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Open Thread To Discuss Winds

| 24 Comments
Here's an open thread to discuss ideas for rebooting Winds; my own thoughts had been more forum-esque, but the ideas below are all interesting. I've been horribly remiss in not reaching out harder to Joe K, the owner of our little home, and will work on that after the election. If you live in CD-36, please vote(for Bowen...)!!!

24 Comments

I guess I'll get the discussion started, mainly by importing the two suggestions from the previous thread into this thread:

First, Tim Oren asks how many people would be willing to commit to a post every eight weeks or so.

Second, Mark Buehner suggests a more panel-oriented format, with long term open threads and restricted comments.

My thoughts on those are:

A) Tim, I shouldn't. I really really shouldn't, since I have a ridiculous workload coming at me for the foreseeable future. (Yes, really, I have some multi-year commitments that may drown me.)

But, I will anyway. I've had a few moments over the last six months or so where I've thought, "You know, I should write this up and ask Marc if he's interested in posting it... or maybe I should ask and then write." I ended up doing neither, which I regret.

B) Mark, I like some of that, but not all of it. I like the idea of long-term open threads quite a bit. I'm less enthusiastic about the restricted commenting. I don't think closed communities remain vital for very long.

On the other hand, I have no knowledge of how much moderation effort goes on behind the scenes. And I don't want to see this place become yet another place to drive by and scream at people. And I state categorically that I simply have no time to help out on moderation duties-- I want to, but I can't, and I could only make that promise in bad faith.

So my philosophical position is what it is, but I'm willing to take correction from people who have worked behind the scenes, and willing to let people do what they think needs to be done.

Third, though, here's my suggestion: Why not do both? Is there any reason not to have both written pieces, and open comment threads?

I love it when I forget to close a tag.
Awesome.

I'm a super-lurker, commenting in Winds threads is often just intimidating and I never feel like I have much to add.

Would there be a role for folks who can check Winds daily and help in the anti-spam moderation? Is it possible to meta-moderate and get a weekly aggregate of deleted posts by moderators to make sure powers aren't being abused?

So the patient hasn't flatlined yet. I'm in for six posts a year.

I like the "Area Post" idea mentioned by kparker. A variant would be to have a nice cross=section of expertise represented. I'm less enamored by Mark Buehner's suggestion of restricting. I think AL's observation, some time ago is correct: the tone and substance of comments can effectively be moderated by strong example of posters.

How much discussion/coordination/planning did you have among yourselves back when it was a group blog. It might be useful if the group selected to post would also commit to have periodic (quarterly?) planning discussion to give some loose direction to the editorial content of the thing.

Self-sustaining? I have no idea how much work is involved. How much money does advertising raise? Some small amount judging by Mark's comments. One idea would be to have the site raise eneugh funds (through ads, or donations) to hire someone to handle all the technical site maintenance. How much money would be required to pay someone to do this, how realisic is this?

There was a fair amount of coordination...Jow worked his kiester off.

I like these ideas, and am way supportive. We have a schedule issue though - I'm heading out late next week for several weeks on the road with limited connectivity.

Let me try a long post on the idea Mon or Tues and we'll use my time off to recruit...

Marc

This is the first time I've read Winds in well over a month, basically on a whim. First I'd heard of any of this. Return those calls, Marc...

I greatly appreciate all who have stuck with the site to now, and also want to thank those who have read us over the years, and responded to its principles. It has been a fun ride.

Unfortunately, the odds that I'm going to be able to administer Winds and push it forward are very low.

I've been out-of-country for about 9 months, with zero time to do so. I'm back now, but current circumstances will at best let me fire off the occasional short post. Maybe. And i'm not sure how long that window stays open.

The archives have also been an issue for me. A Wordpress move might be very good, because right now, Winds is cut off from its full topic archives, and those were important to the way I did posts. If nothing else, restoring them is something I would like to do. They represent a lot of work, by many different people.

