As various people have noted, its voting time for the Total Politics Top 100 Political Blogs.You're not suppose to publicise who you've voted for in case a pattern of 'voting by slate' emerges. Which is sort of fair enough if it stops the net libertarians all piling in behind Guido Fawkes, but I suspect it won't. & Paul is right to point out it is largely unenforceable. The blogs have to be 'based in the UK, run by UK residents are eligible or based on UK politics'.
Anyway, this has provoked me to reflect on what exactly is it that I value in other people's blogs. It's certainly not ideological conformity or confirming my ideas: I voted for people who are considerably to both my Left and to my Right, though I drew the line at voting for purely academic sites or anyone associated with the Tories or LibDems. So what criteria did I use?
Firstly, the ability to not shout. This is rarer than it might seem on the internet. The default mode at CIF, for example, is shouting - and this is replicated in discussions at Harry's Place and Socialist Unity. Bloggers can't be blamed for the 'rats in a sack' attitude of people who comment on their posts of course, but they can set a tone I think. & I'm just too old to take any notice if the tone is shouty.
My second pre-requisite is a two parter: good blogs must know what they're talking about, but also know the limits of their expertise. This combination is more uncommon than you might imagine. The blogosphere is full of sites which 'own a hammer and therefore think every problem is a nail' as it were. Avoiding this is perfectly compatible with political commitment and ideological fervour. It's really about having a curiosity about the world as opposed to just a preset plan to reshape it.
Because I've become fascinated by economic issues since last autumn's economic crisis I regularly enjoy a variety of blogs dealing with matters of political economy, from the austere but rewarding Willem Buiter on the establishment wing,through the gifted Paul Mason to the wonderfully eccentric unorthodox Troskyist Boffy. John Ross is always readable, be it on his own site or Ken's. But my current favourites are the Left-Labourish Duncan and, pre-eminently, Stumbling and Mumbling, both of whom have a commitment to opening up complex economic debates to us non-specialists. Tom at Labour and Capital deserves a mention for his sheer 'stickability' on a very narrow brief (or so it seems to we non experts) - and for the best single political comment in less than 200 words on the economic crisis I've read anywhere. & Anne Pettifor is a routinely worthwhile reference point over at Debtonation. Bubbly Alice lets me peek at the economic world as the Right see it - a strangely fascinating experience if one takes it with a sense of moderation.
But I also like folk who know stuff I don't know that much about - people like parliamentary insider Hopi, the gorgeously phrased writing of Fat Man On A Keyboard and that foreign policy specialising far left humourist, Blood and Treasure. Splinty is also well informed on foreign policy, amongst other things, and regularly funny; he should be considered a national treasure for one or other of the national traditions he reports on from Belfast, and perhaps for both of them. Jim at the Daily (Maybe) is my gateway to greenery, while Flipchart Rick prowls along the other side of the politics-management border from me.
Lastly, there are two people I regularly read who know about stuff I once knew about but have forgotten. A Very Public Sociologist reassures me that the subject matter of my 30 year old undergraduate degree hasn't changed that much, whilst Potlatch convinces me it has. They're both good writers with a hinterland of interests I find fascinating.
That's 16 people, none of whom I've ever met and none of whom know my real name. Go vote and keep them all in mind in choosing your ten. Remember: anyone but Guido...