OTB Reader Survey

We're soliciting reader feedback on three related questions.

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We’re soliciting reader feedback on three related questions.

First, we’re considering expanding the roster of front page posters. The vagaries of life have diminished the productivity of almost all of the regulars.  The ideal candidate would be someone who already blogs at a relatively low visibility site ;  temperamentally similar to the current crew (over 30, possessed of a graduate or professional degree, relatively centrist, and analytical rather than polemical); and brings an expertise not already on the roster (say, economics or a hard science). Any suggestions as to who would be a good fit are welcome. For that matter, maybe, even with our decreased output, we’re already putting out more than you can read and adding to the volume would be an irritant.

Second, we’re considering an idea that Dodd floated when we did our last major redesign a couple years back but didn’t implement for technical reasons: a blog-within-a-blog where selected regular commenters and others could post their own stories and generate their own discussions, with some of the more interesting posts getting bumped to the front page.  Daily Kos and others pioneered the concept a decade ago, so it’s not a novel idea. But we’ve got a good core group of commenters and can’t cover every topic that may be of interest to the readership ourselves. If implemented, we’d reach out to a handful of the more likely suspects and also accept applications.  While the criteria for selection would be looser than for front page posters—and wouldn’t necessarily be constrained ideologically—we’d still limit it to people with an analytical, moderate temperament.

Third, assuming the second idea is a good one, what should we call it? “OTB Peanut Gallery” and “Flyover Country” are among the names floated but this strikes me as a topic where crowdsourcing could produce a better idea.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, OTB History
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. rodney dill says:

    (Response to third) – Rogue’s Forum.

    -or just OTB Commenter’s Forum.

    -or a pun off Facebook — OTB Macebook.

  2. john personna says:

    My first thought was that I had no strong opinion … but since you ask, I’m not sure that OTB should really be trying to catch every active meme on the internets. The “105 Year-Old Woman [who] Says Eating Bacon Every Day Is The Key To Long Life” is a good example.

    Dudes, do you have a mission?

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    I think it would be nice to have a science blogger.

    Maybe the real message is that Steve Verdon and I should be posting more.

    Let me ask a question of my own. What are the objectives in the changes? IMO part of the problem in posting meaningfully these days is that we’ve talked the big stories to death and, honestly, they’re really depressing.

  4. john personna says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    I read the Scientific American rss feed. Pretty good stuff, and much of it should impact policy. Of course, that would have to be paired with a reality-based mission.

    [Note that I dropped a link to bend the “bacon” thread toward science.]

  5. Andre Kenji says:

    I suggest Vivan Paige. She already has a good political sizable blog about politics, but she couid do some contributions:

    http://blog.vivianpaige.com/

    Besides that, she is a Black Woman, it´s diversity and good talent on the same time.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    “OTB Peanut Gallery”

    I thought that was what the “Comments” was for.

  7. stonetools says:

    James, all of these sound like good ideas.

    First, we’re considering expanding the roster of front page posters

    I’d recommend Ron Beasley (Middle Earth Journal) , Anderson, and Jim Henley if they are interested. I’m sure there are other guys that might be as good.

    a blog-within-a-blog where selected regular commenters and others could post their own stories and generate their own discussions, with some of the more interesting posts getting bumped to the front page

    Would be good as well. I’d like to volunteer Michael Reynolds, Matt Bernius, Rob in Connecticut, Grumpy Realist, and Mantis as commenters who would be good at this.

    NB. I note that all but one of those I recommended were AFAIK white males, (which reflects who comments and posts there), so maybe you might want to reach out to others I did not recommend, in order to add some diversity.

  8. G.A.Phillips says:

    Third, assuming the second idea is a good one, what should we call it? “OTB Peanut Gallery” and “Flyover Country” are among the names floated but this strikes me as a topic where crowdsourcing could produce a better idea.

    Super Troll Collider? Pin The Tail On The Racist?A Liberal, Conservative And AGoofy Bastard Libertarian Walk Into A Bar?The Deaf, Dumb And Blind Kid Sure Plays A Mean WOW?“Flyover Upside Down Country? Mixed Wingnut Gallery?OTB Caption Contest? er…When Harry Met G.A.?

  9. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: Amusingly, in the old days, I tended to post 10-15 pieces a day all by my lonesome, doing a combo of InstaPundit style hits and longer reads. I now do mostly the latter.

    For those coming in from the home page, the difference between substantive posts and the Quick Takes is clear. From RSS or social media, not so much.

    @Dave Schuler: Yes, more from you and Steve Verdon would be good.

    Objective-wise, I’d like to broaden the scope of the site. I don’t mind the meme of the day stories but have come to the same conclusion as you: it seems like everyone is talking about the same issues over and over and it’s gotten monotonous. I can’t believe Benghazi has lasted this long, for example.

    Even in my foreign affairs baliwick, I’m finding it hard to say anything I haven’t said a hundred times. Afghanistan’s been steady state for five years. Syria is just Libya again.

  10. rodney dill says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    Super Troll Collider?

    …maybe recoined as “Head-On Collider” to spinoff the Hadron Collider.

  11. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    Fight for control of the Republican party, or get out 😉

  12. CSK says:

    How about someone who could comment, amusingly and trenchantly, on culture/the arts?

  13. michael reynolds says:

    For the Peanut Gallery, Stonetools is a smart guy and African-American, I believe, if we’re looking for someone who might integrate the blog. A couple women would be nice as well so we’d have less of a sausage factory, either on the front page or the gallery, but I never know who’s a girl around here.

