In the last two days I’ve had a lot of traffic on my blog – well it’s all relative I know, but far more than usual.
Is this because I’ve upped my game and started writing eloquent and incisive prose ? or because I’ve hit some important political nail right on the head ?
No it’s because last February I posted some silly (ish) pictures of William Hague (who’s almost exactly the same age as me and has bugged the life out of me ever since I was a schoolboy – cringing as he wowed the Conservative Party conference). On reflection it was a little childish of me – but I didn’t say anything untoward about him. I just let the pictures speak for themselves.
Now William Hague is in the news because of ill-informed gossip on political blogs. So what does every one do ? They Google “William Hague” in Google Images, and head off to my blog.
Meanwhile virtually no one has read my last two blogs.
So to cut out the hard work, instead of writing a new post, I thought I’d republish the pictures – and generate a bit more traffic.
While I’m at it I’d just like to say that I think William Hague has been treated appallingly over this episode, and I believe that he has nothing to reproach himself for. That is all. Enjoy the pictures. And come back and read my more thought provoking articles at some point in the future
UPDATE : A lot of responses to the list published by Iain Dale since I did this. Not least the one at Political Scrapbook which takes a different way of assessing the ‘top’ twitterers (I prefer ‘tweeters’ by the way) – which is to use Tweetlevel which is a service which works out a score based on followers, RT’s, replies – etc, etc.
Clearly a little more sensible than Iain Dale’s approach, but what @PSbook didn’t fully take into account was who was Labour and who wasn’t – and so rapidly updated the chart when Tweeters like myself sent their scores in.
According to the list I’m now 13th = (in actuality 23rd) – ahead of notable Labour tweeters, Like Will Straw, Sunder Katwala, Sally Bercow, Sion Simon – to name but a few.
Well – it’s flattering – but it’s not true ! – and I think underlines the pointlessness of Twitter “charts” – but thanks anyway !
I read on the celebrated tory Iain Dale’s Diary blog this morning, his list of the Top 20 Conservative and Labour tweeters, (with a link to the Lib Dems’ top 20 – mustn’t give them a place on the top table now must we ?)
Now Iain of all people surely knows his way around the internet / blogosphere / twittersphere – call it what you will – so why is he with bothering with such a silly list ?
To put tweeters in rank order, based on number of followers seems to totally miss the point of the interactivity of both Twitter and blogging.
The influence that a particular tweeter – or even an individual tweet – exerts on the masses is related to how many people follow them – but is not wholly dependent on it. Neither do most “grass roots” Labour tweeters – and to be honest Tory, Lib Dem, & whoever else – really give a monkey’s about who has the most followers – the influence which Twitter wields is in the mass interaction – the Re-Tweets, the replies – the sense of community, and the propagation of ideas quickly among large numbers of people. It’s about bringing to attention the small individual blogs, on a par with the large institutional blogs on an equal footing – it’s just not about numbers. The total is so much greater than the sum of the parts.
Iain has for example clearly missed out one important parliamentary tweeter with over 40,000 followers – which would make them the third “top” political tweeter after Sarah Brown and Boris Johnson – but in my ever so humble (I only have 400 followers) opinion, not especially relevant in terms of influence (although I’m open to persuasion).
Iain in the same article also opines that Labour’s Twitter presence is more ‘party machine’ than ‘grass roots’ activists, in comparison with the Tories, by virtue of the fact that “Twelve out of the Top 20 Labour tweeters are in the party machine, compared with 11 Tories.”
Yes. Right. Well that’s the whole point – that’s how they are connecting with the grass roots.
Some people just don’t get Twitter !
12 months ago I had a Facebook account (fairly active), a Twitter account (one follower, who I also followed – but more usually we’d text each other), I even had a blog – not this one – and no one read it.
Somewhere around February things went a bit bonkers, and I’m now a confirmed blogger – I don’t have millions of viewers – I’m just coming to 2,000 visits, but I can count at least 2 Government ministers amongst them, and 4 MP’s to my certain knowledge, but actually the best bit is that I enjoy it.
Along the way I’ve had the odd hairy moment – notably publishing under my real name on a particularly turbulent weekend for Labour on a very prominent site, and which prompted the birth of Nils – my alter ego.
Mostly it’s been lots of fun though – having postings published on LabourList, Left Foot Forward, and the Progress web site, and making lots of Twitter friends – sometimes engaging in earnest political debate – but mostly just idle banter.
I’ve also joined the Labour Party – encouraged a couple of others to join, and – the icing on the cake – visited 10 Downing street earlier this month for the Downing Tweet Christmas party – courtesy of Sarah Brown, and Kerry McCarthy MP who put my name forward.
So it’s been a good year for me Tweetwise and Blogwise – Hope it’s been as good for all of you – and I hope next year brings us what we all want !
Season’s Greetings as they say in the Conservative Party, but not in the Daily Mail !
(NB – I’ve shifted the situation around slightly here to protect the identities of the people involved)
Some people just don’t understand Twitter. Hardly a week goes by without some MP having a swipe at Twitter and its users. The usual lines are “I don’t want to know when some total stranger has a cup of tea” ( which usually prompts Twitterers to let the world have a picture of their Marmite on toast – Twitter humour’s like that ! )
Or we get – “you can’t possibly say anything sensible in 140 characters” , which is not only untrue but misses one of the main purposes of Twitter – that of publicising blogs – where you can use as many characters as you like
Twitterers love this though, because we understand that Twitter offers such a powerful means of mass communication in ways that have never been available before. The Jan Moir episode last week was a prime example of this – Ms Moir’s comment about there being “a highly orchestrated campaign” particularly highlighting her misunderstanding – the whole point of the response was that it was entirely spontaneous – there was no orchestration.
Few twitter users would claim it was perfect though and many look forward to new and even more powerful communication tools arising out of it. We don’t also often publicise the down side – like the tendency to spread the news of celebrity deaths around the globe in seconds – when they’re still alive, or the preponderance of automated spam bots, or Britneys as they are sometimes called (if you don’t know already, you don’t want to)
The “Twitter Conversation” also tends be one that many of us have at work – where people tend to trot out the same type of stuff. Just yesterday I was in a meeting with a number of professionals from external agencies. During a break we managed to get on to talking about twitter. Amongst the usual comments that were trotted out :
“What a waste of time – they should get a life”
“What could I possibly want to know that only takes up 140 characters” – (he said 130 actually but I wouldn’t want him to appear ignorant.
“It’s just like CB radio : ‘Hello where are you ? ‘I’m here in the kitchen – where are you ?’ ‘ I’m in the living room’ “
So I countered with :
“Well how else would I get the secretary of state to read my blog ?”
A short pause.
“Well not of all of us have ego’s so big that we’d want him to”
(Hmm maybe not. I’m pretty sure my colleague has though.)
“Any way you don’t think he sends the tweets himself do you ?”
Er, yes he does actually.
Any way faced with not winning the argument, and nearing the end of the break, my colleague gave his argument ending coup de grace :
“There is absolutely nothing that could possibly be of interest or use to me that I could possibly gain from Twitter !”
Punkt. Schluss !
Except that some people he used to work with are a little more fond of twitter. And I know what he was doing last weekend, and who he was with. I also have a reasonable thumbnail of his CV and an idea of how I can expect him to work. All through twitter.
I let it pass. For he does make exceedingly good cakes !
Tom Harris’s blog today What about the blogs? Poses questions relating to the supposed plans by News International to introduce subscription fees for all its main titles (including The Sun and The Times) Rupert Murdoch plans charge for all news websites by next summer
And raises the question of what that will do to the blogosphere – whose habit of linking back to other sites – particularly in the mainstream media – is a staple diet of many blogs (mine included).
I think I can safely say that this isn’t likely to happen. The whole point of the new media technologies is that they are interdependent, and more or less free on a per article basis. (but not of course in total – I pay £20 per month for my ISP – some pay less, some much more)
Murdoch is right when he says that investigative journalism doesn’t come cheap. It’s certainly true that newspapers and their websites are not “not for profit” organisations, or charities – and that they have to make a crust somehow.
Well they’ll do it by the tried and tested ways of advertising, product placement & freebies with hard copies, and in the case of News International for one, selling the internet bandwidth which the punters use to surf on into their sites.
They’ll do it by merging the internet with their satellite channels, by merging their pay sports channels with their internet sites, and by selling the coverage of local football games in far flung rural locations, to homesick expats in further flung urban locations.
But if web users are faced with charges at the Times, then they’ll go to the Telegraph, or the Guardian. If they’re charged at the Sun they’ll go to the Mirror. If they’re charged at all of them, they’ll start going to foreign newspapers.
In short they will find a way round it. In just the same way as people found a way to record the Top 40 from their radio cassette recorders in the 70’s; in just the same way as they found ways to distribute MP3s in the 90’s and noughties; in just the same way as they moved to Firefox when the Microsoft product didn’t do what they wanted. They will find a way round whatever obstacles are put in place.
Now if Rupert Murdoch was really serious about doing something different, he’d be thinking about paying the bloggers – because that’s where most of the news seems to be coming from these days.
In all seriousness, if he (for instance) bought out WordPress, then he could offer a free blogging set up (as now), have a ‘posting on’ clause built into the small print – which gave his publications first dibs on the best stuff. He could sell a premium service, which gave access to flashy widgets with feeds from News International sources to place on their sites – making their blogs look professional, and giving further exposure and traffic to his own. And yes – paying the good bloggers to keep on doing it – provided of course they let News International syndicate the copy.
Whatever he may have blurted out in a moment of ire, I’m pretty sure that these thoughts haven’t escaped News International.
If you’ve been watching the political twittersphere since the Norwich North by-election, and probably before, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the next general election is in the bag for the Tories and a lost cause for Labour.
But is it ?
Well no it’s not. There are some fairly recent precedents for saying that. Seasoned hacks may will recall Margaret Thatcher being extremely unpopular at a time when the newly formed Social Democratic Party – headed by the Gang of Four, were streets ahead in the polls. We just couldn’t wait for the election.
But what happened ? Well General Galtieri invaded the Falkland Islands, and Margaret Thatcher invoked the blitz spirit in order to get them back and secure a Conservative government until 1997. Hell it seems had perhaps not quite frozen over – but it was pretty chilly.
Wind forward to 1992, and Thatcher’s successor as both Tory leader and PM – John Major did not it seemed have a cat in hell’s chance against the slick camapaign run by Neil Kinnock. At the time I had a friend working in Conservative Central Office, who even as the votes were half counted was still under the impression that the Conservatives had lost – but they hadn’t. What went wrong ? Who knows – with hindisght we can see that there was a gradual swing over several elections and that the victory which never happened wasn’t quite the potential walk over it seemed.
So what of Brown’s chances. Well while it’s fair to say that a hell of a lot could happen to change the way things look between now and next May. But it is clutching at straws a bit. Short of ending the recession by October, getting the world cup brought forward to April and England winning, and the entire shadow cabinet being convicted of armed robbery – it’s difficult to see what random act of political astonishment will save his bacon.
No – it will have to come from hard slog and convincing people not to vote for the opposition.
How will he do it ? Well it beats me – but one thing I’m certain of, is that it won’t be by lurching to the left.
There are plenty of voices out there amongst the labour bloggerati ready to denounce the Blairite tendency, and speaking of New Labour as the spawn of the devil.
But let’s face facts – to be electable – and to be fair and equitable – Labour must be supportable by all sections of society – not narrowly defined sections such as the “poor” or the “working class” – but everyone who believes in fairness and a just society.
New Labour is no longer new – it’s just a not so old version of old Labour, and for voters who’ll be voting for the first time in the next General Election, there’s no Brownite or Blairite either – there’s just Labour (oh and don’t forget the other parties – these voters have no brand loyalty to our party).
If you exclude what some would call the “middle classes” then you exclude all those people who’ve spent the years since 1997 prospering and becoming part of those classes.
Contrary to what the Tories would have you believe there are quite a lot. I’m one of them – I was brought up in a council house in the heavy woollen district and am now living in the leafy home counties, commuting every day to London where I earn what I’m told is one of the top 5% of salaries in the country. Should make a good story for a Tory supporter I guess, maybe I should vote for them.
Like hell I will – I’ve succeeded because of the measures put in place by Labour Governments – the NHS, access to education, Universities – and so on and so forth. And I’d probably have done better if it hadn’t been for the Tories making me spend a year on the dole in the early 80′s.
So I’m not turning my back on Labour – but I can’t pretend that I’m working class anymore – and I don’t want Labour turning it’s back on me. I’d go so far as to say that even using expressions like “working class” and “middle class” is so counterproductive now as to be inadvisable. Such language pitches us into ground where Tories can accuse us of the politics of envy – and they have some degree of justification for that.
I don’t want to stop other people doing well for themselves – I just want everyone to have the same opportunity to do so, and to make sure that other people don’t suffer because of the prosperity of a small group of privileged individuals.
So somehow Gordon Brown, and his government has to get that across – Labour is for everyone – and everyone can be for Labour. Maybe I’ll blog later about how he might give it a go.
In the mean time I wish him luck – and hope that I can help !