Daily Kos and the evolution of the blog

The beta of the Daily Kos redesign (aka “DK4”) was opened to the public today. Given the site’s status among the highest-traffic political blogs, it’s worth taking a look at. To me, the striking thing is how much it retains a great deal of the traditional blog format, particularly at a time when the format is being blurred beyond recognition by The Huffington Post and largely abandoned by the Gawker network. I argued in a paper for AEJMC this year that the existence of the blog as a primitive format in 2010 is an illusion — even though Daily Kos runs on its own platform as opposed to a commercial one like WordPress, it’s clear they have a commitment to the producer-audience relationship fostered by blogs as opposed to the top-down paradigm of online magazines.

As an example, take this description of DK4’s “mojo” system. In the Daily Kos community, mojo is essentially a metric of trust, based on past activity — comment recommendations over time get you there in the current system, but the new system is substantially more robust. As Kos describes in the post, it provides three categories of activities that build as indicators of community trust, but they do so without providing a lot of quantitative data. I find this particularly interesting, because one of the things that’s always struck me as a little odd at Daily Kos was the chest-puffing about having a low UID — that is, being a long-time member of the site (full disclosure: my UID is 8475). The UID is still on display in the new site, but the mojo score aggregates and subtly obfuscates the specifics of one’s community behavior. It’s a way of both encouraging engagement and discouraging argument from seniority. This is part and parcel of Kos’s expressed vision for the site — fostering and filtering quality content from the community. Unlike so many other giants in the liberal blogosphere — HuffPo, Talking Points Memo, Think Progress — and in the blogosphere and big-time social media in general, the creation and nourishment of community makes Daily Kos stand out.

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