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Labourlist must not blog in a void

labourlistAs covered by Iain, Bob, Guido, ConHome and the Spectator the new Derek Draper blogging initiative Labour List has now seen the light of day with a soft launch. So what should be made of all of this?

The list of people contributing to Labour List is impressive. There are plenty of people here that know a lot, can write, and a few that know how to blog as well. So that should mean that the quality of the material produced should be much higher than LabourHome. But that does not, in itself, mean that the project will be a success.

It is imperative that Labour List does not operate in a void, so content in its own self importance that it does not make a very obvious effort to reach out to the rest of the people writing online, both those on the left and others across the UK blogosphere. The danger is that people like Spencer Livermore or Alan Milburn think that automatically people are going to read what they write, but online political debate doesn’t quite work like that.

If the contributors to Labour List are incapable of doing it themselves then the editor(s) should make sure articles are full of links to background information, links to other bloggers’ articles… Each and every post on any blog about Labour List should be looked at, responded to, and – if the blogger is Labour favourable – their blog added to the Blogroll of Labour List. This is tough and thankless work but if the project is to be a success it’s vital.

Lastly the technology and design of Labour List rather concerns me. Rather than a simple and smooth blogging tool like WordPress (which would have done the job perfectly) the site is running on Taobase from Tangent Labs, i.e. proprietary software that was not designed for blogging. This makes me wonder whether authors will themselves be able to upload content, or whether everything has to go through Draper.

On a related note the pages of the site are rather bland, have a flexible width which I never like for blogs and news sites, and the thing has a logo that looks like a sticking plaster.

Anyway, in conclusion, let’s see how this all goes. I’m open to being convinced.

[UPDATE 11.01.08]
Derek has cited this entry at Labour List at the end of an entry where he goes through what Tories think of the site… I would very much like Labour List to work – I’m open to be convinced! I’ve also come across one further tech issue – when register to post comments at the Labour List site there’s no way to add your own URL and hence allow other commenters to find out more about your positions – another tech issue that needs to be looked at.

[UPDATE 12.01.08]
A reply – of sorts – at LabourHome. I think posts written with as little care as that one are precisely the reason LabourHome cannot rival it’s Tory counterpart. Labour List – whatever its failings – must be a better bet.


17 Comments

  • Derek Draper |

    jon, thanks for what you say. i think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. on the technology front the specifications involve daily e-mails and other innovations (still to be revealed). that could not be done on such a platform. also i am particularly proud of the way that comments link to threads which provides a much better user experience… i think that we need to break out of a narrow “blogosphere” mentality and involve thousands if not millions more people in taking some politics online. i suspect that will happen slowly and when it does i also suspect that they will be more intetrested in reading what spencer and alan have to say than you think – after all millions of people will be reading alan’s article on social mobility in the sunday times tomorrow… of course, we need to do both – get exciting new, niche writers -involved AND the big names . That’s what you’ll get on LabourList!

  • Jon |

    Thanks for the comment – let’s see how things go. I really cannot stress enough that the success of this will depend on how strongly a group of a couple of hundred people positively defend what you’re doing.

    As for Alan in the Sunday Times – yes, a lot will read it, but the advantage the web can give is to allow people to better understand what someone like that is like as a person. Everyone is used to how politicians use columns, but there are few politicians who really get how to write online, build interesting debates.

    Fingers crossed it all works!

  • MatGB |

    What is up with those permalinks? If you’re going to pay for a commercial CMS, at least ensure the CMS follows basic usability and search requirements.

    The decision to not have outgoing links on comment IDs is sometimes taken by people setting up a ‘blog’ that just don’t understand what blogging is about. They did it at CiF as well, and that worked really well.

    If my comment has a link to my site, it’s a subconscious encouragement for me to be constructive and engage, if there isn’t one, there’s no encouragement, I have no way to build a ‘reputation’ as such, and so the baser instincts come out, as they did at CiF. It looks ugly, and the writing quality that I’ve seen isn’t good either.

    Good newspaper articles, but not good blog posts. Ah well, I abandoned Labour a long time ago, something like this isn’t going to encourage me back.

  • Jag Singh |

    I believe the decision to roll with TaoBase was based on
    a) “cost control” and
    b) integration with existing Labour party infrastructure

    It is still a very rough beta though, I’ll admit. The real test will be whether they’re able to rapidly introduce fixes to all the problems that have been highlighted.

    WordPress4Life!

    JS

  • Steffen |

    I agree. I work on social media campaigns for clients, and the greater the openness, the greater the success, always. I think the platform will probably work for a while despite the closed-door policy, but it really would work a lot better if a Labour supporter (who also happens to be an excellent blogger) were allowed to apply to become a contributor.

    Labour can raise the bar as far as it likes i.e. make it VERY difficult to become a contributor, but not offering the chance under any circumstance not only shows a failure to understand the democratic nature of social media, it will also no doubt hack off bloggers used to being shown respect in the blogosphere (backlash??) What’s more, it’ll mean the platform won’t harness the popularity of these bloggers to help attract quality traffic. And worst, the site’s content and frequency of posts will suffer as a result.

  • MatGB |

    That’s true Steffan–one of the reasons Liberal Conspiracy has been a massive success is because Sunny brought in a lot of top name bloggers, some underrated midlisters and combined it with non-bloggers from a variety of organisations. Each of the bloggers brought in some of their own traffic, and the names also brought in a bit, combining that together gave us a very heavy hitting blog very quickly–even if it does mean we spend a lot of time arguing with each other in the comments.

    No established bloggers as contributors means no established traffic and fewer immediate inline links. Plus you don’t have the experience of dealing with common problems that get repeated by most new bloggers when they start out.

  • Jon |

    @Derek Draper:
    No clue. I haven’t asked, and I haven’t been rejected! But the comment might not actually have been referring to me at all.

  • Derek Draper |

    matGB

    ummmm… we are 48 hours old. we are adding cont. all the time. some will be st. bloggers, some not

    why are some people so -ve?!?

  • MatGB |

    Derek, I’m not actually being negative. Constructive criticism in a public forum is a good thing–I think the idea behind blogging is useful, and so I’ll give contructive remarks when I can.

    If I wanted to just attack, I can and would, for a soft launch the site looked and felt like it was in pre-alpha mode, yes, it’s improving, but some of the basics, including getting some contributors on board (like for example Jon) who both know what they’re doing and are established enough to know the common early mistakes.

    The permalinks have improved significantly since I made my first comment, which is good–I really recommend you specifically invite a few bloggers who really know what they’re doing, Andrew at B4L or Unity at Ministry of Truth are both great, hoping they’ll approach you simply won’t work.

  • Derek Draper |

    matGb

    you’re wrong mate. they are approaching us

    i am not setting up a site for 60 bloggers but for 60 million punters

  • Jon |

    Interesting! Wonder how much keeping friends longer term will count though… Glad to see you provoked Guido in your comments form there too! :-)

So, what do you think ?