Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The importance of independent bloggers

Having just done a list of my posts on other blogs, Belshaw's other blog posts to cob 29 July 11, this post is just a ramble pulling together a few things.

Yesterday's main post, China's foreign reserves - what they mean, what might happen, was on my Managing the Professional Services blog. This post, a follow up to Saturday Morning Musings - fall of the US dollar, was triggered by a question from fellow blogger Denis Wright who wanted a simple explanation of China's reserve position. I was happy to respond as a way of clarifying my own thinking.

I now want to do two things: a summary of the broader economics of China as I understand it  plus a review of the implications for Australia. This then gives me another building block to back the continuing analysis I do on longer term trends.

   A few days ago I completed my monthly review of traffic across my various blogs. In doing so, I looked again at the detail of the traffic patterns. My interest here is not just ego. I write a lot, and I like to understand what the stats tell me about responses to my own writing and, more broadly, trends in blogging and the internet. 

Three of my blogs, and especially this one and New England Australia, have a core readership. By that I mean return visitors, many of whom contribute via comments. The group varies between blogs, although there is some overlap.

I have referred to this readership and the connecting blogs as the village. Increasingly, I write for this group, for they are the ones that give me the greatest inspiration. When Denis Wright and Neil Whitfield discovered each other's blogs through Denis Wright & learning from the Sufis I got  a real thrill. Both have high quality blogs and, just as in the normal village, I thought that they would get on!

It is a little while since I analysed that pattern of the links, but I have noticed how the interconnections build between blogs and bloggers in the blogging environment and on Facebook and Twitter. Being by heart a village or small town person, I take pleasure in this and try to play my part in building community.

I don't comment so much on other people's posts, although I do try to do this. Rather, I use references on my blogs themselves including companion posts and regular blog round-ups as a devices. I get a very big return from this. I don't mean return in a traffic sense, although that does exist. Rather, it's a return that comes from sharing.

Let me give a purely personal example. In Problems with sex crazed vampires I referred to daughter Clare's new blog. This is very different from the normal fare on this blog! When Clare got a dozen or so click throughs from that story, she got a thrill. Her father got a bigger one!

By the way, Clare's last post The Room is really quite funny, including the grammatical errors!

I try to write with purpose on my blogs.

A fair bit of my writing is an attempt to explore my own views. Here I break the normal rules of internet content in terms of length and  complexity. I expose my own thinking to the world with all its ponderousity and pontification. However, I also try to write with purpose, to explain, sometimes to attract support for and interest in causes that I believe in.

One of the things that I have tried to get across to my fellow bloggers is that their views do have influence. However, that influence does not come from single posts, but from posting over time.

To suggest that any blog can have the immediate impact of, say, a major newspaper story would be absurd.  A lot of the discussion here about blogs as media, about the relations between blogs and the main stream media, is quite simply confused.

There are individual blog posts that actually break stories. There are blogs that play a role as news review sources. Yet bloggers cannot compete with, nor substitute for, the main stream media. The effects of blogging are far more micro. They are also longer term and cumulative.

Let me try to illustrate from my own experience.

My first post on New England Australia was written on 8 April 2006. There I said:     

This blog is dedicated to the history, culture and activities of the New England region of Australia.

In many ways New England does not exist. In the words of the Australian poet A D Hope, New England is an idea in the heart and mind.

In formal terms, the term New England is used to describe the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales. Here locals talk of "the New England." But the term is also used, and this is the way I use the term, to describe a much broader region that has maintained a struggle for self government - the right to govern itself within the Australian federation - since the middle of the 19th century.

We have come close at times, but success still eludes us. The forces of the status quo are very strong. So I thought that a site that focuses just on New England might provide another voice.

At the time I started writing, the very idea of the broader new state New England seemed in terminal decline.  There was no name recognition any more, no interest. The entire history of the area seemed to have vanished. I had thought that my very act  of creating a blog, of writing, would attract interest. Yet the blog gained very little initial interest. I was writing into the ether,

Since then I have written 986 posts on this blog. Then I added New England's History - 279 posts. This writing led to a request for me to write a column for the Armidale Express -134 columns with 132 so far repeated on New England Australia. I started my history of New England - 3 seminar papers  plus inputs into other writing. Then there have been my New England posts on this blog.

That's a lot of writing, more than a million words. It's more than five years of my life.

What can I say about it? We certainly haven't achieved self government! 

What I can say is that I have achieved over 81,000 visits, over 1,000 comments, an apparently interested readership for my Express column. Then there are my fellow New England bloggers who reference my stuff, the people who read their material, the still very small group who have heard me speak, New England's growing internet footprint, the thousands of emails. 

I think that I can fairly say in all this that my New England, the broader New England, has emerged from the dust of history into at least dim sunlight. It may be dim, but it's there.

I am not saying that my fellow bloggers should be as obsessive as I am!  I am saying that when I look at their influence over time I can see their footprints in ways that they might not. This holds from Pune to Toronto to Surrey Hills/Wollongong.

That is why I argue so hard to encourage us all to continue writing. Every blogger who cares and thinks has some influence. It may not be big ticket stuff, it may seem lost in the confusion of the internet, but the threads of influence are there. I see it all the time!

I had intended to complete this post with a discussion of the broader audience attracted by search engines, why I thought that this was important, about our responsibilities as bloggers to this drop in audience. However, because of length I will leave things here.     

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