Blog Day 2006

Yes, it’s that time of year again, when we all get together and link to five new blogs from around the world.  I’m not quite sure why – probably to celebrate the diversity of the blogosphere or something – but I’m going to take part anyway.  So, here goes – in honour of Blog Day 2006, I’ve selected five blogs, all of which are new to me over the past month or so, and which I’ve enjoyed reading.

  1. The magnificently named qwghlm.co.uk.  Not picked for name alone though, oh no.  It’s got quality writing too.  And, perhaps most importantly, it’s home to the Daily Mail Headline Generator, which I’m told has been used to train countless generations of right wing journalists. Will the French lead Cliff Richard astray is indeed the question of the hour.
  2. Not a lot of people know that I wrote both my undergraduate and my postgraduate dissertations on Central Asian politics.  So I was, of course, thrilled to see the arrival onto the blog scene of The Roberts Report on Central Asia, written by Sean… um… Roberts, who seems to know his way around Central Asia pretty damn well.  He looks to be setting his stall out to become one of the definitive Central Asia blogs.  Well, he’s got a ways to go before he matches the mighty registan.net, but he’s made an impressive start. 
  3. Our Word is Our Weapon.  Everything you need to know about development (of the international variety), plus a whole lot more.  I only found this today, so not too much to say about it yet, except that I’ve probably learnt more about development than I did at university.  Top of the blog today is the rather alarming statistic that there are more than 47,000 HIV+ patients per HIV clinic in Sudan.  In India there are 5,000 patients to a clinic.  In the United States and the United Kingdom, there are less than 100 patients to a clinic.
  4. I couldn’t let this list go without a Russian blog.  I’m a bit of a Russophile myself, as you might have guessed, but I couldn’t resist being a bit contrary today.  La Russophobe is written by the indefatigable Kim Zigfeld who is certainly passionate about Russia.  I don’t agree with the tone of the blog one bit – as you might imagine, it’s relentlessly negative.  Russia has its problems to be sure – major problems.  But there is plenty of good in Russia too – it is truly a beautiful country, with people just as nice as you’ll find anywhere else in the world (no better, no worse).  And if ever a country needs to be given a break now and then, it’s Russia.     
  5. OK, one last blog to go.  Taking the spirit of finding new blogs, I’ve just popped over to Technorati, typed “random blog” into the search box, picked a random page of results (page six, as it happens), and picked a random blog from that page.  And, the winner is… Tiffany in Kimchiland.  According to her sidebar, Tiffany lives in Singapore.  More impressively, according to her latest post, she’s an expert on Korean Drama, and has posted her list of 50 things you can learn from a Korean Drama.  My favourite was number sixteen –
      If you have a nosebleed, you most definately have cancer. And you have no money to pay for the surgery that will save your life. And your liver is missing. We’re not sure where it went, but it’s making your cancer progress faster”

    Number one caught my eye as well –

      Hot, rich, younger men love fat, older vulgar women”. 

OK.  That’s all the blog day 2006 goodness for this year.  The instructions say that I have to go email all the people I’ve linked to, so I’m off to try and dig out their email addresses.

The best in British blogging

Nosemonkey has spent far too many hours than can be good for him compiling a list of the best new British blogs. Never one to knowlingly over-state something he warns:

…all of them are, however, in some way promising.

I’ve found a few more additions for my blogroll, but I am imost mpressed by the number of professional journalists that have taken to blogging and – most importantly – sticking to it after the initial buzz has worn off.

Walking among Kiev’s tent camps

A year or two ago, back in my siberianlight days, Robert Mayer of Publius Pundit and I briefly discussed the idea of going to Belarus, to provide independent blog coverage of the Presidential election from on the ground.

I never got around to it, because I was too poor (and, let’s face it, too lazy).  But Robert is made of sterner stuff than I and, this summer, has spent several weeks travelling around Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, taking a long hard look at how democracy is faring.

Today, Robert has posted the first of a series of articles based on his travels – Walking Among the Tent Camps – which explores the mixture of disillusion and hope that is felt today by many of those who worked so hard to bring about Ukraine’s Orange Revolution.

Sergei is his name, a 23 year old student of political science who has been an activist for a few years now. He is one of the main coordinators of the camp, making sure that the little village of 52 volunteers, most between the ages of 20 and 30, runs smoothly. And it does. PORA’s base is well-regimented. Political leaflets are handed out as leaders try to persuade passersby to support their cause, the camp is kept clean, intruders are kept out, and volunteers are sent on missions to bring food and drinks for those staying in the tents.

