Monday, February 27, 2006



To Blog or not to Blog...

I started this blog back in early November, kind of as a trial run. I was on unemployment, we were heading into another long, cold new york city winter, and i figured to be on the computer quite a bit so i was like fuck it - lets see what this blog world is all about.

At first i was really into it, i have to admit. It was nice to link up all of the articles that have been so helpfull to me over the past few years as a student activist. It was cool to mess around with the design and lay-out of the template and the pictures i was using. Initially there were a lot of nice emails from friends, family and political allies that were encouraging of the project. Ive published a little over 30 posts over the past few months, usually pretty regularly (not counting this past month obviously). Still as i sit here now in late February, im not sure what to make of these first few months...

From the start, i told myself that the blog thing would only be worth it if other people were checking in, posting comments, and in general finding the content useful to some extent. It is true that the plan was also to help me focus a bit more on writing more regularly and following the various news articles and debates online - but this was more of a secondary reason to having the chance to interact with various activists from around the country (and internationally at times). Realizing that a few months of blogging and 30+ posts has hardly been much of an experience to make larger generalizations off of, there is definitely something about internet culture and online posting boards that scares me.

1. It actually takes a fair amount of time and energy to publish good thought out posts complete with relevant links to other stories etc. This might be something that gets easier with time im sure, but at the moment its pretty time intensive.

2. Online discussions & activism in general is often pretty alienating. You are sitting in front of a screen for extended periods of time, often by yourself, thinking about what kind of smart insights or footnote's you have to add to the days discussions. Unless you do get a series of responses, its usually not a colaborative effort and you wonder if anyone out there is really reading the stuff anyway.

3. Because of the way that technology functions in our society, specifically on the lefty political bulletin boards, healthy social interaction often end ups quickly giving way to confrontational (and generally nasty) back and forths. These back and forths often end up in a debate around political ideology and orientation rather then the concrete questions that started the discussion inthe first place. Almost any Indymedia posting that you see draw more then a handfull of posts is a good example of this. It is rarely amount an online community trying to build with each other or genuinely trying to struggle through difficult questions, it is more like different ideologues trying to win each other to their respective positions, or if that seems too hard just insult the other person (either outright or in more subtle condescending ways).

4. Many agree that todays generations of activists are not rooted enough in oppressed communities. This is because of a wide variety of reasons, some of which are very complicated and have to do with the larger political shifts in this country over the past 30 years. Still, if we acknowledge this as one of our starting points, then it is questionable how online blogs and the resulting conversations and arguments on these blogs are going to actually move us forward in some real way.

Initial Conclusion:

I still think blogs like this are usefull as a way to communicate and share some ideas and articles with friends of and folks that you already have some relationships with. However, as with everything we have to prioritize where to put our energies. There is so much work out there that needs to be done, and I (like most of you who are reading this) am already too over involved and over extended with other projects. The last year or so ive decided thats it seems better to do a smaller amount of political projects really well then to be involved in a ton of different things and not be able to put all of yourself into any one of them. The way forward is in the end i think is strong local activist formations, rooted in real social relationships and diverse communities of people, being in touch with larger regional and national/global networks but really prioritizing local work as none of those networks mean a thing without that base of people committed to each other and ready to move. Im thinking maybe something more specific to the New York City area might be more helpful then this current format.

Having said that, I will try to post as often as I can and update some of the article links when it makes sense. If you are reading this you know that feedback is always encouraged. Perhaps there would be a better format for this thing to be more useful to folks?

6 comments:

the burningman said...

It doesn't have to be a daily blog. Sporadics can be more interesting, if lower traffic. One of my favorite blogs is here in New York and only posts every few weeks. But it's damn good and thoughtful when it does...

I blogged for a few months to get a handle on it before beginning in earnest. Now, after a couple months of regular posts it has taken on a life of its own that makes it worth the time.

One suggestion is to take an afternoon every week or two and collect the most interesting things you've encountered and "stack" the blog posts. This way, even if you're slammed for the week, there's some motion.

Since you're working on the LeftTurn editorial collective, one question is whether your time is better spent developing a personal blog to be a movement resource, or really juicing up the LT site.

LeftTurn's site has never gotten the same attention as the print magazine.

eugene plawiuk said...

It also depends on what you want to say. It takes me some time several days or hours to develop a good analysis and story. To do investigative research to back up my arguements, or postings. I have several Features which I actually need to link to in my sidebar. I found that as an online commentator/journalist I do daily comments and then longer features. As you are publishing a Journal this is not practical for you.
So a weekly blog like BM says may be more realistic. Its really up to you.
Check my blog out, yes shameful plug, but I have added yours to my daily blog checks for those who read mine.

kateg said...

I'd actually agree with the burningman, on this one. A really sharp LT site could be a great resource for activists and the left.

fauxtapatio said...

yo max. i'm a fan of the blog and the musings, sporadic or no. one idea though, an idea i've kicked around but done nothing about, is to use it as a group blog, maybe a hybrid of Interactivist Info Exchange, LT and more personal takes on the IfA-style analysis you reference. there are a number of fairly thrilling feminist group blogs, like feministe.us and amptoons.com/blog. i'm always disappointed after NCOR to some extent (this could easily be a blog post :]) by the fact that we seem to curl up inside our tendencies, both physically and virtually, even after being exposed to so much over three days. it would be nice to create a place for folks on the whole anti-auth spectrum to throw down. just my perspective tho.
hope your weather has been as mild as ours

-a (willisa -at- gmail)

max said...

I appreciate the feedback...

Few points on some of the things that people brought up. In terms of making the Left Turn site better and more interactive-- perhaps with some sort of blog feature like Autonomy & Solidarity does with theirs -- it would be a pretty major project and not something we could really start working on before our national summer meeting in August. Also im not sure if our web crew has the tech capabilities to radically change the website to something like that. I like the Left Turn site, and we get a lot of compliments on it but i do agree that there is much to be improved upon and so perhaps we need to think about abother format.

The idea of a group blog is also interesting, and could bring more energy and coordination into a project like this. Another concept ive been playing with is making the blog maybe more specific/focused by perhaps changing it up into more of a New York City thing with lots of events postings and discussions of projects/work that are happening around this area. Obviously this wouldnt preculude posting on 'larger topics' but it might make it more useful to a specific group of people...

the burningman said...

group blogs are easy.

All you have to do is aggregate a few feeds and slap a snappy banner across the top.