As many readers know, I run a group blog, The Asexual Agenda (TAA). Other readers might be aware that I’m on this blogging network called Freethought Blogs (FTB). Still other readers may be aware of other blogging networks like The Orbit, or Skepchick. Have you ever wondered how these blog networks are organized?
This is something that interests me, as a group blog admin. But perhaps nobody else is interested, because I hardly ever see anyone else talk about it. Or perhaps people don’t talk about it because the information is too sensitive. You don’t want to give away information that is potentially embarrassing to other people on the network. Many blogging networks may even have formal rules against disclosing certain information. I myself am limited in what I can say. But there’s some stuff that is public knowledge, at least in principle, so I’ll talk about that.
TAA is a dictatorship, with a few democratic processes. We follow a formal voting procedure for important decisions, namely blogger additions, and blogger ejections. But there are also a bunch of decisions that you wouldn’t even know were decisions, and things that don’t lend themselves very well to voting. For example, how do we make decisions on web design? How do we set the direction of the network? What if the network needs to make a public statement about something? When do we call a vote for something? How is the vote conducted? The value of a dictatorship is that we don’t need to prepare for every possible decision. There’s an easy answer to any question that will ever come up–the dictator decides.
FTB is more of an anarchy. People just argue until there appears to be a consensus. The person who determines whether there’s a consensus, is whoever has the power and initiative to act. Sometimes there is no clear consensus. And sometimes when there is a clear consensus, nobody has the power and initiative to act. So things end up moving very slowly. I’m not really a fan of this structure, and I’m guessing that the people who left FTB to form The Orbit were not fans either.
According to public statements, The Orbit is a “democratic and collectivist” organization. I don’t really know what that means, but it sounds complicated. I’m guessing there are lots of different kinds of organizational structures for blogging networks. We’re not comparing notes, so there aren’t any standard practices.
As I already mentioned, the most important decisions in a blogging network are who to add, and who to eject. Adding bloggers is important because of blogger attrition. Sometimes you have some bloggers who write and write forever, like me. But most bloggers don’t do that. Many bloggers never even start. To share a little statistic, about 1 out of 3 bloggers that have been accepted to TAA wrote no more than a single blog post. We do accept a lot of people without previous blogging records, and I guess many of these people discover that they just can’t do it. Other bloggers start out very active, then peter off after a few months or a few years. Every blogging network either needs to add new people over time, or slowly shrink.
Oh, and ejecting bloggers. As you can imagine, that often involves a lot of drama. Long time FTB readers are likely familiar with a few incidents where FTB bloggers were ejected, or stepped down. But in case you think this is unique to FTB, I will mention that TAA has also ejected two bloggers. Also, not all ejections involve a lot of drama. Readers simply don’t hear about the ejections that proceed quietly. One of the ejections on TAA was silent, and there’s been at least one on FTB too.
Another point I want to make, is that a network with multiple blogs is very different from a group blog. While I may be able to read some writers at FTB while completely ignoring others, it would be difficult to read some of the writers at TAA while ignoring the others, since they’re all on the same page. A network like FTB can get by with a mission statement that everyone more or less agrees with. A group blog requires some coordination in style.
And when you get a bunch of bloggers together, a lot of stylistic differences will emerge that just don’t work when put together. For example, some people update several times a day, other people update every few months. Some people do nothing but quote articles and write one-line responses, and others write 30,000 word posts. Some people want to sprinkle animated gifs everywhere, and others want to keep it more serious. That’s not even getting to differences of opinion between bloggers. It’s common for group blogs to be dominated by just one writer, while the other contributors feel like their own writing doesn’t quite fit the style. This increases blogger attrition rates.
I don’t have any particular conclusion to make, I just find this stuff interesting. Do any readers have experiences with blog networks, or any thoughts about it?