Notes from #TAL11 – Talk About Local Unconference 2011
This Saturday saw the hyperlocal collective make its windy way along the stuffy Southwest train system to Cardiff (via Crewe) for the Talk About Local Unconference 2011.
The first event of its kind in Wales, online publishers and bloggers with an interest in their local area met at the Atrium for a day of sharing ideas and making news ones, with a great contingent from Cardiff and Welsh language representing the locality.
The day kicked off with a quick fire round of game show round of pitching ideas which were organised into sessions using the unconference-friendly post-it note system.
Sessions ran throughout the day within the sunny glass walls of the Atrium – with much pastry-munching, tweeting and networking inbetween. Here are some notes I took from a few sessions I went to (I didn’t take any notes in the council session or ‘I’m a hyperlocal celebrity get me out of here’ – but both were great and informative debates).
Session one – Rightmove places with Tom McGuigan
Rightmoveplaces.co.uk is still in beta mode but expects to capitalise on the success of property search website Rightmove – the fourth biggest property website in world. The aim of rightmove places is to give an ‘at a glance’ view of what a place is like – including a news feed from the local area, local restaurant reviews etc – check it out here. Their goal, then, is to get the views from people living in the area rather than a member of the Rightmove team visiting each and creating content. This is where they hope to link up with hyperlocal sites – to approach them to use their content to populate each local site with news and maybe ever reviews. Hedon Blog has already got involved in this process.
But the main question from the audience was ‘what’s in it for them’? With many hyperlocals frustrated with constant requests for free se of their content, and still struggling to make a living for the full time job of running a site – the idea that they would spend time writing reviews and news content for Rightmove, the fourth largest property website in the world, with nothing in return seemed a little, well, unfair.
“I’m trying to work out how it works for us, I’m not really seeing anything” – said Nigel Barlow from Inside the M60 – “We get loads of requests for people wanting our content. We have to make a living.”
Ed Walker, founder of Blog Preston, suggested Tom actually pay hyperlocal publishers £50 to get the first couple of reviews going on a place, and other suggestions looked at why Rightmove couldn’t create local ads for the hyperlocals they link up with.
Read more about Rightmove places and how they hope to link up to hyperlocals, as well as a bit of debate in comments, on the Talk About Local blog here.
Tom was also eager to learn from hyperlocals about the secrets behind getting people to engage in comments, and also answered questions on how it won’t just become Trip Advisor for properties, how it will link through from the main Rightmove site (a panel on the homepage and touch points on the user journey). We look forward to seeing how Rightmove Places takes some of the suggestions from this session forward in their relationship with hyperlocal publishers – and hope to see them be one of the first major websites to invest in local news sites by paying properly for the use of their content.
Session three – Postcode Stories with Nicky Getgood
I joined this session run by the excellent storyteller Nicky Getgood from Talk About Local a little late but just in time for all the fun!
Nicky runs Digbeth is Good in Birmingham but she also recently took part in helping Girl Guides in Kings Norton get their ‘communications badge’ through learning to use social media.
Nicky went around taking pictures of things in the postcode area, then groups of girl guides had to come up with a fictional story using the images as a stimulus. Nicky then recorded an audio of them reading out the story – and plotted it onto a map to create tagged from point to point to create an audiomap of the area in a fun new way.
Here was our story and each corresponding audioboo recorded by Nicky:
The sad demise of Dr Spade
1.Once an artist believed in something and thought he could make a difference. But once he stopped believing Cardiff’s walls were never the same again.
2.The system, in the form of a job in a bank, got the better of him. It ground his beliefs down. He was tired and his spirit was broken.
3.One day he went out to paint his farewell to the life he believed in – a single solitary tear, mixed with the paint, slid down his cheek. His art died, but his bank account was fine.
4.Even his fan club and advocates reduced to a number of three, struggled to find him in the soulless city of Cardiff.
5.Eventually a new generation stepped up to fill the void – their message was one of anarchy and despair.
As Nicky explained, this kind of exercise is a great way of getting children involved in the hyperlocal process, as they are often left out – and a Postcode Stories tool kit is being made up for other people to use.
Kids are given a blank piece of paper and told to create a story out of nothing – a picture or visual is a stimulus and they can really respond to. Nicky also helped the girl guides search Flickr creative commons to look for pictures to use – they took to technicals well – but it sparked a debate on copyright, with them learning about search engine optimisation and the right way to behave online. Nicky explained there’s a big step for young people between creating a story and telling it – with ideas abounding but a little help needed in crafting the story into something others could also enjoy.
Thoughts from the day
As the sessions began to come to an end yesterday it became clear how much the hyperlocal scene has come on since the first event in Stoke-on-trent in 2009. There the feeling was one of excitement at the discovery of a burgeoning new scene, and a rallying to action. As the mode has developed more organisation have sprung up to facilitate hyperlocal work – with less ‘hype’ in hyperlocal – and more examples of working well with big media and creating community regional networks. Listen to my interview with Talk About Local chief Will Perrin on hyperlocal, and the future of hyperlocal here.
But the same friendly ethos of working together for the greater hyperlocal good exists. This tweet from my Edinburgh colleague Mike, who was attending the event for the first time, sums up why the events are still so important as a space to debate issues freely as well as learn from each other’s experiences.
This is celebrated with the return of the hyperlocal unawards – and Sarah Hartley has written a great round up of the winners of the hyperlocal unawards (presented at the post-tal pub session in Gwdihw) and the serious point behind them. I also won an unexpected unaward for spreading hyperlocal fairydust around Cardiff (fix!) – which I was very surprised by – thanks TAL!
I would encourage you to take a look at some of the tweets from the day which used the hashtag #TAL11 (see the TAL live blog here) – and if you’ve written any notes from the day feel free to leave a link in comments below.