Follow Up On The Bloggers Conference

This past Saturday, I was attending the North Carolina Progressive Bloggers Conference, which was hosted, appropriately enough, by State Chair Jerry Meek, of the North Carolina Democratic Party.

Depending on whom one asks, the highest-profile attendee was either Matt Stoller, who has some nice things to say in a diary over at MyDD, or Representative Brad Miller, who has excellent taste in both basketball teams and snark!.

Of course, any venue that has me around for (too) long is just asking for trouble. More on that later. :)

u>I Attempted A Play-By-Play Live Blog...

...while at the conference, but true to tell it was my first attempt at live-blogging, and it might not look like much work from the outside but it's hard to pull off effectively. Still, I think all the dry stuff's available for perusal there, leastwise from my pen.

I'm going for something different this evening. CSI Bentonville charged me to write more about all the Kossacks I've meet on the road. Well, the "NCPBC" (North Carolina Progressive Bloggers Conference!) was more than just Kossacks (though I think many in the room were regular readers if not commeters here in the Tangerine City). Meh. That's good enough for government work. Sorry, NC progressive bloggers, you've all been drafted. You're all Kossacks, now. :)

Oops. Too Late. They're (just about) All Kossacks, Anyway.

No, really. here's one (me), who sat between Tim Cullen who talked nonstop and Matt Stoller, who is very quiet. No...wait. Strike that. I totally have them transposed.

Actually, I'm just poking fun at Matt who has probably figured out by now that he's got a lot to say and no strong compulsion to keep it to himself. He's pretty much a WYSIWYG sort of guy. Bluff, direct, his motivations and his surface impressions right there for all to see. I think he's very comfortable being Matt Stoller.

As for Matt's many, many projects, let's see if we can hit the highlights, or we can just catch up with Mr. Stoller In Iowa, interviewing Andy Stern of the Service Employees International Union, armed with a video camera that seems to have survived the trip to North Carolina despite getting sent sailing off the conference table at one point. (Matt - Was that the same camera?)

Oh, turns out he's Mike Stark's New Boss, and on prompting from yours truly mentioned the creation of the Director of Activism position at, which just happens to be run by Chris Bowers and, you guessed it, Matt Stoller.

Tim Cullen has a great sense of humor. More fairly, he thought my jokes were funny, or was at least very polite about them, so I liked him instantly, as well. Tim has the work ethic from hell; he was working away on what looked to my uneducated eyes to be a script editor for most of the conference, though eventually the low bandwidth frustrated him and he began to sit up and engage the conference more directly.

Tim actually passed on some of the early post-conference festivities to, you guessed it, do work for a client. What client, you're asking? Oh, no reason I should be coy...Why, Chris Dodd for President!. No, that's not an endorsement; that's a link. Next time I go to a conference with somebody in attendance who is working for your favorite candidate, guess what? You'll receive some linky goodness, too. :)

[Sidebar: Where the frack does the expression "linky goodness" come from, anyway?]

Still More Kossacks

North Carolina Democratic Party State Char Jerry Meek is a lurker, but he's still one of us. He posted a diary (top-ranked for a while!) at on the conference.

Representative Brad Miller we mentioned above, but it turns out that as well as being a Trusted User at Dailykos, he serves in Congress...which is excellent because in a world where Brad Miller is not in Congress, the poster child for wingnuttery is.

Oh, and all you Kossacks who want to know "Is Congressman Miller running for Senate"? Apparently, my asking him about it was not the first time he'd fielded the question. Sorry, Congressman. They Kossacks made me do it.

Enter the BlueNC Peeps

Most of these players are Kossacks, too, but they are without a doubt the force to reckon with in progressive cyberspace...leastwise, in North Carolina. Here's the BlueNC live-blogging chat, for flavor.

Ever wonder what an activist site looks like? Feast Your Eyes. The big issues are presently the Navy's proposal to mow down some NC wetlands because apparently their pilots don't get enough bombing practice fighting terrorism over there, so they are going to terrorize egrets and piglets over here.

I did not speak with all of BlueNC's notables, but they are definitely a strong bunch of progressives.

Now, throwing up a roster of all the BlueNC notables is challenging, as they comprised most of the conference. The good news is that the folks at Western North Carolina blog Scrutiny Hooligans provide that list for us both!

And front-page coverage of one of my late night creations -- a cartoon of Maverick McCain, doing his maverick thang during the State of the Union Address. :)

Here's the review in full...

Scrawled onto a napkin by Christian Kendrick @ the Player's Retreat in Raleigh on Saturday night (Sunday morning?) after several beers and a drunken stumble around the Capitol Building. Get some sauce in him and provide him with plenty of napkins, and Chris is magically transformed into a political cartoonist that could give Tom Toles a run for his money.

I also did one that has Bush glaring up at a map of he continental United States, declaring "You can't tell me what to do!".

