Damned in 140 characters or fewer

Francis Sedgemore, Monday 19 November 2012 at 18:01 UTC

Reform luddite and irredeemable old fart Dr Francis Sedgemore has yielded to the inevitable, made a faustian pact with the interwebs, and signed up to Twitter. He has now been assimilated, and adopted @hesgen * as his twittish identity.

Francis Sedgemore (@hesgen) on Twitter

Actually, I hinted at this move a month ago, when I shut down the borked comments system on this blog. At the time I received advice from friends which suggested Twitter as a way of, er, engaging with readers. Another advantage of offloading the blog discussion onto a platform such as Twitter is that the modest bandwidth and disk quota on this site are no longer chewed up by several hundred spambot visits every day.

What tipped me over the edge were comments made by three speakers at an NUJ freelance conference which took place on Saturday in central London. The speakers were keen young things, fully engaged with microblogging, and at first their enthusiasm met with my usual sneer.

Unsympathetic I may have been, but I listened closely to the conference speakers, and in particular their comments concerning the value of Twitter in communicating with commissioning editors. These webby hipsters were telling us that, in refusing to engage with Twitter, social media resistors in the journalism trade put themselves at a severe competitive disadvantage. Twitter may be no substitute for professional networking, but without it long-form blogs such as this could continue to sink beneath the digital waves.

So Twitter it is then. I shall use the platform to attract readers to this website, and direct readers to Twitter if they wish to discuss particular posts. It will probably take this old geezer a while to get to grips with Twitter and use it efficiently. Indeed, this was always one of my greatest fears – getting sucked to Twitter as a black hole for time that would be better spent in long-form writing. How best to filter this vast ocean of instacomments I do not know, but I will have to find out.

Returning readers may have noticed that Twitter has now been integrated into this site. In the sidebar to the right is a “Follow @hesgen” button, and on every individual blog post page a button for tweeting that post, together with a “Flattr this!” button for donations. The latter will no doubt be the least visited group of pixels on the page.

Another change that I’ve made to the site in the past day is to remove the Google adverts. The subject of website advertising as a personal revenue stream came up during the NUJ conference, and the consensus is that this kind of advert platform does not work for low-volume sites. Even with the more popular corporate websites it can be more trouble than it’s worth.

As it happens, my projected earnings from Google Adsense will not cover the site hosting costs. The adverts are rarely appealing, and it is no wonder that hardly anyone ever clicks on them. For these reasons I would rather call it quits, reclaim the page space, and find more cost-effective ways of monetising the blog. No apologies from me if that sounds distasteful, but I write for a living. Ego-massaging comes way down my list of priorities.

Any further advice on the exploitation of social media will be gratefully received. But whatever you do, please do not suggest FaceBook, for that really is beyond the pale.

* In case you are wondering, “hesgen” is the Welsh/Brythonic for “sedge”.