But underlying it all is the question of "why?" for me. The level of deliberate stupidity in politics quickly reaches levels where arguing about it feels pointless. On both the economic and geopolitical fronts, I still don't see much standing in the way of the oncoming trains. What's the point in trying to convince someone standing on the tracks, given that readers are self-selected from the pool of people who are very interested in this stuff? Wouldn't it be better to just step out and organize in the real world, and take a message to people who don't have their minds made up?

If people are commenting, I wouldn't mind hearing some thoughts on that question. "Why?"

At the same time, Winds is something I put a very great deal of time into, for many years. I handed Marc the keys to the car a while back, to do the best he could with it, when he asked. I did not hand over the ownership papers, however... and it seems I'm going to need to set aside some time and become involved in deciding what comes next.

I think what's happened here and what continues to happen is important in ways that aren't readily visible.

Joe, you're right that the people that attend this blog are self-selected, but that doesn't make them just another wheel in the cog. The people that do pay attention to this stuff in a way enable those that don't. That isn't necessarily negative, it may be a sort of rational ignorance. If there are a subset of citizens equipped and interested in studying and debating these issues and disseminating their resulting opinions to their peer groups, perhaps that just how our species functions (and I suspect it is).

In my experience, most people give a great deal of heed to a small number of people they know and trust. Even if their politics differ, they tend to listen. That may seem a small thing, but considering just about everybody has tuned out the national wonks (i think), personal relationships and social media could well be the real driving forces in opinion making.

Obviously its not a efficient way to muster political movement... but perhaps in the long run thats a good thing. I am pretty sure about one thing- if people like us, the 'information nodes' quit, we leave the field to the political goons at the top that already have things arranged quite to their liking (political party notwithstanding). Its us or nothing, and from what I've come to know about guys like Marc and Joe and all the rest of you (however badly we bicker and slur each other), I don't think there's a lot of quit in this group. If we're going down, I plan on going down loudly shouting 'I told you so'.

Joe,

A warm hello to you. :) I've missed your posts greatly.

I tend to agree that many of the folks here already have solid opinions on most things politics, and many of us are already very informed.

I think the huge benefit to Winds is exposure to reasoned, well informed arguments from across the spectrum. Readers leave more informed, and prepared with more well rounded, sharpened arguments.

And more often than you might think, I'd wager a Winds discussion has changed a mind or two.

Words save blood, we used to say.

Joe,

Let me echo the "nice to hear from you" and "miss your posts"!

Of more substance: yes, the folks here are somewhat self-selected. However, that's not as big an issue as you might think, because the discussion between these self-selected few is still happening in public, and we can point other people to that discussion. I have done so often in the past, and find the archives here to be a very valuable resource upon occasion. If I can be excused a bit of grandiosity, think of it as an open source/non-expert* version of Foreign Policy or some other such journal, where the influence can extend far beyond the small number of actual subscribers.

-----------------------
*Do I need to add that the experts have been proven spectacularly wrong at times (hello, nuclear India! Hello, missing Iron Curtain!) And just to put my reputational "money" where my mouth is, I still consider that non-experts Richard Fernandez and Steven den Beste had better pictures of the WoT and its implications than most of the big names, and the fact that things in Iraq took some difficult turns is no discredit to their analysis ex ante.

Points well made, and well taken. Thanks for makiing them.

Joe,

Articles show up in my RSS feed, but comments don't, so I didn't see this until today. I'll try to answer your question in a few different ways, all of which I think are true.

First, what I get out of this place is good discussion with smart people and differing opinions. I enjoy that, so part of my answer is the argument from intellectual hedonism: I don't post here because I think I have a duty to do so, but because I enjoy the discussions.

But second, beyond that, I think this place and places like it are important even if they are not in themselves world-changing forums. I believe passionately that new knowledge is found in the unfamiliar. We gain no new physics endlessly repeating Galileo's inclined plane experiments; we do not find our car keys by searching under the lamppost; we gain no new perspective or empathy by speaking only to those with whom we agree. It doesn't work that way.

But Brandeis was right, too-- the remedy to bad speech is more (good) speech. Much of the problem that I see is that so many people gorge themselves on agreeable opinions, then charge into vomitous combat with their opposite numbers. What could the remedy to that be, if not the good speech of respectful engagement with different opinions?

