The Fractures and Factions of Mormon Blogging, Part II

by: Andrew S

September 22, 2011

This is the 2nd part of a multi-part series on the factions and fractures of Mormon Blogging. Please read Part 1 first here.

Good Guys and Bad Guys?

Up to this point, I’ve mostly focused on the Bloggernacle (particularly with respect to major personalities and metonyms like By Common Consent and Steve Evans) and its eternal opposition to the Disaffected Mormon Underground. And shouldn’t this opposition make sense? The two groups have fundamentally different perspectives on the inspiration of various aspects of the church.

Indeed, in “modern” discussions (that is, discussions in 2011 and 2010, rather than 2004 and 2005,) many Bloggernacle representatives would still assert that for the most part, the major boundary that exists is between believer and nonbeliever. In a discussion on Millennial Star that inspired me to write this series in the first place, Scott B and John C argue dually that 1) there should to be a division between believing and non-believing blogs and 2) there shouldn’t be divisions between believing blogs. A selection of quotations (emphasis all added):

I guess the thing that bothers me is that the OP seems to be prescribing distantly separated tables for people who really ought to be dining together. I’ve always felt myself to be kind of an outsider in Mormon blogging circles, because I wasn’t around in the early days and really only know a few people. Nevertheless, one of my most frustrating observations is the degree of us vs. them mentalities that exist on the group blogs. I see it at BCC [ed. note: By Common Consent], I see it here at M* [ed. note: Millennial Star], and I’ve seen it virtually everywhere else. If you look back at posts from 2004-2007, you could see a lot of mixing. T&S [ed. note: Times & Seasons] authors commented at BCC, BCC authors commented at M*, and every other combination existed also. Now, there are only a couple of people from each of these blogs who venture out of the safe havens of their own blogs. I’m one of those people–on this post alone, I’m probably tripling the number of comments I’ve made at M* this year.

I think (correct me if I’m wrong) that Bruce Nielsen has argued in several places–based on his experience at MormonMatters–that some kind of faithful/critical demarcation is necessary and unavoidable. I agree, but I firmly believe that, in trying to create a safe place to discuss our faith in Christ, in the Restoration, and everything else that crosses our paths in the kingdom, we’ve all collectively drawn some unfortunate and unnecessary lines in the sand using personal insult and resentment as our swords, instead of actual security and belief. ~Scott B.

I certainly recognize that the MSP [ed. note: Main Street Plaza] crowd and…well…everyone else have issues in getting along. When the categories are “believers” and “not believers” there is a dynamic that I don’t have a solution for, and to be honest, while I’m addressing you in these comments, I’m not really talking about that divide. It’s a different beast altogether, because we’re no longer talking about interpretations and applications of inspired doctrines, policies, and teachings–we’re talking about the existence of the “inspired” element, and that is a discussion many Mormons aren’t interested in arguing about. So help me, I’m one of those who has zero interest in it…. ~Scott B

MSP actually has its own awards because of this problem. We don’t consider ourselves to be fellow travelers with you religiously, because we occupy different religious realities. That isn’t to say that I think you or the MSP crowd are inherently bad, but you are very, very different (even if J. Max doesn’t think the difference is that great). So I wouldn’t generally consider MSP a part of the bloggernacle. We can still talk, of course, but I don’t feel compelled to host the sort of conversations that take place at MSP.

…I imagine the bloggernacle to be a place where all participants are generally sympathetic to the church (or, failing that, pretend to be (or, failing that, are not jerks, usually)). Beyond that, I may or may not like your approach but I won’t normally argue for your exclusion.

if someone nominated MSP for a best blog niblet, I’d argue against it. But there are plenty of times where the distinctions being made are unhelpful. J. Max knows that I’ve long thought that Nothing Wavering is a bad idea and that the distinction he is trying to make is a false and ugly one. If the M* awards are the Nothing Wavering awards, that’s your right, but they’ll be just as false and ugly. Not that you want or need my approval, of course. ~John C.

I think that the distinction being made between Nothing Wavering and the Mormon Archipelago is trivial and unnecessarily divisive. I think that an award that caters exclusively to one or the other is blind and self-deluding. I don’t think this is the case with an exclusion of MSP, because I think the believer/non-believer distinction is significant. That the Niblets thusfar have only recognized Mormon Archipelago blogs (which isn’t even factually correct) is more a problem of scope than exclusion. That said, the Mormon Archipelago does attempt to be exclusive. They try not to let DAMU blogs in, blogs that are of poor quality, blogs that are obnoxious, or blogs that encourage people to question their testimony. I can think of a couple exceptions, but we try to keep it to a minimum. Also, we excluded Jettboy. I’ve no idea why and I will happily look into it if he would like me to. ~John C.

