Questions for Daily Kos (or any online political community)

Why study the Daily Kos? Is it possible? Is it necessary? Quite simple. Consider it in evolutionary terms. There are some necessary long-term objectives of your community: grow. colonize. survive. (Paul Lukasiak suggested I rearrange this document so people can get right to the questions. For details about the questions, read the rest of the document.)

  1. Does dKos have room to grow?
  2. Among the “Big Five” most read bloggers by journalists (according to a study this past summer), there’s only one liberal site– Talking Points Memo. Is this a problem? dKos is further down the list. Should it crack the top five?
  3. Do the sheer number of contributors make dKos stronger?
  4. Why be part of dKos, and not be part of MyDD? From a handful of measures, dKos is 10x bigger; what if there were two equally strong collectives to crack the top 5?
  5. Do you consider yourself part of the blogosphere?
  6. Do you see any values or methods used on dKos which should be shared with the larger blogosphere?
  7. Would you see a benefit in extending Scoop to institutions which are considering setting up blogs?
  8. How much do you use the dKosopedia vs. the classic Daily Kos diaries?
  9. How about the citizenry and local party leaders/activists? Should they be engaged through dKos? or through scoop-like sites, or through anything in the netroots?
  10. Do you understand what Kos’s ethics are?
  11. Are you worried that, given Kos’s penchant for saying what’s on his mind, he may put the entire website in jeopardy? considering all that you have on the website.
  12. Do you think that Kos is deserving of the revenue for the site? Has anyone considered a revenue-sharing program? Or, at least a way to offer reward top contributors with prizes?

I’d post on my own in Kos, but I don’t have a diary yet, so Paul said he’d try to post this in his. I suppose it’s easiest if dKos members want to post their answers on there and not here. I hope that this is even more helpful for the dKos community than it is for me. I originally started out writing a piece on Kos as an instution/advocate/observer, particularly related to the DNC Chair race and netroots efforts– this had 7500 words by the end of Decemeber. I held onto it do a little more research, and to work on other things. I now realize I ought to continue the research after the DNC Chair race is decided. This discussion is incidental, but is very helpful in shedding light on the big picture.

Can it be studied?

I was introduced to the dKos community in a couple of diary posts– Zephyr apologist doing analysis of Kos for conference and Who Is Jon Garfunkel. I thought I’d extract some of the key challenges and address them here. Note first of all that the “analysis of Kos for conference” was a bit of a stretch. I had thought to submit some findings to the Berkman conference. That doesn’t mean it would actually be discussed.

RedDan wrote:
“But I am getting a distinct sense from the comments here on this thread that, Dammit! you’re going to research and analyze what you have already decided to research and analyze, regardless of whether or not your topic and focus are appropriate to the subject that you have chosen to investigate.”

Damned if I do, huh? Well, I am learning that there are two versions of the Daily Kos– there’s one version that’s visible to those who scan the front page or ; and there’s . Though this isn’t unique to Kos. The New York Times, Slate, the National Review, C-SPAN, etc., all have online forums, which relate to, but don’t fully interact with, the public output of the publication. So I wonder if dKos can be any different.

badger wrote:
“I don’t know your background, but if you’re viewing this from a media, media tech or applied politics perspective, you’re going to miss the boat.”

My background– I have read plenty on communities– Rheingold, Turkle, Rushkoff, Putnam. I’ve written about it, too– Abuzz, C-SPAN vs. Able2Know, Meetups Now what is precisely your issue with applied politics? Like phone banking, going canvassing, participating in town government, covering local voting, creative fundraising? If Kos is “working class/blue collar” and Josh Marshall is “insider/white collar,” where do you suggest that I fit on that scale?

Tropicana wrote:
“Perhaps I’m wrong, but I’m guessing that you are a highly rationalist individual who probably would benefit from some real community, not just crunching ‘impartial’ research about various species of blogs.”

