The Commonwealth of Virginia's Ultimate Blog

Friday, March 31, 2006

Thoughts on the Blogosphere

Now that I’ve talked extensively about the state of the Republican Party, I want to turn the magnifying glass back on myself a little and talk about this very medium I am using right now. When Addison, Harry, and I started this blog 16 months ago or so, it was because we thought we had something to add to the debate that was going on in preparation for the 2005 statewide elections. We wanted to have a debate about the issues affecting Virginia and why we thought Jerry Kilgore was the right person to lead Virginia for the next four years (And I still do). We chose the name Sic Semper Tyrannis because we wanted this blog to be about Virginia, not about us. That’s also why we choose to remain anonymous. We want the focus to be on the issues we were talking about, not who is doing the talking. Unfortunately, I am beginning to feel that we are in the minority in that regard. It is wonderful to see a great many Virginians taking an interest in blogging, but at the same time it seems as if many of them are more concerned with putting the spotlight on themselves than with solving problems or answering questions about Virginia’s future. In addition, it seems as though, as the Virginia blogosphere has grown, the majority of new blogs have directed their focus at driving traffic to their sites through gimmicks and web-generated scandals than through the quality of their writing. Mind you, I am by no means saying that I myself have never done the things I am criticizing. I certainly have, but I have also tried to keep my posts faithful to my particular areas of knowledge and interest, and I would hope that the thoughtful posts outweighed the trite ones. You are free to disagree.

These criticisms certainly go for Conservative and Liberal bloggers alike. I think it would do some good for bloggers to start thinking not just about how many people might read something they write, or what kind of reaction it might get, but rather what does it add to the online discussion. Certainly every blogger has his own agenda, and that is what makes the community interesting. However, the way that agenda is presented makes a big difference. I enjoy reading guys like Shaun Kenny, Waldo Jaquith and The Jaded JD because their posts usually go deeper than the surface. Even if we don’t always agree, I usually appreciate what they bring to the table. Other bloggers I find to be “all hat, no cattle” as it were. I often cringe at bloggers like Not Larry Sabato, Too Conservative, and Republitarian simply because they exhibit more concern with fluffery and self-aggrandizement than anything else. As a result, even when these “gossip-column” bloggers post things that are worthwhile, I am less likely to read them and much less likely to give them weight. For example, having a poll to determine who the “most influential” bloggers are is a bit like taking a poll to see who the coolest guy at the Star Trek Convention is. It might make that guy feel like somebody special, but most people could give a damn.

This brings me to my second point, which is that the blogosphere is not nearly as important as it seems to think it is. For now, those who pay attention to the blogosphere, particularly at the statewide political level, are in a very small club. By and large, the blogosphere is not yet shaping public opinion in any meaningful or measurable way. Now, this is not to say that blogs couldn’t evolve into such a role. The increasing technological savvy of our society in fact indicates that they very well may. This is also not to say that blogs aren't at all useful, because they certainly can be. The fact that so many elected officials are now paying attention to the blogosphere indicates that it may well play an important role in our state politics in the near future. Still, the average voter in Virginia has no idea what a blog is, and a large percentage of what we say will have absolutely no impact on how people vote this November. All of this is not to discourage anyone from blogging. In fact I look forward to the continued growth and evolution of the Virginia blogosphere. This is merely a reality check for some of us who may suddenly believe ourselves kingmakers simply because a few hundred people click through our little corner of the Internet each day.

I applaud the work that has already been done by folks like Chad Dotson to foster a more involved, more respectful community of bloggers and I hope that those efforts will continue. I believe that, although individual bloggers may come and go, blogging itself is here to say. I also believe that blogging can be an extremely productive and helpful resource and outlet for people. I doubt that DeTocqueville would be surprised by our pursuit of new and varied forms of interaction in what can be an increasingly remote digital world. Humans in general and Americans in particular long for social and political interaction. Basically, we like having friends, and we like having debate. The Internet is providing astounding new ways of interacting with people who share our passions, and the blogosphere is one shining example.

I encourage all of the bloggers out there to think, as we have here at SST, about what it is that you want to accomplish through this meager platform. I encourage you to stick to those goals and to seek the counsel of others in achieving them. Mostly, I encourage you to make your blog your own. Each perspective is unique, and all are welcome.

Blog on.