I think we have that here. I think it's worth preserving.

Are Obama, or Paul, or Pelosi, or Christie going to post here looking for our opinion? Kinda unlikely. But on the other hand, this place has changed how I engage in political discussion with my friends and acquaintances in person-- for the better, I think. And I think that's worth preserving.

The questions are:

Is that enough to make it worth your time, and what can we do to make it easier.

Thinking about this. The panel format might be a good option to use regularly. Throw a topic out one day, and a couple days later it comes back as a set of posts from different people, collected in one post, and then the discussion starts.

Mark, is that what you envisioned?

I might add an idea for the Twitter age - Link Roundup posts. Think of RealClear Money/ Politics/ Sports, just hyperlinked title and the publication/ site. Anyone with posting access can add to it, and of course anyone can throw similar stuff up in the comments, or talk about a link. Time commitment to add a link is under 2 minutes.

As for restricted comments, we could remove that throttle, but it means that post owners are cleaning up their stuff. And that we have a spam killer or 2 on site. Wordpress offers more mature options for spam filtering, which will help, but it also needs a human or 2. So Chris M, your idea is actually vital.

That's probably the biggest "make it easier" item on a day to day basis: moderation and spam-killing.

"Is that enough to make it worth your time, and what can we do to make it easier."

It's enough to make it worth some commitment, yes. The other "make it easier" point relates to the ongoing vitality of the site. Adding good people, trying new ideas, etc. And, finding ways to give the people moving Winds forward more of a say in it. Or has the informal way we've always done it, and listened, acted on it, been fine with everyone?

Two things killed this site:

A truly awful transition to a sign-in system.

A sanctimonious rejection of views more than one standard deviation from the "moderate" tone advocated here.

You are all smart guys. Smart guys who rule will be the death of us all.

Fair enough, Mark. I would have placed my shrinking time to keep replenishing and organizing posters and content (vid our regional/topic link roundups) ahead of those reasons, because I saw the traffic trends once I stopped. But it was 20-30 hours per week to do it, and I couldn't continue.

Would be interested to hear more about this statement, though:

"A sanctimonious rejection of views more than one standard deviation from the "moderate" tone advocated here."

What behaviours, exactly, are you referring to with that one? That isn't a challenge, I'm just trying to fully understand your point as you intend it.

"The panel format might be a good option to use regularly. Throw a topic out one day, and a couple days later it comes back as a set of posts from different people, collected in one post, and then the discussion starts."

Yeah, this is kinda what I was thinking, and hopefully you keep lively comment threads going that can point back and forth and all around.

There's bound to be tension between the anemia of a closed community and the sense of community it is supposed to nurture. I think walking that line will if nothing else demonstrate pretty quickly and unequivocally whether the community is going to flourish or wilt- and if that's the ultimate question here we might as well find out sooner rather than later.

I think there is an opportunity for something fairly novel here that can meet Joe and Marc's parameters. One of the most important concepts of Winds I've always appreciated is the long term view towards subjects- i think there is great value in a debate that doesn't just last a day or a week, but that it archived over months and years as facts weigh in and opinions drift.

We're in such a culture of short attention spans and living in the echo chambers, I think that long term debates by passionate people on different sides is both refreshing and necessary.

Hmm, I had missed the long term angle, but it's a really good one.

Mark B at 16:

I think the panel idea is worth trying, but I hope it won't be the only way things function. My schedule is a little too chaotic to be able to predict when I'll have the chance to respond and when not.

Mark at 14:

I also have no idea what you're talking about. I think the basic cause of the decline of the forum is the lack of time and interest on the part of the core posters, but not because of any lack of diversity of opinions, much less forced moderateness.

Civility and at least surface respect-- which is to say, moderation of expression-- shouldn't be confused with moderateness on political spectra.

Anyone who's read my commentary about gay rights (and gay marriage, especially) should know I'm not exactly moderate in my support. I've thrown more sharp elbows over that (in this forum) than anything else. And when pressed, I'll still support US action in Iraq. Neither of those are exactly moderate positions.

