An Open Invitation to Members of the Bloggernacle for Feedback (Prior to my Sunstone Presentation on Saturday in Seattle)

Some of you may now that I’m presenting on Saturday at the Seattle Sunstone Symposium on the topic of LDS Blogs and Podcasts.  Truth be told, I have little business doing so, since I’m a relative newcomer to this space.  Johnathan Stapley has been advising me a bit, but I have a ton of questions I’d still love answered….from a multitude of voices/perspectives.  If any of you would like to weigh in before I give the presentation, I’d love to get your feedback.  Please consider passing this request on to those you know in the bloggernacle…I have no idea how I would reach them all to invite them to weigh in.

Here are some of the questions I have…

  • What has made T&S so successful?  I’ve heard them described as the 800 lb. gorilla…..are they on the rise, decline, or plateau?
  • How would you describe the differences between T&S, M*, and BCC if you were forced to stereotype them
  • How does ldsblogs decide who is included, and who isn’t, in its aggregation?
  • What is the bloggernacle’s perception of Sunstone, and Sunstone’s efforts in this direction?  Irrelevant?  Significant?  Fear?  Loathing?  Has Sunstone’s entry into the bloggernacle even been a blip on anyone’s radar? 
  • Given the innundation of blogs and podcasts, how do you discriminate as to what’s worthy of promotion?
  • What do you personally see as the position and potential of Sunstone in this realm going forward?  What would you like to see from Sunstone?  Are any of you interested in collaborating with Sunstone on any level?
  • Do any of the big 3, or founding islands, or whatever, have plans for podcasts that you know of?  How do you view podcasts contributing to/changing the bloggernacle going forward?
  • What’s the meaningful difference between the Mormon Archipelago and ldsblogs.org?
  • What would you say to the criticism that the current bloggernacle has too much navel gazing, inside jokes, and elitist discussions?  Boring even….
  • How much do you think the bloggernacle has penetrated the mainstream LDS population? Do any of you have any anecdotal evidence as having become statistically significant to mainstream mormonism?
  • Do you have a sense for whether your blogs actually augment, diminish, or have no effect on testimonies and faith (biases aside–as much as you can put them aside)?
  • Why do you blog? 
  • What are some BIG IDEAS for how we can really take this whole LDS/Internet thing to the next level?  What is the future of cyberspace and the LDS community?

I hope to hear from many of you.

John Dehlin

Comments

comments

26 comments for “An Open Invitation to Members of the Bloggernacle for Feedback (Prior to my Sunstone Presentation on Saturday in Seattle)

  1. October 13, 2005 at 12:09 am

    Wow. That’s a lot of questions. I will do my best.

    T&S- I think their success is due to a combination of factors. They’ve been around a long time, and they have a wide breadth of bloggers and blogging subjects. If it’s a topic that’s been flying around, they have a thread on it. And, I think this is important, they are “acceptably orthodox” to the average Mormon reader. BCC has also been around a long time, but a lot of the more conservative members don’t like its politics or its tone about the church and thus, don’t frequent the site and thinks it’s of the devil. We have to remember that the body of the church is, alas, extremely conservative.

    I think T&S is definitely in decline because it is running out of things to discuss and also just because it has gotten too big. When half the comments are by new people who have no stake in the community, things tend to get heated more quickly and threads quickly degenerate into bickering. With the proliferation of new, excellent bloggers (at the Bloggernacle Times, for example), I think T&S is on it’s way to irrelevance.

    The obvious stereotype is that T&S is the mainstream blog, BCC is the liberal one, and M* is the rigidly orthodox blog. There is some truth to this, but I’d say at least 3 or 4 M* bloggers don’t really fit this mode. The tone of the comments though, seem to bear out these stereotypes. I think a lot of it is the self-selection of the audience. People think, “I’m liberal in my views on the Church, so I’ll hang out at BCC.” The stereotype feeds into itself.

    I’m sure Geoff J (of New Cool Thang) will come along here and clear this up, but I believe he decides what feeds to include on LDSblogs.org, which also doubles as the main page for the Mormon Archipelago.

    I can only speak for myself, but I was unaware that Sunstone had made any foray into the blogging world, except to combine with you on your podcast. Dialogue has made a much bigger splash with their partnership with BCC. I don’t really know if Sunstone is on anyone’s radar right now (except that they are piggybacking on your podcast).

    The only thing even resembling a podcast from the Big Three is Steve Evan’s “Zeitcast” which was a twenty minute humor-themed audiofile. It wasn’t a traditional podcast, in that you just clicked on the mp3 file to listen to it instead of downloading it into iTunes. I think that a lot more people were able to listen to it that way.

    About the bloggernacle being too insider-ish, I’d have to disagree up to a point. I think that when you are trying to have a community, inside jokes and blog-friendships are inevitable and, in fact, desirable. Some of the big blogs (like T&S) are pretty clique-y and I think that can be off-putting at times. I guess the problem is that a lot of visitors come once and then disappear forever, so it’s hard to know who is worth putting in the time to engage. You have to stick around for a while before you really get noticed.
    As for elitist discussions, I think T&S has the monopoly on those.

