Thursday, 30 April 2009

My Welsh Blogosphere - Simon Dyda

There are blogs and there are political blogs. This I think is an important distinction. Political bloggers and the media alike often talk of the 'blogosphere', 'blogs' and 'blogging' as if these things do not exist outside the sphere of political commentary.

Of course this is not the case. A blog can be whatever its author wants it to be, about any subject or none, and its presentation need only conform to the whim of its owner. Political blogs occupy only one small corner of the real blogosphere.

It would be pointless to deny that political blogs here in Wales have grown in influence since the 2007 Assembly elections. We read and hear about them in the Welsh media and they are increasingly mentioned on the floor of the Siambr. This influence is clearly dependent on and caused by the fact that the Welsh media and Welsh politicians are the people reading these blogs - when they're not blogging themselves.

There is occasionally talk of the 'new' versus the 'old' media when it comes to blogging and online political comment. 'Bloggers versus Hacks' so to speak. In reality the difference is more one of amateur anoraks versus professional pundits. Blogging after all is merely a technology, a style, a technique even. Every mainstream outlet has its own blogs now. Some have even employed bloggers as columnists. And as an example of 'blogging technique' many online broadsheets now 'live blog' political events - such as PMQs.

But I digress. Yes, blogs have grown in influence here in Wales, but not on any scale that we should get carried away with. Normal people don't read blogs, and certainly don't look to blogs for advice on how to vote. Our present Welsh government may have been 'born on a blog', but it was a blog written by a professional politician who played a key role in the subsequent coalition negotiations, not an anonymous civil servant in Cathays or some geek in Caernarfon.

The 'Welsh (political) blogosphere' is generally recognised by UK bloggers as being a robust one. But I think we need to have some sense of perspective. The blogosphere here - much like its English counterpart - is chiefly the realm of gossip, Schadenfreude and name-calling. The latter of these is hardly unique to political bloggers - it is also one of the favourite pursuits of many of our politicians. As is the case with most of our politicians, we bloggers don't produce much by way of ideas and rarely have anything insightful to contribute to debate. Come to think of it, in Welsh politics generally the definition of 'debate' seems to be 'to talk at'.

Much has been made of the presence of 'attack blogs' in Wales, which following the recent McBride episode has inspired some rather pitiful displays of self-righteousness from other bloggers (among them politician bloggers) who themselves have never been shy of publishing personal attacks - sometimes against members of their own parties! But beyond the perimeter of Torchwood 3 nobody really cares.

Unlike our English neighbours, the opposition do not rule the blogging roost, and although we've had our own 'Guido' we've never had our own 'Dizzy', ie a blogger who trawls through all that has been said in Westminster and the Senedd looking for the inevitable gaps, gaffes and anomalies that escape the rest of us. Off the top of my head I can't even remember an instance where anyone has made a detailed comparison between what the One Wales document says and what the One Wales government has (or has not) delivered. Welsh blogs are generally more interested in what X had to say about Y in the Western Mail.

Now, don't misunderstand me, I'm not trying to belittle the Welsh blogosphere. There's nothing wrong with gossip, Schadenfruede and name-calling in politics - I do it myself - I just don't think we need an inflated idea of our collective (or individual) status and influence as Welsh political bloggers.

Unfortunately some of us take this whole political blogging thing much too seriously, leading to spiteful exchanges in the comments threads of many a blog. Blogging should be fun even if it does get catty, so I welcome the idea of 'Welsh Bloggers In The Pub' as a means of nurturing civility between bloggers.

Mine's a Guinness.

(Written by Simon Dyda, Welsh blogger, creator and author of Ordovicius, the Ordovicius Micro-Blog, Pleidiol and Welsh Blog Feed)

This is the first of a series of posts giving a chance for Welsh bloggers to have their say on the state of the blogosphere and where it's going. If you're interested in contributing place feel free to contact me at welshbloggers@gmail.com

12 Responses to “My Welsh Blogosphere - Simon Dyda”

This is probably the best you thing i have seen you write. Well done. Did you read my wardman wire piece? Because many of the things written in there seem to chime with this.

cambriapolitico said...

