Tag: Social Networking

The perfect mix for June’s Central Birmingham Social Media Surgery

Social Media Surgery May 13th 2009
On our way to the June Central Birmingham Social Media Surgery, I worked out that it’s been six months since our first event in the Studio – the first that I was sort-of involved in. In all that time I don’t think we’ve had a better turnout – for the type of people that have come down and the variety of things that they are interested in.

Scanning down the list of names and organisations that turned up, we had – in no particular order – representatives from two hospices, a city centre residents’ group, a campaign for sustainability in Solihull, a basketball club, a neighbourhood forum and people from two social enterprises.

The help

While the Civic Centre Residents Group continued to get help on their posterous blog (it’s their third time down to a surgery), it was great to see people from two hospices come along. Tony Coulson and Daphne Welch of St Mary’s Hospice in Birmingham received help from Michael Grimes with their website. Mark Binnersley, who is also at the St Mary’s Hospice was helped with Twitter by Catherine Howe – who had come from Brighton to learn more about what the Social Media Surgeries are like here in Birmingham and very kindly stepped in when it looked like we were running out of surgeons.

Given that was only five minutes into the evening – and we already had a pretty full set of tables – it was something of a relief. But she wasn’t the only person more than happy to help out with some of the great variety of different issues that we dealt with that night.

Goodbye to Heidi

Heidi Blanton, who has only recently become a social media surgeon, was charged with helping Paula Mitchell and Jane Hartnell of Acorns Hospice. Sadly this is likely to be the last surgery that Heidi can attend, because she’ll be heading back to the USA for a while, but we hope to see her – at least for a visit – in  the not-too-distant future.

Paula and Jane were looking for help with using social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook to better communicate with the many people who have an association with the hospice. But they also had an inquiry about how they might be able to get news feeds onto their websites with RSS – after Paula was approached by someone trying to sell them the service for a very large amount of money!

Transitions Sutton Coldfield

Another particularly interesting arrival was Lenka Moore, from Transition Sutton Coldfield. I’d not heard of Transition before tonight, but you can learn more about it by visiting the Transition Network site. Andy Mabbett helped Lenka to set up a WordPress.com blog (which I’m trying to find the url for) for the organisation – which looks to make local communities more sustainable in a time of environmental and economic challenges. I asked Lenka a few questions about her organisation and what it hoped to get from setting up a blog.


Digital scrutiny: the web’s the tool

While I’ve watched the election drama unfold over the last few days I’ve been busy trying to finish off the first stage of my digital scrutiny project – which is looking into how it might be possible to use the web to help the public scrutinise local government.

My idea has turned into a blog – Where Can We Swim – that I’m busy trying to develop as a sort of laboratory for the scrutiny of swimming pool provision. At the heart of my idea is a basic belief that we – the public – in all our great unwashed glory, might be able to help to run public facilities – not just as volunteers, but because we’re clever and can actually come up with new ways of doing things.

A reappraisal
When I started the project I hoped to develop a kind of tool kit for scrutiny. I even imagined I’d be scraping data in order to provide really good quality information. But my assumptions were totally off. By posting about my swimming pools idea on Podnosh I’ve learned of the work that Plings has done to find out all the local authorities providing free swimming to under 16s.

The Where can I swim for free site

This has made me think about how this provision will continue in the future. I’ve also realised the mines of local information that exist from websites locally, like the Moseley Road Bath’s excellent updates on swimming pool news in Birmingham and are helping to keep an eye on how the city council runs its pools.

Swimming around the web
And, when I first encountered the daftness of the Active Places data set run by Sport England (the store for all the country’s public sporting facilities), I imagined I’d spend my time trying to unlock the data, but it turns out that the folk at Rewired State have already had a crack at it.

What all this is beginning to prove is that my idea of a tool kit makes no sense whatsoever. Instead it’s pretty simple really: the web’s the tool. The real trick – something I’m only beginning to understand – is learning to use it to make connections between you and other people who have the same idea. And, if you do that, then suddenly all sorts of clever things begin to happen.

