On Blogging

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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41 Responses

  1. BCChase says:

    Speaking as an infrequent commenter, the dialogue in comments of this blog is right up there with Coates’ as the best in the web. There are few places where I will generally read all the comments and think “man, I don’t think I could have written that as well.” That makes for an intelligent, powerful, challenging community and website, which I generally learn a lot from. So no, I don’t think the community is faltering, especially compared to the majority of your peers around the web.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to BCChase says:

      I agree. I’m constantly challenged in the comments here. Mainly, I was referring to a possible need for the site’s writers to interact more – not anything lacking in the combox.Report

      • BCChase in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        If that’s the primary concern, two suggestions: there used to be audio posts of conversations between Gentlemen on a certain topic (I remember submitting a few questions for one a while back) that would be great to revive when brothers are going back and forth on a topic in posts or running along similar lines. If that is untenable, you could do an email dialogue and post the conversation. Either way, along with increased participation in the comments, there would be a much better feel of conversation among the main contributors.Report

  2. North says:

    Lord I hate the Atlantic redesign on poor Coates’ site. Even Mcardle is unreadable at the moment but the Atlantic has some pretty bright squirrels in their house. I’m hopeful they’ll unpack a paragraph or so from behind those links so the sites look at least a little like blogs again.

    As for the League I haven’t any complaints. You can’t have the site feel intimate and also have thirty bazillion readers/commenters. The two are somewhat mutually exclusive. But I think you lads (and ladies) have done a bang up job. And yes, the commentators are full of win (except that North fellow, what an over opinionated hack!)Report

  3. Aziz says:

    I really have been disenchanted with my turn at Beliefnet for these reasons. The biggest problem is that the Moveable Type interface is so slow and clunky and unintuitive that comment maintenance (or really, any admin task at all) is a gigantic chore. The audience is much less organic – what few regular readers i have that I retained from my move, are drowned out by casual first timers and trolls and spam. Its been essentially impossible to construct a dynamic community and ive resigned myself to the thought that at COB I wont be able to really have one, not as long as I am on Beliefnet, anyway. (no better offers have been forthcoming or are likely, so I need to accept this).

    Conversely, at Talk Islam, we have essentially the ideal community. By adopting the policy of promoting pretty much every regular commentator to a front page contributor, we have built a really solid cadre of reader-writers and blurred the line between posts and comments. The layout shows comments and posts together so you see the debate all at once instead of hiding commentary away behind a click. The Twitter-esque style does mean that teh original posts tend to be less verbose, but the debates that follow are usually stellar.

    Still, its not a place where I can just write for its own sake like I used to at old COB. At my old incarnation, I would write what i felt like writing, and didnt bother worrying about who would read it or wouldn’t, about traffic (I never even had a site meter on COB then), or how it would be received. I just write what I wanted to, as a stream of thought rather than a structured essay (and this got me into trouble on occasion).

    Right now I feel somewhat adrift in blogging. I dont really have an outlet where I can write for myself, and still attract a vibrant community of debate. I think the League comes closer to that kind of ideal model and I frankly envy you folks for having been able to build what has eluded me.Report

  4. Here’s my two cents: As to the value of the comments section here at The League – it’s superb in every way. I came to blogging from the chatboard world and the comment section here is better than any chatboard I was ever a member of. This is the only blog where I particpate in the comment threads. The commentors here routinely make me feel like an amateur among pros and I have been forced to reconsider my beliefs on numerous occassions because the counter-arguments were so damned hard to refute. And let’s hear it for an extremely high level of politeness and downright respect for other opinions!

    As for criticism, this is small but important. My first complaint is that there is no longer a real conversation between the writers with any regularity. All of you write thought-provoking and interesting stuff but it’s heading more in the direction of Moderate Voice or True/Slant with no high-level cohesion. I miss that.

    I also wish the writers were more involved in the comment threads. When they aren’t there is a bit of an aloofness that comes across (read my words but don’t expect me to defend them or participate in the conversation they spawn). Mark remains very good at staying engaged in the comments on his posts and I’ve noticed the new League members are doing a good job as well. Others need some work. My policy at my own blog (which admittedly has a lot less traffic) is that I respond to every comment directed at me or my writing specifically. I feel like it’s a show of respect for those who take the time to read my prose. If the conversation veers off into a dialogue between two commentors, my obligation is less-so but I still like to try and stay engaged.Report

  5. Dan Summers says:

    As an occasional commenter and guest author, I have to say that I haven’t really noticed a decline in quality, per se. The thoughts expressed are still excellent, and I can only dream that my own blog will be nearly as good as this one.

    There doesn’t seem to be, perhaps, quite the same degree of cohesion that the League once had. You Gents all seemed to have an interest in commenting on each other’s threads, and there seemed to be more back-and-forth. One got a sense of all of you through this ongoing interaction. This is similar to what Mike at the Big Stick is saying, I think. You don’t seem quite so involved with each other as you used to.

