The competition, apparently.

The competition, apparently.

Apparently, there’s a market – and someone at the Guardian reckons it’s at least 18 strong – for a ‘masterclass’ on live blogging at a cost of £99 for three hours.

I look at that and think ‘who is this Stuart Heritage?’ Does he have the extensive knowledge and experience of blogging that has made him the eighth most influential blogger on the subject of ‘other’? He clearly does not. Has he been nominated for a Blog of the Year award only when the field from which nominees are selected has shrunk dramatically? He hasn’t. Was he featured in print in The Blog Digest 2007? He wasn’t, but yet he still feels he can charge a quite large sum of money to those wanting to receive his blogging experience.

Well, if there’s money for old rope going around, never let it be said that I wasn’t willing to do a half-arsed job and throw something together in an attempt to get a little bit of that cash for myself. Here’s my full day seminar in the things you’ll need to know to be a political blogger as successful, influential and well-regarded as I am.

10am: Welcome, Introductions and Getting To Know You In which I spend at least ten minutes looking at a list of names, counting heads in the room and saying ‘we’ll just give the stragglers a couple of minutes’ before getting started on reading out this schedule to you, as though you’ve never seen it before. Following that, I’ll ask you all to introduce yourselves, figuring that as you’ve all come to an event about how to get other people to read your opinions, you’ll easily fill an hour between you bigging up your own self-importance and getting into pointless arguments.

11am: The basics of blogging In which I ignore the fact that all the attendees already have blogs and tell you how to start a blog, including a ridiculously detailed PowerPoint presentation on signing up for WordPress. (Note: This will be the only part of the course where I have anything resembling notes and a plan and am not desperately winging it)

11.45am: Developing your own complex and detailed political opinions: The amount of time we devote to this subject will reflect its importance in creating an interesting and well-read blog.

11.50am: Who needs opinions when columnists can have them for you? Includes important lessons on how to get newspaper pundits to tweet a link to the post in which you bravely agree with whatever they wrote that morning.

12.30: Lunch (not included in price). Attendees will be given the opportunity to learn more of the secrets of blogging if they buy me food and drink at a nearby pub.

2pm: The @loveandgarbage guide to live blogging: Special guest tutor Love And Garbage (invited, but not confirmed at time of going to press), author of many live blogs including ‘Is it snowing outside?’, ‘Is there snow outside?’ and ‘Snow’ will explain all the intricacies of this special form of blogging. As an acknowledged master of digital communication, Love And Garbage’s lessons are not to be missed (attendance still not confirmed at this time).

3pm: How to be a success at political blogging: This session will help turn you into a top class political blogger. Topics covered will include:

  • How to cherry pick polls to prove your point
  • The conventional wisdom: Isn’t the true bravery in standing up for it, not challenging it?
  • Telling people just what they want to hear – and getting them to share it
  • Building an audience through the use of partisan factoids
  • Speaking truth to power: How to tell the powerful they’re looking really good, are completely right about everything and do they have any jobs available?
  • (Some of these topics will be covered in greater depth on our full-day ‘How To Work For A Think Tank’ course – 10% discounts available to everyone who completes the blogging masterclass!)
    All topics will be covered by way of me improvising wildly based on half-completed PowerPoint presentations, and attempting to stoke arguments amongst attendees in the hopes that’ll fill some time.

    4.30pm: Close and Conclusions A chance for me to make many of the same points again, then fill more of your time by asking you all to tell us what you’ve learned on the course. Please feel free to tell us all in great detail how it’s proved you’re right about everything.

    Following the event, the tutor will retire to a nearby pub, where you will be invited to buy him drinks in the hope of learning more of my wisdom of blogging.

    The details: Attendance is just £5.50 per person, though Ryanair-style additional charges may be made for extras such as having a seat or being in the actual room where the masterclass is taking place. Location TBC, but likely to end up being whichever coffee shop has the comfiest seats and staff who are least likely to throw us out for hogging space and not buying anything. Attendees should expect to bring their own laptops, tablets, chargers, power sources and ideas to the course as none will be supplied. All guest tutors are unconfirmed at this time, and may be replaced by whoever responds to a desperate plea for help on Twitter on the morning of the event. All attendees will be given the right to design and print their own certificate of attendance. Tutors reserve the right to be more interested in browsing social media than teaching the course. All timings are subject to change, especially for the afternoon after the pub. No refunds.

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    actors who haven't won oscarsAs I mentioned the nomination, it’s only fair to mention the result. I didn’t win Liberal Democrat Blog of the Year, which instead went to Jonathan Calder and Liberal England. That brought an end to Jonathan’s long run of being nominated for the award while never winning it, a phenomenon which had made him into the Liberal Democrat Leonardo DiCaprio. (Caron Lindsay, who now replaces him in the ‘most nominations without a win’ role, can choose who she wants to be instead of him)

    Now he’s finally won the award, of course, we all wait to see if he follows the destiny of so many previous winners of it in choosing to quit blogging and/or the party. I hope not, because I’m not sure anyone else could quite replicate his contribution to blogging, not least his remarkable ability to continue to find items of interest to post and write about.

    So, congratulations to Jonathan and all the other winners, and as I haven’t won I guess I better get on with finding some more topics to keep blogging about…

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    As I see it, open letters take one of two forms. The first one is possibly useful:

    Dear (insert name of recipient),

    Hey, I’ve lost all your contact details, and as you’ve got a pretty common name, googling you isn’t helping me find them. I’m hoping that you look at this site and remember me, and if you do, would you send me your details so we can get back in touch?

