Proposal: mutual guest-blogging

by: JonPincus

Sat Jun 14, 2008 at 11:41

(Here is our second American Blogger winner from this week. A very timely followup to my previous post in the "Women's Voices / Women's Struggles" series.   - promoted by Paul Rosenberg)

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.

Update, June 19 followon posts at

Read on for more details on the proposal -- and strongly-positive responses in the comments.

JonPincus :: Proposal: mutual guest-blogging
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.

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Potential topics (0.00 / 0)
Here's a short list of potential initial topics that came up during the threads and email discussions that led to this post.  The criteria we used: important for the progressive movement in general as well as the November election, and very little good discussion of these to date in most of the progressive blogosphere.

  • What Hillary's withdrawal means to feminists who supported her, and why it is important that everyone on the left understands and appreciates their perspective
  • Minority blogger underrepresentation -- at the Democratic National Convention and elsewhere
  • Generational tensions in the election (with guest bloggers including high schoolers, college students, and seniors)
  • Intersectionality and the attacks on Michelle Obama and her daughters
  • Multi-perspective "situation/response" discussions of complex topics like sustainability, immigration, and reaching out to conservative Democrats and Republicans, bringing news to low information voters across the digital divide -- all with a goal of identifying opportunities for multi-issue alliances

Please reply to this comment with additional suggestions!

Start here, definitely! All of these issues are great and (4.00 / 3)
ought to get addressed.
     My 2 cents: I think an HRC kickoff would be smart, given the rawness that's been evinced. And it would segue really interestingly into a look at the Obama women and intersectionality.  
     Certainly, Michelle seemed to pick up misogynist flack precisely after the moment that HRC withdrew. That seems to say a lot about the forces involved, so it ought to be very worthwhile to tie the two together for examination. The 2 are tied together, best of friends or no.

[ Parent ]
Could be a great place to start ... (0.00 / 0)
Taylor's comment in the American Blogger thread suggested that as well.  It's certainly timely, and several of the discussions here are relevant.  If we can get guest-bloggers identified and lined up quickly, it'd be great to start here.

[ Parent ]
i'm good with this (0.00 / 0)

Do you want to organize this?  I think it'd be neat.


[ Parent ]
I can kick things off ... (0.00 / 0)
... and it seems like there's enough interest that others will step forward to help.

What's the best way to move forward?  My inclination would be to continue to use this thread to discuss, and quickly set up two more threads: a topic nomination thread, and a blogger nomination thread for a first effort focused on the impact of Hillary Clinton's on her feminist supporters (or something like that).  

It might also make sense to set up a Facebook group for additional conversation and coordination of the people who are going to be involved in this (if enough others have accounts over there).

What else?

[ Parent ]
If you would like (0.00 / 0)
I can set up a Facebook page. Shall I put your main post as the explanation of the group?

Former Edwards Supporter, Obama Supporter since January 30, 2008

[ Parent ]
I beat you to it ... (0.00 / 0)
... and set up a Facebook group here

See ya there!

[ Parent ]
It Might Be Best To Do Another Diary (0.00 / 0)
Since we now have a go-ahead, we're basically working off a different premise.

If you want to do a diary to the reflect that, and start with a clean slate, I will be happy to frontpage it.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
That makes sense ... (0.00 / 0)
I'll be offline tonight, and so I'll get something up tomorrow.

[ Parent ]
This Is Really Impressive (0.00 / 0)
It really has been well-refined.

I especially like #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)

It's like having a self-perpetuating outside advisory board--a built-in corrective against the tendency to become more insular over time.  (Plus, it's less work for the likes of me!  And more surprises!)

I see a very strong positive potential in this proposal.  The idea of being a temporary hub for a different topic every week could significantly increase traffic to the site and to the sites of all participating guest bloggers.

Naturally, this has to work within the evolving framework of what Chris, Matt and Mike intend for the site.  But at first blush it looks to me like a very natural extension of their intention in founding the site in the first place.

It certainly furthers the process of opening to the full spectrum of the left.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

Thanks! (0.00 / 0)
(and also to Populista and dr anonymous below).

[quote]It really has been well-refined.[/quote]

Yeah, anybody who saw the earlier versions can see how much progress we made in the refinement.  We got feedback from nine people overall, roughly half OpenLefties and half not, some of it very extensive.  It really makes a difference.

[ Parent ]
I love the idea (4.00 / 1)
Matt, Chris and Mike, please do this!

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

i'll definitely help (4.00 / 1)
i thought it was a great idea before and i still do :)  i can only really help with south asian diaspora (and possibly south asia itself) related stuff, but am more than willing to do so.  that, however, includes race, some women of color, identity issues in the u.s., classism, etc.

i love the idea; (4.00 / 2)
support opening with a 'sexism and the 2008 election' discussion (as sb suggests); and would love to help out with the project.

As the project progresses, I think it will be important to balance at least two goals: 1) fostering a more diverse (speaking in terms of identity) openleft, and 2) fostering a space for discussion about a diverse range of topics.  Hopefully neither goal gets subordinated to the other.  

