Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

Blogging in bursts

The title about sums up activity on this blog last year. Expect that to continue. I wish I could blog more: I have far more ideas for blog posts than ever get written. But despite the demands of work I still really enjoy writing this blog, so worry ye not: the determination is mostly definitely there to continue with it. I’m still also trying to encourage the odd guest post, but it seems such others are even more pressed for time than I am.

And with that I wish you a happy (rest of) 2014.


I’m back

Howdy all! Or at least howdy to everyone still paying any attention. This corner of the blogosphere has been remarkably quiet these last four months, such that the use of the present tense in the title of my previous post (Why I write what I write) was starting to look embarrassing. Alas some changes in my personal life and general pressures of work had just overrun my urge to blogviate.

However, normal(ish) service should at last resume shortly, starting with a post that has been over a year in gestation and really deserves to see the light of day …

Why I write what I write

Happy birthday to me! Or, more accurately, happy birthday to this blog, which started with an opinionated post entitled Sustainability 3 years ago today. The blog has proved at least as sustainable as your average aid project, with 240 odd posts written since then, about 80 per year. Combined verbiage is over 110,000 words, and page views cruised over 30,000 some time ago (including email and RSS subscribers roughly doubles that). I reckon the average post is read by a modest crowd of about 250 people. As to why you read it, only you can say, but I can tell you why I write it, or more particularly, why I choose to write about the things I do.

Two dominant themes have emerged and slightly surprised even me with the frequency that I have chosen to write about them:

  1. I blog rather more about general development issues than I do about conservation specific ones.
  2. I spend an awful lot of time complaining about donors.

Both are outcomes of this blog’s basic premise: to put across the view from the coal face of implementing an actual community-based conservation programme on the ground in the tropics. Working in this context it is impossible to escape the critical fact that just about every single other stakeholder that one deals with is far more interested in economic development than they are in conservation. If you do not learn to sing to this tune pretty quickly your project will be one long and probably unsuccessful struggle.

It is also the context in which you live your life; when the electricity cuts out it affects you. When a government official is not interested in joining you in the field because they would prefer to be back in the office collecting bribes it affects your work, quite apart from all the direct impacts of poor governance on biodiversity conservation (elephant poaching, illegal logging etc). It becomes apparent pretty quickly that most solutions to conservation problems in the tropics have precious little to do with biology, and a lot more to do with basic economics and governance issues.

But in many ways, when it comes to implementing any actual conservation programme, all of that is of secondary importance. For if you have a well designed programme (admittedly a big if), then your principle constraint will be how much money donors give to you and under what conditions. So whilst moaning about arcane details of ever-changing reporting requirements issued by your (least) favourite donor might not seem quite as inspiring as all that glorious biodiversity, if you want to have any chance of saving that biodiversity then dealing with such things becomes critical. And if, by extension, you want to improve the rather disappointingly poor success rate of conservation projects in the tropics, then persuading donors to mend their ways might just be one of the most important jobs you could do.

As it is, most of my time I spend focused on more immediate issues, but occasionally I write a piece for this blog in the hope that someone, somewhere with the actual power to change some of these things is paying attention. The not-so-glamorous life of a conservationist in the tropics.

Ton up, tone down?

Dear readers,

This blog post is my 200th; in cricketing terms I have brought up my double ton. I thought I would take this opportunity to ask you: how’s it going? Not in the generic greeting sense of the question, but what do you think of this blog? What is the experience like as a reader rather than a writer?

My average post now gets read by around 200 people (a lot more sometimes, especially if the Blattman links to me). That readership declined a bit since I was more or less offline for 2-3 months earlier this year, but I am keen to rebuild and to keep the readers I already have. So please tell me what you like about the blog and what you do not like.

In particular I am interested to know what you think of the tone. I like to read the odd rant or snark myself, so long as it is well written and not too tiresome, so sometimes I deliberately dial it up a bit. I also like to use jocular idioms and the like to distinguish what I write here from the drier stuff I churn out in my day job. I am unlikely to cut that out entirely since if I do not enjoy writing the blog then I’ll just stop. Also sometimes humour seems the only way of responding to some depressing news. But I am aware that some people may treat what I write less seriously as a result, and that’s fair enough. Do you think I should tone it down a bit, carry on in the same somewhat varied tone, or (even) dial it up more?

Other feedback is also most appreciated. Just beware that it can be hard for me to respond to specific requests for posts. I am happy to spout my two cents on any subject related to this blog’s theme (I try to stay on topic), but I need an ‘in’ to inspire me to write something. So apologies to the few of you who have written in with such requests which have then gone ignored.

All comments gratefully received.

yours, MJ (blog age 2 and a bit)

Development blogging and the US election

I don’t think there are many American politicians I would care to meet. I loved Obama’s idealism, but, just like Tony Blair, he ain’t even come close to walking the walk on environmental issues. So I’m left feeling all Fox-Mulder-ish: I want to believe but final proof is always just out of sight, and you end up reluctantly concluding it always will be. >90% of congressional representatives and 100% of Republicans would seem to belong firmly in the do-not-invite-to-dinner category. It’s deeply unsettling to find Republicans would even consider electing some of those loonies to the White House.

