Friday 1 May 2009

LabourList: a turnaround strategy?

The political blogosphere has been expecting to see white smoke rising from above LabourList's secret location before the end of the month, after Mr Derek Draper told The Guardian on 15th April the intended to make a decision on his resignation (or not) within a week or so.

I have not been online for about 24 hours, but I know there are people saying I should go - but I think LabourList is a good idea and I hope to leave it for a week before deciding whether to try to soldier on, which is what I think at the moment."

LabourList has just about kept going, including guest editorships such as the unions theme today for May Day. MPs have stayed off it entirely (excepting one piece from Glenis Wilmot MEP) since the scandal broke. Fewer Parliamentary pieces in 'broadcast' mode could be a good thing, but the site can not seek to link office holders and grassroots voices if the former stay away entirely.

Clearly, whether LabourList sorts itself out or not is not the be-all and end-all of the Labour blogosphere. The idea of one authorised space was always a mistake. There is much to be said for 'let a thousand flowers bloom'. But the Labour blogosphere could do with a few good hub sites around which broader networks develop and LabourList might still try to become one of them.

I have already set out my view - as have many others - that Derek Draper needs to quit to give the website a second chance, and salvage something constructive from the work he has put in.

But that won't be enough in itself. Rather than simply replacing the editor and carrying on, I think that LabourList could use the moment to substantively demonstrate an intention to operate differently.

These are not the only, or necessarily the right ways, to do that. And getting some of these things right in But what might some ideas for a turnaround strategy include?

1. Advertise openly for a new editor.

Whatever the model of editorship might be in future, why not go so far as to follow basic good practice in filling a role: publish a person specification, ask candidates for ideas about the site, advertise it openly, and pick the best candidate?

LabourList could also build trust through transparency in how that is done and who is involved. For example, they could invite a Labour big beast who has the blogging bug (John Prescott or Tom Harris), perhaps teaming them up with a less inside voice with expertise on the potential of online politics - such as an academic with practical nous such as Nick Anstead, who co-edited the Fabian Change We Need collection, or a non-party voice like Ben Brandzel, who was Advocacy Director at MoveOn and has played a key role in launching the 38degrees progressive movement.

2. Become a more effective pluralist hub for Labour blogging

One of the more questionable strategies of the site was to make a virtue of antagonising other bloggers, while often claiming to speak for Labour blogging. The claim that the site was aimed at 60 million people, not a few blogging anoraks, entirely misunderstood the nature of online networks, and naturally played into suspicions that rumours of the death of command and control were much exaggerated.

An outreach strategy within the Labour and progressive blogosphere could help to restore trust, and develop some useful ideas about LabourList could best add value as part of a range of efforts.

While it is not a magic bullet, one possible tool might be some kind of editorial network which is not jam-packed with office holders, think-tankers from the party great and good, but which involves some of the more successful bloggers from different parts of the country. That could work if there was a clear sense of what they were being asked to contribute, such as helping to talent-spot of new voices who LabourList could help to project.

3. Build the community

It needs to work out how to deal with and draw a line under the crisis. The most effective way to do that would be to engage its own readership and community substantively, for example in shaping a new public editorial mission and policy and contributing ideas about the future of the site.

The recent ethic of progressive blogging statement could provide one possible jumping off point for a discussion.

As Rowenna Davis noted in writing about it on LabourList itself, these need to be turned into "practical, tangible changes" beyond the general principles, and to find out how people think the site could develop.

Of course, not every idea could be adopted, but being seen to respond to and experiment with some of these would be a good sign, and could help the site shift away from a 'broadcast' mode of communication through op-ed pieces, and work out how to make engagement and interactivity work. Being seen to be committed to taking good contributions seriously might also help to break through the issue of conversations being dominated by trolls and anti-Labour voices attracted by the site's high profile and notoreity.


Calix said...

All very good ideas and necessary changes, but what about the most simple and symbolic change? A new name.

LabourList will forever be tainted with this shambles, so in its place long live ....???? (suggestions welcome).

Mil said...

I always thought "LabourList" was asking for it - list to port, list to starboard?

But I think the concept needs to be broader before we give it a name. I've blogged a couple of ideas here:

Then there's, which seems to go some way to providing the unfiltered aggregating side of things I'm asking for, though not in an entirely automated way; I strongly believe, however, that we need to add social networking and community building to the mix for it to be sustainable. More ideas here:

I'm currently involved in beta testing a project called, which would allow for both manual harvesting of content and editorialised republication through embeddable "magazines" that could go on contributors' own websites and would be built out of the content provided by the same. I think it's a highly promising idea and has the potential to help to promote blogger individuality, generate agenda, create community and provide editorialised quality content in one package.

But then that's what we always feel about betas - they are everything to all men and women. We'll see.

Still no idea about the name though.

Just A Punter said...

The post that really got most comments was my one other than the obvious ones which were just a hammer at Draper who has made a complete fool of himself for the second time.

Labour need to get something done quick. I've now moved on from Labour. My post was a last ditch attempt to see if there was anyone left in the Labour party who had any sense or knew how to treat people.

The good thing was that even the labour supporters who commented realised that labour just don't care about people in my position. The comment by Liam Byrne was shocking not only to me but other Labour supporters on the blog.

In the weeks since I posted, I've probably spoken to 150 people who used to be labour supporters and maybe 30% of those were card carrying members at one time. Only 2 said they would be voting Labour again for the foreseeable future.

Last week I went on this protest. Not one person on the protest will be voting Labour again. To make matters worse, we marched to the Scottish Parliament and NOT ONE Labour MSP came out to meet us. 5 Conservatives, 1 Independent, 1 Green, 9 SNP and 3 Libdem MSPs came out. One Labour councillor who I believe was also a church minister of some sort came and he was openly and loudly heckled.

Labour's problem isn't Labourlist. Labour's problem is Labour.

Bill Quango MP said...

Why don't you just apply for the post you so obviously crave?
You couldn't possibly do any worse than Draper's Pravda, so why not.
Email Labour HQ today.
Tell them to run an online vote for a new editor on Labourlist, from a choice of acceptable candidates who have expressed an interest.
My vote goes to Hilton, but you have many followers too.
And it will give PoliticalBetting something to do too.

Anonymous said...

Sorry but the whole concept of a LabourList or Leftist blogosphere is just daft. The Internet is NOT a toolf for socialists and other dictators. It is a tool for the free man, the libertarian. These people can not be further from the claustrophobic, freedom throttling, holier-than-thou, left of centre.

Please get off the Internet. It was designed by free people for free people and can not be corrupted by Labour's evil, collectivist, politically correct morons. Honestly, John Prescott blogging is the funniest thing I've ever heard. And LabourList? LabourLast at the next election.

Newmania said...

Succesful bloggers eh .
The basic problem is that Labour supporters do not read blogs. Exploiters of them do
You are a clever chap and this is good application , but you are far far too left wing for the face of Labour going forward whether or not it knows it .Your socialist statements fill the interweb daily and your association with that imbecilic oik Hundal will not ,in the end, be a good thing.Imagine , for example the embarrasment to a US politician of such a connection. Look at the effect of his early career as a spouting sixth form lefty on Ken Livingstone .
If you want to achieve anything you need to be central Sunny just wants to be a media bore and it may work ( Christ that many years of doing nothing and you 'd hope so), but politically he
has already covered himself with tramp stamps