Do these alliances play out?

Please note, from the above snippets, that John C. is the same as the founding member “J. Daniel Crawford” of the Mormon Archipelago. And while Scott isn’t a founder in any sense (as he himself writes, he has come onto the scene very “late”), he has become a bit of the Bloggernacle Historian,  with coverage, among other things, of the Banner of Heaven fake blog. These two individuals, then, represent the old and the new of the Bloggernacle philosophy and discourse, and to some extent, they are calling for the same thing…a united bloggernacle…but clear boundaries fortified against the disaffected.

But within these comments is evidence of the deeper fracture. Notice that John C and Scott are having to argue that various participants should move toward a united Mormon faithful blogging community. It doesn’t already exist. Scott laments that it may once have, but now it doesn’t anymore.

Disputed Territory BordersAnd so, how can we make sense of these extra fractures? In a way, it’s a case of disputed territory borders. It’s in some of the names mentioned in their quotations: we have to look at Millennial Star, Nothing Wavering, and J. Max Wilson. And that will be the subject of part 3.

But for now…

Questions for Part II and the future…

  1. Did you guys read my post on strange bedfellows for progressive Mormons? Therein, I jumped the gun on the discussion I was going to develop here. Namely, does it make sense to organize online community boundaries based on shared beliefs regarding what the church claims to be, rather than (for example) shared beliefs regarding what the church should do?
  2. If one views the fundamental distinction as belief/nonbelief, then is there room for further distinctions along these same lines that can be exclusionary? (See MoHoHawaii’s comment here or the first part of hawkgrrrl’s comment here). If we’re already basing things based on belief, couldn’t we say that those who do not believe x, but who do believe a lot of other things are also operating from too different of vantage points?
  3. Did you see FireTag’s post on expanding the church as opposed to just moving it? When analogized to blog communities, are we all just too different to all be under the same discussing-Mormon-issues-one-way-or-another tent?
  4. What are you looking for when you read blogs about Mormonism? Are these the same things or different things that you would get from church on Sundays? Are the two compatible (or, put otherwise: would a Sunday meeting filled with the things you are seeking from your blog participation make sense? Or would blogs being more like Sunday meetings still satisfy?)
  5. I’ve actually asked this question before (in a checking your pulse post), but I’ll ask again: do you comment at other Mormon-topic blogs? (Are you part of the “problem” or “solution”?)

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41 Responses to The Fractures and Factions of Mormon Blogging, Part II

  1. Stephen Marsh on September 22, 2011 at 7:19 AM

    there are only a couple of people from each of these blogs who venture out of the safe havens of their own blogs. though I think the real issue is time.

    As blogging gets older, people become less entrapped in it, and the time pressure results in fewer blogs read or commented at.

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  2. Rameumptom on September 22, 2011 at 7:59 AM

    As the initiator of the M* post that began the discussion, let me say that I agree with Scott B that we need to move towards one another.

    This does not mean we won’t have areas of disagreement. It means we focus more on the areas of agreement between the blogs.

    M* tends to be a conservative/libertarian blog that tends towards lots of politics. Not everyone will agree with the concepts. But that is not the point of blogs. If everyone agreed upon everything, then there would be no reason for more than one blog, where everyone could just agree.

    Blogs should be a place where we can all share our thoughts and ideas, in order to expand one another’s reality. Joining the Church in 1975, I learned that all Native Americans were direct descendants of Lehi, blacks were cursed of God, and that the prophets were infallible. 36 years later, I no longer believe those things.

    I hope that LDS bloggers can grow closer together, even while being distinct. We first need to learn to be Christians first, and Mormon bloggers second. Not always an easy thing to do.

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  3. Andrew S on September 22, 2011 at 8:34 AM

    re 1,

    Stephen,

    I think that’s a pretty good point. If only there were ways to be able to keep track of more blogs without having to invest as much time.

    re 2

    Rameumptom,

    I find it interesting that you say both:

    This does not mean we won’t have areas of disagreement. It means we focus more on the areas of agreement between the blogs.

    and

    Not everyone will agree with the concepts. But that is not the point of blogs. If everyone agreed upon everything, then there would be no reason for more than one blog, where everyone could just agree.

    Blogs should be a place where we can all share our thoughts and ideas, in order to expand one another’s reality.

    So, is the goal to kinda agree more, just to get to a point where you can expose others to ideas that will expand their reality?

