Tag Archives: Lichfield

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 Open Data Challenge to UK Local Government: a Wikipedia Page for Every Council

At yesterday’s excellent West Midlands “Open Data: Challenges & Opportunities” event, hosted by the West Midlands Regional Observatory, Chris Taggart (), who runs the very useful Openly Local website, aggregating data about councils and their elected members, mentioned the problems he has extracting linked data about councils from Wikipedia, via DBPedia, because Wikipedia tends to conflate places with their local authorities.

See, for example, the Wikipedia article on the Metropolitan Borough of Dudley; or those on , which (at the time of writing) has only a small section on its town council and Lichfield district (so a challenge there for Stuart Harrison, , and his colleagues!); and compare them with the separate articles about and ; or , the , and . The former, all-on-one-page, pattern is far more common. (Disclosure: I created some, and have edited all, of those articles.)

I suggested at the event that this problem could be solved if staff from each UK council simply started a Wikipedia article about their council, where none already exists.

As each UK council is, inherently, (to use the Wikipedia jargon) notable, there should be no issue with this, provided that they are mindful of Wikipedia’s policy on conflicts of interest (which explicitly allows for such editing), and the requirement that articles maintain a neutral point-of-view, and be referenced. Short “stub” articles can be created in the first instance.

(If council staff are hesitant to do so themselves, then I can help to pair them up with volunteer Wikipedia editors who will assist them, or create articles directly.)

Update: Added Dudley & Lichfield district examples.