Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Is Liberal Democrat Voice eating the Lib Dem blogosphere?

With the Lib Dem Blog of the Year Awards upon us again, it is time to see how the former winners are getting on.

In 2006 the main award was won by Stephen Tall's A Liberal Goes a Long Way. Looking at it today we find a posting from February telling 25 random things about the author, but otherwise nothing since June last year.

In 2007 it was won by James Graham's Quaequam Blog! Although I suggested last September that James was suffering an existential crisis, his blog is still going strong. You could say it is in rude health.

In 2008 it was won by Alix Mortimer's The People's Republic of Mortimer. Earlier this evening, weeding out blogs from blogroll that have not been updated for over a month, I found it had fallen into that category for the second time this year.

So is there a curse attached to being Blog of the Year?

There is more to it than that, of course. Stephen was one of the group who took over Lib Dem Voice when it was in danger of closing and turned it into the success it is today (no. 5 in the current Wikio rankings for British political blogs).

Latterly, Alix has devoted most of her attention to Lib Dem Voice too, though I notice she has contributed nothing there a few weeks.

Is there a problem with Lib Dem Voice attracting all the best bloggers? That is putting it too strongly, but I do believe we need to maintain a diversity of strong voices among Liberal Democrat bloggers.

It's a bit like British tennis: it's great having Andy Murray up at the top, but the real need is to see some other British players in the top 100.

For my own part I have contributed very occasionally to Lib Dem Voice, but a regular feature I started for them dwindled embarrassingly quickly. My defence is that there is a limit to what even I can write and I do my bit for the common Lib Dem good through the party newspaper. So Liberal England has remained the focus of my blogging effort.

There are a number of bright Lib Dem bloggers rising up the rankings: no doubt one of them will win the award this year.

I hope whoever it is will treat the accolade as an encouragement to continue and develop their blog rather than as the culmination of their independent blogging career.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice


James Graham (Quaequam Blog!) said...

I think you understate my own susceptability to The Curse. I didn't expect to win in 2007 and can't deny it was nice but I'm very conscious that my productivity has fallen sharply and that however much I might like to think I ignore it, I'm more aware of an "audience" than ever.

Now I find myself in the unenviable position of being the first Lib Dem Blogger to in some way have a record to 'defend' in this years awards. Having been a judge - and thus ineligible - last year I have been thrown ungraciously back into gen pop. To avoid this indignity, Stephen Tall took the drastic action of taking over Lib Dem Voice - sadly this was not an option for me.

Winning isn't all that - it's all downhill from there.

Anonymous said...

James, I had no idea you were eligible (and not a judge! To think I've been trying so hard to suck up to you these last for days and for what? For nothing!). Is Alix eligible too? Christ she could post just once all year and still be in with a serious shot! ;)

I think people's blogging careers are usually shortlived as a rule - we just notice it more with high profile blogs.

Very few maintain the same pace for years and years, which makes Liberal England's longevity something of an exception, not the rule.

Most blogs seem to run for a couple of months of intense activity then fall off rapidly - so for blogs that have been running for less than 3 months (and hot new blogs do tend to) then the odds that they'd still be actively blogging this time next year isn't all that high, whether they're nominated or not.

On the other hand, getting nominated might actually increase the odds that people's blogging careers get cut short - The intention by The Voice is to show support to bloggers but the effect seems to be to crush many under the weight of expectation. Steph Ashley said that being nominated for Best Blog gave her crippling writer's block.

People suddenly expecting you to be good when previously you were just merrily writing away for your own amusement is, I imagine, not very easy to deal with.

Perhaps, when considering the short-lists the judges should pay special attention to the bloggers that they want to stop ;)

Sara said...

If you want strong LibDem bloggers, then there needs to be a way to help them be seen and read by more people.

Now LDV has decided to stop carrying the feed from LDBlogs, fewer and fewer lesser known and new bloggers will be picked up and read. I see it as a retrograde step and know others agree. LDV seem to see it as a way of lessening competition.

Frank Little said...

There does seem to be a correlation between elected office and density of blogging. Once started, it is difficult for someone in the public eye to give up their blogging. Besides, they have easy access to more bloggable material than the rest of us! I'm thinking primarily of Peter Black and Lynne Featherstone, of course, but there are other examples.

Of the drop-outs, one I miss is S. Ashley's Dib Lemming.

Sara said...

As an elected councillor, I find it much harder to blog, as I am always open to being complained about by political rivals. If I was anonymous, or unelected it would be much easier to be controversial for instance.

Mark Pack said...

Sara, I'm not sure where you got the idea that "LDV seem to see it as a way of lessening competition" from? It's certainly not the intention.

Rather, the problem with the old listing is that it was long, slow to load and very unwieldy. All in all, it didn't work that well.

