The voices of Huddersfield Social Media were first heard in a conversation on the train home from Birmingham on 20th June 2009. Three of our voices were on that train. We talked about a lot of things, including whether we could start a social media surgery in Huddersfield. Could we do it? We weren’t sure. Maybe we just needed to hear someone else say that we could.
It took six voices to give us the confidence to turn that germ of an idea into reality, to give us the right balance of thinkers and mavericks, enthusiasm and compassion. Between us (and with a little help from our friends) we tentatively opened the doors on our first Huddersfield Social Media Surgery on 16th November 2009.
Our very first participant was Yakub from Kirklees User Voice, a mental health advocacy group. His ‘surgeon’ for the evening was Andrew. Here’s what Andrew says about their conversation:
I asked Yakub to tell me a little bit about the organisation, about anything they already did on the web, about what they wanted to do (the effects and benefits they were looking for, rather than the names of sites), who in the organisation was going to be looking after it, and whether he used the web at all himself.
He was already pretty comfortable doing practical jobs such as online banking and ebay (and so was at least as technically savvy as me), so our discussion was much more about what the organisation hoped to achieve by having a self -published presence, which was to record and archive the things that they did, and how the organisation could carefully, manageably and sustainably get into the rhythm of having that presence and creating a meaningful archive.
Which in plain terms means if you start a blog, somebody has to write something, so who in the organisation feels comfortable doing that and what will they write about?
Many other visitors followed Yakub. We were all delighted with the number and variety of organisations who turned up to ask for advice. I was helping out on the door with the wonderful Maggie, so I was aware that new people were arriving all the time. Yet whenever we had people waiting, an extra volunteer turned up and pitched in to help. Amongst these generous and very welcome guests was Lloyd Davis, who talked to David from the Kirklees Visual Impairment Network (KVIN). Lloyd says:
I was immediately humbled by David’s determination to use the web regardless of his disability. He uses the JAWS screen reader to guide him around each page. This means that his experience of the web is of a tinny voice rapidly reading out link titles and button text –which can either be overwhelming because of the sheer amount of information squeezed on pages designed to be seen, not read, or else mystifyingly silent because important screen elements are hidden
I even managed a stint as a surgeon myself, when Andrew unexpectedly manhandled me into a chair and asked me to talk to Caroline about a blog site for the Friends of Greenhead Park. She had found a ‘good example’ already, which turned out to be the Growing Newsome site (which I happen to be the editor for). I told her that the site was my first attempt at WordPress – and if I can do it, anyone can. Thanks to Andrew’s maneuvering, I didn’t have time to worry about whether I actually know anything useful or not (I had my doubts), and I was very pleased to hear Caroline say: “How exciting, I’ve got answers to my questions”.
Mari was able to help a ward councillor who had been asked to update a web site and was having some problems with it, and a retired lady from a tenants and residents group. Lewis talked to a member of an arts organisation and someone looking to promote a local festival. Other participants included a credit union, a transport group, an artist, a writer and a police officer. And we managed to offer some advice to everyone. Mari says that the other surgeons were:
marvellous and worth their weight in beer
A sentiment which I heartily agree with. Strangely, we ended up with the perfect balance of ‘patients’ and ‘surgeons’. In all, there were 30 participants in our first surgery, on a cold and blustery evening in Huddersfield, including 16 people looking for advice (for 14 different organisations), 8 surgeons, and several other supporters. Clare from the Media Centre looked after us well, and we really appreciated the messages of support that came from those who couldn’t be there on the night (you know who you are). As Steve says:
I was moved at how all these people had given up their time and come together to offer their help and share their knowledge and look forward to reading their accounts of the evening. I have never been involved in anything quite like it before.
So I’d like to say thank you to each person who helped. I’d also like to say thank you to each person who came along to ask for advice – thank you for trusting us, and thank you for everything that you taught us.
A few weeks before the event, we talked about why we’re doing this. Andrew says:
When we met to discuss Huddersfield Social for the first time, I asked everyone why we were doing it. Not because it’s my place to vet anyone’s motives – anyone who is prepared to put in the time to help counts as far as I’m concerned, no matter why they are doing it – but because I was interested to know what our reasons were, mine included. Everyone round the table thought about it for a bit and then came up with a really positive answer in a sentence, which made me think we’d do OK.
And I didn’t write any of them down.
All I wrote was “neighbourhoods/connections/ relationships/people + power/technology”.
After the event on Monday we decided to make the best of a bad job and turn that into an equation.
This is the Huddersfield Social Equation v2, a mathematical formula for working out why you would do a social media surgery.
It is version 2 because it is best devised and understood after 2 pints (Black Goose mild in my case) or 2 gin and tonics:
people+connections+relationships+(all sorts of technology) = neighbourhood empowerment
For us, it starts with people and hopefully it ends with those people feeling empowered. Or (even more hopefully) it doesn’t end at all – we just carry on giving more and more people a voice.
You can read some more about our first surgery in the different voices of the surgeons and supporters, or have a look at the video and photos…
Lloyd’s blog: Huddersfield Social Media Surgery
Mari’s blog: Huddersfield Social Media Surgery
Tim’s photos: Huddersfield Social Media Surgery
Our photos: November 2009 surgery
Paul’s video: Huddersfield social media surgery