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E pluribus unum, or "everything that rises must converge"

A little over a year ago, Russ at TacJammer composed a piece on how group blogs tend to... well, have quality issues. His thesis is that changing a solo author blog into one maintained by several writers tends to dilute the essential "flavor" that drew the readers in the first place, and the resulting miasma of opinions, styles, and voices tends to muddle the former unified perspective.

Russ raises valid concerns. It is a serious danger, and has been the downfall of some very good blogs. To cite an example of which I am passingly familiar, Polipundit suffered a major meltdown, when the site's owner passed edicts about his staff taking certain positions contrasting with his own on issues he felt most strongly about. The consequences were extreme: several of the most popular writers up and left, taking with them many of their devoted readers.

On the other hand, if managed carefully, expanding the author pool can improve a blog tremendously. To blow my own horn here, Wizbang was an excellent site when it was just run by Kevin Aylward. Then he needed some time off, so he brought in a group of guest posters. Six of them filled in for a while, then moved on. Two of us stuck around, and Wizbang ended up a group blog entirely by accident. We now have a regular staff of four or five (there's some ambiguity about one of us), as well as several sub-pages with their own staffs, and our ranking and traffic have never been higher.

(In an aside, one of those subpages, Wizbang Politics, is pretty much run by the Polipundit expatriates. In a nearly unrivalled coup in the blogosphere, Kevin scooped up DJ Drummond, Alexander McClure, and Lorie Byrd and gave them free rein over "Wizbang Politics" -- a move only topped by Michelle Malkin's luring of AllahPundit out of retirement for Hot Air.)

But far more important than whether group blogging is a good or a bad thing is that I am coming to believe that it is essential, and mandated by one of the fundamental forces of nature:


A blog needs to be continually refreshed, given new material, new topics, or it will wither away and die. Blogging is still a relatively new phenomenon, but we are already seeing the toll of having to post new material, new thoughts, on a regular basis, day in and day out, month after month, year after year. It's far too much for any one human being to sustain. (Unless, of course, you're Laurence Simon. He took a very successful group blog -- Amish Tech Support -- and dissolved it, choosing to return to a solo blogger. But he's not human, so he doesn't count.)

A perusal of The Truth Laid Bear's remarkably useful and educational Ecosystem shows the inevitability of this move. Of the top ten blogs, only Instapundit, Michelle Malkin, and Eschaton are solo sites. (Ironically, Glenn Reynolds is on vacation this week, and has at least four people trying to pick up his slack.) The vast majority of the successful blogs are the product of two or more people.

For good or ill, group blogs are the future. The audience demands far more than almost any one person can sustain. The key is to forge groups where the writers are complementary. Those that do, will prosper. Those that do not, will dissolve into chaos and fall into obscurity.

Posted by Jay Tea · 3 August 2006 08:00 AM



So what is the right mechanism for assembling a group blog?

Inviting weekly guest bloggers? A loose confederation of independent bloggers that use a single common blogging point as a source of commonality?

Is similarity in political, ethical and social viewpoints necessary for long term survival? Or does that simply invite mediocrity, or perhaps better put, a blandness of similar styles? Or is a group blog better served with slightly to significantly opposing viewpoints?

PoliPundit did in fact dissolve due to differences of opinion, but that wasn't the only reason. Another reason perhaps was that some of the bloggers, such as DJ Drummond, treated opposing viewpoints, by *deleteing* them, with such rampant and utter disdain that it made the blog posts less of a discussion and more of a lecture. Perhaps if DJ Drummond hadn't treated people with opposing viewpoints as serfs and lackeys it wouldn't have blown up. It would probably have helped a great deal if DJ Drummond hadn't started accusing people opposed to illegal aliens of acting like Nazis.

That's something of an ice breaker when it comes to flaming.

On another note: Would extremely opposing viewpoints survive on a single blog? Perhaps through invited blog-style debates? A moderator, the operator of the group blog, sets the topic and the invited guest bloggers then debate one another through a series of posts with their various partisans providing technical, informational or even moral support.

Frankly that actually sounds rather amusing. Imagine the traffic that would generate.

Posted by: ed at August 3, 2006 08:53 AM

Best way to build up a group blog?

Ask FrankJ. I think he's a better example of a successful group blog than ATS was.

Posted by: Laurence Simon at August 3, 2006 09:06 AM

I used to like visiting some liberal blogs from time to time, but my favorite one, Yglesias, has turned into an NBA discussion board. It's too bad really because he writes well and for some reason, lacks the elitist attitude.

