Your VERY IMPORTANT blogger is quoted in the IT today…
I’m cutting and pasting for those without a sub…
“The blog community in Ireland is still relatively small, but its diversity and quality are beginning to attract a wide audience, writes Jon Ihle
More than eight years after the term “weblog” was coined by an enigmatic computer scientist to describe his personal web magazine, Ireland is finally having its first blog awards. Tomorrow, 150 members of Ireland’s 1,000-strong blog community will gather at the Alexander Hotel in Dublin to celebrate the best online commentary of their peers at the Irish Blog Awards.The timing is auspicious. For years, Irish bloggers have been waiting for their “tipping point”, an event that would push blogging from the fringes of the web and into the mainstream public consciousness, establishing it as a recognised branch of the media, like television or radio before it.
That point may have been the Dublin riots, during which Irish bloggers were posting real-time pictures and updates, well ahead of RTÃƒâ€° and the newspapers, instantly bringing the news to a global audience.
One blog was the first outlet to publish images, captured by an anonymous photographer, of an assault by rioters on two Asian shop assistants in Westland Row.
The story was later picked up by the Sunday Tribune, whose columnist Richard Delevan, himself a blogger, hailed the Dublin riots as the advent of “citizen journalism” in Ireland.
The near-coincidence of the riots with the inaugural Irish Blog Awards was pure chance, of course, but critical mass in Irish blogging has been building in 2005, according to founder and organiser Damien Mulley.
“While the Irish blogging community is small right now, the community outputs a considerable amount of work that is consistently of very high quality,” he says.
“Part of the idea was to get a wider audience, drive people to new websites and show the next generation what the standard should be.”
Although the Irish “blogosphere” in terms of relative popularity lags the US, where the most popular blogs such as DailyKos and Instapundit have readership numbers any Irish daily broadsheet would be proud of, Mulley says Irish blogging is marked by its quality and diversity. That diversity is reflected in the awards’ 13 categories, covering politics, humour, technology, arts, fiction, Irish language and personal blogs.
Ireland has yet to develop the blogging sophistication of the US, whose blogging lawyers, physicists and other subject experts are fixtures on the scene, but there are a few notable stars among the nominees.
Sarah Carey (www.sarahcarey.ie), a columnist with the Sunday Times and up for best personal blog and best commentator (or “commenter” in the blogosphere), started her writing career as a blogger, putting out opinions on motherhood and daily life from, as she describes it, “the end of a cul-de-sac in Co Meath”.
“My fantasy job was a column in a Sunday paper, but the blog was originally just a place to store ideas and practise writing,” she says. “Then people did start reading.”One of them was a journalist at the Sunday Times, who recommended Carey to the review section editor.
What impressed them was not just Carey’s writing, but that she had been doing it consistently for years, steadily building a loyal audience. She had stamina.
“Now I use the blog to check comments and see what readers like,” says Carey. “It’s genuinely important for debate, for listening to arguments you wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to.”
Mick Fealty, who runs the popular Northern Ireland blog Slugger O’Toole (www.sluggerotoole.com), which has been nominated in the politics category, certainly knows about being exposed to argument. His blog has been a sort of revolution unto itself. Bringing together disparate voices from the fractured narrative of Northern Ireland politics, including a “Catholic unionist from Galway”, Slugger O’Toole began life as a personal research project in 2002, aimed at “injecting some intellectual capital into unionism”.
Once Alex Maskey was elected lord mayor of Belfast, though, the site took off. Slugger has since blossomed into a group blog featuring a comparatively sophisticated level of debate, considering the inflammatory nature of its subject matter. Slugger’s success has made Fealty a frequent contributor to newspapers, radio and television both in Ireland and Britain. The blog is read all over the world.
“People are beginning to see how powerful this is,” he said. “Maturity was lacking in Irish blogging until the riots, but the power of networks is beginning to assert itself amongst people who didn’t previously count.”
What he means, he says, is that bloggers have to raise their standards, now that they aren’t just sitting outside the system looking in, they’re making a real contribution to public discourse.
“What we’re seeing is the emergence of a truly sovereign, informed consumer,” he says.
It’s no wonder then, that when Mulley found his original choice of venue couldn’t accommodate the expected attendance for the awards, Microsoft stepped in with sponsorship to cover the function room at the Alexander. PR companies have noticed blogging, as well, and several will be attending tomorrow.
Microsoft, whose new operating system, Vista, and next version of Internet Explorer will integrate new functions for publishing and subscribing to blogs, has shown a real enthusiasm for the medium, going so far as to encourage its own employees to blog.
In fact, it was the developer and platform group at Microsoft Ireland – all of them avid bloggers – who made contact with Mulley.
According to Mulley, this could be the leading edge of Blog 2.0: the convergence of blog users with more powerful technology for reading and creating blogs and a move away from personal commentary to more subject-specific blogs emerging from companies, political parties and other institutions.
As Mick Fealty put it: “The first phase of blogging is effectively over because it is now popular.”
A perfect time to deliver tributes, then.”