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Welcome to the Bloggernacle Miller-Eccles Study Group March 24-25, 2006 What is a blog? Blogology 101 “Blog” is a neologism formed from the words “web log.” The word is both a verb and a noun; one who blogs is a blogger.

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welcome to the bloggernacle

Welcome to the Bloggernacle

Miller-Eccles Study Group

March 24-25, 2006

blogology 101
Blogology 101
  • “Blog” is a neologism formed from the words “web log.”
  • The word is both a verb and a noun; one who blogs is a blogger.
  • A blog is a type of website on software that allows easy, text-based updating.
  • Because of this, blogs tend to include a lot of entries (posts) and are often updated frequently.
blogology 1016
Blogology 101
  • How did the blogging phenomenon start?
  • The first blog dates to 1997.
  • Since then, the number of blogs has exploded.
  • Millions of bloggers now.
  • Blogging software has improved greatly – easier and more interactive.
  • Blogs differ from other electronic media such as message boards and listservs.
blogology 1017
Blogology 101
  • Are blogs a Mormon-only thing?
  • Heck no!
  • People blog about a variety of subjects:
    • Food
    • Their love lives
    • Cats
  • Blogs have been increasingly prominent in the political arena.
  • And yes, people blog about religion.
bloggernacle 101
Bloggernacle 101
  • Ahh, now we get to the interesting part.
  • The bloggernacle.
  • How was the bloggernacle started?
  • It’s a relatively recent phenomenon:
  • 11/2002: Appearance of anonymous group-blog, Metaphysical Elders, that discusses Mormon issues.
  • 08/2003: Solo blogger “Dave” launches Dave’s Mormon Inquiry blog.
bloggernacle 10110
Bloggernacle 101
  • 11/2003: Times & Seasons is launched by Nate Oman, Matt Evans, Adam Greenwood, and me.
  • It is an onymous group blog that springs out of e-mail discussions on the LDS-law listserv.
  • Following the launch of T&S, the bloggernacle starts to become a self-feeding phenomenon.
bloggernacle 10111
Bloggernacle 101
  • T&S traffic stats:
  • 11/18/2003: Blog begins; no audience.
  • 11/30/2003: 65 visits a day.
  • 12/5/2003: 140 visits a day.
  • 2/2004: 400 visits a day.
  • 6/2004: 900 visits a day.
  • 12/2004: 1800 to 2000 visits a day.
  • Since 12/2004, traffic has held steady at around 2000 visits a day. (Sometimes dipping to 1800; sometime rising to 2200 or 2400).
bloggernacle 10112
Bloggernacle 101
  • Other large group blogs follow: By Common Consent in 3/2004; Feminist Mormon Housewives in 8/2004; Millennial Star in 1/2005
  • In March 2004 (in response to my own on-blog call for a name for the community) the term “bloggernacle” is coined. Appropriately enough, it comes out of blog comments on that post.
  • In early 2005, we see the first major aggregation service, “Mormon Archipelago” at LDSBlogs.org
  • Today: Depending on who’s counting, universe of Mormon blogs is between 40-50 up to 200+
bloggernacle 10113
Bloggernacle 101
  • And what are we all blogging about?
  • A number of different things:
  • Questions about church doctrine or history
  • Personal posts about (Mormon) life
  • Interviews with scholars; book reviews
  • Announcements and events.
  • Navel-gazing
  • A hundred different things; every blog different.
  • Many blogs (particularly in the bloggernacle) allow readers to make comments as well.
bloggernacle 10114
Bloggernacle 101
  • At one blog alone, Times and Seasons, there is nearly 10 megabytes of blog posts in a little over two years, and over 60 megabytes in comments.
  • What does that mean?
  • Each megabyte, printed as straight text in a Word document, equals about 250 pages.
  • That’s about 2500 pages of text in posts alone – and over 15,000 pages of comments.
  • That’s over five times the size of the Encyclopedia Britannica. . .

. . . and that’s just one blog!