Blogger Littimer said...

[...]Old Zach puts into words what I'm sure a lot of bloggers out there believe. Anyone that reads this should definitely follow the link to see a prime example of the type of blogger he praises.[...]

1:04 AM

Blogger Vivian J. Paige said...

As a relative newcomer to blogging (at least as it relates to politics), I couldn't agree more with what you have written. My reason for blogging is a fairly simple one: to educate. While I enjoy visiting lots of the blogs, I find the content lacking. My blog is not about me, even though it carries my name. I've been very careful not to make it be about me. If somebody reads my blog, fine. If they don't, that's OK, too. At least I know I've tried to do my part to make available information that may be lacking in the normal MSM.

10:58 AM

Blogger GOPHokie said...

I have always thought the originial purpose of blogs was to bring out info that was basically only known by the activists. They were supposed to be a place where people could go to find out non newsworthy type things about campaigns and candidates (i.e. candidate "x" is an idiot, or campaign "Y" is being run terribly.
That is no longer the ability b/c so few bloggers are anonymous.
Blogs are still useful b/c they give lots of perspectives, but its no where as useful as they used to be.

1:21 PM

Anonymous Waldo Jaquith said...

I have always thought the originial purpose of blogs was to bring out info that was basically only known by the activists. They were supposed to be a place where people could go to find out non newsworthy type things about campaigns and candidates (i.e. candidate "x" is an idiot, or campaign "Y" is being run terribly.

Well, as the first Virginia political blogger (I think), I can tell you that this was not the purpose of my blog. I believe Steve Minor was second, and that wasn't the purpose of his blog.

I blogged (then as now) about Virginia politics as a way of making it more relevant to accessible to average people. Most folks have no idea about what goes on in Richmond -- there's just a vague awareness that there are some people who they've voted for who do something important.

The idea of using Virginia political blogs as a way to anonymously slander candidates or campaigns is entirely new, and entirely pathetic. If that's their purpose, then I don't want anything to do with them.

1:42 PM

Blogger GOPHokie said...

Very little that is said on the blogs deviates very much from the party line Waldo.
You know that as well as I do.

2:58 PM

Blogger too conservative said...

If by deeper you mean they talk about sports, and their personal lives(as waldo just had a post up about some guys e-mail or something) than you are correct.

I had much more respect for you up to this post.

The thing is, while I am a good friend of NLS, and enjoy his postings..we often disagree often on how to approach topics and issues.

I look to NLS as the top Democratic blog..lets face it..if people wanted to come on and read policy all the time..they would go to the washington post website..

TC is not a site for idol gossip, and I don't spend all my time talking about myself...infact that is why I don't put pictures up of myself, or spend long diatribes on my personal life.

If you read TC closely, you would see we often do discuss policy as well.

Hits are great, but not everything, I understand that. Hits come from having good posts that people want to read.

I ALWAYS have facts behind my posts, and multiple sources.

I look deep into what makes the Republican party tick in NOVA and around the state, and base it on e-mails I have received from party officials, and others.

There are two distinct sets of Virginia are right...but it is simply blogs that make news, and blogs which report news.

Commonwealth Conservative is the only example of a GOP blog which walks the line, and has great guests, while also reporting the news.

If you read my past weeks post closely you would see many have been about policy and legislation.

Thanks for you, yourself..becoming a smear site in the process.

3:20 PM

Anonymous Craig said...

It is hard to take a post like this too seriously when the site's tagline is "The Commonwealth of Virginia's Ultimate Blog".

4:04 PM

Blogger Waldo Jaquith said...

Very little that is said on the blogs deviates very much from the party line Waldo. You know that as well as I do.

Whether or not that's true, I'm afraid that I can't see what that has to do with the topic at hand.

10:32 PM

Blogger Charles said...

I only regret that I haven't been around long enough to make EITHER list.


1:25 PM

Blogger Blair said...

Mine is a news-blog where current events are recorded for history. I only report on the stories that would be on the front page if I had a newspaper. No non-newsworthy stuff here.

The blog also serves as an online resume.

I'm not as jaded a blogger as some. It's a lot easier and more effective than pamphlets. Ideas still have power even if you don't believe it anymore.

Blogs aren't going away because someone somewhere will always have something to say. The idea will give him the power to blog to someone else who will change the world.

1:19 AM


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