He explained to me that he and the rest had been out on Maidan for nearly a month and would be out there until August 24th, Ukraine’s independence day, because they don’t like the coalition that was formed in parliament and believe that their country needs change. They know longer want to be part of Russia’s sphere of influence and because of it consider themselves true patriots of their country.

Robert has plans to visit more newly emerging democracies and totalitarian countries around the globe – but blog journalism like this doesn’t come cheap.  He’s looking for donations and, if you value quality independent journalism, I’d urge you to contribute a few dollars if you can.

Carnival of the Polly-kicking:4

Someone out there doesn’t like Polly Toynbee.  Actually, lots of people don’t like her:

Polly Toynbee is, far and away and without a shadow of a doubt, cyberspace’s premiere Fiskee. Some of us are grossly rude about her; others more polite, relatively. But on days such as this, when she returns to her favourite theme – we must be more like Sweden, and only one man from Fife can deliver this Utopia – a veritable peasant’s army comes crawling from every shack and hovel to take arms against this dowager Empress of the left-liberal media Establishment.

Ladies and Gentlement, the Carnival of the Polly-kicking, brought to you by the one and only, the ever-Swedish… Mr Eugenides.

Design update

I spent much of yesterday tinkering with the design of the site, to give it a lovely 3-column look.  It looks beautiful in Firefox. 

If you’re using Internet Explorer 6, however, it looks like a bit of a dog’s dinner.  The sidebar is still viewable, in all it’s glory.  It’s just at the bottom of the page, rather than at the side.

Ho hum.  I’ll take another look tonight, to see if I can figure out what went wrong.

New look

If you aren’t reading this through an RSS feed, you’ll notice that the vSlider theme that has been this blog’s public face until now has gone.

In it’s place, I’ve decided to use the K2 theme, which offers a bit more functionality, and emphases clean lines over graphical style.

I hope you like the new look.  Two additions you’ll notice right away on the sidebar are a list of my recent del.ico.us links, and a list of recent comments.

Over the coming days I’m sure to be making the odd tweak, so bear with me if things go a little wonky from time to time.   First up, I think, is to find a decent banner image…

The English still don’t quite ‘get’ blogs

Stuart Bruce brings us the news that the Labour Party are following in the footsteps of the big US political parties – well sort of – by opening up this autumn’s Labour Party Conference is to bloggers.

[Labour] have announced this competition to offer an “up and coming blogger access to this year’s Party Conference”. If all that is on offer is “access to all the key speeches and events at Conference and you’ll be blogging from the floor about your experiences” then it is pretty underwhelming.

Hmmm.  I think I’ll enter anyway.  If only to make snarky comments about how out of touch with the modern world most British politicians are.

Oh, and while I’m on a “they don’t understand us” rant… I watched Newsnight on the BBC last night – they were talking about how the blogosphere broke the story of those doctored photos of the Lebanon conflict.   Only, it wasn’t “bloggers” who did it – it was “internet bloggers”.

New York Times gets a facelift

The New York Times has launched its redesigned website, and its now packed with snazzy new (well, they were new a couple of years back) ideas, such as lists of most blogged stories. They’ve also made the site wider, after taking note of the fact not many people still have 800×600 monitors.
nytimes.jpgAnil Dash, from Six Apart (they of Movable Type and Typepad fame) thinks the new design shows that the NY Times have been learning from bloggers, not just because of the content innovations, but because of their design “aesthetic” – mainly lots of white space.

I have to say that “it looks like a blog” wasn’t the first thing that sprang to mind when I saw the new site. Instead, I was surprised by how much more like the New York Times print edition. One big picture to give focus, with the lead stories of the day arrayed around it.

Which, actually, in my book is a good thing. I know we are supposed to use they web in new and exciting ways. But, in all my time, I’ve never really found a website that, for front page design, has bettered the humble print newspaper.

A problem with ministerial blogging

Just been looking at David Miliband’s blog, where he defends his decision to make his blog a ‘ministerial’ site, and defends the high cost of setting it up – a stonking six grand.

I really don’t see it as a ‘scrounge off the taxpayer’; much of my professional life is ‘Ministerial’, paid for by the taxpayer, and part of that has to be about engaging with people, and this helps me do that.

In theory, I don’t really have a problem with spending a decent amount of money to customise a blog, to make sure it fits in with the ministerial webpage.  Image is all important in politics, and we (the blogging community) would have crucified the poor guy if he’d have turned up with a bog standard wordpress or movable type template.

But two related things I wonder about:

  • Ministers move from Ministry to Ministry quite a lot, at the whim of Prime Ministers.
  • It costs six thousand pounds to integrate a blog with a Ministry website.

So, just how many times will David Miliband’s blog consume six thousand pounds of taxpayers money over his political career?