I’m also the type of rationalist who questions every survey or poll I get. Yes, my real communities miss me– my tennis partners, my film fanatic friends, my synagogue. The latter group is waiting for me to report back on the future of communities.

bushsux wrote:
“All of which misses the point — you are trying to understand a system by imposing some sort of artificial structure that does not really exist… Any ‘academic’ approach to analysing Kos is a waste of time ”

I had originally thrown out Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo as a standard of sorts. Many people wrote in to say that there was no comparison– and proceeded to make comparisons. For all the talk of dKos being a community, I didn’t get a sense that people were advocating cutting back from other communities, but instead, they log onto Kos and cut back on other media interaction. So that’s why we study these as media.

Details on the Questions


I assume that you have a goal to make the dKos community more influential in the world at large. Does Kos have room to grow? By the standards of TLB ecosystem, dKos is #1 in traffic, And he’s #3 in inbound links. I am still churning through this data to see whether I can learn anything from it.

Now, let’s consider the “Big Five” as ranked by media professionals: Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish, Glenn Reynolds’s Instapundit, Mickey Kaus, the National Review’s Corner, and Talking Points Memo.

Most of these bloggers are maxed out. Reynolds writes 150 posts a week; if he wrote anymore, his fingers would fall off. Kaus is barely coherent. Sullivan’s white-on-black is impossible to read (yet people read it). Marshall spends all his time fact-checking, researching old newspapers, making phone calls to actual government officials that it’s hard to expect him to do anymore. And need I mention that of the Big Five, you only have one liberal?

So let’s take a little inspiration from Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor in Superman II, marshaling the villians in a fight against the Man of Steel– “He is but one, while you are three… or four if you count him twice!” gesturing towards the menacing Non.

Or 40,000– the number of members signed up on Kos; hundreds write diaries each week. There’s also 170 listed as having their own blogs; four are listed as Kos alumni.

I’m assuming you might want to take a step back every so often and figure out whether you are making progress, whether there can be better ways of organizing dKos, to meet these the goals of growth. Growth in the sense that you want the top tier to flip, and have four liberal sites up there.


I’ve asked the the Kos community whether they consider themselves to be part of the blogosphere, or maybe some other sphere. The Daily Kos site is run on scoop, which meets much of the Civ structure. By that token it provides a much more effective way of calculating a stories popularity– vs., for example counting links and trackbacks as the blogs do.

So do you see any values or methods used on dKos which should be shared with the larger blogosphere? Certainly it’s missing the sort of universal reputation system which exists within Kos.

Would you see a benefit in extending Scoop to institutions which are considering setting up blogs? I still get a general sense of uneasiness with blogs from the dKos community. Kos has said that he doesn’t consider himself a blogger at all.

How about the citizenry and local party leaders/activists? Should they be engaged through dKos? or through scoop-like sites, or through anything in the netroots?


The Daily Kos site seems pretty secure against invasions by “trolls”– users who join to cause trouble (by contrast, few blogs use such control mechanisms at all) . When you join, there’s a one-day waiting period to post. And a whole week to wait to post a Diary. I don’t know if anybody keeps a special eye on new diarists, but it wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Kos has expressed little need for outside ethical standards. That’s fine for him, but consider the 40,000 users who are on his ship, not quite knowing what the captain may do next. Kos has caught flack for what he’s said the past, but like conservative gasbags Limbaugh and O’Reilly he wears his battlescars proudly and soldiers on (And he really is a soldier, having enlisted in the Army after highschool; Limbaugh and O’Reilly both dodged the draft during Vietnam.). Yet few seem to have any fear that Kos will make a statement which will cause him to get sued, and jeopardize the whole Daily Kos website. He’s a lawyer, and claims to know the law, but I’d be a bit worried if my lawyer were that loose-lipped and flip about ethics.

You build the site; Kos gets revenue from the ads, and takes a cut for himself. Are you comfortable with that? Obviously, or you wouldn’t be on it. Would a revenue-sharing plan work?


Just some questions. I think what’s helped the blog revolution– which I admire, even though I don’t consider myself a blogger– is that it allows everybody to stake their own ground and safeguard their own published material. Sometimes it’s good to be part of a group/movement, sometimes its helpful to bifurcate and evolve some.

Or maybe I’m completely off.