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I’ve been talking about creating a Social Media Surgery in Southampton for over a year now.  I am so delighted that we are running our first session tomorrow at the Shooting Star pub.

We nearly made it last year, but sadly Aris (one of our students) graduated and left the area before we could get going.  But the internet is a marvellous thing. Gavin Barker found details about the surgeries on the Our Society ning created by John Popham.  John pointed him to Nick Booth at podnosh, and whilst putting two and two together suggested he talk to me too.  Why?  I’ve never been to a surgery. I have no direct experience of how they work. What I have done is been surrounded by the energy, enthusiasm and outputs since they began.  I lived in Brum when they started and have spent hours discussing them with Nick.  I think it is such a powerful idea.  That folk who believe in social activism can volunteer to help other volunteers – and others from community organisations.

So we meet tomorrow.  My huge thanks go to a few people, mostly to Gavin who has actually made this happen, to his contact Ben who has helped out with the venue, the venue, and then of course to the surgeons:

Standards nerves around rsvp’s means we have no idea if anyone will actually want any help.  I have absolutely no doubt that the surgeons will be well able to amuse themselves sharing ideas, wowing each other with their work and getting to know other great people.  Working on the strong assumption that people will turn up for help, Gavin has put together a useful crib sheets to give surgeons some ideas of the sort of solutions to offer surgeons.  I’ve popped it into a post on this site here.

So, besides packing my dongles – you can never be too careful with wifi, remembering the camera, and charging up my laptop, I’m good to go.  Wish us luck, and check back soon for a review of how it went.

These are a few notes for Social Media Surgeons which may be helpful. Feel free to add or amend these before or after our first session on Saturday. Given that this is our first session, it is probably best to keep our expectations low in terms of numbers attending. Nick Booth from Podnosh, who runs these sessions nationally, suggests we have no expectations at all! If one person turns up that’s fine. In his experience these things are slow to take off but gradually gather a head of steam as word spreads and people return for a second, then a third session. Some of those who return will eventually become ‘surgeons’ in turn and start to share what they have learned.

The people we want to help are people who are already volunteering in their community in some way. They could be a member of a resident association or community centre. They could also be from a local charity and are curious to know how these tools can benefit their work. The idea is to empower those who do ‘good work’ and strengthen community activism in all its forms. Over time we may come across people who don’t fit this category- corporate types looking for free advice. I suggest we don’t say No to anyone, but we can at least have a conversation with them about why we are doing this and stress that we are all volunteers – some of that may rub off and encourage them to do likewise. The subjects covered could be anything – and here I will shamelessly plug certain key messages that go with my job and ensure the backing of my team for this initiative. In the end however, go where the energy is: the sudden pick up of interest as you talk through different social media tools and their application. Maybe you can get the ‘patient’ to talk a little bit about what they do in order to get an idea of what might be most useful to them. The range of social media tools you should try and cover include:

Tool Notes/ examples
Facebook the Facebook page for City Council Communities Team (the people who are contacting different community groups about Social Media Surgeries)
Twitter The Communities team are on Twitter, follow us on @southamptonscom
Southampton Placebook Map of community groups
Southampton City Council Your Community pages The Communities team will be adding online resources to these web pages over the summer ie templates, how to guides, all info to help community groups get started or do more we also have a regularly updating news feed about local communities and stories of how people can get more involved in their community
Southampton City Council Grants for community groups pages The Communities team have a set of pages which help community group find and apply for funding
YouTube Neighbourhood  action videos
My A range of tools, some more or less coming under the heading of social media – see especially the FixMyStreet Start your own blog. Some interesting wordpress sites includeThe Elephant Amenity Network,
Flickr Photo sharing. example of a now global photography project

Southampton Social Media Surgery Social Media Surgery on Sat 2 Jul.

You are voting, aren’t you…

With a huge percentage of us not yet decided about who to vote for, I thought I’d (again) pull together all these nifty sites that have popped up during campaigning.

I can’t imagine why someone would not vote.  Especially it seems to me crucial that women do.  Women before us lost their lives in the fight to give us the same rights as men (eventually).  One of my life regrets is not talking to my grandmothers about how it felt to vote for the first time, aged well over 18!  Of course, there are many people in the world today who are not able to exercise this simple right.  So, if you are still planning on not voting, then go on, opt out.  Opt out of your right to moan about any public services, opt out of your place in our community.  Me, I’m ready and I know what I am going to do.  It’s not what I usually do, but then this election is anything but usual.

Right, rant over.

My earlier blog post here, gives a few links, which are mostly related to registering and finding out who your candidates are.

Here’s the more useful list at his stage.  Websites helping you take a look at party policies and how they compare to your own views:

If you find any more, please do put a hyper-link in the comments.   Happy voting and I’ll see you on the other side.

I do love an election and our own country’s General Election ranks as one of the more exciting.  Whatever we think about politicians – and they give us plenty to think about – it is certainly the case that we can all influence who it is that gets to work in Westminster on our behalf.    But of course, that is only true if we actually bother to vote.  In 1997 the MP in my new seat won by 2 (yes two) votes.  It makes you think!