    I’m not much in the Mormon mainstream, but my impression is that we haven’t entered it at all. I think it would take a condemnation (or praise for that matter) from the pulpit in General Conference to bring us into the minds of the general Mormon population. Otherwise, it will take a generation to grow into it.

    The effect of blogging on one’s testimony is a tricky subject. If you say, “I found out a lot of damaging stuff about Church history” then people will say, “Aha! Blogging is Satan’s tool!” My take is that I’ve found out a lot of troubling stuff (but stuff that I would’ve found out from books anyway) but I’ve also met a great deal of inspiring Mormons who stay despite knowing all this disturbing information. I’d say it is helpful overall. If I didn’t have people to talk about the church with, then I probably wouldn’t even think about the church at all.

    Finally, why do I blog? Because there is no one else to discuss this stuff with. I think as more Americans become more nomadic than their parents, following jobs and school from state to state, we have to replace the traditional neighborhood community with a virtual one. Without the bloggernacle, I wouldn’t have a social network.

  2. Aaron Brown
    October 13, 2005 at 1:03 am

    Hey John,

    It’s 11:30 pm, and I should be working. Instead, I think I’ll respond to some of your questions…

    — T&S is so successful because it has a cadre of very good writers who have a breadth of interests and specialties that can appeal to large numbers of people. Even if not everything over there is everyone’s cup of tea, chances are everyone can find something that is their cup of tea. T&S also benefits from having been the first large group blog, so it has a history that goes back further. Both BCC and M* are spinoffs of T&S, in a way, so we all, I think, tend to look at the T&S folks as our parents. Of course, we were in early adolescence for a while, but soon we’ll be old enough and wise enough that we can really rule the roost and quietly but efficiently banish the old T&S geezers to some non-descript rest home where they belong, to whither and die in anonymity. 🙂

    Seriously, though, I don’t know whether they’re on the decline, rise, fall, or what. Personally, I liked them best a year or so ago, when there were less commenters and the whole blogging-thing seemed fresh and new. However, that’s probably more a function of my being an old curmudgeon than it is a commentary on T&S. I suspect they will always be the leader of the pack. As for BCC … well, as Ian in Spinal Tap might have said, BCC’s appeal is just “more selective.” 🙂

    — BCC is liberal, T&S is middle-of-the-road, M* is conservative. These are gross generalizations, but they have enough truth to them that I don’t think it’s worth quarrelling about this. Of course, to many LDS members, they’re ALL liberal, since they actually allow/propagate/facilitate free discussion. So it really depends on where your benchmark is.

    Also, there’s an interesting discussion to be had about what it even means to apply the term “liberal” in a Mormon context (i.e. religiously “liberal” and politically “liberal” don’t necessarily go together), but that’s a long discussion for another day.

    Finally, I think BCC is the snarkiest, most sarcastic of the big blogs. It’s also the best. Potential readers should probably read only BCC, and avoid the others like the plague.

    — The Bloggernacle is composed of many different individuals, with many different perceptions of Sunstone, Dialogue, etc. I would refer you to various past posts that have discussed Sunstone in particular, but I’m too lazy to dig them up. I know that Dan Wootherspoon has participated in at least one of them. I think some have been concerned about Sunstone’s past reputation, it’s insularity, its repetitive harping about certain issues, etc. I know some have discovered Sunstone via the Bloggernacle (recall that John Hatch at BCC was Managing Editor at Sunstone), and have appreciated it. Personally, I’ve always been a big Sunstone fan, regardless of whether I agreed with this or that particular article, as I’ve always thought that what Sunstone represented in theory (however successful or unsuccessful it was in practice) was and is extremely important for the LDS community.

    Now that it looks like both Sunstone and Dialogue are reaching out to the Bloggernacle community, I can say that I think this is an unambiguously positive development. Mormon blogs tend to attract the types of members who would tend to find magazines like Sunstone interesting. I have high hopes for Sunstone, Dialogue and the Bloggernacle, given the various connections and relationships that are forming.

    –As to the navel-gazing, inside jokes and elitist discussions… Each of these can be, and have been, a problem at times. The “elitist” discussions are not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s not as if that’s all the Bloggernacle has to offer. I, personally, find that the most interesting posts, for me, are ones in which I don’t feel qualified to participate, but that intensely interest me nonetheless. I think it’s fortunate to find such discussions, and I certainly don’t resent them. I would hope that others would take the same attitude.

    Navel-gazing and inside jokes are less of a problem than they used to be (I think). For those of us who were involved from the beginning (and many of us were friends or acquaintances from law school, or at least friends of friends…) it was very easy to lapse into insular conversations. But once you’ve been part of the community for a while, you (meaning anyone) can eventually become part of the in-crowd, and partake of the same lame jokes. Isn’t that exciting?

