Talking About Local in Stoke

Saturday’s unconference organised in Stoke on Trent by Will Perrin’s Talk About Local team was quite brilliant. It brought together an amazing range of people who are creating hugely interesting local blog sites and online communities¬† … yet often don’t know of each other’s existence.

You don’t have to take it from me. I think I’m quoting mySociety’s Tom Steinberg correctly when he said something like “it’s the most interesting unhyped thing happening on the Internet today” … and went on to explain in more detail in the interview above. You can see all the video I shot here.

There’s a supportive piece in the Guardian here, although both that¬† and Roy Greenslade seem to think local sites are about filling the hole left by local media. I think they are about more than that, as I commented on Roy Greenslade’s blog:

“As a one-time local and evening reporter (Reading, London), and now socialreporter (I did some video clips from the Talk About Local unconference) I would say there are two different strands here:
1 how far hyperlocal sites may fill the gap created by the decline of traditional local media
2 the contribution local sites may make in helping people understand what’s happening in their community, finding like interests, doing things of social benefit, he;ping people find their a voice.

“Local papers – and mainstream journalism is pretty useless at 2. It tends to focus on conflict, crisis, celebrity. If you are bothered about the health of your community and what you can do, local trad media hasn’t been much help for some time (of course, with exceptions)

“Local sites like W14 and SW6 (I declare an interest, I provided some early help) are trying to provide some news, but doing a lot more of 2. They are going for conversation, collaboration and celebration.

“You are comparing apples and pears. Different sets of values. The skills of journalism are still relevant (professional or otherwise), but only if they have greater purpose than just staying in business”.

What do think? What are the social and civic benefits of local sites and communities?

We’ll be picking up the conversation again shortly on the local communities site. For lighter relief, see the Wright’s pie rounders session, which was something about exploring the scope for local outdoor games in communities. I think.That’s Hugh Flouch of Harringay Online making the first run.

Nick Getgood explains here.

Update: my friend Kevin Harris provides some historical perspective on his blog here. Interview with Kevin here.

Background on local community sites here.

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