    I’d love to see Schuler released to write beyond just FP. He has an interesting mind, deep knowledge and wide and occasionally odd interests (opera, the iditarod) and it’s fun to provoke him in comments because he does an excellent restrained teeth-gritting thing without ever blowing up.

  14. CSK says:

    @rodney dill:

    Not “Rogue’s Forum.” It sounds like The Collected Works of Sarah Palin.

  15. TexMac says:

    How about a libertarian anti-interventionist like Anthony Gregory?

  16. JWH says:

    1) It sounds like a good idea. I suggest looking for a blogger who isn’t focused on politics as such. Between your suggestions of an economist or a hard scientist, I would go with the hard scientist. I think there’s already a lot of blogging that mixes economics, politics, and law. I also suggest that you explicitly look for somebody who is not from one of the coasts or (secondarily) one of the big urban areas.

    2) This idea could work, but prepared for people to game the system to try to get their stuff promoted. You might also want to make it available to a small group of elite commenters, rather than all commenters.

    3) Under the Beltway
    Sub Beltway
    Outside the BeltBuckle
    Buckles
    UnderBuckles
    BeltBuckles
    BeltYard
    BuckleYard

  17. Andre Kenji says:

    @michael reynolds:

    A couple women would be nice as well so we’d have less of a sausage factory, either on the front page or the gallery, but I never know who’s a girl around here.

    There are some of them. They just don´t show their beautiful faces to us.

  18. C. Clavin says:

    I would like to see the volume of posts increased….many deserving topics currently go unmentioned and undiscussed…if an expanded roster is the solution…terrific.
    As far as commenter contributions go, I would strongly suggest keeping it informal…at least in the beginning. Establishing a so called blog-within-a-blog will likely result in running sub-standard pieces just for the sake of justifying the blog-within-a-blog. Try encouraging the submission of more long-form pieces from commenters, for review and quality control, and if it evolves to something more…then great. Media outlets are forever establishing Health Desks or Consumer Advocacy Reporters or even Satleitte Bureaus in the hinterlands of their markets..and then they are forced to run the most worthless BS just to justify the decision. Don’t fall into that trap.
    OTB is a terrific site…with a lot of untapped potential…I think.
    But go forth wisely.

  19. G.A.Phillips says:

    …maybe recoined as “Head-On Collider” to spinoff the Hadron Collider.

    I was thinking trollish ****heads:)- in a pit fight, with leprous riff raff cheering on the loser like in the original Conan…

    So I went with troll instead of hardon for Hadron..but It’s still cool.

  20. CB says:

    will i finally get my long awaited style & entertainment section??

  21. john personna says:

    What I’m thinking is, that while I enjoy OTB as a “clubhouse” site, where the moderate right engages the moderate left (for the most part), that is self-limiting. We can kibitz with that framework, but politics will happen elsewhere.

    i.e. sure, OTB can do some stories in 2016 about why rational Republicans faced such hurtles in the primary process. It will be “commentary” and “sub-commentary” will dig in.

    I think to break out of the clubhouse niche though, you have to aspire to change the dynamic.

  22. Rodney Dill says:

    @CSK: I hadn’t thought of that, but since some would it does eliminate it.

  23. Rodney Dill says:

    @john personna:

    What I’m thinking is, that while I enjoy OTB as a “clubhouse” site, where the moderate right engages the moderate left (for the most part), that is self-limiting.

    I had suggested the idea (granted ideas are easy when you don’t have to pay for the implementation) to James at one point to have an area of features posts, where commenters are allowed by invitation only (invitation from the author on a per post basis). In that case the commenters that usually have well thought out comments with only occaisional trollish behavior, would be on better behavior to be invited back for a subsequent post. Outright trolls could just be left out, other than for ordinary posts. The author could then tailor the mix of left and right commenters, so it wouldn’t be lopsided.

  24. grumpy realist says:

    Maybe those of us with science backgrounds could contribute articles now and then? My schedule is going to get even nastier from here on in so won’t be posting as much but would like to every now and then write on something I find interesting. What makes OTB tick so well seems to be our comments–we have enough people with different backgrounds that we actually do seem to be able to contribute from all sides. (A blog where this doesn’t necessarily work out is Patently-O, which has great articles but the comments quickly dwindle into policy arguments and a lot of cat-calling. No one is snippier about patent prosecution than an ex-examiner.)

    James, it might also be useful to have a thread where we could post links to interesting but obscure blogs we’ve run across. And specialist blogs that people usually don’t stumble across.

    Anyone know of good specialist blogs on seed venture capital?

  25. john personna says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Anyone know of good specialist blogs on seed venture capital?

    It is one of Marc Andreessen’s themes.

  26. Heh. Even though I hardly comment here, I’d be interested in participating in idea 2. Of course I’d fill out the application.*

    I do agree with john persona and Dave Schuler that you want to have some sort of “mission statement” behind the blog that you stick too, or else you risk ending up with a chaotic mess.

    As far as names, so far I like “Flyover Country” the best. It ties into the whole “Outside the Beltway” idea. Whereas the main blog is “outside” the beltway, the blog-within-a-blog would be outside Outside the Beltway and the name ought to reflect that.

    *Credentials: Engineering (esp. mechanical, aerospace, structural, and mechanical simulation), 3D printing, access to knowledge of emerging technologies.

  27. TexMac says:
  28. john personna says:

    @Rodney Dill:

    I think that would make a better clubhouse. (Tree fort?) For sure.

