Yes, folks, this blog is five years old today. I’ve been cranking out this rubbish for half a decade now. I’ve done a celebratory guest post over at XpertHR, prefaced by some very kind words from Michael Carty.
I set this blog up after a conversation over lunch with some colleagues. The name came to me at 2.30 in the morning when I couldn’t get to sleep for reasons I can’t now remember and which probably weren’t important anyway.
At first, I had no idea what I was going to write about. In my first post, I had a pop at another blogger, Jeremy Jacobs. I had already commented on Jeremy’s blog and I knew he had a sense of humour, so it wasn’t that much of a risk. However, it did set a pattern for picking arguments with people!
Blogging has changed since 2007. A lot of the discussion that once took place on comments threads has moved on to forums like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I have mixed feelings about Twitter. There is no doubt that it has publicised this blog to a wider audience but it has also, along with other social media, dispersed the discussion on the posts. I now find, especially with a controversial piece, that the debate on it is going on in three or four different threads.
I think it has also changed the sort of posts I write on the blog. The random thoughts tend to go on Twitter so the posts on the blog have got longer and tend to cover subjects that are too complex or nuanced to discuss in 140 characters. These days, I would put a short aside like this on Twitter.
When I started Flip Chart Fairy Tales, I had no idea where it was going to go. Much of its increase in traffic is due to timing. The subjects that I would probably have written about anyway have become mainstream due to the financial crisis and its aftermath. A few years ago, articles on whether bonuses work, how companies are governed and the efficiency of public services would have never have made it beyond the business pages. Nowadays, they are the subjects of articles and comment pieces in the main bit of the newspaper. The increased level of interest has also, I think, attracted a lot more people to business and economics blogs. For example, two of the most frequently read posts on here are about the UK’s public debt – one comparing it with other countries, the other taking a longer term view. If you had asked people in 2006 what the country’s debt-to-GDP level was, most people wouldn’t have had a clue. Nowadays, for obvious reasons, people take a lot more interest in public finances. And so they should.
Inevitably, when you discuss public finances and public sector reform, the discussion becomes political. As some of the commenters in this thread note (and I agree) it is almost impossible to keep politics out of public services. Some of the articles on this blog have criticised things that the government has done and have therefore been quoted approvingly on some left-wing blogs. Recently, someone on Twitter recommended this as one of his favourite left-wing blogs. While I was flattered by the recommendation, I was not so happy about the label. I have tried to keep ideology and my own political views off this blog. Criticism of government decisions have, I hope, been based on my opinions about whether they will work, rather than my beliefs about whether they are right or wrong. Those who have been reading this blog for a while will remember that, on the same basis, I slagged off the last government too. Managerialism may be a dirty word in some quarters but it is the approach I try to take here. The subjects covered may be controversial but I focus primarily on what I think is most likely to work and leave shoulds and oughts to others.
It’s been a great five years. Some posts have generated a lot of comment, others have sunk without trace. I’ve called some some things right and been completely wrong about others. Depending on your point of view, you will be pleased, or disappointed, to know that I have no plans to pack up. Time permitting (the big gaps in blogging are almost always due to the day job) I’m still going to write stuff, as long as I think I have something worth saying. And occasionally, even when I haven’t.
Thanks for reading, folks, and thanks for commenting too. I appreciate those who take the time to respond, even when you don’t agree with what I’ve said. Thanks, too, for the links from other sites which have boosted this blog’s traffic over the years. Special mentions for this should go to Patrick Butler and Jane Dudman at the Guardian, Michael Carty and David Shepherd at XpertHR, Rob Moss at Personnel Today and the uber-blogger Chris Dillow.
Anyway, it’s starting to sound like one of those sick-making Oscars speeches now, so I will sign off. I’m off to do some proper work but I might allow myself a few celebratory beers later.
Have a great weekend folks.