If you have "no place to go," come here!

Blogospheric navel gazing thread

danps's picture

[I am leaving this sticky because the comment thread is quite lively and helping me (and Corrente) in the way I think I (and Corrente) need to be helped. Also too, Campaign Countdpwn project retrospective and reconsideration. --lambert]

A fresh thread for any extra thoughts on lambert's post. Some extemporaneous thoughts of my own below the fold.

I started blogging in 2007, well after the first big wave of political bloggers (roughly 2000-2003). By 2007 there was already a well developed network of blogs left and right. Much of it was "heh indeedie" stuff: Banal comment plus link to longer article. A lot of the rest of it was breaking news based - be the first to comment on the latest story. Twitter and Facebook have subsequently taken over a lot of that kind of thing, which is just as well. Blogs were never a suitable platform for that anyway. For a time they were the only tool available though. In any event, I knew I could never compete with that and I didn't want to.

Moreover, I didn't think it was sustinable. my thought was, what can I contribute that is different? I settled on a model of one essay-length post per week, initially focusing on executive power. Over time that came to include other stories not getting the kind of coverage I thought they deserved.

When SB 5/Issue 2 exploded in Ohio I switched over to participating in and covering the effort as best I could. Then in the last year plus fracking started going crazy at the local level, and my blogging scope narrowed yet again.

Over time my focus has gone from national to state, then state to local. It wasn't by design, that's just how it happened. On the other hand, it might be harder to sustain a purely national scope for an independent blog. Unlike traditional outlets, blogs have an element of activism to them. National activism is tough; it's discouraging even. I've sensed a lot of frustration on the left at the inability to get big, undiluted national victories. Sustaining a nationally scoped blog in the face of that takes a special kind of temperment.

Blogs need a "something else" to keep them afloat and to keep their writers/readers engaged. Participating in and reporting on local fracking activism has filled that need for me. Lambert's timelines, maps and pinboards are coming to serve that for Corrente (the PCS explosion happened just as the timeline functionality became available through the site upgrade - hooray for good timing!)

Sites that don't have the something else will have a hard time. Not that they can't succeed, but they'll be tougher to sustain over time. I haven't blogged as long as some of the folks who hung it up recently, so this may be premature of me to say. But I made some very deliberate choices when I began blogging, and it all centered around what I could sustain and what wasn't already getting saturation coverage.

For individual bloggers, a sustainable pace and filling unmet needs seem pretty important for longevity. For sites, something beyond covering the latest out of DC. As lambert wrote, blogs weren't meant to overthrow the MSM in some kind of "meet the new boss" revolution. They began with the idea of connecting like minded thinkers an activists in an attempt to route around the big outlets. I for one have never been interested in storming the ramparts. We are the media. Let's build each other up.

No votes yet


Submitted by lambert on

... but what I learned from the landfill fight here is that all the local battles bear many similarities, as why would they not, since they are all about resource extraction, and those who want to do the extraction tend to use the same playbook. It would seem an ideal situation for "hang together or hang separately" with Corrente and allied blogs positioned to link localities horizontally. Not sure how to do it, and while I can do it for not very much, I cannot do it for nothing....

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

Possibly the Achilles heel of the extraction industry is its long and sensitive supply chain. The Wal Mart strikers and Idle No More activists showed that choosing the right pressure points can create a lot of leverage. With fracking, silica sand mining in WI and MN are important to operations in CO and OH. Activists who congregate from far flung places (like here!) can help identify those places by keeping in touch and sharing information.

That's somewhat dependent on the people in question taking the first step and getting involved locally, even at a minimal level. I'm of the opinion that there's a bigger difference between 0 and 1 than between 1 and a million. Doing something for even a few minutes a week is far, far better than doing nothing. Ramping up from a few minutes to whatever, ten hours a day, that's a difference of degree and not kind.

And I actually think people are better off putting a ceiling on their activism because burnout is such a common phenomenon. Don't do more than you can sustain over the long term; it's a marathon not a sprint. I miss some meetings and say no to some requests. I don't try to do everything, I try to pace myself. I don't want to feel totally strung out after a year (Cf. the blogging pace of a post per week).

Submitted by lambert on

Fracking, Walmart, landfills, name it. (Make the unions who control important choke points in the supply chain, e.g., the ports) important.

