Get satisfaction with your council

Jon Bounds has come up with another brilliant idea – using the ‘people powered customer support’ site GetSatisfaction to create a community around the services provided by Birmingham City Council.

So, I thought, could this work for a local council? Imagine time saved by council officials if knowledgeable citizens helped answer questions, imagine the resources available (once someone had explained how to apply for a licence, the information would be there for everyone), imagine a monolithic body “joining the conversation”.

Rather than deciding to attempt to persuade my local council (Birmingham City Council – one of the largest in the UK) that this would be a good idea, I discovered that – as the site is “a space for an open conversation between you and other people with interests and passions in this organization.” – anyone can set a company page up. So I have.

It ill be interesting to see whether the City Council gets involved. I guess it is like a Fix My Street but for all Council services. Might just have to make one for my local council in Kettering…

A sense of place

The Birmingham Bloggers meet last night went well, with a good turnout and some exceptionally high-quality discussions on a variety of topics. I found myself burning up with jealously a couple of times as people talked about the exciting projects they were working on. Jon Bounds has a nice little write-up. Nick was an absolute gent as always. I met Stef for the first time, and was blown away by some of the stuff he is doing, mashing up social media services.

One thing that came up was that ‘Birmingham Bloggers’ is too narrow a title. Something based around the term ‘social media’ might be best – maybe a Social Media Club, like Lloyd runs in London?

Much of the discussion was around how bloggers can help improve the image and raise the profile of Birmingham, especially in the light of the second city’s total exclusion from this Guardian write up about city bloggers. A number of possible solutions were discussed, with the general feeling that a planet of Birmingham based bloggers would be a good idea. I’m going to have a look at putting this together.

On the way home I thought a Birmingham based customised search engine might help. brumsearch was born this afternoon 😉 I like building things and being (hopefully) helpful.

But this focus on the geographical element of the meeting – discussions around promoting Birmingham through social media – left me feeling pretty isolated. I live in Kettering, an hour’s drive away, but work in Coventry, just down the road. This meeting is the nearest thing I can get to as a group of people who dig new media.

Charlotte, who also attended, wrote along similar lines:

The thing about a meeting like this is that it is hard to figure out why we’re getting together. I guess to meet and share with a bunch of folks with a similar pursuit…

I came away feeling pretty down about the whole thing. These guys were so enthused about where they live and what they can do to improve things… But I don’t have that sense of place, not about Birmingham (obviously) nor indeed anywhere else.