With the launch of the laudable Think About It EU blogging competition this past weekend (sorry I couldn’t make it, chaps, etc.), and the neat coincidence of the public launch of the rather promising BloggingPortal.eu cropping up at the same time, four bits of advice to anyone just starting up an EU blog, after almost six moderately successful years of my running one. (Four bits of advice that probably apply to anyone starting up a political blog, for that matter. *cough*Derek Draper*cough*)
1) Write about what interests you
If you set yourself artificial targets (two posts a day, say, or posts on a particular subject on particular days of the week), the structure this affords may help you in the short-term, but in the medium to long-term you’ll get a) bored, b) frustrated, and c) trapped into spending hours researching a subject you know nothing about, just to hit your self-imposed schedule. I’ve also always found that the best blog posts – both mine and other people’s – are the spontaneous, passionate ones. If you blog just because you feel that you ought to, you’ll also most likely end up being boring.
2) Don’t be afraid to write about subjects you know little about
Blogging remains largely an amateur affair, despite its increasingly high profile. Although it’s nice when genuine experts start to blog, the vast majority of (political) bloggers are merely interested citizens – and no decent political system can ever work if those citizens are discouraged from investigating the world around them and the actions of their political representatives. The major benefit of blogging is that it teaches both bloggers and blog readers new things – and nothing new ever comes from retreading old ground. (At least, not often – it’s still worth going over the basics again from time to time, just to make sure they remain the same as you thought they were, as blogging will often lead to gradual shifts in opinions.) Plus, from the point of view of the blogging community as a whole, one blogger’s misunderstanding can often lead to interesting discussions and increased understanding for many.
3) Be prepared to own up when you’ve made a mistake
No one will think any the worse of you for getting something a bit wrong – we’ve all done it, and we’ll all do it again. Everyone will, however, think a lot better of you when you admit your mistakes. The world of blogging is nice like that – honesty is valued, arrogance shunned. It’s almost the opposite of the real world in some respects.
4) Try to be nice
People who leave comments on blogs tend to be a lot more violent in their opinions online than they would be in the real world – especially, it seems, eurosceptics who comment on EU-focussed blogs, but the same is true for left-wingers commenting on right-wing blogs and vice versa (and it can get really messy when party politics gets involved). The temptation is always to respond in kind, or to simply hold up people of opposing political opinions to your own as objects of ridicule. But despite appearances, political opponents can get on amazingly well behind the scenes (both online and in the real world) – the over-the-top rhetoric is usually just for public show. Treat people with differing political opinions to your own nicely and they will often prove to be valuable contributors to the debate that we are all trying to foster – and this can be to everyone’s advantage.