The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

A Question for Readers

I’ve posted about this before, and perhaps it’s on my mind again because I’m tired. (I’ve been at home with Parker today, while our care was being fixed, and it was a bit too chilly for us to do much outside today.) But I’ve got some questions on mind about this blog, and what direction I want it to take. That’s bumping up against the realities of being a working parent, and that I only have so much time and energy to dedicate to so many things in my life.

As a result, my activity here has slowed down. I publish fewer posts during the day, on weekdays, and rarely post at all on weekends anymore. I’m also not promoting this blog and crossposting to various other places as much as I used to. I put QueerlyKos on hiatus before the holidays, because of the time and work it took to produce, and haven’t resurrected it yet.

Basically, holding myself to the “post-several-times-a-day-every-day” standard of top level bloggers who make a living from their blogs and/or share the load with other bloggers was burning me out and starting to stress me out. At the same time, though, I’ve watched the traffic here decline partially as a result of the stuff I mentioned above; and partially because back in March I had to move all my old content — from the beginning in October 2003 to March 2006 — to a sudomain because I had so much content from so many blog posts (some of which was imported from the Typepad blog) that WordPress couldn’t handle it, and my host took to locking me out of my database for two hours at a time because it was hammering the server.

I have to admit, the drop in traffic has bothered me, because I guess I still hold myself to the aforementioned standards. I still want to keep up with “the big boys,” but the realization I’m having is that I can’t, for a number of reasons, and trying to would quickly make me crazy. Part of that is due to the nature of blogging in general, and the kind of blogging I do in particular. And it’s led me to ask readers here for some advice on the direction I should take with my blogging.

I’ve been reading several posts by Chris Bowers and Matt Stoller — the guys who brought us the progressive blog report in 2005— about the nature of blogging and the progressive blogosphere, and I find myself coming back to a subject I’ve wrestled with several times before. But what caught my attention was something Chris wrote in a post about diversity in the progressive blogosphere — something I’ve written about a few times before myself —that echoes something he’s written before, and what I’ve read in many other places, in citing a George Washington University Study (PDF) which states “The audience for political blogs appears to be fairly concentrated across dozens of blogs, not thousands. Daily readers visit the most popular blogs.”

But what jumped out at me about Chris’s post was his explanation of how the current top tier of the progressive blogosphere evolved to its current point.

I have spent years trying to figure out an answer to that question, and to date I consider the best answer to be one of cultural voice. Political blogs, which tend to be headlined by either one or a small group of writers, will almost inevitably attract an audience with similar cultural backgrounds to the individual or individuals who produce the majority of front-page content. Blogs, even political blogs that have become activist and media institutions, are still closely connected to the personal voice and characteristics of the people who write the most visible material on a given blog. Given the personal nature of blogs, and the dominance of a small number of highly trafficked blogs, it seems entirely reasonable that the male and white skew among blog readers is the result a white and male skew within the small group that makes up front page writers on major political blogs. The latter skew could be reinforced through reading and linking patterns within that group, a pattern that would occur because those writers generally read, trust, understand know one another due to a shared cultural connection.

Chris goes on to offer some suggestions for increasing diversity in the blogosphere, all of which reminds me of something I wrote almost two years ago, on the same subject. (Interestingly enough, in response to another one of Chris’ posts.)

I’ll say it again, when it comes to blogging, identity and everything that goes with it—race, gender, orientation, economics, education, etc.—affects what you look at and filters what you see. To extend what Stirling was getting at, how you identify not only affects how you see other people, but whether you see them at all. Chances are the first people you’ll “see”—those first blips on your radar, the people you’ll automatically pay attention to—will be those with whom you share some element of identity. It’s inevitable. That is, unless you make a conscious effort to do otherwise.

At various times I’ve offered my own suggestions on the subject, including recommendations for establishing netroots sties for LGBT bloggers and progressive bloggers of color. But I’ve realized that I am not an organizer, and don’t begin to have the wherewithal to bring off either project, or even assemble and organize people who do have the skills and resources to take either beyond the realm of ideas and recommendations.

Where am I going with this? Well, I can’t shake the feeling that this blog is either in decline or has plateaued, and that I’d like to do something about it, but I’m not sure what or how. I’ve considered it in light of realities I’ve mentioned before. The kind of blogger I am, the kind of blogging I do, and the kind of stuff I blog about do not add up to a wide audience or tons of traffic.