    — I think we flatter ourselves undeservedly when we imagine that the Bloggernacle has made major inroads into mainstream Mormon consciousness. The majority of LDS members are never going to be interested in the discussions we have here. However, I have had a handful of odd run-ins with people who seem to know about the Bloggernacle, when I would have least expected it. I suspect that some of the T&S crowd would have more anecdotes to share in this regard.

    Personally, I like to imagine that I have millions of Mormon fans out there, just dying to partake of my spirituality, insight and wit. (Please, don’t disabuse me of the illusion). 🙂

    –I suspect that sometimes BCC augments testimonies. Sometimes it diminishes them. Sometimes it has no effect. I’ve heard (read) testimonials from people who’ve claimed each of these effects. On the one hand, I think it’s important that we bloggers try to keep the question of how are posts are going to be received always in our minds. On the other hand, (and I’m a real broken record on this), it’s amazing the diversity of reactions people have to the same data, experiences, arguments, etc. What one person finds faith-promoting, another finds faith-destroying, and vs. versa. I just try to say what’s on my mind, as honestly as I can, and as snarkily as my mood demands. Some people like it. Some don’t. That’s life.

    Aaron B

  3. Aaron Brown
    October 13, 2005 at 1:26 am

    P.S. Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday, John. I’ll be in attendance.

    Aaron B

  4. October 13, 2005 at 1:38 am

    John, here are open and honest answers to some of your questions from a guy who set up one of the very first LDS-themed weblogs (before there was a T&S, a BCC, or an M*).

    1. T&S was and is successful because they were the first group blog and because they have clever, interesting, well-read contributors. I do think they have reached a plateau for the moment.

    2. I’ll stereotype the tone, not the contributors. T&S is the grown-up blog. BCC gets rather boisterous and irreverent at times. M* plays it straight.

    3. I think those who participate in the Bloggernacle see Sunstone as doing the same sort of thing but earlier and through a different medium. The Bloggernacle is very egalitarian because anyone can start a blog or comment, whereas Sunstone works with a narrower market because the conference and subscription format filters out the broader market. Twenty years ago, inquiring Mormons had to network by meeting together or subscribing; now they just Google key words and discover the Bloggernacle. Podcasting may be the next wave and Sunstone is smart to get a foot in the door early — I just haven’t had time to fiddle with it yet so don’t have much to add.

    4. Sunstone has authors, contacts, and a lot of archived material. That’s a lot to work with.

    5. Criticism of the Bloggernacle: Whatever. That’s sort of like complaining about the weather. The banter between bloggers isn’t much different from what happens on Sunday in the five minutes before Priesthood meeeting.

    6. Very little penetration into the mainstream LDS population. But then most Mormons have never even bothered to read a biography of Joseph Smith either, so don’t expect much. When there’s a big LDS media story like the Grant Palmer court and I blog with the proper keywords in my posts, my weblog traffic doubles for a week. So some Mormons or interested people do go online and Google for news when they are curious, and it does lead them to Bloggernacle sites.

    7. Effect on testimonies: Based on the emails I have received, very little effect. I have had no messages suggesting Bloggernacle reading or my site has tarnished anyone’s LDS faith, and only one or two “I am appalled” emails. I have received emails from one person who indicated my posts helped that person stay active in the Church, and several who like my rather open perspective on LDS topics.

    8. Why blog? I enjoy it. It’s a chance to talk about LDS topics in a way that doesn’t happen in church, with a group that doesn’t exist in any but a very few wards in the Church. If I didn’t blog on the topics I do, I’d probably end up saying this stuff in class on Sunday, and that’s more candor than I’m willing to inflict on my friendly fellow ward members.

    9. What’s the next level? Who knows. For what it’s worth, I’ve noticed there have been relatively few new LDS-themed weblogs popping up in the last six months, compared to the first year of the Bloggernacle when there was a steady stream of new blogs.

    Here are a couple of questions you didn’t ask:

    10. Why are there no anti-Mormon blogs? I’m surprised — given the number of the disgruntled and the volume of traffic at sites like RFM, I expected some. Never happened. Maybe they’re happy with boards. Maybe they really don’t have much to say. Maybe they’re just lazy; running a weblog takes a lot of work, you know.

    11. What’s the most surprising thing you have noticed about the Bloggernacle sites? Frankly, it is how self-critical some Mormons can be about their own faith. That’s a compliment: One has to be fairly confident to subject one’s own beliefs to self-criticism. I have looked for similar Christian sites for two years and come up empty. The inquiring and surprisingly frank tone of the better Bloggernacle posts is simply not duplicated by Christian sites, which tend to be either devotional, preachy, or self-congratulatory. But then I doubt you find many Christian magazines like Sunstone either.

  5. Ronan
    October 13, 2005 at 7:01 am

    >What’s the meaningful difference between the Mormon Archipelago and ldsblogs.org?

    Sit down, my son, and listen to this story…(if Dr. Stapley hasn’t already told you).

    Once upon a time 7 small blogs decided to club-together to cross-promote, calling themseleves the Mormon Archipelago. United Brethren and Splendid Sun were the first; others followed later. This turned into an RSS feed of the original 7 so we could feature each others’ posts on our own blogs.

