Tag Archives: hyperlocal

An open letter to Rupa Huq, MP, regarding official Parliamentary videos

Dear Dr. Huq,

I have been very interested to read about your recent call for an end to the prohibition on the use of footage from official parliamentary broadcasts in satirical programmes, made at the behest of your brother-in-law and constituent, the television personality Charlie Brooker.


Rupa Huq 2015

Rupa Huq

I was equally disappointed at the stance of the (Conservative) Leader of the House of Commons, Chris Grayling MP, who said:

it is very important that we make sure the coverage of this House is use in an appropriate way — I am not in favour of it being used for satire programmes.

He is wrong, because satire is not an inappropriate use of such footage, which is made with public funds.

But the right to use it in satire is not enough — we should all be able to use it wherever we want, freely. For example, on Wikipedia, for educational purposes. And for that reason, it should be made available under an “open licence”, allowing anyone to use it, for any purpose (subject, of course, to existing laws such as those on decency and defamation), with the only requirement being to attribute the source. (I have written previously about what open licensing is and why it should apply to media about politicians.)

Please take up Mr Grayling’s suggestion, and pursue your campaign with the Commons’ administration committee — but please don’t limit your request to the right to satirise. Please push for full open licensing.

Thank you.

All your video are belong to us: open licence recordings of local government meetings

I’ve written before about what open licensing is and how to apply it to your pictures; and I’ve called for councils and other public bodies to open licence as many as possible of their photographs.

There’s recently been a welcome and encouraging increase in the number of councils that are live-streaming, or videoing for later consumption, their meetings. Such videos — and similar audio recordings — should also be made available to the public for reuse under open licences, which means no unnecessary restrictions such as “no commercial use” or “no derivatives” (the latter prohibits people from providing edited highlights or making compilations).

Some councils have an old fashioned attitude to the reuse of their videos
Photo by Taki Steve, on Flickr, CC-BY

There are a few reasons why this doesn’t currently happen, and they’re based on reasonable but unfounded concerns. Some council people (employed officers and elected members) are worried that they’ll lose control. They think that people will edit the videos in such as way as to misrepresent what was actually said. And some people will — but such people will do that regardless of the licence in place, and will misrepresent councillors even if only text minutes are available. Councils’ responses should be to point members of the public to the unedited originals, which they will of course host themselves, or on a service such as YouTube, using an account which they control. Are councils really going to resort to copyright law to stifle satire or prevent lobbying? Perhaps they should read about the (where resorting to legislation focusses greater attention on one’s actions than the subject of that action ever could).

Another issue is that some fear that if councillors use videos for political campaigning, that would break the rules on misuse of public money and council resources. The answer is simple: remind councillors of such rules and let them be responsible for their actions.

Such concerns are vastly outweighed by the potential benefits of allowing free (both senses: as in beer and speech) reuse of videos of our democratic processes in action. Bloggers (hyperlocal and others), journalists, lobby groups, Wikipedians and documentary makers will be able to report on the issues discussed by our elected representatives; and this can only encourage more involvement from lay people in the running of the services that they pay for.

Restrictive, non-open licences do not harm mendacious armchair activists, nor satirists, nor rogue politicians; they only hinder people who wish to use the material in a law abiding way to increase such engagement.

What licence is your council using for its videos of meetings?

My thanks to Tom Phillips for suggesting I write this post, for discussion in this evening’s #lgovsm chat on Twitter.

Open Up Your Content – a piece written for Hyperlocal West Midlands

My friends Kate Sahota, Dan Slee and Simon Whitehouse, and Liz O’nions from our sponsors Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, and I ran the ‘Hyperlocal West Midlands‘ (‘HyperWM’) unconference today; the third of these annual events, for local government and other public sector workers, and hyperlocal bloggers interested in working with them. As usual, I got to be compère, a role which I greatly enjoy.

It was great to see many old friends, even though the opportunity to chat to them was of necessity limited.

For the event, we produced a newspaper. Yes, a real newspaper, made from dead trees. The idea was to give some information to the many attendees who are not yet fully engaged with the digital world.

