Tag: Birmingham

Pokémon Go, Goes into the the Community


Technology, gaming and social media often gets a bad wrap. Zombie teens alone in their bedrooms staring at screens, people isolating themselves staring at a hand held 4 inch screen, shunning real life interactions, Kids no longer willing or able to play outdoors. All this and more has been said of digital technology.

I’ve never bought into any of it.

I am a mom to a gaming teen, I am a fan of mobile phones, social media, the internet and more. I play games myself, I use the the tools available to enhance my work life, my social life and to work with and improve my community, But I do also understand why some people who maybe don’t make the connection between the real world and virtual and how they can work hand in hand, worry about the disconnect and the social ramifications of digital technologies.

This week however Nanantic Labs released Pokémon Go, an augmented reality game based on the 20 year old Pokémon franchise. The release, which in its first week out in America has surpassed Twitters entire 65 million user for the same area, is massive. It has outstripped search results for other cultural phenomenon and it has bought the “real world” and the virtual crashing together in the  most brilliant way.


The game is based on the 90s phenomenon that spawned card games, a TV show and multiple gameboy games.

Essentially you use your phone’s GPS, and a map to track and hunt Pokémon in the real world and there are set locations in your area that you can collect items from, and others that you can battle your Pokemon for after joining teams, but you have to physically be in the vicinity of them with your phone. If your phone has a gyroscope you can use your handsets camera to “see” the Pokémon in the “real” world” but you actually have to get up and leave the house to play.

I side loaded the app 5 days before the official UK release after reading some of the hype coming from the States, Australia and NZ. Stories that included examples of communities coming out to play together, local police departments engaging with players, people being galvanized into getting out and walking – and the benefits it was having to peoples mental health through both the exercise and socialising (and the stories keep on coming – I love this).

It already had a core local audience when I got it, but mainly Pokemon fans and traditional gamers. But bigger communities online were emerging both global and local as people connected with the game, so I played and waited with anticipation for the official release, I had already engaged with some of the local players, but I wanted to see what would happen when everyone else caught up – I saw the beginnings of that yesterday.

UK Release bringing people together

The app officially launched yesterday 14th July and I first hand saw some of what had been going on in America all week;

Yesterday lunch time my son and I walked to the shops, phone in hand, a group of teens coming the other way caught our eye. “Pokémon” one of them shouted. “Pokémon” we shouted back, waving our handsets in their direction. A van pulled up along side us as we passed by a “Pokéstop” rolled down its window and the driver began to play, he looked at me sheepishly and smiled, I smiled back and went on our way.

Last night I went to the supermarket, I deliberately parked where I could see what I knew to be an active Pokémon area, with multiple “stops” and 2 “gyms” in walking distance. I spent a while watching as a group of teens walked around the area, to the casual observer aimlessly, but with the map open I could see they were looping around the Pokéstops. As I watched (and caught a few Pokémon of my own) a car pulled in besides me and a young girl got out and walked over to the nearest stop, I sat and listened as a conversation took place between her and the wandering teens and what was obvious was that some of these kids had never met before but were working together to capture the Gym – the lone girl joined in with their group and was all smiles, Her dad (or at least that who I assume it was) who was still in the car grinned as his young daughter made new friends.

In the store I overheard some of the staff were giving a colleague some gentle ribbing for hunting while on her cigarette break, to which her retorts, while said in jest, said a lot – “I’ve walked further today than I have in years” and as I left a Mom and young son were sitting together on the benches, he actively instructing his Mom how to battle in the app.

And that’s not all, I got home to find that the local Pokémon Wolverhampton group were arranging a met for that night in West Park, and were actively encouraging solo players along to buddy up with people of the same teams so that they wouldn’t be alone, The Community Centre I help to run is next door to gym, so we’re trying to make the most of it and we are planning on hosting a Pokéhunt, using out location as a charging station and base so that younger players can come together to hunt safely

So in one short week, and only 1 day after the official UK release this mobile game and franchise has bought people and communities together, it is getting people out of the house and exploring their neighbourhoods, it getting people on their feet and walking, making new friends and offering up marketing opportunities. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this can be optimised upon before the initial excitement dies down, and more importantly what comes next as we learn that our communities aren’t big scary places, and technology doesn’t have to be the death of social as people play together. But for now you’ll have to excuse me as my mobile has just told me that there’s a Jigglypuff somewhere local, and you know, I gotta catch ’em all.

5 stars of open local democracy?

