Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The VBC ... unfiltered

The history of the Virginia Blog Carnival is something this scribbler doesn’t really know much about. It popped up on my radar about a year ago, maybe a little bit longer than that.

Originally, it struck me as a thing designed by, and for, a clique of young well-intentioned bloggers who wanted to promote their efforts and build an Internet community. The participants seemed to know one another, personally, and I saw it as something for them. Northern Virginia appeared to be the epicenter of it, but I was just guessing.

Significantly, what the VBC didn’t strike me as was being much about encouraging excellence in the craft of writing. Yet, as I remember it then, the VBC wasn’t focused only on politics, and it didn’t seem to have a radioactive partisan tilt.

You see, dear reader, being older than most political bloggers, I’m not into hanging out at the campaign parties, or trying to be a political insider. Nor do I see establishing an acronym that other bloggers will use to refer to my blog as a sign of success. I’m the quintessential starving artist/writer, a time refugee from when that was supposed to be cool.

For me, blogging was a way for me to keep writing and reach new readers, even when I couldn’t sell my work. (As it’s turned out, I spend too much time with it.) It was also a way to keep in touch with a Richmond audience built by previous publishing endeavors, which I won’t slow up now to detail.

In the last couple of years I’ve become somewhat more aware of the computer geek etiquette of the blogosphere, something I have come late to. Some of what comes under that heading I try to adhere to, some of it is too silly or twisted for me to care about. For instance, the conformist notion that bloggers should always be part of promoting other blogs, with obligatory linking, etc. -- all for some greater magnificence of the blogosphere -- flies in the face of what I know about freedom of choice.

Hey, if I ever posted one of those sideways smiley faces, at the end of a sentence of mine meant to be funny, my daughter would never let me forget it. So, I won’t. The vernacular and symbols of chat-rooms are not part of my repertoire. To those of you who know printing, I still paste-up flats for print jobs.

However, out of the blue, last summer I was invited to sit on the Blogging and Journalism panel at the Sorensen Blog Summit. Even though I chuckled at the use of the word “summit” to label a convention of self-publishers, nonetheless, I was flattered to be asked. Out of curiosity, I decided to do it, even though I suspected there was a good chance I’d feel sort of out of place.

As it happened, my fears weren’t justified and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. From it I took a fresh sense of being a part of something that was going to be important -- a modern breed of pamphleteers. The idealism and collegial spirit of the confab impressed me.

Since then I have taken more interest in the so-called “blogosphere.” I’ve even taken to writing about it, which I rarely used to do ... perhaps some of my readers wish I’d go back to not writing about it so much.

Back to the carnival: For whatever reason, over the last few months, from what I’ve seen it has drifted toward being all political, and rightwing for the most part. But I am not saying that was part of any sort of conspiracy. I agree with the recently expressed thought that in Virginia, for whatever reason, lefties have turned away from the carnival concept.

However, in the last year, occasionally, one of the rotating VBC hosts went beyond what had been submitted and displayed a link to a post at SLANTblog. Again, I felt glad to be picked, but that didn’t make me want to get into being involved, or host the carnival, etc. Putting a link to the VBC on SLANTblog’s blogroll didn’t occur to me until I wrote these words.


To me, the concept was always about promoting blogs and getting hits. I’m not saying that’s evil, I’m just saying that doesn’t interest me. The VBC certainly has not about promoting the best writing of the blogosphere. Or being creative.

Please know, I’m not at all against the Virginia Blog Carnival. I know some of those who’ve worked on it have tried much harder than others to make it an institution which commands respect. But unless the Virginia Blog Carnival changes its way of operating, I think it will fade into obscurity, to be replace by aggregators and other ways of gathering posts from various sources.

Perhaps the carnival concept is on its way out, no matter what is done to make it more interesting to readers beyond those who have their posts listed on it. Things like that happen fast these days, or so I’m told.

If I wanted to establish a new Virginia blog-driven carnival, or a Richmond carnival, or whatever, I certainly would make sure the material presented was not limited to those who submit something. Part of the job, as an editor/talent scout, would be to seek out the unusual and the excellent.

Nor would I focus on politics, only. Instead, it would focus on quality and present the best stuff that could be found, however it’s found. There ought to be a theme for each separate edition, too.

Such are my thoughts on this matter. Either do it right, or don’t do it.

Since there have been so many angry words slung around the Virginia blogosphere in the last week on this hot topic, and my own rather bland comments were grabbed and used to inflame some of those who seem to enjoy staying perpetually inflamed, I wanted to go on record -- Terry Rea is not the VBC’s enemy.

Nothing I have written here is meant to put anyone down. Likewise, I hope those who disagree with anything I’ve said won’t take offense, none is intended. Your comments are welcome. I don’t claim to have any more insight into these matters than the next guy. What you’ve just read is my opinion, and mine alone.


Like Elvis Costello says -- “My aim is true.”

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