I like to know what is going on, politically and culturally, with people and why... maybe I'm just nosy.

I truly do not understand the "we are the world" view of the larger white political blogs, in this day and age, but to each their own and all that.

by Nanette K 2007-05-07 07:18AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

My comment is based on a lifetime of scientific and corporate environments and high end IT staff development. For decades, corporate goals included first anti-discrimination and then multicultural targets. They were all about diluting a white male institution with non-white, non-male employees. Initially, results were an increase (from essentially zero) of female communications, ideas, and analytics (not so much racial, imho). Years pass and we begin to mix purely American-centered anti-discrimination goals with an international aspect incorporating Asians and Middle Easterners  - mostly males at first.

Years after achieving some dilution, the downstream effects of more diverse staffs started to surface and they were clearly valuable and surprise benefits to most corporate types, leading to a refinement of the goals changed to something called Cultural Diversity. The product of not just having these new faces around but moving beyond assimilation - their impact into the frames of the entire staff made a single culturally diverse environment which was richer and more creative. No longer was there an attempt to move women into male dominated professions but the encouragement and natural flourishing of the mixed environment produced better results - yes, everyone improved, even the white men who got better adopting the new skills and competencies that came through their now bigger frames.

To summarize, imo, to optimize the "Progressive political blogging" environment, we all already know from our conventional jobs, that the bigger and more comprehensive the frames the more correct and rich are the results. Iow, it's not about including others, or the variety of participants so much as improving and maturing the "Progressive political blogging" results.

by kck 2007-05-07 07:53AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

Skeptic06 said: "Who, exactly, within the interest group (political process geekdom) served by MyDD is being segregated out? And how is this being done?"

Good point. Especially in conjunction with "All community blogs are pickup games (except for the owners): you show up, you play."

The popularity of this site resulted from an organic process. The MyDD owners are certainly under no obligation to do anything different simply to cater to an under-represented demographic (tho they may choose to do so). The idea that they must seems (to me) to derive from a traditional leader/follower institutional analysis which PRESUMES that Mydd, DKos, Atrios, (etc.) are our de facto leaders. This is just ridiculous. If MyDD began pandering, I (for one) would stop reading.

But the recurrent expression of this sort of thinking gives insight (and some support) to what Chait was getting on about.

by scudbucket 2007-05-07 08:08AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

like I said above your comment reflects very little understanding of how media works. this all smells of the new age , but the internet is different from the rest of the world, stuff that people seem to subscribe to without ever having to prove. Why is the internet or for that matter the blog that has a high level of popularity thus giving it de facto power any different than any other media that built up over time in popularity? can you give me a reason other than its the internet?

by bruh21 2007-05-07 08:38AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

That there are different "jobs" that need to be done for progressivism to flourish, that's true.

That no one is being kept out of this debate - open access means that, open access - this is also true.

However - having someone FROM those different perspectives blogging, this is a good thing.  I learn quite a lot from Steve Gilliard, ya know?  

You can continue on blogging what you are blogging about, but someone from another racial perspective can enhance YOUR - and thus OUR - understanding of reality.

by jc 2007-05-07 08:13AM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

"When it comes to diversity, I believe that large institutions in which the general public has an enormous stake, such as "new media," and "the progressive movement" absolutely have an obligation to be representative of America (or, in the case of the latter, at least of progressives). However, each individual subset of those institutions does not need to be equally diverse."

This is scary wrong, because it seems to indicate you know not the power which you wield.

Putting it bluntly, there is every reason to believe that the blogs will be at the forefront of any progressive movement success, acting as a catalyst for new political leaders and groups to get involved in specific fights, and acting as a filter for party candidates to be screened and measured up for their races.  We're going to be the force that determines which marginal races get major attention, and which candidates without elite support are deemed viable contenders for nominations.  The sheer force of the blogosphere requires campaigns to hire staffers to focus on netroots outreach (I myself had such a job last cycle).  We're about to be the power constituency for the progressive movement, and homogeneity in that context is both unbecoming and dangerous, as the voices the movement seeks most to help will be unheard by net-centric campaigners.

