It’s been 5 months or so since I entered the bloggernacle with a huge thud. Since then, I’ve tried to be a bit more focused, and constructive in my comments and contributions to the Bloggernacle, but I know I still have a long way to go.

Bet even though I’m a bit more experienced and realistic than I was 5 months ago, I still have grander aspirations for the Bloggernacle than what it seems to be offering today–and so I want to humbly issue a few friendly challenges to the Bloggernacle in 2006. Here goes:

  1. Encourage Identity: I know there are some good reasons for maintaining anonymity on the Internet, but I believe that deep down, a fear of open, candid, personal discussion is one of the biggest sources of pain in LDS culture. Instead of feeding into this, I believe that we need to stand up and be honest and candid about who we are, and how we feel. Until we do this–I believe that we will always be perpetuating what is most ill within our culture. One of my favorite quotes from Les Miserables (the musical) is: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” I ask you–can we really love someone when we aren’t even sure they exist?
  2. Annual Bloggernacle Event: I challenge the Bloggernacle to initiate an annual Bloggernacle event, where we can all meet face-to-face to share, commiserate, complain, and plan to do even greater things.
  3. Ratings, Archiving and Reuse: I challenge the Bloggernacle to figure out a way to do a better job of rating, archiving, and reusing the super high-quality posts. Right now, posts that go to the archives are largely lost to all but the really persistant and detail oriented. There must be a way to rate, harvest/mine, and reuse the “best of the best” posts–such that future conversations can build upon old ones–not just be rehashed in the same old way. If we can collectively figure out a way to incorporate rating technology into our blogs a la, I believe that this will be a great start.
  4. Podcasts: I challenge the Bloggernacle to do more podcasts. If you look at the top 10 Froogle searches for Christmas this year, 4 of the top 10 searches were some form of iPod. Text is great, but we can reach so many more people (in the long run) through audio and eventually video. At a minimum, I feel like the following podcasts need to exist, and I promise to anyone who wants to start one of these all the help I can muster:
    • An LDS women’s issues podcast
    • An LDS art/movies/literature/media podcast
    • An LDS history podcast (good hopes for this one)
    • An LDS podcast focused on the youth
    • An LDS podcast dedicated to parenting
  5. Sunstone: I challenge the Bloggernacle to consider giving Sunstone another chance. I can offer at least 3 reasons why this should be so: 1) Forgiveness: As Christians, we believe in the notions of repentance, forgiveness, and redemption. I know for a fact that under the leadership of Dan Wotherspoon, Sunstone has worked very hard to atone for its past “sins,” and reclaim its position as a responsible, productive voice in the LDS community–and I believe that we should give it one last chance, 2) Bridging the Gap: Yes Sunstone is full of many “old-timers,” but among these old timers include the likes of Charlotte England, Armand Mauss, Molly Bennion, Toby Pingree, Gregory Prince, Jeff Burton, Levi Peterson, and countless others who have contributed much to what we are now benefitting from–and who still have much to contribute. In my opinion, the “younger generation” of the Bloggernacle and the “older generation” of Sunstone need to be brought together, because we have much still to learn from, and to do, with each other. We could be so much more effective as a unified community, than as separate silos. Finally, 3) Print Still Has Power: The Internet has exploded, but guess what? Magazines are still thriving (just ask Oprah). There is still a lot of power in print, and we could all stand to benefit by harnessing this medium.
  6. Collaborative Projects: I challenge the Bloggernacle to break out of its obsession with posts and replies and web traffic and popularity–and consider other ways to contribute to the LDS community on the Internet. Collaboration on Wikis, screencasts, screenplays, documentaries, podcasts, musical scores, historical research projects and community events are just a few of the possible ways that we could extend to support/embrace if we looked to find new and better ways to make a difference. With all the time we collectively spend online–is there something greater we could do than what we are doing now–lots of posts and replies? I challenge all of us to figure out how to expand even further our reach, and our impact.

I know that I have little place to be challenging the Bloggernacle to anything–but I do believe that we can do even greater things if we’re willing to think beyond our own site’s popularity, response depth, and the clerverness of our writings.

I hope we will seize the moment.


  1. J. Stapley December 22, 2005 at 12:59 am

    I think that much of what you have already challenged exists.

    1. We have seen several bloggers shed pseudonymns, though for very good reasons there will always be more who choose not to.

