Irish Blogging

Three Sites Worth Reading

This is a little off topic in many ways but also on topic.

There has been the slow emergence of professionally written blogs in Ireland, reinforcing my thinking about blogging as a tool for publishing as opposed to any kind of social change, political change or even a weapon for undermining mainstream media. It also echoes (finally) the trend in the US where both commercial mainstream news outlets and academics have take to the tools with gusto.

It’s not just that newspapers like The Irish Times and Irish Independent are making use of the tools but three group blogs written by academics are quickly establishing themselves (or have already established themselves) as must read sites.

They are:

    The Irish Economy (Economics)
    Ireland After NAMA (Geography & Social Sciences)
    &
    Pue’s Occurrences (History)

Some individuals also keep blogs, my personal favourite being Dr. Constantin Gurdgiev who calls it like it is with no pulled punches, not to everyone’s taste, but entertaining.

Working on the web,
Eoin

www.IrishPublishingNews.com Launches

Irish Publishing News Screenshot

Irish Publishing News


Last month I announced that I had rolled out an experimental service aggregating news links for Irish Publishing. Today, after much meddling and experimenting, I finally pushed Irish Publishing News to its own site: http://www.IrishPublishingNews.com

I liked the experimenting and I’ve figured out a few things while I was at it:

1) There are less blogs about books and publishing in Ireland than you’d think. If I’m missing someone or some organisation you think should be included, let me know I’m very keen to improve the quality and sources for Irish books and publishing.

2) One widget is better than six widgets when it comes to WordPress. By that I mean, pruning widgets that operate at cross purposes is a sensible move.

3) Design is important but function is nicer. I’m still unhappy with the look, but the site generally does what I had hoped it would and that is a pretty good place to be.

4) Most things can be built-in WordPress and for free! It really is a tool for champions. Yes it requires some basic knowledge, especially when digging deep into the back-end, but it pays off.

Still, I’m sure this iteration will be an experiment much like the others. This new version of the site offers numerous advantages over the old add-on site:

    1) It allows me to build an archive of links day by day
    2) It allows me to build up the news and features categories more effectively
    3) It brings the power of RSS to the blog section properly rather than by proxy
    4) It is just neater

I hope you like the change. Remember to update your RSS feed too.
Eoin

The Listowel Fringe Blog

Eoin Purcell

Links & Whatnot
About two years ago I had a wonderful strategy session with a group of arts professionals. It was led by the engaging and intelligent Paul O’Mahony who is from the O’Mahony bookselling clan. I recall that day because Paul was forceful in saying that “survival is not guaranteed” for a publisher like Mercier, a thought that had been floating in my mind but had not taken the form of a concrete reality.

Reasons
Anyway. The point in telling you this is that Paul has been engaged this week in an exciting blogging project: The Listowel Writer’s Week Fringe. I love the idea of a fringe blog for Listowel Writers Week Festival which I think is a fantastic festival but one I think prone to circles and groups (I don’t think it is alone in this. Given the nature of Irish society, most festivals here go that way), the kind that can damage a festival.

Paul and his collaborators are blogging and updating on the weeks events. You should go read some of their thoughts!
Eoin

An interesting option for a summer intern

Eoin Purcell

Hire Mulley: You know you want to
Damien Mulley who seems to control the Irish Blogosphere is offering himself out as a summer intern:

I’d like to do 4-5 internships, each 5-7 days in duration over the Summer months with some companies. Maybe this idea will work, maybe it won’t.

Quite a snappy idea and one I’d be very tempted by from both sides. As an employer/company I can see how having someone with a completely different set of skills in the office for a week would be incredible for the business. Even simple questions could have big impacts: Why do you do it that way? for instance might force us to challenge our assumptions.

But from the intern’s perspective it is gold dust too. Damien hits on where the value is:

Again it’s down to that immersion thing. Some good examples are when you’re onsite and people ask each other advice and you know you have a better way of doing something they already believe they are doing efficiently. Bit like Twitter ain’t it? The conversational subtleties are where the gold is.