* * *
Pursuant to the original thread, though, I understand the ratio
nale for your style of activism and of blogging. I'm not criticizing it. But if your recommendation to Corrente, for example, is that lambert avoid burnout by doing one post a week, that's tantamount to Corrente closing its doors. So that's not your recommendation. What is your recommendation, or do I misconceive you?

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

I was thinking more of either encouraging existing users to either document their existing activism in some capacity on the site (and to start getting active if they aren't already), as well as identifying activists elsewhere who might be good candidates for that kind of blogging/cross posting.

As site admin, your obligations there will obviously be first priority. Nationally-scoped content from the admin is good glue to keep other posts hanging together as well, so overall I don't have a critique. That said, seeing maybe one post a month on doings in your neck of the woods would be nice, and I hope would be manageable.

Submitted by lambert on

I don't really want "national" in the sense of "National News" as defined by the Beltway; that stuff affects all of us, obviously -- issues like Social Security and Medicare, for example -- but I think the signals or tremors or harbingers or "green shoots" of the sort of change we need are not to be found "nationally" but are to be found "nationwide," as it were.

* * *

On activists documenting their activism: I think, subject to correction, that's going to be hard to achieve, simply because activism is in itself time- and energy consuming. There is also the issue of allocating resources -- see the discussion here of every tiny socialist sect not merely having their own newspaper, but making their literature and/or marketing collateral the basis of their identity.

So it might make more sense not to ask activists to document their activism, but rather that activists induce coverage of their activism. I can think of two ways: First, activists can set up their own, explicit media operations (somebody films and propagates YouTubes, for example; the Walmart strikers were great at this, and DCBlogger picks up on this.) Second, activists can manage to get themselves into the local newspapers or political blogs. (Note to activist: Don't worry the story isn't perfect; Kremlinologists like me are really good at decoding and framing.) We've had really good luck with this on the landfill. Having made ourselves subject matter experts, newspaper reporters are happy to use some of us as sources. And all around the country, activists are making themselves into subject matter experts!

A final reason not to ask activists to document themselves is that such an effort can shade over into propaganda. I do not ever wish to publish anything in Corrente that I must later retract because it is not true. I believe very, very strongly that "the left" cannot lie, on purely pragmatic grounds: A structure of lies and bullshit, such as that operated in the Beltway, is very expensive to construct and maintain. (Think of this as the liar's problem of remembering the lies they told, but on a grand scale.) And like it or not, activists do tend to slip into "This issue is so important, we need to do whatever it takes!"-mode. We saw this all the time in 2008 and 2012 in the campaign environment, but I think it's a constant danger. (I saw a fine recent example on GMO, where a JPG of a single article against GMO in a state Kaiser newsletter was heavily propagated, via email lists, an presented as a rejection of GMO by the Kaiser organization as a whole. Unacceptable.)

So I think as a matter of editorial integrity, a general policy of arms-length relations with the activist community is best for all concerned. This doesn't apply to long-time posters at Corrente, of course, since such have proved their bona fides. But as far as piling through a few hundred sources -- I was going through 250 a night at the end of CC -- I think that policy makes sense. Quality assurance is critical!

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

documenting their activism, no?

As for quality control, we may be thinking about different things. I didn't mean something like your OWS twitter feed, where everything just blindly gets passed along. (Incidentally, Corrente has probably "hosted" some propaganda through that feed - no quality control on hash tags!) I was thinking more of identifying and reaching out to individual candidates, then keeping an eye on them through a probationary period while you establish your comfort level.

I'm sure that would be fairly time consuming, but unlike turning on the fire hose it would let you make sure you weren't hosting any objectionable material. But I would think grooming a stable of contributors who create compelling, original content would be one of the prime objectives of a site like this. (Or: if you don't have time for that, what do you have time for?)

Submitted by lambert on

and this is a good one which is an addition to the process.

The existing process isn't personalized in any way (nobody is groomed). I developed ("curated") a list of state and local sources that I always checked in the same order every day (and followed links, if I felt like it, one degree of separation out). So it is rather like a "drift net" operation. I was objecting to adding pure activist posts to a list like that list, at least without a long track record. The reason to work that way is productivity... Bang, bang, bang, link plus quote, link plus quote.

