It’s about bloody time!

I stopped blogging about 2 years ago, and now I’m back.  So why did I stop, and why have I now decided to return?

You might remember me from such blogs as How Good Is That?, and from the internationally acclaimed podcast and Google Hangout Fundamentally Flawed.  (Link leads to an archive of all past FF episodes, thanks to the work of Alex Botten.)

How Good Is That? started out as a place to write about science, politics, current affairs and technology, in around 2005 / 06.  The podcast began as an experiment between Twitter friends, on the back of the fact that Apple had just begun to include a Podcasting section in the iTunes music store, thereby sending the genre into the mainstream.  We wanted to see if we could start conversations around the intersection of religion and science.

Following a series of run-ins with Christian fundamentalists, who would leave the usual ill-informed comments under posts to the HGIT blog whenever evolution or life sciences in general was discussed, the podcast was about talking to the people behind those comments face-to-face, so to speak.  We chatted with many interesting people in that time – many of whom turned out to be actually pretty nice people.

Sadly, the podcast is perhaps remembered among the majority of listeners for the times we chatted with not so nice folks.  This included one encounter which, over two years later, I still get YouTube comments and emails about on a near weekly basis – as it is shared and reposted around the world.

It involved an angry Scottish man, with a total lack of manners, and a co-host of the podcast (that’ll be me) who picked the wrong night to drink four bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale.  Comedy gold in hindsight, but reason enough for me at the time to call a halt on regularly appearing on the show.

There has been speculation among a fair sized group of people, who congregated around the Google Plus Group which formed around the podcast, as to why the whole thing came to an end the way it did.  Some of it is pretty close to the truth, but much of it is sheer nonsense.  So, with your kind indulgence, I would now like to kick off this new blog with a few clarifications.

Firstly, the aforementioned and purposefully unnamed angry Scot was not the straw which broke the camel’s back – at least for me.  I had actually decided I didn’t want to do the podcast any more a few weeks earlier, when another angry idiot had appeared on the show, and basically sucked all of the considerate and well-argued conversation out of the room.  Indeed, the in’s and out’s of this person’s on-line antics dominated the conversation for many weeks after his first appearance, to the point that even when we tried to produce a podcast in which we had specifically agreed off-air not to mention him at all, the post-show Google Hangout became entirely about him, rather than the stories we had talked about on that week’s episode.

I persevered with the podcast despite this, because after all was said and done, the guys and gals who regularly co-hosted the show with myself and Alex Botten, became real-world friends of mine.  Indeed, we even got together for a party at Alex’s house – which stuck in the craw of a few people who, despite not being there, took it upon themselves to spread utterly false rumours about what happened in the course of our evening.  It was the failure of those who I had hoped would speak up about this, but didn’t, which ultimately caused me to walk away – not just from the podcast, but from the Google Plus community which had started in its wake.

I am now back in the proverbial saddle, because events in the news, and in UK politics, have reminded me how much I actually enjoyed blogging.  When I first started, the word blog itself had barely entered the popular lexicon. Today, not blogging, almost feels like cutting my nose off to spite my face.  Yes, the experiences which led to the end of the old blog were frustrating.  And, yes, the ending of the podcast was a real shame.  But I feel that now more than ever, that those of us who are ignored by the mainstream media need a place to talk, debate, and organise with one another.  It is my humble hope that this blog, among the many others screaming for attention, will stand out as being a place where all voices are heard.

I also hope that those of you who stuck with me during the heady days of getting thousands of views per day, on the old blog, will remember that I always tried to be evenhanded with all but the most aggressive and wilfully ignorant trolls.   They say the subjects of religion and politics are the hardest to moderate.  I’ll do my best.  Stay tuned!  Jim.