As I noted in my introductory post, this project is basically going to consist of picking a different blog each week and covering it intensely — that starts Monday. In the interim, I thought it might be useful to remark a bit on the sites that introduced me to the blogosphere:
Glenn Reynolds (a.k.a Instapundit) — Prof. Reynolds opened my eyes to something that seems obvious now, but wasn’t at the time: the possibility of the link. In fact, I discovered many of the folks I read today via links on Instapundit, and when I began blogging myself, his style informed my own, as it has so many bloggers. As one of the folks who took up the medium at the beginning, Prof. Reynolds and a few others powerfully shaped the ethic of the blogosphere: link to what you criticize; fess up to mistakes, quickly correcting them in updates rather than pretending they never happened; solicit feedback from readers, and harness their Army of Davids power; welcome new bloggers, and generally send your readers out to worthy competitors. It didn’t have to be this way. Thanks, Glenn, for helping to make it so.
Andrew Sullivan — A singular talent and personality, Mr. Sullivan has written at length on his approach to blogging. He is the rare blogger success story who is as adept at the essay form, and capable of writing a damn good book. I’ll focus here on what I’ve learned from his blog, The Daily Dish. The foremost thing is his insight that blogging has more in common than one might at first imagine with broadcasting. Is anyone better than he is at streaming content that draws readers back throughout the day? Mr. Sullivan is also a master of the branded feature — a recurring constant that gives endless iterations on a theme. View from Your Window. The Yglesias Award. The recent series of reader e-mails on abortion (does anyone mine reader e-mail so compellingly?). Another feature is Dissent of the Day, and it exemplifies one of my favorite things about Mr. Sullivan’s approach: his willingness to air opinions different from his own, even if their authors are vituperate and critical of what he is writing. None of us is perfect, Andrew included, but this commitment tends to mitigate any mistaken positions that he takes, and is a necessary precondition for the large, diverse audience he continues to attract, especially on a blog that strives to reflect the evolving thoughts of its author, and is therefore inevitably mistaken at times. I’ve heard a lot of folks criticize The Daily Dish for one reason or another during all its years of existence, but I’ve never heard it referred to as a cocoon. That’s an impressive feat, and a credit to its author and readers alike.
Mickey Kaus — Long one of my favorites, Mr, Kaus is able to pack more substance into less space than any writer I know. He taught me how to cultivate topics to become obsessive about, returning to them again and again over time to add new twists. The practice enables longtime readers to develop an impressively nuanced understanding of given subjects–I’ve certainly learned a lot about the idea of social equality, immigration, welfare reform, The Los Angeles Times, and Arnold Schwarzenegger from the collected works of Mr. Kaus. He is also adept at cultivating in-jokes among regular Kausfiles readers, though one sometimes gets the sense that the internal editor he renders in italics on the page is only half-joking. More substantially, Mickey possesses a fearless streak that I admire, perhaps the product of a life spent as a “heretic” liberal. Never mind the conventional wisdom, or ideological cocooning, or what is deemed by some as the outward bounds of reasonable discourse — Mickey makes up his own mind, says what he believes, almost always offers nuanced, intellectually honest arguments, considers and airs dissenting views, and refuses to back down unless his mind is changed. Sometimes he is vindicated spectacularly; other times he is spectacularly wrong. Either way, he has spent the debate advocating for honestly held opinions, a mode that serves us well over the long haul.
If memory serves I discovered the estimable Megan McArdle soon thereafter.