You're talking, I think, more like developing "beats."

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

I wasn't referring to CC, but to getting more contributors/content on the site. What I wrote about in the previous comment wouldn't work on CC for the reasons you mentioned.

Submitted by lambert on

I'm talking about survival. It ain't easy. For me, Corrente is not peripheral but central. It used to be more central, nationally, than it is now. I would like to know why that change happened, since readership and revenue have both been affected. And if "central" is the wrong concept, what is the right one?

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

I knew under the fold was going to be "all about me and what I think" so I thought it would be good to have something like a cautionary note in the title. I didn't mean it to reflect on you or the site, sorry about that.

I think nationally scoped blogs are important, just that having an exclusively national scope might be hard to sustain. A community that's got a mix of nationally-aware people and a closer to home activist scope seems like a good mix to me.

I can't think of a single policy effort that blogs have been able to succeed at. Health care being the big one, but wars, financial reform, etc. Blogs just don't seem to be useful for that kind of organizing. Where they may be useful nationally is in gently but insistently working to reframe debates. I think MMT is an example of that happening before our eyes. It's not a policy proposal though, and I think the distinction is important.

I think there was a certain amount of techno-utopianism that has dissipated in the face of the failures above. I think a lot of people thought, fuck it - we're not moving the needle here. From a site administrator perspective that's a terrible development. As an activist I never had much use for the faint of heart in the first place, so in that respect it's no big loss to me.

Submitted by lambert on

... "fresh thread for any extra thoughts on lambert's post" led me to expect fresh thoughts on lambert's post from the poster. I must have misunderstood :-)

* * *

That said, Corrente has always and exactly been about affecting the discourse (and one might look at the maps, the timelines, and let's PDFing being ways to extend that mission). And in several areas we've been successful:

1. Single payer. No policy change but huge effort and single payer is surely percieved as the only remaining alternative. We're going to look awfully smart when ObamaCare shits the bed in 2014.

2. MMT and especially the coin.

3. Non-violence in Occupy (as you know).

The last two, in fact, shade over into affecting policy.

* * *

So I am interested in what has changed, and how to react to it. I don't have a sense of either. I mean, I could turn this into a gardening blog, but somehow that's never been what Corrente has been about.

UPDATE Since 2003, through an absolutely tumultuous political and technical environment, Corrente has always been able to renew itself. Always. Narratives come and go, people join and leave, topics die and renew, candidates and elections approach and diminish. Corrente has always, even at the margin as we are, been able to maneuver to where the action is, and survive/thrive/help out/engage. These past few months are the only time where I haven't seen a way forward. Now, this could be the existential predicament of many people; it certainly seems to have been before Occupy (the glass is half full, then). On the other hand, it's always darkest before it goes completely black (the glass is half empty). And the weird thing is, there ought to be opportunity: If other blogs are falling, and the mainstream press sucks even worse than before, there should be a bigger place for at least some blogs (perhaps this one) even if, or perhaps because, they practice the long form. I mean, Chris Bowers predicted the death of amateur blogs in IIRC 2009, when he left to shill for Daily Kos, and yet, here we are, four years later.

Adding, of course, it could be that the number of people who can handle lambert being lambert is finite. But it's a very big Internet, so I doubt that.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

I think it's a question of believing in the site's mission. If there hasn't been some kind of PR fiasco or something else to drive traffic away, then keep the faith and keep plugging away. Don't put blinders on obviously - look for opportunities - but don't feel like you have to start from scratch or something. You're running a political blog that focuses on policy over personality, though there's always going to be overlap. But a policy-focused blog isn't going to have mass appeal the way a pop culture site will, or even that a Team D/Team R site will. I guess the key in that circumstance is to figure out how to get the word out to as much of that policy-interested group as possible.

albrt's picture
Submitted by albrt on

I personally see no way forward politically at the moment. I am focused on gardening. I think a lot of Obama critics from the left feel that way. Folks who are not critical of Obama aren't even looking for a way forward, and reactionaries are looking for a way backward. All that is a problem for anyone trying to provide a forum to talk about the way forward. I hope it's temporary.

