James Mayes

Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

The art of community – a case study

In Community, Personal on December 20, 2010 at 1:15 pm

As part of what I do, the topic of community comes up regularly.  Many people have strong opinions on the subject of community-building, myself included – but that’s one for another time.

As we draw into Christmas, I wanted to share with you an insight into my local community.  I believe it’s a rare thing in modern times, so perhaps best if I offer a little detail on location,  history and current status.  This is all by way of scene-setting, before I get on to the useful stuff: why this community works.

So, I live in a small town (around 100,000 people) on the South Coast of England.  The community I’m talking about is a very small subset of the area, limited to maybe five or six roads around my house.  In its formal sense, the community started around 2002. A number of people who’d met on the school run, or just through saying Good Morning in the street decided to try to join in with the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations and hold a street party – close the road, lay the tables out, get to know your neighbours.  This was all before we moved into the area. The street party concept was again explored in 2007, which we believed to be the centenary year for most houses. Take a look at the photo (taken from the top of a fire truck’s ladder) you might see some period Edwardian outfits.

The Big 100

The community spells it out.

As I understand the history, a Resident’s Association was formed, and continues to this day (I’ve served time in a number of committee posts over the last few years, last year as Chair). The community spirit is the driving part though, with the formal association always available as a useful mechanism to organise certain events.

It’s been of huge benefit to the neighbourhood over the past few years.  The level of support available to young and old is excellent, the collective voice more able to be heard when needed.  The intention here though, is to look at precisely why this community has endured. I hope these observations are of value to you.

  1. Very little is mandated.  There’s a newsletter, which you need to join the association in order to receive – but beyond that, the level of engagement is entirely at the discretion of each household (and in some instances, each family member!). True community is opt-in, not opt-out
  2. The activities aim to offer something for everyone – young and old, indoor and outdoor, etc. Cater for your audience
  3. As with most groups, there exists a core of people who are especially generous with their time. Communities thrive around a passionate heart
  4. While an organisational committee operates, efforts are made to ensure regular change in personnel – partially because people have other commitments they must attend to and partially to maintain momentum and bring through new ideas. Don’t just accept change, encourage it
  5. Social media is utilised in the form of a private Facebook group –  but it’s not heavily used as people are so close. Don’t over-engineer the solution

I said earlier the neighbourhood benefits from the community approach.  In case you’re pondering that point, a few examples:

  1. The formal Association is recognised by the local council and is able to get it’s voice heard on matters such as planning permission. Strong links have been formed with the local police, improving the safety of the area.
  2. A strong support network exists which has helped numerous people over the past few years – small issues like leaky pipes, or more testing times such as the fraught few weeks when a new baby first comes home.
  3. The social scene is spectacularly robust with events ranging from camping to skittles, open gardens to cycle rides.
  4. The younger and older children get to know one another far better, not just associating with their own age group at school. For the parents, this has the added benefit of a trusted baby-sitting network for those evenings out!
  5. The event that sparked this post – Christmas carol singing, yesterday evening.  Held on the driveway between two houses with mulled wine, hot chocolate, an assortment of musicians and an age range for those in attendance of at least 60 years.

I think this’ll be my last blog before Christmas – so I hope you all enjoy the festive season. I’ll leave you with this message. The singing is truly awful, but I wouldn’t miss it for anything.


DataSift – the centre of all things?

In Social Media, Start-ups on December 15, 2010 at 10:08 am

Regular followers / readers of this blog will know I’m fascinated by new technology – and particularly start-ups.  Most of those I’m interested in at present come out of the Bay area, so it’s always a joy when there’s a Brit to shout about.

DataSift recently launched for Alpha tests and I was lucky enough to be invited. It comes from Nick Halstead‘s stable (founder of TweetMeme, one of the best Twitter filters), so it has something to live up to.  It’s essentially a highly configurable filtering engine, not just for Twitter, but also for other social and web content sources. I’ve been playing for a week or so now and I’m hugely impressed by the results one can achieve.  However, putting it just in these terms doesn’t fully explain why I’m so enthused about this particular platform.

This morning, I was turned on to a post by @ScepticGeek, which looks in detail at mapping numerous offerings in this space. A matrix map of those focussed on search versus those focussed on discoverability.  It’s a great post, well-thought out and well explained.  It shows exactly why I think DataSift has so much to offer – so I’ve shared the key graphic here, but I’d really recommend you read the full post here.

Filtering FOR Relevance Matrix (FORMAT)

How much is too much?

In Facebook, Social Media, Twitter on December 14, 2010 at 10:02 am


We’ve all had moments after a session on Twitter or Facebook when we’ve checked the clock and realised time has somewhat run away.

There are various posts out there on recognising the signs – but these are my favourite:



  1. You’ve changed your mobile/cell for something that’s more effective for social networking
  2. You have a platform in mind before you’ve even taken the photo
  3. That last Christmas card was addressed to @….
  4. You consider anything trending to be major news
  5. You’ve attended a tweet-up
  6. You’ve checked into a tweet-up
  7. You’ve tweeted that you just checked into a tweet-up
  8. The most important spreadsheet in your life is the one with all the usernames and passwords on it
  9. You have a preferred desktop client AND you know about rationing the API calls
  10. You’re desperate for a good WiFi signal and it’s not so you can get at your office emails

Feel free to add more in the comments….

(Picture credit: http://www.genbeta.com)

A realistic third way… JoliCloud

In Gadgets, Social Media, Software Development, Start-ups on December 8, 2010 at 9:17 am

While mainstream business has focussed predominantly on Windows or Mac for many years, I’ve been of the opinion that none are perfect for home use, for a variety of reasons.   I’ve played with Unix variants a number of times, but never found it a friendly environment – especially for a non-technical home user.

A few months back, I discovered JoliCloud – a Unix variant, with what I can only describe as an iPhone-style user interface. I’ve been playing with it a little more recently, and when offered the opportunity of a guest spot on GlooBlog, I felt it’d be the perfect topic.  You can read the full article here.

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