Friday, February 9

Podcast Bob, Podcasts, Blogs - The New Rock and Roll

Last one for tonight I promise.

(And on rereading this one is more like a Walkabout inside my head - it looks like a good long wander outdoors is in order this weekend!)

If the Outdoor Show meet does come off, it strikes me as rather karmic as I first met Podcast Bob whilst he was on the TGO stand at last year's show. I'd been an interested listener of his podcasts from early on and wanted to meet the man behind voice. And a very nice man he was. Tall, dark haired, a golden halo framing his face, followed adoringly by his raven haired groupies, but the the terrible things he says off the mike - it would turn the air blue (only joking Bob - and I bet you don't remember my face anyway) And anyway I though Brian Blessed's talk was very enjoyable.

Whoops- that's lost you lot. Right back to the plot......

Bob's last few podcasts have been noticeably introspective, chatting to his fellow walking podcasters across the globe. A period of consolidated thinking from Bob during these long winter nights possibly?

The piece with Bob Butler from Trailcast went off into some blue sky thinking about the potential future with TV programming in the UK, a conversation which has come back to me a couple of times since I heard it, further triggered by Whitespider1066's thought on press passes for us humble walking bloggers.

I was first amused by WD's attempt, then hopeful (saves the entry fee - i'm all for that) and then more thoughtful. What are we bloggers and podcasters?

I don't really hold with the current "new rock and roll" theory that some journalists periodically try to attach to blogging.

There have been more than a few book contracts flying around recently trying to convert good blogs into a paper format, but the ones I've leafed through haven't struck me as that inspiring. After all most of the blogs that did hold my interest I've already read on-line, or I wasn't interested in anyway. Either way why buy the book? It says something that the first two were based on female/sexuality blogs. Things don't change in the marketing world it seems.

No, I blog because I have something to say, something to share, and hopefully communicate with others with a similar interest whatever their level of experience. Yes - sometimes it's a drag. Often the topics are hard to find. But the day it becomes a chore I stop posting until I feel the urge to get going again. The site stats and comments can be a buzz at times, but it's not the reason I keep posting.

But back to the topic - blogging rock n roll.

Blogging across the world has been welcomed, or revilled in some cases, as an opportunity for everyone to have a voice outside the establishment. Sometimes that voice is abused for personal or political purposes, but many blogs just run out of steam unless they manage to find a voice of their own.

Which brings me to podcasts, vidcasts and blogs on the UK walking scene. There is a definite convergence here of a new form of 'journalism' and I use the word advisedly - I'm no journo, just someone who can string a few thoughts and words together in basic english.

We're not making a point, just out to inform, offer opinion, trying to keep it chatty and humorous. A bunch of friends who regularly meet up. So where's this convergence going?

It's down to you really. If you don't like the content you're more likely to stop reading/listening than if this was a TV programme. But unlike the TV you can respond, and hopefully be part of an interactive process. A bit better than the Reader's Letters section of a newspaper, or the rant that passes for entertainment under the guise of a radio phone-in. And frankly you can say what you want. If I don't like your comments as too offensive - they're gone, and so are you if you repeat the mistake. I am the ultimate editor of good taste on this blog, and intend to maintain it's integity for all its readers. I don't have to agree with your thoughts, but I support your right to express them in a reasonable voice.

It's not quite the ultimate democracy. Those of us involved, both content provider and users, are self selecting, either through our level of education, communication skills, access to suitable technology and this is probably the biggest drive, the get up and go to be prepared to stand up and say something. Or respond.

I'll stop there for the moment. This feels like I'm scratching an itch of something potentially much bigger.

More thought required. Hhhmm. No tell you what - ignore me for the moment.

Let's get on with the weekend instead! So what are you doing? I'll be reading far too much about bloody snow. Apparently it happened somewhere 60+ miles north of here. Didn't see any myself. I reckon its a government conspiracy to reduce global warming from too much car use. Or Derren Brown up to his cunning stunts.

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"I don't really hold with the current "new rock and roll" theory that some journalists periodically try to attach to blogging." - Nor do I, John. It's hype from jaded media, ever hungry for novelty.
Ah - the media, always looking for the next big thing, but seemingly bored as soon as they've found it

I'm old enough to remember when they reported facts, not opinions
Like Pepys diary, we're not really interested in the "took a snow day from the Admirality", but do want to read about him hiding his cheeses from the Great Fire of London.

Atkoman - yep its the little off-beat pieces that make the difference which is why blogs can be such a powerful media, or (unfortunately rather too often!) absolute dross

Hopefully the good continue and the dross withers
OMG what have I started? ^_^

But seriously I think we are lucky that so far the UK outdoors blogs are of a good standard, with just that whitespider bloke dragging everyone down.
Now don't have a go at that whitespider bloke. He's doing his best, despite his obvious poor start to life (i.e. using Livespace)
He'll work it out
Could be as Bob C indicated in his Wildebeat podcast recently the type of people this appeals to are by nature those that will make a success of it (well he related it to audience demographic but I've sort of paraphrased it a bit)
There is a lot of nonsense written about blogging and there are predominantly two reasons for this.

