Journalism Location Social Software Technology

Don't write off Conversations as a geek toy…

So there’s an article in the Guardian today about UpMyStreet. The article is called Street Plight and aims to understand why the company is in administration. Now generally, it’s a pretty flattering article – and a fairly accurate one – but there are odds and ends that are a bit annoying. Nonetheless I’ve decided that I’m going to look on the sunny side and concentrate on phrases like “Upmystreet is full of brainy types” and “[UpMyStreet Conversations is] a bit like a pub”. Yes. I think I’d much rather concentrate on those than the the rather less flattering “Technical people become dazzled by their own wizardry” and “Frankly, you could have more scintillating conversation with a curtain”.

Sigh. It’s no good. It’s not working. So here goes. Here’s why Clint Witchell’ss comments on Conversations are unfair:

One – it’s unfair to take the conversations in any one particular area and claim they’re representative of the whole site. Like every other community, Conversations is only as interesting as the people who participate in it, but unlike any other community – every area gets a different degree of participation. Certain parts of the country are beginning to explore the uses of the site and get involved in serious debates. Other areas are using it to chat about local news and to find local tradespeople. Other areas aren’t using it at all. It’s early days. All I can say is that if you don’t like the conversations that are ongoing in your area at the moment but you can see the potential and value in a site that could help your neighbourhood engage with local issues – then don’t just sit there complaining and feeling superior – start a conversation and see what kind of responses you get!

Two – Conversations is a new product for UpMyStreet and it pushes the ways the site can be used into completely new areas. One of our aims was to try and develop the relationship between UpMyStreet and the people who use come to it – to make people more regular visitors and power users at that. I think we’ve had a certain amount of success with this kind of work, success that I think will grow as people get more used to the idea and start to use the site in different ways. It’s a process of development that aims to move people from simple information finding into treating the site as a bridge into their local neighbourhood. But we’re not all the way there yet. These things don’t necessarily happen overnight…

Three – just because you can’t see obvious commercial uses for the forums software doesn’t mean that there aren’t any or that we haven’t thought about it seriously! If we get the opportunity, you’ll see exactly what we’re talking about and all the commercial/charitable/political uses for the technology, but at the moment – unfortunately – we’re all a bit distracted trying to keep body and soul together! Bear with us! Have some faith!