So good luck to Damien.
Go hire him here!
Eoin

Culture & New Media (with a side point on books)

Eoin Purcell

A fine conference (after a fine meal)
There was something great about The New Media. New Audience? Conference run by the Arts Council last week. For one thing it was great to see Charles Leadbeater and Andrew Keen spar (no matter how mildly they did so). We rarely see clashes on such opposed viewpoints and when it refers directly to your own industry it is particularly interesting.

Leadbeater is the optimist and Keen, the somewhat posed pessimist. I say posed because you get the sense that he is in fact a personally shy man who would rather not be gunning up opposition the way he is, except that it sells books & gets him speaking gigs.

Its all about marketing
Which brings me to the over riding message I got from this fine conference. The strongest sense was that most Irish Arts organizations see the best way forward with the web in using it as a marketing tool with an allied with an almost overwhelming lack of clarity on how to do that.

There was an avoidance, especially in my panel session, of any discussion of the web and new media as a way to collaborate or to generate new and different arts. I found this odd until I realised that the vast bulk of the attendees had little exposure to the web as anything more than the home of Google and free content.

And why should they have. The tools of interaction are hardly the most widely advertised. Blogs have a bad pr problem that is only slowly being addressed. People at the panel feared the loss of control when their content went online. They wondered how best to reach audiences across all platforms.

Where does this point us?
There is a real need not for high talk of collaboration and new media, but for solid and basic ways to interact with audiences and potential customers online. It seems after the conference that there is much work to be done and embedding the arts world in the online world in a real and meaningful way.

That is not to say that there are not individuals and organizations with an excellent grasp of how the web can be used and who are working on exciting projects that deliver real and interesting results, just that for the vast majority, the web is not a friendly place!

A very worthwhile conference nonetheless getting people, at the very least, focused on these issues. That can never hurt!
Eoin

The Irish Blogosphere Criticism and Elites

Eoin Purcell

Teacups threatened by Storms
The Irish Blogosphere is small and shallow. Its readership is growing, as is the total number of participants. The growth and success of the Irish Blog Awards indicates that the arena is widening but, as it stands, there are only a few thousand bloggers and in total they get only a few hundreds of thousands of visitors a day.

That in itself is impressive but hardly earth shattering. What is more, the bulk of these visitors swarm about some leading lights, as one might expect in any media/publishing landscape*.

Which is why I was very surprised by the recent kerfuffle (Good survey post on Rick O’Shea’s blog) about this little post. Here is the worst of it:

I can only assume that the A-listers of the Irish blogging world are lovely, lovely people because to be frank, some of them are shit-awful writers. I shouldn’t need to point out (but I will anyway) that this is intended as a critique of the blogs themselves, and not of the bloggers. There are an awful lot of people out there who need to get themselves a good editor, or whose blogs need a harsh fucking review.

Both sides are a little overwrought
For one thing, elites often look talentless and undeserving to those left outside them. We seldom see the complex networks, the years of hidden slogging or the subtle appeal to others that ensures such elites their position. That doesn’t mean they are entirely without merit.

On the other hand, elites deserve the odd lobbed grenade into their comfort zone and a decent rigorous review would be welcome. The strong reaction against this post was to my mind, unwarranted. It suggests that those criticised remain insecure about their position within the Irish Blogosphere (a misplaced insecurity given the targets of criticism I assure you).

Elites Form
The truth is that either because they were first movers or because they were already well connected with existing bloggers or because they have exclusive access and content. It’s a little like Power Laws.

The A list of Irish bloggers has formed by a variety of methods. Some of them have exclusive content, insider positions or name recognition. Others have posted and worked hard to get where they are. Some succeed for reason I cannot even begin to imagine, but then complex systems as I said above, are often beyond the comprehension of most humans.

To boil it down, criticism is good, elites have a function (and are in any case, largely avoidable). We should all accept both those facts and move on with it.

Enjoying Sunday morning Radio,
Eoin

* And lest we forget, the blog is simply a publishing platform.