John's Jottings for September 2007

John Ward

Please note: these Jottings are purely personal comment, and do not necessarily or directly represent the policy of either the Conservative Party or the Conservative Group on Medway Council.

What's a Blog?

Good question, simple answer! The idea of keeping a diary, or log, of one's activities and findings on the World-Wide Web is a fairly obvious one, now that the technology to do so has become so widely and easily accessible.

These weblogs—usually known as blogs—have become very popular. Although they started off as mere mouthpieces for individuals' own views, they have in recent years become far more, and far better, than just that. For one thing, the ability for readers of such websites to respond to what is written and to make suggestions has encouraged many of their authors to improve their initial offerings.

I suppose there's nothing like knowing others are reading what you write, but also realising that they might stop doing so, to give one an incentive to do a better job, and even to broaden one's own outlook—and nowhere is this more readily seen than in the case of political 'blogs.

Among the very best Medway-based political 'blogs is that run by Alan Collins, who—at still a very young age—has demonstrated maturity and a very strong sense of community in his own offering, as well as political wisdom far beyond his years. Accepted that he had the good fortune to strike up a bond with Councillor Reh Chishti, he was always going to be one of that rare breed of truly politically-astute teenagers, come what may. Check out his blog-style website and see for yourself.

I was right, wasn't I?

Meanwhile, back with the political parties themselves, in Medway we have the three parties with elected members on Medway Council all having their own websites. The LibDems one has no real content whatsoever (and never had much during the years I have watched it!) but does have a nice photographic tour of featured places in Gillingham. Okay: score three out ten; but without that tour, probably only one out of ten!
Update: Although the site is still there, all content has now been removed (mid-September 2007). Score is now zero out of ten!

Labour's offering has some content, but poorly implemented. Those reading this who might be tempted to have a look at their site be warned:

  1. If you are on a dial-up or other slow connection, forget it! Most pages, though having only small displayed images, actually require big files to be downloaded;
  2. If you don't have Microsoft Publisher, don't bother downloading their Rose newsletters (or Ruse as I call them, for good reason—see here!): you won't be able to read them;
  3. Predictably, I suppose, there are a number of fairly obvious factual errors, though equally predictably, these serve the Labour Group's political ends, so are no doubt quite deliberate. One doesn't need to be a Mensa member to see through them...
I'm pleased that they have at least made an ongoing effort, though—which is more than can be said for the LibDems!

Okay, so what about the Conservatives?

Well, our Group's blog-style site is actually quite good, though it does suffer from occasional seizures (I think that might now be more-or-less solved). Technically it is easily the best of the three, and the content is a lot stronger and more plentiful. To those who know the subjects being covered, and the places, it will feel "right", which is not the feeling I for one get when looking at the opposition websites (or their newsletters, for that matter) in respect of places and issues I happen to know and recognise.

As always, it's best to make your own judgement, so I suggest popping along to the Medway Conservative Group Website.

The actual weblog part of the site started only recently, and I gave that a kick-start by (on request!) providing a few items of my own. Others have now added to it, which is great. I am also helping to administer the site these days, as co-webmaster.

Meanwhile, several Conservative-represented wards in Medway have started up their own weblog-style sites. These are at various stages of development, but one that is very well worthy of mention is Princes Park. It is superb! If anything was going to show how important it is to have one's heart in the community, this is it!

Believe me, if my two ward colleagues were ever to grow anywhere near as passionate about providing something similar for my ward as I am, I'd start one tomorrow—no question! It needs all of us to provide regular input, though, so I am loath to go it alone. As it happens, a lot of what we do here is covered in these pages, most notably on the activities, issues and newsletters pages, plus the news items on the front page.

Even so, it would be great to be able to produce something in the same league as the Princes Park site, and I hope that it will be possible to add such a section to our website in due course. I have high hopes...

In the meantime, do enjoy and gain some benefit from the present offerings: it is a very good way to document publicly what one is doing. If it can be made largely non party-political and mostly community-based, as with the Princes Park 'blog in particular, then it has true value that lifts it above other sources.

Okay, we all have to play the political game to some extent, but overall our efforts can and should go way beyond that. That is how I set up my website, and I know that it has been influential in encouraging several of these others to develop their own on-line offerings. Best of all, they have each done it their own way, even with knowledge of my approach, and they benefit from that.

Even Alan Collins, when adding new facilities to his already excellent site that he first saw done by me, has stated that he is not seeking to duplicate my efforts; and this is clearly the correct approach to take.

So, several years into the new millennium, the world of online blogging has moved on from its ego-based origins of personal mouthpieces to a far more mature and useful kind of resource. We who live or work within Medway's communities can benefit a lot from keeping an eye on what is being posted on our local political websites, always watching for obvious distortions (which I could list, but it's better for readers of this to make their own assessment) of course.

Putting it all together, I'd say we here in Medway have a good range of such resources available to us, many of which can be found from my own links pages, now divided into categories for ease of quick location.

Go on, give it a try!

Next time: A Man Goes to the Doctor...