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March 24, 2003

Tom Watson

Labour MP for West Bromwich East

Launched: March 24, 2003

Format: Movable Type

Comments: Yes
Trackback: Yes
Syndication: Yes

Development on Tom Watson's new site began on March 06, 2003 and he made his first post on March 24, 2003.

3 days later (March 28, 2003), former US senator Gary Hart made his first post. Previous to that, the only elected representative with a weblog (to the best of my knowledge) was Richard Allan who first posted on February 20th, 2003 and Minnesota State Representative Ray Cox, who appears to have made his first entry at December 23, 2002.

But previous to *that*, Tom had been 'blogging' (in much the same way as Doc Searls did in his early days) by doing week-daily updates manually via FTP. And behind frames (urgh!)

The Web Archive shows entries as early as 6th November 2002, but I'd need to ask Tom to get an exact starting date.

So the 'first blogging elected representative' title would appear to be subject to debate (mostly involving what constitutes a weblog; comments, permalinks, etc.) but there's no question regarding Tom's status as the first blogging Labour MP.

Tom's site has grown and developed over time and it earned him the award for Elected Representative in the New Statesman New Media Awards 2004.

The biggest problem has been with the extraordinary popularity of the site, initiated by the viral mechanism known as the Teens! page but mostly due to Tom's willingness and ability to communicate with other web users.

When MT users were still playing catch-up with comment spammers, Tom's site suffered from some neglect as he was promoted and discovered that he was to become a father for the first time. (I also have to put my hand up here and point out that - at the same time - I was too busy trying to get his boss sacked to keep an eye on the growing spam problem.) In this time, a series of comment spammers had their wicked way with many older entries, promoting sites and services that would make a grown man blush. A new version of MT and decent tools for fighting comment spammers soon arrived, but by this time, it was too late to battle the larger problem. Despite the blacklists and moderation tools that are now in place, Tom's site still suffers from occasional comment spam attacks that are so pronounced that the mere demand for individual pages where comment spammers try (and usually fail) to enter their spam is enough to cripple his server.

The retrieval of past comments (of the valid variety) and their injection back into the newly rebuilt system is a great big bloody headache to deal with, but we hope to get onto it shortly.

Tom can now use the popularity of his website to make sure his opinions and campaigns (and those he supports) reach a small but targeted and well-motivated audience. He has received support and useful information from a number of web users who have found an individual entry on his weblog via a search engine (on matters as diverse as RFID chips and litter outside LIDL stores).

He is also 1st for 'tom watson' across the board (some golfing chap with the same name used to dominate the first two pages) and one of the top search results for 'labour mp'.

Posted by timireland on March 24, 2003 5:02 PM in the category Blogs: MPs (Labour)


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