Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Guernsey Internet Watch

Perils of the Internet
Peter Roffey has an interesting piece on the Deputy Bebb remark that went viral, looking at "the perils of politicians using internet forums but behaving as if they're only talking to a small group of acquaintances."
In this case Deputy Bebb called locally born Guernsey people "inbreds". Peter Roffey remarks that he should have realised that "innocent joshing of a colleague, with whom he's probably on friendly terms, was bound to go public if made as part of an exchange open to all States members." Deputy Paint, however, who complained about it, has himself not exactly been devoid of prejudice: "After all, he's been pretty robust in his language towards non-locals in the past. Not long ago, on a Sunday phone-in, he told a long-term resident campaigner for better disability provision that if he didn't like Guernsey the way it was 'there's a boat from the end of the White Rock every day'."
He comments that "I only wish that Deputy Bebb had had the sense to realise that sending his response to 47 States members was very different to pulling the leg of three or four local friends."  It is a sentiment that one or two of our local politicians, and aspiring politicians, might do well to remember. To paraphrase the old war time saying, "careless talk costs votes".
Skyping Off or Skiving Off?
Guernsey States members have decided to allow themselves to "attend" committee meetings remotely by video link or Skype. Peter Roffey asks: "Is it a sensible use of modern technology, allowing busy members to be in two places at the same time? Or just a dereliction of their duty to turn up at these important meetings in person?"
He asks whether it really matters if they're not physically in the room, and are meeting in a virtual environment. He takes the view that it does:
"I think it does. While video conferencing in its various forms is better than no meeting at all, it's no substitute for real debate around a committee table. Particularly when discussing complex and emotive issues such as school closures, welfare reforms or how best to run our health service. "It's not just a question of missing body language or non-verbal communication. It's more that real debate, where policies can be decided and refined, relies on interaction, cut and thrust, and occasional polite interruption."
I tend to agree. If it is one to one, Skype is excellent, and you can see the person you are talking too with ease. But more than one person, and it all becomes rather disembodied little picture on monitors, even big monitors. Something is lost, the nuances, the physical space involved.
I suppose it depends what the meeting is all about. Meetings can so often ramble on, incessantly, taking an age to discuss anything, and trickle down the agenda with the speed of a glacier. For those meetings, a virtual self might be preferable, and who knows, if the technology advances, you can even have a video of yourself nodding sagely, rubbing your chin, scratching your head, while you can go off to the gold course, or down the pub.
But he does make a very good point about privacy. Who is listening in? Where is the security that someone, out of sight, may be within earshot?
"If a States committee was considering my application for a housing licence, or funding for my cancer treatment, or an appeal against my child's 11-plus results, I would want that done in total privacy. I would not be impressed if one or more committee members were in a hotel foyer - or even in their hotel room, with their spouse half-listening in the background."
Two local teachers who set up class blogs to interact with pupils and parents were been short listed in a national education competition. They didn't win, but did come in the top ten shortlist, quite an accomplishment. Peter Curtis and Jerry Thomas (both of Vauvert school) entered each other's work for The Education Blog Awards 2012 after seeing it advertised.
School related blogs seem to be quite a big thing in Guernsey, for example:
Then there are general interest blogs
A personal blog, with very much a recent history theme, some press cuttings, and interesting personal and charming stories that are not the kind of bad news you get in the newspapers. Worth a dip.
Tourist related, good stuff on Guernsey locations, well written.
A well written literary themed blog.
On the whole, there seems to be a huge amount of effort to get pupils at schools engage with writing blogs very much as personal diaries of what they are doing, and their interests.
There are really only a few political blogs.
Ebenezer Le Page is snappy, and does snipe at the Barclay brothers - "the brother's Grimm", "two vindictive old men" etc., with very short and well targeted little pieces, nothing long, just "Reader's Digest" size pieces. He also is critical of the editor of Guernsey Press, which seems to be getting fed stories by Kevin Delaney (according to him), and also of its coverage of stories in general. It is closest to some of the Jersey political blogs, but very different in tone. It is mostly focused on Sark.
25 Square Miles is longer, but very occasional, the last post being 2011! It's well laid out and argued, but no name calling, or mocking of politicians except in general non-personal terms - "incompetent sitting deputies who in all likelihood stand to lose their seats should the change cause a rush of able candidates to put their names forward next time."  I think we have some of those here too!
Ellis Bebb has recently started a blog
In which he says "Given that I'm not known for being a timid wall flower (well I don't think so anyway) and given that I get rather frustrated with people's view of the political discussions I thought it time to start presenting my view in the round rather than the narrow view that's so frequently presented in the conventional media". He is disparaging about the BBC, Guernsey Press and CTV for playing safe in politics. His own blog is by degrees critical, intelligent, informative, and well-argued. He writes well, and doesn't engage in name calling, and so far covers quite a wide range of local issues. And you won't find the word "inbreds" anywhere in sight! Definitely one to watch.
Deputy Ogier has a website but with blog like posts, on recent political news:
Post are not frequent, but there is one from September 2013. Well written, critical of aspects of government but in a constructive way - issues such as climate change, population policy. A very chatty style, reads well.
This blog is very much the Guernsey equivalent of Mark Forskitt's excellent blog, with a strong focus on sustainability, alongside comments on climate change which would warm the heart of Nick Palmer. Some of it is very much a cut and paste job, but it serves a useful purpose in collating recent news stories together (again like our very own Green Man, Mark Forskitt, with his "daily news"). A nice design, and tabs make it easy to navigate.
Is just a placeholder blog, one entry "Hello World"! Disappointing.
It is interesting that Jersey has a group of very political bloggers, but the same landscape seems altogether absent from Guernsey. I think that has to do with Haut de La Garenne and its aftermath, which galvanised bloggers onto going online - for the record, I started blogging in 2006, before that. But Stuart Syvret's blog, and the various "Voice Blogs" (although under "common ownership"), Rico Sorda's Blog, The Jersey Way, and Tom de Gruchy (alias Mike Dun) all seem to have taken their impetus and focus on Haut de la Garenne.
The absence of that from Guernsey has meant that their blogging culture is entirely different. Political blogs are few and far between, and tend to cover a wider more diverse range of issues than Jersey ones. 

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