heath robinsonian strategies at #hyperlocal #dokuwiki #citywiki #chesterwebsite

I’ve continued to fiddle about with languages and code.  Or maybe the one is the other; the latter is the former.

Today, I worked out how to embed video for the hyperlocal site I’ve been working on over the past week, chester.website.  You can embed a ton of different sites too.  Three examples of where I’ve added footage this afternoon:

  1. From the local council’s YouTube account, these two contrasting pages.
  2. From a vimeo.com account I created this evening, a piece of historical footage on the North West’s film premiere of “Casino Royale”.

The advantage of the latter is that the pay-for tranches are pretty reasonable, and you can choose and adapt the licences so they fit with the underlying one of the wiki.

This is important, as the main differentiating aspect of the site I’m trying to develop and sustain, with respect to other – equally hyperlocal, clearly brilliant – sites, is the sharing and remix side of things.  I’m looking to create a resource of voices which others can listen to, understand and reuse.  If it works and is understood properly, it will serve to comprehend and cement the importance of local identities, histories, realities and sensibilities in a way that – on their lonesome – number-crunching stat-infused KPIs will never really achieve.


I agree.

It’s a terribly Heath Robinsonian process.  Here I am, in full view of a possibly rather bemused public, trying out bits and bobs of tech I’m unfamiliar with – simply to see how they work.

(Then there’ll be the wondering what my “real” motivations are.  Especially in a city like Chester where people are friendly when you get to know them, but where getting to know them can be like working out the ins and outs of CSS.

I have a book on that.

It remains – I’m ashamed to say – unopened.)

But that Heath Robinson approach in a media industry where, nowadays, the languages which battle for predominance are not only the mother tongues always the province of journalists but also the code, software parameters and technical syntaxes much more of the rarefied world of developers, we cannot forget the importance and the need to go ahead and continually push both linguistic envelopes – in a way which allows each to inform the other.

And so in order that developers may understand journalism better, and in order that journalists may understand what their profession could become, there has to be overlap between the two spheres.  A developer needs to do some reporting.  A journalist needs to do some coding; and if not coding, at the very least the occasional server install of this or that software script.

By now I’m pretty sure, of course, that this overlap I suggest just has to involve the strategies I’m currently struggling with.

Maybe not exactly the path I’m treading.  But certainly the conceptual tools I’m walking hand-in-glove with.

I’m a trained editor who’s never practised.  So perhaps this is an advantage in a certain respect.  I’m less respectful, inevitably, of the profession’s sacred cows.

OK, you may be right.  This may lead to all our downfalls.  Perhaps, in my case, I will end up making a lowly cheeseburger of a site, after all.

I don’t believe it’ll be the case – and, what’s more, I’ll do everything in my power to ensure it doesn’t happen.

But, in the end, whether the beef will be top notch or not, it won’t be for me to say.

In the end, the voices – who I firmly believe want an outlet – must find their own way; must decide whether to speak up or not.

And in the end, if they want to, they shall.

(letting stifled) voices (breathe)

I’ve posted a couple of articles recently over at http://error451.me/blog, on the subject of the #hyperlocal website I’m setting up with DokuWiki software.  Most of the time I’ve been spending on the techie side of things – I am, indeed, an adult child with a toy.

Most simple way of explaining it is that – for me – working out how to make such things work is like I was a kid on Christmas morning with a huge new box of Lego.

Not the Lego that came with instructions and is kind of reductionist (ie today’s Lego).  No.  Rather, the Lego where you had to invent the plans yourself.

That Lego.

That time during the 20th century.

No Star Wars, Indiana Jones or Batman tie-ins at all.

Anyhow.  To bring those of you who follow this blog and not the other up-to-date (no pressure on not following, mind!!!), here are my two most recent posts on the subject of the aforementioned #hyperlocal chester.website:

  1. http://error451.me/2015/01/31/a-hyperlocal-publishing-project-experiences-with-dokuwiki-on-chester-website/
  2. http://error451.me/2015/02/03/further-thoughts-on-hyperlocal-sites-and-dokuwiki-software/

(I thought I’d be early web there, and give you the full-on effect of old-fashioned linking!)

If you read the two posts in question, one of the issues that comes up is that of the difference between voices and opinions.

In my opinion (where not my voice …), voicing opinions tends only to harden prejudice.


That didn’t work too well.

Let’s rewind and try again.

I think that expressing opinions tends only to harden prejudice.  Whereas expressing one’s voice leads to a far better chance of a wider understanding all round.

When we hear a voice, we are more than likely going to want to listen to what’s being said.

When we hear an opinion, we stiffen immediately and put up the mental barricades in defence.

We embrace a voice.

We only ever want to contradict an opinion.

This is why I would love to set up a cooperative around an environment such as the one I’m trying little by little to build at chester.website: a cooperative which would imply a judicious – as well as a just – combination of continuous and regular learning opportunities alongside a proper and equitable business relationship.  Nothing like that in order to drive engagement, right?

An environment which allowed ordinary people to acquire the learning necessary both to communicate and do business in an evermore socially networked world.

Yes.  I know.  It’s barely fleshed out there.  It’s still at a very primitive stage.  Even the editorial side of things – I guess you’d imagine a priori as being easier than the techie stuff – is partly dependent on knowing what the techie side can allow you to do which people never did before in such communicative contexts.

