A list of what has changed on this site, whether it is new features, blogs that have been added or removed, or just general news.
The topic is Topics
1st Oct 2021
When Voices for Independence started the idea that every post would be given a set of tags. These would be separate from the tags given by the blog post authors and would do two things. First, they'd smooth out of the differences between the author's tags so posts on the same subject would have the same tags. That makes it easy to find posts on the same subject. Second the tags would "Topics" - big ticket subjects like "Land Reform", "Nicola Sturgeon", "Nuclear Weapons", etc.,etc., that would capture the main issues surrounding campaigning for and gaining independence and what priorities an independent Scotland would address. Each topic would have a short description, for example, Women's Rights so you'd easily understand why it was being written about. Eventually the idea was to add links and create, in effect, a mini wikipedia page. Noble stuff, except...
Classifying each post according to a set of topics proved to be a lot more work than expected. The range of issues covered in blog posts and articles is vast and depending on current state of politics, continually changing. That makes classifying whether a post fits into a given topic a bit like trying to nail jelly to a wall. You could limit the number of topics and the number of posts that got tagged with a particular topic but you'd have to ask to what end, if a sizeable number of posts got left out.
Starting October 1st, blog posts and articles are tagged according to the subject being covered, with a little editorialising so that similar posts end up with similar sets of tags. Now the cloud of topics displayed for each week's links now reflect the subjects being covered rather than trying to be subjects in a Encyclopedia of Independence. Now you can see the sentiment of the posts and get and idea of the hot-button items being discussed.
You can still click on a topic and see the list of posts that covered that subject. The results are going to be a little noisy since it's often hard to decide whether the content fits an existing topic or whether a new one should be added but it should be possible to see which issues are big-ticket, long term one and which are only in focus for a short period of time.
The other, and perhaps main reason, for this change is that tagging all the posts each day - which requires reading them all - takes a bit of time. Not a lot, but enough that automating the process and getting a computer to do the tagging automatically seems like a good idea. It's just a seed so far but there's plenty of Natural Language Processing software available that makes it seem practical. That would free up time to look at other things to push the country just that little bit closer to freedom.
1st Sep 2021
The move on 24th August by Rob Brown to take Jaggy.blog subscription only means there's nothing to publish and so the feed from the blog was suspended. You can still see the list of posts that were published before the site went private, though you can't access them. They were left on the site as once the statistics on site traffic are added you'll get an idea of how popular the site was (always in the top 5) before the need to earn a crust took precedence.
White Rose Rising
28th Aug 2021
Added Peter Bell's "side project", White Rose Rising. The About page on the site gives a good description of what it aims to achieve. There's a little bit of cross-posting between White Rose Rising and Peter Bell's personal blog so you'll have to tolerate a little duplication until we can figure out a way of handling that. In the meantime it will be interesting to see how it complements or competes with Now Scotland.
26th Aug 2021
I got this rather irate email, justifiably so, from Harry on why I was hosting Kevin Hague's blog on a site that was supposedly promoting independence. Here's the core of my reply...
When I created voices, I started with Wings over Scotland and went through the list of blogs linked to, added the ones that were still active, then repeated the process for those sites. I can't remember how chokka blog got added but it was probably from a link on another blog.
I read the (GERS) article and to be honest I wasn't sure what side of the fence Kevin Hague sat on - his writing is a bit dense. I read a couple of other posts and while they are critical of the SNP and the Scottish Government in general it still wasn't clear that he was anti-independence. However his twitter feed is unequivocal.
I do have sort of an editorial policy on what sites appear, but it's not well defined. For example Bella Caledonia is currently not featured as it is too keen on some of the more controversial policies of the SNP. However that does not mean I won't add it at some point in the future. It's a similar story with the likes of Kevin McKenna. He writes a lot of sense in his criticism of the government but The Glasgow Herald isn't exactly pro-indy. So there is value in having opposing views featured as I don't want the site to simply be just another bubble mindlessly repeating "Tories Baad, Indy Gooood".
I've disabled the site so new posts won't be added. I'll leave the existing posts alone for now. I'll read some more of his posts and make a decision on whether to enable the feed again or delete it and let you know.
