Friday 4 December 2009

Eurosphere, Euroblog Meet-up and

Here are some thoughts about the Eurosphere (European public space) after the Euroblog Meet-up initiated by Joe Litobarski, leading to some suggestions concerning limited, but concrete action to improve by attracting new blogs with a European perspective.


Reading this the morning after, the Google Wave discussion got started when I was already at sleep.

I think there were some good ideas, which can grow into something. Nosemonkey's suitably realistic thoughts are a counterweight to pie in the sky.

Social get-togethers between eurobloggers, through Wave, Twitter, Skype and face to face are all good to promote a sense of community.

Small, but concrete

With regard to practical work and possible achievements, I wonder if it wouldn't be a good idea to do something limited and concrete, rather than create new systems. (These will appear, if the euroblogosphere becomes bigger and more dynamic.)

"Keep it simple, stupid!" tells me that already exists, and that there is room for new blogs from the EU member states.

Since the idea behind is to promote discussion on EU themes, or with a European dimension, one natural ally would be to ask the European organisations (Young Federalists, European Movement) to spread the word:

They may have more official blogs, but there are also bloggers among their activists and members.

In my view, these are natural links between national and pan-EU debates on European issues.


There is nothing wrong in presenting and discussing the EU institutions:

First of all, I'm guilty as charged, and there are considerable numbers of students engaged in various EU studies (politics, law, economics, communication).

Secondly, the general lack of knowledge about how the European Union is set up and how it works is astounding. (Otherwise the anti-EU part of British media would never get away with their distortions, and the comments sections would not look like crude caricatures of war time propaganda.)

But there are European aspects to practically every area of life, and almost all national level organisations have someone who is engaged with EU level questions or EU projects.

The list is almost endless: Sports, culture, education, business, women...
EU structural funds, agriculture (CAP), fisheries, research, student exchange (Erasmus)...


Languages: Someone wrote that all these discussions lead to the issue of languages. Why make it into a problem? already is multilingual.

(By the way, the greatest unrecognised language in the EU is Russian [not unimportant outside, either]. Could it be added?)

The bloggers themselves are free to choose. Some want to discuss in English (or one of the more widely spoken languages), others in their mother tongue.

I think it's a great system, offering freedom of choice.

If manages to attract more bloggers, in various languages, the readers have the opportunity to read blogs in other languages, too, which means crossing borders mentally.

Many times more people are able to read one or more foreign languages, than are able to write for publication.

There are also about 10 million intra-EU expats, who live in cross-border situations culturally.

Even if there are expat forums, which are country-specific, I think there would be room for bloggers who specialise in EU level issues related to living in another member state.

More generally, when comparing the host of EU Council meetings these last days and the serious under-reporting in national media (except for a few headline-grabbing dramas) and in blogs, I find that there is an awful lot of room for blogs with some sort of focus on a certain policy area, or even an aspect of one.

Questions and suggestions

1. Should do something to attract more bloggers, from different EU member states?

2. If so, what can be done?

3. If something can be done: How?

Ralf Grahn


  1. err, while I've always been sure that something like Bloggingportal will play a major role, there is a difference between a content aggregation engine, the content it aggregates, and the people who read it. may already be able to handle all languages; most people, unfortunately, cannot.

    Which makes Europe's wonderful linguistic diversity one of the major barriers preventing social media from supporting the development of an EU polity, which is currently limited to national and Brussels-based elites. Social media *could* help change this, but it won't until this and other nuts are cracked.

    Hence the recent meet-up, like at least half of all such discussions I've had on this subject, focused on multilingualism.

    Believe me, while there's much more to talk about, multilingualism is usually one of the tightest boundary conditions in any such project, so any such discussion should not 'leave that problem for later'.

  2. Mathew,

    I am sure you're right in many ways. Especially in official settings linguistic diversity becomes a predetermined requirement, which must be addressed.

    Official projects set the offer, private ones can be demand oriented.

    I think that as a voluntary project, based on voluntary participation, may have an easier ride than projects hosted by institutions.

    All official languages (and Norwegian) are possible; it is up to the bloggers to choose between mainly domestic audiences and a wider readership.

    More important now, as I see it, is to actively promote the aggregator to achieve greater participation, more variety in viewpoints and themes and overlap between national and EU level viewpoints.