[As an aside, this website also makes you think – but even with a low voter power, it’s worth the gentle stroll to the polling station, cos if no-one else does…]

But, back to main point: this election is different from any other I’ve lived through, for many reasons:

  1. The two main parties are pretty close in the polls.
  2. For the first time the internet will have a major part to play
  3. A fair few boundary changes shift the picture
  4. I’ve moved out of Brum after 30 odd years, and have no real feel for the politics down here.

So, I thought I’d knock up a quick and easy blog to pull together some resources I’ve found useful in pondering where to pop my cross.  My hope is that everyone I know will decide to vote. So first things first:

Are you registered?

I felt sure I was, it seems the only way to check is by phone or in person to your local council (of which I appear to have about 3!).  This website from the Electoral Reform Commission is a great place to start though: pop in your post code and you are away.  You have until April 20th to do this for this General Election.  Mind you, if you should miss it by any chance – it is still worth doing it, you never know when another may come along!

Which is your constituency and who is standing?

The Guardian appears to have the new constituencies on their site:

Your Next MP will also get you there quickly, but with less follow up information:

A wiki is being built about the candidates:  They Want to work for you , so you can take a look and add to it if you have more information.
And if any of the candidates have been MPs you can have a good look at their voting record, expenses claims and more at the fabulous They Work for You site

Whose Policies do you support?

There are a plethora of websites this time helping you work out which parties have policies which match your own personal views, here are the ones I’ve stumbled over:


Party Matcher

Vote for Policies

Who should you vote for?

Of course, there is also a strong web presence from each political party, but I reckon you can work out how to find them!

So, this is a pretty simple post which pulls together a few nifty bits of the web.  I hope you enjoy them.  But mostly I hope you vote.

PS the big day is Thursday May 6th – put it in your diary… NOW!

We recently attended a Burns Night party, in Hampshire.  It was a fabulous evening.  I learnt a lot about Robert Burns, of whom it seems I was mostly ignorant.  We recited and sang his poems, drank toasts, ate haggis and won a quiz on Scotland.

It’s been a long time since a party has left such a mark on me, and it got me thinking.  We’ve left our beloved Brum – and what do we get to show for it.  A script that seeks to defend our fabulous home city against the usual digs and jibes; a list of all the great things that really have come out of the city and an accent that sets us aside from the received pronunciation that is Hampshire.

Well I think we’re missing a trick.  In the month when the nation worries about losing Cadbury‘s to American firm Kraft, I got to thinking surely there is more we can do.

So how about we create some kind of celebration of Cadbury’s heritage and all things chocolate.  It certainly didn’t take us long to come up with a few ideas for a great night:

  • Chocolate – fountains, fondue, bars, boxes of, cakes, puddings you name it.
  • Drinks – hot chocolate, chocolate infused in vodka,
  • Cadbury quiz
  • Chocolate songs – surely there are some!
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on the DVD – or better Chocolat!
  • Purple themed everything

So, I reckon that’s a pretty good recipe – provided of course, you can get the right people there.  What else?

Well to make it really work, we need a mass commitment to it.  So how about a few of us agree to hosting a party in our own home /venue of our choice.  How about we share a quiz, invites, website to capture the event?

Anyone up for it?

I thought we could do it just before Kraft take over – does anybody know when that is?

If you’re interested, leave a comment, if there are more than a couple of us, let’s give it a try.  If it doesn’t catch on, so what, we’ll have had a great time finding out!

Further to my earlier contemplative blog post, “ Bins, Baltis or both?“, I’ve decided my answer is neither.

I thought I could get into writing a new regular themed blog post about Baltis.  In particular Baltis away from their natural homeland of the Balti Triangle in Birmingham.

After I posted that idea, I ate a Balti in a local restaurant: a hugely popular Indian Restaurant, a short walk from home.  The others in my party really enjoyed their meals.  I did not.  I chose a Balti (shown left) and regretted it straight away.  It wasn’t even served in a balti dish – and I’m sorry, but I draw the line at eating a balti from a plate!

So, I have decided, I cannot keep putting myself through this.  Why would I choose a meal that is going to let me down, just so I can write that it let me down.  When I go to an Indian restaurant down south, I’ll stick to the stuff they’re good at and save my Baltis for Brum.

So what about these bins?  Well to be honest, the regular posting just doesn’t work with my new wheelie bin freedom.  I don’t even have to wheel the bins to the front, so there is absolutely no weekly routine.  As explained in this post from April 2009, that I started blogging about them so I could check what time I was putting the bins out, it now seems a little fruitless.  Also interesting that even then I was wondering whether to continue.  I’m glad I did, but enough, as they say, is enough.

I will post the occasional photo – perhaps if it’s a good stash, or an interesting bin, maybe even just because.  But my routine bin blogging days are done.  Sorry followers of @binfairy, especially if you were banking on me!  Then again, maybe I’ll set up daily bin day tweet reminder (well I’m not pormising!)

So what else then?  The simple answer is I have no idea.  But also, I don’t mind that.  Something will emerge that captures my imagination, and this site will be ready for it.  Meanwhile, I’m getting a huge amount of enjoyment from the Brimmin blog and will focus my energy and activity over there.


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