    Geoff J. pushed us to expand the feed to include to best of the Bloggernacle, and hey presto, ldsblogs.org was born. Now the “Mormon Archipelago” was more than just the original 7. To answer your question, ldsblogs.org and Mormon Archipelago are one and the same….

    ….except that the original 7 retain control of the site and decide who gets an island etc. We are the “MA Board.”

    One interesting spin-off is Archipelago: a Mormon Studies e-Journal. Our roots are in the Bloggernacle, and we hope to serve (among other things) to help ‘Nacleites take their posts to the next level of scholarship. There are some great but unpolished ideas out there that would make great journal articles. Archipelago is happy to work with Mormon Studies neophytes to produce something print-worthy. Talk to Stapley for more information.

    May I just add something about this liberal/conservative stuff. I think M* is definitely the white bread Mormon blog, but as Aaron suggests, not all of its bloggers seem comfortable with that label. But if you were to carefully study T&S and BCC side by side I think you would have a hard time finding a substantive difference in their leanings. T&S has some very liberal stuff, but they use a lot of big words whereas BCC can be more chatty and therefore come across more directly. Also, I think very liberal Mormons (whatever that means) would actually find BCC pretty tame.

  6. October 13, 2005 at 8:12 am

    1. T&S’s popularity – They came first as a group blog, and provided interesting content quickly. They’ve clearly plateaued or are on the decline in my opinion as they become increasingly isolated and self-referential.

    2. T&S is the most intellectual of the blogs, and has a somewhat haughty tone at times. BCC is the more liberal of the three, but is still well within the realm of standard mormon thought. It is a little more informal. Millennial Star is the new kid on the block, a conservative answer to what it views as the liberalism of T&S and BCC. Their content is spotty (like all blogs) and their politics are right-wing.

    3. Re: ldsblogs… That’s not really a survey question. They decide by committee, based on the original members of the Mormon Archipelago group.

    4. Sunstone: By and large, Sunstone isn’t a huge factor. Sunstone’s blog is not a blip on the radar, but I know the podcasts have generated some interest. In terms of Sunstone’s reputation, I would wager that it is pretty much the same as among any group of mormon intellectuals; some are wary, some are interested.

    5. Promotion: Consistency of quality is the biggest factor. I usually will only promote efforts I view as having either an established reputation for interest, or those that show definite promise. Others are far more open than I am to promoting newcomers.

    6. I think Sunstone’s blog and podcast are natural extensions of its magazine content. They have a lot to prove before the masses will start paying attention, IMHO. I would estimate several months of top-quality content would be required before the buzz starts to generate. I can’t say that I have any real expectations from Sunstone in terms of its online content, however.

    7. Podcasts: I already have a bi-monthly podcast for the Bloggernacle Times, called the Zeitcast. I don’t have any plans for other podcasts at this time, barring special events.

    8. Re: meaningful difference between the Mormon Archipelago and ldsblogs.org, again, that’s not a survey question per se, but the difference to me is obvious: ldsblogs.org is an aggregator site, nothing more, which is run by the Mormon Archipelago. The MA is an affiliation of smaller blogs.

    9. Criticism: I don’t really care about such criticism. I post as I feel, and I read what interests me. Inside jokes are the natural offshoot of community — the fact that we have them is a good sign of our evolution as a group.

    10: Penetration? Not very much. Most people still don’t read blogs, let alone mormon blogs. I don’t think that we are significant to the mainstream LDS population. Certainly there is no evidence to show this.

    11. Blogs augment testimonies and faith, in my experience. I don’t spend much time with the anti-mormons, but BCC and T&S at least have done nothing but help me understand and love the church more.

    12. Why do I blog? ADD.

    13. BIG IDEAS…I don’t know that we can force the evolution of the LDS community. Until the church recognizes blogs in some sort of official capacity, we’ll continue to be sidelined (an online Ensign, similar to MSN’s Slate, would be an example of what it would take). The LDS community is rightfully wary of cyberspace — it’s dangerous place. I think we have several years before we see real numbers of LDS members on line. That makes the bloggernacle a fun place to be, because we’re uncensored and off the radar screen, for the most part. The frontier of mormon thought!

  7. October 13, 2005 at 9:50 am

    * What has made T&S so successful? I’ve heard them described as the 800 lb. gorilla..are they on the rise, decline, or plateau?

    I’ll repeat what others have said: excellent writing, first mover, broad scope. I’ll add that the T&S bloggers do an excellent job of getting around to the other blogs, promoting other blogs and creating a sense of community around the bloggernacle that in turn benefits them.

    For months and months T&S readership as measured by page hits seemed to be rising exponentially. Recently, things have leveled off. This, IMO, is not a bad thing. The platform that T&S runs on is probably not well suited for handling another year of growth like last year.

    * How would you describe the differences between T&S, M*, and BCC if you were forced to stereotype them?

    Sure, M* is the white-bread blog. I will point out that we have the highest percentage of non-white bloggers of any major bloggernacle group blog 🙂 (We also claim the title for most ethnically diverse marriages and most bloggers related by blood).

