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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Seven Questions for Aldon Hynes

Aldon Hynes is a guru of local blogging.

Hynes, who blogs at Orient Lodge and can also be found, among other places, as aldon on dailyKos.com, is a mainstay of the Connecticut local blogging world. Whether it's the legacy of Aldon's work on Deanspace or his relentless support of local blogs in Connecticut and Massachusetts, Aldon's insights and technical savvy are relevant to bloggers and activists nationwide.

I recently had the following Q and A with Aldon as a result of his participation in Bloggers United. I converted the email exchange into an interview format and am sharing it here on k/o with Aldon's permission. I hope you find the insights useful.

Seven Questions for Aldon Hynes:

k/o: I am very interested in what you have to say about XML and bloglines.

Aldon Hynes: I like using Bloglines. It provides a nice list of all the blogs I'm interested in, sorted into groups, and showing how many unread messages I have for each blog as well as for each grouping.

Beyond that I am a big fan of XML. I encourage everyone to support both RSS and Atom, if possible. It makes it easier for other people to find and track your blog. When I covered the Democratic National Convention, Dave Winer set up an RSS aggregator which pulled in all the feeds from the convention, and a lot of people read that. There is also site in Connecticut that has RSS aggregation of Connecticut blogs. I don't know if Lefty Blogs uses RSS, but I would think they would.

k/o: I am torn, however, about passive information collection versus organizing. I think the key local blogger is the local connector: the blogger who personally links the local blogs and cultivates them. What do you think?

Aldon Hynes: A few different thoughts: I think you need a combination of passive and active collection. We need people to actively go out and scour the blogosphere for good blogs to pull into the community. Yet, as the community grows, passive collection, whereby people can join and self identify is valuable.

Another model that is really worth looking at is Global Voices. Global Voices has editors who provide summaries of what is going on in different countries. Perhaps Progressive Voices modeled on what they are doing would be a good idea.

k/o: I tend to do subject searches in Technorati and Google Blog search as a way to find new blogs that are actively writing about the political races I'm interested in. What about you?

Aldon Hynes: I use Technorati a lot, when I am searching by subject. However, I also like to search out blogs by location. This is especially helpful in actively building a local community.

k/o: What do you think of Lefty Blogs?

Aldon Hynes: I have mixed feelings.

A lot of my focus is to help people broaden their connections and appeal. It is part of the reason I write about all kinds of different things on my blog. Some people come for my commentary on video blogging, and delve into politics. Some people come to hear about my familiy, etc. Lefty blogs say, "Sure, the blog doesn't need to be completely about politics - but it should be mostly about politics." I'm not sure my blog is even mostly about politics, so I haven't listed it. In addition, they say "Of course, we reserve the right to accept or reject any submission. Blogs are free speech, but we don't have to give you our microphone if you're evil. (You know who you are.)"

An important part of blogging, to me, is to bypass the 'gatekeeper' mentality. I worry about them gatekeeping.

k/o: I see Bloggers United as tightly focused on supporting local blogs and bloggers. If possible, I would like to build a website that would enhance this...with wiki and info sharing as the main focus. DFA-link, imo, is not there at this point. Do you have thoughts? Is this reinventing the wheel?

Aldon Hynes: No, I do not believe you are re-inventing the wheel. DFA-Link is a tool created by DFA to help build DFA's membership and help the membership connect with one another. As such, it is probably an important tool to help Bloggers United, which can in turn, also help DFA. I like the idea of a Wiki to share information. That is very 'un-gatekeeperly'. I like the idea of 'Progressive Voices', based on Global Voices, where people can write up nice summaries of what is going on in a state by state basis.

k/o: Could you elaborate on wikis? What's your experience been?

Aldon Hynes: Vis-a-Vis Wikis, there have been a few interesting efforts to track local political races with Wikis. During the 2004 cycle, I set up 'Local Pols'. It was a site where I listed various candidates that were running for local office that had been positively influenced by the Dean campaign. It evolved into a general repository of progressive local candidates. CT Election 2006 is a neutral point of view wiki tracking all the races in Connecticut. Campaigns.wikia.com was set up by Jimmy Wales, of Wikipedia fame, trying to do the same sort of thing. Each have met with varying levels of success.

k/o: Aldon, any final thoughts along these lines?

Aldon Hynes: I would also like to point out some other tools that everyone can use. I use Stumble Upon, and I'm tagging people who submit their blogs in StumbleUpon. Take a look at Stumble Upon Tag for BlogsUnited06 to see what is tagged there. In addition, I'm tagging them in del.icio.us In terms of a progressive blog roll, there is also the Progressive Blog Alliance. I hosted it for quite a while, until it grew too big. You can see it at liquidtype.net. One of the ideas of PBA was that progressive blogs would add each other to their blog rolls, thus helping promote progressive blogs and get them better page rankings.

k/o: Thank you so much for participating in Bloggers United and sharing your knowledge with this group.

Aldon Hynes: Sure, glad to be part of it.

{A note on Bloggers United. Bloggers United is a DFA-link group for local political bloggers. If you are a progressive local or regional blogger and would like to participate in Bloggers United, please email me at kidoaklandactivism"at"comcast"dot"net.}

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