As much as I love Naked Capitalism, I will say the current relationship with Naked Capitalism appears to provide considerably more benefit (and traffic) to Naked Capitalism than to Corrente.

Submitted by lambert on

Gardening was something that took a back seat for me last year to the site redesign and also to "Campaign Countdown," which was a massive investment of time. Which I regret, although I did have a great time building my path and sitting there.

* * *

On NC, yes and no. On the one hand, the hits come here, too, and the general Corrente attitude or worldview has a bigger sphere; there weren't many posts on permaculture at NC before I connected there. And I don't think Corrente writers like Hugh or letsgetitdone object to the broader exposure. And there is also to consider that NC for me is a gig -- and if you're a 60-something person with no prospect of employment, that's a very very big deal.

On the other, I did get "out of balance" last year and it was very tough. The site relaunch and above all Campaign Countdown were incredibly time-consuming. The site relaunch had to be done as an investment in the fiuture; and CC.... Well, it gave me a great overview of the country. It also took a minumum of 4 hours to do, and sometimes, with a breaking story, twice that. And for some reason it never caught on here. I don't know why to this day. I thought it was incredibly interesting and dense -- and not available anywhere else. In fact, I viewed it as a sort of prelude to exactly the sort of horizontal-to-horizontal work that would support activism like dan's. But it never took off.

And now we are in this weird drifting sideways moment. Or at least I feel that way.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

If you want my layperson's opinion, I think the campaign did suck a lot of air out of the place for awhile. The campaign coverage was minimal, and I personally checked in on the CC everyday, but I wasn't truly interested in following any of the campaign related stories unless they related to KY. I started coming back as soon as the campaign was over. I don't know if the site numbers bear this out, but that's how I felt about it.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

And in fact I used the fracking links as the starting point for the national-level story tracking I've been doing. It seemed like it had to be a lot of work, but I thought it had tremendous value too. I really enjoyed reading it. If there was a way to produce it in a less labor-intensive way I would love to have it again.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

It was valuable, and it had to be time consuming to pull together all of that stuff. It's just that aside from the CC, I stayed away from election coverage and I imagine that several regulars felt the same. After you check out of the two party system, campaign coverage becomes kinda excrutiating to follow, so I stayed away from a lot of blogs I tended to follow regularly. Corrente is one of the few I've returned to.

Submitted by lambert on

For CC June -- November (including my time in Bangkok!!) I spent a minimum of 4 hours a day, 6 days a week. There were 135 posts in all. I actually did receive a single payment of $1200 from Truthout, which was helpful, but which works out to $2.22 an hour, assuming that the 4 hour minimum is a maximum, which it so wasn't. And the opportunity cost of CC in terms of maintaining the Corrente commmunity was huge, and I think one reason things seem a little sketchy now.

I don't regret doing CC for in instance -- in fact I regard it as a uniquely brilliant editorial product by a blogger at the top of his form* ;-) -- but the costs of doing it was great.

To make CC more manageable, perhaps--

1. Eliminate the national political coverage. OK by me, since it's a hideous, brain-rotting distraction, as indeed it was meant to be.

2. Set a space or time limit on the material. For example, I might take X amount of time. That means a variation in space, since some days yield more snippets than others. Or I might write X amount of snippets (I always do 30 links for NC). That means a variation in time, for the same reason.

3. Find contributors to handle beats. For example, fracking, charters, Walmart. The issue here is that this really does require commitment on a daily basis. Another option would be regional coverage: Send all of interest in a state.

And brainstorming about technical capabilities to add:

1. Get all snippets onto maps and timelines automagically. This is good not only as a resource for readers and activists, but to give poster immediate and visible feedback for their efforts.

2. Really push RSS and email subscriptions, possibly with advertising. For some reason, I don't mind the idea of ads at the bottom of an RSS feed, though I do with pages!

3. Really push snippets on FB and twitter automagically. A circulation builder, if nothing else.

I think there are editorial design issues mentioned elsewhere on this thread, so I will address them there.

I have to say, I rather like the idea of making "CorrenteWire" the "news engine" for the rest of us. Just not covering the Beltway at all. If you want to write about the 787, write about it from Seattle. And so forth.