    I guess what my caffeine addled brain is comparing to though are those ex-RINOs who think the way to make a difference is to call out the party on what it should become. That’s a mission, and I think not coincidentally those RINOs gain real web visibility from it.

    A mission attracts allies and enemies alike, and both are excellent for Google rank.

    To continue my slight rudeness though, I don’t think you make quite the splash with the subtitle:

    “OTB – weakly defending the Republican party since 1999*”

    * – or whatever.

  29. Rob in CT says:

    I do rather like “Below the Belt(way).” Though I’m fine with the comments system as it is. Regarding doing our own posts/starting discussions, some of the regulars here could probably pull that off, but I’m not one of them. My area of expertise (insurance coverage analysis of long-tail environmental claims) is extremely narrow and boring to most people. Plus, even in a bizzaro world inhabited by people interested in such things, I’d have to be quite careful about what I said.

    As for more bloggers/guest bloggers, I do think it would be good to have someone (or a group of someones) on the science/tech beat (that way we can have another good argument over solar/wind/hydro/nuclear/nat.gas/coal!). As has been said, some of the topics have just been done to death and while I’ve often enjoyed the discussions. At this point much of the time I feel like we’re all just going through the motions (most egregious are the monthly jobs report posts from Doug. We can just copy & paste from the archives at this point).

  30. rodney dill says:

    @JWH: …or ‘Belt Loops’

  31. Ron Beasley says:

    I have been a blogger for nearly 10 years and I find I am no longer inspired. I have my own blog, Middle Earth Journal, and I have the keys to the Moderate Voice. While my life has been hectic and a broken collar bone made it difficult to keyboard the main reason I have reduced my posting is a lack of enthusiasm – I’ve given up.

  32. JWH says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Gene Weingarten calls his column “Below the Beltway.” I’m thinking “OTB Unbuckled.”

  33. John Peabody says:

    Eh. I don’t much care. I have the ‘blog’ bookmarked and check it every other hour for the latest items (I never, ever see the main page). An inside room? Sure, why not. More stuff to read, at least until the comments get out of hand. What to call it? “OTB Others” or… aw, I dunno.

    I was never good at customer feedback. I’ve no interest in providing ideas. My job is just to click and add up the hits tally.

  34. Scott says:

    @Ron Beasley: I know exactly what you mean. I don’t think I could do or read one more commentary on any gun discussion. I would be interested to know what are the demographics of the OTB crowd. I sense it is skewed older and male but geographically diverse. I could be wrong. Perhaps a younger contributor could stretch the perspectives. As for subjects, I am interested in military/veterans affairs, education (all ages), history, books (although my reading these days seem to revolve around what my kids are reading), etc.

  35. Red Barchetta says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    i would have all the time in the world for you and Steve V, but I’m not sure you guys have the time to compose posts.

  36. CSK says:

    For the Peanut Gallery, or whatever:

    Son of Outside the Beltway

    Stranger than Beltway

    The Beltway Strikes Back

    Revenge of the Beltway

    The Good, the Bad, and the Beltway

  37. Red Barchetta says:

    Also, Alex Knapp seemed to have a very good scientific bent. I guess he’s off to other pastures. He and I didn’t agree on alot of stuff, but I had all the time for him, also.

    Reynolds, go to hell. OK, I guess I just disqualified myself.

    Its just a joke, folks. Just a joke…..all apologies.

  38. rudderpedals says:

    Tally a vote for Rodney Dill’s Belt Loops name for the commenter blogs. Second choice: Beltway Detours.

    Whomever comes on board would fill another gap if they have time to do full posts on the weekends.

    I’m for one am seriously looking forward to having more material to read.

    EDIT credit RD with Belt Loops

  39. John D'Geek says:

    Regarding upgrading some commenters:

    For the most part, the commentary here is both strongly tilted left and overly agressive (to me) so I don’t read the majority of comments any more, nor do I pay attention to the up/down vote (which is so predictably liberal as to be meaningless). That said, there are a couple commenters I read (John Personna, Rob in CT), but even they “pop off” sometimes.

    I believe it critical to note in the context of “lesser bloggers” that conservative voices are not really welcome here; if you promote commenters you risk becoming “just another left leaning blog” — which is not what you want.

    On the other hand, there have been many times when I’ve thought that my response can’t really be contained in a single response, so you are onto something. Not sure how to make it work, but I don’t think it’s quite so simple as that.

  40. grumpy realist says:

    Thanks much to everyone who posted an answer to my question. Much appreciated!

    Now off to jump into the deep end of the pool where all the sharks are….

  41. David D. from Philly says:

    “If implemented, we’d reach out to a handful of the more likely suspects and also accept applications.”

    Making it open to all would foster more creativity and interest. I would suggest you allow any registered commenter to have their own diary or subblog. They would be able to create posts which respond (and trackback) to front page posts or which introduce their own topics. And rather than create a commenter subblog ghetto, you can pick commenter posts to elevate to the front page. This creates a talent pool from which future front-pagers can be recruited.

  42. John425 says:

    While I think OTB is more left than centrist, you could add OTOH to OTB with OTOH being: “On The Other Hand”

  43. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: Dave can write about anything he wants here. He decided to do foreign policy writing here and everything else at his digs but is welcome to expand his porfolio.

    @David D. from Philly: There are at least a handful of commenters who I only borderline want as commenters; I wouldn’t want to give them the keys to their own sub-blog. And allowing it willy nilly would potentially drown out the good voices. I’m not exactly sure where to draw the line. But, yes, I see the potential for this being a farm system for future front pagers.

