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The Evolution of Blogging: An Interview with John Cole( 11 )

tunchandlily

John Cole's pets, Tunch and Lily

John Cole began blogging at Balloon Juice way back in 2002, when he was still a die-hard Republican.  According to the FAQ on his blog, you can “check the archive to see how crazy” he was back then.  Since then his political views have shifted and the blog has grown.  The blog has also evolved from one lone blogger to four, the new co-contributors rising from the ranks of the site’s busy comment threads.

I had a chance to talk with John Cole last week about blogging and politics, and you can read the whole thing right after the leap…. (more…)

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The Evolution of Blogging: An Interview with Charles Johnson( 43 )

CJFew bloggers have had quite as controversial a career as Little Green Football’s Charles Johnson.  Johnson began blogging in earnest back in 2001 after the attacks on the twin towers, and continues putting out content at a furious pace nearly a decade later.

He is perhaps best known for playing a key role in the resignation of CBS’s Dan Rather following the forged Killian document scandal.  He also played a role in bringing attention to altered photographs in the Adnan Hajj photographs controversy. In July 2008, LGF identified that photographs of Iran’s nuclear missile test had been altered.

More recently, Johnson has locked spears with many on the right over issues such as Obama’s birth certificate, creationism in schools, and “Obama Derangement Syndrome.”

He helped found the popular new media site, Pajamas Media, though he has since fallen out with the publishers and, as of September, has removed all links from Little Green Footballs to Pajamas Media.

I had a chance to exchange emails with Charles Johnson about his experience as a blogger and the current state of affairs on the war on terror and the conservative blogosphere. (more…)

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America’s Next Top Pundit( 6 )

Despite Will’s take on the Washington Post’s “Next Top Pundit” contest, I thought it sounded like a pretty neat way to gain some exposure.  I mean, no matter which way you look at it, for a young writer, being given even the chance to compete for a column is a great way to get a toe or two through the proverbial door.  So I submitted an essay.

And I didn’t win.  As Kevin Drum notes,

By the way, the ten winners include a Nobel Prize winner, a Bush 43 assistant secretary of commerce (guess which one), a senior correspondent for the American Prospect, an analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations, a former researcher at the Kennedy School of Government, an Atlantic Media fellow, and a small-town newspaper editor.  Not exactly a crowd of just plain folks.  It might have been more fun to read the other 4,790 entries.

I guess the odds were against me.  I was under the impression this would be a battle between relative amateurs and unknowns, not Nobel Prize winners and Atlantic Media fellows.  I stand corrected.

Here are the winners.

In any case, here’s what I submitted, in case you’re interested: (more…)

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Dear Washington Post,( 16 )

Look, I get it. Sales figures are declining. Online ad revenue sucks. This whole fragmented media environment thing hasn’t exactly been gangbusters for business. That Internet video experiment flamed out faster than a Roman candle.

But I can’t hate on you for experimenting. Times are tough, and a new business environment probably demands a new approach to news gathering. And I wish you all the best. Really, I do. Unlike some folks, I have a lot of respect for the good work you put out on a regular basis. I shudder to think what life in the District and Northern Virginia would be like without Post beat reporters.  Other than the occasional beef with your op-ed page, I honestly think you put out a fine product.

But this latest gimmick is just . . . silly. After a year or two in the blogosphere, I’ve belatedly realized that the last thing we need is another jack-of-all-trades commentator. I mean, we’re dealing with an embarrassment of riches in that department.  Everyone and their mother seems to have an opinion, a WordPress account, and access to Google. It’s been fun, but I think amateur punditry is rapidly reaching the point of diminishing returns. Except for my co-bloggers, that is. They’re still money.

But aside from all the wannabe pundits and amateur conspiracy theorists, the Internet has also managed to draw a bunch of experts out of the woodwork. Think tankers, economists, and lawyers – you name it, they all have blogs now. And they write. All. The. Time. It’s almost as if they enjoy sharing their expertise with the rest of us in an open, unmediated forum. These days, I don’t have to rely on a Post beat writer  to pull a few quotes from expert X on crisis Y – I can just fire up my RSS feed and check out expert X’s (frequently updated) blog for his or her totally comprehensive opinion.

So here’s my proposal. Instead of giving away valuable column space to some schmuck who can plausibly construct an opinion on every imaginable topic in one week or less, why not try giving one of these quirky expert types a shot? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a few financial analysts on-hand the next time a global financial crisis hits? What about a military guy to explain this whole War on Terrorism business? (Wait, you just canned Tom Ricks?) Or a lawyer, to parse the latest torture memos?

If I was running the show, I’d probably draft Jim Manzi. Or that bald dude from Rortybomb. I think you’re better off with either of those guys than a pale George Will imitator. But maybe that’s just me.

