My #TFSFlashFiction entry from 21 November 2011

Help! The machines have started taking over the world – Please retw… *THIS ACCOUNT HAS BEEN TERMINATED* #tfsflashfiction

Stories in 123 Characters – competition now closed – details here:

Pleased to say I’ve been short-listed along with five other entrants, including fellow Norfolk tweeter @SarahHopkinsUK – results will be out 20 Jan 2011.


I am at my best when I help others and at my worst when I help myself

I recently read a short blog post called “My brain is exploding” by Rachel Brushfield that prompted me to reflect on why I stopped using FB and twitter at the end of 2010 – and why I started using twitter again in March 2011. The following is an edited/longer (slightly self-indulgent?) version of my response on Rachel’s blog.

Just before Christmas 2011, I (like Rachel) felt that my brain was exploding with social media overload. I had only been on twitter and FB for nine months – in which time I had had great fun supporting the bid by Norwich to become the UK’s first city of culture (a bid that, sadly, failed). However, by the end of the year I felt jaded – and tweeting seemed to serve no purpose.

So I closed my FB account – stopped tweeting for over two months (and un-followed some 70% of my twitter contacts – which on reflection was probably a bit rude – sorry if you were among those culled – I’ve probably re-followed you since then) – and focused on work (which thankfully got very busy about then).

Focusing on my purpose

This break gave me time to clear my head, calm down – and think. I decided that the reason I had started using twitter (to promote culture in Norwich and Norfolk) should be the reason I continued using twitter. I realised that I am at my best when I help others and at my worst when I help myself (at the risk of sounding like a new age guru). Helping others also makes me feel happy (all altruism is probably tinged with some self-interest).

So that is what I do – most of the time (I sometimes get sidetracked – not least by real work). I try to have interesting conversations with interesting people on a range of subjects – and I sometimes succeed.

I don’t automatically follow people back (I have about 300 on my follow list – but over 700 followers) – and I don’t expect people to follow me back either (I don’t check up on who is or isn’t) – as I explained in my previous post. <<Note: This post was originally published in May 2011 – as of November 2014 I follow over 3000 people and have nearly 5000 followers.>>

Supporting others in our community

I probably RT too much – but I like to share stuff that I find interesting, beautiful or useful – and I don’t always modify tweets (MT) by adding a comment, partly because I don’t always have time or anything useful to say. More importantly, I prefer to use auto RT because the originator’s name continues to show first. I sometimes feel that by adding a comment I am hijacking the original tweet – dissipating their influence (if that makes sense).

To expand on that last point a bit: I am convinced that RTs are almost as important as @replies. They are a way showing support for someone else’s view – and promoting that person ahead of yourself (unlike an MT which effectively promotes the modifier first).

When you look at other people’s auto RTs you often see one tweet with upwards of 100 RTs – that tweet is commanding a lot of attention – and that in turn means influence – but if you use MT you break the link to that shared experience (and social media is all about shared experiences). That’s why, if I want to make a comment I often (not always – I’m not perfect) auto-RT first and the MT second.

Now, back to the exploding brain idea: by not trying to do too much on twitter, I have re-established some sense of control. I no longer feel swamped by information – nor do I feel compelled to read and respond to every tweet (unless they are directed at me).

I hope these thoughts help you prevent your brain from exploding. So tell me, how do you manage your social media activity? What are you hoping to achieve when you use twitter?

The reason I killed my facebook account.

I eventually killed my facebook account completely in late 2011 after the advertising and other rubbish became too intrusive. Glad I did.

For more on this subject, please see my other posts about encouraging tourism, NaNTwiNk, and #NFDF2014.

Final point – from 2014 – the introduction of conversation link lines makes redundant my point about RTing first and then modifying the tweet to comment – now I simply RT and add a reply. People who follow me see both in their stream neatly linked (thank you twitter).

PS: I now offer personalised or small group twitter training – if you want to know more, please contact me.

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It’s easy to protest but harder to choose

Norfolk County Council (NCC) wants to build an incinerator (for domestic rubbish) just outside Kings Lynn. The EDP has written quite a few articles on the subject and the local district council has even balloted residents on the issue – perhaps unsurprisingly those residents voted overwhelmingly No! (Despite this NCC has apparently signed off on the project.)

Now I don’t want to get into the detail of the debate – I don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong – and I don’t know much about incinerators or other forms of waste disposal. My concern is the value of that vote – and all votes like it.

You may think it was a good example of local democracy in action – and to a point I agree with you.  Politicians should consult the people and we should definitely have more local and national debates like this. But they should also be honest about the complexity of the issues. In politics – as in life – many of the big decisions involve compromise, trade-offs between cost and convenience, they rarely come down to simple yes and no choices.

From what I can gather, West Norfolk District Council just asked residents:

“Do you support the construction of a mass burn municipal waste incinerator on the Willows Business Park, Saddlebow, King’s Lynn?”

Now that might strike you as a good question – one that gives a clear answer. But I’m not convinced it really works as a democratic tool because it does not ask people to vote for an alternative. So residents can happily vote No in protest, without having to make any hard choices about how the council should deal with their rubbish.

A more detailed, and to my mind honest, question might go something like this:

We have to dispose of X tons of rubbish every year. Currently most of that goes to landfill, but the tax on sites is set to increase by £££ over the coming years. We therefore need to consider alternatives and select one that does the least damage to the environment, while being affordable and efficient. Whatever solution you choose is likely to affect your council tax, your refuse collection services and your local environment. Here are some alternatives – please rate them for desirability.

  1. Reduce, reuse and recycle… here are the arguments for and against from the various interested parties – cost to you £x a year, affect on services etc.
  2. Landfill – arguments – costs etc.
  3. Incinerator – arguments – costs etc.
  4. Any other alternatives to the above…(assuming there are any serious commercial contenders).

OK – not a perfect question – it’s not meant to be – rather I am simply trying to show that the real question is far more complex than the one put to the voters. To pretend otherwise is to demean the democratic process and to patronise the voters (which may be the intention but that doesn’t make it right). Note: I suspect NCC will use an argument like this to discredit the vote in any court case challenging their decision.

I have a similar problem with the forthcoming vote on AV, which will apparently just ask us whether we want to change to AV or stick with FPTP (I haven’t made up my mind). Yet again, this seems to completely gloss over the complexity of the argument (including the fact that no voting system is completely fair). It pretends to give you choice but of such as limited range as to be meaningless. Surely if we are to vote on changing our voting system we should choose from a number of options after considered debate (not party political haranguing)?

Likewise, the argument over government spending (cuts) the deficit, the budget, the national debt seems to have degenerate into yes or no territory: Yes – all cuts good all borrowing bad, No – all cuts bad, all tax rises good. Missing from all this seems to be a much bigger debate on the structure of government spending, taxation and borrowing.

Maybe it’s too much to ask in this age of glib one liners and news-flash policy making that we have proper arguments – not the five-minute sort that simply turn into yes/no shouting matches but sensible debates that help people weigh-up the issues and seek understanding before being asked to choose. And perhaps all such votes should include the option: ‘Think again!’

Any thoughts? If so, add them below and feel free to share.

Thank you