Tim Dunlop and the Road from Surfdom

Ever dreamed about blogging for living? Earlier this week The Road to Surfdom‘s Tim Dunlop made the move to news.com.au. Tim is now firmly established at Blogocracy one of News’ growing stable of blogs.

The opportunity didn’t just fall into his lap. Tim’s PhD thesis was on deliberative democracy and the role of intellectuals. He’s a blogger with a theory and a mission. In an article posted at the Evatt Foundation’s site, Tim suggested that blogs could become:

…the home of a new type of public intellectual, a type that breaks down the usual images of the detached wise person or topical expert explaining things to an uninformed public, and that blogging brings public debate back within coo-ee of those to whom it should belong anyway, the ordinary citizens. Blogging, potentially on a large scale, puts the public in public intellectual.

Tim’s blogging career started with Margo Kingston’s Web Diary at the Sydney Morning Herald’s site. Originally Web Diary was supposed to be place for Margo to write short entries and readers to post comments. But by early 2001 Margo and her readers were swapping places. Tim emailed Margo a 6,700 word comment on the deregulation of the dairy industry and Margo posted it. Web Diary was becoming something new — a kind of group blog.

In 2002 Tim started his own blogThe Road to Surfdom. Surfdom soon became one Australia’s most popular political blogs (even when it was written from Washington).

Tim’s latest move has attracted a fair amount of interest from fellow bloggers and a thoughtful write up in Crikey from Margaret Simons.

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cam
cam
15 years ago

Most of the big Australian blogs influence can probably be tracked to having a number of established public intellectuals. Most of the Australian bloggers have been drawn from academia (Quiggin, Leigh, Dunlop, Bahnisch etc), media (Blair) or the policy/think-tank arena (Gruen, Norton, Sauer-Thompson, etc). There are far more that fit into those categories than I mentioned there as examples.

Most of the Australian bloggers were on the fringes of public influence with the MSM and politicians anyway. The ‘punk’ bloggers in the Australian scene are surprisingly few in number in contrast to the American blog scene which is far more punk and entrepreneurial.

It may be a reflection of the demographics of Australia which has a small population but large educated class of internet savvy people. It could also be because the Australian MSM and party-machines are highly cloistered and closed such that it leaves a lot of smart people with good ideas outside of its fringes and blogging allows those ideas to get a wider audience quickly and easily without having to beg to the MSM’s and Party often contradictory and combative formats.

I think Australia has a long way to go before we can claim blogging or internet political debate is ‘people power’. Australia is yet to produce a dailykos/k5 yet where anyone can post articles/diaries to the site. So while it has widened the franchise of public influence the blog format itself is still limiting those that can get ‘in’ to the cool set.

Obviously it is an improvement to 1980s media and influence – it has certainly given me a voice but while it has widened the political commentary franchise, it isn’t there yet.

cam
cam
15 years ago

You quoted Tim with, “the home of a new type of public intellectual”, I would argue that at this stage the Auian blogosphere has widened the franchise for public intellectuals but hasn’t yet made a new type of public intellectual.

Jason Soon
15 years ago

Australia is yet to produce a dailykos/k5 yet where anyone can post articles/diaries to the site.

You mean like IndyMedia? Why would you want a format where you end up sifting through main blogposts which are dross? Comments are open to all comers already so that’s already present in the blog threads. No reason to open up the main blogposts to all and sundy.

Rafe Champion
15 years ago

What Jason said, it is hard enough to find reliable commentary among the official bloggers. How many people regularly visit more than (say) four sites a day? So why would you go to a site which is a 24 hour floating open forum?

cam
cam
15 years ago

Rafe, Jacques and I know each other from k5, most of the SSR folks are k5 refugees too. I am not saying it is better or worse, but the Auian blogosphere has a different culture which is more ‘bloggy’. It may be because we share a language with the US and the American sites are better able absorb Au poster’s in that style.

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

I don’t know why anyone would aspire to be an Ozkos – Margo basically did, but was too dumb – I think TimD, probably all the more since moving to News, has at least a crack at being much more influential here than Kos there.

Kos gets media and blog attention, but absolutely zero results as far as I can see. TimD is much more oriented to results, as demonstrated by his workchoices campaign and his assiduous attention to Iraq policy and particularly AWB.

cam
cam
15 years ago

Patrick, Kos gets media and blog attention, but absolutely zero results as far as I can see.

