On job hunting and the blogging future in Metro Philadelphia

I’ve been qui­et on the blogs late­ly, focus­ing on job search­es rather than rant­i­ng. I thought I’d take a lit­tle time off to talk about my lit­tle cor­ner of the career mar­ket. I’ve been apply­ing for a lot of web design and edit­ing jobs but the most inter­est­ing ones have com­bined these togeth­er in cre­ative ways. My qual­i­fi­ca­tions for these jobs are more the inde­pen­dent sites I’ve put togeth­er — notably Quak​erQuak​er​.org—than my paid work for Friends.

For exam­ple: one inter­est­ing job gets repost­ed every few weeks on Craigslist. It’s geared toward adding next-generation inter­ac­tive con­tent to the web­site of a con­sor­tium of sub­ur­ban news­pa­pers (appli­cants are asked to be “com­fort­able with terms like blog, vlog, CSS, YourHub, MySpace, YouTube…,” etc.). The qual­i­fi­ca­tions and vision are right up my alley but I’m still wait­ing to hear any­thing about the appli­ca­tion I sent by email and snail mail a week ago. Despite this, they’re con­tin­u­ing to post revised descrip­tions to Craigslist. Yesterday’s ver­sion dropped the “con­ver­gence” lin­go and also dropped the pro­ject­ed salary by about ten grand.

About two months ago I actu­al­ly got through to an inter­view for a fab­u­lous job that con­sist­ed of putting togeth­er a blog­ging com­mu­ni­ty site to fea­ture the lesser-known and quirky busi­ness­es of Philadel­phia. I had a great inter­view, thought I had a good chance at the job and then heard noth­ing. Days turned to weeks as my follow-up com­mu­ni­ca­tions went unan­swered. 11/30 Update: a friend just guessed the group I was talk­ing about and emailed that the site did launch, just qui­et­ly. It looks good.

Cor­po­rate blog­ging is said to be the wave of the future and in only a few years polit­i­cal cam­paigns have come to con­sid­er blog­gers as an essen­tial tool in get­ting their mes­sage out. User-generated con­tent has become essen­tial feed­back and pub­lic­i­ty mech­a­nisms. My expe­ri­ence from the Quak­er world is that blog­gers are con­sti­tut­ing a new kind of lead­er­ship, one that’s both more out­go­ing but also thought­ful and vision­ary (I should post about this some­time soon). Blogs encour­age open­ness and trans­paren­cy and will sure­ly affect orga­ni­za­tion­al pol­i­tics more and more in the near future. Smart com­pa­nies and non­prof­its that want to grow in size and influ­ence will have to learn to play well with blogs.

But the future is lit­tle suc­cor to the present. In the Philadel­phia met­ro­pol­i­tan area it seems that the rare employ­er that’s think­ing in these terms have have a lot of back and forths try­ing to work out the job descrip­tion. Well, I only need one enlight­ened employ­er! It’s time now to put the boys to bed, then check the job boards again. Keep us in your prayers.

Visiting a Quaker School

I had an inter­est­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty last Thurs­day. I skipped work to be talk with two Quak­erism class­es at Philadelphia’s William Penn Char­ter School (thanks for the invite Michael and Thomas!). I was asked to talk about Quak­er blogs, of all things. Sim­ple, right? Well, on the pre­vi­ous Tues­day I hap­pened upon this pas­sage from Bri­an Drayton’s new book, On Liv­ing with a Con­cern for Gospel Min­istry:

I think that your work will have the great­est good effect if you wait to find whether and where the springs of love and divine life con­nect with this open­ing before you appear in the work. This is even true when you have had an invi­ta­tion to come and speak on a top­ic to a work­shop or some oth­er forum. It is wise to be sus­pi­cious of what is very easy, draws on your prac­ticed strengths and accom­plish­ments, and can be treat­ed as an every­day trans­ac­tion. (p. 149).

