Prepared for UUA.org by Doug Muder
Yesterday morning my wife Deb and I drove to St. Louis from
my parents' house in Quincy, Illinois. On the way we passed one of Missouri's
famous Unitarian landmarks, the UU Bowling Green. I've never been to the Green,
but I've often wondered about it as I pass its sign on Highway 61.
We spent most of Tuesday settling in—we found our hotel and the convention
center, registered, met some of the other people who are doing the web coverage
of GA, and then walked down to the river to see the Arch at sunset, when it
looks golden and fiery. I'm hoping one of the official photographers gets a shot
of it, because my digital camera wasn't doing it justice.
Formal activities don't get started until this afternoon, but Tuesday evening
the public spaces of the Renaissance Hotel were full of UUs milling about,
trying to figure out who had arrived and where they might be staying. I don't
consider myself particularly well known or connected, but even I was running
into familiar faces: Elizabeth Jas from First Parish Lexington (where I was a
member years ago) was putting her innate cheerfulness to official use as a
greeter. (I can't imagine doing that job. After the fifth person I'd be barking,
"Whadda you want?") And as I walked down the sidewalk towards dinner, I heard a
rap on a window and saw Ron Cordes, from my home congregation in Bedford.
This kind of thing gives GA a small-town feel, which can seem a little odd in
the middle of a major city. And even though I don't like to think of UU as a
type, when you look at a room full of us it is apparent that certain
characteristics repeat. I haven't tried to figure out what they are yet, but as
I ate dinner at a nearby Thai restaurant, it was obvious that the place had been
overrun by Unitarians. I kept looking up and thinking I was supposed to know
this person or that one. In fact I didn't know them, but my unconscious kept
identifying them as the kind of people I know.
Today's agenda contains a lot of running around. This morning I'm hanging
around the web-workers' room, snatching free bagels and coffee, writing this
blog entry, and hoping to run into the person who is going to design the web
page it appears on. After lunch I head back out to the airport to meet two
teen-age girls coming to their first GA. One of them I've known since she was a
baby, and the other (her best friend) I've also met several times. I'm hoping
their presence means I'll be plugged into the youth gossip. I'll probably sit
through the youth orientation with them, then come back here for the official
web-workers' orientation. Tonight is the official opening of the conference,
which I'm told includes a procession of banners and the kind of formal pageantry
UUs often scrimp on. Then, if I'm still awake, there are evening activities.
At least that's the plan.
As so often happens, many of my plans for the day went
astray. I'll have more to say about that tomorrow, when I've had more sleep. Now
I just want to get some thoughts out of my head so that sleep has a chance to
One part of my plan did work out: I made it to the reception for UU bloggers
after the evening plenary. We didn't get started until almost 10 p.m., and then
ran until about 11:30. People trickled in by twos and threes, and we ultimately
wound up with about two dozen bloggers in the room.
The reception was sponsored by the Information Technology Services staff
group of the UUA, which seems to be fascinated by the blogging community and
wonders how the UUA and UU bloggers can work together to our mutual advantage. I
don't think the UUA people knew exactly what question they wanted to ask, and
the question we ended up discussing was something like: How can the UUA create
the kind of buzz it wants among bloggers?
It was an interesting conversation that I'm sure will be adequately covered
by the other bloggers—I'll try to point you to their blogs as they show up. But
I came out of the room thinking about the conversation we might have had, so I
think I'll say a little about that. The question they should have asked—and
maybe they even did ask it, but we misinterpreted—is more like: How can
the UUA help UU bloggers become more effective at spreading the values of
That question has an answer that is very simple to state: Create community
infrastructure that helps us find readers and helps readers find us. A very good
example is what DailyKos did for politically
liberal bloggers. Someone who is totally new to blogging can post a piece on
DailyKos, and if it strikes a nerve, that post can wind up with tens of
thousands of readers in a few days. Hundreds of them will leave comments. That's
not going to happen if you create a political blog on Blogspot and wait to see
who notices it. (I speak from experience. You can still be the first commenter
at my Open Source
Nothing similar exists for UU bloggers or religiously liberal bloggers in
general. (A DailyKos spin-off called Street Prophets provides a home for
bloggers whose liberal political values are religiously inspired, but that's not
the same thing.) If the UUA could get such a thing off the ground, it could
develop a community spirit in much the same way that DailyKos did, and could
develop into a strong collective voice for liberal religion.
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.
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