    As I see it, where are the possibilities for Bloggingportal, and what can be done to fulfil that potential?

    (A very rough indication of the blog posts now is about 60 per cent in English, 20 in French and 20 shared between the rest of the languages. I believe that the last fifth part, including the most widely spoken mother tongue German, should be greater, if we want Bloggingportal to reach people who are not already consumers of BBC, FT, The Economist, European Voice, EUobserver, New Europe, EurActiv English version.) is perhaps not the final word on the euroblosphere (or Eurosphere), but it might be better to try to find out its true potential before designing new dazzling projects.

    On the other hand, this means critically discussing what the USP (value added) of Bloggingportal is or can be.

  3. I am not so sure that Bloggingportal is the right approach to gather more readers or to make European issues more engaging.

    As it stands, it remains a website for Technophiles - it is, I feel, neither pretty nor easy enough to attract readers going much beyond the bloggers it unites.

    And already now, while it lacks participation and distribution, the mass of content is not handable.

    I have no solution for this, and—while knowing it since it's been around—have only just registered my own blog on education and learning.

    But I wonder whether we wouldn't need something along the lines of (a healthy mixture of) The Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo?

    Looking at these two examples brings up at least two questions:

    (1) Wouldn't it be necessary to run a portal involving editorial work, a little like Julien's Blog Overview, thus slowing down content stream and threading different contributions together?

    (2) Wouldn't it be useful to run a portal offering EU insiders - Politicians, Staff, Reporters - a platform to write occasionally, without them needing to set up a blog and all that?

    Just wondering out loud on a Sunday morning, really...

  4. Andreas,

    Excellent questions. I hope as many as possible of the editors read them.

    I believe that the aims of need some reflection, and improvements on the aggregator as well a potential new projects require some thinking about what they are meant to achieve, where they can bring real benefits and if there is any (potential) demand for them.

  5. When thinking a little further, a third question came to mind - assuming that even an aggregated and edited portal, even if it were presented more convincingly, might still suffer from topical dryness:

    (3) Is there need and demand as well as interest and drive to establish a site along the lines of "Personal Europe Daily" – one post only per day, relatively brief, from someone working with, for, around European issues, describing their day from a personal perspective?

  6. You're absolutely right, Ralf, about the fact that eu-sponsored projects have all sorts of issues that do not bedevil bottom-up initiatives.

    Completely unfinanced projects, however, have their own set of problems. And projects sponsored by private enterprise will always bring their own 'independence and transparency' issues, too.

    No easy solutions here. It'd certainly be nice to have a huffington post for eu affairs - if anyone here's a venture capitalist with deep pockets, I'm all ears.

    But who's arguing for dazzling new projects? I've been trying to get a single tag (on blogs and twitter) for this conversation for several months now, just to make it easier for more people to track and join this discussion - it's still limited to eu-geeks, for the moment.

    Agree absolutely that a good discussion is needed regarding what we're trying to do before deciding on the technology. That should always come later in the discussion ... but not too late.

  7. Andreas,

    Important questions to discuss, certainly. The core issue, I think, is how to promote cross-border, pan-European discussion, and every constructive idea is important.

  8. Mathew,

    You're quite right that we seem to need some clarity. What can and should be done, when the amount of grunt work by volunteers seems to be less than the enthusiasm for new projects?

    The Huffington Post is, as you say, a real investment in time, human resources and money; not an easy task on the fragmented European scene.

    We should be able to sift through ideas and reservations to arrive at added clarity.

  9. Mathew,

    I am arguing for dazzling new projects!

    I believe that nothing speaks against new initiatives while streamlining communication and establishing other elements of network support and community management within the European blogosphere.

    Other than this debate seems to suggest, I really don't see the contradiction or dilemma. On the contrary, maybe a new initiative develops a pull factor to attract new volunteers and to make some of the networking easier?

    "No easy solutions here. It'd certainly be nice to have a huffington post for eu affairs - if anyone here's a venture capitalist with deep pockets, I'm all ears."

    I add the usual grain of salt as requested, but it's a little pessimistic nonetheless. There is always a way to finance a good idea, especially on European level - and projects supported by EU programmes and co-financed by foundations can well be and remain independent and critical.

    (And I was thinking of the editorial model of the Huffington Post, not the management model - and Talking Points Memo didn't have any money when Josh Marshall started it in 2000.)


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