Wednesday, 19 March 2008

There'd be ten if it were Christmas

Well, I've utterly failed to spot any amusing punctuation lately, so I guess that leaves me with putting "ephemeral technological developments into some kind of wider philosophical and/or cultural context." Erm, well, I'll give it a go...

But before any of that: hello.

As Fiona explained, I'm Tim, and I'll be blogging here at least once a week, until... well, until I'm not. But until then, expect some of that technological ephemera and context stuff she promised, plenty of useful and/or amusing links, and perhaps some regular weekly features... (we'll have decided more about that latter one by next week).

As for today; let's see, what's been attracting my attention lately? Erm, besides the thumping Techno of my Slovakian housemate, and the uncanny resemblance between Avram Grant, the current Chelsea manager and Baron Silas von Greenback, archenemy of Dangermouse...

Well, on Monday, the BBC reminded me that Avram Grant isn't the only person in the public eye with grey hair and the look of someone perpetually troubled by the effects of acid reflux indigestion. Plenty more of them can be found in the House of Lords. Recently, perhaps their pained looks have had less to do with their lunch, though, than the news that nine of their gamer colleagues have been persuaded by the Hansard Society to begin blogging about their work.

Such news, and the no doubt fearful prospect that, perhaps, they might be coerced into following suit must have come as quite a shock to some of their Lordships. Once they'd been woken up. And had it explained to them what a blog was. And what the internet was. And a computer. And exactly where they were. But that's probably exactly the kind of prejudice Lords of the Blog was designed to explode, so I wonder how the nine are getting on?

Not great, it has to be said.

While only one or two of the blogging peers might, uncharitably, be described as a bit sleepy in appearance, their blog posts, as yet, are far from lively. Think, in some cases, grown-up versions of 'What I did on my holidays', only at work, and with far fewer brightly coloured drawings. As for the rest, most of their writing styles are indistinguishable from each other. And, crucially, the last thing I might describe their offerings as being likely to do is: "engage with the public". Unfortunately, that's one of the blog's stated aims:

" help educate, raise awareness and engage with the public on a range of issues relating to the role and business of the House of Lords."

Nothing wrong with those aims, of course - one could certainly argue that the public having greater access to the unelected members of our system of government might be a good thing. Nor with the medium: blogging might indeed be the way to go. Except, to engage with people you need to write something engaging.

Not much of that going on yet, sadly.

Barely once do you get the sense of who these people are beyond what they do at work - Lords of the Blog is blogging without the all-important personal touch. Either they have no personality, or they're so used to keeping it out of their writing that blogging perhaps isn't the best medium for them. As I was reading, I found myself thinking, over and over, "Yes, you went to a meeting about such-and-such, but what did it mean to you? How did it affect your life? How does this help us to get to know you?"

And why did those questions matter to me?

Because good bloggers can and have carried their readers into all sorts of unfamiliar worlds, simply through the connection their readers come to feel with them - through the quality and personality of their writing, through conversations in the comments boxes. As a blogger's readers become invested in what happens to him or her, they can find themselves taking an interest in any number of things they might never have done otherwise; blogging can turn something impersonal into something personal, and therefore accessible. It certainly wouldn't hurt if someone could do that for the House of Lords.

As it stands, though, Lords of the Blog might well give the odd insight into how the House of Lords operates, and what a Lord does there (there's plenty of dry factual information), but there's precious little there to make any of us really care; no-one you'd want to follow through their time there; no-one who would make you learn something about it all almost inadvertently. No-one whose writing and/or personality looks like truly opening it all up to a reader.

Even if that opportunity seems to have been missed, perhaps, it's at least stirring debate?

Or perhaps not.

There's certainly very little there that might stimulate debate: no-one's expressed any really strong opinions; and while some of the Lords have been expressing their gratitude and surprise at the level of feedback, very few comments seem to have actually made their way onto the site. If there is any kind of conversation taking place, then, it's certainly not a very open one.

Still, it's early days. Maybe, given time, Lords of the Blog will develop into something a bit less one-way. Perhaps, the Lords might eventually kick off their shoes and relax into it all. Perhaps, it might actually become a blog.

Already, though, we have one moment to thank it for: Lord Soley's Comment is free... article in the Guardian. Granted, maybe not the piece itself, but come on: doesn't he have a wonderfully cavalier attitude to byline photos?

Positively windswept.


rach said...

I quite agree - the Lords blog is one of the dullest things I have ever come across on t'interweb. I tried reading some of the blog posts, but couldn't get beyond the first couple of paragraphs. It's marginally less dry than Hansard, but not by much.

I particularly like this one ( where the video link goes down and causes great excitement. But, full marks for trying, and they seem to be posting regularly enough, so maybe they'll get better?

You know, what they need is a couple of folk just to tidy it all up a bit, put it in plain English and add a few pop culture references...ever thought of branching out?!

Tim Warren said...

Thanks, Rach - thinking of pitching for that work, Fiona?

Yep, I liked that post, as well :) And Lord Dholakia's slightly odd little post about the All Party Parliamentary Group on Photography. Still, as you said, at least they're posting regularly, and full marks for trying. It's certainly not a bad idea per se, it's just the way it's being executed at present.

I don't know, maybe if Lord Soley (he of the uncontrollable tie) could recruit just one Lord with a bit more charisma to his/her writing, the whole thing might actually take off? And maybe some of the others might get the idea, too. He does say that he's still recruiting, in one of the comments, though, so fingers crossed...