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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Monday, November 14, 2005

meta from Oakland

Ah, the health of this blog!

Things have been slow here...on both ends: both in terms of traffic and returning readers...and in terms of my ability to put a couple new posts up everyday. I have liked some of my recent pieces...but, even given that, they haven't seemed to have quite caught on.

When I wrote for dKos, I had the luxury of writing when I could. (Which was nice, since I work some very crazy hours at times. And the instant feedback at dkos is truly "one of a kind.") Lately, I've had whole blocks of off-line work...eighty hours in seven days...and that's kept me from indulging the "news junkie blogger" role. Alas. When I read blogs, I start with my current clicks...and read blogs. It might take a couple hours. But I find I really learn a great deal. It is, however, very time consuming.

Further, I've found that since writing here is more intimate. The lack of the huge amounts of feedback I was used to at dKos means that comments weigh more, and there's less balance sometimes. Frankly, the cynicism or crypticism in the comments here has got me down at times. It's hard to leave for work at 5AM and have your one comment be someone ripping on you. That's cool on a moderated blog like dKos, where we all jump in...it's less cool when the only response you get to an essay is snark. I can understand why some bloggers have turned the comments off, in that context....and just kept writing.

As a writer, I know that you have to protect the wellsprings of where your writing comes from. Otherwise....burnout lurks. It's axiomatic, your write for your readers and yourself. It has to be sustainable.

I'm open to your input. What would make this blog better for you? What do you come here for? Should I try to "keep up" with the news when I can...or does that create expectations I can't always live up to? Should I write fewer pieces? How about short pieces? Open threads? Music?

For what it's worth, I hunger to write essays. Pieces that would be worthy of a reread a year from now. It's something I think I could keep doing in the right context. Building that context...a mix of shorter, political and cultural pieces with more thought out essays...has always been my goal here, what I hoped k/o would be about.

Let me know what you think.

19 Comments:

  • Maybe your writing on this blog is like the Portuguese poet Fernand Pessoa who developed a series of "heteronyms" -- these different pseudonyms, each with their own projected biography, under which he wrote his poetry: Alvaro de Campos was the great urban modernist; Ricardo Reis a kind of sophisticated, melancholic classicist; Alberto Caeiro the nature poet who dies in his youth. I think, in a similar way, writing on blogs -- and certainly this blog -- can fluctuate into different states, words that have different meaning, in more or less dialogue, with more urgency or more detachment, responding to the moment or seeking precisely to look beyond it, etc. (Pessoa's a great poet by the way; I remember stumbling on a book of his poems when I was a teenager -- a good example is the de Campos poem 'Tobacco Shop' (although I'm not sure this is the best translation).

    Other things that would be cool (if maybe technically unfeasible): a way to have an open thread or threads that somehow stayed up, in the corner of the blog, on specific issues, that people could add to at a more relaxed pace, or stumble upon, or come back to knowing that it won't disappear. And likewise, some of the writing that's more in the form of longer essays, or connected thought pieces, that could somehow stick around, subject to revisions or accumulation, whether through collective interventions or just by yourself.

    The key formal feature of so many blogs, of course, and something that unites what would be an otherwise insanely disparate and insanely large (and growing) number of different sites: the text rolls off. Time marks itself, but does so invisibly, without any control: time controls the blog, not the other way around. The big challenge of this, and one particularly important for political sites (and perahps particularly important for this political moment): how can you have a sense of history in this form?

    By Blogger awol, at 9:48 PM  

  • I am impressed that you read blogs for hours--I choose not to take the time for that right now because my regular work entails extensive reading and writing and I don't want to stare at the computer screen more than I have to. My strategy is briefly to go, at the beginning and end of the day, to favorites--like yours--and take a quick glance at the latest. That said, reading your blog has led me to other sites I value--and I'm not simply talking about your list of current clicks. I like it when you remark on what others are writing and link to them. That's what usually leads me to go to places I wouldn't explore on my own. The best thing going here is your own distinctive voice, but your knowledge of--and taste in--other blogs is something I also enjoy.

    By Blogger Myshkin, at 10:08 PM  

  • kid,

    try to write something on this blog everyday, even if it's a link to someone else's post about something interesting on their blog.

    also, forget about input or comments, and then, they will come.

    go back and do some posts at dkos to get your blog applause jones, that's what i do. i get hundreds more reads at kos than at my own blog.

    but my blog eventually built up, even tho it's not anywhere nears any of the big ones.

    you are one of the originals, and your writing will find an audience.

    By Blogger skippy, at 11:15 PM  

  • Paul,

    I don't think you should worry about the comments. For one, you have a consistent core of commenters who form a sort of community on this blog. Also, the comments tend to be a lot more thoughtful than comments on most blogs I read. As for the negative comments, just remember that you won't ever be able to please everyone. You need to write for yourself.

    Also, by way of commiseration, the only comment I got on my blog today was a lengthy response to a blog post that I didn't even write. The commenter was responding to a post on another blog, which I linked to. I even Apparently the commenter didn't hate the polka dots enough to notice when he went to an entirely different blog with a white background.

