Irish Times blog article follow up

Robin O’Brien-Lynch’s article in the Irish Times has sparked some controversy in the Irish blogosphere. In general, people have been taken aback by what some considered to be negative comments in the article. Bluire is not happy at all…

And anyway, who is Robin O’Brien to be telling the Irish Blogging community that we need to post more about Irish matters. The whole point of blogging is that it is unedited and can be whatever you want it to be. Take a look at Megnut or evhead and you will find very little political posting. They are the founders of blogger. You can also look at the blogs of Mena and Ben Trott and you will find very little political blogging. They are the founders of Movable Type.

Bernie is not too happy either:

There are problems with an article written by Robin O’Brien-Lynch in the Irish Times and I think they should be talking points for a gathering of Irish bloggers on Saturday 16 April in Dublin’s Irish Film Institute. I am especially curious about the research methods used to produce the article and the focus on which the article was commissioned.

Robin, fair dues to him, has replied and indeed defended his piece. He responded on Bluire’s blog:

In fairness Laura, just because your blog isn’t six to nine months old doesn’t make my comment inaccurate, and I wouldn’t dream of telling you what to write. I’m trying to raise the profile of Irish blogging in order to get more people reading and blogging and maybe start a few debates at the same time. Some of my comments by their nature will be sweeping generalisations. which is unfortunate, but there you go.

And on here he noted:

The aim of the article was to raise interest in blogging in Ireland and get more people involved, and hopefully it will. Of course you can write about whatever you like; I kept a blog a couple of years ago and talked complete smack. But I was approaching the story from a particular angle, comparing it to the American model, and was looking for blogs that discussed Irish poltical, cultural and social matters. I read a lot of blogs every day and I wanted to encourage more participation and variety.
John is right, I couldn’t mention Karlin’s blog as it would look a bit chummy.


I’ve been accussed of missing the point by a couple of people, but I think the reverse is true. That might reflect badly on me as a reporter for not getting my point over clearly enough, but that’s my problem.
I was looking at a particular concept; whether or not the methods employed by Howard Dean’s supporters in the last US election could be used here in 2007.
The answer is probably not, because we are a small underpopulated island nation (and because most of the people within the major parties didn’t know what I was talking about and had never heard of blogs) and the Irish blogosphere is still in its relative infancy. I approached the story from that angle, came to my conclusion and then mentioned a few sites at the end to get more people involved.

I read lots of Irish blogs every day and to be honest I rarely read the ones about Irish politics for my own personal pleasure. Like Laura said, I cannot imagine how interminably dull it would be if Irish bloggers didn’t talk about anything else.

I think Twenty Major may have a point when he said “Maybe it’s just me but I detect an amount of snobbery in the reaction to this piece. Because the author isn’t an established blogger his opinions are given less credence than they would had someone who had their own blog wirtten the article.” It is great to see any article about blogging in the Irish media, even Ed Power’s piece in the Tribune (I never got round to replying to his request for my views) lent oxygen to the Irish blogosphere. So cheers to Robin and Ed, it’s better than a ‘kick in the teeth’ as they say.

I can see how Robin constructed the article, but with my writer’s cap on, I would say that if his original pitch was to discuss Irish political parties using Dean-type methods in 2007, then he failed to adequately do so. The piece kind of did, and kind of didn’t, get its teeth into the story – but then a longer piece would have been needed for that. I am still wondering whether the piece was about Irish blogs in general, Irish blogs talking about politics, Irish political parties using blogs, TDs starting to blog, or many other things. Because there is so little awareness of blogging in Ireland I would think that a piece discussing the use of blogs in a political context would be best left until people know what blogs are, and in general I don’t think the average Irish Times reader has any real conception of blogs. And if such a piece were to be written, it would be better placed in a feature or opinion section, as Ed Power’s was, not in the technology supplement.

On the issue of Dean, back in 2003 I went to an excellent debate in the US Embassy in London about the Dean campaign. Phil Noble was incredibly enthusiastic about the effect that blogging and new media had on the Dean campaign, and predicted that Dean would get the nomination. Jim Ledbetter from Time (who managed to later drink more than me somehow) was laughing at Noble, and as it turns out, rightly so. He predicted that Dean would fall flat and Kerry would get the ticket- as he did.

But back to Twenty Major’s point – snobbery is not the business we are in. And I would like to thank Robin for showing the interest and inclination to write the piece, and to follow up on it by commenting on Irish blogs. Blogger or not, it is the beginning of what I think will be a serious growth in interest about blogging in general.

Something else interesting happened here, and this is may be the first time – a guy in the Irish Times wrote a piece, Irish bloggers responded, the hack responded, we responded. We just got a conversation going here folks, and its about a million times better than getting a letter published. This is the core of what blogging is about, and by writing the piece, Robin managed to make a mini-storm in the Irish blogosphere. And there will be many more!


Treasa and Eamonn also wrote a lenghty reaction which failed to show up on my radar, apologies! Notes Treasa:

One of the positive things I have found about the Irish blogging community – and I haven’t been in there all that long myself – is that it is a community. I would never call it a clique as my personal experience of other bloggers has been pretty welcoming to say the least.

