Trocadero Tuttle-ing

A rare free Friday morning (that will be the snow effect, then) and so a young man finds himself Moulton bound towards town, and the first informal, offline gathering of the new year with the lovely folk from Tuttle.

Tuttle is currently nomadic, a situation, which I think, serves the loose working collective rather well. With the ICA space on hold until sometime in the spring, Friday’s Tuttle chinwag took place in an internet cafe at The Trocadero.

Cripes.

But it’s not about your surroundings; it’s about the coffee conversations. I arrived mid-speech from chief Tuttler @lloydDavis, and then positioned myself at the bar, complete with my own Billy Bragg mug (the morning was sold a Bring Your Own Mug event.)

A quick round of coffee later and I found that I had somehow fallen into conversation with a group of guys talking about local democracy and accountability online.

Aye, aye – I’ll have a bit of that.

Stef seems like quite a creative sort of fella. I listened with great interest as he explained more about the local council DIY project that he has been responsible for building.

With its roots in the West Midlands, the Birmingham City Council DIY project essentially serves as user based alternative to the council’s official site. Comparing the DIY and official site side by side, and you can see why there is a need for this sort of approach.

Stef explained how the official site lacked any RSS feeds, or even basics such as contact details when applying for jobs. Using his developer skills and knowledge of the local area, he has built a content management system that strips all the content from the official site, and then adds in some more relevant user generated content, proving a much more useful site for local people.

The project isn’t restricted to just the West Midlands either. Stef has essentially built a bare bones model, that can then be applied to any other user knowledge lacking local authority sites.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

We talked about the attempts by the developers to put in place a working relationship with the council. Lines of communication were made; sharing of information from the council was frosty.

The Lambeth Council site is informative, although highly dictatorial. At least it’s keeping the house style of the current Labour led chamber. The static content is there – it just needs to made free for users to take away and use to their purpose

RSS feeds on stories would be a good start. The ability to feed stories into your own site would negate the need for Lambeth Life, something I think we all agree would be a basic improvement within the Rotten Borough.

And then there’s the more fundamental question of what function should a website provide from a local authority? Is the relationship between elected servants and electorate one of a top down approach? Or should data and content flow between both groups?

All of these questions raced through my mind as Tuttle came to a close on Friday afternoon. I should find the time to Tuttle more often.

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