Time for the other voices in the room

At the heart of the matter of cybercommunity is its unprecedented ability to both include and exclude. I've thought on this topic, but my ability to live as a citizen with full rights under law is not nearly as threatened as by North Carolinians who are the target, yes, that's the word, target of the latest form of socially acceptable bigotry -- homophobia.

And because I'm not at the business end of that hatred, one of the biggest surprises of the day for me was news that, just the day before (Friday), a gay marriage ban bill was submitted to the North Carolina legislature

The moment that topic was touched upon, the room was on fire.

Pam, of Pam's House Blend, who is pamindurham in her DKOS orange iteration, initiates a serious and thoughtful discussion here.

Pam says it herself, she gets discrimination three different ways: she's "black, a woman and a Lesbian." It is fair to say she has a strong sense of her individuality, and threats of any sort to same, be it discursive presumption (guilty, and I was called on it) or changes to the law of the land.

Something that was said for the Orange Horde's benefit, directly:

I noted on DKos that those with little exposure to a sane discussion about marriage equality are behind the times, and clearly unaware of how to begin an honest debate; I mentioned in the thread what I've said here -- it boils down to a lawmaker's ability to answer the question:

Is it appropriate for the people of North Carolina to determine the civil rights of their fellow citizens by direct vote at the ballot box?

Pam, the Framers already answered that one: Hell, no...except when they go ahead and do it, anyway. Perhaps it is inevitable that harm will be done to civil rights -- and it is the rights of all who are impaired, here -- in this miscarriage of a cause called marriage protection. It is also unconscionable, and some remedy must be sought for and must be found. Not just for the rights of all...but simply to end the interminable shame that we are a society where it is not only lawful but encouraged, to the point of violence, to target homosexuals.

And last I checked, that's not cool at all.

Taking a more quiet drive towards quality is Matt Hill Comer of Interstate Q, who has not one but two diaries on the Conference, one on the issue of the marriage ban amendment, the other a more general discussion.

Matt sums up the value of such gatherings with the following...we who have been to Yearlykos, or one of the informal Kossack gatherings, or the many Drinking Liberally functions, or the occasional march or showing of An Inconvenient Truth, or some of all the above, know this well.

Matt Hill Comer, people:

am excited, however, about the connections that were definitely created at the conference. Meeting, in person, so many of the people I hear from online, is a definite help in getting to know them and build relationships that can be used to further progressive movements and ideals online, but more importantly, in the community. Pictured right: Me, lol, intently listening to the convo.

A portion of the conference was set aside to discuss how we move all this good discussion and activity online into the community. I’ve really always tried to do this myself, through my activism, my community work and, this school year, through my opinions column in The Carolinian. It really is important to move all this activity off-line. Yeah... it’s all cool that we have so many people involved online, but how do we move that to people who may not be as plugged into all the workings of internet, online activism and the “blogosphere”?

I think it is simple. Sitting at your computer and pushing your opinions on to a blog or through email to state or federal legislators or creating communities of discussion online is great... but we have to take the time to get away from our desks and out of our homes. We can speak directly, in person to state and federal legislators. We can have lobby days. We can hold monthly meetings of us like-minded folks (SrutinyHooligans has been doing this with their “Drinking Liberally” socials). We can form community organizations, or better yet, use our already existing network of friends and fellow activists to create coalitions that will have real power in the “real world” and offline.

There are so many possibilities as to where this “new media” is going... a lot of it, I think, is heading as much off-line as it is online. Politics is definitely not the same as it used to be.

Okay...Gotta Wrap This Up

Okay, I've been writing this for four hours. To participants: If I left you out, or some angle that you found compelling, I can always blog more. If you're reading and posting and have questions, well, that's what the comments are for. :)

Still, I wrote my own read on the strengths and weaknesses of internet communitarianism, so as the diarist I get to have the last word (sorry, Matt).

From where I'm sitting, the Internet might not be quite the bridge-builder it's often made out to be. It can be, but in practice the tubes are as much a tool for breaking down community as they are for building them.

Walk with me for a bit.

By its very nature, the Internet is a centripetal force in human society. serving to make conversations possible among people who already agree with one another, throwing up barriers for conversations among people who already do not.

It's relatively easy, once begun on the process, to scout out ever more exacting groups of fellow-travellers, and distance oneself from an ever-wider set of detractors.

Whenever incompatibility surfaces, it is so easy to either self-select to another group...or have that group select a member for exile (read: troll-rating and banning).

The Internet in its current expression is the ultimate in suburbanization. Hold on. New word opportunity: Cybersuburbanization. I just had to write that word out, at least once. God help us all if it catches on. :)

This isn't the entire story, and yet I think it's an aspect of the tubes' sociological (and therefore political) impact that needs to be addressed, and addressed, and addressed again. That effect being: The tendency of human beings to organize into competing factions is greatly intensified and accelerated online.

