Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The point of blogging

It is now nearly two years since I started blogging, firstly as a General Election candidate, and then after the election on this site.

The initial purpose was to share experiences about the campaign, which were by and large both positive and fun. When I began to blog here, I initially took a pretty broad remit, to talk about things that interested me from a broadly Liberal perspective. I wrote about books and authors that interested me, about places and in particular about Central and Eastern Europe and about British politics.

Since I have a senior role in an investment bank, working in Central and Eastern Europe, I have preferred to write anonymously, although many, if not most, in the blogosphere know who I am. Indeed I have twice been invited onto Iain Dale's 18 Doughty Street programme, so away from my professional life, I am not too worried about being "outed".

Over time, although I rarely have time to blog every day, I have come to concentrate more on political and the central and eastern European issues- not least because I believe that the UK can learn a great deal from the changes that have taken place in the post-Communist world and the social and economic changes that the Liberal revolutions have brought about.

The blog is not widely read- I get a couple of thousand hits a month, but the kinds of people who read it- judging from the Stat Counter results -are quite diverse. Only about half of the readers are British, and most are quite regular readers. Some are clearly Lib Dem activists, many are students. I also see regular readers in Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and the European Parliament. I have tended not to link to other sites- not out of policy, simply because I am a very slow learner on things techie, and so the bulk of readers either come directly or through Lib Dem blogs aggregated.

About a quarter of the readership is American- and I have been linked by Carnival of the Liberals twice in recent months. Perhaps not surprisingly I have regular readers in the Baltic countries, Poland, Hungary, Romania and various other CEE states. I also seem to have regular readers in Canada and New Zealand. So, although many will not accept the Stat Counter cookie, I have information about roughly 60% of the readers.

While I have been travelling, I notice that there has been an outbreak of venom in the blogosphere. Guido Fawkes has always had a bit of fun going for the throat, but when Tim Ireland attacked him for some of the things that he had written, I had a bit of sympathy. I met Guido and he struck me as a mildly subversive but slightly nihilist libertarian. However the after effects of this spat in the blogosphere was interesting. On the 18 Doughty Street show I put forward the view that Guido was a nihilist and did sometimes overstep the mark. This got conflated in other peoples minds with an attack by Iain on Tim Ireland- "isn't Tim a nihilist too?" (short answer no). This stirred up a general attack on Iain Dale, which was not really justified- Iain says that he does not actually know what a nihilist is! So, the blogosphere has been rocked by a total storm in a teacup.

I am reminded of Henry Kissinger once on being asked why academic disputes were conducted with such venom, he replied: "because the stakes are so low". Lets face it, blogging is still a small scale activity, and while we are in the growth phase now, there will inevitably come a crash and in the wreckage a smaller number of blogs will remain for the long term.

I intend to keep up this blog for was long as I think I am saying something interesting. At the moment I think that I maybe write something reasonable about once or twice a month- frankly the same sort of hit rate that a dead tree columnist does.

I try not to be the kind of pub bore that Yasmin Alibhai Brown thinks dominates the blogosphere, but reading her columns, she has plenty of off days too. Blogs may have the capacity to democratise the commentariat- a process as welcome as I think it is necessary. Sure there is discourtesy and venom out there, and looking at the US, this may not be a good trend for British politics to follow. However I hope that my blog will be outward looking, reasonably informed and hopefully occasionally even interesting. Certainly I try to respond to people with a different point of view to mine with reasonable politeness- after all I am friendly with people of all parties and of none.

So the agenda remains: Liberalism and Liberty, and I shall devote my time to that and not the trivial personal spats within the blogosphere.


David L said...

Please would you check your private messages in Liberalism 2010?


David L

Etzel Pangloss said...

Dear Cicero,

I wouldn't read blogs if folk like you didn't write them...