    Thanks, and hope to talk to you again soon,

    Open Letter Writer

    (Note, that I said possibly useful – done wrong, or for the wrong reasons, and it’ll stop being useful and start being more stalkerish)

    Sadly, the more common form of them is this, which is not much use to anyone

    Dear person in the news who’s the ostensible recipient of this letter but is unlikely to ever read it,

    Why don’t you agree with me on everything? You really should, because then everything would be great. And by ‘you’ I actually mean everyone reading this, not the ostensible recipient of it, who’s unlikely to see this, given that they’re far too busy to trawl the media looking for people who write letters to them but can’t be bothered to track down their details and send the letter to them.

    Anyway, you should definitely agree with me on everything. And possibly send me money too.

    Yours,

    Open Letter Writer

    So, now you know the secret of open letters, let’s hope you never feel the need to write one.

    It’s been ten years since I decided to add a blog to my website, and I don’t think then that I expected to still be blogging ten years later. Yet here I still am still plugging away and still with a loyal band of readers who hang on my every word can’t be bothered to go through with the faff of deleting me from their feeds.

    However, while I’m still blogging, the look back I’ve taken over the last couple of weeks has shown me that what we mean by ‘blogging’ has changed a lot over that time. For those of you who don’t know, ‘blog’ originates from ‘web log’, and the original blogs were essentially lists of links the blogger had found, occasionally with some added commentary. By the time I started blogging that had already begun to shift in favour of blogs being much more about the content than the links, but you can still see in my early archives that longer posts were interspersed with lots of ‘here’s an interesting link’ posts.

    It’s important to remember how different things were back then – there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no YouTube and even MySpace didn’t start until a few months after I started blogging. Most people were going online via dial-up and most phones didn’t have cameras on them, let alone the ability to connect to the internet. And, of course, all this were fields, we had to get up two hours before we go to sleep and everyone respected each other in the morning.

    The point I’m trying to make is that while I’ve had a blog throughout that time, the way I’ve used that blog has changed considerably. After all, if I just want to show people an interesting link or make a quick snarky comment about something, then I’ve got Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus to do that. A blog post now is something longer and (supposedly) more thought through. Indeed, I think the blog itself is much more fragmented than it was ten years ago. Back then, you tended to visit someone’s blog by going to the main page and looking through all their latest posts, now visits and links are much more to individual posts rather than the site as a whole.

    The changing nature of the web has also broken down the sense of a community of blogs. Or ‘blogosphere’, which is a term that’s fallen out of favour. There’s a lot of my early posts which are on the lines of ‘in response to what X said, commenting on Y’s post about Z’s article in the Observer’ (and X and Y’s blogs have since disappeared from the web, of course) and in that sense, blogs were an early form of the public conversation that’s now moved to Twitter. In that period before the 2005 election, there was also a sense of blogs not being as partisan as they became afterwards. Sure, there were some people who seemed to be only interested in scoring party-political points, but they were in a minority with the more important division being whether you were for or against invading Iraq. I think some of that was down to the rarity of British political bloggers, though – because there were so few of us around, it was in most people’s interests to maintain good relations. As blogging grew, and little like-minded bubbles could support themselves, things became much more fragmented.

    For those first couple of years, blogging was still very much a niche activity, and like a lot of internet niches then, it didn’t really interact with the wider world around it. Despite the initial idea of blogging being about finding interesting stuff and sharing it with people (the Netscape What’s New and What’s Cool lists were amongst the first blogs in form, if not in name) it became quite self-referential, with people sticking in their little bubbles and occasionally letting new people into them, but never taking more than a glance at the other bubbles they were floating alongside.

    In some senses, of course, the blog won the internet. Twitter, Facebook and all the rest are, at their heart, ways of sharing content and making a log of things you’ve found on the web. However, the name of blogging remains attached to just one element of that, which has now almost entirely shed its original reason for existence. Who reads a blog for the links instead of the content nowadays?

    On a personal level, it’s been very interesting to go back through these posts catching the little references to things I was doing, and remember where I was at certain points in time. It’s odd to think that I’ve had this blog in its various forms for about a quarter of my life, and it doesn’t show any signs of disappearing just yet.

    So, to all those of you who’ve visited here over the last ten years, whether you’ve been coming here regularly since I started or you’re just here because Google sent you and this post has none of the information you wanted, thank you for reading, commenting, linking and sharing the things I’ve done over the last ten years. It’s been fun, it’s been interesting, it’s put me in touch with people I never would have met otherwise and information I’d never have known about, and has also justified a number of visits to various pubs, which have definitely been worthwhile.

    And I promise to try and wait ten more years before doing another series of long retro posts.

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    This year featured my longest blogging dry spell in my ten years, and then my decision to come back to regular blogging. Having spent the time to go through all these posts, it’s fascinating to see how much blogging has changed over that time, but that’ll be for a post tomorrow.

    Read the rest of this entry

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    And now we’re getting very close to the present, with blog posts that reference issues that are still going on and less ‘oh, I’d completely forgotten that’ moments for me as I go through the blog. But still, there are interesting things back there.

    Read the rest of this entry

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    This year followed the pattern set by 2009, with long periods of sparse blogging interrupted by frenzies of regular posting, in this case sparked off by the General Election. It was the year I joined Colchester Council’s Cabinet, and also the year I accidentally created a Twitter hashtag that spread around the world. It was not however, despite Hollywood’s promises, the year we made contact.

    Read the rest of this entry

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