    2. There have been many, many bloggernacle soirees this year, scattered across the US.

    3. I agree that we need to do more here…but let me assure you that there are some interesting plans in the works…

    6. The difficult thing is that there is a significant hurdle to entry in alot of these other projects.

  2. John Dehlin December 22, 2005 at 1:05 am

    Thanks for stopping by, J. I agree it’s been a good year–but I’m hoping to see even greater things next year.

    By the way, why are the “interesting plans in the works” not more transparent? What if we were more open, and less secretive/opaque, as a community? There’s still such an outsider/insider feeling between the “Big 4” and “the Founders” and the rest of us common folk. I wish you guys would open up more, and find a way to be more democratic, and less totalitarian (though I will always acknowledge that you have been very supportive, helpful and open to me when I’ve asked, and sometimes even when I haven’t). I would say you guys have operated like a benevolent dictatorship at this point–but we could do better here as well (I feel). We could move things from an “insider’s club with some fans” to a true community if you would consider doing so. Maybe you have–but how would someone like me know?

    Also, I’m not so sure the hurdles are as big as you might depict for collaborative projects. Just think of how much time is collectively spent reading and writing on these blogs. With the right leaders, that time could be easily diverted to even more productive ends. I think it’s more a will/creativity/imagination problem than a technical/practical one.

    My 2 cents.

  3. Watt Mahoun December 22, 2005 at 1:07 am

    John, I think this is an excellent idea…first, because the ideas are good…second, because of its spirit of collaboration and growth. I’m committed to help. Thanks for the thought you put into this.

    One exception I have concerns the anonymity point. My personal and first inclination is to agree, and I initially came out here using my given name…but I quickly realized that the thoughts I plan to share would be misunderstood and even hurtful to my extended family. This is the reason I decided to use the pseudonym. I think it’s valid and no more dishonest say than the original use of pseudonyms/code-names in the D&C.

    As for whether we can trust the relationships and thoughts exchanged from behind a pseudonym…I think we can, and may even more readily recognize the face of god when it’s not clouded by prejudice and/or trepidation that can arise with relation to a given name.

    Finally, what’s in a name? Often much more than is really there and much less than what can be found in candid thoughts and conversation.

  4. John Dehlin December 22, 2005 at 1:15 am


    I totally understand that there will be sincere and totally legitimate cases for anonymity–and I’m (personally) totally willing to invest in and trust anonymous folks.

    That said, I also believe that the inability to have open, honest conversations with family and friends in the LDS community–where we can be truly candid with those we love most–is perhaps one of the biggest cancers the positive evolution of our culture and community as LDS folk.

    Until we can be fully open/honest with those we love most–I fear that we will never move beyond our current social and cultural state.

  5. Clark December 22, 2005 at 2:01 am

    My thoughts (when I should be going to bed)

    1. I’ll confess anonymity bugs me, primarily because I think of discussion in comments or email as akin to a face to face meeting. Using synonyms sounds…awkward. Also I’ve been burned in the past with people using multiple anonymous names to troll. They’ll do the good cop/bad cop thing (or attempt to). They’ll have one pseudonym ask a leading question and an other pseudonym answer it. You can tell all this by looking at IPs. But there are ways around that and frankly I rarely have the time to do that. I just find the whole thing counter to good dialog. I know why some do it. I just don’t agree.

    2. There are “bloggernacle events” but I confess I’ve never gone to them. I’m really a very busy person. I can fit blogging into a moment here or there. But taking an evening out is hard. If I had an evening free I’d almost certainly prefer to go to a movie or dinner with my wife. Perils of small kids I guess.

    3. Ratings is a great idea – at least for the blogs with lots of comments. Doing ratings ala Slashdot for comments would be nice. That’s primarily an issue of the blogging software though. Few blogs use slashcode. (Understandably)

    With respect to rating posts. I actually would love a sister site to Mormon Archipelago that maintains a list of nominated stories and lets people vote on them. It’s a better solution than what BT is doing right now. Since the point should be to let people read them. Maybe even have categories.

    4. As I said before, I think you’ll find few people have time for this.

    5. I’m trying to do this and took up your blog challenge. Both Sunstone and Dialog are both trying to embrace new technology and get a new audience. I think Sunstone still has various issues. But I’ll not go into my thoughts about it.

    6. The FAIR wiki is definitely something I’m interested in. Now that I’m on vacation I hope to contribute.

  6. Ronan December 22, 2005 at 7:51 am

    John, you’re a top bloke.

