Announcing: NothingWavering.org An LDS Blog Portal for Mainstream, Orthodox Mormons

I am pleased to announce a new LDS Blog Portal focusing on mainstream and orthodox LDS blogs and bloggers:

www.NothingWavering.org

  • I have rejected the hierarchical box layout of most existing portals. All blog post titles aggregated on NothingWavering.org appear at the top, above the fold, and move down as newer content becomes available. Not only is this layout more usable, because readers do not have to wander from box to box looking for new content (since new content is always at the top), but I believe that this layout places all the blogs on equal footing and in that way is more in harmony with the spirit of Zion.
  • In addition to aggregating blogs that specialize in LDS topics from a mainstream viewpoint, I am also aggregating content from bloggers who are mainstream LDS members but whose blogs are not primarily about LDS topics as well as RSS content from Official LDS Websites. These three types of content are separated into three sections: LDS Blogs, LDS Bloggers, and Official LDS.
  • I am providing unified RSS Feeds and Email Subscriptions for each section.
  • Visitors can copy and paste an html widget into their own webpage to display recent titles/links from each of the sections on their own blog or website. This, along with the RSS and Email Subscriptions, makes the content distributable and easier to disseminate without forcing people to come to the portal itself.
  • The portal supports Podcasts and Video Podcasts with an embedded player so that aggregated enclosures like video and mp3 audio can be played right on the portal, including General Conference feeds (see examples: audio , video) .
  • The portal generates a unique local URL and preview of every aggregated post with links back to the original blog, feed, and post, intended to help increase the search engine visiblity of aggregated content and blogs.
  • The portal also collects tags based on the tags, categories, and title words in each RSS feed, to be able to find and display aggregated posts on related topics.
  • An experimental feature identifies all external links in each aggregated post. When you view a post preview at the portal, it will identify other aggregated posts that link to the post you are previewing, as well as posts that link to the same websites. This will help readers identify related content based on shared links.

    Future features I hope to build after launch include integration with major social sites like Facebook and MySpace, as well as personal pages like iGoogle, to make the content even more distributable to a wider audience. I also have a mobile version partially complete that will be available as time permits after the launch.

    From a technological perspective, the whole site has been designed in XHTML strict markup and CSS, with modern table-less layout designed to render correctly in all major browsers. It uses Ajax technologies to enhance user experience, but it also degrades nicely when JavaScript is disabled or images are turned off. This will hopefully make it equally accessible to users who visit with screen readers as well as search engine bots.

    A big thank you to all of the LDS Bloggers who tested the portal before launch and for having kept it confidential.

    And thank you to the folks at the Mormon Archipelago and By Common Consent for kicking me off of the LDSBlogs.org portal.

    Oh, and Happy Bastille Day!

Category: lds
Tagged: , , , , , ,
Bookmark: link

19 Responses to Announcing: NothingWavering.org An LDS Blog Portal for Mainstream, Orthodox Mormons

  1. Max,

    Well, I’m certainly happy to see another blog portal. I think that what you’re doing is certainly adding to the options of the LDS blogging community. Your portal will help to show that the “Bloggernacle” actually refers to a certain popular in-group community of LDS blogs, rather than all relatively faithful LDS blogs that discuss specific LDS topics, as many would like to define it.

    A couple questions I have for you regarding the new portal, though. First, how quick is the turn around time? By that I mean, how long will an individual post, on average, be shown on the main page? This is an important question not only now but also in the future as the blog list inevitably gets bigger. I wonder if you might consider in the future having a fourth column for large blogs only (as measured by posts per week). This will help the smaller blogs to not be crowded out by frequent posts by larger blogs. Also, any possibilities in the future for user-centered edits—such as removing a certain blog that I don’t care to see posts for.

    Second, I’m assuming that you’ve started up with a tentative list of blogs. On what basis have you selected these blogs and not others? I know you’re considering my blog (Thinking in a Marrow Bone), but I wonder why (a) compared to these other blogs it is not already included and (b) why it is something that you are considering as compared to already decided. I imagine you will have many people ask the same thing. If you decide not to include TMB, I challenge you to find one thing that is critical of the Church or its leaders. In this respect, I would ask the same thing about two other blogs: Toward an LDS Cinema and Latter-day Saint Philosopher. Same for another blog by a Latter-day Saint, Educating the Imagination.

    Third, I hope that your list discriminates based on quality. So many LDS blogs, while well-intentioned, are simply crap. If you don’t discriminate with a high standard here, you will have way too many blogs that will qualify for listing in the portal.

    My recommendation is that you have a HIGH standard of quality in terms of blogs that have posts that stand on their own (i.e., they do not rely on in-group references and cliquing). This seems to be a concern of yours (as well as mine), and this would be a nice escape clause for you to not include a lot of the blogs you want to exclude. I also recommend that you have a team that is in charge of what is listed and what is not. Frankly, if this becomes “whatever J. Max wants,” then your worries about priestcraft might rear their ugly head in some undesired ways. I certainly would be willing to help in this regard (depending on the specific arrangements).

