Directors' blog

Links, thoughts and updates from the directors of Dim Sum Digital.

Archive for the ‘blogging’ tag

My week – councils on camera and foodies on apps


Yes, it’s been another week where the right to film council meetings has dominated my blogging activity.

It’s time now to consider the different styles of filming that I could adopt. I’m thinking of mostly streaming live from start to finish with a back up recording in case of wi-fi issues.

However it ends up happening, it’s unlikely I’ll manage to get quite the drama and tension into the moment as this fine piece of work. Eat your heart out Tarantino! h/t West Hampstead Life for spotting that gem.

Updates this week (captured on the map below) included a video interview for, a successful vote at Richmondshire District and the launch of a Facebook campaign by Welsh campaigners looking for their administrations to adopt similar measures to England.

It’s tech start-up, it’s hyperlocal, it’s so-lo-mo, it’s food and it’s in the north.

The arrival of Zomato in Manchester proved to be a bit of a worlds collide dilemma for me on where exactly to blog about it.

I plumbed for the site in the end – read about that here.

Written by sarahhartley

July 28th, 2013 at 10:14 am

There’s something digital stirring on Teesside #teesconvo

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Just some of the 40 people who made it along to the Cultural Conversation

The first in a new series of Cultural Conversations for what some call the Tees Valley (more on that in a moment) got underway last night.

I think it’s safe to say it was a success considering the organisers had problems persuading people to leave when it was time to close the host venue – mima.

The idea for these mini unconference  sessions for artists and people interested in the arts came from three similar sessions started by Emma Bearman of the Culturevulture blog as a way to connect people and provoke more online activity to support cultural practice/interest in the region.

The format means people self-select the topics or conversations they want to have – the short sessions included a proposed Monkey Festival for Hartlepool and issues such as promotion and how to co-ordinate a bigger presence .

I went along to a conversation hosted by one of the mima curators around how artists can find new funding opportunities or activities in times of reducing budgets. I took some notes from the session here. (The format means I didn’t hear from other sessions so, if you took part in one, please feel free to share what was discussed in the comments area at the bottom of this blog post).

Last night was also a chance to continue some earlier conversations Emma and I have been having with people about blogging, social media and  digital storytelling to reveal the creativity and passion of the area.

We are now drawing up plans for some free bespoke digital skills workshops which we’d like to run in the autumn and would love to hear from anyone interested in coming along to those. Please feel free to email or tweet either of us (@foodiesarah @culturevultures)- or leave a comment on this blog post at the bottom of the page.

A few other topics which deserve a wider airing:

* Publicity: Promotion for exhibitions, festivals and other arts events is a reoccurring issue and I wanted to draw people’s attention to the interactive events map on The Guardian’s Northerner blog which is free and open to all.

* Online presence: The question of what this emerging network should be called and the domain name for its online presence has arisen many times. Issues include whether something with Teesside in the name speaks to Darlington people? Is Tees Valley understood by people outside of administrative organisations? A small group of people started this conversation last week and I’ve created this poll of all the ideas submitted so far – feel free to vote or pass the link onto any interested parties, it could help inform the decision at some point.Click here to take The Cultural Conversation survey

* Online noticeboards: A few people in the group last night expressed interest in having an online noticeboard to be able to share details of projects and to help co-ordinate logistics for things such as haulage and equipment. I can help people get that set up – there’s a whole heap of Howto guides and more information at the n0tice blog here. In addition, if someone’s willing to provide a venue with wi-fi, I’d be more than happy to run a free two hour workshop on setting up and running a noticeboard for projects if there’s demand (it doesn’t have to be arts based).

* Finally, a little inspiration…..We’ve talked a lot in these sessions about the power of blogging and of finding that online voice. I thought people might find it interesting to hear about some of the remarkable sites and blogs we’ve worked with at Talk About Local and if that tempts anyone to get started……there’s online guides and resources here.

See you all at the next one…..Hartlepool here we come!

Written by sarahhartley

July 27th, 2012 at 7:33 am

A mini series of hyperlocal success case studies

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Last updated: Jan 17

One of the great things about working with Talk About Local is meeting so many enthusiastic, knowledgeable and passionate people who run hyperlocal websites and blogs.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll share some of those stories on the TAL blog and I’ll link to them here as well.

The first one I published today looks at the work of Annette Albert in the W14 postcode area of London. She reports from and campaigns for that area tirelessly but doesn’t consider what she does to be journalism.

2. Creating a village in Caldmore – how the Caldmore Village Festival team re-invented an area of Walsall.

3. Trumpeting the success of The Crickdale Bugle - some of the daily dilemmas faced by a one-man band publisher in Wiltshire.

4. Creating a living archive in Wolverton – the challenges for volunteers in sorting, understanding, digitising and archiving donated community material.

