Category Archives: Social Media

Social meeja stuff.

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Instagram – Photography Debaser

A fair few years ago, a new type of game appeared on the market. Cleverly disguising what was essentually a marginally more complex variation of ‘Simple Simon’ as a way of pretending you were playing Guitar, it allowed non-musicians to pick up an ‘instrument’ and live our their rock n’ roll fantasies for a few minutes.

No longer did they have to spend months trying to build muscle memory in order to form finger contortioning shapes, nor did they have to go through the pain of building up calluses to succesfully press down cheesewire strings without peeling off layers of skin in an instant. They could just plug in their console, boot up the game and wait for the applause.

A large proportion of the people who had spent hours each day suddenly became infuriated. Who were these people, stealing their glory without any of the work?

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Buffer – How To Pretend You’re Working When You’re Not

Overview

We all know people who just simply talk too much.  Initially, we’re interested in what they’re saying, then it quickly all turns into white noise which we greet with a vague nod and the odd assuring noise to convince them we’re listening.  The same works with social media – Initially, your message might be interesting, but overshare with your followers / fans and they’ll quickly switch off, either mentally skipping your tweets in their timeline, or simply unfollow you.

Buffer (www.bufferapp.com) lets you solve this in a nice and simple manner – create an account, link it with your Twitter feed, and then start writing tweets.  Buffer.. well, buffers them, holding them back and gently drip feeding them to your followers via a preset schedule.

For hyperlocal accounts – and probably pretty much everybody else who sends out regular news to their followers – this resolves two issues:

Oversharing

As detailed above, sending too many tweets will generally cause people either to ignore your tweets, or to simply stop following you.  Sending tweets via Buffer allows you to schedule what goes out and when.

Staying Active

Because Buffer spreads out your tweets, it means that your account has some constant activity even when you don’t have time to tweet yourself.

Of course, this can’t replace real engagement – Buffer won’t reply to your followers, and on the odd occasion it still confuses me when I get a response to something I didn’t realise had posted…

 

 

Using Buffer

 

Once you’ve set up an account and linked it to your Twitter account (more than one account can be added, but requires upgrading to a paid account), using Buffer is fairly simple – type your tweet and select either ‘Tweet Now’ to send now, or ‘Add to Buffer’ to add the tweet to your schedule.

Adding a Tweet to Buffer

 

As soon as you click ‘Add to Buffer’ your tweet will drop into the schedule listed at the bottom of the page, like this (you can edit times / settings by clicking onto the time if necessary):

 

…And that’s pretty much all there is to it.  Once your tweet has been sent, you can check out the metrics from the ‘Analytics’ tab, which will show you the number of retweets and the amount of people your tweet reached.

Buffer Metrics

 

Published in Print – Without Permission

About a week ago I published an article on this site with regards to a ‘story’ appearing in the national press regarding local councillor Jodie Jones having photos on Facebook of her (shock horror) actually drinking alcohol.

I’d originally planned for the article to go on the ConnectCannock site, but decided it wasn’t really ‘news’.  The original article had been a cheap excuse to print a 22 year old in a bikini and pretend it was newsworthy, so instead I wrote it as a comment, published it on this site, and fed a link through the ConnectCannock twitter account explaining my decision.

A few days later a friend of mine mentioned how he’d seen my comment on the issue in the local paper, the Cannock Chase Post.   Only I hadn’t made a comment to the paper.  In fact, I’d been disappointed by their lack of interest in dealing with me – I realised ConnectCannock isn’t necessarily a source of professional journalism, but I’d always thought there’d been areas where we could’ve helped each other out.

Bearing in mind I hadn’t spoken with the paper at all, compare my original blog peice and the text I apparently ‘quoted’ for this article, available online from the Chase Post website.

So I sent them an email:

Hi Charlotte,

I sent a tweet earlier to your @chasepost account, but it doesn’t seem to be very active so I thought I’d send a quick email as well.
With regards to the article entitled “Residents’ support for Jodie in Facebook row”  (http://www.chasepost.net/news-in-cannock/cannock-burntwood-news/cannock-news/2011/09/01/residents-support-for-jodie-in-facebook-row-93633-29346552/) , you’ve apparently quoted me, as per the paragraph below:

Cannock resident Ian Mellett said: “Now 23, Jodie Jones is still one of the youngest councillors in the country, and while her politics may not be in alignment with that of others, it’s hard to really take this as serious news.
“I have a deep suspicion that if this had been a 23-year-old male slouching drunkenly in Speedos, then there wouldn’t be quite so much interest.”However, this isn’t actually a quote, and is a section lifted directly from my blog, which was used to ‘report’ on this as I didn’t see it really as fitting with my local news site, ConnectCannock.