    M*’s conservative approach to gospel discussion is by design. I’m personally a bit uncomfortable with the “conservative” tag, only because it seems to wrap itself around political as well as religious issues. I’m left-leaning politically, but my approach to the gospel is pretty orthodox.

    * What is the bloggernacle’s perception of Sunstone, and Sunstone’s efforts in this direction? Irrelevant? Significant? Fear? Loathing? Has Sunstone’s entry into the bloggernacle even been a blip on anyone’s radar?

    Haven’t noticed it a bit, even though I saw the various announcements that this was happening. If you want to get noticed in the blogosphere, you’ve got to go visit other people’s blogs, not just send out emails. Blogging is primarily about community.

    * Given the innundation of blogs and podcasts, how do you discriminate as to what’s worthy of promotion?

    Depends on what I ate for breakfast.

    * What do you personally see as the position and potential of Sunstone in this realm going forward? What would you like to see from Sunstone? Are any of you interested in collaborating with Sunstone on any level?

    I personally have no real interest one way or another in Sunstone. I’m not a reader, and don’t see myself becoming one in the near future. This is not out of principle or anything like that, simply that I haven’t been in the past, and the bloggernacle supplies me with a place to read and write about the issues I’m interested in already.

    * What would you say to the criticism that the current bloggernacle has too much navel gazing, inside jokes, and elitist discussions? Boring even….

    I was pretty surprised at how well received Steve’s first podcast at BT was, not because I didn’t think it was good, but because it was pretty heavy on the inside stuff. Apparently, there’s a pretty big audience for inside jokes in the bloggernacle. Sure, it can get kind of cliquey, but there’s nothing stopping people from firing up their own blog and joining the group. Personally, I like the kinds of interaction I get from the bloggernacle, and if other people don’t like it, too bad.

    * How much do you think the bloggernacle has penetrated the mainstream LDS population? Do any of you have any anecdotal evidence as having become statistically significant to mainstream mormonism?

    Ha! I can’t even get my parents to read my stuff.

    OTOH, I’m bumping into closet readers here and there. I know a few people in my ward who lurk. 9 times out of 10, though, when I mention I blog, I get a blank stare and an question: “What’s a blog?”

    * Do you have a sense for whether your blogs actually augment, diminish, or have no effect on testimonies and faith (biases aside–as much as you can put them aside)?

    I think most people who are active in the bloggernacle derive strength from them. Those who don’t tend to leave — it’s self-selecting in that way.

    * Why do you blog?

    I started because it was a way to reconnect with friend whom I hadn’t talked to in years. I do it because it helps me work out ideas that I’m struggling with, and because I’ve found a community I enjoy being a part of.

    * What are some BIG IDEAS for how we can really take this whole LDS/Internet thing to the next level? What is the future of cyberspace and the LDS community?

    Use tithing funds to purchase broadband connections for all temple recommend holders.

    One last point: I’ve got this sneaking suspicion that Feminist Mormon Housewives gets as much traffic as BCC and M*. It’s not a general-purpose blog, so it gets left out of discussions of the big Mormon group blogs, and its influence is somewhat narrower than T&S, M*, and BCC, but I’d be interested to see the numbers.

  8. a random John
    October 13, 2005 at 9:51 am

    Steve,

    You say:
    Promotion: Consistency of quality is the biggest factor. I usually will only promote efforts I view as having either an established reputation for interest, or those that show definite promise. Others are far more open than I am to promoting newcomers.

    Then how is it that you put up a Banner of Heaven link before they had any content, and then made a duplicate post announcing them three weeks later when it was clear what the quality of their content would be? Are you secretly running that site?????

  9. October 13, 2005 at 9:57 am

    arJ, I admit that BoH was a bit of an anomaly. Their content is incredibly bizarre and their “posters” are so weird I couldn’t resist.

    Bryce: no question that FMH does just as well as the other big blogs. They’ve been in the print media and TV and get all kinds of google hits. Their numbers are public, I believe.

    I will disagree with you about how T&S promotes other blogs: it used to do so a great deal more than it does now. Currently it seems to promote M* a great deal, however. Also, it’s pretty tough for you to argue against the M* conservative label. Can you point me to something non-conservative by a current M* blogger?

  10. Ben S.
    October 13, 2005 at 10:12 am

    “Can you point me to something non-conservative by a current M* blogger?”

    What’s your definition Steve?

    Nearly all-right wing classification is based on the political posts. I, for one, have never written a political post, and we’ve had some internal discussions criticizing some of the political posts that go up.

    In my view M* is simply less inclined to snark and gripe. So says Aaron Brown above, “Finally, I think BCC is the snarkiest, most sarcastic of the big blogs.”

  11. a random John
    October 13, 2005 at 10:20 am

    1. Why T&S? T&S had quality content first. They also seem to have a healthy diversity of opinion without going too far out of the mainstream. They have plateaued in my opinion. There are several reasons for this. One is that some people don’t like having to reach for dictionary.com to understand the posts. Another is that they are a victim of their own popularity. It is simply too hard to keep up with everything going on there or even find responses to your comments. This is partly a shortcoming of the software they use (pet issue of mine) but in a way it is unavoidable.
    Not much to add here. T&S is the most intellectual and has the most (too much?) traffic. It is the gateway drug of the bloggernacle. People start there and then find someplace smaller where they feel comfortable. BCC is a bit more liberal, but not as much as some would claim. M* glories in its conservatism and rightness.
    3. ldsblogs I have no recollection of ever looking at that site.
    4. Sunstone. Um, mostly that Nate Oman doesn’t like it much. I was unaware that there is a Sunstone blog.
    5. The Flood. I don’t promote anything, being blogless. I am unaware of podcasts other than Steve’s.
    6. Sunstone again. I have no idea. They’ve got lots of old content to draw on.
    7. Podcasts. I would love to see a more professional podcast dealing with LDS issues (sorry Steve). Maybe similar to the roundtables that BCC has on various topics.
    8. MA v LDSBlogs. I don’t know/care/
    9. The Bloggernacle Sux. If you don’t like what you see you are free to start your own blog or comment on why you don’t like it. My main complaint is that the primary form of diversity is that some people went to law schools other than BYU’s.
    10. Testimonies. Blogs might be terrible for 90% or Mormons. I have no idea. Fortunately it is a somewhat self selecting group. The information and interactions on blogs are not inflicted on anyone. If you are a person that doesn’t like to discuss controversial topics in detail or hear a range of opinions you’ll probably leave the bloggernacle before any damage is done. For many people though blogs provide a type of interaction that isn’t possible in EQ, RS, or GD.
    11. Why? To have something to do during conference calls. And to annoy Adam Greenwood with my lack on understanding and intellect.
    12. Whats the big idea? If I had one I wouldn’t tell you. I’d tell Aaron Cox at BoH. I think that podcasting has some real potential if done right. The Feast Upon the Word project is interesting and has potential as well as another form of online collaboration that is more scripture based.

  12. October 13, 2005 at 10:22 am

    Steve, agreed that T&S (read: Kaimi) used to do more to promote other blogs. Active promotion is a bit less important now that the bloggernacle has reached a certain critical mass. Their bloggers are still generally active in the bloggernacle at large, which is more important now, IMO.

    I don’t reject the “conservative” label for M* — as I said, our conservative approach to gospel topics is by design. I said I was personally uncomfortable with the label as it attaches to my politics, which are not conservative.

    As for M* promotion, Adam Greenwood and Matt Evans are founding members of M*, so it’s no surprise that they give M* attention at T&S. Maybe you need to have a talk with KHH….

  13. October 13, 2005 at 10:23 am

    T&S– what everyone else said. While it may be true that they’ve plateaued, I only take this to mean they are no longer evolving, not that they no longer do what they do very well. They do, and I bet they will for a long time. One thing I think people don’t realize about T&S is how seriously its members take it as a project and community (this from an outsider, of course). My sense is that those who blog at T&S are quite committed to it, and I think that is one more factor that gives it an edge over other blogs that are driven mostly by just a handful of characters, with ancillary bloggers in the wings.

    I like Dave’s characterization of the tone of the big three. BCC valuees irreverance in tone (which is sometimes surprisingly interpreted as apostasy), T&S prides itself for seriousness in thought and expression. Of course, my person take is that you’ll find plenty of light hearted stuff at M* as well, but that doesn’t get much recognition because it’s against type (as all the posts against type at the other blogs also get ignored). But the general CW that M* is slightly more straightlaced may be basically true. (any label of political conservatism that might be stuck on M* is certainly incorrect, inasmuch as it represents the posts of basically only one permablogger).

    What’s interesting to me is to notice how comments at each of these blogs often feed off of and expand upon the stereotypes.

    The other thing I’d say about the big three is the (to me) surprising phenomenon of reader schism. When M* (the last of the three to form) was introduced, I expected it to share readers with T&S and BCC. That was naive. While there remains plenty of cross over, I would guess that most M* readers never look at BCC, and most BCC readers never look at M*, which is sad. But it’s likely that most readers of each of these also frequent T&S. On the other hand, those interested in staying involved with all three have an excellent tool for doing so in the Archipelago interface. Not sure if their site is as appreciated as it ought to be (maybe it is).

    My attitude towards Sunstone is similar to that of Bryce– I just don’t have much of a take, and get all I need of Mormon thought on the blogs. And he’s also right about the community– is Sunstone wants to be taken seriously as a blog it must recognize that 1) blogging is very different from publishing magazines and organizing seminars and 2) few people read Mormon blogs that haven’t made some effort to be a part of the larger community.

    M* currently has no plans to do any podcasting.

    As to the criticisms, others who have answered your questions have failed to address the most important one: Boring. This criticism is certainly valid, in that every blog has boring posts and discussions sometimes. However, I don’t think it’s a real problem because at any given time there are at least 15 other discussions going on, so you can easily find something else to engage in if you want. Still everyone here needs to do their best not to be boring, especially if they want to attract new readers, which I think we’re all trying to do.