  2. Dennis,

    Thanks for your good questions. Unfortunately, I have already reached the blogging quota for the day. I have pressing non-related responsibilities. I will try to respond you your questions when I get some time.

  3. Certainly understandable, Max. Take your time.

  4. I’m very glad to see this development. Not only is it a major technological improvement – but it addresses a number of other concerns that have been addressed in your posts. I particularly like to see a non-hierarchical approach – something I’ve wanted to see for a long time.

    Spiffy design too, by the way.

  5. Happy Bastille Day, indeed! :-)

  6. Mark IV

    I don’t know quite where to post this comment, so I hope it is OK to put it here.

    A common theme throughout your last four posts has been the fringe nature of BCC/Dialogue. You have instead favored something you are calling mainstream and orthodox, and yet you have never defined the terms fringe, mainstream, or orthodox. What we have with this new aggregator is the worldview of J. Max Wilson, and that’s just fine. But I will note that after spending about two minutes glancing over the blogs you are featuring, you are promoting blogs that advocate the non-payment of income tax, the abandonment of the BSA as part of the YM program, and the rationalization of 10,000 sq. ft. homes as desireable for a family of 8. Perhaps you can explain to us how these blogs are mainstream or orthodox, or promote the cause of Zion.

    As far as BCC/Dialogue being fringe, or not sustaining the leadership, you are simply mistaken and unaware of facts. 67% of the subscriber base of Dialogue attends church every week, and an additional 12% attend most weeks, which means that 79% are active and involved LDS. Over 60% are RMs. You may not like their view on some things, but so what? In Mormonism, what you do is what counts, not what you say, and we can tell whether a tree is good by the fruit it bears. The Dialogue subscriber base is pretty small, really only enough to form a good sized stake if they all lived in the same place. And yet, that stake would have an activity rate approaching 80%. Can you think of anywhere, outside of the student stakes on BYU campuses, where that is the case? I imagine church leaders would be thrilled if 80% of the subscribers to The Ensign were active members.

    Those are the good people you have chosen to malign and marginalize.

  7. Aren’t you required to provide a snazzy logo/web badge for us to post on our sites?

    ;-)

  8. While I have less time to answer questions than I would like (due to important work responsibilities that I simply cannot put off) I want to try to post a couple of responses.

    1.”how quick is the turn around time? By that I mean, how long will an individual post, on average, be shown on the main page?”

    This issue was discussed with at least one tester before launch, and I will be monitoring it to make adjustments if needed. I have on occasion observed patterns of high-volume collective posting that forces content down the page rather quickly, and other times of low collective activity. So it is difficult to guarantee that a post will stay on the front page for any average time. If there is a hot topic that causes a flurry of posts, it could shorten the time. Other aggregators suffer from the same problem, however. Before I was de-listed, I noticed that sometimes my posts would stay on the front page for a couple of days, but that other times they were gone withing a few hours. During the NothingWavering.org testing period, however, it seems that posts remained on the front page for a day or two.

    Some of the additional features of the site will hopefully compensate by adding additional avenues of post discovery. Subscribers to the email and RSS Feeds will see new post titles as “new” regardless of whether they are still on the front page.

    And Tags and shared-link identification will increase the chances that your posts will show up in lists of related titles while readers are looking at new posts, even if your post has moved off of the page.

    For instance, let’s say that two weeks ago you wrote a post that links to a story on CNN.com. Now two weeks later, a different blog posts some thoughts on the same topic and also links to that same article. Readers who see their post on the front page and click on it will also be shown that your blog linked to the same websites and therefore may be of interest.

    Finally, the fact that included posts are given a permanent link at NothingWavering.org with a URL designed specifically for Search Engine optimization linking back to your original post, will hopefully contribute to your post being more frequently discovered in Google Searches, long after it has passed off of the front page.

    2. “any possibilities in the future for user-centered edits—such as removing a certain blog that I don’t care to see posts for.”

    Right now this functionality is not slated for development, though I am not ruling it out. However, custom reading lists are best accomplished using an RSS Reader, like Google Reader or Bloglines, where you simply subscribe to the individual blog feeds your are interested in. Nothing Wavering includes direct links to the feeds for all of the blogs it aggregates in the blog list to aide those who want to pick and choose using a blog reader.

    3. “On what basis have you selected these blogs and not others? I know you’re considering my blog (Thinking in a Marrow Bone), but I wonder why (a) compared to these other blogs it is not already included and (b) why it is something that you are considering as compared to already decided.”

