Mathew Lowry

This post is aimed at those attending the training session I will be giving next month to policy researchers in the framework of the EXACT Marie-Curie project. If you’re attending, comment to this post to let me know what you’d like me to focus on. If you’re not attending, fire away anyway.

So I was just asked to give a training on ‘the European online public space’. This is a vast subject; I’m not exactly sure how one can be trained in somethign which doesn’t exist; and I only have one hour. So I’ll probably just make a presentation on some aspects.

Some givens

One thing I am not going to focus on is “How do I set up a Facebook page / Twitter account / LinkedIn profile / Google+ / Blog?“. To begin with, I’m informed you already use social media personallyIf not, feel free to get ripped off by the legions of social media experts out there, but know that they are completely unnecessary – all social media platforms provide all the help you’ll ever need, and there’s much, much more help than you can possibly consume, freely available, on YouTube and elsewhere. And if you want to set up a blog, try out or – for those with an EU focus, the platform. But the most basic advice is to just try stuff out (in your own name, not that of your organisation).

I’m also guessing (hoping) you understand basic concepts like the importance of trust. the long tail, etc.

So what should I cover?

If you like, check out my annual reviews to get a feel for what I’ve covered in 2011 and 2010 (they run May-May).

Alternatively, here are some possibilities we could explore:

So do some reading, let me know what interests you (or not, as the case may be) in the comments below. Be sure to mention who you are and why you’re interested in whatever it is you want me to cover. I look forward to meeting you.

– Mathew

PS If you’re curious who I am

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  1. OK, but I warn you, multilingualism really is a meeting-killer – we’re unlikely to cover anything else once we get on to that! Looking forward to seeing you there.

  2. Hi, thanks for this opportunity for us to give some input!
    The thing I would be interested in would be how to link to national conversations. Indeed the parliamentary subsidiarity check could be a good way to link to these national debates, but then the focus on subsidiarity makes it too much about ‘what the EU should not do!’ and much less about the actual policy issues, I fear. There, I think, by the way, that indeed the multilingual aspect comes up as well since the national debate requires native language.
    Looking forward to the meeting,

  3. I actually think that “what the EU should/can not do” should be a more important component of what the EU communicates. People’s ignorance of this means that they:
    – blame it for having powers it doesn’t have
    – blame it for not doing things which it is not allowed to do
    – blame it for situations over which it has no control.

    But the negative argument is only part of the subsidiarity question – the main topic of conversation in a ‘yellow card’-driven debate at the national level is WHY the EU should be doing something – i.e., an explanation of EU Added Value, the raison d’être for EU-level action in the topic, if you like.

    Which would be undertaken in the national language, because this is a national parliament-level discussion, followed by national media. This provides an excellent entry point for a EU-wide discussion, as other national debates will be going on in parallel.

    Unfortunately, IPEX – the EP’s website tracking the dossiers – is not up to supporting this discussion – see Europe with a LiSP, if you haven’t already

    PS Thanks for dropping by. Look forward to seeing you at the course. Feel free to add another comment!

  4. Hi, against the background of the ‘scale debate’, I would be interested in your opinion on possible ways (EU) blogging might evolve in the future.
    Are there any technical possibilities for improvement or innovative ways in terms of organisation? For example a system of “recommendations” signalling interesting posts? Or – from another post of yours – accreditation of bloggers at institutions? Or bloggers from the Brussels bubble who have found out that they agree on a topic working on a kind of co-authored blog which together they can spread more easily than an individual could?
    Or is everything fine just the way it is?!?
    Looking forward to the course!

  5. Now there’s an interesting question.

    First things first – EU blogging is at an interesting point. There are more and more blogs: now tracks over 850, which is light years away from where we were a few years ago. The quality on has also massively improved, too.

    On the other hand, the online conversation seems to be slipping away from blogs. I don’t think I’m the only one to see fewer comments on his blog this year. But maybe that’s just me – I have no figures (I’ll ask around). If it is true, then it’s a shame, because only blogs can really allow an in-depth conversation – Facebook-style slactivism and Tweets won’t be enough.

    There are many technical possibilities – I alluded to some in Why my beard won’t save Belgium, such as trainable machine translations, federated search and semantic web. Unfortunately, noone’s actually doing it.