Good advice. Of course the role of min­istry is even more com­pli­cat­ed in that I wasn’t address­ing a Quak­er audi­ence: like the major­i­ty of Friends schools, few Penn Char­ter stu­dents actu­al­ly are Quak­er. I’m a pub­lic school kid, but it from the out­side it seems like Friends schools stress the ethos of Quak­erism (“here’s Penn Charter’s state­ment”). Again Dray­ton helped me think beyond nor­mal ideas of pros­e­ly­tiz­ing and out­reach when he talked about “pub­lic meet­ings”:

We are also called, I feel to invite oth­ers to share Christ direct­ly, not pri­mar­i­ly in order to intro­duce them to Quak­erism and bring them into our meet­ings, but to encour­age them to turn to the light and fol­low it” (p. 147).

What I shared with the stu­dents was some of the ways my inter­ac­tion with the Spir­it and my faith com­mu­ni­ty shapes my life. When we keep it real, this is a pro­found­ly uni­ver­sal­ist and wel­com­ing mes­sage.

I talked about the per­son­al aspect of blog­ging: in my opin­ion we’re at our best when we weave our the­ol­o­gy with with per­son­al sto­ries and tes­ti­monies of spe­cif­ic spir­i­tu­al expe­ri­ences. The stu­dents remind­ed me that this is also real world les­son: their great­est excite­ment and ques­tion­ing came when we start­ed talk­ing about my father (I used to tell the sto­ry of my com­plete­ly messed-up child­hood fam­i­ly life a lot but have been out of the habit late­ly as it’s reced­ed into the past). The stu­dents real­ly want­ed to under­stand not just my sto­ry but how it’s shaped my Quak­erism and influ­enced my com­ing to Friends. They asked some hard ques­tions and I was stuck hav­ing to give them hard answers (in that they were non-sentimental). When we share of our­selves, we present a wit­ness that can reach out to oth­ers.

Lat­er on, one of the teach­ers pro­ject­ed my blogroll on a screen and asked me about the peo­ple on it. I start­ed telling sto­ries, relat­ing cool blog posts that had stuck out in my mind. Wow: this is a pret­ty amaz­ing group, with diver­si­ty of ages and Quak­erism. Review­ing the list real­ly remind­ed me of the amaz­ing com­mu­ni­ty that’s come togeth­er over the last few years.

One inter­est­ing lit­tle snip­pet for the Quak­er cul­tur­al his­to­ri­ans out there: Penn Char­ter was the Gur­neyite school back in the day. When I got Michael’s email I was ini­tial­ly sur­prised they even had class­es on Quak­erism as it’s often thought of as one of the least Quak­er of the Philadelphia-area Quak­er schools. But think­ing on it, it made per­fect sense: the Gur­neyites loved edu­ca­tion; they brought Sun­day School (sor­ry, First Day School) into Quak­erism, along with Bible study and high­er edu­ca­tion. Of course the school that bears their lega­cy would teach Quak­erism. Inter­est­ing­ly enough, the his­tor­i­cal Ortho­dox school down the road aways recent­ly approached Penn Char­ter ask­ing about their Quak­er class­es; in true Wilbu­rite fash­ion, they’ve nev­er both­ered try­ing to teach Quak­erism. The offi­cial Philadel­phia Quak­er sto­ry is that branch­es were all fixed up nice and tidy back in 1955 but scratch the sur­face just about any­where and you’ll find Nine­teenth Cen­tu­ry atti­tudes still shap­ing our insti­tu­tion­al cul­ture. It’s pret­ty fas­ci­nat­ing real­ly.

Two Years of the Quaker Ranter and Quaker Blogs

An amaz­ing thing has hap­pened in the last two years: we’ve got Friends from the cor­ners of Quak­erism shar­ing our sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences, our frus­tra­tions and dreams through Quak­er blogs. Dis­en­chant­ed Friends who have longed for deep­er con­ver­sa­tion and con­so­la­tion when things are hard at their local meet­ing have built a net­work of Friends who under­stand. When our gen­er­a­tion is set­tling down to write our mem­oirs — our Quak­er jour­nals — a lot of us will have to have at least one chap­ter about becom­ing involved in the Quak­er blog­ging com­mu­ni­ty.

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My per­son­al site before and after it became “Quak­er Ranter.”

When I signed off on my last post, I promised I would con­tin­ue with some­thing on “blogs, min­istry and lib­er­al Quak­er out­reach.” Here’s the first of the follow-ups.