  44. 1) New blood is always good. I don’t have any suggestions as to who would be good, but I definitely think writing ability should be weighted just as much as expertise, if not more. It’s a blog, you know. Brevity isn’t necessarily isn’t required. Just efficiency.

    There’s another blog I used to read more that brought on a bunch of people and the new guys often spent 3 or 4 paragraphs with backstory or qualifiers. I don’t read that blog that much anymore.

    2) As to the “a blog-within-a-blog,” that could be interesting. I think it might even help some of the regulars, whose disagreement can sometimes get hostile, find areas of consensus.

    3) Names…..maybe this says too much about me personally, but when I see OTB, I’m thinking off track betting. So maybe “The OTB Parlor?” Get a little double meaning going.

  45. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Well, as long as people are in the volunteering mood, let me throw my hat in the ring. I can write on such wide and varied topics as “How to remove a tick from your dog’s ball’s” to “Hog slaughtering” and “Skinning Deer” to “Noodling: Not legal but it sure is fun”.

    Well, maybe not. 😉

  46. @rudderpedals: I really like “Beltway Detours.” Even though it’s your second choice, I think it’s an excellent suggestion.

  47. David D. from Philly says:

    @James Joyner:

    Are you concerned allowing anyone to have a sub-blog would potentially hurt the OTB brand? So long as they are not reachable through the front page (or indexed by search engines), I don’t see the downside. If you promote the good commenter blog posts on the front page, then the bad won’t drown out the good. As it is, comments can be pretty vituperative; giving commentors a sub-blog gives people who are passionate about a conversation another means of expressing themselves on the site.

    There probably are administrative costs in terms of your time of allowing all comers to have a sub-blog that I am not aware of. If those are material, then that might be a good reason not to do it.

  48. Ben Wolf says:

    Grab Tom Hickey at Mikenormaneconomics.com. Interesting guy, very well educated and would fit very well here.

    Call your mini-blog Everyone for Themself.

  49. Ben Wolf says:

    Sorry, I really screwed up that link.

    http://mikenormaneconomics.blogspot.com/

  50. Ben Wolf says:

    Another possibility:

    http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/?m=0

    Economics is going to generate more page views and comments than hard science and the more heterodox and provocative, the better.

  51. OzarkHillbilly says:

    As a bonus I could do a whole series titled, “Everything you wanted to know about cooking Meth and more”.

    Wha d’ya think?

  52. anjin-san says:

    I’d love to see regular postings on science and music.

  53. Rob Prather says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): I’m with Herb. My first thought was about Off Track Betting.

  54. grumpy realist says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Except that it would probably get the feds to give us the ol’ fish-eye and get us on a whole load of Do Not Get On This List lists, I imagine quite a few of us would find a series on meth manufacturing to be fascinating. (What can I say? I’m a sucker for kitchen chemistry experiments.)

    I vote for more science and technology stuff rather than economics, unless we can find someone like Tanta, may she rest in peace. Posting on economics on the internet has the danger of getting infested with commentary by the goldbugs and “Federal Reserve is a CONSPIRACY!!!” types, unfortunately….

  55. Ben Wolf says:

    @grumpy realist: That just means comments need to be more heavily moderated. Most blogs are too liberal with what they’ll put up with.

  56. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Except that it would probably get the feds to give us the ol’ fish-eye

    Hey, Site clicks are site clicks, who cares if they come from the DEA or the ATF? As long as they click thru! Besides…. everybody knows we Ozarkers cook the best meth, that alone will drive up the site traffic. The fact that I am full of sh!t and don’t have a clue about meth, don’t matter… it’s all about traffic

    grumpy…. if you don’t know by now to not take me too serious… c’mon down, I guarantee a fish fry unlike any other you have ever had. And turtle….

    Turtle good.

  57. cd6 says:

    Yes I am willing to write for your blog. When you do want me to start and what does it pay?

  58. Trumwill says:

    The American Scene has gone mostly dormant and left some good writers behind. I’d consider contacting them (PEG, David Sessions, Walker Frost, Gabriel Rossman). I’d recommend a couple people at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, but I don’t want them to go.

    For reasons mentioned by John D’Geek, I have mostly stopped participating on political posts, but there are some great conversations about technology here, so a tech writer might not be a bad idea. I also like the idea of a science writer.

    I don’t think the lack of a mission is a problem at all. I like stories about old ladies who eat bacon.

  59. john personna says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Science and economics can intersect. I happen to be reading this for my MOOC at the moment:

    Emotions in Economic Theory and Economic Behavior (pdf)

    A lot of macro is just smart guys intellectualizing their prejudices, but there is some science … in opposition to that, I guess you’d say.

  60. Ben Wolf says:

    @john personna: You’re exactly right. When you walk into an Econ 101 class and on the frst day the instructor states, “We will assume markets are rational in aggregate”, you aren’t dealing with science or empiricism; it’s advocacy.

  61. James H says:

    @anjin-san: How about combining science fiction with music?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yTgMf1cOcQ

  62. Andy says:

    To me this list is a bit strange. Yes, Doug is doing the heavy lifting and yeah, you probably need some more contributors. Commenters posting – well, ok, but most of your commenters do not have a moderate temperament to say nothing of the ability to see past their partisan noses. There are maybe a couple that could write something interesting that isn’t red meat or a partisan screed but really, what’s the point?

