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A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

End of Week Two

A slightly later than planned weekly review … but here goes.

In order to illustrate how life has been in the early phase of this blog, as of today we have 22 posts published and 74 comments have been made in response. We’ve also achieved over 2,700 views. Things are going well and I hope the momentum (and comments) continue. (I’ll stop calling out those stats from now on.)      

Here’s what I’ve learned over the past two weeks:

Firstly off, the quality of the material going up on the site is far, far superior to the visual quality of the blog. In short, the contributions being made here deserve better – so we’re looking into how to make this site more striking, neater and better organised. That may require some finance, free time and planning… so I’m afraid any cataclysmic change in appearance is some way off. But bear with us, we are aware of this blog’s short-comings and we are setting about improving things as quickly as we possibly can.

Secondly, I had hoped to be able to select a theme for a week and to invite contributions – initially from political parties – to tie in with the theme (kind of like how a magazine works with its ‘features list’). But this hasn’t been possible to do. Party press offices are either under-resourced or are focused on lots of other things. So we’re going to have to adapt our approach (but we’ll continue to seek the maximum level of contribution from political parties here). At the moment, we have made requests for material from all the main unionist parties (UUP / DUP / TUV / PUP) – we’ll post these up as soon as they arrive with us.

Thirdly, one of the major goals of this blog is to create the highest quality of engagement possible by inviting the greatest range of contributions .  One layer of engagement is political, but I’d really like to see voluntary and community sector people involved here. As stated elsewhere, this site isn’t for unionists to talk to each other – it’s hopefully an opportunity to take part in a much bigger conversation. We’ll make direct contacts where we can, but if you are involved in the voluntary and communtiy sector please do contact us with suggestions for topics to cover, or suggested material to post up.

The week ahead…

  • Pint of Unionist Lite is planning a piece for Wednesday based around an interesting speech that was made to the Lib Dem conference.
  • DividedLoyalites is hoping to produce a piece on Europe.
  • WB Maginnis is toying with the idea of tackling unionist confidence (following on Turgon’s great piece previously)
  • A second piece from Turgon is going up later today
  • We have our first piece online from new blogger thefreshthinking

There’s more to come in addition to the above. As ever, leave a comment or drop us a line on openunionism at googlemail dot com

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Filed under: Weekly review

Review of the first week…

Well, here is where we stand at the end of our first week…

Issues we’ve looked closely at included: voluntary coalition and a shared future; education and the post-primary debate; how best to strip back public administration costs; the impact of majority weighting on power-sharing; our first Assembly sketch; and finally the unglamorous but necessary weekly workload of an MLA.

Overall, the eight posts we’ve uploaded have attracted 34 comments, and we’ve recorded around 1,500 views.

In addition to this, we’ve also attracted a lot of comment / feedback from people on the look and feel of the site. In particular, one comment seemed to exemplify the kind of critical feedback we’ve been getting. I’m reproducing it in full below and will respond directly to it.

Just some observations about the project… If the stated intention of a blog is to provide a platform for all unionists then why are the links to UK parties restricted to the Tories? It is possible to be a unionist and support the Labour party. It is possible to be a unionist and support the Liberal Democrats. Yet someone has made a decision, I’m forced to conclude on nothing more than the political biases of the people behind the site, to link to the Tories and not the other two main parties. (I’d question why? My cynicism answers immediately. But that’s for another day)

It seems to me idea behind this is sound. The execution on the other hand falls down. I would have thought that to reach out to as broad an unionist constituency as possible, the decision as to which parties / blogs / pressure groups the site links to, would be made after the site had become established, thus reflecting the membership, rather than making the decisions before anyone has joined, potentially defining (and I’d say restricting) the membership.

There’s also the complete lack of mention of loyalism. Like it or lump it the loyalist constituency forms a part of the greater unionist community. I hope that it is something that you will endeavour to reflect. While I don’t like comparisons our drawing parallels you wouldn’t see an Irish “nationalist” site with a similar objectives not having an Irish “republican” perspective.

Alot of this is fair comment – and I’m very grateful for it.

First off, a confession. I knew this would be an imperfect creation when we launched it. Our aim was not to produce a fully developed and fully matured site – we wanted it to be more democratic than that. Our aim was to launch and to create a community of people around this blog (contributors / commenters / viewers) and to ensure that their views shape what will become a continuously improving entity.

So in order to get that community of users established, we’re trying to get as many people blogging and engaging in the discussions here and in the shortest possible practicable timeframe. Therefore, this is by no means a settled product. This blog must inevitably evolve in the way it looks and sounds, and this will be driven by all who engage here.

So in direct response to the commenter above:

  • … why are the links to UK parties restricted to the Tories: We’re adding to those links. If there’s a blog or a website this blog should know about, then email us. But we’ll be adding to the links and blogroll all the time.
  • … It is possible to be a unionist and support the Liberal Democrats: much to the amusement of anyone who knows me well, yes i can say that this is perfectly possible.  The links and blogroll will reflect broader opinion.
  • … the decision as to which parties / blogs / pressure groups the site links to, would be made after the site had become established: Precisely our thoughts too.
  • … the loyalist constituency forms a part of the greater unionist community. I hope that it is something that you will endeavour to reflect: Absolutely. I have no doubt that issues relating to loyalism will be discussed here (we’ll plan it in).

In the short term, we are focusing on expanding the range of contributors here – and hopefully we’ll see the evidence of this coming through in the next few days.

Please do continue to email comments to openunionism at googlemail dot com

Filed under: Weekly review

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