5 reasons to come along to BostinCamp on 12 April

BostinCamp returns to DY1 on Tuesday 12 April (you can register to come along on Eventbrite). We’ll be hearing how Dudley’s Business Connector Andy Mullaney is using social media to increase his impact, and learn about Dudley Smart Region Hub and Data Brew, both created by local resident Nathan Coyle.

Here are 5 great reasons to come along, based on experience and what we have lined up.

1. You’ll learn something useful… if not quite a few things

I frequently hear people during and after a BostinCamp session saying “I didn’t know …” I am always pleasantly surprised at how effective 90 minutes of chat over a cuppa and a bit of cake can be for knowledge sharing and learning.

2. You’ll meet lovely people who are involved in interesting things

The most difficult thing to do at BostinCamp is break up the conversations people have started before we kick off and during the comfort break in the middle. Everyone seems to make great connections and enjoy the chance to have a bit of one-to-one time with someone they may have just met for the first time, or perhaps know but don’t often get the opportunity to chat to.

3. You’ll be inspired by someone

I can’t predict how, but it just seems to be something that happens during these sessions. Following our last session at which Alison Sayer from Halas Homes talked about her journey using social media, and Joy Boyes shared her experiences of using social media in Public Health, Jane Clarke got home and sent her first tweet!

4. Andy Mullaney has a great story to share

I couldn’t believe that Andy hadn’t used Twitter before he was seconded last October from Lloyds Bank to Business in the Community to become Dudley’s first ever Business Connector. I can’t wait to hear how he uses social media to help generate a positive impact in education, employment and enterprise in Dudley borough. You can find him on Twitter @DudleyConnector and he’s also blogs regularly on LinkedIn

5. Nathan Coyle is up to really interesting things

I posted a couple of weeks ago about Nathan’s #SmartDudley twitter campaign, and mentioned Dudley Smart Region Hub and Data Brew. I’m fascinated by these innovations Nathan is driving, I think they are the start of some completely new kinds of conversations and activities in Dudley for citizens and local government in relation to use of digital, or civic tech as we might call this sort of thing.

I’d love to hear more reasons if you’ve been along to BostinCamp before – you can pop them below in the reply box. Don’t forget to register places to join us on Tuesday 12 April 6pm-8pm. Hope to see you there.


#SmartDudley twitter campaign

I was delighted to finally meet Nathan Coyle recently. A Dudley resident with a passion for Dudley, it’s people and ways that we can use technology to make Dudley even better. Nathan has kicked off something really interesting called Dudley Smart Region Hub – because as well as being thoroughly lovely, he’s the kind of person who turns his ideas into actual things.

This week Nathan made and launched a beta version of a digital tool called Data Brew. The idea behind it is “to encourage community groups, social enterprise and citizens to come together to create social campaigns or projects using open data as a base to evidence it.” In other words a way to help people work together using data to help solve problems. Do have a look / play and let us know what you think of it.

I’ve also just spotted a lovely twitter campaign which Nathan has started called #SmartDudley. See the graphic below for details and get tweeting!

I’m hoping Nathan might guest blog here sometime soon about Dudley Smart Region Hub and Data Brew, in the meantime you can check out his Huffington Post blogs and hear from him at the upcoming BostinCamp (which will be on Tuesday 12 April, details to be shared shortly).

smart dudley

Free social media support for local groups, clubs and societies

photo of a smartphone next to scrabble tiles spelling ‘social media'

Just a reminder that there are free social media surgeries taking place regularly around Dudley borough, thanks to the generosity of local business owners who host our sessions.

Halesowen – at the friendly Coffee Cups cafe (@CoffeeCupsHalas)
Thur 10 Mar 9.30am – 11.00am register
Stourbridge – at the beautiful Talbot Hotel
Mon 11 Apr 10.00am -11.30am register
Dudley – at the lovely Cafe Grande (CafeGrande Dudley on Facebook)
Thur 19 May 6.00pm – 7.30pm register

What is a surgery?

A social media surgery is an informal gathering of people who want to learn how to use the web to communicate, campaign or collaborate. They support voluntary and community groups, local charities, clubs and societies. Surgeries are deliberately relaxed. No presentations, no jargon, no-one telling people what they think they should know.

Instead you will sit next to someone who understands good ways to use the internet, someone who will listen to what you do, and then show you free, useful tools. If you like what you see they can also help you set up your blog, Facebook page or Twitter account. Social media surgeries take place around Dudley borough every few weeks, so you can keep coming back for help.

We’re always looking for surgeons

Think of a surgeon at a social media surgery  as a helper. A surgeon is someone who knows enough about using social media to help someone else. Some surgeons have spent years understanding the internet. Others started learning a few months ago but want to share what they know with other community groups and active citizens.

We have some brilliant surgeons, some work for Dudley Council, some run their own businesses, some work for charities, others are freelancers and volunteers in their own time. If you’re interested in helping and would like to know a bit more about it, please get in touch and we can chat on the phone or meet for coffee.

Contact me on twitter: @dosticen / facebook: lorna.dosticen / text or WhatsApp: 07501 722255 / email: lorna@dudleycvs.org.uk

Playing with Periscope

periscope logoPeriscope is an app (available on iPhones and Android) which twitter users can use to broadcast live video to people all around the world. If you use Persicope people can view your video in twitter, in their Periscope app, or through their web browser. During your live broadcast the people watching your video via the app can type messages which appear at the bottom of your video for all to see, and they can send hearts as a sort of applause / like by tapping their screen and the hearts float up the side of your video for all to see. Once you’ve finished your broadcast it will still be available for people to view for 24 hours, they can send hearts but they can no longer use the chat. And you can set your device to save the video to your camera roll, or not – so you could still use and upload your video to other places like You Tube or Vimeo if you wish.

As a viewer, you can join live broadcasts which people all around the world are sharing, via the Periscope app if you download it, or through a web browser on your computer. If you are using the app you can type messages and tap your screen to send hearts. You can also view broadcasts made in the last 24 hours, though you won’t be able to use the chat option.

I know quite a few people who started using Periscope pretty early on (it was only launched last March), so I had downloaded the app and watched a few broadcasts by last summer. It took me a little while to get to grips with Periscope and overcome some initial confusion, which I’ll share here as it could help other first-timers.

The first thing that put me off was the diagonal interference type lines which appear on the screen as a broadcast is connecting. That caused me to close a number of broadcasts before I even saw them. So a few seconds of patience is required. The same is true when the person broadcasting flips between cameras on their device – you’ll see a black screen for a moment, but just hang on in there.

Then I was really confused that I had options to hide or see chat, but I couldn’t figure out how to join the chat. I then learned that you can only add to the chat while a broadcast is live. But I’d never managed to catch a live broadcast by anyone I know, and I was a little apprehensive about looking for people I didn’t know on Periscope and messing with things while they broadcast, in case I did something daft!

Then a Periscope notification popped up on my phone to say that Paul Moseley, who I know and also follow on twitter, was broadcasting live. So I opened the Periscope app, clicked on his broadcast and was astonished to hear him say ‘hi Lorna’!!! I was a little freaked out by this, as up to this point I’d not watched a broadcast where the person sharing through Periscope interacted with the people watching. When twitter users watch a live broadcast Persicope puts up a little written notification to say that they have ‘joined’, so the person making the video can see all these notifications and talk to them while recording. I next realised that in order to reply to Paul I’d need to use the chat function. It was a bit of a bizarre experience – Paul was sitting at home chatting away on video while running a TEDxEd chat on twitter, and was interacting with my random comments which I had to type in to Periscope. It was as if one person was communicating by phone or Skype and the other only had access to text messages. The experience was really helpful though, and it gave me the confidence to start making my own Periscope broadcasts.

screenshot of list of viewers on Periscope broadcast from Dudley Volunteer Awards 2015

Screenshot of some of the data provided following one of my Periscope broadcasts – you can see all your viewers who used the Periscope app

I’ve mostly broadcast from events I’ve been involved in, so that people who couldn’t get along could see and hear the speakers, the conversations and so on, and interact if they were viewing live. I’ve learned that I find it frustrating, as I want to type messages back to people on the chat, as if we were both on twitter, and though in theory I can talk out loud back to them, that’s not appropriate when recording someone speaking at an event. While you are broadcasting on Periscope you can’t join the chat. I wanted 2 pairs of hands, one to hold my phone for the video recording and another to hop on twitter on another device and join the chat.

If you are using Periscope for an organisation there are some basic levels of data provided following the broadcast, including who your viewers were, which offers a good opportunity for further engagement.