I've seen this development over the past six years; there once were places online where it was possible to have mostly civil discourse among Democrats and Republicans. The New York Times Forums were such a place. Oh, sure. You can still find conversation over there...but calling it constructive is a bit of a stretch.

Now, perhaps this was naivete' on my part. So, let's refocus our desires to building on common nationalist sentiments with our right-wing brethren, and concentrate on building bridges within the party.

There first obstacle is that like all constituencies, the netroots enjoys some measure of internecine strife. Over at Dailykos, the Tangerine City, we call the occasional flare-ups "pie wars", after a dispute involving the first appearance of paid advertisements. These battles are by and large short-lived, yet some disputes have generated lasting animus among the higher-profile regulars. Stop me if you've seen this all before, in other venues.

The difference is that the causes of such conflicts can appear very suddenly, escalate quite swiftly, and the damage is highly visible. Also, the truth of the matter is that shy of actual physical contact, human beings tend to idealize (and demonize) the words and deeds of others. And such abstraction of the intentions of others leads to errors in judgment, and misunderstanding when made and overreactive behaviors when the gears of the online conversation sieze up.

I think organizing and building conversations via telecommunications is a splendid thing. I also think that since human beings are involved, at the fundamental level organizations that do business exclusively by phone or internet will be at a disadvantage to those that communicate via personal contact, as well.

Back in the days of yore, well, actually before the invention of the "yore", important personages in the provinces of the Roman empire would make the pilgrimage to Rome, to meet at least once the key players of the imperial capital, to take the measure of people for whom in many cases all future conversation would be by correspondence.

This dynamic has not changed, just because we're not Rome, nor an empire, nor condemned to the tyranny of days and weeks of delay in response to inquiries.

The best way to build the constituency that does not quite exist yet -- the online progressive blogosphere as a cohesive front -- is to get the players in the same physical space on an ongoing basis, just as happened in Raleigh for a few dozen North Carolina progressive bloggers, and is beginning to happen ever more frequently and substantively via venues like YearlyKos and Drinking Liberally and MoveOn.Org.

Once a sufficient physical footprint exists for the online conversation, the progressive blogosphere will be better situated to hold discourse with the more ground-based elements of the Democratic Party, and in my opinion be more approachable to same.

Short form: If we would be in Rome, as it were, if we would have a more progressive Republic, we need to journey there in person.

I say let's do so together.


Writing it sure made ME sleepy. :)

Truly, there is just so much to cover from that one day.

I haven't even gotten to the good stuff -- polling the bar as to what everyone's favorite five Billy Joel songs were.

That's important, somehow, to the success of the netroots.

I just know it's so. :)

Did they discuss Nifong at the Conference?

It's beginning to come across as bizarre how the Duke fiasco is the biggest news out of NC for the rest of the country, and none of those bloggers ever mention it. (Thank goodness for John In Carolina).

I doubt it

Personally I dont see why it was such a big story in the first place. And people on this site have commented on it.

Draft Brad Miller -- NC Sen ActBlue :::Petition

"Keep the Faith"

Uh huh.

Yeah, I guess the District Attorney up on charges himself isn't such a big story.

Yes, we have mentioned it

Several times, in fact. Maybe you should spend more time reading before passing judgment. I've written about it a couple of times. Also, if you bothered to read this site thoroughly, you would realize that other than a brief mention of the case, it isn't the type of story we discuss here. It has no bearing on progressive politics.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

uh huh again

You say "we have mentioned it several times, in fact", then you say "it isn't the type of story we discuss here". Huh? I think the case has accidently on-purpose dropped off your radar because it didn't go the route you wanted.

you are

an @$$hat. The story has been going on for so long that mentioning it once every other month would amount to at least 6 posts, ie-several times.

it was never ON our radar because some of us like discussing politics, and not poorly handled CRIMINAL investigations.

go jump off a cliff

Draft Brad Miller -- NC Sen ActBlue :::Petition

"Keep the Faith"


So you would categorize it as a poorly handled criminal investigation rather than a lynch mob incident?

If I honestly thought you were interested in what I think

I would respond. However, you only stop by to incite and insult. You're ridiculous. Again, I encourage you to read what I've written.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Wrong again

Read the couple of diaries I've written. I didn't care which way it went, but I actually have been all over Nifong pretty much from the beginning. My brother is a prosecutor. I know how they are supposed to conduct themselves. I made a simple request that you read my diaries before drawing your conclusions. You failed to do so and it has left you looking stupid.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Well, cskendrick..

What's your opinion of the case and its ramifications? Like it or not, this is the only NC story that will produce books on the subject in the future. So please answer, and don't act like the rest here (who always start that "Smalltown Boy" refrain running through my head " away..")

That would be a

We talked about North Carolina politics, though.