    No, blogs haven’t penetrated the mainstream LDS community, and with any luck, they never will.

    Blogging helps and hinders testimonies– there is real evidence of both.

    Big ideas: Everyone will keep innovating as technology improves, new competitors start up, and new readers start looking for good blogs. While there’s no list of current big ideas, I think we see an interesting innovation in the Bloggernacle every month or so.

    Good luck with your presentation.

  14. October 13, 2005 at 10:27 am

    Steve, how about a post published four days ago, this post by Davis criticizing George Bush for thinking he’s a prophet-president?

    http://www.millennialstar.org/index.php/2005/10/09/p1145#more1145

  15. a random John
    October 13, 2005 at 10:28 am

    Aggghh! Missed at least one!
    XX. Going mainstream. I met someone yesterday for the first time and they figured out in 30 seconds that I am ‘a random John’. This was a little strange. I am guessing that Ned Flanders doesn’t have this happen to him. That said, an incredibly small percentage of LDS currently blog. I would guess that many either don’t know how or don’t have the time, but that many more are simply not interested.

  16. a random John
    October 13, 2005 at 10:33 am

    Bryce,

    I stopped reading T&S for months when they started putting up a banner at the top of the page with the current status of the M* site (up or down). That was a bit much and really turned me off. I’ve gotten over it and post at all three sites, but the relationship between T&S and M* could have been handled better early on.

  17. October 13, 2005 at 11:34 am

    Ryan, I stand corrected. Good show!

  18. October 13, 2005 at 1:15 pm

    That is amazing, arJ. I guess you have a very distinctive tone. I think we should have a bloggersnacker without name tags, and you have to guess who is who at the end of the night.

  19. Randy B.
    October 13, 2005 at 1:27 pm

    Just a few thoughts —

    As for stereotyping the big three, I’ve not heard a description that rings more true to me than Dave’s. The boisterous/grown-up/straight breakdown strikes me as far more accurate than liberal/neutral/conservative.

    Also, for what it’s worth, I think a lot of people in my ward would be uncomfortable with some of what is said at M* (presumably the most conservative of the three big blogs). It has generally been my experience that even the most conservative corners of the bloggernacle are more comfortable with the warts of Mormonism than is the “average” member.

    On the Archipelago, I don’t know how much others value the site, but I have come to depend on it greatly. Before the MA came along, I really only read 5 or 6 blogs on a regular basis. That number is now at least double. Most of that is attributable to being able to easily see what is going on in so many different places so quickly. If people aren’t taking advantage of it yet, they will.

    As for mainstreaming, it clearly has not happened yet, and I don’t see it happening anytime soon, if ever. I just don’t think that most members are all that interested in the topics we talk about. In any event, I’m here for conversation I can’t get on Sunday. Mainstreaming would only make that more elusive. I think the growth of the bloggernacle has been a good thing overall, but I hope we don’t grow beyond the point that we can retain our relative anonymity.

  20. October 13, 2005 at 1:32 pm

    Interesting questions – btw might I suggest modifying your style sheet to put more space between paragraphs? It’s kind of hard to read the way things are right now. I’ll put a – between paragraphs to break things up a tad.

    1. Why is T&S so successful? I think partially that its among the oldest. (Many of the people came from the older Metaphysical Elders blog which was the first LDS blog I’d encountered) I also think they have excellent posts. They are more intellectual than many, but given the kind of people that tend to blog I think this fits what many are looking for. There are some, like my personal blog, that are simply too technical but T&S has a nice balance. Some have mentioned them plateauing. I’m not sure that’s true – but if it is I suspect its because blogs might be plateauing somewhat. Also I suspect many of the posters have run out of topics somewhat (we all do at times) and then the fact many are busy. Indeed I think time has been a factor for many of the “old timers” of the blogs.

    Stereotyping the blogs? I don’t agree with the stereotypes thus far too much. I think the political stereotypes definitely don’t fit. I’d say T&S though is the more intellectual sort. Kind of the Crooked Timber of LDS blogs. BCC is more irreverant and perhaps questioning of orthodoxy. I’d say M* is more orthodox although I don’t think that entails conservative – depending upon what one means by that. Although clearly many of us at M* are conservative.

    My understanding (although I don’t run it) is that LDSBlogs decides who to aggregate based upon whether they know about the blog and think its still alive, whether the feed works right, and whether it is primarily LDS themed.

    I can’t speak to the Sunstone question. I know many bloggers think that Sunstone is kind of “grey.” i.e. mainly for old timers who think that things are like they were in the 70’s. I think the unorthodox label is something Sunstone has to show they can get past. However I know I and many are hoping that Sunstone reinvents itself. Right now, moreso even than the orthodoxy question is the relevancy question. I don’t think most see it as terribly relevant to modern LDS. I didn’t know they had a blog beyond the podcast you put together.

