Thinking about digital impact on democracy and public discourse…

#weeknotes S06 EP11 – week ending 5 May 2019

A deep focus week…

Working on

This week I’ve managed to get some deep focus sessions in – this has meant blogging (check out my round-up of Facebook’s F8 conference for communicators, and this one on avoiding burnout for DIY musicians) but also writing.

That’s right, I managed to get a good few hours in on my second novel and feel like I’m on my way with it again. The characters have been more reluctant to show their true stories to me this time out and I’m trying to be accepting of needing to write a lot more than will be in the finished book to understand them and the plot properly. 

The Facebook F8 conference fitted in with the work for the Vital Facebook Skills workshops and as well as the focus they have indicated for the future of the platform some bigger questions also came out of it for me. If the change to the platform means we must change what we do as communicators using it to reach an audience on a tactical level there are also a couple of society-level questions which are lingering – the ethics of the platform (yes, still thinking about Ruined By Design) and what a move to privacy means for public discourse. Steven Waddington has blogged (brilliantly as ever) about the latter.

With local elections this week I’ve also delved into conversations about where communications are at with this event. It’s been ten years since myself and the team at Derbyshire County Council developed content to explain and engage people with local elections, infographics to show the results as they came in as both a council chamber and a county map, and used Twitter and Facebook to get those results out as they were announced by returning officers (See more about this in the before and after posts from the time). This set the stage for what we did in later elections to look at things like mapping of polling stations, and results sent by segmented mailing list and subscribed SMS.

What became clear this week that even though this system exists it is far from the standard across the sector. Dan Slee blogged his frustration here – and neither of us are getting at the comms teams and others who work tirelessly on the practical aspects of holding and reporting an election – and there has been a good conversation on Twitter too. It is disheartening though to see that the struggle of engaging with local democracy (and arguably demand is low) is still really difficult (still? Yes, see point 7 in this post from 2011). I’ve offered my time to work with others to try again to solve this problem for the sector as support to local democracy so if this is something you’d like to talk with me about please get in touch.


I’ve indulged in fiction reading over the long weekend – first a book by an author local to me, Sophie Draper, which was a gothic-infused mystery based in Derbyshire. I then devoured Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I’ve now sunk into The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland. If you’d like to follow me on Goodreads and share recommendations for books find me here.

I’ve also read a lot (and I mean A LOT) of Avengers: End Game analysis. I avoided all spoilers and instead reviewed most of the MCU so far with my kids before we hit the cinema.

From next week I’m going to try keeping a list of blog posts and longer reads related to ‘work’ and share them in these posts as linked list. Not sure it will be that easy to do but if anyone has recommendations for apps to help with this then let me know in the comments or on twitter.

Listening to

Deep Throat Choir – I really got into this album when it came out and I treated myself to a copy on vinyl this week. It’s been on repeat since.

What’s next?

I’ll be starting to pull together my next Classic Album Sundays Manchester talk and I’m really loving delving into the history and sound of the record I’ll be playing – look out for an announcement and tickets next week.

I’ll also be programming the workshops for Indietracks – there have been some great applications so looking forward to going through the shortlist with the team. 

The UnAwards Masterclass takes place this week in Birmingham too and I feel really lucky I get to go along and learn from the best in the sector due to my designation as Lifetime Achievement Winner. I can’t wait to hear the story and insights behind some of last year’s winning entries.

And I’m hoping to have more conversations with LocalGov Digital and others about how we can support local democracy with better systems, data standards and communications for elections. Fingers crossed.

Original source – Sarah Lay

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