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2nd May 2009

PSF Social Media & Web 2.0 Event #psfbuzz

Filed under: Social Networking — Tags: , , — Alex Holt @ 4:12 pm

Late last week, myself and two of my colleagues attended a great little seminar at Old Trafford about Web 2.0 and Social Networking sites and how they can be used by Councils across the UK. The event was hosted at the Manchester United ground (hurrah for the Red Devils, etc!) and organised and run by the Public Sector Forums and it seemed to go swimmingly.

All in all, it was a great event and quite worthwhile and we came away with a few helpful hints and a few bits and bobs to look at. I think for us, as we’d done a fair bit of research and thinking about the sites and (although we weren’t maybe quick enough on the take up) we didn’t come away with as much as maybe we’d hoped – but it’s not without its great bits.

As a techy, I really enjoyed the Mashups section (Mike Saunt) and came away with a few things that I’m definitely going to have a look at. Specifically, the pointers towards Plings was something that really interested me. I was mightily impressed by the work with the BBC Traffic Feeds as well – jolly fabulous! Until then, I was unaware that you could simply cut and paste an RSS feed into Google Maps and have it display all the items on a list – genius!

The presentation that was (I think, and I apologise if I got this wrong) by Tim Davies, set to the Fatboy Slim track “Right Here, Right Now” was excellent and something that I’ll hopefully be able to get some people to have a look at. The figures were quite dramatic and when you consider that sometimes, you may get resistance to this unknown of Social Media – stats, so excellently arranged, will go a long way to persuading people to embrace these sites.

The section on Facebook (by Dave Briggs) was great and cemented a lot of the decisions we’d made and helped us decide a way forward to finally push it to the users. This flowed well with the section after from Medway Council‘s Simon Wakeman who spoke about their experiences of Social Media and what things they’ve learnt to do and not to do.

Unfortunately, we had to leave and missed the last two sessions – but the rest of the event was a worthwhile and enjoyable experience as far as I’m concerned personally. And hopefully, the way forward for our Council will be positive and worthwhile. An article from Jan 09 by Liz Azyan was re-posted there and it proved interesting. It acted as a leaderboard for the top Council’s and their followers on the main social networking sites – hopefully we can get ourselves out into the public and near the top of any subsequent lists ;)

I was even chuffed to see that Clay Shirky got a quote thrown in there.

Communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring

Clay Shirky is an excellent prophet for the evolution of the Internet and for anyone who was even slightly interested in Thursday’s event – I’d recommend very heavily his book “Here Comes Everybody“. In it he brings to earth all the changes that the Internet has forced upon the community, and also compares them with changes that have happened in the past of similar magnitude.

Edit: Forgot to say, added #psfbuzz to the title for the PSFBuzz site which has a Twitter Aggregator on it, set up I think by Dave Briggs.

15th April 2009

What’s all this Twitter lark?

Filed under: Social Networking — Tags: , — Alex Holt @ 3:21 pm

One of the things I’m working on at the moment is the embracing of Twitter where I work. Social Networks are something that Local Authorities don’t really do a great deal to embrace historically – though this isn’t across the board and there are some great users of it.

When originally we were talking about pushing out our press releases, news and events via sites – Twitter wasn’t something that many people had a great deal of knowledge about. I found myself in the envious task of explaining Twitter and its pro’s and con’s to a number of colleagues. One question in particular made me smile and stutter as I hadn’t really thought about it prior to the meeting:

Why would people want to use Twitter?

I’m not sure those were the same words, but the sentiment was that. It’s not that they were sceptical about change, nor that they wanted to try and trick me into a corner – it’s just that it’s a very logical question. Why would anyone want to use Twitter? It’s not a technology that isn’t already out there, but its certainly not got a single rival in existing technology.

  • SMS / Text Messages – These exist in similar format to the limited characters, although almost all modern phones make it easy to send longer messages, it’s not their purpose and people generally keep it short. However, these cost money and sending them to all your friends is even more expensive.
  • Email – People tend to ramble-on in emails. Instead of keeping to the point, they elaborate and expand upon points and (much like a blog) they aren’t used to convey the same type of information as Twitter.
  • Facebook (etc) – Arguably, it’s similar to the Facebook Status, but without the 3rd person tense and indeed, the requirement to talk about how you are feeling.

A few very key points that Twitter does that other software doesn’t – decisions made that stand it aside from others.

  • Friendship isn’t always mutual. This is a big difference. If JoeBloggs23 starts to follow me, I’ve no requirement to follow them back – I don’t even know them! It doesn’t stop them from following me though. This means that I (or the Council) need not accept friendship to all these people. It’s not something I want to get into a great deal of effort debating, but there are people that the Council would not want to be seen as ‘following’, but there is no harm in them following us. Touchy subject :)
  • It keeps things short. People can’t write essays (they can link to them on their blogs – though people don’t need to follow those links and read the blog post). It forces them to chose their words a little more carefully than maybe they would.
  • It’s not personal – it’s micro news. This is only slightly different from my first point about friendship, but worth its own point. While the system is built for individuals, it allows organisations to simply tag along and become pushers of news. The sigma of being ‘friends’ or ‘a fan’ of a Council might be hard work – but just following for updates isn’t that bad really. It’s not something that people would be that worried about.

At the moment, Twitter is still in the world of the tech-savvy and has yet to branch into the general population (if it ever does). But make no mistakes, it’s here and it’s popular alright. It’s a valid and worthwhile means of communication, financially too when you consider how little time and effort it takes to promote things that you are already promoting anyway!

But the true test is still not complete. When my mum starts to follow me, I know then that Twitter is indeed truely mainstream…

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