As I set­tle in to my sec­ond week at my new (and newly-defined) jobs at FGC, I won­der if I be here with­out help of the Quak­er Ranter? I start­ed this blog two sum­mers ago. It was a time when I felt like I might be head­ed toward mem­ber­ship in the lost Quak­er gen­er­a­tion that was the focus of one of my ear­li­est posts. There were a lot of dead-ends in my life. A cou­ple of appli­ca­tions for more seri­ous, respon­si­ble employ­ment with Friends had recent­ly gone nowhere. Life at my month­ly meet­ing was odd (we’ll keep it at that). I felt I was com­ing into a deep­er expe­ri­en­tial knowl­edge of my Quak­erism and per­haps inch­ing toward more overt min­istry but there was no out­let, no sense of how this inward trans­for­ma­tion might fit into any sort of out­ward social form or forum.

Every­where I looked I saw Friends short­com­ing them­selves and our reli­gious soci­ety with a don’t-rock-the-boat timid­i­ty that wasn’t serv­ing God’s pur­pose for us. I saw pre­cious lit­tle prophet­ic min­istry. I knew of few Friends who were ask­ing chal­leng­ing ques­tions about our wor­ship life. Our lan­guage about God was becom­ing ever more cod­ed and ster­il­ized. Most of the twenty-somethings I knew gen­er­al­ly approached Quak­erism pri­mar­i­ly as a series of cul­tur­al norms with only dif­fer­ent stan­dards from one year­ly meet­ing to anoth­er (and one Quak­er branch to anoth­er, I sus­pect) .
With all this as back­drop, I start­ed the Quak­er Ranter with a nothing-left-to-lose men­tal­i­ty. I was ner­vous about push­ing bound­aries and about broach­ing things pub­licly that most Friends only say in hushed tones of two or three on meet­ing­house steps. I was also dou­bly ner­vous about being a Quak­er employ­ee talk­ing about this stuff (liveli­hood and all that!). The few Quak­er blogs that were out there were gen­er­al­ly blogs by Quak­ers but about any­thing but Quak­erism, pol­i­tics being the most com­mon top­ic.

Now sure, a lot of this hasn’t changed over these few years. But one thing has: we now have a vibrant com­mu­ni­ty of Quak­er blog­gers. We’ve got folks from the cor­ners of Quak­erism get­ting to know one anoth­er and hash out not just our sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences, but our frus­tra­tions and dreams. It’s so cool. There’s some­thing hap­pen­ing in all this! Dis­en­chant­ed Friends who have longed for deep­er con­ver­sa­tion and con­so­la­tion when things are hard at their local meet­ing are find­ing Friends who under­stand.

Through the blog and the com­mu­ni­ty that formed around it I’ve found a voice. I’m evolv­ing, cer­tain­ly, through read­ing, life, blog con­ver­sa­tions and most impor­tant­ly (I hope!) the act­ing of the Holy Spir­it on my ever-resistant ego. But because of my blog I’m some­one who now feels com­fort­able talk­ing about what it means to be a Quak­er in a pub­lic set­ting. It almost seems quaint to think back to the ear­ly blog con­ver­sa­tions about whether we can call this a kind of min­istry. When we’re all set­tling down to write our mem­oirs — our Quak­er jour­nals — a lot of us will have to have at least one chap­ter about becom­ing involved in the Quak­er blog­ging com­mu­ni­ty. In Howard Brinton’s Quak­er Jour­nals he enu­mer­at­ed the steps toward growth in the min­istry that most of the writ­ers seemed to go through; I sus­pect the jour­nals of our gen­er­a­tion will add self-published elec­tron­ic media to it’s list of clas­sic steps.

When I start­ed Quak­er Ranter I did have to won­der if this might be a quick­est way to get fired. Not to cast asper­sions on the powers-that-be at FGC but the web is full of cau­tion­ary tales of peo­ple being canned because of too-public blogs. My only con­so­la­tion was the sense that no one that mat­tered real­ly read the thing. But as it became more promi­nent a curi­ous phe­nom­e­non hap­pened: even Quak­er staff and über-insiders seemed to be relat­ing to this con­ver­sa­tion and want­ed a place to com­plain and dream about Quak­erism. My per­son­al rep­u­ta­tion has cer­tain­ly gone up because of this site, direct­ly and indi­rect­ly because of the blog. This brings with it the snares of pop­u­lar praise (itself a well-worn theme in Quak­er jour­nals) but it also made it more like­ly I would be con­sid­ered for my new out­reach job. It’s fun­ny how life works.
Okay, that’s enough for a post. I’ll have to keep out­reach till next time. But bear with me: it’s about form too and how form con­tributes to min­istry.

