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Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Bloggers meet at the UUA General Assembly.

Back in April, nine Unitarian Universalist bloggers from the Boston area and one from D.C. met to talk and barbecue in the rain. (We should do that again soon, maybe without rain.) During the last weekend in June I met even more UU bloggers in a series of conversations at the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations in Fort Worth. Here's a quick recap:

It was great to see Sean Parker Denison of Ministrare, Greg of (r)evolUUtions, Peter Bowden of Adventures in Small Group Ministry, and Steve Caldwell of Liberal Faith Development, although only Sean and I managed to talk for more than a few minutes.

A bunch of us met as a group Friday night for a good long chat about UU blogging, including Enrique of The Blue Chalice, James Field of Left Coast Unitarian, Phil Lund of Phil's Little Blog on the Prairie, Dan Harper of Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, Joseph Santos-Lyons of Radical Hapa, and Anna Belle Leierson and Curtis Michelson of Talking UU Technology. (James took our picture.) We were joined by a handful of people — congregational webmasters, presidents, and ministers — who brought specific questions about using blog technologies in their own work.

On Monday night, I had a very nice dinner and attended the closing celebration with John of Returning, Jess of Jess's Journal, and the newly-ordained Rev. Eric Posa — my roommate at the 1996 General Assembly and a very lapsed LiveJournaler.

I also had the strange experience of being greeted by G.A.-goers who came up to me and whispered, "I read your blog." The whispering part was funny — but rest assured, secret readers, your secret is safe with me. And I'm glad you keep coming back.

Aside from the joy of meeting all these people, several things stand out about our conversations:

  • Interest in Unitarian Universalist blogs is growing quickly. Some of this interest could be described as fascination with a new trend — ranging from enthusiasm to dismay about a new and quite possibly powerful communications tool. Some interest is focused on technical questions about how to start blogging or how to use blogging technologies to satisfy personal or institutional goals. (I heard several versions of these two questions a lot at G.A.: "What can a blog do?" and "Can a blog help me do what I want to do?") And some of the interest is focused on the practice of blogging — the nuts and bolts of finding a niche, establishing a pace, building an audience, and maximizing the tools that make blogging fun and interactive.

  • Blogs are enabling new kinds of interaction. Aggregators that collect headlines from multiple blogs using RSS — especially ones set up for public use like John Cooley's What's New with UU? (currently with feeds from 82 sites) and my own UU Blog Digest (with 65 feeds) — are making it much easier to get involved in and follow a wide range of conversations. Although I find it increasingly difficult to keep up with everybody, we'll soon see people organizing and reorganizing RSS from the full range of UU voices to suit particular audiences or reading habits. (The Mormon Archipelago represents one approach to organizing RSS feeds so that high-traffic and high-volume blogs don't drown out the smaller ones. Could What's New with UU? grow into something similar?)

  • Some of this interaction might be better served on group blogs than on a growing number of solo blogs. (I say this from the point of view of someone who wants to follow good conversation but who has a limited amount of time to spend checking back on the comment threads on several sites.) Although I don't have time to do much about this for a few months, I hope to get a conversation started about relaunching and refining Coffee Hour, perhaps restructuring it so that readers can set up their own diaries within the group blog as they do as TPMCafe or Daily Kos.

  • Finally, I heard a number of questions and concerns about the ethics of blogging. What if a blog says something about you or your organization that doesn't reflect your view of the facts or your sense of priorities? How should you respond? What are the differences between blogging anonymously and blogging under one's professional name? How do bloggers decide what's too personal — or perhaps too professional — to write about? And how do family members, colleagues, employers, and parishioners perceive fragments of their lives and opinions showing up "on the Internet"? Good questions, all of them.

Of course, we didn't have time to do more than identify a bunch of topics and questions we'd like to explore further. Anna Belle said she would welcome conversation about the geeky side of blogging over at Talking UU Technology (how appropriate!); I said I would try to focus more on content questions here.

After our Boston-area bloggers picnic, we set up some resource forums at Coffee Hour to share tips and resources for four of the most popular blogging technologies. I encourage you to use them. Maybe there's also a need for resource forums about blogging practices.

If we were still sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Fort Worth, talking about UU blogging, what questions would you want to ask?

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 5 July 2005 at 10:19 PM

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July 6, 2005 12:43 PM | Permalink for this comment

I was there too!

I'm working on a CSS redesign, so should have links to most of the people I met on the site soon.


July 6, 2005 02:17 PM | Permalink for this comment

Agghh, now I'm even more disappointed to have missed GA.

The revamping of Coffee Hour sounds like a wonderful idea. I too find myself unable to keep up with everyone at "What's New with UU," and your own Kinja Digest, in spite of gads of access. The UU blogosphere sure has grown in the last few months.


July 7, 2005 12:48 PM | Permalink for this comment

Been mulling over lots on "blogging ethics" after our dinner conversation (mmm... chinese food...) - if you want in, come on over!

J. Stapley:

July 7, 2005 01:46 PM | Permalink for this comment

Drop me a line if you are interested in doing something similar to the Mormon Archipelago. I'd have to talk to the others, but I'm sure we could hook you up.

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