Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Top Blogging Tips from Wales’ Top Blogger

I seem to have made an enemy. Or at least, I hope I have. I’m beginning to find that blogging at The Telegraph is like slipping unnoticed through the back door of an old folks’ home and settling yourself down in an armchair. Sooner or later, somebody turns to you and asks your opinion of ‘that lovely Judith Chalmers’. To which you respond: ‘Looks good for her age.’ ‘Oh, yes,’ says the resident. ‘A lovely woman. I once played bingo with her at New Milton's hospice.’ And so it goes...

My crime, if it was a crime, was registering the name A. Aaron Esq, which (apparently) put me unfairly at the top of some list of Telegraph bloggers. I felt moderately bad about the comment, left at the end of my piece on Alan Titchmarsh. It made me realise that perhaps not all Telegraph readers are in the mood for a serious deconstruction of the Titchmarsh myth:

I do like Alan... used to watch all his efforts with Tommo and Charlie, great stuff.... but what concerns me is the name of this Blogger, very cleverly slotting himself in the top most position of the "A"s...... makes you wonder about MyT [My Telegraph] .... makes you think.... Right, I am off to the snooker match now, we are away tonight, 38 mile round trip, and I am driving. See you all tomorrow !! from www.sotonsnooker.com

Which led me to think about myself and what exactly I would claim to know about blogging. It made me think about an odd thing that happened today, which I didn’t blog about earlier because, to be honest, I don’t have time to write about every little incident in my daily life. Somewhere in this rambling mess of a brain of mine, I have the understanding that, when blogging, one has to be selective. There’s just the slightest chance that the world isn’t going to be interested in the news that the postman arrived five minutes earlier and wore a different pair of trousers than normal.

In my role as one of Wales’ most outspoken but prolific bloggers, I've been asked to give a speech to the local community’s Young Unwed Mothers Action Group, on the occasion of the launch of their new blog, ‘Banged Up in Bangor’. I was obviously as touched by the invite as I was keen to get out of it. I’ve not been a stripper for all these years without learning to keep well away from unwed mothers. They’re an overly fertile bunch. One minute you’re shaking them by the hand, the next you’re being asked to urinate into a test tube for a paternity test. It’s not that I’m worried about the outcome but they don’t make test tubes for a man like the Chipster. To be more blunt: I tend to end up with a wet hand and the sort of mopping up operation that usually qualifies for government disaster relief.

I would have explained all this to Gabby as we listened to the offer on the answer phone but since she’s started working as a traffic warden, she’s become big on local issues. Before I’d had chance to commit excuse to brain, she’d dialled 14713 and told them I’d be more than happy to go along and contribute a few words. She also gave them a verbal warning about the parking on Victoria Street and told them she knew where they live.

‘That’s so good,’ said Mrs. Morgan, the organiser of the local unmarrieds, as I took the phone from Gabs. ‘We hope you can tell us some interesting things about Westminster life and what it’s like supporting West Ham.’

I didn’t know how to tell her that I don’t support West Ham. I didn’t know how to explain that I wasn’t Iain Dale. It’s not the sort of new you like to break to unwed mothers. However, I took the phone from Gabby and thought to sort things out. Heavy on the honesty, light on the detail: that’s the Chipster’s way.

‘You do realise that I’m not actually…’ I began.

She wasn’t listening. ‘Of course, we’ll pay you sixty pounds for your trouble,’ she said.

‘I’ll be there at seven thirty, Mrs. Morgan,’ I said, saying a thank you to Saint Iain of Audi. ‘And what about that Craig Bellemy? We’ve got a handful there, haven’t we?’

‘We do indeed, Iain,’ she said. ‘We do indeed…’

I rang off and turned my mind to the speech I was meant to give. It was a matter of coming up with something intelligent to say about blogging, without letting on that they had the wrong Dale.

I’m rarely lost for words so I knocked the following together in half-an-hour last night. What it lacks in polish, I think it makes up for in wisdom. I’m thinking of offering it to the other bloke as an intro to his next guide to UK blogging. This is the version I’m considering posting to My Telegraph this afternoon.

New Media, Same Old Bull

Blogs were created in the belief that we all have something to say. And at that point, it all began to go terribly wrong. The problem is that we all do indeed have something to say. Unfortunately, so many of us decide to share it with the rest.

I have no doubt that the less generous among you might say that this piece should itself be added to the list of things that shouldn’t have been written on or about the internet. You might like to include it with every blog post informing us that Aunty Madge arrived this morning, had a wonderful time in Bournemouth, though the sand left her a little chapped around her thighs. Interesting news, indeed, as were the details of her jaunt to Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst, and Sway. Yet bloggers are a determined bunch. We don’t like to stop there. We like to include pictures with our posts. So, we get Aunty Madge to raise her skirt, throw a leg on the kitchen table, and ask her to give our Nokia a flash of her seriously chapped thighs. It’s even better if Uncle Horace is in the shot, pointing at her thighs, pipe clenched between his dentures, and a look of inebriated joy on his face. Where is big thinking about serious subjects compared to the trivial delights of Aunt Madge and her thighs? Big thinking is out of the question as we are so busy indulging this collective fetishism of detail.

