Category Archives: news

The Prime Minister, Social Media Surgeries and Me

The Prime Minster, David Cameron, really likes me. He’s just given me a “Big Society” award.

Well, not just me, but the whole Social Media Surgery movement, of which I’m proud to be a part. I’ve been standing on the shoulders of, and often shoulder-to-shoulder with, giants.

It all started in 2008, when a couple of very clever friends of mine, Pete Ashton and Nick Booth, decided to hold an event, in Birmingham, to which anyone from a not-for-profit organisation was invited, and where they would get free assistance in using the web, and especially social media tools, to promote or conduct their socially-useful activities, with “no boring speeches or jargon”.

The event — dubbed a Social Media Surgery —  went so well that they decided to repeat it regularly, and as soon as I head about it, I offered my assistance. I’ve been involved ever since.

Over the last three or four years, as well as the original and on-going Central Birmingham surgery, I’ve helped at Social Media Surgeries in Aston, Coventry, Digbeth, Dudley, Perry Barr, Stourbridge and elsewhere, I’ve also set up and run sessions near where I live in Oscott, north Birmingham, and in Walsall, and more impromptu Social Media Surgery sessions at unconferences like LibCamp.

I’m not alone. Surgeries directly spun off from what we do in Birmingham have been held in over 50 towns and cites, in pubs, community halls and cafes, on trains, and in tents at country fairs, and in several other countries.


Me, in my cool shades, helping at Central Birmingham Social Media Surgery in July 2011. © Gavin Wray, CC-BY-NC-SA

Literally hundreds of organisations have benefited. I personally have helped bereavement counselling services, organic fair-traders, residents’ associations, target-shooting rifle clubs, arts festival organisers, parks’ friends groups, model railway clubs, Oxfam supporters, art galleries, cyclists’ groups, hospices, local historians, and many others, to use Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Flickr, Google Docs, and a host of other online tools. I’ve even taught a few to edit OpenStreetMap or edit Wikipedia, and to avoid conflicts of interest when doing the latter, by declaring them and not being overly promotional.

It’s been one of the most rewarding of the many voluntary activities I’ve performed. And as a result of all our work, we have now received the aforesaid award.

The Prime Minster said:

This is an excellent initiative — such a simple idea and yet so effective. The popularity of these surgeries and the fact that they have inspired so many others across the country to follow in their footsteps, is testament to its brilliance.

Congratulations to Nick and all the volunteers who have shared their time and expertise to help so many local groups make the most of the internet to support their community.

If you work or volunteer for a non-profit organisation, why not pop along to your nearest surgery? And if you already use such tools, even a little, why not pop along and offer to share your knowledge? If there isn’t a surgery near you, why not set one up?

On the other hand, your work is commercial (or you work for a not-for-profit organisation, but require additional or more intensive support), that’s part of what I do for a living. I’d be happy to hear from you.

I should also comment on the name of the award, since the surgeries have been running long before the current government came to power and before their “Big Society” brand was heard of, and would be held even if neither of those two things had occurred. We do this because we want to give to the community and help those who are prepared to try to improve their world, not because of a political ideology.

In closing, my thanks and congratulations, to my fellow surgery managers and surgeons (many of whom have written blog posts about receiving the award), especially those who’ve helped at the surgeries I’ve run and to the patients, whose appreciation and continued use of what we’ve shown them, make it all worthwhile.

My name is Andy Mabbett, and I’m a Hyperlocal blogger

Recently, I’ve been increasingly interested in the phenomenon of ‘hyperlocal’ blogging: blogs about a particular area or locality (or, in one of my favourite and rather extreme cases, a single square metre).

Some fantastic work has been done by my friends at Talk About Local, whose site will tell you all you could ever need to know about about hyperlocal blogs.

For a long time, I’ve been contributing to the debate about how hyperlocal blogs might evolve, for example organising events such as the Hyperlocal Govcamp West Midlands (aka ) unconference, the first such event to introduce hyperlocal bloggers to local government web folk and other public sector people. I’ve also attended others, like the excellent TAL11 in Cardiff. I’ve also taught hyperlocal bloggers to use WordPress and other tools, at Social Media Surgeries. My hyperlocal activity even pre-dates blogging — I was the instigator and founder of the Usenet discussion newsgroup uk.local.birmingham, in 1998.

Having talked the talk for so long, I’ve finally decided to walk the walk, and am now a contributor to my local blog, The B44 (B44 is the postcode for where I live, covering parts of the Great Barr and Kingstanding parts of north Birmingham).

My first post there is on the subject of . That and future posts will appear under the “My comment elsewhere” section of this blog.

I’m grateful to the site’s founder, , for the opportunity to participate.

Guardian asks National Secular Society to comment on the ordination of women priests

Much as I support the National Secular Society, asking them to comment on the ordination of women priests is like asking me to advise on the best kind of vaulting-pole.

When writing about the web, links are required

Today’s Telegraph has an interesting article about MPs (and their agents) allegedly bowdlerising articles about themselves on Wikipedia.

What it doesn’t have, though, are links to any of the articles, let alone to the edits under discussion (such as this edit).

The Telegraph needs to understand that the word “Web” in World Wide Web refers to the interlinking of articles on different sites.

Adding links to the articles and edits discussed would serve at least two purposes. It would provide evidence to support the allegations the paper is making; and it would be a convenience and a courtesy their readers.

A Right Charlie

If I give you a gift – be it a cake or a diamond ring, or, for that matter, a greetings card, it becomes your property. You can do what you will with it. You can keep it, throw it away, give it to someone else or burn it. It’s yours. All yours. You can even sell it.

Apparently, that doesn’t apply to royalty. Charlie Windsor has decided, in an act of crass arrogance, that he has control of something, even after he’s given it to someone else. That something (a Christmas card) was being sold to support a reputable registered charity, the Alzheimer’s Society, and he’s blocked the sale.

I want a United Kingdom republic, and I want it now.