Crowdsourced squirrels


This post is a chance to share my favourite thing in my garden and a fantastic crowdsourced research project.

The black squirrel in this video took up residence last year after a stand of horse chestnuts was felled locally, forcing him and his friends to move home. 

Black squirrels are the same species as grey squirrels, just with a different pigment, and are commonly sighted in East Anglia after a gaggle of them were released in Woburn around one hundred years ago.

Anglia Ruskin University have been crowdsourcing black squirrel sightings for a few years on their Black Squirrel Project website. The project aims to: “gather data on the geographical range of the grey and black squirrel in the British Isles. This data may help explain why the grey squirrel is such a successful invader here.” It’s a fun, easy to use website and you feel that you’re involved in some interesting scientific research. That’s a great use of the web in my book.

Photo: Black Squirrel_3377 by Robert Taylor on Flickr


Got, got need in a 2.0 world

2014 Panini World Cup sticker book showing the cover and a  half-filled page

Sticker albums, the currency of the playground and the reason why I know the Sheffield Wednesday Football Club badge has an owl in it.

With the World Cup looming, stickers are once again in circulation. My preschool daughter has her first album (which she’s being helped with so that the stickers are put in nice and straight!) We’ve been building up doubles, and I was thinking that a swap session at LocalGovCamp or CommsCamp could be fun. But swapsies have, of course, gone digital.

In the 2.0 world stickers have their own hashtag, the classic #gotgotneed, as well as virtual swaps sites – the online equivalent of the playground swapsies market. Has the digital revolution taken away some of the magic though?

Sticker swapping has always been a financially-savvy as well as social pastime. At my school shiny stickers were worth at least two normal ones, with entrepreneurial bidding wars erupting for the elusive sticker that everyone needed. Si Whitehouse wrote a great 2010 post about the cost of World Cup stickers which calculated that if you didn’t swap, you’d need to buy 4120 stickers, at a total cost of £412, to fill your sticker album. 

I only ever completed one album – a Care Bear one with soft-touch, rather than shiny, special stickers. The feeling of achievement on finishing the album was huge and I still have it tucked away in the attic – alongside a second album which held spare stickers I couldn’t swap. But would this happen now?

Nowadays, you don’t need to take your pile of doubles into school or an unconference, you can swap online. Sites like Last Sticker allow you to make a personal profile that details all of the stickers or trading cards you have got, got or need. It matches you up with people who have what you need, and need what you’ve got. and you then negotiate your swapsies. My husband registered on the site last night and was negotiating swaps left, right and centre-back within the hour.

Picture of Panini World Cup sticker album app in the iPhone app storeThe tech has even moved to apps, including an official Panini World Cup sticker book app where you can set up collecting leagues with friends as well as set up swaps.

Online swap sites are the logical development of the playground swap. While as a parent I appreciate this limit on monetary outlay, it feels like it’s taken some of the romance out of sticker collecting. You’re pretty much guaranteed to be able to finish your album now, and you won’t need that half-full second album.

However, where web 2.0 takes away it also gives. To really complete your album, you can now have your own sticker printed and that’s one you really #need.



ukgovcamp2012 – my top twenty

I was at ukgovcamp2012 on Saturday – my first big unconference. It was overwhelming in some respects, but inspiring in all, mainly due to the fantastic people who where there.

Dan Slee has spread the excellent idea to write down twenty thoughts or snippets from the event. Here are mine (cue TOTP countdown music):

1. It now takes an age to walk to the Victoria line from Kings Cross train station. Do not attempt to cut it fine when aiming for a train home – it will not end well

2. No one takes a blind bit of notice when asked to keep their intros short at the opening session

3. There is a social media simulator available for emergency planning training

4. Identifying local and vocal digital users ahead of emergencies is a good plan – you can ask them to help you get your messages out in a crisis

5. During a crisis, be prepared for your website to crash. Have a Plan B – such as a WordPress site – in your back pocket

6. Ben Proctor has some practical suggestions for minimum social media practice in emergencies

7. If you’re editing Wikipedia you need to be mindful of its Conflict of Interest policy. You should not directly edit pages related to your employer or work without being totally open and honest about it

