Friday, April 13, 2007

Telegraph Bloggers' Open House

Updated Sunday 15th April 21:50 There was a link on Shane Richmond's blog to one Robin Hamman. He's a BBC man with an impressive cv in internet involvement that goes way back to the mid 80s. I posted some comments today on Robin's blog that got us talking about the pros and cons of the Bloggers' evening.

Robin was impressed by the open plan, hi-tech newsroom. So was I, but less so with being whizzed through, and not seeing what was happening at one or more of the scores of work stations. Naturally the journalists were preoccupied with putting the paper to bed, but there was an all-too-apparent resentment at our intrusion on their territory. I contrasted this with the reception that Jane, I and fellow Antiboulenc Association members received when we visited the HQ of Nice-Matin, our regional newspaper, early in February. Here's a video clip: in it, a sub-editor explains the final tweaking of front page layout.

Updated Saturday 18:10 French time: This "thank you" letter went off to Shane Richmond's Telegraph blog. It has just appeared in the latest crop of comments.

"That's an inspired choice of location, Shane, for the Telegraph's new HQ, right next door to Victoria Station.

And here's a clip of you answering a question about your moderation policies:

As you say, there were a lot of media professionals there, so that commentors and/or personal bloggers like Ped, Martin and myself were not only heavily outnumbered, but felt a bit like garden gnomes on occasions - attracting the odd one or two bemused expressions.

Maybe you should consider some colour-coded name badges next time, so that birds of a feather can locate each other more readily. And while there are issues of commercial confidentiality, I would have liked to hear more about viewing statistics: what proportion of visitors coming to the online Telegraph log onto blogs, how many blogs posts do they read, and the relationship, if any, between the number of hits and the typical number of comments ? It's a blokish thing - lists, tables, pie charts etc.

But it was interesting and valuable, nonethethless, to see you, Ceri Radford, Ian Douglas and so many of your other blogging colleagues on your home ground. Thanks to you all for giving up your time.

Thanks too for the hospitality. While lacking in the social lubricant department (company policy I gather) your caterers certainly titillated the taste buds. Thanks also for being so tolerant of our intrusive cameras - although one could see that some of your people in the newsroom are still not comfortable having lenses pointed at THEM. Think of it as poetic justice !"

Oops: I discover that I have omitted to mention Simon Dickson as a fellow commentor - someone who cames across on Thursday evening as a thinker and effective speaker. He considers that regular commenters should be given a personal portfolio in which all their comments are stored. Sounds like a good idea to this garden gnome.

But he hints that Shane Richmond's plans for a revamp (all hush hush for now) may include something along the same lines. We live in exciting times, as the barriers separating the pros from us amateurs become breached.

The Telly's recruitment of guest bloggers from "Your View" (Simon Coulter, David Llewellyn, Phil Slocombe) was a defining moment in that regard. That initiative did not get a mention, incidentally, at least not while I was in the main venue ( but might have been when I was away doing the tour of the newsroom ). I chose not to raise it, for fear that it would be interpreted as angling for consideration myself.

But contrary to what some might think, it's not something that bothers me right now. Certainly I would not wish to be producing blog posts on an industrial scale, and would be reluctant for friends and family to read them if they were to attract the kind of comments that have been attached to Phil Slocombe's. Our friend Richard of Orléans has been particularly uncharitable in that respect, which won't come as a surprise to many. One wonders if that is why we are seeing fewer posts from Phil S in recent days - one suspects that the fun's gone out of it for him when he sees himself vilified not just for what he says, but for who he is, in this case an ex-serviceman (RAF) and proud of it.

Folk who visit my blog regularly will know my views on petty sniping, targetting and harassment, which is something the blogosphere needs to address and deal with, but cannot while it gets confused with issues of free speech.

Updated Saturday 10:10 French time. Here's a video clip with sound track of me and traffic outside the Telegraph's HQ . It's handily situated for those who have just come in from Gatwick, seeing as how it's right next door to Victoria mainline station !

Friday 12 th April

Yesterday, as some of you know, I attended the Telegraph's Bloggers' Open House, held at their Victoria HQ.

Shane Richmond, the host, has already posted. I'm naturally flattered to be mentioned by name, although I only spoke to Shane briefly. He was surrounded most of the time by what he refers to as "media types", so this humble commenter, way down the food chain, thought it best not to intrude.

In fact it was not till things were winding up, and the agency caterers were beginning to check their watches that I said to fellow "commenter" Ped that there was a tricky social duty to perform: how to say goodbye to one's host without having said hello ?

Ped solved in true military fashion (that being his background) by staging a frontal assault on Shane's little circle, and saying there was someone who wanted to introduce himself. The conversation was brief, mainly about Shane's spoof post that had us all (briefly) fooled. Later there was a quick pint down the local with Ceri Radford and Ian Douglas, both of them charming company (and one them very good looking). It's pronounced "Kerry" by the way, as I discovered early on, she being a Welsh lass.

Thus ends the first instalment. I have just uploaded the first video clip to YouTube. It's one of Shane answering a question from the floor about moderation policy, so you will need your speakers turned on. At one point the camera ( a miniature one in video mode, needless to say, not a proper camcorder) pans round to a guy with light coloured suit sitting next to the aisle. Sadly it took most of the evening to establish who he was (Ped) , and that he, Martin and myself were probably the only commenters present.

Martin and I are sitting together in the centre of the snapshot on Shane's post. I'm the one with silver hair, specs and permatan, hand on chin.

Suggestion to SR: next time get us minority commenters to identify ourselves, so we can form a little club of kindred spirits over the canapés, once the formal bit is over. But I'm glad I was there, for a number of reasons (about which more later).

Next instalment: probably about 10pm French time, if I don't fall asleep first (had to be up at 4am this morning to get the first flight back from Gatwick). Beware the so-called "courtesy coaches" that shuttle back and forth between Gatwick and the local hotels. They are bad for the blood pressure. More on that later.

ed: back sooner than expected. There's a new post from Ben Fenton just appeared, with a close -up of the audience. Ped's the one in the red tie. Ped warned YsT about not over-reacting to a CYKW. He told me once, and then, just in case I'd missed the message, he told me a second time, and then, during our brief encounter with SR, a third time, and, if I'm not mistaken, it kind of crept back into the conversation a fourth time. The phrase "message received" could be heard to be uttered at least twice last night.

Update: Thursday 21:20 If there were such a thing as a 12th commandment , it would be: never let yourself be distracted from the main point ( and never type too fast into Blogger's flaky text-entry software, unless you want your text to jump somewhere totally unexpected, like the "Link" box beneath one's chosen Title, I kid thee not).

But a thread opened earlier today on Peter Foster's "India" post which I recommend everyone to read. Putting Brit cynicism aside, be prepared please to make a gesture, no matter how small. Maybe the guy's a dreamer, but as the lady in South Pacific said: " If you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true ? "

See original mission statement of "Dreams and Daemons" ' (buried back deep in the archives).

Comments welcome (provided they don't try to equate me with Attila the Hun, the Devil Incarnate, President Aminadinnerjacket, Your Typical Brit, Gordon Brown etc) :