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  4. jmb275 on September 22, 2011 at 8:37 AM

    Some thoughts:
    As we started talking about on my post, I have always viewed the Bloggernacle as the collection of all blogs related to Mormonism – DAMU, NOM, included. Since you’ve started this discussion I’ve been thinking of why I have that view, and why I generally have no idea what happens in the ‘nacle, and generally am “out of the loop.” 3 reasons come to mind:
    1. I’m just too individualistic. I’ve never blogged for self-promotion. I have my career for that. I’ve never felt the need to tie myself to anyone in the b’nacle. I don’t really know Scott B. from John C. from Steve E. This is a pattern I’ve always had in my life. I was that kid in High School who was perpetually out of touch with gossip, who was dating who, etc. I was either too self-involved or just didn’t notice.

    2. I have NEVER used MA, MormonBlogs, or any other aggregator. I read BCC from time to time, and I try to get involved in their discussions (which almost universally fails). I read FMH, and FPR, and M* also from time to time. But usually when I’m directed to an article. The entire concept of a “gateway” to the b’nacle just feels alien to me. It’s like the internet equivalent of an LLC. But everything in the internet resists stagnation, and conglomeration. By it’s very nature it’s fluid and dynamic. At it’s core it’s the quintessential experiment in total individualization and freedom. Even a united B’nacle has little real power given the unlimited reach of the internet. It can exclude but who gives a damn!

    3. Blogging, colloquially defined, is a bunch of people with nothing better to do than opine or make observations about the life they’d like to live. Either that or it is as Baz Luhrman describes “a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.” And of course I count my own blogging completely subject to that same criticism. Why do we need the boundaries at all? I suppose all this boils down to the fact that I don’t take my blogging, or anyone else’s too seriously.

    In retrospect I guess that’s more like 10 or 12 reasons, not 3. I suppose I find the entire situation a bit comical, though I am thoroughly enjoying the show!

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  5. SilverRain on September 22, 2011 at 8:49 AM

    I think I’m like Switzerland. Not worth anyone’s time to squabble over, and I make really great food.

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  6. Rameumptom on September 22, 2011 at 9:12 AM

    My concept is that we must realize there will be as many opinions as there are bloggers or commenters. That said, we can delineate the differences without being nasty about it. This can occur if our main focus when commenting or blogging is to remember that we are all together in the same boat, even if we have different perspectives on issues due to being on the stern, aft, crow’s nest, etc.

    For example, I am a pragmatic libertarian or Jeffersonian Republican. I disagree with many concepts of both conservatives and liberals. I will voice my disagreements and reasons why. However, I would never question another member’s worthiness due to their political beliefs or connections. I do not attack LDS because they worship at the altar of President Obama or GWBush, etc. I believe a member can be a Democrat/Republican/Libertarian/etc and still be a worthy LDS.

    And it is that form of discourse that lifts all within the boat.

    BTW, I read and comment on a variety of blogs. I do not agree with everything on the blogs. Heck, I don’t agree with everything I believed just 5 years ago!

    That Scott B and Geoff B both agreed to cross post on the blogs is, I feel, a very good step in showing a respect for one another, even if we may not always agree. That Geoff posted an article that many liberals would agree with regarding war, he sought to find a commonality to unite, rather than to divide. That’s something we can all aspire to.

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  7. Jettboy on September 22, 2011 at 9:32 AM

    I have said what I wanted to in the last post, but I wanted to say something in answer to this one. I believe that the reason for the increase in boundaries between “believers” themselves is a war that has been going on for more than 40 years over the soul of Mormonism. In other religions its not hard to go over to a more liberal or conservative (in both the political or the theological sense, although they seem to be related) congregation if you didn’t like the one you were in. In fact, you could start your own congregation if you found a pastor willing to make the effort. Doing that wouldn’t even be considered a schism, but simply a mission founding of the same religion.

    Mormonism doesn’t allow for such selectivity. There is the choice of going to church or not going, or leaving altogether. There is a very theological good reason for this and that is the belief in the Priesthood as a divine appointment with strict lines of authority. It is such a strong part of the religion that I think even feminists and liberals know this enough not to outright join The Community of Christ that is far more open to their views. The Catholic Church from what I know has similar problems, but they are much bigger and have a different structure so its manifest differently.

    The bloggernacle (however you define it) is just a textual version of wish fulfillment with some carry over to the real world. My relationship with John C. and the BCC proves to me that the idea “Nothing Wavering and the Mormon Archipelago is trivial and unnecessarily divisive” is bull. What people like him really mean is those who think like him are the superior thinkers and penultimate examples of what the LDS Church should be. Anyone who thinks differently are divisive, uneducated idiots who should keep their mouths shut. There are those like myself and J. Max who think the opposite; they are the ones in the wrong. Its just that people like John C. don’t want competition because it will show there really is divisions. I applaud John C. and Scott B. for their wanting to come together, but I think its been proven time and again there are differences that are just as wide as believers and non-believers. That is why the bloggernacle kicked off J. Max’s and my blog from the “reservation” of the Mormon Archipelago; there are real and serious divisions on what the Church is or should be even among “believing” Mormons.

