Thoughts on "Rxs for the Blogosphere"
I'm okay with all the initiatives set out below. I'm not so convinced, though, that they'll make a big difference. I do the things you describe -- my blogroll is nothing if not diverse -- and I actually decided, in the runup to the 2004 Presidential election, to tone down my language from its never-very-hot levels, but if it made a difference elsewhere in the blogosphere it wasn't that big a difference. It just got me accused of "lacking fire." (My response -- you want fire from a law professor? And one who teaches Administrative Law?)
But there's an upside. Blogging is very intense and consuming, as this description of blogger burnout explains:
"Good bloggers work like dogs," says Michael Parsons, editor of the tech site CNet.co.uk. "You can't expect readers to show up unless you show up. And the Internet never closes. … Every successful blogger I've come across is the same. Eat, sleep, and drink the work. No time out; no holidays."
That's not a recipe for healthy living, especially if you're working a day job that's not paying you to blog.
Most bloggers burn out pretty fast, and getting heated up makes burnout happen faster, I suspect. So perhaps as the blogosphere matures (that is, gets older and tireder) the flames of passion will cool.
Or maybe not. As for encouraging diversity, your ideas are all good ones, but I wonder if we shouldn't ask the tech-folks to think about what they could do, too. Things like Memeorandum and Technorati have already done a lot to ensure that people get exposed to different ideas (and even Google News and Drudge do that, to a degree). But I suspect that these are just the beginning, and that plenty of new technologies might facilitate communication across ideological lines.
There's also email, an older technology that we ought to make more use of. Bloggers will post about each other, but many are shy about emailing. But there are lots of places where people have common ground even if they differ politically in other ways. I exchange emails all the time with the Micah Sifry, Zephyr Teachout, Bill Allison and the Sunlight Foundation, though most people would consider them to my left; likewise Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker. But we all agree on some important issues -- like trying to rein in Congressional earmark excesses, and I actually just like them as people. Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft and I agree about a lot of law enforcement and civil liberties issues. Adam Bonin and Darksyde of DailyKos have worked with me on things. And I even guest-blogged at the Service Employees International Union's "Since Sliced Bread" ideas site. You get more done if you're able to do stuff like that, and you're more able to cooperate when you don't call people names too much, or too loudly. (Some interests might prefer to keep us more angry, and hence less able to cooperate, but why should we go along with that?)
What's more, when you cooperate, and email back and forth, you're more likely to give people the benefit of the doubt, or at least treat them with some courtesy, even on issues where you bitterly disagree.
Nobody's perfect, of course, and all of us in the blogosphere -- even the ones who "lack fire" -- can throw an elbow now and then. But I think that person-to-person interaction helps; it takes away some of the Internet disinhibition I mentioned before. As the blogosphere matures, we may even start going to conventions -- I'm going to the Blog World Expo in Las Vegas in November myself -- and more of us will know each other face to face. That may help, too.
Anyway, those are some additional suggestions of mine, and I hope that readers will weigh in in the comments, and that tech-types will take up my suggestion and bring us some shiny new toys. I like shiny new toys.