How we escape ‘detail’ may well become the philosophical dilemma of the early twenty first century. We have a surfeit of information and perspectives. Critics are held hostage by opinions, which, we are told, nobody should really have in this pluralistic network of stances. Facts are rarely accepted as facts, in the face of other apparent facts that contradict them. George W. Bush has apparently committed every sin possible for a human being to commit. Which is particularly impressive since he’s actually a Thuban lizard from Alpha Draconis. In a non-literal sense, every other blog lies somewhere between Aunt Madge’s thighs and Alpha Draconis. It’s a frightening thought.

Websites like MySpace and YouTube are supposed to free us from the old media. We can all be stars because we have the chance to reach a larger audience. Only, of course, they don’t. Or at least the great unwashed 'we' don't. Held up as a great example of the new media finding new talent, Lily Allen is the daughter of Keith Allen. Was it a sign that talent breeds talent, or that the old media merely use the excuse of the new media as a way of doing what they have always done: looking after their own?

And for the rest of us: the simple truth is that the more we are able to communicate, the more it appears that the majority of us have little of significance to say. Writing about our daily lives is the surest way of killing off the blogosphere. It will become the dumping ground of trivial observations. Blogs have already become synonymous with the worst kind of diarrhoea, produced by the fingertips and spewed unedited into the world.


Andrew K said...

"How we escape ‘detail’ may well become the philosophical dilemma of the early twentieth century."

Indeed it may, Chip. Though I might draw your attention to a little detail...

Big Chip Dale said...

Thanks Andrew. I wrote that at 3 o'clock this morning and my brain was beginning to wear down. It only adds to what, even by my standards of bad days, is turning into a really bad day... ;o)

Mopsa said...

Chip, on this rare occasion I have to disagree with you. I'm all for the verbal spew - I'm not forced to read it, just like I'm not forced to read The Sun. If Auntie Madge's thighs, chapped or no, cause whoops of laughter through excellent written revelation (with or without pics) then bring her on. The detritus of life and all its inanities can be the stuff that keeps us reading into the small hours if elucidated by a skilled writer.
All those bonkers magazines advertised on the box that are puffed for revealing trivia about the unimportant of the day obviously find a market - I suspect much blogging is equally dull and may or may not get a readership. You know what? I don't care. I just like the opportunity to practice a spot of writing, improve my editing skills, and serve it up in a fairly professional looking template thanks to the free world of blogger. And you get to have intriguing conversations with folks you are never likely to meet face to face. Oh joy.

Big Chip Dale said...

Mopsa, I agree with the spirit of what you're saying. I'm all for people being creative. I, more than anybody, understand the need to give everybody an equal chance. However, the myth that everybody has a story to tell is the cause of many of our problems in society. Teachers are discouraged from criticising students (and students don’t take criticism kindly) because there’s this belief that every opinion is valuable, no facts are certain, and every form of expression is as equally valid as the next.

The fact that I mentioned Auntie Madge and her thighs was, perhaps, defeating my own argument. I made it sound funny when I should have made it sound tedious. This post was just my way of responding to the person who left a comment on my Telegraph blog. What is the purpose of those Telegraph blogs? Many are interesting, but a while lot of them are really not worth the trouble. However, because there’s so much ‘white noise’, we often can’t hear the articulate messages.

It’s the same, I suppose, with fiction. So many books published, so little time to read. Which do we choose? In a notional sense, we can all create something good and worthwhile. It’s just few of us try to do that. To switch analogies: the world is like a large room full of people. Everybody yelling at the top of their voices makes it hard to spot the potential singers. I’m not saying we should all stop singing, but I was pissed off that somebody thought I wasn’t blogging the right way because I wrote something (I thought) was articulate and funny, when they provide anecdotes about the last thing to go fleeting across their consciousness.

Sorry, Mopsa, if I’m sounding grumpy. If you check Walrus Clogs, you’ll see why. And you know, none of this applies to the people who read this blog.

elberry said...

i find i can sift through blogs fairly quickly. Usually 30 secs is enough to get a feel for whether it's any good or not. Some blogs i have to go back to a few times before i decide to stick with them. i like the equality of blogs, that if someone with a readership of himself only writes about dobermanns who eat shoes, i can find his blog if i'm Googling for dobermanns who eat shoes.

Whereas there are no doubt a few good books published which i'd never come across because they're not even stocked in Waterstones. With books i rely on time to filter the wheat from the chaff: i only have a few contemporary authors i like and the rest i ignore.

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Mohit Gupta Blog
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Anonymous said...

Mohit Gupta Blog
Complete help for the New Blogger, blogger Hacks, Blog design, Blog Template, SEO, Adsense, Blogging Tips and Tricks, Making money through blogs, Global Warming, Articles, programming and web 2.0