NOTE * Called shots via coverage focus on fracking before the mainstream. Unique coverage of the Red Square movement in Montreal. Only post in the blogosphere to cover emergent parties as a matter of course on a consistent basis.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

Fields: Link, title/author, publication date, category, excerpt, hidden field that defaults to user name.

Let people submit to that through the day. End of day you review, decide which to keep, sort by category, output to a NC "Title of article with embedded hyperlink (submitted by)" format. Crowdsources the countdown, still gives you ultimate editorial control. I'd happily do double entry with that as I track my fracking stories.

Submitted by lambert on

Though you shouldn't have to double entry. I could probably work out a way to select and export. I am two technical projects behind:

1. Would be great to submit incident reports from iPhone or iPad and

2. A general annotation tool I've been working on for years

so if I forget this remind me.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

Hidden: Date submitted (defaults to current), Use?

Use could be a yes/no field. Mark the ones to include in CC, exclude the rest. The date field would let you re-create particular days' countdowns if you wanted to mash them up somehow. The Use field would just let you hang on to the ones you don't want to include, just in case you need to refer to them later.

I think these two fields would let you keep them all in a single table/file without having to wipe the slate clean every day. I imagine that data would become increasingly useful over time.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

There seem to be cycles of consolidation and fragmentation. Right now we seem to be in a cycle of consolidation for web sites - lots of people gravitating to social media sites. Facebook seems like AOL was in the late 90's - a walled garden that some come to think of as the whole of the internet. When people start getting disillusioned with FB (and God knows there's lots to be disillusioned about) we'll start to see fragmentation again. At which point refugees will stumble on this site and other independent one. That's part of the reason for my "keep the faith" message.

Submitted by lambert on

Twitter worries me more than Facebook, actually. I should tweet more and FB less. I do notice that the former EiC of the Agonist said that FB and twitter work helped their numbers.

* * *

As for faith, I agree, with the caveat that I can't fuel the boiler with faith.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

There's no pending political action that most people feel they will participate in. During the election cycles, there were the Obamabots and the other non-Republicans. Corrente was a major venue for those who objected to Obama, and talked through why and what the alternatives were. Everybody interested in politics was going to have to make a choice whether to vote, and if yes, whom for. Given the way elections work in this country now, a lot of people have the kind of emotional investment that sports teams get.

And then there was the ACA, the gift to medical industries. Again, it was highly emotional, with Corrente a major venue pointing out from the left that this was a very bad piece of legislation. I think we all had arguments with people who are usually political friends. What kept the discussions going was that there was a hyped up sports-like contest over passage of the atrocity.

I could go on with the other issues that engaged a majority of the politically interested. Right now, it's not just that Corrente isn't as central nationally. It's that there are no gladiatorial political combats either between the two legacy parties or against a major failure in American society. Legacy party defenders now are avoiding engagement on issues where Corrente could serve as alternative.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I'd like to throw in my 2 Cents on this, but alas, will have to join this conversation later this afternoon. I agree with a couple of danps' points, for sure.

Especially his point: "I've sensed a lot of frustration on the left at the inability to get big, undiluted national victories." I also believe that this is what Dayen recognized.

At any rate, I'll expound when I have more time. My opinion may not count for much, since I'm not 'a blogger.' On the other hand, maybe it will count to something, if Corrente is seeking to reach a broader audience, so to speak.

BTW, Lambert, Campaign Countdown was EXCELLENT! But there is one minor thing that I believe would have helped readership--the Format. All the material and links were fantastic. The problem for me, was negotiating all the material in a timely manner.

Again, it was an excellent project, very well-executed. Probably, more spacing between the individual topics would have done the trick, so that a reader could quicker "spot" topics of interest. [Certainly, I read it whenever I had 'the extra time.']

But I know that everyone here appreciates your taking on such a difficult and tedious project. It was 'chock full' of pertinent information, and you did a great job on it, for sure.

Will be back with a couple more "musings" on the blogosphere. [My own recent lack of participation has to do with personal and medical circumstances. But, I believe that a couple of folks are on to something, regarding the general "demoralization" of the progressives. I hate that word--LIBERALS! At least, that what I am, LOL!]