Notes Eamonn:

The Rainy Day response to this position is that on the net, all politics is local, in the sense that everything is just a click away. To be sure, the parochial is important and events at the foot of the Galtee Mountains are sometimes addressed here, even if it is with “homespun whimsy”; the provincial is significant — be it Munster rugby, Bavarian software or Catalonian wine — and is not ignored; and the national, from Norway to New Zealand, is taken seriously, but the rest of what you get here is the wide world of the web and that’s because your blogger regards this as a global medium as opposed to a countrywide one. Actually, the proportion of posts relating to Ireland is flattering when one considers the state’s size. Culturally and economically, however, the island is influential beyond its geography, and punches above its weight, as A.J. Liebling, the Shelly of the ring, would have put it, but the issue that most concerns Rainy Day is security in an age of terror and failed states, and Ireland’s policy of neutrality means that it is simply not a player in the bigger game.

I do hope that we are not considered a clique, I am sure that many of the ‘older’ bloggers like myself try to welcome any new bloggers into the fold.

9 thoughts on “Irish Times blog article follow up”

  1. quote: “We just got a conversation going here folks, and its about a million times better than getting a letter published. This is the core of what blogging is about,”

    now that is a topic i intend blogging on in due course. recent experience suggests there are some bloggers who really don’t want to get a conversation going. personally, i think that dialogue is what blogs *should* be about, but apparently there’s a lot of others who consider their blog to be just a monologue.

  2. “who is Robin O’Brien to be telling the Irish Blogging community that we need to post more about Irish matters.” – that’s what I meant about the snobbery thing.

    Excellent piece though, Gavin. And FMK is right, dialogue can make a blog. An active comments section can be as entertaining, or more so, than the blog itself at times.

  3. As someone who never blogs about politics (mine is a tech blog) I can say that, apart from being absolutely gutted that I wasn’t mentioned in the article, I thought it was great that someone in the Irish mainstream media has acknowledged the blogging phenomenon.

    I think Robin raised an interesting point – I think the first politicians to start rolling out blogs will enhance their profile significantly.

    We all know the seo advantages of blogs – but that message is only starting to sink in outside the blogging community.

    This next year will be a fascinating one for the evolution of the blogosphere.


  4. I’m sorry I didn’t get involved in this fracas sooner (you take a couple of days off and look what happens). I can claim(cheekily) to have gotten in the first blow, before Ed Power and Robin, with my prediction that ran in the Evening Herald. But I’d add two quick things:
    1. If South Dakota (population 724,000) isn’t too small for blogging to have an impact on elections (and controversially so, helping dent a dominant ‘paper of record’ and leading to the unseating the Democrat minority leader in the US Senate, Tom Daschle) neither is Ireland. If there’s a hindrance to Irish blogging about Ireland (as opposed to the US, which is relatively safe), it’s an Irish cultural reluctance to be on record about neighbours, distant cousins, lads you went to school with.
    2. It will be a while before the MSM in Ireland gets their head around blogging. (Large parts of the American MSM still don’t get it.) I got into it for two reasons – to be able to understand the biggest communications phenom since talk radio from the inside, and long-term survival as an opinion and analysis writer. And in the short time I’ve been blogging, I can say that doing it is very different from writing about it.

    The breakthrough moment will be when the MSM is forced to cover (and credit) a story that catches fire in the blogosphere – particularly if it, in whole or in part, discredits a major story in the Irish Times and/or RTE (nothing personal, but they’re the big dogs, with the most identifyable biases and orthodoxy). I’ll post something later over on my place about some probable future Irish blogging events and stop hogging Gavin’s bandwidth now.

  5. Karlin Lillington has mentioned blogging quite a lot in her column, so regular readers of the technology pages should have a grasp of what it’s all about. (Regular readers of the IT probably do not). Regardless of the quality or validity of my piece, I’m glad that there has been such a lengthy debate and it is a topic that I will be returning to in the future. The more coverage the better.

  6. “Karlin Lillington has mentioned blogging quite a lot in her column, so regular readers of the technology pages should have a grasp of what it’s all about.”

    That comment is somewhat patronising to both the technologically clueful people and the members of the general public who read the Irish Times technology section. More importantly it assumes that people actually read Karlin’s column and indeed that people actually read the technology section of the Irish Times as opposed to something more in the mindshare of the public like national or political news. When the Irish Times site went to a subscription model, the Irish Times technology section dropped off the radar of the web and its journalists, to an extent, slipped into pay per view oblivion.

    To real reporters, the story is what matters. To op-ed columnists, that lack of brand name recognition that follows the Irish Times PPV move was a major loss. You’ve managed to achieve in one article something rare in the history of the Irish Times technology section – something that is worth discussing by techies and non-techies.

  7. I don’t think the average Irish Times reader has any real conception of blogs. And if such a piece were to be written, it would be better placed in a feature or opinion section, as Ed Power’s was, not in the technology supplement.

    Well, actually, such a piece was written, for the features pages, by me, and appeared about a year and a half ago. It was basically about personal, journal type sites rather than link-based blogs, but it was covering similar territory.

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