Personally I find Periscope more useful as a viewer, I love catching up on meetings and events I’ve missed. My friends at Impact Hub Birmingham (which I am a member of) are great at sharing through Periscope, they broadcast meetings, useful parts of events and performances at gigs and so on. This is great as I can keep in touch with things I’ve missed and still feel involved. I’ve mentioned here before that West Midlands Fire Service are great at using Periscope.

I’d love to hear from you about Periscope – leave a reply below or tweet using #digitaldudley.

  • Have you tried using Periscope yet?
  • How did it feel?
  • What useful tips would you give to newbies?
  • Who is using Periscope in Dudley borough to make connections and share great things going on?

Struggling to find time to share on social media?

If you’re anything like me it can feel challenging to make the time to sit down and do something like writing a blog post, scheduling some tweets or Facebook posts, or jotting down ideas for making a simple video. Perhaps even more so when you’re doing it as a volunteer and there are so many other things to do in your voluntary role.

It feels like a good idea to help people from Dudley’s local groups, clubs and voluntary organisations who struggle to find time to get stories about the great work they are doing out there through social media. Starting this month, our regular social media surgeries are being expanded to include support for people who would like to use the time for writing or other forms of story telling.

There’ll be a team of us on hand to give tips around simple ways to share your great news, activities and ideas. You can increase engagement with your stories effectively by sharing them multiple times in simple, clever ways. We can help you think through this and introduce you to free online tools which can help you.

Our next surgeries are at Cafe Grande in Dudley at 6pm on Thursday 11 February and at Coffee Cups near Halesowen at 9.30am on Thursday 10 March. They are free to attend, we just ask that you register in advance (click on the links) and buy a lovely drink from the cafes who host us for free.

What would you write about or create if you had 90 minutes to spend on it this week?

A shiny new year!

We’re kicking off 2016 with a new look to this blog, guest posts in the pipeline and an idea for a bit of digital fun in Dudley.

I hope you like this new blog theme, you can still find pages which are about this blog, social media surgeries, bostincamp, civic tech and local blogs from the top left menu bars above (the square of thick lines in the top left corner of the image at the top of the page).

So… what’s planned for 2016?

Social Media Surgeries

We’ve got social media surgeries starting again February, we’ll be at Cafe Grande in Dudley on Thursday 11 February from 6pm and back at Coffee Cups in Halesowen on Thursday 10 March from 9.30am. More dates will be added shortly, including sessions in Stourbridge. If you can offer some social media know-how or would like to come along to get some support, just register using the links above.

This year we are also inviting people who have set up the basics to use time at social media surgeries to create content for the web. We can share ideas and tips on storytelling, scheduling posts from different social media platforms and keeping the conversation alive.


BostinCamp will be back before Easter. Do get in touch if you have something you could share about social media, civic tech or something vaguely related. You’ll have up to 10 minutes to kick start a discussion, no powerpoint, lots of tea and cake. Please also let me know if there is anyone you would like to hear from, and we can ask. Bostincamp is a bit like free training in an informal setting with an emphasis on being sociable. And eating cake.

Digital Playtime

Thanks to one of those post-event conversations in the pub with the amazing Laila Takeh (@spirals) and her colleagues following VCSSCamp in London in November, I’ve been inspired to start something called Digital Playtime in Dudley. It would basically be a regular time for people who work or volunteer in digital communications (and anyone else interested) to get together, play with platforms and tech, and share knowledge on using new tools, devices, accessories etc. If that sounds like something which would help you in your work, please do get in touch. It would be great if a few of us could get together over a coffee to plan this and make it happen. Leave a reply below, or get in touch with me on twitter (@dosticen) or WhatsApp (07501 722255).

Digital Playtime.001

The new header image on this blog of the Andromeda Galaxy (which I’ve slightly cropped) is from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre, shared on Flickr with a Creative Commons license. Handy tip: if you are ever looking for images which you can use for free online and in print then Creative Commons Search is a good place to start. (If you can’t see details of a license then you probably don’t have permission to use an image.)

The problem with Facebook Pages

like us on facebook

Often people coming along to social media surgeries are keen to harness the networking power of Facebook. If you are involved in a local club, group, society, social enterprise or voluntary organisation, under Facebook terms you will need to set up a Facebook Page rather than a personal profile (see how are Pages different to personal profiles). So if it turns out that Facebook might really be a useful communication and collaboration tool for a group, we obviously point people towards Facebook Pages, and help them to set things up.