Add to that the realities of work and family, and the one-man-show that is this blog, and I can’t even spring on to new stories with the speed of some other blogger. By the time I get to a story, and have had some time to read and think about it, it’s usually a couple of days old and well-covered by others. So, in an attempt to offer something not found on many other blogs, my blogging has evolved towards longer, more researched, deeply linked posts like these: Africa, Homophobia & Colonized Minds; Un-Reconstructed Racism; Be the Game Boss; God & Gall; Defending Dawkins; God, Brought to You by Your Government; When Did You Know You Were Heterosexual; Same-Sex Marriage is Not a Progressive Issue; Marriage and “Supportive” Non-Support; A Sacred Institution; It’s Not Nice to Fool the Black Voters; Tight Ends, Wide Receivers & Me; The Sad Irony of the Black Vote; Gays & God’s Politics; Not Tempted by Tempting Faith; Historically Black Homophobia; The Economics of Inequality; Gays in Black Churches: Seen But Not Seen; Nonfamily Families; The Faith-Based Bamboozle; Beyond Repair, Reprised; From the Great Society to the Great Commission; Fistulas & Fairy Tales; Foley: Black Like Me?; Theocracy on Slow Boil; Tolerance of Intolerance is Tolerance?; Michael Steele Thinks Black People Are Stupid; The Not-So-Fabulous Fifties; Gay Americans and 9/11: On a Queer Day; Bully for NARTH; Theocracy in Three Volumes; What Rights Should Same-Sex Couples Not Have?; The Right Not to Pray in School; Teen Sex, Texas Style; Virginia’s Gay Exodus; Gay Marriage Ban? Don’t Explain.; What Rights Should Same Sex Couples Have?; Caught Up in the Raptured (Like it or Not); Gay Marriage Losses Actually Wins?; Letting It Shine: Anti-Gay Bigotry & Black Churches; Faith & Freedom of Speech; LIFEbeat’s Anti-Gay Death Concert; On Obama, School Prayer & Church/State Separation; Seeing Red Democrats; Democrats Seeing Red; Cokie & Steve on Marriage; Where Are the Gay Netroots?; AIDS, Me & Us: 25 Years Later; Why They Will Fail; etc.; etc.

And that’s just from the past year. And they there’s QueerlyKos. I enjoyed every one of them because, as I’ve discovered or finally admitted, I’m a researcher and writer at heart. I like nothing better than to sink my teeth into a subject or story, follow it and analyze it in the context of current events and developments, and then write it all down. I don’t know if blogging is the best medium for that, but it was the easiest one for me to get into. It comes down to a range of topics and a style of writing that doesn’t lend itself to broad appeal, but it’s something I enjoy doing and do well. Do I want to keep doing it? Do I want t do it differently?

So, I’m asking readers here, what direction they think I should take with this blog? Should I find a few co-bloggers to post here, or find another multi-author blog to join, in order to relieve some of the daily posting grind? Should this space become an online community, where people can post diaries (like DailyKos, MyDD, or Pam’s House Blend), using something like SoapBlox? Should I do it with another domain? (Like Queerpundit.Com, which I still own?) Do I even have the kind of readership to support that? Should I just go join an already existing community? Should I broaden the range of topics I’m covering, and change my style to attract a broader audience? Or keep doing what I enjoy and do well, and not worry about whether it’s popular or widely read?

What do you think?

17 Comments

  1. You hit the answer at the end of the blog:

    “keep doing what I enjoy and do well, and not worry about whether it’s popular or widely read?”

    Just follow your heart, this blog is the first I read – the mix is just right…

    keep going babe

  2. I’ve been through all these thoughts myself. The bottom line is that I will go to blogs I like even if they don’t post but once a week. My own blogging is erratic. Some days I’ll easily do 6 or 7 posts; other days I just struggle to get one up, and that might be just who’s having a birthday today rather than any original content.

    I didn’t get into blogging with the idea I was ever going to be one of the top 100 or 1,000. I honestly got started simply because I was curious about how it was done, how Blogger and other blog software worked. Once I started I realized I was actually having fun (sometimes) writing about things I care about and it gave me a much-needed outlet. The fact that I had maybe 10 readers a day was fine with me.

    Thanks to tremendous support from Pam Spaulding and Shakes Sis and my frequent comments at their blogs I began to attract more readers. And I far surpassed anything resembling a goal in terms of readers and monthly visitor counts. The Weblog nomination also helped with a big spike in December. But again, in the grand scheme of things, I just consider it a hobby — something to keep me mentally active. I guess you just have to decide what it is you want and decide what you have to do to get it. To this day I still don’t feel my blog has a specific theme or a focus, and I’m not convinced it’s all that important… for me.

    I’ve worked from home for the past 7 years and 2006 was rather slow so it was a great time for me to start blogging. However, on Monday I’m starting a freelance job and I will be going to an office on weekdays. I’m a little concerned about how this will affect my blogging since I’ll only have time in the evenings and weekends. I won’t have the ability to jump on those big breaking news stories but that can’t be helped. I need a steady income far worse than I need blog readership.

    I’m just going to focus on news and issues that really pinch my nerves and continue to do a lot of personal content. Most readers seem interested in getting to know the people who blog (a few could care less and are only interested in political content).

