Flaming for Obama

Lovely piece in Prospect this month from Peter Jukes, talking about the occasionally fractious community of Democrat bloggers in the US:

For many in Britain, blogging, especially political blogging, is a bit of a disappointment. Many of our political sites are tacked on to party websites, or are simply online versions of established media outlets. They tend to be either controlled, conformist and rather dull, or unmoderated rants, the kind of online graffiti rightly parodied by Private Eye.

These sites in the US foster a real community spirit and encourage the best material to float to the top:

On first view, websites like Daily Kos and MyDD may look like simple news providers, but underneath they are powered by a specific community and its democratic preferences. Soon after joining, you can write your own piece, or “diary.” With enough interest from other users, your diary can rise quickly up the recommended list or “rec list” until you are ushered on to the front page. In their comments, other readers can annotate and correct your piece, provide new links and background, “flame” you with insults, heap you with praise or just crack a joke. These comments are themselves subject to voting. The more votes you acquire the more privileges you get—a privileged user can, for example, hide the abusive or unsubstantiated comments they receive from others. Becoming a member of these sites is like joining the editorial board of an interactive newspaper or, with the increased popularity of embedded YouTube videos, the news team of a television network.

Jukes laments the lack of such communities in this country:

There is nothing in Britain that replicates the passion and activism of these sites. The nearest equivalent is ConservativeHome—and perhaps it is no surprise that an opposition party latches on to this alternative form of communication. I still wait for real signs of a popular centre-left blog in Britain. (If you want to start one up, let me know.)

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Dave Briggs

Head of Digital Operations at Croydon Council. Follow me on Twitter @davebriggs.