Good article Simon.
Just a couple of comments - you quote Madame Dale as saying the Welsh blogosphere is in 'rude health'. I disagree.
There is virtually (ha) no journalistic cutting edge, there are no blogs comparable to US political blogs, we have had no worldwide 'scoops' either on blogs or twitter, we failed to nail Peter Hain first and are still failing to nail other 'troughers'. Contrary to your suggestion that we have had our own Guido Fawkes - we don't. Our 'attack dog blogs' are toothless puppies when we need a vampire rottwiler from Hirwaun.
The only blog of real originality is NoGoodBoyo.
The only blog that has an international perspective is UKProgressive.
Thus I would say that the Welsh blogosphere is improving but we still have a long way to go before 'mainstream'.
BTW. Mine's an orange juice.

In truth Cambria, you are a magazine that has a very trenchant line that seems to jettison balance in favour of calling people names. I hope bloggers like Simon continue in their own vein, and not in what supposed 'magazines' such as yourself do.

cambriapolitico said...

Sweet&Tender
Not interested in 'balanced' - some people deserve to be called names and some of us have axes to grind. We leave balance to the likes of political acrobats like BBCBetsan who get paid to walk an impossibly thin line.
Cambria is not a 'supposed' magazine it has been going in print for over 12 years. It is totally independent and not subsidised by or subservient to WAG like Golwg. Cambria Politico is a blog outlet for some of its more politically minded contributors and opinions in this are not necessarily the same or supported by Cambria the magazine.

Mine's a non-alcoholic beverage.

Cambria, fair enough, i guess we can agree to disagree.

MH said...

This is what I'm having.

And, although I won't make any promises, I'll try to give my contributions at Syniadau an analytical edge.

Simon Dyda said...

"you quote Madame Dale as saying the Welsh blogosphere is in 'rude health'."

Sorry to be pedantic but I do not. I said:

The 'Welsh (political) blogosphere' is generally recognised by UK bloggers as being a robust one.

No Dale, just pure Dyda.

Simon Dyda said...

"There is virtually (ha) no journalistic cutting edge, there are no blogs comparable to US political blogs, we have had no worldwide 'scoops' either on blogs or twitter, we failed to nail Peter Hain first and are still failing to nail other 'troughers'."

Blogging isn't journalism, as you seem to think it should be. That's not what blogging is about. See the second paragraph.

Alwyn ap Huw said...

I couldn't disagree more Cambria.

Comparing the politics of the USA with the politics of Wales is a bit silly. There is a subtle difference between getting Barrack Obama elected as President and getting Gordon Brown re-elected as PM. We don't vote for Gordon Brown we vote for his party candidate in our own constituency. Bloging to elect a constituency MP or AM will take a lot more slog than a "nationwide" election will need.

Why do we need world wide scoops? If I had a world-wide scoop I probably wouldn't publish it on my blog - because my blog is rather parochial. My interest is in the politics of my parish, my county my nation! A parish wide scoop would make me happy - world wide would be boring (unless it involved the First Lady having a fling with the chair of Llansanffraid parish council)!

Welsh political blogs have had some influence on the political scene in Wales. Apparently Peter Black, me and Valley's Mam were the irresponsible bloggers who ended Rhodri Thomas' ministerial career.

Simon's YouTube Labour Gangsters has put a big spoke in Alun Davies' ambitions to be First Minister.

Welsh Ramblings post about the selective way that the Wales Office has chosen to consult about the Welsh Language LCO is becoming explosive!

Blogs are making a small difference.

A small difference is all they should make in a true democracy. Despite the fact that I Blog, I have just one vote in any election. If my musings persuade others to vote with me, that is a bonus.

Expecting my blog to force others to vote in a certain way because of it's influence stinks of corruption!

Alwyn ap Huw said...

I forgot to note:
Mine is a half of mild if I'm paying, but a pint of best and a double whisky chaser if you're paying!

cambriapolitico said...

Simon Dyda, MOF.
You make my points. Of course blogs aren't and shouldn't take the place of journalism nor should they be propaganda tools (we wish) but in the absence of decent and effective print or TV media in Wales then there is no proper vehicle for interactive dialogue between people and the politician so recourse has to be made to whatever vehicle is available and that currently is the blogosphere (and the Internet as a whole). I could debate all night with you MOF about the so-called democratic process and your one vote every four years.
You may well be correct in implying that (some) Welsh political blogs are punching above their weight in influence in the Assembly but it is still negligible (and ignorable by politicians).
My main concern has always been the lack of original content, interesting thought and original writing in Welsh blogs (not necessarily scoops) and we suffer from this ourselves (mea culpa).
I think I'd like something stronger in that orange juice.

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