I have no real issue with being quoted, but fundamentally this was taken from a written source without any permission being granted, nor with any real attribution (a link back to the personal site, or ConnectCannock itself, which is what it really relates to), and it’s specifically covered under a creative commons license.

Just to be clear though, this isn’t specifically a complaint (my only complaint is that I don’t get the Chase Post delivered to my flat still!), more that I think it needs clarification.  There are instances when we publish elements in other newspapers and websites, and I’m fairly certain that you wouldn’t simply copy their text and claim that they’ve quoted directly to you, and the shortening of the original text does somewhat skew my intentions.

 

Fundamentally (as I hope is conveyed with my email) my intention isn’t to try and belittle the Chase Post.  As a local paper, it does a good job, and it’s one of the few free papers I do generally read.  My real intentions can be reduced to a handful of key points.

Attribution

The work is taken directly from my website, and while I’m fully aware I’m not going to get thousands of hits, if text is being used from the site then I’d expect that the reader would be informed of the original source, especially when the quote taken along is somewhat out of context.

Permission

I have no issue being quoted – but a simple request to allow what is essentially covered by copyright really would have been the minimum expected.  In that instance, I might have modified the quote slightly, as the current text is fairly blatantly from a written point, not a quote.

Copyright

Without trying to seem precious about what’s written, fundamentally the text of any blog is covered by copyright, and it seems a number of news sources at all levels have difficulty with digital copyright (see Andy Mabbetts example of the BBC’s misunderstanding).

I’m fairly certain that the Trinity Mirror group would not take kindly to me printing sections of their site without consent and proper attribution, so why should the work of a blog be any different?

At the time of writing, I’ve still yet to receive any form of response with regards to the matter.

 

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In Defence of Cllr Jodie Jones

While this post may seem more relevant to ConnectCannock, it was decided that this was not a ‘real’ news item and would not be on the site as such.  Instead, it’s been written as on opinion piece here.  All views are personal and those of the author.

 

“One of Britain’s youngest Conservative councillors has been slammed for a series of Facebook photos that show her swigging from a champagne bottle and partying in a bikini” writes Lee Moran for the Daily Mail, next to an enlarged sequence of photos presumably taken directly from said Facebook account.  Which, in turn, sits alongside stories of celebrities getting pregnant, or trying to avoid cameras to hide their lack of makeup.

Now 23, Jodie Jones is still one of the youngest councillors in the country, and while her politics may not be in alignment with that of others, it’s hard to really take this as serious news.  If anything, there’s a definite link to the phenomena of attractive girls passing their exams.   I have a deep suspicion that if this had been a 23 year old male slouching drunkenly in Speedos, then there wouldn’t be quite so much interest from press, who were probably rubbing their hands together in glee at the potential to publish photos of 20-something girls in bikinis whilst still provisioning the pretence of reporting ‘real news’.

Of course, it’s hard not to suggest that in these instances that this is indeed the price of the press.  Jodie has appeared in local newspapers – such as this Express & Star article – seemingly purely on the merits of being a 22 year old (at the time of writing), attractive women in politics.   Even now, the alternate version of the running story are variations of “Is Jodie the Sexiest Woman in Politics?” (metro), which is just as detrimental to Jodies political character.

I’ve had direct experience of dealing with Jodie over my time of writing for ConnectCannock.  I don’t necessarily agree with her opinions nor views, and sometimes I perhaps think that there’s still a level of maturity thats still not quite there (and considering her age, I don’t feel that’s particularly condescending nor patronising).  I also have a mild issue with those who choose a political career without ever experiencing external employment.  However, she’s on of the few local councillors who will deal with me, and will actually discuss issues over channels such as twitter.

ConnectCannock has a large audience in Cannock on both Twitter and Facebook, so we often get to see the ‘chatter’ that goes on around – it’s simply part of trying to ensure we find out what’s of interest to local people – and even now I’ve yet to see anybody post even the vaguest interest (or even knowledge) in the apparent story.  ’23 year old girl parties / drinks alcohol direct from a bottle’ just isn’t really that interesting.