    I guess it comes down to what you want from the blog. IMO OTB is more “inside” than “outside” the beltway these days and, with a few exceptions, most of the posts and analysis are pretty conventional. The audience of commenters, predictably, flock to the red meat issues (gun control being a recent popular one). IMO this site could use either less “red meat” or more unconventional analysis of “red meat” issues. Some of the best posts are where I learn something and generally it’s been Doug cogently explaining legal issues, such as his post on Miranda and the Boston Bombers. On that issue OTB was unconventional and didn’t go into the morass of ignorance coming from the left and right.

  63. john personna says:

    On commentary high and low, I would suggest that most arguments which are true also defensible. (A big claim!)

    There are however two corner cases which can trap even a well meaning commentator:

    (1). Not all truths are easily demonstrated or defended in a pseudo-anonymous text setting. Some truths are too abstract or diffuse for that. And (2) conversely some false ideas have seemingly strong cases behind them. At some moment when cell phone towers are just being built, and no one has tested their effect on bee brains, the idea that they might have an effect is defensible … for a time. Until more data comes in and it is found to be false.

    It is really amazing though how so much of the web settles with indefensible positions which are in all likelihood, false.

  64. Andy says:

    @john personna: In my experience “truths” usually turn out to be a fancy word for opinions. In most cases where there is an actual divide between debaters there is either a difference in analysis of ambiguous information or a different priority in values. Rarely is there “truth.”

  65. john personna says:

    @Andy:

    Perhaps because my formal education was in chemistry, the physical sciences, I have a very different perspective.

    I think that it is very easy to divide descriptive works, which are purely observations on past or present, from prescriptive or normative works, which argue a possible future.

    Descriptive arguments may be validated by observation. Prescriptive arguments can never be closed as tightly, but the case can be made.

  66. Scott O says:

    I think you should try to get a psychologist to blog here. Politics and mental imbalance seem to go together.

  67. al-Ameda says:

    @anjin-san:

    I’d love to see regular postings on science and music.

    I second that.

  68. anjin-san says:

    @ James H

    That’s a kinder, gentler Darth…

  69. anjin-san says:

    I think shaking things up a bit is wise. Diversifying content is a good idea. I would consider keeping posts above the fold based on interest, not posting time/date. Sub-blogs? Worth trying. It would probably lead to commentators doing some more serious thinking/writing. Dealing with the troll/threadjack problem is worth doing.

  70. Ted says:

    Most of the blogs I read are from a liberal or libertarian bent and they’re already on bigger blogs. The only obscure bloggers I read either guest blogged or are people I know. Radley Balko had a slew of guest bloggers – Dave Krueger, Drew Johnson, Maggie McNeill, Jim Henly, who you might look at. I found your blog through Right Thinking, which has a few voices (althought their best passed a few years ago). Transterrestrial musings might be worth a look. Sorry I can’t think of anyone really knockout.

    I would probably not read a peanut gallery but it might be the best way to search for other bloggers. If someone is consistently good, that could be the new voice youre looking for (as well as demonstrating their commitment). Maybe a good name would be Further Outside the Beltway.

  71. Rodney Dill says:

    @john personna:

    It is really amazing though how so much of the web settles with indefensible positions which are in all likelihood, false.

    Can you defend that claim?

    (just joking)

  72. rodney dill says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Hmmmm… based on some of your life knowledge from above you sound like a good candidate for a reality TV show.

  73. john personna says:

    @this:

    As an aside, I hope you all understand that a request for more “science” articles, and a disbelief in objective truth, are pretty much at odds.

  74. matt bernius says:

    Sorry I’m a little late to the party…

    I think @JP and others are correct that before any changes are made, the current OTB crew — or just you James — should revisit the ongoing “mission” of this publication. I suspect that will help guide most other decisions.

    Bringing on more bloggers is IMHO a good idea. I’d love to see more “smart” conservative voices. And I support the idea of finding subject matter experts who are able to offer smart and, more importantly, substantive analysis.

    While I think cultivating commenter-as-article-writers is a great idea (sign me up for the farm team – 1 MA in Social Sciences and working on a PhD, blogging background, can write on Journalism, Media, Technology, Social Sciences, Literature, Personal Self Defense), I’m not a huge supporter of blogs-within-blogs. Unless you’re planning to do a lot of curation — including quickly dropping people who are not working out — I think they would dilute the overall goal of the site — offering high quality analysis.

    People should either be full on writers (or guest contributors) or commenters. Having a sorta-separate, unequal space just doesn’t make sense to me.

    So more bloggers (yes), blog-within-blog (no), some type of farm system/guest posts (yes).

  75. matt bernius says:

    @John D’Geek:

    I believe it critical to note in the context of “lesser bloggers” that conservative voices are not really welcome here

    I will agree that, since I began reading OTB in 2008, there has been a continued influx of “liberal” commenters. And some of them can be pretty caustic at times.

    However, I reject the idea that “conservative voices” are not welcome here. Or that readers/commenters here are not interested in that view point (spend any time on “The American Conservative’s” blogs and you’ll see a lot of commenter cross over).

    The issues is that — generally speaking — the self identified conservatives who most regularly post here are from the Conservative Inc/Right Wing Media Complex wing.

    I mean, do you think that @Jenos, @Jan, @Superdestroyer or @Erik F present conservative (in a Burke-ian sense) arguments that deserve respect or are typically grounded in any sort of thoughtful logic? Just jump over to the current Benghazi threads to see examples of what I’m talking about.

    I WANT more thoughful conservative commenters. I want conservatives who aren’t posting to troll or play “gotcha.” I want pushback on my ideas and positions (this is one of the things that started me reading OTB). I also want people who are *truely* interested in a conversation and *gasp* getting and accepting pushback on their positions.

