Tag Archives: great barr

Syndicating Customisable Hyperlocal Blog Content

Background

I recently described how I have started writing for the B44 hyperlocal blog, with a post about election leaflets:

'Election Leaflets' post on The B44 blog

After posting that, I realised that it fitted will with an idea I’ve been mulling over for some time: the syndication of hyperlocal blog content, with, critically, scope for customisation to suit various local audiences.

I mentioned on Twitter that my post could be reused, and re-written , under a CC-BY-NC-SA license. In other words, that’s Creative Commons, attribution (“BY“) required, Non-Commercial, Share-Alike.

A couple of my followers said that they would like to reuse it. After some cajoling, was the first to do so, amending and reusing my post on the ‘Visit Burslem’ blog:

'Election Leaflets' post on Burslem blog

Note how she changed the fourth paragraph to refer to the Stoke-on Trent North wards. For good measure, she also reused my post on the ‘Social Stoke’ blog, but due to an accident of electoral geography, without needing further changes:

'Election Leaflets' post on the Stoke blog

Then, after much further cajoling, Philip John used my post on the Lichfield Blog. He not only changed my fourth paragraph, but prepended a couple more of his own:

'Election Leaflets' post on The Lichfield Blog

Discussion

To my mind, this exercise raises several questions.

Primarily, do hyperlocal bloggers want to use content like this?

There’s certainly a lot of satisfaction to be had by seeing one’s own work published; is there less satisfaction when adapting something written by someone else? Does that matter? Is that why Philip wrote additional paragraphs? Doesn’t he have enough to do?

Why didn’t more hyperlocal bloggers reuse my post?

Was it insufficiently interesting, or badly written? Surely not! Perhaps they didn’t know about it?

Do hyperlocal blog readers mind seeing re-used content?

I’d suggest not — I contend that many such readers only read one hyperlocal blog. It’s only those of us fascinated by the hyperlocal blogging phenomenon who would be reading blogs about Great Barr (B44), Burslem and Lichfield. And providing there is openness about the source, and what’s been done, where’s the problem?

How can we do this better?

How can we let hyperlocal bloggers know when suitable content is available? Can we automate the process? Can, and should, we clearly delineate the parts which are intended to be localised? Can we find some way to export, from the original post, the tags, so that re-users can modify them? Can we export whole posts (retaining HTML markup) from one WordPress bog (be it wordpress.com or a self-hosted wordpress.org installation) and have it imported into another (ditto)? What about other platforms?

What license should be used?

CC-BY-NC-SA was perhaps too restrictive; on the other hand, can this model be monetised? Is there sufficient content of this type to make that worthwhile? Would press officers start to supply pre-written content? Would that be a good thing, or bad?

As usual, your comments — especially, but not only, if you’re a hyperlocal blogger — would be welcome. And you’re still welcome to reuse my post.

Footnote

Clare and Philip are both good friends. Please read my comments about them as the good-natured teasing they are. I trust they’ll forgive them, and my using them as unwitting guinea-pigs.

Footnote 2

Read about my new freelance career as an advisor on on-line communities and related issues.

(Bus) stop this madness!

One afternoon last week, I had cause to catch TWM‘s 997 bus from central Birmingham to Great Barr, while my car was in the garage, for its annual MOT test (it passed, I’m pleased to say).

I have mixed views on public transport: on the one hand it’s a good thing (TM), in that it’s available to all, environmentally friendly, and so on, but on the other hand, it usually involves the kind of user-experience which makes it undesirable for anyone who doesn’t have to use it through lack of choice.

I had already used the 997 into Birmingham that morning. It’s a limited stop service, and I must say I had been impressed that the level of comfort was higher than I was expecting.

I wasn’t sure when where to catch the bus for my return journey, so looked up the route on the Transport Direct website.

The way that site works makes it impossible to link to the relevant timetable, but as this screenshot shows, they clearly say that the service departs from Carrs Lane in Birmingham City Centre.

[Transport Direct web page showing Carrs Lane as start of route 997]

I arrived in good time for the advertised departure, but none of the three bus stops in Carrs Lane listed the 997 as stopping there.

Purely by chance, I happened to see the 997 turning into Carrs Lane, from High Street, only to stop at a pedestrian crossing. I indicated to the driver that I wished to board, and he kindly opened the doors and allowed me to do so.

I subsequently found that the 997 does not stop in Carrs Lane, but around the corner — and earlier on its route — at stop DG, on High Street (map here).

[showing corner of High Street & Carrs Lane]

The above picture shows the corner of High Street and Carrs Lane. The bus stop on the extreme left is stop DG, on High Street. On the extreme right, it is just possible to see stop DH, the nearest on Carrs Lane. Note also the pedestrian crossing at the start of Carrs Lane.

The bus I boarded had already departed from its stop. Had it not been for the pedestrian crossing and the kindness of the driver, I would have missed the bus, and thus missed the chance to pick up my car before the garage closed.

TWM and Transport Direct need to work together to eliminate erroneous information from the latter’s service, not least if they expect to entice car drivers onto public transport.

[997 at stop DG on HIgh Street, Birmingham]