We're frankly the fastest, least expensive way for candidates to fundraise and build support networks. In at least that regard we're just as important, if not more so, than local advocacy groups and donor networks, so far as a large number of our candidates are concerned.  We raised millions for Democratic candidates in the last cycle and a half, and in some instances kept primary candidates alive well past the point where their candidacies would otherwise have naturally petered out (think Lamont if nothing else, but also Cegelis, McNerney, Shea-Porter, and Kissell--two of whom were deemed unelectable by national Democrats and are sitting in Congress today, largely by virtue of netroots activism).

So yeah, blogging is a niche.  But if it isn't already, then within two years it will be the most powerful niche in the progressive movement.  And while I think it's great that the biggest face within the netroots is a Hispanic veteran, I think our overall lack of compositional diversity is a serious problem.  Blogging isn't just any old niche anymore--you guys have built yourselves, intentionally or otherwise, to something much more important than the average niche.

by Jay R 2007-05-07 09:39AM | 0 recs
This debate

is really about how we define progressive and who defines it.  

Progressive blogging or the "progressive blogosphere," in my view, includes striving for diversity as a value or it is not, by definition, progressive.

The bottom line of both of your posts, Chris, effectively redefines the progressive blogosphere so as NOT to include the progressive value of diversity in the only way that counts: when we apply that standard to ourselves.

Your boiled down point is that MyDD can still be a progressive blog and be mostly white and wealthy, and there's no problem with that. To arrive at that conclusion you promote this concept that we are a niche within a broader, more diverse movement. This begs the question of how we define the MyDD niche. When one follows your logic to its natural ends, one concludes that the MyDD niche self-defines: "Democratic poll-oriented discussions of elections in a mostly white and wealthy environment, and that's okay."

I disagree, and to be blunt, given how MyDD has sought to define itself as the meeting place for professional Democrats and activists, it represents a failure to live up to this blog's own mission.

MyDD has time and again self-defined as the place where Democratic political professionals and activists come to talk turkey. Think about that in the context of these two posts, Chris. Discussing polls and elections is not a "white thing."

Unless you want to make the argument that Democratic professionals and activists should be or are "mostly white and wealthy" what you're saying here is fundamentally wrong-headed and out of keeping not only with Progressive and core Democratic values, but the self-stated target audience of MyDD itself.

by kid oakland 2007-05-07 09:43AM | 0 recs
Chris can defend himself, but...

given how MyDD has sought to define itself as the meeting place for professional Democrats and activists

[T]he meeting place - when was the claim to uniqueness made, exactly?

Straw man alert, surely?!

On the other hand,

Democratic poll-oriented discussions of elections in a mostly white and wealthy environment, and that's okay.

is more or less right - and so what?

The environment is mostly white not through any effort of Chris's; that's just the demo who choose to come along.

Discussing polls and elections is not a "white thing."

Absolutely right - I have not the slightest idea of the skin shades of almost all of those whose stuff I read here. Makes no difference.

I'm also puzzled as to what standard of diversity you would wish to see imposed on MyDD: should it represent the demo of Dem voters, or Dem activists, or what?

How long should we be allowed to reach the required level? Should that include only front pagers, or must the ordinary membership be adjusted to fit? Who will administers the racial, etc test? Who will decides which members should be - eliminated?


Perhaps it really could happen here after all...

by skeptic06 2007-05-07 10:34AM | 0 recs
I am

calling for outreach and the importance of striving for diversity as a progressive value. I couldn't be more clear about those points.

As for the us of "the" or "a" point stands.  MyDD has written often and frequently about being a meeting place for Democratic professional activists. As such, it should strive to be broadly inclusive.

re: "who will administer the racial test?"

Talk about straw man.

That's just patently unrelated to anything I wrote, if not more than little sophomoric.

by kid oakland 2007-05-07 11:47AM | 0 recs

it was a little reductio ad absurdum.