    All that being said, I don’t think I contributed one thing to your question did I?

    :lol:

  3. Terrance,

    I think it would be great if you found a few co-bloggers – preferably ones who haven’t been blogging but share some viewpoints with what you blog and those that don’t necessarily. I know that i would be interested. I read your blog avidly and find myself wanting to blog in the way you do, but i need some sort of guiding force. I would love to help you organize something along these lines, and see what grows out of it.

  4. I don’t know about anyone else, but I read your blog *because* of the in-depth, thoughtful entries. As a gay Buddhist (with aspirations of fatherhood), yours is a voice I enjoy hearing; there’s a lot that is familiar in it. I found your blog through your “Queerly dKos” entries, and I’m glad I did.

    I’m hoping that reading your blog through an RSS subscription counts towards your readership totals, since that’s how I read it.

    Thanks for your writings, sir!

    JOhn.

  5. I’d say unless you really want to “turn pro”, then you should blog however makes sense to you. Make sure you’re getting what YOU want out of this, rather than serving an amorphous audience. Personally, I continue to love what you’re doing here and have even quite liked the drop off in posting frequency — it makes it a lot easier to keep up!!

  6. I agree 100% with Maurice – you gave the answer yourself.

  7. T – Your voice and in-depth, thoughtful writing and perspective are sorely needed out here.

    I feel your pain in some of the ways mentioned above. People often assume that I blog full time because of the prolific posting, but no, I have a FT job, chronic insomnia, and an understanding wife. But it’s a drain nonetheless. Having my traffic go up, and winning awards only increases the pressure for quality and quantity. Something’s got to give, and the move to Soapblox helped a bit.

    But it does somewhat change the voice of the blog. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it becomes something more than my personal soapbox. It’s more like a sandbox now.

    I say add a couple of co-bloggers to lighten the load, or scheduled fill-in/guest bloggers to allow you to have a life. You have to want to blog, not feel like it’s an anvil.

  8. Random thoughts – 1) Family should always come first … if there is ever a question between spending time with the little one and/or your partner … then by all means, we’ll understand some light posting. 2) The deep insightful, well researched (and well linked) posts are your forte … please stick with the format that works, even if it means fewer posts per week. However … I personally would be less likely to read the posts of guest bloggers. I come here for you (how’s that for a little ego-stoking?). You have a unique style – one that’s worth reading (even if the posts are long) and one that’s worth waiting for (even if the posts come less often, that’s what RSS is for).

    3) I was particularly provoked by your thoughts on the whole people read blogs of people like them topic. To me, it seemed out of place in the context of the rest of the posting. Instead, it seemed like a separate idea of whether there was (or should be) a moral imperative driving you to create a “non-traditional” blog so that masses have more of a choice in what to read. I don’t read you because you match all of my labels (in fact, matching the categories you list at the top of your blog, I’d be: White, Straight, Father, Carnivore, Agnostic, Libertarian). However – the interests overlap sufficiently that I find you interesting and engaging. Since I can’t read everything out there on every topic, I find you to be a useful source for info on the religion and lgbt issues front. For me, you’re a great supplement to the (insert dreaded term) mainstream media.

    But of course … only keep doing it if you are passionate about it … and if you are able to balance it with your other responsibilities … many thanks …

  9. Terrance, whatever balance you strike for your welfare and that of your family, I hope you will stay very active.

    The following is offered as food for thought; maybe it will be useful, maybe well not. In my own activities, I have branched out beyond blogging narrowly defined to create an online media “Fotohut.” I called it “Crab Media” because I am just so darn creative. Crab Media has a new Crabopedia wiki for Maryland politics and society, a low-frequency blog about wine that may ramp up in time, a glorified RSS feed for attorney jobs for DC and Maryland and will grow to include professional resources for local attorneys and a “Swiss Army Knife” page for bloggers’ tools. (Unless my wife divorces me, in which she gets half of all of the above, lucky her.)

    What these projects other than the blog mostly have in common is that they can be built piecemeal, are fairly low maintenance once built and will tend to reinforce one another. The wiki invites my readers to contribute back in a different way also. If it works out, it will leverage my (all too scant!!) time more effectively.

    Anyway, all the best.

  10. I read your blog to hear from you. With RSS, it doesn’t matter whether you post every day or every other week — I see every post, on my own schedule. I will keep reading whether you bring in co-bloggers or join another group or just keep posting here whenever you have something to say.

    So my $0.02 is: do what suits you, and don’t worry about whether it’s popular or not. What’s valuable is *your* voice and perspective, and you risk losing that to some extent if you start changing what you do to please an audience, or a potential audience.

