First Quarter Thoughts

So that’s the first 90 days gone now — maybe it’s time for a bit of reflection on where we’ve come from, and where we’re going with this effort.

Well, a bit of statistics first I guess: 90 individual entries; of which 9 came from ‘guest’ contributors; 34 were the direct result of interviews/chats/meetings with me or that I attended, and 47, roughly half, were more personal ‘diary-type’ musings, observations, reminiscences, kind of developed quietly at the kitchen table here in Sparty, often based on personal knowledge gleaned over the past nearly 30 years.

In terms of topics: 26 of the 90 entries were about local organisations; 27 about local businesses; 9 about local events; 28 were more musings or ‘local colour’. Some 64 comments ‘below the line’ have been approved for publishing, as they amplify the brief of the blog. A fair few comments have been privately recognised; all have been appreciated! Many of the ideas for entries have come from comment contributors: thank you all!

Along the way, editorial criteria have changed somewhat: the sketches have been sharpened, and in places where they really didn’t work, black and white renditions of colour images with heightened contrast have been used. Guest contributions have been welcomed, and where alternative perspectives have seemed appropriate, they have appeared below the line as Comments. Politeness and a general sense of ‘niceness’ has prevailed so far. That’s not to say we haven’t been afraid to approach topics that could be controversial (the editorial concept is that everything we talk about, you know, is fair ‘grist for the mill’ as long as it’s not libellous), but I’ve been so chuffed to have received an ecclesiastical compliment of the highest order, that a particular piece skirted an ‘eirenic’ line, to my great delight. On the other hand, it’s been challenging sometimes to get a sense of ‘feelings’ about any particular group — even guest contributors are often reluctant to chat about what motivates them, how it feels to participate, why they do it. The diary could do better at eliciting more of a feelings sensibility, I think.

So is it ‘more of the same’, ‘steady as she goes’ into the future, or should we consider different emphases? The first quarter concentrated on the ‘bricks-and-mortar’ sort of business establishments beginning with the center and moving outwards, along with organisations that have been either forthcoming with contributions, or receptive to interview, that is to say, the easiest ones to catch! More of that, certainly, expanding to businesses on the periphery of Allendale and out to the hinterlands of the Allen Valleys, many more individual enterprises naturally. And so many other organisations to chat with. The challenge for me is that this coming quarter is likely to see me more physically indisposed even than the end of the first quarter, and so more contributions from local groups themselves (rather than me going out to them) will be really invaluable towards the successful completion of entries. I have, with grateful thanks, built up a small library of 5 new contributions so far, to help through a desert of incapacity anticipated mid-quarter, but more would be so very welcome. And too . . . what’s missing? Contributions from all readers are very welcome, but subject to normal editorial constraints, of course.

Week on week, the diary has added new subscribers, now at 79 email and another 10 who are also email but are WordPress registered, in addition to ‘casual’ viewers which range from 50-150 daily. So, basically, one new subscriber for every day of the diary, which is kind of neat, really, along with an average of about 90 separate views a day from other interested folks. And I’ve noted, in passing almost, how to promote the blog, eliciting hundreds more views (currently about 8000 views in total) from local folks with every mention in various local facebook groups. The diary’s mission has never been to ‘go viral’ or to reach out to huge audiences; rather it’s been to show off Allendale and the Allen Valleys to ourselves. If this process continues, if folks enjoy the writing and the daily diary entries, then by the end of the year, we could hope that there will be enough support to make the production of a ‘book of the blog’ — a real look at ‘A Year in the Life of a Village’ feasible with a view to generating significant revenue for charitable purposes. And maybe such a ‘blook’ will be something worthwhile in and of itself.

It’s fair to say that this first quarter has been more fun in the writing than I ever imagined it could be (and at the same time more stressful — nothing wrong with a bit of stress!), and careful readers are so greatly appreciated. So, bring on the new quarter, and as they say: ‘Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!’

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