    Still, I also agree with above comments that the community here is of incredibly high quality, similar to the crew at Ta-Nehisi’s place and The Plank at its best.Report

  6. I need to read it twice before I write an intense account of such a thought provoling perspective.Report

  7. mike farmer says:

    I first went online in 1995 at a poetry site that was like a message board, and then drifted to other sites as the sophistication of interaction grew, then from poetry, I ventured to Philosophy sites, then blogs became available and I started both a poetry blog and a business blog. What I have liked about the whole experience is the interaction among commenters. I started a political blog a little over a year ago and it’s my private place to enjoy writing, not much interaction, but I really like places like the League which are community blogs. The League has done a good job of creating a personality and avoiding commercialism — there’s a place for commercialism and a place for unhampered communication. I felt at one time the League was drifting into Democrat partisanship, but it’s remained objective and diverse for the most part. I like the fact that the writers participate in the converstations. The best poetry site I was at on the old message boards was one where there was plenty of interaction, arguments, critiques, philosophical discussions and, most importantly, biting, brave, and somtimes weird, humor. The community blog forum is a much better forum for interaction and converstation — I hope places like the League survive, innovate and thrive, and never lose their personalities.Report

  8. Dan and Mike:

    I think you’re both on to something about the conversational element of things, and it’s something that I know we’d like to get back to a lot more. On the issue of participation in threads by post-authors, I think it important to note that there are technological limitations that have sprouted up that vastly inhibit the ability of two Gents to participate as much as they would like in the comments threads. I know that’s a bit vague, but hopefully you can do the math.Report

    • Understood Mark – ED has mentioned as such. We can’t all work for 30 minutes and blog for 10. Damn the man!Report

      • One other point: I do try to respond to comments when I get the chance, but keep in mind that we all have day jobs, which can limit our ability to write posts and keep up with feedback from our readers. I hope everyone understands that this doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate input from the commentariat. At the very least, I try to read every comment on my threads.Report

        • Dan Summers in reply to Will says:

          I think I speak for everyone when I encourage you to put your blogging ahead of all other priorities. It seemed to work out OK for Dooce in the end, after all.Report

          • I agree with Dan. It’s all about priorities. I arrange mine like this:

            – Eating
            – Loving on the family
            – Television
            – Sitting on toilet
            – Reading
            – Reading while on toilet
            – Watching TV while on toilet
            – Blogging while on… (psych!)
            – Hobbies (includes blogging)
            – Chores around the house
            – More eating
            – Work?

  9. Bob Cheeks says:

    Hell, I’m here to stamp out communism wherever I find it!!! Ok, I’m kidding (..a little). Actually, I’m an old dude and not familiar with you snarky kids when I started ‘commenting’ with the intention of provoking response. However, over the ensuing months I’ve read your comments and your blogs and they continue to impress me, not only with your wit, by dare I say it, yes…your erudition and occasional wisdom.
    I’m impressed because you guys do your research though sometimes I bitch about and question your sources. However, as a result of your work I’ve gotten a broader perspective on the issues though I remain ardently a Rightest, perhaps even more so, simply because I love my fellow man.
    So, you kids are brilliant interlocutors though often wrong (…Freddie, are you there); captured by the gods of immanence yet, sometimes yearning for the transcendental (don’t worry kids, it’ll come).!Report

  10. Matthew Schmitz says:

    Erik, I think your post is timely and dead-on. My first couple of weeks here have been an incredible ride (thanks, above all, to the responses from my fellow writers and all you commenters), but I’ve been searching for a way to make my posts part of an intra-League conversation. A few days ago I looked back at the first couple of weeks of posts here on the League, and the level of interaction between all of you was incredible.

    My plan at this point is simply to make an even greater effort to carefully read, research (if necessary, but hopefully not!) and respond to all of you. But goodness, you all write so much! — slow down and give a guy a chance, will you?Report

  11. greginak says:

    Good post Erik. I often wonder why certain blogs end up with good comment sections and others don’t. Communities are difficult to knowingly create. TNC has a great community. Matt Y has a crappy comments section filled with trolls. Crooked Timber often has great discussions.

    It is much better to have the bloggers particpate in the discussions. On many blogs that is often the only reason to read the comments.Report

  12. Jaybird says:

    Of course, I love it here and I love all y’all. If the comments ever suck, I’m pretty sure that it’s my fault and if the comments are ever awesome (as they usually are) I’m pretty sure it’s because of everybody else.

    Y’all are the bomb diggity. I don’t say that enough.Report

  13. Bob Cheeks says:

    JB, dude, you are among the wisemen at the league!Report

  14. Kyle R. Cupp says:

    You’ve still got the sense of community that makes this a unique place in the ‘sphere. It really helps that the contributors comment on each other’s posts, write posts in response to one another, and carry an ongoing conservsation over several posts. You may have several tables set up in this bar (and multiple conversations at each table), but you can tell that people are moving from table to table.

    BTW, what happened to the side list of contributors?Report

  15. Rufus says:

    I’ve not been very good at connecting my little posts to the larger conversation. But I’m tending increasingly to think that we’re all blogging about the same topic here. Much of the discussion about the relative impoverishment of the current political discourse seems, to me, to be fundamentally about culture instead of politics. I think we’re all bemoaning a certain cultural inability or unwillingness to talk seriously together about things that matter. So, I’ve been seeing the site as a place for slow, patient thinking about human life, which I hope would ultimately produce a better political culture. But, of course, I’m a newbie and I might well be part of the problem. I don’t know.Report