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  8. Daniel on September 22, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    JMB:

    I’m just too individualistic. I’ve never blogged for self-promotion. I have my career for that. I’ve never felt the need to tie myself to anyone in the b’nacle. I don’t really know Scott B. from John C. from Steve E.

    Totally agree. I’ve found that blogging (and b’nacle bloggers) seem to stick around a lot longer than they should. I mean, really, if you were here blogging in 2004 then what the h3ll are you still doing here in 2011? Isn’t it time to move on, somewhere else? Especially if the reason you’re still here is the notoriety that comes with being one of the “founders” or simply because you like having a place where (a) everyone knows your name or (b) everyone tells you what a great post that was on some inane topic.

    I have NEVER used MA, MormonBlogs, or any other aggregator. I read BCC from time to time, and I try to get involved in their discussions (which almost universally fails). I read FMH, and FPR, and M* also from time to time. But usually when I’m directed to an article. The entire concept of a “gateway” to the b’nacle just feels alien to me.

    Same here and if what I read was correct about MA blacklisting someone because they didn’t put that stupid MA logo up, then I’m dumbfounded. It’s like High School all over again, debating who you could be friends with and whether they were cool/smart/hip/athletic enough to join your group.

    The whole discussion between believing/unbelieving or believing/believing is lost on me. Some claim it’s inevitable, some claim it’s fate… whatever the reason, the whole false duality of “us vs. them” and “us vs. less-faithful us” or “us vs. the DAMNYOUs” whatever it is, is dumb.

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  9. Jeff Spector on September 22, 2011 at 10:39 AM

    It’s kind of like the Yankees and the Red Sox baseball fans. They both love baseball, but have nothing in common but a dislike of the other.

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  10. Andrew S on September 22, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    re 4,

    jmb,

    As I mentioned, I originally viewed the Bloggernacle as the wide collection of all blogs about Mormonism, but over time, I realized that it probably is closer to an “LLC on the internet.” The change in viewpoints made people and personalities become far more important to me…because when the Bloggernacle is less of an idea or a concept and more of a trademarked property, then the managers and owners of that property matter more as well.

    I generally consider myself on the individualistic part of the social spectrum as well, but over time, that has changed somewhat. I guess I’m interested in studying social systems, so my interest in community dynamics is more of a matter of trying to figure out the mechanics rather than trying to become “king of the hill.”

    Regarding your second point, I think aggregators (and RSS feeds definitely) are useful as productivity tools. (So, as an aside, and not particularly directed at you, I find it funny when people say they have no time to visit multiple blogs…but they also don’t take advantage of RSS subscriptions/aggregators that will put the content all in one place.) I think it’s just icing on the cake for me that the way blogs are included/excluded from particular aggregators says a lot about the underlying social systems.

    What I’ll say about the “power” of exclusion is this: blog communities and traffic are a good. If you want that good (a particular amount of traffic that wants to discuss particular topics), then exclusion limits or deprives you of that good. And sure, the internet is expansive, but people and communities are NOT cleanly substitutable.

    As for your third point, I dispute your colloquial definition of blogging. I have *plenty* of better things to do…I just don’t do them. ;)

    re 5,

    SilverRain

    Amen for making really good food. I think really good food is the secret to defusing squabbles, so there should be more of it.

    re 6:

    Rameumptom

    While I think it goes without saying that everyone has a different opinion (if only slightly) from another, that doesn’t mean that all opinions are equally different from another. So, some people can have more commonalities, and others less.

    That being said, I like what you have to say. My only question is: why limit the scope of what you have to say? “We’re all in the same boat”…but apparently, that only applies to LDS (e.g., “I don’t attack LDS because they worship at the altar of Obama or GWBush.”)

    Why can’t the boat be, say, “humanity”?

    re 7,

    Jettboy,

    Thanks for commenting. I think that there’s definitely something to what you’re saying (which is why FireTag’s previous post about expanding the church vs. just “moving” it is right on: the idea of “expanding the church” actually entails a conflict over what the church should do that has “losers” and “winners.”)

    I also agree that the nature of Mormonism (if you want Mormonism, but you disagree with certain things…you don’t have that many options, unlike in Protestantism.)

