Are We Too Political for the Canadian Blogosphere?

It’s interesting. I’ve been blogging for almost three-and-a-half years, and I never noticed the wall going up in the Canadian blogosphere. Maybe it was always there, and I stepped across it without knowing it. But I have to ask, is my blog too political to be Canadian?

Four individuals have done tremendous jobs in putting together tools to promote promote interaction within the Canadian blogosphere. Jay Currie has spent lots of time and energy producing the Canadian Bullet, a website which gathers the blogfeeds of a diverse selection of Canadian bloggers, as well as bloggers around the world. Posts can be sorted by topic, by country, and in a variety of other ways to get a good idea of what Canadians are talking about, at least in terms of politics. Then there’s Andrew Anderson of Bound by Gravity, who has produced CanConv, another gathering of blogs wherein people contribute links to blog posts (and not necessarily their own blog posts), and these links get sorted into various categories, giving a good idea of what topics are hot today.

Andrew’s CanConv, while brilliant, is still a work in progress, as evidenced by this post a month ago, wherein he announces the removal of Humour as a category. Here’s his explanation:

After debating with myself for a week, I have decided to remove the “Humour” Category from CanConv, and I am considering nuking some of the other Arts and Culture Categories (specifically: Movies, TV) but I would like a bit of input. Humour was removed because it contained a bunch of unrelated jokes and amusing posts which, although worth reading, were not worth archiving long term. In addition, the category had an annoying habit of occupying a spot in the Top Nine, and that, in my opinion, defeated the intent of the system.

One of his commentators, Mike of Rational Reasons, jokingly commented:

Well of course. Conservatives make cuts and Arts and Culture programs are the first to go. Typical. I suppose all we need is free-market economics and football.

Mike Harris must be running this blog now…


Andrew later changed his mind and restored the cuts, but it still got me to thinking…

Earlier this year, Robert McLelland, who has produced such good things as the MyBlahg News and the Cavalcade of Canucks, organized the 2004 Canadian Blogging Awards. As this was the first and only awards program specifically for Canadian blogs, he deserves tremendous amount of credit for bringing this idea to fruition. Despite this, I commented at the time that there was something missing from his categories:

Best Blog
Best Liberal Blog
Best Conservative Blog
Best Group Blog
Most Humourous Blog
Best Non-Political Blog
Best New Blog
Best Blog Design

Robert organized and ran the blogging awards mostly on his own, and I think the phrase that goes with this statement is “beggars can’t be chosers.” But it’s instructive which categories he selected. Political blogs dominated these awards, with the community explicitly divided between liberals and conservatives. Arts and culture blogs were left out.

Now consider Jay Currie’s Canadian Bullet. It is explicitly a diverse gathering of Canadian blogs — political Canadian blogs. It’s a diversity of voices from across the spectrum, but the voices are all talking politics. Where are the book blogs? Where’s Rannie Turrigan’s Photojunkie? Or Brett Lamb’s quirky Blamblog? Where are the posts linking to Accordion Guy or the religious (and somewhat political) discussions of Jordon Cooper? Aren’t their voices as important as ours?

And, with Andrew’s post, that’s when it hit me: the Canadian blogosphere has a political component, a community of blogs which has broken away from the main branch and is largely chattering to itself. And I sense in some quarters, myself included, that we sometimes see the political blogs of the Canadian blogosphere as being the Canadian blogosphere.

We political bloggers may be living up to Canada’s stereotype (not that it’s a bad stereotype) of ordinary people kvetching about the goings on in our provincial capitals or Ottawa over timbits at our local donut shop, but that’s not all that Canadians talk about in our donut shops, and not every Canadian goes to a donut shop. And by ignoring those Canadian bloggers who aren’t particularly political, we are ignoring the voices of a number of Canadians. It’s not that I’m saying that one should be forced to pay attention to blogs that don’t interest one to read, but we can’t go about awarding the best in Canadian blogs, or talking about what Canadians are talking about if we ignore such a large segment of our community.

It is pleasing to see how many left-of-centre commentators post and respectfully debate in Andrew Anderson’s right-of-centre blog. It is pleasing to see the diversity of political voices we’ve gathered under the Blogging Alliance of Non-Partisan Canadians. In many respects, we’ve knocked down the walls of the progressive and conservative echo chambers, but until we broaden our horizons, and incorporate non-political blogs into our community, all we are in is just a louder echo chamber.

Robert is hard at work organizing the 2005 Canadian Blogging Awards and it looks like it’s going to be just as fun as last year, if not more so. He’s asking for opinions on the categories. I’ve already weighed in, but I’m sure he’d appreciate your thoughts as well.

Canadian Blogs in my Blogroll that Don’t Often Appear on the Blog Aggregators

By the way, I said “four individuals” had done a tremendous job of fostering the community identity of the Canadian blogosphere. I’ve mentioned Andrew, Jay and Robert. Who’s number four?

The granddaddy: Jim Elve, whose BlogsCanada continues to build this corner of the blogosphere. His directory is as good as anything a government department could have put together, and it’s cheaper too. It’s also inclusive, and if you’re Canadian, and haven’t signed your blog up yet, what the heck are you waiting for?

How to Know if You’re Too Political for the Canadian Blogosphere

  1. Off the top of your head, you can name more than thirty members of parliament.

  2. You pay more attention to Jack Layton than his caucus does.

  3. At a barbecue, you walk up to Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, slap him on the back, give him all sorts of free advice on how to beat the Liberals next election, and he looks at you and says, “and your name is…?”

  4. You do all the above, and then suddenly remember that you’re a Liberal.

  5. You find yourself speculating who will replace the person who replaces Paul Martin.

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