But you didn’t come here to read my thoughts on US politics, so why the rant? The answer is not that I suddenly found politics, but that US politics, and in particular the race for the Republican nomination for US President, has found this blog. I hadn’t realised I touched on issues of much concern to all those Americans who lack even a passport, but not so!

‘Chet’, who shall hereafter be known as ‘the bigot’, thought that my previous piece on Homosexuality and development aid, has special relevance to the election campaign by Massachusetts’s former governor, and his “homosexual agenda”. The bigot attempted to post a comment under said musings of mine, linking to a piss-poor hatchet job on the afore-mentioned governor’s campaign*, with a series of probably libellous articles all under the enlightening heading: “MR for President? Read this First!” Hmm … don’t think I need to actually read any of that to work out what you’re trying to do.

Fortunately (unfortunately for ‘Chet’) he fell foul of my comments moderation policy, which vetoes all boorish bigots. If the comment was an attempt to create a Google bomb then it failed, because a quick Google search on his key phrase did not turn up the bigot’s hatchet job web-site. So maybe my comments moderation policy is far from unique. I’ve marked it as spam just to help anyone else who may get some similar nonsense.

On the other hand, I gather that the smart money is on Obama to beat anyone other than that governor, so, if I want Obama to win (do I care?), maybe I should have accepted the comment? All in all this is why so much of American politics suck. Everywhere else in the world, most politics is about the battle for the middle ground, but in the US it too often seems to be about who’s the biggest nutter in the asylum. I’m surprised they haven’t nominated Jack Nicholson …

Here endeth the rant.

* I shall deliberately refrain from mentioning his name or linking to the hatchet job website, for fear of doing the bigot’s own search engine manipulation work for him.

Greatest Hits

Another week, another milestones: this is my 100th post on Bottom Up Thinking (plus one guest post). Since I started my readership has climbed considerably. For those newer to my blog, but interested to know what are the ‘must reads’, I therefore thought I’d provide a selection of my ‘greatest hits’. Note this is not the same as the top posts on my most read list (which is highly dependent upon random eddies in the blogosphere), but a personal selection; included are some hidden (rarely read) gems that I thought worth highlighting.

One year on

Happy birthday to me! (Belatedly.) Not my real birthday, but my first blogiversary*. Since I launched this blog 1 year and 5 days ago, readers such as yourselves have been sufficiently interested to click on my blog some 8,500 times (plus assorted subscriptions), which I gather is not too shabby for a shiny new blog. So thank you for giving me the time of day, I’m privileged to have you as readers! And double thank yous to all those who have been kind enough to link to me on your blogs or on twitter and bring me new readers.

I could bore you with a whole host of other statistics that WordPress can tell me, but since they are of only the most marginal interest to anyone other than a blog’s author I shall spare you. Instead I thought I’d share some of my own experiences of a year’s blogging.

One perceptive criticism I have received is that of being overly negative. This one I could relate to, because I’ve had the same creeping feeling over one of the blogs that I follow. The author of this blog is also anonymous, and I think we share a similar conundrum; those good news stories we know most about, and would most like to share, we cannot since they would quickly unmask us. Another problem is that as someone who blogs in their spare time, I have to feel motivated enough to want to write. Too often this is because I am angry or incredulous over something and want to share my scorn in a rant**. There is so much in conservation and development to get frustrated at – too many things that it would be so easy for us to do so much better – that it is hard sometimes not to just let rip.

I’ve also been criticised for commenting on stuff I haven’t read through in detail. And fair play to those who have done their homework, but I think this is common in the blogosphere. To those who, from the best of intentions, demand higher standards, I would make the following caution. Today we lament that modern politicians often seem to have no professional experience other than of being a politician, and that this has led to a decline in diversity of political representatives, and to MPs who are out of touch with ordinary people. The same applies to blogging. I don’t have the time to check everything I write, and you should therefore apply the appropriate discount to every opinion that I spout, but too many policies and processes in conservation and development, especially by donors, are put together without enough input from the field. My opinions may not be informed by the latest research or economics analysis, but they are based on a long experience in the field, and I hope that from time to time someone vaguely important might just be paying a smidgeon of attention.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that most of  the comments I receive tend to be from those on the development side of things, which is not surprising because most of the blogs I follow are development blogs. Where are all the good field conservation blogs? And I don’t mean the tediously boring official blogs from various conservation BINGOs. I want personality! I want tendentiousness! But I also want a bit of economic sense (so all those deep green types are out) and I want to hear from other people working on conservation in developing countries in the tropics, not from where conservation action is effected by small but important changes to government agricultural policy which farmers will follow cos they want the subsidies. My blogroll lists a few conservation bloggers, but if anyone has any good suggestions to add please do let me know!

And with that I will bring to an end this brief bout of self-indulgent introspection. It’ll be back to the usual ranting for my next post, with just a bit more positivism if I can manage it.

* Yuck! What a horrible word! There has to be a special kind of hell for people who come up with such lexicological excrescences.

** Although I do, personally, enjoy reading a good rant by someone else as long as it is well and entertainingly written.

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