Where to from here for The Political Sword?

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Sunday, 15 September 2013 17:17 by Ad astra
There are pivotal points in the lives of all of us, no less in the life of a political blog. The Political Sword has reached such a pivotal point.

Last Friday The Political Sword had its fifth birthday. The previous Saturday, Labor lost government. Among many who blog here, that was a great disappointment. The long road back to government for Labor lies ahead. They were pivotal points.

Moreover, key players in the life of this blog seek to take a different direction. Last week, Lyn, whose links have attracted thousands of regular visitors every day, decided to take a break. She has now decided to retire permanently from this very time-consuming and onerous task. For my part, I wish also to take a permanent break.

The Political Sword has been sustained over the years by the loyalty and contributions of a growing number of commenters, now over four hundred, and the visits of thousands of ‘lurkers’ who never comment but who visit regularly, thereby keeping the traffic through the site running at a consistently high level. They come to read Lyn’s Daily Links, the weekly pieces I write, the occasional guest authors’ offerings, and the many, many well-informed comments that run into the hundreds for every piece.

The constancy of the contribution of daily links, and of writing weekly pieces that often run to three thousand words with numerous references and links, has taken its toll on Lyn and me. We have spouses and families, and many other things we would like to do. Our commitment to The Political Sword has made other commitments and other pursuits almost impossible. We have done our bit to promote and support the values that progressives hold, but it’s time for a change. More of that later.

Some background may be of interest to those of you who have not been with us from the beginning.

During the final six years of my medical career I was editor of an Internet site that provided medical information to a worldwide audience of family doctors. That experience gave me insight into how such sites work, and the elements of HTML programming. In the year I retired from that, Kevin Rudd became Opposition Leader and the hope of Labor replacing the Howard Government became a reality. Being a Labor supporter, this excited my interest, and heightened my desire to write on matters political.

Even as far back as 2007 it was so obvious that journalists in the Fourth Estate were afflicted by groupthink, that this was the subject of my first blog piece: Is the media in Australia suffering from groupthink?. Having nowhere to publish it, I sent it to Possum Comitatus seeking advice as to how I might have it published. He kindly offered to post it as the first piece on his blogsite Possum Box, which he did on 14 June 2008. I will always be grateful to Possum for giving me a start in the Fifth Estate.

I was encouraged when the piece attracted over thirty comments, one of which was from janice, whom you all know is still a regular contributor to TPS. Subsequently, Possum published another three of my pieces, on Kevin Rudd and the media, on an emissions trading scheme, and on adversarial politics.

By then I was thinking that it would be appealing to have my own blogsite. My son-in-law, Web Monkey, set me up with this off-the-shelf freebie, BlogEngine.NET, which has served us very well since it began on 13 September 2008. He has maintained it ever since, updated it as each version arrived, transferred it to ‘the cloud’ (in Singapore), and developed TPS M@IL, a program that allows users to email politicians and disseminate pieces to selected parliamentarians. His contribution has been magnificent, for which I am deeply grateful.

The first post was an introduction to The Political Sword, and on the next day, 14 September, I posted In search of the political Holy Grail – the Rudd Government narrative, something that is still a mystery to many Fourth Estate journalists.

Since that modest beginning, which attracted just three comments (one was from janice) and almost no traffic, it has expanded to a busy site where each piece attracts from two to six hundred comments, and high ratings. Our stats show us that there are hundreds of regular commenters, and thousands of visitors who choose not to comment. The cumulative total of original pieces is 469, close to a million words; there have been over 61,000 comments; and over 2,000 raters.

In 2009 along came Lyn, at first commenting, then adding some links to her comments, then posting more and more links and posting them more often, until they morphed into her regular ‘Today’s Links’, archived regularly in Lyn’s Daily Links, and then, as they expanded, into Lyn’s Daily Links Archive, which dates back to early February 2011. It now contains many thousands of links of great historic interest. One look through the Archive demonstrates Lyn’s extraordinary and brilliant contribution to The Political Sword over the years, a contribution acknowledged over and again by those who comment here.

Lyn’s Daly Links Archive is invaluable. It will remain as a permanent monument to Lyn.

There have been other contributors of pieces on The Political Sword. Bushfire Bill, Hillbilly (Feral) Skeleton and Acerbic Conehead, who together contributed hundreds of pieces, John L, then, more recently, Victoria Rollison, Kaye Rollison, Marian Dalton and Jan Mahyuddin @j4gypsy. There have been poets too who have added verse to enrich the site with colour and movement: Talk Turkey, Patriciawa and Truth Seeker. They have all added immensely to the quality, reach and appeal of The Political Sword, for which I am hugely grateful, as are all the visitors here.

So here we are: Lyn has retired, and will concentrate on her family, her crafts and her hobbies; and I wish to give attention to family matters, complete the writing of my life story, do some more motoring across our vast land, which we enjoy, and taking some shipboard tours. To do this we both must take a new direction.

What then becomes of The Political Sword? It has become the home for many kindred souls, mainly Labor advocates, who enjoy the links, the pieces that are posted, and the discourse here among the participants. It has indeed become The Political Sword family. I have welcomed each new commenter, and have sought to respond to the comments as often as I was able. Insightful comments deserve a response, although responding is time-consuming and at times a demanding process.

It would be a great pity for The Political Sword to simply close down. Already some have expressed the hope that it will continue the fight for Labor values, oppose contrary values the new Government may seek to impose, and work towards the restoration of a Labor Government whose purpose is to ensure fairness and equity across the nation, to ensure prosperity for all, and to ensure infrastructure and services are in place to serve our economy, to serve our ageing population, and to care for all those in need of help.

The Political Sword needs to find a new home, where it will be fostered, supported, and expanded by a devoted and dedicated blog manager and enthusiastic writers, where it can promulgate its values and remain a resonant voice in the Fifth Estate, in which it has established a solid reputation and has garnered the respect of other sites, who include it on their blogrolls.

It has been suggested that others may wish to contribute pieces, which would certainly take the load from my shoulders. Anyone willing to do so would be welcome. My preference though is that someone, perhaps who has experience in managing a political blogsite, take over management of The Political Sword, write for it, and act as an editor of pieces submitted by others. It has a guaranteed audience, and an intelligent, well informed and articulate following, who habitually comment on the theme of each new piece, but who also pick up on what is happening in the political world and offer links to a wide variety of sources.

For some time now Janet has provided additional links and Twitterverse, and now Casablanca has taken up where Lyn left off to provide comprehensive collections of links. If they were willing to continue in this vein, the superb and unique link facility that Lyn established would continue to bring countless thousands to The Political Sword for information and succour.

Folks, this is an opportunity for you to offer your suggestions about how The Political Sword might continue, and indeed go from strength to strength. With the Coalition Government in place and already showing stark signs of its intent to tear down much of what Labor has built, signs that it will institute its own brand of neoliberal politics where trickle down economics are the norm, where the strong prevail and the weak falter and are left behind, the need for The Political Sword, and sites like it, is even more urgent.

Please post your suggestions and comments here, and if you wish to contact me directly with proposals or ideas, use the ‘Contact’ item on the top menu.

I will not respond immediately to posted comments, as I would prefer to see them in aggregate before doing so, but of course I will respond promptly to email messages.

Finally, on your behalf, I want to extend to you Lyn, our dear Lyn, the heartfelt thanks of all of us for your many years of dedicated and devoted work to The Political Sword in bringing us the world of political comment day after day, summarized to make it easy for us to assimilate, linked and referenced brilliantly. May your retirement a very happy one, and all you wish it to be.

To all who visit here, what do you think?