    Beyond @Boyd and @Andy, I’m hard press to think of a regular conservative commenters (and I don’t know if @Andy considers himself conservative) who fit that bill.

  76. matt bernius says:

    @James Joyner:

    I see the potential for this being a farm system for future front pagers.

    Again, I love the idea of a farm system, but I really think a better approach is extending invites to selected selected people to contribute articles/posts. While it might seem like that’s more work in the short term, I really think a blog-within-a-blog system will create more headaches in the long run.

    In publishing, the general rule is that you should be reasonable comfortable promoting any content on the site on the home/front page. If that isn’t the case, then you shouldn’t be publishing it.

  77. john personna says:

    You know, you’ve got the like/dislike system in place. You could just do “ideas” threads every few days, and then “bump” articles with high “likes” (even if they also have high “dislikes”) to the front page. It would not even require negotiation. It wouldn’t be a submission by an author. It would not imply long-term endorsement of an author. It would just be a “comment” that you “quote.”

  78. Trumwill says:

    @matt bernius: Matt, sometimes a website has a dynamic where a particular point of view is regularly met with a hostile reaction, and because of that, only the most combative of that point of view participate.

    This is something I’ve noticed at The League. Outside of contributors, we have more voices on the strong right than the center-right (leaving libertarians out, for a moment, plenty of those). Because voices on the strong-right relish it, while others just get annoyed and leave. I think there is a similar dynamic here. Leaving a conservative comment means suddenly arguing with seven people at once, half of which will be polite and the other half will not. The people who most enjoy jumping into that are the most enthusiastic.

    Neither OTB nor The League have any obligation to be welcoming, specifically or generally, to various viewpoints. And even if it’s something people want to do something about, it’s hard to change social dynamics (which is, ultimately, what we’re talking about here.

    But, speaking for myself, I am rolling back my participation here largely based on that dynamic. I would be kind of surprised if I were the only one. And I am a ticket-splitting voter. But both here and at The League, I actually qualify as “a conservative voice.” Which doesn’t seem entirely right, depending on what sort of balance or imbalance a site is looking for.

  79. anjin-san says:

    I WANT more thoughful conservative commenters. I want conservatives who aren’t posting to troll or play “gotcha.”

    Second that

    Beyond @Boyd

    Boyd went fishing in troll waters with his recent “hippie tears” jag…

  80. John D'Geek says:

    @matt bernius: @matt bernius: Those posters you listed are typically on my “do not read” list as well, so no — that’s not what I’m talking about. Ironically, I had never heard of Edmund Burke before (apparently I’m not a very well read conservative), but he’s now on my Kindle (well, iPad Kindle App, actually).

    I guess my larger point is that thoughtful liberals encourage thoughtful conservatives; wherease caustic liberals discourage thoughtful conservatives. And, from my POV, we have a lot of caustic liberals in the commentary section. In my case, a quick review of the last “gay marriage” thread I posted in will give you a quick idea of why I don’t believe conservatives get a fair shake in the comment section.(there was, what … two people that didn’t reflexively “gang up” on me?)

    Caveat: I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I can generally recognize my PTSD triggers, but that doesn’t make it substantially easier to deal with. In my case, the nature of traumu being what it is, liberals are more likely to trigger me than conservatives, though that has been known to happen as well.

    All of which is to say, my “caustic” may not be the same as yours.

  81. john personna says:

    @John D’Geek:

    Heh. Gay marriage threads are on my do not read list 😉

  82. rudderpedals says:

    There’s shoving and light roughness in the comments but no one’s taken acid in the face solely for commenting from the right. Exceptions for unduly trollish headlines, shallow analysis, and heavy handed spin exist. Otherwise we’re all pretty well behaved, left and right, and appropriately shun those who should be shunned.

    I believe we’d find more right leaning comments attached to left leaning articles if there were more here, but there aren’t and to some extent the “other” side is more likely to comment than are the folks who already agree so you would expect OTB threads to hold a bit more left than right responses.

  83. matt bernius says:

    @Trumwill I should have included you among the “thoughtful” conservatives. And I agree with your larger point about how dynamics emerge.

    However, I would also speculate that sites — including OTB — often hit a tipping point, where for whatever reason, the “thoughtful and loyal opposition” stop regularly posting. At that point the trolls and kooks loudly take over. And the net result is that those on the other side get shriller.

    The end result is that when the thoughtful and loyal try to post again, they are greeted with the same response as the trolls.

    Personally, I look forward to the day when certain liberal commenters here give up on feeding certain trolls. My hope is that’s when things may start to turn around.

    @John D’Geek totally understand the PTSD thing. BTW, if you have time, please post a link to that “gay marriage” thread, as I’d like to review what was written to get a better understanding of how my own “caustic meter” is calibrated.

    Certain topics – gun reform is another one – tend to be places where neither side really wants to pay attention to the other one, and people who are trying to find a middle ground, often get really beaten up.

  84. matt bernius says:

    @rudderpedals:

    There’s shoving and light roughness in the comments but no one’s taken acid in the face solely for commenting from the right.

    Not sure I agree with this. On the topic of guns — for example — there are posters here who will caustically and emotionally attack anyone who is seen as being remotely pro-gun, no matter how rational their supporting argument is. I know because it happened to me a number of times (and to some others folks who typically take more ‘liberal’ positions).

    And I can come up with other examples where people put forward thoughtful arguments for conservative concepts in good faith and were immediately lopped in with BENGAZI! ditto-heads. This is part of the challenge — being “right” (as in the political persuasion) means that an individual probably holds many of the same general opinions as the talk radio crowd (though for entirely different reasons).

