You won't care.The Political Weblog Project is a collaborative effort designed to encourage MPs, Councillors and other elected officials to communicate more effectively online via the intelligent use of weblogs. Elected officials who wish to take part in this scheme must follow these simple rules that exist primarily for your own benefit:

Rule #1 - You must own (or be ready to purchase) your own domain name.
Rule #2 - You must use the technology to engage in two-way commmunication
Rule #3 - You must fund/source the weblog with your own money or resources.

Those who pledge to follow these rules will be provided with all the necessary assets and expertise at an extremely competitive rate.

What is a weblog?  |  Why two-way communication?  |  Why do I need my own domain?

More politicians need to be using weblogs properly. Maybe you can help.

Main Page
Starting and Running a Political Weblog
Information for Councillors
Information for Members of Parliament
Information for Cabinet Members


manic AT bloggerheads DOT com

If you click on any of the 'Blogs' categories below, you will find that these entries have been individually backdated to correspond with the launch date of the blog that entry references (in order to provide a categorised and sequential history of these blogs).

 Blogs: All (31)
 Blogs: Campaign (2)
 Blogs: Councillors (Labour) (1)
 Blogs: House of Lords (1)
 Blogs: MPs (Conservative) (1)
 Blogs: MPs (Labour) (5)
 Blogs: MPs (Liberal Democrat) (2)
 Blogs: Proxies (20)
 Designers and Providers (4)
 Education and Seminars (2)
 Fighting Ignorance (6)
 General (1)
 News (2)

Starting and Running a Political Weblog: The Basics

What is a weblog?

A weblog is a log... on the web! Simple as that.

It's not an online diary that you have to obsess over every day as you detail your innermost thoughts, it is instead a valuable networking tool that works best when you integrate with other weblogs (of which there are millions) by opening the site up to two-way communication.

If you use the weblog format as a mere content-management tool (e.g. using it to put out press releases) you will not get the full benefit. If you use it as a namby-pamby "Look at me, I'm a normal person and ever so sweet!" diary and eschew a proper level of communication to back that up (in much the same way that Sandra Howard did during the 2005 General Election) you will not get the full benefit. Other bloggers will laugh at you or merely ignore you.

Using most weblog formats is dead easy. If you know how to type and send an email, you will be able to use a weblog without any problems.

You'll be able to change or update your weblog from any computer with an internet connection.

More advanced weblog formats (or even basic ones in the hands of a good coder) can be used to create not only a weblog, but all of the 'normal' pages you would expect on an MP's or Councillor's website (profile, contact page, surgery details etc.)

Again, with a good coder, you can take even the most basic weblog format and integrate it into and existing design (so you don't really change the site, you just supercharge it).

Typically, weblogs have the following vital aspects:

Permalinks: Every entry you make appears sequentially on the front page (with the most recent entry appearing first). A permalink is a link to that individual entry - because it also has its own page! Very important when it comes to search engines, but there's no need for detail here.

Comments: This allows other web users to comment on what you have said or respond to any request for confirmation, aid or information. These comments will then appear sequentially (like a linear conversation) under your original entry. Even the most basic weblog formats (like allow you to make this a 'members only' affair, but more advanced formats (like Movable Type) allow you to require registration and/or vet or edit comments before they appear on your website.

Trackbacks: Someone else who has a weblog comments on your post, not on your site, but on theirs. In linking to your individual entry, they will have triggered what is known as a trackback. An excerpt of their comment complete with a link to the relevant entry on their site will then appear above or within the other comments. Trackback is normally only available on more advanced weblog formats, but it's a feature definitely worth having (and yes, you can moderate trackbacks, too). Trackbacks are one of the main reasons why you need to choose a suitable/established weblog format - it's important that your weblog and others are able to 'talk' to each other in this way.

Why two-way communication?

Networking is the key. If you can successfully plug in to the 2-7% of web users who have their own website or weblog, then eventually you will build up enough quality inbound links to start performing in search engines.

