I’ve participated with the “Bloggernacle” since before it was called that (I recall the whole Banner of Heaven debacle, which shows my age somewhat). I have never served as a power player or all that prolific, and I mostly just lurk these days as I find most of the arguments the same old same old; you can only have the same arguments about authority, obedience, scripture, etc. before they get really tiring.
However, I do have a few random thoughts/reflections (in no particular order) on the ‘Nacle based on my many years hanging around. Your mileage will definitely vary about whether my insights make any sense or not:
1. I really miss Clark Goble. Long before President Nelson called for more civility in online discourse, he lived it. No matter how crazy, cranky, or divided the discourse on the blog – and whether it was progressive, moderate, or conservative blog, Clark could always find a way to discuss things civilly, reach across the ideological divides, and (overall) he just came across as a great guy. One reason I don’t comment as much as I used to is that Clark Goble really set the standard for what I wish I could do with online engagement, and when I ask myself “What would Clark Goble do here?” I often can’t replicate his civil, reasonable discourse. We’re much poorer without him.
2. The “Bloggernacle” doesn’t really exist much anymore. Back before social media really took off, blogs were the social media. Now, many of the original blogs are dead, dying, or way off in paths I’m not interested in heading down. A few, like BCC have managed to diversify (such as with BCC Press), and Times and Seasons appears to have some staying power, though the audience is clearly smaller. Also, back when it first started to really take off, there was a lot more crosstalk and engagement. Over time, the blogs tended to fracture across ideological lines and retrench into their various camps rather than continue the engagement. I don’t want to point particular fingers, but I found it rather funny when one blog would complain another blog was deleting comments when they did the same thing; the only difference was which ideological side the comments were on. Progressive blogs were upset when conservative blogs deleted progressive comments, but the conservative blogs would get upset when the progressive blogs would delete conservative comments. Not exactly a ticket to unity, there.
3. The so-called “snark” sites are something I don’t miss. While the movement of the snark from them to the main blogs (they served as an outlet, but they also allowed people to wallow in the snark) indicated a serious change in tone and engagement across blogs, I don’t think they helped. Mostly, they just helped people entrench in their ideological castles more, rather than try and engage civilly.
That all seems enough for now. I’ll likely write about Battlestar Galactica, The Princess Bride, and Pop Culture Philosophy type stuff in future posts, but trotting down memory lane seems like a useful exercise and a way to get a few things off my chest before changing focus.
Agreed on all counts. I’m glad I got to meet Clark in person and I dearly wish he were still around.
The way the blogs niched down ideologically wasn’t good for the overall ecosystem. But I’ve never gotten the sense that any of the social media options are any better.
A newby [relatively speaking] here; new enough that I am not familiar with Mr Goble. Will you elucidate/amplify/refer us to samples of his input? TIA.
Clark’s about page is a good place to look. A lot of the later pieces were From the Desk co-posts, so not really representative of him, but you can scroll through and find some:
The passing of Clark Goble was a great loss. I never knew him personally–but I read a lot of his posts over the years. He was truly gifted. And as prolific as he was in generating posts and comments I never remember him chafing. He always seemed to maintain an even temperament when engaging with others.
I’ve been involved on the outer edges of the “bloggernacle” since what would become T&S was still just a emailed list serve in 2003-04. And I will admit that in spite of my better angels I’ve failed the Clark Goble test far too many times over the last 20 years, so I rarely jump in anymore, and always regret it when I do. But my view on the bloggernacle is that it now mirrors the way that people in the US consume news. Most people don’t go for interesting or possibly-mind-changing content, but rather for the content that reinforces their existing point of view. Maybe they couldn’t articulate X themselves in that way, and that’s probably why they come, but the blog(s) they go to don’t seriously challenge their primary outlooks. And once you get enough people who only want to hear one point of view, then any comment that runs contrary to the unofficial orthodoxy is immediately shouted down as heretical or stupid. I think that’s broadly true for all types of Mormon blogs–faithful, conservative, liberal, post-mo, etc. (some are better than others).
Along those lines, the problem with any self-moderating Mormon blog (which is all of them) is that strident comments made by someone you agree with don’t really feel like strident comments; they are instead fighting the good fight in an entertaining way. But if they are made by someone you disagree with, well then those people are definitely trolls and need to be moderated/deleted. And so you get what I assume are good-faith permas/moderators who nonetheless heavily skew the field in favor of the point of view they agree with. They aren’t capable of objectively calling strikes and balls, because they are also playing the game themselves. And that, of course, leads all but the most masochist among us to find a safer home where our opinions are appreciated and people don’t delete us, since no one likes being shouted down and deleted. You take all that over several years–wash, rinse, and repeat–and what you end up with is what we have today: silos of like-minded people at various Mormon blogs all sitting around congratulating themselves on how smart they are and occasionally screaming at the seemingly benighted to go somewhere else with their stupidity. It’s a recipe for snark.
My favorite thing about the early days of T&S and BCC and MS (and Nine Moons, etc.) was that most of them had a bent, but also had permas with materially different views on politics and the gospel, so it was harder for them to immediately just shout down someone with a different view. But it’s been years since that was true, and we’re all the poorer for it.
The audience at Times and Seasons will continue to grow smaller as they feature less and less posts by Latter-day Saint women.
Posts on Times and Seasons are created on a volunteer basis without very much central direction. That means that there is not someone behind the scenes directing that the female bloggers associated with the site have to post on a regular basis or (on the other hand) for the male bloggers to match the output of the female bloggers. They all post when they want.
I’ve personally tried to increase efforts to be inclusive of women’s voices and stories in my posts, though I realize that isn’t the same as a woman posting, since I don’t have the same perspective.
All that being said, you or anyone else is welcome to submit guests posts for Times and Seasons. I, for one, would also love to hear more from Latter-day Saint women here.
Yes, losing Clark Goble was a huge loss for all of us who were involved in blogging.
Glad to see you doing a guest posting stint on Times and Seasons.