Tuesday 17 August 2010

Bloggingportal.eu and social media experiences in Grahnlaw post number 1,800

There is no magic in numbers, but it often feels comfortable to choose a certain date or an even number for a milestone. Say, the better life (learning Italian, keeping fit ... whatever) we start on 1 September – every year. Or, an even number of blog entries as an excuse to think aloud.

If active participants have called the Euroblogosphere self-referential, what can be more so than writing about your own blog, with no more justification than this being entry number 1,800 on Grahnlaw?

Temporarily, Grahnlaw has been centred more on Euroblogging and social media, than on issues of EU law, politics and policies. Online media offer unique opportunities for participation across linguistic and national borders, building European online public spaces. The explicit multilingual comment policy is one of new features on Grahnlaw.


It has been a joy to see the continued growth of the multilingual aggregator Bloggingportal.eu, which has now reached 651 blogs related to EU affairs (Euroblogs).

The editors’ choices on the front page of Bloggingportal.eu (and in the daily email newsletter), as well as the weekly roundup on the Bloggingportal.eu blog (and in the weekly newsletter), are valuable, but they reveal only the tip of the iceberg.

The continually updated stream of new posts is significantly down right now, due to the holiday season, but I expect Eurobloggers to return with zest, after rest, and the published posts are worth reading wherever you are.

Linguistic diversity? Virtually invisible interests?

This is only a snapshot at an arbitrary moment, but there is an astonishing difference between the size of the language communities in the European Union (European Economic Area) and blogger activity in the 25 languages on offer:

Among the 50 latest posts, there were 2 in Danish, 2 in German, 24 in English, 2 in Spanish, 3 in French, 1 in Norwegian, 1 in Polish, 1 in Portuguese and 14 in Swedish, when I checked.

Are there any conclusions you would like to draw?

Should bloggers engaged in European affairs take up the challenge to place their language (among the 16 missing from this sample) on the virtual map of the Euroblogosphere?

Are some linguistic communities under-represented, even if there was a post or two?

The European Union does not have exclusive competence in many policy areas, but it is active in more than thirty broad fields, with shared powers or in a complementary capacity, and a plethora of more narrow policy issues.

The EU is the frame of reference for many policy debates at national, regional and local level (although more seldom discussed in those terms locally).

There are huge numbers of European interest groups and associated national bodies, businesses, labour market organisations, EU and government officials, policy experts, consultants, lobbyists, EU projects, Europarties and their political foundations, politicians at all levels, NGOs, journalists, researchers, teachers, students, engaged citizens, and networks, who need to communicate with the outside world.

In my view, the Euroblogosphere needs more professional blogging on real issues, but online visibility is a key to success and interaction between different levels of governance is a necessity for various interests, although regular blogging is hard work.

Yesterday, Anne Christensen described on the Waltzing Matilda blog how the Commission and the other institutions of the European Union are upgrading their presence on social networks. This lays the foundations for a gradual shift from an information mindset to participation. Some day more politicians and officials may become courageous enough to venture onto outside forums as well, or at least start following exchanges on them.

If even institutional dinosaurs are on the move, shouldn’t nimble mammals be running ahead at high speed?

Naturally, the need for “hard information” is going nowhere. I need the Official Journal of the European Union, news and documents from the Council and the European Parliament, as well as other EU agencies and bodies, both for my blogging activities and in my work as a lawyer, interested in cross-border issues.

Online media offer valuable news and comments.

Volunteer work by editorial team

In principle, there is a chance to look for blog posts thematically (Topics button), but Bloggingportal.eu needs more voluntary editors to tag all new posts (and highlight the best ones).

The system of available tags is far from perfect, but with added programming skills on the editorial team, some improvements might be possible, even on the current platform.

Why not apply to join the team of editors?

Willingness to do grunt work (tagging), an eye for journalistic merit and original writing (not only among mainstream media), linguistic skills and programming abilities are much appreciated. Editorial independence is a valued asset, so people working for the EU institutions, or with pronounced commercial or organisational interests may not fit the bill to become editors, even if their blogs are welcome. Do not apply with the hidden agenda to promote your own posts: This is off limits.

Central and Eastern European languages are still under-represented among editors, as they are among Euroblogs.

The editors form a loose network, with little decision-making structures and even less executing powers, but the team is also a community which discusses common editorial issues, and the team spirit facilitates occasional personal contacts regarding other matters between individual editors.

Own experiences on other social media

I have participated actively on Twitter for a few months, and I use it to announce when I have published a new blog post, but especially to follow what others in the Euroblogosphere are saying, to retweet interesting entries or article links and sometimes to engage in discussions within the 140 character limit per tweet.

Almost daily, I find someone new with an interest in European affairs to follow, and it is usually a pleasure to find that somebody wants to follow my tweets.

Tags like #EU, #euroblog, #eulaw, #eurozone, #EP (European Parliament), #europarl, #EuTrioBe (Council presidency), #bkaeb (Better Know A EuroBlog recommendation), #EU2020 (for the economic reform strategy) and @bloggingportal help to keep me updated on the Euroblogosphere and media, when the tweets on the Home page keep disappearing at an increasing speed.

I follow a number of Euroblogs and media on my own blog - jestingly the “canonised version” although constantly developing - but also more widely through Google Reader and Bloglines feeds, as well as email subscriptions.

A few days ago I joined Facebook, after dithering for long, so I have only taken my first tentative steps. While getting the feel for the place, I have had time to add only a small number of friends, but I have been pleased to notice that already some blog readers, as well as other virtual and real life friends and acquaintances have taken the initiative.

It will be interesting to see how the Facebook experience pans out in the long run.

Incidentally, I found that there are great numbers of European and EU related groups (even if you look only in English), which could start blogging and join Bloggingportal.eu (if they have not done it by now).

How do you relate to European online media and social media networks, and how do you evaluate your own experiences?

Ralf Grahn

P.S. The Grahnlaw blog invites comments relevant to the topics discussed, but the number and the variety of spam comments seems to be increasing steadily. This is the sad reason for comment moderation, so it may take a while before your pertinent comment appears. Sometimes technical problems occur, such as yesterday when I received nine copies by the same author of the same comment, of which one copy was published.

It is easier to understand a language than to use it correctly. As Eurobloggers we could and should promote interaction among Europeans across borders and between linguistic communities. Grahnlaw has adopted a multilingual comment policy:

I do my best to read comments in Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish or Swedish, even if the Grahnlaw blog and my possible replies are in English.

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