Pauline Sargent contacted Talk About Local in early 2010 when she was looking to create a community website for her home town of Drimnagh, a residential area on the outskirts of Dublin. Talk About Local gave Pauline remote training and ongoing support as she was getting started with Drimnagh is Good – a site based on the Digbeth is Good model used by Nicky.
Over the past year and a half Drimnagh is Good has become a strong voice ‘to help Drimnagh shout about the good things more often’. It talks positively about local people, initiatives and events and helps connect local politics with the neighbourhood.
Following the lead of Pits n Pots, Drimnagh is Good gave all 12 candidates running for a seat in the last Dublin South Central election 500 words to talk about about their campaigns, policies and reasons for standing. Eight of them responded, giving local people good, in-depth introductions to candidates before polling day.
Drimnagh is Good has more recently been busy raising awareness and publishing coverage of the Drimnagh Festival in late September. Pauline also works hard to share her new skills by leading local social media surgeries and strengthens the Irish hyperlocal network on twitter as @hyperlocalie.
Pauline Sargent from Drimnagh, Dublin contacted the talk about local team in January of this year asking for advice on a new community website she was thinking about starting for her area, which we were more than happy to give her. Later in March Drimnagh is Good was born ‘to help Drimnagh shout about the good things more often’. Pauline used the skills and contacts she gained through her work on Drimnagh is Good to organise Drimnagh’s first Social Media Surgery on 18th May 2010.
From the looks of Pauline’s answers to our Ten Questions below, it looks like she has some exciting things in store for the Drimnagh community, especially its younger residents.
What made you start Drimnagh is Good?
Quick background: I got involved in community work when my son was about 4 (2005) and started looking around where I lived with new eyes. There was a lot that I didn’t like. From minor things like graffiti to major things like planning decisions being made on behalf of the community by a select few who believed they ran the area. My partner and I discussed moving for a while but fundamentally we liked where we lived. So I felt ‘well if we want a nice community to live in then I’ll have to get involved and be one of those people helping to make it good.’ From there I went onto several different committees over the years and started to realise how complicated and slow community work is. Communicating to all the people in Drimnagh was not easy and targeting the right people was even harder.
So from doing a bit of research I came across some hyperlocal sites in the UK and realised a one stop website could maybe go some way to being the answer. Then of course the excellent Digbeth is Good was my inspiration for the title and so many posts.
What do you feel the key local issues are for your community and how have you used your website to address these?
Unemployment. Drimnagh has above national average in early school leavers and young males out of work. The website would like to get more youth involved in the multi media aspect of the site and help increase their profile by displaying their projects. Efforts are underway with the local youth centre to see how the two can work together for mutual gain.
Anti Social Behaviour. If you were to listen to certain sections of the community and the media you would think Drimnagh has a high crime rate. However, police stats do not point to this. It would be great if the website could help eliminate the bad press Drimnagh gets and help sort perception from reality.
Planning & development. Drimnagh has a lot of derelict sites and although recently had a Integrated Area Plan (IAP) drawn it is felt the community was not fully on board. The website would like to help become a library for all the documents relating to the IAP. To post minutes, meetings, reports and to get feedback from residents.
What has been your favourite post or feature on your website and why?
My favourite post has been the TD contact details. As it was interesting to see how the display their contact details and an eye-opener to see 1) how difficult it was to get their contact details and that was with a computer and online access. 2) How few are using social media to engage with their constituients regularly. It is hoped to improve on that page and make it easy for people to see all their TD’s contact details in a user friendly format whatever and for whatever their preferered form of contact is.
What do you feel has been the most challenging story on your website?
The most challenging one I had I didn’t post as was to nervous of how to word it in an unbiased form. It was to do with the court case of the two polish men who were murdered in an horrific stabbing by local Drimnagh men. Also really not informed enough on reporting crime and the national media were covering the story also. Was thinking of just providing links to the story. But seeing as only new to blogging decided to leave it.
The one that I did post that was the most challenging for me. Was the alzheimers one. As in found the technology bit hard, the videoing and the interviewing difficult it was my first.
What obstacles have you faced with your website, and how have you overcome these?
The biggest obstacle is time & probably next to that is know how. As in writing technique and technology (inserting photos and videos). As a mother of two young boys, it is really difficult to be consistent with posts. Also I am trying to work and earn an income so the website is not getting the true attention it deserves. I am looking at getting some other people to contribute and hopefully by September the site will have more hands on deck.
What do you think it is that attracts readers to your website?