Also, editorial missions and approaches always depend on the people themselves.  Not how many.  Not what ages.  Exactly the individuals in question.  So how can you decide stuff before others come onboard?  Well.  Of course you can’t.  Naturally you have to wait.  (Though, as you may have guessed, it’s not in my nature to know how to wait gracefully.)


Nothing like the social economy to drive social interactions.  A cooperative of #hyperlocal relationships, then, to let all those stifled voices breathe.

What do you think?

how to give a community its voice (and how not to)

I’ve posted twice on this recently, here and here.

It’s a bit of a struggle, signing up to altruism again.

My father-in-law died early last year.  He died, to my wife’s huge surprise, a rich man; but not really beloved.  No one who lived with him, who we presume knew how rich he was, ever suggested he use his resource for the palliative care he deserved – nor even the surgery that might have helped.

Instead, he hung grimly on as the Spanish public health system permanently postponed this action or that.

Any inheritance out of that could hardly be described as anything but blood money.

My wife had to take out a loan for the legal fees and death taxes.  She’s still paying it; still finding it challenging.

We all are, as a family: my kids lives are on slo-mo, in fact … they were looking forward to start learning paths you only get the change to achieve once in a lifetime.

But, on the other hand, if that “once in a lifetime” is based on blood money … well, how on earth do you think that might make anyone feel?

We were assured some of the money would reach us by November.

It’s awful – though no more awful than for much of the austerity-hit world – not to know if you can pay your next bills.

Anyhow.  The bank in question, a truly dreadful bank, recently froze all the resource that my wife supposedly had coming to her: it said it needed a document.  We sent the document via Royal Mail international tracking, at the cost of seven quid – instead of the assured two or three days, it took a whole week to arrive.

The bank rejected the signed document because my wife hadn’t known to put a tick in a box.  It was obvious from their initial request, once explained the four alternatives, which was needed.

It was the giving of a new address.

Even so, they refused to authorise the tick via security questions or registered email – or even from within my wife’s online access.

They blamed the Spanish authorities.

They asked for a repeat document; they refused to allow a fax.

The repeat document was sent on Monday 26th January.  It sat with Royal Mail for two days, somewhere in Britain.

Then it sat for two days with the Spanish postal service.

It still hadn’t been delivered last night.

It cost seven quid to send; less than 20g in weight; a standard-size envelope.

Meanwhile, once received the properly completed document, the bank’s representative added a little suspiciously, maybe even a little darkly, its legal department would then take a decision as to whether the funds could be released.  After having the week before assured my wife it was the only document needed.

Prior to all the above, they’d had her waiting fifteen days for a cheque book they at first suggested was all she needed to transfer funds, only then not to contact her when the legal department stepped in and decided no go.

It’s one of the worst banks in the world.  I won’t say which, but if you’re a grammar fiend, it’s definitely not the infinitive!


Why am I telling you this in a post titled as this one is?

Because, in an austerity world, the lizards are still playing the game of “Us vs Them”.  At least, that’s what I suspect.  You can only be allowed to easily access the kind of funds which do indeed change lives, hopes and futures, if you are prepared to become far more like “Us”; if you are prepared to stop being the “Them” you’ve always been.

That’s how I feel it, anyway; at least in my fragile and vulnerable present.

I may be wrong: it may be utter incompetence.  But Spain is different: they use the cloak of incompetence to get stuff done at the expense of the deserving.

Perhaps, actually it’s not that different: isn’t that what the British Coalition has spent its time doing for five long years?

The real mental suffering my wife has been exposed to by her family is only compounded by the bureaucratic wheels neither of us have any understanding of.

At least one member of her family is probably certifiably psychotic; the other, about as passive-aggressive as they come.

And if we look at what’s happened to my sad, little, suffering family, writ so small and insignificantly as it is, and as it has been over the past year, so we can make a wider comparison to what has been writ large across the global austerity stage.

Austerity is not a tool but a weapon.  It’s designed to prevent people having the comfort, security, incentive and motivation to explain sensibly, rationally, thoughtfully and constructively enough why things just must be done in a completely different way.

We are all, all of us, all of us who still belong to the “Them”, running terrified of what’s going to happen next.

In that, the comparison with the continuous ratcheting game of Hitler’s Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union is perfectly reasonable.  In that, for the moment, anyhow.


So how does all the above, all of that, relate to my latest project?

The local wiki, chester.website, is an altruistic act on my part.  Altruism maintains humanity, life, hope and the futures which should belong to everyone.

That’s why I do it, why I’ve done it in the past, why I’m doing it now.  In order to remain strong enough to defend my wife and children; in order to keep a hold of the good part of life; in order to continue to reject its underbelly.

Austerity erodes people’s soapboxes: their desires to communicate; their confidence in being able to do so, in being valued for doing so, in even having a right to do so.

So if the big things are no longer within our reach, if the big things are being used to prevent us from speaking up, if we must jettison democracy’s right to speak out on major issues, if we must give up on our “one shot at happiness”, then at least let us, with the simplest of process, create spaces where kindness, solidarity and local neighbourliness can allow us to continue that appreciation of the good the world still holds.

For it is considerable, this good I mention; and wise, where it is to be found.