November 21, 2011 3 Comments
Over at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, co-founder Mark Thompson has a great post up which covers the history of the site from January 2009 to present. I was honored to be included in the post and as a sort of blogging ‘thank you’ to both the contributors and commentariat at The League I thought I would put a piece together.
First, a little background. I discovered politics on the web through chatboards. From 2004-2007 I spent time at a site that had a diverse and interesting membership. This is where I cut my teeth and sharpened my debating skills. In mid-2007 the site’s membership began to suddenly decline and by that autumn there were only five of us and we were talking in circles most of the time. Hungry for more challenging conversations I started looking for another site that had a larger and more active membership. This lead me to another chatboard which clearly slanted leftward. My opening salvo was ill-advised and over the next month I was public-enemy #1. In December of 2007 I was forced off of that site by the moderators.
In January 2008 I began blogging. The medium appealed to me instantly because I controlled my site. I wasn’t at the mercy of someone else and I could steer the ship in whatever direction my thoughts took me. Over the next 15 months I built a small readership and began to reach out to other bloggers who I admired. I took a lot of pleasure from forming these relationships because the blogging community seemed much more friendly and much less tribal (I realize this sounds a bit naive now but I still believe it to a large degree). What I never thought was that I would seek out and join another single-site community, especially one that was owned by someone else.
Enter the League of Ordinary Gentlemen.
I was fortunate enough to stumble upon the League at just the right time. It was in the early days when the writers were still trying a unique model of ‘series format’ posting. It blew me away because the conversations were so intelligent, so diverse and so polite. At the same time another phenomenon was happening which was equally exciting. The League’s commentariat was developing into a genuine community. I’m honored to have played a minor role in these early days. At that time I was still enthusiastically pushing my own brand of progressive conservatism and I found a group of people that were interested in looking at issues from new angles. This seemed like a perfect match and in the last 2+ years it hasn’t disappointed.
Mark’s piece does a far better job of discussing the evolution of the site than I ever could have. I’ve guest-posted there several times and having my byline on the League’s front page remains one of my proudest writing achievements. Watching some of my fellow guest-posters become official League members is akin to playing minor league ball and watching your teammates get called up to the big leagues. You feel honored for having been there to watch it (and maybe just a little envious).
As much as I love the posts at the League for me the best part remains the commenters. This group is what keeps me coming back day after day. For the most part they defy definition. Just when you think you have one of them pegged they will make a comment that is so 180 degrees from what you thought they would say that you find yourself wondering if it’s the same person. I love that feeling because it keeps me on my toes and forces me to never assume. I still feel woefully out of depth discussing many subjects with this group. We’ve never laid our academic credentials on the table but I suspect it would be an exercise that would leave me feeling very inadequate. I do my best to hang with conversations and I hope I occasionally say something smart.
At this time I guess it’s appropriate to raise my digital glass to the League. Thank you so much everyone for making me believe that a civil internet community is still possible and letting me join in the fun.