In my recent long-running diary Pie Fight? Prophecy. Las Vegas? Culmination, among many interesting side trips was one suggested by Gaianne when she used the word “heterarchical” in a comment. I was unfamiliar with the term, and finally found it discussed well and clearly in Wikipedia. (Go there. please, if you are not yourself familiar with the idea and want to be able to understand much of what follows here.)

Among the themes of that thread was one that seemed not to give much love to the Little Orange Place. A few posters went a bit over the edge about it, and BooMan finally responded quite testily that, among other things he was “…getting tired of the constant sniping at anything that even hints of the orange place. “

I invited him down to a comment that I had made expanding upon the idea of heterarchy for further discussion of a more constructive nature than what was happening there at the time, but he didn’t show up. I understand how he might not have the time, being in Las Vegas at the YKOS convention and all, but since this idea woke me out of a sound sleep before dawn today I figured I’d just go ahead on and start the discussion by myself. I originally started it as a comment, and…it grew.

As all things must.

So now it’s a diary.

Feel free to chime in.

More below.

MUCH more.
So, BooMan…I guess I can take it from this answer plus your non-appearance below that you do NOT want to discuss heterarchy.

At this moment, at the very least.


I will try to discuss it here anyway.

Alone, if necessary.


Because as far as I am concerned…now’s the time.

While Daily Kos is celebrating its “success”.

In Celebration Central.

“What happens here, stays here.” goes the Las Vegas hype.


You’d better HOPE not.

Because if the official left of America “stays” in a Las Vegas of the soul…we are doomed.

Bet on it.

Back to the subject at hand.


You write:

“Meta Kos diaries are a lot more interesting, even productive, when they are posted at Daily Kos.”

If dKos were not such a rigidly enforced hierarchy, I…and any number of other well meaning, fairly intelligent and committed people…would be ABLE to discuss these points on the blog to which they are directed.

It is not set up that way. Now you might make a point that this fact is the REASON it has been so “successful”, and in the short term, you would be quite correct. But long term…I think not.

If I wanted to be “successful” in this system as it now stands, I would immediately dumb down my act…a musical act, in my case, but this holds true up and down the system…to appeal to the lowest common denominator. (Or at least a substantially lower common denominator than the one at which I aim now.)

I would use a much less heterarchical approach than the classic jazz/latin-jazz model, one where the boss tells the workers what to produce and how to produce it. And pretty soon, given my knowledge of music and my abilities, I would find a place inside this system where I could make some really good money.

I would be “successful” as success is defined within this increasingly less and less successful system. This is an absolute given. It is relatively easy to do. The mainstream media system is hungry for non-challenging content produced at a very high level of expertise…especially by white guys (Witness the success of jazz lite artists like Kenny G, Michael Boublé, Harry Connick…the best of the bunch…and Chris Botti. Witness the literally thousands and thousands of highly talented and fairly anonymous multi-millionaires in the commercial and movie music industries.), and the real challenge of the jazz tradition lies in its highly heterarchical structure.

The definition of “hetererchy” in Wikipedia contains this lovely phrase:

In a heterarchy…a node can be connected to any of its surrounding nodes without needing to go through or get permission from some other node.

In jazz, the drummer does not NEED to ask the leader if he can change the rhythmic feel in mid-flight once the improvisation begins. The pianist can alter the harmonic content to some degree. The soloist can take it anywhere he damned well pleases. And it WORKS!!! As long as that freedom is understood in a common manner amongst the musicians, the level of musicianship is high, and they are all “in the moment” as the theatrical improvisors like to say.

There are compromises that must be made, and in the highly successful meritocracy model of 100 years of jazz, the leader defines those compromises at the very LEAST by who he or she hires to play the music in the first place. At the HIGHEST level…Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, John Coltrane…said leader gives almost totally free rein to those carefully chosen musicians, and true magic happens. Over decades.

Ideally…and you have done very well in this so far, BooMan…a blog is a similar construct.


But when those rules of conduct become too simplistic…again, just like jazz…the content suffers.


Now…why HAVE powerful content?

In music OR on a blog.


What is the point?

Why do what is not easily popular?

This is a VALID point.

A valid question to which all of us must find their own individual answers.

But for most people who post on this blog…and for most people who STARTED posting on left blogtopia some time after the 2000 electoral disaster that brought us BushCo in the first place, and more of us after the invasion of Iraq…the promise of blogs was that they had a good chance of actually CHANGING THINGS AS THEY STOOD AT THE TIME IN AMERICAN SOCIETY.

A society that was rapidly turning towards a more and more rigid hierarchical model.

The decider decides…the people obey.

Dictatorship, in short.

How did they promise this?

In large part, by offering an alternative model.

A more heterarchical model, a functioning meritocracy where nodes connected independently and may the best set of allied nodes win.

The Pie Wars/July 4th massacre on dKos changed all of that.

Trivialized it beyond belief.

And in that trivialization…in that patriarchal model that produced such deathless phrases from TheLeaderKos as:

I certainly won’t let the sanctimonious women’s studies set play that role on this site. Feel free to be offended. Feel free to claim that I’m somehow abandoning “progressive principles” by running the ad. It’s a free country. Feel free to storm off in a huff. Other deserving bloggers could use the patronage.

the seed was sown that has grown in one short year into The Official Blog of Record.

With a big-time. mainstream convention right there in Republican America’s Convention Central.

Las Vegas.

You say:

I am getting tired of the constant sniping at anything that even hints of the orange  place.

Well, get used to it, ‘bro. If of course you wish to have Bootrib remain in a relatively heterarchical mode. Which I sincerely hope that you do. I and a number of other fairly perceptive people think that Orange’s success bodes ill for America, given its old-line hierarchical structure.

We are talking symbolism here, as much as anything else.

More from that Wikipedia article:

A heterarchical structure processes more information more effectively than hierarchical design. An example of the potential effectiveness of heterarchy would be the rapid growth of the heterarchical Wikipedia project in comparison with the failed growth of the Nupedia project. Heterarchy increasingly trumps hierarchy as complexity and rate of change increase.

Big Media money and attention (synonyms, really) have descended upon Little Orange AS A DIRECT CONSEQUENCE OF ITS MOVES TOWARDS HIERARCHICAL PRINCIPLES.  

As a reward.

The old structure is encouraging the models of the past, even when those models are not so well suited to the rapidly changing conditions of the present. This is of course to be expected. The old ALWAYS encourages its own continuation.

And it always loses.


“Heterarchy increasingly trumps hierarchy as complexity and rate of change increase.”

I believe this to be true.

I sincerely HOPE it is true, because it points towards the eventual success of a new form of democracy.

DIRECT Democracy.

But that success will be delayed by every bit of power that the old models gain and maintain.

The people who run dKos have quite consciously decided to adopt old-model, hierarchical principles in how they run their scene.

And in doing so…they have gone over to the dark side, as far as I am concerned.

The old side.

No matter WHAT “ideas” they support.

No matter what CANDIDATES they support.

Symbolically…they are now just another smoke-filled room.

A virtual version thereof.

Handing down smoke-poisoned missives from above.

One step forward, two steps back.

So it goes.

I resist this.

With everything I have, no matter how small that “everything” may be.

So THAT goes, too.

Just another vector in the vectorstorm of life.

Be well, BooMan.

I sincerely hope that MY small vector in this matter constructively influences your somewhat larger one.

And that we may all eventually take a giant step forward.



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