Mathew Lowry

To blog or not to blog?

I smiled wryly this weekend as I saw more tweets by people publicly abandoning some of their social media platforms – i.e., giving up on Facebook in favour of Twitter, or LinkedIn in favour of Google+. I guess it’s part of the evolutionary process, but I must admit I’ve always wondered why anyone thinks they need to converse with the same friends on different platforms – which is what inevitably happens, unless one compartmentalises one’s life and one’s friends carefully, and they reciprocate.

Still, it got me thinking. I probably have more accounts on social media platforms than I have pairs of socks (anyone out there on Wave? MySpace? Buzz? 43things? Bebo?), but after 5 years of playing with them I’ve found myself focusing my limited time on Twitter and (of course) blogs, simply because they complement each other so well: while blogging provides an infinitely flexible ‘long format’ for developing ideas in depth, Twitter provides the exact opposite: ultrasimple & concise opinions, with links.

Would I get more out of social media if I spent more time on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+? Almost certainly. For a start, if I could have 30 minutes more per day, I’d probably spend it on a few LinkedIn Groups, where discussions are usually pretty good.

But there’s only so many hours in the day (some of us have to work as well as play at social media), and the law of diminishing returns kicks in as you add more platforms: because so many of the people and debates I’d gravitate to an additional platform are also on Twitter and the blogosphere, the signal-to-noise on a 3rd, 4th or 5th platform will be correspondingly lower for me.

At least, that’s what I’ve been thinking. But I’m starting to question one of my basic assumptions: should I maintain my blog? Or replace it with a platform?

Dropping blogging?

I’ve been here before, but basically I’m wondering whether I have anything more to say about the EU Institutions’ use of social media, or the development of the EU online public space.

It would be different, I guess, if things were evolving, but they aren’t – the Institutions are still ‘experimenting’ (which apparently includes telling us things anyone can find out for themselves on Mashable, and filling us in on Latvian easter traditions) without showing much sign of even recognising the challenges, let alone developing a strategy to tackle them.

Meanwhile, us eurobloggers are still debating the existence of the EU online public space, rather than trying to create it (latest instalment, previous instalment, mid-2011, mid-2010, late 2009 …). Even the number of comments most of us receive has dropped significantly, despite the growth in the number of people discussing the subject.

Finally, it’s not just the same old discussion – it’s by the same old people. In such a static environment, we all risk repeating ourselves and going stale, so this blog may go quiet for a moment while I reacquaint myself with other spaces.

Where will I go? What will I do?

I could use your help, so tell me: can you (do you) survive without blogging? On how many platforms are you active for personal interest and professional development (as opposed to maintaining a Facebook page for your employer)? Which ones, and why?

Author :


  1. Just a provocation: I find it funny that you write a blog about the European Public Space in which you complain that people still discuss the creation of a European Public Space instead of creating it.

    On a more serious note: I can use the blog to write about subjects that only I care about, in the way I care about them at the time I care about them in the style I find most appropriate. I would not dare to spam my Facebook contacts with this kind of niche interest, and when I do it’s because I think it may indeed be of interest for some of them. Twitter is more an echo-chamber to keep up-to-date with things I’m interested in.

  2. Hi Mathew,

    Hope all is well.

    You have limited time then? I’d never have guessed…

    For me, I use fb for friends and linkedin for biz, with a strict rule that if I haven’t actually met you, we don’t know each other so are not “friends” at all. As you know, I keep on blogging. But the twitter thing has passed me by. I tweet perhaps annually (and only then if I’m being paid to do it) and find the whole thing rather annoying.

    For one, I hope you won’t abandon your blog, but I do see your point. Comments on my own blog are certainly getting thin on the ground (and they were never that plentiful to begin with) and the conversation seems to be dropping a little.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. Thanks to you both, and (@Ron) consider me provoked! ūüėČ

    As you know, I use this blog to explore a lot of different aspects of the EU online public space. I’ve been doing this for over 4 years … and have to conclude that I have had absolutely zero impact.

    It’s not that I haven’t developed my own understanding – if I compare the posts from 2008 with those over the last few months, there’re a lot of ideas there that weren’t there before. And you and our fellow Bloggingportal editors were absolutely part of that process, even if we clashed a bit along the way, and I find that we have achieved much less that we should have, or need to.

    The thing is this: I assumed, back in 2007, that we’d be doing more than still talking about it 5 years later. But that’s all there is: a lot of events, with the same faces at each of them, and a lot of talk – most of which could have been lifted from the ClueTrain manifesto (1999).

    Essentially, until something actually starts happening, I think I’ve run out of things to add. I don’t want to go stale and repeat myself, so …

  4. To provoke you more: your achivement in these 5 years is to prove that this idea of a European Public Space is nonsense. It doesn’t seem to solve any need nor does it create any need. That’s why nobody actually did anything.

