Mutual guest blogging: intermission and discussion

Second draft, posted on OpenLeft with a different poll.

the version on OpenLeft continues to evolve

please link and comment there rather than here.

Originally posted July 17; revised July 18-19.

We’re now at the midpoint of our first, more-leisurely-than-anticipated mutual guest blogging series. Thanks to Melissa, Sara, Pam, and rikyrah for their time, energy, and extraordinary posts. In retrospect, our original plan of getting all the posts on OpenLeft and the mutual posts on the guest bloggers’ blogs all in one week was a little over-ambitious. Oh well, live and learn.

Some people were confused by the unannounced broadening of the topic. Oops. Pam and the Jack and Jill Politics folks both said they’d like to take a more forward-looking approach than in our framing, and I said “sure, just relate it in some way to the original topic and it’ll be fine.” Apologies to all for having forgotten to communicate this. In the future, when something like this happens, rather than attacking the guest poster in angry posts, consider simply asking “did I miss something?” or perhaps even contacting the people involved (me and rikyrah in this case) directly. Thanks to desmoinesdem, sb, and Paul for their replies in the thread. For those who would like to read more specifically on Hillary Clinton’s withdrawal, there were several links in an earlier thread, and of course there’s a ton of great stuff out there elsewhere.

And on a similar “oops” theme, apologies to Sara for missing her email and not promoting her post; thanks to Daniel for stepping in and helping. Not one of my better moderation efforts, alas.

That said, I think the results so far have been outstanding. Thanks once again to our guest bloggers; and I would also like to acknowledge Aviva and sb for all their help with this behind the scenes.

So a hearty round of applause, please! And to show appreciation in an even more meaningful way, consider chipping in and helping to send Blenders to Denver.

Pam’s House Blend to Denver…

Our “stated purpose”

Before talking about what’s next, it’s a good time to revisit how we’re doing against our goals. I’m going to go into some depth here, and start by mocking a remark somebody made in rikyrah’s thread:

what bothers me is the idea that Jon and OpenLeft think that they are actually acoomplishing anything close to their stated purpose of including a feminist/womanist perspective on the primary campaign.

This is one of those comments where there’s so much wrong with it, I don’t know where to start. For example, the incorrect restatement of the topic leaves out a lot including the all-important “… and why it matters to progressives”. And how could the commenter have missed that the guest bloggers are writing from a feminist/womanist perspective? So these posts are squarely on-topic; and some consistent themes in their posts and the discussions relate to lessons from Hillary Clinton’s withdrawal from the race.

For example:

  1. dudez in the progressive blogosphere (with many exceptions of course) and elsewhere are remarkably clueless about issues related to gender and race, unwilling to examine their language or privilege, in some cases actively misogynistic and racist, and get hostile while this is discussed
  2. they don’t get intersectionality either
  3. this is a real problem for the progressive movement, the Democratic party, the Obama campaign, Michelle Obama, and more generally women, blacks, persons of color, and most especially women of color everywhere. So now would be very good time for the progressive blogosphere to take the lead in trying to do something about it.

Returning to the comment, it’s also an unusually clear case of confusion between “topic” and “purpose”. The specific topic we chose is just a means to an end; I had already modified it once without mentioning it (changing “feminist” to “feminist and womanist” in the invitation).

And we’ve been explicit about our stated purpose with mutual guest-blogging. From the initial proposal:

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.

A good start

Indeed, I think we are off to a good start with the posts so far, and discussions in the comments. Encouragingly, a lot of the people in the meta-thread on Shakesville spoke very positively about this effort, even though reviews as to OpenLefties’ (?) collective performance were decidedly mixed.

Overall the discussions of these difficult issues went far better than I had expected … and of course the posts were magnificent, exceeding even my absurdly-high expectations. rrp made an excellent point on Shakesville that Liss took advantage of the “length and form” here; the same’s true of all the posts. From a personal perspective … wow, what a privilege to be part of this; and how exciting to have a measurable impact on demographic diversity in the netroots!