    By Blogger Matt, at 1:06 AM  

  • awol:
    Other things that would be cool (if maybe technically unfeasible): a way to have an open thread or threads that somehow stayed up, in the corner of the blog, on specific issues, that people could add to at a more relaxed pace, or stumble upon, or come back to knowing that it won't disappear.

    For many months--starting before I went on sabbatical over at my weblog--I've been slowly tinkering with my Blogger template (usually late at night, after the day's science has fried my brain.) When I get back to regular blogging, it will be at a redesigned version of the old site.

    And these very features that awol describes above will be there--at least, the closest thing to them that the Blogger.com Empire allows:

    1. An "enduring open thread" (EOT) linked from near the corner of the main page (n.b.: it was going to be a "permanent" open thread, but I didn't like the acronym--besides, "enduring" as synoeuphemisonym for "permanent" is all the rage these days)

    2. Slow-paced, themed threads linked through cryptic little icons ("stumble upon") just below the EOT: a close-cropped photo of the CIA Memorial Wall linking to an enduring thread on the CIA leak, for example.

    The way these enduring threads will work (technically, within the Blogger.com Empire) is similar to the way my About post works. "About" is a normal blog post with a fictional date--chosen to emphasize its metaness and so the post wouldn't show up on the main page the week I added it.

    With the enduring themed threads, I'll probably not bother with this predating nonsense. I'll just launch each new one as a regular front-page post with a real date. But I'll add the permalink to one of those cryptic icons. A new theme icon will push all the existing ones a bit further down the page, but they'll all still be there.

    And once I've built one of these themed threads, I'll come back to it periodically with comments and Atrios-style, quick-blurb updates to the placeholder post's body text.

    The hope is that readers will also come back to these threads with comments of their own. But you figured that out already.

    --------------

    But enough about me.

    Kid... it's obvious that you dinker around with the k/o template from time to time (updating the current clicks etc.) You're not clueless about the template, in other words. If you want to add an enduring open thread--or call it what you will--all you have to do is create a post for it, then permalink to it somewhere in your sidebar. (By the way, the "fold" link in for a politics of coalition is dead.)

    As far as your specific questions go...

    What would make this blog better for you? I kinda like it the way it is. Better move on to the next question.

    What do you come here for? Sometimes I come here on purpose--to find political essays like this one and personal/cultural essays like this one. Other times (over lunch, say), I come here aimlessly--to rummage through the Sugar Smacks, Current Clicks, Playlist, et al.

    Should I try to "keep up" with the news when I can...or does that create expectations I can't always live up to? You should always try to keep up with the news, but don't feel that you need to be a maniac about it (like Atrios, say). I don't imagine that many people look to k/o for fresh (BREAKING BREAKING !!! OHMIGOD BREAKING!!!) news. More like a weekly magazine, less like a wire service--if you know what I mean.

    Should I write fewer pieces? No.

    How about short pieces? The length of your stories should follow a model similar to Bush's alleged strategy for Iraq: make them as long as they need to be, no more, no less. I know that sounds like a bullshit cop-out answer (because it is). But I think you stress too much over length. Ahem. When I'm reading a good magazine article and turn the page, my eyes automatically check the end of the last column on the new page--looking to see if there's one of those little icons to tell me the article is over. I never want a good article to end. Perhaps I just have too much time on my hands.

    Open threads? I love open threads, but I don't think the k/o community is vast enough (or blabby enough) to support Kos- or Eschaton-style ones. Perhaps a weekly OT or somesuch--linked in the sidebar as I elaborately described above?

    Music? Yes, please. Also, you're a photographer. I suspect you avoid writing about photography and/or posting any Kid images for professional reasons. (I'll probably never publish any "real" science at my site, either--I'd think it tacky and a bit unprofessional.) But it is a bit odd that you have so little to say about this art form that you surely know so much about. (I did not just call you "Shirley.")

    By Blogger &y, at 8:59 AM  

  • I would do whatever works for you. It's your blog. It should make you happy. If you want more readers then you can crosspost on dKos, you're a legend there.

    By Anonymous duhnonymous, at 3:09 PM  

  • One more thing, if you really want to get your readership up, I would suggest posting naked pictures of yourself. Or better yet, naked pictures of you and Armando having a pillow fight. That would be great. (snark - just in case it wasn't obvious)

    By Anonymous duhnonymous, at 3:13 PM  

  • k/o
    I look to you mostly for insight and for pointers to other smart blogs. I don't expect you to have breaking news, but I do look forward to your analysis of breaking news. Over at dKos you were a fresh (read unjaded) and thoughtful voice and that's what led me to your solo blog. I also like your narratives relating your personal daily encounters to political/cultural trends.

    By Blogger girlinthelockerroom, at 5:13 PM  

  • You always offer a unique viewpoint and that's why I return every day. I think that you are now on a good path and should continue.

    Comments: Opinions are like assholes - everybody has one. and some smell worse than others.

    By Blogger Brenda, at 7:57 PM  

  • One nice thing about having a blog is you can sort of build up your world to be just as you'd like it. Pretty much.

