Thursday, July 14, 2011

Group blogging is the future. Didn't they say that about the steam engine?

From this rather tranquil corner of the blogosphere, the suggestion that group blogging is the way forward is an interesting one. And whilst we've suddenly had a mini-burst of new collaborative websites, I find it hard to get too passionate about any of them.

The Huffington Post has recruited a number of bloggers of my acquaintance for the launch of its UK version, including Matthew Harris, an old friend and rather more pro-Israeli colleague from my former days in North London. Like Global Post, which set up a couple of years ago, the means of selection seems a bit vague (I suspect that it was entirely predicated on the personal preferences of whoever got the job of recruiting them). However, the model has worked in the US, and we'll have to see how it works here.

If I was to be critical (and why not?), I might note that the 'huge headline, big picture' first view is a bit... well, tabloid in style. Unless the headline is well-written, it doesn't grab the reader and make them want to see more. It is, of course, a work in progress, with the links for Northern Ireland being merely a rehash of the links for the national press. And they'll probably remove the News of the World from their list of links in due course...

Not all of the links seem to work, and there are still too many items of little interest to a United Kingdom audience, and the front page is a bit big - I would rather use the dropdown menus to find things than have to scroll down... and down... and down... But I'll probably look in from time to time. I might even put in a link from this blog if I feel that it has value.

Meanwhile, Iain Dale has launched Dale & Co., a collection of 96 101 106 115 (and counting) contributors. I like the design, cool, crisp, not too heavy on the advertising. The list of contributors is varied, but not necessarily the sort of people I'm desperate to read. And as for Colleen Graffy, I'd contribute to any campaign to have her deported (ghastly person that she is) as a threat to the peace of the nation.

My gut feeling is that it will do well. It benefits from the goodwill generated by Iain's original, and rather lamented, blog. I didn't always agree with him, and disagreeing with him was generally a pretty good way to generate traffic, but he did write well. Handing it over to his personal assistant was rather condemning it to a long and lingering death (I'm sure that Grant Tucker is a charming young man, but his opinion is of no real interest to me). In addition, his networking skills across the political divides, his credibility as a publisher, and the cachet of his link love makes him an ideal person to front a collective blog.

It isn't original, in that it owes much to Lib Dem Blogs, being as it is (effectively) an aggregator, merely laid out with rather more design and financial muscle. After all, if one of the contributors doesn't contribute for eight weeks, will anyone notice? It allows the allstar cast to blog when they feel like it, avoiding the tyranny of having to feed an increasingly ravening beast.

And, last and almost certainly least, The Commentators (I really can't be bothered to link to this), with its new UK Political Editor, Harry Cole, who has found time from his hectic schedule of drawing wildly inaccurate conclusions from extremely partial (in both senses of the word) fragments of the facts to add his undoubted weight to the enterprise.

To be frank, the fact that Harry is involved is enough for me to predict that it will take on a twilight existence, lurking in the shadows of credibility. Guido Fawkes's enterprise has not been the same since Harry got involved, and I don't see this being any different. Until Harry learns that you can't assume that everyone is a lying, cheating scumbag except your informants, who are of course seekers of the truth, so help me God, he will be flawed.

But I have a reservation about all three. Call me old fashioned, but I like to develop a relationship with a blogger. I like to gain a sense of how they think, divine the philosophical background to that, to respond to a personality, if you like. And yes, there's no reason why these three contenders can't achieve that intimacy in due course. After all, the newspapers have achieved that over decades.

And, in the unlikely event that either the Huffington Post or Dale & Co. come knocking at my door, I'd be suitably flattered (I'm not holding my breath!...). But until then, welcome to my world. It's small, it's intimate, it's entirely mine. And perhaps it is all the better for it...


Matthew Harris said...

Yes, it will be interesting to see how it all pans out. Here is my Huffington Post blog, hopefully with much of interest to Lib Dems:

Mark Valladares said...


Yes, good luck with that, I hope that being part of HuffPo UK turns out to be fun.