Hello all. I'm back home in Queensland, starting to recover from the campaign and muse about Webdiary's future. Where do we want it to go? What technical innovations would we like? Would we consider an association with New Matilda or another online publication? Would we like to raise funds for investigative journalism, or would we like to keep the show volunteer only? Would we like keen Webdiarists to keep us updated regularly on ongoing issues? Would we like active moderation on some threads, to keep the debate focused and tease out the differences and the points of agreement? What is our role in the Rudd era?
I've asked the core team who've kept the old girl afloat well past her 7th birthday for their thoughts on the matter. David Curry is the first to deliver. Let's have a chat.
Me, I'm around this month, then off to the mountains where no mobile gets through. This is a topic to chew over during the long hot summer.
Love to all Webdiarists for Christmas and the New Year and good vibes for happiness in 2008,
David Curry on Webdiary
A few weeks ago my wife, frustrated at the amount of time I spend on Webdiary, said ‘They’re really your community, aren’t they?’ I hadn’t really thought about it in those terms before, but it’s true. Webdiarists are part of my community – my virtual community, anyway (although cyberspace and meatspace have become increasingly blurred as I meet various diarists face-to-face or over the phone).
Like most communities, Webdiary is made up of very different people. There are those I look forward to having a beer with, figuratively speaking, and having a good natter. There is the pleasure that comes with just exchanging ideas or sharing a viewpoint, whether I ‘know’ the person or not. Some I’m happy to eavesdrop on. We all contribute quite different things to Webdiary.
It sounds corny I’m sure, but I feel an extraordinary amount of affection for most long-term diarists, even those I regularly get into heated exchanges with.
And there are diarists who nearly always rub me up the wrong way (just as I probably do to them). It’s the nature of political forums that they attract people with strong convictions, and such people are often inclined to express those convictions by ridiculing those that differ. We should all cross the street when baits are laid but it’s hard not to reflexively lash out. I know I do. Let’s face it, sometimes there’s nothing more satisfying than a good vent.
Invariably I feel regretful afterwards. For me, the worst thing about Webdiary is the toxicity of many of the exchanges. Even with the impeccable editing of the team, some threads are overwhelmingly dominated by vitriol and sarcasm. I sometimes look at what is posted and think, if I was on this site for the first time I’d run a mile. It’s water off a duck’s back now, but I remember how nervous I was when I made my first post. Why would I subject myself to the remorseless ridicule just itching to attach itself to my post? At one stage I was so disenchanted with what I felt was the predictably nasty and esoteric nature of Webdiary I couldn’t look at it for weeks.
But it is an addiction. I always come back.
And I think it’s been a great year for Webdiary. We’ve seen a bunch of new names (including one attached to a cat!) and the return of some long-absent diarists. The Federal election campaign, the first for a long time to really offer the chance of a change of Government, made Webdiary positively hum with excitement. There was no shortage of issues to get our teeth into – all the election issues, and then some - and chew them we did.
How much fun was it to share the joy of Howard’s demise with the other diarists who had long awaited the day?
Having Margo back was the icing on the cake. Best of all, it was a rejuvenated, re-energised and life-loving Margo, not the heartbreakingly fragile person I met a few years ago during reports of the second death of Webdiary (much exaggerated, as it turned out). Webdiary proved it could exist without Margo, but I don’t think a single diarist would disagree her presence improves it immeasurably.
Jenny Hume wondered if Webdiary was redundant now that Howard is gone. Hardly. For one thing, I never saw the forum as a left-wing echo chamber, and the rich diversity of views on Webdiary proves it’s not. Margo’s own politics have never been neatly left or right (whatever those terms mean now), nor have mine. The Rudd government needs to be held accountable like any government. They’ll make mistakes and they’ll implement foolish policies.
And we’ll always have Iraq.
Talking of left and right, one thing I’d like to see is some pieces from those who identify with the right and can clearly write, but whose main contribution is to carp at those they identify as lefties. How about stepping up to the plate, Eliot? Webdiary should be more than a shooting gallery.
I’d like to see more of the superb citizen journalism we got from the APEC conference. Charged pieces by Richard and others were powerfully evocative of the intimidation police applied to protesters. You could really feel the shock and fear in that reportage. Most of us have jobs and a myriad of other commitments, but there’s no substitute for reportage from the front line, when it’s possible.
Stephen Smith’s piece from the Tally Room was one of the best election pieces I read, anywhere. It was evocative, sharply observed, insightful and funny. More please, Stephen!
Jenny’s view from the land is a great asset to Webdiary.
I’d also love to see more from Irfan Yusef and other Muslims, given the ongoing ‘Muslim issue’. It is fine for us non-Muslims to sit around pontificating on Islam’s ‘problems’ - but only up to a point. It can get ugly, no doubt, but how can we ever move forward if we don’t talk to each other?
One of the best things about Webdiary’s broad church, if you will, is that all of us, if we’re honest, have had some of our assumptions and deeply-held beliefs challenged. It’s uncomfortable, for sure, but crucial to genuine understanding. That applies to any issue you care to name.
I don’t think Webdiary should lose its political focus but occasionally everyone needs a break from all the angst. Film and music might be a great circuit breaker. As a music writer for The Canberra Times I’m biased, but there is a palpable sense of relief when a piece goes up like Roger Fedyk’s Two Old Musos and Jesus. Even that thread inevitably drifted into religious differences, but for a while the sun came out as diarists fondly related some of their musical endeavours. Perhaps we could see a new subject area with reviews of CDs and shows, and maybe interviews? I’d be happy to kick a few off.
It’s a recurring theme for me, and probably a forlorn hope, but I wish more threads were about genuine debate rather than scoring points. I’m sure more people would post on Webdiary if the sarcasm was turned down. It ain’t Habermas’ public sphere, that’s for sure. But then, that’s the nature of ideals, right? It’s enough, I guess, that once in a blue moon, when the light is just right and the wind isn’t blowing, Webdiary gets close. It’s a precious thing.