Submitted by lambert on

... I can think of a couple of few solutions--

Add a header of some sort. One idea would be short lead paragraph highlighting the most important snippets, with links into the body. A second idea would be to have a list of links into the states, so people could jump right to their state. A third would be to have button that highlighted categories: Select "Police State" for example, and all the snippets in that bucket would be given a yellow background, for example.

I don't think the issue was spacing so much as pulling out the relevant material.

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

highlighting the topic a bit more with a header, or whatever.

That's what I was trying to say. Again, CC was a wonderful project. Some days (if I didn't have my own little posts to write), I could read all of it. But other days, I was forced to sort of pick and choose.

And that's when a "header" would really have come in handy!

Anyway, best of luck revamping it, so that it is manageable for you. I know that it had to be extremely time consuming by the very nature of its structure. Lest we forget, linking to stuff takes a lot of time.

BTW, I think that a lot of liberals are just "plumb bummed out" over the whole state of affairs.

I mean, after all, "what have we got to look forward to now?" Four years of a so-called progressive Administration that is to the right of Ronald Reagan! Jeeeeezzzzz!

And, one more thought. Do you think that it would be constructive if some of us put our Twitter accounts to more use, and "Tweet" more Corrente blogs and Quick Hits?

There is no doubt that some in the media are real big on Twitters these days. [Can't comment on Facebook--don't "do Facebook."]

I think that there is a lull in activity in many progressive communities, blogs, etc., due to low morale. And I think that a lot of folks are sort of "shell-shocked" over some of the Administration's actions. Period.

Maybe once all this "Kabuki fiscal crises cr*p" is over, people will get back to normal.

I know that all of this is a major bummer, IMO. I'm sick and tired of it. [But maybe that's just me and Mr. Alexa.]

Submitted by Hugh on

The CC was a great and I can well imagine how tough it was putting it out day after day. I think that because it was crossposted at Naked Capitalism NC sucked away a lot of the readership and commenting that would otherwise have occurred here.

Submitted by lambert on

I always viewed NC and Corrente readership is distinct but perhaps they overlapped.

If I did it again, I'd like to still cross post (it ultimately did make me some money, which is a concern, sing) but with added features here for the real junkies (see above for some thoughts). And some other nifty stuff I have in mind....

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

I LUVED campaign countdown. I really looked forward to reading it every morning. I know it took up too much of your time, but I luved it.

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

I loved it, too! Great information, excellent format. (Maybe you remember I "borrowed" it for a couple of Plantidote round ups ;-) Too bad it's so time consuming (and I agree, it is!) and unhealthy as a result.

Submitted by lambert on

It's more a balance of time and return. It didn't seem to garner the hits here (as measured by click-throughs) although as somebody (Hugh?) pointed out, the fact that it was cross-posted to NC first might have cut back on the numbers. And it didn't seem to garner the contributions either (I need to write up the fundraising report). And yet it really is an uniquely excellent form -- I get a lot of newsletters like it, and CC really is unique and enough ahead of the "national" story to matter. But it was gruelling. So I need to figure out how to make it less gruelling and get more of a return from it.

Maybe I could seek advertisers for the RSS feed or a newsletter (heck, maybe just Amazon....) and that would help on the revenue side.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

with a "back by popular demand!" message. Or more pointedly, "put up or shut up." Encourage those who loved CC to contribute a link or two every day. Ask that contributors read the links in question, not just spam things that appear promising. Set other ground rules: preference for smaller, local and independent news sources perhaps. No national news (but nationwide news!) That sort of thing. Try to encourage quality control up front.

Maybe it would also give a way for non-bloggers like the anonymous commenter above to contribute. Not everyone wants to hold forth on the issues of the day (this is foreign to me), but everyone has opinions.

Submitted by lambert on

The nice thing is that people could just conttribute links from local sourcing. Good for them, good for the sources, broadens contributor base, and so on.

As a time-saver, it's partial, since snippet gathering has the following parts:

1. Check candidate URL

2. Copy snippet from story

3. Mentally categorize snippet

4. Do the HTML (including category and state)

E.g. find a local story on a charter school, collect the most vivid quote, decide whether to file it under "Charter" or "Corruption", then file under State.

The trade-off is that the more complicated I make the form, the higher the barrier to entry.

Not saying it's impossible at all, just pointing out the process. The link is only the first step and in fact the most routine.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

Don't get too granular, at least not at first. Get the thing ready and just make brutal editorial decisions instead of agonizing over them. It can be refined over time, but I think just getting it out there for the community to use is important.

Submitted by lambert on

That is, Fracking (actually, OH -> Fracking) as opposed to say WI -> Fracking -> Supply Chain -> Sand.

They need to be narrow enough to be usefully mapped and filtered from the get go because retrofitting data is really hard.

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

{But Lambert knew that it was me, at the time he posted the comment. I let him know that I had "tried out" the new log-in thingie.}

I agree with some of your conclusions and suggestions, danps. But not so much the "going local" suggestion. I've known in the past, but as we speak, I don't even know who the Mayor of our city is, LOL!

Mr. Alexa and I are probably peculiar in our politics. For years and years, we've been immersed in national politics.

Put either of us in a room with a radio or TV with not only the voices of most politicians, but even journalists or just network contributors like Ron Brownstein, Howard Feinman, Joe Klein, David Brooks--name one, and we can tell you who they are in two syllables (obviously not looking at them).

But neither of us, except for our Dean DFA days, have been that involved in "local" politics. Partly, it's because at our local level, the Democratic Party was/is ultra conservative. I'd just as soon hang out with the Repubs here--there's no difference!

Anyhoo, I hope Corrente keeps some national focus. I especially feel that way since my main areas of interest are the federal social insurance programs. It's sort of a "natural bias" for me.

But I appreciate all your activism, at all levels. :-)

BTW, I believe that the blogs are much more successful at disseminating information, than they are as tools of activism. [Which isn't to say that they can't participate in any way, in putting forth petitions, etc.] Now, that's just my personal experience.

Look at the headway conservatives have made with their "abortion" plank, compared to liberals (so-called) with the "public option" plank. There's just no comparison, IMHO.

Maybe that is because I'm not a blogger. I'm an individual who occasionally uses writing to convey a message. There is a big difference, I think you'll all agree.

I also think that the progressive community needs to wake up to the fact that personal, face-to-face interaction is the most effective way to organize.

Conservatives have been successful at taking over their Party, partly for just this reason.

Their big advantage--they meet "eyeball, to eyeball" at churches, regularly.

At any rate, my point is that if liberal folks want to develop and sustain a movement, they have got to find a "substitute for" the old Union Hall. {The state of most liberal churches today, preclude them from being much help, IMO. Like Democratic l politicians, unfortunately, many liberal-leaning churches seem to be more interested in proving their "conservative" bona fides.}

By the same token, nothing can touch the blogosphere for getting out information. I'm an avid reader, not a writer, and can't say enough about how grateful that I am to Lambert's Corrente, and a handful of other liberal bastions "of great writing, information and inspiration." Shout-out to BAR, too.

Without them, "movements" could not form. But, somehow, we (liberals) need to establish "one-on-one networks" if we hope to have real success at achieving liberal goals, like Medicare-For-All.

One last thought. Maybe I'm too negative, but I've about come to believe that "petitions and such" are really not that effective of a tool. That's not the "fault of the internet." It's just an offshoot of the fact that politicians don't give a cr*p about what the American people think, anymore.

Can't figure out how to work around that one, either, LOL!

BTW, if DFA (here) hadn't been overrun with conservative Dems, we'd still be active in it.

I've racked my brain. Must say that I don't have the answer to this conumdrum. Maybe someone much sharper does. I hope so.

P.S. I have not figured out how to "review" my comment, (I mean, in a non-scrolling format) before submitting it. What is the process? [When I hit on the "eyeball" once, I think that I lost my comment.]

Anyway, very interesting topic and thread.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on
  1. personal, face-to-face interaction is the most effective way to organize.
  2. blogs are much more successful at disseminating information, than they are as tools of activism.
  3. find a "substitute for" the old Union Hall
  4. "petitions and such" are really not that effective of a tool.
  1. That's why I think local activism is important. The interenet can reach the farthest flung corners at lightning speed, but it's a shallow contact. Face-to-face is a deep contact.
  2. I agree wholeheartedly. That's why I think local activism is important - you have to actually get out there. I've lost all patience with "clicktivism."
  3. Our anti-fracking group meets once a week at a local church, and it serves that social purpose extremely well. The social capital may end up being a larger impact than the anti-fracking efforts.
  4. Online petitions are of limited value. They're useful at the local level in this way though: They support the claim of community belief. If you show up at city council complaining about something, you're a crank. If you show up with hundreds of petitions as well, you can claim to represent a sentiment that extends beyond you (and your small band of fellow travelers).

