Thursday, 21 May 2009

YOUR Welsh Blogosphere - Al Iguana

I’ve been around blogs for a long time. I was an early-adopter (beta-tester) of Livejournal back in 2000 (nine years ago!). So I’ve seen the birth of blogging, its fumbling childhood, its messy adolescence. What I haven’t seen until recently, and may be a sign that blogging is entering its adult years, is people taking it seriously as a medium. That includes the media, that includes politicians.

It seems that Welsh political blogging is here to stay, whether the politicians like it or not. What about the blogs of actual politicians though? Sure, politicians are increasingly taking to this medium, with varying degrees of success and enthusiasm. But can what is essentially 'citizen journalism' be harnessed by politicians without bringing either themselves, their parties, or the medium itself into disrepute? For the most part, I think the answer is yes. Not only that, but I think the need for your average politician to engage with new media isn't just doable, it is essential.

Now, that does not mean that every MP, AM and councillor needs to set up big, complex Obama-style interactive social networks. But there needs to be a level of honest engagement. Bloggers, Tweeters, Facebook users aren't some secret party hit squads out to get you, they are the very people who voted you into a job in the first place. Politicians often say "It’s what my constituents think that matters" - well, unless they blog about it that is, in which case they're seen as the enemy. That attitude is both self-defeating and ultimately self-destructive.

With politicians that write blogs, you can generally tell the ones that "get it" by the fact that they take time to interact and engage with their readers. But for my mind politicians aren't using blogs to their full advantage. Or other new-media either. Take Twitter: we saw recently an explosion of politicians signing up for Twitter accounts. Then.... 60% posted nothing all! Of the ones that do post regularly, a lot of it goes like this:

“In a meeting this afternoon.

Meeting factory bosses tomorrow”

etc

While it's good that we can see that you're actually working for your money, how shall I put this: we don't care! Save that stuff for your Blackberry! What we want to know is: what beer do you like? What did you think about the new Star Trek? What about that factory closure? Did you hear about that accident? Isn’t that bus service terrible? We want to see you as normal people, as one of us, not these monolithic distant media celebrities. And frankly, you need that too.

Trust in politicians has reached an all-time low. You won't gain votes by being some anonymous person knocking on peoples doors once every four years and waving a manifesto at people: they've already made their minds up. You will get votes by making friends with your constituents, by engaging with them, involving yourselves in their lives - you know, old fashioned community stuff. Time and distance is a factor, of course it is, but with new media you have the tools to do this easily, conveniently, openly. All you need to is get past this "them and us" mindset. There is no them, just us. Trust and respect isn't earned by a glossy flier, but it might be earned with an email, a tweet. And the sooner we all sit down round a table, real or virtual, and talk like adults the better Welsh politics will be.

(Written by @aliguana who during his long years never actually met or talked to any politician. Until they came online)

2 Responses to “YOUR Welsh Blogosphere - Al Iguana”

aberdare said...

Really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for contributing. Some pithy analysis on the current need for politicians to befriend their own constituents, connect with them and earn their trust.

Al Iguana said...

update: The Wardman Wire posted this:

"There are around 55 MPs listed with Twitter accounts.

Of these, perhaps 25-30% are very regular users, and a similar number have tried it and given up. The others are on a spectrum of use in between.."

look out for a full article on Tweeting MPs on monday:

http://www.mattwardman.com/blog/2009/05/22/twitter-reach-of-mps-prospective-candidates-and-official-parties/

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