    And I liked your ending:

    I applaud John C. and Scott B. for their wanting to come together, but I think its been proven time and again there are differences that are just as wide as believers and non-believers. That is why the bloggernacle kicked off J. Max’s and my blog from the “reservation” of the Mormon Archipelago; there are real and serious divisions on what the Church is or should be even among “believing” Mormons.

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  11. Andrew S on September 22, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    re 8,

    Daniel,

    Do bloggers have shelf lives? Do they expire or go rancid? I don’t see why anyone would look at a blogger and say, “You’ve been here for x years? What the hell are you still doing here?”

    Would we look to a long-standing news reporter and ask them the same thing? Would we look at someone who’s been doing a particular hobby for the years and ask them the same thing?

    It seems to me that in either case, we wouldn’t. So I don’t even know why you ask that of bloggers? What do you think the goal of blogging (or even of Mormon blogging) is? Is it just to be notorious/attaboy’d?

    The whole discussion between believing/unbelieving or believing/believing is lost on me. Some claim it’s inevitable, some claim it’s fate… whatever the reason, the whole false duality of “us vs. them” and “us vs. less-faithful us” or “us vs. the DAMNYOUs” whatever it is, is dumb.

    Can you explain further on this? Should everyone be holding hands (so to speak)? Are you suggesting that the disagreements don’t matter, or that they don’t really exist?

    re 9:

    Jeff,

    well, that kinda…sums up everything. There’s nothing more that can be said, huh? (What a comprehensive, yet succinct analogy…)

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  12. Morgan D on September 22, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    The process of self division is kind of interesting. For me it seemed it was based on who I knew and personality driven. My blog has as much academic substance as places like FPR (although my style is far less formal). And I posted just as often as many others. My topic was as broad or narrow as places like “No Death Before the Fall”. And I’ve guest posted at several places that are included such as M*, Mormon Heretic, and here. So I really think it was just my being “new” and not being a member of some of the elite clubs. I don’t know how this affects your theory of blog division (although I do have different politics than more liberal places like BCC and more libertarian places like M*) but I’m running out the door so that will have to be it.

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  13. Andrew S on September 22, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    re 12,

    Morgan,

    I actually think that a lot of this ends up being based on who knows whom, and then, after that, based around personality types. But I know a lot of people who start at certain blogs, and then sometimes “migrate” to others, and I think it’s because as they get more “experience” (haha, “experience” in blogging?), they can see for themselves whether they like the particular atmospheres of various blogs.

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  14. Jeff Spector on September 22, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    “There’s nothing more that can be said, huh?’

    sorry, a quick short pass off the top of my head. I’ll think up more incredible witty comebacks later… :)

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  15. Andrew S on September 22, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    re 14,

    Jeff,

    “off the top of your head,” eh?

    I’m spending a multi-part series trying to write what could best be summarized in a “quick short pass of the top of your head.”

    Truly, I should follow de Saint-Exupery more closely.

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  16. jmb275 on September 22, 2011 at 1:09 PM

    Re Andrew S #10
    Yeah, I do see that the traffic is a good. I also love your study of the social system that is the b’nacle. I really do find it interesting, but in a sort of relativistic non-inertial frame sort of way (sorry just got out of my dynamics class). I look forward to more, even if I consider myself an onlooker.

    About the RSS feeds (even though it wasn’t directed at me specifically, I think it hints to a prior private email conversation we had), I heavily use RSS feeds and have for a long time, but I use them primarily as a source of news, to get headlines. It never occurred to me to use an RSS feed to get “news” for the b’nacle. I think because I always viewed my activity on the b’nacle as reading -> commenting or perhaps engagement rather than merely informational.

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  17. Dave on September 22, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    I think people are making too big a deal out of decisions about what blogs are listed on MA or not listed. MA (or any other aggregator, including the blog lists people put on their sidebars) can list or not list anyone they want — who cares? Blogs in general and any loosely associated groups of blogs are entirely autonomous. There is no general or president issuing binding orders on how *anything* is done online.

    People seem to have self-sorted into DAMU and Bloggernacle groups. Key term: self-sorted. Anyone can visit any blog and make comments (apart from those few who are so obnoxious in their comments that they get themselves banned).

    The whole premiss that there is someone or something enforcing a separation of online communities is misguided. Talking like this is the case just confuses the facts.

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  18. FireTag on September 22, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    Jettboy:

    “It is such a strong part of the religion that I think even feminists and liberals know this enough not to outright join The Community of Christ that is far more open to their views.”

    Probably an astute observation that you can’t easily get from “one and only true church” to “a true church” without going through the RLDS there-is-a-one-and-only-true-church-but-Utah-isn’t-it stage first.