I've not been a regular here for some while; I'll interject a few comments to the project with all due humility:

1. I would be concerned that a blog taken over by the commenariot might quickly morph into an echo chamber with high barriers of entry. I have a lot of respect for the long-term (past and present) commentors here, but I think some of your views are predictable and sometimes you all sound like old married couples, referencing past discussions most had forgotten.

2. Foreign policy blogging is hard. It was easier to maintain a pace when new directions were being explored or pursued. I am an interested consumer; I don't think I have anything to add.

3. To attempt an answer to Marc's question from a previous thread, I think he set a high standard for his posts, requiring more effort, and ultimately fewer posts. I have to respect that, but perhaps he should have taken more opportunities to toss off a quick comment or question that he knew would set the commentariot off.

A year ago, I would have loved to contribute to WOC. At this point, with a 6month-old daughter, I sometimes feel lucky if I get 20minutes to myself at the end of the day. I hope something comes out of this, but at this point I'm more likely to observe than to post.

I would say give it up, you've been proven wrong by events and have nothing left to say.

Apocalyptic warmongering is no longer in vogue, and as of today, Juan Cole's a victim and a hero in a campaign of vilification which you participated in.

The only reason to keep going is to give Roy Edroso material for his column and blog.

Wow, a blast from the past. Juan Cole. Really.

In regards to WoC, if it's any indication... I still check it every day. I always have. It's on a list of four blogs I bother to read daily any more. Several have come and gone over the years, and come to think of it, WoC is the longest running on that list.

I like several of the options. Moderation has come up as a possible need to take load off of WoC authors, and I'd be happy to pitch in a few minutes daily, if that works out in whatever setup emerges.

Ultimately, as a consumer (I don't feel comfortable contributing in the way of commentary), what I'm looking for is primarily in the comment threads. As much as I value the posts from Marc and Joe and all the others who have graced WoC's front page, often I read through the initial post quickly to get to the commentary.

That's not because the initial posts aren't thoughtful or well presented, quite the opposite! (Personally, I'm partial to Joe's posts and often take time to relish their insight/presentation.) It's just that the aggregate quality of the comments outshines the single post at the top.

What I'd like to see -- personally, and greedily -- is regular posts (1-3 per week) which do what the typical post on WoC has done: stir the pot. It's important that it not rely on questions like "Sooo... Libya. What's everyone think?" A high profile post with observations and opinions that serve as an anchor point to spark the debate is necessary, I think.

But a trade-off of smaller posts with not as much polish or insight would be worth weekly discussions. I still greatly appreciate the long essay format, some of the best blog posts I've read have been here. But going forward, making those the exception and not the rule might make this endeavor more feasible.

Cheers,
Chris M

The only reason to keep going is to give Roy Edroso material for his column and blog.

He's out of material? Did they cancel "Glee"?

OK... Here's the problem. Perceived relevance. When it was 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' in the hands of those with 'ties to Al Qaeda' time, the fear level was up (the threat meter was stuck on orange, or was it red), and the populace was motivated to act, or at least read and speak at length on matters of such gravity. The focus on external threats to democracy is valid, it is sexy with guns and other war toys, but it waxes and wanes with the rise and fall foreign megalomaniacs - we just seem to be in a dry period right now. The real threats to democracy are more likely reflected in the comment ("The level of deliberate stupidity in politics quickly reaches levels where arguing about it feels pointless"). But this kind of threat is apparently too subtle for too many. There is no hypersonic ‘silver bullet' to solve this kind of problem; like all systemic problems, it will likely take equally systemic (read boring) solutions. The operation of a site like this is likely a metaphor for the 'hard thankless work' required to establish and preserve a democratic system of governance. We all appreciate the benefits, we just want someone else to actually do the work (and pay the taxes). Ironically, it is when the level of civic apathy is approaching such critical levels, that the alarm bells should be ringing the loudest. Paul Revere where are you when we need you?

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