Before I used Facebook my knowledgeable colleague Melissa Guest repeatedly tried to explain to me why Facebook Pages are like islands. A key difference between Facebook and Twitter is that your Twitter timeline displays a stream of all the tweets from all the accounts you follow (there are also summaries available now too), whereas Facebook uses algorithms which make decisions about what posts you will see and not see in your news feed. I hadn’t realised quite how much these algorithms affect the likelihood of a post on a Facebook Page reaching people who have liked the Page.

This article about the organic (non paid for ) reach of Facebook Page posts was recently shared by the excellent Comms2point0 this week. Here’s an extract about brand pages, I can only assume it’s the same for group or charity Pages:

“Here’s how it works (in simple terms): Your brand page posts a piece of content. Facebook immediately puts that content in a very small pool (but statistically significant) of your followers news feeds (sub 1% of your following depending on how many people follow your page). It chooses the people most likely to engage with your content. 

If that test audience engages well with your content it will open up your content to about 2-4% of your total audience, and if they also engage deeply with the content then it may begin to loosen the resigns and open it up to more of the audience. HOWEVER, if your engagement is low as a part of that initial test audience then Facebook will chose not to show it to anymore of your audience.”

Despite knowing this rather disappointing fact I will still be posting across the handful of Facebook Pages I manage or jointly manage. Partly because I know from questions people ask that they expect projects and organisations to have a presence on Facebook. Partly because if a few of use our Facebook profiles effectively to share content from Pages we can get things out a bit further. And partly because Facebook events are a really effective way of inviting people to something and simple for them to respond.

What do you feel about Facebook Pages and their utility?
How do you get the best from connecting with people on Facebook?
What advice would you give at a social media surgery about using Facebook?

And if after this you need cheering up bit, I can highly recommend checking out more of the great things which Dan and Darren aka Comms2point0 do and share, on their blog, on twitter, through their lovely weekly email and yes… on their Facebook Page.

BostinCamp 4

Bostincamp returned to Dudley last night. 14 people from all sorts of different organisations got together to drink tea, eat cake, be inspired and learn from each other. All of the tweets from the session are archived on Storify. Below are some of the the things people shared, which give a flavour of the session.

Photo of Joy Boyes, Nick Booth and Alison Sayer at BostinCamp

Joye Boyes, Nick Booth and Alison Sayer at BostinCamp

First up we heard from Alison Sayer, the Chief Executive of Halas Homes. Based in Halesowen, the charity provides services and accomodation for people with learning disabilities. Alison has learned by doing when it comes to social media, and developed some really engaging and effective tactics in her use of twitter and a blog.

Then we heard from Joy Boyes, who works for the Office of Public Health in Dudley Council and has experience of numerous public health campaigns and social marketing projects in the borough. The numbers of officers and projects in Public Health using social media is on the increase, thanks to Joy’s hard work over the years and also some Lunch and Learn sessions on twitter that she has run – what a brilliant idea!

We even inspired Jane Clarke to gather the courage to post a tweet!

WhatsApp: great for event team communications

photo of Bostin Tay Party flyers and beer mats on a black tableLast Thursday Dudley CVS staff were being briefed about how our first event at Brierley Hill Civic would run, and what we would need to do if we were helping out. Bostin Tay Party was a festival of food, fun and ale, and we were looking forward to throwing the doors of the Civic open to the community.

We have a Brierley Hill Civic Facebook Page and Twitter account, we’d created Bostin Tay Party event on Facebook, and we had a committed staff team on a rota to help the 2 day event run smoothly. It became apparent that it would be really helpful to have an easy and effective way of communicating between a handful of us who could stay in the loop on key decisions, split responsibility for sharing content on social media, and respond to conversation on social media. Particularly as a key member of the team on the social media front, Becky, was on leave during the run up to the event.

WhatsApp was the perfect solution. Within a matter of a minutes, before the end of the staff briefing, we’d created a WhatsApp group with 6 members. At this point it was 30 hours to the start of the event. I’ve found it interesting reviewing conversation and interactions in this WhatsApp group which we used for a total of 4 days. Below are a few things I learned which have resulted in me to wanting to use WhatsApp for any events I’m involved in organising / helping out at.

1. The WhatsApp group enabled us to swiftly get co-ordinated 

In the first 3 minutes of the WhatsApp group existing a remote team member sorted increased social media admin access across the team. No need for meetings or phone calls!

2. WhatsApp can bridge between the main social media team and others in the wider teamphotos of pint glass with Brierley Hill Civic logo on it

One the day of the event, unprompted, our Chief Officer Andy popped photos of the lovely glasses and beer arriving a the Civic. The social media team then shared them on Facebook and Twitter. This enabled us to have real time photo content without needing to be there ourselves.

3. WhatsApp helped with key information sharing and reduced workload

Donna spent the afternoon numbering the beer vouchers and setting up the entry stations, and updated us on arrangements through the WhatsApp group before she left for the day, helping to keep us all up to speed with what was what.

Our admin officer Dale said that he found the WhatsApp group conversation really useful as he could keep track of what was being done and it saved him from having to text or call people about various things. This wasn’t visible to those of us chattering away in the group, as Dale was in the group without needing to actively contribute, so it was interesting to me to learn that being in the group had helped him in this way.

4. WhatsApp helped us to see what was going on

The Bostin Tay Party started on Friday night, but some of us weren’t on the rota until Saturday. Mel took a number of photos which she shared in the WhatsApp group as well as on Facebook and Twitter, helping the team to see what was happening, and have chat about social media sharing etc.

5. We could share interesting things without waiting for a debrief

On Friday evening I spotted that Facebook has added the ‘very responsive to messages’ icon to our Facebook Page, which has to be earned to appear on your Page. I shared this with the team on WhatsApp, as congratulatory encouragement.

6. It was all so easy

It was so simple to set up the group, and everyone used it ways which were natural and instinctive to them, without any need for explanation or instruction. And as usual with great team conversation we did everything from getting work done to chattering about buses home and going to the circus!


I really love WhatsApp and the way it can help teams of people bond, encourage each other, get work done and share critical information widely in a timely manner. I’m in WhatsApp groups of sizes varying from 2 to 30 members, some are short-lived (such as for an event), some morph into new purposes, others have been alive and lively for over 18 months with more and more people being added over time. I’m fascinated by the way WhatsApp  helps teams to bridge with social media like Facebook and Twitter, whether it helps to share content to go out, or brings information in from those other channels to people who might not have spotted it otherwise. I’m also keen to explore the WhatsApp broadcast message function which I posted about here.

I’d really love to hear how you use WhatsApp or what might prompt you to use it.

You can learn more about how people in different sorts of organisations in Dudley are using social media at BostinCamp, we have a great session coming up on 14 October – find out more and register here. It’s a great early evening conversation, it’s free to come along, you can buy a cuppa and slice of cake and meet brilliant people.

Introducing civic tech

To date this blog has focused pretty much on ways that people are using social media, and aimed to celebrate, promote and support that. It is an online place to signpost to face-to-face activities taking place in and around Dudley borough which offer support to people getting to grips with or tentatively trying out social media – activities such as Social Media Surgeries and BostinCamp. The strapline for this site until today has been “celebrating the ways that people are using social media to do great things and build community across Dudley borough”. Today I’ve added a second area focus: civic tech.

Civic tech, or civic technology, is

“technology (mainly information technology) that enables engagement or participation of the public for good development, enhancing citizen communications, improving government infrastructure, or generally making national and local governments more effective. It encompasses civic applications, platforms supporting government bodies and institutions and other software enabling those goals.” (source: wikipedia)

Interest in civic tech is developing in Dudley, particularly in relation to the development of the Community Council (I’ve started blogging about the Community Council on the Dudley CVS blog). There is a great new post on the Civicist blog about the role of praising and shaming in civic tech. It concludes:

“Until now, behavioral economics in public policy has been mainly about nudging citizens toward preferred choices. Yet it may be time to start also working in the opposite direction, nudging governments to be more responsive to citizens.”

I am of the understanding that senior officers in Dudley Council are keen to invite this nudging from citizens and communities. Indeed I’m starting to do some work on ways to help it to happen. So I’ve added a civic tech page to this blog to draw together useful resources and examples which we might want to learn from here in Dudley, such as work the Knight Foundation has done (see diagram below).

I’ll keep readers updated with ways to get involved in the conversation and activities. I’d love to hear about your favourite examples of civic tech in action, and any experiences you have of developing or using it. Leave a comment here, or get in touch with me on twitter: @dosticen or email: lorna@dudleycvs.org.uk

civic tech

From the Knight Foundation Civic Tech slide deck http://www.slideshare.net/knightfoundation/knight-civictech