You're laying down the law, and I'm just exploring how far your law might go.

The diversity standards by which you proposed to judge the blog - and pronounce censure or not - just seemed to me a little vague, that's all.

And the difference between the and a is rather important, given what I understand to be Chris's argument, ie, that MyDD is only a small part of the lefty sphere, and an even smaller part of the progressive movement, however you might define it.

If it were indeed the place for...whatever it was, naturally, such a monopoly of a scarce resource would entail wider responsibilities.

It's not, so it doesn't.

by skeptic06 2007-05-07 12:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Actually...

I've read your point several times now. You aren't talking at all on the subject so much as throwing things around it.

by bruh21 2007-05-07 01:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Actually...

What I'm struggling to understand is what, exactly, Chris and Matt are supposed to do to remedy MyDD's supposed lack of diversity.

It would be nice to have an example of another specialist blog like this one that managed to achieve such a transformation.

Would it require a non-white/male FPer to be appointed, for instance? Or would it be sufficient if Chris interviewed one or two non-white/male candidates?

The onus is surely on those making a proposal like KO's to explain such practicalities.

(The question of who judges the success of the diversification, and on what authority, by all means let's leave aside for the moment...)

by skeptic06 2007-05-07 01:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Actually...

maybe if you spent less time trying to live up to your screen name and al ittle bit more trying to figure out solutions you would understand the points being made here. good luck.

by bruh21 2007-05-07 06:53PM | 0 recs
Re: This debate

I just gave you a three. I rarely rate anything here, but you encapsulate so much of what I find problematic with all of this and you say it better than I could.

by bruh21 2007-05-07 10:44AM | 0 recs
appreciate that

and I know that you won't hestitate to disagree with me when the situation warrants, either. ;)

by kid oakland 2007-05-07 11:53AM | 0 recs
Re: appreciate that

yeah no one could ever accuse me of not having my own mind or cowtowing to anyone.

by bruh21 2007-05-07 06:54PM | 0 recs
Re: This debate

PS- as I said before- I don't see how his arguments are any different than any other institution claiming exemption from the race problem in America.

by bruh21 2007-05-07 10:45AM | 0 recs
Re: This debate

In addition to diversity as a progressive value, imo it's also a maturity metric. If a blog's voice is overwhelmingly read as male then it is a less mature vehicle than a blog that has a voice of diversity. I agree that striving for diversity is a good principle, but if a blog demonstrates diversity, regardless of the genders or races on hand, shows a higher competency level or level of analytical, organizational, and media maturity.

by kck 2007-05-07 04:24PM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

That's exactly what it sounds like Chris is saying, and given the relative importance of the blogosphere within the larger progressive movement, that's a worrisome thought.

by Jay R 2007-05-07 09:44AM | 0 recs
Black people don't golf, either.

The problem with the assertion that "blogging is a niche" is that it hastily absolves you of any responsibility to examine why that is, and whether that is how it should be.  

IMHO, blogging is not a "niche," any more than writing generally is a "niche"; were all things equal, the blogosphere, political and otherwise, would reflect society.  It's doesn't, and that is a reflection of the fact that in our society, not all things are equal.

I wish MyDD would admit that fact, rather than continue in its bullshit efforts to pretend that it isn't a product of privilege.

Come on, MyDD.  Join that reality-based community you're so fond of pretending you belong to.

by Drew 2007-05-07 10:04AM | 0 recs
Precisely ... any single blog will, of course, ...

... face the risk of losing focus if it spreads its net too widely ... but the same does not apply to the progressive blogosphere as a whole, and so there is no reason to not want the progressive blogosphere to reflect the full variety of progressive coalitions themselves.

by BruceMcF 2007-05-07 10:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Precisely ...


So then that justifies focusing on issues that only White Males in a specific tax bracket want to focus on?

There's nothing progressive about that.

by ObamaEdwards2008 2007-05-07 01:19PM | 0 recs
A bog is justified in focusing on those issues ...

