Fiona at LRS Grandparents day

(Testing posting from BLIP.TV to my blog, after uploading a video to a newly refurbished laptop)

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Wordless Wednesday

Darkness, originally uploaded by Aldon.

Wordless Wednesday

Transformational politics and the lack of progress

Today, another job lead ended up at a closed door. I remembered the line from Maria in the Sound of Music, “when the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.” As I’ve written before, I sure hope I can find that open window soon. I suspect a lot of us have similar feelings. On one mailing list, a friend wrote,

I also think that we're getting a lot of people burned out from lack of progress. With the cave-in and other disappointments, a lot of people … are throwing their hands up and walking away. I'd love to figure out how to avoid that.

Yet today I also received an email from a friend that had driven in from out of state to help with Ned Lamont’s U.S. Senate run last year. She talked about driving back home after the victory party on primary night, and her friend bouncing around the passenger seat saying, “MY WHOLE LIFE JUST CHANGED! MY WHOLE LIFE JUST CHANGED!!!.

Her friend is now working as an online activist for a non-profit in Washington. Many of us have been changed by our involvement in campaigns like Gov. Dean’s 2004 Presidential bid, or Ned Lamont’s 2006 U.S. Senate bid. It’s transformational politics and we’ve been transformed. Yeah, we have frustrations that progress isn’t coming as quickly as possible, that our finances are much more tenuous than we’d like. We’re frustrated that the opportunities to be transformed don’t seem to be as apparent in the 2008 cycle as they were in 2004 or 2006, yet we keep on looking for the open window that we know is there.

Being a crazy uncle on Memorial Day

At Personal Democracy Forum, Matt Stoller presented his 'crazy uncle' theory of internet politics.

He starts off with:

A few years ago, I had what's called a 'crazy uncle' theory of internet politics. I noticed that the figures who did well online all seemed like a crazy uncle saying things that are true but extremely uncomfortable, that power and authority was built on silly illusions.

He ends off with:

The internet is a revolutionary cultural shift, but alone, it was not enough to spark a political movement. What that took was a series of actions by our governing elites that betrayed and threatened millions of liberals…

We are an outgrowth of that culture, a kind of mashup between people who feel betrayed by the right and people who feel comfortable with an open internet platform. We're going to keep getting stronger, because openness is immensely compelling. People have had a taste of power, and it's intoxicating. It's almost as if we're beginning to listen to that crazy uncle who comes over for Thanksgiving and tells you your life is built on comfortable illusions. I mean, he was kind of crazy, but he was also usually right.

Well, I’ve always felt quite a bit of affinity for the crazy uncle myself. I think of the uncles in Chekhov's plays, and I think of Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. In Zen, Pirsig writes a bit about systems, both motorcycles, and governments, and observes,

If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then the patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government.

I worry that ‘the open left’ may become intoxicated by its power, and that intoxication may bring about a new set of betrayals perhaps no different than the betrayals that Richard Viguerie believes Bush and Other Big Government Republicans foisted upon the conservatives.

But then again, I just might be another crazy old uncle.

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How much is your blog really worth?

As I surf around the blogs, one question that I often stumble across is, how much is your blog really worth. One site looks at the number of incoming links as reported on Technorati and then calculates the value based the value that AOL paid for Weblogs. Based on this, my blog is worth nearly $75,000.

My blog is worth $74,519.28.
How much is your blog worth?

Yet this is a gross over simplification. If all of the links are from my 100 closest friends and all they do is link amongst themselves, that is worth much less than if the links are from the top 100 websites. In theory, this is part of what Google’s PageRank tries to address.

Yet the number of links to a site might not be the best indication of blog value. Another way people think about value of their blog is the number of readers. Yet this number might be misleading as well. Looking at my raw logs, I get around 4000 hits a day on my site, from around 1200 different IP addresses. Over the past 4 months, I’ve had around 400,000 visits from over 60,000 unique sites. However, this includes webcrawlers, spambots, and who knows what else. Filtering out this, the traffic, a more realistic number is probably around 1400 real hits a day. On the other hand, that doesn’t include people who read the site from my RSS feed.

Of course, if you are looking at pay per view advertising, no one wants to use your internal numbers, everyone wants to count by themselves, and these counters can be all over the place. Counters use small images which might not get displayed, javascript that might not get executed, and so on. I’ve tried various sitecounters and usually turn them off when I find that there is no correlation between internal logs, and different external sitecounters. In addition, I’ve found that the sitecounters often slow down my site.

The latest sitecounter that I’ve started playing with is Quantcast. It looks like they may provide some interest data, for sites with enough traffic.

Yet even traffic count may not be the best way to judge a website’s traffic. What is more interesting is the amount of influence a site has. If Keith Olberman or Anderson Cooper talks about your website on the air, even if no one comes to visit the site as a result of the mention, the site is probably more influential than if the only person talking about the website is your mother and a couple siblings. However, most of us don’t get our site mentioned by celebrities, so this is not an easy metric to analyze.

That said, the other day, I got an email from a PR flack trying to get me to write about his client. I asked why anyone reading my blog would be interested in hearing about the flack’s client, and the only response was that the client as ‘entertaining’. While I know that a lot people are interested entertainment in blogs, it isn’t particularly my style. Yet it did indicate that at least one PR flack out there seems to think my blog is influential.

Even more important might be the impact that a blog has. Blog Catalog is asking bloggers to use their blogs to bring attention to Donors Choose, a nonprofit raising money for public school classrooms around the country. Here is the BlogCatalog Challenge Link.

Closer to home, I receive an email from my friend Lynne. She is participating “Bennett Cancer Center Hope In Motion annual Walk, Run and Ride event on June 3rd” and has an online fundraising page up here. Please, stop by and add your contribution.

Beyond that, the other day, I wrote about links from people I ran into at Personal Democracy Forum. These included and PledgeBank. After I wrote that, I received an email from Robert Tolmach about All of these sites are similar to OurVoicesTogether, which Kim used to find my Christmas Present last year.

So, let us take a few moments, and think not about how many links, or readers, or influential readers or whatever we have as a means of finding value for our blogs, and instead do what we can to help people around us.

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