noelle1Noelle-Anne Sullivan, one of the members of the audience when I gave my little speech to the Oxford Society (see 18 June post) came to see me this morning for a chat. I am supposed to be writing a book about the communication challenge facing the EU and its institutions. The writing has had to be put on the back burner for a while, but I am still very much interested in amassing material and experiences. With regard to the latter, Noelle-Anne has had a very interesting experience indeed. She started up a blog on the European elections in Belgium. She began it because she had a vote and wanted to know how to exercise it. She started to make inquiries and realised that it would be useful for other people like her if she put the material and information she had gathered into the public domain. Before she knew what was happening, her blog had become the port of call, not only for expats living in Belgium but also for Belgians themselves. And because of the interest her blog was generating, Noelle-Anne was able to interview politicians and she, in her turn, was interviewed frequently by the media. As it happens, I have been slowly making my way through Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point. According to his analysis, Noelle-Anne is a classic example of what he calls a Maven (from a Yiddish term, meaning one who accumulates knowledge). I quote: ‘The critical thing about Mavens, though, is that they aren’t passive collectors of information. … What sets them apart is that once they figure out how to get that deal, they want to tell you about it too.’ What interests me in particular about these modern, mainly net-based, phenomena is that they are messy, by which I mean that they cannot be structured, let alone controlled. They just happen. This (it will be one of the big arguments in my book) poses a major problem for bureaucracy-based structures such as the EU institutions and, indeed, national governments or any administration.