A bloke whose mum called him Kane doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously.
Hence Alf is challenging the findings of one Kane Hopkins, whose studies on blogging – and advice to politicians – has been aired in a statement from Massey University.
The statement is headed Blog doctor’s advice to politicians (although Alf is tempted to dismiss the bugger as a quack).
Politicians who jump on the “blogging” bandwagon to impress the voters may be wasting their time, says PhD researcher Kane Hopkins.
They would be better off concentrating their efforts on social networking sites such as Facebook or the Flickr photo-sharing site to show the public at a glance what they are doing, Mr Hopkins says.
Nonsense, says Alf (although he has confided to mates in the Eketahuna Club that he has been a tad unnerved by the Massey statement and its rundown on the research findings).
Hopkins is a lecturer in the Department of Communication, Journalism and Marketing and is said to have analysed the effectiveness of political internet web-logs (yeah, we call ‘em blogs) from the 2005 general election.
He has concluded that the time and commitment needed to create a successful blog does not translate into winning votes. He is now comparing that data with blogging around last year’s election as part of ongoing research.
See what’s going on here? The wanker’s findings about politicians getting no traction from blogging hark back to the 2005 election. He hasn’t got around to properly analysing the 2008 one yet, when much more blogging was going on than three years earlier.
And yet we are told:
“Blogs have absolutely zero impact on the outcome of an election,” he says. “They are about discussion but they do not tend to lead to a consensus on an issue because people commenting were so fixed in their thinking they weren’t prepared to be open.”
So how on earth does he establish this, exactly?
And how could this apply to Alf (for example), whose blog was established after the 2008 election?
According to the statement, this bloke monitored four blogs that either regularly discussed politics or, in one case, was written by an MP (Act leader Rodney Hide).
The other bloggers were Russell Brown, Jordan Carter and David Farrar. The four blogs attracted 3484 comments in 2005 and more than 11,000 people commented last year.
Mr Hopkins says the growth in comments had an impact on the quality of the discussion. “There was so much information to absorb that it becomes a barrier because the average person is not going to get a balance.”
He says blog topics moved from specific discussion around matters policy and tax in 2005 to lighter posts about personalities, such as Winston Peters, in 2008.
But Alf was heartened by the next bit of the statement, which – by the way – seems to be saying blogging is not a bad thing to do so long as you do a proper job of it.
Mr Hopkins says successful blogs, such as Mr Hide’s or British Conservative Party Leader David Cameron’s, can help build up a relationship with voters. But blogs that fail to keep communication constant or are recognisably not from the author can do more damage.
None of the second bit of those observations – obviously – applies to Alf.
Hopkins (contentiously) goes on:
“I don’t think blogging is an essential part of a politicians communication tool belt. If they do blog, they need to do it properly, it is a commitment and the information going out needs to be 100 per cent from them.
“Rodney Hide’s is almost like a diary which he has used to reflect his personal development as a dancer, writer and his public weight loss.
“But some blogs are used as a desperate communication tool, are too partisan and this undermines the transparency.”
Bugger me. A desperate communication tool? Too partisan?
Hopkins goes on to say it’s too early to assess the impact of micro-blogging site Twitter, which is used by the PM.
“Twitter is just breaking into the mainstream and has still not got maturity or the credibility,” he says. “It only requires 140 characters and is very much an opt in and opt out facility
‘It has exploded in popularity but its function is much more limited than blogs. While it is not an effective communications tool on its own but it can be useful to lead people to blogs and Facebook or other social media sites.”
But here’s the thing for Alf, who (as readers know) takes his politics seriously and is a deep thinker:
Mr Hopkins says blogs will be an important forum for people to discuss politics in the 2011 election. “It’s difficult to predict after 2011,” he says.
“Communication technologies are constantly evolving.”
So Alf won’t be shutting up shop just yet.
Oh, and let the record show Hopkins will have his doctorate in communication management conferred at one of the College of Business graduation ceremonies in Palmerston North next Tuesday.
Wonderful. If you get your doctorates these days by coming to the astonishing conclusion that communication technologies are constantly evolving, then make way for Dr Grumble.