I'm happy to introduce a new front-page blogger: His name is Luke Clippinger, a volunteer for the Obama campaign from Baltimore and a member of the Democratic National Committee's Platform Committee. He'll be attending the Convention in Denver this week, so I look forward to reading about his time there, as well as his experiences with the Obama campaign more generally. His first post should be up soon, so stay tuned.
I missed the time window for commenting on Native Son's 27Jun diary A Modest Blogging Proposal, hence this diary. First I will note that the link to Colorado Pols needs to be fixed - removing the text string 'freestatepolitics.us' from the embedded URL in the original diary should fix it.
On the actual subject of the diary, having a "blog of common ground" managed jointly by folks of varying political stripes is a good idea in principle, and occasionally works, as the Colorado blog seems to illustrate (minor nit to pick - based on a cursory read-through, I would not describe that blog as "nonpartisan" but rather "bipartisan", or even "polypartisan" if they let in Libertarians, Greens, and other "third party" participants.)
For this sort of thing to work, the folks who set it up and run it have to trust one another, and establish and strongly enforce guidelines for posting, especially in regard to what constitutes abusive language - generally, though not always, self-evident - and irrelevance, e.g., permitting long diatribes from 9/11 Truthers on a state politics blog will likely drive readers away. Again, the trust thing is important - the folks running the show have to come to terms on the goals of the blog and the rules for posting, constantly monitor the blog, and stay in touch with each other with sufficient regularity to quickly resolve disputes before they become flame wars. Such conflagrations have been known to turn once good blogs into charred embers (to continue with the tortured analogy).
I've never run a blog, but I've read enough of them to know how much work they are for the proprietors of even single-issue sites, let alone sites where a few hotheads with different world views can really stir the pot. There are a few sites out there that make it work - a national-level one is Obsidian Wings, which has kept going even with changes in its group proprietorship over the years, with only a few changes in the strictly enforced posting rules required during that time (fyi, my favorite poster there is Hilzoy, who is a Philosophy prof. at Johns Hopkins). On the other hand, I couldn't see this working on any large scale in the toxic miasma of, say, Texas state politics, whose once kinda-sorta bipartisan environment was replaced some years ago with the demon child hatched by Tom Delay and Satan (Karl Rove was the midwife, I think).
If the would-be proprietors of a bi/polypartisan Maryland blog know each other in RL - say, as students who cross paths at college - it would probably increase the odds of such a thing working, since it's harder to sustain dark, lurid fantasies about your political opponents (and potential blog partners) when you can see that they are regular, decent folk in RL. Given some of the contentious matters facing Maryland, especially tough budget/taxation decisions, that sort of comity becomes even more important in keeping lines of communication open.
So I dropped off the face of the earth for about a month; hope nothing important in Maryland politics happened! :-)
Seriously, finishing my last semester at Maryland and job hunting has consumed a lot of my time lately, so I apologize for the resulting neglect of this site. Fortunately, one of the virtues of a community blogging platform is that anyone can ste up to the plate, and as you can see in the diaries section, some people have (this, for example, is quite good). Hopefully, though, I (and others) can get in the swing of things again.
A call to arms in support of decency, autonomy and justice. PLEASE NOTE AND ALERT: may be a severe TRIGGER EVENT for multiple forms of PTSD for assault survivors or others. Posted here as well as at Daily Kos because Maryland is as vulnerable to the issues involved with sexual violence as any where else, style may reflect Kossack-ese, so to speak, and because this fine blog with its largely male contributor base can benefit from more exposure to the realities that women face.
Michael Swartz's list of local blogs to watch in 2008 is pretty good. It is missing a few good blogs of note, however:
Lost on the Shore: Tom Wilson's blog posts are more traditional op-ed pieces than the link-heavy and blockquote-heavy bits that usually make up the blogosphere, and like op-ed pieces, only appear a few times a week. But they're always worth your time; I especially recommend his recent series of posts on the Chesapeake Bay.
Crablaw's Maryland Weekly: Like Bruce Springsteen, Bruce Godfrey was born to run, er, blog. He went on hiatus a few months back, but recently brought back his blog in Drupal format, and is as delightfully acerbic as ever.