5. Shining a light on the democratic process in Kington – how a dispute over Christmas lights ended up shaping the make-up of a council.

Written by sarahhartley

January 3rd, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Things to do before 2011 ends, 4th and final: Dig out the top blog posts of the year

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I’m ending the year on something of a landmark for this blog – this is my 1000th post!

I’m hoping wordpress will be baking me a cake or some such reward for my efforts here over the past four years. If you’ve been with me on the journey – thank you :)

Looking back over the past 12 months, the most viewed posts reflects a lot of what I’ve been up to – hyperlocal thoughts, train journeys and football. Yes football!! It was something of a surprise that the most popular single posting in 2011 was the Sheffield Wednesday supporters’ newspaper spoof which is still getting accessed from the forums. I shouldn’t have been surprised really, every web editor knows that football will spike even the most sluggish traffic.

Other interesting things to note – dear old Twitter was the biggest referrer this year (although only slightly ahead of search engines) with search terms to that Terry Henfleet, my name and train wi-fi topping the list.

Here’s the top ten most viewed posts of the year

Home page

Newspaper gets spoofed by Terry Henfleet. Again!

10 Characteristics of hyperlocal

East Coast to stop free wifi

Journalist as gatekeeper: Is that all there is?

Q and A with Jim Brady about, hyperlocal and what’s next

Media ‘ignorant about the north’


Fairydust, forensics and funding: Hyperlocal success at #TAL11

Sailing boats

See you in 2012!

Written by sarahhartley

December 31st, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Liveblogging journeys with n0tice shared

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n0ticeOver the years I’ve tried a whole host of different platforms for liveblogging with varying degrees of success, so getting the opportunity to help shape a platform from the start, as I have atm with, is a bit like being let loose in the proverbial sweet shop.

One of the big challenges is how to get multiple bloggers involved in collaborating on one blogpost at the same time with whatever devices they happen to have and without any particular pre-planning.

I don’t mean just curating the activities of others going on in the same place such as random tweets on a hashtag – although that’s essential too – but actively collaborating to produce a multimedia report.

This could be fun for events where there’s lots of people attending such as conferences – but imagine what a powerful tool it could be for breaking news events where the journalists and other participants are unknowingly thrown together at a location.

I’ve been experimenting at a couple of events over the past few days and thought it worth sharing the experience for the benefit of others who might like to try it out and also in the hope of hearing from any livebloggers out there who’ve particular issues which could be answered in a new ground-up platform like this.

The first experiment was the the Salford University Innovation through Heritage  event where I found myself in the room with several n0tice users including the prolific Nigel Barlow who has been busy developing a noticeboard for InsidetheM60. Given that, this was an easy test run and we simply updated some basic text commentary between us and posted a picture. Interesting to see that when I logged in earlier today that it’s been updated since by another user – a story that can continue to develop? Existing users can see the test here.

A more substantial test came at the weekend where I offered anyone attending the Culture Hack North event an invite to join me with a live blog. My volunteer, the wonderful Linda Broughton, isn’t a regular blogger but wanted to give a try – and ended up blogging the whole of the second day of the event!

This was rather more adventurous and the final result was a live blog of 29 updates which contained text from us both, curated other people’s tweets, pictures, a video and a link to a presentation. Existing users can give it a look here.

Five things I’ve learned from the experience;

* Updates can be added as frequently as required using the simple update box -  works a bit like my old friend, FriendFeed.
* Adding pictures can be done from a link, not just a file from a camera or desktop, eg. Flickr, Twitpic.
* Video is easy to add from a youTube embed  added to the update box.
* Curating other people tweets into it is simply a case of dropping the link from the timestamp on twitter.
* It’s more fun when someone else joins in!

If you fancy giving it a try – please do sign up for an invite,, and let me know how you get on or let me know what must-have feature would get you using it.

Written by sarahhartley

November 14th, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Hyperlocal first for The Met and other Local Gov Camp media stories

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Yesterday I was fortunate to attend the Local Government Camp in Birmingham – an unconference for people working in councils across the UK. It was a thoughtful and idea-provoking event which covered issues which I shall be taking a closer look at for The Guardian’s Local Government Network in the near future.

But there were also a few stories which came out of the day which had more of a journalism/media/hyperlocal bent which I’ll share here;

* Interesting to discover that The Met has just held it’s first webchat on a hyperlocal website. Talk About Local’s William Perrin told the session on hyperlocal publishing how he’d been approached to host the chat via his own website
On the site he explains:

“My site based in a once crime-ridden area is firmly pro police (two of our contributors have been on the Safer Neighbourhood Panel) and our commenters are of the non rabid variety. So for the police it was very much a carefully managed innovation risk.”

Conversations included discussion about the enforcement of 20mph zones, support for rough sleepers and youth provision.
Fostering a close working relationship between police forces and bloggers/independent publishers is something that I’ve seen in other towns and cities across the country not least in Manchester where @AmandaComms is often leading the agenda so it’s good to see the capital’s law enforcers also giving some validity to the importance of the hyperlocal/local/community sites. If your local Force is doing something similar, please feel free to share details via the comments below.

* Filming in council meetings. Following hot on the heels of the case of the blogger arrested for filming in the council chamber, Philip John of LichfieldLive hosted a debate on the for and against of such activity and has produced this interesting visualisation.
The subject of council newspapers also arose and it was interesting to hear viewpoints from the other side of the fence. From what I heard, the idea us journos have that the main benefit of these has more to do with propaganda and attempting to control the message than finance seems to hold true……you can listen to the discussion on John Popham’s video here.[youtube]  At the risk of opening up a hornet’s nest of a debate here, I am still left wondering if the time is right for a wider discussion about the issue of value-for-money advertising spending by councils and the cost-effectiveness of how that spending on important public information, for example public notices, is distributed in light of all the new tools and technologies available?

Away from #localgovcamp
For those that subscribe to it, it will be apparent that I have ceased publishing on The MancunianWay blog. I’ve left it a few months before taking the final deletion step to see whether it was the right thing to do and will be switching it off fully in a week or so. There’s two reasons for this decision – 1. now I’m a regular writer for The Northerner blog, the sort of stuff I used to post about Manchester and the city’s digital community (and now about MediaCityUK) will hopefully reach more people interested in those topics posted via The Guardian blog and 2. I’ve imported all the archive material into this blog so it’s easily retrievable here via the tag cloud.

And on that subject….I shall be blogging (for The Northerner) from The Impact of Media City conference tomorrow, the hashtag is #mediacityuk and the full agenda can be found here.

Written by sarahhartley

June 19th, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Fairydust, forensics and funding: Hyperlocal success at #TAL11


The third annual Talk About Local unconference event for independent website operators and bloggers wrapped up last night with the now much anticipated awards ceremony to celebrate the year’s achievement in the hyperlocal sphere.

It’s a tongue in cheek affair complete with prizes of no-value (oven glove anyone?) and categories which myself and the TAL team make-up on the night.

But it’s far from worthless.

Underneath the hilarity and general piss-taking, this yearly opportunity to acknowledge some of the remarkable work being done by bloggers up and down the UK in some ways shows just how difficult it is to measure success in this area.

The standard metrics we use for media measure often just don’t fit.

How do you measure online activity that has prompted neighbours to start talking and organise a litter clear up campaign? Counting page impressions doesn’t tell that story.

Or the tireless efforts of dogged council reporting in the face of uncooperative press offices? Dwell time’s fairly irrelevant.

Or the hosting of business pages which means every single trader in a small town is connected and hooked up to provide offers on a Facebook community page? Week on week percentage revenue rise doesn’t come close to the value of that.

So while the measures are ridiculous, they are also a stark reminder that this is an environment where the rules are different.

Here’s my priceless picks which involved journalism in the hyperlocal space;

  • The toy medical kit award for forensic work – the tireless VentnorBlog bloggers for their council reporting work which this year included this simple but transparent spreadsheet to show live updates of how votes were cast.
  • Sprinkling fairydust in an urban environment – this went to one of my Guardian Local staff, beatblogger Hannah Waldram to recognise the work she’s been doing engaging with communities in Cardiff.
  • Hottest story of the year – the oven glove of success will be worn this year by Richard from SaddleworthNews for his work on the Phil Woolas story.
  • The mythical unicorn of co-operation – goes to the Birmingham Mail for their work to collaborate with bloggers in that city to produce news content.
  • The site with balls – Manchester-based InsidetheM60 received a fetching pair for their dogged fight for independent journalism.
  • And finally the overall winner is just that. The BlogPreston team, Andy Halls, Joseph Stashko and Ed Walker will have to share a small reporter’s notebook in recognition of some great work this year, most notably incorporating social media elements in fresh new ways and being successful in a bid for Nesta funding which will mean they can increase their involvement in the community there.

Well done to all! See you next year.

If you’ve blogged about this event, please do share the link in the comments below.

Slideshow of pictures from the events.

Written by sarahhartley

April 3rd, 2011 at 9:22 am

Social Media Surgery Richmond: First event

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North Yorkshire organisations turned out to Richmond’s first social media surgery last night.

Held in the tiny village of Hudswell, it was the first rural event of this type I’ve attended and I was interested to see if the issues raised would be different to those encountered by participants at the city-based events I more usually get involved with.

They weren’t.

Ok, people may have had to travel further to attend, but the issues were familiar ones around visibility, measurability and the return on the investment of time spent participating on social media platforms with some hands-on how to assistance.

The format of the evening held at North Yorkshire’s first community run George and Dragon pub (more about that on my other blog) followed what’s become known as the Podnosh structure ie.  A group of volunteers with some experience in social media (surgeons) offering informal advice to organisations looking to maxim ise their online activity.

Personally I only got to speak with two different community organisation representatives – someone interested in promoting wider understanding of the activity of freemasons and the organisers of a local arts festival.

Conversations flowed, contacts were made and a good time was had by all. Organiser Graham Richards tells me that a repeat event will be organised soon. I’ll update this blog when I hear more.

Written by sarahhartley

October 12th, 2010 at 4:11 pm

MEN reporter V hyperlocals


Blogging lesson one: Never walk away from a debate

An interesting debate is taking place today on one of the Manchester Evening News blogs. Or more accurately, a debate was started but now the conversation is all of a twitter because the unmoderated comments are sitting in the ether somewhere waiting to be published.

The spark of controversy is David Ottewell’s assertions about hyperlocal news sites;

“Too often, though, these sites disappoint. They end up simply regurgitating press releases, or ripping off stories from local newspapers, because they are one-man bands run by amateurs who don’t have the time, resources, or sometimes skills to dig out the news.

“Often you’ll find the authors of these site blur the lines between news and commentary. Instead of finding exclusives, and dealing with them responsibly (by giving right or reply, say, and checking all facts are correct), they simply put their own heavy spin on other people’s stories. This isn’t ‘doing’ news, hyperlocal or otherwise. It’s commentary. And it is far less valuable. That’s what CP Scott meant when he said “Comment is free, but facts are sacred”. Finding the news is hard. Talking about it is easy.”

Provocative stuff and one that I didn’t want to let lie unchallenged so I responded an hour ago to say;

“Well done on voicing support for the Salford Star David, hopefully the MEN will follow the story through and give it some support too. However, your (probably) link bait assertion about what hyperlocal sites do ‘too often’ shouldn’t be left unchallenged. There’s heaps of sites up and down the country doing the sort of scrutiny you should applaud and unearthing stories of genuine importance to their communities – and that’s the point ‘their communities’. Maybe those stories don’t appeal to your professionalised view of journalism? I know not. Rather than generalise about these sites, perhaps some credit where it’s due and then name names if you have examples where churnalism is going on rather than tarring everyone with the same brush.”

And this is what I’m still seeing;

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

It’s very possible and reasonable that David’s just stepped outside on his day off  – perhaps he could leave a message to say so. But now the twitterati is somewhat indignant at having the opportunity for response closed off. Only it’s not. Ooops……….

(btw, any delays in posting comments on this blog will be caused by me driving home so don’t say you’ve not been warned!)

Written by sarahhartley

June 18th, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Tameside Council’s Twitter response


As I’ve blogged at The Guardian today, Tameside Council has started an ‘accreditation’ system for professional journalists who apply to tweet from council meetings.

In the interests of transparency, the full text of the questions I asked and the council’s reply are posted below;

Inquiry to the council first submitted March 1;

I’m looking at how journalists are using Twitter to cover council meetings and am told that you don’t allow this at present. I’d be grateful if you’d give me a little further information on this;

  • First, and most importantly, is it true that the council has banned the use of Twitter during council meetings?

If so,

  • Is this for journalists? Councillors? Members of the public?
  • Does the restriction only apply to Twitter – i.e. can other forms of instant messaging, micro-blogging still be used.
  • What’s the reason for the ban and on what grounds is it made?
  • What steps will be taken to enforce the ban?
  • The reply from the council sent on March 5:

    The Council does not have a specific policy concerning twitter at its meetings but follows the legislation governing the conduct of Council meetings and in particular the recording and transmitting of meetings which are set out in Section 100 (A)(7) of the Local Government Act 1972. Below is a link to relevant part of 1972 Act:

    Under the 1972 Act there is no right to attend a council meeting and make a transmission of the meeting whilst it is taking place, or to make recordings of any meeting, this applies to all Local Authorities.  Therefore the Council is obliged to consider specific requests to use media such as ‘twitter’. Following requests the Council has authorised the Manchester Evening News, Tameside Advertiser and Tameside Reporter to use twitter in each of the Council meetings they have requested to do so, as duly accredited representatives of the press, as defined in the Local Government Act 1972.  Examples of the ‘twitter’ which has taken place at Tameside Council meetings are at the following links:

    As you can see the Council allows the use of ‘twitter’ during Council meetings by duly accredited representatives of the press as part of its commitment to increasing involvement in the democratic process.  Given that the Council does allow duly accredited representatives of the press to use twitter to cover Council meetings I have not addressed your further questions which are based on the assumption that the Council has banned the use of ‘twitter’.

    I’d be interested to hear if any other bloggers have encountered similar issues with access to public meetings.

Written by sarahhartley

March 8th, 2010 at 2:48 pm