    But, Roger Launius, a CofChrist historian, noted in an article some years ago (for one of the John Whitmer Historical Association publications, I believe) that the RLDS has always been a place for those BETWEEN Mormonism as expressed in the LDS belief system and more conventional Protestantism. That’s always been its niche population.

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  19. SteveS on September 22, 2011 at 3:43 PM

    1. I did not see the other post. I think the online community is going to organize itself organically, and not based on any consideration about how bloggers or readers feel Mormon blogs should be organized. I tried using some of those aggregator sites in the past, but was frustrated by their seemingly haphazard organization.

    2. I don’t see the geography of mormon blogs as separated between belief/unbelief as much as in attitudes toward belief. Some define the term “belief” narrowly, wherein belief is in and about certain principles that must be accepted to fit with a particular group. Others regard belief as a function of love and devotion toward a concept or Deity, and less about specific theological or practical propositions. As one who fits in the latter category, I feel less welcome in blog spaces where I get the sense that there are implicit or explicit benchmarks or standards necessary for inclusion. I self de-select from those blogs, and leave the conversation because I’m largely ignored, or worse, am derided and labeled. At other blogs (W&T included), diversity of belief in principles as well as disbelief in others is accepted and appreciated (for the most part), because those communities recognize that everyone is there because they have some measure of devotion or fealty toward God or some other moral or ethical ideal. That common experience of shared devotion (not always toward the same object) is perhaps the lifeblood of the online communities that I find most valuable.

    3. I did see FireTag’s post, and appreciate his viewpoints. I don’t know that what he’s talking about totally correlates to the world of mormon blogs. There is a common theme (Mormonism), but no common shared sense of purpose and identity to bind all the mormon blogs together. Some blogs expand the tent to be inclusive of a variety of viewpoints, but it’s pretty clear that there are plenty of mormon blogs that seek only their own kind, and seek only to explore and confirm previously held assumptions. There’s no motivation strong to bind these blogs together, either.

    4. Admittedly, I find myself seeking out like-minded individuals and their insights into their experiences with mormon theology and practice. Specifically, there are a handful of hot-button issues about which I feel strongly that I gravitate toward, which pulls me from being a mere lurker to entering a conversation. I feel like these issues are complex, rapidly evolving, and unsettled in the doctrines and cultures of the Mormon community, and are therefore of source of interest. I also come to mormon blogs seeking to learn historical and theological information that I didn’t know before. I take the opportunity to comment on mormon blogs as an exercise in crystallizing my own ideas and opinions about certain topics, and engaging with other curious and (mostly) open-minded individuals. The shared interests and willingness to engage with difficult issues are what draws me to these online communities, an experience I rarely get with people in my home ward. That being said, church services serve a different purpose for me than does the blog world, and whereas I would love to engage in more lively discussion and debate over things that actually matter at church on Sunday, I see my attendance there as sacramental time more than learning time.

    5. I comment irregularly here at W&T, but I read most posts and sometimes read through the comments. I generally do not comment unless it’s something I care about. I also read FMH, Doves and Serpents, Mormon Matters, Mormon Stores, StayLDS forum, and Pure Mormonism. I used to read M* and BCC and a few others, but I felt increasingly ignored or unwelcome in those spaces, and increasingly at odd with the prevailing sentiment of the permas at some of these sites towards people with differing perspectives. I honestly don’t care enough, and don’t have enough time to read too far into other blogs, so I choose to spend my time where I derive the greatest satisfaction. W&T (and MM) are my favorites by far.

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  20. Andrew S on September 22, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    re 17

    Dave,

    I think people are making too big a deal out of decisions about what blogs are listed on MA or not listed. MA (or any other aggregator, including the blog lists people put on their sidebars) can list or not list anyone they want — who cares?

    As I mentioned to jmb, one reason that *many* people care is that blog communities create a good through linking/listing. Since we don’t have private blogs that are invite only, the idea is we want traffic. And more importantly, we’d like a particular kind of traffic. Aggregators become focal points of traffic.

    Blogs in general and any loosely associated groups of blogs are entirely autonomous. There is no general or president issuing binding orders on how *anything* is done online.

    This is true of “blogs in general” and “any loosely associated group of blogs.” But it’s less true of a specific and proprietary blog community. So, you can do what you want online, but then you can also find yourself excluded from the specific blog community you thought you were a part of.

    People seem to have self-sorted into DAMU and Bloggernacle groups. Key term: self-sorted. Anyone can visit any blog and make comments (apart from those few who are so obnoxious in their comments that they get themselves banned).

