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Monday Message Board

July 27th, 2003

I’m on the move again, to Montreal, so I don’t know when I’ll next be able to post. In the meantime, there’s the home-made fun and entertainment of the Monday Message Board. Post your views on any topic (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please!).

Suggested discussion starter: Collective blogs – is the whole more than the sum of its parts?

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  1. July 29th, 2003 at 00:23 | #1

    There should be a word invented for the additional greater-than-the-some-of-the-parts bit which can be created that Ken’s raised: sub-blogosphere; mini-sphere; inner-sphere …?

  2. John
    July 29th, 2003 at 03:37 | #2

    I think it’s a blogosurplus

  3. James Farrell
    July 29th, 2003 at 10:46 | #3

    Ken says: ‘…the whole is certainly greater than sum of its parts. By inviting co-bloggers with disparate views and strong writing skills, I’m quite sure we spur each other on to greater things than we might otherwise achieve by ourselves.’

    Don’t these consequences flow just from being in constant dialogue with other superior bloggers who have similar interests if not opinions?

    The rugby thing is nice for aficionados, but you run the risk of seeming cliquey if you take it too far. The fact that John blogs alone probably causes him to suppress his passion for Karate. If he enlisted some co-writers who also happened to be Karate maniacs, the blog might become a never-ending conversation about Karate, making some contributors feel a bit excluded.

  4. July 28th, 2003 at 01:50 | #4

    Yes. No. Maybe. Depends on such variables as whether or not contributors to a collective blog are expected to conform to a particular subject (and a particular line on that subject), who are the bloggers involved, and so forth. Troppo Armadillo works for me in that respect, good mix of bloggers evidently free to blog as they please, so that while you do get politics and economics as the main topic of discussion, the blog isn’t confined to that. Samizdata, on the other hand, bores me to tears whenever I look at it.

  5. James Farrell
    July 28th, 2003 at 10:33 | #5

    Collective blogs are not more than the sum of their parts. For rich debate and cross-fertilisation, I think a comments thread is all you need.

    If the collective blog has an advantage it’s that it spares the individual contributors from needing to post every day just to keep the blog alive. But this is only an issue if the blogger doesn’t have at least one interesting point to make every day, which obviously doesn’t apply to you, John.

  6. July 28th, 2003 at 20:07 | #6

    Basically, is it not the same old story – a single blog has the advantage in terms of coherence, whereas a collective blog is likely to have a wider range of expertise? As James says, a collective blog also has advantages in post time-saving … and may also give the bloggers a bit more protection from flamers by diluting the target … yet, by the same token, the single blog has more personality or intimacy. Swings and roundabouts.

  7. July 28th, 2003 at 20:37 | #7

    I guess I’m not the most objective person to judge the worth or otherwise of the group blog concept. All I can give is a personal perspective.

    TA started out as a personal blog, but I fairly quickly concluded that I was unlikely to be able to sustain the output on a daily basis necessary to retain a respectably-sized audience. Accordingly I talent-spotted my comment boxes and invited co-blogging from commenters who struck me as really good writers with something original to say. The present TA is the result.

    My own biased view is that the whole is certainly grater than sum of its parts. By inviting co-bloggers with disparate views and strong writing skills, I’m quite sure we spur each other on to greater things than we might otherwise achieve by ourselves. And because we respect each other’s abilities and intellects, we end up sparking posts in each other that might not otherwise have happened. One minor example is the “Hell in a Handbasket” post I wrote a couple of days ago. It was sparked directly by an earlier post by Chris Sheil on inequality. Of course, you can spark off posts on other blogs as well, or the op-ed media: that’s what blogging is all about. Nevertheless, for me at least, posts from co-bloggers get greater attention and are more likely to trigger writing ideas in me.

    On TA, as well, we also seem to be building up a strong rugby theme, which can only increase as the World Cup gets closer. Of course, many might not see that as a plus, but I certainly think it generates a group blog identity. You’d be hard-pressed to argue against the proposition that TA is now THE rugby blog.

    On the other hand, my own view is that group blogs with a tight ideological focus are often LESS than the sum of their parts. Oz Libertarians is, I think, an example. “Strawman” was much better (and funnier) when he ran Bovination by himself, and Alex Robson seems to have disappeared completely (which is a shame, even though I often disagreed with him). Moreover, the posts in general have a certain predictability, for me at least. As James said, the same is true of Samizdata.

    On the other hand, Volokh Conspiracy is an example of an American mega-group blog that works really well IMO. All its co-bloggers are clearly right of centre, but there’s a lot of diversity of viewpoint and areas of interest within that broad ideological church.

    I think the answer is (a) select for quality writing; (b) encourage a reasonable degree of diversity, but not so much as to cause drastic tensions between co-bloggers. There are some bloggers (without mentioning names) I’d have serious problems blogging alongside. Moreover, some of them are on the left and some on the right. Their common denominator is that they’re so one-dimensionally opinionated, and incapable of grappling with the possibility that there might actually be another side to the argument that might have some merit, that they’d be very wearisome to blog alongside (not least because that style of blogger attracts even more tunnel-visioned readers and commenters).

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