On blogging networks

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?


  1. says

    This is the only blogging I’ve ever done. To be honest, I was pretty stunned that I was extended an invite with my complete lack of experience. But knowing a bit more regarding the new applicant process, I guess I can see why.

    I haven’t seen many arguments (I joined last October). Some aren’t happy about certain aspects of the network, but it hasn’t devolved into what I would consider petty and useless sniping. Though I don’t necessarily read every FtB email in my inbox.

    I haven’t participated much, which has more to do with my personality. If I don’t think I have anything useful to add, I don’t. If some make the same point I would make, I don’t add to the chorus. There’s never been anything discussed where I felt impelled to go against popular opinion. Overall, I like the decentralized atmosphere, but can also see how it could lead to issues.

  2. says

    @I Have Forgiven Jesus,
    Yeah, TFW you’re accepted, only to find that the acceptance process was not as strenuous as you previously believed. But seriously, the real test is whether you end up blogging. Being a new blogger is hard, and a lot of people give up.

    I’m happy with FTB, I just think some of the organizational structure leaves something to be desired. It is quite stable though. I’ve seen slymepitters loudly fantasizing about constant drama in the backchannel and it’s hilarious how clueless they are.

  3. polishsalami says

    I was happy to see an economics blog here at FtB; it’s a shame that didn’t work out.

    It’s also unfortunate that Anjuli was excluded here, though in retrospect someone like Eiynah (AKA “Nice Mangoes”) would have been a better fit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *