Thursday, 17 September 2009

Blog Evangelising

Mark Valladares composes a fascinating series on the issues facing the bloggertariat from the perspective of a LibDem functionary (in the nicest possible sense):

Part 1 - When Silence Is Not Golden
Part 2 - A Brief Personal History Of 'Reporting Back'
Part 3 - What Went Wrong?
Part 4 - Is there an easy answer to the dilemma?
Part 5 - Ghosts in my machine

Just to recap, bloggers have by-and-large become a voicepiece for the parties they stand for, and while this makes them (us) ideally positioned to pass comment and criticise from the edges, it also is the cause of headaches inside any hierarchy.

With the ability to spread information freely there also grows a desire for more and more accurate information. But while the speed of public response has increased exponentially the ability for communication from those at the heart of the organisation has not been able to keep pace.

Locally there has been a somewhat unofficial decree for Labour members to avoid the medium of blogs presumably to give critical opponents less opportunity to attack their regime and hurry their departure.

In the LibDems Party President Ros Scott deleted her very good blog because although it was a good means of communication with the ordinary member whilst campaigning expectations were built up that an inside source into the inner working of the party would spill details - an unrealistic expectation of anyone in that position.

This tension then came to a head when pseudonymous LibDem blogger Agent Orange used his blog (and the comments section of Federal Executive member, PPC and noted anti-sleaze campaigner, Duncan Borrowman) to attack the official response of the party in the aftermath of the resignation of Chief Executive Lord Chris Rennard. Liberal Vision helpfully (or not) added fuel to this incendiary mix by summarising the exchange.

Anyway, as the blogging ecosphere evolves it is carving a niche for itself. How it shapes itself will ultimately do much to inform the perception of what a party stands for and how it manages its' communication both with the public and internally.

There is an obvious conflict of interest between the considered collective viewpoint of a group and the immediate personalised reaction of an individual, so it's worth asking how this can be resolved.

As you can see from my sidebar there are several different styles which have been adopted and I suggested to Mark that a form of 'official' Federal party blog be made the responsibility of an elected officer, ideally the secretary, who could be held accountable for the impartiality of their view.

Even were such a blog to concentrate solely on publishing copies of agendas and minutes this would be an enviable resource to help engage with a wider audience and help us start to consider the issues at stake from different, previously unconsidered angles. If this then expanded into a wider discussion of those issues then so much the better, and in doing so we'd suddenly discover it had transformed into an influential forum for political thought.

At the heart of this subject is the highly topical debate between privacy and honesty, which are still in many areas seen as mutually exclusive. And I'm certain they will not be successfully reconciled until there is a practical way of demonstrating how to do so.

So I'm disappointed that the central organisation of the LibDems isn't more enthusiastic about bringing their world online to engage with the bloggertariat in a more equal and participatory manner, since freedom of expression and the relationship between public and private behaviour must be central to the identity of any liberal democrat.

Nevertheless I'm optimistic that this is an opportunity which will be taken advantage of in the medium term. As it is I'm less excited by the flat formats of most websites and think it is the ability to be heard in return which makes blogs so compelling.

Of course it can be quite time consuming to get a good blog off the ground (as I keep finding with my own rather over-ambitious local news site), but once it is airborne and flying the freedom it confers is hard to beat.
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Jennie said...

This. I can't understand why they don't publish minutes and agendas, even if they edit them to anonymise contentious comments.

I understand why Ros deleted her blog, although I wish she hadn't, but we (as a party) cannot preach to ANYONE about openness and transparency at the moment.

Oranjepan said...

Hiya Jennie, absolutely.

There's always a way round these things if we don't shy away from them completely, and we've got to start somewhere.

Once we've opened the door and a chink of light has appeared - however small - then the dam will break.