Tuesday, January 25, 2005

And he's the yostest with the mostest 

Mark Yost has written a Minnesota blogosphere review piece in the PioneerPress which gives prominent billing to the Northern Alliance.
But Power Line is just the tip of the iceberg. Minnesota is replete with bloggers, including Fraters Libertas (http://www.fraterslibertas.com/), part of the Northern Alliance, which includes SCSU Scholars, Captain's Quarters, Shot in the Dark and others.
About 100 of these Minnesota bloggers gathered Saturday at Keegan's in North Minneapolis for their semi-annual confab. (Many can be found there on Thursday nights, too, for the pub's weekly trivia contest.) In attendance was the Nihilist in Golf Pants, Chad The Elder, Saint Paul, Captain Ed, Atomizer � to name a few. Some use screen names to guard their identity, but for most it's merely part of the online persona they've cultivated.
Which of course is a reference to the MOB gathering. I saw Yost there, and indeed it was the longest conversation I had with him, to the extent that the din allowed for conversation. (Apologies, by the way, to anyone I spoke to who thought I was out of touch. Years of playing bass guitar in 70s rock bands has left me a little hard of hearing. Ask Mitch about the volume in my headphones.) I guess I made a good impression.
Bloggers like the instantaneous feedback they get from their online posts. Over time, the good ones develop loyal followings. And their fans aren't merely cranks with far-out ideas and too much time on their hands. For instance, King Banaian (his real name), who blogs at http://www.scsuscholars.com/, is the chair of the St. Cloud State Economics Department.
A group of us this morning reading Yost had a good laugh at "his real name", since it's highly unlikely that King Banaian could be an invention of anything at all. (Short story: my first name is my maternal grandmother's maiden family name. Follow that? There's a longer story, but that requires beer.) But there's a more telling point here about anonymity of bloggers. In my case, I don't need it and I don't want it. I don't need it because I'm tenured. Yes, I'm a department chair, but unlike many universities my position is elected by my department and not likely to be challenged because, frankly, nobody else wants the job. I'm unlikely to lose my job or any money from blogging here. As to friends, most liberals on campus knew of my views long before I started blogging as a result of the campus discuss email list. They are the most frequent objects of my online ire. I've got a couple of people still unwilling to say hello after this story in 2002; suffice to say I sleep well.

Second, I want to brand my name, not a screen name. How many people have heard of GlennReynolds.com? I would say it's a lot less than those who've heard of Instapundit. In some cases you might not want to brand your own name because your name has a brand already which is different than your blogging persona. I somewhat think that's the case for PowerLine: There may not be a synergy between them. For media people like Hewitt, writers like Sullivan, or academics like me, there's nothing to brand but me. (I've sent this post to Prof. Reynolds to see if he feels there's a brand in Instapundit that serves him as Prof. Reynolds.)

Back to Yost:
Blogs have had two important effects. They provide a gathering place for like-minded thinkers. Fraters Libertas has become a safe gathering place for conservatives who live in deep blue states like Minnesota and used to have to hide their (political) proclivities like a child molester.
That was certainly not the intent of SCSUScholars. We were told the discuss list was a bad place and we should be civil and limit debate. My goal was to create Scholars to provide those wanting to speak a place that would remain open to conservatives and liberals; the name SCSU Scholars was to reflect the goals of the SCSU Association of Scholars to create a place for reasoned discourse. If I wanted to have a personal blog, I'd've given it a different name. This, by the way, is my thesis for why I have fewer readers but lots of people linking in to this site. The conversation is occurring between blogs, not within Haloscan. I didn't foresee that, but I like it.
Blogs also have shown that column writing isn't rocket science. Indeed, the only difference between a post on Fraters and many newspaper columns is that the latter will get a second read from an editor.
I wouldn't go that far. A blog can be a diary of links -- "here's a cool thing I saw today" -- or simply throwing out a question, as I did Saturday for NARN. Few of the posts here are column length or even have a full thought within them. It's a place where I go to develop my thoughts, to write, and to get feedback. Thus having an editor's second read isn't that valuable to me. My readers are smart people who know about the specific topics I post: Not to stroke your egos too much, but your opinion has great value to me as a writer. I tell my students to write for "the reader looking over your shoulder." On a blog, that reader is a click away.

UPDATE: Reynolds emails,
I certainly wasn't thinking about "branding" when I started. I think InstaPundit has been somewhat helpful to my scholarly career, actually, though.

No doubt so.