I also think local activism is important because it offers the best prospect of seeing one's action cause the needle to move. Success matters!

ALSO TOO AND THIS IS CAPS LOCK WORTHY: Local activism can open up political space. If you think the D's and R's are dead ends, the way to create room for a third party is to take up important causes that the Big Two neglect. And by "take up" I mean begin the long, slow, unglamorous and labor-intensive process of using local activism as a platform for runs for political office. I've fucking had it with the Greens browbeating liberals every foyur years for not supporting the latest wanker. Where are the Greens now? Are they helping organize local runs for office anywhere? They certainly aren't in my neck of the woods.

I've come to believe local activism is the most important component of supporting the development of a third party.

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

except thanks for the incisive and thoughtful answer. All your points are very well-taken.

Well, maybe there is one thing. It's best a topic for another day, but I've got to at least mention it. It bugs the heck out of me.

And that's the Democratic Party's "disinformation" machine. Not long ago I tried (apparently, unsuccessfully) to explain to a blogger that "Bowles-Simpsom" was NOT DEAD.

The Dems have been very successful (and clever) to disassociate with the Fiscal Commission's proposal. I mean, since it was released at the end of 2010, there have been thousands (if not tens of thousands) of mainstream media pieces written about their proposal, the Gang of Six (now Ten?) proposal, etc., etc.,

YET, most folks in the progressive community do not realize that the Administration has been implementing this proposal "piecemeal" as a result of every mini-crises, and is continuing to do so, everyday.

One guy argued with me that "Social Security and Medicare" are not PART OF the sequester--what was wrong with me for saying that the President was going to use the sequester to finally push through the Chained CPI and the "age raise" for Medicare eligibility.

And apparently, the concept that these two programs (since I suppose they truly did decide, according to Gene Sperling, to keep Medicaid out of negotiations) are the very "bargaining chips" that the President's employing in order to get revenue, was a concept that this dude (and MANY others) could not even grasp!

So, either the Dems have a mighty fierce propaganda machine, or, there's a massive amount of "denial" going on out there.

Submitted by lambert on

The denial and the propaganda are mutually self-reinforcing.

* * *

On activism and blogging, and mutual reinforcement: My mother always said, "Do what only you can do." So while I do my bit locally (and it's quite peripheral) I am a far, far better writer and blogger than I am an activist, so that is where I put my energy. (I am not really a "people person," and I lose my temper in person far more easily than I do online, and so I am not really a very successful activist.)

So, it's a question of information transmission, and whether that is worth it, and how that is to be done. One very obvious function is that it's lonely to be an activist, even in a group of other activists, so having a national focus can help an activist movement "see itself." I was astounded at how much fracking material there was, for example. And all of it locally driven, and most of them working without real knowledge of what is going on outside their locality. A second obvious function is to integrate information about and visualize the supply chain. This cannot be done locally, be definition. A fourth function is to share what works and what doesn't work. Non-violence is an example of this.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

People have different skill sets, and can participate in ways that play to their strengths. Your having a temper doesn't preclude your being a successful activist, it just means you shouldn't put yourself in a position to lose it if it will do your cause more harm than good.

One of the women in our group is extremely quiet and bookish - in her own way not a people person, not someone who successfully contributes to groups or would be a good spokesperson. She's become an absolute whiz at reading permits though - she dove into it and through practice has developed a real skill for zeroing in on the points to hit on. You could look for similar opportunities. Or more generally, don't disqualify yourself. "What you can do" can take many forms.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

I am not really a "people person," and I lose my temper in person far more easily than I do online, and so I am not really a very successful activist.

Nor am I. I'm also very uncomfortable in crowds, almost to the point of it being a neurosis. Neither is an attribute of a successful activist.

I think your mother's advice is sound. I suppose one problem I'm having these days is figuring out how to apply the talents I have usefully. Discussions like this are worth reading for that alone.