Two of my articles were included, a shortened version of my blog post “Tips for Unconference newbies“, and the following, written specially, and reproduced here in its original form, before Dan got his sub-editing mitts on it, and with added links:

Open Up Your Content

No doubt you’ve heard a lot about open data (and if you haven’t, you soon will do). But what about “open content”? And what is open content?

The commonly accepted definition refers to content (text, images, audio or video) which may be used by anyone, freely (free as in speech, and as in beer), under what is known as an open licence. The “four Rs” apply: people should be able to Reuse, Revise, Remix (combine with other content) and Redistribute (give away or sell) the content. There may be a requirement to give attribution (in other words, you have to say who the author or owner of the content is) and an open licence does not negate moral rights (so you shouldn’t misrepresent the author or owner).

Open content sources include all of Wikipedia (except a few images, such as DVD covers), everything on Wikimedia Commons, many images on Flickr (check the individual licences, or use the “Creative Commons” option in their advanced search) and much, much more, and you can use any of that, on your website and in your paper publications and reports. For free!

So how does open licensing work, in the public sector?

Suppose you’ve written an FAQ about food hygiene. If a blogger, or a neighbouring council or health authority, or suchlike, ask for permission to use some or all of it, you’d probably say “sure, just give us a mention”. If you receive a request for a photograph of your new chief executive from the same people, you’d probably provide them with one. You’d do that, even for a local newspaper which makes money by selling adverts, and by being sold in newsagents.

An open licence, such as one of those provided by Creative Commons as a set of boilerplate terms which you can use without paying a lawyer to write them, simply formalises such sensible responses.

Better still, you can apply an open licence in advance of receiving a request, or many such requests, thereby relieving you of a tiresome administrative burden.

If you have useful content (of course you do!), and you’re not going to sell it (of course you’re not!), make it available (on your website, or a third party one like Flickr or Wikimedia Commons), and let the community you serve and the world at large benefit from it. You might be surprised at the uses they put it to, and how you and your customers can benefit from them.

More from HyperWM

Licence

This post is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (3.0 Unported) licence. Attribution should include a link to the post, or, in print, the short URL http://wp.me/p10xWg-qV.

The BBC, Regional News and Sport, and Hyperlocal Blogs

This is the second in a pair of posts about my recent meeting with Robin Morley, the BBC‘s Social media lead for the English Regions. The first, “The BBC, Open Content and Wikipedia“, was published yesterday.

Many BBC regional news items currently have “From other news sites” sections, which link to reports of the same stories, from other news providers, including traditional newspapers and others. For example, this report of a happy outcome to missing child case from Smethwick has stories from the West Midlands Police, the Rugby Advertiser, Manchester (!) Wired, Huffington Post UK and the Birmingham Mail:

Screenshot of the 'From other news sites' section of the news story linked to above

However, these sections don’t yet include hyperlocal blogs. Indeed, the BBC say:

In general, our rules tend to give greater weight to national and international sources over regional or local ones.

At my suggestion, Robin has graciously agreed to consider requests from reputable hyperlocal websites, to have links to their news stories included in such sections. This, if I say so myself, is a major coup for hyperlocal blogging.

Interested hyperlocal bloggers (in England only, for now, as that’s the extent of Robin’s remit) are therefore invited to submit details of their blog, with links to a couple of their recent news stories, including original content (no churnalism, please) in a comment below, for consideration by Robin. I must emphasise that, while he’s kindly agreed to consider including such links, no promises have been made. The emphasis is on news stories, not lobbying or party-political pieces. Submissions blatantly failing to meet these criteria will not be published here.

To start things off, here are two modest stories from my local blog, The B44 (disclosure: I wrote the first of them), covering parts of Great Barr and Kingstanding in that postcode district.

Do you write for a hyperlocal blog? What are your best news exclusives? It’s up to us to demonstrate to Robin and his colleagues that suitable content exists.

I’ll report back on the outcome.

Politician pin ups – open-licensed pictures, please

Politicians, like visits to the dentist and taxes, are a necessary evil. We all moan about them, but someone has to take care of the machinery of state.

So it’s important that we hold them to account, and elsewhere document their activities in a neutral way. Hyperlocal bloggers do the former, and the latter takes place on Wikipedia, and on sites like the excellent OpenlyLocal (both of whose content is open-licensed).

