Monday, 5 October 2009

Phil BC answers questions about blogging.

Curious about the people behind the blogs and hungry for advice, I asked some of my favourite bloggers about blogging.

First up Phil BC - A Very Public Sociologist

Who are you?

I’m Phil BC, a PhD student living in Stoke-on-Trent. I became interested in politics at junior school, having moved from the right to the left in the 22 years since. I’m a trade unionist and a member of the Socialist Party.

Briefly explain your blog.

Officially: Sociology with a Militant Twist. Unofficially? An opportunity to mouth off on whatever issues that take my fancy.

Why did you start, & what keeps you motivated?

From the start I originally intended the blog to be more academic and sociological, but very quickly the focus became political. Prior to blogging I used to regularly contribute to the discussion list I founded, the UK Left Network, so I was already in the habit of screaming my opinions into cyberspace. It was inevitable my blog would be more of the same – though hopefully a lot more structured and coherent.

How I keep myself motivated? It’s difficult to say. Once you start writing regularly you feel a desire to keep going, especially if it’s bound up in your real world political activity in some way. If you stop for any length of time it’s much harder to get restarted – as I found out when I lost interest for a few months in 2007.

What are your thoughts on the role of biographical details informing how blogs are read?

I’m not sure about this myself. Does anyone read Guido because ‘He’s Guido’, or does he attract audiences because of the tittle-tattle he trades in? Not that you can entirely separate the two. I don’t know. Would any of my present readers migrate elsewhere if I dropped or changed my political affiliation? I haven’t a clue. I would hope not. Ultimately every blogger hopes they attract an audience because the find what’s written is interesting.

What inspires your blog? Do you have any blogging role models?

Political activity inspires my blogging – the problems of developing a socialist critique and strategy appropriate to the present day animates most of what I do online. As for role models, I hope I won’t be embarrassing anyone! To name a few – Andy Newman of Socialist Unity, Louise at HarpyMarx, Dave’s Part, Splintered Sunrise, Jim at The Daily (Maybe), Stroppy at Stroppyblog, Dave and Paul at Though Cowards Flinch – all of their writing is spot on in different ways. If I could write as well as them I’d be chuffed!

If your blog didn’t exist, which other blogs would fill the gap?

Tough question! When I started there were no Socialist Party bloggers I was aware of and now there are loads. I’m sure they would have filled the SP’s gap in the far left blogging firmament. On the strategic thinking side of things the excellent Though Cowards Flinch follows a fairly similar trajectory as I do. The Third Estate also does some good thinking outside the box.

What are you views on blogger tools (e.g. google analytics, zemanta, etc.) and are there any that you recommend?

I don’t use too many – I’m still too paralysed by what Eddie Izzard calls ‘techno-fear’, despite being an internet user for 14 years. I use statcounter and that’s it. Once my PhD is done I have a few plans for the site, but they’ll have to wait until then.

What are your thoughts regarding the popularity of particular posts? Are you ever surprised by what people find of interest (or don’t)?

It never ceases to amaze me how some searches end up on the blog, particularly those looking for pictures of women’s body parts! It’s always interesting to see posts detailing the minutiae of small far left parties attract more attention than say an analysis of the predicament of the Labour party or a look at a piece of research. Interesting but not surprising – debates on the merits or otherwise of competing left groups always exercised the bulk of posts in the UK Left Network’s heyday.

Who do you write for? Do you have a target reader? If not, How do you decide what does & does not need explaining?

I guess my primary audiences are Marxists and other passing left-wingers. Occasionally I do write for a broader audience and that sometimes gets picked up and highlighted by bigger blogs. There’s also a small number of academics who pop by from time to time. So when I write a post I have a good idea of who’s going to read it, and from there I set the level of assumed knowledge. Even if I’m writing about something complex I try and keep it readable (either explaining or linking to explanations of technical terms as I go along). See the recent postings of my old Masters’ dissertation or last winter’s reading of Georg Lukacs’ History and Class Consciousness for example.

Do you set yourself any format restrictions (e.g. length, tone, style)?

I’m very aware of TL;DR! Though it varies 1,500 words tends to be my maximum. I also always write in Arial. Style varies from piece to piece – it usually depends on the literary merits of what I’m reading at that moment!

Since you began blogging, have you noticed any significant changes in the blogesphere?

Yes, blog designs are much better! There’s more of an intersection between blogging and other social media. Blogs are taken a bit more seriously by the political commentariat. Overall quality of left wing blogging has improved and there’s more of us about.

Is there any advice that you would like to offer to other bloggers?

If blogging is an adjunct to your political activity then you’ll never run out of things to write on. Also just ignore or ban any trolls you attract. They can be the most awful time thieves.

Anything else to add?

Thanks for interviewing me!

... looking back, I wish I'd started blogging much earlier. It would have been very helpful to have blogged all my old MA and MRes lessons. The discipline of sitting down and forcing yourself to work your notes up into something readable for a wider audience is, in my opinion, excellent practice for any student wanting to get on in academia.


  1. Hehe, just noticed this. Nice job Kit. And no, Phil, I don't think you embarrassed anyone; Paul and I agree that people should worship us on a regular basis. We'll not insist on the lamb sacrifices, though, though we are quite partial to the pork chop.

  2. Yeah, just noticed it myself as well. Many thanks for the nod Phil (she says, blushing). I dunno about being worshipped but it does sound so cool.....