bloggernacle 10115
Bloggernacle 101
  • How many people read the bloggernacle?
  • It varies widely. (There are also some technical gaps in our ability to measure this accurately).
  • The numbers that we have: Times and Seasons: 2000 to 2400 a day; By Common Consent: 1000 to 1200; FMH 1200 to 1600.
  • Newer blogs and solo blogs draw less traffic.
  • Popular solo-blog Splendid Sun: 300-500 a day.
  • Recent entrant Blogger of Jared (3 months old) currently draws 60-100 visits per day.
bloggernacle 10116
Bloggernacle 101
  • As noted above, commenter participation is a big part of the bloggernacle.
  • How many people comment on the blogs?
  • Some numbers from Times and Seasons:
  • All who have commented: 3241 since blog inception in November 2003; 1271 in the past 6 months.
  • Every commenter who has made more than ten comments: 617 since inception, 267 in the past six months.
  • Every commenter who has made more than 50 comments: 219 since inception, 73 in the past six months.
bloggernacle 10117
Bloggernacle 101
  • What do these statistics show?
    • A core group of 70 frequent participants (50+ comments in 6 months).
    • A much larger group of semi-frequent participants (10-50 comments in same period).
    • A very large number of people who make one or two comments.
  • In a day, T&S usually draws 100-150 comments.
  • The bloggernacle can be distinguished from non-Mormon blogs by its comment level.
  • Popular political blogs (for example) typically don’t generate nearly this level of comments.
bloggernacle 10118
Bloggernacle 101
  • Do the comments add to the blog’s value?
  • Yes and no.
  • Comments may come from professors, lawyers, scholars, artists, or experts on some topic, for example.
  • On the other hand, at most blogs, just about anyone can comment.
  • Noise-to-signal ratio isn’t always ideal.
  • Problem commenters (“trolls”) can be edited or outright banned; software helps control spam.
bloggernacle 10119
Bloggernacle 101
  • How do we decide who blogs with us?
  • Nearly every blog has permanent members; many also invite “guest bloggers” who post for a short time.
  • Decisions on who to include are typically made by the blogger, or group. (At T&S, we regularly vote on potential guests).
  • How to locate guests?
  • Blog commenters; networking; cold calls.
bloggernacle 10120
Bloggernacle 101
  • Former guest bloggers at some of the major blogs include Richard and Claudia Bushman; Daniel Peterson; Jed Woodworth; Greg Prince, and many other scholars.
  • Similarly, interviewees include Neil LaBute; Todd Compton; Terryl Givens; Armand Mauss; Sen. Robert Bennett; Kathleen Flake; Sally Gordon; and numerous other scholars.
  • By Common Consent is in a partnership with Dialogue, where a number of Dialogue staff and editors post at BCC.
  • Choice of guests and permabloggers, as well as editorial decisions, create tone.
bloggernacle 10121
Bloggernacle 101
  • T&S comment policies: No insults; no questioning others’ righteousness; no attacks on all church members generally (“all members are idiots”); keep it clean and on topic.
  • Similar comment policies in place at many blogs.
  • T&S: Strives for neutral, thoughtful tone. (Downside: sometimes perceived as dry.)
  • Other blogs have different reputations. E.g., BCC is sometimes perceived as less orthodox or less formal.
  • Such reputations are at best, highly simplified.
  • It’s not like the bloggers are sacrificing goats at BCC.
  • (They sacrifice chickens only.)
bloggernacle 10122
Bloggernacle 101
  • And now you’ve learned all that you need to know about blogging!
  • Well, at least you’ve gotten a basic explanation.
  • Just enough information to make you dangerous.
  • Or rather, to let you understand the rest of the panel discussion.
  • Now, for a (slightly) more substantive topic.
why blog
Why blog?
  • Everyone blogger’s reasons will differ.
  • Both inside and outside the bloggernacle, there are a panoply of standard reasons
  • For instance, people blog for money or for fun.
  • Besides the standard reasons, there are three important reasons for blogging in the bloggernacle in particular:
  • Testimony
  • Criticism
  • Community
why blog25
Why blog?
  • First, bloggernacle blogs may help participants develop or strengthen testimonies.
  • They can be a forum to discuss topics with others who have similar experiences or questions.
  • Blogs provide an ability to ask “non-Sunday School” questions in a forum that isn’t hostile.
  • At least one blog reader was baptized (and e-mailed to tell us).
why blog26
Why blog?
  • Second, the bloggernacle provides a forum for criticism.
  • Participants may be able to analyze and discuss (and criticize) church policies.
  • Participants can find others who have similar criticisms, and discuss the issues.
  • This may result in a decision to leave the church. (One reader said that the bloggernacle led directly to her exit from the church).
  • However, it is also a forum for those who don’t leave – a way to air and deal with concerns.
why blog27
Why blog?
  • Finally, the bloggernacle provides a great community
  • It’s a community of people for discussion, support, friendship.
  • People come, read, comment.
  • Bloggernacle blogs are typically designed to facilitate commenting and dialogue.
  • One reader described her reaction as “pure joy” when she realized the comment dynamic in the bloggernacle. . .

. . . and then she went and started her own blog.

why blog28
Why blog?
  • Bloggers ask questions – how do I prepare for the temple? – and discuss topics.
  • They write about jobs, about family, about marriage, about death.
  • Do we ever meet in real life?
  • Hello! Look around the room.
  • There are bloggers all around you, and you don’t even know it.
  • Sometimes bloggers meet for real-life “bloggersnackers.”
why blog29
Why blog?
  • The bloggernacle has also been the venue of miracles that have helped forge the community.
  • 2/25/2005, at 12:02 a.m. Geoff J. wrote a blog post titled “Please pray for my boy.”

“I just came home for a few minutes from the ICU to write this post because I believe it could make a difference. We found our sweet three year old son Quinn face down in the pool this afternoon. He is alive and stable now but there remains a very real risk of brain damage. You bloggernacle citizens are righteous people—I can tell. We are praying for a full recovery for Quinn. Can you please help?”

why blog30
Why blog?
  • Dozens of comments poured in.
  • Readers from around the bloggernacle prayed for Geoff’s son.
  • Later that evening, Geoff wrote “All is well.” Quinn was doing better; full recovery expected.
  • At last report, Quinn was doing normal little boy activities like harassing his sisters.
  • So, so miracles happen in the bloggernacle?
  • Just ask Geoff.
why blog31
Why blog?
  • So, what is the future of blogging?
  • We really can’t say.
  • Perhaps technology will render the medium obsolete in a few years.
  • Perhaps socio-political conditions in the church will make the forum inhospitable.
  • Perhaps we’ll all just get bored and go home.
  • But for now, the bloggernacle is the place to be.
why blog32
Why blog?
  • Finally, why do I blog?
  • It is a good way to relax and unwind.
  • Blogging lets me figure out my own balance between spirituality and intellect
  • It’s a fun intellectual exercise, and a fun medium for spiritual growth.
  • I like the community; I’ve made great friends.
  • There are even career benefits! (Whether they are a net gain, I can’t say.)
  • Many great reasons to blog.
  • But the last reason I’ll leave with you . . .