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May 30 2013


June 15 2011


Five ways we're trying to build the scope of our Net2 Local community in Manchester, UK

Over the past 18 months I've been organising the Manchester Net Tuesday group.  We've had speakers, discussions and collaborations on a number of issues relevant to the non-profit sector locally, from online fundraising to search engine optimisation to activism & campaigning - a really rewarding experience.

One thing we've struggled with is how to extend our group beyond the "usual suspects" of people already involved in the non-profit technology sector.  As much as we value our collective contributions, we all recognise the need to reach out to those in the sector that *really* need to take advantage of technology, yet might be reticent to do so.

So - on the 28th June, we are holding an event that represents a few departures to our norm.  I wanted to share five tactics we've taken to try and build the attendance of this event, based on previous experiences both in #mcrn2 and beyond.  Ultimately, we are trying to extend the scope of our membership. to build a wider platform for change. 

1. A speaker from London!

This month, we have a guest speaker from The Charity Technology Trust, a TechSoup partner.  Granted, it's only two hours by train from Manchester to London, but billing the event as a "one-off" chance to hear and meet someone from an organisation not-based in the city, does provide some impetus. 

Conversely however, some of our most productive meetups have been with very locally focused topics and case studies - so this is a constant dilemma to consider.

2. The time, the place

Normally, we meet at a hackspace venue on a Tuesday evening.  This has suited the focus of the group fine, but our June event will be held during an afternoon, at a more "mainstream" venue (kindly donated by the local digital development agency).  Again, signups have been strong.  The point here is that to engage people into our group, it may often be a good tactic to reach them in their own context to begin with!  This doesn’t mean we would move away from our regular home, but it seems useful to get out and about.

3. Mailing Lists!

Blackpool attendeesI recently attended the first non-profit technology event in Blackpool (about 1 hour from Manchester).  It was similar to Net2 Local in approach and design (maybe a new member?) - but one thing struck me: the wide turnout from local non-profits and community groups.  Duncan and Lillian (the organisers) told me about the value of local email and offline mailing lists that had long been established and maintained for communications with the sector.  In other words, Twitter wasn't the answer, when the target group didn't use Twitter! As with the point of our event timing, it is all about targeting

4. Waiting Lists!

Another first was to use Eventbrite for signups, and include the function for Waiting Lists.  Recently, I missed out on the NotforProfit TweetUp in London, as I hadn't been quick enough to grab a ticket!  So, whilst not wanting to force people into a secondary market for tickets, we took the option to utilise Eventbrite in terms of administering the event - with lots of people signing up.

5. Social Media Surgeons

The final aspect we are trying is that of having a few "social media surgeons" on hand to offer one-to-one advice and support to participants, borrowing from the Social Media Surgery movement that is well established in the UK.  With our first four tactics seemingly working to engage a new audience, it will be vital that we offer some reason to come back.  A great aspect here is that some of the “usual suspects” I mentioned will be providing the surgery!

And so - there goes our five tactics for extending the scope of our community.  I'll blog again post-event and onwards, but wanted to share these actions so far. Conveniently, I've (nearly) found a word beginning with T to describe each:

  •     Topic
  •     Timing
  •     Targeting
  •     Tickets
  •     Tech Support

Ultimately, we want people to come to Manchester Net Tuesday regularly, and even add ideas and inspirations online.  Building on the foundations of the last 18 months, I'm hoping we can achieve this.

Ill stress that this is just something we are trying in Manchester, and it would be great to hear more from others.  What tactics have you taken to widen the scope of your group, if at all?  How do you engage people further? 

Post a comment here, or maybe continue the conversation via @stevieflow and @mcrn2

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May 25 2011


Intro to Twitter for Nonprofits and Social Enterprises: #VirtualNet2 Slides, Audio, and Wrap-up

This post outlines how Net2Camb hosted it's first livestreamed event, provides information about how view the slides and listen to the audio, and overviews our future plans for providing more live and recorded Netsquared Local event content in the future.

About the event

Participants at Net2Camb Event. Courtesy Andrew Entecott.

Ellie Stonely graciously offered to share her experiences using Twitter with our NetSquared Local group in Cambridge, UK. The topic was Intro to Twitter for Charities and Social Enterprises. In the talk, Ellie led a strategy-based conversation sharing case studies, lessons learned, and first steps for people and organizations that are interested in trying Twitter for the first time. 