But you will not be able to engage with these people if you do not allow for two-way communication. It's a small audience, but it's an influential one (see below) and this community will reject you if you are not open and sincere enough to communicate on their terms. Think of it as turning up to a cocktail party - with your Amway presentation in hand - and always talking but never listening. How far do you think you'll get?

So, let's leave aside the 10-1000 daily visitors to your typical weblog and look to another audience - that of the search engine users (i.e. 99.9% of web users).

A good weblog format generates flat HTML. You don't need to know what that means apart from this; search engines find it easier to 'read' (and they need to read it if they're going to include you in their search results).

A well-designed weblog also has some strong advantages when it comes to keywords. No detail necessary; all you need to know here is that you are not only seen by search engines, but you are seen to be relevant.

Build a good link network and you will become highly relevant. And this is where the really good bit kicks in. Stay with me...

If you make the local paper, you'll reach somewhere between 2,000-20,000 people who may or may not read the article and may or may not give a damn. That paper will float around for a day, maybe a week and then *poomf*... it's a fish-wrapper. If you make a national paper, you could reach up to 3,000,000 people who may or may not read the article and may or may not give a damn, but after a day *poomf*... it's a fish-wrapper.

And in both cases what you say will be edited and presented mostly in a way that the journalist wants it and/or his editor will allow it.

Publish this same information - exactly as you wish it to be worded - on your own weblog and it's out there for months. Years. In this time, a number of people who care about the same issue will type the relevant keywords into a search engine... and find you.

They will read your views and/or concerns and see that you've allowed others to air their own views and concerns (if you've done this correctly what you will have created is a short public meeting on a particular subject with full minutes). Trust; never underestimate its value.

From here they can help by offering vocal support, practical support in the form of useful information or - more crucially - physical support.

It is this effect - reaching a smaller but highly focused audience who care about the same things you care about - that is going to be your greatest asset.

I know of several people who travelled north, south, east or west during the 2005 General Election to help out a candidate they had encountered via the weblog community. You know how valuable these people are. You know how hard they are to find.

This system lets them find you.

This is why networking via two-way communication is important. It's not the weblog format that does this; it only enables it... it's what you do with the system that really counts.

Why do I need my own domain?

Let's face it; you won't always be a Councillor or an MP. You may get promoted, you may get ousted, you may retire. You may even get crucified by the press (and boy howdy, will your own publishing network come in handy when *that* happens).

And - if you're a politician for the right reasons - then no matter what happens in the future, you will still care about the state of your community and/or nation and you will still want to be able to share your ideas and views with the public... and get them to help you work for positive change.

What you will be doing over time is building a network of links. Links matter. Your best way to control and maintain this developing assets is to own your own domain name. This allows you to change the format or design of the site in any way you please (you can even move to a new host if you wish) and still maintain the value of all the links you will have generated over time.

A domain name is a home address that you can take anywhere.

Important Tip #1 - Don't rush out and buy a domain now. Get some advice first. You want to get it from a good provider who can ensure you get the most out of your domain name and take it elsewhere if you wish. (Some providers offer cheap deals that tie you into a package that is useless for proper web promotion, and they make it very difficult for you to move on.)

Important Tip #2 - Use your name. Your name is your reputation, and this is just what you're trying to build (even if you choose to do so rather modestly). If your name is Frank Giblet, then you should choose, or even - you should *not* use 'mp' or 'councillor' in the domain name. Also, you do not have to buy every variation of your name, as people navigate primarily via search engines. Build a good link network and you'll soon be the top search result for your name (even if it is relatively common). This is what really counts.

Important Tip #3 - You should pay for the domain and the development yourself. This means that you can say whatever you damn well please on the site (within reason, of course) and even use it during an election campaign.

Well, you've made it this far...

Well done. You're not much older and a heck of a lot wiser.

If you want this, we can help you to do it and do it right. We can provide you with all of the advice, tools and support you will need - and at a below-market rate.

Everybody who contributes to this project will be offering their services at these low rates because they believe it's important that our elected officials are enabled in this way.

You can choose any of the packages (to be listed soon) and choose any provider you wish to deliver that package. You may make this decision based on their experience, their individual design skills, or even their locality. All packages will cost the same, no matter which provider you choose.