    I’d like to point out that obnoxiousness is really in the eye of the beholder. But notwithstanding this, I think that saying people self-sort misses some things. Self-sorting can happen because of a lot of reasons that shouldn’t be promoted — e.g., someone feels discouraged or shunned, and so they leave. That’s not the same kind of self-sorting as the more innocuous, “I just would rather be here instead of there.”

    Additionally, one issue is that people are already disagreeing with one level of self-sorting (e.g., that of Bloggernacle vs. Nothing Wavering.) If you’re going to say that people self-sort and that’s fine, then let’s be consistent about that instead of saying, “People self-sort and that’s fine…but really, believing Mormons shouldn’t have these divisions.”

    So, no, I don’t think there is a premise that someone or something is “enforcing” the separation of online communities. That misses the nuance of what really is happening. I think this happens a lot in social issues far more important than LDS blogging (e.g., race, gender): people assert red herrings or strawmen, shoot them down, and ultimately avoid addressing the actual, far-more-subtle dynamics.

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  21. Rameumptom on September 22, 2011 at 5:54 PM

    Perhaps to unite us, we need the ONE CTR RING to Rule them All:

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  22. Rameumptom on September 22, 2011 at 5:56 PM

    Well, it didn’t show the ring, here’s one here:

    http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRqozqzfb9CgI-8KjTU1puT4L-DxFnFBMUvf7n9Dun62k9z3Ef2ejM0GD-Y

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  23. Andrew S on September 22, 2011 at 11:32 PM

    re 19,

    SteveS,

    re first part: I think the “organic part” of how things are currently organized is that the various aggregators do, for the most part, represent differences in personality/tone, in political bent, etc., So, I admit that I don’t go to a lot of Nothing Wavering blogs because I’m not really conservative or libertarian.

    So, I think that even if the actual aggregator sites are arbitrarily or haphazardly organized, the communities around those sites still represent pools of some common ground.

    With respect to your answer to question 2, I like how you phrase things: That common experience of shared devotion (not always toward the same object) is perhaps the lifeblood of the online communities that I find most valuable.

    re 3rd answer: I think that what you describe about the Mormon blogs is precisely why I saw a connection to FireTag’s post. We would like to expand the Mormon blogging community in various ways, but since there are real differences, we end up just picking and choosing which kinds of people/ideas/tones we’ll associate with, rather than bringing EVERYONE together.

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  24. Andrew S on September 22, 2011 at 11:33 PM

    re 21/22

    Rameumptom,

    That is indeed a serious CTR ring.

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  25. hawkgrrrl on September 23, 2011 at 2:19 AM

    What I find interesting about these discussions is figuring out why I like what I like, and why I don’t read the other stuff.

    John D & I used to have this discussion about MM. He felt we should be more clubby like BCC, a place of belonging where insiders congregate. Like jmb275, I just don’t think that’s appealing to me. I don’t want to sit at the popular kids’ table. I either want to be able to sit at different tables whenever I feel like it (to be marginally accepted by all) or to sit in the back secretly start a food fight.

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  26. Chino Blanco on September 23, 2011 at 7:10 AM

    Since I’m finding myself at a loss for any exciting new insights that might help answer Andrew’s questions, I’m just gonna grab his magnifying glass and turn it toward the author of this series for a moment.

    What to make of his approach that treats online personalities like stable entities? These are people, not Platonic Forms. I’d suggest that this is maybe problematic in the same way that FireTag’s shuffling of bounding boxes around static x’s also fails to tell the rest of the story (namely, that those x’s are always on the move, buffeted by forces unaccounted for in the discussion at hand).

    Speaking of FireTag, I suspect that one of the disconnects between discussions about CofC and LDS issues is that nobody on his side imagines that there’s anything like the institutional power/presence required to shift the Overton window in the US (or elsewhere) in a direction that would actually increase demand for what’s on offer from the institution. LDS, on the other hand, as far as I can tell, still harbor the hope that the larger culture and their church are capable of interplay that might expand Mormonism’s appeal (either to outsiders or simply to members like themselves).

    Maybe something else to consider in a series like this is the absence of discussion about those bloggers we haven’t heard from in a while, i.e., a great detective not only questions those on the scene but also wonders about the dog that didn’t bark.

    In any case, anyone interested in real Bloggernacle history (as opposed to hagiography à la Scott B.) ought to maybe write as much about the lacunae as about the living.

    Otherwise, enjoy the banter, but don’t be shocked if old-timers are no more sentimental about blogging than Roy Batty:

    “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die.”

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  27. Senile Old Fart on September 23, 2011 at 8:05 AM

    Seems that something akin to a correlation committee is being suggested – one CTR ring, indeed.