Firstly, blogging in the political sphere has taken off. In many ways what we are seeing here is an internet version of Private Eye. There are always journalists who have stories that - for one reason or another - their editors will not publish. The net is instant and therefore faster than Private Eye. Also, bloggers can cluster together around political views.

Secondly, many blogs - crudely - fit into the Bridget Jones content of the world. They are entertainment. Some of these writers are pretty good and we shouldn't be surprised that some find themselves in print - after all most of the reading public don't read blogs but books and magazines.

And then, again, there are those who's blogs may be a work of fiction from the start - are those blogs about high class prostitutes of women cataloguing their various liaisons true or fictional? My guess is that a lot of it is fictional from the start.

So, for people who want to be writers maybe a blog is a cheap way of refining skills, building up a readership and therefore a profile and attracting literary agents that way? I gather than in the music world these days A&R people are reluctant to sign up any new band until they've got over 1,000 friends on My Space! The bands are doing the early promotional stuff that the labels used to do.

And then there are the bloggers like us. Most of us - it seems to me - are city bound folk (or far away from big mountains) who use blogging to keep their hobbies alive during those times that they are away from the hills. We keep the thrill and the passion alive while entertaining others.

Bob has been amazed by the number of people who've downloaded the podcast that he anbd I did about bivying and tarping on Long Mynd. The attraction is undoubtedly that this was two ordinary blokes messing around on a hill rather than experts. After all if we want to see Ray Mears we can do so almost any night of the week on satellite or cable.

Personally I came to blogging for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to master the software for another project (not connected with the great outdoors) but which never come to fruition. Secondly, I enjoy writing and just wanted to write more often. Once I'd got the software cracked I thought I needed a demo subject. This was it and It's kind of gathered a life of its own.

But for us, I think, the joy and the pleasure in all of this is not about quality writing. I don't expect to see any of us competing with Jim Perrin in print just yet (sorry folks!).

I've always been suspicious of these claims that bloggers have too great an influence. But there may be something in this, even for us. My webstats reveal to me the Google search phrases that take people to my blog and it's fascinating. And recently I've had a manufacturer offer me kit to evaluate on the TGO Challenge, an offer I've politely declined.

For me this blogging thing is best if kept commercial and endorsement free. If it become too professional then it will loose its attraction. But this presents a problem for pitching other things - which might need some funding - such as podcasts. Bob and I were recently knocking around some great ideas for podcasts, things that we reckon we could easily do technically but that would need funding. maybe this will become easier as the blogging world becomes more mainstream.

So, for me, I'm happy as things are. I have noticed, I think, an improvement in quality. Just look at Judith Armstrong's progress reports on her alpine trips. I can see a book coming out of that one.

I occasionally try and write something that has a bit more literary merit and I'm pleased when people ask for the stories to keep coming. But if the mundane, gossipy stuff wasn't there I'm sure that the readership would dry up.

This brings me to an interesting, final point. As bloggers become more well known do they start writing with an audience in mind? I think that they must and I know I'm completely confused by the number of people who visit my site every day. There are times when I've just wanted to give it all up, but then someone (as if telepathic) posts a comment or sends me an email to say keep up the good work. And so I carry on but I am aware that in doing so this becomes more of a publicly owned exercise. It's rather like people who become personalities in cyberspace. They can easily find themselves dealing with problem behaviour from others that public figures have to take for granted (a much longer post needed on this perhaps).

And finally, I've had two pieces published in TGO during the last six months, one directly commissioned about the Challenge and the last one that was requested after a blog post on the same subject. However, I don't think this last category will grow; I think mags require a different level of knowledge and authority. During the same period I've had other pieces published - in completely different worlds; it is something I do regularly.

It would be nice to be able to write more frequently about the outdoors world. But this requires a lot more, time, planning and organisation and I'm not sure that I have either of those in sufficient quantity. I may - though- start putting some more thoughtful pieces and reports up on the site to complement the blog. But these will be sporadic as the main drive for doing them is still enjoyment rather than money. I reckon the enjoyment always makes for a better read.
Phew Andy, as I suspected you've had a lot longer to think about the drives behind blogging and its outcome [and hanging around with that Bob bloke is rubbing off as well ;-)]
You make a lot of excellent points and I must say from my limited perspective I'd agree with most of them, especially the enjoyment v money argument. The commercial aspect has never had cause to darken my brow, but it seems that's one area you've already had to think through carefully through circumstance.
I think this topic is one that I may return to. My original piece sort of took of on its own, and due to time restraints I think the final post was limited in the points I meant to get across.
But the response on this has been very interesting
I think one thing that Andy also misses is that often the vast majority of blogs are rubbish and of little interest outside of that persons family and friends (and maybe not even then).
Of the remainding, blogs can be split into many catergories. For instance you have the professional corporate blog that is used as a pr exercise, to the passionate enthusiast, and everything in between.
What I find really exciting about the UK Outdoors blogging scene is that they fall into the later, and as Andy says are used to help fuel that passion while not on the hills.
But what I have loved about all this is the high standards of discussion. There have been some good points raised in all this. And I don't think people deviate that much from each other on the issue.
I'd agree with that. Plus the general positivity that shines through, even when things don't go quite to plan. A general lack of egotism or nasty personal agendas (I'll exclude Andy's Innov8 to take over the world campaign for the moment - lol)
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