  85. Trumwill says:

    @matt bernius: Thanks, and I agree about the tipping point. That’s sort of what I was trying to get at. It’s an environment that attracts a certain kind of person and repels another kind of person. And the kind of person it attracts then ends up reflecting on the other person. An environment is created through that cycle. I’m not sure what can be done about it.

    rudderpedals may be right that acid is not being thrown in anybody’s face, but before entering any particular thread anywhere, I ask myself whether it is worth the time and investment (well, I do that when I’m smart, sometimes I mistakenly jump right in). And it doesn’t take that much personal animosity (basic hostility, assumptions of extremeness, assumptions racism) for the answer to be “no.” It’s not that I’m scarred for life by persistent critical treatment, it’s just that I move on.

  86. rudderpedals says:

    @matt bernius:
    Yeah, I forgot about the mosh pit topics. I ‘m not sure I fully disagree with you. The n00bs tend to get beaten up too quickly in any thread. “Be gentle with newbies” is the unwritten rule honored more in the breach. I want more of Trumwill but I’m not sure how one would go about making it a less daunting place for old timers to post. Heavy handed moderation for tone would cut back on the feedback to the author and make the comments less interesting. Is there a tech solution? Some sort of new rating for comments, based on I don’t know a scale of 1-10 where 1 is purely emotional and 10 is purely reasoned, and the ability to filter comments below some average rating? I may be missing your point.

  87. Andy says:

    @matt bernius:

    Beyond @Boyd and @Andy, I’m hard press to think of a regular conservative commenters (and I don’t know if @Andy considers himself conservative) who fit that bill.

    I don’t identify with either the “conservative” or “liberal” movements in the US. That said, I lean more toward the “conservative” or “liberal” view depending on the issue but most of the time I think I’m outside the mainstream of political discourse.

  88. Andy says:

    @Trumwill:

    I think there is a similar dynamic here. Leaving a conservative comment means suddenly arguing with seven people at once, half of which will be polite and the other half will not. The people who most enjoy jumping into that are the most enthusiastic.

    That’s a great way of putting it and it’s been my experience here as well. Frankly it’s too much work to try to deal with so I don’t bother anymore.

  89. Boyd says:

    @anjin-san:

    Boyd went fishing in troll waters with his recent “hippie tears” jag…

    Yes, I did. Knowingly, and with the predictable response. My apologies to the few reasonable libtards thoughtful progressives around here, but I couldn’t shake the compulsion to squeeze the whine box. Also, the temptation to highlight the hypocrisy on “bad” civil rights was just too strong for me to resist.

    That being said, I concur with much of the analysis above on the absence of non-liberal voices around here (I don’t consider myself Conservative, but I’ll admit my libertarian stances tend to put me more in the Conservative camp). Often (as in, almost always) the condescension of any counter argument is palpable in the comments section here, and there doesn’t seem to be much interest in having a conversation with someone who has a different viewpoint. As a side note, if you’re interested in having that conversation, you might consider calling out the extremists who agree with you as much as you do the ones who disagree. It ain’t a level playing field ’round these parts. Oh, and there are a significant number of folks here who delude themselves into believing they’re moderate left, when they’re flaming liberals really nowhere near the middle.

    Lastly, and regarding just myself, a lack of time first led me to abandon my own blogging, then later greatly reduced my commenting career as well.

    Oh, the truly last thing: Doug, you really, really need a copy editor.

  90. Tony W says:

    I have to agree with the others who notice a liberal bent lately. I came to OTB years ago seeking moderation and diversity, and have found that over the years our little commenting community has become more like me instead.

    That makes me comfortable, but does not challenge my ideas sufficiently. It is difficult to find reasonable moderate voices online, and maintaining that mission should be a key priority in my opinion. I miss Jan, Florack, Jenos and the gang – and I fear we have made them feel unwelcome. People should have to defend their ideas, but they should be treated respectfully as well. If I want name calling I can hop over to Yahoo.

    In terms of new categories of columns, the recent bourbon discussion has me thinking a Troy Patterson column would be awesome, just because his writing is as delicious as I am sure his drinks are.

  91. matt bernius says:

    @anjin-san:

    Boyd went fishing in troll waters with his recent “hippie tears” jag…

    Right… like progressive posters (myself incluedd) here don’t go fishing the the troll waters from time to time. Boyd gets a pass and let she who has never posted anything schadenfreuden trolley cast the first stone.

  92. matt bernius says:

    @Tony W:

    I miss Jan, Florack, Jenos and the gang – and I fear we have made them feel unwelcome. People should have to defend their ideas, but they should be treated respectfully as well.

    Bullshit… Sorry, you lost me.

    I want thoughtful conservative commenting. But that’s not Jan, Florack et all.

    None of those posters deserve respect because they are not doing the necessary conversational things to EARN respect. They they mistake opinion for fact, don’t argue from points of fact, they don’t check references, they don’t admit mistakes, and they continue to post demonstratively false information long after it’s been decisively proven wrong.

    To be clear, if liberals/progressives commenters do this, then they don’t deserve to have their posts respected either.

  93. matt bernius says:

    @Boyd (et. al):

    Often (as in, almost always) the condescension of any counter argument is palpable in the comments section here, and there doesn’t seem to be much interest in having a conversation with someone who has a different viewpoint. As a side note, if you’re interested in having that conversation, you might consider calling out the extremists who agree with you as much as you do the ones who disagree

    Two thoughts on these fair points (also raised by @Andy, @Trumwill, @John D’Geek, amoung others — all folks I think of a thoughtful *conservative leaning commenters).