Love,

Will

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health care, flip-flopping, and drunken boxing…er…blogging( 31 )

Okay, so Michael Drew in the comments has pointed out that I have been inconsistent in my take on health care.  Indeed, my take on health care is one that is “in the making” as it were, and so this is not surprising.  I have moved, and rather quickly (I admit) from support of a public option to not supporting a public option, though nothing is set in stone.  The more I have studied this, the more I have come to believe that the public option would become as much of a distortion as the system we have now.

At the same time, my first concern remains insuring the uninsured.  I think what I was driving at in my initial “multi-tiered” approach was an attempt to have freer markets, thus maintaining our high level of quality and innovation (and probably improving it on both those fronts) while at the same time ensuring that everyone is insured via the public option.  If all else fails – and I’m sure it will – then I will still be glad that people who are not insured will be once a public option is in place.  If that actually happens.  I think that when we break this down to a very human level, it’s important to realize that at the heart of it all is a very real, very devastating problem for many Americans.

My turn toward vouchers rather than a public plan comes essentially from some very convincing arguments brother Mark has leveled at me – namely that there are two ways a government can dole out subsidies – either to the supply side or to the demand side.  Subsidizing supply effectively picks “favorites” in a given industry (say drug companies, for instance) whereas subsidizing demand does not.  It spreads out the subsidy and allows for various groups to compete.  So you still have government helping people get insurance, you just don’t have them subsidizing specific groups to do it.  Since I’m an avowed anti-corporatist, this appeals to me a great deal.  I don’t like public/private collusion.  As government grows, so do powerful corporate interests.  See A.I.G. or G.M – neither would have survived without welfare. (more…)

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On Blogging( 1 )

Felix Salmon has some advice for prospective bloggers. The whole thing is worth reading, but this segment jumped out at me:

As always, there’s a trade-off between quantity and quality. Should you write more, with lower quality, or less, with higher quality? Fortunately, the blogosphere has been around for long enough that we have a simple empirical answer to this question: given the choice, go for quantity over quality. You might not like it — I certainly don’t — but I defy you to name a really good blogger who doesn’t blog frequently.

Often bloggers are the worst judges of their own work; I can give you hundreds of personal examples of blog entries I thought were really good which disappeared all but unnoticed, and of blog entries I thought were tossed-off throwaways which got enormous traction and distribution. Mostly, blogging is a lottery on the individual-blog-entry level — and if you want to win the lottery, your best chance of doing so is to maximize the number of lottery tickets you buy.

I think this is basically correct, although I tend to enjoy authors who put out a smaller number of longer posts. So how do you solve the mystery of appealing to a voracious blog readership while producing quality stuff? Without seeming too self-satisfied, I submit that the best answer is through a group blog, which gives individual authors plenty of time to write thoughtful entries while maintaining a steady stream of opinion and commentary.

It’s difficult to consistently come up with intelligent responses to the news of the day. Most of us have our own interests and preferences, which tend to be reflected in our blog output. I would much rather be writing about soccer than mixed martial arts, for example, but that hasn’t stopped Freddie from posting a long meditation on the UFC’s weight classes.

A group of writers with diverse interests can produce a steady stream of new material on a wide variety of subjects. This doesn’t mean we don’t argue – quite the opposite, really- but that’s a feature, not a bug, as our disagreements have (I think) produced some excellent posts and comment threads.

One possible downside to the group blog format is the notorious free-rider problem. But a sense of camaraderie and solidarity can overcome most obstacles, and a small group of like-minded authors are generally averse to screwing each other over. In other words, the League is basically the Denmark of the Internet- a generous bloggy welfare state kept afloat by strong internal cohesion and a shared distaste for all things Slate.

So my advice to future bloggers of America is simple: find yourself a few like-minded collaborators and kick-start a group blog. Or better yet, contribute the occasional guest post to the League of Ordinary Gentlemen. Generous rates of compensation are forthcoming (much like the New York Times, we’re still working on the whole “monetization” concept).

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Anonymity( 29 )

Speaking as someone who doesn’t blog under his full name to avoid professional and personal complications, I think James Joyner has the best take on l’affaire publius (background here). And speaking of Internet anonymity, H.C. Johns has recently been on the case, riffing off of this entertaining Craigslist article. He was also kind enough to mention an old Zizek op-ed I dug up on a similar subject.

So when is it not OK to blog anonymously? If you’re deliberately misrepresenting your expertise in a particular field, I think that qualifies, though I’ve always been quite open about the fact that I am very wet-behind-the-ears, with little more than an undergraduate degree in history and a penchant for witty, incisive dull prose to my credit. Has anyone taken a stab at putting together a formal blogging code of ethics? Now that the medium has matured – and, in many cases, gone mainstream – it might be something worth pursuing.

Feel free to throw out your own suggestions for the 10 Commandments of Blog Ethics in comments.

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comments( 3 )

I think a good blog should have easy to use, attractive, intuitive comments.  This is one of the great failures of blogs like The Plank, which are fine blogs with terrible comments sections.  Yglesias has consistently dozens of comments on his blog, but they’re not terribly fun.  (more…)

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