Yesterday I evaded all my impulses to stay in bed and instead got on an early train to Stoke to attend the the Talk About Local 09 non-conference event.
A Staffordshire oatcake soon forced out the hangover out of the way and we got down to business. Caroline Beavon has already published her expansive notes from the day so I’m going to instead write about what I took from the non-conference.
Session 1: Making Public Data Public
It started with a heavy chat about how Making Public Data Public with Director for Digital Engagement – Andrew Stott. Seems to be an ongoing battle with data from different councils having to be cajoled into disseminating data and the data to be available in a useable form. Stott asked everyone to sign up for the developer preview in order to work with the site and suggest where they can go from here.
After a Q&A which mostly involved questions about transparency and legal implications we had a short talk from Chris (@countculture) at Openly Local. He mentioned how Birmingham’s council website is a example of poor thought and data use and how he helped BCC DIY scrape their site.
I’ve been thinking recently with the election coming up that putting councils online and making the data available to the public is a strong way to make the audience re-engage with politics in an entertaining way. I want to see what’s available from Openly Local to move into more journalistic territory.
Session 2: More Power To Your Blog
This session was headed up by Pits’n'Pots. A general discussion how it is difficult to be taken seriously by local councils at best and at worst not trusted or completely ignored. A consensus was reached that this seemed to be mostly press officers rather than councillors faults. A press officer from Keele University said “we’re not all bad.” Certainly the attitude differs from site to site and council to council. The Lichfield Blog were cited as a success story, not only by cultivating a good relationship with press officers (particularly since the demise of the local paper) but also by breaking local stories nationally – for example the recent discovery of a treasure hoard.
Session 3: Moderating Comment
Caroline and I split up after lunch and I attended this session across the road in the Activity Space. Not being in a lecture theatre the session took on a more group discussion dynamic.
Heard from Wolverhampton based blog WV11. A likeable couple who wanted to big-up that area but met with endless anonymous negativity. Community website Castle Bromwich.net suggested backing up online engagement with physical engagement in a public meeting.
There was an interesting talk about engaging with the youth via Typecast a site which worked with the Police but allowed kids to bust some of their own stereotypes. A good point was also raised that the rating system employed here could be carried to community blog articles, rating system can help diffuse the negativity.
Ed Walker from Blog Local talked about legalities, comments can sometimes be libellous in themselves. Talk about whether Anonymous comments are better or worse. Talk about commentators not being able to hide behind anonymity. But also mentioned that unamed sources can be useful. Also talk about whether bloggers need to follow a code of conduct similar to NUJ. Conclusion reached seemed to be that self regulation is best, you should be able to protect yourself but also know where to get support and advice.
You can right click ‘save target’ for the MP3 of Session 3 here or you can listen to it below.
Session 4: Collaborative Journalism
Back to the lecture theatre for the final session of the day. Tight time restrictions were imposed on the people left to speak. A few prominent sites were discussed in detail with a sped up presentation by The Guardian’s Sarah Hartley about the Future Of Journalism in the middle.
For me the more interesting parts were around this central presentation. Sites that I need to look into more are They Work For You and What Do They Know. Ways were discussed how local blogs can use these tools and RSS feeds to investigate.
@Podnosh introduced Help Me Investigate. And @Citizensheep also spoke about another Brummie success BCC DIY. Which made me think about repeating my interview with Stef Lewandowski on this site… or maybe I’ll just link it.
I have raw audio from Sessions 1-3 which can be put up without too much trouble. Let me know if you’d like to hear.
Post event networking
Made good links with James Clarke from WV11, ended up talking about my Festivals idea. More of that to come on the blog.
Also met with Ed Walker from Blog Preston and Blog Local about his plans to roll out a local blog package and tool kit. More of that soon too!
If I missed anything out or got the wrong end of the stick, please let me know in the comments section below.