    1. While it’s completely against human nature on the internet, you don’t need to respond to ever yahoo that attacks your position. I totally understand why, under present conditions, you don’t want to wade into the fray. But the site would be much better off if you ignored responses you felt were out of bounds and just responded to those which seriously addressed your points.

    2. Some of us have been calling out folks on “our side” when we feel like they’ve gone out of line. We probably don’t do it enough — but to @John D’Geek’s point in many cases we’re all a little more flexible with our own side than with the opposite side of an argument. Still this is a good reminder for those of us who want more thoughtful conservative commenters that there are things we can do to help encourage that sort of participation.

  94. matt bernius says:

    @Boyd (et. al):

    Often (as in, almost always) the condescension of any counter argument is palpable in the comments section here, and there doesn’t seem to be much interest in having a conversation with someone who has a different viewpoint. As a side note, if you’re interested in having that conversation, you might consider calling out the extremists who agree with you as much as you do the ones who disagree

    Two thoughts on these fair points (also raised by @Andy, @Trumwill, @John D’Geek, amoung others — all folks I think of a thoughtful *conservative leaning commenters).

    1. While it’s completely against human nature on the internet, you don’t need to respond to ever yahoo that attacks your position. I totally understand why, under present conditions, you don’t want to wade into the fray. But the site would be much better off if you ignored responses you felt were out of bounds and just responded to those which seriously addressed your points.

    2. Some of us have been calling out folks on “our side” when we feel like they’ve gone out of line. We probably don’t do it enough — but to @John D’Geek’s point in many cases we’re all a little more flexible with our own side than with the opposite side of an argument. Still this is a good reminder for those of us who want more thoughtful conservative commenters that there are things we can do to help encourage that sort of participation.

  95. Tony W says:

    @matt bernius: You may be surprised to hear that I’m right there with you Matt. I really struggle with this issue and I try to be diligently self aware, but I have come to believe that folks who really think about things and develop their arguments from a rational basis simply cannot hold onto the core ideologies that drive the Republican party today.

    I suppose I am trying to eke out some meaning and wisdom from the crazies, since it’s apparently only them and the thoughtful moderates who contribute to the discussion.

    Any visitor from the Eisenhower era (or Western Europe of today) would tell us we are honoring the wrong dichotomy – that the right-wing-nut-bags do not deserve their 47% of the vote – but this is the reality of the America we have allowed to form.

  96. matt bernius says:

    @Tony W:

    I have come to believe that folks who really think about things and develop their arguments from a rational basis simply cannot hold onto the core ideologies that drive the Republican party today.

    Again, I have to disagree.

    Perhaps the most dangerous mistake any group can make is to believe that they have a moral/ideological monopoly on “the truth” (or truth driven positions). One reason for this is that there are a number of issues where there is no clear answer — abortion, for example, is the great unresolvable issue because there is no single truth to the matter.

    Further, on many issues, it’s entirely possible to hold the same policy positions as the Republican Party and have arrived at those decisions through clear thought and logical progression. There are a host of very logical reasons to oppose immigration reform or climate change legislation that have nothing to do with being xenophobic or anti-climate science.

    The reason I say Florack et. al should not be respected isn’t because of their policy positions — its because of how they defended those positions.

    Again, there are very logical reasons to agree on the facts and still disagree on how to deal with those facts. The problem is when people refuse to even acknowledge the *facts* — even after being shown the facts over and over again. In those cases, no respect is due. And that particular condition has nothing to do with party alliance.

    Any visitor from the Eisenhower era (or Western Europe of today) would tell us we are honoring the wrong dichotomy – that the right-wing-nut-bags do not deserve their 47% of the vote – but this is the reality of the America we have allowed to form.

    Bullshit. This is exactly the sort of crappy, self centered progressive thinking that needs to be attacked.

    While there are clearly right-wing-nut-bags out there, in no way do they constitute 47% of pro-Romney votes. And even if they did they surely don’t deserve to be disenfranchised — if for no other reason that part of Obama’s 53% is logically made up by left-wing-nut-bags who aren’t thinking any more clearly (but we forgive that because they support “our” side).

    This type of thought process is exactly what folks are complaining about above — it immediately allows legitimate criticism to be ignored (they’re all nutters) and convince oneself that she is always on the side of angels.

  97. Boyd says:

    @matt bernius: As usual, your thoughtful replies are appreciated, and worthy of responses. I’ll try to do so this evening when I have more time and a regular keyboard (for the few who continue to follow this thread).

  98. Boyd says:

    @matt bernius:

    …you don’t need to respond to ever yahoo that attacks your position.

    Excellent point that I need to bear in mind.

    Some of us have been calling out folks on “our side” when we feel like they’ve gone out of line. We probably don’t do it enough — but to @John D’Geek’s point in many cases we’re all a little more flexible with our own side than with the opposite side of an argument. Still this is a good reminder for those of us who want more thoughtful conservative commenters that there are things we can do to help encourage that sort of participation.

    That’s an another excellent point: if someone wants to have a conversation with someone who isn’t in lockstep with their position, they probably should encourage a more welcoming environment. We can have wild disagreements without descending into insults and emotionalism.

    I should develop a bit thicker skin, that’s certainly a valid point. The fact still remains, though, that a conservative viewpoint can be hit with a grunch of countering views, and it’s hard to take them all on alone.

    But I guess somebody has to straighten out all you nutcases. 🙂