    How do I decide what’s worthy of promotion? I’m not quite sure how to take that question. So it’s hard to answer. I link to blogs on my blog based upon whether they raise fairly rigorous intellectual questions and are consistently updated. But that’s just my personal tastes.

    Regarding podcasts, MT tried one. I didn’t get a chance to listen to it. I think right now most of the big blogs are having a hard time just keeping up with blogging. I know several are always on the lookout for new voices as time commitments and other issues produce turnover.

    Regarding ldsblogs.org and MA, I don’t think there’s a huge difference. The main difference, as I understand it, is whether the comments are aggregated as well.

    Regarding navel gazing and the like. I don’t think there’s too much. I think some self-reflection is always helpful and wise. The inside jokes are a tad annoying. I don’t see elitist discussions. Just discussions not everyone finds interesting or has the background to comment on. But that might be just as true of debates about Biblical Greek as it would a debate about the growth of the church in Nova Scotia. Some topics require specialized knowledge to say much about. I don’t think that entails elistism.

    I’m not yet sure blogging has penetrated the mainstream of LDS. I think more read FARMS or the like. But there probably is a bit of a crossover. It really depends upon the topics that are blogged. By the same reasoning I’m not at all convinced blogs have really penetrated sufficiently the mainstream of America.

    Regarding testimony, I suspect it would vary by blog. I’d hope all the ones I’m part of improve things. I think there ought be a strong connection at some level between apologetics and blogging.

    I blog primarily to work out ideas for myself.

    With regards to bringing things to the next level. I think having some big fixed questions that can be analyzed by different people in different ways would be very helpful. I also think that LDS wiki use is about to take off. I know FAIR is preparing a doctrinal/apologetic wiki. That would probably make things much more useful to the typical LDS person.

  21. October 13, 2005 at 1:34 pm

    Bryce: I stopped reading T&S for months when they started putting up a banner at the top of the page with the current status of the M* site (up or down).

    LOL. I didn’t know they did that. That’s funny. It is a problem though. I know I was frustrated yesterday by the downtime. I half wonder if we really ought not find a different server.

  22. October 13, 2005 at 2:53 pm

    Bryce: T&S (read: Kaimi) used to do more to promote other blogs. Active promotion is a bit less important now that the bloggernacle has reached a certain critical mass.

    I love ya, man, but I think you’re out to lunch on this one. Smaller and newer Mormon blogs are always in need of promotion and love. That is largely the mission of the MA (along with supporting and promoting the entire community)

    Their bloggers are still generally active in the bloggernacle at large, which is more important now, IMO.

    Ummm, which bloggernacle are you reading? Occasional comments at BCC and M* by 3-4 of 15 permabloggers is hardly “active in the bloggernacle at large”.

    Now I understand that with limited time and thousands of visits a day at your own blog it is very hard for T&S folks to get out much, but let’s at least call a spade a spade. (I also need to shout out to Kaimi for being the most interested in the actual bloggernacle, not just T&S or “the big three”)

  23. October 13, 2005 at 4:07 pm

    Geoff, to be fair, with the proliferation of blogs – many that burn bright for a few weeks and then quickly die – it’s hard to contribute that much. I’d note that the majority of T&S bloggers don’t even blog very often at T&S. I think you’ll find similar problems at other blogs. Heavens, since the beginning of summer I’ve had to cut my blogging time down drastically – to the point that I went a month without a real post on my own blog. That’s fairly common.

    Even for people who spend more time blogging than watching TV, the sheer volume can be overwhelming. You tend to pick a few that you trust and read those.

    Now I think that MA has done a great job making it possible for people to read smaller blogs by providing a kind of joint aggregator. And I suspect accordingly you’ll see the “big names” (what a silly term but I can’t find something better) contributing more. But also note that many of the guys at T&S also blog at the political blog Concurring Opinions and have major jobs. Add in family life and then their LDS research and I think its asking a bit much. For instance Ben Huff is also in charge of SMPT, is finishing up his doctorate, and presumably looking for work. That’s a heck of a load.

    I think just contributing and keeping the big blogs alive takes a fair bit of work. Expecting them to do this for the smaller blogs is a bit much.

  24. Ann
    October 14, 2005 at 7:20 pm

    I think, if it’s not too late, that it would be useful to mention the biggest “niche” blog – Feminist Mormon Housewives.

    Modern, faithful, powerful, intelligent women work out their “place” in a patriarchal organization. They respect the organization, discuss the doctrine, and uphold the teachings. They support each other in their pursuit of spiritual growth. They put the stereotype Molly to shame!

    It’s an outlet that simply doesn’t exist in many real-life wards, and I think only the anonymity and geographic diversity of the internet could have brought such a group together so successfully.

  25. October 15, 2005 at 10:16 am

    Ann — here, here. FMH is a wonderful read!

  26. Adam Greenwood
    October 18, 2005 at 7:07 pm

    “I stopped reading T&S for months when they started putting up a banner at the top of the page with the current status of the M* site (up or down”

    We did? I’m agog.

Comments are closed.