PS: Talk­ing of two years of Quak­er blog­ging… My “Non​vi​o​lence​.org turns ten years old this Thurs­day!! I thought about mak­ing a big deal about it but alas there’s so lit­tle time.

The Early Blogging Days

I started Nonviolence.org in late 1995 as a place to publicize the work of the US peace movement which was not getting out to a wide (or a young) audience. I built and maintained the websites of a few dozen hosted groups (including the War Resisters League, Fellowship of Reconciliation and Pax Christi USA) but I quickly realized that the Nonviolence.org homepage itself could be used for more than just as a place to put links to member groups. I could use it to highlight the articles I thought should get more publicity, whether on or off the Nonviolence.org domain.

The homepage adapted into what is now a recognizable blog format on November 13, 1997 when I re-named the homepage "Nonviolence Web Upfront" and started posting links to interesting articles from Nonviolence.org member groups. In response to a comment the other day I wondered how that fit in with the evolution of blogging. I was shocked to learn from Wikipedia's that the term "weblog" wasn't coined until December of that year. I think is less a coincidence than a confirmation that many of us were trying to figure out a format for sharing the web with others.

The earliest edition stored on Archive.org is from December 4, 1997. It focused on the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day. To give you an sense of the early independently-published articles, the January 2, 1998 edition included a guest piece by John Steitz, "Is the Nonviolence Web a Movement Half-Way House" that sounds eerily similar to recent discussions on Quaker Ranter.

Below is an excerpt from the email announcement for "Nonviolence Web Upfront" (typically for me, I sent it out after I had been running the new format for awhile):

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NONVIOLENCE WEB NEWS, by Martin Kelley Week of December 29, 1997

CONTENTS

Introducing "Nonviolence Web Upfront"

New Procedures
New Website #1: SERPAJ
New Website #2: Stop the Cassini Flyby
Two Awards
Numbers Available Upon Request
Weekly Visitor Counts

With my travelling and holiday schedule, it's been hard to keep regular NVWeb News updates coming along, but it's been a great month and there's a lot. I'm especially proud of the continuing evolution of what I'm now calling "Nonviolence Web Upfront," seen by 1800-2200 people a month!

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INTRODUCING "NONVIOLENCE WEB UPFRONT"

The new magazine format of the NVWeb's homepage has been needing a name. It needed to mentioned the "Nonviolence Web" and I wanted it to imply that it was the site's homepage (sometimes referred to as a "frontpage") and that it contained material taken from the sites of the NVWeb.

So the name is "Nonviolence Web Upfront" and a trip to http://www.nonviolence.org will see that spelled out big on top of the weekly-updated articles.

There's also an archive of the weekly installments found at the bottom of NVWeb Upfront. It's quite a good collection already!

Now that this is moving forward, I encourage everyone to think about how they might contribute articles. If you write an interesting opinion piece, essay, or story that you think would fit, send it along to me. For example, "War Toys: Re-Action-ist Figures" FOR's Vincent Romano's piece from the Nov. 27 edition, was an essay he had already written and made a good complimentary piece for the YouthPeace Week special. But don't worry about themes: NVWeb Upfront is meant not only to be timely but to show the breadth of the nonviolence movement, so send your pieces along!

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Uh-Oh: Beppe’s Doubts

I’ve occa­sion­al­ly thought of Beppeblog’s  Joe Gua­da as my blog­ging Quak­er dopple­ganger. More than once he’s writ­ten the post I was about to write. And more than one impor­tant arti­cle of mine start­ed as com­men­tary to one of his insight­ful arti­cles.

So I’m wor­ried that he’s writ­ten the first of a mul­ti­part arti­cle ask­ing Is it time to leave Quak­erism. I’m wor­ried not just that Quak­erism would lose a bright Light, etc., etc, but because I know that now I’m going to have to pub­licly mull over the ques­tion that’s a con­stant back­ground hum that I try not to think about.

