this was posted as a comment on k/o’s recent diary, but as it ended up being a lot longer than i expected, I am posting it again here as a stand alone diary. More meta navel gazing…

I have not been around here so much, and have provided little original material recently (i.e. not crossposted either on dKos or ET), so I don’t know if k/o’s kind word about me in his diary refers to the European whiff from the European Tribune links, or the occasional text, but it is gratefully acknowledged!

I wanted to add a few words about how I see dKos, as both an “insider” (i.e. a regular with lots of visibility) and an outsider (a foreigner, and French to boot):

First,  dKos is really several sites.

  • You have the front page dominated by kos and Armando, and you have to admit that they do write some damn good stuff. That’s what the vast majority of people read.
  • Then you have the diaries, where the regulars spend most, if not all their time. In fact, i’d say a regular is someone who checks the reclist or the most recent diaries or his/her hotlist before the front page. That’s the hard core community, those that spend almost every waking hour there. A few hundred? A couple thousand? Plus the many occasionals? But it’s a lot harder to know how much of an audience these discussions have beyond the regulars.
  • Within the diaries, you have the non-controversial topics, and the more controversial ones. If you write about abortion, or Hillary Clinton, or race, or Lieberman, you have to know that you will generate strong feelings and that the threads can easily degenerate. Some people like being provocative, or tactless, some don’t realise they are, and many of us are susceptible. Thus many misunderstandings… and not everybody has the strength of character of Boo to apologise right away if someone felt insulted by something he wrote. And many of the new members abuse the ratings and just misbehave. And some like Armando and others act very abrasively and even obnoxiously in the diaries. it’s so different from the well reasoned and calm front page pieces that it has to be voluntary. It’s easy to identify, and it’s easy to avoid. Don’t give ratings, don’t comment if you don’t want to get embroiled.
  • But within non controversial diaries, like most of my energy and economics stuff, you can have some great threads, many insightful comments, and really interesting stuff. I don’t think there has ever been a flame war in any of my diaries, simply because the discussion remains thoughtful throughout, and I do believe that the diary writer sets the tone. Here at Booman’s, as has been pointed out, Boo and Susan obviously listen to others and respect them, and that does set the tone.

But dKos now is more than about Kos, it is an aggregator. That’s where you go because that’s where everybody is, and everybody is there because that’s where you go. It’s become a big meeting place. and that’s invaluable if you want to get lots of different opinions, if you want to really test your arguments, or if you are looking for depth of information. the counterpart is that it’s become quite rough, very crowded, and somewhat anonymous. And you diary, even if it goes down the chute after half an hour, will have had more readers than you can dream of anywhere else.

But you cannot get both the audience and the coziness, that’s simply not possible. So Booman’s has a part of its success because it is familiar, but less stressful than dkos. it has managed to build on that initial reservoir to become something different enough, and that must be credited to Susan and Boo. And it gets to be big enough that you get some good feedback, enough information and interaction to keep yourself busy. But like I wrote, Kos is THE meeting place of the left, and it will be impossible to cut the link altogether, and to avoid such meta diaries. We should not let us get annoyed by them. I suspect it’s healthy to discuss these things once in a while, as long as it’s not obsessive.

Don’t get annoyed about the dKos “community”, it’s just too big, it’s a crowd, a loose network of communities, some of which find other places to meet on their own and come once in a while to the big market place to know what the others are doing and reading.

As to dKos being centrist, let me say this: I am a centrist economically speaking, and a lot more liberal on social issues. Kos is probably the other way round. As BT cares a lot about social values and probably a bit less about the economic stuff (at least it does not generate the same passions), it’s kos’s more conservative pov on some social issues that pisses people here off. Within the community, you get every kind of opinion, including those that are offensive to you if you have deeply held views on one or several topics, and one of these will inevitably come up and write something that you cannot tolerate. That’s a fact of life in such a big crowd, and it has little to do with kos beyond the obvious fact that he does not restrain such abrasiveness.

An additional point is that dKos is a fascinating site for me for many reasons:

  • it has become an amazing aggregator of information on a surprisingly wide range of topics (not just US politics) and it is a really invaluable place to get informed;
  • the feedback it provides to each of us (like here on BT, but at lighting speed and from many different angles) can be uncomfortable but if you can take it, it will make you stronger, better informed, and hopefully a better person (it can also hurt you, so you have to be careful)
  • the very specific “winner takes all” logic of the site (the same that makes the top players in some sports earn so much more than their nearest competitors) makes it a harsh environment, and makes it hard to leave it.
  • for me, it’s also particularly titillating as a foreigner to have a voice. I always try to be careful not to insult my hosts, but it is giddying to be able to be heard like this.

And remember, it is dKos that brought us all here and made it possible for us to find like-minded people all in one place. So that’s worth some grudging respect, isn’t it?

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