    2. I think an annual Bloggernacle event is unnecessary as long as the soirees continue. I’ve been to 4 gatherings: 1 in SLC, 1 in NYC, 2 in DC. This is good enough. We could get the MA to advertise these gatherings, perhaps. They can of course be either ad hoc (i.e. Steve’s leaving New York, let’s have a party), or as part of another gathering (GC, MHA etc.). But yeah, maybe the MA can give them some kind of side-bar billing. Let the cabal decide.

    BTW, the MA is indeed a “benevolent dictatorship.” LOL.

    3. Ratings….I like Clark’s idea about an MA sister site. Don’t know whether it’s feasible though. Again, the cabal…!

    5. Sunstone: yes, we should welcome Sunstone to the ‘nacle. It takes time, though. Dialogue were smart to team up with an established blog. I strongly encourage Sunstone to do the same. A top box blog at MA needs to work with Sunstone, IMO.

  7. John Dehlin December 22, 2005 at 8:19 am

    Thanks, Ronan.

    Who would team w/ Sunstone?

  8. Beijing December 22, 2005 at 9:19 am

    Blogs=benevolent dictatorships
    There are pros and cons to both.

    Seems to me that if the bloggernacle does #2, #4 and #6, it won’t be appropriate to call it a bloggernacle anymore. It’ll be more of a blogpodprintfacetofacewikinacle.

    I doubt that even if #3 happens, it would lead to widespread building on old conversations rather than rehashing. I’ve noticed that even in an ongoing thread not many people read, ponder and build on the comments that have been made. People are even less likely to read an article or book or archived post or archived comments that have been linked before tossing their thoughts out there. But good luck with that, maybe it’ll happen.

  9. Ronan December 22, 2005 at 10:00 am

    Who would team w/ Sunstone?

    Dunno, but there’s no reason why someone shouldn’t. Again, the BCC-Dialogue partnership has been brilliant, good for both outlets. Maybe Sunstone should put out some feelers to blogs it likes. And someone reading this might consider talking to Sunstone. Who knows?

  10. RoastedTomatoes December 22, 2005 at 10:32 am

    My Challenges to John Dehlin for 2006

    Actually, unlike the Snarker, I have only one challenge: make a calendar of upcoming Mormon Stories episodes and actually stick to a regular release cycle. John, if you’re worried about the supply of podcasts, you could help by routinizing your own! If this imposes undue burdens, you should simply find a sponsor, no? I suggest Jones Paint and Glass. They sponsored BYU football radio broadcasts when I lived in Utah (“when you hear the crash, think Jones Paint and Glass!”), and I’m sure they would pay generously enough for you to hire a part time, illegal-alien assistant, no?

  11. John Dehlin December 22, 2005 at 10:41 am


    I accept the feedback, and the challenge. Now that my Master’s core is done, things should get a LOT simpler.

    Thanks for the challenge.


  12. John Mansfield December 22, 2005 at 10:44 am

    Challenge #6 appears to be an invitation to quit web log activity in favor of doing something more useful with our time, akin to telling CB radio enthusiasts thirty years ago to quit yakking and start conducting serious oral history projects.

  13. John Dehlin December 22, 2005 at 10:59 am

    John Mansfield,

    Not quite. As you can see, I blog too. Blogging is very important–I’m just trying to say that there’s a big, beautiful world out there. We can do more, I believe.


  14. Ronan December 22, 2005 at 11:11 am

    I’m a bit of a Luddite on podcasts. I like yours and I enjoyed the Zeitcast. But I have no intention of filling up my Ipod with amateur ramblings by Mormons (not you, you’re good, John!) when I could be listening to NPR/BBC and/or MUSIC!! Ah, music. Such a fine thing.

    Reading amateur ramblings by Mormons….well, that’s another thing. At least I can join the conversation…

    In other words, we need a few good podcasts, but I don’t think we all need to ditch blogging just yet.

  15. RoastedTomatoes December 22, 2005 at 11:34 am

    John, the thing to remember is that the internet is about self-initiative and spontaneous community. When we try to over-plan, things go bad (see AOL, Yahoo!, etc.). But if you want to see some kind of service that the internet doesn’t yet offer, get together a group of friends and get it started, no?

    That said, I think the archiving idea will probably happen somehow within the next couple of months…

  16. Stephen M (Ethesis) December 22, 2005 at 12:36 pm

    Well, has taken over the awards.

    A lot of what binds the bloggernacle together is visiting, posting on other people’s blogs and suggesting and implementing reciprocal links.

    But, like all groups, people favor their friends and familiar voices.

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