Dan Sieradski, also known as Mobius, the founder of Jewschool.com recently wrote a post titled Let It Be Said: We Run This Bitch. In it he does an adequate job of describing the early days and evolution of the JBlogosphere and the role he played in that. The article was inspired by the thrashing he’s been receiving over at the Jewish Press’s new blog. In the blog’s innaugural post, Steven Plaut referred to Jewschool as the “encephelophobic Left among American Jews.” In a later post, Jason Maoz disputed some of Mobius’s allegations against the paper, and Mobius defended himself by saying that he forgot about a particular fact that Maoz brought to light. The details are banal. I’ve provided links for those of you who care. Frankly, when I start hearing terms like “moonbats” and “rightards” my eyes start to glaze…
What this whole hullabaloo accomplished was to inspire the initial post I cited on Jewschool. Mobius himself described it as his “moment of hubris” where he states the following:
But the sheer fact of the matter is that the Jewish Press now has a weblog because of me and everyone else’s other favorite blogger they love to hate, Steven I. Weiss… Jew School and Protocols (Weiss’ original blog and the first ever Jewish group blog), it should be known, debuted within a month of each other… Protocols has long since folded, yet Jew School continues to reign as the longest-lived and still-relevant and going Jewish weblog, six years on.
OK. Fair enough. He then continues:
I can hardly tell you how many Jewish organizations contact me in a given week asking for help in getting started in the blogging world. Many of the most popular jblogs that exist today are, in fact, sites that I either inspired or was hired to build due to my experience in the field… Here’s a trivia question: Do you know why Jewlicious, the most popular and prominent of Jewish megablogs, exists? As CK himself revealed to me, and then affirmed in his ynet interview two years back, he began Jewlicious to stick it to me. He was trolling the threads on Jew School at about the time I started opening up to leftist views on Israel and decided he needed to provide a counterbalance to what he felt was the damaging impression of Israel I was promoting. (He likes to say â€œother Jewish blogsâ€ â€” but at the time, Jew School was the only left-wing Jewish blog online, period.) … Likewise, since Jewlicious began, I have been the repeated subject of posts there, both flattering and unflattering. Suffice to say, my biggest competitor is only successful because he took the model I pioneered and sought to do it â€œbetterâ€ than me… Thus, the truth is inescapable: Jew School set the gold standard. We developed the jblogging genre. We taught the Jewish world how to blog. We set the agenda.
Now that’s the part I have a problem with. Of course I am flattered by his description of Jewlicious as “the most popular and prominent of Jewish megablogs.” I always assumed that was a description more suited to Canonist or uh… Cross Currents. However, I never created Jewlicious to “stick it” to anyone. I simply wanted to promote the notion that one could be a cool and relevant Jew without being dismissive of Judaism and unduly critical of Israel. I felt that the opposite was being promoted by Jewschool where I was an active commenter at the time. I figured why bother wasting my time and energy arguing on Jewschool when I could very easily start my own blog, as many had already done at the time, and reach a wider audience.
I don’t consider Jewlicious to be in competition with Jewschool or any other blog for that matter. Quite the opposite is true. We have always been supportive of the JBlogosphere in general. We often place and pay for banner ads that we sold, on other Jewish blogs, including Jewschool. Last year, when we helped out on ROI120 we made it a point to include as many JBloggers as possible, including those affiliated with Jewschool. At our most recent conference we even flew in 3 Jewschool affiliated speakers. Does that sound like we’re trying to “stick it” to anyone?
But it gets worst. Mobius claims that “my biggest competitor is only successful because he took the model I pioneered and sought to do it â€œbetterâ€ than me… Thus, the truth is inescapable: Jew School set the gold standard. We developed the jblogging genre. We taught the Jewish world how to blog. We set the agenda.”
Well. No. Jewlicious is successful because we transcended Jewschool. The model Mobius claims to have pioneered wasn’t anything unique to Jewschool – not in the Jewish world and not in the world at large. When we started Jewlicious, anyone at all attuned to the Internet knew of the rising popularity of blogging and the promise it held vis-a-vis the democratization of content delivery. Of course I was reading blogs like Protocols which at the time I assumed was being run by Luke Ford. I had no idea that it was actually started by some guy I’d never heard of called Steven I. Weiss and had been effectively hijacked by the very prolific Mr. Ford who posted so often that the other bloggers couldn’t keep up. I imagine that’s why the decision was taken to shut it down, but what the hell do I know. I was also reading a blog by an old classmate of mine called Patio Pundit. His blog, started in 2001 and now mostly inactive, discussed his life and political opinions and often delved into Jewish and Israel related matters. I of course read all kinds of blogs before starting Jewlicious and for Mobius to claim that his blog, and his blog alone inspired Jewlicious, and set some kind of “gold standard” is ridiculous – unjustified self aggrandizement and hubris at its finest!
Jewlicious succeeded to whatever extent it did for a number of reasons. And here’s the part where we give away our secrets, so pay attention.
First of all, we were the first Jewish blog to use WordPress – a blogging program that required installation on a server and some familiarity with PHP, MySQL and other techie mumbo jumbo. At the time Jewschool was using Blogger – a service now owned by Google that allowed anyone to blog with ease, but that did not have the flexibility and power of WordPress. Well after Jewlicious established itself, Jewschool followed suit and switched to WordPress.
Using WordPress it was easy to feature not just our content but also the participation of our commentors and we certainly published links to the most recent comments before Jewschool did.
I could go on and on but I won’t. Instead I’ll tell you the main difference between ours and everyone else’s jblogs. Here it is: We’re not just a blog. Right from the beginning we leveraged whatever success we had, into activities that involved face to face interaction with our constituency. We’ve run 6 Taglit birthright-Israel trips and have three more on tap this summer. We’ve helped organize three annual Jewlicious Festivals in Long Beach California. We have also been very involved in ROI120 in Jerusalem. Right there that’s over a thousand people who have interacted with us personally and have an intimate understanding of what we’re all about.
I don’t know of any other JBlog that does what we do the way we do it. There was no template to follow, no gold standard to live up to. Don’t get me wrong, Jewschool is a fine blog as it were. Bluster and bravado aside, Mobius’s characterization of his influence on us is not at all accurate.
Just sayin’ is all …