The long and winding Road to Surfdom

Amidst all the euphoria of the history that has unfolded in the United States over the last 48 hours, the Australian blogosphere has lost a titan; Tim Dunlop has decided to pull the plug on The Road to Surfdom. When I first started blogging, some five years or so ago now, the Australian blogosphere was – with a few notable exceptions – a very different place. The Road to Surfdom was one of the two or three blogs out there doing the rounds that made me think – “yes, this blogging caper can work, and yes, it can mean something”. Indeed, I am sure that The Road to Surfdom has meant a lot to quite a lot of people over the last several years.

In short, Tim was one of those select few who blazed the trail of Australian political blogging.

These sorts of events do lead one to engage in a bit of introspection about the media situation we find ourselves in today, as Mark at Larvatus Prodeo has exemplified with his thoughtful post. I wonder if it is fair to say that the Australian political blogosphere is in a healthier state today than it was five years ago, or whether the reverse is true? Political blogs in the United Kingdom and particularly the United States have achieved quite a lot of significant things. By comparison, there is still some question mark out there as to the extent that Australian political bloggers have managed to “cut through” and make a tangible difference to the political environment.

To be honest, I think we just might have gone backwards. Online mainstream media outlets like News Limited have entered the blogosphere like paralytics into a rock concert, launching all of their op/ed columnists into the world of blogging whether they liked it or not. Let’s be frank. Although there are notable exceptions, like Tim’s Blogocracy, most of these efforts have been an abuse of the term “blog” at best, and an embarrassing train wreck of incomprehensibility at worst. Blogging is not about some op/ed columnist writing a column and then two hundred people leaving one-eyed comments on it. Blogging is about discussion. It is about community. It is about people swapping views, debating points and above all, interaction between the author and contributing commenters.

There are still some good blogs out there in the Australian political blogosphere, but to be honest there is a bit of a smell of staleness in the air. There’s a yawning gap out there that could be filled with something, but at the moment I’m sorry to say I am not quite sure what it is. Perhaps all these pockets of often brilliant partisanship that we have in the Australian blogosphere would mean a bit more if they were a bit more enmeshed. Australia has some great progressive bloggers. It also has some great conservative bloggers. Maybe if there were a few less drunken pot shots across the bows and a bit more collaboration between bloggers across the political divide, a blogging community could be built that really did make its presence felt in today’s seemingly infinitely distributed media world.

People love a good intelligent conversation between rivals. We love debates when both sides make good subjective points and make us think. I think we need much more of this in the Australian blogosphere.

7 thoughts on “The long and winding Road to Surfdom

  1. “Blogging is about discussion.”


    I was a great fan of Blogocracy because it was all ‘about discussion’ by many people of many differing views.

    Since the demise of Blogocracy, I have been on a search for an equivalent and just haven’t been able to find one.

    As I said once on LP and yesterday on RTS, they boring because the majority of comments are from fellow travellers and everyone is so jolly agreeable.

    The blog post is only a starting point no matter how good it is. Without a stimulating discussion tied to it with varying opinions it is the virtual equivalent of ‘tomorrow’s fish and chip wrapper’.

    I don’t know what the answer although I’m sure it’s not in the commercialisation of blogs, an immediate turn-off for me and goes against what I see the Internet as (for everything on the ‘Net that costs money, there are tens or hundreds of free stuff that is as good or better).

    Despite the criticism of MSM on blogs, what blog doesn’t feed of it?

  2. Indeed – I think your points on discussion and fellow travellers align with what I am talking about.

    You’re also right that there is a completely symbiotic relationship between blogs and the MSM. I am not sure this in itself is a bad thing, but on the other hand I do think we in the Australian political blogosphere probably riff on topics raised by the MSM a bit too much. Successful independent media outlets tend to set their own agenda rather than relying on other media outlets for oxygen.

  3. Symbiosis between the ‘sphere and MSM is the main danger to blogging, per se. Providing blogging remains a watch-dog of the MSM, and not just another reiteration of it, then symbiosis has some validity. Of course, I do not regard, in any way, shape or form, the op-ed columnist as the bosses blogger to be blogging by any description.

  4. Yeah, I think you’re right there Niall – there is such thing as a healthy symbiosis between the MSM and the blogosphere. Much depends on the nature of the relationship . The “who watches the watchers” question is just as valid and important a question as it has ever been, if not moreso.

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