Clash of the Titans

It seems there are some advantages to not being an “A-list” blogger. One of them is that I can, from time to time, shoot off my mouth and suffer little to no consequences. Nobody — or very few, at least — hears a mouse that roars. It also means that when a tussle breaks out among some of the behemoths of the blogosphere, I can watch from a relatively safe distance and feel little more than slight rumblings of the earth in my small corner of blogdom.

I felt the first tremor yesterday, when I stumbled across Stirling Newberry’s BOPNews post titled “The Daily Kos Has Jumped the Shark.” After reading the title, I quickly scurried about securing breakables and nailing down stray pieces of furniture, before settling down under a table to see what Stirling had to say.

There has been in the last few weeks a changing of the guard at the Daily Kos, both on the front page, and on the recommended diary list. I am out of the b list of diarists that can make that list, and thus it is time for me to stop writing for the kos community. It has been a great run, and I have nothing but gratitude for the community and its support. However, the reality is that the moment of swarm collapse has happened, where the community is talking only to itself. Kos is now what DFA became in the late days of the Dean campaign – a bubble. It was waiting to be organized from the top, while it keeps itself in the dark and feeds on shit. A few people will have the ability to cut through the noise – I’n not going to be one of them.

 … Could this be fixed? Is it terminal? It can’t be fixed, because for the people who are screaming – the swarm – nirvana has been reached. There is now a screamsphere – where on any given day, any given screaming can win the screaming contest. The converse of fewer ideas, is more room for people who make noise.

This means that unless a much larger drive to link to ideas is made by the front page, the liberal sphere is about to completely fragment – where screamers scream only at each other, and head for group think non solutions, and the core gets on the wonkavator, and starts grading itself by the pound.

Wow. Strong stuff. I figured another tremor would follow, and sure enough, it did. I didn’t feel it, but Stirling delivered the news this morning.

Here I am again on the receiving end of ire of the powerful. This time Markos Moulitas-Zuniga – who has pulled bopnews.com from the dailykos blogroll, thus personalizing what was not a personal post. However, the rumbling signs have been there. But the original post that has gotten me in trouble, as with the open letter to the Clark movement, was not personally directed at the leader. There are plenty of anti-Markos quotes out there, but I’m not here to purvey them.

The action, however, demonstrates what I did say, and that is that the dailykos has jumped the shark, and converted from a mechanism that points force outward, to one which is entirely concerned with inward directed dialog. It is now the church of meta-jesus.

I have to admit that there’s a certain irony here as Stirling has banished at least one dissenter from his blogosphere fiefdom on BOPNews. 

I can say that without much fear of consequences because, like I said before, nobody hears a mouse that roars; least of all, giants who seldom look this far down. I’ve criticized a few A-listers — Kos among them — on this blog, without much consequence, because few of them read this blog as far as I know. If they do, well,  what I’ve had to say must not register as worthy of a response. And if it did, I’m not sure what that response would be.

In a blog economy where links are currency –  especially from a site like DailyKos — there is power in bestowing them and taking them away; but it is only power over those who have or would like to have more of that currency. I’ve probably fallen into that latter category on some occasions, but lately I find myself appreciating my somewhat unique position in the progressive blogging universe. And it was something in Stirling’s second post that made me think about that.

Blogging, in the cosmic scale of things, has two parts. One is its nature as a social idea that we can export – the use of digital communication, electronic presentation and interactive content to organize groups of people is present around the world.

… The second part of blogging is that it reduces the marginal cost of command and control inside the United States. Logically, if it is implemented, it should reduce the premium that the insiders can charge. There are two problems with this. The first is that managing the blog space is creating new insiders – insiders who don’t play well with others – and it has its own external-internal problem.

This problem is not new to the present state of the dailykos. Instead we have seen it repeatedly in electronic media – a particular form of the medium expands to a certain size, and suddenly, there is enough room “inside” it, that the everything people need comes from inside. It stops being able to make converts, and this ends its effectiveness as an expanding presence.