    This is a tricky question. Of course, in preparing for the launch, I had to have content from the get go, so I had to select at least some blogs to be already included. But it was unrealistic to attempt to be comprehensive and I expected blogs that felt comfortable being listed as “Nothing Wavering” would take the initiative to apply for inclusion after the launch. I tried to be open to viewpoints with which I disagree (for instance I do not agree with what I consider extreme libertarian viewpoints or conspiracy theories on display on some of the blogs, or with the more left politics sometimes supported on your blog, but that was not a disqualifying concern). The tone of both the posts and comments was important. Open criticism of or opposition to the brethren by any of the regular bloggers or by a visible number of commentators is a disqualifying attribute. I want bloggers and commentators, rather, of whom there is little doubt that they actively support the brethren and the church—not Murmurers. I admittedly employ a few shiboleths. Also, I wanted, as you have mentioned, bloggers who seemed aware that their writing is a public facing representation of the church and its members and seemed to avoid cliquishness and private references and what linguists might call the “restricted code” of the bloggernacle. Inflammatory language was also a concern. Difficult topics are not to be avoided. But there is a difference between throwing around loosely defined, inflammatory terms, like polyandry for instance, with potentially salacious connotations and explaining clearly, for instance that Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married to other men, but that being sealed does not mean that he was sexually involved with married women.

    I am trying, imperfectly, to err on the side of being less inclusive if there are concerns. I am sure I will make a number of mistakes.

    Evaluating Group blogs is more difficult than solo blogs because the contributors to group blogs are not necessarily of the same mind. There are a number of bloggers who have contributed to BCC or other blogs that on their own would probably be listed, but because of the company with which they are associated or the commenters that they welcome—or tolerate, or the language choice most frequently on display on their blogs, they are not included.

    Exclusion from Nothing Wavering does not necessarily mean that a blog is not worthwhile or faithful by official standards. To a certain extent Nothing Wavering seeks to live up to President Packer’s analogy of hiring truckers. I want blogs that steer far from the cliff’s edge rather than try to see how close they can come without crossing the line.

    I also want it to be a portal with which most members would feel comfortable referring their friends, family, ward members, and investigators.

    The current list of blogs was reviewed by at least six others before launch who were all asked to suggest other blogs that might be included. Some of their suggestions are reflected in the initial offering, despite not being blogs I had thought to include myself. Others are still under consideration.

    I do hope to keep the quality high, though that will be obviously subjective. And I am concerned about the potential of the site to fall into the same priestcraft-ish vein I have complained about. You concerns are valid and I will certainly take them into consideration. One feature that I am considering adding is the ability of included bloggers to log in to manage some options about how their site is listed. At the same time, I may add features that will allow listed bloggers who log in to see what blogs have applied and to express their approval or disapproval. However, I do not intend to run the site as a pure democracy.

    We’ll see how it goes. And thanks for your questions and concerns.

    I wish I had time to address Mark IV’s comment, but I don’t have any more time to dedicate to it right now. Perhaps later. Hopefully, some of this comment answers some of the issues he has raised.

  9. David H. Sundwall,

    :) For now the embeddable list will have to do:

    See Here

  10. Some of the links to NothingWavering.org are characterizing it as self righteously judging between “Faithful” and “Unfaithful” blogs. If that is how they wish to spin it, they are welcome to do so. But for the record, I have carefully tried to stick to the terms “mainstream,” “orthodox,” and in the negative, “murmurer” and avoided “faithful” and “unfaithful” when discussing the blogs that I seek to list on NothingWavering.org.

  11. J Max,

    Your project would appear both less divisive and less controversial if you could provide me a reading of “murmurer” and of “mainstream, orthodox” that didn’t carry deep connotations of “faithful” and unfaithful,” especially in Mormon cultural contexts. In the interim, I am left saying, like Inigo, I don’t not think that means what you think it means.

  12. John C.,

    Avoiding appearing divisive and controversial has no inherent virtue. Sometimes both are necessary and right.

    My response to Dennis above is probably as much clarification as I have time to give.

  13. J Max,

    My point is that while I acknowledge that you have not yet had time to add all the blogs that you believe meet your criteria, your criteria imply “faith” testing. Saying that you aren’t judging “faithfulness” while labeling some sites (potentially) “orthodox” and others “murmuring” seems disingenuous. To me, it feels like you are trying to have your cake and eat it, too.

    While I realize that your primary goal in this isn’t to necessarily please me (as I am not your target audience, being currently pleased with the MA), I still don’t know what to make of the stated goals of this project. It doesn’t appear to me to be necessary or right at this point in objective or execution.

  14. J. Max:

    Thanks for your response.

    “Open criticism of or opposition to the brethren by any of the regular bloggers or by a visible number of commentators is a disqualifying attribute.”