    The obvious platform for this would be Bloggingportal. It is the only tool out there which helps people track EU-oriented blogposts from across Europe, so it’s an absolutely indispensable building block of the European online public space. However it’s totally volunteer-run, so no way it has a budget. There was a flurry of conversation discussing changing that, but it led nowhere, as there’s no leadership.

    I’ll try and tackle this and your other questions at the course – thanks for the input 😉

  6. PS Did a quick straw poll of some of the top Eurobloggers among the bloggingportal editorial community. Of the 7 (those who replied plus myself), 6 said they get fewer comments now than they used to, with activity moving to Facebook & Twitter. The 7th said he barely blogs now anyway …

    So bad news for in-depth conversation, then.

  7. Hi Mathew,

    Thanks for talking to us next week!

    Below are some of my questions / suggestions for discussion on the European online public space.

    In one of your posts ( ) you argue that blogs focusing on policies that are related to or influenced by the EU would be a good way to enhance the ‘European online public space’. But I was wondering whether this would have a big impact. To my knowledge, national blog discussions are also conducted by small ‘elites’, just as in the ‘EU blogosphere’ and these highly-specialised people will most likely know the role the EU plays in their specific field – and not have a huge influence on the general public debate. This is something I would like to discuss.

    Further topics that I’d find interesting are your impression on the chances of initiatives like ‘European Daily’ ( in fostering border-crossing debates (my personal feeling is that political debate on the EU needs to be conducted in national languages if it is to have a broader impact) or on the social media activities of the European Parliament, which are often praised but probably only reach out to the usual ‘fan’ community. And since you have worked on both sides, I am interesting in getting to know your experience in relations between media and the institutions.

    Thanks again, I’m looking forward to the talk.


  8. Hi Miguel, and thanks for the insightful comments – looking forward to discussing them next week.

    You have a point that national blog discussions are carried out by small groups, but I wouldn’t generalise to say that all national social media conversations are carried out by elites. From what I gather from my friends from France, the UK and elsewhere, the number of people discussing national issues has grown overall since the development of blogs, so engaging with people this way is one way of sidestepping the established national media and elites.

    The point about the ‘specialists building bridges’ argument was that while many of these national discussions are often aligned along party-political lines, very few are EU-oriented, and many more are topic-based – e.g., national environmentally-oriented discussions, etc. And this gives an additional ‘hook’ for EU outreach, which is something I’ll try to explore next week.

    But it’s only one tactic among many, and it’s only relevant if your aim is to raise awareness of EU policies & activities in a particular area.

    It all comes down to going where the audience is, and talking to them in their own language. Multilingualism, of course, poses many challenges. Europeandaily opts for the pragmatic approach of adopting English as a lingua franca, thereby reinforcing English-language dominance of EU coverage. I think that’s a shame, but understand their choice. When we launched blogactiv, we saw many French speakers elect to blog in English, as that’s where the audience was.

    As for the European Parliament, while I like all their experiments, I until recently shared your view. The impression I and others (including some phD researchers that interviewed the EP’s team) had was that, despite their many FBook followers, actual interactivity is limited to the Usual Suspects (Brussels Bubble denizens). According to Stephen Clarke, however, tweeting to me last week, this is not the case.

    But there remains the question of RoI – I remember the guffaws when they said, a year or 3 back at yet another Brussels social media conference, that theirs was a no-cost operation – “only 25 full-time people”!!!

  9. Dear Mathew,

    Thank you for a presentation last Monday.

    Very basic question: where would you recommend to open a blog if I work on the European Neighbourhood Policy (one of the aspects of the EU External Relations). Or there is no pages that accumulate blogs on specific topics?

    Thank you,

  10. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    Basically, the only reason to not blog on a topic is if:
    – there are already many blogs on it, and you won’t be able to add anything
    – and/or it bores not just you, but everybody else

    If, on the other hand this is a topic that interests you, and you have something to say, then why not be the first? Certainly beats being the 100th!

    So the first thing to do, as I said first, is to identify current bloggers on your topic of interest. There are currently scores of posts on BloggingPortal’s Neighbourhood Policy aggregation page, so get reading.

    One thing I didn’t get time to mention is that you should get to grips with Google Reader or similar software when you set out to follow blogs. You use Reader to subscribe to a blog; the posts then come automatically to you, allowing you to classify them, add notes, star them, etc.

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