    On a less provocative note: don’t give up blogging in favour of the latest social media tool. Blogging means creating something. Social media is just conversation – and often bla blah. How often do you link back to your blog posts from 2008/2009 ? And how often do you cite tweets from that period (which are actually hardly retrievable – without using any often the more specialised latest social media tools). Finally: Apple (or Google) might buy Twitter and delete all tweets. Apple buying Blogactiv, however, is rather unlikely.

    Sorry to be not very serious. But just don’t want to take you too serious when you say “this blog may go quiet” … it would be a pity.

  5. Thanks for dropping by, even if I am going to violently disagree with you: the European Public Space may be non-existent, but it just might be necessary to re-establish, probably only in the very long-term, the EU’s legitimacy in the eyes of many people.

    That legitimacy is already pretty low in some quarters, but it’s probably going to be absolutely hammered as the euro-crisis works its way through the system.

  6. I would not say that nothing has been achieved. If there had not been a nucleus of people pushing for the European Public Sphere, even if this only happened in the bubble, some of the developments would not have happened. Those few like you who kept up the debate gave incentives to develop new approaches, even if the way this has been done was slow and insufficient.

    I think of things such as a European Council President using Twitter and making that anyone interested can be informed at the time journalists are informed. More European Commissioners (or their teams) use social media than German ministers. The social media storm from across Europe has made that ACTA will very likely be rejected in June/July by the European Parliament. You can even hear what an EU agency in Vilnius if you follow its Twitter account.

    This might not have happened without the debates, and I think one is quick to underestimate the depth of the European Public Sphere.

  7. @Ron, just to be provocative: thanks for suggesting that I/we can take credit for the use of social media by everyone from Council President to Agencies across Europe! ūüėČ

    More realistically, that would have happened anyway. And, to be frank, I don’t think it really makes that much difference. Most social media platforms don’t offer much to the EU online public space – just because someone pushes the Like button on the EP’s facebook page doesn’t mean terribly much, IMHO (cf ‘Slacktivism does not measure influence’ in my post about Klout).

    But that’s me being “the glass is half empty”, compared to your “the glass is half full” perspective. We’ve had this conversation before, so rather then repeat the same stale argument I’d like to come up with some metric(s) for the EU online public space. Nothing fancy, but good enough to determine whether it is growing or not, and where.

    For that we’d need data and – again – a relaunched BloggingPartal would be the best place to gather it.

    But that’s another old argument …

  8. Thought I’s wait and see how wide this old echo chamber is. Yep, it really is quite small isn’t it?

    So far as blogs are concerned, I think they’re a useful tool, although they do largely abide by the old broadcast model. I.e. “This is my/our blog and you can add a comment to somethng whch is on our immediate agenda/thoughts”. It’s getting the combination (of goodies) ‘right’ which is the hard bit. One thing I do find hard to understand is the need to keep (so called) social media and mass media as separate discussions.

    E.g We’ve got the beginnings of the themes which cut across agencies already; split into formats (of A, V and photo). Then you’ve got various “social hubs” where there’s another thematic categorization approach which is built around groups. (I’m pointing at yu at one of your favourite discussions)

    OK, Anyone is going to design a better ‘platform’ than the DAA is using. Even the blogactiv aggregator approach would be better (more naviagable). That’s one discussion (about “which combination of platforms & widgets should a group use”) But NO.1 we need to start getting ‘the thematic channels’ (interactive & broadcast) together, and that includes the real time virtual rooms. Hopefully that’s something which will come up in the EESC’s workshop 1 next week.

    One thing which would be really useful at this point is a short (no glitched) version of this eloquent overview. (leave out the “European” if you want to be really inclusive). And send it to every conference so people can view it before they arrive.

    As you point out the EC/EU is like every antiquated public edu/gov institution. “That legitimacy is already pretty low in some quarters, but it‚Äôs probably going to be absolutely hammered as the euro-crisis works its way through the system”. It’s a pity that necessity is the ONLY mother of invention in the public’s sphere.

    But we do need to fair to people who are paid by a silo to believe in their silo’s importance. We need to give them some way in which they can systemized how their “butterfly lovers” in each institution can discover & share their practice and interests. i.e. outside their institutional domains. I’ll piss off to that old tune… “if I had a hammer”.

  9. Hey Mathew,

    I see you’re back, thank goodness. Thought you may be interested in this one. I’ve been giving you a plug down at cc. The main point being, so far as seeing things progress, is getting this kind of policy put in place, euro wide.

    One favour I might ask. You remember you did a video about “groups/peers within institutions”. (for want of a better description). It was kept at some unpronounceable (unmemorable) url. Could you point me at it? i remember asking you at the time if you couldn’t do a shorter (and sexier) version of it. It really would be so useful in saving me (and a few others) a lot a hot air. All the best.

    BTW. One of my shining lights has got a whole of gov position in the fed gov know. Thought you might like to listen to an aussie accent.

Comments are closed.