Monday, September 07, 2015

Mission report

Last Friday we appealed yet again for more bloggers interested in forming an elite unit to push the progressive Brexit message. We've had about fifteen expressions of interest. That's actually really good.

We have tried this experiment before back in 2006 by creating an aggregator for the team. Had I been a halfway competent web programmer at the time it could have worked, though really the germ of the idea was in essence a variant of Twitter. What made it unrealistic was the level of work involved for something that was never going to make any money.

The problem with with idea was that it was far too labour intensive and we were largely herding cats. We went to considerable efforts to keep people on board. Learning from this, we approach it differently this time. There is no time or room for stroking egos. What we need is self-starters and will not be quick to take offence.

We do not seek to control the content, but we are task focussed and we are immovable in our belief that we must have message discipline. On the core message, there isn't much room for debate. You can see from the comments on Friday's article that we're not messing about. It's too much to ask of us that we sell this to you personally. By now you will have read the posts we linked to in Friday's article and will have made your decision on the basis of that.

Again we stress we are not about bent-bananas and bean-counting over how much we save in EU membership fees. Nor do we see any value in talking about immigration in any sense since the level of white noise on that subject is impenetrable and we can make no guarantees as to what Brexit will achieve. Our statement of values, our strategy and our vision are key to this operation and we expect at the very least that applicant will have read and understood them, and will have read the shorter version of Flexcit.

We are not seeking to be a rival operation to any campaign. We have neither the funds nor the reach and there is no value in yet another generic populist outfit pumping out the same tired material. We can confidently assert that the arguments we have engineered are stronger, more appealing and in every sense better than what the rest of the eurosceptic crowd can offer.

We want to build up a core of voices distinct from the background noise that eurosceptics make. They have to be working to the same set of principles and to the same strategy, because the power comes with coordination.

Our last attempt at this shattered a few assumptions of ours. Certainly I used to think that almost anybody can write and they could become decent bloggers with just a bit of encouragement. It turns out that writing is a rare skill and certainly finding conscientious people who will pay proper attention to formatting and detail is no small undertaking.

Thus we are not discouraged by the small uptake thus far. It's better to get a small cell running to a decent standard that to try to marshal mediocrity. We already have about seven people working together in Twitter, and in the furry of activity just after the election we were successful in planting certain notions and ideas into the political discourse. Working as a task force works.

As a base to start from, that's manageable and we are looking to get new individuals up to spec and working together. In turn, they will be expected to recruit their own cell. We suggest between five and ten per cell. If we have mature and switched on people, they need very little instruction or guidance. In that regard, we want the best.

That said, there is also a place for people who don't feel they can take on such a commitment. It isn't easy, it is time consuming and at times can be wholly demoralising. Why we do it, god only knows. In terms of the flack we get, we get worse from our own side for daring to try. You can contribute to the operation just by retweeting any original content you see from our bloggers on the @eureferendum Twitter account. Just alerting us to possible recruits is of value and tweeting our message at journalists and other opinion formers is a worthwhile contribution.

If by now you are sold and want to participate, you can start by setting up your blog and alerting us to its presence. My advice is to keep it simple and use a minimalist template much like this blog. You can go to town on customising blogger but there is little value in it and it distracts from the core activities. Last time we tried something like this I offered support in the creation of mastheads and banners and tweaking templates. This time, I don't have the time and would rather focus on the task at hand. I can and will help in exchange for a small donation to but good, readable content is more striking than an elaborate site - and the more, the better.

Really we'd rather people had as much autonomy as possible, so we ask you to use your own discretion in what you tweet and retweet and keep in mind that with every post you are adding to, or subtracting from the overall message. Meanwhile, this video gives you some idea of the intellectual tapestry we are weaving. We feel it best to lay down a blanket of posts along this theme that address various aspects of the complexities with a view to making them accessible to a wider audience.

Further updates will appear here and the aim of this blog is to produce a working database of the arguments and how to make them. Feel free to reuse and recycle any material you see here.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Do you have what it takes?

Last month we made an appeal for volunteers to form our elite platoon of bloggers. We've had a few encouraging responses and some disappointing ones. Some people are intractably wedded to the traditional eurosceptic mantras and while they say they understand our mission, in practice they do not. Thus we will have to kiss a few frogs before we get our operation fully mobilised. Consequently we are making a second appeal.

As to the task at hand we have found that spending big bucks on followers and large media interactions has only a limited effect and no real measurable results. Certainly we can't see what kind of impact it is making with real people. That is where our team comes in.