    I don't think writing daily is so much of a factor... I come for the writing, and if nothing new is here, I just read over older things that I may have missed.

    You have a tremendous talent (and more than that, great heart) and I think you should take the opportunity to follow where that leads you. Certainly it's much different from writing for the kos site, but then obviously something about that didn't exactly fulfill what you were looking for either.

    Explore your writing, your talent, boundaries... do what you want, and what it seems like you need to do. And, as they say, your audience will find you :)

    Nanette (who really doesn't want to be anonymous, but Blogger hates her).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:39 PM  

  • Man, I hope my comments haven't been too short or snarky. I guess without a tip jar or first comment on dkos, there is no way of just letting you know that one has read your post.

    Anyway, I like reading k/o. You do a great job of tying together personal anecdotes with politics. Maybe you should run for office!

    By Blogger Dean, at 10:14 PM  

  • k/o - day job and other obligations keep me from responding right now, but wanted to put this down as a marker that I want to come back and respond to this post. If I don't, you have permission to bug me to do so. :)

    But one quick question to turn it around a bit: for those of us who would like to see you keep writing here, what do *you* need from *us*?

    By Anonymous Medley, at 6:18 AM  

  • I don't really have much of anything to add that hasn't already been said. Just wanted to mark my presence.

    I like good writing. You are a good writer. You are thoughtful, self-aware without being self-absorbed, and have much wider interests than merely wonk-ism.

    I know the deal with recognition. When I write something, I want it READ. If you write a brilliant piece that nobody reads, it's a tree falling in the forest. On the rare occasions I write a diary, usually at Booman Tribune, I always cross-post at DKos, even though I find myself less and less tolerant of all the shenanigans that go on over there. Kos has numbers; I wanna be read.

    That said, I believe you need to find what works for you, and pursue it. k/o is always a stop on my daily surf. If there's something new, I read it, if not, I move on and come back the next day. Occasionaly, I drop in a comment.

    That's what works for me.

    By Blogger leftvet, at 8:59 AM  

  • Hey Sweetie!

    I visit when the internet is working..and ever since Hurricane Wilma hit So FL, that's not all that frequent anymore!

    Also went thru a blog burnout phase myself. Took a month off..it was a good thing.

    Hang in there:-)

    By Anonymous Kath, at 5:17 PM  

  • I enjoy your posts. Hang in there.

    By Anonymous Chris, at 8:08 PM  

  • Thanks to everyone for these comments there were really useful and helped me a great deal.

    I really appreciate that.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 8:25 PM  

  • Hey-- I never post comments, but I read everything you post here. You and I have some biographical similarities and a lot of shared opinions, but I marvel at how you can marshal those things into coherent, compelling prose in a way that I don't feel able or motivated to. You're also much more of a humanist in your writing than most people I know personally, and I appreciate the openness that must require. I live near Selby/Dale right now, too, and it's nice to see your references to St. Paul stuff.

    By Anonymous Schmuck, at 8:10 PM  

  • Hey KO, I stop by every once in a while for your quality writing (and because you don't cross post at Boo so much anymore ;)

    I feel you about the comments tho', sometimes it's tough, but I figure I must be doing something right if someone takes enough time to actually respond to a post of mine, negative or not.

    Don't worry about breaking news, just continue to write from your heart on topics that interest you.

    Cheers,
    spider

    By Blogger spiderleaf, at 12:26 PM  

  • kid oakland

    walking the streets of new york today my thoughts turned to you and your writing - nothing specific, just in general - and i decided to write to you and tell you how much i enjoy your writing and fresh perspective. your posts go deep and sadly that is not common in this world. i read your post about the bottle collectors and identified with it more than i would like. i do not understand why and how our society abandons so many, and i don't mean just in new orleans. three times this week i have passed an individual taking "shelter" in a barely protected nook of 9th avenue side of the post office building. i want to reach out and offer a blanket or a few dollars or something, but instead walk by. there are a good number of regular homeless in my neighborhood and those to whom i have offered assistance have generally refused it. there is a fine line between generosity and pity in these moments and i think we so often forget that they are people beneath their misfortune. the ones i see on a daily basis while walking the dog - i wonder if i should be greeting. a year or two back i used to regularly encounter this one trinidadian rastafarian, fitzroy, who told me he had made a conscious decision to live on the street rather than take the drugs they wanted him to take in order to stay in the apartment offered to him by the state. he is an articulate, gentle, self-aware, and obviously intelligent man but with some kind of chemical imbalance. i worry about him and many of the others when the weather turns cold as it has this week. why don't we do more as a society to take care of our fellow human beings? i admired your honesty in your post - the impatience with the mother and son - i think it is our default reaction and i think it is important that someone gives voice to this. so, in a very roundabout way, what i read in your posts reflects a very real person in touch with himself and life in general. yes, i look to your analysis of the political sideshow, but i think more importantly i like to read what you think and feel and reflect and interact with the world outside your head. just keep on writing, we will keep on reading. how strange to turn to your blog for music recommends and find this post when i had been thinking about writing to you earlier in the day. thank you for having the proclivity to reflect and to write.

    conchita

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:40 PM  

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