From the comments I have received to date it appears the need to know whats going on in the community. I think the opening times of the local swimming pool has had the most hits. Also the smarter travel project has received comments from people as to have we heard any updates. I truly believe people want to know what is going on in their community. But they do not want to spend half a day trying to connect with someone in the council.
What’s the most absurd thing that has happened on your site?
Nothing absurd as yet.
What changes would you like to make to your website over the next few months?
My wish list for the site would be? (Good question)
A techie person like me to help with all the background stuff.
Some new plug ins.
Make the About page less personal and less about me and more about it being an online newssite for Drimnagh people with x amount of contributors.
A weekly social media surgery dedicated to hyperlocal news to help attract people to getting involved on the site.
A daily post.
More reporting on council meetings/TDs/planning/& community groups events
Where do you see your website in a year’s time?
Increase in a regular readership. Perhaps a 100 daily viewers???
What one thing would make managing your website even more rewarding than it already is?
To see some of the young/not so young using the site to gain experience/respect/hope and to realise that Drimnagh is not a kip and that there is a lot of opportunities to be got from managing/working on a hyperlocal site and talking your area up.
Whilst I was enjoying a weekend break in Westport, County Mayo last month I took the chance to meet Anthony Hickey, the manager of the Mayo Today website, which has gone from strength to strength since it started just 5 months ago in February 2010. The blog actually grew from a Twitter account Anthony created for the area, @Mayo2Day:
From there I decided to set up my own local blog, Mayotoday.ie. It’s been very enjoyable and very successful.
Its focus has been very much keeping the county connected with local news and an upbeat outlook:
It’s local news basically, it’s a community news website and I put as many pictures on as I can…and local photographers, they’ve been very good to me, sending me photos. Community news in terms of just what’s happening locally in meetings, drama groups….I try to keep a positive slant on things.
'Family moment at Ballina Heritage Day'
Although the front page has news for the whole of Mayo, Anthony ensures the site works on a more localised level. Readers can filter down the news stream for just ‘Your Town’, thanks to the site’s use of categories, and there will often be a local town bulletin post, such as this June ‘Ballina Beat’. The website also includes lots of useful listings information that benefit residents, the businesses and in turn, Mayo Today itself:
I have dedicated pages. I have the local cinema listings, local arts, local museums, I update those listings weekly. And that’s been good because I’ve linked in with those people and their reaction has been very positive too and some have linked from their website to Mayo Today, which has been good for me.
I think that’s an interesting service that I can provide because ‘.tel’ is optimized for mobile phones and I think the mobile web is going to be very important. You can also get Mayo Today on your mobile phone. The local directories, it’s business community phone numbers. That’s going down pretty well too, there’s some interest in it. It’s something I can manage myself. Its cheap, doesn’t cost me much. No hosting cost and it’s very easy to update. Even I can do it.
Although Anthony has created a wonderfully useful and professional-looking website at minimal cost, the demands on his time for its upkeep means he is looking for a way to gain some sort of income from it.
That’s the problem, how do you monetize your website? Time-wise, it’s time consuming. I’ve tapped into a lot of PR agencies, a lot of community groups, the Local Authorities, I cover some Local Authority meetings myself and I have to write that up. I go to local events and festivals and do reports, take photos. You’re talking about certainly 7 days a week, can be 10 hours a day some days, if I want. And how I make a living out of that, that’s the question?
'Kenny donates Parliamentary Debates to Mayo County Library'
Despite there being no obvious answer, Anthony is positive that a solution to this well-discussed issue will present itself.
I think it’s something that’ll probably resolve itself, in time it’ll evolve. The answer will come as the site becomes more of a niche and gets a solid following and we’ll see how it goes from there, but as of now it’s a bit of a mystery alright.
Anthony is finding he’s started something of a trend in hyperlocal websites in Mayo, and sees some opportunity for Mayo Today to work with the smaller community sites that are emerging:
I’d like to link into community groups. I see a lot of smaller communities now are setting up their own community websites, like even down to parish level and little villages and towns and sports clubs. I’d like to link into those and possibly, maybe I could be a hub or a portal for a lot of those and introduce other people to those websites.
And where those websites don’t yet exist or are in need of a helping hand, Anthony is looking to offer his support:
I’ve learned a lot in the last year, in terms of using social media…maybe I could link into those websites, the people who run those websites, help them out and see what I can do there.
When I returned to the UK I had a clumsy first attempt at an audio slideshow from an evening I spent at Ballinrobe Races, which found its way onto Mayo Today’s dedicated Videos page of locally relevant online films.
You can listen to my recorded interview with Anthony below.