Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Why the "Coulisses de Bruxelles" is not a really good blog

Something that is always striking me at Jean Quatremer's Coulisses de Bruxelles is that he almost never quotes other blogs.

In fact, over the last 30 "blog" posts (that is three weeks) he doesn't link almost anybody beside himself and sometimes La Tribune (see for example his latest post). How can you write a "blog" and not even quote others (which necessarily would be accompanied by links)?

If even Charlemagne is able to quote a blogger from time to time, why shouldn't it be possible in the "Coulisses de Bruxelles"?!

Blogging is about creating debates, about interaction, and without really reacting to others, writing remains a simple, one-dimensional activity as we are used in print.

In fact, the Coulisses are registered on Technorati, which ranks blogs according to their in-links, and it is pretty highly ranked. This means that other bloggers often consider what Jean is writing by giving him credit for that - while he is extremely hesitant to do the same.

I cannot remember that I ever became aware of interesting blog discussions in France through the Coulisses. It never makes me interested in others. It never seems to be aware of what is going on around itself. It might be a journalistic activity, but it lacks the spirit that fills the blogosphere.

This makes "Les Coulisses de Bruxelles" a well-read and appreciated website, but not a really good blog.

Update: See the follow-up post to this article on the importance of hyperlinks for the creation of a European public sphere.


bouillaud said...

That Jean Quatremer doesn't quote much other bloggers is quite easy to explain or understand; as far as I know, he is a fully experienced daily press journalist, working since the mid-80's for "Libération" and in Brussels since the early 1990's; his professional mores are in a way old fashioned. But, in the French press disaster of low quality and false neutrality, his posts are really of a great quality and sometime full of humour, even if he is clearly obsessed by some topics! He is offering in fact an "old style" journalism for free on Internet (some of his posts are the same as his articles in "Libération").

For me, this post in defense of Jean Quatremer is funny to write, because I'm not at all a friend of his ideas, but he is doing a great job defending his vision of Europe in the French context. If all journalists were of the same stuff... we'd more fun down here!

Julien Frisch said...

I agree regarding the quality of the journalistic writing, that is why I read him - and link him.

But quite often I have the feeling that he reacts to topics that have already been discussed in other blogs or on Twitter.

I might be wrong but it feels as if he reads them and uses them for his own writing without ever making any reference to them.

But even if everything he writes is uninfluenced by external sources, a blogger of his "authority" should make positive use of this status by contributing in building a connected European public sphere - in particular if he is a convinced pro-European!

Jon Worth said...

Julien, I completely agree. Quatremer is the same on Twitter - he just broadcasts, never interacts. There are plenty of things where there has been a vibrant discussion online long before Quatremer writes it. But I suppose as long as he's held up as one of the best French EU bloggers then he's not going to change.

Eurojunkie said...

I agree that JQ could quote more often blogs as everybody else is quoting him and he could say where he found his sources. However, JQ does interract on his blog and, rare enough for French, he does answer emails... So not completely "old fashioned journalism." Anyway, did you write him?

Eurosocialiste said...

Well, he is a journalist before being a blogger. And as a journalist he is supposed to quote "reliable" sources of information. And although bloggers are most certainly a source of inspiration for him, he probably doesn't feel we are "reliable" enough to be quoted.
But it's a good example of the gap between old school media and social media. One is unidirectional while the other is based on active participation, and as such much more horizontal.
Here's an idea for Quatremer: why not write a biweekly or monthly blog review, where he would give a little credit to the bloggers who inspired him? That would be good for him to as he would show how much he's on top of things, modern and open to society evolution.

Eurosocialiste said...

just found Reuters guidelines on how journalists should use social media thanks to @LB2S on Twitter: http://handbook.reuters.com/index.php/Reporting_from_the_internet#Online_Encylopedias

Eurosocialiste said...

crap the link didn't work, here you go again: http://tr.im/rILm

Jean Quatremer said...

Cher Julien,

Je ne comprends pas très bien votre post. En effet, je suis l'un des rares bloggers journalistes à répondre à mes internautes (je suis le principal contributeur aux commentaires) et j'interagis énormément sur twitter. Mais je ne peux pas tout faire.

Entre le journal et le blog (et mes activités pour la télévision, mes livres en préparation, les conférences que je donne), sans même parler de ma vie privée: la collecte de l'information, c'est un travail à temps plein. Sachez que je passe déjà une trentaine d'heures par semaine sur mon blog et twitter.