What happened at the May Central Birmingham Social Media Surgery

May Social Media Surgery

After some very busy surgeries recently, May’s was small, but perfectly formed. Emma Neil and Hannah Severn from The Birmingham Conservation Trust got help from Gavin Wray and Nick Booth with their blogging work for the trust. Both Emma and Hannah are volunteering for the Trust and have been doing some really interesting stuff since coming to the Central Birmingham surgery a couple of months ago.

They’ve both been blogging assiduously for a while now, on a variety of different subjects for the Trust, as you can see here and here. They also write reviews of local history books, which allows the trust to raise small aounts of money through the Amazon affiliate system.

This time they learned, in particular, about Google Analytics because they’d been worried that too few people were commenting on their posts on the site, as this video interview with Hannah (left) and Emma (right) explains.


Emma and Hannha weren’t the only people to come down – even if we happened to pick the moment the UK got its first coalition government in 70 years. Anna Watson, from Localise West Midlands, was down for her first surgery – and seemed to really enjoy it. Heidi Blanton, who was down to help as a surgeon for the second time,  helped Anna to learn about Twitter, WordPress and other forms of social media.

We also had a visit from Dr Monika Metykova – who is a media and communications research associate at Goldsmith’s. Monika is conducting some really interesting research into changes in media consumption and production – and was down to learn about what we’re doing at the Social Media Surgery. She also got a little bit of help from Simon Gray on setting up a Twitter account. Monika said she was particularly surprised how quickly it is possible to make some really significant, useful steps towards understanding social media at a surgery.

In the video she explains a little bit about the context of her research and how her visit to the Social Media Surgery fits into that.


What it’s like to go to your first Social Media Surgery

Social Media Surgery February thestudio
The surgeries are informal place to find out about social media

So what if you’ve never been to a social media surgery? You might have a few questions, right? We thought it might be good to answer a few.

So what is a social media surgery?
Social Media Surgeries are just a fun, informal way for people to meet and learn how to use social media for social good.

What is social media?
Social media is a loose term that is applied to a range of tools that use the world wide web to bring people together and communicate – including blogs and social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook.

How do social media surgeries work?
Our surgeries consist of patients (the people who come to learn stuff) and surgeons (the people who can answer their questions). We pair surgeons with patients, so that the patients can learn all about how to use social media.

Who should come to social media surgeries?
Our surgeries are for anyone involved in community and voluntary organisations who is looking for new, more effective ways to communicate about the work that they do. Patients don’t need to know about computers. It’s much more important that you are keen to learn and that you have something to say!

Who are social media surgeons?
The surgeons are all terribly nice people who’ve volunteered their time for free to help people. They come from a variety of backgrounds, but they all want other people to be able to make good use of the power that comes from effectively using social media.

What happens when you get to a social media surgery?
Imagine a big coffee morning, except it’s probably in the evening! We pair surgeons with patients after quickly finding out what people would like to learn. You get to sit with a surgeon who can help you with whatever question or issue you’ve got.

What can you expect to get out of a social media surgery?
Well, that’s entirely dependent on what you want to get. Lots of people who come want to set up blogs – simple websites where they can publicise what they are doing. Other people are interested in using Twitter, or other social networking services. Often people come back to learn more and more. Sometimes people who first arrived at surgeries as patients become surgeons themselves.

Is there anything I need to bring?
No. The surgeons have computers, so you don’t need to worry. Of course, if you have a laptop and can carry it easily then please bring it along.

Where can I find out more?
To find out how the surgeries started you can read this post. John Popham, who runs surgeries in Yorkshire, has done a good job of explaining things in this podcast. This site, Podnosh, gives details of new surgeries in Birmingham and elsewhere.

Where are the social media surgeries?

You can mostly fine them here: