Interview with Blogger Simon CollisterBy The Pakistani Spectator • Feb 20th, 2008 • Category: Interviews • No Responses
Would you please tell us something about you and your site?My name is Simon Collister and I work for the public relations firm, Edelman, in London as their Head of Digital Culture and Emerging Media. I have a professional interest in PR and marketing and a strong personal interest in international relations, politics, public diplomacy, NGOs and democracy building – and how all these are being impacted by technology and social media.
Do you feel that you continue to grow in your writing the longer you write? Why is that important to you?
A big part of writing a good blog requires reading other good blogs. And I definitely think that writing allows me to explore ideas and get feedback from other bloggers and readers as these ideas develop.
I’m wondering what some of your memorable experiences are with blogging?
Getting my current job with help from my blog!
What do you do in order to keep up your communication with other bloggers?
It sounds obvious, but posting frequently is the best way to keep communicating – not just with other bloggers, but with readers as well. As I suggest above, frequent blogging also requires frequent reading and I find that leaving comments not only keeps you communicating with bloggers but also starts off some of my best blog posts.
Also, a lot of people have been talking recently about trackbacks becoming obsolete. But I think that trackbacks still have an important place to play where in-depth communication is not always necessary – especially in a networked world the size of the blogosphere.
What do you think is the most exciting or most innovative use of technology in politics right now?
For me the most exciting or innovative opportunity for politics is not necessarily the use of technology but really understanding how technology can open up democracy and the political and policy making processes to the web-enabled public.Technology is lowering barriers to political participation around the globe and bringing citizens huge opportunities to take part and have a say in democracy where democracy already exists. Similarly where democracy has yet to be established, it is giving the public the ability to campaign on a much more level playing field.
On an even more important scale, I believe the internet gives citizens a much greater power to challenge and undermine attempts by special interests and third-party states to ‘create’ democracy without the involvement of the local population.
Do you think that these new technologies are effective in making people more responsive?
I think that networked tools such as blogs that allow - and actively encourage - participation can seriously engage and empower the public in politics or at the very least share information and knowledge thus further encourage participation.
In well established democratic or civil societies, collaborative and knowledge sharing tools such as wikis can offer even greater opportunities for participatory democracy.
What do you think sets Your site apart from others?
The only real difference between my site and others generally is that it is written with my distinct voice! In a networked world, I believe that setting yourself apart from others in not necessarily where the value lies. In fact, value lies in almost the opposite: it is the coming together of like-mined people and their ideas that really start to make changes – both online as well as offline.
If you could choose one characteristic you have that brought you success in life, what would it be?
Being prepared to always ask questions and open-minded enough to not always believe the answers.
What was the happiest and gloomiest moment of your life?
The happiest moment in my life so far has to be marrying my wife.
Do you think [the use of Twitter and other social networking tools by politicians] is bandwagon jumping or what?
Politicians that jump on any bandwagons – whether it’s Twitter or blogging – or other cultural bandwagons – is nothing new and usually serves to reinforce the fact they are out of touch with the public.
If you could pick a travel destination, anywhere in the world, with no worries about how it’s paid for - what would your top 3 choices be?
In no particular order:
What is your favorite book and why?
What’s the first thing you notice about a person (whether you know them or not)?
I think people’s shoes tell you a lot about them!
Is there anyone from your past that once told you you couldn’t write?
Not really. However, my first supervisor at University once told me I wrote like a civil servant – which then I took to be a complement; now I take it as an insult although it has been useful when writing government documents for work!
How bloggers can benefit from blogs financially?
Personally I’m not particularly motivated by earning money….. however, if you want to earn money then writing interesting and useful content is not a bad way to start.
Is it true that who has a successful blog has an awful lot of time on their hands?
Good question! I would definitely agree that if I had more time I would post more frequently. But a question I get asked a lot is: how do you find time to blog? I think if you are going to write a good blog then you have to be passionate about what you write about and that means you’ll find time to write.
What are your thoughts on corporate blogs and what do you think the biggest advantages and disadvantages are?
Some people think corporate blogs don’t work as big businesses simply can’t communicate on a personal level. But personally I think that a corporate blog done well can give a traditionally faceless organization a human face that communicates with customers on a one-to-one basis.Some people also expect the CEO to write the blog, but some of the best corporate blogs blogs have a usually unseen, junior member of staff blog.
What role can bloggers of the world play to make this world more friendlier and less hostile?
The biggest power bloggers have is to share information and knowledge – thus opening up the world to multiple views and experiences.
Who are your top five favourite bloggers?
In no particular order:
- Doc Searls
- David Weinberger
- Danah Boyd
- Jeff Jarvis
- Tim Pendry
Is there one observation or column or post that has gotten the most powerful reaction from people?
I once blogged about the Director General of the UK’s Chartered Institute of PR declare that blogs wouldn’t amount to anything. I pointed out he was wrong and a lot of other bloggers agreed. The post generated a lot of interest and became a much visited post
What is your perception about Pakistan and its people?
My perception of Pakistan and its people is of a very proud and loyal nation with strong cultural traditions; but a nation which has become a political battleground – not just for control of the country by domestic powers, but for the region and a wider geo-political stage by strategic powers.
Have you ever become stunned by the uniqueness of any blogger?
I have had a number of ‘Wow!’ moments from bloggers. Some of the best of these have come from people like Doc Searls and David Weinberger who blog about the power of the internet and Tim Pendry who blogs about international relations.
What is the most striking difference between a developed country and a developing country?
I think the main differences emerge from the three-part model of democratic institutions, civil society and economy. Traditionally developed countries have all three systems in a more advanced stage than developing countries. But the relationship between developed and developing countries is fluid in two ways: firstly, developing countries are rapidly gaining ground on developed countries (thanks in part to the internet) and secondly, developed countries have recognized this growth in development and are interfering with the ‘democratic’, business or civil society processes.
What is the future of blogging?
I think the future of blogging will see a move away from ‘blogging’ and a move towards an ordinary use of the internet that will encompass ‘blog’ style dialogue as standard. Add to this the growth of ‘micro-blogging’ tools such as Twitter and we are moving to a world where information is shared and conversations held in real-time; where a portrait of people’s lives will be raw and unedited and available for everyone with web access to see, search and share.
You have also got a blogging life, how has it directly affected both your personal and professional life?
As I suggested above, mixing your personal and professional life is an ability you learn quickly to ensure you write a creative and interesting blog. But I’m also lucky in that I get to blog as part of my day job – or least that would the case if I wasn’t always so busy.
What are your future plans?
To carry on writing my blog and adapting/adopting to emerging media tools; developing my ideas further; applying my these ideas to international relations and democracy building and perhaps getting to conduct further research into these ideas and turn them into a Doctorate degree.
Any Message you want to give to the readers of The Pakistani Spectator?
I would urge your readers - particularly those inside Pakistan – to continue to blog and share their voices and experiences around the globe.