Alors vous me suggérez de renvoyer aux blogs qui "m'inspirent" pour créer un espace de discussion. Sans vouloir vexer qui que ce soit, je ne trouve pas mes informations sur les blogs, tout simplement parce que les blogs "européens" ne sont presque jamais fait de Bruxelles (mis à part le blog de Nicolas Gros, mais il ne porte que sur la défense, et bien sûr Charlemagne et le FT). Mais aussi parce que je n'ai pas le temps matériel de lire tout ce qui se fait et je ne découvre bien souvent ce qui a été écrit après. En revanche, je cite les sites et j'ai une blogroll conséquente.

Bref, il faut choisir: le réseau social ou l'information, mais pas les deux à la fois. Et si vous préférez parler de mon blog comme d'un site interactif (car je réponds aux interpellations), cela me va très bien.

Julien Frisch said...

Cher Jean,

tout d'abord un grand merci pour votre réaction, c'est fortement apprécié! Si vous permettez je vais traduire votre commentaire et répondre en anglais pour que mes lecteurs puissent comprendre la discussion.

(For those not able to read French, here a translation of Jean's comment:

"Dear Julien,

I don't really understand your post. Actually, I am one of the few blogging journalists who answers to internet users (I am the main contributor in the comments) and I interact a lot on Twitter. But I cannot do everything.

Between the newspaper and the blog (and my work at the TV, the books I am about to write, the conferences I organise), not to talk about my private life: Finding information is a full-time job. You have to know that I already spend some thirty hours per week on the blog and on Twitter.

So you suggest I should relate to blogs that "inspire me" to create a discussion space. Without stepping on anyone's toes: I don't find my information on blogs, simply because the "European" blogs are almost never written from Brussels (except Nolas Gros, but he is focused on defence, and Charlemagne and the Financial Times). But also because I don't have the time to read everything that is written and often I only discover this later on. However, I cite the websites and I have a a consequent blogroll.

In short, you have to choose: The social network or the information, but not both. And if you'd like to talk about my blog as an interactive website (because I answer to questions) this is fine with me.

Bref, il faut choisir: le réseau social ou l'information, mais pas les deux à la fois. Et si vous préférez parler de mon blog comme d'un site interactif (car je réponds aux interpellations), cela me va très bien.

Kindest regards,


See my reaction in the next comment:

Julien Frisch said...

Dear Jean,

The first thing I should mention is that in order to understand the reason why I have written the post one has to look at the date that it was published (30 June 2009):

At the time, after the European election, I had several times the impression (see comments above) that you were writing posts that either related to Euroblog posts or that discussed exactly the same kind of questions that had already been discussed in the blogosphere (e.g. around the nomination process of Barroso) without having new information.

I am not sure what exactly triggered the writing of the post, but it was in that context.

Considering that you write a blog that has all elements of a classic blog - posts with comments, your reactions, a blogroll etc. - it seemed rather strange that you never quoted any of these discussions, especially since your colleagues from the Economist, the Financial Times or EUobserver were doing this in their blog posts, at least from time to time.

And in June, you were also not very reactive on Twitter (as Jon has noted in a comment above) as you are now, so that added to the impression that you were not really aware of anything on the net outside your own blog.

But I don't mind that you have made the choice you have made, that is to focus on intra-blog interaction instead of engaging in inter-blog conversations. And you write brilliant articles (most of the time) that I love to read, so I am complaining on a very high level.

I also fully understand that it is a matter of time to interact with the general blogosphere in addition to your interaction on your blog and that your time budget is already quite consumed by your activities.

I just thought that, from time to time, putting your discussions into the context of the social network that surrounds you and that discusses the issues you write about - sometimes in very similar ways - would be inspiring and could also help to link the francophone blogosphere with the rest of the European discussions, e.g. around the hearings of the EU Commissioners that have been watched and commented by many blogs (and even people outside Brussels could watch the hearings live).

This is particularly important because the discussions in you comments are much less visible than your blog posts; your (inter)activity there isn't really visible unless one goes to your blog (but many read blogs via RSS and rarely will see what is going on below the level of your posts).

But as I have said above:

I appreciate your writing, and in principle I understand your reasons. At the time (in June) I just thought it was worth putting this up for discussion, and I am glad that you have reacted!

Therefore: Thanks - and kindest regards to you, too!