To illustrate such articles, bloggers and Wikipedians need photographs of the politicians (and senior officers). While it’s possible for individuals to take such pictures (and even open-license them, as I described previously), it would be better if such pictures were available from official channels. Such organisations already take or commission professional quality shots and make them available to the press. If they don’t already, they should make sure that their contract with photographers pays for full rights, enabling open-licensing.

I recently asked Birmingham City Council’s press office to make their pictures of members of BCC’s cabinet available under an open licence, and, to their credit, they did so. I was then able to use one of them on :

Wikipedia article using a picture open-licensed by Birmingham City Council

Some might ask “but what if the pictures are misused, to misrepresent those people”. Well, if someone’s going to do that, then they won’t bother about copyright anyway, and other laws (libel, human rights) already enable redress.

So come on all you councils, civil service departments, police forces/ authorities and so on — let us have pictures of your elected members and senior officers, free (i.e. with no “non-commercial” or “no derivatives” restrictions) for reuse on our blogs, Wikipedia and other sites. Major companies, too, could do this for their most-public board members.

Then there’s all public bodies’ other photographs. After all, West Midlands Police kindly agreed to my request to open-license the fantastic aerial shots from their helicopter…

St. Martin in the Bullring Church, Birmingham
Birmingham’s Bull Ring, from the West Midlands Police helicopter. Although this picture is ©WM Police, I can use it, here and on Wikipedia, because they kindly make it available under a CC-BY-SA licence

Dan Slee, me, HyperLocal Govcamp West Midlands, BrewCamp, and cake

Dan Slee is not only as good an example you’ll find of a local government officer embracing and exploiting social media, but also a fine friend. It’s always a pleasure to work (or socialise) with him, like when we jointly led a GovCamp session on using Flickr and Wikipedia in the public sector:

(photo shows, left-to-right, Neil Franklin, Dan, Ben Proctor (standing), Ken Eastwood, me, a bit of Peter Olding)

He has just blogged about the work he and I have done together, on HyperLocal Govcamp West Midlands and BrewCamp, along with Stuart Harrison, Mike Rawlins and Simon Whitehouse.

And lots of cake.

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.

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.

Everything at your postcode – proposal for a new website

Over the last few weeks, I have been imagining a website for UK citizens and visitors; where they can enter their postcode and be served a page or pages of hyperlocal links about everything to do with where they live. This post is me continuing that thinking out loud; comments — including the constructively critical — are actively solicited.

Links could be almost anything, from local government services (via DirectGov and OpenlyLocal) to public transport information; from maps to fun things. They would either link to sites which use postcodes as as an argument; or would be built using the target site’s postcode-lookup API.

The site would avoid the need for each hyperlocal website to compile its own list of such links.

Here are a few such links, based on a randomly-selected postcode, B23 6UH (I simply opened a local newspaper and picked the first advert that used a Birmingham postcode). Note that the first link is computed; the rest use the postcode directly.

User would also be able to suggest additional links if they find a good web service which takes a postcode as a locator — for now, please feel free to do so in comments on this post, and I’ll add them to the above list. Purely commercial links, like individual chains’ store locators, would be excluded (a few paid for links, clearly identified as such, might generate enough revenue to cover hosting costs).

As can be seen from the above, the site wouldn’t actually store or generate content; just links. The links could be clustered under headings, or on sub-pages, like “maps”, “local services”, and “fun stuff”.

It might also be possible for the site to determine the user’s nearest postcode, using their browser or device’s GeoLocation feature, or by selection from a map. The site would also accept partial postcodes, such as “B”, “B23” or “B23 6”.

The service could perhaps be “widgetised” for inclusion on other sites. And of course, it would be possible to link to the site using postcode as an argument.

The site would, of course, make data available in RSS, OPML and open data formats; and use microformats.

Unfortunately, though be willing to collate and maintain the links and code some HTML, I lack the programming and graphic-design skills to make such a site, which means that I must rely on the good will of others. Can you help? Should I organise a hack event (a day, or an evening) at a Birmingham venue, to work on this collaboratively?

Or does such a service — curated, rather than spammy — already exist? Would it belong better as an adjunct to an existing service like OpenlyLocal or DirectGov?

Over to you…