Sunday, 13 February 2011

Sunday Ramble, the power of the press and the church of responsible blogging

I really don’t believe web statistics anymore than I believe newspaper circulation figures, but they are something that interests me, looking at the various different web statistics for this blog it seems that around 500 people read this blog every day, another lot of statistics say it’s 10,000 people a month. My own rather limited tracking software is registering about 4,000 different ip addresses a month.

However you look at it the blog readership is getting up to the level of local paper readership and I feel that when I do something like ask the local council or a local politician a question that I am no longer just asking it for myself.


Reading Bignews Margate’s post http://bignewsmargate.blogspot.com/2011/02/council-pay-offs-what-is-truth.html it is obvious that the council are beginning to think along similar lines when dealing with blog writers. This post related to a post on Thanet Star http://networkedblogs.com/dOFCu but the really interesting part for me was that the council’s senior press officer said. “I can confirm that the figures quoted in the Thanet Star article are wildly inaccurate. The facts in the article were not checked with the council prior to publication.”




This suggests to me that I should be using the council’s press department much more and that the council hopes and expects that local bloggers will check information, about the council, with them before publication


I did this with yesterday’s post about the Royal Victoria Pavilion and got a very prompt response.

The council have various methods of giving out information and being the council they do this in the most expensive way that I can imagine. With much public domain information their preferred method is to have one view it in the presence of a member of their staff. If you want to actually get a copy of the information sent to you, often the only way is a foi request and this often results in great bundles of paper.


This doesn’t just apply to obscure documents but applies to important general information documents like the contaminated land register or the notifications of licensing applications. Where the council do publish documents on the internet they do this on a verity of different websites often in a way that the information is impossible to find.

The simple expedient of insisting that all council documents are submitted electronically in preferred file formats with a proviso that they will be published on the councils website and charging an administrative cost for any that aren’t doesn’t seem to have occurred to them.


Enough of that, watching the council burn our money annoys me.

Back to the ramble and the local blogs I will start with Bignews Margate as I missed Tony out last week, something he pointed out in his post on Monday http://bignewsmargate.blogspot.com/2011/02/cllr-mark-nottingham-winning-here-and.html part of this is about the relative popularity of local blogs. I think if you used the number of comments on posts then Tony is probably in the lead.


Also two posts on the landlord tax from Tony, generally the landlord tenant problems tend to come up where the government is involved, there doesn’t seem to be that much of a problem where working people are renting and when problems do happen the landlord is often the villain.




Here in Thanet the problem seems mostly to occur where the government are paying the rent via housing benefit and a maze of housing associations with government funding mean that the landlord is often the government too.


This seems to have produced a degree of social engineering with ghettos of deprivation and an almost impossible situation for some private landlords, since housing benefit is paid directly to even the worst of tenants.

At the other end of the scale Tony’s post, that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this relates to the monies paid to the top council officers, the seven council officers who are paid between £1,500 and £2,000 per week.


I have already caused some trouble here when I did my post http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2010/03/thanet-district-council-pleasurama-and.html that linked to a page http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/foi/id17.htm where I substituted nicknames based on their weekly income.

Here in Thanet where the average pay is about £340 per week these figures for our public servants seem almost obscene, so anyway what sort of golden handshake does someone getting paid £112,500 plus £5,000 car allowance plus petrol plus other expenses per year, actually get.


The council say the figure of £230,000 first mooted by Thanet Star and then picked up by Bignews is wildly inaccurate, I for one wonder which direction the wild inaccuracy points.

Having coverd Bignews I will start at the top of the sidebar, with new kid on the blog INthanet or In2thanet depending how you look at it, the latest post there picks up on something I covered recently, that he pointed out to me in the first place, the inaccuracies in the power output from a proposed solar energy site, in a council press release, see http://in2thanet.blogspot.com/2011/02/error-or-mis-information.html


Putting my engineering hat on for a mo, I would expect the average power output from this site based on the 4.5 MWp figure, which is what it would produce under laboratory conditions, (By this I mean with all the solar panels recently cleaned and working at peak efficiency, pointing directly at the sun, on a sunny day.) to be about 1 MW and not the figure in the council’s press release that is 4,500 times larger.

Even with the council’s slightly warped view of Thanet, where the sun always shines night and day and never moves in the sky the figure they produced is still 1,000 times larger than it should be.


From a planning perspective I suppose if solving the energy crisis is ever grounds for planning consent, then the best use of the land for that purpose ought to be a consideration.




The rest of the blog http://in2thanet.blogspot.com/ is well worth a look and in terms of popularity it is slowly climbing my list based my own rather primitive technology, it seems that more people are looking there now, than are looking to see if Mark Nottingham has posted another revelation and then deleted it.



Blog post of the week has to go to Councillor Ken Gregory and his post in support of Hosni Mubarak http://villagevoices.blogspot.com/2011/02/egyptian-democracy.html it has to be recommended, both for its literary clarity and as an indicator of Thanet’s political future.


Assuming Ken is elected in May, pretty much a forgone conclusion I would think, we can expect a flowering of local democracy in Thanet, as his more radical ideas take hold.


Staying with Conservative councillor bloggers, Simon Moores on Thanet Life has a post about blogging, the press, democracy and everything http://birchington.blogspot.com/2011/02/itson-weblog-so-it-must-be-true.html

Simon produces a mixture of university level posts and more accessible items and as the Conservative group press spokesman is truly Metreonic, jumping from Acta Diurna, to Notizie scritte, as he does. Sorry about that, I failed my eleven plus and just wanted to show that I could write something incomprehensible to those of you who haven’t discovered Google.
Far from being patronising, Simon makes the self deprecating point that he too gets a bit carried away with the importance of his own blog. One thing I like about Simon is that he is bright enough to tease a bit and usually takes it in good spirit.

