February 26, 2012
The #Politics Tag: What I Need as an editor

I’ve had about a week as a #Politics editor for Tumblr, and I have few requests:

1. Libertarian posts that engage the complexities of libertarian ideology as translated into political practice.

Most of the libertarian posts that come up on my dashboard are little more than ideological screeds. They begin from “libertarianism is the answer to all issues of human freedom” and end with “everything else is a step on the path to totalitarianism.”

Aside from the fact that the argument is just silly—that things can go a way doesn’t mean they will or must—the main problem I have with these posts is that they seem cut out of time. They seem utterly unaware of or indifferent to the causes of the rise of the welfare state, the profound limitations on “free markets” when transparency does not and cannot exist, etc.  Inflation existed BEFORE the US and the rest of the world went off the gold standard after all, and there were labor wars in this country and around the industrialized world that included the assassination of a US President (McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist/labor activist). I would love to see some libertarian posts that addressed complexities such as these and then explained how, in a real world way, libertarian policies offer better alternatives to liberal or conservative ones.

2. Actual conservative posts, particularly ones that say something other than “Obama sucks.”

Perhaps it is my own lack of search ability in Tumblr, or perhaps it is the fact that blogging platforms seem disproportionately havens for younger, liberal/libertarian oriented people, but I have struggled to find posts expressing thoughtful, considered conservative alternatives to various policies and problems.

3. And to the Tumblr staff:

When I highlight a post, I am often interested in the  commentary associated with it that was added by a reblogger—particularly when the commentary offers needed corrections, new information, or just an alternative perspective on the issue at hand. All that goes away if I highlight the post in the #Politics tag. Which is annoying.

Is this so much to ask? Say something new, interesting, incisive and thoughtful and I will be happy to promote your piece—even if I don’t agree with it. If you don’t post the content, I can’t highlight it in the #Politics tag.

February 17, 2012
On the Tumblr #Politics Tag

There is an interesting and it seems to me entirely appropriate debate going on on Tumblr right now about how the #Politics tag works, the kinds of posts that get marked with it, and in particular whether the vile and hate-filled bloviations of one of the Tumblr #Politics editors, Ryking, ought to lead to his removal from his post as a #Politics editor.

I must confess to more than a little frustration over the #Politics tag. I have seen lots of posts of mine that I thought—perhaps wrongly—were reasoned, insightful and timely be utterly ignored; others, snarkier or less filled with original content, made the show. But I’ve never been able to figure out what makes it and why—pretty much across the board.

I have so far forborne to discuss the #Politics tag because at some level anything I would have said in the past would have been navel-gazing: a plaintive wail shouting “why not me?” into the ether. And while I have drafted a few such wails, I took the time to reflect and delete them: “Send” may well be the most dangerous command on the internet, followed only by “Post” and “Reply all.”

But the debate over Ryking’s status as a #Politics editor has sparked a thought I hope isn’t “why not me, #Politics overlords?” 

I think many of us greeted the creation of the #Politics tag as a hopeful thing: a place where interesting, unique and perceptive thoughts about complex issues might be highlighted for consideration and discussion. And to be fair, some of the editors treat the #Politics tag that way. 

But I don’t think that’s what Tumblr wants. If Tumblr has a vision with its tags, it is most likely a vision of driving traffic to highlighted links. It is a vision of encouraging people to spend more time than they already are in the Tumblrverse. (The same is true for Facebook and every other social network site, for that matter.) And this is what Ryking does well. His outrageousness and savagery drives business … which is why he is a consistent “Top Editor.”

It’s good business. It’s just horrific politics.

So I would love to hear from the Tumblr staff about their vision for the #Politics tag. Given that there is no mechanism by which other editors or commenters can revise, remove or otherwise challenge posts in the #Politics tag, ala Wikipedia (except by reblogging them), #Politics has become a receptacle for some of the worst elements of our politics, not the best. 

If we want a #Politics tag that is meaningful, it has to be curated by administrators with the power to challenge and remove posts and with the training to know what meaningful political analysis is (even if they don’t agree with a particular piece). As it stands, what we often get looks the “comments” section after an online article: nasty, brutish, and rarely short enough.

10:16am  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZPUuPyGZ83Sv
Filed under: Tumblr Politics tag