Is all change good?
Posted on 15 March 2009 | 10:03am
Since getting into blogging, Twitter and Facebook, it has been interesting to see what kind of message, tweet or status update gets people going. I’d love to be able to say it is the serious heavyweight political contribution or call to arms, and to be fair, I have been impressed by the level and nature of the debate the big political points can get going.
As you will see if you get the New Statesman on Thursday, there has been a great response to my appeal for one sentence ideas for Labour’s next manifesto. Also, I was so taken with the analyses of Tory policy appearing here and on my Facebook page, from one of my most assiduous commenters, Alina Palimura in Washington DC, that I have asked her to write a piece for the magazine. I hope Labour ministers take note of the call for more aggressive demolition of David Cameron’s threadbare case.
The other bonus politically has been that I have been able to engage in direct debate with broadly sympathetic people, and turn supporters into members and activists for Labour. So that is all well and good.
Some of the biggest responses, however, have been to anything that shows humour or, dare I say it, indulges in a bit of personal or cultural trivia. Fiona saying I can’t load a dishwasher, for example. Whoosh! Again, that’s fine. No harm done, and it builds the sense of camaraderie between a near random set of people calling each other friends. Someone posted a comment yesterday, in response to my blog on a date with 130 Burnley women, that it was nice to wake up to a laugh. It’s nice for me to wake up to know someone’s had one. And if I can combine a laugh with a political point (I won’t pretend there were any in the Burnley Ladies Day blog, just politically incorrect perhaps) even better.
Then the other area – and I am finally nearing my point here – is that you can always provoke a debate if you say something about life online. Last night, I was trying to put a message on Alina’s wall to thank her for sending me a Canadian review of my novel, and for doing the New Statesman piece. It went up as a status update. So then I put up something lamenting my failure to differentiate between a message and an update, and added as an afterthought … ‘and where did this new [Facebook] design come from?’
Whoosh … in they came, messages from people in the main agreeing that they were finding recent changes very hard to follow or manage. So it was not only me. Someone spoke of the need for ‘people power’ to be generated to get the Facebook powers that be to change. I’m hoping that someone who works at Facebook will find their way here and take some of the complaints on board.
But the comments that really caught my eye were the ones, much smaller in number, that suggested I was scared of change. I suppose it was particularly striking because when I was working with Tony Blair, I was often the one saying to people they should not be scared of change, they should stop seeing only the downside of the process and instead try to keep eyes fixed on the progress change could bring (which, whatever complaints people have, a decade of Labour has done).
I know the ste
ady transformation of a country through three Parliaments is not the same as a few annoying little tweaks on a social networking site, and equally I know that the internet has been one of the genunely historic changes of recent times, but somewhere in there is the argument that defines all significant human activity. The question is not whether we need change. We always need change. But we also need constancy and stability. Getting good change as opposed to bad change is the hard call.
So this morning I tried to work out whether I was already, after just a few weeks, becoming a bit small c conservative about life online, (like those right-wing bloggers who can’t get used to Labour people being here now, and pick us up on our Twitter etiquette, whatever the hell that is) or whether in fact, the design changes made are just bad changes made for the sake of change.
I will mull all this as I go out on my road bike in this beautiful sunshine, and prepare to watch the new film on the environment, The Age of Stupid, later today. Now that is going to be a changemaker. I just know it.
I would have explained myself better if I had been able to track back through comments on a few earlier Facebook postings. Or if I could find a way, quickly, of scanning through all the comments that came in to various updates in the last 48 hours when I have been away from my desk. But I couldn’t for the life of me work out how to do it. I could do it the day before yesterday.