PS.: But you will have to live with the fact that I will still react to your posts on my blog (like this one on Ashton instead of writing it into your comments... ;-)

Jean Quatremer said...

Cher Julien,

Il me semble que vous faites une erreur de perspective comme le montre l'exemple que vous donnez sur la Commission Barroso où mes posts n'auraient pas contenu de nouvelles informations par rapport à ce qui s'écrivait ailleurs. Je crois que c'est exactement l'inverse: regardez bien le jour et l'heure de publication, et vous verrez que je suis bien souvent à la source de l'information, tout comme les agences de presse. Tout ce que vous avez pu lire sur la Commission Barroso, vous l'avez en général lu d'abord chez moi. Même chose pour la baronne Ashton: c'est moi qui, le premier, me suis étonné de son absence en Haïti. Ce n'est que le lendemain que les eurodéputés se sont indignés de son absence...
Encore une fois, je suis plus un blog d'actualités que de commentaires, ce qui explique largement le fait que je ne fasse pas référence à d'autres blogs qui généralement réagissent bien après l'évènement.

Julien Frisch said...

(Again the translation:

Dear Julien,

I think you're having the wrong perspective on this matter as you can see the example that you give on the Barroso Commission where my posts did not contain new information with regard to what was written before.

I think it is exactly the opposite: Look carefully at the hour of publication and you will see that I am quite often the source of information, including for the press agencies. Everything that you have read about the Barroso Commission you were reading in my blog first.

The same with Baroness Ashton: I was the first who showed astonishment about her absence in Haïti. Only the next morning MEPs were outraged by her absence.

Again, I am rather a news blog than a commentating blog what explains to a large extent the fact that I don't reference other blogs that in general react well after after the event.

Kindest regards.

Julien Frisch said...

Cher Jean,

as I have said: I don't challenge the concept of your blog in general, and I have no problem admitting that thanks to your sources you usually have completely new information in your blog.

But just to put some things in perspective, since I haven't been making my points clear enough:

This post is from June and at the time I must have had the feeling that one or several articles (probably around the re-election of Barroso) treated things the (euro)blogosphere had already dealt with before. It is hard to reconstruct this now, so it's hard to defend my point on this ground.

Yet, the rest of the argument was more a defence of blogging, linking, and discussing across blogs:

1) In your initial reply you said that blogs rarely have something interesting or new because people are not from Brussels, and I wanted to show you that many blogs actually had quite original material and perspectives when it came to the hearings of Commissioners, even if people weren't present in Brussels. But that was just one example on why blogs can be original sources of information.

2) I mentioned the Ashton debate because here you may have started a debate but you didn't participate in it. This debate was not about "information" as you claim the central idea of your blog but about "opinion" (or comment), it was about an opinion that you had and that you shared with the world.
This, according to your words, created a debate. So you didn't have exclusive information, you just started the discussions. And several blogs, including your colleagues from "L'Europe de la Défense" and "Charlemagne" reacted directly and indirectly to you with pretty well elaborated blog posts - with arguments and details that went beyond. I just find it a pity that you do not follow-up on this, especially when you sometimes blog in a very opinionated way and then you only look for quotes from the political scene that broadly agree with you while around you, in the blogosphere, there are discussions on the same topic that put things in a much broader perspective that you seem to ignore. How can you start a public debate (in a blog) thanks to clearly-expressed opinions and then just move on as if nothing happened in future blog posts on the same topic?

In summary, I am well aware that quite often you tend to have original information or ideas. Nevertheless, some of the topics you discuss (even if you add new information) have a pre-history or they become discussed in the wider blogosphere after you have published them - and not following-up these discussions just seemed strange to me when I wrote this post in June - notwithstanding that I understand your reasons for not doing that.

Best wishes,


Jon Worth said...

An interesting discussion back and forth...

As for bloggers being based in Brussels - there might be few in French, but there are a number in English. Plus the notion that blogs written from outside Brussels do not count is a rather arrogant one.

Secondly, Jean's posts are often rather long precisely because a story has to be recounted right from scratch. A link to a relevant post on another blog - something that told the story up until now - could do the job just as well.

I also agree with Julien in terms of who gets to things first - there have been a number of times when issues have been widely aired on blogs (mostly English speaking EU blogs it must be said) and then appear on Coulisses de Bruxelles.

So 5 minutes a day keeping an eye on the RSS feeds of a core 20 EU blogs could give Jean plenty of new ideas and save some time too.