Update: just to prove my point, my com­ment to Joe’s post was more inter­est­ing that my post point­ing to his post. Here’s the com­ment I just left there:

There was one day in wor­ship a few years ago right around the time when my wife Julie decid­ed to leave Quak­erism when I had this odd vision. I imag­ined us as boul­ders the front edge of a water­fall. Thou­sands of gal­lons of water swept over us every day, erod­ing and scar­ring our sur­face and under­min­ing the frag­ile base we were on. When Boul­der Julie final­ly dis­lodged and fell off the precipice of Quak­erism, I real­ized that one of the rocks that had held me in place was now gone and now there was going to be even more water and pres­sure try­ing to push me off.
I say this because you’ve become one of my blog­ging rocks, some­one who con­firms that I’m not a total nut­case. If you went over the edge I’d have to reassess my sit­u­a­tion and at least take a peek down myself. At the very least I’m going to have to blog about why I’ve stayed so long. I’m sure this is only part one to my com­men­tary on these issues…

Of Theo, threats and selective press quoting

The Baby Theo blog got a men­tion in today’s Philadel­phia Inquir­er, It’s almost as good as being there, by Kathy Boc­cel­la. They missed out on a huge rat­ings bonan­za by not pick­ing Theo for their pic­tures. Stranger was that two inter­views pro­duced only one off-topic sub­stan­tive line: “Mar­tin Kel­ly [sic] expe­ri­enced the worst of it when some­one threat­ened his infant son on his Baby Theo Web page [via Archive​.org, as it appeared around the time this arti­cle was writ­ten].

Above: Theo on learn­ing he wasn’t going to be the fea­tured baby pho­to in the Inquir­er piece… Real pho­to cap­tion: This week­end Julie Theo and I took a mini vaca­tion to the Penn­syl­va­nia coal regions. One of the stops was the beau­ti­ful­ly restored Tamaqua train sta­tion, where Theo’s great great grand­fa­ther, the first Mar­tin John Kel­ley, worked as a Read­ing Rail­road con­duc­tor. We woke the lit­tle guy up from a car nap to see the sta­tion and snap this pic­ture, cru­el par­ents that we are.

The Baby Theo site has been a lot of fun and it’s had great com­ments and emails of sup­port. It’s real­ly a shame that the arti­cle only used it to strike that tired old refrain about the pos­si­ble dan­ger lurk­ing on the inter­net.

The threat had noth­ing to do with Theo or with the baby blog. I’ve run a promi­nent anti­war web­site (closed, was at non​vi​o​lence​.org) through two wars now, and in the nine years of its exis­tence I’ve amassed quite a col­lec­tion of abu­sive emails. I try not to take them too seri­ous­ly: most come from sol­diers or from the fam­i­lies of solid­ers, peo­ple desparate­ly afraid of the future and sure­ly torn by the acts they’re being asked to com­mit. The inter­net pro­vides the psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tance for oth­er­wise good peo­ple to demo­nize the “com­mie Saddam-loving peacenik cow­ard.” You could get mad at a Pres­i­dent that active­ly mis­leads the coun­try into war but it’s eas­i­er to turn your anger on some schmuck who runs an anti­war web­site in his spare time. Send­ing threat­en­ing emails is itself cow­ard­ly and anti-democratic, of course, and as I’ve writ­ten on Non​vi​o​lence​.org, it’s ter­ri­bly inap­pro­pri­ate for “mil­i­tary per­son­nel to use gov­ern­ment com­put­ers to threat­en the free speech” of a dis­sent­ing Amer­i­can cit­i­zen. But it hap­pens. And because it hap­pens and because South Jer­sey has its share of pro-war hot­heads, you won’t see our spe­cif­ic town men­tioned any­where on the site. When I asked the Inquir­er reporter if they could not men­tion our town, she asked why, which led to the threat­en­ing emails, which led to the ques­tion whether Theo specif­i­cal­ly had been threat­ened.

