Monday, October 15, 2007

Twenty-one today

click to expand the listForget Ming, the IGC and other political ephemera – for a brief moment. The experiment we started with Umbrella Blog a few weeks ago reached an important milestone today when we added our 21st blog to the "family".

With several others being processed and a steady trickle of inquiries coming in, it is clear that the experiment is working – and our members would attest to that. In all cases, our regular bloggers have experienced significant increases in hits and one reported his rate tripling.

The idea, as we set out initially, was to capitalise on the modest success of EU Referendum and provide a platform for other, less popular blogs which shared our general world view and which, we thought, deserved a wider audience.

In a sense, we are doing our bit to mobilise the blogosphere, and not too soon. Not only is the EU commission beginning to take a serious interest in the potential of blogging - with the aid of its allies and fellow travellers, our own government too, in a report issued today, is showing signs of recognising the value of blogs as a communication tool. In the fullness of time, we will see real effort from the government publicity machines to exert its influence in what it calls the "social media".

Thus, while the political blogosphere is currently dominated by the right – at least, according to Iain Dale - there is no room for complacency. The position is more precarious than it looks and our collective voices could easily be drowned out by new entrants with their own agendas.

That said, we ourselves are not in any way attempting to control the medium or our members. There is no editorial line, no selection, no preference. Each blog in our "family" remains entirely independent and decides what to write, and when. In the near future, we will have software in place to allow each member to notify readers of their posts on our front page, making it truly a blogger-generated venture with members firmly in the driving seat.

Our input, where it comes, is in trying to develop a roughly uniform look, to give some idea of a "family" image (with huge variation within that) and to exercise quality control. Right from the start, we felt, there were good people out there, who had something worthwhile to say, but some were let down by their presentation and, to an extent, their undeveloped writing skills. We aim to act as a "facilitator" in that respect, offering mutual aid, focused on improving the readers' experience.

On the presentation and technical front, we have been wholly reliant on my son, North Jnr, who has worked tirelessly to bring this venture to fruition, having designed most of the banners that currently adorn our family sites. And while, on this blog, we have been reluctant to solicit donations for ourselves, we have no hesitation in inviting donations for Peter, through the "donation" button on the front page (sidebar).

For the future, we will continue to welcome new members, and look gradually to expanding our range and the scope of subjects covered, as more writers join us in this – we feel – exciting new venture.

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