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Sunday, January 27, 2008

On the interweb

As previously reported I took part in an e-government conference in the Welsh Assembly a few weeks ago, where I outlined some of the political initiatives being taken by myself and others on the internet in an effort to involve more people and to communicate more effectively.

Like other politicians I am on Facebook and try to use it partly as a political site, posting speeches, articles and blog entries as well as details of how to contact me and links to surgery times, but also as a social networking site. For example I have recently resurrected my long past chess career by playing on-line with Facebook friends. However, I doubt if I will ever have the application or the time to hit the heights of 1979 again, occasionally playing board six in Swansea University's West Wales Championship winning side.

The best example I have found of the effective use of Facebook is by a Liberal Democrat Councillor in Swansea. Councillor Peter May represents Uplands on the local Council, which has a very high concentration of student residents. This has led to the usual complaints about the loss of family homes to HMOs, noise nuisance, indiscriminate parking, rubbish being left out on the wrong day and overgrown gardens etc.

Peter has responded to this by systematically inviting as many of his constituents he can find to be his Facebook friend. He has set up a Facebook group entitled 'Students living out in Brynmill and Uplands' and he has recruited to date, 339 members for that group. Members receive regular messages giving them advance warning of refuse and recycling collections, offering to get them green recycling bags and kitchen waste bins, giving them the mobile phone numbers of the local police officers and offering assistance with clearing up the gardens in the houses they live in so that they might enjoy them in the better weather. With any luck this approach will have an impact in improving the quality of life for all who live in those communities.

Meanwhile Facebook group of the week has to be this one from Canada. 'Adorable kittens for Electoral Reform' seeks to use the 'aawww' factor to win converts to its cause. They tell us that:

Time is running out to make the case for Mixed Member Proportional (Meow Meow Purr) in Ontario. Here are a few strategies leading up to Wednesday's referendum day:

1. Mark your territory. Display a Vote for MMP sign. Wear an MMP button. If you can't get an official one, make your own.

2. Rub up against peoples' legs. Or, if you're not comfortable doing that, just talk to everyone you know about the pressing need for electoral reform. It's OK to talk about it over Thanksgiving dinner, or while you "carve the bird".

3. Scratch people who are spreading lies about MMP. The opponents of MMP know that people will support it if they understand it. So, they're telling lots of lies about how it will work to try to confuse voters. It's time to bare your claws in letters-to-the editor and radio call-in shows. You don't necessarily have to draw blood, but let them know that you aren't happy with their misinformation campaign.

4. Use your cuteness. Invite everyone on your Friends List to join this group. We need to use every ounce of cuteness that we have in the cause of electoral reform.

It has 702 members and 50 photos of cats.
I'm not so sure of the value of Facebook groups ect, but I think it would be beneficial to have an Assembly version of TheyWorkForYou.com. It would raise the profile of what is discussed in the chamber.
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