The original proposal also suggested

The result is improved mutual understanding, links with other tightly-connected networks, and a base for more collaborative and effective strategic actions.

We’ve already seen some tangible evidence of that in a totally unanticipated way with the Get FISA Right movement: the connections, shared experiences, and developing trust relationships around the guest-blogging project made a big difference in our ability to use OpenLeft as an early base and start up quickly on Facebook. It also helped us keep the rapid growth going after key links from Nancy Scola, Jane Hamsher, Susan G, mcjoan, digby, Sarah Lai Stirland, danah boyd, and many others. A focus on diversity almost always brings some unexpected benefits; this was a doozy.

So it’s a great start, and there’s a lot to build on.

Now what?

We’re still only partway through this first iteration. The next step is the “mutual” aspect: posts by OpenLeft founders on the guest bloggers’ own blogs. There’s a lot of interest in this from our guests, so while we still haven’t worked out any details on this yet, it’s still planned. Also, there are still open invitations to Egalia and brownfemipower; we should once again reach out to them and see if they’re interested. And we have about 20 nominations for followon posts on this subject; we should find a way to expand the discussion to give them all a way to participate — details TBD.

And we’ll try to get re-started on choosing a subject for the next round; momentum kinda petered out, but hopefully these stimulating posts will recharge it. More on this front soon as well.

There are certainly ways to improve on the guest-blogging process; please use this thread for discussions and feedback about the series as a whole: things that worked particularly well, what you observed or learned, ways to do better next time, etc.

And shifting to a broader focus …

Mutual guest blogging has taken a concrete step on the path to getting more diverse perspectives on the front page of OpenLeft, an important step in working through the challenges of becoming an inclusive and multicultural space. How do we build on this promising start?


on a scale of 1-10, where the average front-page thread on OL is 5, how would you rate the overall quality of these posts and discussions?

Comment: useful background reading

If I can get slightly professorial for a second here … as a social computing researcher who’s been spending time in the progressive blogosphere over the last six months, I think it would be helpful if we all had knowledge about some basic texts here. A good place to start is with the pairing of Guys don’t link and Women and children last: the discursive construction of Weblogs.

Shelley Powers 2005 classic Guys don’t link on Burningbird discusses the interaction of links and “Google juice” (ewwwwww). A brief excerpt gives a flavor:

Point of fact, if you follow the thread of this discussion, you would see something like Dave linking to Cory who then links to Scoble who links to Dave who links to Tim who links to Steve who then links to Dave who links to Doc who follows through with a link to Dan, and so on. If you throw in the fact that the Google Guys are, well, guys, then we start to see a pattern here: men have a real thing for the hypertext link.

Well, huh. How about that. Not being a guy, I couldn’t understand this male obsession with the link, so I decided to call on an expert on gender roles about the issue: Lawrence Summers, Harvard’s current President.

If you don’t know the specific guys she’s talking about, you probably know the types. It’s a great party game: which netroots personality would you cast in which role for the upcoming Guys don’t link Showtime series?

In a more traditionally academic style Women and children last, Susan C. Herring, Inna Kouper, Lois Ann Scheidt, and Elijah L. Wright discuss the how media coverage skews towards a particular kind of blogs:

It is [these] blogs that are privileged, consistent with the notion that the activities of educated, adult males are viewed by society as more interesting and important than those of other demographic groups. However, the blogs featured in contemporary public discourses about blogging are the exception, rather than the rule: all the available evidence suggests that blogs are more commonly a vehicle of personal expression than a means of filtering content on the Web, for all demographic groups including adult males.

So-called “objective” measurements of influence like Technorati and Memeorandum reinforce these tendencies. For a quick deconstruction of how this works in the tech blogosphere, see my comment here.

Relating this back to the progressive blogoshere: see Kay Steiger’s The “new” new left is white, male, Morgaine’s and my comments on A.J. Rossmiller’s Myth of the meritocracy, blogosphere edition on Americablog, Kirsten Powers Net-roots ninnies in the New York Post … and many other discussions. It’s not like this is a big secret or anything. It’s just not something the dudez talk about.