  11. Terrance:

    If you seriously want higher traffic, you need to start posting again on one of the high traffic sites. You had talked about QweerlyKos as a joint venture, back when you were burning out. How about finding a group of bloggists who all are serious about QweerlyKos issues, and who want to have them highlighted to the larger community, and also have their own blogs which might benefit from increased exposure? That way, the rotation is more likely to succeed, as the players will all have both passion and self-interest in seeing it happen.
    Second, you need to start cross-posting to a larger blog community, on those posts which you feel particularly proud about. DK probably makes the most sense, simply because it would not require you to make an explicit commitment to do so. If you want to step back, you can without impacting anyone else’s traffic. (Note: some of your posts could be posted to Street Prophets, the so-called progressive religious spin-off of DK).
    The larger question is whether you still enjoy blogging. You have a very full life. Does blogging add to that fullness, or detract from it? Have you felt more energized by taking the thoughtful, intermittent track, or do you feel obligated? Does the blog have to represent only you for you to feel ownership? Etc.
    Terrance, I have always appreciated your viewpoint, and you can have an impact beyond your numbers. I may not always comment, but I take your viewpoint with me when I leave, and it colors how I react to other viewpoints elsewhere. If you can rediscover the joy of it, by all means full steam ahead.

  12. Keep doing what you enjoy and do well, and not worry about whether it’s popular or widely read. I forgot how I came across your blog but I’m glad I did. You’ve written about subjects and stories that would not have otherwise come to my attention. (Heck, you’re set up on the feed for my google and yahoo front pages!)

    If you post less frequently to attend to the important matters of life no one should fault you for that.

  13. Burnout should be avoided like the plague it is. Sanity (and family, if the two aren’t mutually exclusive) should always come first.

    That said, I think your voice and your perspective are unique, erudite, and important. As a reader I always want more (and as a writer, I understand the tyranny of a demanding readership! They’re never satisfied! Don’t listen to them!)… fewer pieces, well done, are better than many unsatisfactory pieces.

    I personally like the idea of you starting a group, or finding a way into an already established one, because I do think your queer, Buddhist, etc. perspective needs to be out there in public discourse more than it is.

    But maybe it just means that those of us who think along similar lines should start speaking up more, too, even if we aren’t as eloquent. :-)

  14. Terrance,
    I don’t know if you read Orcinus, but that site is also a maybe-one-post-a-day kind of site (even with adding Sara Robinson) that provides some indepth perspective and history on just one or two issues that are near and dear to Dave Neiwert’s heart and obviously so. It is dependent on his geographical region and his past experiences.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that I read your blog for similar reasons; your insights into being a gay parent, to being gay and raised baptist, your ideas on politics and technology and working habits; all of these I appreciate hearing about, especially in your manner as griot (if I’m not being too far forward with my choice of words).

    Obviously, you blog because you want to and need to, but don’t let it be because you _have_ to. That would not be fun for anyone. Thanks, though, for what you have written.

  15. Like many of those who posted comments to this question, I read you for YOU. I think your last sentence on your post was the best answer to your question. I read your blog when I can. I’m a leftist Buddhist dyke with a workaholic job and my last kid (who is Black) still living at home. So I fit that category of people who read blogs by people like them. I write my blog when I can (maybe once or twice a week), not for the numbers (I’m very happy with 20 hits a day from interesting people who think before they speak). For me, blogging is not a competitive sport; it’s a way to say what I need to say, to be completely honest (not altering the message to suit the reader), and to connect with friends I don’t see regularly but still care about. The Buddhist part: it’s not about ego. My worth is not tied up in the number of hits or comments on my blog. We’re all part of each other. What affects one of us affects the others. When you say something intelligent (as you always do) about Iraq, then I don’t need to say anything about Iraq. I can write about Argentina or South Africa instead. We so easily get sucked into competing. Why care if the numbers drop off? Does that mean you’re inadequate? Why worry about pleasing your “audience”? If they matter, they’ll stay with you. Some of my favorite bloggers disappear for a month or so at a time. I go back regularly to see if there’s a new post, and I cheer when there is. When I can get an RSS feed, I take it. If I wanted a group, I’d go read a group’s blog (or go to a sandbox). I agree with Maurice, John Kusters, Meri, Geoff, Bill, Rachel, and Cowboy Diva; and I support Airwick’s points 1 and 2 (but not 3). Stay with us, T. We love you. We want your voice to be out there. We don’t want no stinking group. Just you. The way you are. When you feel like it. When it works for YOU. Then it works for us. Ubuntu.

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  17. T., half of that last comment was pure crap. What is true is that I love your blog and I don’t want you to join a group or worry about the numbers. What is a lie is that I am above being sucked into the ego of blogging. I WISH my sense of worth weren’t tied up in the hits on my blog, but today, when I found out my blog had been nominated for a prize, I went bananas with ego. I’m not above it at all. I just wish I were. But back to you–please keep doing what you do. I love to read it.

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