Bloggers flash mobbing at Fianna Fail web launch…

Tonight Blue State Digital gathered a few Irish bloggers to show them their new FF 2.0 website in Dublin tonight… No doubt the report will be on Irish Election, Suzy and several other watering holes tonight/tomorrow. It sounds like ‘authenticity‘ was the bloggers problem (too much Fianna Fail not enough BSD, as per the publicity promise)…

Just the appearance of a FFer in a blog space is enough to raise heckles (Shudnta left it to Damien to hold the fort on his own for so long, or you might have had some blog backings)… Well, this might not be the best time to flag up our live blog of the FF conference on Saturday…

Be good to have some guest bloggers who don’t salivate at the mere thought of seeing a member of the ruling Junta party… If there is any on Twitter, my guess is they are keeping their heads firmly down….

Update: Damien M has details of the riot; but there’s not much on what was actually said…

Update 2: Fionn asks the question I’m thinking too: ‘how long will it take FF to join the conversation online & on Twitter?’

Update 3: Damien B offers his tuppence worth from an organisers/ Fianna Fail point of view

Update 4: Suzie’s account suggests confounded expectations (more up front next time lads, and no silent apologies for being Fianna Fail?). Cian: “Twitter was abuzz with those who didn’t come for politics wondering what was up”. Gav has invite and thoughts

Keith has tighter reading on the problem with the site; it’s social medium without a virtual society (or anything). Twenty, I suspect, gets to the heart of what’s driving this blog mobbing (contains offensive material)…

Last Update (honest): Gary warns about the pitfalls of using social media

My gathered thoughts below the fold:This is now being tagged on Twitter as a #PRFail. Yep, probably true. Though it will be a test of the metal of some mainstream journos and politicians now being petitioned through Twitter to take notice of something that is big news on the Irish blogosphere; but which may not actually matter to anyone in the real world. Though something sticky may arise

Welcome to the world of the Undernews…

Cian says it was not a Flash mob… Well, I wasn’t there, so all I have to go on is the Twitter feeds of all those who used the hastag #rospars; the name of the American social media expert whose company put together the new Fianna Fail site (built in 10 days BTW, which is the only concrete information I actually got from the torrent of indignant tweets that came flowing out this evening).

It was certainly impressive, and a sort of answer to people like Jimmy who instinctively don’t like Twitter because of its simplicity. And a kind of vindication too. This is a hugely social media, in which audiences are accumulated through linking between people attracted to one another. You follow others and they can unfollow you pretty quickly if they don’t like what you are saying or the way you say it.

The sense in which people worked themselves into a lather simply by the ability to ‘touch’ each immediately was palpable, particularly when viewed at a substantial remove. The question it raises for me is: how reliable a tool is Twitter for citizen-reporting, when the ‘mobs’ become over socialised and under critical?

In the wisdom of crowds James Surowiecki is very clear at the outset that smart mobs rely on being both diverse and independent to become smart. And he illustrates the dangers of homogenity in groups with a cracking quote from Charles Mackay:

Men, it has been well said, think in herds. It will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they recover their senses one by one.” [Emphasis added]

I’m not saying people went mad tonight, but in effect we had lots of individuals saying the same thing over and over. And agreeing with each other. It certainly made for compelling reading, but all the time, I was watching for dissent and none came. And few details of what passed there.

As Conoro rather crudely put it: “Knicker-twisting echoes in a stormy cup always good for a laugh.”

As I have said above, Fianna Fail will have learned a tough lesson tonight. One of them is that they need to engage as individuals on the blogs, on Facebook, and on Twitter, if their voice is ever going to rise and be heard above the throng… And that maybe trying to emulate the Obama campaign at a time when they are about as popular as George Bush was always was going to fetch them a rough ride…

And maybe somewhere someone will see the verity of tweeting what you see and hear, rather than tweeting what you feel…?

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  • Mick,

    I put the event together, and I’m genuinely, really sorry that anyone was annoyed about this; we wanted to give as many people as possible the opportunity to hear Joe’s thoughts and to question him.

