Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Ugly Truth about blogger Iain Dale, Derek Draper and all bloggers

Just for the record, I don't have anything against Iain Dale. When I said that he was a right wing bigot I was of course misquoting the blogger manque, Derek Draper. I have nothing against Alex Massie or Guido Fawkes either...No, on second thoughts Guido Fawkes really does sound like a nasty piece of work.

But this puerile attention-seeking on my part was entirely to demonstrate my point: that the blogosphere encourages personalised attacks and that the best way to get a blog noticed is to attack prominent bloggers. I can't be bothered putting in all the links but if you search my name on google blogs you will see the controversy that my previous posts provoked. It is now being called "Blog-gate", apparently, and blogs are trying to out do each other in their efforts to put me in my place. I've even been called "rectum" a witty allusion to the fact that I am rector of Edinburgh University.

Of course, I asked for it. That was precisely the point. Blogging is all about traffic and and achieving critical mass. To get a blog noticed it has to attract as many hits and links as possible. This is so that it will appear on search engines like Google. When I googled my name my J'accuse the blogosphere came second top.

Other people then start to read about it. When I was on Newsnight last night I was introduced as Iain Macwhirter who now writes a blog. This is amusing because of course there has been a blog on this space for over three years. There are probably a million words on it but it has never raised anything like the interest it has this week. By the way, I started posting my Sunday Herald and Herald pieces here because I found I couldn't get search them any more on the papers' own websites. No, I don't understand either.

Look, there are lots of very good and intelligent blogs - take Paul Krugman's Conscience of a Liberal or Robert Peston's blog on BBC business, But the most effective way to get noticed is to go ad hominem. Because of what economists call disintermediation (now google that!) on the web, everything becomes personal. The sheer immediacy of the web means everyone is on a hair trigger.

Bloggers have feeds that send them every post that uses their name. Iain Dale got back almost before I had posted my remarks saying "And to think you get paid for this". Which is quite funny because of course I don't. Blogging doesn't make money - it is all about getting noticed. The money comes later from speaking, consultancy interviews on tv etc if you get the hits. This was what Derek Draper was looking for with his proto-blog that cost Damian McBride his job.

I have been thinking of starting a rumour that Draper leaked the offending McBride emails to Guido Fawkes deliberately to build up interest for his blog when it finally emerges. The only problem is that people might think I'm joking.


Conan the Librarian™ said...

There is no such thing as bad publicity.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised your article caused any kind of scandal. I thought it was a bit one-sided but some of the bloggers who took it so personally need to grow a backbone (and many of whom do have terrible blogs anyway with unsubstantiated articles, or who rely on articles from another more popular blog, or even regurgitate the dross from the newspaper comment talking shops).

Anyway good to see you back Iain. You're one of the best journalists out there and I thought you'd given up blogging for good. I suppose for getting peple back your cunning plan worked. You clever man!

voiceofourown said...

Political blogs are just filling a gap in the market Iain.
Many people don't feel their views are properly represented in the main-stream media.
A salient example of this is the surprising fact that, in a nation where around 1/3 of the population support independence, there is not a single daily or weekly national paper which concurs.
This may explain to some extent the proliferation of nat bloggers and commenters.
There is also, obviously, a fairly large libertarian / right wing community in England which feels similarly disenfranchised.
I hope that you continue to blog regularly Iain as I do enjoy your writing and feel, genuinely, that you tell it as you see it.

David Park.

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