Can Rubel Endorse? Could Madison Review Sushi?
Shel caused a flare-up when he jumped on Steve Rubel about endorsing Kerry (Shel later apologized). What's of note to communicators is that the flare-up ain't about politics -- it gets right down and dirty to "why blog? where does your cred come from? what makes an influential blog?"
Questions, indeed. Gets right down to philosophy.
The short story: Rubel endorsed Kerry on his blog (his added point being that candidates should embrace blogger endorsements with the same love they give paper endorsements). Shel jolted and noted that political endorsements aren't what he's looking for on Rubel's blog. The political part died down right away -- Shel and Steve are big boys, and on the same side. But the question about what is appropriate on a blog has been discussed a few days more at Shel's place.
The threads are on all three links I cited above: important because it's a discussion I hear in one form or another almost daily, online and off -- I suspect most bloggers do.
Here's the thing. Most of us want our blogs to be influential. Lessig influential might be a stretch, but influential enough to add substance to the debate isn't.
But how to do it? Shel, Steve and their correspondents argue about this. Here's one answer: To be influential, blogs, like brands or political campaigns, must never waver. They must be focused and on-message, every time. Rubel cannot long meander off into politics and retain his blog's influence. Shel can't post a travelogue about his and his wife's weekend in the wine-country without a shel of my former self losing influence. I haven't a clue what Lessig gets up to in his free time, but if he posted about it, his blog would lose influence.
It's about consistency and focus.
Look at the Federalist Papers. Hamilton, Jay, and Madison wrote editorials, deftly woven to build on and refer to one another's posts, to argue for ratification of the US Constitution. A conversation in public to provoke a wider conversation. It worked. While only the editorials of Madison, Jay, and Hamilton are today collected as The Federalist Papers, those editorials sparked dozens of opposing editorials, hundreds of letters, thousands of fist-fights.
That's quality blogging, 18th century style. Ratified a Constitution, too.
But what gave Madison & Co influence? Timeliness and relevance, sure. But stict focus helped. John Jay never gives us sushi-bar reviews. Madison never interrupted his closely-reasoned argument with moblogs from weekends at George and Martha Washington.
If that was blogging.. and it was, just low tech, then the same rules will apply to high-tech blogging.
Or... is blogging entirely different?