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  28. [...] but leaving the church doesn’t always lead to friendliness either. Andrew again has some great insights and analysis of Bloggernacle community and [...]

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  29. chanson on September 26, 2011 at 7:43 AM

    People seem to have self-sorted into DAMU and Bloggernacle groups. Key term: self-sorted.

    Well, sort of.

    Just as an example, I was participating (or trying to) in the Niblets when I was informed that I wasn’t welcome. So Chino and I “self-sorted” (creating the Brodies) because I’m not a gate crasher — I’d just as soon invite people over to my place instead.

    The system of having low boundary maintenance has served us pretty well in Outer Blogness. We don’t exclude people for for being faithful LDS believers. Our crowd leans liberal/atheist, but we list Christians, Libertarians, and many others. It’s fun!

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  30. dpc on September 26, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    I think the boundary lies between differing commitment to the LDS church. I don’t think that ex-Mormons would rejoin en masse if the church did any amount of changing whether it be ordaining women to the priesthood or homosexual marriage or whatever. They have zero commitment to the organizational church. Mormonism is something that may inform their world views, but for all intents and purposes, they are gone.

    Liberal Mormons, on the other hand, still have that commitment to the organizational church even if they would like to see change. They might not see eye to eye with the conservative set, but even conservative Mormons know that things can change. It’s about the how and when more than anything.

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  31. Andrew S on September 26, 2011 at 11:44 AM

    (Aside: I still hate that authors can decide to selectively subscribe to comments on their own articles. Either every author of every article gets subscribed or none of them do…and we have decided not to subscribe, grrr.)

    re 26,

    Chino,

    I guess I can’t use the physics homework classic, “Assume no friction” here? But I get what you mean…

    As for contacting bloggers who no longer write as frequently (if at all), I recognize that would be extremely valuable, but I can’t help but say that I wouldn’t even know where to start. I don’t see myself as a historian, so much as trying to explain how the current state of affairs came to be this way. History is somewhat involved in this approach, yes, but since it is the “living” who continue to impact the way things are today, that’s who the bias are.

    But I hope I’m not portraying all of these folks as saints…

    re 29

    Chanson,

    Great example.

    re 30,

    dpc,

    I think you’re right. I originally thought that, and then the response from my Strange Bedfellows article made me suspect otherwise, but now I’m bad to thinking that yes, there is zero commitment to the organizational church most of the time.

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  32. chanson on September 26, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    I think I’m like Switzerland. Not worth anyone’s time to squabble over, and I make really great food.

    As someone who lives in Switzerland, I find this characterization quite interesting. I won’t say it’s wrong, but I will say it’s very, very different from the way I’d end a thought that starts “I’m like Switzerland, I’m…” (Or “She’s like Switzerland, she’s…”)

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  33. Jeff Spector on September 26, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    As someone who lives in Switzerland, I find this characterization quite interesting.”

    I suppose this depends on which part of Switzerland you are from, which part you live in now and how those around you feel about that…..

    From the outside, it is not what it seems…..

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  34. chanson on September 26, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    I’m from the US, and I’ve been living in Zurich for three years. I think the food is fantastic!! But there are so many exceptional and strange things about Switzerland that the cuisine wouldn’t necessarily have made my top 10 “What do you think of when you think of Switzerland” items. ;)

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  35. Jeff Spector on September 26, 2011 at 1:20 PM

    I’ve been to Switzerland many times over the years and I have always enjoyed the food. I admit I’ve eaten more in the French part than the others. It’s a beautfil country but there are distinct regions with their own languages, customs, holidays, etc. They operate as one country separately.

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  36. chanson on September 26, 2011 at 1:43 PM

    So true!

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  37. John C. on September 29, 2011 at 5:31 PM

    Jettboy,
    I’m pleased to be the recipient of your particular ire. I assure you I had nothing to do with the removal of your blog from the Archipelago, but I’m guessing a jeremiad against the Archipelago contributed to its removal.

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  38. [...] the divergent community norms when it comes to members of the communities. Dave Banack says that people pretty much self-sort into the various communities, but I think this fails to account for some things that happen either overtly or [...]

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  39. [...] Fractures and Factions of Mormon Blogging, Part I and Part II – Andrew [...]

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  40. [...] this category, my Fractures and Factions of Mormon Blogging series was nominated. I had planned (and started writing) enough for there to be at least two more parts [...]

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  41. Main Street Plaza » 2011 Brodies: Vote Here!! on February 21, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    [...] The Fractures and Factions of Mormon Blogging (2 parts) – Andrew S [...]

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