And yes, there was a retired Lieu­tenant Colonel who sent a par­tic­u­lar­ly creepy set of emails (more on him below). The first email didn’t men­tion Theo. It was just one of those every­day emails wish­ing that my fam­i­ly would be gang-raped, tor­tured and exe­cut­ed in front of me. I usu­al­ly ignore these but respond­ed to him, upon which I received a sec­ond email explain­ing that he was mak­ing a point with his threat (“You, your orga­ni­za­tion and oth­ers like you rep­re­sent the ‘flab­by soft white under­bel­ly’ of our Nation. This is the tis­sue of an ani­mal that is the tar­get of preda­tors.” Etc., etc., blah, blah, blah). This time he searched the Non​vi​o​lence​.org site more thor­ough­ly and specif­i­cal­ly men­tioned Theo in his what-if sce­nario. This was one email out of the thou­sands I receive every month. It was an inap­pro­pri­ate rhetor­i­cal argu­ment against a political/religious stance I’ve tak­en as a pub­lic wit­ness. It was not a cred­i­ble threat to my son.

Still, pre­cau­tion is in order. I men­tioned this sto­ry to the Inquir­er reporter only to explain why I didn’t want the town list­ed. When I talked about the blog, I talked about old friends and dis­tant rel­a­tives keep­ing up with us and shar­ing our joys via the web­site. I talked about how the act of putting togeth­er entries helped Julie & I see Theo’s changes. I told Kathy how it was fun that friends who we had met via the inter­net were able to see some­thing beyond the Quak­er essays or polit­i­cal essays. None of that made it through to the arti­cle, which is a shame. A request to not pub­lish our home town became a sen­sa­tion­al­ist cau­tion­ary tale that is now being repeat­ed as a rea­son not to blog. How stu­pid.

The cau­tion­ary les­son is only applic­a­ble for those who both run a baby blog and a heav­i­ly used polit­i­cal web­site. When your web­site tops 50,000 vis­i­tors a day, you might want to switch to a P.O. Box. End of les­son.

For­tu­nate­ly with the inter­net we don’t have to rely on the fil­ter of a main­stream press reporters. Vis­i­tors from the Inquir­er arti­cle have been look­ing around the site and pre­sum­ably see­ing it’s not all about inter­net dan­gers. Since the Inquir­er arti­cle went up I’ve had twice as many vis­its from Google as I have from Philly​.com. Viva the web!


More:
For those inter­est­ed, the freaky retired Lieu­tenant Colonel is the chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of a pri­vate avi­a­tion com­pa­ny based in Flori­da, with con­tracts in three African nations that just hap­pen to be of par­tic­u­lar inter­est to the U.S. State Depart­ment. Although the com­pa­ny is named after him, his full name has been care­ful­ly excised from his web­site. I don’t sus­pect that he real­ly is retired from U.S.-sponsored mil­i­tary ser­vice, if you know what I mean… Here’s your tax dol­lars at work.

A few news­pa­per web­sites have repub­lished up the Inky arti­cle and two blog­ging news sites have picked up on it:

  • Yet Anoth­er Baby Blog­ging sto­ry uncov­ers dan­ger — but it’s not true ran in Blog​ging​Ba​by​.com: “When some­one threat­ened his son on his Baby Theo Web page, he took the site down; but left up a pic on his home page. Well, that is, accord­ing to the arti­cle, which some­how man­aged to not check its facts (maybe, ummm – go to the link you includ­ed in your arti­cle?) and dis­cov­er that, in fact, Baby Theo’s page is alive and well. We’re glad, Theo’s a cutie.”
  • Baby blog­gers ran in Net­fam­i­lynews. “The $64,000 question(s) is: Is this a shift of think­ing and behav­ior or, basi­cal­ly, a mis­take?.. Mar­tin Kel­ly, whose baby was threat­ened by some­one who vis­it­ed his baby page, would lean toward the mis­take side of the ques­tion.” (No I wouldn’t, as I explained to the web­mas­ter lat­er)

Non​vi​o​lence​.org syndicated

A lit­tle bit of house­keep­ing: There have been a few behind-the-scene changes on the Non​vi​o​lence​.org home­page this week­end. I’ve switched the blog­ging soft­ware over to Move­able­type.
The hard-core blog read­ers will appre­ci­ate that Non​vi​o​lence​.org now has an syn­di­cat­ed news feed. That means that you can now read the home­page with soft­ware like Sharpread­er, News­ga­tor, etc.
even the more-casual read­ers will appre­ci­ate that you can now com­ment direct­ly on every arti­cle. There will be oth­er sub­tler fea­tures added over time. Let me know if there are any prob­lems.