I would also love to be considered as a potential guest contributer.  I'm in the process of setting up a blog entitled 'In Theory,' that will hopefully be a resource and discussion hub for people who are interested in thinking about contemporary politics and history in a theoretically informed way (by this i mean everything from feminist theory to theories of ideology...).  I'd love to have Paul serve as a guest contributer, since nearly all of his posts on this site are heavily informed by a variety of theoretical approaches.

Looking forward to reading posts by new authors here!


Totally agree on the multiple goals ... (0.00 / 0)
... and you're exactly the kind of voice we'd want as a potential mutual guest.  For a new blog starting up, getting somebody like Paul as a guest contributor is hugely valuable; from our standpoint, there's most likely no way we'd wind up hearing and discussing your perspectives firsthand unless you do a guest post here.

[ Parent ]
Great idea. Question. (4.00 / 1)
Does this thread count as the nomination thread for topics, or should another be started for this purpose? If this is the nomination thread, I'll put forward three topic ideas:

1. The situation in Iowa, and how the government is reacted to the massive flooding taking place (Have we improved since Katrina?).

2. Which media anchors/reporters/analysts/etc displayed outward sexism and racism in the primary campaign, and what can be organized to be done about these individuals (petitions, letters, etc.).

3. The ever international striking of truckers in reaction to rising gas prices, starting in Spain, and now even beginning to reach the US.

Sound good?

Former Edwards Supporter, Obama Supporter since January 30, 2008

As a note (0.00 / 0)
I can help with the 3rd suggestion if needed, though I think the Iowa one would be best for someone in or near Iowa.

Former Edwards Supporter, Obama Supporter since January 30, 2008

[ Parent ]
It's the de facto nomination thread for now ... (0.00 / 0)
And great suggestions.  The Iowa/Katrina link is a really intriguing one ...

[ Parent ]
Terrific. (0.00 / 0)
This is a really great idea, Jon, I'm looking forward to seeing it in action.

Great idea. (4.00 / 1)
I love the idea!

One caveat: I'd like to see this initiative promote diversity of ideas rather than "diversity" in the more traditional sense (race, gender, etc.). I'd like to read innovative and far-ranging posts, not the same old posts from people with different genetics. If it takes people of different backgrounds to generate a diversity of ideas, then so much the merrier.

Please don't take this the wrong way. I'm a huge fan of traditional diversity in in-person settings. In the blogs, however, I rarely know someone's race, ethnic background, or sexual orientation, and sometimes I don't even know their gender. I like it that way. Everyone's ideas get read and not prejudged.

The truth about Saxby Chambliss

Both kinds of diversity matter ... (4.00 / 1)
I totally agree about promoting diversity of ideas.  If anybody here hasn't read Scott Page's The Difference, an extremely good analysis of the value of cognitive diversity and problem solving, put it at the top of your list!

However, if you don't have a broad mix of backgrounds and perspectives -- which includes the traditional diversity dimensions -- then your cognitive diversity is typically limited.  There was a great example of this in the age dimension in Matt's "Tools as Generational Markers" thread, where almost nobody here talked about first-person experience with Facebook (and more generally were unable to relate to the high-schoolers' experience that Matt talked about).  That'll make it really hard to accurately incorporate social network sites, and the audience of 60,000,000 Facebookers, in any of OpenLeft's thinking about strategies.

And it's just not true that everybody's ideas get read and judged equally in the blogosphere. A.J. Rossmiller's Myth of the meritocracy (blogosphere edition) and Kay Steiger's The "new" new left is white, male discuss this specifically for the political blogosphere; Susan C. Herring et. al.'s  Women and children last: the discursive construction of Weblogs and Shelley Powers' Guys don't link cover it more broadly.

So I think it's important to pay attention to identity diversity as well as cognitive diversity. Fortunately It's not an either-or thing; and the goal of the proposal is to help to address both.

[ Parent ]
agreed, but (0.00 / 0)
Don't get me wrong: I'm well aware that the progressive blogosphere "establishment" is overwhelmingly white, male, and well-off, and that is the result of all sorts to important societal problems. But the mechanics of this site are meritocratic: no one is expected to divulge their race, sex, orientation, etc. etc. unless they choose to do so. I wouldn't want to stray too far from that paradigm. (Imagine: "Apply to be a guest blogger on our site! Just fill out this five-part survey that lets us pigeonhole you in every possible way!")

The truth about Saxby Chambliss

[ Parent ]
In practice ... (0.00 / 0)
I suspect that most of the bloggers nominated, even the pseudonymous ones, are open about at least some areas of their identity.  However, I totally agree that it shouldn't be any kind of requirement.

More generally, the mechanics of the site have resulted in a lack of diversity in front page posters that this proposal's attempting to address.  "Meritocratic" approaches often unintentionally mirror or reinforce existing dimensions of oppression and marginalization.  If you want to change the dynamics, you have to foreground these issues and explicitly design for the intended goals.

[ Parent ]

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