5 star

There’s a conversation going on in South Birmingham – led by Karen Cheney and Austin Rodriguez and others – about how to get more public democratic processes shared more widely.  This builds on various work (including a Cllr in Billesley buying some kit to live stream for the first time their ward ctte meeting).    At a meeting yesterday we talked a bit about equipment and platforms, but also that not all meetings need to be live streamed etc.  So, I wondered, could establish stages of activity for digital open local democracy?  I said I write up my thoughts as a blog post….

What are the principles?

In the mould of Tim Berners-Lee, I’m adapting his 5 stars of open dataI’m know I won’t be the first person to think through these stages, – I’ve searched but not found the 5 stars thing for very local public meetings. If you find it then please share.  Update: this is where I’ve seen something similar before: http://www.comms2point0.co.uk/comms2point0/2014/6/3/proposals-to-improve-health-and-wellbeing-board-social-media.html/

This is a summation of some of our experience social reporting over the years and the following list applies to local processes, currently things like police priority setting meetings,  patient forums for GP and CCG’s, council ward committee’s, housing association walkabouts, neighbourhood forum meetings or neighbourhood watch groups.  This is the myriad of daily democracy that we have created over time.

5 stars of  open (hyper)local democracy


1 star:  Be seen and be welcoming.  Putting agenda’s and minutes somewhere where it is very easy to find them and where it is easy for others to share them. Make sure everyone knows they’re invited.  (This could be a blog, just on google docs with a link or creating an eventbrite to invite people to meetings. It can include putting invites through doors and agenda’s and minutes on public noticeboards.)

2 star: Talk about what you’re doing.  This means that you have a #hashtag for your meeting and publicise it and also share what you know (make sure that background information to papers is publicly available). You are open to others live reporting or recording what you are doing.

3 star: Do it live.  You do the above but you also do it during your meeting or event.  This is where you can introduce a livestream of video or audio or live social reporting through twitter, facebook and or a blog. This also means you only hold meetings in places where there is good, publicly usable wi-fi or 3g.

4 star:  Involve people outside the room in the meeting.  This is a step change from being seen to be doing. This values the questions and comments made on the web as being as important to your meeting as the ones made in the room.  They are incorporated though hashtags or services like cover it live, blyve or a facebook q&a as the event unfolds.  This could also mean organising events specifically for talking to people on the web.

5 star:  It’s a permanent conversation. This fifth step recognises that the civic conversation you’re having doesn’t just happen at times and places you decide.  It can happen all the time. It means being responsive in between meetings when, for example a comment appears on a website or a hashtag.


There are other stages I could have added – using open data for example, but I’m trying to envisage stages by which we can help us develop from the familiar “meeting with 1 man and a dog in a draughty village hall”.  So perhaps the 5 stars of “more” open local democracy.

Behind all this is another core principle:

Keep it simple:

  • Collaborate.  Don’t do this in silos, have things that involve many services, voluntary or statutory.
  • Use available tools.  make things happen with the mobile phones around you, using livestreaming through google hangout or similar, rather than needing to build a thing.  (there are very fine services used for some formal democratic processes, but they’re not essential here)
  • Use available kit – what can you achieve with a smart phone or two?  How much do you really need to buy, is video right for your sort of event?
  • Go to where people are  If the busiest place to find people is on facebook can you use that for your online conversations.  Sharing live events online through hyperlocal blogs is another example

If you can’t make it work without these then clearly start looking for other ways of doing but start with keep it simple, not with “we need to build a portal for that” .

Thanks also to our very own Steph Clarke for helping me think through this – she’s oodles of experience of encouraging public services to get involved with people online both at work and her volunteer efforts at www.wv11.co.uk




Erdington Social Media Surgery: A volunteer helping a volunteer learn from a volunteer…..

Rinkoo Barpaga at Erdington Social Media Surgery

This is Rinkoo Barpaga, Rinkoo attended the Erdington Social Media Surgery this afternoon for some help telling the story of a project he’s involved with.

In 2 weeks time he’ll be flying to the states to take part in a series of workshops and training sessions with deaf community groups, theatre groups and comedians to learn how they approach putting on events for the deaf community over there hoping to bring the knowledge back to the UK to make things happen over here.

Not photographed is Rinkoo’s interpreter (who politely declined to be in front of the camera) a volunteer who had come along to act as a sign interpreter so that Rinkoo could sit and learn with me as Rinkoo himself is deaf.

It was a productive session which as always was adapted to best suit the person learning but in this instance involved a 3 way conversation and a lot of pointing but  there was something really lovely about how it came together, a volunteer helping a volunteer come and learn from, had it been someone else other than me teaching him, another volunteer.