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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Doug Muder dreams of Coffee Hour 2.0.

Doug Muder is writing a General Assembly journal — a blog without RSS or comments — as part of's coverage of GA. Here's his commentary about Wednesday night's UUA reception for bloggers:

I made it to the reception for UU bloggers after the evening plenary. We didn't get started until almost 10 p.m., and then ran until about 11:30. People trickled in by twos and threes, and we ultimately wound up with about two dozen bloggers in the room.

The reception was sponsored by the Information Technology Services staff group of the UUA, which seems to be fascinated by the blogging community and wonders how the UUA and UU bloggers can work together to our mutual advantage. I don't think the UUA people knew exactly what question they wanted to ask, and the question we ended up discussing was something like: How can the UUA create the kind of buzz it wants among bloggers?

It was an interesting conversation that I'm sure will be adequately covered by the other bloggers—I'll try to point you to their blogs as they show up. But I came out of the room thinking about the conversation we might have had, so I think I'll say a little about that. The question they should have asked—and maybe they even did ask it, but we misinterpreted—is more like: How can the UUA help UU bloggers become more effective at spreading the values of liberal religion?

That question has an answer that is very simple to state: Create community infrastructure that helps us find readers and helps readers find us. A very good example is what DailyKos did for politically liberal bloggers. Someone who is totally new to blogging can post a piece on DailyKos, and if it strikes a nerve, that post can wind up with tens of thousands of readers in a few days. Hundreds of them will leave comments. That's not going to happen if you create a political blog on Blogspot and wait to see who notices it. (I speak from experience. You can still be the first commenter at my Open Source Journalism blog.

Nothing similar exists for UU bloggers or religiously liberal bloggers in general. (A DailyKos spin-off called Street Prophets provides a home for bloggers whose liberal political values are religiously inspired, but that's not the same thing.) If the UUA could get such a thing off the ground, it could develop a community spirit in much the same way that DailyKos did, and could develop into a strong collective voice for liberal religion.

Sounds like Doug is looking seriously for ways to revive something like the community site Coffee Hour, which several of us UU bloggers slapped together two years ago and which we shuttered last fall. I agree that such a site is needed; I think it would be more viable, however, if it were developed independently of the UUA.

Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 24 June 2006 at 11:04 PM

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Patrick McLaughlin:

June 25, 2006 02:00 AM | Permalink for this comment

Uh, independently? The problem there being that supporting such a thing would be a serious labor of love.

Hmmm. Maybe it could be done with Soapblox, it's clear to me that several other people have gotten fairly major sites up that allow most of what DKos provides with that.

If I can find any time, I might look into it. I have a new building to deal with when I get home, and a policy manual. And, oh yeah, my wife tells me that the shower appears to have been leaking into the bottom of the linen closet and there's mold there...

Could be a while. Or not... since I have some serious cause (obviously) for some useful avoidance behaviors.

Res Publica:

June 25, 2006 02:13 AM | Permalink for this comment

A blogging community doesn't require a super-site like dKos. There is a whole world of leftish political blogs that have no affiliation with Kos and still get a LOT of traffic. The thing is to find blogs that you like (and they will usually be more or less connected to each other through their blogrolls), and be an active commenter on those blogs. If you have interesting things to say, people will click through to your blog, and before long the higher-traffic blogs will start blogrolling you.

No one denies what Kos has accomplished for the Democratic netroots, but it's not the only model that works. I would suggest that a flexible network of blogs associating with each other freely is more interdependent than a consolidated supersite which, however tolerant it may be (and in the case of dKos, that has been heavily debated), is still a hierarchy.

Bill Baar:

June 25, 2006 11:30 AM | Permalink for this comment

My Church started a discussion site as part of the Frame (Spin) the Debate discussions. It's pirvate otherwise I'd link it. But the technology's been a non-starter for discussion... no one posts.

The topic in our second Frame discussion was Muder's Red Family Blue Family debate which I thought protrayed UU's as perfect priggs flaunting our favorable divorced stats (my wife with a previous marriage under her belt outraged by that one, just who the the heck to UU's think they are? She about dropped out of Church after I recounted that frame meeting to her).

No one has had much stomach to talk about it. No one posts. Including Doug as I left a comment on his blog.

I don't think it's technology so much as a willingness to examine some things we say.