One of my big bugbears with modern politics is the level of accessibility to those representing us in parliament.  but I would hate for the duplicitous nature of the press in these instances to force those in governance to further recoil from direct public contact. In this instance, Cllr Jodie Jones should be judged on her merits as a councillor, not on the fact that in her personal life she acts much as ‘normal’ people do.

Starting Out In ‘Hyperlocal’ – A Rough Guide To ConnectCannock

ConnectCannock, the hyperlocal news site that I created for Cannock, Staffordshire, is well over a year old now (according to the whois info – although the twitter account has been going for a little longer).

A number of people have written their own reflections on their own sites, and how their experiences have shaped the processes they’re now going through.  So, in the spirit of imitation being the best form of flattery, I’ve taken their idea and blogged about it.

JFDI*

 

ConnectCannock started out as a twitter account, which then turned into a website (mainly because I already had hosting which was doing very little, and I had the technical knowledge for the configuration of WordPress not to be a big deal).

The twitter account was easy.  I saw other people in surrounding areas making hyperlocal sites, checked that nobody was already doing the same for Cannock, and just went ahead without really thinking about it or planning what I was actually going to do once I had an account (you’ll notice a running theme emerging here).

The website proved more of a challenge; not because I had any difficulties with the technical side, but more because I really didn’t know what should be happening with the site.  The site got installed, I played around with a million wordpress themes, not really happy with any of them.. and after weeks of indecisive theme switching, I realised all these things were malleable – I could change anything I wanted at a later date, but while I was pontificating about which shade of red I preferred, nobody was visiting the site.

So instead, I just launched it.  No fireworks, no opening ceremony – one day it wasn’t public, the next it was.   The moral of the story? Stop thinking about it, trying to rationalise it, trying to make it look exactly the way you want it.  JFDI*.

*For the sake of not getting blocked by filters, I’ll leave you to google the terminology.

 

Don’t Quit the Day Job

 

I enjoy the experience of writing for ConnectCannock massively.  I’ve discovered things about the small town I live in that I didn’ t know existed, I’ve been involved in things I wouldn’t normally have even considered (council meetings, reporting live from local election results until 4am!) and I’ve discovered some interesting people that I just wouldn’t have been aware of previously.

However, there’s no way in hell I can see this being a self-sustaining project.  If that’s what you’re after – and there’s a lot of talk about this in the US – then I’d personally say that this isn’t the project for you.  The days of reasonable revenue from online ads are long gone, and lets face it, how many people even click ads these days? I genuinely can’t remember the last time I did.  They get filtered out either by my browser, or by the fact that I’ve seen enough ads for my brain to turn them to white noise automatically.

In theory, I could’ve tried to turn the business directory side of ConnectCannock into a paying system – it has a fair few features that a lot of paid systems dont, such as QR codes per business, proper Twitter / Facebook connections, streetview and a few other bits – but then I’d need to spend time selling space, and it’d mean spending less time on the main site.

 

How To Make Friends and Influence People

 

One of the best parts of doing this is that a bit of googling will lead you onto a lot of other people who are doing similar things in nearby areas, pretty much all of whom in my experience are friendly, and have been willing to share advice from the outset.

For me, ‘borrowing’ ideas from sites like WV11.co.uk, LichfieldLive.co.uk and alittlebitofstone.co.uk has been an easier climb in working out how things should work, which then makes the path to further experimentation a little easier.

There’s also invaluable resources like TalkAboutLocal, who provide advice on setting up sites and actually putting content on them, hyperlocal directory OpenlyLocal, and the Social Media Surgery site, where groups create and attend social media surgeries (which I’m planning on doing locally – more on this at a later stage).

My local council  have been extremely helpful and open about various plans as well, and have always supplied a constant feed of PR and information I can use for the site.

Failure is Always An Option

 

The real delight in doing local news this way is that you can experiment without much fear of.. well, anything.  There’s nobody in charge to fire you if it all goes downhill, and you’re not making money from it – so who cares?  Try stuff.  If it doesn’t work, change it, try something else.  Most hyperlocal sites operate at a minimal cost, so it’s not really like it’s going to involve losing anything more than a couple of quid.

 

The End.  Honest.

 

One of the main reasons I deal with ConnectCannock is that I’ve discovered I actually enjoy this stuff, and it appeals to my general desire to not only learn new things, but to be able to share that knowledge.  Need help with technical information? Need to understand how to interrogate a set of data in a few seconds, or how to best use QR codes?  I can probably help, but I might end up trying to find out what you know about journalism. Or facebook groups.  Or something else that you’ve done that I haven’t.