The event was held on 24 May 2011, at Cambridge Online. You can read a few excerpts from the event on Storify.

About the livestream

A few weeks ago I got a note from Steven Flower, the NetSquared Local organizer in Manchester, asking if the group I help manage in Cambridge wanted to collaborate in real-time from 130 miles away. His email started: "Just a random thought, but we too have our Meetup scheduled in Manchester on the SAME DAY! Right now, we haven't a speaker or anything, so here is my crazy idea". The email went on to outline a way to stream content over the web to provide an event speaker in both cities simultaneously. I love crazy ideas and I knew it would add value to our efforts, so of course I said YES!

Now, I'm no techie, but Steven had been testing out a tool called Ipadio for streaming and sharing audio within his group. He suggested that we could upload the slides before the event and use Ipadio on a mobile phone to stream the audio live. We could also share ideas and feedback in real-time with virtual participants using the #virtualnet2 hashtag as a twitter backchannel.

His plan worked a charm!

For anyone else intersted in using this solution for their events, here are a few of my lessons learned:

  • The speaker needs to give an audio cue to the virtual participants every time she changes slides. We did this by having someone other than the speaker flip through the slides, which gave the speaker a reminder to say "next slide please". We also tweeted out (using the event hashtag) which slide we were on in the room.
  • The speaker needs a microphone. An easy way to do this is to clip a headset/mic that comes with many smartphones onto the blouse of the speaker, and ask her to put the phone in her pocket after you log in. No need to plug the headphones in her ears though - it's a one-way channel!
  • Test the audio before the event. Make sure it's not too echoy or quiet. Make sure you know how to log in.

It's not too late to participate!

Ellie Stonely Speaks at Net2Camb Event. Courtesy Andrew Entecott.

While we did a lot to provide an interactive experience in real-time, if you missed the event you can still access the content to review in your own time. Here's how to access it:

  1. Open or download Ellie’s Slides
  2. Open the audio stream
  3. Use the #virtualNet2 hashtag to share ideas on Twitter. The speaker is @e11ie5 and the host group is @Net2Camb.

The future for #VirtualNet2

This wasn't the first NetSquared Local event to be streamed online and it certainly won't be the last. The Philladelphia NetSquared group, for instance, have been pioneers at streaming Local content and have inspired much of our thinking for the Cambridge-Manchester event.

In the future, we plan to make it easier for people interested in participating in events virtually. Soon, we'll be launching a Virtual NetSquared Local option "officially" but if you'd like to be automatically notified of future events you can go ahead and sign up on the Virtual NetSquared Local meetup page today.

Thank yous

The first big THANK YOU goes to the community and event participants in Cambridge, Manchester, and aroudn the world. Thank you for bearing with us when things didn't go quite to plan (for instance when the slides were posted about 5 minutes before the talk!) and thank you for encouraging us to make the event happen - both online and in-person.

To the fabulous Ellie Stonely. For providing excellent resources, ideas, and conversation. Your situation yesterday wasn't ideal, but you really pulled through!

To Andrew Entecott and Cambridge Online. For being our gracious sponsors of the event, even during this rough time.

To Steven Flower. Thanks for the hard work, inspiration, publicity, and friendship.

To Manchester Net Tuesday. You guys rock and I can't wait to have another event where you stream to us!

To James and the other folks at Ipadio. Thank you for your technical support!

May 20 2011


Participate in a Virtual NetSquared Local Event: Intro to Twitter for Nonprofits and Social Enterprises

Join us May 24 at 7pm GMT in-person or online to learn about using twitter for non-profits and social enterprises.

I’ve been talking with several NetSquared Local organizers recently about the potential for streaming events in real-time to allow virtual participation around the world, and several groups have already been hosting mixed offline and online events for some time now. So, when I got an email from Steven Flower (@StevieFlow), our Manchester Net Tuesday organizer, asking if we could stream the Tuesday’s NetSquared Cambridge audio to the group up there, I knew we had to do it.


Twitter for Non Profits and Social Enterprises

The event we’ve been planning in Cambridge is centered around introducing Twitter to non profits and social enterprises. Ellie Stoneley (@e11ie5) will be take the lead and share some of the twitter experiences she has had in numerous non profits from the UK to LA and to Madagascar and India. Learn more about the topic.

Who’s connecting?

