Tag Archives: Lichfield

Autumn

I’ve been wanting to get back out on my mountain bike for months. As much as pulling the kids along is great fun(!), there’s nothing quite like shooting through the trees, twists and turns of a good single track. So I made a last-minute decision to go for a ride today, and what a lovely ride it was.

Autumn is coming and there was a low sun pouring through the trees.

After spending some time working in town I walked home the scenic route. Minster Pool was unusually calm and the setting sun provided just the right amount of illumination to show off those first few yellow leaves of autumn.

It’s a beautiful place.

Why I voted in a safe seat

A little while ago I posited the argument that not voting is a proxy vote for the winner. Now I’m going to suggest that it’s worth voting even in a safe seat where you’re voting against the incumbent.

In Lichfield I’ve voted for Rob Pass, the Green Party candidate. He won’t get anywhere close to winning. He might not even retain his deposit. But voting Green is my way of telling MPs my views. When they see what sounds like will be a big uplift in the green vote it’ll send a message about the kind of politics and policies I and fellow Green voters want.

No, it won’t change a lot but if UKIP has taught us anything it’s that the big parties will respond to a threat to their power. I also believe that lots of people who are thinking of voting Green won’t do if they feel their vote won’t count. That’s a self fulfilling prophecy. Those of us who do help increase the Green vote will show others they won’t be alone next time.

Just voting once every five years is going to do fuck all though. We should vote but also follow up that action with more action to try and get the politics and society we desire. As Andy Bennetts said, organise.

That’s why I’m starting #365daysofpolitics. Every day, starting today, I’m going to so something political (or with a political purpose) to help push towards the kind of society and democracy that I want to see.

I’m going to blog every day what I do. Feel free to join me. Let’s organise and be the change we want to see in the world.

Anger is a gift

Use that anger.

That’s what Andy Bennetts, parliamentary candidate for Class War in Lichfield said during a hustings at the weekend.

A favourite song of mine is Freedom by Rage Against The Machine. It includes this line:

Anger is a gift.

I love that because I believe it. My anger at our political system has motivated me to do something. I’ve chipped in a little work Democracy Club, actively contribute (and evangelise) the OpenPolitics Manifesto, and have helped with the Something New party.

Anger can motivate like nothing else, so if, like me, you’re angry at politicians, do as Andy says and use it.

There’s something else that Andy said that I think we could all do a little better.

Organise and fight

Here’s a few suggestions;

Picture: Flag of the EZLN, Wikipedia

Think open data is just the realm of geeks? Not in Lichfield…

This is partly the reason why I love Lichfield so much. Our council CEO recently joined Twitter and was last night tweeting (much revered) webmaster, Stuart Harrion;

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/Ninadawesldc/status/133285420699095042″]

Where else do you get a council chief exec tweeting her webby on a Sunday evening about the Open Government License?!

Fantastic!

More House of Commons exposure for The Lichfield Blog

Whilst discussing his vision for local TV during a House of Commons debate on the future of local media [& video], Secretary of State for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries Ed Vaizey mentioned The Lichfield Blog and it’s efforts in the local media landscape.

In response to a request from West Bromwich East MP, Tom Watson who referenced another West Midlands hyperlocal, The Stirrer, Vaizey said;

…the hon. Gentleman is right to say that we must not lose sight of the fact that there are hundreds of different initiatives that are involved in the delivery of local news.

The last time I mentioned the subject in Parliament, I was e-mailed by the local news bloggers in Lichfield, who met in the pub and now provide an ultra-local news service.

I’m taking that as another sign that we’re doing something good, to be referenced by a Government Minister during a debate on the future of local media.

Encouragingly, Vaizey followed up straight away saying,

Of course, there will be elements of public money available for that kind of research and experimentation.

I’m encouraged by that. Although the coalition has ditched the IFNCs which, according to IFNC-judging panel member Will Perrin, featured a good hyperlocal element, this may mean that the Government might be considering something similar that will be focused on smaller communities than the IFNC regions.

Watch this space!

Social Media love makes it to Coventry & Warwickshire – my home county!

If you know me you know I shout a lot about Lichfield. I love the place! But I’m originally a Warwickshire boy, having spent my first 20 years in the old mining village of Dordon in North Warwickshire. Now Warwickshire has officially embraced my other favourite thing – the World Wide Web!

Paul Henderson and Paul Squires have launched Coventry & Warwickshire’s first Social Media Cafe, for anyone interested in the web, social media and digital media in general. It follows the success of similar events in London, Birmingham and Oxford.

The first meeting will take place on Friday 18th September from 10am-12pm at Arch 6 in the new Court Street Creative Arches in Leamington Spa.

Co-organiser, Paul Squires invites all sorts to the event, “Everyone is welcome at the Social Media Cafe. If you’ve heard aboutTwitter but want to know more about its potential, or if you’re from an established design studio or games company, this is the place for you.”

It’s a free event, of course, and more details are available on their web site.

I am of course particularly excited about this new Social Media Café because it gets more people interested in social media which I’m also trying to do in Lichfield with the launch of Lichfield Social Media Café which will take place on Tuesday 15th September. The Lichfield SMC is part of The Lichfield Blog’s wider digital engagement agenda which aims to inform and education the community about the benefits of the web and how it can improve their day-to-day lives.

Recognition for The Lichfield Blog just keeps on growing…

When I first got involved in The Lichfield Blog back in February this year I had no idea that six months later I’d be writing a business plan for a brand new social enterprise.