8. Wikipedia does not accept The Daily Mail as a credible source for health-related stories

9. Key phrases to use when asking for Wikipedia pages to be edited are: It is not neutral, undue weight has been given to a specific area, there is cultural bias, the page/section is unreferenced or does not cite reliable sources

10. When people are passionate about Wikipedia or QR codes, they’re super-passionate about them in a very infectious way

11. If you use bit.ly or google’s link shortener for QR codes anyone can view the statistics as they’re public by default. Terence Eden explains more 

12. QR codes are being used in museums to great effect at minimum cost

13. Never forget the end user – is what we’re doing and using the right thing for them?

14. Never forget that most people don’t have whizzy tech or phones – get your level right

15. Most people have no interest in visiting a Council website, they only go when they really need to

16. It’s a tiny bit marvelous to put faces to Twitter names

17. There will always be people you miss speaking to who you really wanted to meet

18. It’s brilliant that a Councillor came along to the Saturday session

19. Unconferences are a fantastically collborative way to bring people together and learn new things

20. The Plumbers Arms serves very good sausages. I worked nearby for four years and never went in. This was probably a mistake.

Photo: 2012-govcamp-002 by #ashroplad via Flickr

Who are your publics?

A crowd of people listening to a woman talkingYes. Publics. Sometimes the terms stakeholders or customers just don’t fit the bill. Also, I’ve recently been hiking through communications theory for the CIPR diploma, and those theorists do like a public.

The theory of publics caught my eye in relation to social media. In 1983, public relations academic James Grunig identified four basic publics*:

  • All-issue publics – active on all issues and often focused on injustices carried out by or through organisations
  • Apathetic publics – inattentive on all issues. Not aware of, or concerned by, events. Self-focused and unlikely to take part in action to make their views heard
  • Single-issue publics – active on one specific issue/area. Put all their energies into one cause and are very active
  • Hotissue publics – active on one issue with high profile and broad application often seize on issue currently in the media, but for a short time

Working with Todd Hunt, Grunig further refined the theory, moving to:

  • latent publics – who face a similar problem but do not recognise it
  • aware publics – who recognise a common issue
  • active publics – who recognise the problem and organise to do something about it.

A fourth public – non-public with no interest in the issue – was added later. In his book Online Public Relations, David Phillips states that, in web terms, this public can be identified ‘as those who do not have ready access to the Internet.’ As said in a recent We Love Local Gov blog post, we mustn’t forget this public in the general move to embrace social media.

A wind turbine with the sky behind itIn another well-worth-a-read blog post , Grunig points out that social media gives publics the freedom to identify themselves, rather than wait to be defined by an organisation’s self-interest. He suggests that organisations should engage all publics to the extent of available resources. If this ideal situation is not possible, publics should be prioritised “according to the impact the organisation has on them or the impact they have on the organisation  … [which] requires judgement both about social responsibility and about the strategic interests of the organisation.”

It’s all too easy for organisations to focus on the benefits of social media for them, forgetting that it gives anyone the same opportunity to get their voice heard and find like-minded people. Organisations overlook the ability for publics to identify and arrange themselves using social media at their peril. Clay Shirky cites numerous examples in his book Here Comes Everybody. In Online Public Relations, Anne Gregory summarises that, “The ability of groups to form quickly and mobilise action provides a great opportunity as well as being a potential threat for PR professionals who are the guardians of organisational reputation.”

A few basic points this all throws up for me – nothing new but always important – are:

  • Who are your publics, active or otherwise and where are they on social media?
  • How and what are you monitoring?
  • How are you reacting and engaging to issues being brought up online? Social media triage is handy here
  • What issues could cause latent publics to move to aware and then active and how can/will you engage (wind farm application anyone?)
  • Which of your publics aren’t online, where are they instead and how are you going to reach them/they reach you?

*Adapted from Edwards, L. ( 2009), Public Relations Theories: An Overview, Chapter 8 in Tench.R and Yeomans, L, Exploring Public Relations, Second Edition, Harlow, Pearson Education Limited

Images: Crowd by Wayne Large  and Wind Turbine by Ben Harrington both via Flickr