Why WV11 – the reason I hyperlocal blog.

I’m at TAL12 – the Talk About Local hyperlocal unconference today and while talking to people about their sites I thought today would be a good day to re-share this  is a post I wrote 2 years ago for another site. It talks about why I started WV11 and what it means to me – it refers to an event a while ago and the site is now nearing 3 years old so we’re not just passed our first anniversary as it says. Things have moved on for us and for the site -we’re a lot more experienced and we’ve even won an award,  but it’s still very relevant today

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Last year I helped set up a hyperlocal website to cover the area I live in and we’ve just passed the first year anniversary – To celebrate we had a stall at Wednesfield Community Fayre trying to make more people aware of the site and invite community input -What do you think we should be writing about? Would you like to write for us? and so on…

While I was there I got into conversation with a teacher of one of the local high schools about  WV11.co.uk and what we – the individuals that run the site get out of it.

He couldn’t believe that we did all this for free – That we volunteered our time for no financial reward or recognition  and it made me sad that he struggled so much to see why we were doing this – that he was so surprised at the idea of someone doing something for perceivably nothing and he actually implied that he didn’t believe we didn’t get some financial gain!

So I thought it about time I shared my story about why WV11.co.uk came into existence and why it’s about a lot more than money for me!

I have pretty much always lived in the area, as I grew older I moved briefly to Lichfield and when I moved back I could really appreciate the community vibe of the my estate. I was surprised at the negative attitude from some of residents – It’s not something you get everywhere and I think people who have always lived and worked in the area sometimes take it for granted.

Then they proposed the closure of  Danesmore Park Primary School, the school my son attended. We fought long and hard to save the school  (and we all know how that ended) and in doing so we quickly realised that there was nowhere online that communicated the sense of community I felt on the streets and in the playground, and I now know to be evident at all the schools in the area – Conversation and coordination was hard because there was nowhere already established online unbiased enough to let the conversation unfold – the ONLY forum we could (and did) use that was relevant locally and that was available at that time was heavily moderated by an extremely biased hand of the then local councillor!

So the idea for a local site was born –  we wanted somewhere unbiased we could try and highlight the positives of our area and hopefully over time encourage community engagement and conversation. It started as an idea for a forum, or  chat room where local people could talk to each other about local issues but quite quickly evolved into something else.

I was one day trying to find some information out on the council website – I can’t even remember what it was now something to do with my bin collection I think  but whatever it was I became increasingly frustrated with how hard it was – The city is a HUGE place so trying to pinpoint specific information for my area was hard – and I’m fairly Internet savvy – so how would my Mom,  for instance have found *it*, if she was looking for the same information?

So we decided the local site should also be of good use to people looking for information not just for discussion – a lot of time was spent before the launch building the resource page – listing local amenities and hopefully other useful information relevant to our area, other handy tools such as houses to let and for sale, jobs and traffic updates have been added since – and it went from there, a news feed was included and Wv11.co.uk came into fruition

We launched the site at 11pm one night by inviting a few friends that I knew were local to become a fan of our facebook page, within a couple of months we had 600 fans and a nearly 2000 visits to the actual site.

Now, 12 months on, the site is going from strength to strength,  The visitor numbers are still going up, (any one so inclined can see a break down of our visitor figures here) but as an overview we had 16,000** unique visitors in the first 12 months – that’s nearly half the population of Wednesfield – and the conversation between the community is starting to take place around  what we hope are considered non-biased articles  (which can be hard when we’re talking about things we care about or things we’re directly affected by!). Users will comment on articles – some people are by nature negative and some are positive but what’s good is both sides get a chance to voice their opinion and these things are getting discussed – we’ve had discussions based on graffiti and anti social behaviour to home improvements talk about local bands and GOOD news stories from our area – we don’t pretend bad news doesn’t happen but we do try and be balanced.

We never moderate comments unless they are libellous or abusive and then we inform the individual involved why we’ve removed the post and so far we’ve received no complaints  – The only thing  we are guilty of is playing devils advocate id a discussions or sometimes arguments become too negative, – Don’t tell us there’s nothing good happening, nothing interesting to do or no way you can fix a problem for yourselves because we’ll just try to give you the information to prove you are wrong.

For me this is why the WV11 site is so valuable and rewarding I don’t have to get paid to do it because this is my opportunity to put something back into the community – Be it an easy way for someone to find out what time the local library is open, or the chance to combat some of the negativity by showing people what’s on their doorstep !

**Update on figures as it stands we currently have on average 4600 unique visits per month, over 3000 “likes” on our facebook page and upwards of 1200 twitter followers.

Having my cake and eating it

Two years ago after a bizarre conversation about Berlin, Michael Jackson and restaurant menus with a complete stranger over the phone  I ended up giving computer tuition to a couple I’d never met before, Jill and Loz, from the estate neighbouring where I live.

I taught them the basics of their laptop, helped then get online, taught then how to use email and how to Skype their family overseas. They are a lovely couple, if not a little over exuberant, she’s a banking administrator and he’s a retired Police Defective. Despite the very bizarre way that we were put in touch we have stayed friendly and James and I have given then technical support a couple of times more, helping them set up a printer and getting their laptop fixed when it was broken etc. etc.

Yesterday we received a phone call from Jill enquiring when I’d be around as she needed “a word” with me yet assuring me it wasn’t computer related this time, my interest more than piqued as we seldom hear from them unless they need technical support or it’s Christmas, we arranged for them to call over today and bless their hearts they came with this…..

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A lovely sponge cake to congratulate me on passing my driving test the other week.

They had it made by their neighbours 16 year old daughter who makes and decorates them in her spare time around her school classes. Jill said;

“We’re doing everything we can to support her do we thought we’d get you a cake made up too”

I thought it was a lovely thoughtful gesture both for myself and for their neighbour.

Who said community spirit is dead?