Blog Arundel: As the name implies, this blog is focused on Anne Arundel County issues, particularly relating to sprawl and development. But the person writing as N.D. Sproll (ha ha) has a very engaging and insightful voice.
Kevin Dayhoff: I find his actual blog hard to read -- its look is extremely busy and most of the posts are just link aggregations -- but I'm including it here because I find his writing on political issues, while certainly conservative, thoughtful.
Newsrack: Thomas Nephew blogs mostly on national issues, but his local blogging is also quite good, particularly on Takoma Park and voting reform.
Jay Hancock: The Baltimore Sun's business columnist does a lot of good writing on electricity and energy issues in Maryland, and on Maryland's political economy in general.
Bay and Environment: Another Sun blog, B&E is a great complement to the Sun's print articles on environmental issues, both in Maryland and beyond.
Maryland Moment: One reason why blogs won't likely replace mainstream reporting is that it's usually hard for part-timers and amateurs to travel from place to place to report on news events as they're happening. The Washington Post's Maryland politics blog is a good example: I'd like to not poach from it as often as I do, but then, no one pays me to blog full-time.
Maryland on My Mind: Bernie Hayden doesn't have a laser-like focus on political issues, but when he does talk politics, it's a good read. (He also coined my favorite new phrase, "The Free-Lunch Libertarian Nativist Party" -- you can guess what that describes.)
I'm probably not going to be doing any blogging here until the middle of next week, so I wanted to say Happy Holidays to FSP readers -- I am a loyal foot soldier in the War on Christmas :-). I want to thank my fellow front-page bloggers -- Eric, Andrew, Melissa, David, Bruce, Paul, and Gilbert -- as well as the many commenters and occasional diarists. You are what makes this blog work; there's simply no way I could do this by myself. Thanks also to OnBackground, for getting the whole ball rolling, and for trusting me to move Free State Politics from Blogger to Soapblox. And of course thanks to BlogPAC for providing the scratch to do so.
I hope you and your family have a great holiday season!
For readers who don't know, any of you who are interested can be diarists on Free State Politics. One long-time reader, Jen Kramer, just decided to start adding her voice to the site, and you can check out her introduction under recommended diaries to the right. There is a broad range of people and ideologies that fit under the umbrella of the Maryland progressive community mentioned in the header, from activists only a little left of center to those barely hanging on to the left wing. And the more voices that are heard, the stronger Free State is as a site. The tools Isaac has set up for the site are very user-friendly, so even the mildly computer-phobic will find it easy to do. Just register, log-in, and hit "New Diary" on the right side of the page. Your voices are welcome.
There's a really good post at Open Left by KT Musselman of ActBlue detailing the rise of state blogging, FSP being one of them, and some of the innovative things going on in certain parts of the country:
In some states with more established blogging traditions, networks of bloggers have created communications tools to facilitate the sharing of best practices and to coordinate messaging campaigns. Other blog networks have worked to grow readership and develop true community-oriented sites. This year has seen some of the most interesting developments as these blogging communities started flexing their fundraising muscle in state and local races. Even better, some have gone a step further by leveraging their online presence into offline action. This maturation of state blogging is truly exciting.
We made a few minor changes to the blog's layout over the weekend. As you can see, there's now a full-length banner, the boxes over in the right column are now borderless, and we've got a favicon now, too. But overall, the basic look of the blog is unchanged.
In completely unrelated news, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has resigned.
Health and transportation wonk Melissa, who has been writing some really excellent posts lately, has agreed to be a front page contributor to FSP. If you haven't read her post today on President Bush's attempt to curtail funding for SCHIP, you should do so now.
The good people at Soapblox, which powers Free State Politics, have started implementing some changes to the Soapblox software. Some of it you may have noticed already, like the snazzier comment ratings system, and there's a bunch of new stuff on the admin side of things. But perhaps the biggest thing is the new WYSIWYG editor for diaries! That means you'll be able to add links and text effects like bold and italics at the touch of a button -- no more fiddling with HTML tags! This should make the blogging a lot more user-friendly for everyone. You can see the whole list of stuff in the new version of Soapblox here.
UPDATE: It appears there are some problems with the WYSIWYG editor in Internet Explorer. (Figures.) If you have any difficulties, please let me know (contact at freestatepolitics dot us) and be sure to mention which browser and computer operating system you're using.