Mathew Lowry

For BloggingPortal’s 5th birthday, a short report from those of us who want to see its 6th.

Last Saturday a handful of Editors – Macarena (@MacarenaRG), Andreas (@kosmopolit), Alia (@Eurocentrique), Jon (@JonWorth), Stefan (@stefanhapper), Ronny (@ronpatz), Ralf (@RalfGrahn) and myself – got together in the offices of Transparency International to discuss the reboot ideas I’ve been exploring recently.

In the run up, I pointed out the obvious irony: this is about online communication, after all, and almost everything we discussed had been circulated via email and a set of Google Docs, which I wrote a year ago. All the Editors really needed to do was read them, come up with better ideas, volunteer, whatever … DO SOMETHING.

But they didn’t. Hell, even the 20 emails asking each other “who changed the Twitter password? Have you seen the password reset email?” turned up nothing. Which is what triggered Jon to call the meeting, and lo and behold we made progress. We even found the Twitter password.

Lessons forgotten

On one level that’s incredible – someone had to travel from London to bring us a password? – but in reality I should have known better, and organised such a meeting long ago. As I probably never tire of mentioning, I built the first Web2.0 online community for the EC in 2002 … for a 3-day event! The organisers are still using the CMS we built today, which is both nice for my ego but also confirms the importance of face2face meetings. If done properly, online tool can augment, but never replace, human contact.

Why I failed to apply this piece of professional experience to BloggingPortal is anyone’s guess, but it’s probably because these days I work most of the time from a home office with teams and clients in 4 different time zones.

So what, apart from a long-lost password, came out of the meeting?

Taking stock

To begin with, some stocktaking. Never before had we really sat down and figured out who ran what. The answer: barely anyone.

BP aggregated some 70000 posts last year, of which 5% were promoted to the frontpage, almost exclusively (93%) by Ralf. Only 0.4% were tagged.

Monthly visits were down 30% since mid-2011, which was the last time I asked for the stats. On the other hand, enewsletter subscribers climbed 80% in the same period, albeit from a small base.

More interesting were the stats noone’s ever asked for, such as the years of data we have showing how many posts have been discovered through BP site and enewsletter. If anyone out there has a yen for data visualisation, we can probably get you the data. Just do better than my effort last October.

Looking ahead

The ‘gated’ project management plan I set out a year ago seems accepted. Right now we’re nearing the next gate – I hope to soon have a few ballpark figures for the technology approach I’d like to follow, which is when we’ll take stock and see if we can raise the funds required.

But more importantly, it was agreed that the other activities are worthwhile in their own right, and should proceed even if we can’t raise any funds. Jon’s therefore looking into creating the non-profit structure BP needs, and is working with Stefan on some of the basic technical housekeeping that the site requires. The creation of two new tags – reboot and EP2014 – are the first visible signs. Meanwhile Alia promised to join me on the comms/fundraising aspect, while Ron will join us when he’s settled into his new life in September.

And we all agreed to blog for BloggingPortal’s 5th birthday, and to carry on as transparently as possible. Hence this post.

So although I’ve seen too many false dawns to be sure this is going anywhere, I’m more optmistic than I’ve been for a while. Even if all we manage is keep the ship afloat and help more people discover EU-oriented content across Europe, we’ll have achieved something.

PS. The “reboot” BP tag, created yesterday, aggregates together all posts about the BloggingPortal reboot. As I write this I’m hoping my posts won’t be the only ones there on the day.

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Comments

  1. I think most important for the project would be to recruit new members to the team. The authors of those blogs that are aggregated should be first target for this.

    PS: I heard once that the number of pages of a document is indirectly proportional to the number of people who would read it. More seriously, I think this point really proves that we are not having (anymore) enough interested people in the team.

  2. Well, that’s been clear for a while. I was pleasantly surprised we got so many people to come to the meeting, to be honest, and it still surprises me that people are happy to sacrifice hours on a Saturday but can’t be bothered reading a few pages over the course of a year. But then that just goes to show how wonderfully diverse we all are.

    Personally I think we’ll start recruiting new members when they can see the train is actually moving. Few people climb on board a stationary train that has no announced departure time, and even fewer get down on the tracks to join the engine driver to give it a shove!

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