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Liberal Bloggers Gather for Kos Conference

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand. Can a bunch of Web-savvy Washington-watchers handle life outside their virtual world? It's the first attempt at a convention for the web log Daily Kos. That's spelled k-o-s. Adam Burke reports from Las Vegas on what happens when the bloggers actually come face-to-face.

ADAM BURKE reporting:

In a packed convention hall at the Riviera Hotel last night, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas reminded an assembly of bloggers and blog enthusiasts of something they probably already knew...

Mr. MARKOS MOULITSAS (Daily Kos Founder): Technology allows each and every one of us to be a leader.

BURKE: Moulitsas is a talented blogger, or at least successful. Among the roughly 43 million blogs worldwide, Daily Kos currently ranks number five, according to the indexing website Technorati, which tracks website use. Moulitsas has leveraged the popularity of his site to raise funds for progressive candidates and help build a network of bloggers.

And now, says Tanny Martin(ph), an avid blog reader who writes comments under the name Zen Nurse, it's time for the extended community to get together face-to-face for some old-fashioned political organizing.

Ms. TANNY MARTIN: Pulling people together like this, to come out from behind their onscreen names, gives us an opportunity to put a face to the movement. And all the big names in the progressive blogoshpere are here.

BURKE: High profile Democratic leaders are arriving today in a show of support as well, including Howard Dean, Senator Harry Reid and General Wesley Clark. But can bloggers handle the pressure of big tent politics? They can be a fractious bunch and not everyone at the yearly Kos convention is enthusiastic about a push to consolidate the political might of the progressive blogoshpere. Here's Mary Scott O'Connor, who runs myleftwing.com.

Ms. MARY SCOTT O'CONNOR (Myleftwing.com): I would rather be a gadfly. I'd rather stay on the outside and critique than get inside and face the possibility, I think the very great possibility, of being assimilated into that culture.

BURKE: O'Connor says she's already seen a chilling affect online in recent months.

Ms. O'CONNOR: The atmosphere at several of the bigger left wing blogs has become a little bit restrictive. I've noticed the communities censoring themselves for fear of what they might think, you know, the ubiquitous they. And I'm not going to be a party to that.

BURKE: And according to blogger Mickey Kaus of the online magazine Slate, Internet politicking can backfire. In 2004 the Dean campaign used the Internet to mobilize voters. Five thousand out-of-staters showed up in Iowa and alienated locals.

Mr. MICKEY KAUS (Slate): That is a problem with using the Web's potential to mobilize people and maybe a convention is a good way to sort of train people, socialize them, teach them how to behave when there are other people present. Do all sorts of things that will make them a more effective force.

BURKE: Which is precisely what Arshad Hasan was teaching to a few dozen progressive activists yesterday in a workshop with a snappy title, From Computer Screens to the Streets: Turning Online Activism into Tangible Offline Action.

Ms. ARSHAD HASAN: Emails are your most effective tactic of all your tools you have for online organizing.

BURKE: Hasan says blogs need to be seen as just part of the political toolkit.

Ms. HASAN: Websites, blogs and emails really have their own sort of niche and their own function. And people don't really realize that, you know, the blogs are great. A million people a day go to Daily Kos, and that's fantastic. That makes Daily Kos an excellent place to get out your message. It's not the best place to, for example, do volunteer recruitment or fundraising.

BURKE: None of the organizers of the yearly Kos convention pretend to have any firm answers about what will grow out of this. Again, Tanny Martin.

Ms. MARTIN: It's going to be more clear on Sunday morning or Sunday afternoon or two weeks from Sunday when we've all had a chance to sit back and say, okay, well, now that's over, let's see what grew from that. Maybe not much. Maybe we'll find that what we have now is enough.

BURKE: But either way, they'll have plenty to blog about. Adam Burke, NPR News, Las Vegas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Adam Burke
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