Hague does not publish very often except around the time the GERS report is published so there might be some value in keeping it but perhaps with some kind of labelling so there's no confusion.
UPDATE: As of 17th Oct chokka blog is still suspended but the posts are still on the site though only through this link. They are probably worth some airtime, if only to refute the argument, however this is not the site.
In the beginning
24th May 2021
Dedicated to Nana.
If you look back to 2010 or so there was a Cambrian Explosion of pro-independence blogs. Lots of people had lots to say and were keen to share their vision of an independence Scotland and the reasons why that needed to happen. Then along came 2014 and the failed referendum took a lot of wind out of the sails. A good number gave up either through disappointment with the result or with the realisation that a free Scotland was off the cards for a while.
Since 2014 little has changed and that's the problem. All the promises made to derail a Yes vote were quickly forgotten. The daily doses of "too wee, too poor, too stupid" are still the staple of the mainstream media and Project Fear is still humming along. No wonder then that the mood is changing and demands for another referendum are growing louder.
There's always been a demand for "links", to see what lies the mainstream media are telling and to find out what other people are thinking - a mix of curiosity, information and affirmation. Nana was posting a daily batch to the comments section of Wings Over Scotland and that's what gave me the idea for this site. Though collecting links is just a matter of cutting and pasting it takes a surprising amount of time. Doing that day in, day out takes quite a bit of dedication. Software people are inherently lazy so automating this seemed a like a good idea. Most sites have an RSS feed so collecting the links for all the articles published each day and putting them in one place was an obvious and straightforward step.
Unfortunately most of what's published in the mainstream media is either ignorant or simply junk. A lot of the mainstream press are on their last legs. They have a crippling cost structure and now that Google and Facebook stole all the advertisers there is little money for journalists and certainly no time for quality or even grammar checking. Even in the raft of new media sites, gunning to replace the dead-tree press, the problems are the same. The result is simply opinion or propaganda dressed up as news. The other problem is that not everything in the mainstream media feeds are related to independence. Lots of manual checking of stories is needed to see if they are worth publishing or not. The result is that we're more or less back to square one with the amount of work required. The flip side to all this is volume. You need to cover a lot of sites to be interesting bu that creates the problem that very few people have the time or inclination to go through it all. In the end you don't actually achieve very much.
Pro-independence blogs were always in the mix. At the start there was the usual suspects, Wings Over Scotland, Wee Ginger Dug, Grouse Beater, Craig Murray, etc. who all provide a narrative that is the antithesis of Better Together. As with any automation task the key ingredient is simplification. The decision to limited the set of RSS feeds to the pro-independence blogs neatly solves the curation problem by simply publishing everything and so Voices for Independence was born. Well, the actual path was a bit messier than that and it wasn't until I started digging around for more blogs to add to the list of eight or so I started with that the general idea of what I wanted to do started to take shape. So, what is this site trying to do?
In single sound-bite it's "trying to recapture the spirit of 2014". That's a pretty lofty and pretty much impossible goal as well as being pretty nebulous. Put in simpler terms, now that there's one place for people to find what the independence bloggers are saying it makes an ideal platform for trying to get more people blogging. One of the hard tasks, apart from the actual writing, is building an audience. This site will hopefully help kick-start that by offering a ready-made audience for each blog included to draw on.
The more interesting part is that there's no need to blog all the time and the yet more interesting part is that you don't to be blogging on the same stuff that everybody else is going on about. That makes it possible for people to dip a toe into the water without much effort. So with a bit of luck the pool of people talking about independence can be increased along with the topics covered. All helping readers come to the conclusion that Scotland needs to be standing on it's own two feet instead of propping up the English economy. There's also the nice-to-have possibility that this might start nudging people to give up going to the dead-tree press sites and so hasten their demise.
I have no idea on whether this will work but already things are humming along quite smoothly. The most work is coming up with pithy descriptions for the topics used to label each post. However, even that is not taking up much time now than the range of topics covered is stabilising. Eventually I'll get round to posting some traffic numbers so you can see how this is working out. However I'm really looking forward to adding the first blog from someone who came to site and decided to take up the pen in service to their country.