But he like me seems to be walking around the interesting landscape, of where blogs stand in the pecking order of media, and he has some interesting thoughts on this.
But in all of this there is a fundamental question based on fact, to explain what I mean here I had better put the facts before the question. Soon I will find some imagines paste this text, a hurried bit of touch typing - done between commitments relating to children and family life - between the pictures publish it to the web and read it to see if it makes sense, well that’s one reader.

Over the next 24 hours the webpage containing this post will be opened about 700 times by about 400 ip addresses most of which represent individual readers, they will on average spend enough time with the page open to read it. Of course I can’t tell if any of them actually read what I said, unless they comment and even then in some cases this may be doubtful. But the question is when I ask the council, or some other organisation, a question that relates to something I am going to write on this blog, should they see me as an individual, or as representing the people who read what I write here?
A quick glance at what I wrote last week, Monday’s post being about mobile internet phones, the main point of this being that this is now very much cheaper than it used to be and at about £80 for a year including equipment costs, it represents the most economical way to a personal internet connection.

Entry level costs for connecting to the internet are very important, particularly for those on low incomes, being able to send and receive emails could be the difference between getting a job and not getting one.
The Margate Football Club development post, I hope was to some degree responsible for a written statement from the council saying that there will be public consultation about this development and I hope this will put people minds at rest regardless of whether they are for or against the development.

The Roger Gale and excluding the press from his meeting with Thanet College students was a rather bizarre post this week, I was interested in the mechanics of it as much as anything else. By this I mean, how does he arrange it? Does he just have to say to the college, no press on site today? Perhaps it is more complicated, I won’t come if you don’t ban the press sort of thing and interestingly where would this leave a blogger like me who happened to be there and decided to write about his exchange with the students? Perhaps he moves in a sort of aura of divine arrogance, the trouble is that after the expenses scandal, I will always think of him as TV Gale.

And yes I did ask his office for some sort of comment on excluding the press, no reply, not even an acknowledgment, just in case you are one of his constituents reading this.


The tragic post this week I think is my one about the Pavilion, this is a case of a large and wealthy company making profits out of gambling, destroying one of Ramsgate’s tourist and historical assets. I can’t see the local press making much fuss about this one because of the advertising revenue involved.
I can't see the council taking a HOOT approach to the issue and frankly I expect that Rank’s lawyers are more expensive than the council’s. I wonder if the Turner Contemporary building will be in a similar position in 100 years, trashed with its windows boarded up I mean.
Historical note now these pictures down at the bottom of this post are of Princess Louise opening the Royal Victoria Pavillion in 1904, a long way away from what we have now.
The other royal pavilion I know of is at Brighton admission about a tenner or family ticket £25 perhaps the council should consider the economics of this and borrow some money to sort it out so it makes some money. I believe the concept is called capitalism.
I will probably ramble on a bit more



7 comments:

  1. You just keep on going, it's an invaluable feature that you provide and one that gets directly to the issues at hand.
    The council must hate the fact that an issue can be raised,debated and decided by the electorate without their spin being involved.

    Long may you stay at the forefront!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Michael, Thank you for the splendid old pictures of the Royal Victoria Pavilion.

    The Ramsgate (Heritage Regeneration) Trust Ltd are still pursuing grant funding for renovation of this magnificent building into a community facility and hopefully a winter ice rink, but grant funding is not easy at present.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ken

    That woulod be the most brilliant idea and an excellent use for this important building.
    Could they get anything from the Lottery?

    ReplyDelete
  4. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    ReplyDelete
  5. Have just read Ken Gregory's post. The 7% he quoted put me in mind of a local election turnout

    ReplyDelete
  6. Rick sorry these long comments way off thread and mentioning peoples names in a way may or no be libellous deleted, your own blog at your own risk please.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "Assuming Ken is elected in May, pretty much a forgone conclusion", Michael you need to take a close look at what the voters did in St Peters in 2007, it will only take 2UKIP candidates to stand and who knows what will happen. It seems to me that we risk having a hung council. In May 2007 the state of the parties nationally was C38,L34,LD15 and todays poll in the Times shows C35,L45,LD9. If local voters follow the well worn path then 8 con seats are at risk.

    ReplyDelete

Please note comments that may be libellous, comments that may be construed as offensive, anonymous derogatory comments about real people, comments baiting internet trolls, comments saying that an anonymous comment was made by a named real person, boring comments and spam comments, comments in CAPs will be deleted. Playground stuff like calling real people by their time stamp or surname alone, referring to groups as gangs, old duffers and so on will result in deletion. Comment that may be construed as offensive to minority groups is not allowed here either, so think before you write it, remember that the internet is a public place, that it is very difficult to be truly anonymous and that everyone who uses it leaves a trail of some sort. Also note the facility to leave anonymous comment will be turned of during periods when I am unable to monitor comment, this will not affect people commenting who are signed on to their blogger accounts. When things are particularly difficult on the commercial spam front I may turn comment moderation on for periods.

If you feel that someone has left a comment that is offensive and directed at you personally please email me (link on the sidebar) asking to have it removed, you will need to tell which post and the date and timestamp of the offending comment. Please do not reply to the offending comment as I will assume you continuing the dialogue as meaning that you want the comments left there.