    I understand this, but I wonder whether you might modify it a little as it pertains to commenters. As it stands now, your policy will have two consequences: (a) promote blogs that moderate comments in a semi-restrictive way, and (b) promote blogs that have a very tight in-group of commenters. This, of course, concerns me because my blog fits neither criterion—I do moderate comments after the fact, but it would be more in terms of outright rudeness and crudeness, not thoughtful criticisms of the Brethren, though the latter are extremely rare.

    Another reason I bring this up is that it seems to me that it might be within your interest to allow blogs that do allow for “murmuring” comments, with the caveat that these comments are handled appropriately by other commenters, especially the regular bloggers.

    I would just also point out, J. Max, that your erring on the side of exclusiveness could be a big problem in terms of the morale of LDS blogging. UNLESS—you only include blogs that meet a very, very high standard of quality in terms of posts that stand alone to a general (thoughtful) LDS audience. This would be the solution, J. Max., to virtually all the problems I’ve brought up. I suspect that there are very few blogs that meet this standard of quality that would not also be the types of blogs you’re trying to exclude (perhaps TMB is one, though—I guess we’ll see what you decide).

  15. Adam Greenwood

    My recommendation is that you have a HIGH standard of quality in terms of blogs that have posts that stand on their own (i.e., they do not rely on in-group references and cliquing). This seems to be a concern of yours (as well as mine), and this would be a nice escape clause for you to not include a lot of the blogs you want to exclude. I also recommend that you have a team that is in charge of what is listed and what is not. Frankly, if this becomes “whatever J. Max wants,” then your worries about priestcraft might rear their ugly head in some undesired ways. I certainly would be willing to help in this regard (depending on the specific arrangements).

    Sounds reasonable.

  16. aetheressa

    Hang in there J. Max. Your portal didn’t exist a week ago and everyone survived perfectly well without it. Now that it exists, they already want to tell you how unfair your goal is.

    One of the most popular words tossed around the bloggernacle is “divisive”. Some people use it to imply divisions in and of themselves are the source of contention and insult, and in this context un-Christlike. Drawing lines almost always makes those who like to contend-quarrel, but those who like to kick against the pricks will do so over almost anything-lines, lack of lines, the location of the line, the color of the line, whose territory it’s on etc. They don’t seem to understand that when they hurl the word divisive out there, they have drawn a line themselves.

    Christ drew lots of lines and He speaks of the divisions He plans to make in the future. Believers from unbelievers, sheep from goats, wheat from tares, right hand from left hand, House of Israel from everyone else. There are divisions in heaven and will be in eternity. We don’t have to like them or embrace them but we don’t get to determine if they exist or not, or where they fall. The only thing we get to decide is which ones we cross and which ones we don’t.

    Draw your lines anywhere you like J. Max. No one is being forced to stand anywhere they don’t want to, and in fact, your project was born because someone out there drew a line.

  17. aetheressa:

    I agree that some in the bloggernacle make too much about whether something is “divisive.” And you are very right about how “they don’t seem to realize that when they hurl the word divisive out there, they have drawn a line themselves.”

    However, I worry that a project like J. Max’s (depending on how arbitrarily or political his standards of “orthodoxy” end up being) could be “unnecessarily” divisive. In this respect, I don’t think it is wise counsel to J. Max to “draw your lines anywhere you like.” Also, just because “no one is being forced to stand anywhere they don’t want to” does not mean that you or I or anyone else cannot be irresponsibly divisive in a way that unnecessarily hurts others and ourselves.

    Whether that is the case with the NothingWavering.org portal—time will tell, I think. As of now, I’m not convinced with J. Max’s designation of “orthodox” Mormons (the implication being that those who are not included, such as my own blog to this point, are not). J. Max is going to have to realize, in my opinion, that this dividing line of “orthodoxy” is not the RIGHT dividing line (nor the one that he should be using to describe the portal). The right dividing line should be “accessibility and favorability to a conservative LDS culture.” Actually, when pressed, J. Max has seemed to concede that it’s not really about orthodoxy (ultimately), it’s about an IMAGE of orthodoxy. There is a difference.

  18. Martin Willey

    I guess I don’t quite get the controversy. No one is required to go to NothingWavering, right? I do not plan to use it, but I don’t tend to put a lot of stock in some self-appointed arbiter of what is faithful or orthodox- – – I feel pretty competent to make that decision myself. But if others want to Max’s aggregator, why should I care?

  19. Is there a promotional banner (small) that can be put in a sidebar?

Leave a Reply

  • Log in to comment
  • Register for an account

Be sure you are familiar with the Comment Policy before commenting.

Anyone who wishes to comment here must register for a sixteensmallstones.org login or connect using their Facebook account. Registration is simple and fast.

Once you have activated your account, you must log in to post comments. The first time you comment will still be moderated, but once I have approved your first comment you should be able to continue to add additional comments on any article without further impediment as long as you are logged in.

Copyright © 2005-2014 J. Max Wilson. Some Rights Reserved.