The Lichfield Blog banner up at Fuse Acoustic '09
The Lichfield Blog banner up at Fuse Acoustic '09

I never thought I’d be looking at stats showing an average of 11,000 visitors each month (equivalent to over 10% of Lichfield District’s population* and a third of the circulation of leading print weekly, the Lichfield Mercury). Nor did I imagine it would spur such cool things as Lichfield Social Media Cafe and Lichfield Social Media Surgeries (both still in planning). I would have laughed if you’d have told me I’d be live-streaming local artists at Lichfield’s Fuse Festival. A look of disbelief would accompany the thought of our MP, Mike Fabricant advertising on the site.

I knew we’d do lots of very cool things with it – as seems to be customary now my brain buzzed with ideas for exciting developments as soon as I saw it. I’m taken aback by the way things have played out though.

When I first started working freelance in November 2007 my aim was to be a leader in my industry. The heavy involvement in The Lichfield Blog and the recognition it’s seen has proven to me that I’m starting to achieve that.

That recognition has seen a massive boost over the past few weeks for two big reasons. The first is securing Michael Fabricant MP as an advertiser on the blog. He was our third advertiser and (we think) the first MP to advertise on a hyperlocal media site. Rick Waghorn of Addiply (the ad system we use) took the opportunity to shout about it that very afternoon at NewsInnovation London. I saw the tweets rolling in and I could barely contain my elation at having made such an impact.

Second reason, and the inspiration for this post, is that today Lichfield District Council have (after I sent them a cheeky tweet) changed their “Local Newspapers” section to “Local Media” and included The Lichfield Blog. They’re even syndicating us! I’m still undecided as to whether to check the other 353 local government district web sites to see if Lichfield is the only one to do so…

Both of these also come after what I consider to be a huge compliment from Birmingham Mail who recently started syndicating us along with our friends, Tamworth Blog and local blogger, Brownhill’s Bob. I call this traditional and new media meeting and getting along nicely – aka a sneak peak into the future of local media.

I know this is just the start though. All this has been achieved with the only expenditure being less than £100 and the time of a small team of dedicated and passionate volunteers (I say only, but it takes a lot of time). With the extra help and support we’re hoping to get as part of our future plans it’s obvious to me that The Lichfield Blog is going to move on leaps and bounds.

I can’t wait!

* based on data from the Office for National Statistics.

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Ratemyplace WordPress Widget

I’m a massive fan of WordPress and like what Stuart Harrison has done with Ratemyplace so I thought I’d get my hands dirty and write my first WordPress plugin.

It’s really rather simple – I didn’t wanna get too in depth on my first plugin outing. It creates a WordPress widget for showing the Latest Inspections javascript badge that you can grab from the Ratemyplace site.

There’s also an options page so you can decide which local authority you want to show from the ones available, or if you want to show all of them.

I’ve tested it with a standard installation of WordPress v2.8 and it seems to work okay. It’s ready for localisation so if you fancy translating it, please do.

It’s released under the GPL and you can download it here.

*It will be available on the WordPress.org site in time.

Citizen journalism: Friend or foe to traditional media?

Recently I’ve become involved in a relative new project, The Lichfield Blog. As you may gather from the name it’s a blog, about Lichfield.

I’m really proud to be part of something that has such a switched on and engaged little team behind it.

It was especially gratifying to watch as the story of a fire in one of Lichfield’s pubs quickly made it onto the blog just 3 hours after the initial call to the emergency services. Obviously we were lucky to have one of our team walk past at the right moment with a camera phone – a photo quickly made it’s way on to Twitter and a few tweets later the post was up.

The blog’s creator, Ross, made a call to the fire service about the incident and learned that no-one else had picked up on the story yet. It seemed we had beaten the local media. Having seen other, more high-profile, stories break on Twitter that doesn’t surprise me but it did make me think about all this “newspapers are dead” talk.

The blog has a few hundred visitors now, which is great, but it’s never going to kill the newspapers in Lichfield. I wouldn’t want it to either – there are plenty of people throughout the world, not just in Lichfield, who like to read a paper.

So the question isn’t, “are newspapers going to die?”, but rather “how can newspapers use citizen journalism?”

A good example is the Pancake Race in Lichfield. Nick Brickett has been providing photography for The Lichfield Blog, his first assignment being the traditional Shrove Tuesday Pancake Race. His photos of the event made their way onto the Express & Star web site (ironically, as I write this, said web site is down!)

This could be the way journalism is going. Another great example is Channel 4 News (who my Twitter followers will know full well I admire).

Their coverage of the Schiphol plane crash was very much driven by Twitter. I sat in front of Tweetdeck and watched it all unfold in front of my eyes, from them picking up the story, contacting an eye witness to putting a Twit on the lunch time news. It was a first for them and possibly for journalism in the UK.

Krishnan Guru-Murphy of Channel 4 News says that Twitter is “just another way of finding people and talking“.

I suspect some journalists will treat services like Twitter and citizen journalism in general as a threat rather than an asset. I’ve heard of publications shutting down because they just can’t sustain themselves for much longer (obviously the ‘crunch’ doesn’t help) but instead of shutting down, I believe they should adapt and grow with the times.

And let’s face it, it’s cheaper to do it online!

Do you think the internet is a threat to traditional media, or should traditional media adapt and embrace services like Twitter as sources for news?