    I’ve put a full post on this up on my own blog at:


  • And north of the border on Saturday, we’ll be filing live blog reports from the Convention on Modern Liberty in Belfast and London, over at Amnesty Blogs: Belfast and Beyond.

    Of course, you can always get out from behind your screen and go along in person…

    At QUB from 9am – 5:30pm.

  • EWI

    I bloody laughed my ass off when I read of what had happened [Play the ball – mods]

  • Mick,

    I would in general agree that “discussions” should keep a strong element of critical analysis. However, in this case, the nature of the complaint was open and shut.

    How is it possible to believe that this deception was not deliberate? Fianna Fail members (such as Damien Blake) were told it was a Fianna Fail event, while Strawberry Media (run by the same Damien Blake) advertised it as an “open seminar” (Brendan Hughes does an evidence-based post on, without once mentioning the party political content, or even the fact that FF were “hosting”, “sponsoring” or “paying for” the gig. These are facts, Mick. Cold hard, un-feeling FACTS. You can argue with sentiment, you can argue over principles, but your can’t argue with the FACTS.

    Ok, now to non-facts, a little conjecture: obviously Fianna Fail were worried that they wouldn’t get sufficient turnout if they promoted the launch as a party political event, so they hoodwinked members of the online community with the promise of a no-strings-attached seminar with a man who is something of a legend and hero to that same online community. I used a very strong analogy to describe this behaviour, and I won’t do you the disservice of quoting it here, but if you want to take a look – – be warned, may be offensive.


  • Mick this reads like there was agreement in advance that everyone would get pissed off on cue. It’s clear from the tweets and posts that the bloggers attending were sold one thing and attended another. I don’t know how many claim to be citizen journalists but they’re under no obligation to tweet in journalistic disinterestedness.
    I’d get in quite a lather if I’d had my time wasted, as seems to be the case here.
    “but which may not actually matter to anyone in the real world”: it matters enough that FF are trying to adopt the internetty magic of the Obama campaign.

  • Mick Fealty

    Right guys, that was a marathon evening. The hastag seems to have stopped flowing; so I presume the protagonists have adjourned to the pub…

    I’m adjourning to my bed…

  • Mick Fealty

    Sorry, missed that GI and Francis.

    The point about Twitter is that you don’t need a pre consensus; it’s the social aspect of the technology that works it up that way in minutes by the look of things.

    As it happens in the off-Twitter blogging, I think there will be a few lines that will probably get lifted (that ‘buying foreign’ thing on Damien’s own blog looks like it could develop into poison to me).

    Maybe I am being too purist about it, and maybe I would have felt the same way had I been there [though I think my instinct to document might have had me pumping out some verbatim from at least some of the speakers).

    But as a consumer of Twitter in this case, the firing up of all that anger was fascinating, but I did not get from it what I look for in social media: an increase in knowledge of what was happening.

  • It was interesting in how opinions were expressed and feelings felt from the non politically aligned bloggers who nailed what was happening in that room on twitter before the crew I was with did on back row. (We were too busy looking at the ashes on peoples foreheads and the number of suits in the room at what we thought was a blogger/techy event). I went for a pint after it all with 3 others and we said well thats that – we knew what we had seen and were not surprised it happened. But it was the non any party tweeters who called the organisers on it and it took off from there.

    Mick I don’t know why feelings are a bad thing for you – it’s one of the most interesting parts of social media to hear reactions and senses people experience from events as well as what they see and hear.

    As for knowledge – I think what we clearly saw from political and non political bloggers and tweeters tonight was knowledge and confidence – more and more people believe they should be spoke to clearly and treated with respect. Offers of opinions, experience, coverage and analysis are made, advice on how to pitch things is freely given by people who know and want to share the knowledge. Reactions to what works and doesn’t is also given freely.

    The blog posts that followed the tweets were mostly explanatory in what happened and what should have happened. It’s not just a swarm of bees round honey anymore like some slagging match – it’s got far more maturity and cop than that.