Maybe I’m wrong, since it’s probably largely a matter of my own perception, but I still see my position as being pretty much at the base of the long tail (or, as one A-list progressive blogger put it, I’m a “pretty solid mid-major blogg[er]“). I’m not at the precipice, but I can see it from here. My voice reaches that peak on occasion, but more often than not it doesn’t. I can hear what’s happening up there (plus it’s kinda part of my job to keep up with it), and decide whether I want to participate or not. And, for a number of reasons, I often choose not to.

I’ve pondered in the past whether and when to jump on whatever bandwagon the most popular progressive blogs are currently pushing. These days, I make that decision based on whether I think it makes a difference whether I join the rest in blogging a particular story or issue. My experience leads me to think, lately, that where I’m most effective as a blogger is in picking up stories that aren’t likely to get much notice on the major blog — like Zach’s story or Laurel Hester’s story — and covering them in some depth that both creates a resource on those stories and occasionally brings them to broader notice on some of the major blogs that didn’t pick up on them in the beginning.

There’s a certain freedom in not being the kind of insider that Stirling describes in his second post. It means that most of the time it doesn’t matter whether I jump on the latest lefty bloggers’ bandwagon, because most of the time nobody at insider level Stirling describes is going to care whether I do or not. And if I’m not coveting the link-currency that comes with that attention, then I only have to consider what I want to post about and what interests the folks who do read this blog. And if the big kids happen to look down here every once in a while and spotlight something I’ve blogged, well that’s just gravy.

Interestingly enough, part of what I think it’ll take to fix the issue Stirling addresses is doing away with the the whole self-perpetuating “inner circle” of top-level liberal bloggers who mostly reference each other. He basically said it in his first post, “unless a much larger drive to link to ideas is made by the front page, the liberal sphere is about to completely fragment”. He hits it again with his description of “network rent” in his second post.

…once something is hard coded in as network rent, it is very difficult to get around it. The holders of network rent are almost impossible to dislodge. Instead, the only way is to build a new structure where the links are fresh, and have people reselect what is best, rather than having an entropy link structure – that is, one that has accumulated. Gradually people who would have gone into the old system find that the swarm blocks their way, and they go into new ones instead.

You do away with it by doing away the boundaries that create the “inside.” That can be done in a couple of ways. It can happen from the inside, when the “insiders” themselves start looking and listening beyond their inner circle. Or it can happen from the outside, when the vast majority of the rest simply stop listening to and pointing at the “insiders,” which is what affords them that status in the first place. The walls around the inner circle are supported by the attention the rest of us pay to them.

Well, that’s just my observation,– my humble squeak/roar — from my little corner, far from the current clash of the Titans, where I can safely watch the big boys make the boulders bounce across the landscape of the blogosphere.

About Terrance

Black. Gay. Father. Buddhist. Vegetarian. Liberal.
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2 Responses to Clash of the Titans

  1. Mark says:

    My experience leads me to think, lately, that where I’m most effective as a blogger is in picking up stories that aren’t likely to get much notice on the major blog — like Zach’s story or Laurel Hester’s story — and covering them in some depth that both creates a resource on those stories and occasionally brings them to broader notice on some of the major blogs that didn’t pick up on them in the beginning.

    And that, right there, is why I read this blog more than Kos, Atrios, and the other bog boys (and in some cases, girls) combined. All they do is create an inner circle that, quite frankly, doesn’t allow for outside-the-box thinking.

    I find the middle of the road or small bloggers often have a fresh take, a story I haven’t seen covered somewhere else, or more in depth analysis.

    It’s why this weekend, as I do some updates to my site, I’m yanking them off my blogroll — not because they’re no good, per se, but because I’d much rather link to those blogs I actually read, or that I think deserve more attention.

    Of course, it’s not like it’ll matter — if you’re at the "tail end," I’m the pile that was left about a mile down the road. :) (To be honest, I don’t care all that much — I don’t blog for links, I blog for a creative outlet. But that’s a different story altogether).

  2. Stirling Newberry says:

    Difference is, I’m not running around calling Kos a “stalinist”, the person you are referring to did. I’m not questioning Kos’ right to behave as he did – though other people have questioned its wisdom.

    Not all dissent is the same.

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