Media responds to the ‘mass’ part. Tim Dunlop is a cut above in quality and writing ability, but if he didn’t have one of the largest audiences in the Au blogs I doubt News would have come calling.

Dailykos’s daily hits rival newspaper circulation. Only aggregator sites like slashdot or fark get that type of hit rate. If it is a political site, usually the big audience ones are extensions of the existing mass media, like Andrew Sullivan.

On the night of the US mid-term elections I was refreshing several websites every few minutes for updates, (including abcnews, cnn, redstate and surfdom) and dailykos did as good as the news media in staying up to date with events on its front page.

I know one of the blokes that works behind the scenes on that site, and it was a pretty monumental effort to keep the whole thing up and running smoothly, he said they were expecting 3 million hits on election day. They were maintaining something like 10K-14K simultaneous connections. That is significant stuff.

Vee
Vee
15 years ago

As someone that considers themselves a layperson:

I would like to agree with the Dunlop quote provided the bloggers do not use overly large academic words and overuse references to academic works the lay public may not be familiar with.

Dirigiste was the latest word I had to look up for example. An overabundance of word use like that is enough to discourage the public from reading your work.

So the public intellectual, still is currently viewed removed from the reality of society.

It is educational but when the writing becomes the form of speech, people look at it with disdain.

Bannerman
15 years ago

At the end of the day, it’s simply a more grandiose exposition of Tim’s opinion up in lights while a major media whorehouse get’s to look ‘fair and balanced’ by having him on board. Who really wins out of the deal? I seriously don’t believe it’s Tim Dunlop.

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

Cam/
Is Instapundit an aggregator? And do you realise that Sullivan was blogging for five years before moving to Time?

That Kos unites the lunatic fringe is sure, but they remain lunatics: no better demonstration is needed than the Lamont farce.

Bannerman, News is Australia’s leading media outlet by a country mile. The best illustration this time is that TimD, no fan as such, was obliged to link to The Australian every piece when he was focusing on AWB because no-one else was providing that kind of coverage. So who wins? We all do because people like TimD get more exposure in our national conversation.

Jason Soon
15 years ago

sounds like a bad case of sourgrapes from Bannerman.

cam
cam
15 years ago

Bannerman, Who really wins out of the deal? I seriously don’t believe it’s Tim Dunlop.

Of course Tim wins. I read his stuff at blogocracy and the quality has not dropped. His competition in that arena is pretty weak; Bolt et al. Tim’s built his own audience at surfdom in part because the MSM pundits were so crappy.

Patrick, And do you realise that Sullivan was blogging for five years before moving to Time?

Yes, but like Blair he was already well entrenched in the media and had the ability to put his views through MSM already. Compare that Andrew Leigh who had no guarantee his op-eds would get published.

That Kos unites the lunatic fringe is sure, but they remain lunatics: no better demonstration is needed than the Lamont farce.

Lamont won his primary but couldn’t win in a wider electorate. The primary was to elect a candidate that registered democrats wanted to represent them in an election. I don’t see how it was a farce. That is how primaries work.

It isn’t the ‘dailykos’ itself that I am talking about though, it is the style of site where anyone can post articles. Redstate has the same structure, as do numerous other sites.

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

Well, ok, I thought primaries were mainly about winning elections, but then again that was what I thought Kos was about a few years ago, too!

cam
cam
15 years ago

Patrick, I thought primaries were mainly about winning elections, but then again that was what I thought Kos was about a few years ago, too!

That statement doesn’t bear scrutiny. Connecticut [CT] doesn’t have open primaries, only registered democrats can vote in CT democtratic primaries. So Lamont winning that represented the will of registered democrats. An election means anyone can vote, and that includes registered democrats, republicans, independents and non-party affiliated. Big difference.

The dailykos website raises non-trivial amounts of money – the democratic party cannot ignore them. That they aren’t interested in winning falls short given the result of a couple of days ago. They acted as an important central resource of information, money and organisation in the run-up to the mid-terms.

Sacha
15 years ago

Ahh – the purpose of primaries! I’ve encountered a similar question in a much smaller scale in my local area – is the intention to win the election and therefore act accordingly, or is it to put forward a candidate/set of policies and attempt to convince a sufficient number of electors to vote for your party? It’d have to be the former for me.

Sacha
15 years ago

Good on Tim – hope he does well out of it!