What we need are blogs, each with their own distinct identity, free to write on matters as they see them, writing to their own respective audiences. We do not expect or ask you to be echo chambers for Though what we do need is bloggers who subscribe to a set of core arguments and guidelines.

We have made the case that the Brexit plan we have throws up certain political realities that shape the arguments we make for withdrawal. For instance, Brexit will not necessarily mean substantially smaller budget contributions, may not in the short to medium term bring about an end to free movement and pragmatism demands we make regulatory compromises in order to remain part of the single market. We assume that you will have read Flexcit or are at the very least aware of the thesis. That should inform the basis of our arguments.

The message is important. We are entering a crowded marketplace. All the bases are covered for the usual lurid eurosceptic tropes. There is no value in replicating it in that it does not reach new ears. We have to be counter to the usual eurosceptic output. What we are after is new angles and innovative content. We let the cannon fodder take the Yes campaign head on. It's not well directed effort. Most of the keyboard warriors mistake volume of activity for productivity, employing badly made infographics. Most of the time they are wrong and send out the wrong message.

I have set out a statement of values here and I have set out the vision here. That then brings us on to the broader strategy. In so doing we have to do is ditch the eurosceptic baggage. We must adapt or die.

As to the practicalities of this, I will act as a controller and can offer editorial advice. Ultimately, attention to detail and presentation is key to credibility. Posts should preferably carry an illustration or a picture each time. It helps in Google rankings.

It must be said that this is no small undertaking. We are after fully dedicated people and preferably people we don't have to babysit. If you make the grade then we will expect that you in turn will recruit your own cell of bloggers. If that sounds elitist, it's because it is. We should be unashamedly elitist. We don't don't want libertarian ranters or europhobes. The "love Europe, hate the EU" nonsense is no use to us. We don't hate the EU, we just want out of it.

We also need to start acting now. A blog that is well established with a large web footprint will appear in Google results immediately. Those starting up at the last minute will struggle to get any meaningful hits. It is more a matter of establishing a blog for the final three months of the campaign.

Don't be put off by the low numbers of hits. Populist material will generate hits, but we'd rather reach the right ears than be talking to the same old crowd. If we co-ordinate our efforts then we can help you build your own online constituency.

Very few people can spare the time or energy to produce original content every day or even once a week. Twitter means you don't have to if we have an active team who will retweet each other. In that regard we have to rise above the narcissism of small differences. We don't have to agree with each other so long as we are working to broadly the same principles.

That said, a blog must be seen to be active so there is certainly no harm in reproducing each others material. You should be looking to build a twitter audience of at least a thousand followers. This takes time and a burst of concentrated effort. It doesn't happen quickly and it's not very rewarding work. It has taken six months of concerted effort to build two account each with a thousand followers.

However, if we are all retweeting each other, then the original tweet gets weighted by the Twitter engine and is more likely to appear in the top news section on the hash-tag. What matters is the multiplier effect. In that regard, your accounts will grow faster in that we will be promoting them.

Numbers are only a guide though. They are not a measure of productivity. The number of hits you get or the number of followers you have is not paramount. It's a useful target to aim for, but ultimately this operation is about targeted campaigning. Identifying those in your cohort who can be convinced or recruited matters more. You yourself may not have reach but if you can recruit for us then that is even better. It may be that you know some eurosceptics who can be reasoned with in order to moderate their output, which is valuable in itself.

The core mission is to win the intellectual battle. We must influence the influential and we must build a credible case with a viable alternative. The final battle will not be us versus the Yes/Remain campaign. It will be an estimation as to whether the alternative we present is better than Cameron's reforms.

I will be sending out periodic emails and guidelines and instructions in how to argue online. Please do not expect immediate replies to emails, though you can get my attention on Twitter - @petenorth303, or on Facebook at

If you are with us, please let me know what your blog is and your Twitter account - and your thoughts and suggestions are most welcome. Let us know if we can help. Be sure also to follow this blog because much of what I say to you will already appear there.

We are going to see a lot of wasted money and misdirected effort from the main campaigns and certainly we do not see Ukip as either an asset or ally in this. In fact the more clear blue water there is, the better. We have to make the progressive case for Brexit and we do not want to be tainted by association. A blunter statement of rules can be found here. The comments as much as anything gives you a clear indication of what we don't want. If you think you make the grade, and you're on board with our message, we would love to hear from you.