  • I think there’s a danger that we miss a bigger story if we focus on the reaction of bloggers, however justified. Do FF really think that by going to the USA to hire the firm that managed Obama’s web campaign they can have some of the Obama effect? After all from what I see the finished product, the FF website, though slick, is a bog standard website that could have been produced by any number of Irish companies.

    Is this a case of a party that has more money than sense? Or just a party that’s desperate to stave off an apparently imminent electoral disaster?

    My money is on that you can’t buy class – and the more you spend looking for it, the less likely you get it. Obama’s ‘got it’. Fianna Fáíl? Doubtful?

  • Mick Fealty


    That’s precisely the point I was going to make in a short follow-up this morning… the obvious analogy for me is the Man City debacle…

    Having the highest spend in the market cannot make up for having actual people/talent in the social game…

    Contrast this with Irish Labour’s (who have been slowly investing in this game for years) genuinely open seminar last weekend… although, to be truthful the scent of blood in the water seems to be the best way to excite a twitter fest of such proportions…

    This is the second Irish blogger blood fest in the last month or so… the first wasn’t as spectacular and involved the Green Press Office sending out an invitation to a tech blogger who then claimed he was being spammed…

    He got an apology for his trouble… One I am not entirely sure was necessary or warrented, but at this stage hitting parties who try to engage with the blogosphere is like shooting fish in a barrel…

  • It’s not so long ago that Brian Lenihan stood up in the Dáíl to urge us all not to spend money in Newry doing our daily shopping as it was ‘unpatriotic’. Yet today, his own party, Fianna Fáil, has hired a leading US firm to build the party’s new website . This is the firm that President Barack Obama hired to manage his web campaign on his way to the White House and, perhaps, Fianna Fáil, having more money than sense, feel that this is the way to get some of the Obama magic working on their flagging poll fortunes.

  • Mick, I’ll put my hand up and admit to being that type of shark you describe, but it’s not an accurate analogy for most of the bloggers who were there. The anger expressed was at being duped, and while Damien B has very diligently apologised through the night the fact is bloggers were invited under false pretences.
    The Greens sent an unsolicited email to a blogger who has made no secret of his very tight definition of spam. When trying to build relationships with bloggers it would be a good idea to read them first.
    And yes, the main point that should be made here is that FF seem to think that if they rub off Obama vigorously enough some of his success might stick to them. No matter how many reporters try and create this myth by the conflation of Brian with Barack, it will remain so inadequate as to be laughable. Which is where this blogger usually comes in.

  • Mick Fealty


    It’s not feelings per se; it’s the balance between feeling and thought. Maybe this is the limitation of Twitter that Jimmy talks about, but I don’t think so.

    That eyewitness tweets from Holland yesterday was compelling because it gave us fact inflected with the feeling of someone actually being there.

    The problem with last night, for me, was the ‘over socialised and under critical’ one. Down came the red mist, everyone fired out and banged in their anger. And that was it.

    The rest is history.

  • Mick Fealty


    For the record, your cartoon of the event is sheer genius. You in particular should regret rien!

    A blogger’s self made definition is not the same as the law’s. Underlying this is the parties’ gingerness in dealing with form they don’t understand and are not familiar with. The correct response is to work out the law tell the blogger in question to go hang (a la O’Leary). It’s hostages to fortune otherwise.

    I’m not shy of giving politicians of all stripes (scroll the front for the ‘FF toxic government’ story) a hard time over things they have done wrong; lies they have told; policies they have crafted that are not fit for purpose.

    I am wary of this ‘hunting in packs’ business, not least because it is likely to push professional politicians further back into their own silos and be less willing to find ways to open up to an intelligent commons. That’s not good for the country IMHO.

    Was FF culpable? Absolutely. If it is smart it will learn. More likely it’s rivals on the opposition benches will learn that Irish bloggers are mad, bad, and dangerous to know! 😉

  • “I am wary of this ‘hunting in packs’ business”.

    I’d be wary of seeing packs, especially in this instance, but I do take your point about pols becoming reluctant to engage. I think pols would use it as another excuse to withdraw from public engagement though, and raises questions about kid gloves our end.

