Bloggers never say how many hits they get, any more than Casanovas put a figure on the number of their conquests, or bankers boast about their take-home pay
This must change.
However much I enjoy making vulgar jokes about environmentalists and others, I’m in this for a serious reason. And I’m sure the same goes for every reader who ever posted a pat on the back at BishopHill or WattsUp WithThat.
Anthony Watts in the USA, Joanna Nova in Australia, Andrew Montford in the UK, have each been awarded the mantle of national leader of the climate sceptic movement by common acclaim of their blog readership. And it’s richly deserved. (I leave out Steve McIntyre, since I’m not sure that he’d want to be associated with such a beauty contest. He writes rarely about Canada, whereas the others clearly associate their scientific and journalistic investigations with the politics of their respective countries).
I’m a newcomer to this business – a footblogger in the climate wars – but I want to see us win as eagerly as any General. Which is why I’m offering these thoughts.
A couple of posts on the Discussion page at BishopHill initiated by ChrisM (the second at my suggestion) have been exploring the idea of a structured organisation to represent and promote the sceptic point of view.
I think it’s fair to say that the response was lukewarm, which I find disappointing, since I agree wholeheartedly with Chris that the idea of a proper structured organisation should at least be discussed seriously by those who count themselves as climate sceptics and want to see their ideas prevail.
But if, in the era of the internet, you can’t get more than half a dozen people to sign up to an idea, I think it’s fair to say that the idea is dead.
The alternative ideas suggested were: meetings down the pub (which are fine, for those not geographically disadvantaged) and a continuation of the internet route.
We all know how discussions in the pub end up. It’s only in the last couple of months that I’ve started to understand how the internet works. I’m sharing my perceptions here in the hope that others will share theirs, and we can come to some conclusions about how to proceed.
After years of fairly frenetic activity as a commenter on different blogs, both sceptic and mainstream, I discovered a few months ago that I had an active WordPress blog, with visitors. So I posted an article last September which I’d been mulling over for some time, and asked Andrew Montford to publicise it, which he did, resulting in 1400 hits the first day.
In the following two months, the number of hits settled down to a very satisfactory fifty per day, sometimes dipping to thirty, sometimes rising to 100. Then last week I asked Andrew for a second puff, and the number of hits rose again to 1100.
It’s worth thinking about what this means. Andrew has made BishopHill the sceptic site to go to in the UK, with a policy of frequent posts which often do little more than indicate an interesting article to read, an interesting site to explore.. The deliberately neutral tone seems to invite comment, and the threads are often more informative than the articles themselves. Is this deliberate? Behind the self-effacing style of Montford’s blog, there’s an incredible amount of hard work. If there were a Pulitzer Prize in Britain, it should go to Montford every year.
The other blogs I value most in Britain – I’ll mention Climate Resistance, Harmless Sky, and Omnologos (the blog formerly known as The Unbearable Nakedness of Climate Change) and beg forgiveness of the others – tend to publish less frequently and develop an argument in depth. For this reason comments are less numerous and more reflective.
It’s clear that both kinds of blogs (the press agency providing hourly news bites, and the review providing analysis) are equally necessary. It’s equally clear that the press agency kind is more successful in getting hits. (Though Maurizio Morabito at Omnologos announced 20,000+ hits after his success in identifying the BBC 28 recently).
I summarised my feelings about these blogs a couple of years ago in a comment at BishopHill:
I regularly visit all the British sceptical blogs, since – much as I’d like to see more of Donna Laframboise and Joanna Nova – one really needs to spend time with one’s own folk to understand what’s going on. I love the way each blog has its own feel to it. Bishop Hill is obviously the town’s main pub, with a noisy crowd, discreetly animated by an extremely tolerant landlord. After a few pints there, I’ll stroll across to Omniclimate, where Maurizio serves an excellent caffé stretto, and the atmosphere is more cosmopolitain and cerebral. Then I pop into Harmless Sky, my favourite old fashioned club, where the armchairs are comfortable and the conversation is too relaxed to ever comes to a conclusion. I usually finish at Climate Resistance, which is frankly more like an old-fashioned reference library, with long periods of silence, and earnest paper rustling from the old hands. (Chez Shub is on my visit list, and I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone here). Finally, when I’m feeling strong enough, I’ll pop into the Guardian’s basement BierKeller, KommentmachtFrei, where I’ll signal wildly to Latimer across the teeming throng, receive a couple of broken bottles in the face from angry trolls, and retire to Casualty. And that’s my Saturday night.
That’s how I saw my time wasted on sceptical blogs two years ago – an amusing pastime. But one of the serious points I was making then, and which seems to be confirmed by subsequent events, is that winning the argument is not enough. However many emails emerge, however biassed the BBC and the mainstream press are revealed to be, we are no nearer to getting a hearing, let alone winning the argument.
Yes, we’ve had our successes, even though no-one knows about them but ourselves, and that knowledge is almost entirely limited to the internet. Tony Newbery and Maurizio Morabito’s work on the BBC 28 is only the latest in a long line of “we told you so” moments, when a few thousand sceptics have ben able to pat themselves on the backs for being right and, in the case of Tony and Maurizio and a very small number of activists, congratulate themselves on the hard work they have put into proving their case.
But in spite of these successes, we’re no nearer getting our message into the mainstream than we were four years ago when I started commenting on blogs. I’ve ideas about why that might be, and what to do about it. But before developing that theme, let’s get back into confessional mode.
Fifty hits a day, rising to 1000+ when BishopHill gives me a plug. That’s brilliant. (Even if some visits come from a rightwing libertarian American soft porn site which happens to favor climate skepticism). But a total of 262 comments for 7,500 hits – that’s not so good. It’s one comment for every 300 hits
What am I doing wrong?
It’s something I’ve noticed on threads, where sometimes I’ve intervened and stopped the conversation dead. Was my comment so pertinent that it rendered any further observation unnecessary? Or so boring that everyone gave up and went home?
Anyway, that’s enough from me. This is one of my “I’ll-get-my-coat” moments. There must be people out there with ideas about what to do and how best to do it. We’ve got this Thing called the Internet which allows me (and you) to talk to hundreds, maybe thousands, of people, and we don’t know how to use it. We know what not to do. Just look at all those hundreds of Green blogs, many of them professionally produced by salaried staff paid with government or supra-governmental funds, which get one or two comments a month. I want to open up a debate about how to organise action to transform our on-line bleeding into effective action – a continuation of the debate opened up by ChrisM at Bishop Hill. I hope the 99.7% silent majority will want to have their say.
And that includes my two readers in Palestine, two in Belgium, and three in Saudi Arabia.
(And trolls. Why haven’t I had any trolls?)