The Manchester Net Tuesday group: The group up north will meet as in person, but instead of having a speaker in Manchester, they’ll hook up the audio feed and slides and share the presentation in-real time. They’ll also have their own networking time before and after Ellie’s presentation. Here are the details for attending in person.

Anyone in the world: Anyone around the world can connect from the comforts of their own homes. The event will be streaming live, and should also be available after the event is over. 

How to connect?

When: 7pm GMT, Tuesday, May 24, 2011

(If, like me, you struggle to figure what time this is where you are, then I find this useful:http://www.timeanddate.com/)


Whether you are participating in Cambridge, Manchester, or anywhere else in the world, we hope you’ll join the conversation online using the #virtualNet2 hashtag on Twitter. The Cambridge event is fully booked for in-person attendance, but there are still some spots left in Manchester. Here are the location and RSVP details.

Here’s how to get involved virtually:


  1. Open or download Ellie’s Slides (link coming soon!)
  2. Open the live audio stream
  3. Use the #virtualNet2 hashtag to share ideas on Twitter. The speaker is @e11ie5 and the host group is @Net2Camb.

DJ > VJ > Story-J!

Storify helps you mix content to make a story...

We plan to use Storify during and after the event to mix together the content together created around the discussions across social media to leave a record and narrative. If you haven’t started to use Storify yet, then do! If you have, then tell us how you have!


This event is a small experiment for us in terms of building the NetSquared Local community. With like-minded folk getting together in cities and towns across the world, how can we utilize social media to share and exchange our stories, skills and experiences? Answers and questions at #virtualNet2 tweetcard please!

Live Link Ups Can #Fail

Here at NetSquared Cambridge, we’ve never done a livestream before. We’re pretty good with this technology malarky, but please bear with us if we have some technical difficulties! 


A special thanks goes out to Ellie Stoneley for her enthusiasm to broadcast her presentation and to Steven Flower for making the virtual aspect of this event a reality.


November 30 2010


Hyperlocal Voices: Richard Jones, Saddleworth News

Hyperlocal voices: Saddleworth News

Richard Jones, an experienced broadcast journalist, set up Saddleworth News just nine months ago. He hoped to combine his journalistic ambitions with a demanding routine as a stay-at home-father whilst providing more online information about an area which he claims “was relatively under-served by the traditional media”. Although not an easy task, Jones has successfully used social media as well as local news stories in order to secure an expanding fan base. This post is part of the Hyperlocal Voices series of interviews.

Who were the people behind the blog,  and what were their backgrounds?

I set it up myself. I used to be a full-time professional journalist. I graduated from the Broadcast Journalism course in Leeds in 2002, then spent six years at Sky News working in TV and radio.

After we relocated to Manchester because of my wife’s career, I freelanced at various radio stations until we had our first child in September 2009 and I gave up work to become a stay-at-home dad.

What made you decide to set up the blog?

Lots of reasons really, but two main themes. I’ll admit the first was selfishness. I couldn’t really combine irregular hours as a radio journalist with being a full-time dad, but I knew that I wanted to return to full-time work one day, so I needed to do something to keep my hand in.

I was also worried about how I’d fill my days, even with a small baby to look after, so was keen to take on a project to help keep me occupied.

The other reasons were more altruistic. When we were thinking of moving to Saddleworth we realised that there wasn’t actually that much information about the place online. I also noticed that, for an area with such a distinctive character, it was relatively under-served by the traditional media. So I thought I could use my journalism skills to do something positive for the community we were about to move into.

When did you set up the blog and how did you go about it?

We moved to Saddleworth in January 2010 and I started the blog the following month. It’s a self-hosted WordPress site.

I’ve written other blogs before (and continue to write about being a stay-at-home dad at www.likefatherlikedaughter.blogspot.com) using Blogger so I had some very basic experience of running a site and tinkering with HTML a little.

I knew in my head how I felt it should look, so it was just a case of picking a free WordPress theme and after an evening playing around I had it more or less as I wanted. I’ve been very impressed with how user-friendly and reliable WordPress is.

What other blogs, bloggers or websites influenced you?

The main one was Kate Feld’s Manchizzle [interviewed previously in the Hyperlocal Voices series]. When I lived in Manchester I used to go to her blog meet-ups, then got into going to the Social Media Cafe Manchester evenings. When I had the idea of doing a hyperlocal site I got lots of encouragement and ideas from people there.

