I’ve already written about my experiences of producing the first season of the Mister Trippy blog at MySpace. It is obviously a little early to write about the second season in any depth since this is its closing post. There is also less need to write about Mister Trippy season two because I’ll be leaving the posts up rather than taking them down as I did with not only with the first season of Mister Trippy, but all my MySpace profiles (to protest about the platform’s support for US imperialism), in Spring 2008.
Having produced posts for the first Mister Trippy season daily, I found it far easier to blog every other day in this second season (except for the first month, which was daily). That said, at exactly a year long, this season was also quite a bit shorter than the first. While the comments remained an integral part of the blog, there were considerably fewer than during the first season. I’d view this as a consequence of hosting season two on my own site rather than a social networking platform, and also because I didn’t concentrate on replying to comments as much as I did during the first season. That said, I appear to have more readers here than when Mister Trippy was hosted at MySpace, but far fewer of them commented and those that did made less comments than on the first season of the blog. From a conventional media point of view, upping both the number and percentage of lurkers is probably a good thing, from a full-on committed to Web 2.0 perspective it probably isn’t so good, although it does make life easier! That said, there have still been loads of great comments containing both solid information and some really way-out humour on the season two blog!
A few facts and figures. Mister Trippy season two ran from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2009, during which time I posted 193 public entries (including this one). As I write this there are 5,007 approved comments split across these posts. Likewise, between myself and the Askimet anti-spam software 10,207 comments were blocked or removed. All the blocked or removed comments were of a commercial nature. Obviously the number of approved and blocked comments will increase as time goes by, although probably not at the same rate as when I was posting on a regular basis.
I’ve found this blog and the main website to which it is attached a good way of alerting people to information I’m seeking. It has enabled me to locate individuals, unearth facts, and in particular extend my knowledge of my mother Julia Callan-Thompson and her bohemian social circle – as well as my first cousin once removed Ray ‘The Cat’ Jones (a legend for audacious Robin Hood-style thefts from the rich and famous, as well as a successful 1958 prison escape with a subsequent two years on the run). That said, while – for example – I now know that Francois Raymond who exhibited photographs of my mother in 1967 is dead and I have contact details for his brother, I’ve drawn a complete blank in my attempts to nail down the fate of Malcolm ‘Grainger’ Drake.
One of the things I’ve always tried to do on this blog, as well as the main site to which it is attached, is put information online that wasn’t previously available via the web. The pieces I’ve posted about my mother’s circle and Ray ‘The Cat’ Jones are good examples of this. When I began researching my mother’s life there wasn’t a single entry about her online. It is because of my efforts that a search engine request now brings in more than 15,000 results for Julia Callan-Thompson, rather than none (which was the result I got from my early web searches for her). There was material about Ray The Cat on the web before I started blogging about him, but by locating a primary source in the form of Ray’s testament about his life and going back to contemporary press coverage of his exploits, I’ve expanded the range of material available online and shown that recent retellings of his escape from Pentonville Prison completely distort the facts (and that the confusion appears to begin with inaccuracies introduced by Mad Frankie Fraser and his ghost-writer James Morton). However, to see this you’d need to read through all my blog entries on Ray The Cat. My research is ongoing and I revise what I have to say on the basis of what I discover. Putting material online is important, there is unfortunately a growing trend (particularly among the young), to look for information on the web and if it can’t be found there then to assume it doesn’t exist.
My research methods appear to confuse some of those I’ve spoken to, since I’ve had the odd email complaining I’ve not written up a story as the person recontacting me originally told it. I always try to find as many sources as possible for what I write. Sometimes these provide me with conflicting information, and some people even provide more than one version of the same story over a period of time. Using archival records where they are available, and all the oral history I am able to collect, I try to reconstruct events as accurately as possible. This can result in a specific person’s recollection of events being discarded; not because I necessarily think the individual in question is lying – memory can play tricks and the person concerned may simply be mistaken about what happened. Someone claiming to have direct knowledge of something does not automatically make them a reliable source for the subject. I work from all the evidence available to me and sometimes this will indicate (or even prove) that a particular individual’s memory of a specific incident is faulty or fraudulent.
Moving on, I trust that the interest of media professionals in blogging is waning, since it has had a deleterious effect on the activity. There are individuals who take up blogging in the belief that it might make them famous. Although this is unlikely, it doesn’t stop people trying and thus producing narrowly focused blogs with very limited subject matter, or else simply going in for egoblogging. One of the elements of this blog that proved particularly popular with a large swathe of readers were my reports of London art world openings. It would not be difficult to construct a blog around nothing but reports of this type, but for me it would become boring and is therefore to be avoided, despite – or rather because of – the fact that it would lead to me being viewed as a greater conventional ‘success’ than is currently the case.
Likewise, most newspapers seem to have given up on investigative journalism, or even research, and at a time when we need much more of it; clearly it is those with particular interests and specialised knowledge who are far better qualified to do this than so called media professionals, and blogging is a cheap and efficient way for the ‘real’ ‘experts’ – in other words, amateurs like you and me - to gather and disseminate information. I’m not seeing as much research based blogging or other web reportage as I’d like, but hopefully there will be more of it in coming months and years – and far fewer blogs being updated via Twitter feeds. I’d also like to see the majority of bloggers trying a little harder with their writing. While splurging something out is a great way of getting it down, you do then need to rewrite and revise. I’ve always tried to compose my blogs the night before I posted them, so that I could give them a final rewrite in the morning. Too many blogs look like their author hasn’t read through what they’ve posted even once! If you’re not prepared to read your own writing, you shouldn’t expect anyone else to do so either!
In conclusion, while I wouldn’t rule out a third season of the Mister Trippy blog, I’m not committed to doing one either. I’ll just see how things go. For now I’d rather concentrate on other pursuits. I will continue to update the main website to which this blog is attached – check the new additions page if you want to see what is being added. Wow, this may also be one of the least humorous blog I’ve written over the past year, so I obviously do need a break from Mister Trippy!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!