    If FF were to take anything from this is that by actually apologising, taking due blame, and engaging directly with all the bloggers who were there or have expressed an opinion DB has quelled most of the anger and actually gained some respect.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sure, they are – or they should be – big boys and girls about this. But I also think what marks a lot of the recent ‘shock, horror, probe’ stories we’re getting are simply is their triviality.

    Maybe the network is the thing. Rushes like this may make it stronger and the ‘smartness’ (in Surowiecki’s meaning, ie diversity of thought) can be injected later.

  • There can be no doubt that Strawberry Media were incredibly stupid in organising an event and not stating the FF connection up front. If I’d gone to it, I’d have had exactly the same reaction.

    BUT, what actually bugs me more now is that I went to some effort yesterday to try and find someone to cover for me in the shop so I could go to this event. I read about it on Damien Mulley’s blog – I wouldn’t have heard about it otherwise.

    I find it hard to fathom that he did not make the FF connection especially since he got notified about it by Damien Blake himself. He knows who Blake is. I did not, and therefore knew nothing of about a possible FF connection until the outraged Tweets and Retweets started appearing in my twitterstream on the bus home. I did a quick google and immediately made the connection – wow aren’t I clever…

    If I was operating at the level Damien does in media circles (and indeed others who I see posted in advance of the event), I would have advised my blog readership that this is a FF sponsored event – approach with caution.

    Why not expose Strawberry Media’s connections before the event and save bloggers the hassle?

    This just smacks of controversy for the sake of, well – I don’t know what.

    Very pissed off ordinary blogger who expects a bit more from people who know more about these things…..

  • I’m a little cheesed off about all of this too but from a different perspective. I’m a FF activist (candidate now even) who has been experimenting with social media for a couple of years now. I first heard about the event through normal FF channels. Initial reaction delighted to see a guy of this calibre coming over to teach us new tricks. But I was a bit confused to stumble upon some tweets later that evening that seemed to be plugging the same event but with no FF tag.. Credit where it’s due lads give us a good news story when we have one was my thinking.. Now as it happens I couldn’t make the gig – attempted juggle several irons but just didn’t work and I had to forgo the gig in end.

    I should point out, in the official FF invite that I received, there was no indication whatsoever of secrecy or a coverup or anything of the sort, in fact I forwaded the invite directly to many friends and bloggers I thought might be interested. Which was exactly how it should have been promoted by the official organisers.

    Had I made the event, cancelled my other gigs and burnt a few brownies at home and abroad (which I was very close to doing until logistics prevailed) I might have been a bit annoyed to find there were multiple different audiences with multiple expectations and that there were suddenly a backlash emerging because a second invite (the strawberry one) had been issued separately. Great to broaden the pool but lets all go to the same party. I’d say I would have been rightly pi$$ed and in fact I kind of am now, reviewing the aftermath. I’d looked forward to picking up a post-event podcast, instead I find a pile of angry tweeters and I’m saying wtf

    I think strawberry media have learned a lesson and it is a useful one for anyone in PR or in general (although it’s fairly 101 stuff but how and ever). But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. There may be merits in the initative. In fairness it comes from a good stable (Rospars). I’m certainly planning to try out some of the candidate features – although I won’t be cancelling my own hosting just yet..

  • Hey. Your reference to my post seems to suggest that I’m a closet FF’er?? I’m assuming you took the time to read my post and see that I’m not involved with ANY political party. I do happen to have a couple of friends who are FF, but have no affiliations. Important to set the record straight.

    My point was that there was a very clear deception – seemingly intentional. I personally try to encourage organisations to use social media and I think it’s a positive step forward for political parties to start engaging with the electorate in this way. Pity they’ve got off on the wrong foot.

    It seems that you’ve intepreted my offer of help to them as secret support…

    Hopefully I’ve misinterpreted you. 🙂

  • Mick Fealty

    Sorry Brendan, that was an attempt at a poetic (ie, in an en passant, galloping on the hoof sort of way) summation of your point: ie, don’t hide/fake it.

    Hadn’t occurred to me it might read like that. But I see the inference now. Sorry.