Tuesday, October 9, 2007


What do you think of conspiracy theories? Me, not much. I want to get Crazy Paul from chess club on film, so that I can get his thoughts on the record. He's full of conspiracy theories particularly about 9/11. Problem is that many of them contradict each other - and when that happens, I always challenge him. It makes him look ridiculous and everybody laughs at him, but of course he brushes off the brickbats and soon finds another wild goose chase. Sad really.

But the best way to learn about conspiracy theories is when you find yourself accused of some misdeed out of the blue. And then, on the thinnest amount of evidence (or maybe none) adherents to the theory pop up. Here's a good example. If anyone has any information on what causes people to pathologise, that might be useful.

To say that I am not interested in IT is something of an under-statement. Along with cars, gadgets and most other things that boys are supposed to take an unhealthy interest in, I just don't care about how computers work. This is fairly well known, but would rather ruin the Political Penguin's line of thinking.

The ironic thing is that Political Penguin aka failed Labour council candidate Gareth Walker spends his time archiving my work. I'm sure that West Midlands Labour has a few members who don't have a screw loose. I'm yet to encounter them. Stalkers* - a political blogging hazard.

* - A rule of thumb is that the more you have the better the job you're doing!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Subject Matter Expertise - A Key Element To Political Blogging

Expertise can cover anything from the pavement politics in a council ward, through to global geo-politics, but your thoughts need to be insightful to stand out. It’s OK to admit to uncertainty sometimes, but if you’re always groping around a subject without an understanding of the basics, it’s hardly edifying. It’s just my point of view, but there is little I find less endearing than political views that are ill-informed. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but when someone’s views are grounded in ignorance or blind loyalty, they deserve little respect.

It might be tough to be a model of consistency, but most respected political bloggers have a firm set of political principles and a deep interest in their subject matter. You might have thought this would be a given for anyone in politics, but I disagree. To illustrate, whilst John Redwood’s authoritative contributions to the debate on UK competitiveness demonstrated his subject matter expertise, convictions and principles – the responses of many Labour politicians were juvenile tosh.

Your naturally strong interest in a subject should be supplemented with further reading and research. This would include government reports and inquiries, internet searches and topical books by experts, but I’ve been known to go further. For example, I might contact a known expert in the field for extra reading or to find out what is at the cutting edge of the debate. I remember being pointed to an excellent piece of research by the London Chamber of Commerce into what was known as the DTI that I would never have found by traditional means. I recommend political bloggers to get out from behind their PCs and talk to people.

A final bit of advice is to show your best side. Have some awareness of where your strengths lie and try to avoid topics where you are out of your depth. So, technical expertise has to be married with focus. Focus your blogging on what you know. It’s better to build up a strong reputation in a few select areas than a mediocre reputation across the board. And if there has been a major development in one of your focus areas, there is a certain obligation on you to give an opinion.

The above can be time-consuming and after a year’s blogging I had quite a few themes running through my blog. That’s part of the reason why I thought it was better to stop altogether rather than attempt to keep all the balls in the air.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Not Blogging

Just because I quit the Praguetory website, doesn't mean I no longer care about the online debate. In fact, one or two things I have done since stopping blogging have been at least as effective as my personal blogging efforts were.

Filtering through stories to the right people is one of them. With a little bit research and analysis, you can package information so that it is ready-made for a blogger, MP, PPC or even a journalist to use or disseminate further.

With a decent email contact list and a large number of political facebook friends, there seems to be a very good chance that I'll be able to track down the right person for the relevant story. For example, in August one such story managed to spark an official Conservative Party press release.

I'm also looking forward to seeing a PPC raise his/her profile off the back of some events in his/her seat which I alerted him/her to.

Usually, I'll caveat an email with a "you probably already know about this", but it's amazing how often politicos or journos aren't aware of stories related to their patch that are dynamite.

Another thing that I've tried to do is support new or newer right-wing bloggers. Many people get discouraged easily in the online world as they fail to make the impact that they would like to. I've been trying to give a little advice where I can to help people work effectively in this area.

I've also been doing some planning work on other secret political projects - which is fun, but you won't see the results of that for a while.

Apologies for the break in posting on this site. I've been getting married.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Political Blogging Effectiveness Tips

People start blogging for many different reasons, personally I started the praguetory blog to float some policy ideas and have them challenged, but a major reason that people continue to blog is related to ego. There is a very fine line between blogging effectiveness and blogging addiction. Being an effective blogger means that your posts are influential, other bloggers react when you comment at their sites and people want to know more about you. That’s a kind of power and power is addictive.

Even before setting up a blog, most people spend some time being a commenter on other blogs. Even at this stage, which is the internet equivalent of dipping your toe in the water, you can develop a reputation and your curiosity or ego will likely tempt you to check back on comment threads to which you’ve contributed. So when I share my top tips on how to be an effective blogger, remember that I’m also describing a route to addiction. Ok that’s enough public service. Here's my top 5 tips for blogging effectiveness.

1. Set up a blogroll. This should be easy – if you link to blogs you like, your readers will probably like them too so you’re doing everyone a service. Don’t pester them, but you can tell your blogroll that you’ve linked to them. They might reciprocate the link which will increase your traffic. Another idea with blogroll is to group similar sites together. For example, if your site will be focusing on a local community, it would probably be a good idea to give a section of your blogroll to useful local links. On my site, I had a law and order section ,a health section and an education section because those were topics of interest to me which I occasionally posted on.

2. Set up google and other alerts for your blog. This might include your blog name or topics that you’d like to cover, so for example, if you’ve decided to focus on the environment, you could set up a google alert for Hillary Benn the environment secretary and also be notified by the theyworkforyou website each time he speaks in Parliament.