I wrote the frame facilitators afterwords that I thought Muder's sermon, with all due respect, was pretty offensive to UU's who had had failed marriages. The response from one of them was you're right... discussion all stopped to date.


June 25, 2006 07:44 PM | Permalink for this comment

If you're interested in a discussion site for framing, I might suggest MemePolice. It's small so far, but has some really good suggestions. At the moment there's some spam problems, but I hope that will go away.

have a look:


June 26, 2006 07:45 PM | Permalink for this comment

Um, can I sheepishly promote the UU Carnival as one way to grow the community? You can submit a post for the upcoming July 7th carnival, and if enough people participate, it should grow recognition of other blogs and highlight good writing.

It's not THE solution, but I think it's a good project....

Doug Muder:

June 27, 2006 09:46 AM | Permalink for this comment

I'm sorry that the mention of my name set Bill Baar off. The first thing I should acknowledge guilt for is that I'm a negligent blogger; I don't keep track of comments the way I should. I barely keep the spam pruned back. I'm sorry I didn't notice Bill's comment and participate in his church's discussion; I normally love stuff like that. (I have finally responded to the comment Bill left on my Red Family sermon post. It's not a very deep response, but it does at least answer one point.)

On to the topic: What I like about the Kos model is that the bloggers build each other's readship. Most people who read my Pericles posts over there didn't log in to read Pericles -- I don't post often enough to make that a worthwhile expenditure of anybody's effort. But they go there to do something else, and then they notice my article. (The same articles are on my "Open Source Journalism" blog at, but nobody finds them there.)

Res Publica is probably right if we're talking about a loyal fan base -- the kind of people who will bookmark your blog and keep coming back to it. But a good Pericles post on Kos reaches many more people than that. Most of my posts on Kos get 5-10 comments. Some small multiple of that number is probably Pericles' regular readership. But a post like this one: got 234 comments. That probably means that thousands of people read it who would never have bookmarked a Pericles blog.

And I'm the same way as a Kos reader. There are maybe dozens of names over there I recognize and feel some attachment to without being a loyal fan. If their posts show up on the new diary list I may click through. If they show up on the recommended list I certainly will. In time maybe I will become a fan.

A Kos model also lowers the barrier to becoming a blogger. Building a readership as an individual blogger is hard work and takes a lot of time. Maintaining a diary page on a community blog doesn't. So more people participate. So more people feel identified with the community.

It's this draw-in-the-penumbra effect that could allow a liberal religious community blog to develop a readership far beyond what any individual attacts. And those readers could start to identify with the ideals of liberal religion rather than the quirks of one particular blogger. Rather than an individual being the star, Unitarian Universalism could be the star.

I agree with Patrick McLaughlin that supporting a community blog would be a serious labor. That's why some kind of institutional support could be a huge factor. Maybe the UUA doesn't own the site and run it itself. Maybe they just point a grant in the direction of somebody who will. Maybe we need a Corporation for Liberal Religious Blogging on the model of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. That keeps the government separate from PBS, but allows support.

Personally, I think the job is too big for an individual unless they get knocked down by a vision on the road to Damascus and decide to devote their lives to it. I don't want to wait for that to happen to somebody. And I don't want us to burn through a series of well-intentioned volunteers who get in over their heads. (Nor do I want to be burned through myself.)

But I don't understand why it has to be that way. A Kos-model liberal religious community blog could become a force for liberal religion. There are a lot of people who would like to support the advance of liberal religion. There are institutions committed to advance liberal religion. Why should this have to be somebody's backyard project?


June 27, 2006 11:53 AM | Permalink for this comment


Since you didn't have a comment section on your blog, thought I'd add one here ...

That confounding "Q" in BLGTQ stands for "Queer", that lovingly reclaimed aspersion that has come to represent the non-strictly-straight community in our fullness. (OK, if you're straight, you can be Queer, too! I'd venture to say that most UUs are ;)

Scott Wells:

June 27, 2006 08:27 PM | Permalink for this comment

"Q" can also mean "questioning".

Doug Muder:

June 28, 2006 10:40 AM | Permalink for this comment

Chris is probably tired of me reading my mail on his blog. I finally did what I promised -- put up an entry on Free and Responsible Search reviewing my GA Journal and inviting comments:

Comments for this entry are currently closed.