But we're very much committed to highlighting other good content. The continuing Golden Dozen is one example and is taking part in the Blog of the Year awards. And for new bloggers who wish to raise their profile, the invitation to write a guest post that showcases their skill or knowledge is always there.

Other ideas are always welcome of course.

James Graham (Quaequam Blog!) said...

I'm not convinced that LDV has some kind of vendetta against other Lib Dem bloggers - far from it. And I also take Mark's point about download times.

But an eyecatching button to Lib Dem blogs would at least provide traffic to the aggregator. A bit redundant for us old timers but there are always new people coming along.

Sara said...

Mark, I take your point a little - but there must be a reasonable way to do it. I don't have time to go to LDB that often, but I used to click on many postings that came up on LDV's list.

I know from the many emails I have received since making my posting about the new look that lots of other people feel the same, but feel if they are not one of the 'big beast bloggers' they should keep their head down.

It seemed that LDV was happy to have a list of its own previous posts going back forever on the front page, but didn't want anyone else to get a lookin. Sorry if that's not the reason, but as you know in politics perception is king and that's the perception of a lot of LD bloggers.

Ryan said...

But Sara the list on the old home page only showed a few of the most recent blog posts and within an hour you post could have fallen of the list.
On top of that it was nothing more than a list of titles, it didn't give you the snippet of the beginning on the post to let you know if it was worth reading and it also showed up posts for people you had already had enough of and had muted on http://www.libdemblogs.co.uk.

Alix said...

Hm, that's all interesting. I agree there does need to be a link between LDV and Lib Dem Blogs. I personally don't see what is wrong with resurrecting the feed, if people want it, but zats not my department.

I dunno whether I've been subject to The Curse though. Looking at my monthly totals I continued blogging pretty strongly through to February this year and then at a reduced rate - but a rate I'd been at before - up until May. I've basically stopped blogging now, and I had a very interesting discussion with the Devil and others on Stuart Sharpe's blog a while back about why.

Basically, I feel like I've said everything I've got to say, and convinced and won over all the people who were ever going to be convinced, and all the people who were never going to be convinced weren't. All the posts from hereon in would just be variations on a theme, and not as interesting to write (with consequences, I'm sure, for the reader). I wouldn't say I'll never go back to the blog again, but my most creative writing is going on on paper for the moment. I'm taking a break from LDV too because I'm trying desperately to keep my head above water and have cut back on all non-paying activities.

Maybe it's not so much that the award per se is a curse, but it tends to coincide with the blogger having been around for a while, having become a known voice with a known persona and a known range of specialist topics, and so not long after that you find yourself constrained and a bit bored by what you've built, rather as James suggests.

Gareth Aubrey said...

I know what you mean about regular features; my Y Barcud Oren has gone from fortnightly to occasional (I've just started working on the latest one, as it happens!)

I suppose the key thing is to attract people to LDV who wouldn't necessarily blog independently (Freedom Central works well in that, Peter aside, the contributors and administrators generally weren't blogging before)

Oranjepan said...

Personally I think it would be a tragedy if the LibDem blogosphere was became dominated by just the same old establishment.

We need to grow and evolve to remain dynamic, so whether we're developing new projects or keeping a niche filled in order to set an example and encourage others it's a continuous process.

However I do think LDB should have a prominent position on LDV even if it doesn't take the feed, and I also think there should be some collecting point for the Agent Oranges of the world to be kept integral to the LibDem blogging ecosphere.

Liberal Polemic said...

Did you have a control group against which to compare your experiment?

Seriously, it may just be evidence that it is hard to keep a blog going. I gave up posting after three years because I just don't have the time to post regularly enough to justify my own blog. This was partly my own fault - I was an essay writer (though that's never stopped Alex Wilcox!).

The real problem, I suspect, is that blogs eat their authors.

These days I occasionally post on other blogs. In a sense, this is what LDV offers: a platform for liberal voices.

As long as there is no editorial voice (and it seems that they are largely neutral) I don't think it matters whether LDV is the only blog as long as anybody can post whatever they like on it. It is the content, not the prefix of the URL, that matters.

Stephen Tall said...

'Scuse coming late to this comments party, I was away when the post appeared...

As Jonathan himself admits in the original post - and others have noted - talk of a Curse in connection with Lib Dem Voice is far-fetched.

The real point is how difficult it is for most folk to keep a blog going for more than a year or two. Look at the original 2006 Lib Dem Blog of the Year short-list - Andy Mayer, Liberal Review and myself have all defaulted, though we each continue to write under different urls.

I explained my reasons for keeping my own blog fallow here back in 2008: http://tiny.cc/szARS

I don't think there's any reason why the Lib Dem blogsophere is a zero-sum game. I want Lib Dem Voice to grow and improve - and that will mean recruiting new faces. But I've no doubt new bloggers will continue to add diversity to the already vibrant Lib Dem blogosphere.