Mathew Lowry

As I and other BP editors have hinted at recently, over the past 6 or more months we’ve had a series of email discussions about how to develop BloggingPortal. In fact, one such discussion – based around an idea I launched via a Google document – drew to a close literally days before others suggested BloggingPortal2.

Like the previous ones, this discussion led nowhere. But all of these discussions were fun, allowed us to get to know one another better, and helped us explore the limits we faced as a group.

Now this most recent discussion, at times, grew somewhat heated. Which is perfectly normal: we are a very hetereogeneous, independent-minded lot. Each of us has his/her own ideas, philosophies, motivations, prejudices, suspicions and more. And, as we discovered along the way, there is no decision-making structure whatsoever.

It was a private discussion, so I’m not going into too much detail. On the other hand, the current public discussions, triggered by the recent meeting in Paris, risk reinventing the wheel. To shortcircuit that, I thought I’d republish some of my thoughts for BloggingPortal2 here.

Core Mission

First and foremost, I think BP (potentially) serves an absolutely essential mission to the growth of the European online public space:

to help people find out what people are saying about the EU in social media

Even today, most BP editors (including me) don’t well know the French bloggers in Paris considering BP’s evolution; few ever look at Blogactiv bloggers or the IABC’s web2 community; and – of course – this ignorance is all very mutual. This is today’s EurosplInternet.

So how will this landscape look when the number of such blogs grow rapidly? How can one follow a discussion in 27+1 countries when you don’t even know who’s involved? Google?

No. Human curation is essential to overcome the barriers of language and national political contexts. And that curation is what BP’s model offers.

So I would want to see BP remain focused, laserlike, on this aim. It doesn’t need to become an intranet for bloggers, or (another) blogging platform, or (another) group blog. People should blog wherever they like, with BloggingPortal doing better what it already does.

Bells and Whistles

Which is not to say that we can’t have fun. The Week in BloggingPortal (TWiBP) is a great way of bringing the best of the week’s EU-oriented blogs to people, as is of course the e-newsletter. We considered a number of ideas for building on them, but as I can’t really say who thought of what, I won’t list them all here.

Whatever we considered, however, we ran into the same wall: resources. We have to find a way of developing the technology, maintaining it, and of course actually doing all of this curation, editorialising, managing and more on a daily and weekly basis. Easier written than done.

While the ongoing editorial work can probably be done as a volunteer effort, my believe was that BP2 would need financial support to do the necessary technology upgrades. Along the way, it would need to be designed so that it provides motivation for more and more people to participate as the workload grows.

It would otherwise risk becoming a victim of its own success.

Curated Sections

One feature I put forward for BP2 are Curated Sections, which are like today’s tag-driven sections, but on steroids. Here are some lightly edited extracts from my google doc:

A curated section is “… more than a stream of blogposts with the same tag … The stream still comes from all the aggregated blogs, tagged and starred by all the editors … But alongside are additional relevant online resources – e.g., relevant websites, one or more RSS streams, links to high-profile relevant articles in the mainstream media, streams from Twitter centred around specific hashtags or dedicated Twitter Lists, etc. etc. These resources are chosen, created and managed by the Section Editor, who may also moderate the stream of posts tagged by other editors as relevant to his/her section.”

Given that I just said that the system has to generate motivation for people to stay involved, it appears odd to ask people to do more. Curating a section is voluntary, sure, but why do it? The answers mirror some of the ideas already posted in Specialists required to build bridges:

“… the section editor gets greater visibility as an expert in that particular field, particularly within social media at both national and EU level … this may be valuable to some people [because] as the euroblogosphere expands I expect people to specialise in certain subjects. Right now, most eurobloggers cover all things EU. As numbers increase, specialising is one way at least some people will get noticed, create and cultivate their brand, etc. it’s a pattern that you see in new fields.”

Not that the benefits are not only felt by the section editor. Curated sections help build bridges:

“… between different conversations at EU and national level along thematic lines … so a ‘Digital Agenda’ Section Editor would be able to create a bridge between EU-level and national-level bloggers focused on these [Digital Agenda] subjects. This would better introduce the EU-level policy discussions to the national discussions, and vice versa. Such sections would be ideal focal points for discussions around the LiSP [Lisbon Subsidiarity Procedure – see Lisbon and the Euroblogosphere] and ECIs].

… it would also make BP more valuable – people interested in a particular subject would know that the corresponding Section on BP wouild provide them with the latest blog posts relevant to the field, from across Europe, selected relevant articles from the media, a Twitter stream, and a shortlist of relevant high-quality resources.”

Sections can be geographic, or topical, or a combination – whatever anyone wants to focus on.

It’s just one idea among many. Let me know whether you think it rocks or sucks. I’m not married to it or anything.

Who Pays?

Not that it will matter a jot if noone steps forward for paying for the site development.

I personally wouldn’t want to go cap in hand to the taxpayer, as some have suggested. Sites developed for public servants are never as good as those run as private enterprises (and I speak as someone who’s done both).

Anyway, what happens when the money runs out? The web is littered with sites developed for bureaucrats which die as soon as the contract’s over. Moreover, public funds (rightly) require an organisation, which we don’t have.

Finally, the editorial independence of any BP2 co-financed by the EU institutions would inevitably be attacked, rightly or wrongly – looked what happened when I launched Blogactiv, when there wasn’t a cent of EU money behind it. Perceptions matter.

I did come up with some possible alternatives to finding the funds to give BP a boost, but for one reason or another we decided to not explore them.

So if anyone has any ideas – for the future of BP, for the financing of its development, or whatever – let’s hear them.

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Comments

  1. I am totally with you in not trying to make a new central eu-mega-blog, but to accumulate and present diverse writings. I can only underline the need for human curation, and like the idea of curated sections – I wonder though how the problems of the open directory at dmoz.org could be avoided, who have grown too big and become irrelevant at the same time?

    “I did come up with some possible alternatives to finding the funds to give BP a boost, but for one reason or another we decided to not explore them.”

    Could you summarise these alternatives and/or the reasons why they were binned, so that I don’t bore everyone with possibilities you have discussed and dismissed a long time ago?

  2. Hi, thanks for dropping by and for your supportive comment.

    Good point about the dmoz project. I guess we should be so lucky! But if the EU online public space grew that big, the sections would almost certainly be crucial.

    I’d rather not cover the specific financing issue associated with my proposal. To begin with, that would involve publishing extracts from a private email discussion to which many contributed. In fact, I thought a long time before publishing this post at all, and very deliberately only used ideas and opinions which were unambiguously mine.

    Besides, the issue is closed, and I respect the decision taken. There are other ideas besides mine, and other initiatives underway.

    I have already suggested that our next round of conversation be help more publicly, so that more ideas can be harvested and the wheel isn’t reinvented quite so often. This post was written in that spirit.

    Until then, put out your ideas on your excellent blog, and make sure everyone knows about it by tweeting it. I don’t think there’s a specific hashtag yet, but including #euroblog and/or @bloggingportal should do nicely.

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