I think the first hyperlocal site I saw was Linda Preston’s Darwen Reporter, now sadly no longer running. I definitely copied the blog format from her.

I wanted to get away from the typical information-heavy newspaper websites, partly because I think they’re often a bit confusing, but mostly because I didn’t want to feel under pressure to update it more than once a day.  And if you do one story a day on a blog, there’s always something new on top of the site to keep it fresh for regular readers.

How did – and do – you see yourself in relation to a traditional news operation?

The similarities are to do with the basic skills of journalism. I still research stories, make phone calls, do interviews, write copy, take pictures, nurture contacts, take editorial decisions, just as I did when I worked in a newsroom. Although I have to compress all that into an hour or two each day during my daughter’s lunchtime nap!

There are plenty of differences, but one main one is that I don’t have to run my story ideas by an editor. So instead of hearing excuses like “I’m interested in that” or “Nobody cares” or “We did that last week/month/year” I can just do whatever I like.

For example, during the election campaign I decided to interview all the candidates standing in the general and local elections, so I went and did it. A local newspaper journalist told me he’d suggested the same thing, but his editor had said there “wasn’t space” in the paper for it. That’s the kind of public service a site like mine can provide.

What have been the key moments in the blog’s development editorially?

By far the biggest story of the year has been the local political situation. We had a bitterly-fought general election, a legal challenge, then the local MP Phil Woolas got found guilty of cheating and was thrown out of parliament.

I covered the campaign in much greater detail than anyone else at the time, and I’ve now built up a huge archive of articles about every aspect of the saga. It’s helped raise the profile and credibility of the site locally, and I’ve also given interviews and help to national journalists who have come to cover the story, which has hopefully given the site a bit of a wider reputation too.

The day of the Woolas verdict was the busiest ever for the site, with 1500 unique visits and a great amount of attention on Twitter. I have to take my daughter out with me on stories, and to their credit Oldham Council’s press team who were controlling the media let me into an ante-room so I could follow the verdict (I was doing Twitter updates with one hand, and trying to entertain her with a toy car in the other) and then into the news conference later.

I also had with me a crew of teenage media students from Oldham College who have been making some video reports for the site. I overheard someone say rather sniffily “Who are they covering it for, CBeebies?” but the fact people in this area are prepared to accept the site as legitimate journalism, no matter how unconventional some aspects of it are, I think says a lot about how far it’s come in such a short time.

What sort of traffic do you get and how has that changed over time?

I was amazed when the site got more than 6,000 unique visits in the first full month. It’s increased steadily since, and last month there were 12,000.

The Woolas verdict means there have already been more than that during November, so it’ll be another new record.

I haven’t spent anything on promotion apart from getting a few business cards printed, but Facebook has been a great way of growing awareness and building a regular audience. There are almost 700 fans on there now.

October 17 2010


Video: Hacks and Hackers Hack Day Manchester

Hacks and Hackers Hack Day Manchester at Vision+Media in Salford, on 15th October 2010. Filmed (on a Flip) and edited by Joseph Stashko, who has kindly allowed us to re-publish the video here. A write-up of the day can be found at this link.

October 14 2010


Hacks and Hackers hack day Manchester

Any sufficiently complicated regular expression is indistinguishable from magic

A bit of a nod to Arthur C.Clarke there but something that hits home every time I do any hacking around under the bonnet of the interwebs.

When it comes to this data journalism malarky some might say (to steal another movie quote) a mans got to know his limitations. But I firmly believe a good journalist, when stuck, knows who to ask. I’m very excited that more and more journos are realising that there are no end of tools and motivated people who can be part of the storytelling process.

So I was delighted to be asked to be one of the judges for ScraperWiki’s hacks and hackers hack day in Manchester tomorrow and see that in action.

The event just one of a number of similar days around the UK.  The successes in Birmingham and Liverpool amongst others, mean that tomorrow should be fun.

If your going, see you there (later on). If not I’ll tweet etc. as I can.

October 08 2010


Venue change for Manchester Hacks and Hackers Hack Day

Due to a couple of logistical reasons we have decided to change the venue for our Manchester Hacks and Hackers Hack Day on Friday 15th October. It will now be held at:

Vision+Media, 100 Broadway, Salford, M50 2UW (Google Map)

Nearest tram is Broadway.