Vlogging goes unremarked

Just like "professional" journalists don't want bloggers in the room, neither do many bloggers want vloggers in the room.

I feel like the the bastard child of a bastard child. Fortunately the great folks here at BlueNC have always embraced their western spinoff, WNCNN. It was great to meet all of you this weekend. Let's do it again!
“All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.”
So enjoy the Drama.

Well, that's not entirely fair...

1. I was on the far end of the room.
2. I could write diaries for a week elaborating on my experiences.
3. Oh, believe you, me. I love attention, the more cameras and videos, the better. :)

Hey, it wasn't just you

No video bloggers were invited. I invited myself through my husband who works for the party (I only heard about it thanks to fellow bloggers who assumed I was invited).

I talked to Stoller who wouldn't even concede the obvious fact in mainstream media that video always trumps the printed word. Brad Miller didn't even mention that video is a particular problem for candidates. Next election "macaca" events are going to escalate exponentially as people figure out how to use and upload the video aspects of the still and phone cameras.

Remember how Brad and Jim represented so many of their peers as being internet-ignorant. Well, those same people are going to take a while to figure out that still cameras and phones are video-taping their comments. Brad asked if the press were there and we all laughed. Not only were we all typing on our keyboards as he said that. I was actually recording him and he didn't notice.

No need to feel defensive, Chris. It's this way whenever a new format comes out. And I give major props to BlueNC and Scrutiny Hooligans for embracing WNCNN's ideas and formats. And I just love the irony that bloggers are as confused by vlogging as established journalists were by blogging. Now's the time in the election cycle to think about these things. So, that's why I am bringing it up.

“All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.”
So enjoy the drama.


why didnt said husband give me a call? hmm? just kidding.

If a picture tells a thousand words than how much does a 2 minute or 10 minute video tell?

Draft Brad Miller -- NC Sen ActBlue :::Petition

"Keep the Faith"

Those five river crossings are still

impeding communications between Raleigh and the west. They've bridged them by road and rail but I guess email and phone lines are still amazingly unreliable.
“All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.”
So enjoy the drama.

doubly amusing

I got his email about the new WNCNN video 4 days after it was sent.

Also, I just figured this was punishement for so far failing to take advantage of the offer to visit for a few days.

Draft Brad Miller -- NC Sen ActBlue :::Petition

"Keep the Faith"

No, no, no

When he punishes you, you'll know it. That sounds kind of weird but I'll leave it.

I've sent you an email.
“All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.”
So enjoy the drama.

Gave you some props...

in front of the single most active regular series over at DailyKos -- Cheers and Jeers

check it out

Nice picture, by the way. :)

Does this mean I can't complain?

Okay, you got me. That was wonderful. THANK YOU for the special credit. It makes me happy. And also for pointing to WNCNN which is also the product of Screwy Hoolie and Syntax, among others. It's all too cool.

But I still want to remind all candidates (and their staff and supporters) that they must always speak as if they are being videotaped. There is always the chance that they are and don't know it. And in the next two years, people are going to figure out that their computers come equipped with video editing software.
“All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.”
So enjoy the drama.

And Vloggers (and bloggers...but not so much)

will have to remember that too many "Gotchas" and the security will meet them at the door. Funny how candidates/the party, etc all NEED the press. We want them to need us too. The challenge is finding a balance between outrage and praise so we are welcomed in instead of escorted out. I think vloggers run a greater risk if they don't use a certain amount of discretion because the medium is so strong.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

That's definitely a topic for the next

bloggers/vloggers forum.

I'm pretty careful to edit what I take for the benefit of my chosen candidate. But some candidates are going to get burned by their own supporters.

Plus, I've had a candidate pull me from amongst a crowd of media filming his opponent because he thought we were being rude. He thought that I might be associated with him. He felt obliged to physically remove me in case it was perceived that the entire group of photographers and videographers were blocking the free movement of his opponent.

We weren't doing anything remotely out of line but he was that concerned that my behavior would be connected to his campaign. I didn't appreciate it much. BTW, it wasn't Shuler.
“All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.”
So enjoy the drama.

Sure. Complain away. :)

It's among my favorite pastimes, and it's good for the prosperity and the happiness of the commonwealth!

I let people know what I want, and they give it to me.

I am then satisfied, and they then are then useful.

Everybody wins. :)

Next time

If they do this again, please urge Jerry to schedule it with the progressive community in mind. Saturday was the day of the biggest national action against the war yet. I was forced to choose between making change and talking about making change - I chose the former.

No offense to Stoller...

Depending on whom one asks, the highest-profile attendee was either Matt Stoller ...

but Jerry Meek deserves higher billing, both for his presence here at Blue and for putting the whole shindig together.

(And hat-tip to Stoller for giving props to Jerry in the MyDD diary linked to above.)

Larry Kissell is MY Congressman