Newark-upon-Trent was the venue for the latest talk about local training session with the excellent Holy Trinity Parish People Power team. This is part of talk about local’s work for Nesta supporting winners of the Neighbourhood Challenge competition to find a voice online. The project in Newark runs out of the Holy Trinity centre and covers the Roman Catholic parish boundary (the whole town). Regenerate are working with Father Michael and the Holy Trinity team. Nick Gardham had set up an embryonic Ning network. It’s a great team full of enthusiasm and keen to learn ways to integrate modern media with traditional grass roots community organising. Will write more about the ning in the next week or two when it has a baseload of content and they are happy to share.
Nicky Getgood and I took our usual practical approach making suggestions for online media that could help deliver the project on the ground. In advance we had prepared a range of online things that featured Newark to discuss with the team. Some interesting points came out:
Newark has some possibly unusual Facebook attributes – in a town of 25,000 people about 4,300 have friended a simple Facebook identity Newark.Upon.Trent that doesn’t offer much content. This ratio of sign-up to population seemed strong to us compared to the average english small town – Horsham had always seemed high with 6,000 people liking the page in a town of 55,000 but with a strong range of curated content superbly delivered by Gavin a local entrepreneur. The excellent people at the Newark session said that this was due to people living and working in Newark with strong local networks – compared to nearby Peterborough say. There were other sizable local affinity groups that were less atypical – for the CornExchange arts venue (over 4,000) and local slang (2,000). We also looked at the excellent Travellers Times and the superb polish language hyperlocal site for nearby Peterborough.
Nick Gardham raised with us the problem of being a local community organiser and managing a Facebook identity. He may pick up hundreds of ‘friends’ through work but these cross over with his personal friends. How would we advise a new young community animator to manage their Facebook id? We are having a think about this and would welcome suggestions to inform a future blog post.
We liked this simple RSS-driven site for Newark http://thisisnewark.com/ even if there isn’t much discussion going on and the busy site supporting the Boundary Sound community radio station http://www.boundarysound.co.uk
As ever we advocated Moo cards as calling cards for a new website – put some pictures of local landmarks or characters on the cards with the url – much more effective than a corporate card with the website somewhere hidden on it beneath your Telex address…
Naming a network
We tried to help select an online identity for a network to support the project. The team wanted a web property that might appeal to the whole town, but reflected their values and was non commercial. Nicky and I drew out our experience of naming sites from scratch, some of which are the blindingly obvious but it would be good to have other comments from readers of this post:
most people don’t think about the name until it is a bit too late to change it – my own www.kingscrossenvrionment.com for instance…
have a think about the name of your site as a brand – even if you don’t like to think that way and are coming from a grass roots, non commercial perspective. If someone said it in the pub, would it make sense? (i know this depends on how much you have been drinking…)
think more about a name that will resonate locally than search engine optimisation – if your site is genuinely local and non commercial you need to get your priorities the right way around. But at the same time don’t give it a name that won’t easily surface in google.
techno-words in the title – eg ‘the midfordshireblog’ – won’t resonate well with non-techno people
have a local placename in the title even if this isn’t a proper ‘place’ – Kings Cross for instance is strictly name of the the train station, not the area
well known local postcodes are popular parts of site names
put a positive attribute in the title – ‘love’ ‘is great’ or good – eg Digbethisgood if that’s what you are trying to get across.
try to avoid names that can be confused with places overseas – i get a lot of Kings Cross, Sydney Australia stuff by accident, including dumb PR firms from Australia trying to spam me with night club promotions for Sydney. Newark New Jersey was an issue yeserday.
even if you don’t want a URL of your own at the outset, check with somewhere like uk2.net to see if the urls similar to your name have all gone and where they lead to if they have
remember that in many web services like wordpress.com and ning.com you can’t easily change your initial URL eg bobandsamblog.wordpress.com (based on the name of your site you initially enter when setting it up) without buying a domain name and mapping it into the service – this usually costs a little money and is a technical hassle you can do without when getting going.
As we always do at talk about local we shall stick with the project over time and help them find their feet. Any views on the naming and Facebook issues above more than welcome in the comments.
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