3. Use feeds. I use bloglines. www.bloglines.com. What you do is subscribe to blogs that interest you and whenever new posts come through they are listed in your feeds. The advantages to this method over haphazard internet surfing are as follows

- You don’t waste your time visiting sites where nothing has happened
- You know you haven’t missed anything
- You can check at a glance whether anything of interest is emerging

The downside is that like any collection, it’s likely to grow over time. I heard of one blogger who said she had a backlog of 2000 posts to go through. I keep my list of feeds down to my top 20.

4. Get yourself on mybloglog that’s www.mybloglog.com. Then add the recent visitors feature to your site so that when other mybloglog members visit your site their avatar shows up. It also means that your visits to other sites are more likely to be noticed, even if you don’t comment there.

5. Install a site meter so that you can monitor your site’s progress, where readers come from, what they read and where they go. There’s a perfectly adequate site meter function with mybloglog, but other programmes provide more information.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Top Right Wing Blogs

I've been asked to name my 50 favourite conservative blogs for Iain Dale. He gave me a long list of right-wing blogs and I added a few faves of my own such as Tuscan Tony. As I don't have time to review all of them, I whittled them down by removing blogs

1. That haven't entered my consciousness (if a Tory like me who has spent the last year on political blogs hasn't heard of it, you can't be marketing it very well)
2. Where comments are disallowed or where debate is rare
3. Where the site is inactive or rarely updated
4. Written by journalists/organisations or ghost writers.
5. I don't like

Here's the shortlist. You're all great.

A Very British Dude
Archbishop Cranmer
Bel is Thinking
Birmingham University CF
Burning our Money
Caroline Hunt
City Unslicker
Conservative Home
Contra Tory
Daily Referendum
David Gold
David Jones MP
Dizzy Thinks
Donal Blaney
Ellee Seymour
Esther McVey
Ghost of the Hitch
Glyn Davies
Guido Fawkes
Iain Dale
Islington Newmania
Istanbul Tory
James Cleverly
John Moorcraft
John Redwood MP
Laban Tall
Last Boy Scout
Looking for a Voice
Man in a Shed
Matt Wardman
Matthew Scott
Mr Eugenides
Nadine Dorries MP
Not Proud of Britain
Nourishing Obscurity
Phil Taylor
Pub Philosopher
Rachel Joyce
Reactionary Snob
Remittance Man
Roger Helmer MEP
Sam Tarran
Sinclair's Musings
Tapestry Talks
The Bristow Blog
Theo Spark
Thoughts from the Borders
Thunder Dragon
Tom Paine
Tory Heaven
Tory Radio
Tuscan Tony
UK Daily Pundit
Unenlightened Commentary
Waendel Journal
West Brom Blog

As an experiment in the impact of linking, please let me know in my comments if you visited here as a result of this link.

I'll only be online intermittently until about 20 August so don't expect instant replies to any comments.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

High Level Ingredients For Successful Political Blogging

I think there are 5 key ingredients in order to be a successful political blogger. In order of importance;

Focus/Subject Matter Expertise - Matt Wardman has suggested modelling yourself on a backbench MP having two or three "bee in your bonnet" issues. Whilst breadth of posts can be a good thing, there should be certain issues on which you can take the role of authority. If you can't demonstrate some expertise or unique insight, building a readership will be like trying to roll a snowman in the Sahara.

PR - Because it's the internet your site has to make an immediate impact so that visitors know within seconds what your blog is all about. Guido manages this. You should also be aware of the importance of exchanging links and commenting on other blogs. An interesting ID/pseudonym (like Praguetory or Peter Hitchens) attracts traffic, too.

Time - What you see on a blog is like an iceberg. A great deal of research, networking and planning goes on behind the scenes. If you don't have a great deal of time, you need to think carefully about what aims having a blog could achieve.

Psychology/Arguing - The moment you set up a political website you will have created legions of instant supporters/enemies (particularly if you choose a provocative blog name). You need to be able to handle criticism warranted and otherwise and should spend some time honing debating skills so that you are aware of how to argue effectively online.

Writing - It's easy to carried away when you're writing about a subject that interests you. Be aware of the readability of what you have written. It's an unfortunate correlation that the more difficult something is to read the more respected the commenter is, but I still think you should tend towards conversational writing when blogging.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Top Blog Referrers

Blog % Of Traffic
1. IAIN DALE 16.3%
8. BIASED BBC 1.9%

Since recording stats (since Oct 2006) here's a list of my top blog referrers. These stats were compiled by adding together all the hits from unique incoming links referring more than 10 readers. There were 145 such blogs, but the top 10 above made up 60.1% of this type of inward traffic. Interestingly, the top 30 referrers provided 79.7% of my hits in a fairly powerful example of the 80/20 rule.

Other points of note are as follows;

- Iain's, Guido's, Dizzy's and Croydonian's standing links to me were particularly active.
- Con Home and Biased BBC traffic came mainly from links highlighting particular posts.
- The amount of traffic from Inspector Gadget surprised me. He's only been going a year and he isn't even that prolific. I think this demonstrates the appetite for work blogs and I would suggest that it hints at a tendency amongst political bloggers to under-estimate the popularity of non-political blogs.
- Paul Burgin is my only left-leaning top ten entry, but then again not many lefties have had a standing link to me.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Using Emotive Language

In the context of argument, emotively charged statements are often used to make value claims without providing evidence. Moreover, their presence may indicate an intellectual laziness on the part of the author not to provide real evidence or reasons for their arguments. Is the presence of emotionally charged language correlated with the weakness of an argument?

Here's a splendid example of a speech with liberal use of emotive terminology. So next time you encounter someone getting over-emotional/going personal, consider how weak their argument must be.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ready To Go

This blog is going to be about observations and lessons learnt from a year of political blogging. It's ready to go, but not quite yet.