There are still a few hacker places left if you would like to sign up:

September 16 2010


Hyperlocal voices: Kate Feld (Manchizzle)

Manchester hyperlocal blog Manchizzle

Kate Feld is a US citizen who launched the Manchester blog Manchizzle in 2005 and founded the Manchester Blog Awards shortly after. Her perspective on blogging is informed by her background as a journalist, she says, but with a few key differences. The full interview – part of the hyperlocal voices series – follows:

Who were the people behind the blog, and what were their backgrounds before setting it up?

Me, Kate Feld. My background is in newspapers. I worked as a reporter on local and regional papers in my native USA (local beat, city hall, some investigative) then eventually worked for the AP on the national desk in New York.

I moved to the Manchester area in Dec 2003 to live with my boyfriend, who I eventually married. I intended to continue to try to do local/investigative reporting but very quickly realised there was no way for me to continue in news here. So I switched to writing about culture.

In 2004 I was the editor of a startup culture and listings magazine in the city, and when that went bust I had time on my hands and a lot about Manchester I wanted to write. So I started the blog. It was my second blog, having experimented with blogging when I was in journalism school at Columbia in NYC in 2002-03.

What made you decide to set up the blog?

There weren’t many people blogging about Manchester at the time. I had a lot of enthusiasm for exploring the city and its culture and a blog seemed like the best medium for that. It was also a platform that enabled me to experiment with my writing.

When did you set up the blog and how did you go about it?

I set it up on Blogger in the summer of 2005. It was pretty straightforward.

What other blogs, bloggers or websites influenced you?

Lots of the blogs in the NYC bloggers subway map, which I was briefly part of. That network inspired me to write about what people were blogging about in Manchester and put together my blogroll, which aims to have links to all Manchester-based blogs.

My experienced attending blogmeets run by the NYC Bloggers group led me to start organising blogmeets and eventually start up the Manchester Blog Awards which I have been running as part of the Manchester Literature Festival for the past four years.

Other blogs that have influenced mine: Gawker during the time of Elizabeth Spiers (it’s awful now). Sarah Hepola, themorningnews.org, Gothamist. Neil Gaiman’s blog.

How did – and do – you see yourself in relation to a traditional news operation?

Because I’ve been a newspaper reporter, I think my perspective on this may be different from other bloggers’. In some respects the roles aren’t that different. I run my blog like the newspapers I worked on. I don’t publish anything that isn’t confirmed, cross-checked and attributed. I correct mistakes quickly and prominently. I aim to be as transparent as possible about conflicts of interest. I meticulously spell check and aim for a high standard of writing and grammar.

Sometimes my blog posts are newsy, sometimes they are long and deliberative and wouldn’t be out of place on an opinion page, other times they are more like the what’s on calendar of a culture magazine.

I think people read it to stay informed about Manchester culture on and offline, and might share my interests in arts, media, literature and social media, so it’s kind of like a specialist publication.

Broadly my aims are much the same writing a Manchester-based blog as they were when I was editor of a Manchester-based magazine… to inform, to entertain, to develop and follow through on my own thoughts/passions/interests and provoke conversation and deliberation about interesting stuff happening in the city.

But a few key differences stick out: I am fully independent, a one-woman operation and have no advertising, not even Google ads. I publish my blog mainly for fun, not for profit, though as I am also a freelance writer my work has to come first. And unlike a news professional, as a blogger I am perceived as having little credibility, accountability and low standards (although sadly this can also be said of our local newspaper!)

What have been the key moments in the blog’s development editorially?

Right now is an interesting one. Myself and some other bloggers are in the process of creating an aggregator site and possibly a linked newspaper featuring content from Manchester blogs. This has come directly out of the community around the Manchizzle blog, and I feel my efforts on the blog, organising blogmeets and championing local blogging through the blog awards and various other locally-oriented projects I’ve worked on or am working on (The BBC Manchester Blog, running the Creative Tourist blog etc.) have contributed significantly to the development of an exceptionally involved and active local blogosphere in Manchester.

June 02 2010


Interview: Hwa Young Jung, Manchester Digital Laboratory

Photo of people working at MadLabI recently connected with Hwa Young Jung from Manchester Digital Laboratory, a Manchester, UK based community space where members of the creative community can come together to meet, learn, and work. Hosted in 1000 sq. ft.

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