You know, I sort of miss PennyWit from Wizbang because of the alternative viewpoint, but I suppose that you can find that in the comments section of a post but it doesn't seem as fun.

Posted by: snowballs at August 3, 2006 10:58 AM

isfullofcrap.com is a group blog. The catcams are arranged and timed to coincide with posts on the blog. You didn't think Laurence did all those posts on his own, did you?

Posted by: FWGMills at August 3, 2006 10:59 AM

I am not sure how Rob at Say Anything works his blog. BUT, it is a wonderful blog! ALMOST as wonderful as WILLisms.

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at August 3, 2006 11:12 AM

I think Dean Esmay actually runs a pretty good group blog - the regular posters often contradict each other but it's generally fairly polite and nobody deletes anyone else's posts - they argue in the comments as G*d intended :)

Posted by: Ian S. at August 3, 2006 11:39 AM

Wunderkraut is a single blog and it can be pretty special at times!

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at August 3, 2006 11:50 AM

I believe "e pluribus enum" was intended to have a double meaning.

Roughly translated it means "out of the many, one". With an alternate meaning that the individual from the whole (not a sub-group, minority, but individual) is of importance.

Individual Rights is the Reason for a strong Constitution and not just pure democratic rule. Because in a pure democracy the 51% will realize they can exploit the 49% and will.

Whether the second meaning is a product of transliteration or not, idk. But I think its just as valid as the other intended/official(?) one, imho.

Posted by: jpm100 at August 3, 2006 12:02 PM

That is one of the things that I have tried to do at my blog. Recruit like-minded people to contribute. Ultimately, the situation comes down to ownership.

That is what is so awesome about Wizbang. I would not know that it is Kevin's site unless he or Jay mention the historical way things have worked out. For the most part, it is as much Kevin's as it is Jay's. Kevin posts far less than Jay, who does a huge amount of work. Then slowly Lorie and others have added their own flavor. I hessitate to mention Paul out of respect for his recent decision, but will because he is missed already. Each has their own style, but I feel there is a joint sense of cooperation and ownership. And everyone knows their own role. That is a real credit to Kevin.

But there are other examples. My blog-father asked me to write at his site part time and eventually to take it over for a few months while he moved on to another site that had a huge amount more traffic and where he was the new co-owner. He put up a post that pissed off the guy that was supposed to be his equal, and the net was, he owned the domain and the traffic and ultimately, over creative differences, they parted ways. It is a testament to both of them that there was never a mention of why or what happened (which I know because we are friends), but it was simply over control. That is the key. Being able to relinquish editorial control and being able to find people that work well.

I got picked up here to cover while Will is gone because for several months I have been a regular commenter. And with Will being gone, he asked me to provide some content. That is how Jay hooked on at Wizbang, too.

You know and recognize folks by the quality of their thinking and their comments and the natural transition is to build relationships with the regular commentors. I think that is a problem at Wizbang because there are so many regulars, that people no longer have a personality in the sea of comments, unless they are a complete horse's ass or some troll that pisses everyone off with Bush-Hitler comparisons. You won't have people like Jay becoming a regular by commenting and Kevin getting to know him over time. You have other bloggers with smaller blogs that guest post. But I think that is the progression. People transition from commentor to guest blogger, to their own blog to blogger on a bigger blog and so on.

But the beauty of it all is that it is completely a meritocracy. It is based on your ability to write and be compelling and have people recognize your work and like how you present your opinions. And those that are good at it get more readers and their sites grow. And you attract both regular trolls and regular readers. And you move up based on people recognizing your work. Even Kos and the other folks on the other side have the same agenda. Post compelling information that attracts an audience. And the good ones get readers.

Posted by: Justin B at August 3, 2006 03:50 PM

I think this post applies best to blogs that want to be daily reads. If you live and die by the traffic spike generated by links from the super-bloggers, then you can really do just about anything you want.

Posted by: K T Cat at August 3, 2006 09:49 PM

"Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely", or something like that. When we have the only voice, we will naturally tend to get carried away with our own self importance. Kind of like the Peter Principle of writing, speaking or governing. It is important to keep various opinions out there to keep our feet on the ground, and remember that ours stinks just like everyone elses. I enjoy a good debate with an intelligent liberal (yes there are many of them), but just wish we could keep the name calling out of it.

Posted by: USMC Pilot at August 4, 2006 08:14 AM

I think RSS readers make the argument void to a large extent, or soon will. If new posts are being gathered for me, what do I care how many writers post to any one blog, or how often any one blog is updated?

Posted by: Mick Wright at August 4, 2006 01:03 PM