Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

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26 July 2004

As pointed out on Crooked Timber at last there is a study on UK political weblogs (downloadable “here”:http://www.hansardsociety.org.uk/assets/Final_Blog_Report_.pdf). Political weblogging really isn’t well established here in the UK though and it shows. The Hansard Society chose eight weblogs to focus on and even then “one of them was from overseas (Blog for America)”:http://www.blogforamerica.com/ and another, “VoxPolitics”:http://www.voxpolitics.com/, while often interesting, is also pretty much dormant at the moment.

Because the Hansard Society is mostly interested in building interest in political participation their emphasis – unusually – was not on the weblog creators but on what people who read them thought. They chose a (fairly) random jury of eight readers and made them comment on what they read, whether they found it interesting and whether it made them want to write a weblog themselves.

Perhaps not surprisingly, few of the readers found the weblogs they were assigned interesting (they might have been more enthusiastic if their local MP or councillor had a weblog but of course that would be pretty unlikely). Also unsurprisingly, only one of the eight actually expressed an interest in producing a weblog of their own after reading them.

It seems to me that at least in the early to middle stages the main importance of political weblogs (To the extent that they are important) would be in the way that they enable policy wonks to talk to other policy wonks as observed in the “paper I remarked on earlier”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_academia.html#001178 about US political weblogs.

Thanks also to “Harry”:http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/ (one of the bloggers mentioned who told “Chris Bertram”:http://eis.bris.ac.uk/~plcdib/ at Crooked Timber about it)

22 July 2004

“Henry Farrell”:http://www.henryfarrell.net/ and “Daniel Drezner”:http://www.danieldrezner.com/blog/ have published a first draft of a paper on politics and blogs on Crooked Timber. It includes some analysis of the link distribution of such sites and also, crucially, acknowledges the importance of the early blogger journalists as a way to legitimise the blogosphere for ‘mainstream’ journalists to use it. It includes a survey of American journalists (including elite journalists) indicating which weblogs they read (more on that survey “here”:http://www.danieldrezner.com/archives/001321.html and raw data “here”:http://www.danieldrezner.com/research/Blogsurveypublic.xls.

It would be interesting to know what the power positions of the respondents were within their news organizations…

There were some minor nits I picked in a comment to the Crooked Timber posting but otherwise I think it’s shaping up to be a valuable contribution to the debate about political weblogs.

8 June 2004
Filed under:E-democracy,Net politics at9:53 am

Will Davies gave a talk at “NotCon”:http://www.notcon04.com/ on the need for a sociological view of the Internet among Internet activists that everyone with any interest in the politics of the Internet should take a look at it. I wished I had been together enough to present something at NotCon myself but Will’s presentation covered much the same ground as I would have and with great clarity and insight (you don’t have to be a sociologist to follow it!).

The full text of his talk (more or less) in Word format is “here”:http://www.theisociety.net/archives/Notcon%206th%20June%202004%20-%20will%20davies.doc

P.S. I just discovered there’s a “NotCon Topic Exchange channel”:http://topicexchange.com/t/notcom/ so if you’re posting NotCon-related stuff try using it so others can follow along…

7 June 2004

TheyWorkForYou.com, launched yesterday at “NotCon”:http://notcon04.com/ is a great example of barn-building by the energetic community of public-spirited, capable, policy wonk/tech geeks here in the UK. It takes the speeches in Parliament and breaks them down by speaker allowing things like commenting to or linking to specific passages and monitoring what a member of parliament says about a subject. It also includes lots of useful links to data about each MP like what organizations are paying them to consult for them.

Cory “called it”:http://www.boingboing.net/2004/06/06/theyworkforyou_fines.html the ‘finest advocacy web-app in the world’. I wouldn’t go that far. It doesn’t really demystify the political process here in the UK – it doesn’t explain what the connection is between the speeches in Parliament and what gets done (if indeed there is one) so it is likely still to appeal most to policy wonks and it doesn’t cover select committees where (I gather) a lot of what parliamentary power is left is exercised. Nonetheless considering the fact it was coded by a small team in their spare time it’s pretty impressive. Definitely worth a look if you are interested in tracking UK politics.

Best of all, the whole project is open source and they encourage feedback and creative re-use of their work so if you want to help them build more features or want to take the framework and apply it to (for example) the European parliament, the House of Lords or the workings of your local council you are encouraged to do so.

6 June 2004

I have been rather jealous to read about all the net-related conferences in the US I have had to miss but NotCon in London made up a lot of ground for me – it was the most stimulating nine hours I have spent in ages. I’ll post more about it over the next week I am sure, meanwhile here are few pretty dreadful (but quickly uploaded!) “pictures from the event”:http://community.webshots.com/album/150042801KUvpqS.

I’m sure there will be lots more “weblog postings about NotCon”:http://www.technorati.com/cosmos/search.html?rank=&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.xcom2002.com%2Fnc04%2F&sub=Go%21 (or “here”:http://www.technorati.com/cosmos/search.html?rank=&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.notcon04.com%2F&sub=Go%21) as soon as the rest of the bloggers get home and start chatting about it.

14 May 2004

American NPR radio show The Connection interviews George Packer, who recently “criticised blogging”:http://www.motherjones.com/commentary/columns/2004/05/04_200.html in Mother Jones. Alas it isn’t really a very interesting article or programme. To summarise:
_George_: Political weblogs are addictive but offer little substance – they just offer opinions about opinions off the top of the authors’ heads without editing, thoughtfulness or useful additional evidence.
_Bloggers_: That’s not always true – check out these sites
_George_: Well, OK – some blogs are useful, but most are time wasting.

See “here”:http://www.technorati.com/cosmos/search.html?rank=&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.motherjones.com%2Fcommentary%2Fcolumns%2F2004%2F05%2F04_200.html&sub=Go%21 for lots more blog commentary about George’s Mother Jones piece (much of which seems to unwittingly support his thesis).

4 May 2004

Fundrace.org Brings together registered information about US political donors with geographic databases to calculate interesting things like “who is getting more contributions from wealthier neighborhoods”?

28 April 2004

A netfriend of mine, Melanie McBride has written an excellent overview of the issues around “Blogging, Equality and the Future”:http://www.mindjack.com/feature/linkedout.html on “Mindjack”:http://www.mindjack.com/, a magazine I have been involved with for some time. It quotes those who believe blogging is a vital democratic tool but also includes the welcome cautionary voice of “Danah Boyd”:http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/ who points out the un-acknowledged barriers to blogging (very much in the terms I plan to in my own PhD). I could go on but why not read the article for yourself!

15 April 2004
Filed under:Academia,E-democracy,London,Net politics at9:52 am

“NotCon”:http://www.notcon04.com/ on 6th June in London is a conference covering some, none or all of the following:

* Geolocation services
* Social software
* Hardware hacking
* Actual impacts of blogging
* Alternative media
* Politics on the net
* Politics *of* the net

It is being organized by a large proportion of the UK’s Internet policy wonk community…

Thanks to Tom Steinberg for the link and for helping to arrange the conference

11 April 2004

Thanks to AudioBerkman I can download MP3s of people talking about the legacy of WSIS or an interview with John Perry Barlow. Now I can spend every last second of my waking life thinking about the social impact of technology…

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