A proposal for OpenLeft: mutual guest-blogging

Update, June 14: posted on OpenLeft.

Update, June 21: first round on track for week of June 30!

Thanks to all for the feedback and review!

We propose that OpenLeft feature 5-7 guest bloggers each week, prioritizing diverse voices and perspectives not usually heard on the front page. OpenLeft front page posters will reciprocate, by blogging on the guests’ sites, and the combination will (with luck) create a temporary hub in the progressive blogosphere. The result is improved mutual understanding, links with other tightly-connected networks, and a base for more collaborative and effective strategic actions.

Note: This diary entry refines several ideas from the “American Blogger” thread including input from Taylor, Syrith, me, and several others who asked to remain anonymous. Thanks to all the reviewers of the earlier versions!

If you look at the front page posts on OpenLeft, it’s rare to see anything by a woman, a person of color, anybody 26-and-under (“Facebook generation”) or 60+. OpenLeft is dedicated to building a progressive governing majority, and understanding the great movement of left-wing activism in America today. Neither of those will happen if most voices continue to be marginalized.

So let’s start changing it.

Mutual guest-blogging is an easy way to create discussion and connections while improving diversity. It gives benefit in all directions: bloggers get their work exposed to new audiences, commenters get new topics to discuss, readers get to see new ideas and perspectives.

The progressive blogosphere’s (temporary) hub

Focusing each week on a specific topic is a good way of attracting guest bloggers. Most people who write as clearly and articulately as the usual high standard of posts on OpenLeft have plenty of other things they could do with their time, and so guest-blogging here needs to be worth their while. A reciprocal guest-post from an OpenLeft founder is likely to be seen as valuable (one of the reasons their participation is so crucial), but that’s not likely to be enough.

So we’ll also offer guest-bloggers something even more valuable: access, in the form of front-page posts at the progressive blogosphere’s temporary hub for the topic of the week. Here, on OpenLeft.

Well, of course, there’s no guarantee that OpenLeft and the mutual-guest blogs will turn into a hub each week. However, with the site’s reputation for high-quality discussion, and the networks of the front-page posters (the founders, the regulars, and occasionals like Robert Fuller) supplemented by those of a half-dozen or so diverse perspectives, we’ve got a real chance — especially if we pick topics that haven’t gotten a lot of good discussion in the progressive blogosphere. See the comments for a few suggestions.

The selection process

Just how to select the guest bloggers? It’s a tricky question: we want to avoid reflecting our biases and self-selecting to a narrow sample set. On the other hand, this also presents an opportunity to create a good resource list for each topic, and understand gaps in our collective information sources. It’s hard to know what the right answer is, so rather than pick a long-term process, let’s focus on how to get started.

  1. select three initial topics. use a similar process to “American Blogger”: a nomination thread that lasts for a couple of days, and then a voting thread
  2. for each topic, start up a nomination thread: each reader can propose up to three names [with a little editing, this thread can then be turned into a resource list]
  3. filter the topic list to emphasize diverse perspectives, and if necessary have a vote to select the top 10-15 (presumably only half or less will have time and interest)
  4. invite the guest bloggers, and schedule topics based on which get critical mass quickest
  5. each guest-blogger gets to select a future guest blogger on a topic of their choice (as well as nominating three per topic just like any other reader)

The last point is important for two reasons. First of all, it’s a small token for the guest-bloggers: they allow somebody access to OpenLeft’s front page. Secondly, it helps expand our connections and information sources beyond our initial shortlist.

Next steps

If we want to take this forward, a key next step is to get the founders’ and other front-pagers agreement to participate. In addition, we’ll need somebody to run the initial topic nomination/voting thread. Paul’s already done this for “American Blogger”, and so has a rough idea of how much time it’ll require. After that, we’ll need people to run the blogger nomination/voting threads; and to reach out to the selected bloggers; and, once we’re ready to go, to coordinate the individual topics.

[As the description implies, for this to work, we'll need to get a lot of people involved. If you're interested in helping, please mention it in your comment!]

Before any of that, though, we need to make sure there’s interest — and perhaps to improve the idea. [For example, are there ways to simplify the blogger selection process?] So please use this thread to discuss — and if you think it’s a good idea, let us know if you’re interested in helping.