... but they are only going to be a part of the progressive blogosphere community if they are doing something progressive in that.

One of my favorite lefty economists when I was studying was Doug Henwood, editor of the Left Business Observer. Many of his subscribers would be the participants in the financial markets, and odds are strong that they were dominated by white males in certain tax brackets.

Of course, as you describe it, the hypothetical blog is not really defined by its core area of interest. I'd be skeptical that a blog established specifically for white males in the $100K-$200K of income is going to actually be progressive, and if its not a progressive blog then the point is moot.

by BruceMcF 2007-05-07 07:28PM | 0 recs
My take

If we're going to harp on terminology, then you should admit that what you're calling the "progressive blogosphere" is in fact a subset, the white, over-educated, rich, male (WORM) progressive blogosphere.

by The Cunctator 2007-05-07 10:50AM | 0 recs
Re: My take

That's a pretty hateful thing to say.

by Pachacutec 2007-05-07 01:07PM | 0 recs
Re: My take

Huh? "the progressive, political blogosphere skews toward the following demographics: 85-90% white, 60-65% male, very high income ($75-$80K average income), and the highly educated (40-50% advanced degrees, and 80-85% four year degrees)"

by The Cunctator 2007-05-08 04:49PM | 0 recs
Re: More On Diversity: Blogging Is A Niche

This seems to presuppose that minority concerns and issues aren't/shouldn't be of concern to "the mainstream."

Indeed, one of the things that bothers me is how "the mainstream" tends to isolate issues that related to/are of concern for minority communities into the "minority issue" ghetto.  Why does "poverty" become a "minority issue"?  Why, when something like the Imus controversy arises, is there suddenly concern about gansta rap---as if "white" rock music (and 'mainstream culture) is free of violent images and misogyny.

by plukasiak 2007-05-07 12:26PM | 0 recs
Re: But I see no public purpose served by ...

Yes, I think that mountain bikes do not need marketing. They require marketing if they are going to have a thriving market, but there is no social need for them to have a thriving market, so that is rather a "want" on the part of the mountain bike industry than any form of social need.

by BruceMcF 2007-05-07 07:32PM | 0 recs

I don't know if it's too late to respond to this now that it's on the second page, but...

Two thoughts.

First, this whole "blogging is a niche" thing is something that, in isolation, I would have agreed with. However I find it incredibly startling to see this particular message being pushed on MyDD in specific. MyDD is a site that, though I honestly can't remember whether I've specifically seen Chris engaging in this behavior, MyDD is frequently that blogs are not just a niche, but a crucial journalistic and political transformative tool which needs to be central to any political movement or campaign.

I'm not sure how to take it that when it's a question of whether politics and politicians need to take blogs seriously, engage blogs and work with them. (I'm quite certain I've seen Barack Obama trashed around here by at least one of the central authors because of a perception he views the established "Netroots" sites like MyDD/DailyKos/etc as something that he can more or less overlook.) But when the question is whether the blogosphere should be diverse, suddenly blogs just aren't such a big deal and it doesn't matter so much either way what happens with them.

Which is it?

Second, you say this:

At some point in kid oakland's comment, MyDD and Dailykos become synonymous with all "new media."

This may be, but it really was the case that your previous post did not do a terribly good job of distinguishing whether you meant "new media" ("the progressive political blogsophere"?), MyDD and DailyKos, or just MyDD. I don't think you can fairly blame for not being able to pick up on which you meant when.

This said, I at least would tend to have drastically different expectations for MyDD than I would have for DailyKos. This is because MyDD is a relatively closed site with four or so main writers and as far as has been mentioned as long as I've been reading it no particular plans to add more, whereas DailyKos is intended to be a real open community. Because DailyKos is a more community focused site, and because now that we're getting into this "YearlyKos" stuff it seems like DailyKos is starting to become some sort of nexus for real political power, if DailyKos is not a diverse site this is a much more serious problem.

:shrugs: just saying.

by mcc 2007-05-07 10:03PM | 0 recs


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